Responding to Our God Who Loves Us
by Jennifer Power, Director of Children’s Ministry
“If the only prayer you say throughout your life is ‘Thank You,’
then that will be enough.” -Elie Wiesel
Sometimes I get a little down this time of year. Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas and I always have. I rarely find it easy to sleep on Christmas Eve, and I remember the times as a child I would stay awake late into the night listening for sleigh bells.
I love the spirit of generosity the Christmas season brings.
I love seeing the joy on my children’s faces when they open their gifts on Christmas morning, their dad and my yearly extravagant expression of grace to them.
I love putting up our family Christmas tree with colorful lights and the most eclectic mix of ornaments from years past.
I love the family gatherings, those get-togethers with those we did not chose but whom we love unconditionally.
I love driving around with our kids, drinking hot chocolate and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at Christmas lights around town.
I love the wonder on my daughters’ faces when snow falls within our church sanctuary on Christmas Eve.
I love the Christmas songs ranging from worshipful to traditional to silly and childlike.
I simply love this time of year, and yet, interspersed between the moments of joy and celebration, I experience sadness and fatigue. As the days become shorter with the darkness stretches into the day, with the arrival of cold and flu season which never seems to pass us over, with the pressure to get Christmas “just right” for my little ones, and with a heightened awareness that Christmas is not so merry for everyone, brought on by the abundance of opportunities to serve and be generous to those who are hurting or wanting, my spirit often enters a down season this time of year.
The ups and downs of life are natural and not to be avoided by any, even though our faith sometimes leaves us feeling like we should always be moving in a consistently upward direction. It is just not the case.
One of the things I love about Christmas is the Christmas story, and I have always been drawn particularly to the story of the shepherds. We’ll be exploring this story more on Christmas Eve. What I love most about this story is the humble status of the shepherds. The shepherds were not high on society’s ladder. They likely had homes and could provide for their families, but they did not have much and their lives were simple. They spent their time out in fields with sheep. They would not have been considered particularly special. They were ordinary, lower class peasants.
Isn’t it just like God to send a host of angels to shepherds in their field?
The first visitors to see the one and only Holy God who stepped down from His throne to put on human flesh and came as a helpless baby born to a humble peasant family – His first visitors are smelly shepherds.
It is fitting, and it captures something beautiful about our God.
He loves us.
He loves us when we feel important and when we feel unnoticed. He loves us when prayer is easy and His presence seems always at hand, and He loves us when feel tired and sad and His presence feels distant. He loves us when we can give lots of good gifts to our children and others, and He loves us when we have very little to offer. He loves us when our co-labors with Him produce much fruit, and He loves us when it seems all our efforts are in vain. He loves us when we are surrounded by friends and loved-ones, and He loves us when we feel abandoned and alone.
He loves us.
How do we respond to such love? Can we do anything but fall on our knees like the shepherds in worship of our God whose humility and self-giving knows no limits? Can we do anything but offer up our lives in humility and complete self-giving to the One whose love knows no bounds?
These words from Psalm 103 come to mind:
“For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”
How will we respond to our great God who so loves us? How will you respond? What example will you set for your children? How will your family respond to the love of God this Christmas season and throughout the year?
There are things we can do in response, and these are important, but what matter most is our hearts. Will our hearts be turned toward Him in humility and in self-giving love? Will our lives be offered up to God in complete surrender and trust, knowing His love and care are the safest places in the world to reside?
The curriculum we considered with the children (Life with God for Children) challenges “our response to our God who loves us” to be worship, beginning with thankfulness. It challenges us to learn to live in perpetual thanksgiving and to offer “breath prayers” to God all throughout the day, breathing in and out short prayers of gratitude. And we can do this in the easy times and in the difficult seasons.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a
“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” -Ephesians 5:20
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” -Philippians 4:4-6
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!” -1 Chronicles 16:34
“I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” -Psalm 34:1
May the graces of our Lord fill you with peace this Christmas season.