Tag Archives: Christmas

Beloved.

Christmas-Love

As He says also in Hosea,
“I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’
AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.’”

Romans 9:25 NASB, 1977

What a funny word, “beloved”? The loved one. The object of love. The world, if you will, according to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…”. The gift of His Son, which we celebrate every Christmas, is full of many of the most wonderful things in this life: redemption, reconciliation, peace, love and all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I came to a living relationship with Jesus Christ almost 40 years ago, and I came to Him in search of truth. A solid foundation was laid in my catholic upbringing, but there was no life in the structure. In my quest for truth, I embraced Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but through Me.” Knowing the truth gave me new life and a purpose. However, it wasn’t until decades later that I truly understood what it meant to be “Beloved”.

I grew up in a household that wasn’t too keen on love and kindness. That’s just the way it was. And I know I was damaged by that upbringing.

When my older kids were little and there wasn’t a lot of money, we would buy our computers at the thrift store. Often times, they would work, but inevitably, while connecting to the internet we would meet that frustrating alert:

After working hard to get online, we would be deflated when we got this message. Well, that is how things were growing up. When it came to giving or receiving love, “this connection has limited or no connectivity.” So my siblings and I grew up with some emotional malnutrition, and were subsequently pretty emotionally anemic. I also had limited or no connectivity to love or being able to love. But when I had children, that maternal instinct gave rise to love, and those little ones, in their innocent little ways, gave me glimpses of a divine love I would soon connect to. I see that unconditional love in my grandbabies’ faces.

To quote from a previous blog, the first rays of “belovedness” came this way:

One night, seven years ago, my little girls and I were randomly quoting Scripture – something we never do – but it was fun. They had memory verses from school.  Ellie quoted Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty.”  I had heard this verse before, but this evening it stuck and I reread the entire verse.

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Zephaniah 3:17 – NLT

And what I could only call a moment of grace I could see God Himself singing over me in love in the same manner I express my love toward my kids.  I could understand that from being a mom, and even better, I could feel it.  It was an overwhelming moment.

One night, there was an argument going on at the house, and I went upstairs to help broker a peace, but only created a greater skirmish. I went downstairs feeling like I had always felt: crappy, worthless and unable, as a Christian, to make things right, better or even bring peace.

As I stood in the hallway, I had an epiphany. I came to the understanding that a lot of our family’s emotional dynamics were shame-related. A family member, unable to take responsibility for their actions, perhaps from their own pain no doubt, had, for years, shifted their shame and guilt to other family members including myself. I can’t tell you how earth shattering this illumination was. It was like that apron the dentist puts on you, the leaden one for x-rays, and that God took this leaden apron of shame off of me, and I floated to the surface and breathed the fresh air of freedom and non-condemnation.

At the same moment, almost audibly, I could hear Paul’s glorious and resounding ruling from Romans: “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those is Christ Jesus.”  I had been a Christian for thirty years, and that night I felt like a new Christian, I had been born again again, the decades seemed to fall away, and I was basking in the love and acceptance of the Heavenly Father.

Since then I have grown in His love. I have learned to trust Him, not so much in obedience to His word, but in response to His love for me. That revelation revolutionized my Christian life.

I didn’t mean to go so long as to get to the point, but Christmas brings the best gifts when we look closely at the origin of the holiday. Christianity is set apart from all the religions in that there is a God who loves, a God who loves us, and all others. He loves His creation, though fallen, and Jesus Christ is God’s gift of love to us, to the world. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection fixes our “limited connectivity” and strongly reconnects us to our God. We are reconciled to God the Father, justified in Christ and where we were once not loved, we are BELOVED.

And when we know we are BELOVED, we can love, and even love in the most difficult circumstances because it is true what John wrote, “We love, because He first loved us.” I hope this Christmas the love of God will make you know and feel BELOVED.

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

God Loves You…So What?

prodigal son

“For God so loved the world….” so goes the most famous of Bible verses. Its reference can be found on posters in end zones at football games. Its short message”God loves you” can be found on bumper stickers and coffee mugs, and its greeting is repeated in church services all over the country. God loves you…yeah, so what? It seems to have become a trite slogan, a shallow sentiment, a cheap Christmas present.

