C.C. what’s in a word? #145

I hardly ever buy new Christmas decorations. You know why. I have too many boxes of them in my basement already. But this year I did buy one new decoration for myself. I hadn’t planned on buying anything new, but . . . it happened when I was out shopping for gifts for others. (I confess – that seems to be how it usually happens, I go out to purchase a gift for someone else and come home having purchased something for myself)

So that’s how I ended up with my “word for the year”. I’ve never had one before ( a word, that is) but I have a friend who chooses for herself a “word for the year” each new year. This word is to reflect what she wants to be her focus in the coming year. This word serves to remind her of her commitment to be intentional each day about living out whatever her particular “word for the year” happens to be.

So I never planned on buying a new Christmas decoration. And I hadn’t given any thought to picking out a “word for the year” for myself. Yet, here I am today, living in that limbo land of days which fall after Christmas day but before New Year’s day, and I have accomplished both things. I have my new decoration and I, for the first time ever, have my own “word for the year”.

Both events occurred simultaneously for me, because my “word” is written in large letters on my new Christmas decoration. I have it currently displayed in my home’s entry way, so anyone who enters encounters my new “word for the year” immediately. (not that anyone has been entering my home, but if they did, they would know my new word)

My word for 2021 is “HOPE”. I don’t know that I chose it so much as it chose me. There were many wooden decorations with snowflakes and various words on them on the shelf that day, but only one with the word HOPE. When I saw it, I knew, that was the word I needed most for 2021.

Suspended in time between Christ’s first Advent and His second coming as we are, I think HOPE is what sustains us during this time in history. Hope has been my constant companion throughout 2020 – hope in God, in His promises and in His plan. Romans 8:21-25 talks about this hope saying that we wait,

“in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Patiently waiting? I feel like I have spent most of 2020 waiting and hoping and being disappointed and waiting some more (with hope) and being disappointed again and waiting again . . . I’m sure you know the drill, dear readers, because you have been on the same treadmill yourselves. The finish line has been moved so many times, I don’t even know if a finish line exists currently. Each promised finish line was hope, such as a reopen date for schools. Your finish line may have been different, such as a church, an office or a gym opening back up, or getting to see a loved one at last, or being able to take a postponed trip or plan a wedding. All involve hope, hope for something we don’t yet have but hope for the possibility of what we desire, sustaining us until it should become reality.

Most of us would say that 2020 has brought us some degree of suffering. We all have experienced loss on many levels this year, some much greater losses than others. Romans 5:3-5 talks about the connection between suffering and hope, (maybe why HOPE is my word of choice for this next year, because it follows a year of such suffering)

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”

My hope comes from God. My hope is in God. 1 Timothy 4:9-10 reminds me,

“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.”

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him;” (Lamentations 3:25)

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6)

My Heavenly Father is the supplier of my hope, the reason for my hope, the sustainer of my hope and the object of my hope.

Hebrews 10:23 tells me,

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.”

I have wanted to run, to flee often during this past year dominated by COVID, chaos and fear. But where would I go? This pandemic is world wide. No place has been unaffected. Hebrews 6:18-20 has something to say about where to run to,

“We who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”

We all want an anchor during stormy times, something to hang on to so we don’t get washed away with the waves. We want something that will settle our soul. How interesting that hope is described as an anchor for the soul in the words above from Hebrews. Hope is my anchor and at the same time, hope is my wings.

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

An anchor and wings, I need both. And HOPE gives me both. I think I picked just the right word for 2021! I felt hopeless during many days of 2020 while isolated and alone. And yet I was never alone and never without HOPE. My Heavenly Father is omnipresent and has promised never to leave me nor forsake me. My “word for the year” will remind me of this truth when disappointments come and the finish line gets moved again. (I think I may need to leave my new Christmas decoration out where I can see it all year)

We are living in an inter-advental time, dear readers. (I just made that word up, but it fits)

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming back again! hence, inter-advental, between His first and second coming.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. forgotten gifts #144

Another quiet after Advent day. Maybe it just seems quiet by comparison, because the days leading up to Christmas are typically so full of anticipation and preparation for what is to come, that once it has come, everything seems to pause, giving everyone, including me, time to reflect and to refocus in the still hush that settles in to surround me, while Advent continues for many, including the Wise Men of old. (ok, maybe not so much this year, but still I can sense the shift in activity level going on around me)

So maybe you, dear readers, like the Wise Men, are still on your Advent journey in search of the Christ Child, God’s gift to the world, God’s gift to each one of us. Or maybe, though you journey and search, you do not know what it is that you seek. You only know that you lack something vital and so your search continues without rest until you should find that elusive missing piece to the mystery that is eternity and your place in it.

