By Carin LeRoy –
“Come see what you have in your stocking!” My brother awakened me early one Christmas morning. Groggily sitting up in bed, I kicked off the covers and stood. “You’re going to love it,” he said as we tip-toed down the stairs to where they hung. I snuck a peek. This was my favorite part of Christmas as a child. This year was even better as I saw mine bursting with something special. Whispering on the stairs, we waited impatiently for our parents to awake.
Overflowing from my stocking, I saw doll furniture carefully crafted by my father for my Barbie dolls – a table with chairs, a bed with a cloth canopy, and a little wooden sofa. My father had spent time designing, cutting, and putting together my doll furniture to give me a special surprise for Christmas. All the small cuts and tiny detail took effort and time as he patiently crafted something he knew I would enjoy. I loved it and played with it for many years. Although my father has gone to Heaven, I still have that gift.
Christmas is a special time as we select gifts for others. We desire to please others with our gift-giving, yet before long most gifts will get worn out, used, outgrown or discarded. Let’s ponder for a moment some gifts that are lavished upon us by our heavenly Father.
• His son, Jesus. Without His birth, life, death and resurrection, we would not have the forgiveness of sins nor the hope of eternal life in heaven.
• Family. Placing people in families displays the wisdom and brilliance of the Father. From birth to death, we have a connection with others—somewhere to belong and be cared for and loved.
• His Presence. God’s love and presence with us is constant, faithful and unchanging. He walks beside us through all parts of life to give comfort, wisdom and direction.
• Nature. What is more soothing than a walk on the beach, more majestic than a mountain view or more exquisite than a delicate flower? As we enjoy the beauty of our surroundings, realize this is a gift for our enjoyment.
• His Word. God has sent a manual to lead us – the Bible. Passed down through the centuries, His word lives forever to give us hope, truth, comfort, rebuke and guidance.
This list cannot do justice to all that God has given, but today let’s remember these and think about others that He has bestowed on us. What are His gifts for you? Let’s praise Him today for all the wonderful things He lavishes on us.
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for all the gifts You bestow on me. Help me to recognize Your hand in my life and keep me mindful to thank and praise You.
“He who did not spare His own son, but gave him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things,” (Romans 8: 32 NIV).
By Cheri Cowell –
I hate to admit it, but sometimes I am like Herod. Yes, Herod.
I fall into the trap the devil sets before me by expecting the Savior to be a military-type ruler. Sometimes I fear that somehow He has a list of all my wrongdoings and is waiting for me to make a wrong move.
Now, before you get all worried about me, I know this is not true. I know that Jesus is a loving, compassionate, and just ruler. I know this, but sometimes those doubts creep in, mainly when I am feeling low, persecuted, and threatened or when my expectations are not met.
Herod felt the same way. He had expectations that the newborn King would usurp his power. Herod knew that he was not the rightful heir to the throne of David, and thus he was fearful of a military uprising. So he devised his own plan. He invited the Magi to his palace and asked that when they found this newborn King they would return to him with the news “so he might go and worship him also.” This was a lie. He planned to kill the child and thus get rid of his problem.
How familiar this reaction to an obstacle is for me, and maybe you too. We see that our wrongdoing might be revealed, someone might see the real us, or our mistake might be made public and we devise a plan. Our plans probably don’t involve murder, but they do involve a cover up or a “softening” of the truth. The real truth is that God is willing to forgive and forget the whole thing. He can even take the bad we have done and turn it into good. Herod completely misunderstood the reason for Christ coming. Christ didn’t want Herod’s throne, He wanted to be King of Herod’s heart.
PRAYER: God, I praise You for coming as a loving and compassionate Savior and not a military ruler. Help me to see Your love for me when my own plans have gone wrong. I’m sorry for wanting to take your throne and ask You to be the King of my heart today.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:1-3 NIV).
By Hally Franz –
A few friends and I gathered this morning to begin a Bible study based on the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. The book examines the story of two Biblical sisters, one consumed with household details as Jesus comes to visit, the other who simply sits to enjoy His company. The first question we were asked to consider was whether we relate to or view ourselves more as a Martha-type or Mary-type person. We each weighed-in on the matter, and I immediately felt connected to the other woman who identified with Martha.
There are a thousand ways to identify or label ourselves in this culture. Recently, we were immersed in words like: democrat, republican, libertarian, conservative, pro-life, pro-choice, red states and blue states. And, to a greater or lesser degree, each of us assumes some combination of those as our own.
We all lean either toward introversion or extroversion. Our children attend schools with other kids – kids who all label one another as jocks, band kids, drama queens, farm boys and emos. Our diverse world includes tree-huggers, homeschoolers and social climbers.
