“Come Home…”

“GOD CALLS us to come home for Christmas. God calls us to come back from all those places where we have settled for less than the fullness of life promised to us in Christ. God calls us back from all the ambitions and possessions we have pursued, thinking they would satisfy us.
God calls us to let go of any bitterness and resistance to forgive that block the light of love from warming us. …
God calls us to come home and to rest, to be embraced by one who loves us as we are. God offers us a place where we are fully known and also fully accepted.”
– Mary Lou Redding
While We Wait

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I Seek the Lord of All

December 24

Christmas Eve

I SEEK THE LORD OF ALL

“You know the word which he sent to Israel, preaching the

good news of peace by Jesus Christ (He is the Lord of All).” Acts 10:36

 

I don’t know where I heard it, but someone once told me that donkeys know the Christmas story because it was a donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem and was there when Jesus was born. At the time, we had three donkeys – Old Maggie, Tessa, and a young colt named Lexi. I wondered if they really did know the story, so on Christmas Eve, my daughter and I decided to read it to them.

It was late. The barnyard was dark and still. The chickens murmured sleepily as we passed their coop. After the icy cold outside, the stable felt warm and cozy. The donkeys crowded around us, pushing their noses into our pockets, looking for the usual treat.

I brought out my bible. Bright, lash-fringed eyes regarded the book with donkey curiosity. My daughter held the flashlight steady while I began to read. “And it came to pass in those days…”

Maggie snorted softly and nodded her head several times. Tessa moved a little closer, her large brown eyes seeing things far away, as if remembering a dream. Lexi brushed lovingly against my arm, her ears brushing the side of my face. “And there were in the same country…”

The stable was silent and still except for the sound of the donkeys’ soft breathing. They were listening intently to me, their ears bending to catch every work. “And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”

A long sigh from Lexi blew hot breath down my neck. She looked towards Old Maggie, wanting to know if the story was true. Maggie gently nuzzled Lexi’s ear, whispering donkey words to her. Tessa nodded her head and blinked her eyes several times.

“Maggie knew the story,” my daughter whispered, her voice full of awe, “and I think Tessa remembered it. And now Lexi knows it, too.”

“I think Maggie would have told her tonight if we hadn’t come out,” I said.

Jesus is Lord of all, not just of you and me, but of all. My Dad used to tell me that at midnight on Christmas Eve, the animals all kneel down. He said he saw it once when he was a little boy, and after that magical moment with my donkey, I believe he really did.

 

MEDITATION: O Lord Jesus, here on this night of your birth, I acknowledge you as Lord of all, and I acknowledge you as Lord of my life. Use me as an instrument of your Love. Amen.

I Seek the Prince of Peace

December 23

I SEEK THE PRINCE OF PEACE

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is give, and the

government shall be upon his shoulder and his name will be called

‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’.” Isaiah 9:6

 

By this time, I wonder how many feel as if this Christmas season has been going on forever. I begin to think I can’t handle one more moment of excitement, anticipation, activity or emotion.  Children at Santa’s knee, shrieking and shouting with excitement, ripping open their Santa gifts, eating too much candy and cake. Activities upon activities from the choir dinner to the Sunday School Concert. Music and pantomimes, plays and pageants, concerts and parties. Christmas is everywhere.

My senses are overwhelmed with the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas to come. Carols echoing in the stores, almost drowned out by the sound of cash registers. The Christmas specials on T.V., each one a ‘can’t miss’ occasion. Pine boughs and gingerbread, candle wax and incense.

And so much to do! From making angel wings (again), for the Concert, to whipping up yet another batch of gingerbread men, to wrapping gift after gift in glitter and satin, to decorating the tree and decking the halls with boughs of holly. The To-Do list grows longer each day.

And now, it’s almost here, and my mind races with all the things that still remain to be done, the last party to attend, the last rehearsal for the choir before the Big Night.

Christmas is almost too much of a good thing. As my mother always said when we were over-excited, “It’ll end in tears.” And it often does.

