December Lights

The December sun sails low across the sky with remarkable speed, its warmth just enough kiss my cold cheeks but not quite enough to melt the blanket of white that sparkles all around me. The gift of another sunny morning in this final month of the year does my heart good. With sixteen hours of darkness each day, any glimpse of sunshine is a gourmet meal for a hungry belly.

But it’s not the pale daytime glow that has us eyes-wide, mouths-open in wonder. The real show starts as the sun disappears behind the trees across the street. Around 4pm the crescent moon takes centre stage as Venus begins to sparkle low in the sky. A few minutes later, to the right of the moon, Jupiter joins the show, and just after sunset Saturn twinkles faintly between the other two planets. We stand in our front yard, pointing and exclaiming as more and more stars twinkle into view. It’s not easy to see under the city lights, but the excitement of recognizing constellations and planets fills our hearts with wonder. We check the apps to confirm our suspicions and realize what we are beholding with our own eyes corresponds to real objects millions of kilometres away, with names and measurements and other scientific data to understand.

It’s not necessarily the numbers that astound; it’s that we can see the things we’ve only heard about or viewed in photos or videos. These tiny sparkling lights in the sky are real planets and stars, formed and placed with care. The late sunrises and early sunsets provide ample time to behold the beauty of the December night sky, a reminder that the Lord has carefully woven beauty into every season.

In winter darkness, even the smallest lights gleam. 

This week, we’ll mark both the longest night of the year and the holiest night of the year: the first day of winter followed shortly by the wonder of Christmas. Not only do the days begin to grow longer, but we will bask in the beauty of a gift like no other: Jesus.

Psalm 147:3-4 rings in my heart this week, and the contrast is not lost on me:

He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.

The Creator entered into His creation. A baby is born, sending one king into a jealous, murderous rage, bringing other kings over long miles to their knees in worship. Angels announce the good news to stunned shepherds in a field, who hurry to a humble stable to see the Messiah. A young mom cradles a fragile, tender newborn, the long-awaited answer to the yearning of hearts from generation to generation: “How long, O Lord?”. The things we’ve only read in prophecies of old are taking place before our very eyes.

We begin to understand that what we are beholding in this Christmas season corresponds to things promised centuries ago and we are amazed. The One who gave Saturn its rings and caused Venus to shine above the horizon at dusk in December entered into the lives of the broken by being broken for us, and shattered the power of sin and death by dying on the cross and rising from the grave.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (NIV)

Thank You Jesus! Only You can number the stars and bind up our wounds in the darkest of seasons. You are the true light of the world!

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of peace
Hail! the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all he brings
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the some of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King

-Charles Wesley

A simple star

Advent 2021

The First Sunday of Advent is nearly upon us. 

Although I didn’t grow up with this tradition, I’ve embraced it in adulthood and it has become one of my favourite ways to prepare my heart for the celebration of Christmas, sharpening my focus on Christ in a season that leans toward a frantic pace. I love it all — trimming the tree, carols and treats, Christmas lights in our PJs, TV specials and movies, presents and laughter — but I need the quiet longing of Advent to anchor my hope in the One who embodies it, bring the peace that passes all understanding, fill my heart with unshakeable joy, wrap me up in unconditional love.

Nearly ten years ago I created a feature for my radio show called “Advent in Action”, with small ways to bring the themes of Advent to life in my ordinary day, keep Christ at the centre and share hope, peace, joy and love. As I revisit that list this week, I’m reading this passage from John 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John 1:1-18 (NIV)

May this Advent season stir up a genuine longing for Jesus, the Light of the World.

Advent in Action

The Christmas Plate

I don’t remember exactly where I got it. A second-hand store I think, a few years ago. But as soon as I laid eyes on it, I loved it because it was beautiful to me. Whenever I saw it, my heart swelled and my mind swirled with all the memories of Christmases long ago, when I was little and full of wonder and delight.

It bears a print of Currier and Ives’ “The Homestead in Winter”, with an old white farmhouse and a small red barn, the home of the little brown cow standing out front. The bare trees stretch their gnarly black branches into a wintery morning sky near a little, half-frozen pond surrounded by brush. In the centre, a couple drives a red sleigh with two white horses and a man in a blue coat carries an armload of wood, followed by his faithful dog.

The vintage gold-rimmed decorative plate hung on our wall for one or two Christmases then was somehow lost in my house, missing the next Christmas entirely. And then one day the following spring, I found it! My heart sang!

It hung on the wall for another Christmas, bringing me a sense of home once again.

