The Shunning of Christ (A Re-post from Christmas Past): An Advent Devotional – Day Eleven

The other day, my daughter and I decorated the Christmas tree. This long-standing tradition also included the setting up of nativity scenes. Yes, that IS plural. Somewhere along the line, we have accumulated THREE of these treasured creches. Which is actually a good thing, considering the fascination my children have had with nativity sets throughout the years.

While some folks have beautiful figurines of great value, mine are of cheap ceramic, which means they have offered many years of “Baby Jesus and the manger” playtime. The largest set takes primary placement beneath the Christmas tree, while the other two are positioned in locations at the discretion of the chosen manger caregiver (aka: whoever gets to the boxes first). To be sure, there is much rearranging that takes place throughout the weeks leading up to the actual celebration of said manger baby’s birth.

This year’s placement was not nearly as dramatic since there was no one fighting over – I mean, attempting to carefully place – the beloved figurines. In fact, in my haste to complete the decorating task, I rather unceremoniously emptied the contents of Nativity Set #2 with instructions for my daughter to arrange them as she pleased. Considering to whom I was giving such unreserved rights, I should not have been surprised by the arrangement that was chosen. But still, I was caught off guard when I glanced at the set and saw Mary and Joseph with their backs firmly turned toward Baby Jesus. When I asked my daughter what on earth she was doing, she smiled and answered, “They’re shunning Him.”

IMG_2518While I could not help but smile at my daughter’s sense of humor, I had to admit her arrangement seemed much more appropriate considering the reality of how the Christmas season often appears to be celebrated. For while we all say that Jesus is the Reason for the Season, sadly, our actions seldom align themselves in accordance with our declaration. In a bit of holiday silliness, the two of us came up with what we considered would be an even more appropriate rendition of the celebration of Christmas in America.

Perhaps our nativity set would appear more fitting as the following:

IMG_2516When my husband noticed our circle of gift-worshipers, he suggested we keep it that way in order to make a statement… or perhaps simply to serve as a reminder of the true meaning versus our true actions. Regardless, this simple act has spoken volumes to my heart and is challenging me to resist getting carried away with the world’s twist of all things godly. Instead, I am determined to keep my focus firmly fixed on Jesus this year.

While it’s tempting to shun the Christ Child amidst all the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, I pray we will never find ourselves glorifying anything or anyone more highly than the Most High. Instead of shunning Jesus, may we determine to set our hearts and our minds on things above and not on the things of this earth.

May we shun shunning even as we turn our faces to meet and accept the greatest Gift of all — the Savior who has come to deliver us from our sins.

IMG_2517FOR REFLECTION
Do you fight the temptation to turn from the true meaning of Christmas as you’re tugged toward the glow of tinsel and lights? What are some practical ways you can keep Jesus as the center of your Christmas celebration? It may be as simple as taking time to read Scripture and encourage yourself in its truths, or it may mean you need to cut back on the gift-giving and spend your efforts and your dollars on things that pour love into the lives of others less fortunate than yourself. Regardless of how you readjust your position, may you find yourself forever facing the steady glow of manger’s light.

The Shunning Continues

Recently my sister-in-law was responsible for setting up a live nativity following a Christmas parade in our local community. She had been assured there would be a place for her dramatists to don their costumes, along with a spot for hot cocoa and cookies to be served. What she had not realized was that this place was merely an unlocked room located up a tall, narrow flight of stairs (not exactly conducive to the traipsing back and forth of long-robed participants or lugging heavy boxes of costumes or the wheelchair holding her nine-year-old daughter). In desperation, she began going door to door at the local businesses, asking if there was a small spot where her participants could come in and drink a cup of hot cocoa while being sheltered from the cold.

Akin to the reality of the original Nativity, she received the same response as did Mary and Joseph. There was no room at the inn. Business after business closed their doors.

“There’s really no room for you here…”

“We can’t afford to get our carpets dirtied…”

Excuse after excuse turned the small band away.

There was simply no room for Baby Jesus and His followers.

No place to provide warmth from the cold night air.

Perhaps saddest of all was that my sister-in-law had been informed she needed to keep the “religious” theme away from the “Santa Claus” theme.

