Nativity and Children

#inspiration, #nativity set, #Jesus, #ChristmasOne of my most treasured possessions is a nativity set that my brother lovingly hand carved for my mom about twenty-five years ago. It always held a place of honour in her home and now that she is no longer with us, the gift was passed on to me.

Since it is made of wood, there has never been a problem with children moving the pieces around. Everyone can enjoy this nativity. Thinking of this brought to mind a story I heard several years ago that I want to share with you today.

In order to save the beautiful ceramic nativity set from the grasping, sticky fingers of her young daughter, Linda crafted a play grouping of burlap, canvas and yarn. Five-year-old Elizabeth would spend hours rearranging the pieces and acting out the Christmas story. Mother would quietly laugh to herself when she heard Elizabeth inevitably say, “Hey, Jesus mother, can I hold your baby?”

Mother couldn’t picture the work-roughened hands of a shepherd cuddling an infant. But it made perfect sense to little Elizabeth; if these people were going to make a trip to see a baby, they wouldn’t want to leave without holding it.

Think about it. She really isn’t that far off. When you see a baby it’s only natural to admire it or comment on how cute it is. But, if you actually pick up that baby, a phenomenon takes place. Somehow, holding that child, gazing into those wide eyes and connecting with that uniquely God-given personality – that baby gets into your heart!

Don’t you think the shepherds were drawn in the same way to embrace the Infant of Bethlehem and experience the miracle of His love in their hearts that first Christmas?

This year, as you make your journey to the stable in Bethlehem, don’t just gaze on the Child in the manger and turn away unchanged. Embrace the Baby Jesus, the pure light of God’s love, and let Him shine in your hearts and make your lives new.

Don’t leave without holding the baby.

My Favourite Gift

#inspiration, #Jesus, #ChristmasOver the years I’ve heard the saying, “Giving is receiving.” This is something I’ve experienced as I’m sure many of you have.

The fact our giving doesn’t have to be extravagant to have an impact is an added bonus. Sometimes all we need to do is show up. Our time is valuable and giving it freely to someone shows a commitment to that person they may not have experienced elsewhere.

Acts of service show we understand the needs of another and are willing to help fill those needs. In order to recognize them, we need to pay attention.

My husband is a master at this. He quietly takes care of things around the house to give me time to spend writing. By giving me the gift of his time he is also valuing mine. There is no way to put a price on this kind of gift.

His example makes me strive to cheerfully give my time and attention to others. By doing so, I am giving one of the most thoughtful gifts possible. No lineups to purchase are required. No fancy wrapping is needed. The ripple effect is far-reaching and can enable me to experience a little of Christmas in any month of the year. This may be the most perfect gift idea ever!

“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.” Mother Theresa

Children’s Christmas Concerts

#Christmas, #inspiration, #Jesus,#GodMy favourite Christmas concerts are the ones put on by children. They have several things in common with the first Christmas – music, drama, God, and the element of surprise! You never know quite what to expect at a children’s performance. I think the mistakes in the program provide some of the most memorable moments.

The Christmas I was six years old, I was given a major role in the school concert. I was to recite T’was the Night Before Christmas. My mother helped me memorize the poem. By the day of the concert I had it word perfect. That is, until I stepped up on the stage in front of an audience!

Part way through, I forgot my next line. I paused and then started again, unaware that I was repeating a previous line. Suddenly my three-year-old brother yelled out from the audience, “You already said that part!” My mother was embarrassed at his outburst, I was embarrassed by my mistake and my little brother stole the show!

Now I can look back and realize that mistakes actually help teach us the real meaning of Christmas. They allow us to see that true joy comes from being loved by God, no matter how many mistakes we make. That’s what God’s love was telling us more than 2,000 years ago with the arrival of Jesus. He’s still telling us that today.

His love is there when we follow the script and when we get mixed up. He’s there cheering us on, just like the loving parents watching their children in the concerts. When we make a mistake, he picks us up and encourages us to try again. He delights in our enthusiasm and rejoices with us in our accomplishments. His unconditional love always meets us exactly where we are.

Not only at Christmas but throughout the year, I want to be like a little child, basking in the love of my Heavenly Father.