One night a few weeks ago after the kids were in bed I carefully hung it up in the kitchen and smiled. I said to my husband who was in the other room, “I’m going to take a photo of my plate, just in case it gets broken sometime.” With four kids under the age of 10, things happen.

The next morning, one of my sweet kiddos immediately noticed the plate on the wall. “Mom! Where did we get that plate? It’s beautiful!” I lifted her up so she could see it on the wall and explained a little bit about it. And then, an amazing turn of events. Less than 8 hours later, I heard a loud crash, followed by a small sobbing mess of that same child running down the hall towards me.

“MOM!” she bawled, “I broke it! I broke your special plate! I’m so sorry, Mom! It was an accident!”

My heart sank, both for her and for my sweet Christmas plate. I gave her a hug and we went to inspect the damage.

Sure enough, there it was – on the kitchen floor, clean in two. One tiny chip was missing. We picked up the pieces and set them on the table, and then I held her for a minute.

“Mom, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to…” her voice trailed off as she buried her head in my shoulder.

“Sweetheart,” I looked her square in the eyes, “I know it was an accident. And you know what? It’s just a plate.”

“But it was your special plate!” she wailed.

“Yes, it was special to me and I am very sad. But you know what? I know it was an accident. And it’s just stuff. You are more important to me than stuff! I love you. Besides, I think we might be able to fix it.”

She dried her tears and clung to my neck for a few more moments.

Last week I pulled out the superglue and managed to put the plate back together without gluing my fingers to it. It hangs in our living room now, away from the scene of the incident (just in case!). From afar, it’s good as new. But if you look closely, you can see the crack — and I don’t mind one bit.

I keep telling the kids that things don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. This Christmas, more than any other year, I’m praising the Lord for His living presence in my life! Right there with me in the middle of broken plates, dashed hopes, fears and uncertainties, stress and anxiety, grief and pain. His grace sustains me in every moment because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1), born through the hard reality of labour and delivery to unlikely parents in a stable of animals. 

He entered a world that didn’t even recognize Him — a world sick with sin, riddled with the stench of death, hopeless to save itself. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace laid His glory aside to live, die and rise again so that we could be reconciled to God forever. Sin and death defeated, not just once but for all eternity! Lord, let your Kingdom come!

This Christmas, we certainly don’t have everything we want. But we have everything we need.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Merry Christmas. The Promise-Maker keeps His promises! May your heart prepare Him room this week.

The Christmas Plate

Even From the Very Beginning

The excitement of Christmas always arrives in our home around the middle of November. We talk about the things we’d like to enjoy together, and the discussion always circles back to why we’re celebrating in the first place.

Does the Christmas story start with an angel’s visit to Mary? In some senses, yes. The events are set in motion by a striking interaction between a strange visitor and a young girl. But these moments were planned long ago, before there was time.

This year we’ve begun tracing the thread of the coming Messiah through the Old Testament.

“And I will put enmity
between you and the woman
and between your offspring and hers
he will crush your head
and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

The first glimpse of future where sin and death are vanquished. Keep reading and you’ll see more glimpses of hope.

Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

And Isaiah 9:6 —

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”

For some reason, I’ve found myself lingering in the book of Joel, and even here I’m seeing Jesus.

“You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
Then you will know that I am in Israel,
  that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other;
And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
(Joel 2:26-29)

Thank you Lord! What a relief! In a world that feels random and chaotic at times, I am on my knees in worship of the One who has always had things in the palm of His hand.

Especially this year, I have desperately needed these reminders that the Kingdom was always coming, from the very beginning. It was always planned, from long ago. Jesus was always on His way the first time – and even now we can be confident that He will come again the second time. God is the ultimate promise-keeper. He will do what He says He will do — without fail. He always keeps His promises.

Jesus will come again in glory to bring His Kingdom in all its fullness.

In the waiting, we are Kingdom people in a world in need. We invite others into the life Christ has brought – into the reality that is beyond our wildest hopes. We live according to the ways of the King of Kings, the One who has come and is coming back again. 

He is the source of eternal hope, peace that passes all understanding, deep joy, and real love – the Way, the Truth and the Life.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Joy to the world!

Everyone is Growing Up

My holiday joy was mingled with the grief that comes from the unmistakeable reality of the passage of time.

Everyone is growing up.

Maybe it was the fact that for the first time ever my sister and I shared cooking duties for the entire holiday dinner on our own, or the realization that our home has become “The Christmas House” in my family, or that it seems entirely possible that we are finally growing out of the “my kids are sick all Christmas break from sharing little kid germs” phase of life.

