Welcome to the shortest day and longest night of the year–unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case today is the shortest night and longest day of the year.
However short or long your day may be, it’s the only one you’re promised.
Ask Roxli Doss, an eleven-year-old who lives in the Austin, Texas, area. She may be out riding horses today. And that’s astounding.
Roxli was diagnosed in June with a rare, inoperable brain tumor for which there is no cure. After she underwent weeks of radiation, all her parents could do was to pray for a miracle.
“And we got it,” her mother says.
“Praise God we did,” her father agrees.
Her latest MRI scan shows no sign of the tumor. Doctors from MD Anderson, Johns Hopkins, and other hospitals all agreed on her diagnosis. Now she has gone from no cure to no trace.
Roxli will continue to undergo treatments such as immunotherapy as a precaution.
Drones shut down Gatwick airport
Every day brings new surprises.
Then came the announcement yesterday afternoon that Gen. Jim Mattis will be retiring as Defense Secretary at the end of February. The president stated that a new defense secretary “will be named shortly.”
Meanwhile, London’s Gatwick Airport has opened again after drone sightings caused it to shut down for more than a day, disrupting the lives of 120,000 passengers. Major League Baseball has reached a deal with Cuban officials that will allow Cuban citizens to play in the US and return home in the offseason. And the decline of shopping malls in America has meant trouble for the nation’s Santas.
I could keep listing surprising stories, but you get the point. As the saying goes, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
No book in history illustrates this fact more clearly than the Bible. Just pick a story: Noah and the ark, Abraham sacrificing Isaac, Moses at the burning bush, Joshua and the battle of Jericho, David and Goliath, and the list goes on.
The theme continues in the New Testament: Jesus chooses fishermen for apostles; a murdering Pharisee becomes the apostle to the Gentiles; a frightened disciple preaches at Pentecost; an elderly prisoner gives us the Revelation.
My wife recently wrote a very insightful blog on expecting the unexpected. I especially like this statement: “Joseph of Arimathea didn’t expect to give his tomb away–and he surely didn’t expect to get it back!“
“Think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”
Of all the surprises in human history, however, Christmas deserves to be at the top of the list. That a holy God would choose to enter our unholy, broken, rebellious planet is astounding. That he would choose to do so as a helpless baby is beyond amazing.
C. S. Lewis captures the surprise: “The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab” (Mere Christianity, his italics).
But the surprises didn’t end in Bethlehem.
Jesus was as sinless as an adult as he was as a newborn infant. This fact is crucial. If he had sinned during his earthly life, he could not have been our sinless sacrifice, and the purpose of his incarnation would have been defeated.
Our Savior lived every day by the maxim, “Pray and obey.” He prayed early in the morning before taking his next steps in ministry (Mark 1:35-39). He prayed before performing miracles (John 6:11). He prayed all night before choosing his apostles (Luke 6:12).
And the obedience that brought him to Bethlehem took him to Calvary for us.
What is life’s greatest mission?
Now he calls us to follow his example. He wants us to be a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), to take up our cross “daily” (Luke 9:23), to “live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20). He wants us to seek our Father’s will and then obey it. Every day.
In her inspiring daily devotional, Anne Graham Lotz recently quoted Jill Briscoe, the anointed Bible teacher. Jill was once asked what she believed to be her life’s greatest mission. Her answer: “To figure out what to do every day in my life–as ordained by God–and then to do it.”
Our culture measures relationship with God by religious observance. That’s why so many will attend Christmas services in coming days but not return until Easter. They think they’ve “checked the God box” and can go on about their lives.
We should welcome them, knowing that God can speak to anyone at any time in any place. But “seasonal Christians” are missing so much. Our Father has a purpose for each of us filled with present relevance and eternal significance.
However, he reveals it each day as each day comes.
“The main business that you are here for”
Eugene Peterson called the Christian faith “a long obedience in the same direction.” We follow that direction by praying and then obeying. Every day.
J. I. Packer: “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”
What is your “main business” today?