The Rest of the Christmas Story (Luke 2:25-35) [redux]

Just a baby in a manger

Holy, precious heavenly child

Born in humble, poor surroundings.

First born Son so meek and mild.

Nearby shepherds hear the story

Told by angels, joyous news.

Born to you this day a Savior,

Resting now with cows and ewes.

Swaddling clothes, a sign of glory.

Angels sing, their voices raise.

Shepherds seek in haste to find Him,

Share the news and give God praise.

Mary ponders all their sayings,

Weighing thoughts within her heart.

Joseph’s quiet strength beside her,

Silent presence from the start.

Came the time for dedication.

Jesus was the baby’s name.

To Jerusalem they brought Him,

He, who’d later suffer shame.

Now there was a man named Simeon,

Righteous and devout was he,

Looking for the hope of Israel,

Promised death he would not see

‘Til the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed

Had been held within his arms.

And when Simeon held the baby,

At the moment safe from harm,

He revealed the Child’s appointed

Destiny—a Light to bring

Glory to God’s people Israel,

Salvation through a promised King.

Though an earthly King they looked for,

God had planned another way.

“And a sword will pierce your own soul,”

Mary heard old Simeon say.

And a prophetess named Anna

At the temple day and night

Offered thanks to God for Jesus,

Israel’s redemption now in sight.

Little baby, news so joyous.

The Messiah, promised King

In a manger, His life started

Born to reign, the angels sing.

But a coming shadow lingers

Prophets of His future told.

Destined death to save His people

To return them to the fold.

As we linger at the manger

Celebrating Jesus’ birth

Let us not forget the shadow

Of the cross—this baby’s worth.

Not to weep or moan in sadness

But to multiply our joy.

Saved by grace because He suffered—

Holy, precious baby boy.

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Santa’s Reminder

I had already scheduled to post all of my old Christmas poems because I hadn’t written a new one this year; and then, this morning, I was inspired to write this one.  Hopefully, you won’t feel poetry overload.  Merry Christmas to all my family, friends, and blog readers.

Santa’s Reminder

The workshop is empty.

The elves have gone home.

Mrs. Clause is resting.

Santa’s alone.

 

The tools are all quiet.

The floor is clean-swept.

The toys are delivered;

Yet, Santa’s bereft.

 

He’s tired and he’s weary.

His mind is confused,

Abstracted, bewildered,

Perplexed and bemused.

 

He worked through the year.

He did a good job;

And yet, at the moment,

He’s holding back sobs.

 

He wonders if working

So hard every year

Is worth all the effort,

And this is his fear.

 

That children and grown-ups

Alike will want more

And never be happy

With presents galore.

 

That come Christmas morning

When gifts are unwrapped,

The joy of the gifts

Will be gone in a snap!

 

Cause Santa knows true joy

The joy that can last

Comes from the One Who

Was born in the past.

 

On the morning of Christmas

In a manger He lay,

The Greatest Gift ever.

For our sins He would pay.

 

And then, in a moment

Santa heard very clear

A whisper, a voice that

Said, “Have no fear.

 

You’ve accomplished the task

That I’ve given to you,

And it’s time to move on

To a year that is New.

 

The gifts you’ve delivered

Came wrapped in your love

Like the Gift I delivered

That came from above.

 

We’ll patiently wait

For all people to see

That the Best Gift of all

Isn’t under the tree.

 

The True Gifts of Christmas

Are peace, love, and joy,

Which will reign in their hearts

When they first meet My Boy,

 

Who grew to a Man

And sacrificed all

To redeem all mankind

From the curse of the Fall.

 

And during this Season

The Message rings out

That Jesus is born.

There can be no doubt.”

 

And hearing the Message

Again in his heart,

Santa leaped from his seat

And he gave a great shout!

 

Joy flooded his soul

And he knew right away

His job wasn’t finished;

He’d start now, today!

 

With a heart that was happy

Santa pulled up a stool,

Grabbed his design book,

And got out his tools.

 

He started the planning

For gifts he could give.

This was his calling

As long as he lives.

 

As long as he could

He’d still do his part,

And leave it to God

To change men’s dark hearts

 

Now the workshop is empty,

Not a mouse makes a peep.

Santa’s retired

For a well-deserved sleep.

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Colors

Black was the color of sinful hearts.

Black was the midnight sky.

Into the darkness, a Light did appear

In the form of a baby’s cry.

Red was the blood the Light did shed

Men’s blackened hearts to buy.

Into His side the spear was thrust.

“Abba, Father,” was His cry.

White are the robes of the redeemed

And the angels sing on high,

When sinners bow with humble hearts,

And “Jesus” is their sigh.

Gold are the streets in heaven above

Where the King does reign on high.

Look up with hope. Christ will return

For the Church, His spotless bride!

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Do you have the JOY of the Season?

