For years I have enjoyed seeing the nutcracker in Europe, but now I am seeing more and more making their appearance in America for Christmas. They have long been a symbol of good luck in Germany where they originated. The early ones were in the shape of animals, birds and people in the 15th century. By the 1800’s they were fashioned to represent and vilify unpopular leaders of the day. Now, the most popular ones are the soldiers who benignly stand guard. Their function as nutcrackers is almost forgotten! But their purpose is to press that hard nut until it is crushed.
There is hard pressing in today’s verse but not crushing. Paul goes on to say that there is persecution but not abandonment. He is struck down but never destroyed. Paul experienced tremendous pressure but his spirit was not crushed. He did not crack. He did not lose heart as he was convinced that the One who raised Jesus from the dead would also raise him (verse 14). Despair does not have a chance as Paul is filled with hope, fixing his eyes on the unseen and eternal (verse 18).
This Christmas season has been unique for me. I have found myself buying several condolence cards for friends instead of Christmas cards. The pressure of sadness can feel overwhelming in the face of loss. But for the believer there is hope instead of despair. There is God’s comfort and presence instead of abandonment. He is especially close to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). What is unseen and eternal keeps me from feeling utterly crushed.
Thank you Lord, that Your birth at Christmas brings hope. I pray You will especially comfort those who are hard pressed today.