...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn. Luke 2:7


"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."  -Winnie the Pooh


See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know Him. 1 John 3:1


Christmas over 2000 years ago. The changes are evident, yet the reason behind the season remains consistent, today and forever. 

As we hustle around, jumping into our cars, preparing to take trips to the big cities for shopping, Mary and Joseph hopped on the back of a donkey and prepared for a big trip to Bethlehem.  As we drive around the mall parking lot searching for the nearest vacant spot, Mary and Joseph searched the town of Bethlehem for a vacant room to give birth to Jesus.  As we gather together in a warm house filled with the smells of our favorite holiday dishes, the family of Jesus gathered in a crowded stable filled with the smells of nearby animals.  And as we look to map quest for directions to grandma’s house, the wise men looked to the sky for a star that would lead them to the King. 
Oh, how times have changed since the birth of our Jesus.  But I am reminded of one fact that has not changed over the years.  That fact is that in the stable that special night in Bethlehem, all those years ago, a holy infant was born.  And word of this holy infant spread throughout the lands.  The angels sang praises and shepherds came to worship Him.  When the people came to see this little bundle wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, they could sit and stare in awe at the miracle that was unfolding about them.  This was no ordinary baby.  This baby was fulfilling the prophecies they had heard about.  This baby had come to save the world.
As a Christian, as someone who loves Jesus with all her heart, I am compelled to share with others the miracle that happened that day.  You see, although it has been many years since Jesus was born, the miracle of His birth still needs to be shared with people.  Just as people walked the earth all those years ago, searching to catch a glimpse of this baby, this boy, this man named Jesus, we also have people all around us searching for that relationship with this one man named Jesus. 
I love the words that Jesus’ mother, Mary, spoke when the angels delivered the news that she was going to give birth to the son of God.  She said, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said.” 
What faith this young woman had!  Was she scared?  Probably.  Was she nervous about giving birth to God’s Son?  I would guess so.  Was she unsure of what the future held?  Sure.  But was she obedient and willing to do as God asked her to do?  Definitely, yes. 
That’s what I want to be like! Will some people think I’m strange for believing in the birth of Jesus?  Probably.  Will some people want to walk away from me when I try telling them that the Savior of the world was born in a stable 2000 years ago?  I would guess so.  Will some people smile politely and say this religious stuff isn’t for them?  Sure.  But will it be worth it when even one person comes to realize that the real reason behind the Christmas season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world?  Definitely, yes.
I am going to pray that as we go about this holiday season, we ask God for the boldness to share with people about our relationship with Jesus.  That He will give us all we need to give people the real meaning behind the holiday season.  That we share the real story about the first Christmas just as it is recorded in the bible in Luke 2.  People searched for Him all those years ago.  And people are continuing to search for the love and peace that He offers.  May God bless you as you spread the word of the true meaning of this Christmas season!

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"What's the real meaning of Christmas?", a frustrated Charlie Brown asks his friend Linus.

Let's take a journey through some of our family traditions and see if we can help Charlie Brown find the "real" meaning of Christmas. 
Every December our family begins the many traditions that we have done since I was a child.  There is the cutting and decorating of the tree.   The special shopping trip with just mom and daughters.  The trip to Toys R Us with the kids.  The giving of hints to dad as to what he should go buy mom.  And the list goes on.  Then Christmas Eve arrives.  Every Christmas Eve, three generations of my family head to church. As we sit together, sing the Christmas carols, and read the scripture, we can’t help but feel blessed and thankful for the celebration we are here to recognize.   The birth of Jesus.  It seems that although the year that has gone by wasn’t always an easy road; there is peace here. Peace in knowing we have a Savior who loves us through our triumphs and through our struggles.  Peace in knowing that we are surrounded by family.  Family who also loves us through those triumphs and struggles.
But our Christmas Eve doesn’t end there.  As we sing the closing song by candlelight, we are enjoying the moment, but also greatly anticipating what’s to come.
Christmas Eve continues as we arrive at Grandpa and Grandma’s house.  The little ones are excited about the opportunity to open their one traditional Christmas Eve gift.  All other gifts must wait for morning. (I won’t mislead you.  I get excited about that Christmas Eve gift too!) As the children study the gifts, the older children and adults scurry around the house to find as many Bibles as they can.  Then the home is calm.  Well as calm as it gets with 20 excited people.  As everyone here knows, tradition has its order tonight and the gifts are last.  First, it is time to take turns reading the Christmas story from the Bible.  Grandpa assigns verses to everyone and even the early readers give their try at sounding out the words to this precious story of the birth of Jesus. After Jesus is born, the shepherds have come to worship, and the wise men visit, we close our Bibles and sense we are on our way to finding the real meaning of Christmas.
For some reason Grandma’s part of the night makes us all pretty nervous, especially those new comers to the family like the sons in law.  Grandma begins, “Everyone put your name on two slips of paper and put them in the bowl.  Now pass the bowl around and pick out two different names.”  By now the sons in law are sweating a little.
Grandma continues, “We’ll take turns going around to each person.  When we get to the person who’s name you have on your slip you must share with the group something you really love, appreciate, or admire about that person.”  Whew!  Now those sons in law are really sweating…especially the ones who chose the mother in law's name!
As we go around the circle it isn’t long before tears fill our eyes as we share with one another from our hearts what it is that we love about one another.  The words may be from a four-year-old to his daddy.  “I like it when my daddy wrestles me.”  They may be spoken from a father to his son in law.  “Thank you for loving my daughter for being the husband you are to her and the daddy you are to my grandchildren.”  From a husband to his wife. “I appreciate your support through this difficult year.  I love you.” Regardless of the words, they are sincere.  They are full of love.  Yes, even the ones from the sons in law.  I do have to confess.  We do love watching them squirm their first year of sharing. 
After that evening, I can say, “Well Charlie Brown, I found the real meaning of Christmas.”  And it centers around one little word, love.  It all began because of the love our Heavenly Father had for us when he sent His Son to earth as a precious baby boy.  This season, as I celebrate the love He has given me, I will try to share some love with those around me.  I’ll start right now.  I pray you will be blessed this Christmas Season.  May you find the love of Jesus.  When you do, wrap it up in your heart and be ready to give it away to someone you see who needs to receive this most special gift.   And I guarantee that love will be the one gift that you’ll be happy to have returned!

