How to rediscover the gift of beauty in unexpected places this Christmas season (The Gift of Life Lessons from Bethlehem)
Make Your Life Matter No Matter What
How to rediscover the gift of beauty in unexpected places this Christmas season
This Christmas season, I’m focusing on the Gift of Life Lessons: first from Italy, last week from family, and this week from Israel. Last year, I had the privilege of visiting Israel for the first time. Bethlehem left deep imprints on my heart and life. I’m sharing those insights again with you in the hopes you’ll rediscover the gift of beauty in unexpected places this Christmas season. Merry Christmas! See you in 2017. 🙂
The season of gift giving is upon us, folks. Americans will spend more than 450 billion dollars on purchases that accompany the Christmas season. We’ll go to great lengths to find that “perfect” gift: take laps around the mall, scroll through the monstrosity of Amazon, and, alas, pick up the last-minute Starbucks gift card when our creative juices stop flowing. Some of us will smother our precious cargo with styrofoam peanuts and ship packages across the country to friends and family. Still others will rediscover the wonder of double-stick tape as we lovingly wrap must-have electronics and the latest eye-shadow palette to place under our tree. We’ll exchange cheesy white elephant gifts at office parties and deliver sugar cookies slathered with frosting and red sprinkles to our neighbors. We’ll donate Barbies and trucks to the local toy drives, drop our change in buckets to bell-ringing Santas, and offer crayon masterpieces to our kids’ teachers. Gifts, gifts, gifts, and more gifts.
And then, just like that, the flurry of holiday festivities will be over. You know the scene. Carefully crafted wrapping paper lies in a crumpled mound on our living room floor. That ugly orange sweater goes into the return pile. And the last crumb of yummy goodness is devoured. Most of us are pooped. Mom and Dad savor a much needed break, teachers relish the peace and quiet, and office computer screens sit blank for a couple days.
I’m not sure when the concept of gift giving began but let’s be honest – we all love to give and receive gifts. This year, my Christmas gift came early. A few weeks ago, I had the amazing experience of traveling to Israel for the first time with Lysa TerKeurst and Proverbs 31 Ministries. I’m still processing so many profound moments; standing on the Mount of Olives…riding across the Sea of Galilee…wading in the Jordan River. But a little town called Bethlehem stole my heart.
Beauty is still found in the most unexpected places. Nowhere is this more true than Bethlehem, a walled city, surrounded by armed guards and under Palestinian rule. I struggled to picture ancient streets where a young couple named Mary and Joseph stopped to find respite.
Here, in this insignificant, small town, God gave the greatest gift when grace intersected humanity.
Our guide in Bethlehem was a Christian, and I found myself drawn to his every word. I bent low to enter the Door of Humility to enter the Church of the Nativity, the world’s oldest church, built over the site where Jesus was born. Even earthly kings bow to visit the birthplace of the King of Kings. Amidst the pungent smell of burning incense and the sound of Greek Orthodox prayers, God met me in a very powerful and personal way.
For the first time in a long time – too long – I felt absolutely amazed at the magnitude of God’s plan. I felt a sort of dizzying awareness that I was included in the fabric of God’s story, written before time began.
I felt tiny. Humbled. Overwhelmed.
God’s plan was to redeem mankind by sending His Son – not to be born in the majesty of a palace, but in a dark, damp cave. Beauty is still found in the most unexpected places.
A store in Bethlehem is home to some of the most stunning Nativity sets I have ever seen. I agonized over purchasing one as an early Christmas gift to myself. Amazing local Christian artisans carve exquisite pieces out of olive wood. Living behind a wall, they refused to be diminished by brokenness. Resilient, brave hearts resolve to “make their lives matter no matter what.” Although my budget wouldn’t allow me to take one home, I still received a gift. My heart and mind are indelibly imprinted with the unexpected beauty I discovered in Bethlehem.
Perhaps the greatest gift we can give this year isn’t found in a mall or an online behemoth. Perhaps, this year, we can give the gift of beauty. We can refuse to be diminished by brokenness and carve beauty into our world. Our neighbors. Our family. Our schools. The lost. The hurting. The fractured.
Perhaps you need God’s grace to intersect your humanity. Perhaps you long for God to meet you in a powerful and profound way and amaze you with His love. Perhaps you’re asking for the gift of perspective in the midst of a broken world.
This year, let’s look a little closer. We might just rediscover the gift of beauty in unexpected places. Let’s once again bow before the King of Kings, humbled by the gift of His extravagant grace, and overwhelmed by His love – the love that sent the greatest gift ever known.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son; that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Make Your Life Matter No Matter What
Leave me a comment! What’s one of your favorite Christmas gifts of all time? This month I’ll be giving away a Gift package with all 3 of my CD’s, including my latest release, “Finding Tranquility.”