Christmas

So what really happened the night before Christmas?

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the stable
The real Christmas, mind you…this isn’t a fable
The young couple had traveled from far, far away
They had spent hours traveling all the long day

The innkeeper smiled and then shook his head
“No, I don’t have a room, I’m sorry,” he said
“But, listen, I do have a stable out back–
Please make yourself comfortable among the haystacks.”

The young man heart’s sunk; this wasn’t ideal
He thought of his wife–how would she feel?
The baby was coming, she was already in labor
Would she mind terribly to have beasts as her neighbors?

But then she spoke softly to him on that night
“It’s a soft place to lay down, far out of sight.”
He sighed and then turned to the man at the door
“We’ll take it,” he said and then turned to implore-

“Can you show us the way? Is it just right out back?
My wife needs to lay down, that is a fact.”
The innkeeper directed a young servant boy
To show them the way, amidst all the noise

For people had come from far and from near
To register for taxes on this night so clear
And Bethlehem rang with the noise of the crowd
As young Joseph and Mary followed the boy down

Down to the stable, so small and so dim
The animals moved restlessly, causing a din
Inside they found a stall filled with hay
A comfortable place for Mary to lay

And right there it was, a manger so small
They carefully placed it right by the wall
Joseph wiped it all down with a rag that he found
And carefully lay a soft covering all ’round

And then came the most difficult night
Either had experienced in all of their life
For a baby boy was born on that night
And it wasn’t painless or without fright

For whenever a baby in this world is born
There is pain and discomfort before the morn
This has been part of the process since time began
When sin came into the world through the choice of a man

But as Mary lay there in the dim light
In fields near the town, an angel interrupted the night!
The shepherds looked up and what did they see?
A sight so incredible, they wanted to flee

This angel told them where to go
To see the Savior born in a manner so low
And then, much to their surprise
A Heavenly Host filled all the sky!

“Glory to God in the Highest” they sang
Their beautiful voices, through the whole sky, they rang
And when it was over, the shepherds looked all around
And knew they just had to start into town

And when they arrived at that stable so small
They heard a small cry, there–in that stall
And as they walked over towards that place in the barn
They saw smiling Mary, a small babe in her arms

And so it was on that first Christmas night
That Jesus was born to make all things right
For this was not just any old birth
For Jesus brought hope and joy to the earth!

And many years later he would die on a cross
To save you and me, when all was thought lost
And, so that is truly the Christmas story
Let’s celebrate Jesus, in all of His glory!

The law of imperfection

 

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The other night we had the blessing of going to our daughter’s Christmas Concert at school.  She was only in two numbers during the whole two hours, so we had kind of psyched ourselves up to get through the evening.  When we arrived, we found some good friends to sit by and proceeded to move to our chairs.  Except when we went to sit down, we found ourselves bumping elbows and hips.  The seats were so closely put together that it was almost impossible to sit comfortably.

I started to complain almost immediately.  “Who set up these chairs?  What were they thinking?”  I tried in vain to wiggle my chair to the left and then to the right.  It was so uncomfortable.  I turned my head to the end of the row.  Could we possibly inch the chairs to the left or right?  Nope.  No chance.  They would obviously be out of line with the rest of the rows and there was not an inch of space between any of them.  I sat back and resigned myself to sitting diagonally on my seat to get through what was going to be a very long evening.  My husband (whom I nicknamed “MacGyver” a long time ago)  came up with a great solution.  We folded up an unused chair.  Aahhh.  Space to sit comfortably.  We adjusted our chairs and actually enjoyed the rest of the evening, which was filled with the songs of Christmas.

But as I pondered on my reaction, I realized something.  I complained when the chairs weren’t set up correctly, but I wouldn’t have even thought about the chairs if they would have been set up in a comfortable way.  I would never have entered the row and exclaimed how lovely it was that the chairs were positioned so comfortably.  We could just have easily solved that problem (i.e. fold up an extra chair) without my unnecessary complaining.  Are complaining and negative words necessary for solving an uncomfortable or difficult dilemma?

So why this human tendency to focus on imperfection?  Why do we so often notice the bad stuff but tend to ignore the good stuff?  Why do we feel the need to complain and criticize when something doesn’t suit us?  Why don’t we notice how wonderful something is?  Why don’t we appreciate when something goes as planned?

