A Christmas Story

Here’s a mother’s Christmas story from an unknown source:

A proud moment came during the children’s Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds, and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine.

My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line: “We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.” But he was nervous and said, “The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes.” My four-year-old “Mary” said, “That’s not wrinkled clothes, silly. That’s dirty, rotten clothes.”

That exchange caused a wrestling match to break out between Mary and the shepherd. Their conflict was resolved by an angel, who in the process bent her halo and lost her left wing.

I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, “Mama-Mama.” Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.

My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown. He knelt at the manger and announced, “We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense, and fur.” The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation.

“I’ve never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one,” laughed the pastor, wiping tears from his eyes. “For the rest of my life, I’ll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense, and fur.”

In my mind, the image of wise men bringing gifts for the Christ child is a poignant one. That’s what people do at Christmas. We give gifts. Most of those gifts are for people we love. Many gifts are also given for the charitable causes and Christian ministries near and dear to our heart.

Terry and I give at Christmas time in various ways. We give gifts to each other, numerous gifts to our children and grandchildren, and special gifts to special causes. For the past several years we have foregone the tradition of sending Christmas cards to loved ones and friends. Frankly, we don’t know where to draw the line. Instead, we make a significant contribution to a number of many favorite charities, including Legacy Deo. You may do something similar. I hope you do.

As this Christmas approaches, Terry and I send our love and blessings to each of you who receive and read these weekly articles. We pray for a special measure of God’s abundant blessing in your life. And the staff of Legacy Deo joins us in wishing each of you a joyful Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Advertisements

A Special Christmas Gift

christmas-giftAlthough I first wrote this true story for Perspectives in 2009, I think it’s worthy of a repeat.

Quite a few years ago, Terry suggested that I make a doll house for our seven-year-old daughter’s Christmas present. I agreed.

We drove our station wagon to the lumber store, purchased the necessary material, and headed home. Child restraints and seat belts were not what they are today, so Angie sat in the back of the vehicle on the small stack of lumber that would soon become her doll house.

As we drove home, she asked, “Daddy, what are you going to build with this lumber?” While I don’t clearly recall the answer I gave, I suspect my response was not exactly the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There was no way I was going to spoil the surprise Terry had in mind.

To keep the surprise a secret, I confined my work on the project to the garage after our children’s bedtime hours. On Christmas Eve Angie was totally surprised and thrilled. Terry was happy. The doll house hasn’t fallen apart after all these years. It was a special Christmas gift!

Much more special at Christmas is God’s gift—Jesus, the Holy Child born in Bethlehem’s manger. Having been long foretold, his birth was neither a secret nor a surprise. It was very special!

Heralded by angels to humble shepherds, sought out and worshiped by kings from afar, worshiped by people around the world after all these years, this King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the most special gift ever given!

Terry and I send personal greetings and fervent prayers for a Blessed Christmas!

Reasons to be Joyful at Christmas!

Christmas OrnamentLast week I invited readers to submit their reasons to be joyful at Christmas. Here’s a summary:

  • Singing carols from the Karaoke channel.
  • Christmas cards that renew friendships from long ago.
  • Carolers’ smiles and contagious children’s joy!
  • Heart-warming flowers of the season (poinsettias, amaryllis).
  • Grandchildren walking with the Lord!
  • Family eating, singing carols and opening presents, with no iPhones or iPads allowed!
  • Being blessed by precious memories.
  • Remembering that God is still at work revealing His Son, Jesus, to us.
  • Knowing Christ is with us and we are never alone, regardless of our circumstances.
  • Giving and receiving from those near and dear to us.
  • Loved ones, by God’s grace, successfully battling cancer and other dread diseases.
  • Sensitivity for people who have a difficult time at Christmas.
  • Grandkids whose faces light up when seeing a tree full of presents.
  • Special late night candlelight worship services on Christmas Eve.
  • Silent night, holy night! All is calm all is bright! Thank you Lord!
  • Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given!
  • His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!
  • Preparation, giving, family time, joyful memories of childhood.
  • Embracing those who live alone or experience grief of any kind.
  • Welcoming the future, confident my Lord will lead in a time of uncertainty.
  • Offering support to those suffering from illness, abuse, or addiction.
  • Acceptance of those who are “different” from me.
  • Enjoying good food and drink (in moderation, of course).
  • Giving to help eradicate world hunger.
  • Seeing everyone pitch in the day after to restore normalcy.
  • Recalling the blessedness of another Christmas with precious family time together!

