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Archive for December, 2014

 

We are just a day, just hours really, away from the end of 2014. Whatever our experience of 2014, these final moments of this year seem to bring us to a state of reflection.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I certainly do not entertain this year end reflection with enough seriousness. Perhaps that oft quoted statement “those of us who ignore history, are doomed to repeat it,” ought to be inscribed in our inner eyelids. History, either that of our world, or that of our individual lives, causes us to naturally run away, or re-live it, but, if we reflect on our days, perhaps there might be a third response …

learn from it.

As we sit on the cusp of the change from the past to a new year, the time is right to take a few minutes and reflect.

People

We do not live our lives independent of others, but with our lives intertwined with others around us, whether connected by birth, marriage, jobs, or buying our groceries. As we reflect on those relationships, whether intimate, or more superficial, are there areas which need more attention? Are there too many memories of harsh words spoken? Are there things that have not been spoken, because of fear? Do we come to the end of this year, having said all that needed to be said, having listened to what needed to be heard, and having kept quiet when to be gracious was of more value than to be right? We have all failed the people around us, and they have failed us.

Perhaps if we could live the Golden Rule, to treat others as we would desire they treat us, this coming new year …

Environment

We live, not only with people, but also with a world that we are Biblically (Genesis 1:26-30) responsible to care for. Now don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that there is anything that we mere mortals can do to increase and alter the number of days that the Earth will exist, but I do believe that if God, himself, has given the care of the Earth and everything on it, then we need to do all that we can to care for the soil, the water, the air, and all that grows because of these.

Perhaps if we could treat the things in our lives as the gifts, from God, that they are …

Activities

Our time gets divided up by so many worthwhile, and worthless activities … and there is time and place for both. For some a game of hockey, and for others a game of solitaire are ways of spending a quiet evening. For some volunteering on a church committee, and for others checking in on an elderly neighbor are ways of giving to others. For some giving tax deductible gifts of money, and for others random acts of kindness are ways of sharing what we have. Whatever activities we fill our days with, it would be good to remember the words of Socrates, “beware of the barrenness of a busy life.”

Perhaps if we could treat the time we have as the gifts, from God, that it is …

Creator

Who is the Creator to you, to me? It has been said that to know where your heart is, look to where you spend your money, or your time, or where your thoughts rest. So many of us say that God is number one in our life, but would our wallets, our time spent and our thoughts show that to be true?

Perhaps if we could treat our relationship with our Redeemer, as He has treated us …

Perhaps, as we reflect on the year that is almost completed, as we investigate our actions and attitudes, we could all learn to treat all that has been given to us with an attitude of thanks, of respect and of honor. Perhaps then we would have learned from our mistakes, rather than running from or repeating them.

 

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Whether hubby is sipping his morning brew with me, or not, I have not had my morning coffee alone in weeks.

We moved the chairs where each morning, we sit, so as to make room for the Christmas tree. This furniture rearrangement has allowed me new morning companions.

As I sit, sipping my brew, awakening to the day, my attention will be pulled to the deck outside the front patio doors. As the sky just starts to lighten, the tiniest of birds will begin their dance of the dawn. They flutter around, stopping to sip water from the deck floor.

As they dance lightly through their morning ritual, I participate in my own. I read the news, and feel the heaviness from around the world.

But, my attention has been constantly pulled from my heaviness, by the delight of my feathered friends, who are unaware, and unconsumed by the lack of peace in this world.

Just days before Christmas, I finally ‘heard’ the message in my petit little visitors daily dance, as I was listening to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

“And in despair I bowed my head:
There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men

These little birds awaken each day, with not one meal saved for the day to come. They rely on their instincts and on provision every day of their lives. Like our own lives, some days are ones of plenty, and some are days of want.

But, they dance and sing through it all, as though they know the words of John 16:33,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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I love Christmas eve!

I love Christmas morning!

All of the the traditions of Christmas that our family have been able to hold onto, over the years, are tied up in those two days.

My favorite, though, is Christmas morning, after the chaos of days of parties, church services, shopping, baking and wrapping. It is after the breakfast is nibbled, and the gifts are unwrapped, and then quiet contentment fills the room. I often have thought that in that moment, I have the nearest understanding of what peace on Earth might be like. It is like we are bathed in thankfulness that only Christ’s love can create.

It is in those moments that family is truly celebrated, that friends are truly celebrated, that Christmas is truly celebrated.

As you celebrate in the next few days and hours to come, take a moment and just soak in the moments, soak in the love, soak in the birth of the Christ child.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

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Are you tired? Are you weary?

One more weekend, six shopping days, and less than a week before Christmas Day.

Weary is the common word of the season.

