You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Christmas’ tag.

We landed in Manhattan in search of great Christmas cheer. We strode among holiday shoppers and dined beside neighborly locals. Our eyes sparkled in the brilliance of tree lights and glamorous storefronts. Unbeknownst to us, a shadow rolled across the city. In the midst of preparing for the celebration of a Savior, darkness mounted its forces.

In the days before our arrival, hate-mongers stirred protesters to steam through those icy streets. Fists raised, a rally cry rose for murder. Blood thirst escalated and snatched up souls dangling near its edges. A fatal stabbing hit the news. Two officers fell prey to an ambush. Assassinations culminated in paranoia and division. With a stench far weightier than smog, resentment poisoned the air.

Media didn’t notify us first. The impact touched us through personal stories as we met people. The woman who sat with us on the plane told us about her son’s overtime demands. Nine to twelve hour shifts with little sleep between them. She shared her worries over her son and daughter, NYPD officers. A young man in the airport told us his friend was stabbed to death over the weekend. The report on television brought him the sad news. We visited mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Sunday morning, where the priest said he learned of the assassination from sorrow-laden officers during the previous night’s event. So many lives burned by evil.

Each word, touch, and gesture ripples out with influence on other lives around it. I’ll risk overstating the obvious with a new and much-needed declaration: We don’t need any more hatred. Our scarred and fear-riddled world needs an infusion of love. The night has raged far too long, and our shuddering souls ache for light.

Let’s invite the Light of the World to shine through and among us. Adopt rally cries of love and peace. Seek healing and unity instead of vengeance. Lower our fists and reach out to clasp hands. Pray for our neighbors until we see enemies as brothers and sisters in God’s family. Sound impossible? Only if we attempt it without God’s strength to make all things new.

The same Christ born into mad King Herod’s kingdom of paranoia and violence remains available to us today. He drew into one family the poor outcasts along with corrupt tax collectors. His teachings about love culminated in one equalizing point–the cross. He rent His body to make way for an otherwise impossible redemption, reconciling us with a holy God.

In Christ, we can reconcile with one another. No gap remains too wide for His outstretched arms to bridge. Even our modern “people walking in darkness” can see a great light. We who know the Light must step up and share it with others. Will you join me in reflecting the ultimate Star this Christmas?

“the people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16).

“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

The sanctuary’s music and message fade the instant I see one. They snatch my attention from intimate conversations. Even the deepest gloom cannot hold my focus while these remain in view. The immediate and thorough captivation brings me no guilt. I’m convinced God designed infants to draw our attention.

Though many ancient cultures dismissed the influence of youth, children signified divine favor. God’s people discouraged little ones from demanding undue attention, but Scripture related other notions about new lives. Psalm 127 describes children as a heritage and reward from the Lord. Psalm 8 indicates the Lord empowers the praises of youth to defeat evil. This verse appears twice, repeated by the ultimate fulfillment of infant significance.

Isaiah prophesied peace under the leadership of this holy child, the Messiah. Jesus’ birth enraptured the angels, detoured on-duty shepherds, and compelled wise men hundreds of miles to bestow gifts upon him. He drove the corrupt to distraction while inspiring awe in the repentant. Hardened fishermen, prostitutes, and zealots–along with all of us sinners–would receive a miraculous opportunity of transformation into wellsprings of God’s love. And it all began with an infant’s birth.

So each time a tiny foot or petal-soft cheek snares my attention, I remind myself of the divine engineering behind these precious distractions. We’re meant to pay attention to infants, and our primary life-focus should turn forever toward the One born to free all who choose to allow their hearts to be captivated by His presence.

Thank You, Father, for the most transforming gift of the Christ child, born for us and in us. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for laying aside Your heavenly crown to bring Christmas to our sinful hearts. Let us be easily and thoroughly distracted by You in all seasons.

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, . . .The Holy Spirit will come upon you . . .Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35).

