Category Archives: Christmas

Don’t Be Afraid – A Letter to my Daughter

A letter to my 11 year old daughter:

Dear C,

It’s been almost a year, and I remember that day so clearly. First, I noticed hints of the news as I read words of shock, disgust, and despair on my Facebook page. What in the world happened? I wondered. Soon I learned that the “in the world” answer to my question happened in a little place called Newtown.

And your school bus would not come soon enough for me. I tried to keep the television turned off, but over the course of the weekend, you knew. You knew that something unspeakably tragic happened in a place just like the place where you spend most of your days.

On Monday morning you cried. With an aching heart I drove you to that place where you spend most of your days. Sweetie, I hurt so deeply for your fear and I wanted so badly to keep you home. I promised you that it would be alright, and you asked, “How do you know?”

I didn’t know.

How do things like this happen at Christmas? At anytime, but especially Christmas?

And my heart asks why hospitals and cancer centers and funeral homes have to stay open at Christmas? Seems like December is supposed to be different.

But I drove you to school and encouraged you to leave the comfort of the car. Because I needed both of us to know that we don’t live in fear.

Because Jesus left the comfort of heaven.

The story of Christmas has a message that you and I have to remember every time we step out of comfort and into this world.

Don’t be afraid.” (Luke 1:12; 1:30; 2:10) It was a message for Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds. And it is a message for us:

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High … His kingdom will never end” (Luke 2:32 – 33).

According to the world’s terms I can’t promise you that everything will be alright but because we trust Jesus we have the promise that eternally it will be so.

We hear a lot about the Reverend Billy Graham these days, don’t we? You know, he’s very frail now, like Poppy was in his last days with us. For all the many messages that Billy Graham has spoken and written to millions of people around the world, I think the reason for his hope could be summed up in one of his quotes:

“I have read the last page of the Bible, and it’s all going to turn out alright.”

In Revelation 22, the final chapter of the Bible, we see Jesus. In December we usually think about Him as a baby. But more than ever at Christmas I think about Him on the cross. I’m sorry to have to say it, but you’re beginning to understand more fully that there’s a curse that keeps hospitals, cancer centers, and funeral homes busy, even in December.

Jesus came to pay a price. Without the cross there is no reason for Christmas.

Revelation 22:3 says, “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb (that’s Jesus) will be in the city, and his servants (like Poppy) will serve him.”

No more curse. No more fear. Don’t be afraid.

Remember that Monday, when you were so upset, I came to eat lunch with you? And a local police officer came to sit and eat and laugh with us? I promise I didn’t say anything to anybody about your tears earlier that morning. That was just God’s special way of giving you (and me) some comfort.

“Advent” means “coming.” Because of the first Advent, we remember that He came to sit with us. Laugh (and cry) with us. That’s God’s way of giving us comfort.

My heart, while thankful for the first Advent, is especially comforted with an expectation of the second Advent:

“He who testifies to these things (that’s Jesus) says, “Yes I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)

Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.

Sweetheart, it’s all going to turn out alright.

When There Are No Words

As we look back upon the trends of 2013, I’m sure there will be talk about the most recent additions to the Oxford Dictionary, most notably the “selfie” or “phablet” among others. In a digital world there are words that fall out of common usage (“cassette” or “cursive,” for instance) . But for all the words – new and old – in the ever changing English language, sometimes they elude us, and especially when we most want to say something, anything.

Oh, how I know this helpless, frustrating feeling – when there are no words. As when I stand with my family over the freshly turned dirt of a grave. “He’s not here,” I mumble, but the words are sucked into a vacuum of silent grief.

What to say? I had seen this same question in the eyes of the people who had passed by my place in the receiving line. I felt for them. All of us understood that mere words won’t ever fill the void. And although I couldn’t verbalize it, I wanted them to know that it was okay.

Their presence spoke everything they wanted to say.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Without mention of shepherds, stars, angels, or wise men, John sums up the incomprehensible beauty of Christmas.

