The amazing, astonishing, startling, unexpected grace of Christmas

I pieced the shepherd back together yesterday.

One night while I was out this past week, apparently there was a crash, the kind that happens when child meets breakable object.  The shepherd in our nativity took a tumble and  was left in pieces.  His lamb was missing wool.  He was missing a hand and a foot and a corner of his robe.

So, I puzzled it out piece by piece with a bottle of super glue until he looked presentable again.

This isn’t the first brokenness in our nativity.

There’s a wise men who has had some patching up, as well.  A few years ago, he crashed and lost his head and a foot.  Super glue saved the day then, too.

I bought the set years and years ago for $6 at a church yard sale, and I love it.  Truly love it.  It’s not porcelain white with gold trim.  It’s not handcrafted wood.  It’s not expensive or fancy.  It was a bargain,  well-loved, used, and slightly the worst for wear.

It’s been a little broken even from the beginning for me.  Our donkey came to us with one ear missing.  So, this little set has some history.

But I love it. There’s something about these figures that draws me, their individual expressions and personality,  the colorfulness of it all, maybe.

Maybe the beauty is simply this: Jesus didn’t come all pristine and showy.  He didn’t come gilded or gorgeous, lofty and high.

He came so low.  He came to  the humblest and the small.  He came to the broken.

He came to us.

I see this heart in Mary when she sang with astonishment at the angel’s message.  She would be the mother of the Savior! Her!  Not some princess or queen, not a woman of position and power, not a matriarch of a rich family,

Young.  Single.  Poor.

Mary sang:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name (Luke 1:36-49).

Her song rings with astonishment.  Not just that God would do  this miraculous work, but that He would do these great things “for me.”

In his book, Hidden Christmas, Timothy Keller writes:

We should be just as shocked that God would give us—with all our smallness and flaws—such a mighty gift.

God  does this.  He chooses the humble.   Scripture reminds us of God’s heart:

Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud
(Psalm 138:6 NLT)

The Lord supports the humble, but he brings the wicked down into the dust.
(Psalm 147:6 NLT)

For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.
(Psalm 149:4 NLT)

So he chooses this girl Mary, and when He does she marvels at the way this is so topsy-turvy, so against the world’s expectations and plans:

He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty (Luke 1:51-53). 

He has blessed not the mighty, but the humble,  not the rich, but the hungry.

How startling that God would choose her.

And he chooses simple shepherds.  He chooses foreigners, Gentiles, from a far off nation to carry the gold and the frankincense and the myrrh to worship this new King.  He chooses the tiny town of Bethlehem; He chooses a stable, not a palace in the capital city.

How startling that God would choose them. 

It’s an astonishment we need ourselves:  How startling that God would choose us:  love us, save us, call us, use us.

Us!  Yes, us, the broken ones gathered around the nativity, held together by super glue with our cracks still evident upon up-close inspection.

 

Timothy Keller continues in his book this way:

“no Christian should ever be far from this astonishment that ‘I, I of all people, should be loved and embraced by his grace!” (Hidden Christmas)

It’s a surprise that shakes us out of complacency and into awe-filled worship.  Our God, so mighty, so worthy of praise, He “has done great things for me!”  Yes, He has done this even for me, even when I was lost, even when I’m imperfect, even when I mess up, even when I’m broken, even when I don’t  have it all together.

Such grace.  Such amazing grace.

Losing, Looking, Seeking and Finding Christ this Christmas

Who knew at least 25% of my life as a mom would be looking for other people’s stuff?

One day you hold  a beautiful  infant in your arms and 12 years later,  you’re answering an endless stream of the same-old, same-old questions.

“Mom, have you seen….?”

“Mom, where did YOU put….” (Because obviously you must have moved it.)

“Mom,where’s my….?”

Today alone, I have already found a costume piece, a missing outfit, and a pair of shoes.  Plus, I am engaged in an ongoing hunt for a dress that  apparently walked out of a closet.

Earlier this week, I sat at the kitchen table helping one daughter with schoolwork while another daughter frantically huffed around the house.

She shuffled papers on the piano.  She tossed books around in the book bin.  She slammed desk drawers and closet doors.

I prodded her with a few standard investigative questions.  “Where did you last have it?  When was the last time you saw it?”

She just knew she put it on the piano, 100% absolutely sure . Someone must have moved it.

