It was Christmas Eve. Just one year ago.
A packed season had settled into eerie quiet as the school semester finished, the last meeting was adjourned, and the last few festive moments with friends and neighbors became happy memories.
My nearest and dearest, all introverts, were grateful for an uneventful holiday, gladly retreating to their respective parts of the house. When the stillness I usually crave became deafeningly loud for me, I laced up my running shoes and traced the familiar path through our community.
It was a sweet time to reflect, to savor precious moments and lift my whirlwind of thoughts to the Father. An introvert myself, I take a long time to “process” things. As I retraced various events over recent weeks, it was good to unburden my heart in prayer and listen for His.
I was surprised to find myself still wrestling a nagging question. Was the Christmas program we presented at church just one week prior right and good? Did it honor the LORD JESUS? Did it tell His story the way He wanted it to be told? Did it impact hearts with His truth and draw them to the Savior? Did we get it right?
As always, the beginning days and weeks of planning that program had been overflowing with too many ideas. Too big, too wide, far too much to cover in the allotted twenty-five minutes. I prayed for direction. One Sunday morning, while remembering the LORD, I heard a gentleman from our church read the words from Luke 22:19-20, “This is My body given for you… this cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you.”
The words hung in the air and echoed on my mind for the rest of the day, “GIVEN for us!”
Somehow, I knew the LORD had just given me the title of the program, the focus of that particular telling His story, the purpose of His coming. He was …”freely GIVEN for us!”
In the weeks that followed, scattered ideas began to fall into place, following our new theme. One day, unsure of how to continue or where to edit the narrative, I went hunting for images to use for the slide show that would accompany our verses and songs. Before long, I found a delicate wreath of greens and berries with one simple word in gold script across its center: “noel.”
It was perfect! I used the wreath on its own to create our title slides for each section – the various gifts given to us when JESUS came to be our Savior. Having removed the word “noel” to create the images, I wondered about the meaning of such a common phrase at Christmastime. With a little digging, I discovered that “noel” means “birth.” (how appropriate!)
In the end, a “noel” phrase was added to each section of our program. With the gift of promised redemption, we received the birth of HOPE. With the gift of good news of great joy, we received the birth of PEACE. With the gift of His body broken, His blood poured out, we received the birth of eternal LIFE. With the gift of our hearts to Him, we received the birth of saving FAITH. And so on.
At one point, I worried that the program might be too long, or too complicated. I asked my husband about removing the “noel” pieces. But he was unusually clear and confident, “No. You need to leave them in.” And so, we did.
The program was a beautiful presentation of the Christmas story. It was touching and poignant. It brought many of us to tears, myself included! We floated on a cloud of gratefulness for that entire day, overwhelmed by the love of our Savior who had given Himself for us!
So, why, over a week later, was I still second-guessing everything? Why do I doubt when He is so faithful? How might He respond to my fretting heart?
What happened next still astounds me, spreads a huge smile across my face, and wraps me in the depth of genuine love from His heart to mine. As I neared the end of my run that day, listening to our local Christian radio station, I heard Lauren Daigle reading parts of the Christmas story from Luke 2. It was precious to refocus my thoughts and remember the simple but profound details we treasure. At the end of her reading, the station played part of her own song, with words I had never taken notice of before: “Light of the world, GIVEN for us, NOEL!”
His answer washed over my weary heart, “Yes, you got it right! Every part. Exactly right. It was good. It was very good. It was beautiful. Thank you.”
Later that night, our little family gathered in the living room for our own reading of that same passage in Luke 2. With joy, I shared the sweet moment with the LORD on my run, reassuring my heart that we had, in fact, told His story the way He wanted it to be told!
We rejoiced in our Savior’s love together. We exchanged our traditional Christmas Eve gifts – new ornaments to honor special moments in the year that had passed. Suddenly, my husband jumped up and disappeared upstairs. He returned with a small package, “I almost forgot! There is one more ornament!”
Weeks before, we braved the Thanksgiving crowds at the local outlet mall. He was so excited to find one special gift for me (that I still had not opened, saving it for Christmas Day). What he did not tell me until Christmas Eve, was that the purchase had come with a complimentary ornament!
Would you believe it? When I opened the last ornament of our evening, the one that had been hidden away for weeks, completely unknown to me, I discovered a delicate green wreath with script lettering at its center, spelling out the word, “NOEL.”
He cares about the details. The ones that seem so small and insignificant to us. He delights to meet our hearts with whatever reassurance we need. Especially when we purpose to serve Him, to express our love for Him, He will weave circumstances to get our attention – in ways that are undeniably His doing!
HOPE is reborn in our hearts. Faith is emboldened. Love grows deeper. And one more time, we stand amazed by GRACE!
“Light of the world, GIVEN for us, NOEL!” ~ Lauren Daigle
The people who walk in darkness will see a great Light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine!
Isaiah 9:2 NLT
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