There's Something About Christmastime...

I can’t believe Christmas has come and gone, and we’re about to bring in another New Year. To me, it’s a sad reality that this holiday season is almost over. What is it about Christmas that brings such joy to children? And such appreciation to our elders? When I was a kid, the anticipation of Santa was almost overwhelming; but it wasn’t just the presents, even then I knew there was a magic that only existed at Christmastime. Unfortunately, over time, the magic seemed to disappear…What happened? Life got in the way. I grew up. I stopped believing…and Christmas hadn’t been the same ever since? I don’t know about you, but as each year passed, Christmas became a stress-inducing, panic attack-waiting-to-happen time of year. What to buy? For whom to buy? How much to spend? What to cook/bake/fix? How to get all the visiting squeezed into a couple of days? When to get it all done?

Maybe part of the magic when I was a kid was that I didn’t have any of those worries. I went to bed with excitement, and woke up the next day overjoyed! I opened presents, played, ate… Where did it all go wrong? Where along the way, did the magic disappear? If I’m being honest, it was probably around the time that I stopped ‘believing’… Truth. I still enjoyed gift giving and receiving, the meals, and even the family visitation, but it was just another day anymore. When I didn’t see any magic to believe in, I quit feeling it as well…

Let me tell you a secret…you don’t have to see to believe; you have to believe to see. (And I’m not talking about Santa). You see, there is something about Christmastime… It’s about love. The Love that God showed when He sent His Son to be born to us; and eventually die for us. It’s about the love that encompasses us all when we’re thinking about those that we shop and cook for, and the time we spend visiting others.

Imagine what the world would truly be like if we carried that love all year through. Christmas symbolizes joy, hope, love, faith, peace… What if we allowed every day to be indicative of such?

Growing up, the saying approaching Christmas was “If you stop believing, you stop receiving…” We naturally meant Santa. But you know what? It applies to Jesus. (Matthew 21:22) What if our problem throughout the year is that we don’t really believe that Jesus Is everything He Is?  We doubt, we make excuses, we wander… God’s promises never fail (Hebrews 6:18). God never fails us; we fail Him. We easily celebrate Him at Christmastime; but what if we celebrated Him all year through? It’s not God that disappears when Christmas is over; it’s us; our faith, our trust, our love, our belief. Belief that He still remains; belief that He still promises; belief that He still loves.

What is it about Christmastime? It’s that we allow ourselves to embrace the Christmas Spirit; His Spirit. We give, we share, we do; for this short holiday season, we do what we’re supposed to do all year through: we love as Christ loves. It’s Christmastime that we embody our namesake—Christ. It’s Christmastime that we share the love. It’s Christmastime that we believe.

Maybe if we carry that belief all year through, the magic will remain with us, and everyone…and it will feel like Christmas every day… Can we at least try? (Luke 2:19)

Merry Christmas!

It is Christmas Eve as I write this.  My family sits watching Christmas shows with the tree lit up while I ponder the ways that God has protected and cared for us over this last year.  I have been blessed to see my children grow a year older, to see my husband draw close to God, and to spend a lot of quality time with my first grandchild.  We had a lot of moments in which we weren't sure how things were going to turn out, and even a few in which a positive outcome seemed impossible, and yet we have come through.

I began a new Bible study this week focusing on all the names of God.  In Jewish culture a name is more than just a unique label to identify a person.  A name is a description of a person's personality - it identifies a quality of them.  Therefore when someone assigns God a name it isn't a new identity for Him, but a newly identified aspect of who He is.

One of the earliest names given to God is by Abraham in Genesis chapter 22.  God has called him to sacrifice his son, a test of his obedience to and trust in God.  Abraham brings him up the mountain, builds an altar, lays his son upon it and raises his knife before God stops him.  It is then that God shows him the ram he is to offer instead.  Abraham then identifies a key aspect of God and names Him:

The Greek and Latin root of the word provide shed a bit more light on this wonderful aspect of God.  You see pro- means before and vid- means to see.  God gives us what we need before we even see the need!  

Which brings me back to Christmas.  Since Eve bit the fruit God saw the need to provide a way to return to Him.  We may have run from that need over the years, and some of us may not even realize how much we truly do need that relationship with Him.  But God knew - and before we recognized it He had already developed and implemented a plan to provide for us.  And many years later He did - by sending His Son down to earth as a helpless babe to experience all that we might.  

Jesus came to take on every thing that you or I have ever done that could separate us from His Father.  He paid the price so that we could once again have fellowship with God, so that we could again enter into a close, personal relationship with Him.  He is the ultimate provision!

So as you open your Christmas gifts and enjoy time with your family today, please take a few moments to remember the best gift you could ever be given - Jesus - and take the time to give Him the best gift of all - YOU.  

Merry Christmas!

Nothing Means Something

Isn’t it curious the amount of lessons we can learn from the Bible? There’s a message within just about each verse; we just have to know how to decipher it. Much of it requires research into the historical times and how things were done in order to fully understand; and some of it just requires us to remember what we’ve previously read/learned to see the importance of a sentence. For instance: 2 Timothy 4:11 (NLT) “…Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.” Seems simple, Paul wanted Mark to come visit him with Timothy because he would be helpful. But, lest we forget that this is the same Mark (John Mark) that deserted Paul and Barnabus in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) and later triggered a rift between Paul and Barnabus (Acts 15:37-39), causing them to split up their ministry. Consequently, it’s peculiar when we read in 2 Timothy 4:11 and see that Paul is requesting that Timothy bring Mark…
So… what have we learned from 2 Timothy 4:11? Well, in Acts 13:13, we see that not all Christians have courage, strength and willpower to continue through the hardships they face, especially in their youth (meaning not only age, but also length of time as a Christian). Also, sometimes taking a break from it all does not necessarily mean that God will be finished using you. Through Acts 15:37-39, we learn that Christians don’t always have to agree on everything, especially to be successful, and God can and will use conflict and disagreements to further His work. We also see that giving patience and encouragement to someone that is falling short of being the ‘perfect’ Christian knows no bounds for either of you. (Because Barnabus didn’t give up on Mark, he matured, grew learned from his mistakes.) Between here and 2 Timothy, the Bible doesn’t go into what happened between Mark and Paul that healed their relationship, and made Mark valuable to Paul and his ministry. Somewhere along the line, the two reconciled, forgave and forgot the past. But 2 Timothy 4:11 is proof that people can change, and through growth and experience, they can be instrumental in leadership and ministry. Forgiveness of can salvage any relationship and ministry.
Look at the lessons we learned in one simple stated Bible verse! I beg you not to go through an obligatory routine just reading the Bible. Heed each verse. Ponder the meanings. Even the verses that seem like nothing, is something…Nothing in it is in it for nothing.