The stockings were piled on the floor, waiting to be hung. The ornaments lay scattered about in anticipation of trimming the tree. The halls were ready to be decked but the weight of 2020s challenges, regrets and fears overwhelmed her as she sat on the floor next to a box labeled Christmas decorations. She was numb, motionless and weary. Searching her tangled mess of thoughts, she realized she had two choices. As the battle raged in her mind, Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, whispered in her ear, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world dose. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds…and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” (New International Version, 2 Cor. 10:3-4,5b).
For much of my adult life the end of the year has marked a time when I would feel nostalgic and begin to second guess. It was the longing for things of old, wasn’t it better back then? I would worry over past mistakes or changes that I had no control over; surely yesteryear was better. If I could only rewind to a certain time, I would be happier, feel better and all would be right. How often have we desired that magic wand?
Anxiety about the future would start when the yearning of old wore off. How would I get from point A to point B? How would I mend that relationship, comfort that friend, be a better person, wife, mother, sister, daughter…? the list goes on and on. I found my brain diving into a rabbit hole of thoughts that left me paralyzed.
The Psalmist wrote, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” (31:24). Fortitude, also known as courage, mental power of endurance, and specifically patient courage, is one of the ‘pivotal’ virtues of life. It stands with prudence, temperance and justice. C.S Lewis has been quoted as saying “Courage is not only one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” This year has been a testing point for all of us amidst an atmosphere of hate, fear, chaos and censorship. We have been called to handle giants never imaginable and deal with grief, death and loss in some form of isolation.
Allow me, if you will, to interrupt the regularly scheduled program of 2020 for an important announcement. A baby was born, and this baby changed everything!! When we look at the manger scenes to the precious Infant’s face, we are looking at more than just a beautiful baby. As cute and cuddly as He appears wrapped in swaddling clothes, His arrival in Bethlehem on that night over 2000 years ago sparked jealousy and outrage in the mind of the local king. What was Good News to some was also bad news for others. Two choices.
As we gaze upon the Infant’s face, it is essential that we reflect on His earthly ministry. The bookends of His life ushered in supernatural changes, giving us divine choices of hope and eternity. Imagining Him cooing in His mother’s arms, I also think of Him comforting the Samaritan woman, blind Bartimaeus, and the children He would hold in His lap. I think of His compassionate teachings, miraculous healings, and kind words. I also think of His rebuke of the Pharisees, clever questioning of authority and cleansing of the Temple. He never shied away from people’s needs nor His own need to spend time alone with His Father. Yes, looking at this Infant’s face we see divine life, and we also see divine sacrifice.
It may be difficult to reconcile baby Jesus with the experiences that you have had this year. The miracle of Christmas didn’t stop in the manger; the Nativity is just the beginning. The Savior of our world led a life of mercy, compassion and love. And scripture reveals His courage during times of temptation, bullying and death threats. Indeed, He was faithful to the end and was crystal clear that His role was to fulfill the will of the Father.
Twenty-twenty may have bestowed a mixed bag of blessings and hardships on you. The roller-coaster may have left you dizzy at times, but you are marching on. It’s been a time to reach in, dig deep and lean into Jesus. In some form or other of isolation, it may be hard for you to socialize, and that may be ok on most days. On the hard days though, when the wheel of doubt spins in your head, it’s just plain hard.
Or it may be challenging for you to think of the Savior when you are just to worn out to think of anything else. Intellectually, you may know of Jesus’ birth, life and death, however there is only so much that a soul can endure; after all, we all have our tipping point, don’t we? Thoughts can spark forest fires in our heads or calm the stormy seas we sail. A quote from Priscilla Shirer states, “Courage is the attitude of facing anything recognized as dangerous, difficult, or painful instead of withdrawing from it.” The Baby, in the manger who became the adolescent in the Temple who then became the man Jesus who healed, comforted, instructed and then laid down his life makes Godly courage possible.
Paul’s instructions to the Romans are just as applicable to us today. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (12:2) I am not a theologian, but I hear a sense of urgency in Paul’s words. Whenever negative, unhealthy thoughts cloud our minds, it is a sign that we need transformation, but the quiet whispers are just as dangerous. We need courage to change our way of thinking, step away from the old life and enter into the joy of Jesus. We need courage to forgive others and ourselves; and most importantly perhaps this year we need courage to continue in the faith.
So, I say to you, young women who are just beginning to contemplate the adulting of life, rise up! Behold, a virgin gave birth to a son, and His name is “Immanuel, God with us” (Is. 7:14, Matt. 1:23) To the middle age women whose time is juggled between career and family, desires and fears, I say rise up! Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Jn. 14:27) And to the women who have already journeyed so much, leaving a path for us to follow I say, rise up! The Baby who became King Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (English Standard Version, John 6:35).
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Pte, 1952)