And where exactly was jolly, old Saint Nick? Front and center in the warmth and bustle of the shopping mall, a long line of families with children anxiously making their way toward his lap to share their Christmas list.

And the Savior of the World was once again overlooked, placed in the margins, confined to the cold.

Frustrating for my sister-in-law, but fitting, really. A rude reminder of reality. A reality that places more emphasis on reindeer and mistletoe than on the humble Babe lying in a manger.

No room at the inn.

No room in our hearts.

And we wonder why the world seems so dark beneath the glow of tinsel and lights as we eagerly grasp for candy-cane placebos while neglecting the swaddled-wrapped gift of Salvation come in human form.

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Lord, open our eyes and our hearts to see and receive you into our lives. This Christmas and always, may You find a place of warmth and love to dwell among those who call you their Savior.

When Life is More Than Bumps and Bruises

Cancer. Death. Sickness. Marital strife. Persecution. Imprisonment. Loneliness. Isolation. Grief.

These are words that have become common in the lives of those surrounding me. This has been a year of being shaken by the massive quantity of hurt in this world. By the amount of hurt in those whom I love.

So how do I help to alleviate the pain?

How can I possibly tell a friend with cancer that “Everything will be okay”?

How can I console a friend in a broken marriage when there is no guarantee that there is a healing at the end of her painful struggle?

How can I encourage a persecuted brother who is living a life of separation from everyone he loves, from all that is known and familiar to him?

How can I press my hands against this bleeding mass of humanity that surrounds me when I only have two hands and a human body that is limited by so many of my own frail weaknesses?

The truth is, I can’t.

I can’t fix what is broken.

I can’t mend hearts.

I can’t restore relationships or stop religious persecution.

I can’t bridge miles of separation, nor repair the damage that has been inflicted by the forces of broken promises and betrayal.

But I can pray.

I can place my friends at the foot of the Cross and trust that He who heals the nations can heal the hurt of a loved one. That the One who restores the prostitute and makes her His beloved Bride can breathe life into all this brokenness and bring about a work of beauty. A rendition of redemption that only a Savior can cast and mold and make into a reflection of His glory.

And today, I must trust that my prayers are enough.

Enough for the friend with cancer.

Enough for the grieving parent.

Enough for the lonely wife.

Enough for the brokenhearted.

images Because sometimes life is more than bumps and bruises.

Sometimes the hurt penetrates to the core of who we are.   

But it never penetrates beyond the reach of a heavenly hand that promises to uphold and sustain through it all.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be shaken.” ~ Psalm 55:22

Fully Owned

As I ponder the rapidly approaching celebration of Easter, I find myself feeling a bit melancholy.  I don’t tend to get overly excited about any particular designated day of celebration, and perhaps that is something I should work on. Or perhaps it is simply because I choose to remember worthy celebrations in the moment rather than only once a year when we all are supposed to be grateful together.

While I am a HUGE advocate for remembering and pondering God’s goodness, I find that the holidays themselves often leave me feeling more frustrated than they should. Everywhere I look, I am bombarded by marketing strategies twisting the true meaning of our celebrations. Christmas decorations begin showing up in July and are quickly crowded out by the rush to celebrate that special someone in your life as the colored lights and stockings make room for red-foiled hearts, which give way to colored eggs and brightly-wrapped candies, which are hurriedly replaced with reminders to “remember Mom,” “remember Dad,” “memorialize the deceased,” “celebrate our Independence,” and on and on…

Now before you dub me the perpetual Holiday Scrooge and envision me holed up in my cave like some backwoods hermit, let me assure you that I DO celebrate holidays with family members. LOTS of them. I just don’t get into all the “extras” like some folks do. In truth, I find the greatest celebrations of the seasons generally take place within my own mind and heart, most often in the early morning hours before the mass rejoicing begins. For it is in the quiet of the predawn hours when I am most at rest and able to connect with the One who makes all things worth celebrating… every day.

So before the rush of Easter morning comes, I am declaring my gratefulness to a Savior who came more than 2,000 years ago and comes for me still… moment by moment, day after day, because HE has deemed me worthy of His presence.

