“There’s always tomorrow, For dreams to come true, Tomorrow is not far away.” (1964) From the TV production, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”. Composer: Johnny Marks
Our 2021 looks just like what we see in my cover photo above the title. A blank sheet, a clean slate, a fresh page. Notice the pen still has its cap over the business end.
I, for one, will be happy to kiss 2020 goodbye. What a nasty year. I mean that, too. Hard, harsh, disgusting, rude, violent, diseased, and dark. And yet, we were responsible for it all. Sure, we could blame others, and we do. But when in retrospect, the wise ones will say, “We made a terrible mess.” And we did.
My middle daughter, Megan sent me a couple of photos from her house in Buffalo, NY over the Christmas week. Here’s one for you.
I love a fresh snow. It’s the darkened, oily, old snow I look away from. Lots like 2020.
More than the blank sheet of paper, 2021 may resemble more like this…
Isn’t it true? Do you see it? If you don’t see it, you would be right. There’s 2021 right there in that shot. A fresh mound of virgin snow…lacking footprints.
With all of our flaws, our faults, our flubs, God has seen fit to graciously hand us a frsh new year for us to walk carefully onward. In a way, the Creator is saying, “Here you go. I’m allowing you another year, fresh and clean. Now walk in my ways and just see where your footprints lead.”
Our footprints will tell us not only where we go, where we’ve been, and just how heavy our stomping has been, but we will discover more about our ways.
God knows the beginning and the ending. He knows our A through Z. He knows our pre-historic days, and our eternal lives. Isn’t it fair to say, The Ancient Of Days is also, The Maker Of Our Days? With Him, the crooked is made straight. The gift of free-will demands that we choose how to walk in 2021.
It is up to us.
Tomorrow’s trek requires fuel for the race.
“You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days…” – Deuteronomy 5:33a (NAS)
“I believe in you You know the door to my very soul You’re the light in my deepest, darkest hour You’re my savior when I fall…” (1977) “How Deep Is Your Love?” Recorded By: Bee Gees Composers: Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, and Blue Weaver
“Dad, I paid $90.00 for that thing!”
That’s what my eldest daughter said to me on the phone last week, in her very frantic delivery. Ever since she and her husband were able to get into a house, she has gone a bit over the top on holiday decor. (My opinion.) It doesn’t matter if it’s Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, she decorates loudly and early.
When my phone alerted me to her call, I had a gut feeling there was trouble, even before I answered. Sure ’nuff, there was a major issue going on in her world. It seems the lights on her new front lawn snowman went out. As she investigated the holiday tragedy, she found all the bulbs working when tested separately. She then followed the electrical lines from the plug and socket until she found the electrical cord cut in half. Actually, it wasn’t cut, but rather chewed in half. Some neighborhood gnawing critter decided to taste the plastic sheathing of the cords. I’m surprised she didn’t find a lifeless furry little body stretched out at the crime scene. As it turns out, this is the second year in a row a critter of the great outdoors, obviously full of humbug, chewed through electrical cords which powered the true meaning of Christmas…a reindeer, elf, or Santa. (That would be her outlook.) In her distress, she used a few choice words of holiday stress, as she told me she had to get off the phone, run to the big box home store to buy another to replace it before the sun goes down. ($$$-ching-ching) As I got off the phone, I found myself saddened by the sounds of her sheer anger, distress, and frantic obsession. I didn’t raise her to hang the importance of Christmas on trinkets, elves, and power cords.
Yet, who doesn’t love Christmas lights? I know I do.
Back in Greenville, Texas, where my mom lives, Park Street is a major attraction in December each year. It’s well known for its old homes and large trees, and one of the oldest neighborhoods established in the town. The residents of that half mile street always do it up well. It’s a Christmas village for about a month, complete with visiting carolers, local choirs, tables with spiced ciders, popcorn, and sweet Christmas goodies. On particular weekends in December, you can stroll along the old street, laced in lit lanterns made with waxed white paper bags lighting up the sidewalks. After some hot chocolate, and homemade peppermint brittle, you can hop on the various Christmas wagons up and down the street for an eye-full of the decorated Victorian homes drenched in holiday lights. It’s very festive.
Around my neighborhood, in the north Dallas area, we have some decor lighting up the streets as well, although a bit more subdued.
Some don’t mind spending major funds to hire professional decorators to wrap their property in holiday cheer. My preference are the solid colors.
