Be Merry & Filled with Light

standard December 12, 2018 Leave a response

How do you celebrate Christmas?

The spirit of Christmas brings forth the desire to be merry and light-hearted, hence the saying, “Merry Christmas!”  But Christmas is also a time for reflection of the most glorious of days when the Light of the World came down.

It’s easy to get caught up in the activities, but there is something about a Silent Night that also appeals to my soul during this time of year.

I long to take a moment to sit under the stars and contemplate that special night when the Savior of the world made His grand debut as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Can you imagine what it would have been like to hear the angels singing, “Glory to God in the Highest!” heralding the best news that mankind has ever received?

Because Light came down that day, there is now the possibility for peace to exist on a war-stricken earth and the opportunity to extend goodwill towards others. If we seek Him out, then we come to the realization that we were put on this earth not for our own pleasure, but to glorify something bigger than ourselves. Christmas is a time to let our hearts receive the gift of the Messiah and all He represents, such as salvation and eternal life and His Light in our lives.

All of these things require a time of reflection and pondering, just as Mary did on that miraculous night (even though that night probably wasn’t so “silent” for her). Yet amid all the cattle lowing and the shepherds praising, the gospel of Luke tells us, “But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.” (Luke 2:19)

So yes, we celebrate the season with friends and family, enjoying all the good food and festivities, letting our hearts be merry. But we also follow Mary’s example and slow down for a time of reflection on the wonder of it all.

May your days be merry and filled with His Light.

When It’s NOT the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

standard December 4, 2018 4 responses

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it?

Psychology Today reported that up to 45% of Americans tend to dread this festive holiday season. This high percentage is somewhat shocking, but at the same time it’s not.

Life keeps moving along whether it’s Christmas time or not and we all have things that we’re dealing with. For some it may be financial issues, work deadlines, broken relationships, or maybe even the loss of a loved one.  It could be that the thought of spending the holiday season alone is downright unbearable and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

However, you have a God who knows this ache in your heart. He sees you and is concerned about you. He is there to wrap you in His faithful love and He whispers in your ear that you are not alone.

If this is how you are feeling this holiday season, allow the words of Psalm 36 to come as a healing balm to your aching soul.

God, Your faithful love is so valuable that people take refuge in the shadow of your wings. In Your light we see light.

While it may not feel like the most wonderful time of the year for some of you in this moment, believe that your God is still faithful. Find refuge in His presence. Turn your face toward the Light.

Spirit of Giving

standard November 27, 2018 2 responses

Do you ever wonder why gift-giving is a part of our Christmas tradition? It’s the time of the year when we find ourselves more mindful of the needs of others, and more generous with our time and money.

It seems that as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away, the air begins to shift. The perfect tree is selected and wrangled onto the car. Multiple trips are taken to the attic in order to uncover the lights and ornaments that were hastily stored away last January. A prayer is lifted that every bulb is still intact on the strands of Christmas lights. And when the final decoration is placed on top, it is time to stand back and admire the illuminated beauty of it all. However, that is just the beginning of the season. Now it is time to add the brightly wrapped presents to sit under the tree.

Why is it that the Christmas season brings out such a spirit of giving?

It’s because the season is centered around the truth that a great gift was given to mankind in the form of a tiny baby. Whether you are a Christ-follower or not, it doesn’t change the fact that the spirit of giving stems from the timeless truth that God gave the world the ultimate gift when He gave us His Son.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

Who wouldn’t want to unwrap the gift of eternal life? I’m grateful to serve a God who showed me the true spirit of giving by giving me the greatest of gifts, His Son.

Bringing Him Our Treasure

standard December 20, 2017 Leave a response

 

No nativity is complete without the wise men coming by camel to bring their gifts to Jesus.  Am I right?

Matthew 2 tells us the wise men followed the eastern star and when they found the baby they worshipped him and opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Notice that they didn’t bring a whole convoy of objects. They brought a representation of their very best gifts. They chose to bring quality over quantity.  They presented Him with the things that they truly treasured.

What is it that you treasure? Take a moment to think about it. What would your gift be and how you can present it as an offering to your King today? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or perfectly wrapped. It just needs to be meaningful.

