Tag: Christmas

Weary Souls Rejoice

I’ve been thinking a lot about the 400 year gap between Malachi and Matthew. The absolute silence of God. The quiet. The waiting. The dryness that settled over the people of Israel. “Long lay the world in sin and error pining,” you know.

And I’ve thought about the promise remembered and recalled at every festival, with every prayer, in every household for 400 years. “Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

I’ve wondered at the questions that must have sprung like weeds in the most barren parts of their hearts.

How will you save us?

When will Messiah come?

Will there be justice?

Will we be free?

How much more can we bear?

How long must we wait?

Are you still there?



I’ve thought of the Jewish children perched atop gnarled knees, listening intently to an elderly voice telling about a promised ransom, a payment coming for all the captives.  

I’ve thought of those same children growing up in the moments just before the star arrived. The palpable feeling of change in the winds. The stirring of hearts. The whispers. The prophecies remembered.

And I’ve thought of the moment when God’s silence was split by the cries of a newborn. Son of God, Son of Man. Divinity zipped up in mere inches of human flesh. An audacious rescue looked for, but still shocking and unexpected in His arrival.

I’ve imagined the crowd of shepherds—Jewish men who knew the promise—creeping slowly to the door of the stable cave.

“Is it true?”

“Can it be?”

“Is this the one we’ve been waiting for?”

And Mary nods. It’s Him.

After 400 years of waiting, He is finally here.

It wasn’t all healed in a moment. When the sun rose the next day, Romans were still in control. Herod was still a psychotic tyrant. There was still heartache to be faced. Rachel had much mourning left before her (Mt. 2:18).

But the fulfillment of a promise made at the dawn of time had been set into motion. Beneath a star was born the One who would set it all right. The One who would call to the exiled and bring them home. The One who would pay the ransom for sin and set free every captive.

I’ve wondered about the moments following the stable scene. When the shepherds walked away from the grand nativity stage that night, did they wonder how it would all unfold? Did they realize that it would be a long time before the infant King was ready to rule? And did they know that when He did, it would be vastly different from what the world expected? Thirty-three years later, did any of them squint against the sun and watch as a cross, splintered and bloody, was raised before them? Did they bow their heads in disappointment? Did they question what all their hoping had been for?

When Mary woke the next morning, did she feel as if a boulder was sitting on her chest, the weight of what she had been asked to do nearly unbearable? Did Joseph break out in anxious hives every time he remembered he had been tasked with the incredible job of raising the Son of God? Teaching him to walk and count and build?

And what about the questions that ran through the minds of the wise men on their long journey home? Did they look one to the other and ask, “did we really just meet a king? In that tiny house? And when His kingdom comes, will there be a place for us?”

I wonder about those questions, I guess, because I’ve had some of my own.

I know what it is to wonder if God chose the wrong person for a task to which I was called. I know what it is to wonder how long I’ll have to wait for an answer to a burning question. How long I’ll have to wait for freedom, for relief, for a moment of reprieve. I know what it is to wonder if there’s a place for me at the table. I know what it feels like to bear the burden of the unknown. I know what it is to wonder how the story will end and what it will cost in the in between.

As I enter this Christmas season, I stand peering through the gaps of the shoulders of a dozen reeking shepherds, catching glimpses of the Promise. I shove my way through to the trough that holds the King who came to rescue me. I lay down every question and look instead at His face. “Born that man no more may die/Born to raise the sons of earth/Born to give them second birth.”

And as I turn to leave to go back into the night to my post in the fields, I have to confess that there are things I still don’t understand. There are still heartaches and difficulties to be faced in the days ahead. But I looked on the face of my Savior, and that is enough. He is enough.

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (Jn. 8:12).

Four hundred years of silence, and then He steps in.

Four hundred years of darkness, and then there was a star.

Four hundred years of waiting, hoping, doubting, looking, and then He was there.

Humanity’s Creator King come to rescue.

When the stage was set, the curtains rolled back, every piece in place, God rent the heavens with a spotlight, shining with unwavering brightness on the face of His promise.

And with the privilege and gift of perspective, looking back from the top of Golgotha’s hill, we see that even in the silence, He was never idle or absent. “…for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23).



How will you save us?

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son…” (Isa. 7:14)

When will Messiah come?

