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AdobeStock_11273424--SMby Viki Rife

Today is the day many of us start winding down from Christmas. The preparations, the excitement, the anticipation are in the past. Now is the time to clean up and start returning to normal.

What must Mary have been feeling after the blessed birth? Once the shepherds left, with their stories of angel choirs? Once the excitement of the arrival of the child started to calm down, and what was left were the raw questions of the realities of life: where will we sleep? How do we provide for the child? How many diaper changes and middle-of-the night nursings? Even with a perfect child, how do we get through each day?

We find ourselves wondering how long they had to live in the stable. How long until they got the news that Herod wanted to kill the child, and made the arduous journey to Egypt? Were there doubts whether they had heard the angels correctly?

Life after the birth of Jesus cannot have been all roses for Joseph and Mary. The hard work of caring for the Savior of the world was just beginning. It’s doubtful that the baby was in the habit of just waving His hand and making the hardships of life go away for His parents. He was fully human, even if He was God. He experienced the realities of a struggling family life.

As we return to our mundane lives and their challenges, let’s keep in mind that even for those who were given the privilege of parenting our Lord, most days must have seemed pretty mundane. They carried their fill of disappointments and seemingly menial tasks.

Serving God is meaningful only because of Who He is. We may never know the meaning of any particular moment. We must live each one as if it really matters. Because it does.

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sheep in their stableHow many of us have wished at some time or another that we could have been in the stable that first Christmas night? One of my favorite writers penned a poem that pulls at my heart and makes me feel like a part of the Christmas story in a very humbling way. C.S. Lewis wrote:

The Nativity

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Savior where I looked for hay;
So may my beast-like folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baaing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence!

May you rejoice this Christmas as you celebrate the One who allows even the most humble to see Him!

Christ is born

20 days old baby sleeping in a christmas nativity crib

By Viki Rife

Have you ever felt like skipping Christmas? You know, the way Tim Allen tried to do in “Christmas with the Kranks”? No decorations, no presents, no parties.

His neighbors were indignant, his minister was disapproving. In the end, when their daughter comes home unexpectedly, they “get with the program” and celebrate with their neighbors. Supposedly, they ended up not skipping Christmas after all.

Reality check. As far as I can tell, they did skip Christmas. And we can easily skip it too. Too much to do, making sure our tree is just right, the food is just right, remembering everyone to whom we owe a present—it just seems like the true meaning of Christmas gets lost. Even our family gatherings may not reflect the relationships He came to bring.

 

So in the midst of all our observing Christmas, are we missing out on time to just reflect on the gift of Christ? Do we find opportunities to let the miracle truly penetrate our soul and fill us with wonder and gratitude?

There have been times when I looked back on the last two weeks of December and realized I hadn’t taken any time to personally sit and worship the Savior whose birth we’re celebrating. It may have been mentioned in church, and we might have even gone to a Christmas Eve service, but I personally did not take any time for Christ. I had skipped Christmas.

May each of us find time this season to make sure that Christmas truly means to us what we say we believe it means.

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

I was six the first time my great grandfather handed me a polishing rag. He stood me in front of his silver collection and stated proudly, “You can help me make these beauties shine again.” I was responsible for a silver horse that had most assuredly seen better days, but my “Gramps” treated it with such treasured respect, I knew it had to be special.

He never told me the stories behind his collection. Born into a poor family and with only a 2nd grade education to his name, I can only imagine how priceless his three-tiered display case felt to him. As we worked together on his silver, he’d occasionally chuckle as he wiped grime off a certain piece, but the stories stayed safely in his mind.

That afternoon, sitting near one of my spiritual giants, I got a better glimpse of what it meant to first serve out of love. Even at six, I thought polishing silver was a waste of time. Yet I didn’t find myself asking hundreds of questions as to why I had to help. Gramps wanted to spend time with me, and polishing silver was important to him, so therefore, it became important to me. I didn’t need to know why. I knew Gramps and that was enough.

What would happen if I lived my life with Christ in the same way? I find myself peppering God with endless questions when He asks me to do something. I want to understand before I say yes. But too often, when that is my initial response, I miss out on sharing Jesus’ joy. What if I trusted Jesus enough to trust there was beauty in His presence, even when the task feels mundane?

~ Written by Cassie Rayl

“Turn to Matthew 6:19 in your Bibles, if you have them,” the African pastor said as he opened the service. I looked down at my iPad and chuckled. In that little screen, I had access to every translation, version, or paraphrase ever written. Within a moment, I could view the Scriptures in Greek, Hebrew or English.

The pastor had questioned whether I had one Bible. Little did he know I had countless digital Bibles and had at least five hard copies at home!

Despite the momentary humor, I was struck by the contrast between my attitude toward the Word of God in comparison to my African brother’s attitude.

He knew the price of having a Bible. Many of his loved ones had never seen a Bible—let alone owned one. He understood the preciousness of it. He knew what it meant to hunger for it. I, on the other hand, have never had to experience that hunger. I’ve never felt what it was like to long so deeply for a Bible of my own and wonder if that dream would ever come true.

What if I started treating the Bible as this pastor does? What if I continuously approached the Word of God with a fresh reminder of the privilege it was to freely read God’s truth? What joy would I experience which I may have forgotten?

May I never overlook the freedom I’ve been given to access God’s Word!

The Announcement

~ Written by Viki Rife

I drove in the driveway and a three-year-old shot out of the house like a bolt of lightning. After giving me an intense hug, he started dragging me toward the house.

“Grandma, come see our tomato plant,” he urged as he pulled at my hand. “You know what? Daddy has a new bike,” he added. After about six months of not seeing me, he had a lot to show. He barely stopped to breathe as he took me on a whirlwind tour and described all that had changed in their home since I last visited.

Finally we reached the living room. He led me to one corner, and with a proud flourish of his hand announced, “And look, we have this!”

There in a baby swing was his two-week old brother, who had decided to make his appearance in the world sooner than I was scheduled to fly out. Of all the wonders of new things a three-year-old took pride in, this was the crowning glory.

I’ve thought about that incident often as this has been a rough year of losing loved ones. I draw great comfort from imagining them exploring heaven, rejoicing constantly in discovering the greatness of God in ways that cause them to fall before Him in worship again and again. In my mind, I picture them sharing their joy with me as I arrive, and delightedly announcing, “And look, we have Jesus!

The Richest Room

~ Written by Viki Rife

It started when I went back to a town I had lived in during high school and decided to track down a favorite teacher. She welcomed me warmly and led me through the living room into her “sitting room.” My jaw dropped. The huge room was a floor-to-ceiling library, with a curving stair leading to a reading loft high up among the books. I think it was inspired by the library in the 1964 film “My Fair Lady.”

A reading addict like me has trouble resisting the temptation to ignore everything else and start browsing the shelves. Even as we chatted, I found my eyes wandering. What amazing opportunities were tucked along those walls! I wouldn’t even know where to start.

That memory shows me such a picture of our relationship with God. Opening His Word is like being let loose in a library full of rich treasures. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. There is so much to know about Him that we couldn’t possibly comprehend it all. We might choose to explore one aspect of Him one day, or for a month, then we check out other subjects about Him that expand our understanding of Him even more.

Yes, at times relationship with an all-knowing God can seem overwhelming. But the more we explore, the more we discover of His amazing character and how He wants to speak to our hearts.

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