I let her search while I doggedly continued the study session with my other kid.  Finally, though, I looked up at this increasingly stressed child  and said, “I feel like I saw you fold that paper up into a square as we headed out the door somewhere.  Maybe in your coat pocket?   Maybe in your Bible?

Ding ding ding!

I carried that victory around as a moment  of superior Mom-ness.  Finding something without even getting up to look, that is worth serious parental points right there.

Hunting and finding.  Searching and seeking.  Looking and tracking.

This Mom-life has made me watchful and aware, and maybe that’s more than just a good Mom-skill.  Maybe that’s a heart-skill we need, especially at Christmas.

Because, right there in the busiest of seasons, if we stop being watchful and aware, we can miss out on Christ right in the middle  of Christmas.

The shepherds looked up on that holy night.  As the angels crowded into the night sky, the shepherds could have run in fear, cowered into rock crevices, hid their faces, and waited for life to return to normal so they could get back to watching those good-old sheep.

Instead, they looked up.   They listened.  They watched their flocks by night and they watched the angels worship, and they pursued the Savior.  They had to leave those Bethlehem hills and follow the instructions they’d been given.  A manger.  Swaddling clothes.  This baby.  Christ the Lord.

The wise men looked up, too.  They watched the night sky, they studied the stars.  They dug deep into ancient texts and lived in awareness.

Then, instead of shrugging off an anomaly among the stars, they packed up belongings, kissed loved ones goodbye, and set off on a journey to who knows where to find really who knows what.

They were searchers, seekers, treasure hunters, and they were finders.

Then there’s Simeon, who waited in the temple to see the Messiah.  He watched as people filed in and out, families coming for festivals, couples carrying babies to be dedicated.

He saw the One he’d been waiting for all because he kept his eyes open.  He looked and kept looking and never gave up looking until a poor carpenter walked in with a young bride who carried in her arms a baby named Jesus.

Shepherds.  Wise Men.  Simeon.

They all lived watchfully.

Others missed out.  When those wise men arrived in Jerusalem and asked King Herod about this one who was born “King of the Jews,” he called for religious scholars to fill in the blanks.  They knew the prophecy.  The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

But they didn’t go.  They shrugged off the visit from these foreign seekers and stayed right where they were, pursuing their own religious agendas, doing all of the holy things, and yet MISSING it, MISSING Him.

Max Lucado writes,
“They reported to Herod that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Did they not read the prophecy?  Yes, but they did not respond to it.  You’d think at a minimum they would have accompanied the magi to Bethlehem.  The village was near enough.  The risk was small enough.  At worst they would be out the effort.  At best they would see the fulfillment of prophecy.  But the priests showed no interest” (Because of Bethlehem p. 78).

During this holy season, how can we choose the better thing, to be aware of God on the move?

How can we wake each day with watchful anticipation, asking God to let us see Him?  To not miss Him?  To go where He is and to worship Him right there?

Let’s look and let’s listen and live watchfully, so we can see Jesus and we can worship.

This is the invitation to go together and not alone

“I want to come!”

This is my son.  He lives in a constant state of high-alert awareness, making sure no one in the family goes out for an adventure or for some fun without bringing him along.

We plan a movie day, just me and my girls to see a film that isn’t animated and isn’t going to hold the interest of my active four-year-old boy.

Somehow, though, without us talking to  him or even talking near him so he’ll overhear us, he manages to catch the word “movies” and pipes up with his current catchphrase, “I want to come!”

This is so hard.

I am an oldest child in a family of 5 kids.  Until I had a youngest child of my own, I had no idea how hard it can be sometimes to be the baby of the family.

He is the one who wants to play, but the others are too old to play.

He is the one who always wants to come even if we’re going somewhere he can’t go.  That means feeling left behind and that breaks his momma’s heart.

So, we try our best.  We draw him in.  We take him whenever we can.   That’s not everywhere and that’s not always, but we do our best.

Right in the middle of decorating our Christmas tree, last weekend, I ran out of working Christmas lights.  It had been a long and busy day full of projects, but unfinished projects are like fingernails on a chalkboard for me.   I cannot do, “let it wait until tomorrow.”

So, off I went, grabbing my bag and prepping for an emergency dash to the Wal-Mart.

My son saw my bag and sure enough said, “I want to come!”

He didn’t even know where I was going.  He just didn’t want to be left out.

Of course, making quick runs into a store is much easier without children along for the ride, but I grabbed his coat and shoes and took him with me because I could.

