Love came down and found me.
It found me. I couldn’t find it on my own.
Surrounded by darkness, I was lost and didn’t know where to look.
In the dark and the coldness of that long, long Winter, I remember watching the merriment around me – the parties, the lights, the gaiety, all the while my mind and body were screaming from the pain.
Did anyone even notice?
My outward appearance didn’t look tormented to the casual onlooker. I was still somewhat capable of a good façade.
But it was just a shell. A shell that encompassed a dry, dead stump.
I remember sitting and looking at the lights glistening on the Christmas tree, yearning to feel the wonder that I had felt every year as a child. But this year it was gone. I didn’t feel anything but a dull ache.
And as I looked at the Holy Child laying in the manger, I wondered if I would ever believe again…
The nightmare continued into the New Year. I spent the next year wondering if this new state of being was one I just had to get used to. My physical ailments were somewhat improving, but I was convinced that my heart would never revive.
The flourishing, vibrant tree of life that had once grown in my heart was now replaced by a scar – left by the ax that had ruthlessly cut it down.
I didn’t have joy. I didn’t have hope. And I didn’t feel God.
As the months passed and December quickly approached again, I remember looking toward the season with fear, for that was when all this weariness began. I didn’t want to pretend to be happy. I didn’t want to enter into a season that would beckon my heart to be opened. Opening the scar of my heart would only remind me of the pain and hopelessness I tried to remain numb to.
I couldn’t reach out. I didn’t want to hope for more. It was too hard…too painful.
So He reached out and took hold of me.
As I sat in the church and listened to the choir sing the words, Peace on Earth and I watched the story of God becoming flesh, of God being born as a helpless babe, I felt His arms surrounding me. I may have still had questions, and still been hurting, but I knew one thing: He was with me.
It wasn’t that it was the first time I had heard the story. I knew it well. Nor was I suddenly healed. There was still much work to be done in my heart.
But it was in the stillness of that Christmas, the quiet wake of the miracle of His birth, that I saw Him there with me. I saw that He had been there all along. In all of the small and quiet moments of that year, His fingerprints were everywhere, weaving my story into His love story written for me.
And for the first time in a long time I felt it:
Hope that the barren wasteland of my soul would somehow bring forth life again. Hope that I knew would not disappoint, because no matter what I felt, My Savior lived, He was mighty to save, and He was coming for me.
“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot.” Isaiah 11:1
Are you approaching this December with trepidation? Are you tempted to stick your nose to the grindstone and barrel through so you don’t have to face what the silence will reveal?
Dear one, I know the feeling.
I know what it’s like to want to pretend and ignore. I know what it’s like to be so used to disappointment that daring to hold on to hope feels like too much of a risk.
You might be in a place so dark that the stump of your heart has grown so dry it would take a miracle for new life to spring forth.
You might be experiencing loss or terrifying circumstances and there is no end in sight.
Or you might be simply run down from the accumulation of a full and busy year. Your weary heart looks toward the Christmas season as yet another thing to show what a failure you are.
He whispers something to you in the quiet,
You are not a stump. You have a tree.
“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot-
yes a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him-
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord….
In that day the heir to David’s throne
will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to Him,
and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.” Isaiah 11:1-2, 10
“Out of the last and forgotten son of Jesse comes forth one tender branch that will grow into a crown of thorn . . . a rugged cross . . . your ladder back to God. Jesus will go to impossible lengths to rescue you.
Out of the stump of that fallen tree, watered with the living waters that flow from the depths of His grace, a twig sprouts. That twig will be the scepter that defeats your sin . . . and lets you grow again.” – Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift
The Tree born from the stump of the forgotten son of Jesse has planted a tender shoot in your heart. Where it appears dead, weary and lifeless, a glimmer of hope is being planted . . . a seed of life.
Christmas is about Jesus coming to bring life to the weary, the forgotten and the broken. It is about a long awaited promise being fulfilled.
When you are weary of waiting, and your soul is dark, remember Hope is knowing that Jesus is holding you.
Hope is waiting in the silence, while believing that what He says is true.
Believe that even if you feel dead inside, He is life for you.
“Out of the stump of our hearts . . .
In this day, this season, miracles will grow within, unfurl, bear fruit.
And the heart that makes time and space for Him to come will be a glorious place.” Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift
He is working to make your heart into a garden, a glorious place. You may not see the fruit yet, but it is growing and all He asks is for you to hope and to have faith that it is there.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
While we hope in what we do not see, we know that the promise is coming, because He has never broken a promise. He always comes.
So we wait patiently.
We wait expectantly.
And while we wait, we must be still and make space for Him in our hearts, because it is when we stop avoiding Him, when we slow down, when we open our ears to hear Him, and we await his answer expectantly, that we experience His presence.
His presence is the fulfillment of our Hope, the fulfillment of His promise.
In the dark moments of my life it is not having the answers that gets me through. It is not believing that everything will work out the way I want it to, it is knowing that He is with me.
The lyrics to the Natalie Grant song, Held flood my mind,
“This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred it torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held”
The promise was that when everything fell, we’d be held.
That is a hope I can put my trust in.
So this Christmas, don’t run from Him. Don’t doubt Him.
Believe that even in your barren wasteland, He is springing up a tender shoot within you. He is birthing tiny life, like the tender vulnerable babe He became, and watering it with His grace.
Love has come down for you to find you. Will you let Him hold you?
Please answer the questions below in the comments and share how unwrapping the Greatest Gift is changing your heart this Christmas
- In what ways do you feel like a lifeless stump, longing for a tender shoot of hope?
- Do you agree that the promise of His hope is fulfilled not in circumstances, but in His presence?
- What makes you shrink back from the stillness?
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Finally, for more information on Ann Voskamp’s, “The Greatest Gift”, how to download your own free printable Jesse tree ornaments, and other books and resources, visit http://www.aholyexperience.com/thegreatestchristmas/