Christmas is a Love Story

 

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This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. I’d like to enjoy every moment, yet it’s easy for it be sabotaged by being too busy and distracted—a general theme at any time of year, but especially at Christmas.

There’s the shopping, the preparations, the parties, the presents, the dinners, and time with family. All of this can be lovely (except maybe the shopping), but it can also be stressful and exhausting.

The high hopes surrounding this one day can add a lot of pressure too. I typically have a picture of how this day will shake out. I should fully engage in each moment and live out of the peace and joy ever at my disposal, but it’s easy to enter Christmas exhausted and exit it disappointed when the hype failed to match the event. I wonder if Jesus’s mother struggled this way too.

Mary had anticipated her son’s birth, and then, nearing her due date, she endured a 90 mile trek on a mule’s back to register for a census in the town of her husband’s ancestors. But the hardship didn’t end there. You know the story. When they arrived in Bethlehem, there were “No Vacancy” signs everywhere. In the Christmas rush, they must have neglected to arrange an Airbnb.

At this point, I’d be on the verge of a meltdown. Between the pregnancy hormones and “this is not what I thought it would be” emotions, my husband would be walking on eggshells. Some cross words would likely spill out to the effect of: “I thought you were dealing with this!” and the atmosphere would worsen. As expected, he’d go into fix-it mode and a stable would be a less-than-ideal solution.

It’s interesting that this first Christmas resembles our Christmas. Frenzied and imperfect. I think that’s exactly how God planned it. The census, the stable, and all that surrounded the birth of Jesus was marked by hardship. Could God be trying to show us something?

The God of the universe could have provided ideal circumstances, ensured his son be born in a palace with a grand feast prepared to fittingly celebrate the king’s birth. But in his deep compassion for humanity, not only did he come humbly in human form, he experienced all that we experience, and more. If you wonder if God can understand your pain, think of Jesus—God in the flesh.

Christmas is really a beautiful love story. It’s the continued story of God declaring his massive love and faithfulness to us. It’s him seeking us, finding us, living among us, and ultimately dying for us. It was part of his plan from the beginning. All part of his extravagant love.

It’s my prayer that we replace the scurry and worry and find lasting joy in Jesus. That our hearts will be more full than our tummies. That despite the pace we will find peace. That we will love as God does: completely, unconditionally, and sacrificially.

But most of all, I pray that we will have a deep understanding of how fully we are loved. Know this: God send his son to be born to die for you. You matter that much to him. He made a way for you, amid all your personal struggles, failures, and pain, to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus.

This Christmas, I pray you’ll take hold of this life-changing, eternity-altering, heart-healing gift, and unwrap a new life in Christ.

Merry Christmas from my home to yours!

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” 

John 15:12-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the Days Written Down

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This week I wrote my final entry in my son’s childhood journal I kept for him over the past twenty-two years of his life, begun on the day he was born. The years have rushed by, and, reading over a few of the entries, I was reminded of many events and beautiful memories I knew I’d forget to tell him about had I not written them down. Now that he’s married, I plan to wrap up the journals to give to him this Christmas.

I’m excited for my son to read the detailed documentation of his life as seen through my eyes. My hope is that he’ll be encouraged, see himself from a different perspective, and possibly get an even greater sense of who he is. More than that, I hope he will see how dearly he was loved by his dad and me at every stage, and how we were cheering him on every step of the way.

This recent journal writing has reminded me of our Father in heaven. Take a look at these verses. I have to say, they kinda blow my mind.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” ~ Psalm 139:16

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” ~ Psalm 56:8

God keeps track of the things that concern you and me. We’re in his book! Tell me that doesn’t blow you away just a tad?

But I’m thinking God doesn’t need to record our stuff in case he forgets, or to keep a naughty or nice list. I also doubt he keeps track of all our sorrows in order to make sure we receive the “Get into Heaven Free” card by meeting a tragedy quota, or because we’ve managed to reach the good works threshold (more on that in a sec). I like to think it’s partly because of this:

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” ` Luke 8:17

I can’t say for sure, but wonder if when we are in our final home in heaven, all that we’re going through right now – the good, the bad and the ugly – will make sense. All the tears, the sorrows, the why-is-this-happening? – all of it. And, when it is, I think we’ll marvel at how remarkably connected it all was, how many parts and people were affected as a result, how it served an eternal purpose, and possibly understand all that was happening in the unseen places. Some may say in heaven it won’t matter anymore, but I like to think it will matter a great deal. Enough for God to write it down.

