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The Weary World Rejoices

I still remember her soft, wrinkled hands moving swiftly over the paper. Expertly, she fixed tape at the edges, and added a bow (usually embellished with pretty, shiny red curling ribbon). Her earrings dangled ever-so-slightly, and twinkled in the soft lights. Each gift was wrapped with love and handed over with a warm, "Merry Christmas". If I close my eyes, I can see her...her hands, her eyes, the way she looked at me, but most importantly...the way she treated others.

My grandmother took me to volunteer with her at The Christmas Store every year as I was growing up. Our church had a Missions Ministry in our town, and The Christmas Store was open for a few weeks each December. Families who couldn't afford to buy presents could go to this store, full of thousands of donated items, and shop for their children using a ticket they were given when they registered. They could then take those presents and have them wrapped by the sweet ladies sitting by the exit. My grandmother was one of those sweet ladies.

Those first few years, I helped her wrap. As I got older, I was able to help with the prep-work of sorting the donations as they came in, and organizing the shelves. My favorite "job" though, was escorting the Mama's around the aisles and helping them search for the perfect gift for their loved ones. One big, two little for each child. We took our time, we talked and sometimes we prayed. And then we'd gather the choices up and take them back to get wrapped. Every single parent who walked through that store, no matter how weary, felt heard, seen and most of all, loved.

In this year of frustration, cancelled plans, isolation, and so much loss, I think weary is an understatement. There seems to be chaos at every turn, the government is in disarray, and things can feel really dark sometimes. Hmmm...sounds familiar.

The world was not a pretty place some 2000 years ago. In the year of Jesus's birth, Caesar Augustus called for a census in Israel...a blatant reminder that the Israeli people were "owned" by another nation entirely. Roman guards patrolled the streets of Jerusalem. Four sects (the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Zealots), competed for the upper hand in leadership, and left Judaism in constant turmoil. Mary and Joseph had to travel 100 miles to Bethlehem in order to fulfill their duty to the census. 100 miles. Walking and/or on a donkey. And one of them was pregnant. I cannot even imagine! And to top it all off, King Herod was on the hunt for the Christ-child, and was so furious when he realized he had been tricked by the Magi that he killed all male children 2 and under in and around Bethlehem. (Matthew 2)

People were WEARY.

And then....

He came.

In a time when God had not been heard from in 400 years...Immanuel. God with us. A gift. The perfect gift. One that wasn't deserved. The star shone bright, a baby cried out, and the world was changed forever.

Chaos and confusion might be outside our doors, but Hope can fill our hearts. Darkness can loom large, but we can still know Peace. Whatever our circumstances, we will forever be seen, heard and most of all, LOVED, because He came down to this earth from His heavenly home to embody that for us.

My grandmother taught me something incredible all those years ago. Something that I think about daily, and share with my children as often as I can. She taught me how to love like Jesus. She made it tangible. I could SEE it in a way that my teenage-self couldn't while listening to a sermon. A smile, a kind word, a tender touch and a listening ear can pierce hearts and spread light on even the darkest days. That is, after all, exactly what He came to do. And it's enough to make even the weariest world, rejoice.

** If you'd like to donate to or volunteer at the mission I mentioned above, Check out the Mission Arlington website.**



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