H is for…Glory and Splendor

 

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This year my new Christmas series looks at what is represented by the word Christmas. Looking at the letters became popular back in 1963 when popular country singer, Jim Reeves, included the song, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, on his one and only Christmas album. Eddy Arnold and Jenny Lou Carson wrote the song. The lyrics are a wonderful pointer to the major elements of the story of Christ’s birth, but in the series I want to look a little deeper into each of those letters.

 

My previous post was entitled C is For…Wonder. Let’s move ahead to H.

 

There are many words related to H that connect with the Christmas season. Some of the ones we quickly recall are holly, hanging the greens, holiday, hope, hot chocolate, hot cider, hugs, and happy. The song adds herald angels to the list. We can all agree on that and we sing songs at this season that remind us of this, but have you seriously thought a bit more about this?

 

What would it have been like to be a shepherd watching the flocks when this glorious event occurred?

 

If you were a shepherd back then, you were considered to be among the lowly. Shepherds were often the older men or even women and boys (those who were not strong enough to handle other types of responsibilities), but still they were entrusted with the care and protection of the sheep. Imagine being among them on this historic night. It’s chilly and your ears are tuned in to the sounds of the sheep as well as for any predators that may be near and then suddenly…

 

And so it was that the heavenly host of angels appeared in the inky black sky to the least of these. Luke paints the picture for us in Luke 2:8-14 (ESV):

 

“8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased”

 

Songs refer to these angels as herald angels. A herald is one who precedes or comes before, a forerunner, and a harbinger. They were coming first to announce the birth of the Christ and these poor shepherds were chosen to be the first to hear. It’s not likely they had seen an angel before and now they are surrounded by a heavenly host of angels. Now they are experiencing the glory and splendor of God’s messengers.

 

Glory means magnificence or great beauty and may also mean a luminous ring or halo. It seems evident from Luke’s words there was light cascading in the midst of the angels. Splendor, another word that describes magnificent and splendid appearances, can be used to describe what the shepherds saw.

 

The words of scripture make clear the sight was stunning and beyond anything a person could have imagined. It would not be surprising the shepherds might be shaking. After they appeared, the angels first told them not to be afraid. They are bringing Good News, the very best news ever announced.

 

In the current day of neon and LED lights, it might be hard to conceive of the glory and splendor of the angel and heavenly host; but I believe it would be good to consider the reality of this event unfolding before the shepherds as best we can. Yes, we might desire a close relationship with this Jesus, this Christ Child, but we should not forget we are speaking of royalty accompanied by great glory and splendor. This is far grander than any earthly king’s trappings that instill awe and humbling respect for the office.

 

As we bustle about this Christmas season and listen to the songs reminding us of the events we celebrate, let us not forget nor make common what was uncommon, glorious, and full of splendor.

 

One day when He returns, we will see Him in all His glory for ourselves.

 

Are you watching for Him in excited anticipation?

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C is for…Wonder

 

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It’s officially December!

 

Nearly everywhere you go Christmas music is playing. One of the songs we hear is written by Jim Reeves and begins with the line, “C is for the Christ Child”. It goes on from there to spell out the word Christmas with each letter standing for some part of the Christmas story. Most of you know it.

 

There are many “C” words associated with Christmas also. Words like carols, cards, cookies, candy canes, cranberries, chestnuts, chimney, crèche, and candles quickly come to mind. Another word that is featured prominently is children. Perhaps we think of children since we celebrate the birth of a baby, a child. Perhaps we think of them as well since so much advertising relates to gifts they might want to receive.

 

Whatever the original reason might be, one of the gifts children give us at this season is often the gift of wonder. Etched in my memory is the first Christmas each of my children and grandchildren experienced. They were fascinated with the lights, a tree appearing in the living room, and so much more. They didn’t need to be concerned about decorating or making all the trappings we associate with the day. They could simply be delighted in the new experiences and the wonder of it all.

