How’d We Get from a Parade on Palm Sunday to a Cross on Friday?

Jerusalem was full of people celebrating Passover – the time Jews remember God delivering or saving them from bondage in Egypt – through a series of 10 plagues. Passover gets its name from the last plague, when the destroyer literally “passed over” every house where they had painted the blood of a sacrificed lamb on the door post. This showed their faith in God’s promise that the sacrificed blood of an unblemished lamb would save them from death. Jesus came to Jerusalem at Passover.

It’s no coincidence that Jesus rides into town at this special time. The Jews are hungry to be saved again, desperate for a deliverer once more. You see, Continue reading

We Can Trust an Unknown Future to a Known God

Has your life – like mine – had an extreme makeover in recent weeks? As local schools and universities close, have you suddenly found yourself trying to be a homeschooler, or an ad-hoc IT expert stretching household bandwidth so kids and parents can all work online at home? Has the economic earthquake left you unemployed or just unsure about how far family finances will go? Or maybe you’re one of our army of healthcare professionals who suddenly feel like we’re in a war and have found yourself on the front lines. We applaud you, appreciate you and many of us are praying for you. As the whole world tries to navigate what is, for most of us, our first pandemic, we’re walking  a path littered with more questions than answers. What do we do with all the unknowns? Continue reading

What are You Putting Away?

For our family, it starts at Thanksgiving. Fall decorations come out and the cute turkey centerpiece graces the table. Then in a weekend, we exchange fall colors for red and green. The Christmas tree goes up, complete with a lifetime’s collection of handmade ornaments. Evergreen boughs and red berries adorn banister and mantel. Velvet Christmas bells hung on the doorknob welcome guests with a cheery jingle. The olive wood figurines in our nativity scene are gently positioned on the entry table. Glowing angels take their places by the fireplace and atop the tree. Slowly the tree skirt disappears under a growing pile of brightly wrapped packages with colorful bows and carefully printed “To” and “From” messages. Christmas candles scent the air and shimmer in the evenings. The scene is set for Christmas.

Christmas continues with joyful family gatherings. We share delicious homemade food and the stories written in our lives throughout the year. We exchange cookies, cards and precious hand-picked gifts, so painstakingly wrapped. We sing Christmas carols together in church and read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. Oh what a joyful, beautiful season!

And then we come to January. The scent of Christmas candles still lingers in the air as we box up all the trappings of Christmas. As we took ornaments off the tree this year, I found myself not wanting to put away Christmas. I didn’t want to put away the season which allows people the freedom to focus on Jesus, the Prince of Peace, born as a baby on earth to save us. I didn’t want to put away the lavish generosity that moves us to pay a struggling neighbor’s electric bill or to provide meals and coats for homeless people. I didn’t want to put away the thrill of loved ones we haven’t seen in months walking through the door and into our arms.

So this January, I put away the tree, but not the true treasures of Christmas. I’m keeping out the the freedom to focus on Jesus all year long. I’m keeping out lavish generosity and tender care for others. I’m keeping out the love of family and pledge to express it all year. These things are the essence of Christmas. What remnants of Christmas will you keep out this January? And what are you putting away?

 

What if Christmas isn’t Merry?

The stereotypical Christmas pictures show whole, happy families complete with squealing little children in fuzzy pajamas, delighted over magical presents on Christmas morning. Mom and Dad are sipping their Maxwell House coffee made by the son who has secretly returned from overseas. Later the Norman Rockwell table is set, with the perfect turkey, ample food and 25 relatives all thrilled to be with each other, smiling with great joy around the table. But what if that is not your Christmas? Continue reading