"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Turning on the news lately rattles me. I find I'm guarding more than ever what I take in and read about the world today because it often makes my heart quicken and I become overwhelmed by all that must be done to mend hearts and nations and wounds.
And this week, we usher in Christmas.
In recent years our family's Christmases have been both joyous and painful, full of gifts and full of loss. Life's difficulty doesn't abate until December 26th and I know many of you are in the thick of circumstances that stretch you, that distract your heart and mind from this season's glad tidings. How does a mother making Christmas swoop her children up with jolly if she carries grief in her heart? How can a community reeling with the pain of injustice brought against them stand and worship and sing with joy?
Christmas can carry both.
If you are struggling this season, it may seem strange to celebrate and be feasting. But, friends, it is in this feasting that the beauty of Christ is made manifest. Our lives are messy. They are complicated. They are broken. And the beauty of this season of Advent, of waiting and preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus, is that he does indeed come! He cuts right through the hurting of our hearts, the darkness of our communities, the bleakness of our sin and he is Emmanuel; God with us.
And so we must remember more than ever it seems, that His coming matters. It matters to us every day in our grouchy moments, in the ones that catch us with guilt, in the times that bring us to a place of being undone. In the years where we are less than all our ideals. The juxtaposition of Christ’s coming in the shadow of the hurting world reminds us of our desperate need for Jesus to be here with us. We are desperate for him alone.
Wherever you are this Christmastide, take heart and take hold of hope. Christ is here.
Merry Christmas friends,
Christmas is such a wonderful celebration and often our memories are associated with music. Would you agree? Many of us are familiar with the Christmas song, "Mary, Did You Know?" As the lyrics take us on a journey from Bethlehem to Calvary, we gain thoughts on the life of Jesus. But in our role as mothers, maybe you're like me and wish you could just sit down and have a heart-to-heart with Mary, the mother of God's Son.
I wonder how Mary processed the news the angel brought.
We know that she was confused initially. As a virgin, how could this be?
Yet the truth- she was indeed with child. The child of God.
I have to think she rehearsed her talk with Joseph.
"How do I explain this one to my fiancé?"
Yet words came to her and Joseph did not shirk his bride.
What love between this man and woman.
How beautiful their love that God would choose them to be the earthly parents
Of His one and only Son, even if for a short time.
I wonder if Mary initially thought her first Christmas was perfect.
Riding a donkey for miles while nine months pregnant
Surely felt less than ideal.
I doubt Mary's dream birthing plan consisted of attempting to sleep on the hay
With the scent of animals encompassing her makeshift bed.
I imagine the worst sting of that first Christmas was the rejection in her heart
Resulting from 5 small, yet deafening words "No room in the inn."
Yet Mary believed the angel's words that she was blessed to be the one
The one Whom God would use to fulfill his promises to the nations.
There could be no more perfect Christmas than this- the first.
We strive for the perfect Christmas, yet I wonder if we focus on the perfect reason for Christmas.
I wish I could have heard Mary's whispers over her beautiful baby boy
As she and Joseph hovered close to the fire.
To hold God in the form of man filled more than her arms;
Her heart must have burst with joy over the magnitude of the moment.
I realize Mary couldn't predict his earthly future,
Yet there could be no mistake as God the Son made his heavenly entrance.
I suppose she would witness the many miracles to be performed,
But there would never be another exactly like the first- his birth.
Emmanuel- God with us- had arrived.
And that Mary knew.
What else do you think Mary knew?
We’re operating on two different levels today, aren’t we?
Genuine smiles light our faces. We’re surrounded by glittering trees, glowing candles, precious people, and mouth-watering food.
We’re grateful. Full of joy and goodwill.
There’s something deeper. The pain of loss. A heartache. The something that hurts or haunts. The reminder that peace on earth is not yet reality.
It’s for this that Christ came.
The sin that said “God’s trying to cheat me out of what I need. I’ll do it my way.”
The sinners who broke all that was supposed to be beautiful.
Because of sin, we hurt.
Dysfunction. Abuse. Abandonment.
Betrayal. Envy. Narcissism.
It’s all ugly... what’s been done to us... what we’ve done to others.
Yet despite the horrific mess, He came.
Because of it.
What a beautiful Savior!
One who would come and embrace us in all our filth and stench.
One who reaches into the gutters of the world… who lifts up the worst of sinners and most desperate victims.
One who sees every crying, love-starved child, every wounded wife, every dishonored parent. Every war, every oppression, every injustice.
None of use deserve help. We’re hopelessly lost in the darkness of guilt.
But still He comes.
He came as a human, lived life on Earth, and died for our redemption.
He comes today, beckoning us into relationship with Him. Promising freedom, forgiveness, and eternal life to any who receive it… who stop trying to clean themselves up and simply trust Him.
Our souls find rest in Him. Our eternal future is secure.
But of course, our flesh is still on Earth today. Our battle of the here and now continues.
And in despair I bowed my head: "There is no peace on earth," I said, "For hate is strong and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good will to men."
We’re going to feel the pain, this side of Heaven. We were made to feel. To feel is to be human… made in God’s image.
He too feels.
He too knows these conflicting levels from which we operate today.
He smiles at our family gatherings, yet knows the turmoil hidden in each heart.
He delights in the snowfall, or the sunrise, or the rolling waves, yet knows why our tears fall as we soak in the beauty.
But He knows even more.
He sees the big picture.
The end of pain, yes! But also the purpose and glory that outweigh it all.
And today? He’s measuring out the grace it's going to take. Every morsel of strength. All the love and power and help our journey requires.
My friend, He came, yes.
But our God is still with us. He is Emmanuel.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.*
Praying your heart rests in Emmanuel this Christmas.
*from "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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Our free bi-weekly GF menus open into a convenient pdf that includes links to each of the gluten-free recipes featured making it easy to access them with just a simple click.Read More
Driving through the maze of crowds, and bumper to bumper traffic during the Christmas holidays was a true test of my mama patience. I had an agenda and evidently the world did not know what it was because everything was slow on this particular day.
My boy’s chatter, loud noises and vying for attention was particularly irritating when I was stuck in a traffic jam with time ticking away.
“Mama, he hit me.”
“No I didn’t, I just tapped him.”
“You did not, you hit me!”
Finally, we got off the freeway, made it to the main intersection of the mall I was seeking, when Joel piped up, “Mama, look at the poor man with one leg and one crutch. He has a sign that says ‘I’m hungry!’. Don’t you think since it is Christmas, we should stop and get him something to eat?”Read More