Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Christmas Season’ Category

~ Written by Viki Rife

I thought I was done with Christmas for another year. As I drove up to my house the other day, though, I realized the Christmas decoration on the front door had been overlooked in packing up. Boldly it proclaimed, “Joy to the World.”

My first thought was, “It doesn’t belong there now.” My next one was, “Why not?”

I had been feeling like the year had gotten off to a rough start. Suddenly, the responsibility of truly bringing joy to the world hit me. The joy we expect to have at Christmas was intended to be for every day of the year. It has nothing to do with presents or family gatherings. Joy is something we can choose to have no matter what our circumstances. It is an attitude we can convey to the watching world around us as we rejoice in who our God is.

Can 2021 be a year of joy, even if nothing is going the way we hoped? Let’s resolve this year to celebrate daily the joy of personally knowing the Savior of the world. Our choice to live in joy instead of complaining, criticizing or despairing will do more to draw the world to Christ than anything else we could do.

As God’s dearly loved children, let’s focus together this year on bringing joy to the world.

Read Full Post »

He opened the hatch of his truck with a grand flourish. As I walked out to greet him, I chuckled as I tried imagining what deserved such grandeur from my date on the night he was meeting my family.

He piled my arms with Christmas presents before he loaded his own arms with even more. He shrugged comically as he said around the boxes, “I think this is it, but I’ll come back and look in a bit to make sure.”

My family graciously received the Christmas presents from this perfect stranger, but Michael was quick to realize it made all of us—even me—incredibly uncomfortable. Trinkets, games, books, and candy lined a couch as everyone in my family had the same mental thought. What’s the point?

I honestly believed he was doing so much to impress my parents. When we finally had a moment alone, I discovered that wasn’t the case at all. “I assumed you never really experienced a Christmas full of presents as a kid since you were missionaries. I thought every family needed to experience being overloaded with stuff at least once. Based on your reactions, I guess I was wrong.”

Achieving simplicity for Christmas is difficult when you’ve forgotten what it means to truly long for something money can’t buy. As Christmas makes its appearance this year, I’m hearing more and more families confess, “It’s just going to be simple this year—really simple.”

It’s not wrong to lavish our loved ones with gifts and grand memories. However, maybe the simplicity of this Christmas comes at the exact moment we needed to step away from all the “extra” and just focus on Jesus. He doesn’t care about how big or small our gatherings, celebrations, or gift exchanges are.

He simply cares about whether we’re focused on what his love means for our lives, whether or not our Christmas feels “normal.”

Have a Christ-filled Christmas!

Read Full Post »

~ Written by Samantha Freds

Christmas is a season of anticipation. Children of all ages struggle to sleep the night before Christmas as their little hearts are filled with excitement of the next morning. Families have countdown calendars and preparatory traditions leading up to the joyous day. The Christmas season should remind us of another season of anticipation long ago.

For generations, Israel awaited the promised Messiah. Parents and grandparents would have gathered their children around to tell them the prophesies of the One who was to save them. They anxiously awaited freedom from Roman oppression. They expected a Savior King.

They got an infant. A baby so weak it could be contained in a blanket. A child so insignificant he was born among animals and laid in a feeding trough. Jesus was far from what they expected.

But as he grew, there was promise of greatness. He impressed the religious teachers in the temple as a boy. He performed miracles and drew huge crowds when he spoke.

Then the real unexpected happened. Jesus stood silent before his accusers next to a political insurrectionist named Barabbas. Barabbas was a voice in the rebellion. He was the leader Israel wanted. So though Pilate didn’t think Jesus was guilty under Roman law, his death was called for by the very people he came to save.

They were disappointed with Jesus.

Are you disappointed with Jesus? Has He been too slow in answering your heart’s deepest prayer? Did you expect Him to rush in and save the day? Are you wondering where the mighty Savior is? Have you been hurt by the lack of justice in your life or in the life of someone you love?

If you are disappointed with Jesus know you are not alone. And know that Jesus isn’t deterred by your disappointment. His love is unconditional. He knew He would be despised and rejected, but He came anyway. This season we celebrate the birth of a Savior who exceeded all expectations when He willingly went to the cross for each and every one of us.