This month, God did His part. He aligned for us, Saturn and Jupiter, creating a bright star-like display outshining the other heavenly bodies.
There is something to be said concerning illuminations at Christmas time. Beyond the beauty of the shimmers and glimmers, light goes well with the advent of the birth of Jesus. Hundreds of years before His arrival, one of the prophetical writings of His birth was penned by one of the Old Testament prophets, with light in mind.
“O people walking in darkness, behold a great light: ye that dwell in the region and shadow of death, a light shall shine upon you.” – Isaiah 9:2 – (Brenton Septuagint Translation)
Long before that was written, the words of Balaam, the only gentile Old Testament prophet, lit up the page with this oracle:
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel,..” – Number 24:17a – (NAS)
Fast forward to the wise men from the east, who had studied the old scrolls, asking Harod:
“Where is the One having been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” – Matthew 2:2 – (Berean Study Bible)
Park Street’s white paper bag lanterns, lining the sidewalks, comes to mind when reading the words of King David:
“I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” – Psalm 119:104-105 – (NIV)
Have you ever been inside Carlsbad Caverns when they turn off the lights? It’s a dark display of what true darkness is. You can’t see the nose just below your eyes in the velvet blackness never experienced above ground. When the lights come back on, you are so grateful to see the lamps planted on the edges for the pathway.
We are in a world growing darker by the day. You can pay for all the stringed lights at Home Depot, and compete with the Griswold family down the street, and still walk in darkness at Christmas. There’s truth to a line in an old song from the Eagles that reads something like; “You can gaze at the stars in the sky and still miss the light.” (My paraphrase.)
So, if 2020 chewed through your electrical cords, shutting down the man-made colored light on your every day walk, it could be you might have missed The Light. After all, a light show is just that, a light show.
There are lots of uneven sections of concrete on the sidewalks of Park Street. As it turns out, those paper bag lanterns spotlight the cracks and bumps which will disrupt the next step taken.
It’s always good to go Christmas light watching wherever you can find them. Afterwards, it’s even better to look for the True Light of Christmas to make the pathway glow.
Plastic cords can be a delight for a squirrel, yet the Forever Light can never be diminished. This Christmas, find the original illumination in fuel for the race.
“And Yeshua (Jesus) spoke again with them and he said: “I AM THE LIVING GOD, The Light of the world. Whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall find the light of life.” – John 8:12 – (Aramaic Bible In Plain English)
“If the sky that we look upon Should tumble and fall Or the mountain should crumble to the sea I won’t cry, I won’t cry No, I won’t shed a tear Just as long as you stand, stand by me” (1961) “Stand By Me” Recorded By: Ben E. King Composes: Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller
Did I catch you singing? Yeah, me too. WARNING: You’ll be singing it all day now.
The song, “Stand By Me” was inspired by, and derived from, a Christian song from the great, Sam Cooke & J.W. Alexander. The original was entitled, “Stand By Me Father”, and was written based upon Psalm 46:2-3. Sometimes a music hit is more than meets the ear.
Imagine for a moment that your world, and everything you built your life upon, crashes down all around your head and shoulders, where all things, seemingly solid, tumble and fall. Deep depression settles in like a thick black velvet blanket, with the exception of the fact it’s cold, not warm. Have you ever been there? I have, a few times.
During 2020’s COVID-19 crisis, many across the world have lost everything. Many are now without health, family, loved ones, houses, property, businesses, churches, neighbors, and so much more. It could be one of your trusted neighbors called 911 on you due to how many cars showed up at your house on Thanksgiving. (Truly joyful, grateful people, aren’t they?) If you are one of these smitten by the virus, you know the dull ache of loss due to something you could not control, nor could you escape.
An old friend of mine was bamboozled, broadsided, and bombarded by a tsunami of forces he didn’t see coming, nor could he escape the swinging demolition balls, nor could he control their power and pain. Steamrollers have a way of flattening you…not the curve.
I call this old friend, “old” because his story comes from the oldest biblical manuscript known. The poetic Book of Job is lengthy, and full of sorrow until the end of his ordeal. In a nutshell, Job was a wealthy, honorable man, full of righteous ways, and a full house of children, 10 in all. His marriage was solid, and had a list of many friends. Everyone looked up to Job. God was very pleased with Job and his life.