We drove out of our neighborhood slowly, marveling at all the Christmas lights.  We bought our supplies at the store and as we walked back out, Andrew shouted to a group of unknown bystanders, “Hey, they have a lot of Christmas stuff in there!”  Then we drove back home a slightly different way so we could see the decorations on a whole new set of houses.

The best part  of our unexpected adventure was his presence.  He was there.  He didn’t miss it.  I had drawn him in to the journey and pulled him alongside as a companion and he brought all the joy when wrestling with the lights on that tree had left me joy-depleted.

This is one of the gifts of the Christmas season: Jesus draws us in and He draws us together with others.

This is what He did for Mary, as she was commissioned to be the mother of the Messiah, right when the calling was at its most overwhelming and she could have felt both overwhelmed and all alone.  That’s when the angel said:

And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren (Luke 1:36 ESV).

You’re not in this by yourself.  Come.  Share this experience and this calling with another.

That was the invitation.

It was an invitation to do the hard thing with another rather than all alone.

And the angels made other announcements.  The heavens displayed other signs.  They shared the good news of great joy with a group of shepherds co-laboring in the fields, and a group of wise men studying the skies and ancient texts together.

These men had been working together and searching together.   Now, they became fellow-travelers and fellow-witnesses, bringing their community to Jesus and bringing Jesus to their community.

So much of me wants to hide away and hibernate by the time we hit December.  The calendar has “no more room at the inn” and my depleted resources leave me with little left to give.

But Jesus.

Jesus draws others in.

He brought His very presence right into the middle of the everyday, ordinary, needy lives of people and then invited them to come and not just to come alone, but to come together .

Maybe this Christmas can be a Christmas of invitation for us.  Maybe instead of doing alone and going alone, we can ask another, “Do you want to come?”  It can be last minute, it can be messy, it can be casual, it can be crazy.  It can be formal and planned or it can be made up as we go along.

It can be a prayer as we begin the Advent season, “Lord, draw me to you….and draw me to others.”

 

 

#AnywhereFaith and Christmas

christmas15

Today, I plunked down $0.88 for a new address book.

Then, I laid its 13-year-old, well-worn predecessor to rest.

It was time.

In that old address book, I have crossed out.  I have drawn arrows.  I have swirled over old addresses and entered in new.  I have stuffed envelopes with corrected info into the pages.

This year during ‘Operation Christmas Cards,’ I flipped through that edited mess.  Seven more family members moved this year to new homes in new places.

Most of these are happy moves: The new-job, new-marriage, new-baby kind of celebration.

Others are moves of in-between, of change, of loss and sadness and finding new hope for the future.

Since I have an intense dislike, maybe even horror, of writing in pencil, though, I can’t just erase and start afresh at each new life event.

That’s when I realized the truth.  It wasn’t time for more corrections.  It was time for a completely fresh shart.

It was time to move on.

And it strikes me right at that moment as I fill in the blank pages A-Z, surrounded by Christmas decorations and Christmas cards, that Christmas itself is about moving.

God began that progress, journeying to us:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9 HCSB).

He makes the first move.  He steps into the void we can’t breach, the abyss of sin we can’t possibly cross, and He leaves the glory of heaven for our sake.

Jesus isn’t the only One who moved that first Christmas, though.

“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth” (Luke 1:26).

Mary and Joseph loaded up the donkey and trekked slowly “from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem” (Luke 2:4 HCSB).

The angels arrived on the hillside to announce the Savior’s birth to shepherds and then “left them and returned to heaven” (Luke 2:15 HCSB).

Then, those shepherds in their excitement said, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened” (Luke 2:15 HCSB).

Days later, a man named Simeon was guided by the Spirit and went straight to a GOd-appointed place:  “he entered the temple complex” (Luke 2:27 HCSB).

Wise men from the east searched the night sky and could no longer remain at home, complacent, apathetic, mildly interested but not engaged when they saw the mysterious star.

NO, THEY MOVED.

They committed to the journey, packing camels, loading supplies, asking questions.

They must have left so much  behind:  Family, possessions, homes, a culture they knew and friends they loved.  Maybe they left position and power in the dust in order to arrive in a foreign land as strangers and outsiders searching for a King they couldn’t describe whose name they didn’t know.

Where were they going?  They did not know.  When would their journey end?  They could not say.

Just like Abram long before, the Magi left their homes to travel to an unknown destination for an uncertain amount of time.