When there are no human words, there is the Word. Jesus, the Son who spoke this earth into existence, expressed His love to the fullest by becoming flesh and walking on it. By being born to die so that death may die.

As C.S Lewis said, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

The essence of Christmas is presence.

(Not presents.)

Presence requires taking initiative and intentionally entering into another person’s experience. Being present is following the humble Philippians 2 example of our Savior. It is the truest demonstration of love. The people who have truly comforted me and my family are those who have simply been with us. They have set aside their time, schedules, and conveniences to initiative acts of comfort and care. When I’ve been too numb for tears, their eyes have welled for me. And when the floodgates burst, they stayed, unflinching.

So beautifully, Henri Nouwen described the ministry of presence: When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Words aren’t necessary when actions point to the Word Himself. Watching my daddy die was the most powerless experience I’ve ever had. The two weeks since his passing have introduced me to new depths of weakness. And yet, I trust more than ever that the Word understands my wordless prayers and permeates my powerlessness with His presence.

Why am I so sure?

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Jesus “pitched a tent” and “tabernacled” among us (the literal meaning of “dwelt” in the Greek). He drew near; He took our flesh; His eyes welled for us; He didn’t flinch from showing the extent of His love, even with nails and a cross.

Friends, I have seen this love in you. In the cold, hard ground you have nailed the stakes of a tent and stayed awhile.

Thank you.

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Philippians 2: 5 – 8 (NLT) ~
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

1 John 4: 9 – 12 ~
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Romans 8:26 ~
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness (and) prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

Resources:
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude

Not Only Christmas Day

Good morning! I hope you had a blessed Christmas! It is a rainy & windy day in North Carolina – perfect for a lazy morning of staying in our pajamas. I’m thankful for time to rest, partly because my family hasn’t had a lot of sleep in the past few days and partly because the house is such an overflowing mess that I don’t know where to start! Sometimes life is one daunting task after another, isn’t it?

And so today finds me procrasinating a bit, because I’d really like to stay in the Christmas glow of worship, family, prayer, and reflection. But I know that as soon as I turn on the TV, the newscasts will have turned their focus onto 2012 in review and what’s to come in 2013. Commercials will be playing upon our holiday-indulgence-regrets and pitching weight loss plans and products. Eventually I’ll have to think about removing the tree with the falling needles. And there will be duties to resume and big decisions to make. Plus, upcoming visits to the cancer center with my dad.

January may be around the corner, but this year’s Christmas offered me, more than ever, the gift of an eternal perspective. The holiday season may soon be past, but Christmas Hope is a forever-reality because the Baby went from the manger to a sinless life to a cross that I deserved. He died that death may die. The things that I worry over today – be they trivial like messy houses or heavy like doctors’ reports – pale in comparison to the immeasurable hope and glory that are forever found in Christ.

And so I’ll take one step at a time today and not buy into the temptation to mentally venture into what’s to come. Life will be a mix of taking out the trash and hugging the ones I love and talking to Jesus who goes before me. His example of humility and His gift of hope won’t be on my return list, but will be presents that I open every day.

The poem, Not Only Christmas Day, by Mary Fairchild, is on my mind today. I hope it encourages you, as it has inspired me, to view life with a Christmas perspective throughout the year.

http://christianity.about.com/b/2007/12/06/weekly-prayer-post-not-only-christmas-day.htm

Lord, this is my prayer
Not only on Christmas Day
But until I see You face to face
May I live my life this way:

Just like the baby Jesus
I ever hope to be,
Resting in Your loving arms
Trusting in Your sovereignty.

And like the growing Christ child
In wisdom daily learning,
May I ever seek to know You
With my mind and spirit yearning.

Like the Son so faithful
Let me follow in Your light,
Meek and bold, humble and strong
Not afraid to face the night.

