Category Archive: Christmas

Your Favorite Christmas

Do you recall your favorite Christmas? It may be a Christmas gift whose memory has always remained with you. Something you hoped for that came true, or anticipation that made the realized hope even more precious.

When I was a child in Winnipeg, Manitoba, my brothers and I were eager to open our gifts. But we had to wait until Christmas morning. So every Christmas we children wakened about 5, got Mom and Dad out of bed, and were given the chance to open ONE gift of our choice. Then we had to go back to bed or play quietly until Mom and Dad were ready to get up for the day.

doll with grey eyes and brown hair
Photo by James Sutton on Pexels.com

I was a doll girl. So my favorites were the beautiful dolls my parents got for me. I’d open one, take it back to bed with me, and fall asleep holding that sweet gift until we got up later to open other gifts and enjoy the day together.

My memories also include presents I made when I was working in an inner city ministry in Los Angeles. I didn’t have much discretionary money, so made many of my gifts. One Christmas I worked for weeks on a beautiful stitchery picture for my brother and sister-in-law. I didn’t finish it before coming home to San Jose for the holiday. So Christmas Eve I stayed up ’til 4 or 5 in the morning to finish that piece! Fatigued as I was, I enjoyed giving it and seeing the pleasure it gave Arn and Carol. I also painted and fired a pirate’s head bust for my brother Mel. I was quite proud of the pirate’s facial coloring and the infusion of blush on his cheeks by the fingertip application of red chalk.

Fun memories all. And as an adult, I recall those precious times when our family gathered together to remember Jesus, the hope of all the nations. While alive, Dad always read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before we opened gifts that symbolized the greatest of all gifts–God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice so we could be forgiven of sin, become His children, and enjoy eternal life in His presence. What joy!

She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21

This year will be different. Don and I will be alone with Paigey on Christmas Day because of the pandemic and stay at home orders. But we won’t be alone. We’ll go to a drive-in Christmas Eve service at our church. We’ll remember Jesus, thank Him for His gifts, enjoy giving and receiving presents to and from each other, read, sleep, and enjoy a quiet day together. And we’ll zoom!

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

Jesus, our Lord!

So what are your plans for Christmas?

Peace and Goodwill

Advent – the Coming. As we await the arrival of Christmas this year, we focus on hope.

Hope has been elusive this year. Our culture is very much about “now”. We’re used to fast food, getting things we want right away. At Costco, in bulk! We get irritated if we have to wait.

And now we see waiting everywhere — the line around the corner at Marshall’s; another at Petco; still another queue of customers waiting to enter the bank. We’re being stretched with the current restrictions on our activities and on how many people can be in a store at one time, whether we’re waiting for groceries, Christmas shopping, or something else.

But Jesus gives us hope. Isaiah 11:1 promises that God still has a plan. A plan that was carried out by Jesus Christ when He came to earth to walk with us, to die a horrible death and return to life three days later. God will not forget us. He will have the last word.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

We can trust him. He is righteous, wise, just …

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord … with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth …

Isaiah 11:2-4

And a day is coming when He will make all things right.

  • He will end injustice (11:4) and will rule in righteousness, faithfulness, and be incorruptible
  • He will end conflict (11:6-7)
  • He will end pain (11:9), and
  • He will end ‘religion’ – there will be no need to teach others because knowledge will fill the earth (11:9b).

There is an element of hope as I realize that every day I’m one day nearer to that day of righteousness and peace.

I don’t claim to know what God is up to in our nation, our world during this anxiety-laden time. I do know He wants us to turn to Him in repentance and faith, trusting that He is good, that He has a plan that ends in ultimate glory for those who trust in Him.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to “I Heard the Bells” lost his beloved wife in 1861. The American Civil War began that same year. The following year his son joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War without his father’s consent. Shortly before Christmas 1863, Longfellow learned of his son’s war injury. The poet’s pen had been dry as he suffered the agony of loss and the depression accompanying the ongoing Civil War. But friends encouraged him to write a poem.

That Christmas morning in 1863, Longfellow heard church bells and wrote this poem.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

I wish you peace and good will during this Advent season. However you celebrate, whether alone or with others, be safe, be wise, and rejoice that the Savior of the world, born in a manager so many years ago, is alive and well and working in and through us.

Joy to the World!

What are your plans for Christmas? How can you make it a special time even if not with those you usually join for time together?

No Alternate Plan

Paigey, our feisty little beauty

Don and I went out of town for two days this weekend, and I had arranged for a local woman to dog-sit here at the house. However, I had left several phone messages in the past three days and hadn’t received a call back. It was noon on the day before we were to leave.

I needed to find an alternative. I called another woman who did a great job taking care of Paige for a day recently. Thankfully, she was available and delighted to have our little girl overnight. I’m thankful my alternate was available and willing!

But when Jesus came to earth, the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, God provided one way to know Him. He didn’t say, “My Son gave his life for you. Grace is freely available, along with all the blessings of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life — but if you want to find me in another way — by being as good as you can, acting loving to those around you, being philanthropic, or following some other religious teacher, that’s ok. Alternatives are good.”

Instead, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6). He is the only way to the Father, God, and a relationship with Him is freely available to all who receive it. While I might try my best to live a righteous life, I’ll never meet God’s standard of holiness. He sent His Son, Jesus, to take the punishment I deserve for sin– whether that’s murder or lying or cheating or holding onto selfishness or thinking I’m better than others –on Himself and in its place, give me His righteousness, His substitutionary atonement for my sin.