Read Full Post »

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

The news didn’t bring me joy. I was more than angry—I was incensed! A man was being nationally applauded for a good deed in his community. However, I knew he was more evil than good, more manipulative than gracious, and more selfish than considerate.

 First good deed in sixty years, I bet! I muttered under my breath as I read the article. The guy didn’t know me from Eve, but I had briefly connected with one of his victims, and that was—in my mind—all I needed to justify my (short-sighted) fury.

 As I added fiery accusations to the mental fight I was picking with the guy, I heard the Spirit whisper, “But child, what if he’s found Me?”

 The simplicity of the question stopped me in my tracks. Jesus came to set sinners free…even the sinners who we never thought would want freedom in the first place. No sin is too great, no lifestyle too deplorable to receive His grace.

 Christmas is the season we spend more time than normal meditating on the coming of our Savior. Oh, what a celebration! But Christ’s coming is equally that of the Great Reconciler, and though it’s something I celebrate, it’s also a great challenge to my soul.

 Has Christ’s coming truly changed my heart? Have I made room in the Throne Room for everyone Christ loves, or merely those I like?

 Am I doing my part to to keep Christ’s love in Christmas?

Read Full Post »

~ Written by Samantha Freds

There are few things I enjoy more this time of year than puzzles. I love piecing together a beautiful landscape or a colorful scene. I find it relaxing yet challenging. I relish the satisfaction of tracking down that one piece I have been looking for. Recently, I’ve discovered what I believe to be a near-perfect combination of favorite things: fuzzy socks, a cup of hot coffee, and a puzzle.

My love for puzzles goes back to my childhood. My mom and I used to do them together when the weather forced us to stay inside. It was my mom who taught me proper puzzle strategy. First, you must separate the edge pieces from the middle pieces. Next, you put the outside together so you have a boundary to work within. Then you lay out all the middle pieces and put the box away.

Mom always encouraged me to not look at the picture on the box because she thought that was cheating. I, on the other hand, called it using my resources!

Fortunately, Mom had a very different strategy when it came to life. She encouraged both her kids to return to God’s puzzle box as often as possible. Just like puzzle creators provide a guide, our Creator gave us a guidebook for life. And just like the picture helps direct my efforts when I get stuck working on a certain section of a puzzle, the Bible is the life-giving direction I so desperately need.

I’ve been in a bit of a valley lately – a dry season spiritually. So I write to remind myself of the beauty of the Word of God. I so desperately need it to guide my life!

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

Read Full Post »

~ Written by Viki Rife

A few weeks ago, when I wrote a blog about keeping wonder in Christmas, I had no idea that a new kind of wonder awaited our family this season. The morning of December 22, my father slipped away from us into his Father’s waiting arms.

Christmas will never be the same for us. Yes, we grieve, and most likely there will be some grieving each year at this time. There is a big hole in our hearts. But overriding the pain is a confidence that the baby in a manger came to defeat death.

The hole is not forever. Our dear daddy—pastor, missionary, school administrator, chaplain, husband, father, grandfather, and all-around lover of God—was a work of grace. He is now experiencing the wonder of Heaven. And even in the pain, we are experiencing the wonder of peace that passes understanding.

Our family is entering a new season of life as the new year begins. You might be, too. May we all spend this new year focusing on the wonder of God’s amazing grace at work within us. Have a wonder-full year!

Read Full Post »

~ Written by Viki Rife

“You have an app for that?” my friend laughed as her 80-year-old father whipped out his phone. Someone had mentioned, “I wonder what size that TV is” as we set up for an event in a room we had reserved. Sure enough, he had a way to measure the screen! 

It seems there’s an app for everything. One I recently heard about helps people who are non-verbal because of autism communicate their thoughts. The person selects images in a sequence that the app then interprets into a text message. 

In that context, I’ve been thinking about God’s Christmas app. He sent us images that resonate with what our hearts can understand. A virgin mother helps us understand that God can override the laws of nature, and that Jesus is human, yet also God. Angels filling the heavens with light and song help us understand His glory. Wise men making a pilgrimage to follow a star helps us understand belief and perseverance. Our compassion for a baby in a manger helps us understand His compassion and willingness to sacrifice for us.  

