November blows over us in beautiful death, the swan song of creation before it withers and shrivels in on its own creases and falls one by one to the icy ground. The last harvest before death sucks the final cold breath from the world and the stillness of December settles and hems us in. The colors fade to grey. The crispness of the air goes flat. The birds caw their farewell and exit in silhouettes of arrows pointing to the life and warmth they will find elsewhere. And we are left in silent anticipation. Surely the cornucopia that was bursting mere days ago will be full again. Surely this frozen silence isn’t going to last forever. Where life was so abundant just a few harvest sunsets prior, now desolation, isolation begins to penetrate the walls of our homes, the walls of our hearts even.
It is in that December- that brink of despair where the rug seems to have been pulled out from under us as we celebrate abundance, surrounded by last breaths that hover in the air, that Christmas chimes in and hastens us to listen to its song.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”. Isaiah 43:19
Oh, the gospel of Christmas. A new thing. New beginnings-wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger. As the sun sets on abundance, as hope flickers like a candle-flame threatened by the breath of death, God is doing something new. If the month leading up to Christmas doesn’t resemble a wasteland around here, than the month following Christmas certainly does. The new thing doesn’t stop here. It doesn’t end when we pack away the decorations and the last Christmas cookie is eaten. God is in the business of making things new, turning darkness into light and death into life. He comes to us in our Novembers and Decembers and makes them burst forth with new life. And while I brim over with joy at Christmastime: the idea of the newness of the God-child,the same hands that made the universe in its splendid entirety held by the very human hands He knit together, the Comforter and Sustainer of the world clutching for comfort and sustenance at the breast of a new mother; the joy that has been planted within me starts to germinate and grow after Christmas. In the most desolate time of the calendar year. In the midst of the winter. And yet more beauty: this hope isn’t only for Christmas Day. It isn’t only for December. The hope that came new into the world, the tidings of comfort and joy, are enough for a lifetime. Enough to carry us through any struggle, to nourish and sustain us through any winter. That is the hope of “God with us”, the new work of God. The labor of love and piercing through frozen ground and hearts to bud and bloom.
Let it be so with me, Lord. In the desolation of my soul, in the ugliness of my bent, in the grief, the sin, the withering of the harvest, the flickering of hope-do something new. Make a way in the wilderness. Bring streams to the wasteland of my being. Just as you brought tender and triumphant life at the first Christmas, bring that same humble and honorable life to me in the midst of my winter. Not only at Christmas, but just as the hope you sent into world grew along with Jesus, may it grow inside of me, with eager anticipation of the new things you have in store for my soul.
Emmanuel. God with us. Hope came down. Noel.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on them. See, I am doing a new thing! Now, it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland…I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Isaiah 43:18-21