My husband and I stood near the church entry, welcoming people as they arrived for the morning service.
Outside was a frigid -30°C. When people entered the building we shook their hands and I said, “It’s cold outside, come in and enjoy the warmth.”
My words had a double meaning. The first was obvious as the indoor temperature brought a welcome reprieve from the cold air outside.
The second was a little more subtle. Life can be challenging and the world often seems cold. The church should always be a place of hope and a refuge from the cold.
There is no need for anyone to brave the cold world on their own.
It goes even deeper than the church building. As a follower of Christ, it is my duty to extend a warm hand and friendly greeting to all. I was once told, “You may be the only Bible people come in contact with.”
When I show genuine care and provide a safe welcoming environment I am reflecting the light and love of Jesus. Only then will they trust me when I share the difference a relationship with Jesus can make in their lives.
There is no better way to come in from the cold.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)
I have happy memories of playing card games and board games. This enjoyment of games was passed on first to my children and now to my grandchildren.
Recently I pulled out a board game that had been neglected for many years. Nine year-old Emily and ten year-old Logan were excited to play a game their mom had played as a girl.
It had been so long since I’d played Big Deal that I had to learn the rules all over again. Fortunately they were printed inside the lid of the box so we had guidelines to follow. There were more rules than I remembered and it was easy to get confused and forget some of them.
We decided to start anyway and learn as we went. Many mistakes were made and I was grateful for understanding grandchildren. They asked lots of questions and waited for me to look up the answers. The rules were always beside me and they let us know how to play and how to win.
Life also comes with a rule book. It’s called the Bible. Jesus came to show the joy and peace found through following God’s laws. He demonstrated how to play by the rules in order to win the prize of everlasting life.
I still sometimes struggle with or forget some of the rules. Jesus is always beside me to instruct me as I go along. He is the one who makes it possible to play by the rules and win at the game of life.
If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them. (James 1:5 GWT)
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)
One 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)
I 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.
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)
This was the first major snowfall of the season. There had been a few that didn’t leave an accumulation, but this one was different.
I was attending a silent retreat and the blanket of snow seemed to also silence the land.
The sun appeared mid-afternoon, beckoning me to brave the cold and partake of the beautiful surroundings.
The only sound I could hear was the squeak of my boots on the snow. The pristine white surface sparkled with ice crystals looking like millions of pieces of glitter sprinkled before me.
I walked toward the evergreens dressed in their winter gowns.
The snow lay thick on the branches and I saw some weighed down by this heavy burden. Not only was this a photo op, it was also an analogy of life.
Too much of anything can weigh us down. A little guilt here, a touch of regret there and soon we are tired from our heavy load. We bow to the ground, unable to carry the burden. Without relief, we are in danger of breaking.
Jesus has promised to give us rest when we bring our burdens to him. First, we have to silence the noise in our minds. In the stillness will we be able to discern his voice and allow him to lighten our load.
When the sun shines on the tree branches the snow starts to fall away. In the same way, the Son of Man takes our worries, allowing us to stand straight and tall once again.
“Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 GWT)
My husband and I have just returned from a mini-vacation. We travelled a little over an hour from home and spent three nights in the mountains.
In such a short distance and time frame we enjoyed a complete change of pace. No goals or expectations were set ahead of time. This proved to be key to our experience.
Jagged mountain peaks were visible from our room. We appreciated some time outdoors in the crisp mountain air, but had no desire to fill every moment with activity. Instead, we spent quiet hours relaxing in the spacious lobby area where a large rustic fireplace dominated one wall.
Any other time we would have felt guilty for not being outside exploring. On these days we relished the time to rest and recharge. This is something we would not have been able to accomplish at home where many tasks constantly call out for our attention.
There are always things we can be doing, but how often do we give ourselves permission to just be still?
Rest is a biblical concept. Jesus took time from his hectic life to withdraw to a quiet place for prayer. This was a necessity for him. After spending quiet time with God, he was better prepared to face the busy and trying days to come.
When I do the same, I am allowing the Lord to breathe new energy and focus into my life, preparing me for what lies ahead.
The news about Jesus spread even more. Large crowds gathered to hear him and have their diseases cured. But he would go away to places where he could be alone for prayer. (Luke 5:15-16 GST)
Do you ever talk back to your GPS? Not only do my husband and I talk back to ours, we challenge it on a regular basis!
When I stop to think about it, the technology in these devices is quite remarkable. They pick up a signal pinpointing my location and then analyze routes to find the best one to get me to my destination.
Why would I pay for one of these units and then disregard what it tells me? The short answer is because I think I’m right!
We recently looked at a map to visualize our route before putting the address into the GPS. It didn’t take long before the familiar voice (we call her Susan), told us to turn and we said, “No, that’s not the right way.” It recalculated and gave new directions, which we also ignored. We carried on like this for close to two hours.
After reaching our destination we discovered the route Susan wanted us to take would have been more direct. There was more than one way to get to where we were going and the one we stubbornly stuck to was not the best one.
How often in life do I seek advice and then ignore it because I’m convinced I know best? When I’d rather be right than listen to other options, my objectivity suffers. Who knows what I might learn if I take the opportunity to listen to others? My lesson this time is that I’m not always right!
“There is no one as deaf as he who will not listen.” Yiddish Proverb
Music has much to teach us about life. I didn’t realize how much until I heard a wise woman say that the rests in a piece of music don’t contain music themselves but are an important part of the complete piece. She went on to say the melody doesn’t end when you come to the pause; instead, you take the rest, carry on as if it hadn’t happened and hit the next note with confidence.
My life contains many similarities to music. I have times when all is smooth and steady, reminiscent of the whole notes. Then, there are the times when the tempo quickens like that of quarter and eighth notes.
The most interesting music has a combination of notes as well as sharps and flats. How I put these together in my life can create harmony or discord.
The part of the musical score I hadn’t thought about was the pauses.
Sometimes I have planned these into my life as a time of refreshment and renewal. Other times they are forced on me through illness, injury, or loss.
I had always thought of the unexpected rests in my life as interruptions. Now, I see they are not wasted time but actually help to make me who I am. It all depends on what I do with them.
Jesus was a perfect example of enjoying times of rest in the middle of the stress and demands of his busy life. He offers the same opportunity to me. I need to accept the full notes and the pauses.
When I spend quiet time with him I will be able to learn the melody he has set out for my life and hit the next note with confidence.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
One of the signs of summer is the distinctive music of an ice cream truck as it slowly winds its way through the neighbourhoods. The sound can be heard several blocks away which gives children a chance to race to their parents and beg for money to pay for a treat.
I don’t know of another sound in the summer that brings people running. Thoughts of enjoying ice cream treats delivered right to your neighbourhood, are enough to send many searching for their wallets!
Even if I don’t want to indulge in the offerings, the music brings pleasant memories of summers past, when I had young children excited to hear the sound of the ice cream truck approaching. If they were fast enough, they could wait at the end of the driveway and the truck would stop. If not, they would need to chase it down the street and maybe wait in line for their favourite treat.
Most of the offerings from the ice cream truck are available at local stores but people are still willing to pay a premium price to the ice cream man. There must be something in the simple melody the truck plays that draws people in.
I think of this attraction and wonder how many people are drawn to Jesus in the same excited way. The bounties he brings are too numerous to be listed on the side of a truck. There is no premium price involved; no need to chase him down the street, money in hand.
When I’m open to what Jesus has to offer, he delivers directly to me, no lineups involved. And, best of all, there’s no need to wait for summer to receive the refreshment he brings.
Every good present and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who made the sun, moon, and stars. (James 1:17 GWT)