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Archive for the ‘WONDER’ Category

“What is your favourite Christmas tradition?”

It doesn’t happen often, but that question left me without a response.

In the years that our kids were children, we had many Christmas traditions. 

The cookies left out for Santa. The Christmas dresses for the girls, picked out and purchased by their dad. The Sunday School productions and school concerts. Driving through neighbourhoods to see the light displays. Going to the tree farm to pick out the best tree ever. The box of used books for the kids to spend Christmas Eve day reading (after having cleaned their bedrooms). Plus so many more!

As I sat at the women’s event, trying to come up with a tradition that has grown up with us, that could be well communicated to a tableful of strangers, I was instantly, frighteningly without a response.

Traditions are beautiful opportunities to celebrate the permanence and stability within a family, workplace or community. They give us opportunities to have clear, shared expectations, memories and anticipations to come in the future.

Days later I was sitting by the lit Christmas tree, thinking of my three, and the mountains of various heights that they were climbing. I was moved to give them and the current events in their lives, to God in prayer.

How easy it is to be reminded to pray when sitting in front of a lighted Christmas tree. It is as though the lights whisper to my soul.

It makes me think of the name Hagar gave to God, 

“So Hagar gave this name (El-roi) to the LORD who had spoken to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “Here I have seen the One who sees me!”” (Genesis 16:13)

The God who sees me …

That is what I experience when I an sitting by the Christmas tree lights … a sense, a reminder that God can see me, for who I am, and I am drawn into his presence as the lights illuminate the room.

And, each Christmas, I sit by the Christmas tree, glowing with lights, and am drawn to bring my loves to Him, to lay them … their burdens at his feet, all the while sensing profoundly that he sees them, that he sees me.

It is not a Christmas tradition, limited to childhood. For it is beyond the cookies and dresses and gifts and carols and all of the Hallmark moments … for it is the gift that can be handed down from generation to generation.

And I pray it is. I pray that our children will know the joy of having seen the One who sees them. That is the tradition that I want to share.

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Wood Pile by Robert Ammon

“when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile”

and it all made sense.

The teacher was reading a picture book to the high school class for devotions, because sometimes the best stories were written for children … children who never grow up.

It was a story I was familiar with, one that I had read many time to our three, one that our family loved.

I am so familiar with the story I could retell it almost word for word. Yet … those words ignited my imagination as though for the first time.

The story is called A Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt. It is written as a folktale about three trees, and the hopes and dreams that they each have for their futures.

One dreams of holding treasure, the second of being a strong sailing ship and the third just dreams of spending her life growing tall and pointing to heaven.

Their dreams are not fulfilled as they had imagined. The one is roughly crafted into a box. The second into a boat. The third was cut into strong timbers, then left on the woodpile.

What happened next is, what Paul Harvey would call “the rest of the story”.

The first tree, crafted into a box, became a feed manger for animals, then, one night he was re-imagined into a bed for a newborn baby.

The second tree, a small fishing boat, full of passengers, encountered a terrible storm, one that surely could have toppled it, until one of those in the boat stood and demanded peace on the waters, and all was still.

The third tree …

“when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile”

she had been left on a wood pile, dreams and all.

All of a sudden I saw the faces of dear people in my life whose dreams have been left, forgotten like beams on a woodpile.

The woman whose husband died too soon. The lady whose dreams of motherhood just keep getting dashed. The one who just wants someone to come  home to each night. The one who wants health and happiness for her children. The one who …

Many of us have had seasons when we, too, have felt that our dreams and lives have been forgotten, left for dust to gather and hopes to fade.

Not only does it seem that our dreams are gathering dust, but that they (we) have been forgotten by the one who first placed the dreams within us.

Like the third tree, left on the wood pile, there was and is a plan … just not always in the timing or the one that we imagine. 

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,”
says the LORD. “
And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8


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As I was joining the pieces of the Christmas tree together, the skin on my littlest finger got squeezed between the two metal pieces. In an instant both blood and tears were falling.

A tissue took care of the blood, but the tears … they kept falling.

After a bit of time and ample tears I found myself thinking, why am I crying? It was as though that momentary, physical pain provided excuse to let the inner aches out … all at once.

Then I remembered leading devotions last week, as school. When I asked if there were any prayer requests, a student had said “can we pray for those who struggle at Christmas time?”

Like the physical pain that opened the dams to my tears, the approaching of the joy-filled season of Christmas can expose the injuries and heartaches causing a gushing of sorrow and tears to unexpectedly pour out to the surface.

Christmas can be painful, pain-filled and lonely for some.

The reasons may differ from one person to the next. They may include missing loved ones or relationship struggles, hopelessness or defeat, past pain or poverty, or any number of personal reasons why the festive season is not so festive. 

Those, who hurt, are not alone,

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18

The Matthew Henry Commentary says, of this verse:

” It is the constant practice of real believers, when in distress, to cry unto God, and it is their constant comfort that he hears them. “

God hears.

God sees.

God knows.

In this season of celebration of the birth of the Saviour, He is still saving, still comforting, still wiping the tears of those who cry. 

He is near to the brokenhearted.

As his hands and feet, we can also lift those who may be hurting this Christmas, to the one who will stay close to them.

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We are walking in the season of light, in the season of darkness.

As I sit in the quiet of my living room, taking in the light of the Christmas tree, I am amazed at the light it provides, how such dainty bulbs can illuminate the room on such a dark night.

