Glory to God…

This is what it’s about.

Christmas has arrived again. I hope yours will be very merry, and that you will spend the day with people you love.

I also hope you’ll know what it is really about. That God so loved the world that he gave us his only son.

So that we would know peace as we never had before. So that we would experience a peace that passes understanding. So that we could be reconciled to God.

Glory to God and peace to all.

Merry Christmas.

Us…

Immanuel means “God is with us.” This is one of the names of Jesus, because in Jesus, God came to be with us.

Most of the time we do is on the “be with” part of that phrase. But I’m quite taken with the “us,” this year. We are never meant to be on this journey alone.

It’s always supposed to be an “us.” Jesus, even as he calls his first disciples, calls more than one. The church is an us – a group of people bound together by the love of Jesus.

A group of people who are called to share that love with a world that desperately needs it.

Today, as I prepared services for my group of people at Graceview, I was struck by what a privilege it is to belong to a community of faith.

My hope is that you will gather with other members of the church – either at your home congregation, or at a church where you are a guest this time of year – and experience Immanuel, God with us.

Wrong…

I don’t know why, but sometimes we get it wrong when it comes to Jesus. We seem to focus on the “thou shalt not” parts of the Bible. We get hung up on sin.

We seem to focus on that rather than the fact that we have a Saviour. Don’t get me wrong – I’m well aware that sin is a problem. I know I do things that are sinful – things that hurt others, that hurt my relationship with God, that hurt the world that God created. Sometimes I do these things willfully, because there is something in me that is broken – that doesn’t function the way God created me to function.

I know that I’m not the only one.

And that would be a really depressing thought – except that God doesn’t leave us to our misery. God acts. God steps out of Heaven to become a child. To be with us, to walk among us, and to lay himself down for us.

Because Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn it, but to save it.

And that’s something worth celebrating.

Merry Christmas!

Through Him…

When God wants to show his love for us, he sends a part of himself. His son. One of the persons of the Trinity.

And God does this not just so we can learn from him, experience him, converse with him – God does this so that we can LIVE through him.

You see, if you want to know what life is meant to be, it takes following Jesus. It takes asking Jesus to be a part of every day, every moment, every decision, every dream, every hope, every battle and every victory in your life. It takes a lifelong journey of learning and growing and being transformed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Some days that will be an easy journey. Some days making Jesus part of your whole life will come naturally as your next breath. And other days, you may wonder if you ever really knew Him at all. You may wonder if he’s really there.

But then – every journey has its ups and downs.

What I’ve learned at this point in my journey, is to always keep going. Keep seeking Him. Keep trusting Him. Keep learning from Him.

Through him, I find my life. Over and over and over again. And every shadow that comes, every “down” part of the journey, is only a passing thing.

That’s why it matters that this baby was born in Bethlehem. Because God was showing his love to the world by sending his son, so that we might live through him.

JOY!!

 

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.    Zephaniah 3:17

Yesterday was the Advent Sunday of Joy. And I must tell you – it absolutely lived up to it’s name, in my experience. Worship began with an introit in which our young soloist, Isabel (who must be a pre-teen or in her very early teenage years) sang, and the choir joined in during the chorus.

During our usual “Children’s Story,” the children did a presentation of the Jesse Tree – explaining this tradition (from which comes the tradition of Christmas Trees), and the various symbols that tell the story of Jesus’ birth, beginning from the time of King David. This was then capped off as Ivy (3 or 4 years old) sang “This Little Light of Mine.” I’m pretty sure every heart in the congregation (mine included!) melted.

Despite a cold that had been rather fierce over the weekend, my voice and stamina held out through the sermon and I was even able to sing the beautiful carols of this season. After worship, there was so much warmth and enjoyment in the coffee fellowship that no one wanted to leave! One of our elders joked that she might have to flick the lights on and off to get people moving.

