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“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

As we visited Busch Gardens’ one day, I observed a toddler patting the glass of a wildlife enclosure. A lioness sprang toward him from the other side. Massive canines flashing, she pounced again and again. Huge paws engulfed the outline of the child’s hand. He grinned over his shoulder into the camera’s flash, as if playing pat-a-cake with the alpha predator.

If not for the glass shield, the lion would have devoured him like a cupcake.

With the exception of sunscreen, we tend to give little thought to shields these days. Few of us encounter large predators outside the zoo. Battles rage in distant lands, where armored vehicles and fortified bases matter far more to others than to us.

First century military officials knew the importance of defense equipment all too well. An effective shield could win or lose the war. If a soldier lost his scutum, as they were called, he became a walking target. Warriors often chained or strapped their ultimate means of protection onto their forearm, lest they lose their grip.

Roman shields remain legendary icons in military equipment design. Curved to deflect arrows and layered for strength, the scutum was large enough to cover a man and overlap the next shield in reptilian shell formation. Centurions also used shields as an offensive weapon to charge enemy lines.

With faith, we can break through enemy strongholds. Matthew 8 records examples of faith breaking through to the disenfranchised and excluded. The next chapter reveals how the faith of our friends can bring us out of hopelessness into the presence of Christ.

Faith deflects enemy arrows hurtling toward our souls each day. Lies, toxic attitudes, and insecurities glance off the surface when we hold up our faith against them. The King advises us to huddle together in formation so the enemy cannot find any spaces open for attack. Christ’s victory seals our triumph in the protection of our unified and mutually fortified trust in Him.

We must not let our guards slip and get caught playing pat-a-cake with this lion. So let’s strap on our trusty shields and snuggle in close, fellow soldiers. We’ll keep our faith out front and charge onward.

Snowflakes dove from high clouds, mimicking their northern sisters who had successfully decorated the landscape for Christmas. Tropical breezes dissolved the flurry into tiny droplets. The parched earth embraced the saturated air. Glimmering mist kissed tree trunks, leaves, and noses of all who turned out to receive it. Heaven’s dew returned to bless the pleading world with an affectionate, I mist you…

While setting up Christmas lights today, I squinted to see a silvered version of neighboring homes. Though too fine for my eyes to see, the water’s effect remained undeniable. No matter how I might try to ignore the moisture, it enveloped me. I walked across the glistening lawn to get an extension cord. The yellowed grass squeaked a chorus of praise beneath my soles. Ah, how water revives and transforms our perspective when we feel the need for its quenching power.

The fine mist thickened within an hour. We could no longer ignore the rain’s presence. I prayed over my husband’s footsteps on the slick rooftop and ladder. And marveled at the promises spoken through our tropical flurry. The message of Christmas reigns over the world, despite its attempts to deny the true presence of Living Water.

We could look for Christmas at the mall, on Hollywood screens, or in the platitudes of cheery cards and carols. The marketplace attempts to whet our appetites for celebration, but fails to quench our thirst for life. Many feel estranged and disenchanted from this plasti-perfect requiem to build happy facades with our good fortune. Misfortune seems out of place among ‘the holidays,’ but the Lord crafted Christmas for those with no hope left in the world.

Christ laid aside his royal splendor to take the helpless form of a human infant. Born in a barn. To a homeless and outcast couple. Among people so oppressed and heavily taxed by foreign government that they could barely afford to eat. In a world starved of good news or any word from God. Despair, crippling diseases, and chronic illness ravaged the nation. Corruption infiltrated governments and worship leaders. The parched earth cried out for God’s presence. Jesus poured Himself into the midst of the horror. He starved, endured betrayal, and suffered unfathomable pain. He walked hundreds of country and back-alley miles to offer the quenching presence of God to remain with us forever. He didn’t spare a single drop of His life.

