Tag Archives: Christmas

Waiting for the Light

imagesMy dear friend Jean brought her family to the children’s Christmas Ever service a few years ago.  When the time came for the children’s sermon, Jean stood with her five-year-old great-granddaughter Mercy and accompanied her to the chancel area,  They settled on the choir bench together.  After a few seconds. Mercy decided she didn’t want to stay and ran off the platform and back to the rest of her family, leaving Jean alone.

Jean was much too poised to show embarrassment.  In fact, I doubt that she was embarrassed , this spectacular and faithful ninety-year-old woman on the platform with all the young parents and small children.  She sat calmly, listening to the minister.  It must have been one of the longest children’s sermon in the history of children’s sermons, nearly fifteen minutes long.  And through all that, with the very young children rolling around the floor and the older ones getting bored, Jean sat peacefully and confidently, waiting for the end of the story, for the announcement of the birth of the Savior.  images

As we plow through the commotion that is Advent for most of us, I think of Jean and wish I were more like her, preparing calmly for that moment when we welcome the long awaited king, sitting patiently and unbothered by the chaos around us as we await the baby Jesus who becomes the one who took on the sins of the world.   I pray that some day I will possess as deep a faith in the coming Savior,  her certainty that the Lord has come and comes now and will come.

Oh, Lord, fill me with quiet when there is noise outside and within, with calm during the clamor of the world. Let me know that when I’m alone, you are with me.  When I am unable to find you, you find me if I will sit quietly and listen.  Amen

What more can one say about Christmas?

What are the hardest sermons for a minister to prepare? I have it on woman preachergood authority that the most difficult to prepare are for Christmas and Easter.

Why? . . . . . . (I’m giving you a few seconds to think why this may be)

1)    Because the scriptures are used every year.  Everyone in the congregation has heard them and has their own idea what they mean.   Miracle of ChristmasWith Christmas, the story has been read to us since we were very young.  We’ve been in and watched pageant.  We’ve sung the caroles and hymns and presented the special music, a cantata here and there.  What NEW can a preacher say that isn’t said better by a bunch of cute children dressed as angels and animals?

2)    The message of Christmas is JOY!   How many ways can one say that?   Joy is an emotion we all understand.  Joy is a fairly straightforward feeling that doesn’t have to be explained.  “I’m worried” can be explained various ways as can, “I’m afraid.” But, “I’m happy”?  We all know what that means so a Christmas sermon about joy can be boring or repetitious–try to imagine yourself preaching  twenty minutes on joy.

3)    There is little suspense.  At other times of the year, a minister may preach on a section from Judges or a minor prophet or one of the pastoral epistles and we’re surprised.  We didn’t know that was in the Bible.  But we could all recite the part about angle appearing to Mary, about Joseph taking his betrothed  to Bethlehem, and the innkeeper and the shepherds and the birth.  We know all that.

And yet, every year there is a newness to the words we have read so today in the city of Davidoften.    We experience  the amazing discovery that we are so greatly loved  the Creator of the Universe is sending a Savior to me!  Oh, to you, too. of course, to all of us.  This is both a very personal and a completely universal blessing.  Every Christmas the enormity and grandness of that love astounds me.    The words may be old but the miracle is new every year, that unto us in the city of David has been born to us a Savior who is  Christ the Lord.

How can we take such love in all at once?  That’s why that message must be preacher over and over so we can understand it a bit more every year, live it more sincerely every day.

Thanksgiving Day is over. What now?

leftoversWhat does one do the day after Thanksgiving?

Fix turkey sandwiches.  And turkey salad.  And turkey–just plain old sliced cold turkey.  And turkey tetrazini.  And turkey-noodle soup.

Put up the Christmas tree.

Brave the crowds in the shopping malls.  Come home exhausted, disheveled but with a couple of bargains.   Tell stories of the peril you faced.

Sleep after all the effort put forth to clean house, welcome guests, and prepare the dinner.

Watch everything you taped while entertaining.