I love Christmas! I say that every year, but it continues to be true.  Through the years, through the changes in tradition, through the loss of family members and the birth of new babies, the Christmas Season remains my favorite time.  My heart is filled with joy and overflows with love to those around me.  I rededicate myself to showing my family and friends how much I love them.  I find pleasure in shopping, wrapping, and giving gifts that will bring smiles to the faces I love.  I enjoy the different foods we eat—yes, sweets and all!  I enjoy baking, decorating the house, and setting the table.  All these simple pleasures bring me joy because I’m doing them for those I love and that focus provides purpose for my days.  Love and purpose bring me joy!

Are you experiencing the joy of the season?  If not, examine your heart and see what’s motivating it.  For many families, gatherings can be stressful instead of joyful because people harbor old resentments that are hard to release.

But Jesus came for the purpose of ridding us of those old resentments.  Jesus came to show us TRUE love.  He Himself gave up His place in heaven to come to us. He did not hold on to resentment because we were away from Him and His perfect plan.  He found a way to bridge the gap through love.  Because of His love for us, He forgives us for our wrongdoing when we ask Him.  When we are forgiven, we find freedom.

But Jesus asks us to extend forgiveness to others.  He wants us to lt go of hurts and resentment.  Why?  Because He wants us to be happy, and we cannot be happy when we are in conflict with others.  It robs us of our peace.  If you cannot forgive others for their sake, do it for yourself.  Let peace, love, and joy be the present you give yourself.  Choose forgiveness, even if you don’t feel like it.  Your feelings will follow your actions.

Be a light and an instrument of peace.  Begin the holiday season and the New Year with a heart that is free to love.  Allow Jesus to fill you with His love and embrace the joy that comes in knowing Him.  Embrace the Reason for the Season.

Merry Christmas to you all.

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The Evergreen [redux]

I came upon an Evergreen
Its branches stark and bare.
Its edges sharp and prickly,
Poking out everywhere.
Its trunk somewhat misshapen;
Its needles parched and pale
Its roots all bound and withered
Neither hearty, whole, nor hale.
Fading, failing, lifeless
Without love or care.
I took it home to love it,
An opportunity rare.

I propped it in a bucket
And helped it stand upright.
Its branches scraped and bit me;
It put up quite a fight.
A strong and firm foundation
Was needed at the base,
To help rebuild its shape and form—
To bring it back to grace.
I warmed it and I fed it;
I watered it and more,
I offered it my time and help
So it could be restored.

It slowly started trusting.
Letting down its guard.
But next I had to prune it;
A task that proved quite hard.
Branches required trimming
To even out its look—
Snipping, clipping, cutting
All of these it took.
It cried and pleaded, “Stop it.”
But boldly I kept on.
I knew exactly where to cut
Each part, each branch, each frond.

But finally I was finished
With the hard but needful task.
The time had come to lavish love
And let my new tree bask
In love and care and nourishment
And all things being new.
The time had come to bestow gifts,
Many, not a few.
To restore the radiant beauty
That’s lost without the Source.
Without the Giver of the Life
The tree wandered off course.

So I opened up my treasures
And began to trim my tree
To show the world my love for him
To make him glow for me.
I started with some garland
Gold and twinkling bright.
I added light to help him shine
A beacon in the night.
Some ornaments of red and green,
Some beads of gossamer white,
And on the top an angel
To give him added height.

And then, The Lord, He whispered,
“You see what you have done?”
You’ve modeled what I’ve done for you
By giving you My Son.
My child, you are rooted
Grafted in the Vine;
You shine MY LIGHT through all the world
And let them know you’re mine.
Your tree will be a symbol
Of life restored, reborn
A reminder of the birth of Christ
That long ago Christmas morn.”

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The Tongue

James 3:5 (NIV) – “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a tiny spark.”

The 2016 political scene is rife with word-slinging, condemnation, accusation, and slander.  While this is not new, I have been more focused on the specifics of this campaign than any previous one. As I have watched the process unfold, God has reminded me about the power of words.

Any public speaker or veteran writer is aware of the elements of reason and persuasion.  They are also versed in propaganda—an unfortunate reality of political campaigning and modern-day marketing.  Again, nothing new.  But as I daily see negative political posts come through my social media feeds and listen to “talking heads” on news networks, I am reminded of the many things the Bible has to say about the power of words and the flames set afire with the tongue.

Does a political campaign negate Jesus’ teaching? Do we, as Christians, set aside God’s Word to further our personal political views?  Are we sure what we say or share is truth? As Christians, we should strive to follow God’s Word in all situations and be an example for others to follow.  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”  Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)

Admittedly, this is difficult when emotions run high.  Too often, I fear, instead of speaking the truth in love, we set aside these principles in an effort to carry out our civic responsibilities.  We must be balanced.

Proverbs 18:21 (AMP) says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they who indulge in it shall eat the fruit of it [for death or life.]”  If that were the only verse about the tongue in whole Bible, it should still give us pause. We can kill and destroy people with our words, or we can build life.  Further, the words we speak not only impact those about whom we speak, but they impact us.  We who indulge ourselves with the wrong kind of talk will eat the fruit of it.  In other words, we shall reap either blessing and life or destruction and death.

