A Star’s Guidance

Can you believe Christmas is already done? I like celebrating through the new year, meeting with friends and giving gifts and really stretching it out as long as possible since it’s such a special time of year. From the Bible story of the first Christmas we know that the Shepherds came down to join Mary and Joseph at the place they were staying where Jesus was born. What we don’t always talk about is the fact that the wisemen weren’t there in those first days, some say that they visited Jesus 13 days after He was born, and others say Jesus was more than 1 year old by the time they arrived.

The thing that’s not disputed regardless of how old you think Jesus was when the wisemen arrived is that they arrived because they followed the star. The shepherds visited Jesus because the angels told them about it (something that would certainly get your attention and move you to check things out), but it always amazes me that the wisemen came to Jesus because of a star. We don’t see stars to the detail that they did back then (unless we’re looking through a high powered telescope), and we also don’t spend as much time analyzing and following them as the wisemen and other people in Jesus’ time did.

The wisemen, as sure in the stars as they may have been, still took a chance at following the message as they understood it. It may not have been easy and was probably years of work, if not a lifetime, but I would say they were quite pleased by their journey as they got to meet Jesus.

The wisemen stepped out in faith and followed the guidance of the star. At this time of year we think about stepping out in faith as well and becoming a better, healthier, more fulfilled person in the new year. We may have tried things in the past unsuccessfully, but that doesn’t mean that this can’t be the year for us, that we can’t do what we set out to do, and that we can’t step out in faith and let God lead us to a great destination this year.

If you had a great year I encourage you to keep doing what you’ve been doing, but if you’re looking for a new adventure or simply more out of life, take some time this week to consider the signs in your life, and how you want to feel and where you want to be in your life at this time next year. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to evaluate your life, reflect on your journey and plan for the future.

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Simply Jesus

Here we are, hours away from Christmas Day. It’s a time to reflect on family and friends, to celebrate life and love, to enjoy gathering and gifting each other with little blessings and tokens that show how much they mean to us. It’s the time of year that we go all out decorating, hanging lights, trimming trees, baking cookies and gingerbread houses, and setting out our Nativity scenes. I would encourage you to spend time with friends and family, but also to take time to be alone and reflect on your life and the many blessings you have.

I find it interesting that one of if not the most important events in the Bible is only shared in 2 chapters in detail, and that the big event can be captured in just 20 verses (Luke 2:1-20), with just one verse to sum up the actual event “She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” (Luke 2:7)

Sometimes it’s not about the big moments in life, but about those little events that aren’t broadcast around the world, about the people who you know but aren’t known by the world, about the memories that you’ll treasure forever but may mean nothing to others. Yes, there was a celebration with Mary, Joseph, Angles and Shepherds, and later wisemen and Anna and Simeon at the temple (Luke 2), but it wasn’t a large fanfare, there weren’t crowds around for miles waiting for a glimpse.

Yes, Jesus is God’s son, the ruler of heaven and earth, but He also came to earth as a baby, innocent and as human as you and I. He grew just like we did, but had a little extra special knowledge in His heart and mind. He knows what it is to scrape a knee, struggle through loss and make friends.  He also knows all about love, forgiveness, grace and hope.

This Christmas I would encourage you to take a moment and re-read the Christmas story, and ask God what He wants to share, teach, encourage, and reveal to you through those simple words.  Just because you’ve read it before doesn’t mean that you know everything about it, but if you think you do, try a different translation and see how God speaks to you through that.  Merry Christmas!

Christmas is Calling

There’s a song that I love hearing during the Christmas season called “Do You Hear What I Hear.” It talks about using the senses we have to experience Christmas and especially the magic of the First Christmas. The one sense I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is that of hearing, and how Christmas is calling to each of us, if only we would hear it.

The message of Christmas can be different for each of us. Some of us need to hear the call of family, some need to hear the call of a higher job, some of us need to hear the call of a healthier relationship, some of us need to hear the call of God, some of us need to hear the call of love, some of us need to hear the call of peace, some of us need to hear the call of memories. Whatever the message is, I know that Christmas is calling to us.

How do I know Christmas is calling? Because the Bible talks about how Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, and wisemen all were called to regarding Christmas.  God specifically spoke to them and gave them a role to play in the first Christmas. I doubt that the wisemen and shepherds were the only ones that could have heard God’s call, but they were the only ones that followed through on it. God’s been calling since then as the many Christmas carols, hymns and songs, sermons and inspirational speeches can attest. And then there’s the figure of Santa who also speaks to being generous and loving to your loved ones.

Sometimes I think God calls to us when He knows we’re ready, but other times I feel like there’s a call to be heard any time if only we would listen. For example you can pass by a part of nature or part of a store or part of a city or a person a hundred times and either never see it or not have it/them speak to you, but one day for whatever reason it calls out to you. It hasn’t changed, but for some reason it’s talking to you that day.

As we are only a few sleeps away from Christmas I would encourage you to open your ears and your heart to the message of Christmas, whatever message it is that God wants to send your way.

Peace for Christmas

One of the things that has always amazed me about the Biblical Christmas story is the amount of peace Mary has around the whole situation. It’s entirely likely that she was a teenager when she had Jesus (historically that’s when they often married). Today we’ve got a bunch of TV shows that show teenage pregnancies, and we’ve all been teenagers at one point in time, but imagining what it would be like to not only a mother but the mother of Jesus at that age is more than a bit intimidating. And yet after talking with the angel and hearing everything she seems remarkably accepting and at peace about everything.

