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Posts Tagged ‘Luke 2:20’

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Christmas 2016 is now only a set of memories.

Mine include:

  • The first preschool performance of our granddaughter, Elena. Picture a stageful of two-to-four-year olds singing off-key with cherubic enthusiasm. Delightful.
  • Christmas Eve dinner with family in a lovely restaurant, and then an outstanding church concert afterwards.
  • A gathering of eight around the Christmas tree to open presents—seven family members and one adopted uncle (a friend of our son’s who could not get home for the weekend).

Now it’s time to finish up or freeze all the leftovers from holiday meals. Soon we’ll have to bring up the boxes from the basement and undecorate (the most deplorable of chores) while listening to Christmas carols one last time.

 

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And as folks around the world put away the ornaments, wreaths, and fairy lights, many will put away their cheerfulness and good will. There will be fewer smiles and happy greetings, fewer kindnesses and generous gestures.

I don’t want to be one of those folks, melancholy as my spirit might be. I need a new attitude, as described by Charles Allen and Charles Wallis:

 

“Christmas need not be limited to only a day.

Christmas can become, as it was meant to be,

an attitude toward life that will continue

during all of the days that follow.”

–from Christmas, p. 51.

 

My new attitude could take inspiration from the shepherds who, after visiting the stable, returned to their flock glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen (Luke 2:20).

 

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Surely their glorifying and praising was not just a temporary state. Of course, the intense euphoria lessened with time. It would be impossible to live with that level of excitement long-term. Who could eat or sleep?

But I can picture them, sitting around their campfire year after year, frequently reminiscing about that night. I can see their soft smiles, recalling how terrible fright had turned to gleeful joy. And I see the shaking of their heads in wonder, remembering that they were among the first to look into the face of the long-awaited Messiah.  What an incredulous privilege. That kind of elation never grows old.

I have a feeling those shepherds were never the same after that night. Their families—even the village of Bethlehem—were impacted by the effervescent joy that overflowed from their lives.

After all, they had seen the Lord.

 

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(Gerard von Honthorst painting, 1622)

 

I, too, have encountered him in my spirit. But when post-Christmas melancholy comes calling, my thoughts gravitate toward disappointment that the beauty, excitement, and wonder of the season is over.

I need to renew my mind by following the shepherds’ example:

  • Glorify God—for all his marvelous attributes
  • Praise God—for all I have heard from him and seen him do
  • Spread the word about Jesus—my merciful Savior and gracious Lord

As I pack up all the decorations, may my thoughts center on the joy Jesus provides—not just for the Christmas season but always. May I look forward with anticipation to the experiences God has planned for me and the growth he’ll achieve in me during the new year—even as I fondly look backward on the sweet memories of Christmas past.

May I begin to develop a Christmas attitude that will last the whole year through.

To that end, I’ve chosen several Christmas cards to tuck here and there around the house—as reminders to keep glorifying, praising, and spreading the word:

 

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No need to wait until next year for Christmas joy after all.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.youtube.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; Nancy Ruegg (4).

 

P.S.  For 2017, beginning next Thursday, January 5, I’ll be posting just once a week in order to allow time for other projects and for assisting our son and daughter-in-law when Baby Girl #2 arrives (sometime mid-January).  I do hope you’ll still return each Thursday for a new post.

 

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I love decorating our Christmas tree, even though it takes at least two days.

Two days?” you ask.  “Why so long?”

There are several very logical reasons – if you are me.

One:  It takes time to arrange the branches.  We have an artificial tree, you see.  (Cut evergreens don’t last long in Florida because of the heat, and Steve and I like to decorate right after Thanksgiving.)  That means, before decorating can begin, the tree has to be assembled and the branches spread out.

Two:  It takes time to string the lights.  Although pre-lit trees are convenient, they often include too few lights.  The rule of thumb is 100 lights per foot.  We put 1,000 lights on our eight-footer.  Some are tucked in, some arranged on the tips of branches.  This creates a tree that truly glows.

Three:  It takes time to hang the decorations — the ultimate 3-D jigsaw puzzle of Santas, angels, and miniature manger scenes, animals, toys, and traditional ball ornaments.  Dozens and dozens of them.  (And nearly all given to us by family, friends, members of the churches we’ve served, and students from my classes.)

Long ago I worked for a creative designer.  One aspect of her business included decorating Christmas trees for banks and businesses.  She taught me several tricks for creating a stunning display.  I’ve already shared the first rule:  Use lots of lights.

Two:  Consider the size, theme, and material of each ornament.  Try not to hang several Santas, or a group of red decorations, all together.

Three:  Just as lights are tucked in or perched on branch-tips, it’s important to do the same with ornaments.

Four:  Use the tree lights as spotlights for the ornaments, as often as possible.

A beautiful, glowing Christmas tree is in the carefully executed details.

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(Photo taken before the last step:  settling the treetop angel in place.)

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Something else that’s found in the details?  Wonder.

Yes, that statement could be applied to decorations.  There is a sense of wonder when studying a breath-taking display.

But more significant?  The glorious wonder to be found in the carefully executed details of the Christmas story, the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Beyond the familiar events of angel visitations, a trip to Bethlehem, Baby Jesus laid in a manger, and a shepherds’ hurried trek to see the newborn Messiah, there is much to appreciate in the details.

For example:

One:  Little did Caesar Augustus know he was being used by God to fulfill an ancient Messianic prophecy, when he decreed the census that sent Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,…out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).  God is sovereign — even over those who do not know him.

Two:  Observe whom God chose to notify first about this pivotal event in history–the birth of his Son.  Shepherds!  Members of the lowest class in Jewish society!  Perhaps God wanted us to know that wealth, position, and even the respect of others is of little consequence in his eyes.  What does matter?  Faith.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

The shepherds did believe – in the old Messianic prophecies and in the angel’s message:  “Today!  Right now!  In the little town of David, your Savior, the Messiah, has been born” (Luke 2:10-11)!  Those sheep herders scurried off to Bethlehem as fast as they could go.  And their faith was highly rewarded.  They were first to see the long-awaited King of kings, the Messiah.  Their lowly position in society didn’t matter.

Three:  Most wondrous of all?  The Son of God, who was with God and was God from the very beginning, became human (John 1:1-2).  The One who created all things (Colossians 1:15-16), chose to become a helpless baby, and embrace every aspect of the human experience through thirty-some years of earth-dwelling.

I like the way Eugene Peterson says it:  “God became one of us and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message)!

And how do we respond to such wondrous details?  We follow the example of those shepherds.  We praise and glorify our God for all the things we have heard and seen, which prove what we’ve been told (Luke 2:20).

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I DO praise you, Heavenly Father, that early in life I heard about your Son and your gift of eternal life.  I invited you into my life, and have experienced your love, joy, and peace, just as you promised.  In fact, I have seen many of your promises fulfilled in my life and in the lives of others.  You have proven to me over and over that what we’ve been told in scripture is indeed 100% truth.  With Mary, I exult:  “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47a)!

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