Friends must have called them crazy.  Family might have questioned their sanity.

Yet, they kept moving because a star “led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was ” (Matthew 2:9 HCSB).

CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT THE FAITH OF MOVEMENT, ABOUT FAITH IN ACTION.

It’s going anywhere god calls you to go.

 NO STANDING STILL.  NO REMAINING THE SAME.  NO STUBBORNLY REFUSING TO LEAVE THE OLD IN PURSUIT OF GOD’S WORK ANEW.

In a season steeped in tradition, God shows us that He can do the surprising and unexpected.  He is at work.  He is in motion.

Christmas is angels and shepherds, sages and a teenage girl, the righteous and the ordinary, all abandoning their plans, agendas, comfort, and homes, leaving it all behind so they would not miss what God was doing.

ARE WE SO WILLING TO MOVE?

When God calls, when He is active, when He is at work and He comes to us, will we also go to Him?

I’ve finished filling this new address book now and for a while at least everything is settled and set.

Yet, I’m hushed with expectancy.  I’m at the feet of Christ with anticipation.  I’m asking the question and I’m silent, breathlessly waiting for the answer He gives:

“God, what are you doing and how can I be there?  I don’t want to miss it by refusing to move when you move. Lead me this Christmas.”

Originally published 12/11/2015anywherefaith-christmas

 

Would you consider sharing the message of Anywhere Faith with others this Christmas?  Click here to visit the book page on Amazon.  Thanks!

Christmas means God on the move

christmas15

Today, I plunked down $0.88 for a new address book.

Then, I laid its 13-year-old, well-worn predecessor to rest.

It was time.

In that old address book, I have crossed out.  I have drawn arrows.  I have swirled over old addresses and entered in new.  I have stuffed envelopes with corrected info into the pages.

This year during ‘Operation Christmas Cards,’ I flipped through that edited mess.  Seven more family members moved this year to new homes in new places.

Most of these are happy moves: The new-job, new-marriage, new-baby kind of celebration.

Others are moves of in-between, of change, of loss and sadness and finding new hope for the future.

Since I have an intense dislike, maybe even horror, of writing in pencil, though, I can’t just erase and start afresh at each new life event.

That’s when I realized the truth.  It wasn’t time for more corrections.  It was time for a completely fresh shart.

It was time to move on.

And it strikes me right at that moment as I fill in the blank pages A-Z, surrounded by Christmas decorations and Christmas cards, that Christmas itself is about moving.

God began that progress, journeying to us:

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9 HCSB).

He makes the first move.  He steps into the void we can’t breach, the abyss of sin we can’t possibly cross, and He leaves the glory of heaven for our sake.

Jesus isn’t the only One who moved that first Christmas, though.

“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth” (Luke 1:26).

Mary and Joseph loaded up the donkey and trekked slowly “from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the City of David, which is called Bethlehem” (Luke 2:4 HCSB).

The angels arrived on the hillside to announce the Savior’s birth to shepherds and then “left them and returned to heaven” (Luke 2:15 HCSB).

Then, those shepherds in their excitement said, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened” (Luke 2:15 HCSB).

Days later, a man named Simeon was guided by the Spirit and went straight to a GOd-appointed place:  “he entered the temple complex” (Luke 2:27 HCSB).

Wise men from the east searched the night sky and could no longer remain at home, complacent, apathetic, mildly interested but not engaged when they saw the mysterious star.

No, they moved.

They committed to the journey, packing camels, loading supplies, asking questions.

They must have left so much  behind:  Family, possessions, homes, a culture they knew and friends they loved.  Maybe they left position and power in the dust in order to arrive in a foreign land as strangers and outsiders searching for a King they couldn’t describe whose name they didn’t know.

Where were they going?  They did not know.  When would their journey end?  They could not say.

Just like Abram long before, the Magi left their homes to travel to an unknown destination for an uncertain amount of time.

Friends must have called them crazy.  Family might have questioned their sanity.

Yet, they kept moving because a star “led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was ” (Matthew 2:9 HCSB).

Christmas is about the faith of movement, about faith in action.  No standing still.  No remaining the same.  No stubbornly refusing to leave the old in pursuit of God’s work anew.

In a season steeped in tradition, God shows us that He can do the surprising and unexpected.  He is at work.  He is in motion.