We find this law at play in our company.  We have several hundred customers we service regularly.  I bet you can guess who we hear from most often. Yep- you guessed it!  The ones who are dissatisfied.  We are always so very thankful for those customers who take the time to write a note thanking us or to pick up the phone and call just to tell us how pleased they are with the work we did for them.   What a blessing to us and to the employees who did the work.

Let’s take this thought and apply it to our homes, shall we?  When was the last time we thanked our husband or wife for doing something good- or even something very routine- that we expected them to do?  On the other hand, when is the last time we scolded, criticized, or even yelled at that same person for doing something we didn’t like?  Play the same scenario out in your head with your children, your friends, your parents, your pastor, and your co-workers.  You see, it is applicable in almost every area we find ourselves in.

Sure, sometimes the negative has to be addressed.  I am not talking about the unhealthy choice of ignoring serious problems.   What I am referring to are the things we say that just do not need to be said.  It’s the unnecessary comment I made about the chairs.  It’s the negative comments we make about our favorite sports team, our children’s schools, the restaurant, or the store where we shop.  It includes the unkind comments we make to our close friend about someone’s hair…or clothes…or choice of dog…or how they use their money.  Unless it is a biblical issue and against a commandment we find there, does it really matter?

The Christmas season is upon us.  What a great time to encourage others and set a good example with our language.  Let’s edify one another with our words and comments as we gather together for Christmas celebrations.

Proverbs 10: 19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. 

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

Proverbs 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

The blessing of a gift

Around this time of year, the choruses of “I don’t need anything” start to ring out across the nation.   Gift-giving becomes a burden.  Gift cards sell like hotcakes because we just don’t know what else to get that person who has everything.  When so many people are in need across the world, why do we buy anything for each other, anyway?   And, in a lot of ways, I agree with that statement.  But I think we need to take a brief look at a different point of view.

For several years in a row, someone at church gave us a hand-crocheted heart with a card thanking us for our service in the church.  I want to tell you about what that gift meant.   You see, serving in any capacity, whether as a parent, a teacher, a church worker, or an employer is a pretty thankless job.   The fact that someone took the time to write a note and crochet a heart meant a lot.  It meant that what we did mattered.

And what about gift-giving as a way to express our appreciation and love for someone?   We seem to have lost sight of that, as well.   Some of us have stopped giving gifts, period.   And some of us become so overwhelmed with our Christmas to-do list that we  just start buying whatever is convenient or perhaps we just end up stuffing some money or a gift card inside an envelope.  We do this instead of really thinking about the person and what kind of gift they would enjoy most.

I know a couple of people who literally suck all of the joy out of gift-giving.  Do you know anyone like that?  If they are around, they take all of the joy out of giving.  They tend to make you feel guilty for buying gifts, for giving gifts, for receiving gifts.

But they are missing the point.  Gifts aren’t necessarily about what we need.  Gifts are to show love, appreciation, and care.  I think we have this gift-giving thing all mixed up.  We rush around and feel burdened to “buy” a gift, instead of enjoying it.  Gift giving should be a blessing.

Think with me for a moment about your closest family and friends.  Have you expressed your love for them recently?  Think about those who serve you in some capacity…perhaps it is a mailman or a babysitter…a teacher or a crossing guard.  Do they know you appreciate them and what they do for you?  Think with me about your neighbors.  Do these people know you care?  (Do you care??)  Gifts do not have to be elaborate or expensive to make a statement.  They just need to be heartfelt and sincere.

And so it would be correct to say that many of us do not need anything.  But is that really the only thing that matters when it comes to giving gifts?  Perhaps it is time to start putting our hearts and some of our time into thoughtful gift-giving.   Let’s choose to bless someone this holiday season!

 

 

A Christmas Poem

Long, long ago

In a faraway land

to the humans below

the Father reached out His hand

A baby was born

God’s only Son

In humble surroundings

yes, here was the One

The Messiah, the Savior

The plan was in motion

To provide a way of salvation

Most people hadn’t a notion

For He was quietly born

that night long ago

The angels pronounced it

To the shepherds below

And God placed a star

far up in the sky

The wisemen, they followed

Did they truly know why?

Long, long ago

Jesus came to the earth

And the world was never the same

After His holy birth

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