“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:2-5
For my sophomore year at college, my mother made me a queen-sized patchwork quilt. Made of pink, green, yellow, white, and blue pieces, this fairly thin covering has surprisingly kept me warm for nearly thirty years. Maybe it’s the love or prayers that went into stitching it together, I’m not sure. But to this day, if that quilt is not on my bed, I can’t get warm enough to sleep.
Yeah, I know, I sound like the female version of Linus and his blue blanket…oh well.
As expected with time and usage, this old quilt has collected some rips, tears, and lost stitches. It’s not at the point of being unusable, but a little extra handling care was in order. Recently, I really looked at it and decided to repair as best I could. Needle and thread in hand, I pulled frayed pieces close and stitched them up. Suffice it to say, the stitching isn’t pretty, and it’s very noticeable. Why after all this time it never dawned on me to fix the rips when they were smaller, I don’t know. What I do know is that every pass of the needle through the material was symbolic of what the Lord has done for me personally and for others:
He stitched us back together. However, His stitch is so perfect that none of us look like there was anything torn or broken within us. With His awesome, beautiful handiwork, we don’t look like what we’ve been through.
Think about it: this year we have experienced rips and tears that could have completely unraveled us spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. The fabric of our society, already stretched by the ever-present effects of hatred and fear, was pulled apart in ways few of us thought would happen in our lifetime. The hopeful expectation of 2020 being the year of vision became tattered and torn by calamity after tragedy after catastrophe.
This year, more than any other, has been a trip, leaving us much like my old quilt. And yet, there are only two words I can say to that:
See, despite all that was going on, the Lord has been putting us back together, working in the background and at the forefront. We don’t look like:
a. Salary reductions or job loss, because bills were still paid, food still in the pantry, and a new job was waiting for us
b. Broken relationships, because a single text or phone call opened a path to reconciliation
c. Sickness and disease, because our God is a healer, and it is His report that we believe
d. Depression, because the joy of the Lord has held the darkness at bay
e. Anxiety, because God took the cares we cast on Him and is handling them with so much ease
Every piece of our lives that was ripped, the Lord has repaired. Every seam that was stretched, God has strengthened. Every part that went missing, He has made new. His is truly the perfect stitch, and I’m just glad He loves us enough to make us whole in heart, mind, and spirit.
I don’t know about you, fam, but I can’t wait to see how and what the Lord does in 2021. I expect The Great to do great things for you, and for me.
Happy New Year, everyone.
Prayer: Lord, it has been a year. Still every time we thought “This is it”, or “Can’t handle this”, but You, Lord. But You, who stepped in and did more than we could ever ask or think. For every tear of sadness, You gave us tears of joy. For every sigh, You gave us multiple reasons to sing Your praise. For every bad moment, You showed up with Your goodness and showed out with Your grace. Thank You, Lord, for all that You have done. I pray that You keep doing what You do best in 2021, and all the years to come. And for the person who is waiting for that breakthrough, believe that it is coming. Your waiting is not in vain. Amen.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6
Two Christmases ago I preached a message titled “The Best Gift Ever”, comparing the gift that we are all celebrating today (and really everyday) to the gift I didn’t exactly get when I was a little girl with big dreams and an even bigger imagination. At some point in the future I may post the entire text of that sermon, but for now, bear with me on this mini trip down memory lane….
Long ago, my parents took me to Sears Roebuck in the Winwood Mall in my home town, to meet the man, the myth, the legend – Santa Claus. We waited in that never-ending line until it was my turn to tell him, “Yes, I’ve been good” –at least I thought was. And I left that store excited for what I just knew he was gonna bring me: a Malibu Barbie.
Christmas Eve, my night-owl habit kicked in overdrive as I laid out the cookies, milk, and posted up on the couch to see if I could get a glimpse, just a small one of Santa. I do remember wondering just how he was going to get in our house, because we didn’t have a fireplace; we had that good old, tall wall heater. But hey, if Santa could squeeze down chimneys of all shapes and sizes, he could figure out a workaround for me. And so, confident in this, I stayed up, watched “A Christmas Story” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” God knows how many times, and waited. And waited. I must have dozed off at some point because the next thing I knew, dawn had arrived, and Santa was MIA. But hey, I was good all year and I knew he left Malibu Barbie under the tree just for me.
Y’all, I tore through the gifts as fast as I could to find her, and when I reached her box, savoring the moment of the great reveal, this next picture was what I got:
Not Malibu Barbie. Good old Saint Nick left me a Superstar Barbie.
Many questions went through my mind, while disappointment swirled in my little heart. I was hurt, y’all. I had believed in Santa to be and provide what I wanted, and it didn’t happen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t throw little miss Superstar away—I wasn’t that crazy. That doll and I went on many an adventure, as super-secret agents rappelling off armchairs –her—and doing flying scissor kicks off steps – me– to save the world. And even when ‘she’ accidentally broke part of her neck, I put her back together with some duct tape and kept on truckin’. Yeah, I was MacGyver before there was a MacGyver!
