C.C. the glass wreath #135

Today’s rediscovered decoration is a glass wreath. I know most Christmas wreaths are typically made of evergreen but this particular Christmas wreath is made of stained glass. It hangs in my kitchen window, a thing of beauty as the sun shines through its green glass. Like the other decorations, my glass wreath has her own story, her own history of how she came to be with me.

I must confess – this glass wreath is not a hand me down decoration. I chose her for myself so many years ago, while shopping with my sisters. We were on a “sisters retreat” in San Antonio, Texas at the Riverwalk, a well known shopping district. Within the Riverwalk there is an enchanting place called “La Villita.” Ascending many tiled stairs, one enters into this community of artisans and their shops and it was there we found ourselves in a shop surrounded by stained glass creations of every kind.

Although it was summer, the Christmas wreath is what caught my eye. This was not a Christmas shopping trip by any stretch of the imagination. But it was this stained glass Christmas wreath that I brought home with me from my getaway adventure with my sisters all those years ago. Today as I continue my Advent preparations, my stained glass Christmas wreath reminds me of the summer adventure I shared with my sisters, as we explored a new place together.

I should mention that we each live in different states, my sisters and I, so time together doesn’t happen unless there is a plan. This time we had made a plan and we had carried it out. As I enjoy my glass wreath every December, I remember and relive our adventure in my mind and feel close to my sisters even though distance separates us.

Advent is about remembering. We remember Jesus’s birth story, all of it. How it came to be that the Son of God came to earth as a baby, born on that cold Christmas night some two thousand twenty years ago. What is so remarkable about the story of the baby in the manger? Pretty much everything, as it turns out.

In hearing the Christmas story I am reminded once again that Jesus gave up everything to come here. In fact Philippians 2:6-8 tells me that Jesus,

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Jesus gave up everything He had to come here and suffer. He left His position, His power, His comfort, His glory, His ease and painfree limitless form – to submit Himself to our earthly limits. Infinite in being, Jesus took on finite form. Jesus shared in our hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, loss, (remember Lazarus?) separation from the Father (why He prayed) and our loneliness.

Timeless in being, Jesus entered into our history – taking on our time constraints, our hours and our days, our sleepless nights and special moments, encounters with eternity among ordinary hours of seemingly identical days. Jesus came here knowing He would experience loss, loneliness, betrayal, – that He would be misunderstood, lied about, blasphemed and put to death even though innocent. And still Jesus came.

That’s why we celebrate Jesus’s birth. The infinite became finite for a moment and walked with us and bore our burdens. We celebrate the arrival of our Deliverer. We celebrate God’s promise to Abraham kept. That promise was also God’s promise to you and to me. Isaiah 53:4-5 is reason to rejoice in God’s great mercy –

“Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”

God’s promised Messiah arrived that first Christmas night. A man named Simeon understood the miracle that is Jesus’s birth. We read his account in Luke 2:28-32,

“Simeon took Him (Jesus) in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel.’ ”

Jesus is God’s salvation for me and for you. The celebration of Christmas is more than a birthday party, it is the acknowledgement that God’s gift to mankind has been given and now it falls to us to prepare, to make room to receive this gift so sacrificially given, this gift that I don’t deserve but nonetheless has already been given. Jesus offers me Himself. Nothing remains for me but to let Him in.

The Savior has come! The Savior is coming again!

“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. gifts of Advent #134

A quiet, sunny day in the season of Advent that is upon us. I ponder all that remains on my Advent “to do” list, thinking it will require a Christmas miracle to successfully complete my list. One thing about Christmas though, it will come whether I am ready or not for its arrival. The story of the Grinch reminds us all of that fact, no one can steal or stop Christmas from coming. Not even COVID. Maybe this Advent season, COVID is our Grinch, trying to steal Christmas or to stop its celebration, but COVID cannot stop Christmas from coming! Jesus has come! Jesus is coming again! Both of these irrefutable facts are worthy of the most joyous rejoicing and celebrating that we can offer up to God.

Who throws a better party than heaven? Just ask the shepherds. They heard the heavenly hosts celebrating on the night Jesus was born. The party had started and the shepherds were allowed a glimpse into the eternal celebration that surrounds the birth of the Christ child, God’s gift to a sinful world. So COVID has no power to stop what God has ordained from before the world began.

