Holy

Christmastime! For me, no matter what the year had brought or what the circumstances may have been, the songs of Christmas brought renewal and anticipation. “O Holy Night” … “Silent Night, Holy Night” … They are reminders of the “holy one” which the angel foretold of to Mary, this baby who grew to show us the way and to bring us hope (*Luke 1:35).

Holy, special, set apart, belonging to God. The words and songs bring to heart and mind the mystery and awe of God and of coming before Him in worship and praise. Can you imagine it? Can you see and hear the story unfolding on that holy night?!

And the angels rejoiced at the birth of His Son to a world so in need of him. Like the shepherds drawn to the stable and the wise men who came from distant lands, we are drawn to that baby, Jesus. The light of that star is the light we too seek.

O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth…
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

The holiness of God. The holiness of that night. The holiness of infant Jesus, God’s Son, Emmanuel (*Matthew 1:23). When the world is dark and cold. Emmanuel. When the sun rises fresh and bright. Emmanuel. When we miss loved ones. Emmanuel. When the lights of Christmas shine. Emmanuel…

I am thankful for that holy infant Jesus, who came to us on a dark night. When I struggle with doubts and fears or am feeling worn or alone or afraid, the events of Jesus’ birth are welcome reminders of God’s holiness and presence. When joy and happiness surround me from family and friends and awesome new life, the Christmas story draws me into the life of that other family so long ago.

May the light of that star and the events of that story draw you too to our holy God and bring you comfort and peace.
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Luke 1:35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. NIV

Matthew 1:23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” NRSV

Charlotte-Anne Allen
12/20/2020

Reflections on Christmas Trees

• Surround yourself with positive reminders
• Those positive reminders strengthen hope
• Decorations tell the story of God’s great love
• Keep Christ’s star ever on top to light the way
• Lights show the way and bring cheer and security
• We pray for messengers bringing good news of peace
• A safe place of rest is never too lowly
• Shelter and care are sometimes taken for granted
• The occupation of service is a universal call
• Watch over and guide those precious ones in your care
• Those who live humbly and compassionately are life’s greatest strength
• Like newborn babes and children… we seek nourishment
• Encourage each other and freely offer your all
• The constant evergreen love of God for us is the greatest of gifts

from “Reflections from the Everyday”
Charlotte-Anne Allen 12/12/2020

Hosea 14:8b (God said,) “I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.” NRSV … “I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” NIV

Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. NIV

Positive Presence

When my daughter was very young, she would sometimes awaken at night, afraid and crying. I would go to her and hold her, pray with her, and just be with her until she had relaxed and was able to go back to sleep.

There is something about the physical presence of a loved one that brings comfort and joy. Whether a parent with a child, friends, or family, their nearness fills a deep craving and brings satisfaction through that companionship.

How many of us after long separation have spent hours talking and “catching up” or enjoyed activities together? In the case of illness or injury, the presence of someone sitting quietly close by can bring a sense of security or well-being. Words are not always necessary. What a gift one’s positive presence can be!

In the same way, God’s presence with us is a great gift. In all of life’s challenges, sorrows, and celebrations God is with us. His presence is strong, steady, and eternal even when our pain or busy thoughts and activities are unable to perceive Him.

The psalmist praised God and thanked Him for being with him.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. *

As David fled enemies and faced impossible odds, he was fearful, angry, and sometimes depressed. Where was God during all of this?! Later, there was guilt too, as he faced his own failures and wrong doings. When the prophet Nathan came to David after David wrongly took Bathsheba, David expressed his great need and desire for God’s presence. He pled with God, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. *

While I so greatly need my personal time alone to process and rest, the presence of others is greatly appreciated too. Throughout my life, I have welcomed the comfort, companionship, and support of my family and friends. What a gift it is to know that there are others praying for me and to have good positive relationships with people who accept me for who I am and with whom we can join in our journey to grow closer to God.

