I’m currently flying home from a quick week trip to Europe. It was partially work and partially fun. Once upon a time I was a missionary in Vienna working with kids at an international school as their elementary chaplain and counselor. After 6 years away I had “all the feels” at finally being back in my European “home” city. I walked through the city my first night there and took in all the familiar sites and smells. I felt completely at home surrounded by a sea of people from around the world. My German fooled the shopkeepers momentarily and the pastries were still swoon-worthy. I walked miles that evening simply taking it all in. My heart was full and I breathed out “thank you, Jesus” with nearly every breath.
One of my dearest friends lives with her Viennese husband and their two girls just outside the city. I took an entire duffle bag full of American treats to them and I’m lugging the same duffle bag back home full of European treats. A couple of nights ago I had their 4-year-old daughter on my lap and we were reading through one of the Christmas books I had brought. I found myself getting all sorts of misty-eyed over the simplicity of the story of Jesus. Perhaps we overcomplicate it too often? Perhaps we let it become mundane and forget the beauty? Perhaps we don’t slow down enough to pause and let it sink in? Whatever the reason, it sunk down deep into my soul. I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
I slept that night in the guest room where until a few months ago a small Syrian refugee family had resided. My friend and her family kept their sacrifice and hospitality quiet to only their closest friends. For nearly a year they were the hands and feet of Jesus to a displaced family. That room felt just a little bit sacred as I fell asleep.
I’m feeling a little bit jet lagged and a little bit nostalgic as my plane takes off from Vienna towards Paris and ultimately Omaha, Nebraska (which in case you’re wondering, is nothing like Europe). My heart has been left in so many places. Christmas is coming and my family is waiting in the US and yet in Vienna I found the pieces of my heart I left there six years ago and I left them again today. It’s moments like this that I remind myself I was created for more. This world is not my home and full contentment and peace and joy will never be found here and that is ok. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee,” (St. Augustine). Part of the journey is the stretching and the growing and even the tears. There is beauty in the journey.
This Christmas season I want to purposely pause more often to find the beauty in the journey. I want to breathe in and out my thank you’s to Jesus for his sweet sacrifice, redemption and grace. That he would love me enough to die for me and not stop there but continue to bless me and lavish love on me completely astounds me. I don’t want to get over it. That Jesus would humble himself as a King to come as a helpless baby challenges my own pride. There is beauty instead of shame in my brokenness and helplessness. He is there. I want to extend scandalous grace to those in need and not just when it’s convenient or when I have extra but whenever Jesus nudges my heart. I don’t want to miss what the journey holds for me in my desire to reach a destination. We serve a God who delights in creating beauty for us. Over 2,000 years ago while on a journey Emmanuel was born, and Jesus is God incarnate with us. We never are without hope, we are never without a redeemer, and we are never alone in our journey. Let’s watch for him, let’s not miss him, and let’s give a little more of what he’s given to us to those we encounter along the way.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Passionate about the church and about kids, Melissa J. MacDonald travels extensively speaking, training, coaching, and consulting. With a fresh and unique perspective Melissa boldly calls the church to be The Church everywhere she goes. She’s been to over 30 countries and seeks out the best ethnic food in every city she visits. Melissa currently serves as the National Children’s Disciplemaking Specialist for the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Find out more at www.melissajmacdonald.com.