As I maintain my brisk, a decoration a day, Advent pace – I am reminded of the outdoor hide and seek game we used to play on summer nights. You know the final words shouted by the person who was “it” right? They are “here I come, ready or not.” I am playing this same game of hide and seek with Christmas and she is “it”. Christmas will come, arriving on time, whether I am ready or not. And Christmas will find me, too. She will find me prepared or unprepared, but she will find me. As the saying goes, I can run (well, actually I can’t run right now, with my injured toe and all) but I can’t hide.

So, the question is not “will Christmas come this year?” but “when Christmas comes, in what state will she find me, ready or not ready?” Still, today I think I will take my time and unwrap a few more gifts of Advent. She has already given me so many, what’s a few more gifts unwrapped early? One of my favorites is the joy of anticipation. Advent is all about anticipation. I am looking forward to celebrating something, something big, something life changing, something life giving.

I am looking back on an event that changed the course of human history, while at the same time looking forward to an event yet to come that will change the world once again for good. Jesus has come! Jesus is coming again! What we are looking forward to with great anticipation pretty much defies description but I can read these words from Revelation 21:1-4 which give a hint at what awaits us,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. . . . I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ ”

Anticipation is pure joy when I am waiting on something so glorious as just described in Revelation 21. Romans 8:19-25 talks about this gift of anticipation I receive as a part of God’s creation saying,

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. . . . 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. . . . 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.”

We, along with the rest of the world, the rest of creation, wait in eager expectation as Romans says, for the promised return of Jesus. Mark 13:26-27 describes this future event like this,

“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

Today, as I am enjoying the anticipation and the preparations that go into getting ready to celebrate Jesus’s first appearance here on earth, His birthday, I can know I have something even better to look forward to when Jesus returns. In the meantime, in the anticipation there is joy, there is hope, there is comfort that something better is coming, there is peace in knowing that He is a faithful God who keeps His promises.

We all need the hope that anticipating a joyous event brings with it. This Advent season is full of the hope that Jesus brought to this despairing world two thousand years ago. Today, Jesus still holds out that same hope to anyone who would receive it. We can be filled with hope, even during this time in history some would consider more hopeless than at any other time. Hope is one of Advent’s best gifts.

I just have to make room to receive all that God wants to give me through His gift of Jesus Christ, His Son. That’s what Advent is for, to get prepared, to make ready to receive my King – to let Him in.

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming again!

“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. stocking stories #133

Today I unpacked my childhood Christmas stocking. I know it is mine because it has my name on it. It is a hand knitted, one of a kind, made by my mom, Christmas stocking. Actually, she made nine of them, including mine. One for each of my sisters and one for each of my six cousins. They are all identical in pattern, the only difference being the name knitted into each one. Well, actually there is one other very critical and readily apparent difference to discern, if all nine stockings could be viewed side by side. It is this. size My stocking is significantly smaller than the others, which seemed to grow bigger as the years went by.

I am the oldest of the nine of us. My stocking must have served as the test case, as it were because the stocking of my youngest cousin is huge by comparison. Now, I would go so far as to say this is not fair. But I am no longer a child and I am over it. Can you tell? Was that convincing enough for you, dear readers?

But the lesson of the Christmas stocking doesn’t depend on its size, it is something else entirely. We hang them up empty on Christmas Eve trusting that Santa Clause will find them and fill them with good things. Although there was always the ever present possibility that if I had not been good enough there would be a lump of coal or switches in my stocking, instead of treats and gifts. (this was standard Christmas lore at the time anyway) So my sisters and I were sure to be on our best behavior for the month of December every year. (although I have to confess – this incentive/threat really wasn’t very effective the other eleven months of the year)

Advent preparations involve preparing to receive Christ but also seem to involve preparing to receive all manner of unexpected gifts and surprises. We prepare to receive people into our home and maybe into our lives that have been heretofore overlooked or excluded. We make time and room for special foods and music and gifts that are not present with us the rest of the year. That’s why we hang up empty Christmas stockings, we have made room for the new gifts that we expect will fill them. We have cleaned house to make room for the new gifts of Christmas.

Now with Santa I am taking a bit of a chance. I am assuming these gifts will be good gifts, but those stories of coal and switches still loom in the recesses of my mind. The gifts of Christmas from my Heavenly Father are always good, however. James 1:17 tells me this saying –

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadow.”

