December 14, 2017

The Christmas Invitation

Almost everywhere I shopped this past week, I enjoyed the festive Christmas music in the background. In my car I listened to the Christian stations playing the beautiful carols serving as a good reminder to bring my thoughts back to the focus of Christmas. In church I enjoyed the songs about a Savior coming to earth, God in the flesh dwelling among us, Mary and Joseph on a journey that brought them to a stable and a manger, not a comfortable room in an inn, and not a hospital with all the modern conveniences and technology.

We can enjoy all the wrappings of a traditional Christmas, presents in glittering wrap and bows, the tree all lit up and revealing years of treasured ornaments, lights outside cheering up dark winter evenings. But we don’t want to forget to take time throughout the season to remember why we are doing all of this. There is a reason for the season and it is the birth of Jesus Christ the Lord.

The birthday celebrated around the world is the birth of a Savior who came to die for our sins, whose death on a cross was a gift unto salvation, whose resurrection displayed His power over death, His power to create in us - new life - if we receive the Savior’s gift.

Because Jesus came to us that first Christmas Day, we can be born again and join His family, the family of God. Christmas beautifully reminds us of the open invitation of a Holy, Almighty God, and the sacrifice of a Savior’s love - Jesus Christ our Lord.

Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

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

December 10, 2017

Mom's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge

I can still remember my mom making homemade chocolate fudge each year at Christmas. Her fudge was a family favorite as far back into my childhood as memories go. It was the old-fashioned kind with just cocoa, sugar, milk, butter, salt and vanilla. 

My most vivid memory is how much my dad loved it and couldn’t wait for it to harden enough to have the first piece. I don’t have that many good memories of my dad, but this is one of them and it has a special place in my heart.
For some reason my dad, a man plagued with anger issues, seemed to enjoy Christmas and was on better behavior than usual for the holidays. I don’t remember him ever ruining Christmas with one of his angry outbursts or fits of rage.

After my mom died at the age of 71 in 2001, and I was still struggling to have a relationship with my dad, I would make mom’s fudge and send him some every Christmas. He loved it and eagerly looked forward to it. It wasn’t just a food gift at Christmas—it was a bridge to demonstrate love to a father who had never had a genuine loving relationship with me. He died in 2011 and I can honestly say I miss sending him his favorite chocolate fudge.

It may seem like an insignificant gift or a small gesture, but in light of the history and relationship we had and his severe treatment of me especially through my teen years, this fudge that I made and sent to my dad in the mail for ten years was a gift of love for a father who was difficult to love.

Up until the year my dad died, I was still trying to build a relationship with him. It was baby steps but each step counted. One of those significant steps was making him mom’s old-fashioned chocolate fudge every Christmas.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

December 6, 2017

Two Strangers in a Long Line

It was a few weeks before Christmas several years ago when I stood in a long, long line at the post office with a smile on my face, remembering the previous evening’s enjoyment from the time spent baking and assembling two care packages for my daughters who attended college far from home. Soon they would be coming home for their Christmas break, but first they had to study for finals and finish all their exams.

I double-checked the address labels again and made sure the packaging tape was secure, then looked up to see if the line was moving again and caught the troubled expression on the face of the woman in front of me. I quickly glanced around to see if other people in the line were engaged in conversation. I noticed several people were on their phones and others were busy filling out forms. It appeared that no one was interested in attempting small talk with a stranger next to them in line.

The lady in front of me was still staring in to space with a sorrowful countenance, when I decided to say a warm hello in hopes that a friendly greeting might provide even a small amount of encouragement. I offered my warm hello and proceeded to comment on the long, slow moving line and shared that my packages were care packages for my daughters away at college. Her eyes instantly filled with tears as she spilled the words, “My son is in the military, he is in Iraq. I am terrified for him.”

I stood there feeling at a loss for words to say that would comfort her. The line was finally moving at a steady pace and I knew I didn’t have much time left to speak with her. I remembered a chapter in Psalms in which King David wrote about being safe even in the midst of a battle and began to tell her the story the chapter was written about. I tried to quote the verses about God keeping us safe in the middle of danger and reminded her that if it isn’t our appointed time to go, nothing can harm us. I couldn’t remember the passage word for word, but I saw understanding in her eyes, she knew what I was saying and I could see the truth of scripture reached her heart as her eyes filled with a look of hope.

She was next in line and was called to process her packages, and then it was my turn.  When she finished and I was still at my checkout station, she walked over to me, patted me on the back, squeezed my shoulder and said with a smile on her face, “You have a very Merry Christmas!” Her countenance had changed, she had been encouraged by God’s Word, because He is faithful, and His Word is powerful!

It was a tremendous blessing to me to witness how God met her need for an encouraging word that day through a stranger standing next to her in a long line at the post office. I exited the post office the same way I entered earlier, with a smile on my face, this time because I was amazed by the compassion I had just seen God demonstrate for one of His children.

Psalm 91:1-7
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.

December 3, 2017

The Christmas Craft

Many years ago, the women in my Sunday school class were planning a Christmas party and I asked if anyone thought it was a good idea to also do a craft. The crafty lady in our class suggested a project where you marble a clear glass ornament with different colors of paint and she promised it was easy enough for all of us to do. 

Just as I began to work on an ornament at the party the next week - a friend in our class pulled me aside. She was going through a rough time with a recent divorce and needed to unload the stress that was heavy on her shoulders. Her marriage of twenty five years had ended that year and this was her first Christmas following the divorce.

I offered Patricia a listening ear and words of encouragement. Her shoulders seemed to sag less under their load as we continued to talk. I was also reminded that the Christmas season can be a very difficult time for some people and we need to be attentive to those around us.

At the end of the evening as the crafters began to see the how well their ornaments were turning out, another class member called over her shoulder, “Kathy, thanks for the idea to combine our Christmas party with an ornament craft, glad you thought of it!” Patricia held up her newly marbled ornament and smiled, “I almost didn’t come, but I ended up having a good time!” I was glad to see that smile on her face and that she was now enjoying herself.

When the party was over Patricia began to hum Silent Night and we all joined in to sing this favorite Christmas carol as we gathered up our things and headed home, our voices echoing through the halls of the classroom building and across the parking lot. My heart warmed to hear Patricia joyfully singing. She came that night with a heavy heart but left with a song in her heart, a song of our Savior’s birth. 

Luke 2:11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.