How humbling and awesome that God’s presence came to be with us, giving us the ultimate example and filling that need. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). *

I pray that we may take comfort and strength from Him and faithfully reach out to others, even as they offer their own presence in times of need and times of celebration.

* Psalm 16:11, Psalm 51:11, Matthew 1:23

Trust Fully

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At dawn’s breaking, day’s nooning
Eve’s dawning, night’s sighing
What message sending
… trust fully

When rising in doubt, so restless foreboding
Or lonely now stressing, growing angry or fearful
When foremost is … self
Trust fully

What attitude taken, what visions or angst
When anxious or doubting, ‘I deserve’ and ‘why me’s’
Spreading discontent’s seeds
So hard to trust fully

Not foolish naive, of life’s follies and stress
Walk slowly take courage; run swiftly, greet confidence
Still self; be assured
And trust fully

Are you pointing to … Him, God’s hand held each day
Thoughts that are fruitful, for others to know
Nourishing lifting
… trust fully

Where vision does take us, eyes do perceive us
Words spew or bear up; actions tear or build up
Ear shut out or listen
… ah, trust fully

Contentment and blessing, joy enriching,
Smiles bring laughter; peace offers comfort
God is present
… trust fully

Wintery Places

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A dark night, I draw into my coat against the freezing wind and biting chill. My head aches from the cold air I draw in through my reddening nose. Memories of warmth and light seem dim, as does the path ahead…

Haven’t we all faced similar scenes in life’s journey?! Sometimes our dark nights come gradually, perhaps painfully, as those we love slowly leave us … whether through increasingly debilitating illness, addictions, mental or emotional challenges, or any number of things which result in that withdrawal. Other times we are slammed abruptly by a flying boulder which smashes all that we care about into a pile of unrecognizable debris. We are left feeling numb, angry, or broken.

How do we face life’s times of loss and the resulting debris left behind? It can be a long, cold, and lonely journey. God, who faithfully walks with me and carries me, gives me hope. Through Him, that sometimes-dimming light can grow brighter. He touches me with the joy of His presence.

I’m reminded of some favorite verses in the Song of Solomon. What a wonderful reminder this little-quoted and sometimes misunderstood book of the Bible is! God’s love poem to us!

For lo, the winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. *

Like a warm scarf, God’s love wraps around me. I blink at the light shining through breaking clouds and find shelter from the driving wind. There is delight in the sparkle of new snow and clinging icicles. Friends and family bring comfort and fellowship. Warmth welcomes.

Through Jeremiah, God spoke a promise for us all:

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again, I will build you and you shall be rebuilt… *

May we find in God’s love poem and His words of promise, comfort in our wintery places. Be encouraged.

*Song of Solomon 2:11-12; Jeremiah 31:3-4a

I Found a Treasure

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I found a treasure shining bright
Among the rocks and weeds

Not of gold and jewels rare
But something born of seeds

In lowly places there it grew
It lifted its face to warmth of sun

And there upon the peaks and trails
I saw it beckon and began to run

Darkness did not overcome that glow
It shone anew as shining star

Through tossing waves and sliding sand
In sheltered valley or mountain far

A new day risen to setting sun and upon
Nights cool twinkle …I lifted my eyes

There now cradled in God’s great hand
Planted by One both pure and wise

I found a treasure shining bright
Discovered the gift of His great LOVE

* In loving memory of Ron Jeffries

Celebrate

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That’s wonderful! Yay! Great! Congratulations! I’m so happy for you! You did it!

We enjoy celebrating those noteworthy moments in life. Whether it be the result of long hard work, another year of life, a special anniversary, or a new life born… times of celebration express joy and excitement.

I remember the celebration of my mother’s 80th birthday. Friends and family worked to make this a special surprise. The church secretary asked my mom to stop by to pick up something and the plot was sprung! What joy shone on my mother’s face as gathered family and friends all wished her a happy birthday and expressed our love for her, to one who was so giving and compassionate. I treasure that memory.