As I sit surrounded by yesterday’s already opened gifts, it occurs to me to share this poem with you entitled “The Forgotten Gift of Christmas” – so this is my gift to you, dear readers.

The Forgotten Gift of Christmas

so many gifts under the tree, I wonder how many are there for me?

I open them quickly, one by one – then I feel kinda sad when I’m all done.

is that all there is? is there nothing more? I guess what I want can’t be found in a store.

it can’t be bought and it can’t be sold – I don’t even know its name – if truth be told.

But there must be some gift that could fill my empty space, something or someone – I don’t know the name or face.

the face of forgiveness, the face of love, the face of God, come down from above.

God’s gift to me lay in a manger lowly, the commonplace now transformed by the Presence of the Holy.

God’s gift to me, so unexpected, this gift of Christmas so often rejected.

the package is a manger, holding a Baby small, those who accept the present, find the greatest gift of all.

The gifts God gives of hope and joy, are better to me than any new toy.

The Manger was full of peace and of light, full of God’s plan to make all things right.

I was looking for my Christmas gift under the Christmas tree, but I found it right where God had said, it was in the Nativity!

(from the book “Looking for Christmas” by Grace Day)

And that’s precisely where every Advent search ends – wherever Jesus is. For the shepherds, it was at the manger, for the Wise Men it was a small house in Bethlehem, for Zacchaeus it was when he climbed a tree, for Peter it was while fishing off the Galilean shore, for the Samaritan woman it was at the well, for Paul it was on the road to Damascus, for the criminal being put to death for his crimes, it was while on his own cross, which was next to the cross of Christ, that his search came to an end.

Likewise, there is hope that my search and that your search will end well also. That hope is found in God’s promise to each one of us that if we are looking for Him, we will find Him.

” ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14)

As you celebrated Christmas this year, maybe in remembering and rejoicing over His first coming, you met Jesus in the manger. Now the Baby in the manger grew up to be the Christ on the cross, and you can meet Him there as well, just like the criminal on the cross beside Jesus met Him there. But know that whatever road your journey has you traveling today, God will meet you on that road, just like He met Paul on his road to Damascus so many years ago.

I confess – I sometimes feel alone and forgotten on the road I am traveling today. Job must have felt the same way on his journey. I’m sure Job felt abandoned by God and totally unseen. But then, in the midst of his terribly tough trial, Job said these words about God,

“But He (God) knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Job acknowledged that he was not off of God’s radar. God saw Job, God was with Job, and God would bring good to Job from his journey. That is what walking by faith looks like.

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming back again! In the meantime, I will wait with hope and walk by faith.

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. after Advent #143

The decorations of Christmas are still on display throughout the house. Gifts once wrapped have been revealed, the anticipation of their mystery vanished in the unwrapping process. Special Christmas treats, so joyfully prepared, have now been consumed, though there may be some remaining remnants to remind me of all the sweet treats that appear during Christmas time. The music has abruptly ceased, the Christmas music that is. This leaves me with a strange sadness, unless of course this music was started too early, then it may be more of a relief than a regret.

Even the Hallmark Christmas movies may be over? But they did start way too early. If they are stretched out any more over the year, they will no longer be seasonal and they will no longer be special. So, in the quiet of this after Advent morning, I sit surrounded by the trappings of Christmas preparation and anticipation and wonder, “what now?”

Actually, the event of Advent is not officially over just yet, not until January 6th. It is on this day that Epiphany is celebrated, also called Three Kings Day or Twelfth Day, because it is the twelfth day after Christmas. Because of this continued celebration of Christ, many leave decorations, including trees and lights, up through January 6th. Epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “appearance,” “manifestation” or “revelation” which makes sense because Jesus’s appearance here on earth was God’s revelation of Himself to us. Jesus was and is the manifestation of God the Father to us.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3)

“He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)

Is it any mystery why we celebrate Jesus’s birth? He is Emmanuel, “God with us.”