Nor cowardly to suffer
And stand for truth alone,
Knowing that Your kingdom
Awaits my going home.

Not afraid to sacrifice
Though great may be the cost,
Mindful how You rescued me
From broken-hearted loss.

Like my risen Savior
The babe, the child, the Son,
May my life forever speak
Of who You are and all You’ve done.

So while this world rejoices
And celebrates Your birth,
I treasure You, the greatest gift
Unequaled in Your worth.

I long to hear the same words
That welcomed home Your Son,
“Come, good and faithful servant,”
Your Master says, “Well done.”

And may heaven welcome others
Who will join with me in praise
Because I lived for Jesus Christ
Not only Christmas Day

— Mary Fairchild

The Gift of Gifts

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The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers, and one of its prayers, “The Gift of Gifts,” so beautifully captures the heart of Christmas worship. I’m including it today with my hopes and prayers that your Christmas is filled with the peace, joy, and wonder of the best gift ever.

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich” ~ 2 Corinthians 8:9

O Source of All Good,

What shall I render to Thee for the Gift of gifts, Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created, my Redeemer, substitute;

His self-emptying incomprehensible, His infinity beyond the heart’s grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders: He came below to raise me above, was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love; when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to Himself.

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Herein is power; when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom; when I was undone, with no will to return to Him and no intellect to devise recovery, He came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost, as man to die my death, to shed satisfying blood on my behalf, to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

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O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind; let me hear good tidings of great joy, and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore, my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose, my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;

Place me with ox, ass, camel, goat, to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face, and in him account myself delivered from sin;

Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn child to my heart, embrace Him with undying faith, exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

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~ The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett, 1975

Favored One

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During this time of the year, we often think of Mary. As I write, I’m looking around my home at the various nativities where she sits with her baby, her Lord. As I read Advent devotions, I marvel at her faith and willingness to accept this stunning assignment from God. One of my favorite writings about Mary comes from Elisabeth Elliot in “The Mother of the Lord” (http://www.elisabethelliot.org/newsletters2/nov.dec.1986.pdf)

Elisabeth wrote: “A dazzling stranger stands before her with a puzzling greeting. He calls her ‘most favored one’ and tells her the Lord is with her….Mary is troubled. She discerns at once that this has to do with things infinitely larger than herself, far beyond her understanding. What can it mean?”

When I remember that Gabriel greeted Mary as the “favored one,” (Luke 1:28) I’m instantly intrigued. This past year I did a study on the word “favor” in Scripture. Initially I was curious about the meaning of favor after reading Psalm 84:11, “The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” For some reason, it seemed that the Holy Spirit zeroed my attention on “favor,” and I realized that I seldom ever consider its significance. “Grace,” on the other hand, is something that I read about, think about, and sing about fairly often. And while Christians usually define “grace” as “God’s unmerited favor,” I don’t know that I ever considered what that essentially means.

I learned that the standard dictionary definition of “favor” is acceptance, courtesy, or preference, and its synonyms in a Bible dictionary include grace, blessing, or mercy.

When I looked up the word “favor” in my Bible concordance, I was amazed at how it is a thread woven throughout God’s story, throughout the covenants of the Old Testament and the new covenant in Christ.

Genesis 6:8 – “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

In Exodus 33, Moses found favor in God’s sight.

God gave this promise to the Israelites in Leviticus 26 – “I will look on you with favor and I will keep my covenant with you … I will walk among you and will be your God and you shall be my people.”

Throughout God’s story, in all of His ways with people from biblical times to today, He displays His favor through His covenant and by His presence with those who believe in Him. For us who live on this side of Calvary, God’s favor is shown toward those who have trusted in His Son.

After I researched Bible dictionaries and concordances, I googled the phrase “God’s favor” and found that there are very different perspectives on what the experience of God’s favor looks like.

