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Archive for the tag “Christmas memories”

Ho Ho Home for Christmas

No matter what stage of life I’m in, I always want to be home for Christmas. I love being there with my family gathered together. This year is extra special since my nephew and his family is back from the far country where they have been for the last few years. I am grateful that God has brought them home again safe and sound. But I am also grateful for the time they have had serving the Lord in what He has called them to do. As we all gather, my nephews and families, my sisters and husbands, my Dad and his wife – it will be as it should be – together again.

Home has changed throughout the years. When my parents and I moved when I was twelve, home moved with us. However, the dynamics changed because my sisters didn’t move with us. Christmas became a moving event. We either went to my sisters or my sisters came to us. Sometimes it was just for a day, sometimes it was for two or three days; every year was a bit different. But when my parents settled back in my hometown after their retirement, it once again felt like it should be. It was home in every sense of the word.

When my Mom died, it felt like everything got off kilter and we lost our center – our anchor. The first year was a tough year. But we managed through it. As the years have passed, I have come to realize Mom wasn’t the center of our family. Mom was a representation – a physical presence – but what lives on is love. Love is the core of who we are as a family. It wraps us up in a warm embrace. It feels like home.

This morning, I read about Jacob’s dream (found in Genesis 28:10-17) about seeing God and the angels that went to and fro from the place where he rested. God gave Jacob a promise that night. God said that Jacob’s descendants would possess the land where he rested. That land was going to be home to millions. But at that time, Jacob had no one. He was alone and running from his brother. God promised Jacob “Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14). That’s a big promise.

Eventually, Jacob did make it back to that place and settled in that land. Eventually, there would be millions who would come from his family line. God fulfilled His promise to Jacob. But the bigger promise of everyone being blessed because of Jacob’s family was much more defined by a person than the family itself. The blessing came centuries after the promise through Jesus Christ. A baby would be born in Bethlehem to a virgin; an announcement from the angel under a starlit sky to shepherds watching over those sacrificial lambs; God had done this thing He promised to do. The blessing was born – the promised fulfilled.

The author who wrote the devotional this morning (Tim Gustafson, Our Daily Bread, December 21, 2017) had this take away from the Jacob’s dream scripture: “Home is not so much a place on a map, as it is a place to belong. God gives us that place.” Jesus is our home. He is the love that surrounds us and gives us that belonging. He is the center of our family and He is the one who draws us close.

Sometimes we can run away from home, but love will always bring us back. If we are truly Jesus’ followers, no matter how far away we run, He will always search for us and receive us back. He wants us to be home with Him forever. He went to great lengths to assure us of His promise that we will always have a place with Him. “Home is where the heart is” but it’s Jesus at the center of that heart that makes it true in every sense.

Jesus gave us another big promise at the end of His life. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3) Just as the promise for Jacob was fulfilled through Jesus, we can trust that what Jesus promised will also be fulfilled by His word. We have a home being prepared for that day and it’s going to be glorious.

During this Christmas season as my family gathers, I recognize that this is just a small representation of what heaven will be like one day. The larger family will gather in a glorious place filled with love. There will be a feast beyond imagination and a celebration of Jesus that we cannot fathom at this time. This is the idea that helps me celebrate with more enthusiasm every year that passes. One day, I will be home for Christmas and the best gift of all will be the eternal blessing with Jesus.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

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The Waiting Game

It’s almost here – Christmas! It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s not only the gift giving and receiving that makes it such a joy, but the family gathering around. My Mom is no longer with us, but I remember all the times we gathered together as a family with her in our midst and the joy that we experienced together. She was a giver and the presents abounded. We rushed through the opening to discover our “wants” had been granted. It was always such a joyful time. Now, I watch the little children in the family experience that same joy in discovery that “Santa” knew just what they wanted.

As I contemplate Christmas this year, I am reminded of the truth of the Christmas story. It’s not about the presents under the tree, but the presence on that tree. Christmas and Easter tied together through the story of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. We celebrate Jesus’ birth in a place that was arranged many years before that event.

It’s amazing to me how God creates events long before they occur. Take Bethlehem as an example. God already had Bethlehem in mind long before Jesus’ birth. He set up that city as a place of importance. It’s the birthplace of King David, Jesus’ ancestor. But it was also known for the place where sacrificial lambs were raised for the temple. This was the place where lambs were raised without blemish for the perfect Passover sacrifice that occurred every year.

As the lambs were born, they were wrapped in swaddling clothes to keep them from blemish. The shepherds in the field on the night of Jesus’ birth were the ones who were watching over these perfect lambs. They would recognize the significance of Jesus when the angel told them that Jesus had been born and was placed in a manager wrapped in swaddling clothes. He came in like a lamb to be the lamb of sacrifice for our sins on that last Passover of His death.