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The wonder is that it is not a year long, never ending celebration. Because what God did for me in sending His Son, Jesus, to be the atoning sacrifice for my sins, is something I want to remember and to celebrate with joy new each day, all over again, as long as I live. God’s manna and His mercies are new every morning – so, too, should my thankfulness and my hope be new each day.

So what now? Eventually, I will have to pack away again my rediscovered Christmas decorations. (I confess – I often delay taking down my decorations, because I get attached to them and enjoy them once they are out where I can see them) Lights will come down from the houses that line my street and from the city streets and public places where Christmas lights have added welcome cheer during dark days. The season of gift giving has come to an end, but hopefully not the spirit of generosity that grows strong in the days of Advent. There is silence in the space once filled with Christmas carols, a space waiting to be filled with songs of praise and worship springing from the living out of more ordinary days than Advent days, but days of meaning and purpose nonetheless.

What now, in these after Advent days? Is there no work left to do? No, He is coming again. There is much to do while I wait for His return. Remember that Jesus said,

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes.” (Luke 12:37)

My Advent journey has brought me into the presence of the Christ child and changed me forever. After Advent, for the shepherds meant returning to their sheep, but they went back to tending their flocks changed people. They had had an encounter with the living God. The result of that encounter is explained in these words in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.”

Because of Christ’s presence I am a new creation. I am now His ambassador and He has given me a ministry – the ministry of reconciliation. Advent may be over, but my journey is not. I have a whole new purpose ahead of me! So did the shepherds, so did the woman at the well, (remember her from yesterday’s post?) so did Peter, so does anyone who comes into the presence of the Christ child, become a new creation and receive a new purpose in life.

after Advent, what now? I am a new creation. I will follow wherever He leads me. There is adventure on the path ahead, there is beauty, meaning, delight, purpose, pain, sorrow, loss, comfort, companionship, joy and hope – always hope – as I walk by faith and not by sight, following Jesus.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.’ ” (Matthew 16:24)

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.’ . . . So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.” (Genesis 12:1 & 4)

Christmas is over – it is after Advent and I am left with one of Advent’s best gifts – hope. Jesus has come! Jesus is coming back! this is the hope that sustains.

“To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in You I trust, O my God. . . . No one whose hope is in You will ever be put to shame, . . . for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.” (Psalm 25:1-5)

“those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 49:23)

after all the activity of this Advent season, in the quiet of this after Advent day, I turn my attention to what is yet to come . . . Jesus is yet to come . . .

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” (Psalm 33:20-22)

after Advent, still – “The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice.” (Psalm 97:1)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. Advent arrives #142

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Advent has arrived! Or maybe more accurately, Jesus has arrived and Advent ends. Or does it? I don’t think everyone’s journey is over just yet. The shepherds saw Jesus for themselves while the Wise Men were still on their way. In fact, the journey of the Wise Men was far from over and could have taken up to two years before they finally found Jesus, still in Bethlehem but no longer a baby in a manger.

I guess the Advent journey is longer for some of us than for others. It takes some of us longer than others to finally find our way into the presence of God’s only Son, God’s gift to this world. I have said that the journey of Advent leads us into the presence of Jesus, that this is Advent’s destination. But this particular destination is not an end to my journey nor to yours, dear readers. It is more new beginning, less ending to my journey, it is more about destiny than about destination.

Because once I come into Jesus’s presence, I am forever changed. I am not the same and my life will no longer be the same. With Jesus’s advent, our world was changed forever. Everyone who comes into His presence is changed. Just look at how meeting Jesus affected the shepherds.

“When they (the shepherds) had seen Him, (Jesus) 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)

Some years later, a Samaritan woman’s life was changed forever when she had an encounter with Jesus at a well one day. After a conversation with Jesus this is what happened next.

“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward Him. . . . Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’ . . . And because of His (Jesus) words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘ . . . now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’ ” (John 4:28-30 & 39-42)

The woman at the well was changed when she spent time with Jesus and the whole town was witness to her transformation. Another changed life was that of Peter. Once he encountered Jesus, Peter did not want to be anywhere else. John 6:66-69 tells us what happened,

“From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.’ ”

Being in the presence of Jesus, forever changed Peter. Jesus’s advent also changes me forever. His presence changes me on a daily basis, a one day at a time transformation. I think that must be why David said in Psalm 51:11,

“Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.”

