Devotion: The Encore of Thanksgiving (New Beginnings, Part One)
Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.
-- American journalist Jim Bishop
The wind is November's muse -- dancing skyward in half-crescent swirls. Come, let autumn meet winter in a wondrous spell. This is the month of reflection. Let nature lift its eyes and delight in the mystery of what has been and what will come to be. This is a year that asks many questions and finds many answers.
We often wait until New Years' to posture our hearts and minds for new beginnings. We "re-solution" our season with new, often renewed solutions. Because the New Year appends a sort of sunrise charm. Mysteries that seemed overwhelming in December take on a golden hope in January.
We are entering a season of thanksgiving: a quiet interlude when the soft changes of winterfall, melodies calm and the glorious, subtle harmony of what once lay beneath the title-sound flows forth, no longer obscured. A season of selah, when our hearts find nourishment in remembrance. We remind ourselves of God's promises, and praise his name in his testimony and gifted grace.
2020 has felt irresolute. Often, its unsettledness left us discouraged and alone. Ann Voskamp, of the Broken Way, writes:
You don’t have to close your eyes to see how the news has been screaming for months and we are all exhausted and bruised. In the face of a global pandemic, the battle over truth, science, data, lockdowns and the efficacy of masks has unmasked gaping chasms of division.
How to remember that we are all related to one another and realise the interconnectedness of our brokenness?
We marvel the New Year, equally desperate for and afraid of its arrival. We wonder what awaits us in 2021, limited and foreseeable as it is. Holding onto what little strength we have left, we bide the winter season and wait with our dreams for the 1st.
But, my friends, January is "not the assurance of good things hoped for." It will not bring "evidence of things unseen." Faith is.
Faith is the testimony of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Through faith, we understand how worlds were formed by the Word of God: in this invisible, things were made seen.
In faith, Abel offered to God acceptable sacrifices and was sanctified as righteous that though he died, he still speaks.
In faith, Enoch pleased God and was lifted up so that he should not see nor experience death.
In faith, Noah listened to God's warning (concerning events yet unseen) and constructed an ark for the saving of his household.
In faith, Abraham obeyed and went out to a foreign land, not knowing where he was going, but trusting in the inheritance promised by God.
In faith Sarah received power to conceive despite her barren age.
In faith, these men and women died - not having received the promised themselves, but having gazed upon them in the distance and greeted them from afar. For without faith it is impossible to see what is unseen - the God who loves to bless those who believe and seek his kingdom, with the knowledge that they are strangers and exiles on the earth. They dream of a better, heavenly land; one prepared for them in grace and love by Grace and Love himself.
--- Hebrews 11: 1- 16
God is for us in all seasons - November, May, July, January, March, February, December.
His Grace is omnipresent. With God, we are not alone.
His Grace is omnipotent, made visible in our weakness and fear (2 Cor 12:9).
God saved us on the cross. His holiness, his humility, his divinity and grace given to those who lift their eyes in worship and faith. Salvation for every season that was and is to come.
So let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross and rose to the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who suffered opposition from the sin of men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart in suffering too (Hebrews 12).
God does not shame us in our suffering, but calls us to live with the holiness of his salvation, not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and grace, given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9). Behold, God comes in might. He tends to his people like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11). He guides us to still waters, toward paths of righteousness. Even when we walk through the valley in the shadow of death, he walks with us and restores our soul (Psalm 23). His gentleness presence is a healing balm.
From spring to summer, autumn to winter, winter to spring, the seasons come with internal and external changes. We watch the world renewed in the beauty of change and we learn to reposture our hearts to begin anew in the steadfast love of God.
In this pre-New Year season, in the winter and expectancy of Christmas, we reflect on previous years and prepare our hearts and minds for new resolutions. But often I begin the New Year already afraid of inevitable failure. I demand so much of new beginnings and new seasons. But, my friends, as we approach the holidays, may we remember that ...
God's grace is in season all the time. His faithfulness renews us in the image of the invisible God, through whom all things were created in heaven and on earth - the visible and invisible. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:15-17).
God is not indifferent to our suffering. He sees the intricacy, the complexity, the differences between the heaviness we feel, and He asks us this: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Matt 11:29).
God knelt before His Father on the cross. Moved by our tangled suffering, God moved into our world to entangle Himself in suffering with us. He bore our hurt, rejection, sin, misfortune, anxiety, hate and loneliness. Buried and removed it. This is Emmanuel. God with us.
No longer is our brokenness isolated. As Ann Voskamp writes, Christmas is the end of us vs. them --- because it is now us with Him. No longer is our brokenness isolating.
Christmas is a season where we celebrate and remember the Son of God, who came to us in gentle form, who chose to die and was brought back to life. He removed the brokenness from our future. He redeems the brokenness of our present and past. When we remember this, we see that God with us is and was and is to come. The mysterious grace of His Spirit in us, always with us and promised to come.
The New Year is coming, but listen. To the quiet, still small voice of an almighty God. He says: Come to me. I am with you, now.
Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bring your offspring from the East and gather you from the West. I will carry my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.
To everyone called by my name and created for my glory, whom I indeed formed and made. You are my witnesses, whom I have chosen so that you may consider, believe and understand that I am He. Before, no god was formed and after, none will come. Yes, I am Adonai and there is no Savior but me.
My child, I have redeemed you and call you by name. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you swim through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched. The flames will not set you ablaze. For I am Adonai, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Sebain in your place. Because you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you (Isaiah 43:1-11).