As we take a rest from our busy holiday season mad rush to get all the presents purchased, brightly colored boxes placed under the trees, and ugly sweaters ready for all the parties, it is good to just focus again on the true meaning of the season. It isn't often considered a "holiday season" Psalm, but I think the Twenty-Third Psalm really tells us a story of God's grace and goodness - something we need to recognize in this time of holiday "prep". The Eternal is my shepherd - you probably know it as "The Lord is my shepherd". Probably one of the most clearly taught parts of Christmas is this eternal desire of God to have those who will enter into relationship with him down through the ages. His whole work of creation was centered on preparing a place for us to dwell and a people with which he might have deep, personal, and ongoing relationship with down through the ages. The first part of the Christmas message is that of relationship - God so loved the world. The second part is that of provision - that he gave his only begotten Son! It seems only right then that the next words of our psalm are "He cares for me always". First, he calls us into relationship, making the way for us to actually enter - then he tends to our every need in the way the one who knows us best can only do.
The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always. He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. He soothes my fears; He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with our protection and guidance, I am comforted. You spread out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies; You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil, filling my cup again and again with Your grace. Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me where I go, always, everywhere. I will always be with the Eternal, in Your house forever. (Psalm 23 VOICE)
He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. One of the seldom recognized gifts of the Christmas season is that of rest. We are so busy with all the "stuff" we have on our list to accomplish, from baking to buying, decorating to displaying, preparing to participating - we get caught up in the frenzy of the season. In this moment of time, God hopes for nothing more than we take time to just rest in his presence and enjoy his presence with glee! He soothes my fears and makes us whole again - something we don't really recognize until we take time to slow down, enter into his rest, and just breathe a little. Why do fears come? Isn't it because of the unknown being just a little more "in our face" than we'd like it to be? When we begin to snuggle in close to the presence of Jesus, the fears kind of melt away because the "unknown" cannot remain hidden in the glorious majesty of the light he brings into our lives. The place of rest doesn't have to be the place of darkness, for some of the greatest rest I have ever known is when I fully enter into his light!
He steers me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo his name. The hardness of the path is caused by how frequently we (and others with us) travel it. Often the path we take the most frequently to get to what we believe to be the destination we will want to reach is not always the most rewarding or refreshing of destinations! The hard path is made hard by the frequency it is traveled. Some of the most awe-inspiring, breath-taking moments in my life have been because I allowed him to steer me down paths freshly trod by his feet and his alone! The ones I travel the most frequently "get the job done" in life, but this Christmas season, maybe it is about time we do more than "accomplish the work" of Christmas, but follow a path which will allow us to really enter into the awe of the season!
Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with our protection and guidance, I am comforted. Christmas doesn't seem like it could be overshadowed with "dark moments", but for some, it will be one of the hardest of seasons to endure - for the grip of lost relationships, loneliness, and even longing of heart will take them down paths where they just don't enter into the joy of the season. It is to these our psalmist speaks these words - because He is with us, even in those dark moments of loss and grief, we will have his protection, guidance, and comfort.
In the midst of holiday celebrations, spread will all manner of carefully prepared dishes and delightful desserts galore, we find a reminder of the goodness of God. It is God who spreads out a table before us, making provisions in the midst of attack from our enemies. He is the one who cares for all our daily needs, anointing our heads with soothing, fragrant oil, filling our cup again and again with his grace. Christmas is about God making provision in a way we were incapable of ever making it. It is about his anointing of our lives with the richness of his ever-flowing grace, sweeping down over our lives in streams of mercy and deep rivers of love. Christmas is the time when we can sit back, taking those moments just to recall the goodness of God - caring for each daily need, filling our lives over and over again with the greatness of his grace. We would be remiss not to recognize his grace and the continual provision he makes!
Christmas songs abound, but one of the most recognized is that of the Twelve Days of Christmas. As some would celebrate the season, there is a time of preparation before the actually "day of Christmas", in which they exchange meaningful gifts. It is those times of recognizing others outside of ourselves which make the season most enjoyable and rewarding. I wonder if God would be honored if we just stopped for a while to consider his faithful protection and loving provision that pursues us wherever we go, always, everywhere? God does more than provide a gift twelve days a year - he provides the gift which keeps on giving - all our lifetime through! I will always be with the Eternal, in Your house forever. No gift could provide more! Just sayin!