Passover was also a set up for the future fulfillment through Jesus. The sacrificial lambs were to represent the cleansing of each person’s sins – a lamb had to be sacrificed to take away the sins. This first Passover found in Exodus kept the house of Jacob safe from the angel of death. Each family had to sacrifice the perfect lamb and place the blood of the lamb on the door frame – top and sides. The Law of Moses was a set up for Jesus to fulfill them. Sacrifice – yes, that’s Jesus. Cleansing – yes, that’s Jesus. Sabbath – yes, that’s Jesus.

Every prophetic event takes years of preparation. It’s just a waiting game. But in the waiting, so much is happening behind the scenes. So what does this all have to do with my Christmas ramblings? God is the promise keeper. God sets up the events in our lives in anticipation of what is to come. We might not see it right now, but God is working behind the scenes to fulfill His promise and His plan. We’re a part of it.

I hate to wait on anything, do you? But right now, as we anticipate Christmas, it’s part of the plan to wait on the timing of God’s plan. Not just for the prophetic cycle of events, but also the events in our lives that we are waiting to be fulfilled.

God’s timing is perfect. So if you are waiting on something to occur, don’t rush ahead of what God is preparing for you. It’s going to happen in God’s time, just wait. But in the waiting, we also need to be in preparation for it. As advent is for Christmas – the preparation for the coming of Jesus, we also need to prepare for the next thing in our lives as well. God is all about shaping our character. This is His ultimate goal for each of us.

How do we prepare for what we don’t know? Pray. Let God’s will be done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Surrender to the plan. When it happens, be obedient in it. And praise Him before, during and after – it’s the only way to prepare for what’s to come.

Every event in our lives is a step forward in our transformational plan. It might not feel like it at the time, especially if it feels like a step back. But God has a purpose in the events in our lives to shape us for the future. This is our dress rehearsal for the real deal in the eternal Kingdom. This earthly experience shapes us for the eternal experience to come. That’s why we can count all our experiences as joy – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. That’s why Jesus counted the cross as joy. He saw the eternal purpose. We can too.

Just consider Christmas as the taste of what’s to come. He will bring it all together for good – He promised. Believe it because of the Lamb of God and Bethlehem, and all that was foretold long ago. What He promises will come to pass. He is at work preparing the events for what is ahead of us. Wait for it. The plan is good. He promised.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:14-17 (ESV)

Squeal of Delight

Well Christmas is over. Memories were made. And sweet memories were shared as we gathered together and remembered ages long past. My brother-in-law captures the family news worthy events from the year in his “Twas the Night before Christmas” poem, which is always one of amusement for all except the one who made it into the poem. He had a lot of material this past year to work with.

At a recent gathering, I observed some children enjoying Christmas festivities. One two-year old squealed with delight as she opened a gift to find a new baby doll. A three-year old opened a little golf club set; although no squealing, an exclamation of complete joy was the reaction. A one-year old actually enjoyed the wrapping paper more than the gifts.

As I continued to observe the children, I noticed the three-year old press the limits of obedience. We all know when we do wrong, but we all test the limits to see what we can get away with. Sometimes the obedience is no big deal. As the child tested obedience with a sip from a forbidden drink, often do we find ourselves in the same circumstances? We know there are things we shouldn’t do, but just a little bit won’t hurt us. The child kept coming back for more until the drink was all gone. No one stopped him, even though he was told not to drink from it; he kept going back for more.

Temptation is just hard to avoid if it’s really something we want. Even as adults, we find ourselves doing the same thing. Just a little won’t hurt – I’m not hurting anyone. But even when we know we’re doing wrong, we still do it. We rationalize our disobedience. I do it quite often. I do the thing I know I shouldn’t do, but I am just drawn to it.

There are consequences to our disobedience. We think we’re getting away with something, but God’s eyes are always on us. He does not watch us to “catch” us in the act of disobedience. His eyes are on us because He delights in us. He loves us and wants the best for us. But He cannot allow us to “get away with” something that will eventually harm us. Boundaries are there for our protection – even when it feels like we are being denied from something we really want. Our desires take us in the wrong direction when our desires are not surrendered to God. I think this can be said of us personally and nationally. As a nation, we have been gaining the things we have desired as a nation; and it’s taking us in the wrong direction.

Over the last few years, I have become a reader of history. It will be interesting to see how 2016 will be recorded in the history books. I don’t think we have had a good year nationally. I must say we have struggled throughout the years from many different directions. Trump talks about “becoming great again” and I don’t know when we were all that great to begin with. Yes, we have had significant blessings, but that was all God. That had nothing to do with our greatness but His. He has blessed us more than we deserve. We deserve His wrath, but He chooses to delight us with His blessings instead.

I would rather squeal in delight than find myself in an awful hurt because of my disobedience. God would much rather give us the delight of our hearts, if we our hearts are properly aligned with His. It’s our choice. As we begin a new year ahead, we have some choices to make. It’s time to acknowledge our behavior; acknowledge our disobedience and come back to God’s delightful ways. The best is yet to come. Only time will tell which we have chosen for ourselves. Let’s make this a great year ahead!

Trust in the Lord and do good.

Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)

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