Friday, December 20, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Joy

Joy to the World
A devotional by Victoria Bylin

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

What happened on a particular December afternoon in 2006 bordered on a family tragedy. I say “bordered” because what happened didn’t involve human flesh and blood. No one was physically hurt, and the only thing that broke was my husband’s heart—and mine too, though to a lesser extent.

We have a long family history of putting up a nativity scene in our front yard. The tradition began in my husband’s boyhood, when his dad put up white plastic figures of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. My husband’s father hand-crafted a wooden shelter and manger, which gave the store-bought white plastic a natural and personal touch. Lit up from the inside, those white figures glowed with a serene beauty.

I don’t remember exactly when my in-laws passed that nativity set to us, but I vividly remember putting it up in the 1990s when we lived in a snowy mountain community. We put the creche up near the street where people could see it. Neighbors noticed and commented, but the best response came from a snowplow driver working all night in a snowstorm to keep our roads clear. He told us how bright and beautiful the figures were in the falling snow, and how much seeing the nativity encouraged him.

We really loved that family heirloom. I don’t know how old it was when the disaster struck in 2006. Maybe fifty years? We were starting to worry about the wiring, but my husband always checked it carefully.

As things turned out, it wasn’t the wiring that did the set in. It was a ladder—a very tall ladder that topped sideways and landed smack on Mary. The damage was irreparable, and the figure turned out to be irreplaceable even on eBay.

Our family heirloom lay crumbled and crunched on the brown winter lawn. It was just plain sad to see that treasure brought to ruin. We still miss that set, but that’s not the end of the story. The next day, My husband went to Walmart to look for a new nativity. To his surprise, there were hundreds of big boxes stacked against the wall. The figures were a different style—painted with pretty colors and facial details—but we shifted gears and bought one.

It was nice, but it wasn’t the same . . . until God made it special.

When Christmas rolled around in 2007, we were shopping for other things at Walmart and decided to check out nativity sets. We couldn’t find a single one, and we haven’t seen one for sale since then. They must be out there, probably online, but it’s no longer a Christmas display that’s easy to find. It seems that our old white set broke just in time to be easily replaced.

What we thought was a miserable accident turned into a story we tell every Christmas about how God replaces what’s broken with unexpected blessings. As Christians, we don’t always understand why difficult things happens. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. But the one constant is God’s love and grace—that he died for us while we were still sinners.

Tonight, the nativity we purchased back in 2006 is brightly lit on our lawn—a symbol of God’s great goodness and the miraculous gift of his son.

Merry Christmas to you!

Author Bio:
Victoria Bylin is the author of 18 traditionally published romances. Known for tackling difficult subjects with great compassion, she delights in stories that shine the spotlight of God’s love on ordinary men and women facing realistic challenges.

Writing has always been a part of Victoria’s life. As a child, she wrote hundreds of letters and scribbled in journals. As an adult, she worked as a freelance journalist and editor before taking on the challenge of fiction.

She had one goal when she started her first novel: to finish a book-length manuscript, good or bad. That first effort will never see the light of day, but it led to a second manuscript and a sale to Harlequin Historical. Since then, she has written westerns and contemporary romances for both mainstream and Christian publishers, with Together With You winning the 2016 Inspirational Readers Choice Award for Best Contemporary.

Writing is a joy and a challenge for Victoria, but faith, friends and family matter to her far more. She’s a wife, mom, proud grandmother, and a dog-mom to a wacky Jack Russell Terrier. Originally from California, she and her husband currently make their home in Lexington, Kentucky. 

When she’s not writing, Victoria enjoys long walks, travel, and dark chocolate.

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