A Christmas Devo from Angela – “The Paradox of the Present

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The Paradox of the Present 

by Angela Hsieh

In this Christmas season , songs filled with general holiday cheer are echoed everywhere proclaiming “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” “tis the season to be jolly” and the like. Though lighthearted, these sentiments in cultural may subtly influence our expectations of what this season is supposed to deliver. For many people, however, they are left with deep disappointment, and the holidays are far from “the most wonderful time of the year.” For if Christmas is not grounded in the hope which Christ brings, it can be the most depressing time of the year – it can be a time where the presence of unfulfilled longings and the absence of loved ones may be felt most of all.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior.

Many dear families that I know have tragically lost loved ones this year. When death hits home, gaping wounds are left which cannot be soothed by any well wishes or holiday cheer. In fact, they may make it sting even more. As it often is, there is a strange contrast between the simultaneous life experiences of people. For some, this Christmas is tainted by grief as it marks the first year without a loved one, yet for others, it is joyfully celebrated as the first Christmas for a new arrival. While many gather in warm homes for Christmas parties, others are homeless on the street. While many appreciate the warmth of familial love and companionship, millions of children are in orphanages without a family to call their own. While many feast, others are famished. While people give and receive a bounty of gifts, others lack the basic necessities of life. The human existence is filled with paradoxes like these.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior. Jesus says in Matthew 5:3-8, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God bestowed this message of blessing through the person of Jesus Christ. God drew near to a broken and needy people in a marvelous way – by becoming one of us. Truly Christmas is about how He broke through darkness to “give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The present of His Presence is the most wonderful and paradoxical occurrence in history. Christ, the Lord of all and yet the Humble Servant, reaches out to save all people – those drunk with pleasure and those overcome by sorrow, those enamored with success and those who’ve hit rock bottom, those who are seeking and those without hope. He is the One who fully knows each person’s experience and offers to speak meaning into it. The King of Kings (Rev. 19:16) was not born in a lofty palace but a lowly manger. The Prince of Peace’s (Is. 9:6) arrival would cause the uproar of a nation. The Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32) became the son of a young girl and carpenter. The One robed in majesty (Psalm 93:1) traded His garments for infant swaddling clothes. Christ knows exactly how to address the human condition and bring reconciliation that every person desperately needs.

He is the Present of infinite worth that we could only receive if we come with empty and open hands. This Christmas, will you open up your heart to receive the greatest Present ever given?

Immanuel, God with us.

 

TD Friday – “The Author of Life” (Ps. 139:13-18) SG Study

Hey TD!

We hope you’ll make every effort to join us for one of our last small group studies of the year!  We will be delving deeper into the implications behind a correct understanding and acknowledgement of Psalm 139:13-18.

Please review Ps. 139 and review the study questions in preparation for some great discussion.  Here are the study and message, courtesy of Jenny and Clara (apologies for the poor quality of the audio):

“The Author of Life” message (Jenny/Clara)

“The Author of Life” small group study

Also, here’s Arthur’s message, Present and Not Present, Ps. 139:7-12, that was previously unposted:

“Present and Not Present” message (Arthur)

Lastly, have you been memorizing Psalm 139?  If not, get on it!  Here’s where you should be by now:

Psalm 139:1-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know [a]when I sit down and [b]when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You [c]scrutinize my [d]path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
[e]Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in [f]Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will [g]overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark [h]to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

13 For You formed my [i]inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for [j]I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My [k]frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

TD Friday – “Present and Not Present” Ps. 139:7-12

Hey TD!

Last month, Sandra did a terrific job teaching on Psalm 139:7-12.  If you didn’t hear it, or if you need to review it (you should, so you can get closer to mastering the subject of God’s omnipresence), here you go:

“Everywhere and Nowhere” – message (Sandra)

“Everywhere and Nowhere” (small group study)

This Friday, I’ll be leading us in the personal applicational considerations and implications of the passage, seeking to help us use it to impact and improve the way we live our lives.  I encourage you to come with that hope, ready to allow God to work on you. Will you do that?

In the meanwhile, we should have Psalm 139:1-12 memorized by the end of this month.  Keep working on it!

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know [a]when I sit down and [b]when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You [c]scrutinize my [d]path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
[e]Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in [f]Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will [g]overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
12 Even the darkness is not dark [h]to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

 

See you Friday!

– Arthur