“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, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“The wolf will live with the lamb,
and the leopard will lie down with the goat.
The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together,
and a child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

“Let the little children come to Me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you: Whoever does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16)

“Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lordchildren, a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

“Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2).

Snowflakes dove from high clouds, mimicking their northern sisters who had successfully decorated the landscape for Christmas. Tropical breezes dissolved the flurry into tiny droplets. The parched earth embraced the saturated air. Glimmering mist kissed tree trunks, leaves, and noses of all who turned out to receive it. Heaven’s dew returned to bless the pleading world with an affectionate, I mist you…

While setting up Christmas lights today, I squinted to see a silvered version of neighboring homes. Though too fine for my eyes to see, the water’s effect remained undeniable. No matter how I might try to ignore the moisture, it enveloped me. I walked across the glistening lawn to get an extension cord. The yellowed grass squeaked a chorus of praise beneath my soles. Ah, how water revives and transforms our perspective when we feel the need for its quenching power.

The fine mist thickened within an hour. We could no longer ignore the rain’s presence. I prayed over my husband’s footsteps on the slick rooftop and ladder. And marveled at the promises spoken through our tropical flurry. The message of Christmas reigns over the world, despite its attempts to deny the true presence of Living Water.

We could look for Christmas at the mall, on Hollywood screens, or in the platitudes of cheery cards and carols. The marketplace attempts to whet our appetites for celebration, but fails to quench our thirst for life. Many feel estranged and disenchanted from this plasti-perfect requiem to build happy facades with our good fortune. Misfortune seems out of place among ‘the holidays,’ but the Lord crafted Christmas for those with no hope left in the world.

Christ laid aside his royal splendor to take the helpless form of a human infant. Born in a barn. To a homeless and outcast couple. Among people so oppressed and heavily taxed by foreign government that they could barely afford to eat. In a world starved of good news or any word from God. Despair, crippling diseases, and chronic illness ravaged the nation. Corruption infiltrated governments and worship leaders. The parched earth cried out for God’s presence. Jesus poured Himself into the midst of the horror. He starved, endured betrayal, and suffered unfathomable pain. He walked hundreds of country and back-alley miles to offer the quenching presence of God to remain with us forever. He didn’t spare a single drop of His life.

As the world’s thirsty plea for hope rings on today, Jesus still offers the fullness of Himself to slake our deficiencies. He refreshes our dusty flesh-state and revives our souls. Christ descends on us like gentle, yet saturating mist. Even when we fail to notice, His presence envelops us and all our circumstances. Hardships lighten in the silvery mist of eternal hope. Our strength renews, and we no longer feel as if we bear our burdens alone. Unlimited joy seasons the breezes from beyond the horizon, where our destined home holds an eternity free from problems. Heaven awaits as our next step, and the Author of Life promises to walk alongside us on the way there. We can stretch out our arms and sing in the glimmering rain.

As Living Water transforms our vision, we recognize those withering neighbors who need to hear the songs of heaven’s dew. This Christmas, will you join me in reaching out to offer a sip of refreshing hope to those who thirst? Be part of of the flurry. May Christmas pour Christ’s blessings through you until the world shimmers.

 

“The poor and needy search for water,
    but there is none;
    their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them” (Isaiah 41:17).

 

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
    and in the day of salvation I will help you. . .They will neither hunger nor thirst. . .Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:8-23).

“Therefore, ‘they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:15-17).

“He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today. . . a Savior has been born to you. . . This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:5-12).

“whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

 

“Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty'” (John 6:35).

Children’s sleighbell dreams dissolved from their slumber last night. Sugarplum visions faded before bedtime. A cacophony of wishes  from young lips and old circled the globe this season. The fortunate celebrated their satisfaction, while others clutched the pangs of unfulfillment on their way to bed. Seasonal anticipation shrivels with a turn of the calendar page. Other longings persist with little regard for date.

Wants and needs often construct dream content, the connection increasing during seasons insisting we expect happiness. Good dreams offer us the gifts and sustenance we desire or the restoration for which we thirst. Nightmares exchange hope for the peril we most fear.