And here are a few of my own:

  • Worshiping and celebrating Christmas with family, including my 99 year old mother!
  • Watching family members read my personal Christmas letter to each of them, check enclosed!
  • Thanking God for peace in the midst of pandemonium, tranquility in a season of terror, freedom in the face of oppression, light in the darkness, forgiveness in a manger in Bethlehem!
  • Knowing that a thousand times in history a baby has become a king but only once in history did a King become a baby!

A very Blessed, Christ filled and Merry Christmas to you all!

‘Tis the Season …

Santa Hat 1

Credit: darkchyle via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

… to be jolly? That’s the way the song goes. In reality, lots of people are anything but jolly before, during or after Christmas. There are numerous reasons:

  1. Christmas preparation has many moving parts. Getting everything done creates tension.
  2. Christmas presents can be quite costly. Charging purchases is easy. Then the bill arrives.
  3. Christmas gatherings can be stressful. Family members don’t always play well together.
  4. Christmas interrupts the routine. People who normally go to school or to work are likely to be home, at the same time, for several days. That can be wonderful. Or not.
  5. Christmas reminds us of our childhood. If it was happy, memories are sweet. If it wasn’t, memories may likely be painful.
  6. Christmas for folks who are single, widowed or divorced is often spent alone. Being jolly is generally a team sport.
  7. Christmas is hard for families who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Grief is neither quickly nor easily conquered.
  8. Christmas exacerbates concern for the future, especially for those facing illness, surgery or other health issues, emotional turmoil or financial challenges.
  9. Christmas is tough for families living with abuse, addiction or missing family members.
  10. Christmas for most of us means food, usually lots of it. Girth expansion often results.
  11. Christmas brings to mind citizens of third world countries who don’t have that food problem. Why? Because they have no food. We seem not to know what to do about that.
  12. Christmas creates chaos. Lots of decisions need to be made. The kitchen is a wreck after the meal. The family room is a cluttered mess after presents have been opened.

Having said all that, I hasten to add that Christmas is a wonderful time of the year! While many reasons not to be jolly are listed above, there are others that produce the pure joy of the season.

Next week’s article will be: “Reasons to be Joyful at Christmas!” If you have some to suggest, send them to me before next Monday, December 21, and I’ll try to work them in. Be concise, please.

In the meantime, in these last days of Advent remember these words of the hymn writer, whether you’re experiencing jolly times or not:

“The advent of our King, our prayers must now employ,
And we must hymns of welcome sing, in strains of holy joy.”

“All glory to the Son, Who comes to set us free,
With Father, Spirit, ever one, through all eternity!”

A Blessed Advent to you and yours!

The Night the Hotels Were Full

file0001472960139The couple reached the city late at night. They were weary from traveling, she, very pregnant and not feeling well. They were looking for a place to spend the night. A hotel, an inn, anything would do as long as it was not too expensive.

That would not be easy, as they soon discovered. At the first hotel the manager, a bad-tempered man, immediately told them there was no room. At the second hotel, the man in charge of the front desk looked suspiciously at the couple and decided to ask them for documentation. The traveler said he didn’t have any. In their rush to get away, they had forgotten their documents.

“And how do you expect to find a place in a hotel if you have no documentation?” asked the man in charge. “How do I know that you will be able to pay your bill?”

The traveler said nothing in reply. He took his wife by the arm and went on ahead. At the third hotel there was also no room. At the fourth—it was only a modest inn—there was room, but the owner distrusted the couple and decided to say that the establishment was filled up. However, in order not to make a bad impression, he resolved to invent an excuse.

“You see, if the government would provide incentives, such as the large hotels enjoy, I would improve things here. I could even receive foreign delegations. But up ‘til now, I haven’t gotten anything. Now, if only you had influential friends … You don’t have any friends in high places, do you?”

