I Wish You All a Merry Christmas!

What is Christmas All About?

Long before there was a Santa Claus or Rudolph, Christmas trees and sparkling electric lights, or crazed mobs rushing the aisles at Walmart. Before Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells, and even before Dickens’ ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future—

There was a Silent Night in a Little Town of Bethlehem. Sleepy shepherds on a nearby hill were shaken from their dreams by a Song in the Night. Hark! The Herald Angels sang. The message was clear, for It Came upon a Midnight Clear. They left their sheep to seek visible proof of the angel’s melodic words—and found Him Away in a Manger. What Child is This? They wondered, amazed, and how will He change the world? Truly, this was The First Noel.

Later, the magi came—We Three Kings—following the star, seeking a king, bringing the proverbial gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Joy to the World—the Lord has Come!

“And Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Much, much later, with all the innocence and wisdom of childhood, a boy named Linus would say to his friend “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

And he was right.
“O, Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

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No longer with us, but a sweet “Christmas Past” photo of the lovely Dazzle.

 

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Christmas Thoughts: Who is this Child?

“What Child is This?”

People have been asking this question since long before William Dix penned the words to the popular Christmas carol. Who was the child born 2000 years ago, whose birth we’ve celebrated ever since? A carpenter’s son? The offspring of Jewish peasants? A boy who would grow up to be a respected teacher in his small corner of the world, who would later get on the wrong side of the ruling authorities and be condemned to death? If that’s all He was—why would we still remember His birth? There have been billions of babies born and unfortunately, too many who grew up to die on Roman crosses. What was different about this baby? Why would our entire calendar and dating system be divided into “Before” and “After” his birth? Why would there by more books, songs, poems, stories, plays and essays written about Him than any other person in history? Why would The Book about his life still be the best-selling publication of all time?

Who Was this Child that He should so affect the entire world?According to the Bible, He has many names: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Suffering Servant, Prince of Peace. He is Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God—who Was, and who Is and who Is To Come—the Almighty One. He is the one who came to this earth to share our humanity, with its weaknesses and limitations, to experience hunger and cold, sorrow and pain, so that no one could ever again say that God didn’t know what it felt like to be human.

He is the perfect Lamb of God, who took the sin of the whole world upon Himself—and paid for it with His own blood.

No wonder the world can’t quite forget Him.

This year, if you haven’t already, find out who the Christ Child was—and who He grew up to be—and have a truly Merry Christmas!

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Feeling Concussed

So, it’s happened three times to me now…that amazingly other-worldly sensation of losing time due to my skull coming into contact with something a lot harder than it is. The first time was many years ago when the bicycle I was riding was struck by a car. I remembered who I was when I regained consciousness, but not how I got there or where I was. Those memories returned later. But I was 12–12-year-olds have younger brains than…well, I guess that goes without saying.
I’ve had three concussions since then, though I didn’t lose consciousness (or time) with one of them, and didn’t have concussive symptoms until a few days later. All three of these events, as you might have guessed, occurred during an “unscheduled dismount” from a horse. Two of them were particularly bad. With those two, I got up, walked, talked, and was otherwise active, and have no memory at all. None of these events were fun. This latest one was particularly not fun, probably because it just happened last week.
And I’m still feeling concussed.
What I’m discovering is concussed is both a physical and a mental/emotional state of being. And at my age, there’s just no such thing as bouncing back quickly. Or perhaps, bouncing back at all. It’s pretty scary, actually.
And yet…I’ve been horse-crazy since I was a kid. Was also a poor kid, whose parents said she’d grow out of it in time. But I never did. I didn’t get my first horse until after I was married, and except for a few months, have had horses for nearly 40 years since then. The reality is, I don’t know who or what I’ll be, exactly, if I don’t have a horse in my life. In many ways, my horsey-ness defines me.
But I don’t like getting hurt. I really don’t. I don’t like being ‘concussed.’ And for the first few days after this latest accident, I didn’t allow myself to think about it all too seriously. It’s not a good idea to make major decisions when your brain is floating around loosely within your skull (or whatever the exact definition of ‘concussion’ is). But…things are changing. And the decisions were made before this last unscheduled dismount. Here’s a picture of Callie:IMG_0753
Isn’t she cute? Does she look like a (wo)man-eater? {Sigh} No, she’s not. But she’s more horse than I should be trying to handle in my almost-sunset years and she’s going back to her other mom tomorrow. The reason she’s going back is not because of her involvement with my latest concussion but because my daughter will be teaching in Europe this year…and is bringing her two horses to live with me for the duration. But I’ll miss Callie. I know it’s crazy, but it’s true. She’s been my girl for the last year and a half and it makes me sad to let her go.
But, concussed or not, it looks like I’ll still have horses around for awhile. I just need to remember a poster I saw a number of years ago. Along with the photo of a very cute pony, the words said–You can love a horse and ride it, but a horse can love you and kill you.
Words to live by.

