Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Adore the Newborn King

When angels slip into our world, some of their work is to bring messages from God or assist us with help. From biblical accounts, people who saw angels are described as being very afraid. Often, one of the first things angels said to on their visits was, “Do not be afraid.” The cute trinket angels on lapels and dangling from rearview mirrors do not compare to the awesome-in-appearance angels, who love God, dwell in his presence, and eagerly obey him.

Throughout Jesus’ journey to and in our world, a contingent of angels helped him at his birth, after fasting, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and at his resurrection. They brought heaven’s headlines spreading the news about a wonderful Savior, who brought light into a darkened world.

Besides prophesies about Jesus, the prophets also foretold that a preacher would prepare a generation for the Lord’s teaching ministry. At the right time in the history of mankind, an angel appeared to the priest Zechariah and told him that his wife Elizabeth would bear a son to be named John, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news” (Luke 1:19). Their future son known as John the baptizer would prepare the way for Jesus.

For some reason - perhaps Zechariah’s and his wife’s advanced ages - Zechariah doubted the message from God, so this sage teacher of Israel wasn’t allowed to speak until after the miracle babe John was born and named. Sign language, motioning with his hands, and written messages became his method of communication. And I imagine much contemplation began for this aged priest.

A few months after Zechariah’s astonishing news, Angel Gabriel appeared to the young virgin Mary of Nazareth in Galilee, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Mary was greatly troubled by his words and wondered what sort of message she was about to receive from the Lord.

Gabriel brought comforting words to this young woman, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God” (1:30). Gabriel announced that God had chosen her to bear the Christ Child, who would reign over a kingdom that would never end. Mary knew about child bearing, but being a virgin, she wondered how she would conceive. The angel said that the Holy Spirit and the power of God would cause this to happen and that her son would be named Jesus but be called the Son of God.

The angel then made another startling revelation that her elderly relative, the formerly barren Elizabeth was expecting a child and was already in her sixth month. Maybe Mary’s face took on a shocked expression, because Gabriel stated a truth that anyone can put faith in. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

Mary, a novice worshiper answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). The old priest’s doubtful response and young Mary’s faithful sweet compliance were miracles apart.

The Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” issues an invitation to join in Jesus’ story. This season and in 2010, worship and adore Jesus:

Angels we have on heard high, sweetly singing ore the plains, and the mountains in reply echoing their joyous strains. Come to Bethlehem and see, Christ whose birth the angels sing.

Come adore on bended knee.

Christ the Lord the newborn King.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Five Last Minute Christmas Tips

If you received the letters Y, R, M, E, C and another R in the game of Scrabble, you would have the beginning of “Merry Christmas.” We are one week ahead of December 25, so here are five practical hints for spelling out a meaningful and less-hectic-holiday.

First, take a few hours and clear your house of clutter. Do some light cleaning, and then tell yourself that is enough. The new and improved “Good Housekeeping Magazine” often uses the phrase “good enough housekeeping.” Let that become your motto. No more rushing around to tidy-up to perfection. Enjoy your family. Enjoy the season.

Plan and prepare easy meals this next week. Buy ingredients early to avoid last minute shoppers in crowded stores. The stores are playing holiday carols and they massage my conscience making me catch grandiose ideas and plan more batches of fudge or fancier table settings. Or while in the household products’ aisle, I at least reach for the Pine-Sol to add more piney scent in my home. For a calmer week, plan easy meals and make purchases early.

Third, list the holiday traditions you practice and query your family about them when you gather for the holiday. Poll them to find out which traditions mean a lot to them. You may be surprised to find that some of your customs get shoulder shrugs. Consider dropping those next year.

Folk tend to forget that during the month of December, regular life with all its commitments continues and then we add the extra tinsel and pageantry. Give yourself permission to let go of a few traditions in exchange for more peace. What a spectacular trade off.

The combination of regular life and celebrating makes a crowded month that can get intense instead of intentional. Are you the leader, planner, and doer of your holiday gatherings and decorating? Be intentional. Choose less glitz. Choose more peace. Choose the fun and laughter of loved ones over décor and traditions that have lost their impact.

Fourth, relax, relax, relax. Trees will topple. Soufflés may cave. Internet orders may not arrive. Remember that Jesus, the true reason we celebrate, is still the Savior. Plan silent hours in your home this next week, when nothing outside is allowed in, except that shivering neighbor borrowing a cup of sugar.

In your silent hour, don’t allow TV, radio, ringing phones, or texting to interrupt. If you are the homemaker, make a refuge spot for yourself—a comfy place in a softly lighted room where you can sit for a few minutes, sip hot apple cider, pray, and refuel.

The last hint is to make time to remember. Remember past family members and the Lord. If you have lost a loved one this year, don’t ignore their passing. On a tabletop, place a photo of them and a few of their favorite things. This gives your family the OK to talk about them and remember the loving contributions they made.

To remember Jesus’ birth, some people like to set up a nativity or display some other reminder of WHY we celebrate Christmas. My mother would place a red-leather covered Bible on the large dining table in our family room. Opened to Luke 2, she laid a cross made out of large spikes, a reminder that Jesus’ sacrifice is all about reconciliation with God.

I’ve prayed that you have no scrabbling this week, and may you receive everything needed to spell out MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours.