It would take an incredible amount of trust and faith in God, yourself and in your partner to step into that situation. It’s not clear what Mary’s family thought of everything but the Bible does share about Joseph’s initial struggle with it, and the story as far as the participants is different than it may have been because of the forced trip to Bethlehem. But if you remember one of the key figures in Mary’s life, her cousin Elizabeth, was not only supportive, she was given a baby by God as well (John the Baptist).

Sometimes we have to take big steps of faith in our lives, especially if we can see how important or beneficial it would be. I know we sometimes struggle with change because it can be easier to not make changes and change typically makes waves for us and others. But what if you knew that forward moving journey had a big payoff in the end? It’s a lot more encouraging and calming to know that there’s a definite good result in the journey.

If you’re not at peace with the journey you’re currently on it’s time to take another look at that journey, your attitude and the people in your life. Are you trusting God to guide you? Are you at peace with the decisions you’ve made for it? Do you have the support you need to move forward successfully? Why don’t you have peace at the moment? What would bring you peace in this situation and during this journey (other than to be through it already)?

Christmas Celebrations

There’s something so inherently celebratory about Christmas; there’s a celebration every time a baby is born and enters the world, why would it be any different with Jesus? I have to wonder what it would have been like if technology had advanced to the point it has today when Jesus was born. In some ways I feel like it would lose some of the magic and splendor and it could have made Jesus an even bigger target than He was (thanks to Herod), but at the same time I can’t imagine how amazing and unifying the celebration would have been if the whole world could be involved.

What got me thinking about this? Partly seeing the photos from the Christmas cards that the Royal Family (Great Britain) posted last week, with the 3 kids and one on the way, and remembering the big events that the births of the three kids were. I’m not sure what it’s like to be in the Royal Family, to know that someone in your family is pretty much guaranteed to rule, let alone know that it’s 100% likely that that person would be one of your kids. I’m also not sure what it’s like to have the world know your personal business and send you well wishes upon the births of your children, and other big events throughout the years. Jesus (and His parents) only got a fraction of that attention at His birth.

Yes, now we all celebrate together, gathering in churches and homes around the world throughout the month and during the days leading up to Christmas. We share about it on social media, write cards to each other and wish each other ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Seasons Greetings’ as we come and go. It has turned into a world-wide time of celebration, a time for sharing at least peace and good will with others, if not the message of the First Christmas in Bethlehem.

I know that some of us aren’t in the mood to celebrate, that life hasn’t gone the way that we’ve wanted it to recently or even for the past year. But Christmas is the time to put all of that aside, if only for a few hours each day. It’s time to celebrate the reason you’re living and that God has given you life, and you’ve got hope through a baby born some 2000 years ago. You don’t have to celebrate everything, just pick a couple of things to celebrate and start there. What will you celebrate today?

To Gather for Christmas

Over the past few days my partner and I have been commenting on the increasing numbers of drivers on the road during times that they aren’t usually there. It’s a reminder to be more careful while traveling because there are more people on the road during these days and also a reminder of why people are on the road, and it’s something that many of us are doing these days, and that’s traveling to gather with friends and family.

People gather during the holidays even if they don’t have gifts to give simply because it’s a time to celebrate having each other and spend time with the people that mean the most to you. There’s just something about all the tradition and stories behind the holidays that makes us reach out to people we don’t always get to be with because of time or distance, not to mention wanting to be with people even if we’re more loners.

There’s something about the holidays that tease us into having conversations we don’t usually have, wanting to fix broken relationships, desiring deeper and more meaningful relationships, thriving on being together, and being a little more bold. Maybe it’s all the festivities around us, maybe it’s the sense of community that you can’t miss because of all the bright lights of decorations, maybe it’s the need to huddle up because of the cooler temperatures, but whatever it is I’m thankful that at least one time of year we’re all encouraged and inspired to come together.

We always say that we should do these types of gatherings more often, but somehow we never get to them. So this holiday season I encourage you to make the most of it. Go ahead and accept all the invitations and create some of your own as well. Celebrate together for all this season is worth so that you have something to tide you over until the next one rolls around. Who will you gather with this year?

Treasuring Holiday Memories

There are lots of opportunities for whole-family non-screen activities in between the awesome holiday movies during the Christmas season. From baking cookies to decorating cookies to making gingerbread houses and decorating gingerbread people to decorating stockings to making homemade gifts to making ornaments, there are lots of things to keep you and your kids busy and they are things we look forward to each year.

Some of my best memories I have of growing up are consistently of the holidays and holiday activities with my family like baking cookies, unpacking all of the holiday decorations and decorating the tree. I look forward to having a place that I can do that with family and friends in the coming years, and making more of those memories together.

I remember few of the gifts I’ve gotten over the years, but most of the most enduring memories are of the activities of the season. It’s the memories that stick with us from year to year, and the memories that we want to share with our kids. Even if it is an item that we remember or have a memory around, it’s often about the person who gave it to us, the person it belonged to, the feelings around it or the way it fits into a holiday experience that sticks out in our minds.

It’s not really hard to make memories, they can happen anytime and anywhere and with anyone.  But you have to be with people to make them, and you have to create the opportunity for them to happen.  Yes, some memories will happen doing ordinary things like eating dinner at home, but most are more intentionally created with the hope that a memory can be made.

What are you doing with your family and friends to make memories this year?