Tag Archives: Christmas

Merry Christmas, Dear Readers

It seems very fitting that Christmas Eve should be on a Sunday, when we gather for worship, wherever that is. A morning to set our hearts right in a posture of worship and thankfulness is a good way to ease into the gift giving and receiving activities before us, whether we gather tonight or tomorrow with family and friends.

As I prepared my head and my heart this morning for church I found Handel’s Messiah on Youtube and through the miracle of livestreaming from my tablet, was able to listen on my Bluetooth speaker while I put on makeup in the bathroom.

Yay, technology.

There are 4 sections in the Messiah oratorio based on scores and scores of Biblical passages. The tenor was heading into a familiar part, “And the glory of, the glory of the Lord, shall be he he he he he he reveal-ed.” He carried out the trills and notes as the music called for and I just shook my head as I listened.

What men and women can do with their voices.

The Messiah’s most recognizable musical passage is, of course, the Hallelujah Chorus. There’s a Messiah Sing-along near our house every year at Christmas time and I’m bound and determined to participate one of these years, just to join in the fun of that chorus. The thought of standing next to other vocalists of all abilities and stripes while we attempt to do justice to the music has always appealed to me.

Of course, we can never do justice to that great music here on Earth, altho’ we may try. It is said Handel saw Heaven itself opened up while he was composing each part. I’d like to ask him about that some day….

My favorite actually-singable Christmas songs change from year to year; sometimes it’s James Taylor’s Christmas or Jewel or Pentatonix or the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree jazz quartet. Then I listen to Josh Groban’s ‘Noel’ or Andrea Boccelli singing with the Muppets and think, “That’s my favorite.” But I forget the classic Peter, Paul and Mary PBS Special recording and there I am humming along with a smile on my face.

They’re all beautiful and inspiring pieces of music, but nowhere near the Messiah. And while I aspire to be able to sing along with Handel (maybe in Heaven?) I am grateful for the more down-to-earth folks that allow me to join them via the magic of recorded sound.

I hope your hearts and homes are full of song and sound this special time of year, dear friends. May I say I appreciate you reading along this year and appreciate your kind words always in this place? I appreciate you more than you know.

Merry Christmas!~

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love,

Jody

 

Christmas: Mystery, Miracle or Magic?

“Did not a great grey servant

Of all my sires and me,

Build this pavilion of the pines,

And herd the fowls and fill the vines,

And labour and pass and leave no signs

Save mercy and mystery?”

                                                –G.K. Chesterton, from the Ballad of the White Horse, Book IV

The holiday weeks are often heralded as the most wonderful time of the year; God knows we also W O R K to make it the most wonderful time of the year.  Unspoken pressures and unrealistic expectations—whether from others outside or inside ourselves—can back us into a corner and leave us, if not defeated, a little discouraged.

We want magic to last forever, especially during the Christmas season.

Whether you’re a grandparent, an auntie or uncle or mom and dad, everyone does their best to manage the tricky equation. There’s the balance of dealing with the pressure to provide nonstop happiness with that elusive, endless magic we’re sure is just around the corner. All the while we try to hold to the heart of Christmas—remembering Jesus.  Most often though, all that fun, excitement and magic-making leaves us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed while the joy and peace we crave are lost.

What we really want at Christmas is a way to remember what matters, and maybe a new attitude about it all. (Lord knows, changing my head AND my heart is no small miracle.)  So, how do we manage the magic? If it doesn’t last through Christmas, how do we hold on to the wonder?

Two ways: We enter into God’s mystery by mining His word and leaning into the miracles in our own hearts.

In this season of Advent, we’re encouraged to light our wintry way with God’s Word.

Reading on the first Sunday of Advent, there’s the explosive promise of Hope in Isaiah 64 to wait for our coming Savior,
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,  so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down,
the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.”

The Advent readings for the month continue.

Second Sunday’s Prepare rings out in Isaiah 40, the Third Sunday’s Rejoice pours forth in Luke 1 as we read of Mary singing and rejoicing in Christ’s birth. And on the fourth Sunday we light the final candle to celebrate Love, God’s gift to us in the form of Jesus.

These passages contain much to meditate on; guided by the Scripture we are provided a place to pause over the mystery of God made flesh.

The reality of God’s word is as long-lasting as eternity. There is nothing temporary about it.

Another sure thing that will never fade? The personal miracles God has done in our lives. Whether it’s a change in our thinking or our attitudes, a new way of relating, a bigger heart for giving (and forgiving), those are all Godmade gifts that last when we receive His work in our hearts.

