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Making Room

Christmas 2014! We are blessed far more than we could ever deserve! The Christ-Child who became the crucified Savior is the biggest and best blessing of all.

gustave_dore_nativity

The Nativity by Gustave Doré

We’ve been talking this month about making room … when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem (in order to be counted in the census and register in their home town for tax purposes), Luke 2 tells us the newborn baby was laid in a manger “because there was no room for them at the inn.” The Gustave Doré image above offers one depiction of the scene. Continue Reading →

Birthday of A King

When our children were small, we usually tried to set aside time on Christmas Eve to read and briefly discuss the “real meaning” of Christmas. We understood how difficult it is for children to think of anything else on Christmas morning except for their intense excitement … and the presents!

christmas_angelNo question, childlike exuberance is a sight to behold. Their wonder and unabashed enthusiasm is a gift all by itself. My Beloved and I never wanted to diminish that.

We chose Christmas Eve as a more focused family time during which we’d quietly read the biblical narrative. Our book choice varied. The version might be from a children’s Bible or a modern translation. (Occasionally, we’d choose the King James version which is so lyrically beautiful.) Afterwards, they were permitted to choose one wrapped present from under the tree to open before bedtime. Continue Reading →

Cultivate Generosity

Maybe it’s slightly redundant to talk about generosity within hours of our Christmas celebration. I mean this is the season when absolutely everyone goes out of their way to give cheerfully, right? The red kettles get stocked (as it were) for the coming year. Charities receive significant donations before year’s end.

SantasFactoryPerhaps you’re familiar with the Bible passage that quotes Jesus telling his followers:  “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In this particular passage, the Apostle Paul speaks of the moral imperative to help the weak. The blessings of Christmas are best when shared and whether it’s helping at a soup kitchen or delivering a meal to a shut-in, our generosity tends to return to us as a greater blessing. Continue Reading →

Christmas Vision

Traditional Christmas carols have an enduring history. Some are more than a hundred years old. As for the remainder of Christmas music, the songs often don’t enjoy a consistent following or annual play. Achieving Favorite status is a less likely long shot.

MerryChristmasBannerWhen composer David Foster released his 1990 song Grown-Up Christmas List, the song wasn’t a hit … even though it featured Natalie Cole’s mellifluent vocal delivery. (If you click on the link, don’t be distracted by the subtitles.)

It wasn’t until a couple years later – when Amy Grant recorded a Christmas album including the Foster song – that the song earned greater attention. Grant reworked lyrics and added another verse. Her album producer promoted the song as a single to enhance sales of her full-length album and the song received considerable air play.

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Job’s Fatal Flaw

Another Sunday … and another exchange between Job and his not-so-comforting friends. Job chapter 9 poses the monumental question:  how does mortal man bring himself into right standing with the Creator of the universe? Again, Blake’s drawing (below) depicts Job looking upward, entreating the heavens for God’s explanation.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

In this chapter, Job speaks once more, following Bildad’s observations of the preceding chapter. However, except to acknowledge Bildad offered a tidbit of wisdom (verse 2, I know this is true), Job pivots from direct response and delivers an exceptional oratory about who God is. No matter what version of the Bible you read, this passage overflows with elegance in describing the soaring beauty of God’s might and wondrous works. Read it! Then read it again in a different version!

Continue Reading →

Headed to Whoville?

On occasion, I need to be talked down from the ledge. Today was one of those days. It looked to be a good day for putting up Christmas decorations. (What’s the rush, you ask? I felt the same way, but the house was empty for once and I had an hour to spare.) I turned on the Christmas music and started carrying things out of the attic.

TangledMessThe pre-lit Christmas tree I purchased a couple years back comes in three pieces plus a stand. In order to store this decoration in the attic, it must be taken apart. Against my better judgment, I disassembled it for storing. Now, the various plugs connecting the three pieces that lead to one main plug are a dreadful, impossible muddle.

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Shoe Height

When I was younger, I remember one of the memory cues related to the Book of Job came in the form of a question: who was the shortest man named in the Bible? The answer was Bildad the Shuhite (shoe height). Our introduction to this “friend” and “comforter” of Job comes in the eighth chapter of the book.

FROM:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

FROM: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Blake

The exact meaning of Bildad’s name is uncertain, but there is a connotation Bel has loved. Bel (or Baal) was an ancient Babylonian deity and Bildad’s initial speech urges Job to consult the ancient (possibly religious) authorities in order to understand his current suffering. Continue Reading →

Absent “A”

A message in this morning’s Inbox caught my eye. (The email is actually dated yesterday, but I hadn’t read it until today.) I didn’t immediately recognize the author’s name, but the title, Stop Sending Cheery Christmas Cards, definitely piqued my interest. I clicked the link.

WarrenThe post is written by Kay Warren, wife of evangelical pastor Rick Warren, author of (among others) the 2002 book The Purpose-Driven Life. In April 2013, their family was rocked by the suicide of their youngest son Matthew, age 27. The young man struggled with mental illness.

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Every Day More Real

The familiar Christmas carol, O, Little Town of Bethlehem, was written by Episcopal bishop and poet Phillips Brooks (1835-1893, whose birthday was this week). In the first verse of this poem, Brooks wrote:

http://tiny.cc/jq6rqx

http://tiny.cc/jq6rqx

This carol is a familiar one. Phillips Brooks is probably less familiar to most people. He was born to a Boston family in 1835, graduated Harvard twenty years later, attended seminary, received honorary degrees from Harvard, Columbia and Oxford, and eventually became Bishop of Massachusetts. A large man at six-foot-four, he became a large presence in the Episcopal church but he was also highly regarded by the leaders of other denominations. This man of great moral stature delivered an eloquent and memorable sermon following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Continue Reading →

A Hill Far Away

Because this is the Season of Advent, some people might find it unusual for me to write about a completely different pivotal moment in Jesus’ life … the Cross. Yes, we celebrate the birth of Christ with gift-giving, acknowledging the extraordinary Gift of God coming to earth in the form of a man who was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

christmas-gifts-presentsBut it’s also true that the Little Baby born in the Manger grew up, and from the minute He was born, we know the arc of His life led to the Cross where He would be crucified. Simply put, that was God’s plan. There’s this inextricable connection between the Christmas Child’s birthday and the events we know and celebrate as Easter or Resurrection Day. Continue Reading →

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