Category Archives: Advent

Christmas Contradictions

“Merry Christmas!” Greetings exchanChristmas Contradictionsged and acknowledged with a glance and perhaps a contrived smile. After waiting in line at checkout and then waiting in another line for the checkers at the door to draw a squiggly line through our receipt, perhaps what we really mean is, “Let me out of here. I’m tired of waiting in lines, and feeling claustrophobic from the crowded aisles. I’m tired of driving in circles to find a parking space, and then needing a GPS to remember where I finally parked!”

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like life is full of contradictions, especially at Christmas. We hurry up to have a little time to slow down. We exchange greetings with strangers and sit silently with members of our own family that we have lost touch with. We make small talk when we are deep in thought about what we would really like to say. We spend too much on gifts nobody needs while worrying about how we will pay for it all. We talk about the weather outside and hide the storm brooding inside our hearts. We celebrate peace on earth and goodwill toward men while our countenance shoots daggers at the person who pulled out in front of us or stole the only remaining parking spot we had already claimed as our own from two rows away.

Yet if we slow down long enough to reflect on our motives, I suspect we will discover something at a deeper level. We really do have good intentions. We really don’t wish harm to anyone. We really do have deep longings for connection, for peace on earth and peace at home. We really do want to be generous. We just don’t slow down long enough to drink deeply enough from those wells of meaning to find satisfaction or significance in our hurry, worry, and scurry. The end is somehow lost in the means. Our actions contradict what is truly in our hearts and we are left spent—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The empty feeling we are left with contradicts all of our good intentions.

So remember this, sometimes it feels like everything is about to fall apart when in reality things are just about ready to come together. Surely that is how Joseph and Mary felt when they could find no room in the inn, or when they were forced to escape to Egypt, or when people called their son illegitimate. Hardship and heartache walked hand in hand with happiness and hope.

There often exists a contradiction between our circumstances and God’s divine destiny. Being happy is not incongruent with being harried or hassled. And unfavorable circumstances do not always lead to unfavorable outcomes. Three eternal things make the difference: faith, hope and love. If you can anchor your heart and actions on these, and take a little time to reflect on what is really important, while examining your motives behind your actions, you will minimize the contradictions and maximize the intended consequences.

Merry Christmas!  ©2013 Don Detrick

Little Among Thousands

Little Among ThousandsNobody paid much attention to the pregnant young mother and her husband hunting for a place to stay in Bethlehem. The passing crowd, busy with their own responsibilities, overlooked the weary travelers who were desperate to find a suitable room to bring their newborn into the world. In the end, they found shelter in a dirty stable where livestock were kept. A manger where sheep just ate a meal became a cradle for the tiny Lamb of God to lay his head.

Only a few nearby shepherds noticed and witnessed this defining event of human history, an occasion the Apostle Paul would later note as “the fullness of time.” The birth of their Son didn’t make headlines in The Jerusalem Post or The Roman Review. Caesar and Herod were oblivious and unconcerned about the birth of a peasant in a stall outside the obscure backwoods village where it seemed nothing significant ever happened. Yet today we literally count our days and years from that moment in history as Jesus Christ remains the central figure of the human race.

Seven hundred years earlier, the prophet Micah had predicted that very event happening in Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2 NKJV)

Certainly to the casual observer Bethlehem was little and insignificant compared to the thousands who thronged to its nearby, more affluent and well-populated neighbor, Jerusalem. Few mortals noticed anything unusual that night in the tiny village. But the angels noticed, and what they saw made them sing and celebrate good tidings of great joy that offered the hope of peace on earth and goodwill to men for every mortal person on planet earth.

Ordinary. Common. Everyday. Average. Obscure. Unimportant. Inconsequential. “Little among thousands.” Have you ever felt that way—like just another ordinary face in the crowd? Nothing could be further from the truth. In an extraordinary move, immortal God became a mortal man so that ordinary people like you and me could personally meet the Savior, Christ the Lord. Why? The best explanation comes from Jesus, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NLT)

In God’s eyes, no one is overlooked as “little among thousands.” Every person regardless of age, status, race, or position in life warrants the unearned gift of his grace. The gift of eternal life, through the Christ who came to the tiny village with a big plan to change the entire world. And he did. Merry Christmas!  ©2013 Don Detrick

At the Intersection of Our Hopes and Fears

At the intersection of our hopes and fears“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”

We exist in a contradiction of emotions. Moments of great faith and courage. Moments of great fear and trembling. But between those extreme moments, we often swim in a sea of ambivalence. Tumultuous waves of fear, doubt, hate, anger, self-loathing, and cynicism threaten to drown our hopes, dreams, faith, love and peace. We search for a life preserver to keep us afloat long enough to survive.

We must face negative realities in order to survive, but focus on positive ones to thrive. What if we could find solid footing to maintain serenity in the midst of a storm of adversity? What if we could remain peaceful and calm when the waves of despair threaten to capsize our vessel? What if we could hold onto virtue during moments of weakness when tempted to compromise our values? What if there really was a life preserver to keep us from drowning in that sea of ambivalence? What if we could overcome our fears with hope?

At the intersection of our hopes and fears we find the babe of Bethlehem. During his human lifetime, that baby grew into a man who would calm storms, stop angry waves, offer the tender touch of healing and forgiveness. He would provide courage to a widowed mother, sight to a blinded beggar, a place at the table for the hungry, downtrodden and oppressed, freedom to one enslaved by the chains of demons, and tender mercy to a woman caught in adultery. Ask any one of them. Ask any one of the countless others named and unnamed in the Gospels. They will tell you. Jesus Christ met them at a moment when they were about to go under, capsized by fear. But his touch, his glance, his word made the difference. Hope.

Heaven and earth intersected in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. God came down to human level to show us his heart and compassion. Hope met fear. And hope won.

It’s not about Bethlehem. It’s about that baby boy who spans the centuries and more. He spans eternity. And his love spans the chasm between our sea of ambivalence and the solid ground of his destiny. That’s why pastor Phillips Brooks penned those words more than a century ago. We hear them sung today in shopping malls and sanctuaries: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”   ©2013 Don Detrick