The heart’s desire knits patterns for a common REM cycle, but wilder dreams exist. Not every notion grows from within. A dream beyond common notions strikes new vision into the sleeper. An unforeseen epiphany dawns upon the chosen one. Such a dream does not fade at a new calendar page. The refreshed dreamer rises with a passionate desire to obey the Lord’s call.

Before we tuck away the early chapters of Matthew and Luke with our Christmas decor, notice the divine messages offered in dreams. Scripture does not bother to mention ordinary notions entertained in slumber. Ancient folks longed for satisfaction, perhaps more than the average modern sleeper. Though we might relate to their dreams of want and need, the Bible omits the common content and cites the extraordinary dreams instead.

Beyond imagination, the Lord pressed His lips into minds and spoke through dreams. The Old Testament visions appeared centuries apart, but a heavy concentration of divine dreams occur as Jesus sets foot on the earth. God encouraged Joseph to wed Mary in a dream. The Magi received warning of Herod’s plot in a dream. The Lord spoke to Joseph again, urging him to rise from bed and flee to Egypt during the night. Unlike the visionaries of the Old Testament, the Lord inhabited the dreams of ordinary Gentiles and an impoverished tradesman. With the advent of Christ’s birth, the Lord established His plan to draw all of us near to His Word.

As Christmas Day settles behind us, the time of dreaming about a new year approaches. Common notions of resolution and wishes will fill the air until a strong wind gusts them away with the calendar pages. We can choose to dream of our own desires, as is customary, or listen for God’s voice. We can seek His purpose in waking hours, whether He visits our slumbering thoughts or not. Christ offers His presence within us at all times of day and night, every day of the year. He constructs a new way of thinking. Regardless of our material circumstances–whether fortunate or unfortunate by the world’s standards–He configures us with an identity of hope that revitalizes and exceeds life.

Will you choose to dream beyond common notions this year?

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” — Romans 12:2

Balmy breezes tickle the green lawns across my Florida neighborhood. Doughy cumulus clouds yawn and stretch until their shapes break. Puffs drift west across the iris-blue sky to visit their reflections in the bay. We could drive to meet them at the shoreline and fashion sugary sand into boulders. Sandmen wear shell buttons and wave palm branches to welcome tourists to paradise.

I needn’t ask my sons about such an outing. I know the beach offers little to appease their wintry longings. While ice threatens to sling our northern kin into misery, my children complain about the unseasonable warmth outside. To hands which never fashioned snowballs and eyes unfamiliar with frosted landscapes, no holiday wish outshines the dream of a white Christmas. 

Sunshine cannot melt carols. No barrier prohibits scripture or kindness from dwelling in the tropics. With purpose and meaning intact, eighty degree weather still seems strange. Whether in Florida or other unfrosted areas, we long for those winter wonderlands. The comfortable weather seems at odds with Christmas somehow, as if we are missing out on a vital part of the season.

What does snow have to do with Christmas? Perhaps the connection never rose to consciousness, but it remains a niggle at the heart. When winter stings our flesh with its icy grip, we swaddle our children and gather indoors at fires to share cocoa. One must be uncomfortable to appreciate comfort at its fullest. Those chilled by despair can experience hope as a precious blessing.

Despite its cold surface, however, snow cleanses and nourishes the land upon which it falls. While freezing the spread of pestilence, the blanket also incubates life. Glorious white reminds us of Christ’s impact upon a world deadened by its depravity. The dark and withered earth transforms as a fresh covering falls from heaven to cover its barrenness. 

That might be why I wish for snow at Christmas. My dream heralds the descent of the Lord’s radiant covering over our world. He makes all things new.

“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned…

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

— Isaiah 2:2,6

I’ve cleaned out my closets and set the extras on the porch for charity pick-up. One toy waits in my trunk to be joined by others. A few more canned goods will go along to the donations tent. Somehow, it seems I should offer more to the huge need in my community.

