Merry Christmas

I have not sent out any cards yet.

This is the first one – the first MERRY CHRISTMAS written this year.

Recall the famously known prophecy, even Charlie Brown’s Linus recited it: ” For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

For “to us”…. repeated twice. Us, meaning all – everyone – no one left out!

To all of us, a child, a son, is given. 

THIS is the MERRY CHRISTMAS: baby Jesus born in the manger – deity, God, made human – for to us.

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Not for the idyllic creche decorations to don the mantels…

Not for the theme of Sunday school plays so the girls can be angels and the boys can play shepherds with cotton beards…

But, for to us, with a purpose: “and the government will be upon his shoulders.”  

What?

Picture this: our government, the United States government, and every other world nation government stacked up on the shoulders of this Jesus like Atlas carrying the world….the image that He holds it all, He carries it all…. BUT – unlike Atlas, Jesus…. He rules over it all.  The prophecy from Isaiah points to a time when the full purpose of Jesus is revealed and His government rules over all governments.

Fast forward to another famously known verse, the one that people raise up in the football stands: John 3:16 — “he gave his one and only son” – the verb, gave, is the action and points to the cross where Jesus died. Just like the story, If you give a Mouse a Cookie, one thing leads to the next.  Jesus died, so that he could be buried, so that he could rise from the dead, so that he could appear to many – alive, so that he could ascend to the heavens and sit at the right hand of the father, God, so that he could await for his return to the earth and save his people,

so that finally – HIS pure government will rulethere will be no other governments left.

But for now… He rules from heaven and nothing on earth happens unless power is given it by God – the government is on His shoulders, and He rules even now, over it all.

Jesus is Wonderful — because He does great things with love…

Jesus is Counselor — because he guides and directs even those who do not know Him because He is sovereign and in charge of it all…

Jesus is Mighty God — because there is no one who holds more power…

Jesus is Everlasting Father — because He and the Father are one, always existing, timeless, having no end…

Jesus is Prince of Peace — because he came to earth as a baby, died as a man, and defeated death as a King, all for the purpose of offering us PEACE in a place where there will be no more tears, just peace, forever.

Jesus in the manger, came for everyone!

Jesus on the cross, died for everyone!

Jesus in heaven, loves everyone!

Merry Christmas to you all – everyone who breathes air on this earth!

Borrowing the words of Charles Dickens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSyx6DaUwxA

Not Even One Christmas Card

It’s funny

and I little bit creepy, when, out of now where, I can hear Diana Ross singing in my head:

“Do You Know

Where you’re going to?

Do you like the things?

That life is showing you

Where are you going to?

Do you know?”

(Diana Ross – 1975)

Normally, I do not ever think about Diana Ross, yet as I sat down to write this New Year letter and pondered what I might say, this song played strong in my mind – a throw-back to radio pop music when I was just thirteen.  Thirty-eight years later, this portion of her melody resonates in my mind; Scary what the mind retains!

I must also confess that this is probably the first year of my life that I could not muster up the usual Christmas spirit.  Almost none of the usual build-up-to-the-season by way of children-pleasing traditions were played out – partially due to the fact that most my children are not young anymore and not around to embark on the usual preparations – and partially due to the fact that my home had been in such a turmoil of disruption for the previous 5 months that climaxed with a great flurry of workers as last minute details fell into place just thirteen days before the time of celebration: Christmas.

Nonetheless, the tree was put up, decorations set out, gifts shopped for, and food preparation done. We ate, we gave and received gifts, we delighted in the visual pretties.  I admit though, not even one Christmas card was sent by me.

Feeling a bit like George Bailey, I sat alone and watched, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this past Saturday night. Part of my pondering included a slump.

Five days later, everything is put away except the manger scene figures that sit on my kitchen window sill.  Life is a whirlwind here at my house.

All I wanted for Christmas was Peace. My kids asked me, and so that is what I posted on my refrigerator on a sticky note: “I want Peace for Christmas – Mom.”

My son, Samuel, in all his charm and wit gave me a pillow with the letters  P-E-A-C-E  stitched across it.  So, in a sense, I got what asked for.

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Coincidentally or divinely arranged, our pastor preached on peace this Christmas Eve; fitting, as it was what I had been pondering all the season since Thanksgiving.  Peace.  Not the kind of peace in the quiet moment.  Not the kind of peace that comes with calm scenery or well loved music.  I am talking about the peace that fills the soul with total satisfaction and a knowing that all is well.

