Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Eyes On Me

Three-year-old Hannah marched past her brother and sister as I helped with homework. Reaching around her two-year-old sister sitting on my lap, she placed her little hands on my cheeks, turning my face into hers. She meant business. “Mommy, put your eyes on me, just me!” This was an order I couldn't refuse. It reminds me of an offer I can't refuse this time of year.

Children place Christmas orders and wait to see what turns up. What about us? What will we do with the offer of a lifetime, lying in a manger? Was He on your list? He wasn't on mine, until God sent Himself in the flesh 2,000 years ago. Up to that point, the list was kind of up for grabs. People put in their orders for centuries, waiting to see what turned up. Many supposed answers arrived. False prophets claimed to be the gift. Some were fooled and followed false prophets, whose leading was ludicrous, and whose answers didn’t satisfy. People continued to cry out to God, as Hannah begged me, “Put your eyes on me, just me.”

At the appointed time, He did, in the person of the Christ child. At first, the babe of Bethlehem wasn't whom they expected. He seemed so ordinary, from His birth until about 30 years of age, except for that incident in the temple at 12. His mother, Mary, knew from the moment of the angel’s announcement, the child she would bear would be the Son of God. She must have been anxious for that gift to be unwrapped, revealed. It was following her insistence that Jesus showed her His stuff, remember, when He performed His first miracle -- turning water into wine.

How many more of His gifts would come in the days ahead? With each and every one, what was revealed but the power of our Almighty God. So when people cried out, “God, look at me, just at me!” He proved Himself by healing the sick, giving the blind sight, casting out demons, even raising the dead. Now, talk about gifts.

The heavenly gift that delivers stands in stark contrast to the other gifts we’ll throw away or outgrow from Christmas. This one is imperishable, good for a lifetime. How will you and I celebrate this gift from God? Let’s keep it, treasure it, and tell about it. After all, His eyes are on you. He chose you to be His for a Merry Christmas and a blessed hereafter!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Is He at Your House and Mine?

My husband decorates our fences with greens, ribbons and lights and the mantles with fresh greens and candles. I snip holly to tuck in hurricane lamps around candles and in table arrangements. It’s beautiful, but there’s no Jesus there. I looked further at tiny wooden painted carolers, reindeer, silver angels with halos, old family ornaments and trimmings. I leafed through tablecloths and napkins, Christmas plates with bells and holly, small trumpets whispering reminders of possible accompaniment when the angels sang that night over Bethlehem…but He wasn’t there either.

Then my eyes cast on the old wooden box full of cards coming in the mail. There He was, again and again, sent across the miles from people who know, worship and adore Him. There He was on the piano music stand in the music our family played in church on Christmas Eve with violins, oboe and piano: J.S. Bach’s “Beside Thy Cradle Here I Stand!” In my Christmas jewelry box I found Him in a manger on a lapel pin to wear on my jacket. My Christmas cookie cutters include a cross (totally Jesus!) and a church we paint with frosting each year. There’s Jesus, too, all year round, on a wall icon a nephew brought from Greece.

Last night I made sugar cookie shapes with Lew, 3 and James, 5. We rolled out the dough, side by side at the kitchen table, me with my marble rolling pin and them with their child-size rolling pins. There were stars, bells, angels, gingerbread man, and candy canes. No Jesus, until little Lewie handed me several globs of dough she’d rolled in her tiny hands to bake. “It’s Baby Jesus in His manger, Oma!” she explained. Indeed, there He was, head obviously rolled and placed in that hand-hewn shape. She painted Him white with a touch of yellow, perhaps His halo. I hadn’t even thought much about that until just now, writing this. There are several nativity scenes in their home. There are also lots of car, princess and baseball ornaments on their children’s trees. But Lew pulled out the real meaning of Christmas when she fashioned the Christ Child that night with her heart and her hands, and I almost missed it because it wasn’t the prettiest cookie shape we painted, or the most obvious.

Isn’t that how the Bible describes The Christ? He was not the most handsome of all men, not to be noticed. He wasn’t that obvious. But what He did and what He does for us is the sweetest message in all the world. It fills your life with hope and joy when you find Jesus in the Baby Boy. Then Jesus will live at your house and be shared there with all who come. Merry Christmas!

Luke 2: 8-15

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Where is Jesus?

Here’s a note from Karen, a women’s ministries staffer out east where my 10- and 7-year-old grandchildren attend church. My daughter Jennifer left town to stay with a friend in the final stage of cancer, and Karen helped out by watching the girls one morning. It speaks for itself.

“I spent Saturday morning with Emma & Lillian. Jennifer was in AL visiting Christy and Phil had a business meeting, so I was enlisted to watch the girls. After being soundly beaten in Wii, I decided to take them to the mall to see if we could find Jesus anywhere. All we could find were two stores that sold nativity ornaments (which we had to search for amongst the millions of Santas, snowmen and reindeer).

“We boldly asked the lady in the puzzle store if Jesus was in the store and she had to search hard to find a 1000 piece puzzle of the last supper. Finding it impossible to find Jesus, we searched just for the word ‘Christmas.’ Only one store had the word in their promos. To say the least, we were bummed. On the way home, Lillian found 23 Santas, a couple dozen lit up reindeer and lots more inappropriate indications of the reason for the season. Finally, we saw a Jesus banner hanging from a house, and a plastic Mary and Joseph adoring a plastic Jesus. The girls concluded that people were missing the point of Christmas. It was a big learning experience for all of us. It was sad not to find Jesus in Christmas. Hope your Christmas overflows with Jesus. – Karen”

Now we know it’s not the retailer’s job to tell the Christmas story, and we may not be able to change the world’s mind about how to celebrate Christmas, but we can introduce the world to Jesus. For starters, someone gave me an “It’s ok. Wish me a Merry Christmas!” button to wear! It’s ok not to, also, or to not put Christmas on your store signs. It is interesting, though, that Christmas is about the birth of Christ…whether you believe He is the Savior of the world or not. Lots of people cash in on the merriment of Christmas cheer, even though they miss the message for one reason or another. Can you celebrate without Him? Sure…but then you’re not celebrating Christmas!

