Did you know that parking lots at midnight can be very romantic? I’m talking about the romance I experienced with Jesus while walking in a parking lot.
I needed to get some daily exercise and I only had two options: either go to the air-conditioned gym or walk in the warm outdoors. Since I get cold easily, I chose walking outside in the heat. However, I found that even for me, there’s a limit to the heat I can take. So since it was a very hot time of year, I had to wait until it was cooler outdoors—which turned out to be close to midnight.
God only knows why He put so many of this world’s most precious commodities in such hard-to-get-at places. If it was to test our wills—to see to what lengths we would be willing to go and what price we would be willing to pay to get to them—it worked.
Whether probing for oil beneath the deserts of the Middle East or within the Arctic Circle, or plunging into the subterranean dark and cold to mine for gold, diamonds, and other precious metals and gems, the most determined of us brave some of the world’s harshest conditions and risk life and limb to get to the source and strike it rich.
I grew up in Communist Romania, where there was a state ban on religion, so “finding Christmas” wasn’t easy.
“Don’t use the word ‘Christmas’ at school or with people you don’t know,” I remember being told when I turned school age. We used the word at home because some members of my extended family were old enough to have grown up before the ban and still secretly kept the holiday. With everyone else, the tree was to be called “the New Year tree.” Christmas was “the winter holiday.” If we children received gifts, there was no mention of Christmas attached.
Without an enemy there can be no war.
I recently rewatched the movie Joyeux Noël (Christian Carion, 2005), which tells the story of a well-documented event that occurred on a battlefield in France on Christmas Eve, 1914.
I know you, I see you, and I care about you. I care about each of your heartbreaks. I care about how you feel. I care about what you think. I care about the difficulties and hardships that you face. I care about your children. I care about your afflictions. I care about your struggles with finances. I care about your housing situation and your material needs. I care about your children’s needs and the repairs that are coming due. I care about your spiritual struggles.
When asked which was the greatest of God’s commandments, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind [and] love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”1
My daughter Kristen is a celebrity. Has been since birth. My wife and I follow her every move and document her moods, faces, and actions. We talk about her a lot and share stories about her funny habits or latest tastes. We give her our support and care, and do our best to protect her from harm. She has all our attention, even in the middle of the night, and we get up eager to see what she’ll do in the new day. Her laugh always makes us smile, and her tears spur us to remedy situations. To us, she’s the best.
The Lord your God is living among you. … He will take delight in you with gladness. … He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
—Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
I had a basic knowledge of who Hagar was through the various illustrated Bibles I had read as a child. But this year, after deciding to read through the Bible cover to cover, I came away from her story with new perspectives on God’s individual love for each of us.
Not even the dark clouds and gusts of the icy wind outside seemed as bleak and cold as my heart. As I pulled a saucepan from the cupboard, measured water and dried beans into it, and turned on the stove, my mind wandered, retracing the events of the previous weeks and months.