I believe in my heart there is no peace found on this earth….and there never will be.

You see,  no “things” or people bring me peace.

Truly, I say to you my dear friends and family, peace only comes when we abide in Him and with Him.

Loving Jesus brings me peace.  And it seems only when I keep my focus on Him, do I have peace in my heart.

And still, Diana Ross’ lyrics repeat in my mind.

Do I know where I am going to?

Do I like the things that life is showing me?

Where am I going to?

These are all great questions to ponder as a New Year approaches.

Put another way, I might re-word the inquisitions:

What are my goals?

What is life showing me?

Where am I headed?

There will be no New Year resolutions for me tomorrow evening; no temporary intentions to fix myself.   But I will be pondering and striving with resolves all the year through; decisions and answers to hold close.

Resolve #1:

My goals are to serve my King – the One who was born in the stable and laid in the manger.

Resolve #2:

Life is showing me that there is no peace or comfort found in it.  Only struggles and challenges and hard things that need seeing and hard things that need doing.   Life also shows me that with a right set of eyes, there is beauty and joy in the seeing and doing.

Resolve #3:

I am headed toward a Kingdom – where the whole of my salvation sits at the right hand of His father.

Herein lays my Christmas spirit.

It is an ongoing everyday way of being. I just may keep those manger scene figures out on my new window sill all year long…

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It is my prayer that each one of you may be able to answer those impertinent yet important questions that Ms. Ross sang so many years ago: what are your goals, what is life showing you, where are you headed?  I hope you can answer in a way that brings you true peace this New Year of 2015.

I hope you each had a merry Christmas with your loved ones, as I did.   ‘Tis the season for remembering what is important – family and special people are near the top of my list.  At the very top, is the One most important.

Do you know Him?

 

I Have It — Do You?

Oh the bumper stickers,

the bumper stickers, the bumper stickers….! Where I live, many don these stickers…

Think Peace

displaying the portrait of Einstein; it’s just mind over matter?

World Peace….

picturing the clean globe: idyllic fantasy?

Make Love Not War

a heart overlays the sixties peace sign; loving relationships bring harmony?

Coexist...

depicting all religions equalized; level the god status and all will be well?

…..and on it goes!

Spinning off a 1980’s popular song:

We are a people that persists in “looking for peace in all the wrong places.  I have never met anyone who did not want peace….. In our relationships and our families; in our workplaces and our communities; in our government and our world.

I want it…don’t you?

We all want peace!  And yet we stumble around not knowing exactly how to obtain it.

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“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given….And he shall be called…Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

But, here it is.  PEACE was born and it was given to us through the birth of a baby in the manger.  Prophesied to be called the “Prince of Peace”, Jesus came to bring completeness and well-being to every person and all societies.

Following the birth of the baby Jesus, angels appeared to the shepherds saying:“Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

This PEACE that is proclaimed and that was prophesied is a peace that cannot be found anywhere or anyhow in the world.  It is not a peace of aura or circumstance of agreement.  The peace that was born as a child named Jesus is a peace that comes from God; a peace that touches the deepest part of the soul and was given as a gift.  

It is long lasting.

It is deep.

It is found through faith in the SAVIOR, Jesus Christ.

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27)

Jesus was speaking of the redemptive work that He was about to do on the cross. The Salvation He offers each of us — all people — all societies is well known from John 3:16: “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.”

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THIS is the PEACE that the Prince of Peace offers.

It is an inner peace that exists beyond calm tranquility.  It is PEACE that speaks to the spirit that enjoys fellowship with God.  As we believe on Him, we are granted faith and are given a Peace that cannot be touched by the outer circumstances of this world.

The troubles of this world will always be….and we can never find peace from our own minds, our own deeds, the deeds of others, or the love of others.  Peace will not come by tolerating all people and all gods.  

Peace only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

We can endure all things in this world and we can simultaneously enjoy deep inner peace knowing we have Jesus and the promise of eternal life; one day we will enjoy perfect peace in heaven where the “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

So, no matter what plagues us in this world…

Peace is within my reach. It is within your reach.

I have it — do you?

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JOY…it’s simple

…my final thoughts on Isaiah 9 tomorrow

Tuesday Tidbit: Got the Advocate?

Perched in a usual spot

with expectation of a calm eve,

the start of the storm rolls in with a low rumble…

the smallness of it’s voice is disregarded.

Like a whip cracking alongside a steed

the voice increases with defiant stabs

and wounds the trusty bonds.