I scan my home and tap my chin. What have I missed? Have I something else to spare, another resource I’ve kept in reserve?

Need has mounted in our area, as it has elsewhere. The tearful shimmer in the eyes of gaunt children grows familiar across the face of the earth. Many adults share the Christmas wish to give while their hearts ache for lack of funds. I heard these stories this week, while I gazed into the eyes of God’s beloved children. And I prayed for them …

I now realize the most valuable resource to offer one another could not be found on a closet shelf or purchased in a store. I couldn’t transfer funds to provide for the greatest need online. Wealth cannot afford more of it, nor can poverty keep it at a distance. The best gift remains accessible to all, as it was the very first Noel.

God wrapped Love in warm fingers and toes, then laid Him in the arms of ordinary, homeless travelers. He gave more than we could fit under a tree. Into receptive hearts, His love continues pouring in such abundance that we have ample supply to share with all those around us. The more we ask, the more love He showers upon us.

Let us not forget to give the priceless gift, the single offering which honors the purpose of Christmas. In the mall, at the grocery store, in line, or on the phone, show others we care. Love the different folks around us. Ask strangers how they are, and take time to hear their stories. Regardless of our financial situation, if we avail ourselves of the abundant supply from Christ, we can all spare a little extra love this year.

An atheist erected a beer-can pole near the nativity scene in Florida’s capitol building. He dubbed the eyesore a “Festivus pole,” citing the synthetic holiday originating in a Seinfeld episode. During the television interview, he expressed his desire to present the most ridiculous display he could imagine.

Atheistic protests have increased in recent years. In avid worship of disbelief, this minority group seeks to usurp our right to express respect for the true Lord. The shadow of humanism seems most inappropriate at Christmas. Many believers gasp at the affront to our cherished season’s original meaning.

Digging deeper into the story, however, we find this news clip brings nothing new. False religions defiled the honored public places and government buildings during the night of our Savior’s birth. Humanistic idols littered the earth for thousands of years preceding the first Noel. Asherah poles plagued ancient Israel’s high places. Instead of seeking the true Lord, men erected hedonistic poles with which they felt able to control all things seen and unseen. Much like modern atheists, the ancient pagan worshipers sought to direct their own spiritual sovereignty.

The poles of false religions fail to eclipse Christmas, for they represent the reason for a Savior’s birth into the dark world of humanity. Man wandered away from his Creator. Without the light of divine truth, humans lost their grasp upon morality and life. We could not rescue ourselves from the depraved state of the world. God poured His Son into our bleak existence. He entered the world as a homeless, impoverished outcast amid the rule of oppressive tyrants and emperors. He suffered our challenges to save us from ourselves.

The Asherah and Festivus poles remind us of God’s redeeming love, and the indubious light of Christmas. 

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:5-14

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” – Isaiah 9:2

A wide bow, sparkling with polka dots adorns a package on my desk. I know its contents, since I opened it two weeks ago. Too pretty to resist, I rewrapped the gift box and set it near my monitor as an eye-tickler. I adore gift ribbon–wire-edged gossamers, thin curling strands, or smooth satins–any sort triggers delight. Anticipation heightens the impact of a present when it comes tied together in joyful bows.

No one can match the divine packaging of God’s most glorious gift. Eternal life descended on a beam of miraculous starlight and wrapped itself in the Christ child. At first glance, some might have been distracted by the rags or hay. But graver hindrances followed.

Soon after the nativity, horrors of mass infanticide overwhelmed the land. Grief pierced their hearts. God’s perfect gift lay right among them, but circumstances drew attention away from His presence.

Evil seeks to hamper the ability to recieve life.  Many fail to recognize priceless joy amid bleak circumstances. Despite pain and tragedy threatening to blind us, this gift of life  remains here for each and all, complete with radiant bows.

Jesus gathers the world together in love ribbons, the most beautiful binding agent ever designed. He planted Himself among the deepest pain and coldest hopelessness in humanity. Tendrils of life exploded from His heart, spilling over the earth to draw us together in Him and to our Father.

