When The Old Passes And The New Comes

 

John and I sat in our backyard, watching the clouds roll through with the incoming storm. The sun peeked through occasionally as if it was playing hide and seek. As dark as the clouds were, the sun was insistent. It would not be blocked.

With Christmas behind us and the New Year looming, it was easy to segue into a conversation about the year that was about to wrap up. A year filled with both good and bad, what I chose to focus on determined whether I saw the light or the dark.

There was a lot of both.

Looking at tragedies worldwide, it’s hard not to recognize the harshness of our planet. Politics for power instead of the people, terrorism taking lives, people dying from starvation, poor living conditions, and natural disasters, human trafficking. People question who the real enemy is.

Our country. Everyone feels entitled to do things the way they think it should be done. Absolute truth has gone out the window; right and wrong have become relative, shaped by personal opinion rather than truth.

On a personal level, I had people close to me die, family situations that have presented ongoing challenges that have me stumped, and constant feelings of inadequacy and incompetence that hang on my heart and lie to my soul. I have grands who have suffered medical issues that have been unending. Disappointments that always seem present.

The bad will be there. Brokenness breeds pain. At all levels.

But the Light. There is always the Light. Globally, people are reaching out to help those in need in new and creative ways. Choosing personal sacrifice over convenience. Help happens because people choose right over wrong, truth over injustice.

In our country, people are embracing different in a way that doesn’t always demand entitlement. People are being cared for, in spite of the fact that the media only trumpets the harsh and not the hope.

Personally, I’ve had friends who’ve birthed long-awaited children, our daughter got married to the man of her dreams. John and I have had the chance to engage people in their hurts and help them, listening, offering whatever we could, valuing them with being present. We’ve experienced true joy in our family because we’re family.

The dark cannot block the Light. Not even in the darkest of days.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by things that don’t go the way I’d like them to. That’s the reality of life.

But God.

He is good, all the time. With selfishness driving people continually, disappointment and despair ever-present, there’s no reason for us to think there’d be any good at all.

But God.

His goodness covers our world. It rains on those who are good and not so good. The sun shines on those who choose right and those who don’t. There will always be bad things that happen to good people and vice versa.

He hears us. He listens to the pleas of hurting hearts. And He often uses bad things to bring good results.

In this coming year, the coming decade, choose to focus on His Light. His promises. His presence.

He offers Light in the midst of the greatest of darkness.

 

 

 

When The Merry Is Unwrapped

 

It began with a quiet pause, the dawn of Christmas when I was the only one up and no one had come to our home.

Yet.

A restful space, between calm and chaos, where I could reflect on what the day was. Could be.

Christmas is the sacred space where true heart longing meets the One who can fulfill that need. Where hope finds its satisfaction in the Person who came on this celebrated day. My need to focus on that is often dwarfed by the overwhelming busyness of the season that overlooks the real reason it exists.

“We’re here!” Contemplative thought flew out my mind as the grands came in, bearing gifts and smiles and sweet anticipation of what was to come.

We read the Christmas story first, the words of that wondrous night coming to life as my son-in-law took the job of reading that had been my husband’s domain. My soul was at the place where I could picture the situation as it unfolded. Shepherds–not old guys in ragged clothes, but young boys, girls, women, and older women who were empty-nesters–watching the flocks at night. Seeing the amazing glow in the sky, unexpected and unheard of, a brightness that brought fear to them. Angels speaking to them, to these people who weren’t considered significant, telling them of the King who’d been born. The journey they took by faith to see the Baby.

It all played out in my mind. Calm covered me like a soft blanket.

And then the gift-opening happened.

We laughed out loud at the squeals of excitement from the littles who were awed by what they got. The older ones were graciously appreciative of their gifts, short on words but long on gratitude.

We ate a rich breakfast that none of us needed, drank more coffee than was necessary, and loved every minute of it.

Dinner was a conglomerate of friends and family who came together for a fiesta. Traditional food was rejected in light of ease–we all entered this season quite tired. More laughter, wonderful conversation, too much food.