Santa would seem to be the quintessential giver of gifts but these words of Jesus in Matthew 7:9-11 give a different perspective on the subject saying –

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

Yes, God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Whatever my wishes and longings are this Advent season, I can rest assured that this promise is true –

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Jesus Christ, God’s Christmas gift to me and to you, brings with Him all the other gifts my Heavenly Father wants to give me. The question is, will I be ready to receive them? Is my stocking hanging empty, ready and waiting to be filled with His good gifts? All God’s good gifts are found in the person of His Son, Jesus. Colossians 2:2-3 says this about Christ –

” . . . that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Jesus’s appearance and presence here on earth brought so many gifts to us. He brought light into our darkness, hope into our despair, healing into our illness, comfort into our grief, forgiveness into our overwhelming debt of guilt, peace into our strife, an offer of life everlasting to replace our sentence of death, and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge plus joy unspeakable in His Presence!

The gifts of Advent are many and they are all good. I think they are more than my childhood Christmas stocking could ever contain. I surely can say along with David on this day in the season of Advent, as I prepare my home, my heart and my gifts for the coming of my King –

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:5-6)

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming again!

“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 96:11-13)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. a different drummer #132

Today is a quiet day. How ironic! The days of Advent, being days of preparation, are typically busier than normal days, having all those extra tasks added on top of everyday routines and responsibilities. Maybe that is the gift of my toe injury plus my illness (I have bronchitis) – I cannot participate in the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle. Which also means, I am behind on my Christmas shopping. Yes, I am confessing – I do not yet have gifts fully prepared and ready to give.

I have been writing in these past few days about preparing my home for Christmas, about preparing my heart to fully receive the gift of Christmas, Jesus, God’s Son; but something else that I typically prepare are gifts to give to those I love. Gift giving is synonymous with Christmas, probably because Christmas started with a gift – God’s gift to the world – Jesus. Then the Wise Men showed up with gifts of their own for the newborn Jesus, expensive gifts to show Him honor and respect.

In the quiet of this Advent morning, a favorite childhood Christmas song plays clearly in my mind. We sang this song in children’s choir for the church Christmas program when I was maybe first grade? I identified so strongly, so closely with the speaker in the song, that I carry its impact with me yet today. The song “The Little Drummer Boy” tells a story I identified with then, that I identify with still today. Maybe it was because I was a small child at the time I first sang this song, that I felt so close to the small child whose story the song tells.

He tells his own story, this little drummer boy, starting with the invitation he receives to go with the Wise Men to worship baby Jesus. “Come they told me . . . A newborn King to see . . . Our finest gifts we bring . . . To lay before the King . . . So to honor Him . . . When we come.” So there he was, this young boy, having accepted the invitation from the Magi, he now found himself in a tough place. The Magi were presenting their rare and expensive gifts to Jesus’s parents and the little drummer boy had no such gift to give. His story continues –

“Little baby . . . I am a poor boy too . . . I have no gift to bring . . . That’s fit to give our King.” With those words I knew the truth. Neither did I. I had nothing of value to offer the Baby in the manger, the King of all Creation, the Savior of the world. I shared in the little drummer boy’s plight, I shared in his poverty. I, too, found myself standing before the Lord of Lords with nothing to give. For me, that is as true today as it was all those years ago. I still come before my King, poor, empty handed and all too aware of my lack. But I learned a lesson from the drummer boy as his story continued when he asked,

“Shall I play for You . . . On my drum . . . Mary nodded . . . the ox and lamb kept time . . . I played my drum for Him . . . I played my best for Him . . . Then He smiled at me . . . me and my drum.”

A happy ending! The little drummer boy offered Jesus what he did have to give. He offered back the very gifts God had already given him – his drum and his ability to play it for God’s glory. He played his drum as an offering to God and God was pleased. God accepted his gift! The song says the Christ child smiled!

What great reward! That’s all I could ever desire – that my offering, my gift, would be accepted by my King.

to that end my prayer today is simply this,

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

What joy that my gift might be found acceptable like the drum beats of that long ago little drummer boy, who found favor in the sight of God.

Although this Advent season falls during this time of COVID, COVID does not rule. The Ruler of the universe, the God whose Advent we are preparing to celebrate reigns supreme. Lord, grant that I walk through these Advent days, every step surrendered, every thought captured (the ladies in my bible study will get that one, we are learning about taking every thought captive and we are finding out how hard that actually is!) heart humbled, hands open . . . that I will sing Your praises with the angels, make haste to obey with the shepherds that I might behold Your precious Gift personally, journey with the Wise Men though it take me far from home, in order to find and worship You, and may I offer up whatever gifts You have graciously placed within my hands, may I give them back to You, just as the little drummer boy did.

The King has come! The King is coming! Prepare the way! Advent is upon us!

