FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Tis the Season

I love Christmas!

It really is a special time of year.  Already I have watched several of my favorite childhood movies – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday Inn.  I’ve also joined a few celebrations and parades. As for shopping, I finished that in September.  I’ve put the wreathes on the doors –front and back. That’s pretty much all the decorating we do because we always travel, but I’ve perused my cookbooks and planned to bake some goodies while at our host’s home.  And I am looking forward to our church’s annual Christmas drama.  This year’s performance is entitled When Hope Comes Down and is announced with a subtitle – Come Experience the Hope of the Season!  Our church also offers a Carols and Communion by Candlelight service on Christmas Eve.  Since we will be traveling, I’ve searched the website and consulted friends to find a similar worship opportunity for us in our destination city.  Now, if only we had a little snow, but that is doubtful since we are traveling to a MUCH warmer climate.

The movies, decorations, treats and presents are all wonderful, and snow would be awesome.  But none of those things are what Christmas is about!

Christmas is a time of God showing His great love for us and His call for us to love others.  Just look at the Christmas Story!  No, not Ralphie shooting his eye out with his BB gun, but the second chapters of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew

Luke 2:4-16 (NIV)

“4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,     and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

“11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born of a virgin in lowly Bethlehem. His birth brought great joy and great hope. His birth was much anticipated – not just by His parents. Angels, shepherds and wise men all knew this was no ordinary birth and no ordinary baby. Hundreds of years before prophets had told of this birth and this baby.

Jesus was born so that one day He could die on the cross paying the price for our sin. It is His birth and death that brought the gift of salvation to us. The Bible tells us that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Without Jesus, we would die in our sins, but loving us, God sent the great gift of love – Baby Jesus.

But Christmas is not just about God showing His love for us by sending Jesus; it is also about His call for us to love others. God’s love is a gift to us, but we must release it to others. How? Through words and actions.

Understand that this season of joy is not a happy time for some – those stressed by not having money for bills much less presents or turkey dinners, those who grieve their loved ones who are not present to share the season with them, those who feel alone and lonely.   Tis the season for us to release the love that God has given us.

This week, read the Christmas stories in Luke and Matthew. Pray and ask the Lord to guide you during this season to real and practical acts of love for someone who really needs a gesture of God’s love. Thank Him for how He blesses you and positions you to bless others!

A TREAT:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ecIXyYRnoo


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Cleaning House

My parents were Neatniks – especially when it came to housekeeping.  Saturday mornings began with my dad inspecting our closets, our drawers and under our beds.  Everything had better be hanging (and in order) or folded (and sorted into the right drawer).  And, in his words, “There shouldn’t be anything under your bed except the floor!”  If just one piece was found not properly folded or in the wrong drawer, he dumped the entire contents of the drawer into the center of the bed and you folded everything again.  Sometimes he would “help,” but I really think that was more about keeping an eye out to make sure the work was done to his satisfaction.  Seems to reason that I soon learned to be organized.

My maternal grandmother was likewise organized and one of my aunts was fanatically neat.  Following in their footsteps (and fearing my dad would appear out of nowhere with a dust mop or broom in hand), I became a super neat housekeeper.  But I didn’t last.

It’s not that I have become a slob (those who know otherwise, Shhh), but I just shifted priorities along the way and determined a level of neatness and a level of messiness that I can live with.  I also learned some secrets to making your house appear cleaner than it really is when guests visit.  My mother told me to buy lower wattage light bulbs and to use lamps instead of overhead light.  A friend told me to boil a little cinnamon and water on the stovetop – you get that “fresh baked goods” aroma.  A colleague taught me to drag the edge of a book across the carpet to simulate vacuum cleaner marks and to keep an empty basket available for collecting miscellaneous small items like magazines and phone chargers then all the items can easily be stashed inside a closet or (forgive me Daddy) under the bed.  And finally, someone told me that you don’t let guests stay longer than 30 minutes because the longer they stay, the more they notice.

Isn’t this just what some people do with their lives?  They clean up the outside and focus on outward appearances.  Or they know secrets to making their lives look clean.  A lot of stuff (sin) gets swept under rugs, stashed in closets and stored under beds.  But we read in 1 Samuel 16 that the Lord looks at the heart.  It does no good to “look like” a Christian or even to “act like” a Christian if the heart is not clean.  Consider the cries of the psalmist, first in Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” and then in Psalm 51:7 (KJV) – “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Your Heavenly Father will, just as my earthly father did, show you the places in your life that need cleaning. He will also help you, washing you whiter than snow.