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. ”
John 10:10b

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17, ESV

So this Christmas, think about whether you are trying to know God by an alternate route, or by the means He provided through His Son, Jesus.

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

I John 5:12, NIV

May you have a joy-filled Christmas.

Glory to God in the Highest

Music has always touched my spirit. When I was a child, my mother, a soprano soloist and voice teacher, taught each of us children harmonies. My oldest brother, Melvyn, learned bass; Arnold, tenor; me, alto; and Mom sang soprano. We sang our way across the country several times.

Dad enjoyed listening. And wherever I was in the world, I knew that at Christmas Mom would be soloing on Handel’s “Messiah”; and at Easter she would sing “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth.”

At times Arnold and I sang duets together as children. As adults, we periodically sang in trios or quartets. Music has always been a significant part of our lives. To this day, I may listen and learn through a sermon, but be emotionally touched by a song. Tears came to my eyes Sunday morning as we sang about Jesus’ coming to earth.

So you can imagine my delight as Don and I attended two musical events Saturday–the first, “Expectations,” written by Trent Smith, worship pastor at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, our former church. It tells a contemporary version of a young woman and man, Mary and Joe, to whom an angel appeared and gave the good news that through Mary, a virgin, a Child would be born of the Holy Spirit, who would save His people from their sins. What a promise! And what a message to take in as an unmarried, righteous young woman. Would others scoff at her pregnancy and story of an angel’s visit? In faith she responded. “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.'” Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:38)

Then at Mount Hermon, we enjoyed a Christmas concert by the Foto Sisters. These three lovely 20-something women are incredibly gifted. Along with lovely singing voices, they play the piano, viola, violin, and cello. More important, they are committed to Jesus Christ, who came in the flesh …. born of Mary, a Hebrew woman. That’s significant: Jewish heredity is tracked through the woman, giving Jesus both his humanity and title to the messianic throne as a descendant of King David. And He was conceived by God through the Holy Spirit, giving Him a sinless, holy nature — fully God, fully man.

I hope you’re enjoying the sounds of the season, and especially those that speak of the Messiah. Don and I were recently in a restaurant whose background Christmas music included some songs that were clearly Christian. We were thrilled to hear God’s truth being quietly broadcast in this venue.

So, to encourage you this Christmas season, I’ve attached a link to a youtube video of the Foto sisters singing “The Shepherd Knows Your Name”. May it touch your spirit and heart as you focus on what Jesus did for us by becoming a tiny baby, growing up to die and then come back to life, conquering death and granting us the incredible privilege of knowing God through Christ.

May your spirit be blessed this Christmas, knowing the Shepherd knows your name.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-symantec-ext_onb&hsimp=yhs-ext_onb&hspart=symantec&p=foto+sisters+the+shepherd+knows+your+name+song#id=1&vid=d7bd97c59261672236c1f2324a8a42cf&action=click

Christmas Wonder

Quite the week! Monday Don and I drove back to our former residence to take  items for an estate sale this weekend, which would be set up on Tuesday.  Wednesday we saw and heard the Foto Sisters sing and play piano, violin, viola and cello here at The Villages. Wonderful harmonies and lilting melodies, voices that moved seamlessly from high to low and back again, helped us focus on the joy and good news of the Christmas season.

Friday evening we enjoyed singing Christmas carols with my mother and her church. Last night we attended a client appreciation dinner with our realtor’s company. And new neighbors are coming over for dessert on Monday. (Actually, we’re the new neighbors.)

Meanwhile, I drove to Palo Alto four times to give sputum samples and see my pulmonologist about whether a non-contagious lung infection I’ve had for several years is abating. Looking pretty good, but the challenge continues. I miss being able to sing as I used to. Instead of soprano, I’m usually singing alto or tenor now, and raspily (I know that’s not a real word) at that.

 This season tells the story of hope for all mankind. Of suffering, of sacrifice, of joy and of pain. It tells the story, not only of Jesus’ birth, but leads to His death and resurrection. He sacrificed, that we might be saved. He went through agonizing pain of body and spirit, that we might be redeemed, brought into relationship with God through Jesus’ payment for our sins. There is a cosmic war going on between light and darkness, but God in Christ won the battle at the Cross, and Jesus is Lord!



We are richly blessed in the things that really matter–family, friends,  Immanuel, God with us. Beautiful, centering music. Hearing the name of our God lifted up in the memorial service for President George H.W. Bush.  

Yet in the middle of all the festivities and celebration and joy, there is lots of pain.

  • Families have lost loved ones, homes, towns in California wildfires. Many don’t know where their next housing will come from.
  • Friends have lost loved ones…husband, mother, others…and are facing their first Christmas without that precious one at their side, at their table.
  • Families are stressed because of conflict, finances, illness, and other challenges.
  • Loneliness is heightened during a season focused on love, when many are surrounded by loved ones and others feel like everyone else has it together.
  • Political conflict abounds. Riots in France, questions about integrity and leadership at home, persecution of Christians abroad.

This is a time of challenge, but with challenge, people often look for more, for answers, for something or someOne who can give peace despite circumstances. Life is hard. Jesus said:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) 

While we still face difficulties, we have a God who has promised to be with us in all, who cares for our pain, and who promises His people a future when justice will reign, illness will be forever gone, and we will live in peace, love and joy in His presence for all eternity.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.” (Matthew 5:3, MSG)

Will you join me in focusing on moments of joy and gratitude this Christmas season, rather than in the “to do lists” we all have for the holidays? Let’s make more of presence than of presents; of the beauty in our loved ones than in our homes; of God’s good gifts than in our wish lists.

Blessings to you this Christmas!