How many times have you heard this phrase? I’ve heard it so much that it seems to have lost its meaning. It’s fallen not so much on deaf ears, as unhearing ears; like when water falls on polyester, those words bead up and roll right off my ears.  My ears are a poor conduit to my heart and mind in relaying the profound magnitude of the simple fact that God loves me. This Person, Who many of us believe in, loves us. Wow! The One who not only defines Love, but is, quintessentially, Love. All that we cherish in life originates with this Being who happens to, according to the Bible record, love us.

How can a simple phrase carry such power? A couple years ago, I was at work and it was toward the end of the day. It was March. As I was sitting at my desk, a text came from my son-in-law. It was a photo and it was uploading. I wondered what he could be sending me. Now mind you, I was just sitting there finishing up some work, looking forward to going home. Within seconds after I received the picture – a sonogram scan with a lovely caption “Congrats Grandma!” – I was crying, afraid, excited and stunned all at once. The couple that was not going to have children was going to have a child.

I use that example to illustrate how a simple communication can dramatically change one’s life. So does “God loves you” and as it should be. God loves you….from the gospel writers, Paul, the early fathers and down through history, this is the church’s banner. A banner she has dropped over the centuries, but a fact nonetheless. A fact that has survived.

If you want to believe, if you chose to believe or even are compelled to believe like C.S. Lewis did when “in the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England” then you get to unwrap the greatest of all Christmas presents – the love of God in Christ Jesus. This is the greatest gift. Ever. The price – well, that’s the Easter Story.

And there are other gifts in that box, you get the light of the world, the fountain of living waters, the gate to the pasture, the bread of life, mercy, grace, faith, hope and charity to name a few of the unsearchable riches in Christ. Not a bad haul.

Are you tired? “Come unto to me all who are weak and heavy laden.” Are you doubtful? “Come, let us reason together.” Are you thirsty? “Let him come to Me and drink.” Are you lonely? “I will be with you always.” Are you shackled in sin? “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” Amen. And to the church today, tomorrow and everyday, I say, “Come let us adore Him.”We only know love because He first loved us.

God loves you, so what? Well, that’s what. The greatest of all simple sentences is gloriously true and life-changing. Merry, merry Christmas!

 

The Weary World Rejoices!

[youtube.com/watch?v=4Zh-yR0pbmU&w=640&h=385]

 

December 2011

“The weary world rejoices!” say the lyrics of “O Holy Night” “Weary world” – he got that right! I’m tired, aren’t you? Just listening to the news every evening wears me out. Economic distress, social unrest, solutions that are obscure at best dominate the newscasts contributing to a weary mood, to a weary world. And, alas, it’s Christmas time. A time of cheer, excitement and joy. But the weariness remains, aches if you will, like a tooth just starting to pain.

I confess my children help me maintain the joy of Christmas. They are still young, they are still creating those holiday memories that will pleasantly haunt them in adulthood. For them, I can slough off my weariness and sing…and bake and shop and wrap.

But Christmas isn’t about me or the kids; it is about someone’s birthday. Someone, whose humble birth in a barn two millennia ago, changed the world.  C.S. Lewis wrote, “The birth of Christ is the central event in the history of the earth – the very thing the whole story has been about.” Remembering that and what he did and what he said grounds me.

Remembering the things He said: “I have come that they might have life.” and “Come unto to Me, all who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” and one of my favorites, “I am the way, the truth and the life….” He was, and He continues to be. Amen!

The gifts and the glitter, the lights and the laughter and the music and the magic are sweet by-products of this “central event”. Although these delightful paraphernalia of the holiday give a sense of joy, beauty and excitement; it is fleeting like the energy from a Snickers bar.

It is this historical event that gives the weary world true and permanent joy, true and permanent hope and true and permanent peace. His birth is “the good tidings of great joy”. And that joy spills over into every area we allow it. Not a fleeting feeling of happiness, but a deep abiding joy. A joy that can endure hardship, a joy that can sustain tragedy and a joy that can hope during the dark night. A joy I define as an internal place I liken to a plateau I have reached after a long and arduous hike. It may be stormy or it may be sunny; but regardless, I have reached a higher land and fresher air.