It would be a perfectly fitting word for a particular day, just this week, in my life.

In the Bible God speaks to Elijah and to Job in hushed whispers, a still small voice.

Some days I am amazed at how attention-getting that still small voice can be. Days like that particular day this very week, when fatigue was mounting and strength waning, and get up and go had gotten up and gone …

and then, the voice.

The voice through that student who feels safe in your presence, or the one who shares relief in a completed project, or the one that makes ever fibre of you want to reach out and embrace them with a good ‘ol Mamma hug (but you resist because that is so not job appropriate).

During this crazy, long, tiring week I am thankful that God decided to whisper in hushed tones. Through that still small voice of students who try so hard, who are filled with anxiety, who have been so misunderstood for so long that they rarely risk uttering … a whisper.

But, when we are bone tired weary, that can be the perfect opportunity to cease … cease the movement, cease the planning, cease the talking. In our ceasing of movement and noise, our ears are then attuned to the smallest sound, the stillest voice.

On this particular, pre-Christmas, weary day, I came home rejoicing.

God will do whatever is necessary to get our attention … even whisper.

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Luke 2, the well known, oft told story of Christmas.

Even the least likely of those, to read or know the contents of a Bible are familiar with these words.

It starts with talk of a census … order, of the man-made variety. The counting of the people in the land, and all would be counted. Interesting that this is where the great story begins … the remainder of the story orchestrated by Creator God, who was about to send the One who would make every person count, whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, rich or poor.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

Joseph, a man … the law abiding, wife selfless wife-loving, faithful to God man, who also ‘happened’ to be a descendant of David. Mary, a woman who God chose as the vessel through which redemption would come into the world. The babe, born to parents who had not consummated their marital commitment, among filthy barn animals, to a world which would crucify him.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Shepherds, uneducated, unappreciated, smelly boys and men, caring for a most dense beast on this Earth get the scoop on the new baby, by an angel. Despite being able and accustomed to protecting their flocks from the likes of bear and lions, the message from the angel begins with “do not be afraid.” It ends with directions of where to go to find this child, then more angels appear and sing praises to God.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

This familiar text is what Christmas is all about. It is a little, albeit irregular, family, in a foreign land, delivering the King of Kings, in the presence of cow patties and pig slop, and the first visitors were stinky shepherds.

And that is just the beginning of how this babe’s arrival turned all of history and future up-side-down.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
(Luke 2:2-14)

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IMG_1604.JPGThe sign, to the left, perfectly describes my childhood upbringing, when it came to Christmas, and Santa. The rule in our house, growing up, was that if you no longer believed in Santa, you would no longer get gifts from him.

Heck, my younger (but not that much younger) brothers still say they believe in the Easter Bunny, and still get chocolate eggs!

Though I am certain that their are psychological theories about the dangers of lying to your children about such fanciful characters, I am a lifelong believer in the gift of developing imagination, as well as belief in that which is not seen in the hearts and minds of children.

I remember that day. I was about five, or maybe six, when I reasoned that since we had no chimney in our house, Santa must not be real, but that the gifts came from our parents. When I shared my newly found logic with my mum, she replied, “oh, you are so clever! You are right, Santa cannot come down a chimney we do not have. That is why we leave the key to the front door under the mat, so that Santa can let himself in.”

Then, a year or two later when I noticed that wealthier children got better, more extravagant gifts that my brothers and I, and I shared this revelation with my mom. Her response was that “of course Santa cannot afford to give gifts to all the children of the world, so, each year, parents send money to him, and he makes what he can from the money available.

There is, though, a time in the life of each child, when logic erases our belief.

As a decades-experienced adult, I assert that believing in Santa is a healthy foundation.

From this Christmas belief we learn

that not everything can be seen, touched, smelled and understood.

that a time of anticipation, waiting, for something we desire can increase the joy when the waiting is done.

that, writing down what we want can help us to realize what need … what we already have.

that, when we are in deepest need, when the night is darkest, it is a comfort to look up.

that logically hope might seem impossible,

but it is in believing that anything can be possible … with God (Matthew 19:26).

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IMG_1611-0.JPGWhen I was growing up (back in the stone ages), there were two main faces of Christmas; the Christ child and Santa Claus.

Although I did not grow up in a family who was active in their local church, I did not grow up confused by the pair who I grew up connecting to Christmas.

Santa was a good, and gentle man, and the stories of him fed my dreams of a magical character who existed to reward my good behavior.

The Christ child was an innocent baby, who was born to eventually die, so that I would never have to deal with the consequences of my human sin.

One gave,

the other took away.

One was jolly,

the other gave joy.

One lived in the North Pole,

and the other lived in my heart.

 

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