I rushed home from the service to prepare my condo for a wine-and-cheese afternoon with the elders of Graceview. I always enjoy opening my home to visitors, and the preparation is as lovely to me as the gathering.

Soon, my elders arrived, and we spent a lovely afternoon enjoying conversation and nibbles. Once the last of my guests had departed, Koski and I cuddled up on the couch and I enjoyed watching Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 on Netflix.

It was a day filled with beautiful moments. Some of them were spiritual, some of them were simple, all of them were delightful. And each one was a gift from God.

May you also experience great joy in this season, and may you know the One who makes our joy complete!

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Every good thing…

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Season is upon us now, the time for gifts and giving, and as the year draws to its end, I think about my living – A Baby Just Like You, John Denver and the Muppets

I’ve been taking a break for a few days as a cold has had me down. But I’m on the mend now, and I’ve been thinking all day that I should blog.

So I sat down and opened my Bible app, and looked at the verse of the day – and it just happened to be that one above, from James. Which happens to be one of my favourite verses.

Every good thing – every beautiful sunset, every joke shared with a friend, every breath my dog is taking while curled up against my legs as I write, every meal, every moment – every good thing, is a gift from God.

As the Day of Christmas grows closer, and the advertisements and pressures around finding the right gifts mount – I’m savoring this reminder of simple gifts. I’m grateful to remember that there are just so many things for which I ought to say Thank You, Father of the heavenly lights.

And as I think about all these little gifts, I remember the biggest gift – the baby born in Bethlehem, who came to be our Saviour.

Thank You. Thank You. Thank You, Lord.

Music…

“Speak to one another with the words of psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts.” Ephesians‬ ‭5:19‬ ‭GNB‬‬

Music has always been a rich part of my life of faith. In fact, the first time I read through the Bible, I was amazed to find out that many of the songs I knew were directly taken from the words of the Scriptures. I found I could sing more parts of the Bible than I could recite. And I loved that.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I have too many favourite Christmas songs to name. This past Sunday I sang a part of Amy Grant’s “Mary’s Song (Breath of Heaven)” as part of my sermon.

I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t proved a link, for those who might be interested to hear it sung by someone with much more vocal prowess than I possess.

So here it is, and may it be a blessing to your Advent journey, as it has been to mine since I first heard it when I was about 15 years old:

Mary’s Song (Breath of Heaven)

Wordless…

My wordless days seem to be happening on Tuesdays. In any case, I am weary and wordless and in need of rest, so this seems quite apropos. A reminder that I needed, which may be helpful to you, too. May we find our peace in Him.

Pondering…

“Mary remembered all these things and thought deeply about them.” Luke‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭GNB‬‬

Yesterday was the Advent Sunday of Peace, and that always makes me think of my favourite line in the birth narrative of Jesus – that bit about Mary remembering all these things and thinking deeply about them.

Other translations tell us she “pondered them in her heart,” or “thought about them often,” or “wondered what they meant.”

I have this image of Mary cradling her little baby and thinking about all the details of his birth. It’s a peaceful image, but it’s also a mysterious image. I wonder what she thought. I wonder how much she figured out. I wonder what she knew.

I remember reading a quote from Harry Potter author JK Rowling, around the time that the 3rd or 4th novel in the series was released. Rowling said that she didn’t like talking publicly about her faith, because if people knew she believed in Jesus, they would know what was going to happen to Harry before the end of the books.

And I knew. I knew what Harry was going to have to do to defeat Voldemort. I wonder if it was like that for Mary. If she just knew. Or if she felt she knew, but hoped she was wrong.

I suspect that being Jesus’ Mom wasn’t all that peaceful an existence – that there was a lot of worry and concern that this woman carried with her throughout her days. And at the same time, I know her faith was strong, and that faith comes with a peace that passes understanding.

This Advent, may you know that kind of peace – even as you ponder things that may make you worried or concerned. May your faith be strong. May you treasure up the details of Jesus’ birth and may you think of them often.