December 26, 2011

When the manger is empty

Have you ever wondered what kind of day Joseph, Mary and Jesus had the day after His birth?  If the story goes the way that we've seen it portrayed in Christmas programs, I have often wondered what the morning after was like for them. They experienced a night of angelic choirs, slept under a star of wonder, and worshipped with shepherds.

But what happened after that? Did they register for the census? Where did they go? What did they eat? Who did they meet? Did people continue to visit and worship the newborn King? Or were they tired, hungry, cold and feeling the effects of  "adrenaline letdown" after all of the excitement?

Jesus was God in the flesh and I am certain that Joseph and Mary were exceptional people but they were all prone to feelings. Perhaps if the details of their "morning after" had somehow been preserved we would be surprised at what we would find. One thing that we know for sure is that with every event that occurs in one's life there is always a "morning after."

Some people enjoy the day after Christmas more than all of the days before it. They are off work or finished with the holiday preparations and finally have an opportunity to kick back and relax. They leisurely enjoy looking over their gifts or eating leftovers while watching television. Others love to go to the "after-Christmas sales" and find bargains that are kinder on their wallets or clearance decorations to put away for the next season.

Depending on the circumstances, families continue to reunite or begin to go their separate ways. Parties are planned for the next holiday and Christmas is soon forgotten as eagerness builds for ushering in the New Year. There is liess talk of spiritual value as the focus quickly turns to other things.

Perhaps that is the way things were in Bethlehem. The shepherds returned to their flocks and others went on their way having finished the census. There were no royal celebrations, festive gatherings or high society parties. Maybe the manger was empty and it was just like the beginning of another day.

A day that, unknown to many, changed the course of history because a King had been born Who would one day save the people from their sins. He would give sight to the blind, mobility to the lame and eternal life to those who believe.

The manager was empty but lives would be full of hope as a result of His birth.

Can you imagine waking up to the sunrise when you have never seen the light of day? Or strapping sandals on to go for a walk even though you had not taken a single step before Jesus came your way? How about searching for a new job after choosing to live a different lifestyle due to an encounter with Christ? What wonderful "morning afters" for all those who were touched by Him.

Joy replaced pain, celebration took the place of sorrow and hope existed where there was once only despair. Although not many people were there to celebrate His coming to this world, I am certain there was much rejoicing in the days of Jesus’ ministry. Empty and hopeless lives were touched by His love.

So, what was your morning after Christmas like? Were you still wrapped up in the festivities or did you feel some sort of a letdown? This has been a very difficult Christmas for me. One that, in all honesty, I am glad is over. There are others who felt the same way. I have counseled some and prayed for many.

Some dreaded the very thought of Christmas and fought hard just to survive it. Their pain made it impossible for them to see Jesus in the manger at all. As sad as that sounds, and before we get too judgmental, let’s remember that Christmas is a one-day celebration that focuses on Jesus' birth. Jesus, on the other hand, is someone Who CAN be celebrated every day of the year.

I love knowing that Emmanuel, God with us, remains in our midst. He wants to be closer to you and me than we could possibly imagine. So much that He came to earth, lived and died for us. His Presence is still here to touch our lives and He longs to heal and change those who are willing.

After all, isn't that why Christmas occured in the first place? So that Christ could come to dwell with us. He brought with Him priceless gifts including: life, joy, peace, love, forgiveness and healing--just to name a few. These gifts remain among us even when Christmas has come and gone.

The manger is empty but our hearts and lives can be full because the Holy Spirit has made certain of this.

We can have miraculous encounters with the living God. And, if we will let Him have charge of our lives, no matter what we go through I believe that we have some very special celebrations in store for us. They may not come when we expect them to but they will come in His time. He has a plan. The question is will we be open to it?

Will we patiently allow Him to change our sorrow into joy? Our hopelessness into hope? Our anxiety into peace? Our fear into faith? If we do then, even though the manger is empty, our hearts can be full of Christ.

I've found that being open to God's plan requires something very important. It requires straying from the tendency we have to maximize Christ's presence in our lives during the "holiday season" while minimizing it the rest of the year. The secret to finding cause for celebration and experiencing life-changing events is this: don’t let Him just be Christ at Christmas, let Him be central and have the spotlight every day of your life.

The manger is empty but our hearts are full when Christ is in our lives.

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

(edited repost)

1 comment:

karen said...

Wonderful blog! I have to be honest that I was really excited about celebrating Christmas this year because last year some health issues dealing with my eyes hit me hard and the whole month of December was filled with pain and went by in a blur! But I realized one thing during that time....Christmas still came! Even though I celebrate Christmas for the real reason , that being the birth of Jesus as my Savior, I sometimes can get caught up with decorating and cooking and making sure everything goes just right, or with traveling to see family. But when I couldn't decorate or anything last year, I started out being depressed! God reminded me that I could still celebrate Him in my heart and life, like I do everyday, since I have a close relationship with Him! I didn't have to have decorations, etc. This year, I was excited to be able to decorate but made sure I didn't take the focus off of the WHY I celebrate in the first place and my Nativities that I have collected found an extra special place this year! The day after Christmas, I was starting to feel a little let down. I was tired because my energy levels were not that great to begin with; finances made it impossible to give the kind of gifts I would have liked to give to those I wanted to give gifts to! So I was only able to give gifts to the few children in my family that were still small. I questioned God, asking why our finances were so meager when others seemed to have much more and God reminded me that it isn't the size or expense of the gift, it is the quality of gift that mattered. Also, that it was better to have little and be in HIS presence than to have alot and not know Him at all! I am so much more blessed than many other people in this big world! I had the good health to help at my church this past week to give out Christmas food packages to those who wouldn't have it otherwise. I was blessed! I got to spend Christmas with some family that I hadn't done so with for about 30 years and had a great time! I was blessed! As I go into the new year, I will keep my focus on celebrating Jesus everyday! I am blessed!
love ya Sis!

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