Sunday, December 18, 2016

Liturgical Calendar

I spent about 50 years as a member of a liturgical denomination. There are a few things I miss, one is celebrating Advent. I miss some of the hymns which reminded me Christmas does not begin on Black Friday.

Some years, I've found it easy not to get caught up in the commercial holiday hype, other years, I failed and was completely caught up in it. As we enter into the week before Christmas, I will now decorate the inside of my house. Today, the tree goes up as well as a few other decorations. Last year I cut back on the decorating and missed the 2 trees I normally place in the dining room; as well as other decorations around the house. I am going to determine this year if I will decorate more than 1 tree again. If I still miss them at Epiphany when I pack the decorations, I will resume decorating 3 trees and go big once more. I used to decorate the chandelier over my dining room table as well. I loved the results, but I do not see me doing that ever again!

I used to spend the Thanksgiving weekend decorating for Christmas, then 1 year due to circumstances I did not have the time over the holiday weekend and I began decorating later in December just as my family did when I was a child. We decorated the day school was dismissed for the Christmas holidays. I look back and remember how I could barely contain myself the day school was dismissed, not because it was dismissed, but because with care, we would unpack the decorations and lovingly place the Nativity Scene in the living room, hang the wreath on the front door, hang delicate ornaments on the tree. Dad let me help with the outdoor lights. In my book, one could never have too many lights!

So this afternoon, I will lovingly place Nativity Scenes around the house, one of which my mother bought in 1965. I will assemble the tree and hopefully, on the 1st attempt, plug in all the electrical cords correctly. I will look at delicate ornaments as I hang them on the tree and smile.

And if by chance, I have difficulty with the lights on the tree...I may have a future blog post concerning be angry and sinning not!

I pray this week, as anticipation builds, you have quiet time with the Lord and no matter what is on the news, no matter what the govt is doing or not doing, no matter what a difficult relative demands, you are thrilled at the Good News:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Carols

I love Christmas Carols! I feel joy when I listen to them, but occasionally, I feel sad when I hear them. At my age, I've said goodbye to most of my family and a good many friends. Maybe you are in the same phase of life.

If the holidays cause you pain, if celebrating the birth of Jesus does not bring you joy, please ask trusted friends and or your pastor to pray with you. Try to get out and walk, even if it is in the mall due to weather, ride your bike, fly a kite, hit a bucket of balls at the driving range. Many times physical activity helps. Do something you enjoy - knit, color, crochet, paint. Manage your expectations for the season, especially if you are a perfectionist down to the smallest ornament on the tree (Words lovingly typed by a reformed perfectionist/control freak). Watch a few I Love Lucy episodes for a good, G-Rated laugh! Limit sugar and other foods/beverages which can cause your system to crash leaving you feeling worse after a momentary surge of energy. Ask the Lord to lead you to Scripture that will be uplifting to you.

If your family member or friend is blue, don't try to cajole them into the holiday spirit. This is not a pull yourself up by the bootstrap situation. Be present for your friends and family, listen to them, don't try to fix them or their problems. If you see a little something you think would bring a smile to their face send it to them. Lift them up to the Lord.

Let these words from the New Testament permeate the very fiber of your being:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And remember, You are loved by God so much He sent His only Son to save you!

May the remainder of Advent be a time of peace and joy for you.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Advent 2016

Advent has arrived. What a relief after the vitriol of November! Advent Calendars, Advent Hymns, Advent Wreaths - symbols of the season, the new year. Symbols are nice reminders, but what is the true state of my heart and mind? Do I have a heart of stone or a heart of flesh? Is my mind focused on Christ, looking to His return or is it focused on myself and things of this world?

My prayer is this:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Instead of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, my hope is to remain in the Word and in prayer, as Paul tells us in Philippians:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things - I want to live this way, focused on Him.

2017 is almost here, I look to it with hope, putting my faith in our Lord and His promises, not the govt. I pray the rancor subsides, I pray our love for the Lord and our neighbor increases, (Our neighbor is everybody!) I pray we die to self and live for Christ, and I pray we truly learn to forgive.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.