A Child is Born

#Jesus, #God, #inspiration,
Picture compliments of Kristina May

A couple of months ago a friend celebrated the birth of a new baby. This child was eagerly awaited and loved long before she drew her first breath. The baby is not the first child in the family but this doesn’t diminish the devotion lavished on her.

She is loved unconditionally even though she can give nothing in return. She is loved for her very existence in this moment and not for what she may become in the future. Her family is committed to nurture and guide her as she grows.

This is the way God loves each one of us. I know he loves me just as I am. Even when I have nothing to give back, he still cares.

He is watching over me and is always there to nurture, support and guide me to reach my full potential. When I cry out to him in prayer, he takes care of my needs.

I can have this relationship with God because he sent Jesus to demonstrate his great love for me. Jesus left his heavenly home and came to earth as a helpless baby. He knew the sacrifice he was making. It was for you and for me. This is the greatest gift known to mankind.

Let us think of that sacrificial love as we celebrate the gift of the baby Jesus this Christmas.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Christmas Carols

#Jesus, #inspiration, ChristmasOne of my favourite parts of Christmas celebrations is the carols sung. Did you ever stop to think that the song the angels sang the night Jesus was born would have been the very first Christmas carol?

I knew that the tradition of singing Christmas carols was centuries old, but never really thought about the fact that when we sing carols at Christmas, we are carrying on with a tradition of praise that started the day that Jesus Christ was born. No wonder these songs that we only hear for a short period of time every year hold such a special place in our hearts and memories.

How many of you have a favourite Christmas carol? I have several. I enjoy the traditional songs Oh Little Town of Bethlehem; Silent Night; While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night; and Joy to the World, because they tell the story of that night in a manner that all can relate to.

My heart soars as I picture the angels singing when they announced the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps that’s why “Angels From the Realms of Glory” is also a favourite. The very words take me back to that starry night.

Christmas carols were one of the ways of getting the story of Jesus birth to the common folk in days gone by. These people didn’t have the means to learn to read – or even to own a book if they could read. In order for the church leaders to get the Christmas story to these people, they had to find methods other than the written word. One of these was to write songs or Christmas carols.

So, when you hear Christmas carols this season, think of the deep meaning behind the words.

“At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.” (Luke 2:13,14 MSG)

Christmas Traditions

#inspiration, #Christmas, traditions
image from Pinterest

Do you have any special Christmas traditions? Are there activities, outings or special foods that signify the season for you? They may have been carried forward in your family for years, decades or generations.

How easy is it for you to adapt to changes in your traditions?

I grew up in a home where we were able to choose one of the presents under the tree to open on Christmas Eve. When I got married this changed. My husband was of the opinion that all gifts waited until Christmas morning. It was time to form new traditions together.

When my children were young teenagers we would pick my mother up in the afternoon of Christmas Eve and bring her our house to spend the next few days.

She would come to church with our family on Christmas Eve. Afterwards, we would drive around various neighbourhoods admiring Christmas light displays. Upon returning home it was time for hot chocolate and cookies.

One year, my husband made us clubhouse sandwiches on Boxing Day. Little did he know this was the start of a brand new tradition! Boxing Day has been synonymous with clubhouse sandwiches ever since!

Some traditions change out of necessity. My mom is no longer with us and our kids now have families of their own. One thing has not changed in over twenty years. We may not all be together to open gifts or enjoy a turkey dinner on Christmas Day but nobody wants to miss out on our clubhouse gathering on Boxing Day!

It’s funny how something little like this takes hold and becomes such a big part of our lives. Tell me about the traditions that have become part of your family heritage?

Christmas Flower

#Jesus, #inspiration, ChristmasI was in Mexico in late November and enjoyed seeing the festive decorations. While in a large store I turned to head up another aisle and saw a display that took my breath away. The poinsettias for sale were three feet tall! How I wished I could bring one home with me.

I remembered that this showy plant is native to Mexico but that was the extent of my knowledge. I decided to do some research and found that, in its natural habitat, the poinsettia is a perennial shrub that can grow ten to fifteen feet tall. And I thought the ones I saw were large!