As the world’s thirsty plea for hope rings on today, Jesus still offers the fullness of Himself to slake our deficiencies. He refreshes our dusty flesh-state and revives our souls. Christ descends on us like gentle, yet saturating mist. Even when we fail to notice, His presence envelops us and all our circumstances. Hardships lighten in the silvery mist of eternal hope. Our strength renews, and we no longer feel as if we bear our burdens alone. Unlimited joy seasons the breezes from beyond the horizon, where our destined home holds an eternity free from problems. Heaven awaits as our next step, and the Author of Life promises to walk alongside us on the way there. We can stretch out our arms and sing in the glimmering rain.

As Living Water transforms our vision, we recognize those withering neighbors who need to hear the songs of heaven’s dew. This Christmas, will you join me in reaching out to offer a sip of refreshing hope to those who thirst? Be part of of the flurry. May Christmas pour Christ’s blessings through you until the world shimmers.

 

“The poor and needy search for water,
    but there is none;
    their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17).

 

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
    and in the day of salvation I will help you. . .They will neither hunger nor thirst. . .Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:8-23).

“Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:15-17).

“He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today. . . a Savior has been born to you. . . This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:5-12).

“whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

 

“Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty'” (John 6:35).

An atheist erected a beer-can pole near the nativity scene in Florida’s capitol building. He dubbed the eyesore a “Festivus pole,” citing the synthetic holiday originating in a Seinfeld episode. During the television interview, he expressed his desire to present the most ridiculous display he could imagine.

Atheistic protests have increased in recent years. In avid worship of disbelief, this minority group seeks to usurp our right to express respect for the true Lord. The shadow of humanism seems most inappropriate at Christmas. Many believers gasp at the affront to our cherished season’s original meaning.

Digging deeper into the story, however, we find this news clip brings nothing new. False religions defiled the honored public places and government buildings during the night of our Savior’s birth. Humanistic idols littered the earth for thousands of years preceding the first Noel. Asherah poles plagued ancient Israel’s high places. Instead of seeking the true Lord, men erected hedonistic poles with which they felt able to control all things seen and unseen. Much like modern atheists, the ancient pagan worshipers sought to direct their own spiritual sovereignty.

The poles of false religions fail to eclipse Christmas, for they represent the reason for a Savior’s birth into the dark world of humanity. Man wandered away from his Creator. Without the light of divine truth, humans lost their grasp upon morality and life. We could not rescue ourselves from the depraved state of the world. God poured His Son into our bleak existence. He entered the world as a homeless, impoverished outcast amid the rule of oppressive tyrants and emperors. He suffered our challenges to save us from ourselves.

The Asherah and Festivus poles remind us of God’s redeeming love, and the indubious light of Christmas. 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:5-14

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” – Isaiah 9:2

Clouds prowl across the earth in bands, shrouding light. The air thickens. Chill bumps prickle through the vegetation. Nature’s breath condenses and fog rolls across my path. In a storm’s shadow, my vision falters. 

I strain my eyes to discern the next small step forward. Focus becomes a challenge when the horizon vanishes. The plunge in barometric pressure burdens my senses. The energy drains from my pores and vanishes into the eerie mist.

Lost. Wandering. Surviving one step at a time in no particular direction.

Metaphysical thunderheads mar my view of the path. My rare glimpse at the objective faded into memory. I can only see a few paces of roadway at best. Often, my feet disappear in a dense mist of temporal distractions.

Once upon a time, I sprang into life wearing a goal-oriented headlamp and type A hiking boots. I never asked for directions, and drew my own maps. 

Then the storms came. 

My batteries died. Maps don’t work when you can’t see the heavens. Hiking boots wear blisters into tender feet. Especially when you refuse directions.

I laid down my goal-orientation and type-A-ness, which had grown quite heavy. Meandering in the fog steamed the pride-wax out of my ears so I could better hear the directions.

Turns out, I didn’t need to see my way after all. The One Who Sees offered to direct my path. My maps would never have guided me to the best destinations, because I lacked divine perspective. God’s view outstretches my best line of sight. Only He beholds all things in perfect clarity. 

I still can’t see where I’m going most of the time, but I can trust the One Who does. Vision must come from faith, and the spirit has no need to gawk at what’s ahead. The clear view is up.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

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