Is there a miracle in Christmas for you this year?
This Season of lights (advent –Waiting in expectation for the birth of the Christ-child) has been extraordinarily amazing to me. It has been filled with highs and lows, lights and darks.
Is 9:2-7 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on His shoulders. And He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no endHe will reign over David’s throne and over the kingdom upholding it and establishing it with righteousness and justice from that time and forever. The zeal of the Almighty will accomplish this.”
We need this prophetic promise again in our dark and divided country. We all can re-grasp this amazing truth of Christmas.
“Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord will give you a sign: the virgin shall be with child and give birth to a child who shall be called, Emmanuel, which means God with us.” He never leaves us for forsakes us.
I have been struggling with increasingly dark depression since leaving my chaplaincy at Froedtert Menomonee Falls 1 ½ years ago. Long hours of call and traumas, and no sleep took its toll and I needed a sabbatical. But I asked God and didn’t wait for His answer. It was July so I had fun biking and swimming with Pam. Then volunteering as patient visitor in hospitals just didn’t satisfy. Then Covid-19 and the pandemic. No one allowed in hospitals. I began to slowly become depressed as I had left my calling without God’s blessing or waiting for His answer. We need always to seek God first and wait expectantly for His response.
Grief and depression darkened my life. Fear and anxiety came with my “retirement” God never said we retire, except for Levites to mentor younger men at age 55. Recently as all darkened and I seemed unable to talk of think, maybe some of you saw my light grow dimmer and almost out, disabled if you will. Night after night no sleep, in fact 13 nights straight was bringing me to a place where I had suicidal ideations in my loneliness and distress.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
I walked into our back sanctuary of ponds and forests early in the morning of Dec. 11thlooking to end my life, But God.
The Holy Spirit came down as He had in my spiritual darkness while serving as Pastoral Care director when Crossroads Church imploded, leaving me as sole clergy counseling, teaching and splashed with spiritual blood of many in the church as many angrily followed a wayward Senior Pastor. Then in 2012 on Pentecost His power fell on me as I presided over worship. An experience of warm oil anointing from head to toe, soaking through me brought euphoria and healing to darkness. An elder friend in the back of the sanctuary said there was no light except me aglow.
Now Holy Spirit came in bright light and warm oil and breeze enwrapping me again as I lay despondent on a forest path in the woods behind our home just yards from brother Chip Burgharts home. I was lifted up and embraced for what seemed hours as He filled and baptizing me with healing balm and love. He lifted me up to a heavenly place.
Now filled with joy and awe, praying in the Spirit, I was frightening the coyotes and a man who had ventured out in the early dawn’s early light. I was ecstatic and even manic as I returned home in the glow of dawn. A re-made renewed man out of the darkness into the light of Advent has frightened my wife Pam. I have overwhelmed many with spiritual excitement since. A high like the Matt 17 Transfiguration of Jesus came over me. The over the top manic like filling has been diagnosed by a “Christian Psychiatrist” to be possible Bipolar depression on high. This is an inherited family curse if you will. Suicide also runs deep my ancestors.
I have been receiving counseling by Christian therapists to bring me down; meds have brought brutal side effects, including many nights of sleeplessness. Three nights ago a severe adverse drug reaction led to an epileptic-like seizure and a five-hour ordeal at Froedtert Menomonee Falls where I served for 6 years as Chaplain. Very professional and a compassionate pastoral care staffer and wife of former FWs member Jim Freel ministered to me. Thursday night a new sleep med brought night sweats and an early drafting of this Christmas miracle message to you.
Christmas brings us light in the darkness, where hope joy and peace can mingle down with other experiences like Jesus and family having to flee to Egypt for their lives. There can be lows in our high expectations of the Advent and Hanukkah season of light.
This year particularly, I am celebrating both as I recently found out from a first cousin on my mother’s side that my ancestors had escaped from German oppression of the Jews in the pogroms of late 1800s to the US. A long family secret that I am 50% Jewish has brought amazing revelations. My grandmother’s maiden name is Leo. I am actually from the Tribe of Levi, making me a born-again believer and Levitical priest. I am trying to figure out like a Hallmark movie of a DNA reveal for a woman of what to do with celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah and the Miracle and festival of light when the oil did not run out in the temple. Two days ago I had the great and emotional privilege to be in Hanukkah Parade past your house. I rolled down the window of our car and yelled and cheered as hundreds of beautiful faithful with Menorahs on their cars streamed by with four police SUVs in the lead and many more protecting and honoring the celebration parade to the synagogue I celebrated after two years of deep depression that just exploded into a million ever burning candles.
I recently presided at the Memorial service of a former FW Don Gass, where light shined in the darkness. His widow, Ann, wanted me to preach on Psalm 23 and going through the valley of the shadow on death and Isaiah 43:1-2 saying, “Fear not, I have redeemed you… When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you, and when you pass through the fire, the flames shall not set you ablaze.” Light and dark, good and evil are constant messages in Scripture and life. Also her request was from Jere 31:3 saying, “The Lord appeared to you in the past, “I have loved you with and everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Christmas brings us Bright lights and the message of His love, but also of darkness and the Cross He came to bear. He came to live and die for us to be able to live in His bright light and love. Galatians 4:4 says, “That in the fullness of time, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His son, the Spirit that calls out Abba Father. We are no longer slaves, but sons and heirs to His kingdom. Hallelujah! And this Christmas is assured that He is with us.
May the brightest Advent lights and those of the Hanukkak miracle of eternal light in the darkness also be with you this Christmas?