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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Waiting for Christmas (post 12)

Waiting for Christmas is the hardest thing when you're a little kid. When I was little, we used to open gifts on Christmas Eve at my grandparents' house across the road.  Many times, my grandmother hadn't finished her Christmas wrapping before we arrived.  So, there we would sit, in our special places around the living room, waiting for the bedroom door to open and her to emerge, bringing packages galore. It seemed to take forever.

Guess that's what the Jews thought in ancient times (and still think, for the most part). Waiting for the Messiah seemed like it would never end. And for those who don't claim Christ as the Annointed One, the wait goes on.  But, for those who believe, waiting for Christmas is over.  He has come. And no gift has ever made such a difference.  Joy to the World . . .let each of us receive Him.

me and Mr. Clause (post 11)

I met Santa this week.  Welll, that's what I told my kids. It's sort-of a way of describing Christmas shopping.  Got it from my parents. I'm not a Santa Clause hater, by the way, but building him up to my children wasn't something I did when they were younger.  In fact, I recall a funny story when my oldest was just a pre-schooler.  We were in a store around Christmas-time and a nice lady asked her what Santa was going to bring her or something like that.  Ashley straightened her little shoulders and replied in a very matter-of-fact, yet respectful firstborn voice that there wasn't a Santa Clause.  I remember trying to steer the conversation elsewhere very quickly lest this sweet Southern lady think I was a horrible mother for declaring such a blunt truth to my little girl. I guess it's all been downhill from there since my kids haven't really put much stock in him, though they are very eager for presents, no matter the giver. Oh well, maybe I didn't give the old gent very good publicity, but I saw him this week anyway (in a manner of speaking, of course).

too much food; no piano (post 10)

I am overloaded on one hand and bereft on the other. There are more goodies in my kitchen than we can reasonably eat (not that we won't make a valiant effort!)  But there is an empty space in my living room. Soon, there will be a piano there, but as of now, no keyboard is in sight.  Food for the body, but not for the soul.  Now, reknown chefs will disagree, of course.  To them, what feeds the body can also nourish the spirit.  But, for me, this Christmas, I'm missing a piano and no cookie or fudge morsel can substitute.  It makes me realize that ivory, strings and wood can look just as delicious as a baking pan from the oven. And less fattening too!

Crackling candles (post 9)

I bought a new candle for this Christmas season.  It's the "woodwick" brand - supposed to sound like a crackling fire.  And it does, somewhat.  Of course, it doesn't have quite the same "roar," but it does a credible job for one small wick.  And it has a wonderful fragrance - gingerbread spice.

It reminds me that I am to be, in my small way, a visual aid for the wonder of Christmas.  Like my new "crackling candle," I can bear the soothing sound of Christ's love to a tense world and emanate the fragrance of His grace to those I meet.

What Heaven Knows (post 8)

There was a time lapse between the Gabriel's announcment to Mary and His assurance to Joseph. Why?

For both of them to be informed at the same time would have saved some tense moments for them both and for her family, I'm sure. But, it didn't happen that way.  For some divine purpose, there was a lapse.  Heaven knew why.  And Heaven knows why we face lack of knowledge in some facet of our understanding about life.  God was faithful to inform Joseph at the right moment; we can trust He'll do the same for us.

Wasted bows (post 7)

Tear off the paper, rip off the bow . . get to the present!  That's Christmas - kid style! Or you can be like my grandmother, and your grandmother (and me, now!) and save the bows.  Rarely do I recycle the wrapping paper, but the bows - maybe. Especially with the price of Hallmark these days, being "green" at Christmas could save you some money! 

Yet, when you get right down to it, bows on Christmas packages aren't that terrible a thing to waste.  They're just pretty wrapping, after all. If that's the only thing we waste this Christmas, what a good thing that would be! It is much worse to waste the other "wrappings" of the season, the not unusual-but-so-awesome gifts of good food, good friends, great gifts, great family, etc.  Sure, it would be Christmas without them, but they sure make the whole "package" so much better.  Think I'll make sure to enjoy them this year.

Inside the tree (post 6)

Pretend you're a kid and lay down by the Christmas tree, scoot your head over until you're looking up into the branches.  Isn't it amazing the perspective from the inside? 

Christmas isn't always what it seems from the outside. There is amazing beauty when we get a different view on the glitz and glitter.  When we look at Christmas from the inside out, when we start with God's love for the world and work our way out to the tinsel and lights, it makes all the difference.

Silent Night? (Post 5)

Very few nights are truly silent.  We love the words of the carol, and the night of Jesus' birth was very still and quiet in a sacred sense.  But, in God's ears, there is no silent night as far as earth is concerned.  Every evening, He hears the soft weeping of breaking hearts, the screams of those in pain, the wails of those who are grieving, the pleas of those in need . . . every earthly night is filled with the noise of a hurting world.  And that's why He sent Jesus - to bring the redeeming, healing quiet of grace to all those who cry.  Jesus came to bring us the beauty of a "silent night."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

He loved us from the manger (Day 4)

What was it like for Mary to see the infant eyes of Emmanuel open on the world He came to save?  The One who watched as the universe came into being now stared into the darkness of a winter night. And in that sacred moment, Jehovah God loved us through a baby's gaze. All the love of redemption's plan was in the eyes of a newborn, unfulfilled, yet present.