Christmas is angels and shepherds, sages and a teenage girl, the righteous and the ordinary, all abandoning their plans, agendas, comfort, and homes, leaving it all behind so they would not miss what God was doing.

Are we so willing to move?

When God calls, when He is active, when He is at work and He comes to us, will we also go to Him?

I’ve finished filling this new address book now and for a while at least everything is settled and set.

Yet, I’m hushed with expectancy.  I’m at the feet of Christ with anticipation.  I’m asking the question and I’m silent, breathlessly waiting for the answer He gives:

“God, what are you doing and how can I be there?  I don’t want to miss it by refusing to move when you move. Lead me this Christmas.”

 

 

Pa rum pum pum

Glory to God

 

Pa rum pum pum.

I am practicing for the church Christmas cantata.

So is my two-year-old son.

I hear him from the backseat of the minivan, singing along with the CD, instinctively drumming his hands to The Little Drummer Boy.

Then he wiggles and bobs his head and does a little toddler dance of intense motion.

Pum pum pum, he sings.

All this Christmas season, my son has been singing this song.  It’s his favorite.  He reacts the same way every time, with participation, with whole body involvement, with spontaneous joy.

And, besides all that, it’s the one song that he knows most of the words to.

Pum pum pum.  He belts it out.

It’s not a Christmas carol I’ve ever given much thought to.  Being the realist I am, I’ve always balked at an extra-biblical kid with a drum hovering near the manger scene, rapping out a rhythm for the newborn Savior.

But as a parable….as a story digging God-centered truth down deep within me…..it’s captured my attention.

Perhaps this is because I’ve played it over and over and over again for my son and then it gets stuck in my head and I pretty much cannot escape hearing this song all….day…..long….

It’s here, this line, that gets me every time: “I have no gift to bring…that’s fit to give a King…. Shall I play for you?”

What’s more fitting than our worship?

What’s more treasured and valued by God than our praise offering?

Some of you might be fighting for the joy this season.

You could rush yourself right past the purpose of Christmas, caught up in the busyness, buried in the rush, made breathless by the expectations and demands on your time, on your attention, on your wallet, on your soul.

Maybe it’s hard to see the Light of Christmas through the crushing darkness of your circumstances.

This year, though, I’m not fighting for joy; I’m fighting for worship.  For awe.  To be captivated anew by the weight of His glory.

I’m battling and warring against the ‘blahs’ of same-old, same-old.

It’s remembering that family movie nights with The Grinch, hot chocolate and popcorn, lights and wreaths, traditions, baking sessions, and picking that perfect present are fun, but they aren’t ‘it.’

It’s hearing that well-known Christmas story one more time and gasping in amazement that God came down for us.

Not rattling off Linus’s speech from the Peanuts’ Christmas movie (love that, by the way), but letting the truth sink, sink, sink into the hardened soil of my heart to  saturate me with Christ’s astonishing love.

And then responding like I should in the face of so much glory—on my knees, hands raised, heart expectant, worshipping Him as spontaneously and as wholeheartedly as a two-year-old crooning along to The Little Drummer Boy in the minivan.

My truest response to God’s greatest Gift should be an offering of praise.

That’s Mary.  She sings in worship:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46 EV).

That’s Zechariah after 9 months of silence:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people (Luke 1:68 ESV).

That’s the angels who spontaneously exclaim in one unified voice, praising God:

 “Glory to God in the highest
 and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14 ESV).

That’s the shepherds, who high-tailed it off of that mountain to see this Savior.  They left the infant Messiah that night:

“glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20 ESV).

That’s the wise men, journeying with anticipation and finally arriving to see Jesus:

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (Mathew 2:11 ESV).

At church, I tell the children playing wise men in the Christmas program to kneel and set their gifts (carefully) down as they bow.

But I tell them the truth, how those magi didn’t gingerly drop to one knee in the presence of Christ.

No, they hit their faces to the ground in adoration and humility.

In Unafraid, Susie Davis writes that the word really means:

They prostrated themselves and did him homage…laid out completely.  Hands in the dung.  Soiled robes.  Crowns knocked off.  Faces to the ground.

A poor girl from a small town.

A faithful priest.

Lowly shepherds.

Sages from afar.

The Christmas account is awash with praise: Spontaneous, heart-resonant, knees-to-the-earth surrendered worship to a Savior so worthy, to a Savior so compassionate, to a Savior so glorious.

What can I bring Him?  I am so small.

I bring Him my worship.  I give Him my all.