“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. the Christmas pixie #131

I confess to you openly, dear readers, I am still in the decorating phase of my Advent preparations. And now my progress is impeded by my toe injury, which wouldn’t be a big deal except that my toe is connected to the rest of my body. So I am suffering in solidarity with my big toe today. However, today’s decoration is a favorite of mine, bringing with her lots of memories. Unpacking boxed up Christmas decorations is like pulling out old friends and reconnecting all over again.

Today is no different. Today I pulled out a small, red, green and white striped, china Christmas pixie. She is standing upright and has an expression on her tiny face that while admittedly angelic, belies the fact that she is always up to some Christmas mischief. She has seen a lot of Christmases and I know she could tell me many stories if she were but willing to part with her secrets.

One thing is obvious when I examine her closely. She has been glued back together no small number of times over the years. She still bears the scars, the fault lines where the breaks once occurred. We go back, she and I. This pixie was maybe my first Christmas decoration that was mine alone. I can’t believe I never gave her a name, but I didn’t. I mean she only came to spend time with me one month out of the year. Still, she had her own special place in our house.

It was in the bedroom I shared with my sisters. You see, in addition to the very large, live tree that filled our living room, Mom put a small, glittery white tree on a table in our bedroom. It was a real pine tree that had been sprayed and put on a stand. It was probably about four feet tall. It was beautiful, all glitterey, with a magic all its own. When silver icicles (remember those?) were added to her branches she became even more lovely, if that were possible. And the best part? For a tree skirt, Mom put down a roll of cotton batting (I guess) smooth and full of glitter on its surface. It was on this soft, glittery tree skirt that my Christmas pixie was placed each December, to hang out under the glittery white tree and keep watch over me.

So today, as I pull out my Christmas pixie, I am filled with memories of childhood Christmases. There was something else special about our little, white glitter pine tree. After Christmas, mom would set it outside in the backyard in the snow, with food hanging from its branches for the birds. Then we would watch and wait to see which birds showed up. The thing is, as I write this, I am remembering bacon hanging from the branches. But birds don’t eat bacon, do they? Sometimes memories from early childhood are not all that accurate. My pixie is the keeper of these secrets and she is silent for now.

When I set out my Christmas pixie, I am connected to my Mom and sisters and Christmases past. Advent is about remembering and about connection. We are remembering that first Christmas, Jesus come to dwell with us for awhile. And in the remembering we are connected to all who rejoice with us at His birth, knowing that a way back to God has been given. The whole world celebrates God’s gift of His Son, together.

Something else we do together is wait for His return. We are remembering and rejoicing while waiting with eager expectation for Christ’s return. Christmas is a celebration of both events. One has already taken place, the other is yet to come.

That first celebration was a small one, shared only by shepherds, angels and wise men. The rest of the world would find out later just who Jesus is. Here’s how that first celebration of Advent happened –

“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. . . . 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 rest.’ ” (Luke 2:13-14)

Heaven was already rejoicing at Jesus’s birth. It would take a number of years before we, the slumbering people of earth, would join the angels in their celebration. But we would come around eventually, when we came to understand what the angels already knew. The living Word had become flesh and come to live with us for awhile.

This is no small thing. Consider what 2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us about this miracle of Christmas.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your (my) sakes He became poor, so that you (I) through His poverty might become rich.”

Philippians 2:6-11 sums up the Christmas story in these words, saying that Jesus –

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! 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.”

That’s the miracle of Christmas – that the Creator of the universe, being limitless in every aspect of His being, entered into our limited world of time and space, taking on our physical limitations and time and space constraints as His own. The angels were rejoicing on the night of Jesus’s birth because they knew God had brought salvation to His people at last!

During this Advent season, we prepare to receive Jesus all over again. Perhaps other things have been crowding out Jesus’s place and presence in my life. Now is the time for me to clean house and to make room for Him all over again.

“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)

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming! prepare ye the way of the Lord!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. Advent interruptions #130

Now I can confidently say to you, dear readers, under penalty of perjury, that I have no skeletons in my closets. But simultaneously, I must hereby confess to you, there is another dead body in my basement. (I am not saying that I know anything whatsoever about how he/she? came to be there. In fact, I have never seen that body before!) Can I help it if they end up in my basement?

And I must further confess – you know those things that go bump in the dark? I am one of them. At least last night I was. I bumped into my vacuum cleaner (which I had not put away) and my big toe was the casualty of the encounter. I have never seen so much blood. (well probably I have, I just can’t remember when) All this to say, today’s visit to Urgent Care and not being able to wear a shoe are serious interruptions to my Advent agenda. This wasn’t part of my plan. I didn’t figure being injured into my equation.

After all, I have a house to prepare. But maybe it is more necessary that I spend time preparing my heart than my house. I guess I can do that from the couch, right? These are the verses that have come alive for me today, although I don’t see the connection to Advent at present. But here is the lesson I am learning first hand.

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. . . . If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:18-19 & 26)

I am in the every part suffers with it phase at the moment. My body is showing solidarity and deference to my left big toe. Who knew one big toe made such a difference in my mobility and daily routines? But it does! Ok, big toe, I appreciate you now, let me count the ways! In the same way 1 Corinthians 12:27 tells me,

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” I am a part of a body just like my injured big toe is a part of my body. Romans 12:4-5 explains it this way,

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

I belong. I belong to something bigger than myself. Romans 12:6 further explains,

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” This makes sense. We are not all the same. As we just read in verse four we do not all have the same function. (because we are different) No other part of my body can substitute for my ailing big toe. As members of Christ’s body we are called to a purpose, a purpose that is fulfilled through our connection with the other members of the body. Without connection, the body doesn’t function at all.

But God brings unity while maintaining our unique diversity. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 explains this saying,

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

Members of Christ’s body came to my aid last night. My neighbors across the street showed up to help me out. You know them, they are the housemates of Stella and Toby, whom you may remember from a recent, previous post. I was grateful for their physical presence with me in my hour of unexpected injury.

Unexpected is the operative word here. This was not part of my plan. My Advent season and preparations have been hijacked by my big toe’s physical trauma. Or have they? Proverbs 19:21 reminds me,

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Those words are reassuring, comforting, encouraging – my Heavenly Father is Sovereign and He is good. Just because I don’t see the upside of my troublesome toe, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. These words from Isaiah 55:8-9 shed some light on my situation saying,

” ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’ ”

I can trust that my Heavenly Father is present with me in this interruption to my Advent season of preparation. Mary and Joseph had a huge interruption to their preparations for Jesus’s birth. (like a road trip in the ninth month of pregnancy) Why should I expect any different? So today I will pray this prayer of David as I ask God to prepare my heart for His coming –

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

maybe Advent is more about letting God do the preparation work He wants to do in me, than me trying to prepare myself on my own?

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming! Listen . . .

“A voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” (Isaiah 40:3-4)

Advent awaits, interruptions and all!

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. Advent adventures #129

Mary and Joseph were on an adventure. Well, a journey anyway. Maybe the difference is an adventure is something we choose to embark upon, whereas a journey may simply be the path put before us and where it leads us. Mary and Joseph didn’t choose the path they found themselves on as they journeyed to Bethlehem. That had been chosen for them by a ruler named Caesar Augustus. Actually, Mary and Joseph hadn’t chosen any part of their current path, except their engagement and intention to marry. God had chosen their journey for them when He selected Mary to give birth to His Son, Jesus, and chose Joseph to be the earthly Father of Jesus.

You could say Mary and Joseph were on an adventure but it was certainly nothing of their own choosing. This was the first Advent. Having been told by the angel that Mary was carrying Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, both Mary and Joseph were awaiting His birth as any expectant parents would, yet knowing it was so much more. They were busy preparing for Jesus’s arrival, I am certain, when they were called away to Bethlehem because of a required census ordered by Caesar Augustus.

Kind of hard to get ready for an important event when you are traveling far from home. And this travel was on foot. Well, Mary was riding on a donkey. That couldn’t have been too comfortable for her, being nine months pregnant as she was. But this was not a fairy tale. This was the real life adventure of the first advent – the countdown to Jesus’s birth.

Why am I reminiscing about this now? Because today I unpacked and put out my nativity. Well, one of them anyway. So naturally I am remembering the story of the first Christmas and how it all went down. (the proper wording would be “came to pass”) This is what we are preparing to celebrate, the first coming of Jesus to earth. As we take this time of Advent to reflect and remember, we have a reason to rejoice when we realize all God did for us in sending His Son.

I am doing some remembering today, as I place the figures of my nativity in their proper places. This nativity is from Zambia. It looks very different than some of my other nativity sets and yet they are all the same. Shepherds, wise men, a stable, a star, a manger, a baby, some sheep and an angel, Mary and Joseph and maybe a camel? It is a universal scene portrayed again and again down through the ages. This nativity connects me to my sisters and to Zambia and the people living there. It doesn’t seem that long ago that my sisters and I were there and yet it could have been in another lifetime. Such are the times we live in.

Mary and Joseph were living in difficult, dark times when they made their journey to Bethlehem. They lived under an oppressive Roman rule. They were waiting for a deliverer who would set them all free. That’s how they ended up on their Advent adventure in the first place. Luke 2:1-7 explains how it happened.

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. . . . And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Far from home, no place to stay, no room except where people kept their animals – not exactly plan A or plan B or any plan at all for Mary and Joseph. Except this was God’s plan, a plan the prophets had spoken of centuries before. Just look at what Micah 5:2 says about where Jesus will be born –

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Mary and Joseph didn’t choose Bethlehem as Jesus’s birthplace, God did. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I have to confess – I’ve looked at this year more as a journey than an adventure. (a fearful, stressful journey rather than an exciting, thrill-filled adventure) Probably because I didn’t choose any of what has happened to me or to those I love this year. I bet you didn’t sign up for any of this either? It has felt like a laborious, uphill climb with no summit in sight. A climb that I didn’t sign up for.

How similar this Advent season is to the first advent. Both take place during dark and difficult times in history. Edicts are being made that we must follow, just like Joseph had to leave his home, his work, his daily life behind and journey far on foot, simply to satisfy the whim of a Roman ruler. Our businesses, schools and places of worship are closed down as are other gathering places like gyms, restaurants, museums and theaters. We are living in fear of disease and death, separated from family and friends when we most need each other. What a perfect time for this Advent season! Dietrich Bonhoeffer explained it this way –

“The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”

Advent is a time of anticipation. We are anticipating and preparing for the coming of our King! Light is coming into our darkness. This year more than ever, I would imagine that out of our weariness, out of our longing for peace and light to enter into our turmoil and darkness, we would be intentional in our Advent preparations to make ready for our Savior’s arrival.

He has come! He is coming again! I am remembering His first coming as I set out my nativity today. That first announcement from the angel to the shepherds –

“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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ “

good news, great joy, all people oh, the anticipation, the adventure of Advent!

“And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. Advent advances #128

Today it dawns on me that doing a decoration a day is not going to get the job done by the deadline. At some point I should pick up the pace if I am to be fully prepared. To that end, I put a wreath on the front door, pull out a favorite Christmas plate and ponder what next to do? So many possibilities. So many memories with each decoration I unpack. And who will see these decorations of mine, anyway? No one is coming. I am ever mindful of this reality even as I go through the motions of Advent.

Some celebrations are meant to be shared. Actually, show me one that is not. There’s an old Swedish proverb that says, “Shared joy is a double joy, shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” We are not meant to live in isolation and fear. When the COVID czars figure this out, our mental health, our overall health (including natural immunities currently weakened by fear and constant stress) will improve and we will all be better off, especially as we return to our gyms, to our churches and to our regular doctor’s appointments, now long put off and postponed in the name of COVID.

So today I decide to start with the window sill over my kitchen sink. I used to put a little village of sorts there, some tiny evergreen trees, a snowman and a little house. These were my mom’s at one time. Actually, they were my grandma’s before they were hers. Did I mention I come from a long line of dedicated Christmas decorators? Their homes were full of Christmas. Everywhere you looked there was some Christmas surprise.

I remember Mom filled the house with fresh evergreen, which she sprayed with silver spray paint to give it a certain look, I guess. This she made into a wreath for over the mantle and also filled the mantle with the fresh and also freshly painted pine branches. The house smelled like pine and spray paint mixed together for days, until cookie baking smells took over. But I digress.

Today I place three small plastic Santas in the window where the village used to be. My cat discovered the tiny pine trees of the village and would destroy them if left unsupervised, so now I put my three plastic Santas there every year. These are Santas I remember from my grandma’s house at Christmas. I call them my dime store Santas. (yes, we had a “dime store”, probably the forerunner of today’s dollar stores) And our dime store was a wondrous place. Crowded floor to ceiling with too many things to take in all at once, it’s best feature was a large fish tank full of gold fish that you could purchase. You could pick out the fish you wanted to take home and then watch while they scooped your fish up out of the tank with a net. I confess – it was always a tough decision for me, which fish to select. Never mind they were all goldfish. I liked to think I could tell them apart, recognizing their individual uniqueness.

So today as I set out my plastic dime store Santas, I remember Grandma and Mom and trips to the Dime Store downtown. I guess treasure doesn’t have to be expensive to be treasure. I am receiving a gift today from this Advent season of preparation. It is the gift of connection, the gift of sweet memories. (ok, two gifts) Advent is all about remembering – remembering that Jesus came and that His coming connects me to God, my Creator, in a way the Law has never been able to do. Just ask the Israelites, they’ll tell you. The Law couldn’t save them because they couldn’t keep the Law. God knows they tried.

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His (God’s) sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:19-20)

The Jewish people knew they needed a Savior and they were waiting for this promised Messiah. They just didn’t recognize Him when He arrived. I don’t want to make that same mistake. Jesus is clearly God’s provision for me to be reconciled to Him. Jesus is my connection to my Heavenly Father.

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24)

It is Jesus. Jesus is the connection. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham all those centuries ago when God told Abraham,

“and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3)

It is through Abraham’s descendants that Jesus came into this world bringing with Him light, life, redemption, hope, joy, healing, mercy, truth, grace, – more things than can be listed here. Jesus, God’s gift to us, brings to us more gifts of God than we could ever unwrap in a lifetime.

Today I thank God for His gifts of memory and connection. My Christmas decorations connect me to my family, being the bearers of those special memories. As I prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, I get to remember all over again to what great lengths my Heavenly Father went in order to connect with me personally. Extraordinay!

Jesus has come! Jesus is coming! Time to get ready to receive Him! Advent is here!

“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)

preparing a place for Him,

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. Christmas Countdown Continues #127

There are those who decorate all at once, making a dramatic transformation from the everyday to the magically festive in the twinkling of an eye. But I hereby confess – I am not one of them. That is simply not me. (remember post “confessions of a plodder”?) My advent transformation is going to take a little longer than my neighbors’ successful transitions to all things Christmas. I am still waiting for the Christmas spirit to inspire me.

Although yesterday, I did unwrap joy and hope and they are now keeping me company as I anticipate the approaching arrival of Christmas in this time of COVID. Maybe some of my melancholy stems from my concerns of how COVID is going to impact the celebrating of my beloved holiday, Christmas. Christmas is naturally a time of many traditions, some specific to individual families, many shared by larger communities who have practiced them for centuries. Let’s face it, Christmas trees, gift giving, baking cookies, singing songs, Santa, sending cards, gathering with family and friends etc. are all shared traditions that have been with us for awhile now. And any holiday full of traditions is full of memories as well.

Christmas is a time of inescapable memories for me. I’m thinking it may be for you, too, dear readers. So today I switched out my pumpkin for a candy cane, literally. I took my stained glass pumpkin out of the window and replaced it with a stained glass candy cane. The candy cane has quite the story of its own as an official Christmas candy. Lots of symbolism, such as white for Jesus’s holiness, red for His blood (which He came to shed for us at the pre-appointed time) It is a hard candy reminding me that Jesus is the “Rock” of my salvation, the firm foundation for my faith. The shape is a shepherd’s staff or a “J” for Jesus, depending on direction. The stripes of the candy cane remind me of Jesus’s suffering. “by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) This simple candy points us to the true meaning of Christmas, even though we might not know its story.

I did something else today. I hung a Christmas lantern on my front porch. It is not just any lantern, though. This lantern hung next to the front door of my Mom’s house at Christmas for many years. I did not light the red candle inside, but it is ready. That’s what Advent is all about – getting ready. I have a long way to go. (don’t we all?) This lantern is more than a decoration, it is a connection to my Mom and to my past. Memories come to spend some time with me as I hang this lantern. They are inescapable but I welcome them, they are good ones. The sadness is not in the memories, but that so many in my memories are no longer here to celebrate with me.

My lantern is so old and rusty, very dull on the outside. It was my grandparents before it was my parents’ lantern. But when I light the candle, it will shine a light out into the dark night just like it has done for years. This is a dark time in our history. We need the lights of Christmas to remind us that Jesus came into a very dark world two thousand years ago, bringing His light into our world to dispel our darkness. Jesus very Presence is light!

“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)

Jesus 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)

The prophet Isaiah spoke of Jesus’s birth, though still centuries in the future, in these words,

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before You as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.” (Isaiah 9:22-3)

Do we feel we are currently living in the land of the shadow of death that Isaiah spoke of in those prophetic words? It is easy to feel as if darkness surrounds the events and the deeds of our days right now. Enter Jesus into the world! Enter the star over the stable! Enter the starry hosts singing their hosannas. Enter the lights of Christmas! We are remembering that Jesus came bringing His light into this world. That’s the reason for all the Christmas lights and Christmas candles. During the month of the year with the least hours of daylight (where I live anyway) we have all the lights of Christmas, on city streets, on homes, in windows, everywhere I look I can see these lights shining in the dark and be reminded of the event we are preparing to celebrate – the day the Savior was born and light came to live among us.

