A message on Gratitude for the Advent season. Written by RAHAB Ministries’ Director of Development, Bethany Miller.
Earlier this year I heard someone remark that we tell a rather sanitized version of the Christmas story. I came back to that thought a lot during this advent season and I have to agree. In fact, the more time I spent thinking about this, the more depth I realized in the Christmas story, and the more grateful I have become for it. As I looked at the beautiful nativity scenes set up in my house to celebrate Christmas, I was struck by how they probably aren’t an accurate portrayal of what that night in Bethlehem was actually like. Pause for a moment and think about the reality of the scene that night. The messiness of labor and birth, taking place in a barn, with large animals, their noises, their excrement, the hay, the dirt… I’m guessing it was anything but a silent night for Mary. Can you imagine what she must have thought and felt when the labor started, the pain hit, and there she was in a stranger’s barn of all places? I’m guessing it wasn’t what she envisioned or hoped for her birth story. But the longer I’ve followed Jesus, the more I’ve realized that God rarely does things the way we plan, and He has so much more in store than we could imagine. So there, in the midst of a messy, dirty, strange barn, the light of God, the salvation of the world, our greatest hope, entered this world. The longer I meditate on it, the more I realize how perfect His birth story is. It is the very picture of light and hope entering into our chaos, confusion, pain, and dark places.
God whispered this insight deeper into my heart through this advent season and I’m grateful for it. Every time I consider it, I find myself more overwhelmed with gratitude for Jesus’ birth, for the truly unique and surprising way that He made His entrance to this world. But even more so, how He continually repeats this in each of our lives. What a gift that the God of light enters into the midst of chaos, mess, and the darkest moments of our lives. In fact, it seems it is not until we find ourselves in these strange, dark, uncomfortable, even painful places that we are able to see His light breaking through into our lives, and how desperately we need it.
It’s true for each one of us, and it’s true for the women and youth that we serve at RAHAB. I’ve recently had the honor of sharing one woman’s story with many of you. Her story was shared with me by a member of our Outreach Teams, and at first telling it sounded, and really it is, so tragic. The unspeakable pain and trauma that this woman was carrying and that led her to an overdose next to a dumpster. Now if that’s not a picture of someone in pain, I’m not sure what is. If you have not yet heard this story, please find it here. But what’s incredible is that this Outreach Team member was telling it as a story of joy. It was joyful because they found her. It was joyful because they had so much hope for her. This team member said something then that has stuck with me. She said that “when the darkness gets this desperate, that is when we can see victory happen.” Her posture was one of gratitude for what was going to happen. The hope of that which was not yet realized as Jaime spoke about in our first advent devotional. Since then, that hope has come to life. This woman has taken great steps in her own healing journey. She’s talking about the future, she’s making a plan to remove herself from toxic situations, and she’s taking steps toward a brighter future – one of light. Her own posture has changed in profound ways because light and hope entered into pain and chaos and darkness and has made a way.
I am so deeply grateful for the healing journey this woman is on. I am so deeply grateful for the Outreach Team who found her, and all the RAHAB staff and volunteers who so passionately carry the light of Christ into dark places. I am so deeply grateful to each one of you who supports the ministry of RAHAB, whether that’s through prayer, volunteering, financial support, or any other avenue of partnership. Truly it takes all of us working together to bring this ministry to life. I’m so deeply grateful to that God has given me one small part in the story that He is writing at RAHAB, what a privilege to be used by Him. Above all else, I am so deeply grateful that God is not only willing, but is eager, to come into the dark chaotic places of our lives to shine His light. I can’t wait to see where that light shines in the New Year.