 

Christmas Devotions: When you find something good, don’t keep it to yourself

It’s an annual surprise.

Some afternoon, usually in March, I hang up my gray winter coat for the last time of the season.

There’s no official ceremony or anything and the groundhog’s shadow-predictions never prove perfectly accurate.

It’s just a simple thing.  One day I casually drape my coat across the hook in my closet and there it lingers through spring, summer and fall.

Then, on a morning (usually in November), I stop deceiving myself into thinking that sweaters are enough to keep my teeth from chattering.  I reach past my fall jacket in the closet, pull down that same wool coat from its trusty hook, slip my hands into the sleeves and dip my hand into the pocket.

Whatever I left there eight months before is what I’ll discover on that first pocket search of the winter season.christmas13

I’ve pulled out Mom-things, like pacifiers and baby socks (don’t all moms pop baby socks into pockets)?

Grocery store receipts unfold like magician’s handkerchiefs—always one more emerges from hidden corners.

There are pens and paper clips, ticket stubs, rocks for my daughter’s collection, hair clips and ponytail holders, cough drops, and maybe even tissues (unused, thankfully).

There’s generally little treasure among the trash.  Mostly my life out and about with my kids consists of periodically dumping the overflow of their stuff into my pockets when my hands are full.

Occasionally, though, I reach into that winter coat for the first time in November and pull out coins.  Better yet, a dollar or two or three….or even ten.

That’s enough to make this girl happy dance in the middle of my closet.

Then, pulling myself together, I announce the news to my kids, post a happy-face announcement on Facebook and tell my husband the story later that night.

Discoveries, after all, are meant for sharing.  They’re the kind of spill-all-over joy that we can’t keep quiet about.

Maybe that’s how the Shepherds felt standing on that darkened hillside with snoring sheep.

Perhaps it even explains what the angels were doing, singing their praise songs in the night sky to an audience of somnolent herdsman about a Savior being born.

All of heaven exploded with the “good news that will cause great joy for all the people!” (Luke 2:9), the Messiah, the Lord.  They couldn’t contain the excitement!

One angel made the announcement, but others crowded the sky and joined in the chorus: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God” (Luke 2:13).

The angel’s joyful news sent the shepherds tumbling all over themselves to see “this thing that has happened, which the Lord had told us about” (Luke 2:15).

When we hear good news, don’t we long to see with our own eyes, to experience this joy ourselves? 

That’s what sharing our testimony does: it ignites passion, it incites curiosity, it encourages a searching and finding of the truth, the Savior, of salvation.

Then, when the shepherds found the manger and peered over the corners at the baby-King, “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” (Luke 2:17-18).

They had discovered Jesus and no way could they keep that quiet.

No matter how many times Jesus asked those he healed in his ministry to keep quiet about it, still they rushed home and called up the local newspaper to tell their story.

Jesus himself finally told one man to:

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you”  Mark 5:19.

Surely his story is our story, too.  We have this testimony, of what He has done and the mercy He has shown.

Our God-stories, the discoveries of how He’s been so good to us, those moments of amazing grace and unexpected mercy in the middle of the daily grind, are all meant to be shared with others.

And the miracle of Christmas is ours to tell and ours to share; it’s the hope that others need and the joy this desperate world is searching for.

So, sing it!  So, tell it!  Don’t let that familiar feel of your salvation, the way apathy closes us in a cozy blanket of complacency, ever let us overlook the awe of this:

God loved us so.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

Originally posted October 19, 2012

This Christmas Eve Tradition

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”
(Luke 2:19)

I was eleven and my Sunday School teacher gave our class a homework assignment for Christmas break.christmas letter

Write a letter to God, she said.  Make it a prayer, a re-dedication, an offering of my own treasures, not the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of wise men, but the very finest gifts I could lay at the feet of a worthy God.

It was my Christmas gift to Him.  I wrote it out on Christmas Eve, folded it up, tied it with a ribbon and placed it under the Christmas tree.

Two decades later, I have twenty years of Christmas Eve letters to God.  It’s my most intimate and holy Christmas tradition. This Christmas Eve, I fingered the packet of letters and marveled at God’s gracious work in me.

One of my “rules” is no peeking at the letters on any day of the year other than Christmas Eve.  Yet, on that one night a year, I can glance back at twenty years of me drawing near to God just as He drew near to us on the first Christmas of all.