Once your Advent journey brings you into the holy presence of the Christ Child, you are forever changed and you never want to leave. David expressed this desire in Psalm 84:10 saying,

“Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

So Advent may have arrived in the Person of Jesus Christ, but my journey continues. The difference is, I no longer journey alone. Now I abide in His presence and follow where He leads, but I do not journey alone any longer. In His presence there is light and there is life.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ ” (John 8:12)

Today we celebrate that light has come into our dark world! Welcome baby Jesus, Savior of the world, Redeemer of my soul. I no longer have to walk in darkness. I no longer have to walk alone. Let me rejoice and be glad. May each one of you, dear readers, rejoice and be glad as well. God has kept His promise to mankind!

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming again! Advent has arrived, bringing God’s presence to earth, His presence to us, to keep us company until His return.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. . . . Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His truth.” (Psalm 95:1-2 & Psalm 96:11-13)

The Savior has come! The Savior is coming! Merry Christmas, glad tidings of great joy to every person!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. Advent awaits #141

Another day of travel (metaphorically of course) in my Advent journey. Another day of decorating and preparing, operating under the mantra “if I build it they will come/ if I prepare someone will show up.” The music plays in my mind, “let every heart prepare Him room.” There is still work to do. Stony hearts have to be broken open to become flesh, dirty hearts made clean, cluttered hearts full of lesser things need to be cleared out of stuff and of self to make room for the coming King.

Remember His first homecoming? No one had room for Him, literally. I don’t want that to happen to me this Advent season. I don’t want my heart to be so hard or so dirty or so cluttered that I’m not able to invite Him in when He arrives. And the time of His appearance is almost here!

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

this may require a trip to the grocery, I guess I’m not fully ready yet!

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. . . . It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. . . . You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” (Luke 12:35-40)

So my Advent preparations continue. There is still time! And there are still tasks to be done. Now would be a good time to confess however – I do not have a Christmas tree up in my home. So I did not unpack all the ornaments collected over the years. Most ornaments carry with them memories all their own. I have an ornament Mom told me I made when in first grade. She saved it all those years and gave it to me when I had my own tree in my own home. As I said, Advent is about looking back and about looking forward simultaneously.

I look at my Nativity and remember Jesus’s first coming to earth. God’s promise fulfilled. This is the reason for the hope of the fulfillment of His promise to return. Although Jesus’s return is going to be a little different than His first appearance here as a baby born into a carpenter’s family, whose first bed was an animals’ feeding trough. Acts 1:10-11 tells us what Jesus’s disciples were told about His return to earth,

“After He (Jesus) said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.'”

“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. . . . See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:4-11)

Jesus’s return is definitely something worth preparing for, worth anticipating with great joy, worthy of all my hope and effort in getting ready and in being about my Master’s business so that I am ready to receive Him when He comes. But there is something else so wonderful about this Advent season of preparation, of anticipation and of hope in what is yet to come. Even as I am told to make my place, my heart ready to receive Jesus, Jesus is preparing a place to receive me as well! John 14:1-3 makes this perfectly clear when Jesus says these words,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”

This is good news! This is a reason to hope even in a dark time. Jesus came! Jesus is coming back!

This Advent season I am celebrating both God’s promise fulfilled and God’s promise yet to come. The remembering and the anticipation both bring me great joy and great hope. We are drawing close today to the end of our Advent journey. I still have things to do. Do I have my gift ready to present to Jesus? My favorite Christmas book is “The Littlest Angel.” As a small child I identified with this child angel, who like the little drummer boy, (post “a different drummer” explains) had nothing of value to present to the Christ Child when all the older angels had fabulous, flashy gifts to give.

And yet, in this story, the little angel’s gift of earthly treasures in a wooden box, such as rocks and feathers, was accepted by God because it was from the little angel’s heart and was his most prized possession. Actually, it was his only possession. And he humbly gave it to the Christ Child on the night of His birth. Remember, all of heaven was rejoicing. It was earth that didn’t realize, except for the shepherds at first, the wonder of what happened on that silent, starlit night.