It’s important to understand, Lucifer, the adversary, was restricted from wrecking Job’s world. I love that! Obviously, the man was guarded from satanic schemes of destruction. It’s an odd scene for us, on this side of the stained glass, but this fallen angel challenged God, using Job as the subject. He wanted the Creator to allow him to tinker with Job’s life. God’s enemy swore that when he was finished with Job, he would no longer worship Him because of bitterness, rage, and a broken faith. I’ve always found it a mystery why God agreed to the experiment concerning Job. He did lay down a line that was not to be crossed. Job’s divine Shepherd gave a stipulation that Satan could not take Job’s physical life. The agreement was inked and off went the unshackled fallen one to do what he wished. Did he send his minions of shadow people to haunt and scare Job and family? If only. Nope. No Halloween tricks for Job, but rather authentic exploits of fright and terror.
If you know the record of Job’s onslaught of destruction, then you know well the hell-on-earth the poor man took on the chin. I won’t list all of the arrows which pierced Job’s existence, but I would say most of humanity never saw what Job experienced.
His vast property was shredded and burned. All of his offspring met a violent tornado, perishing under a collapsed house. Job was robbed of his numerous and varied livestock, way up in the thousands of all kinds, was gone by fire or sword, leaving him in poverty. His hired hands were slaughtered by thieves and marauders. He became very ill, close to death himself. Racked in pain from huge boils which covered his body, his friends urged him to confess his hidden sins for relief from the devilish curses, even though Job was not guilty of gross sins. Their narrative went so far as to accuse him of being godless. (With friends like that…) His wife’s eroding spirit broke, causing her to demand that he curse God and die. He refused her shameful advice. Although Job questioned God in his torment and grief, the poor man held to his love for his Creator.
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…” Job 13:15a (KJV)
If Job’s story ended there, I would hang up my shield of faith forever, but there’s more.
God’s amazing personal encouragement to the battered Job reads like nothing else penned by mankind. Although God’s response covers many chapters, it is so worth the gleaning. It serves a 2020 generation well. Truly, there is nothing else like it.
Eventually, the demonic realm could not prove their projected case. God put a stop to the waves of anguish. He rewarded the faithful Job with all he had lost, and then some, by multiplying over and above what he once held dear to an abundance none had ever witnessed. He was the wealthiest man alive in his times. For Job’s day and culture, he was a billionaire…without all the corruption.
Being the earliest manuscript in the Bible, Job gave us the first human view of Christmas while sitting among the ruins. It came in Job 19, after a couple of so-called friends berated him in chapter 18. As Job responded to their emotional word-salad, Job spoke the following words which are now rich in the writings of scholars and composers across time and space to this very day…
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God…” Job 19:25-26 (KJV)
Did you catch it?
This man of antiquity speaks of a faith in the hereafter through a resurrection which includes his own physical body. Most astonishingly, he mentions something his friends must have been floored by. “…and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth…” WOW, says anyone who once read where God walked in the Garden of Eden in Genesis. Job knew of the event of Adam and Eve, and God physically walking in the garden at will, but THIS was an advent to come. Job had the audacity to speak of God’s feet standing, once again, on the planet in Job’s “someday”. Job, in his day, was envisioning the future, but for us, it’s already occurred.
Thousands of years later, about 3 BC, Job’s prophecy came true. Most date the birth of Jesus around 4 BC. Certainly, by 3 BC, a baby Jesus was learning to use his feet and legs to stand and walk. We know this because after the account of His birth, the scripture states…
“… And as Jesus grew older He gained in both wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. …” Luke 2:52 (Weymouth New Testament)
(Biblically, outside of His infancy, we only have one scene of His childhood written down for us.)
I wonder if Jesus ever visited Job’s graveside. If so, I can imagine Jesus “standing” at the tombstone and saying something like, “Job, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Because Job’s twofold prophecy was unveiled at the first Christmas, we also wait for the promised second unveiling as His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, just across the valley opposite the Jerusalem gates. In fact, circumstances will be different. When Jesus’ little feet toddled about the house, in His meekness, it was more of a silent event. Zechariah’s prophecy details how His feet will touch the Mount of Olives in the future before walking into Jerusalem. The very act will create an earthquake, splitting the ground beneath His step. Incredible to picture it without a good dose of CGI. (In biblical times they had no way of knowing about the fault line running straight through the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem.) It’s then, the ruins of life will be made new. My ruins, your ruins.
Christmas was wrapped first by fuel for the race.
“As it has been written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those proclaiming good news of good things!'” Romans 10:15b (Berean Literal Bible)