Or maybe it was the big wedding.

My oldest niece got married at the end of December and I am now 100 years old. How did this sweet little baby I cuddled and rocked to sleep just last night, the one who made me an auntie in my teens, become this stunning bride before me?

I couldn’t look at her mama (my sister) during the ceremony. I cried for an entire day afterward. I really am happy for this new chapter in her life, and we all just love her new husband, but I am definitely having feelings about this whole growing up thing.

And she’s not even my child.

My parents entered a new decade of life last year and I didn’t think it would really make a difference for me, but it has. They’re gradually moving into their later years and I’m thinking about it more than I thought I would.

Birthday season has blown into our home with a vengeance. Of the four kids, three of them have winter birthdays within six weeks of each other. As we celebrate their next milestones and cheer them on in their growth and development, I can see the next stage on the horizon and I don’t know how I feel about that today.

We know change so well, don’t we? We can’t even fathom a life where things stay the same forever. Morning and night, day after day, month after month, we are living through the slow change of aging and seasons. I see it in the mirror, I witness it in my children, I experience it in the gradual lengthening of the daylight hours. We can count on it – and we do. Winter will end and spring will come. Summer follows, then fall brings its brilliance. Back to winter and we begin again.

Children become adults who become parents then grandparents. And the cycle continues.

An inescapable reality.

The other day I was reading a devotional that focussed on God’s immutability. He is the Unchanging One. It gave me pause for a moment. I realized that we as humans, we only know change. We understand change. We live through it and thrive because of it. And frankly, the concept immutability is so foreign to the human experience that I wonder if we truly appreciate just how incredible it really is. Like the constant north star, we catch a glimpse of it when we encounter God.

He Himself says he is unchanging (Malachi 3). He does not change like shifting shadows (James 3). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13). He laid the foundations of the world (Hebrews 1; John 1). He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 1).

What a remarkable truth to bring to bear in our lives! How does God’s immutability affect my current state of mind? My world is constantly changing and I am continually grieving losses while celebrating gains, knowing that through it all He never changes. His character, His will, His covenant promises – these will never be broken or removed. I have finally found Someone I can count on to be who He says He is, to do what He says He will do, to prove faithful generation after generation.

We may welcome it or we may lament it, but change is constant. Thankfully we are deeply loved by One who never changes, One on whom we can depend regardless of how our billows are rolling in this season.

Maybe you are in the throes of something that feels like too great a change to bear. Set your feet on the solid rock of Christ!

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24 (NIV)

“For the Lord is good and His love endures forever, His faithfulness continues to all generations.” – Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

Thank you Lord that You are the solid foundation beneath my feet, and that You are good! Your love endures forever, Your faithfulness continues in my life even today with all its changes. As I navigate this part of my journey, I praise You for Your unchanging nature!

stars Arto Marttinen

Image by Arto Marttinen

The Light Has Come

I got my first “are you ready for Christmas?” of the season earlier this week, and I replied with a laugh and a “well, almost!”.

I don’t know about you, but I sure want things to be “just so” before all the fun really gets going. And somehow you’d think I would have learned by now that life never quite goes that way. It’s the two-day process of decorating the Christmas tree because we just couldn’t get it all done in one day. It’s the decorations next to the laundry pile. Kids memorizing lines for the church Christmas play while home on a sick day. Adjusting plans and re-adjusting plans based on the various unexpected requests and demands that inevitably pop up in December. It’s a December birthday and a December wedding sandwiching the wonder of Christmas itself.

It seems that we’re searching for a bit of silence.

But is that what we truly want?

Silence is exactly what was going on before the Light of the World dawned. There are 400 years of it between the Old Testament and the New Testament. God spoke promise after promise of One who would bring salvation, and then nothing. For four centuries. 400 years of waiting, wondering, yearning for the Messiah – the Promised One who would bring deliverance from sin.

400 years of hoping this leader would be the one.

And then, the silence is broken. An angel visits a young girl with a message that cuts through the darkness. Could it be? Could all the waiting be finally coming to an end? Could our watching and hoping be fulfilled before our very eyes?

It’s then we realize that it isn’t silence we’re really looking for after all; it’s peace.

I love the powerful words of Isaiah 60:1-2 (NIV):

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.

See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.”

How that resonates with me this year. How I long to rediscover Jesus as the Light of the World, the Light of my heart. The words in Isaiah were written hundreds of years before that star shone in the East, before the angel brought good news to Mary, before that long and arduous journey to Bethlehem. Long before that tiny Baby breathed his first breath, before that Wonderful Saviour breathed His last breath, and before He rose from the grave and conquered sin and death.

