December 14, 2019

The Meaning of Christmas by Ruth L. Snyder


God has prepared my heart for Christmas in several ways this year. In September, a friend loaned me the Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers. The trilogy tells the story of a slave girl in the Roman empire and how she came to understand the freedom and forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ. At our InScribe Conference, I purchased a copy of Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaf's book, The Last Disciple, which is also set in the Roman empire era. These books reminded me that Jesus Christ saves us from the power of sin, but that doesn't mean that our lives will be easy. In fact, following Jesus Christ may require that I give up my life. (This is currently happening to many brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.)

This fall, I joined the praise & worship teams at our local church. For the past two Sundays, I have had the privilege of helping choose and perform the music, based on Advent themes that our Pastor is focusing on leading up to Christmas.

On December first, we sang O Come, O Come Emmanuel.


The Jewish people were longing for a Messiah who would free them from the oppression of the Romans. Many who encountered Jesus Christ thought this deliverance would be a literal, earthly deliverance. When Jesus was crucified, some thought that meant he was not the Messiah. They missed the freedom God offered because they were looking for it in the wrong place.

Today before the service began, I was introduced to a song I had never heard before: Christmas is about the Cross.


Instead of preaching, our Pastor and his brother shared a skit about the struggle Joseph experienced regarding whether he should marry Mary or not after she told him she was pregnant. We closed the service by singing Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne. Often I forget all that Jesus gave up to come to earth!


Sometimes in North America, we focus on the wrong things at Christmas time.

  • We put up Christmas lights and forget about the Light of the World.
  • We sing Christmas carols that celebrate the birth of baby Jesus and forget that Jesus was born to die.
  • We exchange presents and forget about the gifts of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ.
  • We prepare for Christmas day and forget to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus Christ.
  • We put up a Christmas tree and forget that Jesus is the one who gives us eternal life.
It's not necessarily wrong to enjoy Christmas lights, Christmas carols, Christmas presents, Christmas Day, and Christmas trees. However, we need to remember that all of the festivities, feasting, and fun point us to Jesus Christ—to his birth AND his death and resurrection. 

This December, I am remembering it's all about Jesus.



What are you focusing on this Christmas?


December 13, 2019

Drum Roll: My Favorite Christmas Carol is... by Wendy L. Macdonald



It was while homeschooling my children that I happened upon what became my favorite Christmas Carol to sing. Each week in our school year, my kids and I focused on a new hymn to learn. We sang God Save the Queen, O Canada, and the Doxology for a warm-up each morning before singing along with a hymn playing on our CD player. First, we sang the hymn we learned the previous week. And then we sang along with the new one.

A Sick Cow

There was no way we could rely on my musical inability to hit the right notes, never mind know them. I love to sing; however, I was told by a little old lady that I sound like a “sick cow.”

Well, now that I have your sympathy—if not your attention—I’ll continue with my true story (By the way, that comment about my singing was the only English that sweet Italian lady spoke to me in the couple of years I worked in the extended care hospital she lived in—who knew?).   

For a Kid's Heart

Our favorite book and CD series to use for our morning music lessons were: For a Kid’s Heart by Focus on the Family. We enjoyed using all four volumes that were available at the time. I offered my children the choice of singing contemporary praise songs, but they declined and preferred the more challenging classical hymns.  I suspect that because they turned out to have much more musical ability than I have, they needed something way above my meager musical aptitude.

I’m no longer disappointed in my lack because I love to listen to them sing or play songs. And that’s partly why I chose to write about my favorite Christmas carol today. When my kids sang as a trio, it melted my heart. And once they even sang a hymn on the stage together for our former church while they were still shorter than I am. At least one audience member besides me teared up; he was also moved by their sweetness. Anyways, that’s enough boasting. I’m hoping my musical trio not only sing hymns again one day, I’m hoping they return to a fellowship of their choosing.

Drum Roll...

Drum roll … my favorite carol is:  How Great Our Joy!

This German hymn was so much fun to sing together. And because there’s quite a bit of repetition in it, it was easy to break into parts. We loved having solos and then rejoining for the chorus parts. I’m evidence—our family is evidence—you don’t have to have a music degree or any degree of musical ability to include music in your homeschool curriculum.

Passion Paves the Way

Passion paved the way.