Our population includes folks from other cultures and parts of the world. My husband is a first-generation American son of German immigrants. He’s broad-shouldered, blue-eyed and blond, a stereotypical German. We have friends that are equally Irish and Italian.
When it comes to matters of faith, there are Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics and Baptists, and that only covers the Christian denominations. It goes on and on….
These labels help us to make associations with others in our community, country and world. They enable us to more easily connect with like-minded individuals. However, if we lack an appreciation and genuine love for all types of people, these same identifiers can become divisive.
Martha learned from Mary. Our elected officials are challenged and made better by opposing opinions. Introverts laugh at the jokes of extroverts, and kids can develop tolerance by sitting in class next to those unlike themselves. We grow and we learn, and, hopefully, we remember the one label that every one of us shares. Each one of us is a CHILD OF GOD!
At a time when our world seems divided, let’s remember our shared connection at Christmas!
PRAYER: Almighty Father, it’s easy to separate ourselves from those who differ from us. But, at this time of Christian joy and peace, help us all to keep in mind the truth that we are all children of God, created by You and benefactors of Your gift of salvation.
“He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one” (John 11:51-52 NIV).
By Mollie Bond –
Stacy clamped onto her new adoptive mother and stared as the van gained speed down the mountainside. She didn’t cry as Colombia passed into a memory. She crusted into a stoic two-year-old. She didn’t say goodbye to her birth mother who dropped her off at the orphanage frequently. Then she would return again after a week or two. This time Stacy wouldn’t be at the orphanage.
Stacy couldn’t stop crying. After being in the United States six months, she stopped as quickly as she started. It was as if she put her anguish into a box, and hid the grief for fourteen years.
Now, a shattered Stacy sat with her parents on one side of the table; a representative from the adoption agency sat on the other side. The previous night she and her adoptive parents tried to determine what was best for Stacy’s illegitimate daughter. It came time to sign away her rights.
Stacy’s father began the meeting. “Fourteen years ago, a woman made a difficult choice. She gave her child something she couldn’t provide.” Stacy’s body went rigid with the overwhelming memories. She leaked a tear that became a rush of emotion. This anguish wasn’t satisfied with stuffing the emotions back into the depleted box. This pain refreshed her and her decision. In a moment, Stacy realized that her birth mother loved her, and that her mother did a very brave thing. She also saw the significance of her adopted parents, and their unconditional love because she now felt that same love for her new daughter. Healing began that day. Freedom brought relief from crying.
We too must grieve our former lives and realize we now live a better life under God’s care through adoption. We can welcome freedom and love as we see others being loved. Sometimes giving up circumstances or people frees us, and them, to enjoy a new situation.
Are there changes at work? Is a friend moving? Is there someone unforgiven in your life? Who in your life needs to be released? Give up treasured people so you can receive treasures from others. Hand them over to their adoptive Heavenly Father, who has a much better plan for them than you can provide.
PRAYER: Father, I’m glad You’ve taken me in as Your own. Help me to release those people and situations to You so that they can be taken into Your family. I grieve what I wanted, but know You will give something better in return. Thank You for being my Father.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14 NIV).
By Janet Morris Grimes –
I used to wonder if it was possible to have a relationship with a building. An inanimate structure. Four walls made of brick and mortar. They don’t move. They don’t feel. They don’t respond. Or so I once believed.
But now I know better.
Home. If anything, the past four years have taught me that ‘home’ is one of the most powerful words in the English language. Home is the last place our family resided together. Home was the place the friends of our kids gathered with an open invitation. Home was the place we grew up; learned to be a family, let our guard down to renew our strength to face the challenges of each day.
Defined as ‘the physical structure where one may live; a house or apartment, I realized that when painted with laughter, love and cherished memories, ‘home’ becomes much more than a physical structure. ‘Home’ is a point of reference reserved in the heart that means completely different things to different people. This is proven by the countless songs written about the winsome nostalgia and belonging of ‘home.’
None of these are more powerful than the recent hit by Miranda Lambert entitled The House That Built Me. She tells the story, perhaps her own, of a person who has left home and longs to make one last visit to her childhood home.
I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing.
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself.
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothin’ but a memory
From the house that built me.
We have lived in two different apartments since we left our home behind. And those have been fine. And to be honest, God has used this entire experience to sever my ties to things, and for that I am thankful.
But still, there are moments that my heart hurts and I truly miss it. I miss the harmony I felt when I walked through the door. I miss the way I thought it was part of the forever plan for our family. I miss decorating it for Christmas or baking chocolate cakes in the kitchen. I miss the friends who would drop by unannounced.
And then I remember Heaven, and how no structure here on earth was meant to be a permanent dwelling anyway.
How wonderful that home will be for all of us.