He is the Light of the World. The Lord has risen upon us and his glory appears over us. After all those years of silence, the Prince of Peace came; the Promise was kept. And as we think about how Jesus said He would return one day to make everything right, we understand that this promise will be kept too. He will return as King of Kings.

I’m setting my heart on Him this Advent season.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV)

Amen.

Candle David Monje

Image: David Monje

Unexpected

Heavy wet snow is falling across the neighbourhood, blanketing everything with a fresh layer of white. The towering evergreens across the street bear thick drifts on their branches like sweaters and the tall breezy willow to the left is looking cosy in its snowy new duds.

It makes getting around somewhat complicated and tiresome, but it sure is beautiful.

Much like the snow, colds have descended upon our home this week and it’s making getting around somewhat, well, complicated and tiresome.

But there is beauty even in these moments.

More cuddles. More time together. Rest and recuperation. Time to read, reflect and pray.

A gift.

Maybe not the way we would have expected it to come, with a physical cost, but a great gift, nonetheless.

Isn’t that the message of Christmas?

An immeasurable gift, with a physical cost, wrapped in an unexpected package.

Do you really want to know what God is like?

Start with Jesus.

Like the Wise Men catching a glimpse of something glorious in the sky, we know there must be something more to all this sparkle than what we’re seeing with our eyes. We yearn to look into the face of something, or Someone, greater than ourselves and finally understand where we fit.

It really makes no sense and perfect sense all at the same time. How does God help us understand just what He is like? How does the Creator of the Universe strike up a relationship with His creation? John 1:1-4,14 (NIV) has always moved my heart.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it….The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In Him was life, the light of the world. It shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it! And then that very Word became flesh. We have seen His glory, revealed for the very first time so many Christmases ago.

My heart breathes a sigh of relief. There really is good news that will cause great joy for all the people (Luke 2:10).

Let’s begin this holiday season with a sense that we are about to behold the very One who laid the foundation of the world and knit us together in our mother’s womb. Let us walk into the next few weeks with the wonder of God’s great love and mercy in our hearts and understand that this unexpected package holds something infinitely greater than we could ever discover on our own.

Let’s welcome how this Great Gift will disrupt our normal, make “getting around” a bit more complicated, and require more of us than we think reasonable.

But guaranteed, if we choose to receive it, this Great Gift will transform our ordinary.

This unexpected and wonderful Gift that came with such a cost can and will change us forever.

I’m so glad Christmas is so much more than just brown paper packages tied up with string. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

angel chimes on the table

Angel Chimes light up our Christmas Table

The Perfect Christmas

For a few minutes this morning, it really seemed possible to accomplish all the things necessary to make this Christmas perfect. It might of been that first cup of coffee of the day that gave me wings, but I really felt like I could fly into all my plans for the week and succeed!

Yes, this really would be The Perfect Christmas.

Then my little one raised his little arms with an “uh – uh – uh” and I swung him up into my arms. He wiggled his little body and settled into his favourite spot – my left hip – and the light of reality dawned on me.

I already have everything I need.

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV) –

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

THIS.

This is the stuff that makes life beautiful. This is what makes it possible to live in the mix of the heart-wrenching grief of a broken world and the wonderfully expectant hope of Advent.

So the teacher gifts aren’t sorted out quite yet. So the house is mostly clean but not absolutely spotless. So the menu hasn’t been set. So the possibility of common childhood illness is looming (as it always does with small children in December).

All my best-made plans are nothing compared to what God has for me. All my ideas of how to improve upon what we already have are actually having the opposite effect. All my hopes for perfection will not be realized this Christmas, or any of my Christmases upon this earth.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
(Edward Mote)

Jesus, as we proclaim Your first coming with joyous activities, we long for Your second coming with groanings too deep for words to express. Tears flow, then we wash our faces and join in the celebrations. We know what is coming. In fact, You have given us everything we need right now, and we look forward to the day it will be completed and we receive a rich welcome into Your Kingdom.

We fall down in worship, King Jesus – we welcome You today.

***

Merry Christmas friends. May you know true joy in Christ this season.

tree

Making Space

We’re about to fall headlong into one of the busiest times of the year. Yes, I am talking about Christmas, even before the pie crumbs of Thanksgiving have really had time to settle and Halloween is still lurking.

I like to work ahead. By this time of the year, I’ve already been thinking about what we’ll do in December, how gifts might work and whether or not I need to start making things early. Life is already busy, and it just gets busier and busier as we head into November and December.