 

As we grow up there are still special things we associate with the Christmas season. We grow in a deeper understanding of who we are celebrating, but subtly we can lose the wonder of that first Christmas. The tasks of Christmas erode the wonder we first knew.

 

What is wonder? The dictionary describes it as “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable”.

 

Maybe the trappings of Christmas have become too familiar. We may enjoy the candles, the twinkling lights, and all the trimmings, but we have too often lost our awe of them.

 

We associate the things connected with Christmas with what we must do to make them happen. We may complain about putting up lights and trees, shopping for gifts and wrapping them, baking and making all the treats we want to have. It can sound like Christmas is a chore.

 

When we were children, we received all of Christmas as a gift. It cost us nothing.

 

So often Jesus tells us in scripture that we need to become like children to truly understand His Kingdom. There was a cost for Him and the Father in Christmas. Jesus left the wonders of heaven with a clear eye to the cross He would face.

 

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Could He hope we would become like children so that we would also see, behold, and wonder at such a love and sacrifice?

 

Our deeper understanding of Christmas ought to remind us of words like caring, compassion, consideration, Christlikeness, courage, commitment, and more. It should also bring us back to the truth.

 

God didn’t have to send Jesus to give us a 3-D living example of His love and what He wanted us to know about Him. He didn’t need to give us a chance to be reconciled to Him. God didn’t need to choose to send Jesus as a child born in a humble stable.

 

How confounding that was! How wondrous and unexpected that was!

 

No matter how old you are or how many Christmases you have celebrated, I think He wants you to know the wonder of His gift, His love all over again this year.

 

As the days of this month swiftly move ahead and the lists of things to do grow longer, don’t forget the wonder of Christmas, the wonder of the Christ Child, the wonder of God’s amazing love gift.

 

The glory of Christmas is a wonder! It has always been amazing, unexpected, beautiful, unfamiliar, and inexplicable!

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In the Midst

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Some days…some weeks can bombard us that leave us depleted. Our strength seems to run out faster than any energy sources we put in. Relief and pathways or options out of the storm we may feel we are in the midst of seem unclear or absent. And even though we may have had experience with such times, they still cramp our style, tense our muscles, and weary us.

 

At such times we would love to have a big solution that arrives quickly, but most often that isn’t what happens. God’s grace shows up other ways but leaves an unmistakable imprint of his love.

 

The past three weeks have been a bit like that in our house.

 

We lead a full life and stay active in a lot of ways despite chronic back issues for my sweet husband, but something shifted (Who knows what?) and what was chronic and predictable became acute pain that did not respond to much of anything that usually helps. We called and sought a multi-faceted team to try to sort out the issues and provide relief including a family of prayers (some related and others related only through the Lord’s blood). Here and there the pain might subside for a small period of time, but it wasn’t steady improvement and discouragement and anxiety were nipping at our heels.

 

The appointment we were most eager to have with the specialist finally came and we left early to be sure we wasted no minutes we would get. But on the way there traffic slowed to a crawl and it was certain to result in arriving late and perhaps having the appointment canceled as a result.

 

In the midst of it all an app on my phone suggested an alternate route that we were close

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Photo by Mike from Pexels

enough to an off ramp to try. We didn’t know if it would get us there on time, but it was clear the usual route would not so we took the route suggested and arrived exactly when we needed to be there.

 

The specialist wasn’t available, but his nurse practitioner was. We were concerned about how helpful she could be or what level of expertise she could offer to what we knew was a complex set of back issues. She arrived in the exam room with excellent questions and listening skills and spent nearly an hour and a half with us and also consulted with the specialist with the latest x-rays to assure he agreed with what she was seeing on them. In the midst of looking for the “big” person with a “big” answer, the nurse practitioner met us in ways we could not have expected.

 

The recommendation of an MRI was the next step recommended. We had no idea how long we would need to wait since the week was punctuated with a holiday. We wanted the MRI right away after learning it’s results would determine the treatment plan that hopefully would lead to less pain and healing, but MRI’s often take time to get scheduled.

