It’s Okay to not be Okay//Sarah//Day Four

Christmas is so near, can you feel it? Like “its next week”-kind-of-near. I don’t want to be Ms. Scrooge but I think it would be a disservice to you and to me, to not be totally real with you. This oncoming celebration of Christmas will be hard for many, many people. When we usually think of Christmas, we think of holiday cheer, hot cocoa, reindeer, laughter, and the little baby in a manger of our nativity scene. We rarely think of pain or sadness, unless you are the one feeling it.

I don’t know about you, but the world and life has felt un-peaceful lately. Shootings, bombings, racial animosity, heartache, the death of family members or friends and countless other things that make life seem overwhelming. The world is weary around us. Maybe you don’t feel it now, maybe you have been in a season of ache, or maybe you are about to walk through such a season. I am not really sure, but what I do know is that this season may not be as cheery for some and I want to tell you… I see you, friend, and I don’t want you to feel unnoticed. The aching in your heart doesn’t have to be brushed aside for this next month. I wish we could sit and talk, maybe cry (okay, most likely cry) and hear about this season of life you have been walking through.

Lately, I have been learning that heartache and pain is part of this life. Sometimes life changes dramatically, things happen, people get sick, relationships end, a diagnosis comes back that changes everything, unexpected grief hits out of nowhere. Many times we, especially as girls, feel like we have to have it all together, or at least act like we have it all together. When heartache hits, we feel like we have to keep it together and not be a hot mess. On top of that, there’s this expectation that when the calendar flips to December, everything will turn cheery and bright. So what if I told you that it’s okay to not be okay, that you’re allowed to be a mess and for the tears to fall if they need to?

 It is okay to not be okay, sweet sister. Do you know that this is the very reason we have Christmas? Jesus didn’t trade His throne in heaven for a manger for no reason.

In the midst of heartache, we see how not just broken we are by our sin, but how our hearts can be broken and dreams completely shattered. The whole reason Jesus came to this earth was to redeem us, restore us, rescue us, and be near to us. He is in the healing business. He didn’t come because we have it all together; He came because we are in desperate need of His grace and His nearness, when times are grand and when we are on our knees weeping. 

Where is the hope then you may ask? Where does the joy in Christmas really come from? The Lord in His sovereignty and His great love for us, stepped down into our world, put on flesh, and took on suffering of many kinds. He knows what it means to have pain; He knows what it means to suffer; He knows what it means to ache. Our Savior wept and is well acquainted with grief. (John 11:35, Luke 19:41, Matthew 26:37-38, many more) The fourth chapter of Hebrews describes Jesus as our great high priest, one who is able to sympathize with us, therefore we can confidently draw near to the throne of God- specifically in our times of weakness. When things don’t make sense and life seems to be overwhelming, He is near. The Lord has shown me grace in my own life that though my heart is deceitful and still self- seeking, He is still near to me. The manger and the cross allow that to happen.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is… “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” That means we are allowed to cry and we have straight up permission to express our grief, our sadness and how our heart is cracked straight down the middle- even amidst the Christmas season. But within that, we are not left alone in our tears because we have hope in the manger and in the cross, and the truth that the Lord is near.

“Immanuel” is one of the first names of Jesus we hear in the New Testament and its
one we hear often around this time of year. It is a name that has taken on a new realness to me lately because it means “God withus”. Jesus means Immanuel. Immanuel means God with us. Therefore, Jesus means God is with us. Because the “little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head”, we have hope. We have hope that the Lord is walking with us and never forsaking us. Our circumstances may not change and the aching in our hearts may still linger but we can take refuge in Him. We have access to His word and His spirit. Because of that we can eventually laugh and dance again, resting and testifying how close the Lord is and how great His love is for us.

 

This allows me to say- my heart is broken and I am hurting but I still have hope. We find refuge in the Creator of all things. We cry out to the King of Kings. We draw near to the Good Shepard. We are pruned by the Vinedresser. We are comforted by the Immanuel. We sit before the throne of Almighty God. And that is why we can have a Merry Christmas, my sweet friend. Praise Jesus.

“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you, may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and deliverer, do not delay, O my God!”

Psalm 40:16-17






Hi there! I am Sarah! I wrote what you just read! I am a junior, psychology student at VCU and love the city more than I ever thought I would. So much so that I run all through it, as much as my legs allow. Love me some Ukrop’s cake. Love writing. Love my big God. Love Cru. And love YOU! Thanks for reading! 

 

             

Mary Knew//Nita//Day Three

One of my favorite modern Christmas songs is “Mary Did You Know?” by Mark Lowry.  The words tumble around in my heart and mind as I wonder – what did Mary know, understand, wonder at when the angel proclaimed that she would bear the Son of God. 
 