Thirty-three years later, Jesus looked down from a cross and loved us. Mary was there for both events. She had witnessed Jesus' journey from newborn King to divine sacrifice. And on that day at Golgotha,as she looked into eyes filled with unutterable love, yet clouded with suffering, she must have remembered that night so long ago when she first saw in an infant's countenance the hope of all mankind. Yes, He loved us from the Cross, but He loved us first from the manger.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas without the trappings (Day 3)

Can I celebrate Christmas without the traditional accompaniments? Can you?

Personally, I'd rather not. There is something comforting about the cookies, the shopping excursions, the festive meals, the decorations.  Indeed, to avoid being a Scrooge, we delight in our indulgance in holiday cheer. I love being right in the midst of the merriment.

But is it possible to enter into the spirit of Christmas without the trappings?  As economic uncertainty wreaks havoc on the status quo, we may have the opportunity to find out.  Maybe we will have the chance to discover what it feels like:  to push a grocery cart through the crowded market and be unable to buy baking ingredients; to say no to invitations to holiday extravaganzas; to be without means to send Christmas cards; to enjoy a Christmas tree loaded with ornaments, but empty of gifts. 

Tradition is a wonderful thing.  It is even encouraged in Scripture.  The feast days established for Israel were to be remembered and celebrated annually. These were days in which to prepare the traditional meals and enjoy the traditional ceremonies.

And tradition is a wonderful thing for us; it is right that Christ's coming be celebrated with joy and happy times, with nourishment for the body and soul. Yet, the joy is not in the trappings, the stuff, but in the event itself. When we are forced to do without some holiday garnish we have come to expect, we may then be left to adjust our idea of celebration.

I have read of prsioners of war who were able to keep Christmas in their hearts without any trappings whatsoever.  In fact, not only did they not have the garnish, they were underfed, cold and miserable. That isn't the way I want to spend Christmas, but their strength assures us it is possible nonetheless.

We all know that the real meaning of Christmas is God taking on flesh. Maybe at such time we are obligated to endure hardship at Christmas, we can more fully appreciate what it meant to Him to come to earth.

May this Christmas find you enjoying the delightful trappings of the season. But, if not, may you have the courage to celebrate anyway, to reach out for Christmas joy in the event of Emmanuel's coming, whatever stuff may accompany it.

routine gone awry (Day 2)

It seems the way to ensure you will experience complications is to declare you will do a certain thing in a certain way.  It has indeed been that way for me this week. Setting myself a goal to do a daily Christmas post for 12 days unleashed myriad setbacks to the fulfillment of said goal.  I will not bore you with the details, but I assure you it has been frustrating.

So, with determination to redeem those days that were lost, here is post 2 on the topic of . . . .  routine gone awry.  Yes, that was what happened to Mary of Nazareth. To her espoused, Joseph.  And to her parents, robbed of the joy of delight in a daughter's marriage (replaced with the shadow of shame and suspicion).

Christmas often finds us unprepared in some way - sometimes emotionally because we've been trudging through dark days; sometimes financially because we've been experiencing economic hardship; sometimes physcially because we've been battling an illness which leaves us fragile energy; sometimes spiritually because we've been enduring trials in our faith.

And Christmas often disrupts our normal routine; we are left to make room for events unplanned and guests unexpected, for divine detours in the path we prefer to walk during the holidays.

The noble thing to do is graciously accept and go forth, triumphant, to be blessed and bless others.  But am I the only one who struggles with the attempt to be noble?  Luke 1 records Mary's incredible acceptance; I am awed by it.  Convicted as well. Did she ever falter in her faith?  Did she have moments of struggle?  Probably; but underneath was the determination to accept and adapt; to make room for this inconvenient, yet indescribable blessing she was being given.

Is your routine gone awry?  Be prepared; blessings may follow. That's the pattern of Christmas - unexpected miracles along the way as we welcome Emmanuel - God with us.

Monday, December 12, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Musings (Day 1)

Apparently, for some with a vendetta against God, Christmas or the church, or who are merely obsessed with mischief, nativity scenes are of special interest. They come not to gaze at the simple beauty of the holy birth, but to confiscate the infant Savior. A recent news program surprised me with the information that "stealing baby Jesus" is a common practice during the Christmas season.

So, I guess, many churches will have empty mangers this year. Their "baby Jesus" will be tossed into a smelly car trunk or stuffed into a clogged basement or garage. The worshippers will have to replace the figure or simply leave the place of honor empty.

Certainly there is no divinity in the earthly image of the infant Christ, yet it is disturbing that pranksters would choose this particular figure as the victim of their vandalism. Because in a world were the manger is empty, all of living is void as well.

I am thankful that the manger in Bethlehem was not empty; it was filled with the very Son of God, the essence of heaven's love, the incarnation of redemption. Pity those who think stealing baby Jesus is cute; in reality, the only statement they're making is their own lack of understanding. For eternity, for everyone of Adam's race, the manger is always occupied. And blessed are those whose hearts have received him as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Not Mine

"Lo, children are an heritage from the Lord . . . . "  (Psalm 127:3)

My children?
No, not mine;
Gifts unearned, undeserved they've been from birth.

My flesh and blood?
Yes, of earth;
and yet, like me, their souls belong to Him.

My possession?
No, but His;
Who lets me custodian and mentor be.

My legacy?
Yes, the lives
They lead will bear the mark on them I've pressed.

My heirs?
Yes, and no;
I can bequeath them only dust, but He the realms eternal.

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