I celebrate too, the quiet satisfaction of accomplishment… perhaps a completed task for work, a finished piece of writing, simple tasks around the house, or doing something for family or friends. These daily celebrations are as important as the larger occasions and are a source of contentment and affirmation of life.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the quiet of the night was awakened to joy-filled words of celebration! “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” the host of angels proclaimed, “and on earth peace…” When the shepherds found this newborn Son of God, they celebrated by spreading the news to all who would hear. * Can you imagine the amazement and excitement in the little town that night?

There were other celebrations in the coming days as well, the praise of Simeon when he recognized Christ and the thanks of Anna who shared the news of his birth to all of those who had been waiting for that day. *

When the wise men arrived at the home of the child Jesus, they celebrated through worship and through the giving of gifts. They too had been searching for the child who had been born to the world. *

Something which is especially meaningful to me is Mary’s quiet and strong celebration, simply stated in Luke 2:19. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Her thoughts must have gone back to the earlier encounter with her cousin Elizabeth as they celebrated together. * After months of carrying this child, now came further affirmation. Imagine her awe and joy, and perhaps also the fear or questions about what this motherhood would bring in days and years to come. All the pain, discomfort, whispers, and exhaustion must have faded as she looked upon her son and saw the face of God.

As we travel through life, may we treasure those moments of celebrations. May we ponder deeply and long the greatest gift of all, Emmanuel, God with us!

* Luke 2:13-30 (Shepherd and Angels); Luke 2:25-28 (Simeon); Luke 2:36-38 (Anna);
Matthew 2:10-11 (Wise Men); Luke 1:39-56 (Elizabeth and Mary)

WALK

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“Wait momma! Slow down!” Growing up just off the main street businesses in our small town, we often walked a block or two when we needed to go to the store or post office. I remember well my brothers and I trotting down the sidewalk with our mother. She happily strode down the sidewalk with all of us hurrying after her.

We also enjoyed walking on the trails at a nearby state park or on family camping trips. Walking is a good way to get outside, enjoy the fresh air, and stretch our legs. It provides opportunity for time alone to enjoy the quiet or to contemplate life as well as time for companionship and conversation with friends or family.

I think of the time Jesus spent with his disciples and other followers. Living in Capernaum, he walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and he often walked to quiet out-of-the-way places to pray. As they traveled, can you just imagine them walking through those hills and valleys and stopping in small towns and villages along the way? *

More than just physically walking, “walk” is often used to describe “living.” Walk in his ways. Walk with integrity. Walk in darkness. Walk in the light. Walk in wisdom…

As we “walk,” we choose where we will go and who we will follow. Our walk reflects our values and our character. We choose to walk with others or to walk alone.

I think about my own life, where I have walked in the past and the path I am now following. My prayers are that I will walk faithfully, doing my best to show by that walk the great love of our Creator God. Wherever we find ourselves, may our walk be a daily reflection of Him.


* Matthew 4:12-13, 18; Luke 6:12 

SNOWY WINTER CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

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Our recent snowy weather has stirred up childhood memories of winters past with my family. Building snowmen was a group affair full of laughter and the usual banter. There were cold noses, snowball fights, sledding, and then hot chocolate to greet us when we arrived indoors to warm up.

In December, as Christmas approached, the house brightened with colored lights, ornaments on the tree, and candles. Angels, a wreath, greenery, and bows brought cheer and the manger scene had a special place in the living room. Putting up and decorating the tree was a story in itself as we rediscovered ornaments made in Christmases past, remembered times gone by, and heard tales of long-ago family Christmases. The kitchen was a special gathering place for baking and decorating Christmas cookies and cakes and for preparing the Christmas meal. Christmas day was family time, hearing the Christmas story and the reminder of God’s greatest gift to us, the excitement of opening a few simple gifts, and perhaps watching some Christmas programs on the television or playing with a new game. Good memories.

So, as we enter another “Christmastide,” may we cherish the simple, make way for quiet enjoyment with friend or family, reach out to others, and be thankful for God’s greatest gift of all through His Son, Jesus.

*Luke 1:30-33; Luke 2:1-20