There’s plenty of time for your family to get real lessons once you realize there’s a genuine interest budding. (I’m now a fan of Kindermusik thanks to my grandson. Check the link if you have any little ones in your family.)

It’s funny, I had no idea at the time that my children would still be avid fans of their instruments of choice (piano, drums, electric bass-guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar) once they became adults. But they are. Now my toddler grandson has begun playing around with a harmonica. All I can say to all of this is:

 "How great our joy! Great our joy! Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, joy! 

Praise we the Lord in heav’n on high! Praise we the Lord in heav’n on high!"

Christmas Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
 
I’m nosy-to-know if you have “taught” someone something you’re lousy at? 😊 

P.S. You're invited to join me on my blog where I share a true confessional about speeding: Thou Shalt Not Speed   

December 12, 2019

It's All About You Jesus - Guest Post by Caran Jantzen

I had just finished the last of my errands. Now I was ready for the bustle of the next three days of Christmas celebration to begin. Driving home, I sang along to one of Matt Redman's songs on the radio, Heart of Worship.

“I'm coming back to the heart of worship..." I sang out.

I'm not sure if it was my heart or my ears that heard it, but as I sat singing along, I was certain that Matt Redman had just sung the word Christmas in place of worship.

“I'm coming back to the heart of Christmas
And it's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus
I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it
When it's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus”

Fitting, isn't it? I, like so many others, have made Christmas to be about so much more than Jesus, when it really is all about Him. Confession poured out from my lips.

I'm sorry Lord for making it all about the presents. It's all about you, Jesus.
I'm sorry Lord for making it all about the food. It's all about you, Jesus.
I'm sorry Lord for making it all about my comfort. It's all about you, Jesus.
I'm sorry Lord for making it all about the decorations. It's all about you, Jesus.
I'm sorry Lord for making it all about my family. It's all about you, Jesus.
I'm sorry Lord for being so slow to understand this. It's all about you, Jesus.

Even now, I'm not sure I've quite gotten it. A baby. Born in a barn. Surrounded by animals and two loving parents. God became flesh. Announced by angels. Worshiped by Wise Men. King of Kings.

I've been asking and answering the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" a lot in the last few weeks. My answer has always been yes. I've done my shopping early. I've got the wrapping done. We have all the cookies we need. The tree was trimmed weeks ago. I'm ready.

But this afternoon, with the words, "I'm coming back to the heart of Christmas," still ringing in my ears, I'm not sure I'm ready. How much time have I focused on talking, and listening, to God? How much time have I invested in reading His Word? How have I gone beyond my own comfort to help someone who would be so easy to overlook?

Am I ready, like the shepherds and the wise men, who dropped what they were doing to seek out and worship the new born King? Am I ready, like the Christians of the first century, to speak out about my faith no matter what the cost? Am I ready, like Jesus himself did, to surrender to the Father's will, no matter how hard? Am I ready to make it all about Jesus?

Lord, may I find quiet in the middle of this crazy, chaotic, celebratory Christmas season to meditate on this truth. Help me to make this Christmas all about you, Jesus.

December 11, 2019

Christmas Amid Renovations by Carol Harrison

It's past time to put up the small Christmas tree that usually adorns our living room. The ornaments that grace its branches reflect the nativity story but they are still packed in their storage containers waiting to be freed from captivity for a few weeks. The nativity set, well multiple ones, also remain hidden away but I wish they could find a place to sit and remind us of the reason we celebrate the season. The various pieces of everyday decor still sits out instead of switching places with the
Christmas season pieces because there is no room to make those transitions.

Instead my living room, dining area and even bedroom and deck have an assortment of boxes, bags and tubs full of kitchen gadgets, dishes and utensils waiting for their new home in new cupboards. Things we still might need to make a few meals during kitchen renovations grace my dining room table. I can't imagine bringing more tubs of Christmas decorations into this chaos and so they stay hidden away.

How can I host Christmas even if the renovations get completed just in time? After all I won't have my home decorated for the season. The reorganizing all the cupboards and rooms might not be finished so how can we prepare the meal and serve the family? These questions run through my mind and I have a hard time focusing on what I can do instead of what might be difficult.

As I prepared to write this blog, I began to think about that first Christmas in Bethlehem. Mary gave birth to Jesus, our Saviour, in a stable. With Joseph and maybe animals to attend the birth, she wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in the manger. Their visitors were shepherds who came running in from the fields dressed in their sweaty work clothes. But they fell down and worshiped this new-born king because they believed what the angel told them.

Mary had no time to prepare for company. She had no pretty decorations, not even her own home that night. She had no family and friends no fancy wrapped presents and no gourmet meal. Yet it was a night like no other, filled with wonder and angel's songs. God's gift to us arrived that night in humble circumstances and the shepherds, whose testimony was not accepted in a court,  heard the good news first. They responded at once as they rushed to worship Jesus and then told everyone what they had seen and heard.

Can I celebrate amid the chaos of renovation? Can we celebrate Jesus as our Saviour when life hurts and tough things mount up or we suffer a loss? Can we celebrate without all the trappings which I do enjoy? The answer in my heart is a resounding yes even when my head wants to decorate, plan and remain in my comfort zone of tradition.

What will I do to have my heart's yes translate to daily life during this season of my life? I must begin with remembering the reason for the celebration called Christmas and I find that in the pages of Scripture. " But the angel said to them, 'Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests" Luke 2:10-14 Reading the Bible can happen even in the middle of renovation and lack of decorations.

I love Christmas carols especially the old ones that remind me of the birth of Jesus and why he came. There are other, newer songs that also encourage me, help me remember and are part of Christmas traditions I can still enjoy for songs can fill the house with beauty in spite of the mess.

While I wait for new cabinets and a functioning kitchen, I can still visit friends and family even if it is at their place. One of my children can host the meal if it will not work here and we can enjoy food, fellowship and even a present or two. I just need to take it one day at a time while I praise God for the gift of His Son. 

I pray that God might renovate my heart so I can respond like the shepherds on that first Christmas night and rush to be with Jesus and then be excited to tell others of the reason we have to celebrate.
"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.. . . . the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen , which were just as they had been told." Luke 2-16-18, 20 NIV


Yes the chaos of renovation happens to change a few plans. For some a loss, financial problems, broken relationships or illness hamper the glimpses of joy and dampen the feelings of celebration. But may we rush to Jesus just as we are, broken, tired, happy, or sad and give him our hearts and lives. May our worship cause others to be amazed as we glorify God for all he still does today.



Carol lives in Saskatoon. She loves to tell stories and even writes some of them down. She has published two books and has stories published in sixteen anthologies. Carol also loves to help others in their journey as they discover glimpses of hope and glimmers of joy.

December 10, 2019

Beyond the Basic Wish List by Sharon Espeseth

Free Image of Sears Wish Book






Depending on your age, my readers, you may be familiar with Eaton’s or Sear’s Christmas Wish Book. You may remember times in your childhood, or your children’s childhood, when the arrival of the Christmas Wish Book delivered delight and anticipation to your home.






Unsplash Photo by

Annie Spratt








Now, in a more senior season of my life, I am looking forward to the coming of Christmas, still with delight and anticipation, but knowing full well that I don’t need the toys, jewels, or clothes that once turned my head.











What Do I Want for Christmas?




Any time with family is a special time. At Christmas this is especially important. The presence of family is a true gift--one for which we give thanks. Being with and connected to family and loved ones at Christmas is something one can never take for granted.


This Christmas I also want to be mindful of the gifts God gives us--the important, everlasting gifts, like unconditional love, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. These are gifts, but we need to claim them. St. Paul tells the Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)





Spiritual Bonuses

Besides these overwhelming, destiny-changing presents, God gives us spiritual snacks and supports for our heavenward journey. If we want to live abundantly, or travel first-class, we merely need to ask. Jesus reminds us that, compared to earthly fathers who want to give good gifts to their children, God the Father has more resources for giving gifts to those who ask. The gift, may or may not be a new car, but God knows what we truly want and need before we ask.

Praying for the Holy Spirit would be a wise choice. Christ promised he would send the Holy Spirit to be with us and comfort us. If we ask, the Comforter will bring us all kinds of gifts: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)

Promises, Promises. . .

God promises blessing to make our lives more abundant. We’ve all heard, "Promises, Promises. . . ,” sarcastically spoken. But God delivers on his promises. In all circumstances, God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)

We’ll still have our hills and valleys, but God can take care of this too. Isaiah prophesies that every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. (Isaiah 40:4)

Then there are times when God in his wisdom sees that it is better to leave us with our impediments. Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away his “thorn in the flesh,” but the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Grace is another promised gift that is ours for the asking. God’s grace doesn’t depend on our strength or worthiness.

Be Careful What You Ask For

Solomon, young and anxious about becoming king, asked God for “a discerning heart to govern (God’s) people” and “the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.” God was so enthused about his request that he promised Solomon he would be wiser than anyone before him and anyone after him. God’s gift of wisdom made Solomon’s reign unforgettable.

We too can ask for wisdom. In the New Testament, James advises us that if we feel lacking in wisdom, we should ask God. (James 1:5)

Jesus tells us we only need to ask and then we will receive. (Matthew 7:7-8) James warns his new-Christian readers, “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2b-3)

How Do We Ask for Worthy Gifts?

Jesus taught us how to ask for worthy gifts. We begin our prayer with praise and honour to God, Our Heavenly Father. Then we ask for our daily needs. It is wise to ask for deliverance from evil. We can ask forgiveness, but Jesus reminds us that we should also be willing to forgive those who wrong us.

How Can We Grow in Our Spiritual Lives?

Regularly “eating” our spiritual fruits will make life easier. Reading God’s Word and praying will help us grow. Asking for help to be more loving, joyful, patient and kind will foster better relationships with others. Although we can’t regulate how others treat us, we can ask for control over our reactions.

Satisfaction Guaranteed?

By appreciating God’s gifts, we will store up treasures in heaven where thieves can’t get at them. Fancy clothes, furniture, vehicles, gourmet foods--maybe these aren’t the big-ticket items. Christ says, “Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (Matthew 6:25b) Still, Jesus suggests we ask for “our daily bread.” And if we love our neighbour as ourselves, we will share what we have with those who are in need.

As Christ followers, we will be happier if we seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first. The rest will be added on. (Matthew 6:33) The real gifts are the ones that bring us closer to God, closer to our brother and sister, and closer to heaven.

One of the greatest gifts is our adoption into God’s family. As God’s children, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. To share in his glory, however, we are expected to appreciate and share in Christ’s sufferings. (Romans 8:17)

Thank You Notes

With all these spiritual gifts available, let’s remember always, and maybe especially at Christmas, to be grateful that God sent his only Son to come into the world to live among us and to die for our sins. Let us rejoice and be glad that God planned so well for us, his children.



Creche Scene at St. Anne’s Catholic Church
in Barrhead


Paul advises, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6) These gifts that come down from the Father are the good and perfect ones. (James 1:17) Choose well, my friends, and we will be ready to greet Emmanuel when he comes.

Prayer: During this busy, but holy season, Lord, I pray you will teach us to judge earthly matters wisely, to set spiritually meaningful priorities, and hold firmly to heavenly matters. Bless each of our InScribe colleagues and their families and loved ones, especially during this season, when we welcome Christ Emmanuel into our hearts and homes. Amen. 



* Scripture verses are from the New International Version of the Bible.

Revised by Sharon from previous iterations published in Our Family, Offerings in The Edmonton Journal 

December 08, 2019

God with us by Vickie Stam

Gone are the days when the pitter-patter of little feet sounded much like a stampede of reindeer. Wake up! Wake up! our oldest son shouted as he rushed into our room. "Santa was here!" He yelled, as if his announcement might fall on deaf ears.

Indeed, this commotion marked the beginning of a day filled with presents, family and fun. Thirty years later I can still hear those squeals of excitement, the sound of wrapping paper breaking free from the bondage of tape. I can still see the crumpled paper flying through the air like dandelion fluff on a windy day. 

I remember those holidays well. My two boys couldn't wait to put  cookies on a plate with a glass of milk resting next to it. They made sure that the tasty treats were waiting right where Santa would find them and they never forgot to remind their furry four legged friend, "These aren't for you." 

By the end of Christmas day it seemed as if the smell of turkey had nowhere to go. That delicious aroma hung around the house for a few more days. Yes, there were times when Christmas felt magical. 

But, a lot has changed since then. My boys have grown up. The nest is empty. Christmas is quieter. Santa doesn't stop by anymore and my extended family are scattered far and wide.  

Over the years I've held onto the hope that one of these Christmas's my siblings and their children would get together once again. It's been a long time since we all enjoyed a harmonious Christmas gathering, a tradition that we use to carry out year after year. But my mom passed away and life has a way of inserting many other unpredictable changes.  

However, back then I never really exalted the birth of Christ, not like I do today. Just this past Sunday in church the Pastor reminded us that between Malachi and Matthew there was 400 years where God was silent. "Christmas is the return of God being with us!" He said. Many of us live in His presence everyday yet we don't live present with the Lord." 

The presence of God is open to everyone. And yes, our relationship with God is important all year long. We need to be mindful of such an amazing bond. Be ready to embrace both his loud and extreme presence as well as his soft and gentle whispers. 
       1 Kings 19:12 "And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper."

I'm not sure what changes will take place this Christmas but the story of Jesus never changes.



   

December 06, 2019

Mary Did You Know?


Try this. Go to YouTube. Search the Pentatonix version of  Mary Did You Know? Turn up the volume. Close your eyes. Soak up the harmony and let the lyrics go deep into your soul. Listen to the end. You feel it, don’t you?

That’s the feeling of awe.

And that’s why I love Christmas and the music of Christmastime. Mary, the Palestinian Cinderella, inspires some of the best Christmas music.

Mark Lowry crafted the lyrics of the song that’s become a Christmas favourite on par with White Christmas and Silent Night. The lyrics of Mary, Did You Know? ignite imaginations with some of the deepest mysteries of Christmas. Its my favorite Christmas song.

Lowry’s mother, Bev, gave him the spark of his original idea. Mark says, “I just tried to put into words the unfathomable. I started thinking of the questions I would have for her if I were to sit down & have coffee with Mary.”

Did Mary realize the tiny hands of her infant were the same hands that scooped out oceans & formed rivers?

Did she know that “the blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again, the lame will leap, the mute will speak?”

Did she understand that “When you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God?”

 

Christmas, at its core, is a celebration of the Incarnation.

 

Mary is told:

 

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” Luke 1:31


“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 2:35

If anyone knew Jesus was virgin born, it was Mary. Her silence at the cross is proof that her story was indeed true.

The song reminds that the baby to whom Mary gave birth would walk on water, heal the broken, and save us.

Mary’s baby boy is “Lord of all creation” and, in fact, “the great I AM.”

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.’ (Colossians 1:15-17, 20)

Jesus entered our reality to save us, to make us new, to heal us, and to die for us as Heaven’s perfect Savior.

Ready to dial in the Pentatonix song again? Enjoy.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Merry Christmas!

I am a recovering perfectionist who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks iced tea. The walls of our home are adorned with our sons’ framed football jerseys, and my bookshelves, with soul food. 

My writing grows hope, inspires people to be real, forge an authentic faith in Jesus, and discover their life purpose.

Follow my writing and book reviews at REVwords.com

December 04, 2019

So This is Christmas by Susan Barclay


Last December Inscribe blogger Sharon Espeseth gave us a list of writing prompts. This month we've been challenged to develop one.

A friend recently gifted me a copy of Craig Groeschel's Hope in the Dark: Believing God is Good When Life is Not. I'm sure many readers have experienced the unexpected curveballs of life and can identify with the need to know that God hears and is trustworthy. For me, two of those curveballs are the prodigal wanderings of my young adult children.


 
So, this is Christmas this year. Jesus is no longer the reason for the season as far as my children are concerned. And while my daughter will probably always love the gift aspect, my son has come to despise the commercialism. My daughter has already sent me a list of gift suggestions; my son has simply said, "Make me something. Write a song, make some art." My daughter will probably send Christmas cards to her friends, and my son will probably create something for his girlfriend and the rest of us, but otherwise it seems that they don't care about anything - whether there's a tree or decorations, a Christmas Eve service, or a special meal shared with family. 

My husband and I have decided to make this Christmas what we want it to be. A friend and her husband celebrate the holiday with what they call "The Twelve Dates of Christmas." They've been doing this since early in their marriage and always kick off with St. Jacob's Sparkles. Some of their dates cost money, others don't. They try to serve in the community or bless others for at least two of their dates. I've known of their approach for a few years now and been wanting to replicate it. This seems like a good year to try. We need to focus on the joy of the season.