Advent awaits. It is comforting to know that even as I prepare to receive Him, Jesus is preparing a place for me!

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. angel chimes #140

I confess – the unearthing of Christmas decorations continues for me, slowly but surely. Each day brings a new discovery of temporarily forgotten treasure which has been buried in my basement (along with those aforementioned dead bodies) just waiting to be rediscovered and displayed once again. And so it came to pass (how’s that for Christmassy?) that today I found my favorite decoration from childhood – the angel chimes.

For me, these were magical, they moved in a circle, they were musical, they contained lit candles, all the elements needed for Christmas beauty as far as I am concerned. And on Christmas Eve, we would light the candles of the angel chimes and the angels would spin around and around, much to my complete delight as a child. Another decoration connecting me to Christmases past. Maybe remembering is as much a part of the Advent journey as moving forward? Of course it is!

Our whole Christmas celebration is for the purpose of remembering the birth of Jesus while also being reminded that we are looking forward to His promised return. Advent is looking back and looking forward at the same time for the same Person for the same reason. He is our promised Deliverer, Savior, Redeemer, Healer, Rescuer, King, . . . the list could go on and on. Jesus is the answer to every prophesy, to every promise of God to His people, to every question I could ask, to every longing of my heart, Jesus is God’s answer. He was then, He is now and He will be forever.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

My angel chimes remind me of Christmases when I was a child. Today I am wondering if my own children remember the angel chimes from when they were young or if they are long forgotten? Different decorations bring different memories to mind. Maybe I liked the angel chimes because angels were such a part of the Christmas story. Angels are the ones who told Mary, then Joseph about Jesus and how His birth was going to happen. Then it was the angels who made the first official announcement of Jesus’s birth to the shepherds on that first Christmas night.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.’ . . . Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’ ” (Luke 2:8-14)

Angels have been God’s agents or messengers in the past, bringing good news to mankind as they did to the shepherds. That’s what Christmas is all about, after all – the good news that Christ has come at last! and more good news – that He is coming again! Must be why there are so many angel decorations at Christmas time – angels are the proclaimers of the good tidings of great joy. When we see them, we remember and we rejoice all over again.

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming again! let the angels of Advent share the news!

“Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious! Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds! So great is Your power that Your enemies cringe before You. All the earth bows down to You; they sing praise to You, they sing praise to Your name.’ Come and see what God has done, how awesome His works in man’s behalf!” (Psalm 66:1-5)

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. joining in Advent’s journey #139

Yesterday I wrote about the journey of Advent and where it leads us. Still, I can’t stop thinking as I continue on my own Advent journey this Christmas season, about all the pilgrims out there on their own Advent journeys and wondering, how are they doing? are they making progress? are they discouraged? have they given up hope of ever finding what it is they are seeking? do they have a star to guide them like the Wise Men did on that first Christmas night?

Even as I write these words, I have friends who are traveling cross country to be with family for Christmas. With a trailer and two dogs in tow, they are making their way slowly across our northern states until they should reach their destination, the Pacific Ocean on Oregon’s coastline. This is their physical Advent journey even as they continue on their spiritual Advent journey simultaneously. Both journeys require our all, all we have to give in dedication and perseverance to pursue the path that will lead us to what we so earnestly seek and desire.

I can’t help thinking it’s like that pearl of great price in the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13:45-46,

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

The Advent journey is the pursuit of something, rather Someone, worth pursuing at all costs. The shepherds discovered this to be true. The Wise Men knew it to be true. That’s why they left their kingdoms and their comforts to become foot travelers on dusty, dangerous roads until they should come into the presence of the King that they so diligently sought. (maybe it takes royalty to recognize royalty?)

Nevertheless, when people come into the Presence of the Living God, there is really only one fitting and appropriate response. Isaiah demonstrates this for us in Isaiah 6:5 where we read about his response,

” ‘Woe to me!’ I cried, ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’ ”

Peter’s response was similar, when he realized he was in the presence of a Holy God. Peter and his fellow fishermen had just put their nets down into the water at Jesus’s suggestion, although they had fished all night without catching anything, but

“When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’s knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ ” (Luke 5:6-8)

John the Baptist also recognized who he was in relationship to Jesus, the very One whose way John was sent to prepare. John said,

“After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8)

Our journey leads us into God’s presence, and in His presence we recognize clearly who we are as we stand before a Holy God. And indeed, standing is not what we do. Like all who have gone before us on this Advent journey, when we come into His presence, it is time to take a knee. Even those who are enemies of God are humbled in His presence. We read in John 18:3-6,

“So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, . . . asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am He,’ Jesus said. . . . they drew back and fell to the ground.”