Christmas is so much more than all the excitement and preparation and the Great Day itself. If it were, there would be no Christmas in parts of the world where the feast is a bowl of rice and the gifts are nonexistent. There would be no Christmas in the lonely room, where loved ones are far away or gone and the table is set for one. Christmas would never come to the hospital bedside, to the jail cell, or to the psychiatric ward.

Christmas is the promise for all of us that the Prince of Peace has come. As we sing in the carol, “Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in His wings…”

Christmas is light and life for all.

 

MEDITATION: Glorious Prince of Peace, come to me now in this minute. Fill me with your peace. Let me abide in you and rest in your Love. Amen.

 

I Seek the Way

December 22

I SEEK THE WAY

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life;

no one comes to the Father except by me’.” John 14:6

 

Have you ever noticed how a familiar route soon becomes second nature? Those of you who commute will know exactly what I mean. For a number of years, I drove the same 20 miles to work, day in and day out. At first, I had to pay close attention to the road: where were the sharp curves, where were the hidden intersections, where were the rough patches? Soon, I knew them all. There were no more surprises and I could drive to and from work in a kind of automatic mode. Part of my brain would operate my car, watch the traffic and keep to the speed limit, while another part would be working on the evening menu, planning a workshop or listening to the radio. It was very comfortable.

Then, ‘they’ decided to upgrade the road. I had to go on full alert, pull myself together and Pay Attention! I didn’t dare lapse into day dreaming for an instant. My entire consciousness was directed to my once-familiar road.

My Christian walk is much the same. I become complacent on the way, believing that I have learned all I need to know about this particular road. My attention wanders – my automatic mode keeps me on track but my heart is elsewhere.

Then along comes Christmas. The familiar path becomes a mine field of temptations and turmoil. Always, the juxtaposition of the fat man in the red suit and the baby in the manger creates a dis-ease within my spirit. I long for the easy path, the smooth way, the familiar route, but ahead of me lay jingle bells, jolly little elves, give-me, give me, shop, shop, rush, rush, do, do. I must consciously, daily, choose the narrow way that leads to the manger, ignoring the siren calls of the brightly lit road leading to this world’s celebration of Christmas.

It’s never easy. Constantly, I have to remind myself that Jesus is the Way, the only Way.

 

MEDITATION: Lord Jesus, help me stay on the narrow road that leads to the manger. Protect me from the dangers of the journey, from the blatant temptations of the commercial world. Bring me safely to Bethlehem and to you. Amen.

 

I Seek the Son of God

December 21

I SEEK THE SON OF GOD

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,

that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

I can only presume that this world got into the gift-giving business because they had someone else in mind to do the job. That’s why Santa was invented in the first place. The countless hours spent in rushing from store to store attest to the fact I’ve always suspected: there is no such person as Santa Claus. If there was such a being, I wouldn’t be spending the better part of my free time rushing, buying and more rushing.

I thought I had the gift business under control. I’ve picked up a few gifts here and there, made a few special gifts, gave the kids money for their teachers’ gifts and mailed off my overseas parcel a month ago. Theoretically, I shouldn’t have a thing to worry about.

I’d forgotten about that sudden surge of the ‘guilts’ that hits everyone just before Christmas. You know what I mean. “Did I get enough presents for the kids? Maybe I should have bought that scarf for Mom. Do the neighbors still expect something from us – I can’t remember if they gave us anything last year? I forgot the mailman!”

And so out I rush, and in three hours, I’ve reached the lowest possible ebb of Christmas despair. One the dregs remain on the store shelves and I certainly wasn’t going to find that scarf for Mom, much less something appropriate for the mailman or another toy for each kid. But, I keep on searching. Desperately I race from store to store, oblivious of the pitying looks or the store clerks. They know a guilt-ridden shopper when they see one.

When it’s over, I feel even more guilt ridden as I think about the number of times I whipped out my card – cha ching! I know I’m going to have to deal with it all when the bills come in next month.

Why did I think that I had to buy more, wrap more, give more. Is it because I believe that the quantity of the gifts will assure every one of my love? Do I truly think that people keep score of who gives what and how much it cost? Do I keep score?

