All I Want For Christmas: A Stable Place

It’s a fascinating scene.

Mary, Joseph, and t-minus baby Jesus…navigating the tumultuous 90-mile terrain of Judea and uncertainty.

From a mangy donkey and chilly temperatures to the pirate, travel caravan, even wild boar potential, no question the journey into deliverance was labor in and of itself – a prime, if not, pinnacle example of near-term discomfort. And we’ve barely gotten to Bethlehem.

Yet, as I reflect more on the nativity story, Chapter 1 of the Incarnation, if you will, I can’t help but ponder some fresh perspectives courtesy of the past four months.

For instance, going back to Luke 1, while much attention was given to Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Zechariah’s silence, and their corporate stiff-arm to tradition, consider Elizabeth’s attitude.

Now after this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant, and for five months she secluded herself completely, saying, “This is how the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor on me, to take away my disgrace among men.” ~ Luke 1:24-25

To me, this speaks volumes about Elizabeth, specifically her confidence in God’s plan despite public scorn and her physical limitations. While she could have sulked in sorrow hiding her faith with her visibility, by acknowledging God’s creative miracle, she embraced His sovereignty. Essentially, Elizabeth’s ‘Yes and Amen‘ was a declaration of God’s faithfulness as greater than her high-risk pregnancy – a baton she would pass to Mary as she cultivated the practice.

As Mary sings in v. 47-49

“My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has looked [with loving care] on the humble state of His maidservant; for behold, from now on all generations will count me blessed and happy and favored by God!” ~ Luke 1:47-49

Again, note how “favor” is a word of overlap for Mary and Elizabeth. Paraphrasing their heartcries, we find Psalm 56:11 and 118:6:

What can man do to remove the blessing God has covered me with? While discouraging words surround me, the Lord’s favor within His faithfulness is encouragement enough. Therefore, I will boast in God’s goodness even though I don’t under the exact purpose behind His plan.

Fast-forward to Luke 2 and we find this theme playing out for Mary and Joseph. Desperate for shelter, a midwife, and rest from their journey, the temptation to fear and fume could have easily broken their wills. Almost a century mile and no room (for what they needed) in the inns? I would have blown a gasket in Joseph’s shoes!

Still, despite the inconveniences and inhumanities, God’s prophecy reigned supreme divinely guiding Mary and Joseph to what they craved all along…

…a stable place.

Were the conditions rough with health hazards to enhance a high-risk pregnancy? Absolutely. But as God had done for months (and would do in the years following during their hiatus into Egypt), He provided what they needed to be delivered. And as word of mouth increased through divine revelations, Mary’s heart delighted all the more. As she had done from Gabriel’s announcement, she stored the precious promises of God in her heart so she could treasure them at their fulfillment. If that’s not a sign of radical trust in God’s provident protection, I don’t know what is.

Bottom line: On paper and in transit, the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem was anything but smooth; however, just like Mary and Joseph, we, too, have the opportunity to keep our eyes on the prize when unexpected storylines emerge.

Even when God’s execution seems far from ideal, His heart always seeks to strengthen and sharpen our awareness to His Immanuel¹ presence.

Hence, the reason why we celebrate this season: To commemorate God’s light within His love and to say ‘thank you’ for relentlessly pursuing us.

As for you, my friends, you may feel hard-pressed on every side, drained on the heels of a long year, or hopeless despite your desire to delight in the Lord…

…however, in the end, He’s still there, a star on the horizon of whatever we’re going through…

…shining light on what ultimately matters amidst the chaos.

Together, we will get there.

Until then, selah…and Merry Christmas!

~ Cameron & Lyssah Fry

Cover photo creds: Pinterest

Footnotes

  1. i.e. “God with us”

3 Underrated Life Lessons from ‘White Christmas’

One of the most revered holidays classics, ‘White Christmas’ is a timeless, cinematic confection rich in star power, memorable moments, and, of course, incredible choreography.Granted, the plot is forced, trite, and over-reliant on ex-machinas and sing-along potential; however, this doesn’t mean the movie lacks savory dialogue.

Like most Christmas movies, ‘White Christmas’ shrewdly embeds life lessons within its narrative. Yet, while the picture may be more known for its entertainment value, one can find more meaning behind the scenes upon further inspection.

Thus, in the spirit of going behind the curtain, here are three underrated life lessons inspired by ‘White Christmas’.

1. Phil Davis: “My dear partner, when what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.”

Bob Wallace: “When I figure out what that means I’ll come up with a crushing reply.”

For those unfamiliar with ‘White Christmas’, your two male protagonists, Phil and Bob, are polar opposites. On one hand, you have Bob who is cautious and cynical; on the other, you have Phil who is audacious and whimsical. With salt and vinegar personalities, it’s not surprising to see the two collide in witty discords at inopportune moments. Yet, while Bob is the more discerning of the two, it’s Phil’s risk-taking gall and persuasion that puts Bob in position to find what he’s looking for. As this clip reveals, when Phil calls out Bob as diffident to companionship, the stage is set for Bob to consider Phil’s words…and, of course, advance the plot.

Bottom line: If the best time is now/if the better judgment involves the riskier road (Ecclesiastes 11:1-6), that doesn’t make it wrong. 

2. Bob Wallace: “So if you’re worried and you can’t sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.”

I’ve never been a fan of counting sheep. I remember as a little kid, I found the practice obnoxious and futile. Seriously, what could be more obtuse than tallying one of the most naive creatures in existence? However, as an adult, I’ve discovered the antithesis, specifically why counting blessings is one of the most refreshing exercises one can engage.