How did they become associated with Christmas, I wondered? I turned to Wikipedia for my answer.

Legend tells of a girl who was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. She was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from beside the road and place them in front of the church altar. Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds, resulting in the flower we know as a poinsettia.flower, legend

There were some other interesting facts, but it was the legend that captured my mind. I can relate to a gift of weeds being transformed into blossoms. No gift is too small for God to use. I learned this first hand when I gave my life to Jesus. He will take whatever we give Him and turn it into something unexpected and beautiful. That is why I honour Jesus, not only at Christmas but every day.

“And you’ve become a new person. The new person is continually renewed in knowledge to be like its Creator.” (Colossians 3:10 GWT)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT)

The Best Gifts

#inspiration, gifts, ChristmasHave you completed your Christmas shopping? Some gifts are purchased, some are lovingly hand-made and others come straight from the heart.

Of the many gifts given and received over the Christmas season, often those most valuable are the ones that don’t come from a store.

One of the most thoughtful gifts I ever received came from my daughter. She didn’t have a lot of money but wanted to do something special for me.

I had a drawer full of recipes cut from the newspaper, jotted on scrap paper or passed on from friends. My daughter took the opportunity to go through these whenever I wasn’t home and neatly print the favourites onto recipe cards, which she placed in a small file box. This allowed me to find the ones I wanted with ease. Almost twenty years later, I still use and appreciate this gift.

My children, now grown with families of their own, don’t remember a lot of Christmas gifts received while they were young.  What they do remember is receiving a new board game every year. We would spend hours as a family playing these games.  The time spent together is what their memories are made of.

Over the years I’ve given and received some wonderful gifts. I’d be happy to share more of them but would rather hear about yours. What are some of the best gifts you remember and what make them special.

I’ll do a draw from the comments I receive and one of you will win a gift from me!

Christmas Village

#Jesus, love, peaceA Dickens Christmas Village is set up on my hearth. The lights in the church, shops and house shine onto the little village scene. In one area Charles Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol to a crowd gathered around. Nearby are a group of Christmas Carolers. Some children are playing in the snow.

Gazing at the cheerful little village brings back precious memories of receiving the various pieces throughout the years. My adult children enjoyed moving some of the people to unusual locations in the village to see if I’d notice. Grandchildren loved to gaze at it but knew not to touch the porcelain pieces.#Jesus, love, Christmas

This village brings me peace and joy. It also reminds me of love shared with my family, who are the primary members of my personal village.
Christmas is about peace, joy and love. There is no better way to honour Jesus than by sharing the love that he so generously gives to me. That is what I plan to do with those I come in contact with.

I want to express my appreciation for each of you who read my posts. May you feel the blessings of love and peace not only this Christmas but throughout the coming year.

This is how God showed his love among us; He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. ( 1 John 4:9 NIV)

Children’s Christmas Concerts

#God, #inspiration, loveThis week we have the pleasure of attending school Christmas concerts for grandchildren. I can hardly wait!

I view these concerts as having several things in common with the first Christmas: music, drama, God and the element of surprise. You never know quite what to expect at a children’s performance. I sometimes think the audience actually looks forward to the mistakes in the program!

Some children are blissfully unaware of mistakes they make. They are happy being on stage and waving to parents in the audience. A few are embarrassed if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned. Either way, their parents look on proudly.

When I was six or seven I had a major role in a school concert. I was to recite T’was the Night Before Christmas. My mother helped me to memorize it and by the day of the concert I had it word perfect. Once on stage, I got nervous and part way through forgot the next line. After pausing to think about it, I started again, not realizing I was repeating a few lines. My little brother called out from the audience, “You already said that part.”

I was embarrassed at my mistake and my little brother stole the show! It was his outburst and not my performance that was remembered.

These mistakes are what provide the most memorable moments. They also teach us the real meaning of Christmas; that true joy comes from being loved by God, no matter how many mistakes we make. That’s what God was telling us more than 2,000 years ago. He’s still telling us that today. His love is there where we follow the script and when we get mixed up. He is there cheering us on, just like the loving parents watching their children in the concerts.

Not only at Christmas but throughout the year, let’s be like little children, basking in the love of our Heavenly Father.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)