You will open the eyes of the blind. You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons. ~ Isaiah 42:7 NLT
No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
~ “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts
One of the events I most look forward to during the Christmas season is the hanging of the lights at the intersection near my home. When a gentle breeze stirs the branches, they seem to dance in the rhythm of my heartbeat, singing that my Light has come. Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let every heart prepare Him room! No more let sin and sorrow grow! He came to make His blessings flow!*
My heart hasn’t always sung at the thought of Jesus’ birth. There was the whole not being allowed to celebrate Christmas thing, but there was more to it. Though I accepted Christ at a young age, my understanding of the magnitude of this event was severely limited as was my grasp of Christ’s death and resurrection. I knew Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth to save me from my sins and make sure that I could spend eternity with the Father. But I was in my thirties before I began to truly grasp His transforming grace. If you’ve read the Soul Scents collection, you know my story.
Christianity meant a ticket to heaven and a long, hard struggle to walk the straight and narrow until I got there. It meant trying very hard and failing often, living under the bondage of failure. I felt I couldn’t live up to what I thought were God’s expectations of me. I didn’t pray enough, read my Bible enough, or witness enough. Motherhood was especially debilitating. I knew I failed there. I should discipline better, be more patient, play with them more, spend more time on their academics, pray for them more often, teach them more skillfully, be a more organized housekeeper . . . the list was never ending. Often I approached God with my head hung in shame, condemnation rolling over me.
Then there was that whole shame around failing my mother. Condemnation was a beast to be slain.
Somewhere I missed the verse that told me that God didn’t send Jesus to the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17). Furthermore, the next verse, John 3:18 begins by saying that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned!
I used to think these scriptures simply meant I wouldn’t go to hell. While that is a very good thing, it is a limited understanding of why Christ came. It’s not just the condemnation of the final judgment that Christ did away with, but also the condemnation in my daily life.
Everything I’ve done in the past, am doing now, or will do in the future is cleansed by Jesus’ blood. When God looks at me, He sees Jesus.
And Jesus is perfect.
These concepts are especially hard for those of us who were victims of gas-lighting or other emotional, verbal, or religious abuse.
As the year draws to a close and with it this collection of devotions, my heart cry is for your freedom and mine. And friend, freedom comes from Jesus and His glorious grace.
Have you ever really noticed verse three of the beautiful hymn, “O Holy Night”? There is a powerful phrases that says, “Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease.”**
What oppresses you? What holds you back? Where are you chained? Where in your life is there slavery to lies instead of free living in truth and grace?
Maybe, like me, you need to let go of striving, performance, perfectionism.
Maybe, like me, you’ve taken on false identities, things the enemy said to you that you believed.
Maybe, like me, there are some people you have to forgive if you’re going to move forward. Maybe you have to admit how bad it really was before you can completely let it go.
Maybe, like me, your failures eat at you. Your inability to be all you wanted to be pulls you down.
Maybe, like me, there are rooms in your heart you’ve refused to enter for years that need Jesus.
Maybe, like me, your scars and wounds have whispered shame and unworthiness and have tried to shut you down.
Oh sweet friend. Chains come in every size.
Give Him permission to reveal them, cut them apart, untangle them.
If you’re like my husband and me, you’ll need Him to start with the really big, thick ones. In your surrendered state You will make big choices. Like drawing difficult boundaries or leaving bad theology or forgiving someone whose actions were unthinkable. Then He’ll cut more chains by asking you to do something weird. Like write a book series or buy your first Christmas tree. And while He’s working on those really big, visible chains, He’ll also be working on the tiny ones in your heart. These are like golden necklace chains. They aren’t bad, but instead of adorning you for His glory, they somehow got all twisted into tiny knots, so He gently rubs the spots, untwists the golden lines, careful not to waste a single thing He plans to use for your joy and His.
Jesus broke the bondage of our heavy, chained souls. He freed us from the curse of condemnation from within and without. He spread His blessings as far as the curse was found. He broke generational strongholds and patterns of dysfunction. He saved us from the voices. He saved us from ourselves.
It’s a done deal. It’s ongoing glory.
All the while He whispers that you are worthy of His every effort. He doesn’t leave things undone, but faithfully works, as long as it takes, to show you how to live in the healing and freedom He purchased for you at the cross. He calls you to leave the crap behind and stand in the fullness of who He created you to be. He invites you to warmer climates and clean, open spaces where you can run and laugh. He longs for you to embrace His favor. There is no greater worship than surrendering to His love, than embracing His favor, than becoming all He created you to be.
As you drive through the twinkling lights in your neighborhood this Christmas season, remember that your darkness is pierced, your light has come. May our hearts prepare Him room, singing, “No more let sin and sorrows grow, / Nor thorns infest the ground; / He comes to make His blessings flow / Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found. . . .”
Joy to the world! Our Lord is come!
Precious Jesus, thank you for being the light that shines into the dark places, releasing me from sin and despair. You broke the slavery chains in my life. You continue to unravel knots and set me free. You placed me in a wide open space where the warmth of Your presence lights my way. I commit to worshiping You by embracing Your favor. By living as one who is loved, forgiven, and free to dance in joy. I give You all my “not good enoughs” and simply rest in the deep, penetrating grace of Jesus. I let those who’ve wronged me off the hook, handing them over to You for Your healing justice. Thank You, Father God, for the cross of Christ. I trust You to make my heart move with Jesus’ life rhythm. After all, He lives within me, and our hearts beat as One.
*Excerpts from “Joy to the World,” text by Isaac Watts
**Excerpt from “O Holy Night,” text by John S. Dwight
Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.