We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Mixed-up Christmas

Every once in a while, Christmas seems a little mixed up. A couple years ago, some of our family came days before the 25th, opened gifts well before Christmas Eve, and said good-bye before the countdown closed shop doors at the mall. We had to use our daytimers to keep our comings and goings straight, complete with flight numbers, train schedules, and baby routines.

But we came. We came to be together, mixed-up notwithstanding.

The first Christmas was a little mixed-up, too. It all started with an angel, a misunderstanding smoothed over by a dream, and a compulsory road trip. Perhaps Joseph tried to remember the mid-wife’s instructions as he half-carried Mary into an innkeeper’s barn ninety long miles from home. It seemed an invisible hand guided them to this unlikely place. What thoughts raced through Joseph’s mind as he tried to comfort and care for Mary? He couldn’t—no, he wouldn’t—let anything happen to her. Did his hands tremble when the time came to deliver her baby boy?
Angel wings from the throne room of heaven brushed against an earthy night sky. These eager celestials lit up the hillside as they sang to startled sheep and shepherds . . . shepherds who, in turn, traipsed into town peering into every barn they passed—searching for a very special baby! The eastern horizon saw camels carry gift-laden kings west.

Far away, a lone star slipped out of orbit to chase a child.

Nothing happened the way Joseph and Mary thought it would. An impromptu wedding instead of a traditional ceremony. Bethlehem instead of Nazareth. A cold stable instead of a warm home. Strangers, in the form of shepherds and wise men, instead of family and friends. An undercover detour to Egypt instead of a celebratory homecoming. God ordained this mixed-up plan. Heaven came to Earth, and Earth has never been the same.

Immanuel came. He came to be with us, mixed-up notwithstanding.

The ultimate mix-up took place thirty-three years later when the perfect Son of God . . . died . . . instead of us. His resurrection makes it possible for mortals to live . . . forever . . . with Him.

We made the best of our mixed–up Christmas that year. But the ultimate mix-up is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. “Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

First published in www.christiandevotions.us, December 26, 2013.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Stories

There's something about Christmas that makes me want to enjoy a warm, wonderful story. Down through the years I have collected a file folder full of Christmas stories from magazines and newsletters along with a stack of holiday books. Every day during the month of December I would read to our daughters by tree light. Every year we looked forward to the stories, stories that became more and more dear.

My parents began our story-telling tradition. Down through the years, they read the same stories to my sister and me--and then to our children. A tradition, just like our roast beef dinners, our singing of carols, and our one-at-a-time opening of gifts. A timeless tradition for multiple generations.

Here's a list of a few of the stories we've come to enjoy. Maybe you have some you'd like to add!

The Christmas Story written by New Testament authors Matthew and Luke
"Christmas Lost and Found" by Danae Dobson (from the book Christmas by the Hearth)
"Charlie's Blanket" by Wendy Miller (from a book compiled by Dr. Joe Wheeler: Christmas in My Heart: A Timeless Treasury of Heartwarming Stories)
"The Good Things in Life" by Arthur Gordon (from a book compiled by Dr. Joe Wheeler: The Best of Christmas in My Heart, Vol. 2)
"Out of the Ivory Palaces" by Dr. James A. Hunter
"Why the Chimes Rang" by Raymond MacDonald Alden
"The Shoemaker's Christmas" by Corrie ten Boom (from her book Christmas Memories)
"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry
"The Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore
"The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
Punchinello and the Most Marvelous Gift by Max Lucado
The Candle in the Window by Grace Johnson
The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell (This title is linked to an edition like my parents owned!)

What Christmas stories can you add to the list?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Homespun Christmas

A friend popped in the other day. "Oh, your tree looks beautiful," she exclaimed.

My eyes swept the room. The tree, artificial and dotted with a variety of lights, ornaments, and memories, stands not-so-tall by the piano. The mantel houses a simple manger scene with figures my dad cut from wood and painted. On the opposite end, the small watercolor  created by a daughter in junior high stands propped in its traditional place. A ceramic Christmas village  graces the top of the china cabinet. A garland dresses the piano along with a few candles here and there. Hand-knit stockings hang from the  chimney with care . . .

"Thanks," I replied, meeting my friend's eyes with a smile. "Rather homespun . . ."

Our Christmas d├ęcor would never win an award or be featured in a magazine. But, to me, it feels comfortable. My friend understood. She talked about the history of handmade ornaments on her tree, too. Each one telling a story.

I suppose a family's Christmas decorations and traditions tell a bit about them. Guess we're the homespun type. Simple and unsophisticated, by definition.

With only one teenager left at home now, we've developed the habit of filling our dinner plates in the kitchen and eating by tree light, holiday music playing in the background. Somehow the lights and the candles have a way of easing away the cares of the day. We're surrounded by memories of Christmases gone by. And we remember the birth of a special baby, who began his earthly life simply and without sophistication -  tucked in a manger and wrapped in homespun strips of cloth. Our Savior, Christ the Lord.

What story do your Christmas decorations tell?