But after that year, the perspective on Christmas became something of a roller coaster: the anticipation and excitement ebbed and flowed, at times more of the former. There were peaks and valleys, mind dizzying turns, and abrupt stops. Sometimes I received what I wanted, sometimes I didn’t, and sometimes I received what I didn’t even ask for (or want).
Still, as a friend from back home used to say during Sunday School, “God is a smart fella.” He knows and teaches His children that it’s not the gifts – the tangible, material—we want that matter. It’s the one gift He gave that to this very day, matters the most, and nobody can top that.
And that, folks, is Jesus Christ who is still the best gift ever, even in a year like 2020. But in case there is someone who’s struggling with what they see instead of what the prophet Isaiah said, let’s examine just three of an infinite number of facts:
FACT #1: He’s “Wonderful”. Something that makes our Heavenly gift wonderful is that Jesus is everything and anyone we need, at any time, all the time. Whereas that old Barbie had one purpose, which was to keep me occupied and essentially out of trouble, and because it was constrained by Mattel’s design and my imagination and attention, with Jesus there are no constraints whatsoever. He’s not limited to a quota of meeting one need per person, per day. He’s meeting and exceeding the needs of countless believers across the globe. He’s encouraging and keeping all of our sisters and brothers by blood and by bond through a year-long season of turmoil and uncertainty.
There is no ageing out with Jesus Christ as the best gift ever, either, meaning we don’t get too big or grown when it comes to Him, even though we sometimes act like it. This means our problems, situations, or issues will never be too big for Him to resolve. Therefore, we can trust Him with our everything and not be worried or fearful of disappointment. We can trust 100% that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. We can commune and communicate with the Lord through prayer about our situation, say “Amen” and mean it, and let the situation go. I can certainly say that I am a living witness to this!
FACT #2: He’s our “Counselor”, and He’s our “Counselor”. The official definitions of this word, according to Webster are:
A person who gives advice or counseling
One that gives advice in law and manages cases for clients in court
In the spirit of keeping things real, we all need some counseling. We all need the Lord’s advice on a multitude of things because as “smarty art” as we may think we are or have been complimented, we don’t know everything. And thank God that we don’t!
Now about spiritual counseling, Jesus gives some really good counsel, the kind that has outlived hundreds of generations:
The counsel of the two greatest commandments – Love God, love your neighbor as yourself
The counsel of ask and it shall be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened
The counsel of not worrying about what tomorrow will bring
And when we read His council/advice, and we put it in practice…life gets better. Our perspective on it gets better.
For the other type of counseling (from the legal perspective), Jesus Christ is still the best gift ever because He’s never lost a case. And every day, every poor, selfish decision we make, every lie we speak, every hurt we dish out– the Accuser, who goes by many names – Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, the Devil – builds a solid case against us where the wages of sin are death. Spiritual fingerprints are all over the scene, and the case is open shut.
But for our defense, there is something which the Accuser just can’t beat. This something that still works, that reaches to the highest mountain and flows to the lowest valley, that gives us strength from day to day…this something that covers a multitude of sins and that has never lost its power: it’s the blood of Jesus that washes away the spiritual evidence and makes us bright as snow. And without the evidence, the Devil can’t beat it no matter how hard he tries (and he will keep trying, no doubt!). Jesus reminds His foe what happened at Calvary and causes him to lose yet again. “Case dismissed!”
FACT #3: Jesus Christ, the best gift, is the Mighty God. Going back to Webster again, this means “powerful”. While exiled on the island of Patmos, John called Him the “Omnipotent God”, meaning “One who has unlimited power or authority.” We already know that Jesus has power over life and death, sickness and health. His 3 ½ year ministry attests to that. Just look at the lepers, the lame, deaf, mute, physically deformed, demonically possessed, and the dead He restored. Look at the 5000 men, and thousands more women and children that He fed with plenty left over. Look at the storm that terrified His disciples, to which He spoke “Peace, be still!” and it did instantly. Look at the sinners He forgave which the religious leaders wanted to condemn. Look at the forces seen and unseen that tried their best to tear us down this year and keep us there, and how He provided paths to victory over them.
See how He reached into the bottom of our spirits where the last bit of light was flickering, and PULLED out the best of us, the potential He placed there from the beginning. Only a might God can do this, just as only He can bring forth the spiritual gifts that the Devil wants us to forget and never use. No one but a mighty God can nurture, develop, and grow the fruits of the Spirit that the Devil wants us to ignore and let die, despite the chaos that swirls around us every day.
Jesus Christ did all this and so much more: not any version of Barbie—Jesus.
Not anything from a tabletop Ms. Pac-Man to a PS5—Jesus.
He is still the best gift ever, one that never gets old, never disappoints, never breaks, and is always there for everyone.
Merry Christmas to you, fam.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your good and perfect gift found only in Your Son. Thank You for loving us through all of life’s seasons. Thank You, thank You, thank You! Amen.