Some people equate God’s favor with prosperity. I think the Bible would agree, but not in terms of health and wealth. A biblical perspective of God’s favor challenges the Americanized definition of prosperity. What I see about God’s favor in Scripture is that it is NOT directly related to one’s status or station in life nor is it a ticket to a life of ease. Consider….

Noah found favor with God and spent over 100 years building an ark although the earth had never felt a single drop of rain.

Moses found favor with God, and had to lead the Israelites through the desert for more than 40 years.

Esther found favor with God, and risked being killed to save the Jewish people from annihilation.

Daniel found favor with God, and was thrown into a pit full of lions.

According to Chris Tiegreen in  Fixing Abraham: “God’s favor is a tricky thing. It is poured out on messy lives and it can make certain aspects of life much messier. It should be profoundly comforting that the heroes of Scripture were perceived as flawed and foolish. That makes any of us qualified to fulfill God’s purposes. The amazing thing about their lives was what God did in them, not what they did themselves. Sometimes humility, honesty, and desperate faith were all they had to offer, but those are priceless commodities in the economy of God. He wants us to come to him on those very simple but uncomfortable terms.”

Jesus described these “simple but uncomfortable terms” when He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” (Matthew 5:3).

When I think of what it means to be “poor in spirit” I think of a character that is so unlike the self-assertive, self-sufficient disposition which the world admires and praises. Scripture reveals God’s favor as it was given to humble souls that were poor in spirit yet rich in worship.

Isaiah 66:2 – “I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at My word.”

1 Peter 5:5 & James 4:6: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

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Luke, in chapters 1 and 2 of his gospel, highlighted God’s favor throughout the incarnation story ~

Luke 1:28 – The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1:30 – The angel said to her, “ Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”

Luke 1:43 – (Elizabeth’s words): “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 2:24 – (The angelic proclamation to the shepherds): “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:40 – And the child (Jesus) grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

The story of our Savior’s birth is marked with inconveniences. Elizabeth bore a child in advanced age. Mary faced the possibility of losing her husband and her life.  Joseph accepted unforeseen responsiblity and ridicule. The shepherds risked losing their livelihood to see the Messiah. The magi traveled far to give their worship.

And yet, God’s favor with was them. God in the flesh was with them. Mary’s heart was filled with the treasure of her Savior’s presence. The shepherds and wise men were filled with unspeakable joy and matchless wonder.

“Blessed are the poor in the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Favored ones look through a lens of eternal promise.

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But what does God’s favor mean for someone living 2000 years past Jesus’ birth?

God is still with us. When we receive His Son, we receive His acceptance, His covenant, His presence. Here at Christmas, that’s an enormously comforting truth.

God’s favor frees me from the pressure of my own expectations.

“Peace is not a reward for those who wrap everything by December 24. There can be no mad rush, no frantic preparations for the real spirit of Christmas. It simply fills our hearts as we are and where we are. Much the same, Christ did not need us to finish our work before He could save us. God’s salvation has always found us in the most unlikely of places and conditions…” (Ginger Garrett, “The Perfect Christmas” in InTouch magazine – http://www.intouch.org/magazine/content.aspx?topic=The_Perfect_Christmas).

It’s been an emotional day for me. I learned of something that someone I dearly love wants, and it was beyond my financial ability to make it happen. My husband and I have chosen for me to stay at home (having the choice is a wonderful blessing). But in insecure moments, I equate my worth with my ability to contribute. And in the season of giving, it hurts when I can’t contribute (and my husband’s presents come from his own paycheck.)

But God gave me the sweetest gifts today. In the midst of a tearful morning, my husband came home from work to say how much he appreciates me. And this afternoon, dear friends reminded me that this time of motherhood and ministry is a precious season. They helped me realize that my time is worth more than money can ever buy. And my worth lies not in what I contribute but in who (Whose) I am.

And I think about my salvation. I didn’t contribute to it. I can’t add to it. It is a gift of God’s favor. And though this life of faith is sometimes messy, I will choose to look through a lens of eternal promise and take a humble path made rich by His presence.

