O Night Divine

 How often do we take the time to listen to the lyrics of the beloved Christmas carols? When do we stop singing from rote memorization and start singing with the realization of what the words truly mean?
O Holy Night 
O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
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Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
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A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
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Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
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O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine o night
O night divine

 The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 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.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  Luke 2:1-20 NIV

 

The Words Are Still Relevant

This is a post that I like to share each year at this time. The words are just as relevant today, as when I first posted it.

THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL

Even though I love Christmas….I am aware it is a difficult time of the year for many. So many who have suffered a loss, struggle through Christmas. Trying to smile. Wanting to celebrate, but are in too much pain to enjoy it. I want to help them….just like I was helped so many years ago.

FLASHBACK to Christmas 2000.….my husband had died the month before. My 5 year old son and I would be spending Christmas in a different way that year. I tried to keep things as normal as possible. Unknown to me at the time, when I got up on that  Christmas morning, I would have a surprise.

A mysterious phone call. Caller unknown was on my phone’s ID. “Check your front porch”, the voice said.  I peered out my front door at 7 am in the morning. My front porch was filled with presents addressed to my son and me. He and I had so much fun opening the gifts that were so lovingly left on our front porch, early that Christmas morning. I later found out that my church’s Sunday School class had collected gifts and wrapped all of them…just for us. Then one of my dear friends and her husband secretly, and quietly delivered the gifts to my house at daybreak. I should have known. These were the same people that prayed for my husband throughout his illness. Held my hand at the hospital. Girlfriends that slept on the couch at my house, my first night alone…they stayed so I wouldn’t wake up to an empty house. Brought me meals. Bought me a dress for the funeral. Stood by me at the services.  Men that changed the oil in my vehicle. Ordered pizza to my house and visited with me while we all ate. I had people willing to babysit if I needed it, and fix food when I didn’t feel like it. I had a dear friend mow my yard during my husband’s illness and afterward. They showed HIS love through their numerous actions.They were real. Their love was practical. They were Jesus hands and feet to me.

What might have been one of the worst days for me, turned out to be a wonderful memory. A memory that still warms me all these years later. That special Christmas morning was a gift to me. I loved all the thoughtful presents, but even more was my love for my friends who had not forgotten me as they all celebrated on that Christmas morning. That is what warms my heart, over a decade later.

Flashback over 2000 years ago… A dark night. A man and a woman who needed a place to stay. No one could help them out. The city was busy and there was not one room available. They were bone tired. The young woman was not feeling so well, she knew that this child that she had been carrying for the past 9 months, was ready to be born. But where?  The man managed to talk an inn keeper into allowing them to sleep in his stable, which was really not much more than a cave.  A literal hole in the wall.

In the stench of barnyard animals, the greatest gift to mankind was born that night. A night where people were running to and fro, busy with their lives. A night where no one was really paying much attention. A night not so unlike what we have now. God came into the world. Jesus left Heaven to come to this earth in human flesh. AND THE WORLD HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME SINCE. A divine gift. A gift of love to humankind. A light to the world. Light that split the enveloping darkness of that night, as well as all the days and nights to come.

For all those people that I mentioned earlier…those in pain, those that are hurting for whatever reason…my desire is that they would know the greatest gift of all. Because He lives you CAN face tomorrow. This life we all live, is never easy. Most days it is hard. Some days life downright hurts. This is nothing new. Knowing Jesus doesn’t mean that life will be perfect, or problem free. Anyone that says that is a liar. We live in a fallen world, and that alone brings sadness. But the good news is this:  Jesus didn’t stay a baby in manger. He grew up. He touched lives. People were changed. He explained the scripture. He attended weddings, and family get togethers. He hung out with his friends…and he hung out with the outcasts of society. He gave sight to the blind both literally and figuratively. He was every bit human, as He was every bit God.  Decades after His humble birth in that cave, on a bed of straw He walked a road to the cross. Where His gift to you (Yes, YOU!) was given. Your name was on his mind. He knew that one day you would be born and live a life on this earth. He knew. He laid down his own life–in your place. He took the punishment for your sin (the bad things we all do). He did it because He loves you. Really loves you. And He knew that we weren’t capable of ever paying that price on our own. Impossible. The gap was too wide. We’d never make it. So, He did it for us. The gift of salvation just needs to be acknowledged and  accepted. (John 3:16)

I realize I have a lot of people that read my blog…people from all over the world, actually.  Some people  know me personally and some only know me through my blog. I will be the first one to tell you that I am not perfect. I have good days and bad days just like everyone else. I tend towards selfishness. I like my own way. I’m too stubborn for my own good. Yep. That’s me. Sure, I like to think I have my good points too. But, some days are better than others. On a beautiful spring day in May of 1979 I accepted the gift. Life didn’t suddenly change for me. I didn’t start skipping through meadows of daisies with a perpetual smile on my face. Life can still be gritty at times. I’ve gone through great joys and intense tragedies. Even in the midst of all these things, Jesus has never left me. He promised me he’d never leave me, nor forsake me. Not ever. And He hasn’t. I want to share that gift with you. I want you to know, what I know.

I want you to have the greatest gift of all. IMG_1236

Frozen In Time

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Last night, while I was outside walking the dog, I looked up at the cool, crisp, winter sky. The night was black velvet, with the twinkling lights of a million stars. The sight brought back a sweet memory…….