Christmastime contains the opportunity for mystery, miracles and magic.

But magic like the flicker of a firefly’s light is momentary. I want memories of a forever light that has not only come into the world, but will never fade away.

The mystery and miracle of Christmas.

*****

This post is taken from a message I gave at Lake Tapps Christian Center in Bonney Lake, WA, sharing about my book “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas”P_20181114_114840-3663114983-1542741044454.jpg

 

You can order signed copies of LTSW for $10 by clicking HERE with your request and I’ll be in touch.


 

Living the Season Well Goes Viral {sorta}

Dear friends,

I have been so grateful for the response to my book Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas.** It’s a little bit amazing to me and exciting as well. All the readers that are finding the message about slowing down and simplifying Christmas have a way to more peace and joy this year and that makes me happy.

Getting free of the “shoulds” always helps.

A slow, small start to Christmas begins with Advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which was December 3rd. It’s not too late to mark the days by slowing down your Sundays and your celebrations.

While you’re preparing your hearts, your heads and your homes here are the places I’ve had a chance to talk about Living the Season Well–and every one of them goes live the same day–December 5th.  When it snows, it pours, eh?

Little bits of joy in different places–read and listen at your leisure.

Merry Christmastide, friends.

**$4.99 for the Kindle this week on Amazon. Yay!

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How Can I Get into ‘The Christmas Spirit?’

20161204_120024“So take up what we’ve been given/ Welcome the edge of our days
Hemmed in by sunrise and sunset/ By our youth and by our age
Thank God for our dependence/ Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together/ In faith and vulnerability

This cup, this cup, I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here, This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy”

“This Cup”, Sara Groves

I wish you could have seen our children’s ‘not-Christmas’ performance at church the other morning. “Joy is the flag flown high from the castle of my heart….” they sang (or not) and waved their arms about, flying imaginary flags.The castle backdrop in the sanctuary framing their movement and song, there were balloons and banners with “Joy” gracing the stage, getting the point across visually as well.

Christmas is a season of joy. But what if it’s just a word on a page, written in glitter and capital letters, but nowhere near our heart? What if you can’t get into the Christmas Spirit?

Don’t tell anyone, but I think the Christmas spirit is a mirage. A mirage in the sense that it’s based on something that’s actually not there. If we want to get INTO the Christmas spirit we’re going have to get OUT OF something else.

Maybe the something else is the constant electronic feed of Instagram posts and Facebook videos. Maybe we’re binging on inspiring tweets and blogposts or peoples’ random status updates that talk about their super interesting lives….and thereby rob us of the ordinary joys of our own. (or maybe that’s just me).

God can’t fill us with the Christmas spirit if we’re too full of things that were never meant to satisfy us.  Perhaps it’s because we know in our Knower we were made for more.

Our satisfaction with the season of Christmas might just be when we do as close to nothing as possible, adjust our expectations and simply rest, if not physically, but mentally and visually from all the input and movement, the noise and the busy.

The Spirit of Christmas isn’t in anything we DO, it’s what’s already been done.

Maybe we add all the ‘shoulds’ of the season because we think perhaps our lives aren’t enough—they should be more glittery and joyful.  But there’s a lot to be said for finding, as the song says, ‘splashes of joy’ right where we are.

Maybe our ‘meh’ feelings about the holidays are based on a lie—that we’re supposed to be doing X,Y & Z. “I should be _________(fill in the blank—decorating, baking cookies, going to see Santa, going to a Messiah performance, making handmade gifts for my children’s teachers….) this Christmas. Maybe if I do ___________  I will be satisfied. It will be enough. What is ‘enough’?

Perhaps we don’t really understand the filling is God’s job. The emptying is ours. 

You can’t feel joyful if you’re feeling too ‘you-ful.’

Filling the well of our busy lives with more and more and more just leaves us tired and disillusioned. We were made to be filled with God—with His power, His presence, His joy. And the present reality we have might be just exactly where we need to find God’s presence. Not in the something else’s and the ‘shoulds’ but in the right-where-I-am-this-minute-s. Engaging in our own life, not someone else’s. Listening for God’s voice above all the noise.

Here’s the reality of the Christmas Spirit–It’s only God that can fill. Only God is enough, His “you-can’t-see-it-but-it-IS-real”  Holy Spirit, nourishing us. Like the children’s song said, when the King is residence in the castle of our heart we have all we need. That’s a simple song from a long time ago, but it is so very true.

A Scripture came to mind as I sat to type these thoughts, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 ASV

When I make room, God comes to fill me with joy. And He throws in hope and peace as well.  Maybe we don’t grasp what a powerful gift we’ve been given.  As our Pastor said, “Be like the Shepherds. When you’ve heard the Good News, go and tell.”