Also, get more hints her at http://scrapbookofchristmasfirsts.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Right Gift

This week's column is about when God gave me an idea for a gift for my bedridden mother, but first, I want to tell you about..... 

an opportunity to win a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts visit here and leave a comment or become a follower. Also, my devo book and the Christmas book are available nationwide in Mom and Pop book stores, Madel, Parable, Family Christian Stores, etc. Christmas book is also available at LifeWay stores, at front with other Christmas selections, right as you walk in. Also available online.


When I find the perfect gift that really fits an occasion, I do a little Snoopy dance and sometimes squeal. Several times I have found just what the receiver needed. My favorite times to give gifts are on ordinary days. Not birthdays. Not Christmas. Not weddings. Not anniversaries.

I enjoy giving on plain vanilla days—of being aware of someone’s need and filling it. What a joy to show up on their doorstep with gift in hand or better yet, to find a way to give in secret. I’m on a limited budget, so my gifts are usually small purchases, handy things that make life more pleasant.

For over two years my mother has been almost immovable, confined to bed, and before that she was restricted to a wheelchair or bed for several years. Rigidity has set in and she has lost the ability to feed herself along with the ability to comprehend books. Television holds no charm since she has withdrawn into a rather private world where her mind sometimes conjures things that frighten her.

Dad and we children have noticed at least three blessings about her life. First, she recognizes family sporadically. Second, she also remembers sewing. At one time she could have been the poster woman for Singer Sewing Machines. Although she’s lost her original sewing skills, she pleats and folds her snowy bed sheets again. And she fingers the pleats and ribbons on blouses I wear when I sit on her bedside. The third thing she remembers is prayer—when I pray with her, she closes her eyes and reaches for my hand.

As Mom’s connection to the world has lessened, I’ve tried to think of something that would give her some pleasure. One day while visiting, an idea presented itself. Bingo! Yahtzee! Go Fish! Joy filled my heart because God had nudged my dull mind toward a good gift.

I bought a small soft basket and filled it with fabric quarters, bright pieces of cotton in a variety of colors and patterns. Enough with those boring white bed sheets pleated into imaginary garments. To my delight she fiddles with the fabrics. When her basket is placed beside her, she fashions and tucks and drapes them across her hands. I wash, starch and iron her basket supply or add new colors and prints according to the seasons.

Since she can barely move her arms and hands, this gift may not hold her attention long, and her interest in this gift will probably decline soon. But Mother has one gift that is perfect, a Person who will always be with her. “At just the right time, God sent his son, born of woman” that we might become God’s adopted children and receive the gift of his Spirit. And even though we may be crippled in mind or body, the Holy Spirit cries out for us “Abba, Father.”

My comfort is that someone is dearer to Mother than I am. Even when she cannot pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for her needs. Nothing compares to being adopted by Father God.

The ideal gift is ready to present to our friends. Nothing we can purchase, craft, or dream up equals the gift of adoption into God’s family and the inheritance of the Holy Spirit who communicates with God when we cannot.

To the ones you love be their Apostle Andrew, who on an ordinary day searched out his brother Peter to share found treasure. In essence he said, “I’ve found a wonderful gift for you.”

Are you looking for a gift to fit all seasons—his name is Jesus.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

“We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2

On December 23 one year, my husband and I drove to Rudder Auditorium in College Station, TX for Rick Larsen’s presentation on the Bethlehem Star. Mr. Larsen advises, “Arrive early.” Even two days before Christmas, the 2,500 seat auditorium quickly filled to capacity, as do his lectures in Asia or wherever he presents.

Throughout centuries, skeptics, believers, and the curious have wondered about Matthew’s biblical account of the star. Lawyer and law professor Rick Larson presides over The Star Project, a non-profit organization. Through multimedia, seen by tens of thousands in the U.S., and Europe, “Larson leads you sleuthing through biblical and many other historical clues.”

Larsen pilots “a computer model of the universe across the skies of 2000 years ago.” During the display, participants “see the striking celestial events the ancients saw.”

Key players in Larsen’s conclusions are Johannes Kepler, computers, and the gospel of Matthew. Kepler, a brilliant mathematician living 1571-1630, published the Laws of Planetary Motion. The Laws are still in use today by NASA, the European Space Agency, and others.

Only after many days spent on calculations could Kepler draw a specific nighttime sky. Today, in mere heartbeats, computer software, using Kepler’s configurations, can chart the 2000-year-old sky over Judea. Pick a date, time and location and turn the computer loose.

Astrology claims that celestial bodies exert forces and influence humans. The Bible states God directs the affairs of men, but does place signs in his created heavens, messages from the Almighty.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars,” said Jesus (Luke 21:25). Over 2000 years ago, eastern Magi scholars saw a sign-star, eventually leading them to Bethlehem and Jesus. The gospel writer Matthew outlines nine star-criteria that must match any modern conclusions.

Scripture and science shake hands in Larsen’s findings. Rudder Auditorium show this year on December 17 at 7:00 p.m. on the Texas A & M campus.

If you can’t make it, LifeWay Christian Store has a beautifully scored DVD of the presentation, or find information at http://bethlehemstar.net/

Ronald A. Schorn, Ph.D. founder of the Planetary Astronomy Department of NASA says, “About 99.9% of the Star of Bethlehem stuff is nutty, but this isn't . . . it’s well-researched and reasonable."