Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Matthew 2:10 (KJV)

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government of the world will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government there will be no end.

Isaiah 9:6-7a

Whatever translation you read, whatever verse is your favorite, (the ones above are three of mine) this is the season of exceeding great joy, of gospel (good news) and of light.

Jesus came and He's coming back!

Some people struggle with the hustle and hurry of preparing for Christmas. Some thrive on the energy. Some of us are surrounded by noise, children, extended family and friends. Some are barely able to control their grief or are drowning in sadness, loneliness.

Which ever side of the spectrum you inhabit, or if like me, you're somewhere in the middle, take a few minutes and just be with God. The Prince of Peace is calling, answer Him.

Enjoy the lights, the spectacle, the over abundance of food and frivolity. It's the one time of the year when we can be gaudy without apology. In all of that, please remember the cold, quiet of the manger. Think about the true spectacle and be in awe of the star that still shines brighter than any other.

Give Jesus the best gift, the one He wants. Give Him you.

Merry Christmas! May God bless you today and always.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Christmas Everywhere

When they saw the star they rejoiced

with exceedingly great joy.

Luke 2:10

(This was written two years ago but is so precious I had to repost it. Abram is now almost four and is now showing his little sister Margaret "Christmas everywhere.". He still finds Christmas, and pretty much all of life, “amazing.” I wish more people had his attitude and his humor.)

Our heavenly Father, from whom all blessings flow (James 1:17) has blessed my husband and me with ten precious grandchildren. It might be a bit biased to say that they are the sweetest, cutest kids ever but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Just the other day our youngest grandson Abram came to see us. It was his first time at our house since the arrival of the Christmas decorations. Walking in to our living room he stopped and said, “Grammy, it’s Christmas everywhere!” His voice was filled with the awe and wonder. As he moved through the house and saw more and more decorations he repeated his sentiment again adding, “It’s amazing.” Keep in mind our little prince is not quite two years old. In those moments I was enjoying the privilege of seeing the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child.

Beyond my decorations, Abram is absolutely right, it’s Christmas everywhere. At church on Sunday our pastor spoke about Mary and Joseph. Most of my devotional readings are of the Advent variety, mentioning the birth of, or preparations for, Jesus. It is that most wonderful time of the year when people who aren’t terribly aware of Jesus are singing His praises and His name because those songs are playing everywhere. There are lights, baubles, songs and smells all around us that indicate a heightened sense of excitement.

Then there’s the down side. The stores are crazy. The roads are a nightmare. More people are out and about more than usual. The end result of that is not a positive one. There are long lines, traffic jams and snarling voices. Why? It’s Christmas, everywhere. The problem is that in too many places it isn’t the kind of Christmas that Abram encounters at Grammy’s house. In the world the name of Jesus is playing on sound systems in many stores and malls but the spirit of Jesus is missing. Many faces display stress and many voices offer disdain. “I’ll be happy when it’s over.” It’s Christmas everywhere but in too many places there is no awe and wonder.

I am happy that it never is over. My house is dressed up, if you will, covered in bright colors and pretty lights. From today forward every visitor will be greeted by the smell of something baking and the sounds of Emmanuel. In our home we are blessed to know the true spirit of Christmas. We know that Jesus came to save us and that He is coming back. We know that’s why our house is so fancy and our hearts are so excited but if for one second we are tempted to forget, tempted to be infected by “holiday stress,” Abram will remind us. “It’s Christmas everywhere and it’s amazing.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Make Room

Let every heart prepare Him room...”
Joy To The World

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 room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:6-7
What happens at your house when someone special comes to stay? Do you do a little extra cleaning and primping? I do and I'm sure that hotels are no different. Mr. and Mrs. Ordinary are checking in today. Okay, we're ready. The room is clean. But what happens when King Someone and Queen Super Special check in? Is the room clean, like amazingly, sparkling clean? Good. Now let's add a vase of flowers and some snacks. Maybe some nice new fluffy pillows? Oh yes, when it's “somebody” checking in, the preparation amps up considerably, I'm sure.

Here in Luke 2 we see that the King of kings is about to be born. The God of the entire universe! Whoa! What is that prep like? Well, it looked a bit like this... Big yawn from a tired inn keeper, overwhelmed by the influx of people who need to be counted in the census. “Uh, yeah, sorry buddy we don't have a room for you.” Imagine Joseph trying to explain that his wife is about to give birth. Imagine how tempted he is to tell this inn keeper about the angel and the fact that they've never.... you know.... and that this baby isn't just some baby. This is one big deal! He can't, so he doesn't. He just takes Mary to a manger. (Manger as in yukky place in a barn. Sounds a lot like mange, as in the gross stuff on animals.)

How about you? Where are you putting Jesus in your life? As you trim your tree, buy/order/wrap your gifts, where are you putting Jesus? Is there a warm, well decorated, lovely welcoming spot in your heart? Or are you just throwing Him in the manger of your life? Oh yeah, Jesus.... well, I was busy with the cookies and the kids school party and the office event and well.... here's a little corner, slide in Jesus, you'll be okay. Maybe that's a bit of hyperbole but in some cases it's not far off. If that sounds like you, stop. STOP! Make room, lots of room, the best room for Jesus.

He deserves more than we can ever give and when you stop and make that room, everything else gets done. You'll feel less stressful and you might even enjoy this season a bit more than usual. Let your heart prepare Him room. Stop and listen to heaven and nature singing.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Broken Chains

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother
and in his name all oppression shall cease.”
O Holy Night
If my people called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
It's Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas, what the secular world refers to as “the Christmas season.” During this time radio stations of all varieties, stores and many other public venues play Christmas music. The song I quoted above, “O Holy Night” has been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. As often happens for me, the other day, I truly heard the lyric above, “chains shall he break for the slave is our brother and in his name all oppression shall cease.” In his name.

We live in a time of finger pointing, “hate speech”, an obsession with tolerance and bullying. There are people in this world, far too many of them, who believe they can control the behavior of the people around them with legislation or at least, herd thought. It's not working. The more they try to make the world tolerant, the more division and dissension is occurring.

I grew up with friends of all different ethnic backgrounds. We all knew the slang terms for every nationality and we all used them, in good fun. Read those words again, please. In. Good. Fun. Were there hateful, hurtful people around? Yes. And how did we deal with those “bullies?” We ignored them.

We can write laws and demand respect and tolerance all day, all night, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year but nothing will change. Laws do not determine the way people behave. If they did our jails would be empty. In fact I believe that this push for tolerance and political correctness have made things so much worse. We're focused on the wrong part of the story.

Laws will not win. Grace will. I could tease my friends as a kid and easily accept the “Mick” remarks because there was no evil intent. We were good kids who knew which labels could be used jokingly and which ones crossed the line. We acted our of love, not law. Law will not break a chain or help me see a person who is different, as my brother. Grace will. In His name. The name of Jesus is what breaks chains, chains of discouragement, discord and dissension. If we all saw every person as a child of God, whether he or she recognizes that fact or not, if every face was the face of a “brother” all oppression would cease. It will only happen if His people who call His name, stand up and behave as His children. “Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother.” If we're wise we are all slaves to grace and grace wins every time.