It is a tradition for me to set up the outside Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving. I have the plan (remember, I’m prior military) and I have the stored resources ready to bring out. The day is cool, the scenes are set up, and now I am ready for the lights.
It is here that many of you begin to groan in your spirit and think things like, “Bless his heart.” You know what is coming next because you have been there every Christmas. I have learned the hard way to plug in the lights to see which ones work. Out of the twelve bundles I saved, only eight work. I guess I forgot to read the small print on the manufacturing label that states; “These lights will only work for one Christmas, maybe just half the month. This is to ensure you buy more next year, good luck.” As a seasoned military chaplain I have learned to do more with less, so I figure out how to put them up to look good. It is one thing to test the lights. It is another to unravel them.
What amazes me is that I took time last year to meticulously wrap them so it would be easy to undo them this year, but I believe the principalities and the powers of the air snuck into my shed and messed them up. How else could it have become such a tangled ball of wires? Some may look at it and see it as a challenge to overcome. Others will look at it and be challenged not to cuss while doing it. If you don’t ask me which group I am in, I won’t ask you.
The reason for the ranting is because I think our lives can sometimes be like that tangled mess of half-working lights. We start out with the greatest of intentions and brightest of dreams, only to find ourselves in situations beyond our control with decisions that are hard to make and a heart heavier than the rock of Gibraltar. Am I speaking to anyone out there?
The Christmas season does not often cause these issues, but often exposes them. As hard as our situations are, have you ever considered the rocky road of Joseph and Mary? Mary was with child, with a wild explanation, and wondered if she would have a future. Joseph struggled with a life-and-death decision that impacted the wife that was betrothed, a beloved family and their reputation, his strong beliefs and his religious convictions. What I have found to be true is that dark moments in life feel just as heavy and helpless, regardless if it was 3,000 years ago or just three minutes ago.
So how do we deal with our mess before Christmas? The same way that Joseph and Mary did: trust the will and the work of God.
If we look to God’s Word in Isaiah 9:6-7a, the great statesman and prophet of God writes these heaven-breathed words of wonder: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end.” How do we deal with our messy life? It is found in the description of the coming Messiah and King. “Wonderful Counselor” provides for us a perfect perspective of God’s plan, even in our problems. “Mighty God” promises us the power to “do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). “Everlasting Father” is the perpetual presence of the Shepherd that leads and loves his flock and will never forsake them. “Prince of Peace” is the prevailing of a peace that the world has paid others millions to obtain, only to have more problems and pain.
This priceless peace has already been purchased by Christ on the cross. That is why He said in John 14:27, “My peace I give to you… let not your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” It is those last words in the previous scripture that seem to be the prevailing theme in the messy situation of Joseph and Mary. The angel speaks to them both, and in the beginning of the conversation they hear those four powerful words, “do not be afraid.” In your mixed-up messes, Jesus says, “I’ve got you.” In your tangled trials, Christ shouts, “I’ll sustain you.” In the jumbled-up journey that seems to have more dead ends than horizons, our Lord whispers, “I’ll never leave you.” When the problems are pulling you into pieces and weighing you down, consider our suffering servant of Isaiah 53 who demonstrates the “been there, done that, have the scars” and shows us, “I have peace for your pieces.”
If we just trust Him for who the Word describes Him to be, He can then do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He can turn our mess into a masterpiece.
Do you have any twisted, tangled lights of life for Him? I do. I bet you do, too. I pray you and your family will have a blessed and bountiful Christmas celebration with or without lights.
Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks is the Senior Chaplain of First Call Church and the CEO/President of Chaplaincy Care, Inc.