The appropriate response in the presence of God – humility, reverence, repentance, worship, wonder, gratitude overflowing . . . this was the scene at the manger, this was the scene at the cross when the criminal on the cross on one side of Jesus cried out to Him,

“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” (he humbled himself, acknowledged Jesus’s lordship and Jesus’s power to grant eternal life even to the dying, in other words – he believed, he knew he was in the presence of the Living God even though human circumstances would suggest otherwise, but he recognized the Truth that was hanging on the cross next to him and he bowed down and he cried out)

Job had a similar experience when he came into God’s presence. Job’s response is recorded in Job 42:1-6,

“Then Job replied to the Lord: I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted. . . . Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. . . . My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Did Job’s reaction remind you of Isaiah’s or of Peter’s or of John’s? When I come into my Creator’s presence, my eyes are opened. In recognizing who He is, I can at last see clearly who I am as well. And like so many before me, I finally fall to my knees in recognition, reverence, repentance, praise and worship, fully restored and fully at home in His presence.

This is the destination of the Advent journey – to be in His presence. In His presence is great joy. Now, I have a confession to share – I have a new favorite Christmas movie that I had not seen before though it has been around awhile, I think. It is an animated movie, called “the Star,” which tells the story of Jesus’s birth through the perspective of the donkey that journeyed with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. It is the ending of this movie that is powerful in the truth it portrays. In the final scene everyone, all the various animal characters and all the people also, gather around the baby Jesus in the manger and one by one, everyone takes a knee. Everyone bows before the baby Jesus, acknowledging His true identity as King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Almighty God, Creator of heaven and earth.

The Star is filling the stable with light and all are humbly bowed in the presence of God’s Son come to earth. It is a fitting ending to the Advent journey of all the characters in this movie, as we leave them safe and satisfied at last, able to rest from the labors of their individual journeys and to enjoy the healing and the peace that now surround them.

As our Advent journeys continue, dear readers, let us take a knee as well and join the world in worship of our Savior King.

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;” (Psalm 95:1-7)

“that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)

My Redeemer came! My Redeemer is coming again! let every heart prepare Him room!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. Advent’s journey #138

Advent is a season, a season that always seems to require a journey from me. Advent started with a journey, a journey chosen by God for those brave enough, believing enough to follow. A journey that always ends with humbled hearts, bent knees, bowed heads, songs of praise and words of worship.

That first journey was Abraham’s. God called Abraham and Abraham responded in obedience and in faith. That was the beginning of Abraham’s Advent journey. That was the beginning of the human lineage that would lead to the birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus. It happened in this way.

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram left, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.” (Genesis 12:1-4)

Abraham set out on his journey, not knowing where he was going, trusting God to show him the way to this unknown destination. Mary and Joseph had quite the arduous Advent journey of their own before they arrived at precisely the place picked by God to be the birthplace of the Messiah. The shepherds had their own Advent journey on the night Christ was born. They left their sheep in the fields and set out for Bethlehem. These shepherds wanted to see God’s gift, the promised Messiah, with their own eyes. And so their Advent journey led them to a manger in a stable in Bethlehem. And there they bowed, these seeking, skeptical shepherds. Finding themselves in the presence of the Almighty, they bowed in wonder, overwhelmed with the miracle of Emmanuel.