No good thing does He withhold – Psalm 84:11.

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Every Longing Heart

Eighteen days until Christmas, and my ten-year-old is eagerly counting each one. Anticipation builds each time she opens a door on the Advent calendar. While I want to slow down and savor the season, the 25th could not come fast enough for my girl!

This morning I’ve found great comfort in the words of Chris Tiegreen in a devotion simply titled “Joy.” Today’s devotion is based on Isaiah 65: 17 – 18, “Behold I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things will not be remembered or come to mind. Be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create.”

Tiegreen writes: “Most of us are good at reaction emotions. We grieve when tragedy strikes; we get angry when injustice is done; we celebrate over good news, and we feel peaceful when all is well. But God asks us to do a strange thing in Scripture. He calls not only for our natural, reactive emotions, but also for supernatural, proactive emotions. He urges us to be glad and rejoice forever in something that has not yet taken place….

This dynamic of rejoicing before something has happened is an integral part of faith. It’s just as much an act of faith to celebrate a promise as it is to set foot in a Red Sea that has not yet parted…”

This devotion reminds me of Advent, for “advent” means “coming.” It is a season of expectation. It’s a time when we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Messiah (Isaiah 7:14 & 9:6; Micah 5: 2 – 4) and a time when we anticipate His return. A time to be glad and rejoice forever in His eternal promises.

True joy is “supernatural” and “proactive.” After all, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit – not something that we can muster up our own, try as we might.  Christmas joy is not related to festivity, parties, presents, or cookies. It has nothing to do with a party outfit that fits just right, or a meal that wins praises, or a beautifully decorated tree, or a perfectly chosen gift.  If we experience Christmas in a reactive way, imagine what we’ve set ourselves up for when the dress doesn’t zip all the way up, the green beans get cold, one strand in the middle of the tree goes dark, or the sweater is not the right size.

As I write, I’m sitting in the oncology clinic, waiting for my dad to get through another MRI. To pass the time, I’ve been thinking about shopping lists, and ironically the only two people I have left to shop for are my daughter who seemingly wants everything the toy aisle can offer and my dad who wants nothing. Well, nothing that money can buy. While many of my girl’s wishes will be fulfilled in 18 days, my dad has to wait and focus his longing upon a promise that one Day there will be a world without pain, worry, and cancer.

Joy has to be an intentional focus upon our Savior who has come and who is coming.  Joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances – it depends upon His character. Christmas tells us that God kept His word about Jesus’ first coming. Christmas assures us that we can await all the joyful promises of His coming again.

Luke’s gospel presents two of the most joyful people in the Christmas story: Simeon and Anna.

About Simeon, Luke says: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Simeon had longed for many years for see His Savior. Can’t you imagine the joy in his heart as his longing is fulfilled?

Barely after Simeon proclaimed his praise, Anna, an 84-year-old widowed prophetess, confirmed his revelation about the baby. Luke says of Anna:

“She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.  And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

I love how Luke portrays the faithful anticipation of those who were waiting for redemption and the faithfulness of God to fulfill what their eyes had longed to see.

Simeon and Anna were waiting. They were old. Surely they were tired and frail. But they made a choice to focus upon the Promise, and the Promised One made their joy complete.

And so, as we live between the Advents, let us find our joy in the Promise fulfilled and the Promise to come… He is the Joy of every longing heart.

Come Thou 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

Born Thy people to deliver
Born a child and yet a King
Born to reign in us forever
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone
By Thine all sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne

~ Charles Wesley, 1745

The Better Treasure

Isn’t it fun to decorate for Christmas? One of the highlights of post-Thanksgiving is bringing the Christmas boxes down from the attic. We burn our scented candles, play our holiday music, and open the boxes to rediscover our treasures.