I have been rescued from my captivity by a King who sweeps into the very heart of my depravity and despair in order to free me in every way.

And I continue to live in this perpetual state of being rescued. A once-and-done, yet constant, day-by-day, in-this-very-moment ransoming. Saved from Satan’s schemes; saved from the enticement of my own flesh; rescued from death and its eternal consequences.

The Cross of Christ will forever be my mainstay; the blood of Jesus my consuming redemption.

His loving sacrifice swallows my past, leads my present, and propels me toward my destiny of eternal light and life. Hope for today, strength for the journey, and victory made available right now with the assurance of overcoming life forever. And so I present my own offering of love in response to the ransom paid for me…

Here I am.
Just me.
Human,
Fragile,
Needy.
Aware of my lack.
Aware I am in over my head,
Yet drowning in Your love.
Asking if You see me,
While confident You do.
So incomplete,
But completely Your own.
Confronting the truth in me
With the Truth of You.
Reaching,
Finding
Myself in You.
Fully Owned.

May we remember and embrace the fragrance of Calvary’s love.

Even as we live as ones fully owned.

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The Shunning of Christ (A Re-post from Christmas Past)

The other day, my daughter and I decorated the Christmas tree. This long-standing tradition also included the setting up of nativity scenes. Yes, that IS plural. Somewhere along the line, we have accumulated THREE of these treasured creches. Which is actually a good thing, considering the fascination my children have had with nativity sets throughout the years.

While some folks have beautiful figurines of great value, mine are of cheap ceramic, which means they have offered many years of “Baby Jesus and the manger” playtime. The largest set takes primary placement beneath the Christmas tree, while the other two are positioned in locations at the discretion of the chosen manger caregiver (aka: whoever gets to the boxes first). To be sure, there is much rearranging that takes place throughout the weeks leading up to the actual celebration of said manger baby’s birth.

This year’s placement was not nearly as dramatic since there was no one fighting over – I mean, attempting to carefully place – the beloved figurines. In fact, in my haste to complete the decorating task, I rather unceremoniously emptied the contents of Nativity Set #2 with instructions for my daughter to arrange them as she pleased. Considering to whom I was giving such unreserved rights, I should not have been surprised by the arrangement that was chosen. But still, I was caught off guard when I glanced at the set and saw Mary and Joseph with their backs firmly turned toward Baby Jesus. When I asked my daughter what on earth she was doing, she smiled and answered, “They’re shunning Him.”

IMG_2518While I could not help but smile at my daughter’s sense of humor, I had to admit her arrangement seemed much more appropriate considering the reality of how the Christmas season often appears to be celebrated. For while we all say that Jesus is the Reason for the Season, sadly, our actions seldom align themselves in accordance with our declaration. In a bit of holiday silliness, the two of us came up with what we considered would be an even more appropriate rendition of the celebration of Christmas in America.

Perhaps our nativity set would appear more fitting as the following:

IMG_2516When my husband noticed our circle of gift-worshipers, he suggested we keep it that way in order to make a statement… or perhaps simply to serve as a reminder of the true meaning versus our true actions. Regardless, this simple act has spoken volumes to my heart and is challenging me to resist getting carried away with the world’s twist of all things godly. Instead, I am determined to keep my focus firmly fixed on Jesus this year.

While it’s tempting to shun the Christ Child amidst all the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, I pray we will never find ourselves glorifying anything or anyone more highly than the Most High. Instead of shunning Jesus, may we determine to set our hearts and our minds on things above and not on the things of this earth.

May we shun shunning even as we turn our faces to meet and accept the greatest Gift of all — the Savior who has come to deliver us from our sins.

IMG_2517FOR REFLECTION
Do you fight the temptation to turn from the true meaning of Christmas as you’re tugged toward the glow of tinsel and lights? What are some practical ways you can keep Jesus as the center of your Christmas celebration? It may be as simple as taking time to read Scripture and encourage yourself in its truths, or it may mean you need to cut back on the gift-giving and spend your efforts and your dollars on things that pour love into the lives of others less fortunate than yourself. Regardless of how you readjust your position, may you find yourself forever facing the steady glow of manger’s light.