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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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 “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”

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 “Cultivate Generosity”

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!

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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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