Thank God, He has chosen to communicate in a way we can understand. Enjoy exploring His app this Christmas season. May you truly have a merry Christmas! 

Read Full Post »

~Written by Viki Rife

It happened again today. I was reading an article in a respected Christian magazine. As it described a young pastor’s battle with cancer, it referred to it as a tragedy. And I couldn’t help wonder: is it right for God’s people to describe a death, ordained by God, as a tragedy? Why are we buying into the world’s definition?

The word “tragedy” and its companions (disaster, horrendous, etc.) are descriptions of how the world sees such situations. But what are we communicating when we use those terms? That God is not in control? That He isn’t good? There is something about these descriptions that draws our attention away from trust and replaces it with helplessness and hopelessness. Of course these situations are hard and painful for those of us who remain, but it just seems to me that someone’s graduation to glory should never be couched in those terms.

As long as we use the world’s terminology to describe our circumstances, we will be just as fearful as they are. Let’s pray that God will give us eyes to see beyond to the victory He is accomplishing.

Read Full Post »

~Written by Cassie Harris

Communication isn’t something my family does incredibly well.

We often joke about the fact that we can go months without really talking. Although we chide each other for our quirks, we’ve never changed our habits. Since only my parents share the same zip-code, our uncommunicative family can sometimes be a frustration.

I recently returned to my hometown for the holidays for the first time in two years. Aside from texting travel plans, I hadn’t really talked to my mother in over a week, my dad in almost a month. As I got off the plane in Kenai, Alaska, I was surrounded by a welcoming party of over 15 people. I knew my mother would be the first one to hug me; that went without saying. 

What I didn’t quite expect was my dad pushing through the small crowd to be the second one to wrap his arms around me. I fought back tears as he good-naturedly told my friends to “stand aside” and to “move, please.” I have no doubt my dad loves me, but really needing to say hello and hug me tight before anyone else wasn’t something I was expecting, for some reason.  

It can be the same way with our Heavenly Father. We can go weeks, months, maybe even years without talking to Him. Then, somehow, we stand in shock when He “fights through the crowd” to welcome us back. He’s still our Father. He still wants time with us.

It doesn’t matter how long it’s been or how much water has gone under the bridge. It doesn’t matter if communication with our Father God up till this point has only been on religious holidays.  

The moment we step near Him, the moment we want to see Him, He runs straight to us, ready to pick up the relationship where we last left it. It’s as if He can be heard good-naturedly saying, “Stand aside, my Child wants to talk to Me, and I can’t wait to welcome my beloved Home.”  

Read Full Post »

Written by Viki Rife

“When our kids aren’t coming home for Christmas, we don’t bother to put up a tree,” I confessed to my friend the other day. She agreed, adding, “I figure it’s two whole days of my life used up, one to put everything up and one to take everything down.” We both had drawn the same conclusion: if no one’s there to enjoy it, why bother?

The Christmas story, however, shows us a very different attitude. God purposefully sent His perfect Son knowing only a few would enjoy the spectacular event. How many people actually recognized that this baby was different from all the others? Only a handful. God orchestrated a huge choir of angels for just a few shepherds. He provided a special star for just a few wise men. When Jesus was dedicated at the temple, the priests and religious leaders did not gather to celebrate—it was just another baby. Only two elderly people with prophetic gifts took advantage of the great moment.

That’s the amazing thing about God. He doesn’t hold back His creativity just because few will enjoy it. Instead, He touches our humble lives with His amazing beauty every single day, whether or not we open our eyes to recognize it, whether we are tuned in or not. I think He went to all that bother because He wanted to delight certain people. He knew exactly what their hearts longed for.

As we each revisit the Christmas story this year, let’s take time to enter the amazement that each of the participants in that first Christmas must have felt. Not everyone “got it,” but those who did were blessed beyond measure. That very same God wants to bless YOU with surprises that others may miss. Enjoy His beauty this season!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: