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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Days After Christmas

Christmas is such a wonderful beginning to the days that follow.

As boys, my brother and I enjoyed the days after Christmas even more that the day itself. No school. Plus new toys, sleds, bikes, ball gloves, trains and more.

We played in our room, around the house, indoors and out, and with cousins and friends at their houses.

The days after Christmas were the best. And they still are.

After Christmas, since there is not much shopping to do, I have time to spend with the people for whom I made or bought those gifts.

After Christmas when the programs are over and the costumes stored away for another year I have time to think about the meaning of the pageant, how it moved me, and maybe touched the children and their parents.

I love it when my house is decorated for Christmas. After Christmas I can see beyone the decorations to the true beauty of my home, a home where Christ is welcome and love is evident.

After Christmas I tally up its full cost. It’s a happy cost, even though it usually turns out to be more than I planned. And that’s when I think about how much Christmas cost God. I think for God it also was a happy cost, giving such a priceless gift as he did and then seeing the joy in the hearts of countless believers throughout the ages and across the globe who received the gift.

Christmas is beautiful.
The Days after Christmas are precious and forever.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Christmas Legend

In Medieval times there was a charming legend that on Christmas the Christ Child wandered throughout the world looking for places where He would be welcomed. Those who loved Him, those who hoped He would visit their home, placed lighted candles in their windows to invite Him in.

No one knew what He would look like when He came. He might be a beggar. He might be someone who was lost. He might be a poor and lonely child. He might be family or friend. So the devout welcomed into their homes everyone who knocked. To turn anyone away might have meant rejecting the Christ Child.

I once attended a 2-day seminar at a Catholic abbey in Nebraska. The Brothers who welcomed us lived by that medieval legend. It was their goal to treat every guest as if he or she were King Jesus arriving in humble disguise. I have never been welcomed more graciously nor treated more royally. Would that everyone could experience such honor.

At the Sojourners Neighborhood Center in Washington D.C. 60-year old Mary Glover distributes bags of groceries to more than 300 needy families just a mile and a half from the White House. She begins each day with a simple prayer. Joining hands with the other workers just before they open the doors, Mary prays. “Another day to serve you, Lord. We know that you’ll be coming through the line today so, Lord, help us treat you well.”

Can you imagine the Christ Child wandering our streets and highways and country roads today, looking for homes where He will be given warmth and shelter? Pray that our Savior might find a place in your home. Light a candle in your window, and in the window of your heart, offering Him, and all who knock, a worthy Christmas welcome.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Warmth

Warm is good. I like being warm. No matter the temperature, indoors or out, I really like warm. Especially at Christmas.

Stars in the clear sky, smoky and toasty warm by the roaring log fire. I like that kind of warm.

I like the warmth in the kitchen when the cookies are baking and the turkey is roasting. The heat of the oven, what a wonderful warmth.

Snug as a bug in a rug, bundled in a blanket by the fireplace, reading cards and letters, enjoying the warmth of long friendships, memories shared, and stories re-told. Ahh!

It warms my heart to give. And even more to stand in solidarity with one in need, the warmth of doing right, taking time without counting the cost.

How pleasant the warming touch of re-kindled love, walking, talking, lying together. And the ambient warmth of candles aglow. Beautiful.

But deeper still and most comforting of all is Christmas warmth, the warming peace of the soul’s first humble visit to Bethlehem’s manger, there to find the infant King, and embrace for one’s self God’s perfect love.

Have you known that warmth, that Christmas warmth? If so, remember and revisit that perfect moment.

If not, kneel as a shepherd, humble and unworthy, and pray, asking God to satisfy your curious mind and yearning heart with belief in the soul-warming miracle of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem’s manger.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Happens

Comforting thoughts about Christmas when times are tough.

Ready or not, Christmas comes once a year, every year, on the 25th of December. It can’t be stopped. And nobody causes it or makes it happen. Christmas happens all by itself. It is a gift from God.

A gift from God? Really!

From Thanksgiving to Christmas I’m pretty busy getting ready. I hardly have time for God. I do go to church, but I certainly don’t have time to think about Christmas as God’s gift to me.

It’s pretty much my job to make everyone’s Christmas a happy one. And it’s pretty much my job to make this Christmas bigger and better than last year.

So, I bake. I shop. I listen to carols and watch TV specials. I send cards. I help the needy. Oh, if only it would snow! I travel to be with family, cook, eat and exchange gifts.

Will this be the best Christmas ever? I certainly hope so. I’m sure working hard at it. But what if it isn’t the best? What then? Will it even be Christmas at all? Everyone will be disappointed. No one will like me.

Here’s the really big question, “Does every Christmas have to be better than the last? Or, can it just be Christmas, quiet and simple, without a lot of fuss, like a baby in a manger?”

Friends, Christmas is God’s gift.

It’s all about God. It’s not about better. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. It’s about God’s light coming into the world, God’s doings making the difference, God’s love bringing peace to earth.

Christmas doesn’t require anything from you. Christmas is God’s doing for you. Christmas happens. It’s a gift. Just wait. And when it happens, rejoice.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Merriest Christmas Ever

Do people care about the needy more during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas? It seems so to me.

Red kettles at malls and sidewalk tripods remind us that homelessness and hunger are all around us, on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

Media announcements about the location of Angel Tree and Toys for Tots collection points remind us of the desperate situation in which many children live.

Operation Christmas Child and other Shoe Box missions supported by the churches acknowledge even greater need world wide.

Yes, people do care. And even those with little are generous to share.

We share. We give. Food and clothes, gifts and toys.

In 40 years of ministry I’ve had the opportunity to meet many families across the United States and some overseas who have been helped at Christmastime. With such help they enjoyed a welcome rest and temporary relief from the stress of their immediate needs. They were genuinely grateful.

But more importantly, they were deeply touched. Somebody cared. Somebody knew their name and their plight, somebody who set aside all judgments and prejudices and really cared. They felt God’s love.
• a love that gave them hope, hope that someday their trials would end
• a love that gave them dignity and self-respect, worth and value
• a love that drew them out of isolation and gave them someone to be with.

The American practice of Holiday giving, caring, and sharing is powerful.

Now, imagine what would happen if we could bring these same life-giving gifts into our own homes and daily relationships. Whoa!

What if we could see the needs of those closest to us with the same lack of judgment and prejudice, and just love them. Sweet!

In the time remaining before Christmas, which of these precious gifts can you share? Hope. Dignity. Blessing. Worth.

Everyone you know needs them. So make a list. Check it twice. Then be generous, forgiving, helpful and non-judgmental. And your Christmas will be the merriest ever.