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My parents recently had a car accident that totaled their vehicle. My father is over eighty, my mother trailing behind. A lapse in focus and what we hoped would never occur did indeed happen. Thanks be to God that other than a few bruises, they were physically unscathed, and no one else was injured. I’m truly grateful!

Everyone with aging parents knows the next issue: My father’s inability to drive any longer. I don’t like this part. I want my parents to remain eternally young and strong. I’ve watched them conquer mountains and achieve dreams, yet none of us are in control of our aging or of how we will end our days.

Peaceful days, one following another, are not our norm, yet that is what we crave. I want all to be well with my parents, and on the other side, with my children and grandchildren as well. But this is a fallen earth, and here there is much groaning.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:22-24a NIV).

We make our brief appearance in the play, acting our tiny part as we’re dropped into the pageantry of human history, and then, right when we’ve figured out who we are in this pageant, our time is up. Yet, as I ponder that reality with my parents, I also celebrate. On this day twenty-seven years ago, our fifth-born child made his appearance. He’s in the stage of life that is vim and vigor, conquering mountains and finding his niche.

As we root for our young and hope for our old, we often feel emotional whiplash. I don’t want anyone’s time to be up anytime soon. I want health, success, and earthly blessings. These longings are especially poignant at Christmas time.

But, alas, I’m not the Author of this human drama. God Himself decides when we enter and when we exit. He orchestrates the plot, the twists, and the events of history that accompany our roles. He does this with the mastery of the sublime Storyteller. Because we love Him and long to be with Him, there are times when we groan under the weight of our trials on a fallen earth, exactly as the characters we write must suffer. We long for our true home and our exit from the play at the happy ending.

At this time of year, we find great comfort that God pierced the fabric of human history and entered our story, that He is not only the Storyteller, but the Hero as well. He wrote Himself in, putting on human flesh and living among us on this messy planet with all its pain and suffering. He suffered as we suffer, so that He might truly be Emmanuel, God with us. He conquered the foe and liberates the captives, and the best is yet to come.

This has been my meditation this year: God is with me, close, near, and dear. I am not forsaken. He knows my sorrows. He knows my joys, and He works all things together for good in my family, in my writing career, and in my life. What more could we ask! May this be the meditation of your heart, no matter your circumstances this Christmas.