Usually by about February each year I can see clear answers to the prayers I scribbled out on the page just months before.

In some ways, this prayer letter is my moment to lay gifts before the King as the wise men did.  It’s my re-commitment to serve Him in a new year and place at His feet the deepest desire of my heart to give Him praise.

I offer Him my very life, noting the places He is already at work in my character and asking Him for spiritual growth so I can bring Him glory.

Like the angels, though, I am also praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:14), as I give thanks and specific praise for the blessings of the year drawing to a close.

Then, like the shepherds, I turn my attention away from the busyness of work and daily life to see what God is doing in the heavens.  I write my letter to God at night after my daughters are asleep, the dishes are done, the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. There, in near-darkness, illumined almost solely by Christmas lights, I pray and write.

I look away from the “sheep” in my care, lift my eyes and attune my heart to hear the announcement of good news, of promises for the future and the certainty of promises fulfilled.

I dwell not just on what God has done or what He is doing, but what He will do in the new year.  What burdens has He placed on my heart?  What directions has He asked me to travel?  What steps of obedience has He asked me to take?

Mostly though, my Christmas letter is a moment to be like Mary, who after the shepherds came “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Sometimes God’s work in our lives needs times of reflection and stillness.  What He reveals to us as we sit at His feet isn’t always meant for public announcements or official New Year’s resolutions, or campaigns or church-wide programs.

Sometimes God asks us to ponder and treasure, to reflect, pray, and wait for the appointed time.

So, I ponder.  I ask for God’s perspective on my marriage, my kids, my ministry and job and heart and mind.

Instead of monopolizing my conversation with an oh-so-patient God, I ask for His perspective.  Before I ever begin to write, I flip through my prayer journal and track the themes I see there.

How at times everything I read seems to be about grace.  Or prayer.  Or allowing Him to bring light into dark places. Or believing God for the impossible.  Or how He is a God who restores.

I follow the clear path of what He has already been doing in my life and then I join Him there in that place.  Yes, Lord, I pray, be at work here.  I will join You.  I will be submissive and receptive to what You want to do in me.

It’s not too late for you to sit in the stillness of a Christmas Eve and write your own letter this year.  What a perfect time to begin a holy and intimate tradition of your own.  A letter to Your Savior.

What gifts do you have to lay before the King?  What songs of thanks can you sing in the night?  What do you see in the spiritual places when you shift your focus off the physical daily routine of life?  What has God been doing in you and teaching you that you need to ponder in your heart?

Originally posted on December 26, 2011

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

Why I Can’t Mop My Floor Today

It’s all part of the plan, my strategy for party preparation.

With visitors expected, I’ve engaged in a running dialogue with the mess in my home.

All week long I’ve glanced at the kitchen floor with juice spills and mystery splatter and thought….”If I mop you today, I’ll just have to do it again on Friday.  Someone will surely spill as soon as you’re clean.”

And to the dust gathering on the television stand in the living room, I promised a wipe with a soft cloth Friday evening.

I interrupted my normal vacuuming schedule earlier in the week so that I could zoom through the house just hours before the company’s arrival.

This has been my strategy of preparation.  Knowing as I do exactly when those first little knocks on our door will occur, I can target the precise moment when my house is the cleanest and shiniest and in most presentable shape.

I hope.christmas10

Being prepared for visitors is no exact science, you know, and it’s even less so readying ourselves for God.  Christmas, after all, focuses so much on preparation. 

The Jewish people, after waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah, the savior of their people–and the world— felt more than ready, perhaps even impatient, for His coming.

But they weren’t.  Not really.  So God sent a messenger, John the Baptist, who shouted out the news to prepare, get ready, make yourselves right before God because the Savior was coming.

Still, when Christ came, there was no room, no readiness.  Instead there was debate and jealousy, hatred and power plays.

Only a few men and women willingly allowed God to interrupt their lives and their personal agendas in order to make room for His Glory.  Only a few were ready for obedience.

Mary, bowing the head in submission, doing chores one second and carrying the Son of God in her womb the next.

Joseph, heeding the dreams God gave Him, marry this virgin with Child, take her to Egypt to save the baby from a murderous king, travel back home when King Herod had died.

Shepherds, tending sheep in the night, earning a living, toiling as usual, following the instructions of angels to a baby in a manger, worshiping, and spreading the news across the countryside.

Sages from the East journeying for years, far from their homes and their prominence and wealth in order to lay at the feet of a child gifts of honor and adoration.

