Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Joy to the World indeed. It is Christmas time, that yearly time of pageants, gift giving, lights, trees, family gatherings and lots of yummy food. Christmas can be a festive time, or… a reminder of things missing in one’s life.
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
Finding space to rejoice during seasons of longing can often feel like smiling through a bad compliment or worse, an act of being ignored, forgotten or dismissed. Gifts and cookies do not provide that magical cure that help you forget, despite the momentary glimmer that flashes by one’s heart.
I say this from my own prolonged season of waiting that recently brought me to the story of Daniel. I was struck to read this particular chapter below.
Daniel’s Prayer for His People Chapter 9
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy …
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession saying…
16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away… 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy…
18 O my God, incline your ear and hear.
19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not…”
Gabriel Brings an Answer
21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.”
Daniel’s story is pretty dramatic. You may have heard of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” or “The Fiery Furnace” that tried to consume Daniel’s friends. These are but a few of the many daunting challenges that Daniel faced over his life in captivity in the palace. This story shares many of the themes of his other trials including the unique and magnificent visit of the archangel Gabriel.
Let’s face it, most of us are not going to receive an angelic visit with an answer to our unceasing prayers, unending hope and ever present longing. So how do we, how do I, process this story? Three things stand out to me from this recount.
Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns
At the beginning of your pleas for mercy… If you are like me, you have probably longed to know if God is even aware of your plight. Especially as days, months and maybe even years pass, longing for a change in circumstances, healing for your body or family, a new job, etc., your heart can begin to grow tired, bitter, wilted, and the joy and light that once emerged from it seems like an unrecognizable memory. This verse is clear though – his prayers were heard. Reading this does not make all my questions disappear but it provides me with an assurance that our prayers don’t end up in spam folders in heaven.
He comes to make his blessings flow
A word went out… His prayer received a response which means that God does answer prayer. That may sound unbelievable based on your life circumstances, yet here is but one example where we see that God answered someone’s prayer. His way of answering often befuddles us—Jesus healed one blind man by spitting on the ground and creating mud to put on his eyes, and he healed another blind man by spitting on his eyes—but answers flow out from heaven in response to our prayers.
He rules the world with truth and grace
For you are greatly loved… During trials and seasons of waiting, it often feels like we are not as loved by our heavenly father as we would like. Yet we are…just like Daniel hears Gabriel tell him after his waiting, praying and hoping for change. Just like a virgin Mary hears from no other than the angel Gabriel who starts by saying, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
This may be hard to swallow and seem like a trite response to immense hurt, but it is the truth and grace of this season – to remember God’s amazing love for us celebrated in the virgin birth of a child that came to this world to live as a man, to know our suffering, our longings, our hopes, before dying for us to give us eternal life.
God knows we are longing and his responses will come in time as we pray and wait. While we do, can we make room in our hearts for his response? Can we make room to say that he reigns despite what the answer will be? Can we let the blessing flow to whatever part of our hearts are most darkened by our hurts? Can we let Him rule with truth and grace? If so, we might be in store for a majestic display of the wonders, wonders, of his love.