Tuesday, December 18, 2018

God incarnate, here to dwell...

Emmanuel, God with us... 

This Christmas, I've been particularly struck by the fact that God was silent for 400 years before that very first Christmas. 400 years sure is a long time for humanity not to hear from God.

But was He silent? 

You see, I've also been struck by the fact that our concept of time isn't at all in sync with God's, for in Galatians 4:4 it says, "When the set time had fully come, God sent His Son..."

And, struck by the fact that, when He was seemingly silent, He was orchestrating the details of a life-changing story and actively working everything out for good.

Isn't it comforting to know that God's timing is always perfect and that He is always actively pursuing us, even when He is seemingly silent?

When God chose to finally reveal himself to humanity again, He did so first to one of the most unlikely people, a young woman—Mary. He asked her to be the vessel, to bring Emmanuel into this world. And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

Because of Mary's yes, the silence was broken by a baby's cry that very first Christmas, the singular event that would change the course of history and afford us the freedom we now enjoy as Jesus people!

What then does this all mean for us, 2000+ years later?

As Jesus people, we now have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

As we continue to live in this broken world as people belonging to the New Covenant, we find ourselves also waiting, just like the people of the Old Covenant—waiting for that day when Jesus will once again make all things new. 

Similarly, Jesus invites us just as He invited Mary, into a partnership with Him. Like Mary, we may not feel the most qualified or think we're the most likely candidate—yet we are to be like Mary and assume this posture, "Let it be to me according to your word." 

We are to be a people who do not wait passively. As Jesus’ disciples, a people who know this Eternal Hope, we are to wait actively—working hard to see His Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

This is the true meaning of Advent.

This is the posture our family continually wants to hold: May we be vessels for Emmanuel to come into the lives of those who are broken and longing to be whole—that Good News to the poor, that freedom for the captives, that sight for the blind, that liberty for the oppressed, just as Jesus outlined in Luke‬ ‭4:18‬.

2018 family highlights {the top 10, in no particular order}:

1. In January, Jon attached his name to the official North American Record single time for the 3x3x3 one-handed speedcubing event with a 7.57-second solve! Not only is it #1 in North America, it is also #2 in the world, just one under the World Record. You can watch that solve here.

2. In February, I had the privilege of co-leading my very first official Pastors' Vision Trip with Compassion. We headed to Nicaragua. You can get a glimpse into this trip via my posts on Instagram tagged #PastorsTripNicaragua2018. Soon after we left the country, violent protests started and it's still ongoing to some extent. The beautiful people of Nicaragua have been on my heart and in my prayers!

3. Speaking of the beautiful people of Nicaragua, we now have a special connection to one of them—our newest Compassion child, Luis! I met Luis while in Nicaragua and couldn't help but fall in love with this witty and smart boy!

4. Alyssa turns 22 in the New Year... she is currently on her placement year as part of the International Development Studies program at the University of Toronto. She had initially planned to do her placement year in Rwanda, but things took an unexpected turn. She writes about that journey here. As a result, she is doing her placement right here at home with Compassion Canada, as Writer and Communicator. I might be biased, but she is an absolutely stellar co-worker! This year, she's travelled the country and the world, speaking and writing—lending her voice to those who don't have one. I can't be more proud of how she's stewarded this God-given platform, grateful for God's grace manifesting itself so beautifully in her life!

5. In June, Floyd and I celebrated 24 years of marriage. Him and me, we’ve been through a lot of life together now. He truly has been my stego, described so eloquently by these words penned by Ann Voskamp: "Love bears all things like a roof bears the wind and the rain, like a roof that bears the burden of lashing storms, brutal heat. Real love is a roof. Real love makes you into a shelter, real love makes you into a safe place. Real love makes you safe. Stego. There is always a way forward that finds a way to love. We could be the ones who know that "the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Galatians 5:6)."

6. During the latter half of the summer, our church's 2nd Syrian newcomer family completed their one year of life in Toronto! It’s been one of our family’s greatest joys to have walked this journey that’s so much outside of comfort zone, and one of my greatest privileges to lead this refugee sponsorship committee over these past three years! This family has grown wings to fly. We are extremely happy for them!

7. Jon turned 18 this year... time truly flows like a relentless river. This is the first Christmas that both our kids are adults! Talk about feeling old! Jon graduated from high school this year, top of his class! We are so incredibly proud of him!

8. Speaking of being proud of Jon, just before I left for my Nicaragua trip, this boy received an early offer of acceptance to study Engineering Science at the University Of Toronto, admittedly one of the toughest undergraduate programs in the country. As I tap out this Christmas update, he is on his way to write one of his final exams. By the end of this week, he will have successfully completed 1/8 of his degree! Have I already said that we are so incredibly proud of him?!?

9. This summer, our travels brought us to Northern Thailand and Taipei (Taiwan). Our trip is well documented on Instagram as #Esparaz2Asia. We were in Taipei for Jon to compete in the 2018 Asian Championship speedcubing competition. We then side-tripped to Northern Thailand in order to spend a week with our three Compassion children there—Eakkawin, Taeng-Mo and Lili. It was such an amazing and inspiring experience, one that has ignited our family's passion anew to see exponentially more children released from poverty in Jesus' name via Compassion's ministry.

10. Speaking of Compassion, we are celebrating with our global Compassion family for the milestone of now having TWO MILLION children registered in our programs!!! This is only possible because of our partnership with the 7,000 frontline church partners across 25 field countries, as we saw anew firsthand this summer in Northern Thailand! As a family, we count it a blessing and a privilege to serve God via this wonderful ministry.

As this year comes to a close, we are celebrating 1200+ Compassion children connected with loving sponsors this year here in the Greater Toronto Area through various events and church services! We are deeply grateful for the dedicated and committed volunteers who so faithfully serve with us to grow Compassion's ministry in this region of Canada. I am personally grateful for the trust afforded to me by Pastors and church leaders across this region, as they continually open their doors to embrace Compassion's ministry and partner to see children's lives holistically changed! My family and I are truly overwhelmed and incredibly humbled… we truly serve a good, good Father.

~ :: ~

As the calendar turns to 2019, may we continue to live out the true meaning of Advent as we wait. May we be vessels for Emmanuel to come into the unexpected places—God incarnate, here to dwell.

What hope we hold this starlit night | A King is born in Bethlehem | Our journey long, we seek the light | That leads to the hallowed manger ground.
Emmanuel, Emmanuel | God incarnate, here to dwell | Emmanuel, Emmanuel | Praise His name Emmanuel.
The son of God, here born to bleed | A crown of thorns would pierce His brow | And we beheld this offering | Exalted now the King of kings | Praise God for the hallowed manger ground.
From our family to yours... 
Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

With much love + gratitude,
The Esparaz Family:
Floyd, Aimee, Alyssa and Jon