I absolutely adore all things Christmas, but I’ve found that the heart of the season can sometimes get lost in the heavy workload, flurry of activities and temporary demands. My schedule is often overwhelmed with holiday plans and my newsfeed is overrun with events and content even before November begins!

Let’s be honest for a moment. Most of us are knee deep in some sort of mess that we’re expected to tidy up just in time for the guests to arrive. We manage to find some cheer for an hour or two and then it’s right back to the grind we’ve made for ourselves, with all its harsh realities. When we’re working at capacity, we may find ourselves falling into a bit of a Scrooge attitude, grumbling under our breath about all the things we’ve still got to do before the deadline.

So I’m learning to choose now, more than two months in advance, to leave room in my schedule for rest, reflection and worship. It’s counterintuitive because the pace of the season is part of the fun! But Christmas is so much more than parties, presents and perfection. And through the  sacrifices and re-ordering of holiday priorities, I am finding the Lord in the unexpected quiet places.

We need that space to breathe in the true wonder of the season. Not the lights and the sparkle, but the unveiling of the Source of all authentic hope, peace, joy, and love: the Saviour of the world, coming as a baby on a bed of hay.

A baby.

Have you held or beheld a newborn recently? Perfectly formed and perfectly helpless. It’s the most incredible of ways that the God of Heaven could come to earth to bring salvation to a world that rejected Him so brutally.

Instead of filling our schedules with plans upon plans this holiday season, let’s make room for Jesus. Let’s welcome Him fully. Let’s let His deep, deep love overwhelm us and give Him centre stage in our holiday experience this year.

Let’s make space for the One who truly is the greatest gift of all.

holiday lights

Holiday lights

Mom! You Aren’t Watching!

“Mom, you aren’t watching!” My four year old cried out. “You missed the whole thing!”

Unbeknownst to me, she was showing off some new moves she made up for the March from The Nutcracker. Her little heart broke when she realized I had left the room to change the baby right before the big finale.

When I returned, she was quite distraught.

“I’m sorry sweetheart! Why don’t we start it again and I’ll watch the whole thing, alright?” I suggested. She went for it. We restarted the song and I settled in to witness every move she made. Every time she did something “cool”, she looked to see if I was watching – and this time, I was. I smiled and cheered while she moved her body perfectly in time, and when she was done, I wrapped my arms around her.

“Great job!” I said.

She beamed.

Off she went to play with her little sister.

It comes in different forms, doesn’t it? “Mom, watch me!” “Do you want to hear my new song?” “Can I show you a cool trick?” “Are you coming to my play?” “Look at what I made!” Every single one a cry to be seen, known, celebrated, connected. Every single one an opportunity to love on these littles of mine.

Often, my “inn is too full”, so to speak. I’m turning away the most important visitors, relegating them to the stable as I briskly move throughout the house from here to there doing this and that, taking care of my list, accomplishing my goals. I am loving on my family in the practical way of making a home for them to live in and enjoy. But when it comes time to stand in the cold next to the playground equipment to watch one more cool trick on the monkey bars, even though if we leave even five minutes later we will get stuck in rush hour traffic, can I show them that kind of love, the kind that costs me something?

Love shines brightest in the places we overlook.

God’s Son carried by an unwed teenager.

The King of Kings is born in a stable.

Angels appear to a band of shepherds.

This Sunday, we’ll light the Advent candle of love. It’s a beautiful sentiment – that love is the greatest gift of all.

But here’s the bottom line: loving well is hard. It costs me something every single moment of every single day. I can hardly spend a few minutes trying to write a post like this without being interrupted by ample opportunity to love on my kids – from answering their questions to helping them sort out conflicts, to one climbing up on my lap and trying to type as I type to a hungry babe crying out for a spot of lunch.

These are easy to overlook because too often I am only looking at myself. But we serve a God who is far greater than we can ever imagine – a God who came near to help us tear our eyes off ourselves and turn them in worship to Him. When we meet Him, we discover the love we never knew was possible, and in turn, we pour it out on those around us in ways we never would have considered before.

Let’s love well this Christmas, and into the New Year. Let’s allow this life-changing love to transform us from the inside out so we can love the way He first loved us. Let’s let His love shine in those places we used to overlook.

Why? Because Romans 5:8 –

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

And 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a –

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

And most of all, 1 John 4:19 –

We love because He first loved us.

Amen. And Merry Christmas!

nutcracker

This is our 3 foot tall Nutcracker