Others had Advent journeys far longer than those of the shepherds. There were Wise Men or Magi who traveled from distant lands to see Jesus. At one point on their journey, their search for God’s Messiah, they inquired of King Herod,

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2) (the desired destination of the Advent journey is a place of worship)

After their encounter with Herod, the Advent journey of the Wise Men continued until they reached their desired destination. We read this account of the end of their journey in Matthew 2:9-11,

“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

The journey of the Wise Men ended when they came into the presence of God’s Son and were able at last to bow down, worship Him and present their offerings and gifts to Him. The purpose of the journey of Advent is to bring me into the Presence of my Savior, God’s gift to me, God’s gift to the world. But I confess – I have to be willing to leave the comforts of my home behind in order to embrace the journey before me, unknown and uncomfortable though it may prove to be. (it was no piece of cake for Mary and Joseph, the Wise Men, (who were gone traveling for a few years) or even the shepherds, who had to leave their sheep behind and hope they would still be there when they got back)

This Advent journey requires that I, like Abraham, be willing to get up and to go wherever God asks me to go, even if it is an unknown destination, as it was with Abraham. The faith to follow where God leads, is what I, like the Wise Men, must have. They faithfully followed God’s star until it led them into the very Presence of God’s only Son, Jesus. That’s where the journey of Advent leads me every time – into the hushed, holy, divine, life-giving, sin-shattering, heart- healing Presence of Christ.

To reach the destination of the Advent journey is to find oneself in the Presence of the Holy God of the universe and to be filled with the wonder, the joy, the hope, the peace, the comfort, the sense of being home at last, that only His Presence provides. Those that came into the Christ child’s presence on that first Christmas night, experienced what was spoken of in these words from Philippians 2:9-11,

“Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

And that night, that sacred, silent, holy night when Jesus was born – that is exactly what happened. For everyone who entered in to see for themselves the newborn Savior, bowed both knee and head in His presence as they confessed His Lordship and His deity with their tongues, worshiping Him with their words and their gifts. Light had come into our dark world, God’s light, and everyone bowed in the Presence of such pure holiness, power and might.

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

The Advent journey of following God’s star leads me into the light of His Presence where I too, along with shepherds, Wise Men, Mary, Joseph and all of creation will bow in the face of the overwhelming wonder that is the love of God for the people He created. We are not forgotten. Our Redeemer has come!

“Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones.” (Isaiah 49:13)

My Redeemer has come! My Redeemer is coming back for me! My Advent journey is leading me straight into His Presence.

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. an Advent inquiry #137

Today I am dealing with an age old dilemma, “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This is personally relevant for me today as I continue my decoration a day Christmas preparations while asking myself, “if I decorate and no one sees my decorations, did I really decorate?” And so I am back to where I started on December 1rst, who am I preparing for this Christmas?

Whom am I preparing to receive? Not family or friends, as in years past. This year, due to COVID restrictions, I have no expectation that I will be receiving any guests into my home. Which has left me with no reason to decorate from the very beginning of this Advent season. And yet I have been preparing anyway, despite the tree in the forest reality being ever present in my mind. Preparing for what or for who? I ask myself this question anew each day of this ongoing Advent season.

Meanwhile the countdown to Christmas continues as does the dominance of COVID rules and regulations in my daily life and in our lives corporately. I am missing Christmas parties, Christmas concerts and yes, even crowded malls filled with frantic Christmas shoppers. All are a typical part of pre-Christmas preparations.

Maybe a “field of dreams” mantra would serve me well during this Advent season? You know, “if I build it, they will come,” translated “if I decorate, Christmas/people will come!” After all, Advent is about hope and faith. I imagine that first Christmas the people were a little short on both, as they had experienced four hundred years of silence from their God and were still waiting for the prophecies they had been given to be fulfilled. God had made promises to His people through the prophets, like Isaiah, but none of the promised events had happened yet. The Israelites were still waiting.

Or were they? Or had they given up any hope of a Savior being sent and were just going about their lives without any expectation of God’s intervention on their behalf? This loss of expectation, the loss of hope, the loss of faith in God – all are tied together – when we lose faith, we lose the hope our faith contains. Advent is all about eager expectation. It is about hope. It is about faith.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Another translation uses these words, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Jesus has come to earth! We are celebrating that promise kept even as we wait in expectation for His promised return. John 1:14 described Jesus’s first coming with these words,

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

But now we have been waiting for over two thousand years for Christ’s return. We can identify with the people living at the time of Jesus’s birth. They weren’t exactly on high alert. They weren’t waiting with any sense of immediate expectation. Consequently, they weren’t prepared to receive their promised King. Jesus would later ask this important question of the people as He taught them,

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

In other words, will I still be watching, waiting, preparing and believing for Jesus’s return? Will I still hope in His promised return because by faith I believe every promise in His word? Will Jesus find me faithful? Will He find me decorated and ready for His return? These words from Matthew 24:42-44 and Matthew 25:13 are good advice,

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. . . . So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. . . . Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

I’m sure Noah felt a little foolish building that big boat during a drought and no where near a body of water. Still he prepared as one who believed what he could not see. So who am I not to prepare, even though this Christmas there would appear to be no reason to prepare?

