Thursday, December 25, 2014

And Nature Sing

My mom used to sing this little chorus, "On a Christmas morning, the angels sing for joy!"  They are not the only ones who rejoice.  All of creation lifts its praise to the Maker of heaven and earth.  I can hear it in the wonder of the forest and in the grandeur of the trees, see it in the snowfall and in the herd of elk crossing our path.

The day we searched for a tree was beautiful.  I never tire of the experience.

Sure, we could get a better tree at the lot, but we would miss the beauty of nature and family bonding.

The tree is selected and prepared to bear the weight of the trappings, while at the same time providing a resting place for our carefully wrapped gifts.  It is cut down in its prime, giving its life that Christmas might come.  This sounds acutely familiar. 

The Christ child, born in Bethlehem, carries our burden.  Yielding His life, He stoops low, swooping  us up into that safe place where we receive mercy and grace, sharing our journey.

Hope and anticipation are wrapped in His boughs, a hope that does not disappoint. 

We rest assured in His promise that we "will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before [us] and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." (Isa. 55:12)  

Silent and softly He came.

Fierce He will return.

Let earth receive her king. 

 For the heart that makes room for Him will know His joy.

 As He is lifted high we are drawn to His light. 

We delight in His presence, resting in the Gift of all gifts, Jesus, the Savior of the world. 

Without doubt, heaven and nature sing, while we join in the song.
 Joy to the world, the Lord is come! 

From our house to yours, Merry Christmas! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Something to Give

I feel for the drummer boy.  We set him up on a pedestal, quaint and pure.  I suppose it refreshes our technological action packed world, the simplicity of his drum.  But there's nothing worse than a season of giving without the resources to give.  What's the boy to do?  

Mary, desperate for privacy, and Joseph, at a loss for a solution, end up in a shelter for animals.  I wonder how Joseph felt, a man unable to provide.  What a shameful dilemma.  Had he failed to make arrangements with his long lost relatives?   Did he not realize how crowded the motels would be?  Would no one take them in, not even a stranger?

We know it was no mistake.  The plan, that God made flesh would come by humble means, was predicted years and years before. 

As Christmas is upon us, preparation is paramount.  I thought I was done.  Finished.  No more gifts to purchase, but I was mistaken.  One sock falls short of its full capacity, and today I join the ranks of those last minute shoppers.  However, the momentum intensifies as the cleaning wraps up, the last groceries are bought, and the cooking begins.  With all this preparation who has energy left for Christmas?

Yesterday morning I ran smack dab into Hebrews 8:3 which stopped me in my tracks, "Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer."  Jesus needed something to offer?!  Are you kidding me?  The One who created the heavens and the earth is lacking a gift?  In a sense, yes, for we did not need the riches of heaven and earth.  What we needed was a Rescuer, and that would require God made into human flesh, a sacrifice of humility, and later a sacrifice of suffering to the death.  Only such a gift could redeem us from our plight.

At times I wonder why we do what we do.  Why is so much energy expended at Christmas?   The search for just the right gift, the wrapping, the decorating, the programs, the cleaning and rearranging of furniture to fit a tree, and now in these last days before the day, there is the cooking.  All this preparation and for what end?  Simply put, a gift.  For without the sacrifice of preparation our hands remain empty; we have nothing to give, not a single gift.  But love says it is worth it all. 

The drummer boy had it right.  Though he had nothing, he brought everything, the offering of his talent and the surrender of his life to the One who is worthy, Jesus the Lamb of God.  With every ba rum pa pah pum, beat the throbbing of a heart in worship of his king.  Because that's what Christmas is all about.

Come, let us adore Him. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Comfort and Joy

While some thrive on shopping, I generally wilt.  And at Christmas the pressure only intensifies as it seems everyone's happiness depends on me, the mom.  She must find the perfect gifts, bake the most detailed cookies, clean the house, glaze the ham, and stuff the socks.  The season snowballs into a flurry of unrealistic expectation, all for want of comfort and joy. 

Don't get me wrong.  Most of the time I enjoy serving in this way.  But I am better at gifts of time and labor than on the commercial scene at the stores.  Yet, there is one thing the secular holiday hype does for me.

It causes me to thirst.

In all the empty perfection, the staged happiness, I crave meaning.  All I want is Jesus.  He is so precious, so sacred, so near and dear to my heart, that I am offended by anything less. 

For the first time ever, I watched, (on TV), the ceremonial lighting of the tree in New York City.  With song after song, talented artists reminded us of snowmen and bells, reindeer and gifts.  But as the night wore on, what was meant to be fun, ended sleazy.  The mention of Christ was sadly missing.

However, when at last the tree was lit, the entire crowd burst into, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!"  I almost cried.  Finally, something deeper than the surface, something pure, something worth celebrating, and Someone who quenches my thirsty soul. 

Yes, I can join in a great round of Jingle Bells or Santa Baby just like anyone else.  I've even learned how to enjoy shopping.  In fact, I am headed out right now to do that very thing.  And it gets even better.  My husband is coming with me.  Now that's what I call fun!  But it doesn't make Christmas.  For those who know Jesus, the season is filled with rich significance, wonder, and awe.  That is the heart of my fulfillment.

We return this evening to a middle school orchestra concert in a hot, crowded gym, but I can say with all my heart, "This is the day the LORD has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it."  (Psa. 118:24)  While the 1980's made this phrase into a cheesy little Sunday School song, if we understood its context, we would think differently.  These words express the cry of Jesus the very day He was to face the cross. Whoa!  Suddenly the phrase holds great meaning.  If He could embrace that day with such an attitude, surely his joy can permeate this hectic season!

