With Open Arms

During each Advent season we are encouraged to prepare our hearts to receive the infant Jesus once again. This Advent, as I recovered from cancer surgery and treatments, I decided the best way to prepare my heart was to stop actively seeking inspiration for my writing, and to simply allow God to nourish my soul. To that end, I stopped writing my blog and also didn’t do the “Watching for Christ” Facebook devotions. Instead, each morning I asked God, “What would you have me know today?” and then journaled any answers that came to me. Christmas is now only a couple of days away. What have I learned about preparing my heart in these past weeks?

The image of taking and holding the infant Jesus keeps coming to me. I like to imagine I would do this as I would receive any precious gift- with my arms open, extended, ready to embrace and treasure what I am about to be given. But to actually open my arms as I eagerly and lovingly reach for Jesus, I may need to do something else first. Perhaps I need to let go of another worldly treasure. Perhaps I need to stop wrapping my arms around me in self-protection. Perhaps I need to release my fear of opening myself to something new. What do I need to release in order to fully embrace Jesus?

I believe we tend to tightly cling to those things that give us a sense of control. For me, it is releasing my fear that cancer may return one day. I try to do everything possible to be healthy- eat nutritiously, exercise regularly, rest well, nourish my spirit, and take treatments and supplements. But in the end, I am not in control of my outcome. Whether or not the cancer returns is out of my control. But if I let go of this fear in order to embrace the love of God as shown in the infant Jesus, I receive the gifts of hope, trust, joy and peace- NO MATTER WHAT.

We can do our best, choose wisely, live well, be prepared, organize our plans, and prayerfully ask for guidance. But we cannot control our outcomes. How wonderful that the infant Jesus is our perfect example of this! Jesus lived a life of faithful obedience, even though he couldn’t control his outcome: his death on a cross. How wonderful that God then turned this terrible outcome into victory, with Jesus’ glorious resurrection!

This Christmas, I will open myself to eagerly embrace the infant Jesus, who comes to me in lowly circumstances. I will draw him close to my heart and ask him to replace my fearful need to control my outcome. I will know- because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection- that God will make GOOD from anything that comes my way. And this is the most precious gift of all. Come, dear Jesus. Come.

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