 

In the midst of our concern about how long we would wait for an appointment, one was open at another approved facility in less than two hours. Unheard of to have that option within a few hours.

 

On our trip to the facility a half hour away a major crash on the highway brought traffic to a complete stop. Minute by minute as the time passed, it was easy to wonder if we would miss the appointment. In the midst of our fear we would miss it, police rerouted traffic up an on ramp we were near and we managed to find roads from there to arrive at the MRI facility exactly on time.

 

In the midst…

 

The Lord meets us in the midst and sometimes through ways we cannot expect or may even miss if it isn’t one of those big solutions we hope for.

 

He meets us in the midst because He sees. He cares. He’s there even if we don’t sense or see Him.

 

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Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS from Pexels

It reminds me of the story in Matthew 14:22-29. Jesus has been teaching and wants time alone to be with the Father and sends the disciples alone in a boat to the opposite shore.

 

While Jesus is alone on the mountain where He had gone to pray, the disciples, some of whom were seasoned fishermen, are straining at the oars as a fierce wind and stormy sea threatens to upend them. There is plenty of reason to fear and wish Jesus were there. He had been with them in a boat in a storm before and told the wind and waves to be still.

 

Even though He is not with them in the boat, He sees their struggle and goes to them. He shows up in the midst of the storm and their struggle and offers them peace.

 

He had already been there in the midst, but He demonstrated it in a way that was unmistakable out of his grace and love.

 

“But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”

Isaiah 43:1-3a (NIV)

 

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What Will Your Legacy Be?

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Roy & Delight…Legacy Builders

 

As we wind our way through the Thanksgiving holiday  weekend, I am reminded of how often I hear someone speak of the lack of gratitude or appreciation they see in so many people and especially younger people.

 

As I consider this today, I think perhaps each of us needs to pause and consider that none of us come into this world with a gratefulness or thankfulness DNA genetic code built in. As a whole, each of us arrives focused on getting our needs met and from the very beginning we find some amazing ways to accomplish that.

 

If nothing interrupts that process, it continues and can become more and more ugly.

 

The truth is that gratefulness is learned. It doesn’t just happen.

 

The first place of learning for you as well as me was at home. It was there I was taught to say “please” and “thank you”. But beyond what I was taught, I was blessed to observe parents who modeled that daily in their own lives.

 

Neither of my parents was born into wealthy families. They both grew up on farms where hard work was needed and expected. Each of them experienced significant loss early in their lives. My father’s dad died when he was only five years old so he never grew up knowing him. A fire destroyed my mother’s home when she was a freshman in high school and her family spent a year living separately in different homes while a new home was built.

 

Perhaps those very difficulties were used by the Lord to nurture gratefulness versus bitterness and self-pity. Each of their families pulled together during those hard times instead of breaking apart as a result of their faith that was not dependent on circumstances or everything going well.

 

I was born into that legacy. Along with the model of gratefulness and thankfulness came another. They were generous with time, love, service, and limited income.

 

Each of my parents served in PTA, Sunday School, and a long list of other opportunities that church, school, and community provided. But there were other things I saw which were not visible to everyone.

 

One example that I watched was how they worked and tended a huge garden for the whole of their lives. They probably could have sold produce that we did not need to add to their income, but instead they offered what they did not need to others in the neighborhood or at church who had less. Their garden bore fruit beyond the produce they shared with others.

 

Our Thanksgiving table always included a patchwork of people who had no one to share the day. Sometimes these were widowed sisters or other relatives or people from our church who were alone. Anyone was welcome at their table. That included my friends and later friends of our children and even the families of friends.

 

Gratefulness was a way of life that was evident every day, not just on Thanksgiving.

 

My parents sowed seed not only in me, but also in our son and daughter, their grandchildren. Each of them is now married with children of their own. I see in them the fruit that began many years ago and I see it in their children, my grandchildren, their great grandchildren, as well.

