Tag Archives: Holidays

Thankful – A Poem

One of my fellow bloggers suggested in a comment that I add Thankful Thursday to my schedule. I think this is a wonderful idea, so I decided to run with it. As I thought about what to do for Thankful Thursday I had the idea of doing an acrostic poem of the things I am thankful or grateful for, using words that are synonyms of thankful. I don’t know if I will be able to come up with 52 synonyms to do this all year, but we’ll see.

THANKFUL

Time spent with family for Christmas;
Holiday celebrations with friends;
A
nn, who suggested this blog feature;
N
ice, encouraging comments from bloggers;
K
nowledge of God from His Word;
F
un with my little dog Roman;
U
nderstanding from the Holy Spirit;
L
ove that binds them all.

These are things I am Thankful for.

“As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13.

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A God of Surprises

Christmas Day is more than half over. The presents are all opened and some have been tried out already. We’ve eaten our Christmas “dinner” of glazed spiral ham, garlic mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and rosemary cauliflower and carrots. There’s still pecan pie for dessert, but I’m still too full.

Last night we attended a wonderful Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. It is my favorite service of the year. We always close by singing Silent Night as each person lights their candle from the candle of the person beside or in front of them. All the other lights are dimmed and by the end of the song the place is lit mostly by candlelight. It always amazes me how all of those small flames can add up to such a bright light. It is a wonderful reminder of how we each carry the light of Christ in our hearts and together we can light the world with His love.

We had a guest speaker, Steve Halliday, who shared a message of the surprise of Christmas. Even though God foretold the coming of the Messiah, with at least 100 Old Testament prophecies regarding His birth alone, when it actually happened Jesus’ birth was full of surprises. Instead of the King coming to earth into a rich and well-connected family, He was born to a young peasant girl and a carpenter. Instead of being born in a posh hospital, He was born in a lowly stable. Instead of announcing His birth to royalty and aristocrats, the angels brought news of the Messiah’s birth to lowly shepherds. Nothing was what you would expect; it was all full of surprises.

Steve shared a story of how when he was a child his older sister always tried to guess what her Christmas presents were. She would shake, squeeze, and hold presents up to the light trying to figure what was in the box. She didn’t like to wait and wanted to know what the surprise was. His story reminded me of the time, when I was 9 or 10, that I really wanted to know what was in my presents. One day before Christmas, when no one was home, I carefully peeled the tape and opened every one of my presents, discovering what each one was. Christmas was not the same that year. There was no surprise on Christmas morning (though I had to feign surprise so as not to be found out!).

The rest of the Christmas Eve message was that God still has surprises for us today. We might have some idea what He is going to do because He has told us in His Word. He will give us wisdom if we ask. James 1:5. He will answer our prayers if we pray in His name. John 14:13-14. He will take care of all our needs. Matthew 6:31-33. The real question is how will He fulfill these promises. Therein lies the surprise. And if the incarnation is any indication, all of God’s surprises will be wonderful, indeed.

I often complain that I wish God would let me in on His plan. Seems my tendency to want to know what my presents are ahead of time is still there. But I think I’ve learned my lesson. As I thought about the promise of God’s surprises and the disappointment I felt that Christmas morning when I knew what all my presents were going to be, I realized that it is best not to know ahead of time what God has planned. It is better to have faith that the fulfillment of His promises will be better than I can ever imagine. Then when His surprises come I’ll be delighted by the wonder of His glorious gifts.

On this Christmas Day, I wish you all the wonder and joy of the surprises God has in store for you!

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The Mercy of Our God Is Great

During this Christmas season, an idea for a post has been bouncing around in my head but it seemed something was missing. Today, reading a post of a fellow blogger, I came across a verse that seemed to tie the idea together. It is a great Old Testament verse showing the humility of King David and his trust in the mercy of God.

David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 2 Samuel 24:14.

This Christmas season, I have been increasingly troubled by the prominence of Santa Claus and “giving” as the reason for Christmas. The Divine gift of salvation through the Christ child is downplayed and the jolly old elf is center stage wherever you go. But exactly what bothered me about hearing people say that the reason for Christmas is giving I couldn’t put my finger on. After all, giving is a good thing. And Santa certainly is known for giving gifts.

But with Santa there is a catch. Remember the Christmas song, “He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out whose naughty and nice.” As the story goes, only those on the nice list are given gifts by Santa. Those on the naughty list get a lump of coal. Although Santa is jolly, he isn’t very merciful.

Jesus, on the other hand, came for all mankind. He is merciful. Just like David, I would rather fall into the hands of God, for His mercy is great. I prefer the gift of grace and mercy that Christmas promises over all the earthly treasures promised by Santa if only I am good.

