Day 4: Healing With Us

by Dec 15, 2023Christmas, Devotional, God With Us

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7 (NASB)

The plan was to be home by Thanksgiving. For sixty days at the eating disorder treatment center, I had looked forward to being home to celebrate the holidays and readjust to normal life before heading back to school for the spring semester. 

But September had blurred right into November. Sixty days became ninety, and I still wasn’t ready to return home. An intermediate program, a step down from the current intensive program, was recommended for my next steps. A week before Christmas, instead of driving north to Pennsylvania, I stoically boarded a plane headed west–all the way to Arizona. Dry, hot, completely unfamiliar Arizona and still not recovered. This was the last place –geographically and situationally–I expected to land the third week of December.

At home, December days were cold, often gray, and blustery. In Arizona, December was mild, clear, and full of brilliant sunlight that reflected off suburban sidewalks and warmed terra-cotta roof tiles. Here, instead of barren broadleaf trees and frost-bitten grass, stately palms offered afternoon shade, and dusty red stones filled yards and patios. Even without snow and ice, Christmas lights brightened neighborhoods and streets. 

When I attended the obligatory holiday meal with my housemates, we gathered in a plain, neutral meeting room and sat in metal folding chairs around white, rectangular tables. I had only known my companions a few days, but they shared stories of suffering, pain, broken dreams, and restored hope–hope that was possible because of Jesus. I observed the staff joining us. They probably don’t want to be here either, I thought; even so, they smiled, laughed, and served. They freely shared the joy of Christmas and the love of Christ alive in their hearts. 

The first Christmas, Joseph and Mary likely found themselves in a place they neither wanted nor expected to be. Far from family, friends, and the comforting familiarity of home, Mary gave birth to Jesus in an unexpected stable and laid Him in a manger. The lowly Bethlehem shepherds were her first visitors and the surprising first worshipers of the newborn Messiah. Yet, through these unlikely people and places, God chose to enter the world with the miraculous gift of His Son.

While initially I cared little about celebrating Christmas day in a place that was so foreign to me, in Arizona, the warm sun and blazing love of God’s people softened my heart. Christmas was not about me but entirely about Jesus and His rescuing, redeeming love that reaches us in the most unexpected places.

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