In the midst of flashy Christmas lights, jolly Santa laughs, and holiday parties, I can minimize this holiday season to feelings.
I have found myself often saying, “A lit up palm tree just is not Christmas.”
I cannot count how often I have said, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas when it’s 85-degrees.”
When it was 70-degrees one night, my husband and I went to get ice cream. We cracked the car windows, turned on the car heater, and turned up Christmas music. We said, “It sort of feels like Christmas.”
Last year on Christmas Eve I found myself surprised that it was, in fact, Christmas Eve. I was not surrounded by my family. The smell of Grandma’s potatoes did not fill the air. Sandy’s infamous cookie platter was not on the table. I was not in frigid Colorado temperatures. We had not eaten dinner at our usual Christmas restaurant or breakfast at our favorite local spot. We had not walked the downtown Fort Collins streets sipping hot chocolate.
This will be our second Christmas in Florida away from our family, and I have become more aware that it’s another season away from our traditions. And from the feeling of Christmas.
I have been pondering Isaiah’s ministry and prophecy this Christmas season. God commissioned Isaiah in an awe-full and fear-full vision.
Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a throne “high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1c). Two seraphs, or angels, flew around the Lord calling to one another, “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’” (Isaiah 6:3).
Isaiah’s response to such a vision is one of humility as he compared his sinful heart to the holiness of God. “Woe to me!” he cried aloud to God and the angels, “[…] My eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Shortly after Isaiah was commissioned as a prophet to prophesy to the Kingdom of Judah, the Lord told Isaiah that his message of repentance of sin and the future hope of a coming Messiah would be met with resistance.
Isaiah was appointed, then rejected.
Yet he was faithful to proclaim Hope, though he did not fully understand the message of the coming Hope of the world: Jesus Christ, The Messiah.
Though the nation of Israel would reject his news, there would be a seed that would remain. This seed is the lineage of Jesus; it comes from the line of Judah to whom Isaiah prophesied.
Isaiah’s obedience to His calling set hearts and minds to a coming anticipation and a coming Hope even though Isaiah was made to feel an alien to his own people.
Isaiah’s Hope is Our Hope
The pictures of the Reason for Christmas are haloed angles hovering above a radiating newborn: Jesus.
The Lord gave Isaiah the words of our Messiah 700 years before Jesus’ birth. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
A virgin will give birth. Mary, a virgin, gives birth (Luke 2).
God with us.
I can read this like I read my college textbooks, with glazed eyes and an unengaged heart and mind, but when I consider the humans and the lives intertwined in this prophecy, and that this prophecy was fulfilled 700 years later, I can’t wait for a feeling to render my praise or humble my heart like Isaiah, “Woe to me, Lord.”
During this time of year, how often do we reflect, draw upon, meditate, and rejoice over the words of Isaiah’s proclamation of a coming infant Messiah? Isaiah was tasked to proclaim a difficult message, yet he was faithful to declared it. We often do not know why we are tasked to be faithful in the lot we are given, especially when it is hard, difficult, and we don’t know the outcome, but God calls us to faithfulness: faith in fullness of Him, with Him, in Him, and for Him.
Had Isaiah not been faithful to the Lord’s prompting, what words would harken Jesus’ triumphant birth?
What words would orient our hearts to faith in Him?
In the absence of excess and distraction, this year’s Christmas has stripped me of tradition to expose where my worship truly lies. I confess I’m often more enamored with the Christmas lights, the parties, the traditions, the fabricated feelings: these, I’m discovering, are fleeting.
It is Hope, Jesus Christ, that we turn to this season to remember, to celebrate, and to acknowledge in prayer, thanksgiving, and praise.
On Christmas Day what gift have I received? Immanuel, my Messiah.