The Most Unusual of Places

There is a gift I would like to receive this Christmas that I am certain will be deferred—perhaps not forever—but for now. What WILL be there, as it has been for so many years, is “the gift of singleness.” I cannot say I will open this package with joy, but I will open it. I will open it because, at least for this year, it is His gift to me. And I know He loves me.

Where is that anticipation that used to give us sleepless nights leading up to Christmas? Where is the childlike faith we used to have that the next morning would bring blessings untold? What has happened to the conviction that “God is LOVE?!” We need only look to the manger. For the manger calls to us saying:

“Lift your eyes, you who mourn.

Look up, downcast souls.

Day breaks where darkness ruled.

Life springs from desert streams.

Love has heard your cry.

Love has come at last.”

There is a danger in being honest. There is a danger that someone might take the sorrow I have revealed to be the sum total of who I am.  It is not so. I feel deep sorrow, but the Joy of the Lord has carved a deeper well in my soul. Joy to the WORLD—the Lord has come!! Rejoice—God cares!!

I confessed the longings of my heart. I admitted the pain my spirit has harbored at the long-delayed joy of marriage. I confessed these not to explain to you who I am—I pray I am not so shallow—but to let you know that life is comprised of such emotions. I speak with such candor, so that we who have human emotions might not think ourselves odd.

To be real is spiritual.

To be broken and healed is spiritual.

To confess and to confide is spiritual.

And yes, to rejoice is spiritual for God is with us. Emmanuel!!

Christmas, the manger, is evidence of God’s grace, and the grace of God is deeper than the darkest shadows of night, brighter than the strongest rays of day. It is greater than all that plagues us, richer than our poverty. It must be so, or there would be every reason to fear walking through the valley of the shadow of death. There would be no cause for the confidence we speak, if He were not—“with us.”

The Father’s grace is stronger than the currents of life that threaten to drag us down, more sure than the ground on which we stand. This truth must be, or our struggle to reach the shore would be futile. It must be, or the rumble beneath us would seem more than foreboding, more than a mere threat.

The grace of God is boundless, limitless, timeless, and extravagant. Grace does not falter due to the frailty of our faith, and it is not threatened by our honesty. Grace does not cease due to the persistence of sin. The extent of our need does not exhaust grace. The depth of our emptiness does not consume it.

Grace is ever held out to the prodigal, ever extended to those in need. Grace is ever available to us who fail, to us who even at our best are not good enough. It is we, the sick, who need the chief physician, who crave His healing touch, and so, our need will never deplete His grace.

What have I to say to those who despair?

What have I to say to those in need?

What have I to say to those who have cried their last tear?

Look to the manger! You are not forgotten. The life of Christ confirms that no degradation is beneath God’s love. There is no place that grace will not go to meet those in need. In the midst of our trials and failure, in the midst of our longings and hopes—God appeared. We need never fear that we are alone. While our arms were too short to reach Him, and our prayers were merely murmurs, Christ came down to let us know God cares. His manger is evidence of God With Us.

Because no humiliation is beneath God’s love, His grace will find us wherever we hide. He will seek us out even in the places we hope noone will find. He will search our hardening or hardened hearts to find that tender spot. He will meet us there, and gently (because that is His way) touch us, so that we will know we are not alone. He might appear in the form of a friend, a parent, a child, a songbird, or the quiet rustle of leaves. He might appear in the most unusual of places, as the most unusual of people, at the most inopportune time to let us know we are not alone. Would you have ever suspected He would come in the form of a helpless babe?

Between the children we seek to be and the people we are—lies the place of becoming. For now we are here, in the ‘tween time—malformed and awkward, striving to mature, striving to be who we are called to be and yet failing. But with us is the grace of God. And this makes all the difference in the world. With us is the manger, that place of meeting—God and man.

The most unusual of places finds the God of the universe among us. Oh, it would have been easy to say He does not care, if we did not have the manger. The rustle of wrapping paper and crushed boxes will not be enough for the single who still craves marriage. No, the one present longed for will not fit under the tree, and it is okay to mourn this. But, put off mourning till tomorrow and rejoice in the gift of God to us. Let us celebrate what is worth more than husband, wife, or children—for the Lord has come.

“I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky, and stay by my side until morning is nigh.”



This article first appeared on — Monday, December 22, 2008


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