Christmas is about the light of the life of Christ, illuminating a world in the midst of the darkest darkness … a world filled with and ruled by sin.

Sin is a hard thing to talk about. It is not an in word to use. It doesn’t feel good, because other, uncomfortable words accompany it. Words like guilt and shame. Those are the darkest of words to one’s soul.

It is not that they are the wrong things to accompany sin, for they belong together perfectly. 

The good news is that when Christ came, as that babe in Bethlehem, he did so to take away our guilt, our shame, our sin. His birth, his life, pushed away the darkness of our guilt, and shame and sin. He lit with world with his light, illuminating all the dark corners of our life.

John 1:5 reminds us, 

“The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The darkness still has not overcome it.

Sure the world has dark corners, sad world events, politics that make us shake our heads, sickness that … makes us sick, heartaches that carry the weight of the world, relationships that just seem impossible …

and then Jesus comes, and says, “I’m possible”,”my light is still shining” …

and the darkness … it still has not overcome it.

Look toward the light, it’s still shining.

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I was recalling the other day the absolute joy it was when our three were still little, and they had an advent calendar to help count down the days until Christmas. They lived for that countdown.

We all have countdowns that we live for … graduations, weddings, pay day, Fridays, snow days (well, I do), Birthdays. These countdowns help to develop and grow anticipation for a desired event.

Anticipation is what God’s promise of a Saviour was to the Jews, and is to many believers around the world. The Jews were the anticipators of Jesus’ first coming, and we all share in the anticipation of his second.

Advent, is the season of anticipation.

“Be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.” He spent his days in the Temple teaching, but his nights out on the mountain called Olives. All the people were up at the crack of dawn to come to the Temple and listen to him.” (Luke 21:34-38)

May our anticipation have us “up at the crack of dawn to come … and listen to him.”

Give us ears to hear, O God, 
and eyes to watch, 
that we may know your presence in our midst 
during this holy season of joy 
as we anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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“It’ll hurt, but once we rip the bandaid off, it’s over” said one of my parents when I was a young child, with an owie, covered by a bandaid.

They were right. It did hurt to pull it off, but not nearly as long or as much as I had feared. 

We are just days away from the advent season, which heralds in a new year in the church calendar. We go from the old of this year towards the coming of Jesus … something we need to go towards.

I only just realized recently that advent is the beginning of the year, not the end. As Christians we are to start the year in anticipation, for advent means to come, as we celebrate Jesus’ first coming, as a babe, and anticipate his second promised coming.

As I read about the Sunday Next Before Advent, one of the Gospel readings led me to John 1, and I was particularly intrigued by verses 35-37:

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 
When he saw Jesus passing by, he said,
“Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this,

they followed Jesus.

John (the Baptist) had followers, in this passage they are refereed to as his disciples. He was their leader, their teacher, and they were his students. They followed him because they wanted to hear what he said.

His primary teaching was about the Messiah … the long anticipated redeemer, the light of the world.

“There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” (v. 6-8)

John led his followers to the light he was born to point to. He knew that it was Jesus’ light that all should follow.

“He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” (v. 15)

These words are intriguing, for John was born before Jesus. It was when his mother, Elizabeth, was greeted by Mary, the mother of Jesus, that John made his very first movements, in utero. John knew that Jesus had existed before the beginning of time, for he was known by Jesus even before he was born.

“John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (v. 23) 

Over, and over, John pointed to Jesus.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” (v. 29-30)

John was constantly reminding people that he was not who they were looking for, but that he knew who they wanted to find.

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 
When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, 
“Look, the Lamb of God!”
When the two disciples heard him say this, 

they followed Jesus.” (v. 35-37)

John was so good in his leading of people to Jesus that, when his followers saw him, they left John, heading off to follow Jesus. It was as though John had been their bandages, initiating their healing from sin, but when Jesus was near, it was time to rip that bandage, and go towards the great physician.

As we begin a new Christian calendar year, may we remember that he alone can set us free, not just from the bandages of the year past, but the bondage that they have on us.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

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Just last week, while sitting in our living room, chatting with hubby and our oldest daughter, something caught my eye.

A bright light was calling my attention away from those in front of me. As I looked beyond my daughters head to the night sky outside the window I was transfixed to the moon. It seemed so much brighter in it’s fullness, illuminating the clouds the as they quickly passed over it, providing a peek-a-boo experience for my eyes.

I was transfixed, mesmerized by the wonder of it’s brightness, it’s beauty.

“I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth”
Joel 1:30

Why, in the prophesies of the coming Messiah, would Joel tell us that God will display wonders in the sky and on the earth? (and the words that follow remind us that they are not all beautiful visions). Why not just say that the saviour is coming and leave it at that?

Maybe it is because we humans are pretty rooted to our earthly lives.

Maybe he knows that it takes some effort to get our attention.

Like the brightness of the moon, that pulled my eyes, my full attention from my earthly loves, God needs to use the extraordinary to get our eyes, our attention, when he is about to do something extraordinary … and the birth of a saviour, a redeemer, the propitiation or the reconciler by his blood, is the most extraordinary of all.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.”

“Taking up her shawl, Mary went to the cave entrance and gasp at the night sky Was it her imagination that one star shone more brightly than all the others? It was like a shaft of light breaking through the floor of heaven and shining down on the City of David. Had not the prophet Joes said the Lord would display wonders in the sky and on the earth when the Saviour came?” (From the book Unafraid: Mary, by Francine Rivers).

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