I found it really hard to shop for christmas presents this year and equally as hard to compile a christmas list.
I kept scouring sites and browsing through well-loved stores whilst trying to remember what items i’ve wanted but have been too broke to actually purchase. and i couldn’t come up with anything. and it was frustrating. it was even hard to get into that festive spirit – around me malls were donning christmas lights and stores were blasting well-loved carols & radio hits, people were wishing me happy holidays and i was doing the same. but i didn’t feel that cheer. that festive brightness. and it felt off. discombobulated. i felt like one of those toys that you get that needs assembling. when you follow the directions to a tee and the darn thing still doesn’t work, you realize that you got a broken toy.
it’s been a really hard semester for me. A lot of ups and downs. a lot of tears, a lot of depression-like symptoms, a lot of confusion and anxiety. every bad thing i’ve ever had to experience seemed to all bubble up to the surface this semester and it has been h a r d. to let you on how bad it’s been, i’ll give you an example. on the day after thanksgiving, my family was setting up the tree, and i just wanted to sleep, drown out the christmas carols with my drake and a$ap rocky, fetty wap (and some one direction here and there). it didn’t feel right. it didn’t seem right. it wasn’t right. but i couldn’t really do anything about it. in new york city, as i looked at the rockefeller tree and the in-love couples skating away on the ice below…as i listened to the cheer-filled people remarking on the beauty of swarovski star and the starry tree, i felt distant. disjointed from the culture. disjointed from the world. disjointed from joy. cast off from cheer. i felt so not me.
i was not me.
here i am: a girl with seemingly everything.
blonde hair, a pretty okay bod, boys i care for who had come a-calling, a steady job with steady hours and pretty good pay, friends who love me, people who look up to me, parents who watch out for me and want what’s best. all the things surrounding my life were, well, beautiful.
but they felt ugly to me, empty.
I couldn’t find jesus in any of it.
Where was He when I was singing those songs? Where was He when the tree lit up? where was He when I was compiling my christmas list, staring at the rockefeller tree, driving to and from christmas activities? Where was He when I looked into the wrinkled faces of those darling folks in the nursing home? Where was the joy of Jesus?
And why? Why was I the only one that wasn’t feeling it?
Calling it a battle would be putting it lightly. My prayers felt empty. My tears felt like they were being cried in vain.
No one could see. It felt like Jesus wasn’t there. I felt alone.
And it was brutal. More than brutal, it was hopeless.
When we joined hands the night of performance, something happened. It was not a “fall to your knees” moment, or a “tears rolling down your face moment” but it was prophetic, and just what i needed. words just kept coming to my mind, words that i was praying for me and also for those around me. captivity. bondage. circling round and round in my wearied mind, weighing on my already heavy heart.
While these words kept going round and round, this is the picture that i had.
Captivity: a slave. bound. bound to darkness, bound to sin, bound to doubt, bound to life on earth. feet tied down, the savior was leagues away, and there was no escaping the trial, the valley, the cave of this…thing. wearied, he collapsed. suffering, he fell down. exhausted, he stared blankly at the ceiling. he could not get away and he could not escape and there was no freedom. there was no light. there was no jesus. hopeless. (as I look back on this picture, I realize I was describing myself in this season that I had/have been in…talk about a God thing.)
and yet, Bondage: an anchor, being dropped into the sea. the same concept of being attached to something only this time, it was Jesus’ love. this time it was the ocean of his mercy, the sea of his grace. this time, it was hopeful. this same man was all of a sudden freed because of the captivity. no longer was this a chain attaching him to the bad, the fall, the sin. this was an anchor, attaching him to the only hopeful thing of this world.
I share this with you to encourage those of you who are having trouble having that Christmas cheer. Because we have bowed our knees to our creator, we no longer have to feel the captivity of this world. We can rest in the bondage of our Saviors love.
The great I Am came as a babe. A helpless, weak baby. With small features and delicate fingers, a fragile being, dependent on Mary’s care. The one from whom all strength emanates from had to depend on human care. The King of Kings, the Artist, the Star Placer, lay in an animal’s feeding trough.
He grew up like a young plant, like a root out of dry ground. he had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. he was despised and rejected by men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53)
Christ Jesus who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, EMPTIED himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Being found in this weak form, he humbled himself.
The great I Am, humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
His last breath, saturated with the weight of a million sins, broke the chain of captivity.
In its stead, this captivity was replaced with the bondage to his love.
And now we are slaves of righteousness.
Holiday cups, Perry Como christmas albums, peppermint mochas, mistletoe kisses, performances, loved ones coming home from college, gifts bought and received, even laughter, cannot give us that kind of joy: the joy of KNOWING Jesus, and being BOUND to his freeing love.
Be of good cheer today, friends.
Christ Jesus is Lord.
And on your shoulders has been placed the full weight of his never-ending, ocean-overflowing, perfect, wholly good love.