Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tidings of Great Joy

The holidays are almost upon us, and usually this is the time of year where my hopes and dreams tend to be renewed within my heart. This was not the case a few years back, however. 

I felt like my life had fallen to a new low when my Jewish neighbor asked me to watch her dog so she could celebrate Christmas with her in-laws. When I initially declined she said, "Oh come on. You are single with no family. What does it matter if you stay at my house? You don't have anywhere to go."

Emotionally, I knew it mattered a great deal, but I had grown weary from the years of praying for the healing I needed in order to be connected with my loved ones so I could spend the holidays (and life in general) with them. I reluctantly agreed to watch the dog and stayed at her home, but as the days crept toward the 24th, my heart became more and more despondent.

It's been a longtime habit of mine to slip outside on Christmas Eve to pray, and that night was no different. The stillness of the December air that manages to turn crisp just in the nick of time in South Carolina and the extraordinarily bright moonlight somehow have always made the atmosphere seem truly holy to me. I am usually then moved to offer up my deepest, most heartfelt thoughts and feelings to God with ease. It's not uncommon for me to pray for  a "Christmas miracle," either, and that year I did have a particular one in mind.

But rather than being able to speak, unexpectedly there were no words. There were not even tears. Instead I stood in the depths of a lifetime of emptiness. Not being able to take the pain of the disconnect even with Jesus, I told Him, "I have nothing to say. My hope is gone. I don't believe in Christmas miracles anymore. Your birth was probably it--the only Christmas miracle necessary, and that should be enough for me." Then I dejectedly went back into the house without even saying an amen.

It wasn't long after that when the dog and I headed to bed. Normally, it takes me well over an hour to fall asleep, yet within minutes I was out. Visions of sugarplums did not dance in my head, but sometime during the night I began to dream, and in my dream, I sat at a writing desk in a small room. 

I tried hard to put pen to paper but because of an overwhelming anxiety, I got up from the desk and then began to pace. I was so caught up in my fear that when three men appeared in the room, I almost didn't notice them.

They all had dark hair and were dressed like monks. Their habits were brown and the men wore golden sashes tied around their waists. They also all held golden tablets in their hands. 

One of the men stepped forward. He simply said, "My name is Sean. I have a message for you. Do not be afraid." As soon as he said this, peace flooded me so deeply that I felt a change in my body even in my sleep, which caused me to wake with a joyful start. 

I excitedly thought, "If the name Sean has anything to do with God, then my dream was from the Lord!" I sprang out of bed and tripped over the dog which nearly sent me flying head first down the stairs, but I hardly cared. I just wanted to get to the computer to find out about this name. 

Sean, it turns out, is the Gaelic form of John which means, "God is gracious." This discovery only heightened my joy. By giving me that dream, the Lord indeed had shown Himself to be gracious to me. 

Yet later on Christmas Day, after happily sharing my story with a friend (who has been a church leader for more than 35 years), she simply smiled but did not comment. Concerned, I asked, "Do you not think this was from God?" She answered, "Yes it was, but those men were not monks, and that was not a dream. They were angels, and you experienced a visitation.

I fell silent. I realized God's graciousness to me had been far greater than I initially understood. To begin with, many people pray to see angels and often ask how that happens. There is no definitive answer, but I've slowly come to the realization that angels are visible when we need them to be visible, but only God knows when we truly are in that place of need. This is not something we can force upon Him. Additionally having a spiritual experience does not make a person holy, which is not a claim I could ever make about myself. I am just as human as anyone else.

Secondly, I told the Lord I didn't believe in Christmas miracles anymore, but He performed one simply to restore my hope. It's been six years since that night, but I think of it more frequently now because like the angels announcing Christ's birth, they too brought me great tidings of joy that is just now beginning to manifest in my life. 

Two thousand years ago, Christ entered the world as Emmanuel and became God with us. There are times we think He has left us, but because of His graciousness, even on Christmas Eve, He finds His ways, sometimes plainly and sometimes miraculously to let us know, "I am still here. Do not be afraid." 

God bless you and peace be with you always. Fear not and Merry Christmas for the Lord is with us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment