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Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Mulling

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
…and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4: 8-9b NIV

When I first decorate my home for Christmas everything looks so beautiful! Even though it is a lot of work I still say things like “I just love Christmas!” or “Christmas is my favorite time of year.”

And then it’s over. The candles have burned down to a nub and there is wax on my favorite tablecloth. My pretty holly dinner dishes are clean but stacked on the counter waiting to be packed away for another year. The cute cookie tins that were full of cookies just a few days ago now contain only a few stale crumbs. Our once beautiful tree now looks wilted and the bottom of the tree looks naked without the gifts skirting the base. As my eyes cruise the room I see stacks of unwrapped gifts everywhere that are waiting to find their new home. Piled up at the back door are several large garbage bags full of crumpled wrapping paper and crushed bows that are waiting to make their way to the curb for tomorrow’s trash pick up. I am finding it hard to believe that jut a few days ago everything was picture perfect.

This scenario reminds me that the glitter of life always leave us feeling let down and unfulfilled. No matter how beautiful and appealing the things of life are they are only temporary. The aftermath of a holiday, or a party, or a nice vacation can leave us feeling disappointed, lonely, and depressed. The truth is that there is absolutely nothing in this life that can satisfy our inner soul but Jesus and doing the work that he has given us to do.

I love my family and I cherish the time we have together but when Christmas is over and there is nothing left but hugging everyone good-bye and cleaning up the mess I must admit that I get a little depressed. I have even been known to shed a few tears. I think that this year I would be wise to guard my heart and move on in a positive way. I think that first on my agenda will be sitting in my favorite chair and sipping a hot cup of cranberry-orange cider as I mull over some of the very wonderful events of the holiday. Yes, reflection is exactly what I need.

What will I mull over? I think that I will try to think about the things that can’t be purchased and things that are true and noble. I want to think about things that are right and pure. I will choose to think about lovely and admirable things. I will mull over things that are excellent and praiseworthy.

To start with I will close my eyes and inhale the refreshing aroma of my Frasier Fir. Even after the ornaments have been removed the fragrance will still remain. Our Christmas tree will serve as a reminder that Jesus died on a tree and because of that I am forgiven.

I will also think of our delicious Christmas dinner. I love to sit a pretty table and prepare delicious food. Even though only a few leftovers remain I can still remember the good meal and the fellowship as we sat around the table. God’s provision is always something to give thanks for. Now this memory triggers my mind to think about how God continues to provide for me in unique and amazing ways every day. I am blessed and privileged to be under his Almighty wing of protection.

Another memory would be the twinkle in my grandchildren’s eyes on Christmas morning. The innocence of childhood and the faith of little children is something to imitate. Jesus has said that we need to come to him with the simple faith of little children.

Moving on I begin thinking about the music of Christmas. My all time favorite is “Mary Did You Know?” and perhaps for the last time this year I will hum that tune and play those lyrics over again in my mind.

The tree lights are still twinkling and as they twinkle I know that Jesus is my hope. He is the light in a very dark world. This year I am thankful for all of the gifts that I received, but at this moment I want to think about all of the rich gifts that God so generously gives me over and over again. They are his priceless gifts of love, peace, joy, and hope.

Still looking around the room I see splashes of red everywhere and this too, serves as a beautiful reminder to me of Jesus’ shed blood. It was his own precious blood that he shed for my salvation.

I must say that now my spirit is refreshed, but I think that my body is in need of a much needed nap. So what’s one more day? I believe that tomorrow I can clean up the Christmas mess with a smile on my face as I look forward to January and the start of a new year.

I believe that this year I have discovered a four step program for phasing out of a busy but beautiful Christmas.

Step 1 – Reflect on meaningful moments
Step 2 – Rejoice in the birth of Christ
Step 3 – Rest
Step 4 – Resolve to move ahead

This year my plan for moving ahead is to read all four of the gospels. Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but I now want to walk through the thirty-three short years that he walked on this earth. The winter months will be a perfect time for doing this.


How does Christmas leave you feeling?

What are your favorite Christmas memories?

Do you think that the four step program of Reflect, Rejoice, Rest and Resolve might be of benefit to you?


Dear Jesus,

Thank you for the joy that I have experienced this Christmas season. Thank you for the music of Christmas that has carried me to heavenly heights. Thank you for my family that gathered together. Thank you Jesus, that you are the reason for this Christmas season. Thank you for the delicious sweet treats that I have enjoyed that remind me that your name is indeed the sweetest name on earth. Lord, I am tired so please give me your peace and rest. I know that you too rested after your work. Jesus I ask that you give me your direction and purpose for the days ahead. I pray that you would create within my heart a deep longing and desire to know you more as I seek to have your thoughts become my thoughts.

Now Lord, I pray for those who may not have had a wonderful Christmas. Jesus please wrap your arms of love around the poor, the needy, the sick, the lonely, the solider, and the one who is grieving. Father, please grant peace to each hurting life and give them a double portion of your love. Send hope into their heart. Comfort them and provide for them in the days ahead. Please help them to look to you for the grace they need to get through this difficult time in their life.

In Your Name I Pray. Amen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas In the Garden

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

Even on a day when there is so much to do I feel I must spend time in the garden. The garden is especially beautiful this time of year. Freshly fallen snow and holly bushes bearing the brightest red berries that I have ever seen, welcome me to the garden. Poinsettias provide a blanket of red on a nearby hill. The air is crisp and dozens of red cardinals fly first here and then there. They are incredibly beautiful birds! God’s color combinations are always perfect. Dark tree bark provides outstanding contrast against the pure white snow. Evergreens and holly bushes add a stately background of green that allows the vibrant accents of the red cardinals, the holly, and Nandina berries all project their beauty. This winter scene is a breathtaking vision of splendor. My garden parades beautiful Poinsettias and amaryllis up and down every pathway. Yes, I know that Poinsettias and amaryllis bulbs freeze in a cold environment but in the garden of my heart I can have it all!

During my time of personal prayer and reflection the Master Gardener seems to sense that I am cold. Even though I am appropriately dressed I cannot deny the chill. He smiles and says come with me. The Gardener invites me to come and sit by the fire that he has built in one corner of the garden. I reach down in my bag and pull out a thermos of hot chocolate and two mugs. At the last minute I add a peppermint candy cane. He smiles and says, “You remembered.” Yes, the cane is the shape of an upside down “J” that stands for Jesus. The pure white peppermint serves as a reminder that Jesus takes away our sin and makes my heart as white as snow. The three stripes of red that twist around the candy cane stand for the three wounds of Jesus and I am reminded that it is by his bloody stripes that am I healed. Yes Lord, I remember. How could I forget? You are so precious to me.

Never mind that I have much to do, I must continue to stay in the garden. The day has now turned to night. The heavenly stars twinkle and the full moon is perfect. All day long I have been with Jesus and it has been a wonderful day. Before leaving the garden Jesus takes me back to a place long ago. In my mind I see a lowly stable. I see Mary gazing into the eyes of her child and her Savior. I see Joseph standing guard over Jesus and realizing that someday he would grow to depend upon this now helpless baby. The stable is quiet except for an occasional sound from the animals. The moon and the stars above the stable provide all of the light that they need. But even if the stars should dim the Christ child would shine because he is the light of the world. And now the guests begin to arrive. They are lowly shepherds coming with their sheep. The shepherds bow at the manger in worship. They have come not to worship a child but to bow before the King.

As I leave the garden I feel abundantly blessed and lavishly loved. I am truly amazed that God would choose to leave the splendor and glory of heaven and come to earth for me and for you. He was rich, yet he became poor. What kind of love is this?


Have you taken time this season to focus on Jesus and his entry into our sinful world?

What do you think those who witnessed that Holy night thought about Jesus?

What was the rest of the world doing?


Dear Jesus,

Thank you so much for leaving the splendor and glory of heaven. How very different this world must have been for you. As you grew older were you homesick for heaven and for your Heavenly Father? While you lived on earth did you feel the love of Mary and Joseph? Did you mind being poor? How often did you remember how rich you used to be? Jesus, your birth was only the beginning. Jesus I am humbled when I remember that it was for the moment of the cross that you came to this world. Doing the will of your Father was your only focus. God’s will was your death. Your death was the plan for my forgiveness. Lord Jesus, help me to fall so deeply in love with you that I will be willing to do your will each and every day without question. This Christmas I want to rejoice in your perfect gift to me, my salvation. Jesus thank you for all you have done for me.

In Your name I pray. Amen.