Duncan Perry

Duncan Perry

Again, my family huddles around the Advent wreath, lights the first two candles, and cracks the crease on the old familiar devotional. Again, the music echoes in my ears. Again, although we do not sing it this night, my heart and mind are swept away in the lyrics of “O Holy Night.”

As a child, one of my favorite parts of the Advent season was the arrival of my paternal grandmother whom we referred to as “Gram,” or, much to her chagrin, “Granny.” When Granny came into town, life was stirred with excitement. She would take us to Christmas shows, restaurants, and all sorts of shops and malls. She baked and bought and blended the best aspects of adventure and advertising all in one. She was a wildly wonderful whirlwind of love and lavishness.

On one occasion, I remember being the only grandchild with her on a trip to the old Waccamaw Pottery. After investing what felt like the better portion of my childhood perusing different curtains and bedding at the Linens and Things fabric store, we crossed the parking lot to the rest of the mall, and I was granted access to what my heart longed for more than almost anything: a toy store. After scouring the aisles in search of a toy that would keep me occupied, I discovered a toy gun that was everything my elementary-school-brain had feverishly hoped for. I began to beg. Granny, ever the bargainer, would not give in so easily. We left, and any expectations that I had of receiving that toy were dashed. Later, I discovered that she somehow made the purchase without my knowing and stashed the gift for Christmas Day.

There are those people in our lives who change everything with their simple presence. Who is it in your life? Perhaps it is a friend who, regardless of the weight or difficulty of a situation, can help give you hope and perspective when they show up. Maybe it is a spouse or family member who offers a safe space for you to break or a quiet place for you to share your concerns. Regardless, for many of us there is at least one person who, when things are dark and dreary and difficult, God sends them our way and they live out his abiding grace and kindness to us.

How much more, then, do we see the glory of the arrival of Jesus, the Son of God. Consider the lyrics of the carol: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘till he appeared…” In other words, before Jesus took on flesh and blood at the incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas, the world—your world and my world—sat in the despair of death and the sorrow of sin. But, when God’s plan had come to full fruition, in his perfect timing, Jesus arrived, and everything changed. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Gal 4:4-7,NIV). In other words, at just the right time, God rescued us by sending his Son, Jesus.

Dear friend, I do not know what friends or family you may be leaning upon this Christmas season. I do not know who you run to for care and kindness, wisdom and wonder. I can tell you this, though, our family and friends will often fail us, and we will fail them. No one in this world is able to bear you up and offer you the faithful and firm foundation for flourishing in this life. But there is One. He is altogether unique. Jesus alone is able to meet us in the middle of our mess and misgivings, distresses and delights. He is able to carry us through the joy and hardships of living in this sin broken world.

Like the carol teaches, we failed and fumbled and pined and pleaded for the longest time in sin. That is my story, and yours, too, whether you realize it or not. But when Jesus appears like a brilliant sunrise on the dark horizon of our brokenness, everything changes. This Christmas, I pray that you will, by faith, visit the manger; walk with Jesus through the gospels; come to the cross and the empty tomb; and that you will believe. “‘Til he appeared,” all we knew was sin and suffering. But now we know that Jesus changes everything.

Reach Hannah Strong Oskin at 843-488-7242 or follow her on Twitter @HannahSOskin.

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