Creating a tumultuous clash at the footing of the landscape

the voice,

like a lion,

braces with a roar and frantically paces in his cage.

Stripped of fight

the decision to step aside leaves the door open

and the owner of the storming voice

carelessly tosses aside the heart that loves even still.

Left in the aftermath lull

there is little to do

as emptiness fills up the vessel.

Numb and distraught and confused

the dust settles.

The words refuse to come but the soul wails!

The Advocate quietly and assuredly arrives

speaking in earnest He gathers the weakness up and brings to mind

all that was taught and recorded.

The heart is revived

and is able to stand at the threshold

ready to give and receive the mutual embrace.

The storm transformed

returns the young voice,

while mercy and forgiveness and love 

remain.

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Are you the voice of disaster?  Or are you the heart that is wounded?

Are you the one who needs transforming or the one in need of restoration?

Perhaps you have had a season in both situations, over time…?

In moments when I am desperately seeking and not knowing what to do or what to say, left in the aftermath —  I am thankful for the Holy Spirit who was given to me.  The Advocate – the One who supports and stands up for me – comes and teaches me and gently reminds me of all Jesus taught.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

He strengthens my heart to persevere and stand able.  Able to both give and receive mercy, forgiveness, and love.  Just as Jesus taught.  Just as Jesus did.

Today I remain, perched in a usual spot, full of peace

as I have been ministered to by the Advocate.

Got the Advocate?

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What do ya’ do…?

What do ya’ do when there’s just nothing left? Down so low that you feel totally defeated. No strength. No understanding. No control. Stripped of all you thought you had?  Depleted and naked.

Twelve hours had passed and I held my still born baby girl in my arms.  Born too early, tiny, barely weighing enough to put pressure on my arms, this baby was silent.  I pressed my lips to her warm forehead and kissed her.  Tears streamed down my cheeks. Her name was Grace.  Staring at her features, cradling her head and uncurling her oh-so-small fingers, I said hello and goodbye in the same breath. The hopes I had for her were dashed; stripped of all I thought I had and frozen with lack of understanding…. I was certainly depleted. And yet, I had peace.

Years later, laying on an operating table awaiting a C-section, I was unconscious, yet aware that I was unable to breath.  The anesthesiologist had shut down my system for intubation, but things went wrong and now I heard rushing and yelling all around me.  I felt as if an elephant was on my chest.  I could not speak yet my mind was able to think and comprehend. I knew if I did not get to breath soon I might die. Undeniably I had no strength. No control. And yet, I prayed.

And again, more years later, I found myself on a stretcher in such pain that I did not care if I lived or died. Ravished already from radiation therapy and chemotherapy and surgery, my body was beaten.  My human-ness decided for a moment that I had had enough!  Stripped again of understanding, control, and even of care, I began to give up. Defeat in its fullness settled in; depleted and naked with nothing left.  And yet, I cried out in earnest, searching….

The peace; how did it come?  The prayer; to who?  The cry: searching for what?

The answer in all three cases was: Jesus.

Jesus is the giver of peace in circumstances where peace makes no sense; it comes as a gift from the Lord – just given (Philippians 4:7, John 14:27).

Jesus is the one who hears and answers prayers lifted up from depths of woe; He intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8: 27,34….thru 39 is all good).

Jesus was, and is, and always will be my only plea in my searching during moments of despair. Give me Jesus = give me HOPE.  With hope, I can go on (Psalm 62:1 & 2…..5 & 6).

Jesus is the HOPE of this world.  God gave Him to us in the form of a baby in the manger just as the angels proclaimed to the shepherds.

“But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior 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 ” (Luke 2: 10 -12).

On a dark night, in a dim stable, Jesus entered the world.  A gift to us from God above; His son given to us….to live and then die. And he will return for us (Acts 1: 10 -11).  This is the HOPE; the invitation that one day we can be with Him in a place where there are no more tears, or pain.  This is the “good news” and  “great joy for all the people” that the Angels proclaimed.

So, what do ya’ do when there’s just nothing left? Down so low that you feel totally defeated. No strength. No understanding.No control. Stripped of all you thought you had?  Depleted and naked.

I suggest you ponder this gift of Jesus; consider Him and all He is.  Accept this gift of Jesus (John 3:16).

Pray and cry out!  And know that in the darkest of moments Jesus comes.  He comes with peace and comfort and hope.  I speak from my own experiences and know.

This world is broken.  We are broken.  Jesus is the only fix.