We are awaiting the birth of the Christ child; it’s Advent season, the beginning of the church year, the celebration of Christmas. It’s a beautiful season of buying and giving gifts, but the meaning of Jesus’s birth gets lost often in the commercialism and materialism of how we celebrate it. Let’s take more than a few moments this year to reflect on what Jesus’s birth means to us who believe in and follow Him.
Jesus was born a little baby into our world and a few people knew about it and celebrated it, his family, of course, but also the shepherds who heard an angel sing of his birth and the magi who came from afar. He was born not at his parents’ home in Nazareth, but in Bethlehem. In a stable. To a carpenter and his wife. Nothing fancy. Nothing like our celebrations of his birth today.
Now some 2,000 years later, as we experience Advent again, we can also await the birth of the Christ child in us, not in the outward celebration of Christmas 2019, but in an inner sense, we prepare a place for his birth in us, a birth of His Spirit, of His direction for our lives, a growing reliance on Him, a birth of a new understanding of His teachings and their application to our lives. Advent is the preparation time for allowing something new to be born us, just as Jesus was born into this world all those years ago. Jesus could come to us as just a very small seed in us that continues to grow until it really blossoms and takes hold in us.
Our faith is not a once-and-done kind of decision. It is born in us as we answer God’s call, but there are many years and issues to go through, many changes and healings in our lives, many new understandings that dawn on us as we dig deeper into our understanding of Jesus’ teachings and allow Him to bring forward into our selves all that He would have us be and do.
I apologize is you’ve read this metaphor before, but it is my favorite way to describe the walk with Jesus. The activity in the ocean—waves, choppiness, storms take place in the top 20 or so feet of the ocean.[except in the case of a tsunami which goes much deeper] We could liken that to living on the surface of our lives where the world holds sway. Beneath the top layer of the ocean are long, slow currents that seemingly go on forever. We could think of those deep currents as our deeper true selves, resting in God. We are always choosing where we’re going to live—in the world and all its storms and activities and anxieties or in the kingdom of God where we are deeply connected to God’s Spirit and all that He wants for us.
It is a walk with Jesus that brings us to the fulness of who we were created by God to be. There are many steps and many miles along the way as we surrender to Him all that we cling to as we are drawn into His ways. Step by step—I think of this way as a school for learning how to love as God loves—we grow and mature into His love and our own expression of it. The best thing we can do as we walk hand in hand with Him is to surrender all that we are, think and do, and to allow Him to lead us. The minute we take charge again because of our own fear or anger, we have stepped off the path. Of course, we can get right back on it as we realize what we have done.
Here are the lessons I have learned in my 35+ years of following Jesus.
1-Every single suggestion from Him I have heeded has been good for me. Often He calls me to things beyond my own capabilities, but there He is with me to help me make the transition and to make it work.
2-The more I practice surrendering to His will for me in the little stuff of life, the more prepared I am to face the tsunamis of life, in my case the death of my husband. As soon as I could hear His voice in the midst of my fear, I was at peace with Hank’s death and the grief I felt. He showed me the way through that passage, and still does.
3-If I can skip the objections to whatever is happening in my life, then my suffering goes way down. The more I object and resent and plead for a change, the unhappier I will be. If I can look at each new thing in my life as just what I have to deal with now and get down to seeing what He is calling me to, I am ready to tackle it.
4-There is peace along the way as I rest in His arms and lean on Him in everything. He really is in charge of my life; He carries the burdens I have shouldered, He is responsible to figure out what I need to do and how to go about that. I just follow Him. He’s the pilot of the airplane that is my life. I am the co-pilot happily deferring to His wisdom for me.
5-There is a sense of adventure in not knowing and not assuming anything about the future whether it is the next moment or far away. I can go from wanting life as we want it to be—world based, that is– to being open to whatever is. I realize that I really don’t know anything about tomorrow or even the next minute, so I might as well see what God wants of me next. And that begins the adventure. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
6-I’ve been in a training course to learn to love all my fellow men and women and children, no matter any perceived differences, since my husband died 18 years ago. Two trips to Haiti, one to Northern Mexico to meet families who lived in a garbage dump and three young men who were on their way across the Rio Grande. A year interviewing for Crisis Assistance Ministry. And the books I’ve been led to read from the “Tears We Cannot Stop” by Rev. Michael Dyson to “Poor Economics: a Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and many more in between.
If I believe that all men and women are made in God’s image, which I do, then I feel that God is telling me that I am to shower His love on everyone, because God loves us all, repentant or not. It is not up to me to judge anyone; it is up to me to love them, to shower God’s love poured out for me onto every other person, no matter the differences between us of class or race or economic level or education. We are all loved by God and we all belong to the community of the kingdom, anytime we choose to enter therein.
None of what I learned these 35+ years came easily to me. But it was through the various experiences I’ve been through in my life, and in my resistance and finally in surrendering to God’s will in all of it that I have learned these lessons. We could see my experience of following Jesus as the Christ child being born in me again and again until He assumes total leadership of who I am. I am sure this process goes on until the day I die and leave this human body and all. So I will continue to need Christ birthing in me new wisdom and care, new directions and new hope for the rest of my life.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I open to and welcoming of new directions, suggestions, ideas from the Indwelling Spirit of God? Do I then do what He asks of me? What is the Lord birthing in me now? Can I name it? Am I willing to follow Him? If I struggle with this, what are the issues in me, the thinking that hold me back from obeying?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are tuned into the voice of His Indwelling Spirit, who are eager to follow through on what He suggests to us. May we be increasingly open and willing and obedient, so that we can realize our true potential as He created us to be. May we true to our deepest longings to live in His arms.
If you’d like to receive my blog five days a week in your email, go to patsaidadams.com/by-the-waters-blog/. There is a gift waiting for you.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 12.16.19s is entitled, “Recognizing God’s Voice Within.”
 Genesis 1:27