I don’t know about you guys, but this time of year brings up so many emotions for me. I feel excitement in anticipation of the celebration of our King. I feel joy when I see the face of loved one’s I have missed for so long. But I also feel hurt for those who are alone, without a home, or have been effected by an act of violence. I feel sad for the families who have to say goodbye to someone they love. I feel heavy from the weight of this world and the lack of peace displayed daily.
As I thought of what this holiday truly represents I spent some time reflecting on what the impact of a tiny infant has had on our world since that moment in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. I have spent this entire year reading through the bible from start to finish and when thinking about the coming of the Messiah I immediately remember all that he accomplished through his birth. God had promised through many prophecies that Israel would be redeemed through the coming Messiah. I took a moment to look up the definition of the word “redeem” and was so amazed at how much more it means than what I had thought.
Redeem: to buy back, to get or win back, to free from what distresses or harms, to free from captivity by payment of ransom, to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental, to release from blame or debt : clear, to free from the consequences of sin.
Think about all of that for a moment. Place the words “Jesus came” in front of all of those qualities. Jesus came to buy back, Jesus came to get or win US back, Jesus came to free US from what distresses or harms US, Jesus came to free US from captivity by payment of ransom, Jesus came to extricate US from or help US to overcome something detrimental, Jesus came to release US from blame or debt, Jesus came to clear US, Jesus came to free from the consequences of sin. His death on the cross was the moment “it was finished”, but his birth was just the beginning of his fulfilling the prophesies that named him ” Messiah, Savior, King, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Lord Almighty, King of Kings, Lord of Lords” and so much more. Celebrating Christ’s coming and Christ’s birth is JUST as important as celebrating his death and resurrection.
So to celebrate the coming of the Messiah to save us all, I have reflected on the coming of Christ in my own life. I accepted Christ at a young age on a youth retreat when I was about 12 years old. However, the idea of the gospel and a relationship with Christ didn’t form together until my senior year of high school while I was on an all girls retreat. It was then that I realized I had a relationship with someone I didn’t even know nor was I making an effort to get to know Him better. Over this retreat I realized I had to commit to a life of following Him and continually strive for a life modeled after his own. Putting these thoughts into actions however, proved to be a lot easier said than done especially since I was dating a guy at the time who was struggling with the idea of a forgiving, gracious, and loving God.
Our relationship started out like most relationships do, super happy and super cheesy. Things changed however once the “honeymoon phase” came to a close. I had always wanted to date a Christian guy, but I settled for a guy who went to church just to please the people in his life. His true character and feelings towards the church and God slowly began to surface as he became more and more comfortable with me. He didn’t believe in God like I thought he did and he consistently challenged my belief as well. He was super intellectual and used that against me on multiple occasions by “outsmarting” my intelligence on the bible. Besides conflict in our beliefs, he also emotionally manipulated me on multiple occasions. He would say things like, “if you love me you’ll do this.. (insert any number of favors he wanted)”. For a long time, I didn’t fight it because I loved being in love. However, once I got to college things started to change and my vision began to clear. I realized I was in a relationship that was not centered around Christ and I realized that I had a warped view of what love meant because of it. I broke up with him twice, but kept going back because at that point I felt trapped, until one day he called me and asked me to choose between him or God. It is by God’s grace alone that I chose my Lord and Savior over a relationship that was continuing in a downward spiral. While that was the end of a very toxic relationship, I still had a long road to recovery ahead of me.
I didn’t realize my view of love had been so far stretched and warped from God’s intent until I met one of my dearest friends my sophomore year of college. This girl was a beacon of Christ’s hope to me in my darkest hours. My relationship with that guy left so many scars, some that I wasn’t even aware of until they were pointed out to me by this sweet friend of mine. She came alongside me and encouraged me to continue to seek God even when I wanted to give up on Him. I truly believed that I was beyond God’s redemption and forgiveness. I believed that I wasn’t good enough to be a child of God. I believed that he couldn’t love me because I had failed Him so much. My relationship left me mangled and broken and I believed that I was beyond repair.
But my friend never gave up on me and she continued to pour into me everyday that year of school. Through her I was able to see that I have been redeemed and forgiven, that I am good enough to be his child because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, that I am INFINITELY LOVED, and that he wants me just as I am in my mangled and broken state.
Since that year things have never been the same. Christ came and redeemed me that year, but it really all began in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago in a manger among sheep, cows, and hay. If you think about it, the stable really wasn’t a “silent night” or as I have titled this post, the german translation, “stille nacht.” But when I think of the moment I asked Christ to come redeem me, stille nacht is exactly how I would describe the feelings that came over me. I was at a lost for words and in complete awe as his mercies washed over me. I imagine the people present for Christ’s birth felt the same way.
How has Christ redeemed you? I encourage you to take time this Christmas season to reflect on the coming of the Messiah in your own life. Christmas can be a time to celebrate life change too, because that is exactly what happened on that night, lives were forever changed.
If you are reading this and haven’t experienced your “stille nacht”, take it from someone who thought she was beyond redemption, you are never too far gone to be brought near through the blood of Christ. Shame says that because I am flawed, I am unacceptable. Grace says that though I am flawed, I am cherished.
Merry Christmas to you all.