Their readiness wasn’t that of twiddling their thumbs, idling their time so that at the slightest move of the Holy Spirit they could jump up in response to His command.

Instead, they were all busy, actively serving in their jobs and homes, doing the daily thing with faithfulness, attention, and care.  And then God spoke.

An angel’s voice.
A dream.
A heavenly choir.
A mysterious star.

And they laid it all aside to follow after God, wholeheartedly, passionately, abandoning everything in order to be present and part of His plan.

May we be so ready this season and every season for God’s movement.  We don’t want to miss it! Even more than that, let us not be an obstruction or hindrance to the miraculous wonder of God.

God always knows the exact moment to move; His timing is relentlessly perfect.  Let us, then, be expectant and ready to obey Him regardless of our plan or agenda or expectation:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

When the time has fully come, may our hearts be ready and our lives prepared for the movement of God.

How are you preparing for Christ’s work in you in the new year?

Originally posted December 8, 2012

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!
To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Christmas Devotions: Christmas Eve and a Letter to a Savior

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”
(Luke 2:19)

I was eleven and my Bible Study teacher gave our class a homework assignment for Christmas break.

Write a letter to God, she said.  Make it a prayer, a re-dedication, an offering of my own treasures, not the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of wise men, but the very finest gifts I could lay at the feet of a worthy God.

It was my Christmas gift to Him.  I wrote it out on Christmas Eve, folded it up, tied it with a ribbon and placed it under the Christmas tree.

Two decades later, I have twenty years of Christmas Eve letters to God.  It’s my most intimate and holy Christmas tradition. This Christmas Eve, I fingered the packet of letters and marveled at God’s gracious work in me.

One of my “rules” is no peeking at the letters on any day of the year other than Christmas Eve.  Yet, on that one night a year, I can glance back at twenty years of me drawing near to God just as He drew near to us on the first Christmas of all.

Usually by about February each year I can see clear answers to the prayers I scribbled out on the page just months before.

In some ways, this prayer letter is my moment to lay gifts before the King as the wise men did.  It’s my re-commitment to serve Him in a new year and place at His feet the deepest desire of my heart to give Him praise.  I offer Him my very life, noting the places He is already at work in my character and asking Him for spiritual growth so I can bring Him glory.

Like the angels, though, I am also praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:14), as I give thanks and specific praise for the blessings of the year drawing to a close.

Then, like the shepherds, I turn my attention away from the busyness of work and daily life to see what God is doing in the heavens.  I write my letter to God at night after my daughters are asleep, the dishes are done, the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. There, in near-darkness, illumined almost solely by Christmas lights, I pray and write.

I look away from the “sheep” in my care, lift my eyes and attune my heart to hear the announcement of good news, of promises for the future and the certainty of promises fulfilled.  I dwell not just on what God has done or what He is doing, but what He will do in the new year.  What burdens has He placed on my heart?  What directions has He asked me to travel?  What steps of obedience has He asked me to take?

Mostly though, my Christmas letter is a moment to be like Mary, who after the shepherds came “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Sometimes God’s work in our lives needs times of reflection and stillness.  What He reveals to us as we sit at His feet isn’t always meant for public announcements or official New Year’s resolutions, or campaigns or church-wide programs.

Sometimes God asks us to ponder and treasure, to reflect, pray, and wait for the appointed time.

So, I ponder.  I ask for God’s perspective on my marriage, my kids, my ministry and job and heart and mind.

Instead of monopolizing my conversation with an oh-so-patient God, I ask for His perspective.  Before I ever begin to write, I flip through my prayer journal and track the themes I see there.

How at times everything I read seems to be about grace.  Or prayer.  Or allowing Him to bring light into dark places. Or believing God for the impossible.  Or how He is a God who restores.

I follow the clear path of what He has already been doing in my life and then I join Him there in that place.  Yes, Lord, I pray, be at work here.  I will join You.  I will be submissive and receptive to what You want to do in me.

It’s not too late for you to sit in the stillness of a Christmas Eve and write your own letter this year.  What a perfect time to begin a holy and intimate tradition of your own.  A letter to Your Savior.

What gifts do you have to lay before the King?  What songs of thanks can you sing in the night?  What do you see in the spiritual places when you shift your focus off the physical daily routine of life?  What has God been doing in you and teaching you that you need to ponder in your heart?

Originally posted on December 26, 2011

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King