The true meaning of this blessed holiday brings greater joy to happy Christmases and comfort through the inevitable sad and lonely ones. This Christmas I hope your joy will deepen and provide greater comfort and peace to you and your family and friends. Happy Christmas from the Shoe.

We Need a Little Christimas…Music

I know this is a little early, but I’ve already started parking the XM Radio on Station #18. During this National Blog Posting Month, I am republishing some of my articles that are not on the blog yet. This post is from a December 2011 Patch column.

I think it was the week before Thanksgiving this year that I heard the first Christmas song on the radio. To me, that is the shot that starts off the holiday shopping, baking, partying and show-attending race. It is on, and I am not ready. This year, like in recent ones, “I’ve grown a little older”, “a little sadder”, not much “a little leaner”, so to dispel this post-Thanksgiving funk, I put this Johnny Mathis tune on replay until some Christmas joy was mustered.

In no time I was snapping my fingers and tapping my feet.

The music kicks off the season more than the shelves stocked high at Target or Walgreen’s or even the Black Friday frenzy. It is also a great opportunity to teach our children or our younger relatives about some of the great singers of the past. When asked who Bing Crosby was, my daughter replied, “You mean Bill Cosby.” “Uhh…No.”  I have a lot of work with that one. But to my credit, my oldest does love Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole.

It’s time to dust off those funny round black things we used to play day in and day out and enlighten this generation with the voices that imbue the anticipation and wonder we experienced during past holiday seasons. I remember Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing together, and thought, how nice, a song that brings generations together. Well, not anymore as far as the youngsters are concerned, they both belong to the same generation: old people and really old dead people.

Christmas music is a medium I use to pass down family traditions. Every year I watched “White Christmas”, and knew all the words to Bing Crosby’s timeless classic. At church, I sang hymns that have been sung for decades set to music created by the likes of Handel and Mendelssohn. Even today, singers are creating new Christmas classics like Reba’s “Mary, Did You Know?”, Celine Dion’s “O Holy Night” and (I confess) Disney’s Drew Seeley’s “I’ll be Home for Christmas” as well as 98 Degrees’ “This Gift”. Evie’s “Come On Ring Those Bells” was a record I played for all my kids every year. A couple of years ago, we watched “This Christmas” and I found an old favorite Christmas song, Stevie Wonder’s “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Me”. I was 12 years old all over again. It’s a good opportunity to give a little history lesson too.

So once we are in the full swing of Christmas music, I will take advantage and slip in the songs by these artists, maybe something will rub off. Whatever songs or music embodies the warm and happy memories of your holiday seasons, be sure to share them with your loved ones, especially those younger ones. Have a great holiday season!

Christmas Gold

christmas gold

My daughter goes to school in Pacifica. Last week, her class went to Sutter’s Fort for their long-awaited field trip. The class as well as the parent chaperones each become a Sutter’s Fort character. They have costumes, and they must learn all they can about their character. My daughter was Elizabeth Bays Wimmer. Little did I know Mrs. Wimmer was instrumental in the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Fort.

Elizabeth, I learned from many rehearsals, was born in Virginia in 1832. When she was 16, her family moved to Georgia where they were miners. She married her first husband there, and she and her little family moved to Missouri. There her husband died. On her way to California, she married Peter Wimmer and they arrived in Sutter’s Fort in 1845 when she was 24. The story goes that James Marshall found what looked like a gold nugget in the creek near Sutter’s Fort sawmill. He showed it around, but everyone doubted that it was real gold. But, alas, Elizabeth, with her mining experience, offered to test the nugget in her pot of lye soap. If the nugget was just fool’s gold, it would have melted in the soaping process. Now I quote from Eloisa’s paper: “’This is gold’, thought Elizabeth. ‘I will throw it into my lye kettle and if it is indeed gold, it will be gold when it comes out. I finished off my soap that day and set it off to cool. The soap cooled until the next morning. At the breakfast table, one of the workhands raised up his head from eating and said, “I heard something about gold being discovered, what about it?” I told him it was in my soap kettle. A plank was brought to me to lay my soap onto. And I cut the soap in chunks, but the nugget was not found. At the bottom of the pot was a double handful of potash, an ashy substance that is a by-product of soap-making, which I lifted with my two hands and there was my gold as bright as can be.’” Elizabeth, who remains rather anonymous in the Gold Rush history of California, was indeed instrumental at the inception of the gold rush at Sutter’s Fort.