Yesterday was box-opening day, and the candles were lit and the music was playing but things didn’t seem quite right. We had just returned the night before from a 12-hour drive, and I was tired. Laundry demanded my attention.  Homework demanded my daughter’s attention. But she was so excited to “start Christmas,” so we tried to make it work.

Before I could clear away the mantle to make room for the special decorations, Caroline was face and arms down into the boxes. It happened that the first box she came to was a box of her special Christmas things. Little girl decorations with sequins and stuffed animal faces.  It quickly became apparent that Caroline had a plan. She started putting her things on the mantle.

“No, no, no….these don’t belong here,” I stammered.

And it quickly became apparent that we were at a standoff. How could I tell her that her decorations were not mantle-worthy?

My husband and I have been married for 18 years, so I figure that means I’ve been in charge of decorating for 18 years now. This was the first time I ever encountered another point-of-view about the way things should look. 

“This is where we put our pretty candles and our greenery,” I explained.  She didn’t care.

“Mommy always decorates the mantle.” She pouted.

With guilt and frustration mounting, I pushed her things aside and set the candles in place. Caroline disappeared.  Guilt eventually gained the upper-hand, and I set off to find her, expecting that she would be sulking in her room. “I’m in here, Mommy,” she said sweetly, and I discovered her sitting at my desk. Caroline was drawing a picture of the mantle, with her decorations interspersed in the greenery and candles. “Isn’t it pretty, Mommy? When we work together?”

Ugh.

So I relented. We decorated the mantle with an assortment of angels, shepherds, Santa Claus, candles, and a lion-faced Nutcracker. I decided I would be okay with it after all. Until Caroline pointed to one of the pretty candles.

“We don’t need this … it doesn’t look right,” she asserted.

All the tiredness and unexpectedness of this encounter with a pint-sized trespasser caught up with me.  I exploded. “OKAY. YOU do it YOUR WAY. It’s ALL yours!”

Did you ever have a moment when you wished for a rewind button?

As I was listening to the radio later, I heard an interview with Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries. She was speaking of Christmas with all of its joys and (sigh) all of the “where’s rewind?” moments.

“Bad mommy moments don’t make bad moms,” she said. And for that, I am grateful.

The truest spirit of Christmas is about reconciliation.

Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King. Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled!”

I have had my share of moments as a mom, wife, daughter, relative, friend, and Christ follower that wouldn’t make the yearly Christmas letter.  But I love what Charles Stanley says about Christmas:

“Jesus came to earth to find each person where he was, not where he ought to have been. And the same is true today. God reaches into the darkest, dirtiest, most fearful places to correct and restore us into who He meant for us to be.”

Can we ever fully grasp our Savior’s humble sacrifice through which He reconciled us to God? How can we wrap our minds around the truth that the King of Kings was the “infant holy, infant lowly” born in a dark, dirty cattle stall?

“Bethlehem” literally means “house of bread.”  “The living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51) was born in the house of bread.

Yesterday, our pastor spoke of Matthew 6:11 (in the Lord’s Prayer): “Give us this day our daily bread.”

According to Pastor Kennedy, the “Give” of this request is rightly expressed in an attitude of humility and dependence.  It follows worship (“Our Father who art in Heaven. Hallowed be Your Name”) and surrender (“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.”).

Worship and surrender set my heart right toward God. Worship and surrender also set my heart right toward others. As Pastor Kennedy pointed out, the prayer is “Give US our daily bread.” Instead of being self-absorbed, I seek the good of others.

Instead of being controlling, I can be content.

Instead of being led by pride, I can be guided by perspective. What’s the better treasure – a beautiful mantle or a beautiful heart?

In the midst of a season when shopping lines are long and time is short, we have to be intentionally focused on worship and surrender. This preparation helps us to respond in the Spirit when otherwise we might react in the flesh.

So I confessed my irritability and selfishness to Caroline and asked for her forgiveness. I asked her today what she thinks of our mantle.

“I love it!” she said. And so do I.