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

Yuletide Certitudes: A Truth From Charlie Brown & The Crown of Christmas

Well, folks. Ready or not…Christmas is here.

Time to deck the halls, throw cares away, and shake up the hap…ahhh…who I am kidding. After a year like 2020, after the two years in one the past nine month have been, Christmas just doesn’t feel right. Not to suggest there’s anything wrong being excited about annual traditions happening virtually in more subdued fashion. It’s just that…outside of Elvis, Bono, and Frank Loesser, this December has been hard to appreciate. Call it the fear of being blue with or without you ’cause baby it’s covid outside.

Yeah, yeah…I know that was bad. But in all seriously, it’s true. If it’s the most wonderful time of the year, why does the wonder feel so far off? Is it the fatigue factor, the mountain of forgetful memories in the back of our minds? Maybe the hesitancy to hope for holy nights to invade?

Whatever, wherever, however, the struggle, truth is there’s still plenty of reason to believe in this season. And while one post can only go so far, my hope is these three advent insights will encourage you in your anticipation for Christmas and the new year to come.

As always, let’s dive in…

  1. After rewatching ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ with my kids a few days ago, I find it interesting how Lucy, Charlie Brown’s nemesis, is the one who invites him to direct the school’s Christmas play. For most, the climax of the episode is Linus’s telling of the Christmas story (released blanket and all); however, it’s his sister, one of the most iconic animated bullies of all-time, who allows Charlie Brown to set the stage for this happen. Because Charlie Brown said ‘yes’ to Lucy’s invitation (and ‘no’ to fear by default), not only did he position himself to wrestle through weakness but aligned himself to ask one of the most important questions this side of heaven: “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?

As the story goes, Charlie Brown ends up discovering the true meaning of Christmas thanks to the tag-teaming efforts of Linus and Lucy; however, it still took a community of friends to help him arrive.

Accordingly, if you’re feeling alone, perhaps intimidated by a specific person/situation or overwhelmed by a bombardment of anxieties, consider God’s invitation for growth and discovery this season may very well come from someone you least expect. You don’t have to understand the timeline or the characters involved. You don’t have to make sense of your surroundings. Just lean into Jesus as you love unconditionally and give additionally. After all, to piggy-back off Linus, that’s what Christmas is all about.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” ~ Galatians 4:4-7

2. As Galatians 4 states, Jesus was born under the law to establish the freedom we were to enter into. The essence of Immanuel is rooted in this reality. Through the Incarnation, Jesus matured in holiness under the law so we could mature in His likeness within our new creation identity. Had Jesus not been born under the law, the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5) would have been compromised given Christ had to model the same identity through the fullness of time required for salvation, justification, and sanctification. Additionally, Jesus could not have paid our price, set the captives free on Holy Saturday, and secured our sonship if His entry point was above the law.

Think of this way: Jesus being born under the law laid a foundation for our salvation, freedom, and accordingly our ability to delight in suffering. Because Jesus faithfully endured AND delighted in suffering from ministry to Cross, we can likewise embrace the thorns in our own lives as we lean on Him. As we will discuss in future posts, there’s powerful symbolism and symmetry to how this relates to our new creation identity (i.e. being daily raised with Christ) and how it applies to the marketplace. For now, consider this a teaser for future January/February content.

3. Jesus being born under the law not only helps us grasp its necessity but reminds us to humbly honor appointed authorities, even ones we don’t agree with. Like today, political chaos and social unrest were backdrop realities Christ entered into; still God’s hand was steady and ever moving. This brings the idea of delighting in suffering full circle as we trust God through the temptation of fear into postures of holy expectation. Especially in this season, if we’re to celebrate our redemption as children of God, we must first acknowledge our helplessness in light of Christ’s sacrifice and desire to be forever Immanuel to us. Only then we can fathom the manger through the crown and cross He bore.

Think of this way: While some would say Bethlehem didn’t make sense as a landing spot for a Lord, it made perfect sense for a Savior surrendered to His Father’s will…born under the law. Through weakness Christ entered the world but this was not detached from yieldedness and surrender.