This morning listening to my iPod the song “Forgiven” by Skillet came on. It is a wonderful reminder of the mercy of our Lord. My favorite part of the song is the chorus:

Now I’m in our secret place
Alone in your embrace
Where all my wrongs have been erased
You have forgiven

All the promises and lies
All the times I compromise
All the times you were denied
You have forgiven

I’ve often heard people complain about the exclusivity of Christianity, because Christians believe that only those who believe in Jesus will go to heaven. But the opportunity to accept God’s gift of mercy and grace is open to all. No one is excluded from God’s love that is in Christ, our Savior.

People exclude each other from clubs and groups. Even Santa excludes those on the naughty list from receiving gifts. We demand payback and revenge, that others get what’s coming to them. We are not merciful to our fellow human beings.

But God’s invitation is open to all. God does not demand payback and revenge, He does not demand that we get what is coming to us for our actions. Instead, He paid the price for our sins Himself so that we would know His mercy.

Long before Jesus became God incarnate, the prophet Isaiah spoke of His mercy:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
      O Israel, the one who formed you says,
   “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
      I have called you by name; you are mine.
 When you go through deep waters,
      I will be with you.
   When you go through rivers of difficulty,
      you will not drown.
   When you walk through the fire of oppression,
      you will not be burned up;
      the flames will not consume you.
 For I am the Lord, your God,
      the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1-3.

He is the Savior not only of Israel, but of all who trust in Him. At Christmas, we remember that this mighty King came to a lowly manger for the purpose of living a sinless life and then giving His life as a ransom for you and me. Just as Israel had strayed from the Lord, we all have gone astray. We don’t deserve the Lord’s mercy. But at Christmas, His mercy gives birth to hope that leads to faith.

Whether you are on Santa’s nice or naughty list, the gift of God’s mercy is yours today and always. Won’t you, like David, choose to fall into the hands of a merciful God? His love awaits your choice to enter His embrace and be forgiven.

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Christmas Cards

I finally got my Christmas cards all done and mailed today. I was just going to send cards with no Christmas letter. In years past I’ve sort of set the bar too high by writing a Christmas poem about our year, and I just wasn’t feeling that creative this year.

I started to do a Christmas letter with pictures two nights ago, but couldn’t get the pictures do what I wanted in Word. So I gave up. When I told my husband I was thinking of not doing a letter, he said, “But you are so good with words, don’t let the picture problems stop you.”

Then this morning my son asked me what I was writing in our Christmas cards. I replied, “Their name at the top, and Love, Linda, Randy, and Benton at the bottom.” “Lame,” he said. Or was it more like, “Laaaaaaame!”

Next I talked to my mother-in-law on the phone and mentioned I was finishing Christmas cards, but hadn’t written a letter. She said they had received three cards today and two didn’t even have letters. “We love getting all the Christmas letters,” she said.

So I wrote a Christmas letter telling about our trip to New York City, my son’s 10th grade exploits, my husband’s backpacking adventures, my ventures into blogging, and how our dog and cat are taking good care of us. I closed with this wish and prayer:

We hope this Christmas you are blessed by the most wonderful Christmas gift of all, Immanuel, God with us! May the joy of God’s love found in a manger dwell in your hearts forever.

Even if you are not on my Christmas card list, this wish and prayer is for you, too! Christmas is just a few days away and I pray that, in the midst of all the busyness of the season, you don’t miss the wonder of what this celebration is all about. Peace and Merry Christmas!

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The Greatest Gift

As Christmas approaches and I think about shopping for family and friends, what gifts shall I buy for all of them? What do they want?

Then I think, more importantly, what do they need? What they need is the greatest gift ever given. It is the gift that the heavenly host proclaimed to the shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11. This King who left His throne in heaven to be a little baby, to come and live, and then die, all for our sake.

This is the gift we all need, the gift given in love. It’s not a gift we earned or were entitled to, which is what makes it the best gift of all.  Unlike the gifts that Santa brings, it is not predicated on being on the “nice” list. We do not forfeit this gift because we are on the “naughty” list. In fact, in reality we are all on the “naughty” list but God loves us nonetheless.  As Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

We need not give anything in return; we can just accept the gift. But somehow, just accepting this loving gift of our Creator, the gift of Himself, creates in the heart a desire to give something in return. Of course, there is nothing God needs from us. So what can we possibly give? The best gift we can give to God is ourselves and our devotion to telling others of His greatest gift.

Over the past week or so I have been listening to a lot of Christmas carols. I just love O Holy Night and What Child Is This? and O Come O Come Immanuel and Silent Night and so many others that sing the praises of this wonderful gift of Jesus, the Word made flesh. They make me smile and cry tears of joy all at the same time.

This greatest gift of all has been offered to everyone, and that includes you! Have you received it yet? It truly is the most precious gift you will ever receive.

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