The traveler hesitated, then replied, yes, perhaps they did know someone in high places.

“Well then,” said the innkeeper, “tell him about my inn. So that the next time you come perhaps I can offer you a first-class room with a bath and all that goes with it.”

The traveler thanked him, but noted regretfully that their problem was more urgent—they needed a room that very night. They continued on their way.

At the next hotel they almost succeeded. The manager was expecting a couple of well-known artists who were traveling incognito. When the travelers arrived, he thought they were his expected guests and said, yes, their room was indeed ready. He even paid them a compliment: “Your disguise is very good.”

“What disguise?” the traveler asked curiously. “Those clothes that you are wearing,” said the manager. “This is no disguise,” replied the traveler. “These are the only clothes we have.” The manager acknowledged his mistake. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I thought I had a spare room, but it appears they are all occupied.”

The couple went on. At the next hotel, there was also no vacancy, and the manager tried to crack a joke. Nearby was a manger, he said, why not stay there? It would not be very comfortable, but the traveler could pay from day to day. To the manager’s great surprise, the traveler welcomed this as a splendid idea and even thanked him. The couple went out to move into the manger.

Before long, three Wise Men appeared, inquiring about a couple of outsiders. And that is when the manager first began to suspect he might have missed a couple highly important guests who had just arrived in Bethlehem from Nazareth. *

This Christmas and in the years ahead, our joy as Christians is grounded in the truth that the baby actually born in the manner described in this story has chosen, by God’s grace, to make his eternal dwelling in our hearts. O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

_________________________

* Translated by Louis J. Reith, Seward, Nebraska, USA, this text was first published in the book, “A Massagista Japonesa” Editora LPM — Porto Alegre, 1982, and excerpted from “Contos para um Natal brasileiro [Tales for a Brazilian Christmas]. Editora Relume: IBASE — Rio de Janeiro, 1966, p. 9.

A Blessed Merry Christmas!

Christmas Lights 1Our home has looked like Christmas for quite a while now. Our travel schedule was fairly heavy this fall, so Terry started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. About that same time I put up the outdoor lights that line our sidewalks. For both of us, that’s a bit earlier than usual.

But there’s a reason. The local neighborhood association sponsors an annual Christmas tour of homes and Terry was invited to open ours for the occasion. Since December 10 was the chosen date, our preparation and decoration schedules had to be adjusted accordingly.

Terry has always loved to celebrate the seasons! Her primary expression of such celebration has been to unpack the stuff related to the respective season and to display it skillfully around our home. She finds places for decorations that I would never dream would be just the right place. And heaven only knows where she stores all these decorations between seasons. I surely don’t!

Manger scenes in olive wood, ceramic and other media serve as silent testimony to the reason for the season. Collections of angels dominate the parlor, standing guard beside an ancient Bible opened to the Christmas story in Luke 2. More than a score of Nutcrackers stand watch in the kitchen. Swarms of Santas line the stairs. Christmas trees are everywhere, each one decorated to the hilt with ornaments collected during our nearly 48 years of life together.

Different families have different traditions. One of our favorites is for the family to gather for Christmas Eve worship, come home to a dinner of homemade lasagna, gather around the tree in the den for opening gifts, and cap off the evening with a traditional desert, usually “Mint Dazzler.”

Since shopping is not my favorite activity, virtually every gift we give has been selected and purchased by Terry. The lady loves to shop! My contribution to the cause is a few gifts for her and a personal letter to every member of the family, including her, flavored with a monetary gift. The color is always right! The size could be larger, but no one complains or offers to return it.

Even with decorations, family gatherings, special meals and gift giving, Christmas can be a time of stress and sadness, often exacerbated by memories of loved ones who have passed on before us or hearts bruised or broken by decisions or events from the past. But primarily it’s a time of joy!

Terry and I hope for each of you a Christmas full of peace, joy, and thankful hearts. Here is our prayer for you, in the words of A Prayer for Christmas Morning by Robert Louis Stevenson:

The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven, and crowns another year with peace and good will. Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the wise men. Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world. Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings, and teach us to be merry with clean hearts. May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children and the Christmas evening bring us to our bed with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

A very Blessed Merry Christmas to each of you!