So it is with Christmas too. Is all this merriment and celebrating fool’s gold or is there a nugget of real gold, true gold, under the ribbons, the wreaths, the wrapping paper and even the religious rituals? Sometimes we have to test the tradition and, like Elizabeth Wimmer, find out if what we are celebrating is the real deal. We must cut through the long blocks of traditions like Santa Claus, the Christmas tree and even gift giving, good and wholesome as they are, and check if there is veracity in this Christmas tradition we celebrate. We may even have to dig into some potash of varying accounts of history; but in the end, there will be, the nugget, the true gold. That, unwrapped of Christmas tradition and various cultural contributions over the centuries, there was born a child. The Child.  A Baby….a little Baby Boy wrapped…not in glittering wrapper like a treasured present, but in swaddling cloths…a feeding trough, his bassinet; no stuffed animals surrounding him, but live animals grousing nearby….three kings, at some point, manage to pay homage not in Herod’s palace, but in a humble barn.

This is the nugget; this is the Christmas Gold in its purest form. When the magic of Christmas fades, as it inevitably does as we get older, we can always look to this truth that “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” That truth never fades, that truth always stands the test of time. Though the Church has misrepresented His mandate over the centuries and thereby tarnished His name, even then we must look to the true gold, to His life, His words and when we do, we realize that we’ve discovered gold, Christmas gold. He is the Mother Lode and from the Christmas Gold of His Birth, we can mine inestimable riches in the Gospels, the New Testament and the various writings of those spiritual miners over the centuries. This Gold Rush has been going on since the first Christmas. And from this Mine, He bids us to: “…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Merry Christmas!

Land of Misfit Toys

The holidays are coming, all the stores have Christmas decorations already. The shows will be on soon too. You have no doubt seen the poignant “Island of Misfit Toys” scene from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph, the protagonist misfit, finds himself with his misfit elf friend on an island with toys that are broken and useless, and because of their condition: unwanted. Rudolph understands how they feel. His glaring red nose caused him to be shunned by his peers and overlooked by Santa.

This classic stands the test of time because we all at one time or another have felt like a misfit, an outcast, unwanted, if you will. It appears to be almost a rite of passage. Dr. Brene Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection writes: “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need in all women, men and children.” During the holiday season, these feelings of belonging and love are what make the time special; conversely, if conditions are not so healthy, the season can be lonely at best, tortuous at worse.

Our sense of what is worthy to love and want is somewhat skewered. Not many of us are endowed with the beauty that graces the magazine racks at Safeway. Fewer of us have the soaring intellect and amazing persistence that garners PhD.’s like a Hot Wheels collection. And even fewer are born into homes that can provide advantages that only the wealthy can afford.

The message of Christmas, happily, as heralded from the angels is “for all people”. Not to the beautiful or the wise or even the rich. Not the 1%, the 99%, or even that infamous 47%, but the 100%. The man who was born in a barn brought a message; his irreducible message was and continues to be: You are Loved. A love that transcends deservedness, a love that for most of us is incomprehensible and a love that does not judge. A love for all seasons, for all misfits. A love that meets that need in everyone of us.

So instead of pining for perfection and whining for “winning”, we can embrace our misfitness (I made up that word), love it and maybe wrench some good from it. After all, this whole world is really a great big archipelago of islands of misfit toys. There is no place that imperfection does not exist. In the end, Rudolph saves the day, not in spite of his imperfection, but because of it. Our imperfections, which to us seem to alienate us from an ill-perceived perfection, are what really unites and connects us anyway.

I hope you all have a great holiday season.