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” (Gal. 4:4-5)

Will there be justice?

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (Luke 4:18a)

Will we be free?

“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” (Luke 4:18b)

How much more can we bear?

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:29)

How long must we wait?

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…” (Isa. 9:6)

Are you still there?

“They will call him Immanuel, God with us.” (Mt. 1:23)

Then He Smiled At Me

My third grade year was interrupted by a move to a new state and a new school. My family unpacked in Alabama at the very beginning of December 2001, and Johnathan and I were put in a local public elementary school. I had stepped out of a one-hallway private school into a web of hallways lined with classrooms and filled with throngs of other children. I spent most of my time there trying to be invisible.

It was Christmastime. Our classroom was decorated with small trees and handmade ornaments, and there was often a soundtrack of faint holiday tunes in the background.

I don’t remember her name, but my first teacher was a tall woman. Plump, with dark gray hair and a grandmotherly demeanor. She filled the room with herself, and though I remember her as a kind and jovial woman, I also remember having a vague sense of fear associated with her presence.

One afternoon, The Little Drummer Boy came through the stereo system. She perked up and announced with enthusiasm that this was her favorite Christmas song. She turned up the volume and chimed in with a loud contribution to the rum pum pum pum lyric.

Because that was the first time I remember hearing that song, and because it was tied so closely with a negative experience, I have shuddered nearly every year since when I hear the familiar chorus rumble through any speaker. It has always been one of my mother’s favorite Christmas songs as well, but for years I have made her turn it off whenever it cycles through the car radio. I hated it too much to listen all the way through.

But this year, it has been a favorite.

I don’t remember when it happened, where I was, or whose version I was listening to, but I remember hearing the last verse as if for the very first time:

(For the sake of clarity and my sanity, I’m going to remove the “pa rum pum pum pums.”)

“Shall I play for you
On my drum?
Mary nodded,

The ox and lamb kept time,
I played my drum for Him,
I played my best for Him,
Then He smiled at me,
Me and my drum.”

I heard it and thrilled at the idea of the child Jesus smiling with delight at this little boy and his drum.

The character isn’t biblical. There is no historical reference to document this little drummer boy’s existence. No likeness of him was ever taken.

But I can see him.

His face is dirty and his feet are bare on the cool desert earth. His little hands are plump with newness and wrapped around two splintered sticks. His tangled hair falls just above the bridge of his nose. And he carries a drum. Something makeshift crafted out of found and forgotten things.

I see him in the doorway of Joseph and Mary’s home. As the magi move further into the room, his faint shadow is pushed across the threshold by the light behind him. And he follows its course until it lands on the face of the baby they walked all this way to see.

And looking at this small face, he hears the words of the prophet Isaiah rattling through his brain:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This is Him, he thinks. This is the One we have been waiting for.

He looks to his left then to his right, noticing the shine reflecting off of the costly gifts brought by the magi. He looks down and sees the sticks in his hands. It isn’t the same, not as valuable, he thinks, but he has nothing else. He must give something. He is face to face with the promised Messiah, the One who came to rescue. The One who came to bind up broken hearts and make all things new.

He must give something.

“Excuse me, Mrs. Mary,” he whispers timidly. “Would it be okay if I played for Him?”

The young mother nods with a kind smile upon her lips, and he takes a deep breath, raises his sticks, and brings them down upon the drum.

The sound reverberates off of the walls. His rhythm is crooked, and it is more noise than song, but he doesn’t hear. He isn’t performing; he is praising.

When he is through, the boy bends forward for a better view of the child before him. Eyes lock and the baby Jesus, delighted by the sound, smiles at his new friend.

And in that moment, everything changed.

I think I see the little drummer boy so clearly because his heart looks so similar to mine. I know what it is to stand in the presence of the Savior and scramble for something to give in gratitude. I know what it is to remember God’s promises and be overwhelmed with a desire to praise.

And I know what it is to feel your heart nearly explode with joy when the Light of all the world looks at you and smiles.

This Christmas, my bare and dirty feet land on the cool hay covering the stable floor, my grimy hands grasp the edges of a rough manger and my chin hooks over the side to catch a glimpse of my Savior. His face is turned toward me; He sees me and the heart He came to save.

And then He smiles at me.