That seems like the Spirit of Christmas to me.

Dear God, we thank you for our dependence. We thank you for our chasm of need and the way you continue to come into our reality, not only on Christmas Day but forever after. Nudge us in our knower with your Holy Spirit when we’re filling up on the nothing of this earth and give us a hunger for the Something that is you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When God Breaks Your Heart With Giving

      “…{the poem} raises an important and again characteristically modern issue about how faith is known and shared. In the end, everything depends on trustworthy human relationships.  A person who has been damaged and betrayed in one set of ‘horizontal’ or secular relationships may be genuinely prevented from opening in the ‘vertical’ dimension to the Divine.”  Malcolm Guite, December 11th reading from ‘Waiting on the Word’(emphasis mine)

*********

 My friend Jill and I volunteered six weeks ago to co-lead the charge of organizing, planning and staffing our church’s annual Christmas Store this year. This is a two-day, nine-hour event where we serve our community by providing an opportunity for guests to ‘shop’ for household and personal items, clothing and best of all, toys, completely free of charge.

All of the items in the Christmas Store were new donations to our church from the surplus of a large relief organization here in the Seattle area, along with toys and cash given by members of our church over the last few weeks. People gladly gave and we gladly spent.

Organizing, staffing and scheduling this kind of undertaking is an enormous task, but Jill and I know each other well and have complementary organizing and communicating gifts so we were game for pulling it all together.  There were hours on the phone, email conversations, texting each other, in person meetings with volunteers and our Pastor—all the necessary elements that go into an event this size.

Prior to the Friday/Saturday store hours things seemed to be going swimmingly. Volunteers stepped in to add their muscle—as only volunteers can do–of hauling boxes, moving furniture, schlepping tables and the like.  The Scripture about “outdoing one another in doing good” (Hebrews 10:24) kept running through my mind; some of the guys lifting tables and boxes exhibited a healthy competitive spirit in getting the job done.

Six hours into the unpacking and set up process, however, Jill and I sat back and watched as tables filled up with merchandise. Our stealth bomber sorting team were piling items atop tables that seemed to be spilling over into every available space, including the floors around the tablecloth-skirted tables.

She looked at me and said, “This was a lot more fun until right about now.”  We were both overwhelmed at the visual input of the space around us and I for one felt buried at the enormity of what we were going to do. There were plush blankets and 8 million pairs of canvas shoes and men’s body wash and all manner of balls and books and dolls and pillows and…..you get the idea.

I confessed I felt like crying myself.  I was waaaaayyyy outside my comfort zone—I like organizing things on paper, but in actuality, the stuffing and piling and sorting of STUFF made me feel like I was going to drown. When Jill made the statement she was actually an introvert who liked being alone, we both laughed out loud. We had 35 families coming with over 100 family members to serve, there was no turning back.

~~~~~~~~~

It’s funny how God shows up to do what only He can do after you say that first “yes” then commit to serve  it out. The realization dawns you actually ARE in over your head; the only way out is to look up to let God do the work and get glory for doing the impossible.

When we opened our doors at 6 p.m. Friday night, there was a quiet kind of magic in the air along with the Cambridge Singers Christmas music in the background. The apartment residents we welcomed were also overwhelmed, but in a good way.

While guests shopped, we heard stories of hard times, challenging job situations, homelessness and want. But these people who seemingly had so little? Not only did they give back to us with their thanks and their hugs, but with the openness with which they received our prayers, inviting us into their brokenness with open arms.

Guite’s line above, that “everything depends on trustworthy human relationships” was certainly borne out in the time we spent with those folks we got to know while we all plugged in to that ‘vertical dimension.’

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Ad Vent {a #poem}

Glossy pages proclaim paltry purchases
as life savers for my overrun soul.
I’m run over as they bellow,
beckoning, “buy me! buy me!”

I cannot partake of one more
iota of input–
how can quiet paper
carry so much loud weight
and end up selling me nothing?
This war of words promises joy and happiness
are but a wallet-full away. Enough greenbacks
and I’d have a temporary ticket to  here-on-earth
wealth yet penniless and empty still.

Bare bodies bear needless gifts,
overbearing bling shimmering their
iridescent faux shine.

There is no gleam, no honest light
shining save that announced by the
staggering Star far, far away
heralding His arrival, harking us home.
No neon needed to find the path to peace,
but simply waiting and watching
in the daily, dull, down-to-earth
where our cravings meet the cross
at Christmas.