And Now, Reality

Imagine Mary and Joseph the day after Christmas.  Baby Jesus is here.  The shepherds and angels have come and gone. The farmer wants his barn back.  They still have to go register, their reason for being in Bethlehem in the first place.  No diapers, no clothes for the baby – so that needs to be taken care of as well.  And then there’s the long journey back home – on a donkey with a baby.  The Holy Light of Christmas Eve is fading fast in the light of the day after Christmas realities.

Isn’t it that way for all of us too?  We have gathered with family, sang songs of joy in church, lamented the lack of snow, opened presents, gathered up the used wrapping paper.  There may be extended moments of Christmas celebrations but for the most part, the magic has passed.

Or has it? Could it be the magic has just begun?  For Mary and Joseph, Jesus may be the face of God, but at this moment, he is their firstborn son. There is the miracle of a tiny baby that fills a parent’s heart with joy that has no words and overrides all the inconveniences of sleepless nights, baby cries and tired arms. One baby smile can erase all exhaustion.  Jesus is the face of God, but at this moment, he is their firstborn son. The magic of watching him grow, of seeing the first baby steps of the Messiah, hearing his first words.

And for us?  Could it be the magic has just begun?  We have ended an Advent of thought, song and prayers that tethered us closer to God, our families and ourselves.  We have celebrated the birth of a baby that changed the world with family gatherings, parties with friends and church services.  Now as we celebrate one year’s ending and another of possibilities beginning, could the magic journey with us through the year?  Could these moments of pulling closer to what matters be our scope for the new year?  Could the miracle Jesus inspire us to launch ourselves into new dreams and new journeys?  Could the love we have experienced encourage us to love deeper, more honestly, without barriers of fear?Featured image

Henry Van Dyke wrote,  “Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow-men are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness–are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open–are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?”

How can you bring the magic, the joy of Christmas to your every day of 2015?  Let us know by commenting below.

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Hallelujah! Let Us Adore Him!

Luke 2:1 – 20

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.

Featured imageSo 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. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

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

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.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Adore Him / Christmas Eve  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUCD-GXObac

Countless days on a journey that led so far
Endless nights they traveled to follow the star
They did not find a palace, just a humble village home
And searching for a king, but finding a child, no crown, no throne

Still they bowed down

Come let us adore him
Oh, come let us adore him
Oh, come let us adore him

Expectation turned to mystery
For nothing was like anything they dreamed
Anticipating the royal and those honored by this world
Instead they gazed in the awestruck eyes of a lowly peasant girl

Holding her child

Come let us adore him
Oh, come let us adore him
Oh, come let us adore him

The brilliant gold, the fragrant myrrh, the costly frankincense
Placed before him

Come let us adore him
Oh, come let us adore him
Oh, come let us adore him
Christ, the Lord

Staggering Love and Simple Faith

Luke 6:20 “And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

Child of the Poor, What Child Is This?  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=child+of+the+poor+what+child+is+this

Reflection:  Christmas Eve always meant attending the candlelight service at church.  My sister and I both had very long hair, so inevitably in the lighting of the candles, one to the next, we somehow managed to singe one or both of our hair.  It became a tradition, much to my mother’s dismay and our earnest attempts to prevent it.  Once she had given us the look, though, we would bubble into quiet giggles, and more than once, singe some more hair.  My memories of my younger sister at midnight services are encapsulated in childhood.  She was eight when she died.  I have attended more than 45 Christmas Eve services since the last time my hair was singed, but it is almost always my first thought when we walk into Christmas Eve services.  Our sister connection was magical, like the night.  Christmas always brings its sweet memories, some more heartcatching than others.  It is a time we pull family close and miss those no longer here the most.  Honoring those sad filled emotions, on a night filled with joyful hallelujahs and jubilant bells, can feel out of place.  Once you step over that place of awkwardness, everything is as it should be.  God knows what you carry around in you and it’s okay with him if you are sending parts of your heart heavenward as you celebrate the birth of his Son.  And really, that’s all that matters.

Action:  Today, gather yourselves together in a family moment that will last long after the presents fade from memory.  Featured image   Around the breakfast or dinner table, or in the car to relative’s homes, talk about the family traditions of your childhoods and ask your children which traditions they enjoy the most.  Tell stories of Christmases past and people no longer with you.     Show your children and other family know its okay to acknowledge that there may be sadness in the midst of joy.  Life is like that, messy and filled with emotions.  Think of the manger again and how messy it was and how filled with emotion.  God did that.