The light has come. I just need to let Him in. Prepare! Make room! The King has come! The King is coming!

“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)

today, for Advent, I will light a candle, I will let His light shine . . .

sincerely, Grace Day

C.C. countdown to Christmas #126

I turned the page on my calendar today, making it official – it really is December 1rst. The season of Advent has begun. Time to switch out my pumpkins for candy canes and my Indian corn for a wreath. I am not ready but my calendar shows me no sympathy. There are Christmas lights on my street already. They should inspire me to follow suite, but – I have to confess – I don’t feel like decorating for Christmas just yet. Could it be that with no one coming for the holidays, there seems to be no reason for me to decorate? No reason to prepare, if there is no one to prepare for, right?

Still, advent has a deeper meaning, I think. The dictionary definition of “advent” reads, “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” Makes perfect sense. Jesus’s birth was certainly the arrival of a notable person. It was an earth shaking, world changing, long anticipated historical event. Israel had been watching and waiting for their Savior King to appear for centuries. They had grown weary with the wait, so perhaps weren’t prepared to receive Him when He finally arrived. Not as if they hadn’t had time to prepare though. This event had been foretold long ago with these words of Isaiah,

“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. 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)

Still, they were caught off guard and unprepared. They had not made room to receive this King. They had not prepared a place for this coming Messiah in their lives, in their hearts or in their homes. (I guess that explains the stable and the manger for a bed) Maybe they had secretly given up hope of His ever coming. That could explain why they weren’t prepared for His miraculous appearance when He did arrive. They were no longer watching and waiting with their former eager expectation. In fact, John 1:9-11 tells us what actually happened,

“The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 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.”

Seems like that is still true today. For many of us, we are not ready to receive the One who came to rescue and redeem us. We are too busy to prepare a place for Him. We are unwilling to receive Him into our lives. And then Advent season comes again, inviting me to prepare, to make time, to make room, to be ready to receive all God wants to give during this season of celebration – to be ready to receive God’s greatest gift, His Son, Jesus.

“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

I remember clearly the preparations for Christmas from childhood. We were preparing to receive someone very important. That someone was Santa Clause. This meant a decorated tree of course, so Santa could leave presents underneath it. It meant hanging stockings on the fireplace, so Santa would have something to fill. It meant leaving cookies and milk, so Santa would have a snack. It meant making Christmas lists and mailing letters to the North Pole. It meant being sure the fire was out in the fireplace and the chimney open, so Santa could enter without getting burned. We prepared well for Santa’s arrival.

Even as we prepared for Santa’s arrival, we were preparing in a larger sense to celebrate Someone’s presence with us who was infinitely more abiding and compelling than the brief, gift bestowing, in and out, once a year appearance of someone I soon outgrew. Although I outgrew Santa, I’ve never outgrown Christmas. Celebrating God’s promise to mankind made manifold brings me renewal each Advent season as I refocus on Jesus first coming (promise fulfilled) which leads me to focus on His promised second coming (promise yet to be fulfilled). In the remembering of the first Advent of Jesus come to earth there is great joy. In the promise of His return to earth, Jesus’s second Advent, there is great hope.

So in this Advent season, I can have joy as I remember and celebrate what God has already done for me through Jesus’s first coming and I have hope, sustaining hope, an unassailable hope, as I await Jesus’s promised second coming. These are two of the gifts of Advent, joy and hope. I am definitely in need of both gifts this Advent season. I will unwrap these two now, joy and hope, as I began my preparation process to make room for the coming of my King.

What joy that my King should choose to visit me. I had definitely better make haste to clean and to decorate in His honor so that I will be ready to receive Him when He comes. Jesus has come and He is coming! Time to get ready! Time for me to prepare my home and my heart! (I guess I’ll be having company after all)

“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.’ ” (John 14:23) Jesus also said,

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone listens to My voice and opens the door, I shall come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) The Living Bible translation of these words of Jesus reads,

“Look! I have been standing at the door and I am constantly knocking. If anyone hears Me calling him and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship with him and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus wants to come in to be with me! Am I ready? Have I prepared a place for Him? That is the purpose of this Advent season – to be ready to receive God’s gift of His Son.

“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)

time to prepare!

sincerely, Grace Day