December a few years past was a tough one for me. I struggled each day to keep my thoughts from dragging me down into a pit of despair. It was a moment by moment battle to fix my mind on things above, the truths that are unchanging, and take them off my pitiable self. Since that is so much more easily said than done, I needed help. I couldn’t allow any negative thought to fully form or it would carry me away. I had to keep returning to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:1-3). Music was a balm, though not all music was helpful. My Exalted Worship album (hymns interspersed with Scripture and prayers) was well-played that month. Sometimes I would just reach over and turn on the radio, hoping to get outside my head with some Christmas music. But I was mostly disappointed and aggravated by the Christmas music played on the radio. What were silver bells and red-nosed reindeer, Christmas lights and rockin’ around Christmas trees to me at such a time?
I longed for Christmas songs with depth and meaning. Songs that reminded hurting people like me that Christ brought hope and healing and suffered my anguish to replace it with joy. Joy that would be my strength. He brought joy! Not just a happiness for the moment, but a resounding heart’s-cry that God is good when all around me is not, when life is a battleground or people fail me. I was tired of hearing more about the superficiality of the season than the deep, abiding truth that Christ came to bring life to dead souls, to pull me from the pit I could not climb out of on my own.
Then one evening as I stood at my sink, a new song came on the radio. It was the first time I heard Third Day’s song “Children of God”. I turned to my kids and said, “THIS is Christmas!” This made me sing. This made me dance. What glorious truth is contained in these words:
Praise to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God
Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us
Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God
A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God
We are the saints
We are the children
We’ve been redeemed
We’ve been forgiven
We are the sons and daughters of our God
“In His great mercy, He has given us life!” “The Father above has proven His love!” I am a saint. I’m a child. I’m redeemed and forgiven! I have a reason to celebrate, regardless of what anyone else says or does. And I can rejoice in Christmas, with or without silver bells and presents under the tree. Christmas runs so much deeper than traditions and tinsel. The hard in life doesn’t disappear because the calendar says it’s the holiday season. I need the knowledge of a solid foundation, an immoveable rock, a fortress in a storm. I need the sweet, gentle hand of mercy, lifting my load, raising my weary head, and helping me to my feet.
That was a dark and difficult December, one I won’t forget. To worship was to live. To exalt Christ was breath. To exalt myself was death.
If you are struggling this Christmas, wishing you had the picture-perfect family gathering, or maybe just someone to love you, a life with fewer worries or a bit less drama, I encourage you to stop those thoughts dead. Recite Scripture verses and sing praises. Remind yourself of who God is and forget about who you wish you were or think others are. Sometimes prayers are hard to come by, though we know we should be praying; but songs are there for the repeating. Sing a song of life to your soul, a song full of the truth of God’s great character, abiding love, deep compassion, mercy and forgiveness, of His strength and power and gentle, Fatherly touch. This is Christmas! These truths. Christmas is not the time of year or the traditions. It’s hope in the heartache, dancing in the dark Decembers. Not because of ourselves or anyone around us, but because God makes us His children, and there is no safer place to be than in the arms of the Father.
We think Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. But the truth is it’s the other way around. Christ came to our darkness with His wonderful light and brought life to our souls. When our hearts see the truth, we can’t help but give thanks. Life breeds worship and to worship is to live.
Hear “Children of God” here.
Find Exalted Worship here.
Read Psalm 61 here.
©Erika Rice 2014