Tag Archives: Christmas

Second-hand Light

 

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A few days ago, after what seemed like hours at the mall trying to run down the perfect gift for my mother in law, I carried my packages out into a now dark parking lot outside Macy’s, started my car, and headed out onto Baker View Rd.

I’d gone east on Baker View for at least half a mile before my first red light. One other car waited in front of me at the stop light.

The guy in that car suddenly got out of his car and approached my vehicle. My heart rate jumped into emergency mode. Was the man upset with my driving? Was he going to tell me off? Assault me?

But then, he pointed at the front of my car, and pantomimed turning on lights.

Oh my goodness, I’d never turned on my lights! I’d been driving un-illuminated all the way from the mall. I hadn’t noticed because I’d been surrounded by the glow of ambient light from businesses, Christmas lights, and other vehicles.

I waved a thanks and the man climbed back into his car just in time for the green light. “Lord, thank You for sending this man to tell me about my lights.”

As I drove home, it occurred to me that there is a powerful spiritual application for this experience.

When surrounded by light, an individual’s awareness of their own darkness is dimmed.

I suspect this is the case with many church-goers, operating each day, guided only by others’ light. Unaware that there is no life and light from God’s Spirit within themselves.

I think this is equally true for those secular people who enjoy the blessings—though fading—of a once-Christian nation.

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And in this season of light: the light of God’s advent, the truth contained in our Christmas music, the message of joy—He is born, the Divine Christ Child!— ringing out from churches, it is a good time to ask ourselves: do I possess the light of God’s Presence that comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit, which came upon me when I placed my faith in the Person and work of Christ on the cross of redemption?

Or do I merely enjoy the ‘second-hand’ blessing of light shed on me as a result of other people’s faith?

2nd Corinthians 4:6 says: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

 

Enjoyment of the lovely aspects of the church: the music, the praise, the fellowship, an inspiring message, does not make one a Believer.

Adhering to certain Christian tenets does not make one a Believer.

Participating in ministry activities, taking communion, repeating Christian doctrinal statements does not send the light of Christ’s presence into your soul.

Only a genuine recognition of your inability to make yourself acceptable through your own efforts, and a trusting in what Jesus did for you on the cross, makes you a Believer.

Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (John 8:12 NIV Bible)

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Privileged to Hear Glad Tidings

My birthday is tomorrow. Dec. 24th. The above photo is me, last birthday,  with big brother Jay in the center and big sister Lori on the right.

Whenever I’m asked to present my driver’s license, the store clerk always remarks, “Oh, a Christmas Eve baby! How nice. How has that been for you?”

I always smile and say, “It’s great.”

And it is. I’ve always loved that my birthday is so closely linked—date-wise—with Jesus’s traditional birthday.

Because of the Christmas season, all the family—and extended family, too— comes together. Great music, great food, a festive atmosphere. It doesn’t bother me that it’s not about me; at least I get the benefit of all this fun.

The best thing about “sharing” a birthday with Jesus is the happy memories.

I’m so grateful that I grew up in a Christian (well, nominally, at least) nation.

Can you imagine growing up in a land where the name of Jesus cannot even be mentioned? No Christmas cookies, Christmas trees, presents, celebrations, singing of carols, attending concerts, watching “The Nutcracker” ballet, enjoying classic Christmas movies like “It’s A Wonderful Life,” or “White Christmas?”

Worse still, what if haters of Jesus tried to take away our choice to display a star or a manger scene on our property, or forbid us to have a Christmas Eve service at church, or wish people in the market place, “Merry Christmas?”

Lord, thank You for my freedom to celebrate You and your humble beginnings in Bethlehem. Thank You that I can still proclaim your greatness, Your divinity, Your purpose, and Your unfathomable love for men.

Thank you for coming 2000 years ago. I’ve only been alive 62 years, but in every one of those years I’ve had the freedom to worship you.

Thank You for the privilege of hearing “glad tidings of great joy, which shall be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)

“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 of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. this will be a sign for you; you will find the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 

 

Other Women’s Babies

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:42-45)

Last night my husband and I attended the annual Christmas “Thank you” banquet for volunteers of the Whatcom County Pregnancy Clinic.

Near the end of the get-together—which was filled with games, good eats, and goodies—the staff stood up in a line and held up 8 X 11 pieces of paper, each with one letter of the word:  S-E-R-V-A-N-T. One by one, the staff described aspects of the nature of servanthood. For example, “e” would include encouragement, enabling, educating, efficient, and eager, etc. All words that we volunteers demonstrate in the carrying out of our work with clients.

I felt humbled by these words of thanks, especially since I’ve only recently begun to work with clients. There are ladies (and some gentlemen, too) who have been volunteering at the Clinic for many years and have amazing stories about how God works His grace and power into the lives of clients.

I came home thinking about the people who have poured God’s love into my own life through the years. I’m sure most of them have no idea the  fruit their kind words and actions have seeded in me.