I’ve been blessed with much; it’s made me think of what it was like that first Christmas.

Joseph and Mary were away from family and friends at a time when they needed help. Her first Baby, a pregnancy that had been a miracle that had put her under the scrutiny of others who insisted on believing the worst. Their accommodations were meager; no hospital, midwives, or health personnel to make the birth easier.

The Baby came anyway. It was time.

Inconvenient. Uncomfortable. No idea of what would come next.

But they stayed in the moment. At the place where God had done what He said He’d do; send His Son through a virgin, a situation which would make life awkward, unpredictable, and hard for all of them.

Sometimes the best presents come at a cost we hadn’t anticipated.

When all the merry is unwrapped and everyone moves on to the next big thing, what are we left with? What do we really have beside more stuff and clutter?

Comfort and joy. In Him who is the Author of Hope.

The best Gift that keeps on giving.

 

 

 

 

‘Twas The Very First Christmas

Photo courtesy of Dan Kiefer on Unsplash

‘Twas the very first Christmas, and all through the stable

Not much could be seen, not even a table.

The donkey and cow, both in sleepy-time calm

Awaited the workday that would come with the dawn.

A cry broke the silence, and in the stable so bare

A miracle happened that indeed was quite rare.

A Baby was born, of whom prophets had spoken,

The Messiah, the Savior, God’s most beloved Token

Who’d come to bring life and light to a world

That was lost and quite dark, its mess all a swirl.

His mom, a young girl who gave God her trust,

Told her she’d bare this Boy in a world so unjust.

She wrapped Him in lambing cloths, quite clean but so plain,

Not the most honored clothes for the King of all men.

Out in the fields, where they spent days unending,

Were shepherds with flocks, their charges attending.

They’d been there for days, a rhythm they’d found,

When quite out of nowhere they heard a great sound.

A song sung so beautifully in glorious light;

The shepherds were shocked and filled with great fright.

But the angels who sang were not fearsome or bad,

They told of a wonder that would make all folks glad.

A Baby was born who’d bring hope to all people,

He’d come to make love and forgiveness so simple.

The shepherds were glad and made haste to go see

The wonder they’d heard of, so hard to believe.

When they got to the stable, they all bowed in joy

At the sight of this family, especially the Boy.

They knew at that moment the angels were right,

That before them was hope, joy, and love in plain sight.

They left singing songs of great gladness and joy,

Of the King of all kings, who’d come here as a Boy.

When wise men did come after many months past,

They brought rich gifts to honor the King whose reign would last.

So this Christmas, with gifts galore and many a meal,

Remember the Reason that makes this day real.

It’s not getting what you think you want or spending too much dough,

It’s peace on earth, goodwill toward men, a gift only God can grow.

May you find joy and peace in this season of great promise,

So your heart may be filled with the hope of His goodness.

Merry Christmas to all, and may your hearts be fullli with the truth of Him who came to give us true life.

 

 

 

Do You Need What I Need?

What happened to December?

I was at work, focused on trying to organize myself, when a friend calmly asked, “Have you finished your Christmas shopping?”

The thought that flashed through my mind was, “I’ve got time.”

Until her follow-up comment reminded me, “You know it’s a week away.”

A week? I hadn’t even thought about Christmas shopping.

To be honest, I haven’t thought that much about Christmas.

It’s been a hectic month. Anytime your work is for people and with people, the unexpected can happen.

I’ve had a lot of unexpected.

It’s true that with a late Thanksgiving there was a week less to prepare. Parties and gatherings had to be done in less time. Decorating was rushed. Much of it never got done. My grand intentions of making Christmas gifts for neighbors flew out the window.

I found myself thinking, “I can do it all next year.”

That didn’t help. That reminded me of the people I was letting down. The family members that lived around the country whom I hadn’t been conscientious enough to think about things they’d really want.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for online shopping. The grands would be crushed if it weren’t for Amazon. That doesn’t feel like a thoughtful, caring alternative. Just easy.