I don’t know if He’s in your mall or your mail, on your coat, in your spouse, or on your City Hall lawn. The question is, is He at your house? I just looked for Jesus in my own home, like Emma and Lillian looked for Him at the mall. In a few days I'll tell you what I found. Meanwhile, take a look around. Is He there?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Sound of Music

I had the thrill of visiting with Maria Von Trapp at the mic in Burlington, Vermont, back in 1999, for the Woman to Woman® Christmas show. Maria’s family story inspired the grand musical The Sound of Music. The film was definitely not a documentary, she advised, because the film’s great escape over the mountain would have landed them in the Berchtesgaden -- Hitler’s hideout! She went on to say that the children were actually older, the eldest being a medical school student at the time of their escape.

There was plenty of truth in the movie version, however. Their mother did die, leaving seven children. The Captain “wasn’t as strict as portrayed in the movie with his whistle. He adored us and provided lovingly for us in every possible way.” It is true that he called a monastery to find a teacher for his daughter, Maria; she had a weak heart and required home tutoring. The monastery recommended another “Maria,” sent home from the convent with headaches. This was the musical Maria who came to teach with guitar in tow. The children’s mother had taught them instruments and to sing, but not in parts. Now they would learn Austrian folk songs and harmony and eventually take their show on the road…around Europe and all the way to the United States. The new Maria taught the ailing young Maria in the mornings and in the afternoons developed the little troupe for the stage. Somewhere along the way, she also found the time to fall in love with the Captain!

They married and ultimately brought three more children into the world. In fact, Maria was pregnant with their last child when they escaped. I asked the younger Maria how she could be thankful with so much loss in her life. She said her mother’s death, her own childhood heart disease (which she noted joyfully brought a new mother into her life!) and her family’s flight with no money from Austria all appeared to be tragic, “but it turned out to be a blessing that sent us around the world singing! So tell people to praise God under all circumstances. The devil cannot win when we do that!”

If all that glitters is not gold, I learned from Maria Von Trapp that all that shatters is not loss. Maria’s life message is to wait on the Lord. He revealed to her over time that just as He took her beloved mother home to Himself in heaven, He sent another mother to pick up where the first left off and finish the job. It was her work teaching them musical parts, after all, that was their ticket out of harm’s way. Christmas reminds us of how, for thousands of years, God’s people waited and watched for The Messiah to come. And when the time was right, He came! This Christmas, He comes with joy to the world. He comes to you, in your waiting, in your circumstance, to bring you His peace. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Possibilities

Three of our kids and their kids came home for Thanksgiving. Sarah, expecting twins, received lots of questions from the 3 to 10 year olds. Things had settled in by Thanksgiving Day and the great meal was served. Sarah’s family is vegetarian, and I forgot to put their “flurkey” in the oven in time, so they enjoyed our veggies and fruits and waited until later that evening for their “roast.” As Sarah nibbled at her small, late plate, she sat on the couch near the playing children. She pointed to the plate laying flat on her tummy. They thought that was hysterical! The next day my husband and I took them all out to breakfast at The Happy Cow, a restaurant where there are more cow paraphernalia than you can moo over. The parking lot was crowded, and five-year-old James heard his dad say, “I wonder if they’ll have enough tables for our group.” To which James piped up, “It’s okay, Daddy; Sarah has her own table”

Do we see the possibilities or do we look through the same glasses and see the same-ol’ same-ol’ in our lives? Is it a pregnant woman’s table or a pregnant woman? God’s examples in the Bible lead us to look at people and circumstance more like He does -- in terms of possibilities. His Word indicates that things are not as they appear. We see the impossible. He sees the possible. Not only does He see our hurdles and setbacks, He uses them for good. He can change your mind, your situation, your tomorrows, or all of the above! When God sets the table for us, it’s always with a fresh perspective, a better way, and a hope we can count on. Have a seat at that table where there’s always room!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Worth the Wait!

My Sarah and her Ben have a darling starter home and they’re expecting twins. They either have to pull out two drawers or look for real estate. It worked out beautifully for them. The home they’d totally rehabbed was just perfect for the next buyer -- newlyweds! And the home they found would accommodate their growing family needs nicely. They prepared little Hazel for the move, explaining all the fuss about packing big boxes, and friends and family coming to help, so they would have more room because the two babies are coming, etc. Moving day arrives and there’s much commotion, of course. When the dust settles and they’re standing, surrounded by the boxes, in their new home, they see little Hazel, two, going from one room to the next and back again. “What are you doing, Hazel?” they wondered. “Where are the babies? I want to see the babies and give them a kiss!” came the reply.

A few more months and we’ll all be able to give them a kiss. Meanwhile, we appreciate lessons from the pack-and-move crowd. It can be so hard to move, to relocate, to face change. Maybe if we look forward to it like Hazel did and look for the babies and the new opportunities to love, it will make the move -- the change -- easier. Waiting time can be excruciating or, when left in the Lord’s hands, more than possible. Take courage from Lamentations 3:25, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” That in itself makes the wait worth it