Oh, we’ve lost the battle against this world’s Christmas when we start to think that way.

Instead, I need to remind myself that God takes care of me and gives me all that I need. No earthly gift can measure up to the gift of his son. No other gift can be so full of love, so powerful, and so much an assurance of how much God loves me.

 

MEDITATION: Holy God, Giver of Life, thank you for the gift of your Son. Thank you that I am saved through that gift and that eternal life is mine. Amen.

 

I Seek the Lamb of God

December 20

I SEEK THE LAMB OF GOD

“The next day, he saw Jesus coming toward him and said,

‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’.” John 1:29

 

I’m a very ecumenical sort of person. I was dedicated in the Baptist church as an infant; spent some years in the Berean Baptist Sunday school; fell in love with an Anglican boy and cheerfully joined his church; fell out of love and went to the United Church with my mother; moved away from home and found myself back in the Anglican church where I was then baptized; then I joined in with the Presbyterians, moved again and now I’m happily back in the United fold. In between, I’ve dipped my toe into Catholic, Pentecostal and Methodist waters.

In all these places I have found Jesus, and enjoyed fellowship with other Christians. Each denomination may have its own special flavor, but they all serve the risen Lord.

However, I must make a small confession. There is one time when I do discriminate between denominations. On Christmas Eve, I seek the nearest Anglican church and the midnight communion service. There is something about the night, the candles, the choir, and the familiar litany that speaks to my soul and tells me that Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

And when I come to the place in the service where we say, “O Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, grant us thy peace,” I feel that peace descend upon me like a quiet blanket of calm. For a short space of time, I allow the Lamb of God to surround me with his love.

Having such a broad ecumenical background, I don’t have any difficulty with the notion that the Lamb of God died for all of us – Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal or Presbyterian. I don’t worry about who has the ‘right’ way to worship, or the ‘right’ liturgy, or the ‘right’ way to pray.

As a Christian, I belong to a larger fellowship that is comprised of all those who serve Christ and recognize him as their Savior. However we may worship in our individual churches, there is a bottom-line bedrock of faith that binds us together, even more so at Christmastime when we feel that we are the voices crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

 

MEDITATION: O Lamb of God, thank you for loving presence in my life. Thank you for being my Savior. Grant me your peace. Amen.

I Seek the True Vine

December 19

I SEEK THE TRUE VINE

“I am the true vine, and my

Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1

 

Years ago, I lived on a small acreage called Potluck Farm. Along with the farm came a small vineyard. If those words conjure up pictures of an acre or so of vines growing profusely on a sunny hillside, stop right there. My vineyard consisted of two rows of vines, planted in the backyard. There were twelve roots in all, but only ten were growing when I took over. The previous owner made it very clear to me that these were not just your usual common garden variety of grapevine – these were French hybrids, carefully grafted onto hardy Northern rootstock.

He handed me a bulging file folder of information and wished me luck. I think he knew I would need it when I realized that there’s a lot more to growing grape vines than simply picking the luscious fruit in the fall.

Those ten little vines received more care and attention than the rest of my gardens put together. They were lovingly covered up with hay and plastic for the winter, gently stretched out on their wire supports in the spring, carefully pruned and budded in the summer, and then joyfully harvested in the fall. Even though with all this care, there were branches which did not bear any fruit and had to be pruned away. If it hadn’t been for the sound rootstock, none of the vines would have survived. Without it, there would have been no branches, no fruit.

During this Christmas season, I am aware of my spiritual rootstock nourishing me and sustaining me. Being rooted in Jesus allows me to grow and flourish, regardless of my weaknesses and inadequacies. Even if I am dormant under a blanket of rushing and doing, the potential for growth is there.

I may feel overwhelmed by the world around me, but I know that when the time is right, the vinedresser will lovingly lift me up into the sunshine.

 

MEDITATION: God of all Growing Things, thank you for caring so lovingly for me. Thank you for knowing how to bring the best from me. Thank you for being with me on my journey. Amen.