With this unfathomable gift, we dwell within the heart of our Sovereign Lord and connect with His beloved children as siblings. In the midst of our suffering, we unite through His suffering. Our love binds us to Him in divine strength and we conquer the dark plot of evil as we hold fast to one another in radiant bows.

 “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).

I stepped back from the tree. Sparking garland. Angel ornaments. Glass icicles. Red, cream, and silver baubles. The real tree I’d waited years to bring home had all its decor, complete with the heavenly host on top. I had bought eggnog to complement the snowflake cookies I’d made that afternoon, imagining we’d share them after adorning the tree together. The tree and cookies paired for a Rockwell scene, but  without the coziness. Something was missing.

My teenage son tromped downstairs, taking a break from the computer. “Cookies ready?”

“Does the tree look bare to you?” I asked.

He shrugged at it on his way to the kitchen. “Looks fine, Mom.”

I asked my husband the same question.

He glanced back at it from his recliner. “Looks very pretty. You have an artistic eye.”

At least I had an opportunity to pick the tree out with my older son–some shared moment of Christmas. Each member of my family would have helped with the decor if I pleaded, but the season seemed to have lost its luster in their eyes. I felt alone in my spirit of celebration, and it grieved me.

During my devotions the next morning, an idea occurred to me. What if we decorated the tree with gifts to the Lord? Would the true meaning of Christmas resound in our home again with joy and excitement?

I put the nativity stable in an open box and buried it in little faux package ornaments with a note attached. Each time we give or receive kindness, compassion, grace, or mercy, we place a gift on the tree to commemorate the way the Lord was honored that day. My note requests, “Please help me make room for Christ this Christmas.”

I thought it would be easy to exhume the nativity scene, but progress has proven more gradual than I hoped. We’ll see how it goes. Whether or not you cover your stables, will you join me in trying to make room for Christ at your house, too? Let me know how it works out for you. I believe any effort to share His heart will bring missing light into our homes.

Wondrous eyes peer into the glass orb, longing to exist within it. Iridescent dust floats through a world only habitable by childlike imaginations. They’ve always captivated mine. Snow globes blend relevant truth with magical shimmers. The scenes tug at my spirit, and a yearning for snowflakes bursts forth.

I pulled up a recipe for snowflake cookies, desperate to unleash flurries inside my home. What draws me to these crystalline droplets, and why do they seem to perfect the Christmas season?

Unique. Despite tons upon thousands of tons flurried over the face of the earth, each snowflake differs from its sisters. Composed of the same matter, snow’s strength lies in its alignment. Its brilliant artistry shimmers from idiosyncrasies. Snowflakes remind us of our individual significance in the eyes of our Creator. He loves us all and gathers us together. At the same time, He loves us each. Christ laid Himself in a manger to rescue mankind, and continues to reach out with nail-scarred hands to redeem each man.

White. Every snowflake remains pure until it touches the earth. We yearn for freedom from sin, for the purity and levity to exist as those created of living water adrift on the breath of God. Christmas brings us hope for free, abundant life as our Creator intended.

Heavenly. Beauty raining down from the skies reflects the love showered upon us in the nativity. Our Father adored us with unbridled passion. Angelic visitations, divine choirs, and unprecedented starlight provided a backdrop for the generous gift of Christ. Who loves us so much that He would not even withhold His only Son? No one but God would love with such extravagance.

Refreshing.  Light snowfall tucks the dreary earth under a blanket. Though cool, it insulates those beneath it. Muddy tracks vanish, and the world appears as a whitened landscape. Christmas offers a time of renewal. The Prince of Peace refreshes those who snuggle into His arms.

Although I live in the tropics, I’m thankful for His snowstorms over me this Christmas. More glorious than any fantasy’s magic, I’m filled with wonder at the flurries before my eyes. Anybody else want cookies with that?

Categories

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,274 other followers