Dear God, In this holiest of nights, where candles will be lit and homes will be filled with family and friends, help us find a quiet moment with you.  Take us to that night, in a stable dark and smelly, where Jesus entered this world as a gift to salvation.  Let us know him, for that instant, as Mary and Joseph’s baby, that sweet gentle moment before he was claimed by the world.  Just Mary and Joseph and Jesus, a family of staggering love and simple faith.  Let us weep for the joy of a first born child, who in that humble beginning brought light to us all.  With messy and joyful hearts, Amen.

To read the entire devotion for today, go to:http://easter.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014-Advent-Devotional.pdf

Peace Be Still

John 14:27  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

I Need a Silent Night https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OowjEFrSWfs

“I need a silent night, a holy night to hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise.  I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here to end this crazy day with a silent night.”

Reflection Excerpt: 

Think of how messy and unprepared that first Christmas was.  And it was perfect.Featured image

Action:  Look at your to do list.  Cross off anything that has to do with faux Christmas.  Now that you’re down to three items, sit down with your family and watch the movie “Home Alone” where the Christmas insanity is in manic mode.  Laugh at the morning pandemonium, the antics that Kevin goes through protecting his home and his family’s sweet reunion.  Lean way back into that gift of peace from God.

 Dear God, slow us down, even if you have to trip us.  Today, of all days, we need that peace that only comes from knowing you.  Loudly remind us what really matters.  Thank you for making the imperfect perfect.  Most of all, please, please, please let your whispers of peace break through the noise of our day.  An exhausted and peace seeking, Amen.

Joyful, Joyful Light

Psalm 30:11 “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy

Joyful, Joyful   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaEH1e_DLm0

Joyful, JoyfulFeatured image
Lord, we adore Thee
God of glory
Lord of love
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee
Hail Thee as the sun above
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
Drive the dark of doubt away
Giver immortal gladness
Fill us with the light
Fill us with the light
Oh, fill us with the light of day……

Reflection Excerpt:

“If you begin to live looking for the God that is all around you, every moment becomes a prayer.”  Frank Bianco     

Action Exerpt:  Consider all the small things in your days that make you joyful.  Make a vow to be more observant, take more pauses and say a grateful prayer for the all the sacred moments God places in your days.

Dear God, Startle me into noticing, with all my senses and my heart, the sacred ordinary joys you give me each and every day.    Give me a grateful heart that thanks you, if only silently, for all that is you and filling my heart with the joy of your love.  A joyful, joyful Amen.

To read the entire devotion for today, go to:http://easter.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014-Advent-Devotional.pdf

“A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

December 21  Day One of Week Four – A Promise That Changes the World 

Luke 1:39-45  Mary Visits Elizabeth

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Reflection Excerpt:  Mary hurrying to Elizabeth was a moment of faith meeting faith, cousin meeting cousin, friend Featured imagemeeting friend.  Both have had extraordinary things happen to them and their conversation had to be one of coming to grips with how radically their lives were changing.  There also had to be a “Glad we have each other, because who else would understand these odd events that have happened to us” bonding moment. Mary needed someone to tell her “You can do this,” and Elizabeth likely needed someone to say, “You’re not too old to have a child.  You and Zechariah will be great parents.”  In this story of a miraculous birth, God has stirred in a testimony to friendship.  Aristotle said, “What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

Dear God, Thank you for the story of Mary and Elizabeth’s friendship tucked into the story of Jesus’ birth, in a place we would be sure to notice.  Thank you for the reminder of the value of friendship.  Help us to never take it for granted or let too much time slip through the folds of our friendships and to always be an impeccable friend.  In this season of anticipation, give us the boldness to tell our friends how much they mean to us.  Wrapped in the gift of friendship, Amen.

To read the entire devotion for today, go to:http://easter.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014-Advent-Devotional.pdf

Be God’s Action Verb

Advent Devotion for December 20  Day Seven of Week Three – A Promise Each of Us Is Invited Into 

Hebrews 10:24.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.

Partial Lyrics from Today’s Song:  Do Something  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0I2csO7_pOI

“If not us, then who, if not me and you?  Right now, it’s time for us to do something!  I don’t want a flame, I want a fire!  I wanna be the one who stands up and says, “I’m gonna do something!”  But we’re never gonna change the world by standing still, no we won’t stand still.” Featured image

Action Excerpt:  What can you do to be God’s action verb?  What are you waiting for?  Stop thinking about it and do it.  Because if not you, then who?  If not now, then when?

Dear God, Stir us up to do something! …….With an energetic Amen.

To read the entire devotion for today, go to: http://easter.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2014-Advent-Devotional.pdf