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“He is no Fool”…Thoughts on the Death of Elisabeth Elliott

When I was a young teenager and had recently begun attending the little neighborhood church around the corner, the pastor’s wife loaned me a book to read. It was called “Through Gates of Splendor” and told the story of five young men who had felt called of God to take his word to somewhere it had never been heard before. It was an amazing story–filled with journal entries and anecdotes of each of the young men as they were growing up and setting their hearts to follow God’s call–no matter where it led. The book was published in 1957, one year after the massacre of all five of those young men by the very people they had come to reach, the Auca tribe of Ecuador.
The book was written by Elisabeth Elliott, the wife of the leader of that group, Jim Elliott. The men were killed almost 60 years ago, and I read Elisabeth’s book 45 years ago. Along with many others, my life was profoundly changed by reading that book and its sequel “Shadow of the Almighty.” And it all comes back to me now as I’ve just heard that Elisabeth Elliott, at age 88, heard and answered her call Home this morning.
I feel joy for her–she ran a good race and finished her course–a much longer, if less dramatic ‘course’ than her young husband of 60 years ago, but I have no doubt she heard the same words he did: “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the glory of your Lord.”
But I feel sorrow for us, those of us left behind. Our world has changed so much in the 60 years since Jim, Pete, Ed, Nate, and Roger, were speared to death in that jungle in Ecuador. When they died and the word got out, the story made the front cover of Life magazine. People were shocked and saddened. Many questioned what would cause five young men in their prime to leave home and family to go live in the jungle and ultimately, to lose their lives trying to bring the message of the Cross to those who had never heard. Elisabeth’s books answered those questions.
But now, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think most people today would give such a thing a second thought. We are surrounded by just too much destruction, and thankfully (or so it seems) most of it is happening ‘way over there.’ 21 Coptic Christians beheaded by Isis in living color on the internet. Hundreds of Christian students killed in Kenya and Nigeria. Genocide in Iraq and Syria. A South African family murdered in Kabul solely because they were Christian. The list goes on and on and on…
And I don’t want to think about it either–it’s just too awful. But people like the Elliotts and our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering throughout this world demand more of us. We need to pray. We need to give. We need to speak up. And we need to live each day as if it were our last.
Jim Elliott wrote in his journal, and Elisabeth put it in her book for the rest of us to read: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” In these dark days in which we live, I hope I can keep this thought at the forefront of my mind and follow on humbly, as Elisabeth did. IMG_2353

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“There is in God, some say…”

Tonight the moon rose, full and fat and orange. It lingered on the horizon long enough for me to put on shoes and trudge down the dark driveway, accompanied by my faithful, aging black Labrador and youthful orange cat. We didn’t go far. I stood and watched, jacket pulled tight against the cool evening breeze. Watched that big fat moon. Wondered and remembered other nights during my six decades when I stood beneath the great dark sky and watched the moon. I had no camera. Others see such stupendous things and have the camera ready and five minutes later, the image appears on Facebook. I always appreciate those photos…but rarely take them myself.
For my part, I wanted to write a poem, or sing a song, or dance a dance, but I did none of those things. I just stood and watched, feeling the fullness welling up in me. And remembered.
Here is a poem–two of them, in fact. But I didn’t write them. I only copy them now because these are the words that kept coming back to me while I watched the moon. Henry Vaughan, 17th century Welsh poet, as quoted in Madeleine L’Engle’s “Ring of Endless Light.” Enjoy–
“I saw Eternity the other night, Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright.
And round beneath it, Time, in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world, And all her train were hurled…”
“There is in God, some say, A deep but dazzling darkness: as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they see not all clear.
O for that Night, where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim.”

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“Because He Lives–“

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When it comes right down to it, the whole of Christianity rests on one central fact–the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As good as the man Jesus was–as kind, as loving–if, after he suffered a martyr’s death, he stayed in the grave…then he would be no better, no different, than any other good man. It would be sad–it is always sad when a good person dies–but that would have been that. His early followers–those who forsook him and ran when he was arrested, some, even denying that they’d known him–would eventually have gone back to their old lives, as indeed they tried to do (see John 21). They would have lived the rest of their lives never forgetting the man from Galilee and the hope he’d engendered, but also disappointed and bitter, wondering how they could have been so deceived.
Then came Sunday…and the empty tomb, and the words of the angel “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here–He has risen!” And everything changed.
I’ve always loved Christmas, but it is Easter that changed the world. The resurrection was the proof that everything Christ claimed about himself was true. He really was the perfect Lamb of God, who took upon himself the sin of the world. He died, that we might live. Because “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…death has been swallowed up in victory. ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15).
It’s all about Easter…

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Sorrow

My friend Valerie went in to have a tooth pulled a few weeks ago. She ended up experiencing what’s called “dry socket,” and it infected. We went to see a local church’s “Singing Christmas Tree,” and she told me that ten days of antibiotics hadn’t worked. She said she’d never had trouble with her sinuses before, but she was feeling terrible pressure and pain all through her sinuses. I told her to tell the dentist she needed a different antibiotic. She said she would.
That was the last I heard from her until I got a message from a mutual friend saying Valerie was in a coma in the hospital. She’d been found comatose on her floor at home and rushed to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed her brain had ‘shifted.’ Emergency neurosurgery was performed. The diagnosis? A ‘brain infection.’
That was two weeks ago. She has since come out of the coma, but is still in the hospital and had to have another surgery on her brain, because the infection is the kind that comes back….
At the beginning, the doctors were not optimistic. They told the family to contact her friends and other relatives. Now, they believe she will survive, but whether she’ll ever be ‘her old self,’ remains in doubt. The family doesn’t know what to do with her when she’s discharged; they’re talking nursing home.
Valerie is 56. She shouldn’t be going to a nursing home. No one at 56 should be going to a nursing home. How did this happen?
I want my friend back. I want to hear her laugh and talk and share pictures of her grandchildren.
This is hard. My friend had a tooth pulled, which led to a brain infection, which she may never totally recover from.
Jesus said “In the world, you’ll have tribulation (trouble), but be of good cheer–I have overcome the world.” I believe that. Valerie believes it. I know that, ultimately, in God’s providence, all will be well.
But for now–it’s still hard.SnowyRoad_08

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