Matthew 12:36-37 echoes Proverbs 18:21.  “But I tell you on the Day of Judgment, men will have to give an account for every idle word they speak. For by your words you will be justified and acquitted and by your words, you will be condemned and sentenced.”

In all life circumstances, we have a choice of how we respond and when and what words to share.  We need to choose wisely.

How can we choose wisely when there are unpleasant truths to be shared? Proverbs 16:23 (NIV) tells us, “The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent, and their lips promote instruction.”

An acronym I learned when I was teaching is THINK.   It provides a great guide for when and how to speak.  Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

T – TRUE – Psalm 34:13: “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”  We need to be sure what we say is truthful.

I – INSPIRING True words build up those you support.

Proverbs 25:11- “A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Proverbs 15:33 – “A man has joy in making an apt answer, and a word spoken at the right moment—how good it is!”

N – NECESSARY – It is necessary to speak up sometimes because the Bible also challenges us not to conceal evil.

Proverbs 23:30 – “He who shuts his eyes to devise perverse things and who compresses his lips [as if in concealment] brings evil to pass.”

Proverbs 37:40 – “The mouth of the [uncompromisingly] righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.”

K – KIND – Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.”

The way of the world has become so embedded in our Christian lives that we often compromise in areas we don’t even suspect.  How thankful I am that God is forgiving and helps us work out our own salvation by pointing out areas where improvement is needed.  How thankful I am that my righteousness is in Christ, and what He has done and not what I do on my own.  I pray with the Psalmist, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips [to keep me from speaking thoughtlessly].”

As we confront the reality of sin in today’s world, it is often difficult to contain our emotions, and therefore, our mouths.  But as Christians, we are called to be self-controlled.  The tongue is often the last stronghold we must conquer.  And it is a continual battle.  I pray for God’s wisdom as I choose what to say and when to speak.  May God help us embrace the truth of Ecclesiastes 3:7 and understand that there is both “A time to be silent and a time to speak.”

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Have You Lost Your Bloom?

I went out to take care of my flower pots one morning last week. This was long overdue.  I mean long overdue.  Every flower was dead.  Many leaves were dead.  The dirt was dry. But, all was not lost.  There were still some green leaves and a few stubborn beginnings of new blooms.  I am confident that with a bit of dead-heading, fertilizer, and water, they will bloom again.

I’m not much of a gardener—well, that’s stating the obvious.  I love the flowers on my deck and hanging baskets on my front porch.  I love having flowers blooming in the landscape around the house and yard.  But I also hate getting out there in the hot sun and pulling the weeds and digging in hard dry ground after there hasn’t been any rain.  I hate dragging the hose across the yard to water landscaping that isn’t right next to the house.  I hate sweating.  I hate bugs and creepy crawlies.  I hate bending over and stooping and all the other hard things it takes to keep things looking beautiful instead of forlorn.

When I purchase flowers to plant in the spring, I am full of excitement at the beauty of my yard after a long hard winter.  But when the spring is over and the hot summer sun is beating down, and I get busy, it is easy to forget that those plants are fragile and need water every day. . . not just when I remember or when I have time or when it is convenient.

I have gotten smarter as I have matured, and I count the cost before I plant lots and lots of plants.  This year I only had two pots on the deck and two baskets on the front porch.  And I was doing pretty well until August when life got busy.  And it never rained.  And so today, I took action.

Despite not loving the care the flowers take, I can never go outside to work on flowers or pull weeds without the spiritual lessons staring me right in the face.

We are like those fragile plants and flowers.  We need care to bloom.  And though God has provided us everything we need to be healthy and fruitful, we must nurture our spirits in the same way I need to nurture the plants.  We must feed and water the roots.  We must pick away all the dead and unproductive leaves and blooms that have died. And even though this can be hard work, we must do the work to allow new blooms to come up in different areas of our lives.  In order to thrive, we must feed on the Word of God.

Oh, we may neglect the Word  and prayer for a while and not die out totally.  There will still be some foliage; some may even be a rich and vibrant green. But the blooms will have stopped; there will be no variety of color.  And eventually, if we continue the neglect, even the foliage will wither away.

If you feel you have lost some of your bloom, today is a great day to do some weeding, watering, and fertilizing.  Summer is dwindling, but there is still plenty of time for rich, vibrant blooms to develop.  It’s the perfect time of year for flowers to give off bright color as the hot days give way to cooler temperatures and morning dew. It’s the perfect time of year for a fresh start.

After 30 years in teaching, I always think of September as the beginning of a new year and new things.   The days are cooler and still offer a lot of daylight.  I still have energy and hope.  January seems a dreary time for New Year’s resolutions—dark, dreary, cold. September is a much better time to begin new plans. And the foundation of our plans should always be time spent with the Lord, listening to His direction and discovering His plan for us.  As we grow in the fruits of the Spirit, we can bloom where we are planted, exhibiting the full, rich color of a life submitted to Him.

If it has been a while since you picked up your Bible or ask God to guide your day, spend some time with Him.  I am confident your bloom will return, refreshed and revitalized for a new season and new year.

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