 

My parents have been at home with the Lord for twenty-four years and no other celebration brings a greater sense of them than Thanksgiving. I am reminded again this year of what each of us can pass on to others, to the next generation. Two key principles stand out: 

 

Gratefulness is learned. It doesn’t just happen.

 

Gratefulness should be a way of life every day.

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His Time…Not Ours

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Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels

 

Have you noticed how often we get upset about time?

 

It seems like we often complain about it. We can be running out of it or feel like it is making us wait too long. We (even those who are not rigid) tend to have some sort of schedule for our day more days than not. Sometimes there are set appointments and then there are the things we just hope to do (or not do) in a day.

 

Maybe it is predictability we desire or perhaps it is control that we wish for. Whatever our situation we are not very amenable to interruptions much of the time despite living with an assurance they will occur. Sometimes we can manage them fairly well, but if we are on a deadline or focused on a project it’s not something we will rejoice about.

 

It can be easy to forget that God is the author of time and always has been.

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That doesn’t mean we take no responsibility for stewarding it, but that we develop a more realistic appraisal for how much of it we can manage. It is far too easy to make a commitment with a realistic expectation we can fulfill it and yet fail to include the possibilities that might impact that plan. It can be as routine as a car problem or a cold, a homework crisis we need to walk a child through or a senior relative who has a need we cannot ignore in the moment.

 

I am aware I have much to learn in this area. I see that over and over again as I read about the life of Christ. Page after page in the gospels show us one example after another where He is interrupted, and that interruption never seems to ruffle his mood or attitude. Invariably the interruption adds to our knowledge of Him and results in a miracle or two.

 

Jesus is teaching a group of teachers and religious leaders around Him who had traveled a great distance to hear Him. There are several men trying to help a man who was paralyzed laying on a bed get in to hear Him and maybe receive a miracle as He had done other places, but there is no way into the crowded room. They come up with a plan to open up the roof and carefully lower the man into the room where Jesus is teaching. Talk about an interruption! (Luke 5:17-39)

 

The teachers of the law and religious leaders are none too happy and Jesus knows exactly what they are thinking. He uses them as an example and in the midst of this interruption heals the man.

 

We see Jesus seeking solitude and going off to be alone and yet crowds follow Him over and over again. His disciples even interrupted Him while he was sleeping when a storm arose, and they were in fear on the sea.

 

Often Jesus is interrupted while He is traveling from one point to another. In one case Bartimaeus is healed of his blindness on the road to Jericho. At another point while He is on his way, He notices Zacchaeus up in a tree and that interruption results in salvation coming to Zacchaeus.

 

God uses interruptions to alert us to see something we did not notice.

 

If we pause, we might recognize why He wanted us to make note of what we were missing and how He might want to use it.

 

At another time Jesus was asked to come to the home of Jairus, a man of position, so that He can heal his daughter who is very ill. On his way there, a woman who is of low estate touches the edge of his robe. (She doesn’t even warrant a name in the scripture that tells the story.) Her desire is healing from an “issue of blood” she had for 12 years that would have meant she was labeled “unclean”.

 

Clearly Jesus is urgently needed in the household of Jairus to attend his ill daughter and Jairus is a man of importance, but when the woman touches the robe of Jesus He stops and asks her what she needs. Her answer brings his response back of a healing. And in the midst of this great thing, Jairus finds out his daughter has died. He might well wonder at the delay to care for this woman, this interruption could have made the difference. But Jesus tells him not to be concerned because his daughter will be okay.

 

How much I/we can all learn from these examples and others like them?

 

We can be on our way to something important, but an interruption may point to something the Lord sees we should attend to. If that is the case, He will surely help us with that very important thing that is delayed.

 

Read the wise words of C.S. Lewis:

 

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely real life – the life God is sending one day by day.”

 

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