Still, I now have to confess – I have had an unexpected visit from friends, brief but so welcome! So there are witnesses after all to my Advent preparations! (at least to what has been done thus far) Which did not include baking cookies because who would eat them if no one came? (well, that is a rhetorical question but the answer would be me if there was no one to share them with and that would not be good but . . . )

So, today I will play some Christmas music as I continue to prepare my home, my heart, my gifts, (still feeling like the little drummer boy in that regard, but my toe makes it hard to get out and shop) maybe even food, so that I am ready to receive whoever this Advent season brings into my life.

The Christmas song “Joy to the World” says,

“Let every heart prepare Him room” that’s the purpose of the preparations of Advent . . .

I don’t want to make the mistake of the first Christmas when,

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (John 1:10-11)

Not this time! This time, let the whole world rejoice!

“Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’ The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His truth.” (Psalm 96:10-13)

Our Redeemer has come! Our Redeemer is coming again! Remember, rejoice and give thanks!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. it’s all a gift and the gift is grace #136

Why does it take Advent to teach me this lesson all over again? It is all a gift. It is all grace. Every breath, every moment of every day, every sunrise, every sunset and every opportunity in between those two events each day, full of possibility, promise and potential is a gift – a gift bestowed by the all encompassing, all surpassing, all sufficient Presence of the Living God in whom I live and move and have my being. He is inescapable and He is all sustaining. “He who fills everything in every way.” “In Him all things hold together.”

And so it is all God’s grace. It is all His undeserved, unappreciated gift to each of us as His dearly loved creation. I am the recipient of His gift of grace whether I acknowledge it or not. The sun shines on me, though I do nothing to deserve its warmth or its light in my life. All is God’s grace – from intact toenails, to redeeming pardon for my many sins, “every good and perfect gift is from my Heavenly Father.” (James 1:17) Every moment is full of God’s grace – waking up, working, every hug, every handshake, every note of every melody, mercy, manna in the desert, a cool breeze on a hot day, hot tea, ice cream, a friend’s listening ear, tears, laughter, spring flowers, fall colors, the dazzling, blinding beauty of an icicle, a purring cat, a flying falcon, pounding waves, encouraging words, second chances, fireflys on a summer night, star filled skies, faith filled hearts, voices singing in harmony, words of truth finding their way, courage coming forth overcoming every fear, freedom to gather together to worship our Creator, – every moment is grace unmerited, unacknowledged and unappreciated until . . .

until the toenail is gone and the church is closed. Then the gift of grace and protection each one of them has been in my life is revealed and recognized for what it has always been, a gift of grace from God. I confess – I seldom fully appreciate and value something until it is taken away from me. Then, too late, I truly appreciate what I had and I long for it to be restored to me. This is true for my big toenail and it is true for my church and the churches across our country. How could I not have valued the important role or function each played in my ordinary, everyday life?

Turns out, my toenail plays a pretty important (if unseen) role that contributes to my physical body operating well as a whole. In the same way, my opportunity to be a part of a community of faith, enables me to thrive and grow as a part of Christ’s body of believers here on earth. I am important to the overall operation of the body just as I am sustained by virtue of belonging to the larger body in the first place. When my opportunity to worship, learn, serve, grow and gather with others is denied, I suffer and the whole body suffers. We need each other.

I don’t want to take God’s gift of daily grace for granted anymore. Today is a gift just as it is, nothing more needs to happen to make it more of a miracle than it already is. God has already given His gift –

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, (me) so that in all things at all times, having all that you (I) need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

That’s a lot of alls! All grace, all things, all times, having all I need . . . it is all a gift of God and the gift of His Son is the gift of His grace to each one of us.

“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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

” But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ 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)

God’s gift of grace – a Savior! The angel told Joseph concerning Mary,

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

The Savior has come! The Savior is coming again. Advent advances. Prepare to receive Him.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10)

sincerely, Grace Day