Excerpted from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
Read Genesis 37:3-4, 31-33; 50:15-20
There’s a storming mess this side of heaven.
There’s this rising muck, and there’s all of us.
And still there’s this simultaneous global choreography
that unfolds on the world stage anyway. . . .
String up a tangle of lights. Set a musty angel atop the tree. Deck the front porch and the back streets and the whole tilted world in this twinkling robe, this tinseled robe. Watch how it all spins in these lit colors.
Yet there is the robe’s hem. There’s always the bloodied, dirty dragging; there’s always the ripped underside of things, the dreams and bits of us and unspoken hopes torn to pieces.
You can feel this—in a torn-up world, being torn apart.
When you are brave, you give yourself the gift of facing and touching the torn places. The places where we’re torn to pieces can be thin places where we touch the peace of God.
Joseph touches his thin place. He feels along the edges of the torn places, and he sees through: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.”
What was intended to tear you apart, God intends it to set you apart.
What has torn you, God makes a thin place to see glory.
Whatever happens, whatever unfolds, whatever unravels, you can never be undone.
You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph’s, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob’s, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, God’s arms have you. You can never be undone.
No matter what intends to harm you . . .
God is never absent,
You can never be undone.
In the middle of all our collective mess stands the most monstrous evil. The wood of the crèche lies torn apart behind the wood of the Cross. The cries of the innocent Babe under the stars of Bethlehem twist into the agonized cries of the innocent Victim atop the injustice of Calvary. The holy dark over the manger gives way to the heinous dark over the Messiah and the slamming hammer and the tearing vein and the piercing thorn—the created murdering the Creator.
The Cross stands as the epitome of evil.
And God takes the greatest evil ever known to humanity and turns it into the greatest Gift you have ever known.
“If the worst things work for good to a believer, what shall the best things?” writes Puritan Thomas Watson. “Nothing hurts the godly . . . all things . . . shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings.”11
If God can transfigure the greatest evil into the greatest Gift, then He intends to turn whatever you’re experiencing
now into a gift. You cannot be undone.
Somewhere, Advent can storm and howl. And the world robed for Christmas can spin on.
You, there on the edge, whispering it, defiant through the torn places: “All is grace.”
11. Thomas Watson, A Divine Cordial; the Saint’s Spiritual Delight; the Holy Eucharist; and Other Treatises (The Religious Tract Society, 1865), 133.
For more Advent devotions, visit Tyndale’s Online Advent Calendar here.