I hope you enjoyed the revisiting of a Christmas Eve spent with our family. The above was actually written and published in the Bay City Times in 2003. That's quite a few years ago!  My youngest children have gone from the youngest in the group, to having cousins and nieces taking that position. My older children have gone from teenagers to married men, bringing their spouses to the group. Since that time, we have also had many other changes. Toys R Us has closed, so that tradition has disappeared. We have gone from a real tree to a fake one, so our Christmas tromping through the snow has also disappeared. And yet, there is a part that is far from disappearing. In fact, it is growing. It is the Christmas Eve tradition explained above. We no longer have three generations heading to church; instead we have four. We no longer have 20 people joining in on the sharing at the grandparents, instead we have about 30. There are a couple new "in-laws" this year, so we still do look forward to seeing them squirm a little during the sharing time.  So, as much has changed, much has also remained the same. And so it is with the Word of God. His story never changes. May we continue to put Jesus and then our families, at the forefront this Christmas Season. Let us continue to allow the "real" meaning of Christmas shine through.

God Bless each of you this Christmas Season. May the light of Jesus shine forth within your homes, and your hearts. 

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Let Me See Through Your Eyes in 2023?

I remember the day. It was June of 1998. I was riding in the front seat of the vehicle my husband was driving, and we had just left my Grandma's funeral. We were now in the processional, a line of many other vehicles, headed to the cemetery where we could say our final good-byes to Grandma. I recall resting my hand on my pregnant belly, tears gently trickling down my cheeks, as I took in the fact that Grandma was never to meet this special little one who was growing inside me. I recall watching out the window, observing people walking on the sidewalk, driving down the road, all going about their business as usual. Didn't they know that the world should stop today? Didn't they know our worlds would never be the same? Didn't they know we had holes in our hearts that would never be filled?For whatever reason, this scene came to me today, as I was thinking about the New Year, the arrival of 2023. The year that has close to a week of it in the rearview mirror already.Because I have not felt well, I have struggled with the transition into 2023. I wanted to jump into it feet first, sprinting forward toward the many goals I have on the horizon. And yet, I feel as if I am sitting, not standing, at the starting block, waiting for my body to get enough energy to position itself for the start of the race. The problem is, the race has already begun. It's a week in already. And that frustrates me. Yet, as I was thinking of this today, and God took me back to 1998, I got some clarity. I found the ability to look outside of my body, outside of my home, outside of my goals. I opened my heart to the many people, who like me on the day of Grandma's funeral, are feeling like they're watching the world go by, without anyone noticing. Without anyone caring.My desire is to be someone who notices. Someone who cares. Someone who Jesus will use to bring comfort. Peace. Joy. I believe there are people who are struggling with the start of 2023. There are people who have recently lost loved ones, who can't seem to find a way to move forward. There are people who are dealing with their own or a loved one's illness, who are attempting to figure out how to navigate their new diagnosis. There are those who did their best to have gifts under the tree for their little ones, who now are looking at mounting bills, with little or no income on the horizon to pay them. There are those who had hoped the New Year would bring a reconciliation within their marriage, and instead, they stare into the empty eyes of someone they used to know. There are those who prayed 2023 would bring a wayward child home for the holidays, and instead they once again, found the seat at the table empty. There are many people who are sitting at the starting blocks. They were hoping the beginning of 2023 would look differently. And now, they are watching people race past them. And they wonder, why isn't the world stopping? Don't people know my world will never be the same? Don't people know that part of my heart is broken, empty? Does anyone care?My challenge for us today, is could we step out and love someone like Jesus would? (Write a note. Stop in for a visit. Drop off some food. Make a phone call.) Could we bow our heads today, and ask God to show us who that person is who needs to hear from? Who is that person who needs to be given a glimmer of hope today? That person who needs to know that someone else's world stopped today, even if for just enough time to acknowledge the pain of another.Heavenly Father, I thank you for this New Year ahead. I do not know what it has in store, but I do know that you will accomplish your will in and through it. I ask right now, would you please bring to my heart and mind someone who needs to feel your love today? Open my heart that I may see this person, see their pain, and be a friend who can provide the love and comfort they need today. Give me your eyes right now, Lord. And guide me in the way I may serve this person. AmenMay your 2023 be filled with the love of our Savior! And if you have a prayer request you would like me to add to my prayer time, please email me. I'd find it an honor to pray for you. 

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