Several years ago I also heard about a 12 days of Secret Santa. In essence, you pick a recipient (preferably someone who is lonely or in need) and bless them over a 12-day period during the lead-up to Christmas. You make or buy small gifts, wrap, and deliver them without making your identity known. I plan to do that this year. We need to focus on the joy of giving without any expectation of  return.

My mom used to worry about our children being robbed of their "Christmas joy" - for example, if they didn't get to watch the Toronto Santa Claus parade on TV - but quite frankly, it's her joy I'm interested in seeing. Part of that involves putting up the Christmas tree, even if my husband and I have to do that alone. Part of it is sitting around the lit tree at night, enjoying the twinkling coloured lights and listening to Christmas carols. We'll watch It's a Wonderful Life; we'll attend a Christmas Eve service. Though we won't go hog-wild (and never have), there'll be packages under the tree to open on December 25th, and we'll cap the day with a lovely Christmas dinner where we use the "good" china. We need to focus on family.

Whether or not our children will listen or participate, we'll light the weekly advent candles, read the Christmas story, and thank God for His most indescribable gift. More than anything else, we need to focus on Him.


 2019 has been a challenging year, but as Groeschel says in his book, 
Jesus told us that even with just a speck of faith as tiny as a mustard seed, we can move mountains... And what if wanting to believe is enough? What if that tiny bit of barely noticeable faith is still pleasing to God? What if simply wanting to believe is the mustard seed of faith?
...do you realize that just a tiny bit of faith is actually extreme faith?
He loves you. He is for you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will never let you down. He may not do exactly what you want. But he is always faithful, no matter how much your circumstances may seem to indicate otherwise... No matter what happens in your life, the Lord is in his holy temple.
My husband and I recently had the chance to attend Times Square Church in New York City, and heard a song we'd never heard before. I know it's not a Christmas carol, but I hope you find the joy and truth in it.


Have a blessed Christmas.
___________________
You can find out more about Susan Barclay's writing at www.susan-barclay.blogspot.com

December 03, 2019

A Mary's Yes by Lynn J Simpson






I walk on the carved trail lined with evergreen trees, shadows painting images that darken spots on the path and I play a game. Like a child avoiding the cracks on a sidewalk, I skip into the light, skirting the shadows.

A time comes though, when darkened areas only remain, the path overshadowed from an easterly sun dipping low in the sky.  It’s not in my control, the rising and setting sun, the beginning of day and the falling light into night.

Enveloped in the shadows, my footfalls fall now evenly on the trail.

And I think of Mary, the mother chosen by God to birth His Son. When she, this young virgin, questioned the angel Gabriel on how she could conceive a son, he assured her with these words:

“The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”  Luke 1:35

And Mary responded by allowing herself to be fully overshadowed, stepping into obedience through her devotion to the Lord to the disregard of her own interests.

“And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke1:38

Oh, what trust Mary had to allow God to overshadow her completely! Her future of marrying Joseph, setting up house, having a family in her community were turned over to the Lord. She risked being shunned by her community, being rejected by Joseph, and possibly living in poverty. Yet, as a bondslave to the Lord, she gave herself completely over to be used to advance His kingdom among men.

Have I ever trusted like Mary, letting God overshadow me, outweigh my own interests and plans? Or is my heart contrite, leaning into my own self-sufficiency and pride so I think I have control of my future?

Mary leaned into the will of God. And God took care of her. Her future did include marrying Joseph, having a family, continuing close ties with her community. Yes, there was also sorrow and pondering in her heart—life challenges. For none of us, since the fall of Adam and Eve, are without our human experience trials.

I see the end of the trail in the near distance, a few dozen steps away. The path opens wide where I know a bridge crossing transfers me over a mountain river onto a wooden boardwalk that ends where I began.

I trust these mountain trails carved between and enveloped with evergreen trees. Do I trust the Lord as Mary did? How am I a bondslave to the One who made us, loves us, is endlessly merciful, and promises to sustain us? 

Do I allow God to envelope me in His shadow?

As Christmas approaches, may we challenge ourselves to trust and be faithful to the Lord as Mary did when the angel appeared. Like Mary, let’s answer “yes” as His bondslaves, honouring the One who made us by being obedient to His calling of advancing His kingdom as Jesus taught us.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13

Have a Christ-filled Christmas season!

 You can read more of Lynn's musings on faith and life at Lynn J Simpson