When I asked Jesus to come into my life, I had no idea He would bless me. I only wanted relief from the misery of being detached from Him. That was all I had envisioned. I didn’t realize that my plea to God would be the start of a wonderful, rich, joy-filled adventure. God had way higher expectations for my life than I did.

I think, no, I know this is true for the clients who walk into Whatcom County Pregnancy Clinic’s doors. They only think this visit will yield an answer: “Am I pregnant? If I am, what will I do, where will I go, who will help me decide to abort or to carry this baby?”

These young women have no idea that this first or second or third visit might be their opportunity to meet God and find the answers to life’s ultimate questions: “God, are You there? Do you care about me? Can I know You? How can my life have meaning?”

I pray that our clients link the advent of their babies to the Advent of the Child. That Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a woman for the salvation of other women’s babies. Surely if God would give His only Son, He must find  each of us humans indescribably precious, the born and the not-yet-born humans.

Christmas is a time of celebrating Jesus’s birth. Of recognizing that God’s promise of a Savior has been fulfilled.

Christmas is also a time of recognizing that all life is precious. The crying of each baby at birth promises a life of God-imaged expression. Isn’t that what all women desire for their children?

“O hearken ye who would believe, the gracious tidings now receive: Gloria, gloria in excess Deo.

For at His cradle you shall find God’s healing grace for all mankind: Gloria, gloria in excess Deo.” (O Hearken Ye, by Hutson, Burt)

 

Christmas Expectations

Each year in December I pull out the Christmas decorations, put on the Christmas music, write my Christmas cards, rehearse my Christmas music, plan my Christmas menus.

Because I have expectations.

If I plan well, and if I work hard to find just the right Christmas gift for my family and friends, I expect to have a successful Christmas.

I remember my childhood days surrounding Christmas:

  • the little decorations we made in school (yes, we were able to celebrate Christmas in the schools back then),
  • the Christmas carols that taught me about Jesus and filled my mind with magic about this season,
  • the wonderful family parties, filled with Norwegian treats, Norwegian traditions, Norwegian songs,
  • attending the Candlelight Christmas Eve service at church where I sang Gesu Bambino, or the Rejoice aria from Handel’s Messiah, or The Star Carol  more times than I can remember,
  • the perfect pine-y smelling Christmas tree.

Now, I like Jingle Bells, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. They’re festive songs that make me feel happy.

But lately I’ve come to appreciate the words from this Christmas carol:

“Come, though long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free.

From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art.

Dear Desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.” (Carol by Charles Wesley, Rowland Pritchard)

Where do I find my joy at this season?

At the repetition of cherished traditions? Or at the reminder that God left His place in heaven and—mystery of all mysteries—took on human flesh so that He might be fully human while fully God when He died on the cross for me, to take God’s wrath which should have been on me.

The Hebrew prophecies foretold His coming. The Israelites expected Him.

They earnestly desired Him to come.

But, just like me, their expectations were misplaced. For them, the expectation was for a mighty King to conquer the Romans and set up David’s rule again. For me, the expectation is not even that lofty. I want a baby I can place in the manger of my nativity set while I listen to cozy music and drink eggnog.

Oh God, help me to focus on the reality of Emmanuel, God with us.

That night, God emerged from Mary’s bloody thighs and drew His first human breath. Not a comfortable image, but one that spears my heart. For every mother desires and expects that her precious child will grow up and outlive his parents.

But Mary would live to see her first-born Son do something she most likely did not expect.

Die.

“(Jesus), Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2: 6-8 NIV Bible) 

 

Invited

My Christmas memories center around parties spent at my grandparents’ house.

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My grandmother put out a spread fit for a king. Before the meal, family members mingled while sampling her wonderful canapés, chips and dip, hot and cold drinks.

Someone always had a piece or two to play on the grand piano.

The white tablecloth and starched white cloth napkins set off the fine china, crystal and silver at her long dining table. Fresh flowers from Grandmommy’s garden ornamented the center of the table.

Grandmommy’s buffet always included a simple salad, followed by the main meal of roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, wild rice, green bean casserole, and rolls. Chocolate eclairs with a dollop of whipped cream topped off the feast. After the meal, Grandmommy served the coffee and tea in gleaming silver pots.

My grandmother was a wonderful hostess, and we always felt like royalty.

As a child, I took these wonderful meals for granted.

But now I think, the only reason I was invited to these wonderful Christmas parties was my relationship. I was the youngest granddaughter and therefore, part of the family.

I wasn’t a guest because I had earned my spot at her table. I wasn’t an ambassador, or world-renowned heart surgeon, or a philanthropist.

No, my invitation to Grandmommy’s house was all about being related. Being family.

Have you ever thought about your relationship with the Lord in these terms? Nothing you’ve done makes you worthy to sit at His table, or to be called His royal child.

Your right to enter His kingdom and be called a prince or princess is only granted because He, the Lord has adopted you into the family. By faith in Jesus, you have been guaranteed a place “at the table.”

What a wonderful thought. Very humbling, too.

Thank You, Jesus, for inviting me to the feast!

“Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”( Eph. 1:5 The Message)