For while our mental computations (what we need, what we don’t have, etc. ) often lead to discouragement as opposed to thanksgiving, when it comes to what we’ve been divinely given, we have ever reason to remember and relish; hence, why this scene is so powerful. For Bob, counting blessings was not only a catchy jingle, but also a contagious habit contributing to his sunny demeanor and those around him.

Bottom line: If there’s anything worth counting in life, it’s your blessings (Psalm 103:2). 

3. Phil Davis: I think it’s ridiculous , impossible, and insane!”
Bob Wallace
: “Anything else?”
Phil Davis: “Yes, I wish I’d thought of it first.”

When it comes to helping others, we tend to operate within our means. While some tailor their gameplan to bandwidth and what they deem doable, when it comes to a giving heart, the best approach always seeks generosity by going beyond what’s possible. This truth alone is why I love Phil’s reply to Bob’s question here. For starters, you see maturity in Bob’s character for daring to give big. In addition, you note Phil and Bob are more in sync from being united for a special cause. Fittingly the storyline changes as both characters commit their decisions to helping someone else. Had Bob and/or Phil continued being overly concerned with their career pathway, they likely would’ve missed the chance to honor their friend’s legacy.

Bottom line: We only have what we give. So why not outdo each other in doing good (Hebrews 10:24)? Not only will this enliven your other-centeredness, but it will also stretch your capacity to give.

Bonus: Betty Haynes: [singing on the train] “I wanna wash my hands, my face, my hair with snow.”
Phil DavisBob WallaceBetty HaynesJudy Haynes: [singing] “... And may all your Christmases be white. Merry Christmas!”

As a lover of winter and all things snow, it wouldn’t be right if I left off a quote or two from the movie’s long list of wintry references. Here’s to these lines being prophetic during the next few months in middle Tennessee.

Cover photo creds: Cinematic HD Wallpapers

The Secret to Finding Christmas: Let it Be

Written 12/21/16; revised 12/16/21

To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin.

I know it should be the most wonderful time of the year; I know all things should be merry and bright.

But after the most brutal month in five years, I guess I can’t help if it doesn’t really feel like Christmas at all.

Not that I’m writing to implore sympathy. I just know I’m not the only one struggling with disappointment and the idea of sweeping it under the holiday carpet right now.

Perhaps you’re sitting there waiting for the snow to fall wondering how to overcome the heartache you harbor inside. If so, I want to encourage you today.

‘Cause when it comes to despondency, especially in seasons when we feel we should be in ‘joy to the world’ mode, it can be hard knowing how to cope. I know for me, I can feel a little guilty whenever I have to manufacture an outward expression contrary to my inward state.

Yet, while emotional dichotomies can feel awkward, when we choose to be joyful in spite of pain, we can overcome as conquerors taking a stand rather than fakers putting up a front.

Granted, I’m not saying this is easy; I’m just sayin’ when we justify withdrawal by not wanting to feel hypocritical or not wanting our hurt to leak, we risk exalting our sorrow above God’s nearness and revelation. Yes, being disappointed is a natural part of life; however, if we allow the letdowns of life to govern how we live, we not only validate the influence of tolerated bondage but limit our capacity to trust God.

Take Luke 1 for instance:

When Gabriel reveals God’s plan to Zechariah (v. 13-17), including the promise of “you will have joy and gladness”, note the first three words out of his mouth: “How can I?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I find it remarkable how a man righteous before God could be overcome by such skepticism in His presence. Considering Zechariah’s past behavior (v. 5-7), such a reaction tells me he most likely preserved his discouragement of Elizabeth’s barrenness though hopelessness and concealed it through blameless service. Had Zechariah allowed God to grieve with him during his darkest hours, chances are his fear would have yielded to hope realized instead of hope deferred.

Fast-forward to Mary’s encounter and we find similar apprehension when Gabriel greets her in v. 29: “But she was greatly troubled…and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”

Yet, after Gabrielle unpacks his message, note the difference in Mary’s response (v. 36): “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord

let it be.”

No question, Mary had the right idea. Although her initial reaction was akin to Zechariah, her processed reaction allowed her to receive the promise in faith, in turn, altering the trajectory of what would happen soon after. In Zechariah’s case, his doubt preceded his silence; for Mary, her belief preceded her worship (i.e. “my soul magnifies the Lord” – v. 46).

Now, could Mary have chosen to freak out? Of course! I’m sure the thought of her having to do some explaining crossed her mind; however, when you consider Mary could have easily become preoccupied with her own life, this makes her song of praise (v. 46-55) all the more profound.

So what’s my point, you ask?

My point is like Zechariah, we all carry some type of void within us, be it a measure of distress or the weight of prayers unanswered. Yet, like Mary, we can also know the hope of Christ resides in us as infinitely more than the sum of our uncertainty…

…the peace of Immanuel (God with us) as captivation helping us conquer the temptation to make sense of our surroundings. 

Maybe you’re reading this wondering how to ditch the loneliness looking for something to light up the fireworks in you. If you can relate, I want you know there’s not a hopeless void God can’t reach, nothing out of his range to restore. The same God who sent His one and only Son to take away the sins of the world is more than able to take away whatever burdens you’re carrying this Christmas.

And yes…I know it can be tough to let go. I get that. All I’m sayin’ is:

If you give yourself a chance to let it be, you’ll find new joy when you let it go.

Bottom line: Know who’s closest to you is nearer than what’s in front of you. That, to me, is what Christmas is all about.

Cover photo creds: Wallpaper Access