There is another book I would be amiss to not mention. The Bible speaks of the Book of Life, where all of humanity’s names are recorded. Our names are not found in this book if we’re really good, do a lot of good stuff, or suffer a ton. Our names are found in this book only if we’re found in Christ. This is the reason Christ died: to ensure our names wouldn’t be blotted out, and thus ensure our forever home in heaven with him. The only thing that would limit Christ’s saving work is our failure to respond or our rejection of God’s grace.

I hope to one day ask God if I can have a peek at the writings he kept concerning me. Maybe you will too. I think we will be in awe, not only of God, but also of our life’s story as seen through God’s perspective. And just like the journals kept for my son, I think we will be encouraged to see ourselves – and our past circumstances – from our loving Father’s perspective. We will learn, in full, how dearly and securely we were loved at every turn, and how he was cheering us on every step of the way.

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears…  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  ~1 Corinthians 13: 9 & 12

I want to leave you with this hymn. I think it’s an appropriate and beautiful way to conclude and punctuate the above ideas. Take time to ponder the poetic lyrics:

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
in ev’ry high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
support me in the ‘whelming flood;
when all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
O may I then in Him be found,
dressed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

~ Edward Mote (1834)

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  1. It’s my greatest hope that you are found in Christ. I’d love a reading buddy in heaven 🙂 He is just a prayer away.

Strong & Free

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Right before the Canada Day long weekend, along with a sizeable crowd of hardcore people, I completed an exercise challenge called Rebellion. At the party to celebrate our achievement, I bought this t-shirt. The saying on the front resonates with me. The two obvious reasons are that it includes words from Canada’s national anthem (the country of which I officially became a citizen 33 years ago), and secondly, by working out and completing the challenge, I grew stronger and free from indulgences that might otherwise keep me off track. But a less obvious and deeper meaning for me began 29 years ago at age eighteen. Continue reading “Strong & Free”

8 Ways to Savour the Christmas Season

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With the Christmas season in full swing, it’s frightfully easy to become engulfed in the Christmas frenzy. Busy and frazzled, we rush around to find the perfect presents for our loved ones, host the perfect party, amid perfect decorations, while presenting a table full of perfect food.  In all the bustle, we risk the season of love, joy, and peace passing us by along with all that really matters, like spending time with those we love.

All too soon, the season comes to a close. Once the decorations are stuffed away, our home looks as barren as our hearts feel. What went wrong? we wonder.

 

Before we get too far in, here is a practical list of 8 ways to savour the season:

  1. Be grateful. There are always things to be thankful for. Look around and you’ll find it won’t take long to see how blessed your are.
  2. Be intentional with your time. To stave off exhaustion, instead of accepting every invite, consider limiting parties and activities. By intentionally protecting your time, you’ll be less likely to reach the end of the season, or Christmas Day, completely depleted and will have more energy for those closest to you.
  3. Slow down. instead of rushing from one Christmas activity to the next, set aside enough time to fully engage in each moment.
  4. Create memorable Christmas traditions with your loved ones and take time for old traditions.
  5. Buy less stuff.  So often the plethora of things we were told we needed: the newest gadget, the latest and greatest piece of technology, the you name it toy-of-the-year doesn’t fill the space we were promised it would. Consider a memory-making trip or other activities that will outlast the many items you might have purchased.
  6. Donate time or money to a cause. Christmas is a great time to look beyond ourselves and help others. Helping those in need naturally raises our internal gratitude meter.
  7. Celebrate advent. Many Christians spend time leading up to Christmas in spiritual preparation for celebrating when Christ was born.
  8. Focus on Jesus. Let His presence – not presents – be at the centre of your celebration. With your heart and spirit full of His love, you’ll enjoy all the festivities that much more.

May you be blessed this Christmas with the fullness of God’s love.

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  1. In what ways could you be more intentional about celebrating Christ this Christmas?
  2. What new traditions could you include to help make Christ more central to your celebrations? What might you need to take away?