There’s something so impersonal with the way I’m going about the whole season this year that just seems off.

I’ve been to Christmas programs, sung carols in church, attended parties that were fun with people I enjoy. I’ve made a few gifts, but not much; it wasn’t even fun. I listen to Christmas music while I’m working at home. The pieces are all there, but it really doesn’t satisfy me.

At one point I was looking forward to the day after Christmas.

When did Christmas get so busy and demanding?

Christmas didn’t. I did.

I’ve bought into the expectation of a beautifully decorated home, baked goods to give to all who come by, specially chosen presents that fit everyone’s wish list, and time to play family games and go Christmas caroling.

Not happening.

Christmas is anticipated globally with celebrations, gift-giving, and massive amounts of decorations. Stores go into a super-sale mode, where Black Friday has segued into Cyber Monday, all of which last for weeks on end. Ads on TV guilt people into buying what they don’t want or need but feeling the obligation to spend money they don’t have.

What we all need is a pause to reflect on why it all matters.

God sent His Son to come as Light in a dark world, to become one of us so we could walk with Him and learn about God. Straight forward and clear. In the worldly urgency to discredit the spiritual aspect of this holiday, we’ve lost sight of all the hope Jesus came to give us. We’ve tried to satisfy heart needs for love, acceptance, and forgiveness with stuff and clutter, bling and glitz.

It doesn’t work.

I need this pause to remember why I celebrate, why Christmas has always meant so much to me. To remember that God chose to enter this world so I could know Him.

No amount of decorations or shopping can improve on that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Spotlight Is On

Two very different productions in three days, with two very different grands who expressed their talent in two vastly different roles.

I couldn’t have been more proud of them both.

Nine-year-old Isley had her first taste of true theater as she played a newsie, kids who sold newspapers on the streets, in the musical “The Christmas Post” at her school. As a fourth-grader, she was part of an ensemble that sang and danced throughout the production.

She did it with style, grins, and more energy than I could have ever maintained.

Taking place in New York in the late 1940s, it’s about a war widow trying to make money for a Christmas gift for her daughter, and the daughter becoming a newsie to gain funds to buy her mom a gift. A tender story of love, sacrifice, and giving, the songs were creative, the dialogue was witty, and the actors were polished.

For a school production, I was pleasantly surprised.

Fast forward two days, and we’re sitting in church where four-year-old Brooklyn is in a Christmas pageant. She sings all the time at home, in the car, with friends and family. She’s not been quite so expressive in public arenas. Her recent pre-school Christmas performance had her observing more than singing. But this was the telling of the Christmas story.

She was serious.

She was a sheep, and her little flock performed “Away In A Manger” and “I’d Rather Be A Sheep”. She sang with gusto, grinning and engaged. The whole production was thoroughly enjoyable. The littlest wise man’s crown was too big–it fell over his head and hung around his neck. Three shepherds read the narrative, one of whom sat cross-legged on a chair and played with his feet. Some kids sang loudly, several of whom were off-key. The director gave instructions that had the whole congregation in stitches as she moved the play along.

The performance was fun. With occasional distractions, the cast was wonderfully enthusiastic.

Both performances told stories of redemption and love. The one from the school was practiced constantly, and there was casting for the parts. There was an expectation of excellence and commitment from the players involved, and the kids worked to that end. The one in the church was performed with young kids who played their parts with encouragement to tell the story; professionalism wasn’t the goal.

Most people fall into those two categories. Those who work hard at doing their best and those who haven’t set as high a standard.

That’s how many approach faith. Some work really hard to do everything right, not wanting to make mistakes, and faith becomes duty. Others believe in Jesus, but He pretty much stays the Baby in the manger, and they engage Him when life is out of control and they need help.

Christmas is all about Jesus embracing all who come. Performance has nothing to do with acceptance. That Baby grew to Manhood and chose to sacrifice Himself for us. Not because we could do anything perfectly.

Because we couldn’t.

This Christmas, give yourself permission to embrace your imperfection and allow this Gift from God to be your Enough.

He’s all that. And more.