When the shopping, baking, and gifting is all stripped away, we are left with a baby in a barn, wrapped only in swaddling clothes.

He is enough. 

God rest ye merry gentlemen, (and ladies!), let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day.
To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray,
Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy, oh tidings of comfort and joy!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Going To The Chapel

It was a Wednesday when he popped the question, "So let's get married."  She readily agreed, while he went on to suggest, "Okay, how about this Friday?"

And they were married. 

After a weekend honeymoon they were back to work on Monday.  Now, fifty years later, they are still married. . . to each other.  Why, in days gone by, did the marriages last so much longer than today?  What was their secret?  

Of course there are many factors, but after celebrating my parents-in-law 50th wedding anniversary, I am convinced of one thing.  Back in the good ol' days the focus was on the marriage, not the ceremony.  It was two imperfect people committing to grow old together, mistakes and all.  They did not wait for perfect conditions in order to tie the knot.  Nor did they expect life to be all about candles and flowers.  They were in touch with reality, knowing it would require loyal dedication through disagreements and misunderstandings, discomforts and sickness.   

Today the question is often asked, "Why bother with the piece of paper?"   The answer is, "Because it makes all the difference to the relationship."  It crosses the bridge of commitment, taking a risk into the unknown.  This is where love meets longevity. 

Modern thinking sends us on a guilt trip declaring, "It is not fair to your husband to be someone different than who he married."  I say, "Hogwash!"  No one is the same person they were when they got married.  And, quite frankly, I'm glad I'm not!  That is the nature of love.  It commits to the other person without knowing how they will change, but believing it will be for the better. 

I am blessed to have such a strong marriage model from both sides of the family, my parents having reached their 50th as well.  It is rare.  This model of commitment snowballs down through the generations, encouraging me to keep my part in the heritage. 

And so, Mom and Dad, thank you for upholding God's mandate, to leave father and mother and cleave to each other . . . for life.  I admire your faithfulness and hope that we can one day become such a valued classic as you two have become.  And by the grace of God, we will. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving Thanks

When the accuser comes in the night rehearsing regrets I wonder, "Is this really what it takes to get me on my knees?"  God seems far away, but in the darkness I cry out to Him anyway.  I know Christians are not supposed to despair, but that does not mean we are not honest with God about how we feel.  Yet, truth tells me I have been chosen for a specific purpose and that God has placed me here for a reason.  Faith calls me to believe. 

A song greets the light, 'there may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning', a soothing balm after a fitful night.  And this day, of all days, the anniversary of my mother's death, I look back and remember that the presence of God's Holy Spirit in my life, truly did bring me joy in the mourning.  I can count on it for today because God is faithful beyond my comprehension.

With recent travel and events, I never got a chance to give thanks.  And so I do it now.  I am most grateful for my relationship with God, that He has chosen me to be His own and that His love never fails.  Though there are times I doubt, He remains constant, my sure foundation, my solid rock. This relationship is sacred, precious, and dear to my heart. 

Riches promise hope, but turn up empty.  Making a good impression only fades, for eventually truth reigns.  But oh so refreshing to sink into the arms of my Savior and know that He is the real deal.  He is genuine through and through.  Eternal realities are far greater than any earthly wealth or status.  I am forever grateful for my eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus.   

I am also thankful for my family, my husband and children, and for godly parents who taught me from infancy what a relationship with God can be.  They instilled in me a foundation which nurtured maturity in Christ at a young age and gave me a vision for going deeper.  And we sang.  I love that we sang and prayed together.  I still reap the benefits of those prayers.

I am grateful for my parents-in-law, who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  What stability their faithfulness provides for each of their children and what joy to know they belong to the family of God.  Their leadership is invaluable.  And as the only daughter-in-law, I am spoiled with a unique relationship that is ours alone.  I am indebted to them for the influence of their lives on my husband, making him the man he is, and most of all, their part in his salvation.  And we reap the blessings of their prayers as well.

I rejoice in God's creation, for His wonders reach deep, never failing to speak to my heart.  Taking every opportunity to awaken my senses to the beauty around me, enfolds me in worship of Him.

I pray that I will see every detail, every work of His hands.  I don't want to miss anything, for it is all too wonderful.  It causes me to broaden my perspective beyond my struggles.

And speaking of struggles, yes, I am grateful for them as well, because they promote growth in my life.  But even more than that, they cause me to realize that God and His Word are not just concepts, theology for philosophical discussion, or material for eloquent songs.  No, the person of Jesus meets me in my everyday life.  He shows me that in my messes, He is the reality at my side.

I can hold onto Him, even for everyday things like losing weight, serving my family, or writing on this blog.  Nothing is too small for Him, nor too big.  His grace is truly enough for every challenge because I'm covered in His blood where I find sweet acceptance.   

Having just returned home from a schedule packed whirl wind trip, my house is strewn with suitcases, sleeping bags, hockey equipment, dirty dishes, laundry, and kitchen items that need put away.  It is overwhelming to say the least, but I can tackle the day because Jesus gives me His joy and strength.  He protects from the accuser and intercedes on my behalf.  He goes before me and behind, both my offense and defense, and I am encouraged.  

The LORD is a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.  
Psalm 3:3