Maybe it’s taking the time to serve at the local soup kitchen and offering a kind word to those you meet. It could be as easy as slowing down enough to listen to someone who is struggling this season. Or it could be as difficult as giving up that treasured parking spot you’ve been waiting on at the mall (gasp!).

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the season rob you of bringing your very best gifts. Resolve to choose quality over quantity. And remember, when you take the time to love others in His name, you bring something so valuable: a treasure fit for a King.

(The above painting is by Joellen Lee who uses her gift to bless others. )

Happiness in Giving

standard December 13, 2017 Leave a response

Each Christmas season our church group participates in blessing a lower-income school with gifts for each one of the children.

It takes much preparation and the generosity of many church members to pull this event off, but the outcome is pure joy! I love seeing the trailers fill up with the brightly wrapped boxes filled with warm clothes and toys for every child. But nothing compares to the children’s animated facial expressions as they unwrap a gift especially prepared for them.

Basketballs and sneakers, baby dolls and pjs. All unwrapped with squeals of delight.

Experiencing such fun made me think of this Scripture in Acts 20:

We must help the weak, remembering the word that the Lord Jesus himself said,

“There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”

One little girl had asked for 3 matchbox trucks in her box so that she would have something to give to her brothers on Christmas morning. The thought of her sweet request made me want to weep and smile simultaneously because she understood the meaning of this Scripture.

As you make your Christmas shopping list, consider including someone who would never expect to receive a gift from you and use it as an opportunity to share the ultimate gift this Christmas: the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And then see if giving doesn’t make YOU the happiest of all.

 

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

standard November 29, 2017 3 responses

One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

Last fall I stood at the top of the Bethlehem Hills in Israel and experienced where these angels would have heralded the birth of our Savior to the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night. It was surreal to say the least.

However, in the near distance there is a beautiful mountain where Herod the Great had his servants chop off the top and resurrect a palace for himself there named Herodium. The audacity of Herod’s attempt to exalt himself above all others was glaring.

What struck me as ironic was that just a few miles away from Herod’s stately palace, there were angels proclaiming the arrival of the true king. One that was humble enough to be born in a manger and die on a cross for your sins and for mine.

Philippians 2 says this of Jesus’ act of humility:
For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Is that not the most glorious thing you have ever heard?

No one ever puts a picture of Herodium on their Christmas cards. That’s because the true king came and His name is above every other name. His name is Jesus. 

Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Taking Baby Jesus Out of the Manger

standard December 2, 2015 6 responses

Christmastime is here! One by one the boxes come out of the attic and treasures from years past are rediscovered.  A handmade ornament here.  A special candy dish there.  A picture of your child screaming while sitting on Santa-from-the-Mall’s lap.  Oh, the memories.

One thing that our family likes to collect is nativities.  We have several from around the world: Peru, Israel, and I even brought back one from El Salvador this year.  We have full sets from Willow Tree and Fontanini.  We have big ones and small ones.  Like I said, it’s our thing.

As I carefully unwrapped one manger scene to display, I was thinking of the sweet baby Jesus asleep on the hay and what an amazing gift it is that heaven came down to create this scene.  Everything is so serene, so tender and mild.

But I wonder, how content are we to let Jesus stay in the manger?  

The beauty of the nativity is that Jesus was born to provide salvation for ALL PEOPLE.

Luke 1:77-79 states that Jesus came for this reason:

to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.

Jesus did so much more than just being born on that Holy Night.  He grew up and He provided the world with what they so desperately needed…salvation and the forgiveness of their sins.  He came to provide LIGHT and PEACE.

In light of all this revelation, I decided to give myself a little Christmas Challenge.  I started with reading the Christmas story in Luke, but instead of leaving Baby Jesus in the manger, I will continue reading one chapter per day.  By Christmas Morning, Jesus will have died for my sins, been resurrected from the grave, and ascended into heaven. How sweet is that?!  I would love for you to join me in this challenge too!

This Christmas let’s take Baby Jesus out of the manger and make Him Lord of our life.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.