Just A Piece of Paper?

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We were in-town visiting my in-laws in mid-December. There was an appointment to take my mother-in-law to and preparations to be made for a family Christmas party a few days later. We sat down to a Costco dinner when I saw the slip of paper on the kitchen table. It would have been easy to miss in the menagerie of food, dishes, papers, and medicine bottles scattered in front of me.

It was just a slip of paper announcing an “Advent Spiral Walk” for that very night in less than an hour. The title caught my eye because I had never heard of an Advent Spiral Walk. I suggested that we check it out. My mother-in-law did not want to go if it was held outside in the cold. I wasn’t sure about driving in the dark in an unfamiliar town. Wouldn’t I rather just stay put and unwind in front of the television for the evening? Still, something tugged at me to go, if simply for the fact that it was nearby and free. Curiosity won out.

My in-laws’ church is small, but big on ideas for fresh ways to encounter Jesus. I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt twinges of excitement and anticipation. We entered the church and were greeted by angels. They were the human kind with white robes, tinsel halos and genuine smiles. An angel led us into the sanctuary decked out with greenery, red bows, and lit candles everywhere. A Christmas tree towered over us as the sentinel for the ceramic nativity scene. The Christ family was huddled together in the stable on one side of the room. The wise men were travelling from afar on the opposite side of the sanctuary.

The crowd was sparse as the pianist played Christmas carols and the audience sang along. It was the perfect atmosphere to be still and let the rich words of well-known and new-to-me Christmas songs settle deep in my soul. After a while, the angel invited us to the Advent Spiral Walk held in a different part of the church. We walked into a darkened room with the flicker of candlelight outlining the spiral and edges of the room.  Pine branches comprised the spiral and beckoned us in.

We were given an unlit candle to carry as we began our journey. The Advent Walk was designed to be savored, not rushed. Candlelight guided our path as our eyes, minds, and hearts were illuminated. Each step and each candle were a reminder that Jesus is the Light of the world and in the dark recesses of our hearts. In the center of the spiral, an angel lit our candles and instructed us to place our light on the path. Future spiral-walkers would follow our light just as we were guided by the light of others before us.

Just a slip of paper? My answer is no. That piece of paper was an invitation to remember the reason for the season. It was my permission slip to slow down and enjoy the moments leading up to Christmas. It was an opportunity to reflect and prepare my heart in the midst of a very busy month. The paper was a reminder to experience Christ as I celebrate Christmas.

Jesus’s light shouldn’t be obscured by the busyness, presents, baked goodies, cards, shopping, parties, and distractions of achieving that perfect Christmas. Jesus is the perfect gift and the perfect Christmas. Jesus is the Son of God who became flesh so we can personally receive God’s gift of extreme love.

Seek the light, be the light, and share the light this Christmas season!

John 8:12

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Acts 13:47

For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

 

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The Lost Gift

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Christmas cards had been mailed. Home-made cookies were delivered to the neighbors. The final grocery shopping trip for holiday meals had been completed. The only task left to do was wrapping Christmas gifts. My husband and I gathered gifts from their hiding places. As we wrapped, we anticipated the surprises to be unwrapped.

That’s when I remembered the gift. Where was it? It was not in the pile to be wrapped. We searched high and low. I mentally retraced my steps from the night we bought it for clues to where the gift may have ended up in our house. I pulled stuff out of closets, thinking it had slipped down into the darkest recesses. The gift was not to be found. The gift was not given. The gift was never unwrapped in joyful appreciation. It remains the lost gift.

It is not the first gift I have lost. I can reflect back on my life and remember other lost gifts. The gift of time comes to mind. I had an older friend, Barb, who lived out-of-state. We visited once a year in the summer and caught up in person. I tried to make it a habit to call in-between visits. However, life was busy and there was always something else to do. One day, I received the phone call that she had suddenly passed away. I lost the gift of time to chitchat with my dear friend Barb. Take the time to tell loved ones that you love them.

Another lost gift is the gift of opportunity. There have been opportunities I turned down at the time. My life was full. Why would I want or need another role or responsibility to squeeze into my life? Those opportunities are now long gone. The only aspect remaining are my regrets for not realizing the golden opportunities given in that season of life. Seize the opportunities that God provides as they may only come around once.

The gift of salvation was lost on me for many years until my early thirties. Life was good. Life was orderly. The gift was in plain sight as I owned a Bible and sporadically attended church. I didn’t know I was missing the best gift of all: the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ who gives peace for today and hope for tomorrow.

God’s gift of love is wrapped up in Jesus Christ with our names on the tag. Have you taken hold of your gift of salvation? Salvation comes with a guarantee for eternity and promises kept to never disappoint or put us to shame. Unwrap God’s gift of salvation. Enjoy the blessings. Share with others today. The gift of salvation is already yours!

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Luke 11:9

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

2 Corinthians 6:2

For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

 

 

 

Three Questions for 2015

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Holidays are a time to catch up with out-of-town family. Over the years, I have discovered an extra joy: worshiping together in their home church. Being in God’s house away from home, I always learn something new and am prompted to reflect on God’s word. This past Christmas was no exception. In her sermon, the pastor posed three questions:

1. What gift has God given to you?

2. What gift do you give to the world because of God’s gift to you?

3. What is the song of your heart?

These are my type of questions in that they bypass the fluff and get right to the heart of the matter. The first question: what gift has God given to me? Salvation is the obvious answer. Without God’s salvation, I would have nothing of eternal value. But that wasn’t my answer. My answer was hope. The birth of Jesus and the realized promise of salvation fill me with hope. Hope for every circumstance and relationship in my life. Hope for my future, both here on earth and in heaven. And hope for living the life of hope that God has called me to. The second question: what gift do I give to the world because of God’s gift to me? Hmm, as a professing Christian, I should have many good answers. I went with the first one to pop into my head: love. Because God’s hope swells up inside of me, I can express and share God’s love. In a world beset with wars, political divisiveness and bitterness, love is a beacon of hope. Love starts with me in my little corner of the world and can spread beyond my reach through God’s reach to the world. The last question: what is the song of my heart? This was the hardest question. I thought I needed a highly profound answer. I stuck with this one because it is the mantra that motivates me each day. “Everything, even the little things that I do in the name of Jesus, matter to God.” My significance and my influence stem from heeding God’s word in my life and exercising faith daily. Great questions to ponder. May God’s answers spoken to your heart guide you in 2015.

Please feel to share your answers (short or long version) to these three questions in the comments section of this post.

 

Romans 5:5

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 

 

 Hebrews 10:23-24

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.