In Luke 1:26 – 38 we understand that Mary knew that the angel was from God.  She knew she was a virgin, no matter what anyone else said or thought.  She knew she was engaged to a godly man.  An angel appeared to him too.  Soon after Mary heard all that the angel said to her about her own Baby, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child.  After Elizabeth greeted Mary and proclaimed that Mary was bearing her LORD, the Messiah, Mary responds with words like a prophetess of the Old Testament.  Mary was no simple minded, simple faith young woman.  She knew and believed the Old Testament Scriptures and what they said about the promised Messiah.
 
She knew.
 
What do we know about Mary?  She was young, a Hebrew girl, engaged.  We know she loved

God by her response to the angel sent to her.  Although girls were not formerly educated, we know Mary knew God’s Word.  She was obedient and humble and willing to do whatever God asked of her.  The angel called her “favored one” which means filled with grace.

 
As we read the Gospels we know that Mary wondered at and treasured many things about Jesus:  the visit of the shepherds, their proclamation of God’s glory, their worship.  Then the visit and gifts and worship of the kings from a foreign land.  We know too that two older godly people in the Temple recognized the Baby as their promised Messiah when He was just 8 days old.   It is written that Mary treasured these things in her heart.
 
Then 30+ years later, certainly Mary worried about her Son, a young man traveling around the countryside of Israel preaching and teaching and making disciples and making “religious” leaders very angry.  She knew He forgave sins, healed people, cast out demons, and children loved Him.  Did she remember the visit of the angel?  Did she hope and pray that Jesus would be kept safe? When did she really understand that Jesus was her Messiah?
 
In John 19:25 we find Mary is at the cross when her first born Son is being crucified.  Did she understand yet that He was choosing to die for her sins and for mine?  Very soon after His death and resurrection, we find Mary with the disciples in the upper room (Acts 1:14).  They were about to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God and go about changing the world forever!  Mary knew.
 
Listen to Mark Lowry’s song again and rejoice!
 
Spend some time this week reading Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.  Thank the Lord for all you know about Jesus and thank the Lord that Mary was willing and faithful to do all that God asked of her.



Nita is a graduate of VA Tech, joined Cru staff in 1972, and has served with Cru in New England and several areas of the world as well as with Cru Military.  Presently she serves with Cru Valor as a part of the National Leader Team.  She loves family, reading, gardening and her dog Lucy.

This December is Different//Laura Kate//Day Two

The older I get, the easier it is to “lose” Christmas in the midst of everything else December brings: final exams, the wrap-up of another semester, and the beginning of a month-long break from school, just to name a few. By the time I get home for break, all I really want to do is sleep for a few days and hang out with my cat.
This Christmas season, however, will be different.
This past fall semester, a friend I disciple and I went through a study on the book of Hebrews. Each week, we would read through Hebrews and watch the video from the pastor’s series and learn so much about who Christ is. You see, I’ve always seen the Old Testament and New Testament as separate parts of the Bible that don’t have too much to do with each other (except for some of the prophecies about Jesus, etc.). But, through our time in Hebrews, we were able to get a glimpse of the importance of both halves of the Bible and how they work together beautifully.
The entire Bible is about JESUS. From Genesis to Revelation, the pages whisper His glory and story and tell of a coming Redeemer. Many of the Old Testament characters can be viewed as mirrors that Jesus is reflected in, or perhaps, perfected in. For example, Jesus is the better Aaron; as one of the high priests of Israel, Aaron had to constantly offer sacrifices for the peoples’ forgiveness. Jesus, on the other hand, offered His Body once for all as a sacrifice that now offers forgiveness to anyone. Jesus can be seen as the better Adam, bringing salvation instead of death, or the better Moses, leading His people to true salvation and out of the “Egypt” of their sin.
So, what does all that have to do with Christmas?
This December, I can experience the truest peace and joy because my Jesus, the One written about in so much of the Bible, has already come to the world. He has fulfilled the promise of salvation and forgiveness, and He has left His Comforter in the world with us (John 14:16; 16:7). In the busyness that is the Christmas season, I can know peace – the peace that was promised in Isaiah and Jeremiah and mirrored in Esther – because Jesus Himself embodies peace and has freely given it to me (John 14:27; Galatians 5:22-23). I can know joy – joy like we see in Psalms and the person of Hannah – because I already know Jesus. 
The entire Bible works together to paint us a picture of a Savior. It breathes hope and rest, and in this wintry season…that’s exactly what I need.
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty
God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6 [NIV]

Bio: Hi, friends! My name is Laura Kate (LK for short & in the white dress on the left), and I’m halfway done with my senior year at Christopher Newport University. When I’m not studying English (aka writing papers about those books you always put off for summer reading) and preparing to teach elementary school, I find time to make guacamole, share my love of One Direction, and jog around my local neighborhood. You can find me on campus having coffee dates with Cru small group leaders, promoting Radiate, and other Cru co-president things! Thanks for reading!