Glory to God in the Highest!

It’s Christmas morning! Chart-topping pop singer Andy Williams (from a previous generation obviously) called it the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

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Based on my earliest memories, I’ve viewed the day through the same lens as Andy Williams. It’s magical — a day of mystery (gift-giving and receiving)! It’s a day for love and sharing, spending time with family and dear ones.

For all the commercialization of Christmas Day/Christmas Season, it’s easy to be side-tracked with activities and busy-ness. I try to take time every year to remind myself of the true meaning and long-lasting ramifications of this perennial celebration. It’s about Christ, the babe in a manger, the second person of the Trinity who took on flesh — not to enjoy the good life, but to DIE! The God-Man entered Time to provide eternal Life for those who receive Him as Savior.

Throughout the ages, Christmas is and has been the most wonderful time of the year! All because of God’s Gift! I’ve reprinted below the narrative as told by the physician Luke in the second chapter of his Gospel.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

As you ponder the details of this narrative, may you enjoy the blessings of knowing Christ personally. Merry Christmas to you on this amazing, special day!

Fifty-two Card Pickup

The rush of Christmas activities has been somewhat more fragmented this year due to my sister-in-law’s sudden passing. In fact, it wasn’t until my Beloved and I were halfway through “our day” that both of us realized, “Hey, today’s our 52nd anniversary!”

Through the years since our wedding in 1969, we’ve observed some with splashy celebrations while others have been quite subdued. When you have an anniversary during the holidays, you learn to adjust. Many other events take precedence. Continue reading “Fifty-two Card Pickup”

Christmas Past

Discussion of a Christmas Past may evoke ghostly images from Charles Dickens’s novella A Christmas Carol. Since first publication in 1843, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge remains an annual favorite. If anyone could dampen the spirit of Christmas, it was the old miser.

“Bah, humbug!” exclaims Ebenezer Scrooge.

But there are no misers in this Christmas Past. Nor does the tale about which I write wrap up as neatly as one miser’s timely transformation. This Christmas Past is for real people.

The central figure is generous, a young mother whose heart overflows with love and good will. Like Scrooge though, she had lost all enthusiasm for celebrating Christmas. Though Scrooge was beset by general grumpiness, this mother had reason for sadness. She’d been crushed by grief after the sudden death of an infant daughter. Christmas 1955 was close at hand and the mother’s precious babe had been in the ground less than six months.

With loss so fresh, how could anyone summon the strength to celebrate the Birth of a child – even the Holy Christ child? For months, she’d been going through the motions. Now, the thought of celebrating Christmas seemed almost beyond reason for her wounded soul. Continue reading “Christmas Past”

Christmas Wishes

At the Manger
Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay

From the Bible, Luke 2:

While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem,
the time came for her to have the baby.
She gave birth to her first son.

An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds,
and the glory of the Lord was shining around them ….
The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid.
I have some very good news for you –
news that will make everyone happy.
Today your Savior was born … He is the Messiah, the Lord.

Have a Merry Christmas! And may your New Year be one of meaningful blessings!

Singing for Joy

Wassailing … this traditional English practice of singing Christmas carols from house to house and door to door reflected the Joy of the season as expressed through song. Singers bade the hearers another year of good health. Hearers were equally festive, sharing a cup or two of spiced wine from their wassail bowls.

Lyrics of this old song repeat the words:  “Love and joy come to you and … God bless you and send you a Happy New Year.” From our door to yours, from our house to yours, we greet you with warm wishes for a very Merry Christmas 2019 as well as good health and God’s blessings in 2020.

Who Keeps the Peace?

Our church today celebrated the second Sunday of Advent 2019 in a traditional way, lighting the Candle of Peace. Though there are different practices and traditions attached to celebrating Advent, this observation draws us to reflect on what’s truly important about Christmas (the birth of Christ).

Angels were the first heralds to announce “Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.” (Luke 2:14) But peace often seems out of our grasp. I’m reminded of Longfellow’s 1863 poem “Christmas Bells.” Each stanza echoes the words peace on earth, good will to men while the sixth stanza derisively proclaims “there is no peace on earth.

Continue reading “Who Keeps the Peace?”

Let’s Go to the Tape

As in Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, our “stockings were hung by the chimney with care” … save one minor detail – we don’t actually have a chimney, just a mantelpiece (where a gas insert is supposed to go). Twenty stockings in all were hung, one for each of our grown offspring, as well as the in-laws and grands, with an extra stocking included for my Beloved’s brother who lives nearby.

Given the number of people coming together, our Christmas gatherings usually have a boisterous and sometimes chaotic quality. Children are everywhere, running inside and out, upstairs and down, constantly asking when we eat next, or more importantly, is it time to open presents yet!

The pandemonium was short-lived this year. Because Christmas fell on a Monday, out-of-town family members were quick to depart. A ski slope beckoned. Others had work responsibilities. The adults didn’t even have time for a customary late-night poker match.

Once the house fell silent, I remembered a blog post I’d read before Christmas:  Why Christmas Never Lives Up to the Buildup. Posted by Tony Reinke, a senior writer at DesiringGod.org, the post mainly addresses Christians living in what Reinke calls “the space between.” (With both Christmas and my birthday coming on the same day, I experience this “buildup” as a kind of double whammy.)

Continue reading “Let’s Go to the Tape”

Great Joy For All People

There is no greater gift than Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whose birth we celebrate during this season. May you know real joy, real peace and real love that originate with our Creator and are made manifest through His Son. 

I bid you a Merry Christmas and a 2018 filled with blessings!

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.

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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 “Making Room”

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 “Birthday of A King”