For instance, one can only imagine the pain Mary felt as she labored through greater discomfort and uncertainty. Trudging along in desperation, she likely expressed frustration, perhaps vented her doubts. Still, her soul kept magnifying the Lord. Even when the habitation of our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) was unknown, Mary kept it simple:

Count it all joy as the hope of glory is made known…Christ IN me.

Bottom line: Just as the stars aligned for salvation’s conception, so too can you align to Christ this Christmas through fearless intimacy knowing ‘Abba Father’ is on your side.

Selah.

‘Til next time, may you know the hope that is yours and the breakthrough that will be yours this Christmas season.

Blessings,

~ Cameron & Lyssah Fry

Photo creds: iDiscipleship

High Priest in a Manger: The Nativity As Seen Through Hebrews 4

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

…or so they say.

To exalt why we exist, to know freedom abundantly…

…yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before.

But if you’re like me these days…drained, disoriented…wondering when and where you are…unsure of most things status and standing…lend an ear.

‘Cause while I don’t have all the answers, I’m also not one to hide what I find. Even if it means going back to certain wells time and time again.

That said, a few weeks ago, I was glancing through Hebrews 4 when it hit me: While verses 14-16 are often attributed to genealogy and lordship, they also hold value in light of Christmas.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s read together…

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Upon first look, it’s fair to say there’s not much Bethlehem and Messianic prophesy referenced in this passage. Granted, one could say the “great high priest” achieves the latter, but either way, odds are you’re not thinking Luke 2 when reading Hebrews 4.

However, when we take a deeper dive, we begin to see the significance of what “great high priest” means for us today. For instance, after emphasizing Christ as Word and the trust/rest dynamic in v. 14, note the critical turn in v. 15. As the Message translates, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.” Rather, He is able to understand our weaknesses and temptations because He not only conquered them but experienced them!

giphy

From here, we begin to see how this passage pertains to Christmas. Before the Son of God could bear our sin in His body, the Son of Man had to be born into it. Before He could redeem us from the curse of the law, He had to establish His plan of grace. Before He could save us through the Cross, He had to love us through the manger. You get the picture.

Yet, even before the manger, Christ had to be our high priest relating to us before the beginning of time. In this way, His sovereign authority could craft a divine pathway for our eternal relationship and our fearless approach beforehand. After all, nothing takes God by surprise.

Of course, the theological layers run deeper, but for now, consider this. When we celebrate Christmas each year, we’re essentially saying…

… “Lord, I’m taking hold of your mercy, I’m entering your rest, I’m accepting your help, I’m renewing my mind…all because you loved us to know our flesh as flesh. And from that relatability, I can receive you in confidence as the center of my ability, humility, stability, tranquility, etc.

I love how the Amplified breaks this down…

Therefore, let us with privilege approach the throne of God’s gracious favor with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy AND find His amazing grace to help in time of need…an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment.”

Ahhh, at the right moment. Isn’t that what we’re always searching for? The right time, a right moment, the right one, even? And yet, so often we miss the fact Jesus is all these things. A perpetual reality punctuated by the incarnation, Jesus was our hope as a high priest before He became hope as a baby. Now we can live with Him in heaven forever all because once upon a time, a hope once deferred became the hope we cling to today.

Accordingly, for all you in despair, in a rut…a funk, whatever it may be, know this: Jesus came at the right moment so He could intervene for you at the right moments. Past, present, future…He never stops being a shining light of David directing our hearts to where His rest lies. As Paul states in Ephesians 2:14, “He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” All the more so, His light could enter, penetrate the darkness, and shatter the mold.

And so…as we wrap up another year, my prayer is that you’ll embrace this season and boldly enter into God’s best, His rest, and His next. For when you see the Cross behind the manger, you understand Christmas; however, when you see the priest in the manger, you’ll know the courage that can be yours as you invite into your weakness. How awesome it is to know Christ made Himself vulnerable so we could be vulnerable back? Not to mention with each other as we share the good news of His love in all we say and do.

Selah.

‘Til next time, may you know the hope that is yours and the breakthrough that will be yours this Christmas season.

Love you guys…

~ Cameron

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Cover photo creds: Renovare