Summary: Christmas: The flip-side of life’s bitter experiences. Or God’s answer to our failures.

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Christmas time—the holiday season—should be a time of love, joy, and fellowship… a time of celebration and anticipation.

But for all too many it’s a time of reflection on past failures… on broken dreams… on emptiness… on missed opportunities.

For those who rejoice, they have taken God’s perspective.

For those who suffer, they have taken man’s perspective.

Jesus said, I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.

He never promised that everyday would be joyful, not even successful.

But he did promise to be there with us in success or failure.

The point is: We should dwell on the Lord and what he wants us to be… rather than languishing in our failures and focusing on our emptiness.

God has a purpose in both our ups and our downs.

Back in Isaiah’s day, Judah’s king Hezekiah, suffered a brush with death, but survived his illness to say:

17 Indeed it was for my own peace That I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.

18 For Sheol (the grave) cannot thank You, Death cannot praise you; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your truth.

19 The living, the living man, he shall praise you, as I do this day; the father shall make known your truth to the children.

20 "The LORD was ready to save me; therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments all the days of our life, in the house of the LORD.

We don’t always understand the workings of God.

This is especially true when we’re too fixed on our own limitations… our faults… our failures.

This blinds us to God’s viewpoint… to his resources… his desires… his ways.

Take, for instance, the only survivor of a shipwreck. He was washed up on a small, uninhabited island.

Thankful to be alive and ashore but concerned about being alone and uncertain, he prayed for God to rescue him.

Every day he searched the horizon for help, but none came.

In time, he managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to shelter him from the wind and the rain.

Every day was spent scavenging for food.

One day, as he returned home, he was startled to find his little hut in flames.

Smoke boiled up. Everything was gone.

Totally bewildered, he dropped to his knees in the sand and screamed: " Oh God, how could you do this to me?”

All hope sank with the setting sun.

Sleep was slow coming that night as he curled himself under a palm tree.

But the loud blast of a ship’s horn awoke him early the next day.

He rolled over to see a ship approaching the island.

It had come to rescue him.

"How did you know I was here?" he asked his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal just before dark" they replied.

It is so easy to get discouraged when things are going bad. But we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain and suffering. Remember, next time your little hut is burning to the ground—It just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God.

Two thousand years ago, God decided the time was ripe to save us out of our man-made misery, to deliver us out of our sin and neglect.

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