Clean the kitchen

Take the dog who found the turkey carcass and ate most of it to the veterinarian.grateful heart

But, most of all and most important, we can keep giving thanks!

Do you have any other suggestions?  If so, please put them in a comment.  I’d love to know.

Some Holiday Sparkle

DSC01807Patricia Johns is guest blogging today.  Her novel, hisunexpectedfamily His Unexpected Family,  was published by Love Inspired this summer.   Yesterday, I posted her bio and a blurb about this novel on my blog.   Today she writes about the miracles of Christmas.   Take it away, Patricia!

Some Holiday Sparkle

My son announced to his Kindergarten teacher that Santa wasn’t real. I got a distressed email from the teacher, asking me to make sure that he doesn’t tell any of the other children, lest their Christmas magic be ruined.

I fully understood, and I didn’t want to ruin the fun for the other kids, so I had a talk with my son about playing along with the Santa Claus game. I certainly didn’t want to be the Scrooge! And our family is big on Christmas–the tree goes up right after Halloween!

But it got me to thinking. A lot of these kids were being raised without any belief in God.  Yet there is such a protective instinct around the idea of Santa, wanting these little ones to hold onto the possibility of Santa for just a couple more years.

Santa… He knows when you’re naughty or nice. He loves you, and he knows the desires of your heart. He adores children and he wants you to be good. He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. You aren’t alone when there is Santa Claus.

The parents know that one day their children will no longer believe in Santa, but they don’t want to tear that away. Not yet.

I didn’t feel the need to tell my son that Santa was real. As Christians, the sparkle and mystery doesn’t vanish after the tree comes down. Christmas lasts all year when you believe in God. Miracles, angels, God dipping down and touching Earth… We live in the sparkle of Christmas magic every single day!

That’s the true gift we receive during the Christmas season–a reminder that we are not alone, that Someone knows when we are sleeping, and when we’re awake. And cares.

Merry Christmas to all of you! May your Christmas be filled with sparkle and the possibility of miracles around every corner.

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An introduction to Patricia Johns

Tomorrow, Patricia Johns will be blogging here on Christmas.  Patricia is a writer for Love Inspired, the line that published four of my novels.   Because she’s a writer of inspirational romance, her blog will be. . . well. . . inspirational.   Today I want to intruduce you to Patrici and have her tell you about her  novel, HIS UNEXPECTED FAMILY

About the book

hisunexpectedfamilyWhen a baby is dropped into her life without warning, Emily Shaw is overjoyed. It’s a bit odd that her distant cousin named single Emily as guardian, but she’s thrilled all the same. She never thought she’d get to be a mom. Another unexpected blessing is that baby Cora arrives in the arms of police chief Greg Taylor. Despite all three of them instantly bonding, Greg has promised himself he’ll never be a father. And now Emily’s smooth-talking relative is challenging her right to raise Cora. Will Emily have to make an impossible decision between the child she already loves and the man who loves her?

About Patricia Johns

Patricia Johns lives in Alberta, Canada, where the winters are long and cold. She doesn’t complain, though, because it leaves her plenty of time to write, enjoying that winter wonderland from the warm side of the DSC01807window.

She has her BA in English Lit and has been writing seriously ever since. She has written numerous novels in other genres, but her true love is for romance writing, where she can be the unabashedly hopeless romantic she’s always been.

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Cat Grass: a love story

I’ve mentioned what wonderful presents George comes up with.  For Christmas, he gave  the cats a Chia cat grass planter.   Please note:  this was not catNIP.  Scooter has what we in the family tactfully call a “catnip problem.” 

Once the grass had grown to three inches, we put it on the end table and took pictures.   First Scooter, then Maggie–because she is never allowed to do anything before her brother has checked it out–investigated the grass and sampled it.  They truly love cat grass. 

However, Scooter is not a neat eater.  In the last picture, here’s what the end table looked like once he’d pulled his share of the cat grass out.

How do they live with this?

I cannot know or even guess what the parents who lost their children in Newtown must feel.    How can they put away the gifts bought for their children for Hanukkah?    Or those packages, unopened under the tree?  How do they face the closets filled with clothes their babies will no longer wear or the toys they played with only days earlier?