It was a late November evening in 2001, tinged with the cool air of a quickly approaching winter. I had been a widow for a full year at this point, and my son was six years old. My aunt had come to visit my mother and me, in east Tennessee. On this particular evening we had decided to go see the Christmas lights at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge. For whatever reason, there were not as many people there as was common. I felt like we had this beautiful park to ourselves. The Christmas lights twinkled, entertainers sang Christmas carols, we had delicious chocolate chip cookies and hot cocoa at the Grist Mill, the night was magical in every way. For me, it was an evening that stood forever frozen in time.

I commandeered a local park artist to immortalize my son in a beautiful copper print of his silhouette. I still have that picture hanging, reminding me of my sweet six year old, and of that night, so long ago. He is now nineteen, and in college…..but, I still cherish the memory of our special evening in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Time goes on, and much has happened over the past thirteen years.  There were some great things, some not so great things, as is common for us all. Regardless, this sentimental memory still shines just as brightly as it did that night so many years ago.

God’s Love Story

Jazz

Jazz

Every morning (and every evening) I go over to the barn to feed our horse, Jazz. Today is an especially dreary, gray, damp day. No sunshine, so the barn was dark and full of shadows. I threw open the barn doors to let Jazz out into the pasture, at least for a little while before the rain comes. Then I went and did the usual mucking of the stall. Now, I don’t know if you know anything about horses, but they can make a real mess. Even with pine shavings on the floor of the stall to um……help absorb, it is still a smelly mess to clean up every day. It’s not her fault, she just does what animals do…..and I just do what I do, clean it up.

Today, on this Christmas Eve, I stood in the middle of the horse stall and took it all in. I looked at my boots, filthy, and smelling of horse manure, soggy pine shavings, Jazz’s water bucket that I needed to refill, and the rough wooden walls of her stall. As I shoveled, the thought occurred to me of that Christmas so long ago. A baby born into this world, in a place not so unlike what I was standing in right now.

Tears slid down my cheeks as I went about my chores. Tears of joy, tears of awe. Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords, left the glories of Heaven to enter time and space, in the most humble of surroundings. The celebration of Christ’ birth, is just the beginning of the story. The whole story, His life and journey to the cross, is overwhelming when you allow yourself to be reminded of it in a personal way. Jesus could have come in all His majesty, but instead God chose for Him to come to this world as an infant. God in human flesh.

The miracle of Jesus’ birth, the necessity of His death……all comes together in God’s love story.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  Luke 2:11 NIV

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.… John 3:16-17 

In The Days Leading Up To Christmas

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The mantle is filled with vintage Putz houses, a glowing Christmas tree takes center stage in the house, and beautiful cards are displayed on the door. The nativity is in a prominent place on the dining room table…a visual reminder of God’s love to the world. The gifts under the tree are no comparison to the gift of Jesus, Himself.

The sky outside is the color of slate, and branches of the bare trees scrape against it. The smell of wood smoke is in the air, a neighbor must have their fireplace in use. Icicle lights glitter in the evening dusk, reminding me of the glorious appearance of the angels on that night of Christ’ birth so long ago.

Sweet treats, warm cocoa, and marathon Christmas movies on television. Thankful for so much.

Quiet peacefulness settles in……. in the days leading up to Christmas.

 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
         And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”   Luke 2:8-14

Everything Else Pales In Comparison

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I closed my eyes.

I took a deep breath.

Deep breath in and let it out slowly….. I was letting the stress get to me.

Stressing is easy to do at this time of the year.

I needed to get gifts bought, as the clock continued to click down to Christmas. How did Christmas just sneak up on me this year? My to do list is a mile long and only seems to be getting longer. I love the entire Christmas season, but it sure can make me crazy.

Time for an adjustment. A reminder.

Silent night. Holy night. All is calm, all is bright………

My thoughts turn toward that night so long ago.

That night.

The one that was destined to change the world forever.

God came to this earth in the form of a baby. An infant dependent on His parents, born into the most humble of surroundings. A child that would grow up and live life….give life….BE life. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 

The greatest gift of all came to human kind, that night.

Everything else pales in comparison.

Christmas Had Come Full Circle

Sometimes death whispers down fluorescent lit hallways that smell like antiseptic and medicine. At other times it arrives unexpectedly, ripping through a young life that held such promise. Some hear a diagnosis and walk hand and hand together with death, for years that follow, or sometimes it is the quietly closing of eyes that never open again. I hate death. I hate everything about it. I hate the acts of dying, whether it lasts a second or lingers for longer. It is hard and unfair…..and it hurts. It hurts not just the one that is dying, but to all those who love that individual. Death comes, when it chooses. None of us know when that moment might be. It could be today, or next month, or 50 years from now. We try not to think about it. No one wants to live in the shadow of the cold. The gray. The unknown.

I’ve faced the loss that death incurs, in my own life…on more than one occasion. My husband and I facilitate a GriefShare class, to help others that are on this journey. We have met people who have lost parents, children, spouses and siblings. I’ve looked into the faces of these individuals and cried with them. Like I said, I hate death.

Over two thousand years ago, a baby was born into humble surroundings. His newborn cries were mingled with the sounds of animals in the stable. His parents knew who He was, but probably did not, could not, fully comprehend what His birth meant. This tiny infant that Mary had delivered, was born to die. God in human flesh, came from the glories of heaven, to this broken world. He walked this earth, before He walked to the cross. He brought the dead back to life with just the sound of His voice, but chose to give Himself up for us all and stay on that cross until it was finished.

 

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Christmas had come full circle. The wonder of Jesus birth is forever intertwined with the sacrifice of His death and glory of His resurrection.

Death…. none of us will escape it, but because of Christ, we don’t have to fear it.

…Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”… John 11: 24-26

…Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection… Romans 6:3-5 

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

 

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