And those children who faced the horror of hearing other children being shot or who witnessed the murder of their teacher or ran past bodies as they escaped from that building full of death?  How do they live with those memories?

How can those who survived believe in safety?  How do they trust?  How do they react when they hear the Twenty-third Psalm:  Though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil when they felt the breath of  evil?

We can discuss and attempt to find solutions so this will never happen again–but why didn’t we do that earlier?    And if they are told this horror was God’s plan, how can those who mourn turn to the God who planned these deaths? 

I don’t know.   I truly believe they are with God and that thought comforts but what are we doing to heal these families and make sure this is the last school shooting?   

If you have thoughts to share, please do.   Perhaps this prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer will help us all.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.

Help me to pray

And to concentrate my thoughts on you;

I am restless, but with you there is peace.

I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,

But with you there is light;

I am lonely, but you do not leave me;

I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;

I am restless but with you there is peace;

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience. . .

What should I get George?

I have probably the best, wittiest, and most intelligent husband in the world.  I would say “sexiest” but I write the sweet books and don’t want to shock  anyone with that word.  ANYWAY, he is also, as I mentioned in my last post, wonderful at choosing gifts that I’d never have thought I needed.  He’s also creative, choosing gifts I’d never have guessed what they were before I opened the package.  For example, one Christmas he gave me a stuffed animal–a cocker spaniel because we had several live ones as pets-with a radio in its tummy.

But I’m terrible at thinking of great gifts for him.   He has plenty of T-shirts and has told me to buy him no more University of Louisville or Houston Texans shirts.  We’re retired so his supply of ties from  when he was a minister is sufficient to last until at least 2050, should we–and the earth–still be around.   He orders and reads whatever books he wants on his Kindle.   He’s not a smoker or a drinker and has plenty of Bibles and commentaries and meditations.    He refuses to wear those onesies retired men wear and prefers sweatpants.    He plays games on his computer and hates puzzles and does make stuff.  Keep in mind we live in an apartment and have little space.

He does like chocolate but there’s a  limit to how much I can get him.  The one present I give every year is food.  I go to a store with a nice display of gourmet foods and get him cheese and pickled treats and sardines.  He has mentioned he’d like a new mattress but that’s not very Christmas-y and it’s hard to wrap.

Time is getting short.  Please help me or George may find no packages for him under our tree!

The Perfect Christmas Present

George comes up with the best ideas for presents.  Many years ago, he gave me a microwave oven when I didn’t really want one.  He knew me well enough to know I’d use it ten times a day.   He’s also much more romantic than I.  For our anniversary many years ago he gave me a pair of peach-faced lovebirds.  Beautiful creatures.  Sadly, they hated each other–that’s another story–but the idea was lovely.

In late November, he told me he’d ordered a present, a perfect gift, for me and not to open any packages that came by UPS.

First, however, I must explain that I am a TiVo addict.  I record programs to watch later so I can fast forward through commercials or rewind to see a great basketball play.   I do record programs at the time they start but wait twenty minutes to watch them.   Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of wandering off, putting the remote down, and not being able to find it again, a tragedy when one is as dependent upon one’s remote as I am.  I’ve considered having it surgical implanted in my arm.

A few weeks ago,  a package arrived.   I  checked the label to see if it was addressed to George or to me.  When I did, I also saw the return address.  It came from a company with the name “Where’s the remote?”  That really ruined every bit of surprise.   He had me go ahead and open it.  Together, we attached the receiver to the back of my remote.  It’s about the size and shape as the remote that unlocks your car. 

I used it once or twice to find the remote when it fell off the end table or found its way under the cushions.  One day when I couldn’t find it, I picked up the transmitter.  The remote beeped from my purse.  On my own, I wouldn’t have found it until I left the house days later. 

Thank you, George.  As usual, the perfect present.   

On Thursday, I need all of you to help me think of the perfect present for George.  Please–I’m really bad at this.