Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!


So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 NLT

“Just as our Lord came into human history from the outside, so He must come into us from the outside. Have we allowed our personal human lives to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God?” - Oswald Chambers 
Be a "Bethlehem"... Merry Christmas! - dho/2019


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Advent 2019 - Love


“The Christmas story… begins with
the always coming of Christ.”
Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

In this season of welcoming Christ, we discover more than angels’ revelations or shepherds’ testimonies or magi’s offerings. The coming of Christ begins as a promise and ends with a promise. God promises a Messiah, prophets foretell of the coming of Christ, angels announce the birth of Christ into the world, and Christ promises His coming again. From before time begins and until time ends, the always coming of Christ seeks all peoples with indescribable love!

 
The coming of Christ marks a permanent place in history’s timeline, marks the beginning of a spiritual transformation for humanity. He comes bringing salvation to all – for kings and outcasts, for rich and poor; Christ‘s love has no preferences for race or gender, for social status or cultural origin. He is not defined by person or place. On that mysteriously, miraculous night, the coming of Christ begins to change the people, one simple shepherd at a time. Good News of great joy for all people comes as a gift of Perfect Love.

This Christmas ~ listen for the peace of Christ in quiet whispers and simple laughter, find His joy in a friend’s embrace, celebrate the love of Christ with sacred songs, and experience everlasting hope in the always coming of Christ. In the New Year, may we live the Christmas story with greater love for others. ~dho


Monday, December 16, 2019

Advent 2019 - Joy


“And when [the shepherds] had seen [the baby],
they made know the statement which had been
told them about this Child. And all who heard it
wondered at the things which were told them by
the shepherds.” Luke 2:17-18



From generation to generation, from the secular to the sacred, traditions find their way into our families, even our hearts. From pagan Yuletide songs to Advent chants, Christmas music leads the way. Tradition, the Latin tradere, literally means ‘to hand over’ or ‘holding on to a previous time.’ Certainly in centuries past, the traditions of retelling the stories provide insights into history and cultures. Before the written Scriptures, people would keep telling the stories to every generation, remembering all God’s goodness and faithfulness. Today, lighting the Advent candles retell the familiar Christmas story with hope and peace and joy and love. Tradition.

What are your Christmas traditions? Perhaps decorating the Christmas tree with memories, setting up the Nativity, preparing well-loved recipes, lighting the Advent candles, or attending Christmas programs come to mind. Some celebrate on Christmas Eve while some wait until Christmas morning to open presents. My daddy always made ambrosia every Christmas Eve. I never liked to eat it but I do remember the joy he seemed to get from cutting the oranges and mixing the cherries and coconut together. Since 1979, our family has made special Christmas cookies, a favorite tradition! 

Traditions can change over time, replaced or revised for another time, a new beginning. While it’s often hard to let go of our most cherished customs, we continue keeping traditions. These special moments build foundations for our future generations. Even if our celebrations look different, we will remember seeing the outside lights flooding the trees, smelling fresh cut Fraser Fir Christmas trees, eating decorated cookies and marinated shrimp, loving Christmas Eve Open House after church, and feeling Christmas morning joy. Over time, we may gather in different places, coming and going as life demands, but we will always unwrap laughter and treasure time together, as we celebrate Christ! A Hallmark quote from the season echoes, “Traditions are the stories that families write together.” We must keep writing those stories because they will remember the joy!  dho

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Advent Thoughts 2019 - Peace


“Quietly, they bring God’s questions and proclaim to us the wonders of God, for whom nothing is impossible.”
Alfred Delp, German priest martyred by Hitler

The angels of Christmas bring messages of hope into a world full of contrasts, anguish and anticipation, wickedness and wisdom, disappointment and delight. Christ is born into a world of corrupt political powers, when unjust kings rule with selfish ambition, and religious leaders anticipate a different kind of Messiah. When deity merges with humanity, the wonders of God shout to the centuries before and to come, “Nothing is impossible with God!”

Ecclesiastes 1:9 reads, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Wars and poverty have never quieted the artists or inventors. Rulers or politics have never silenced rebels or crusaders. Fear and frenzy, however, always crowd Christ out of our hearts.

Every year we listen again as choirs of all ages sing the angels’ message of hope. Extravagant Love still reaches down into the world, reaches though hate and hypocrisy, through injustice and indifference, with unmeasured goodness and grace. God’s promises continue to transform our hearts one hallelujah, one whispered prayer at a time. God desires to be in a relationship with people who trust in His never-ending faithfulness.  In Luke 18:27, Jesus says, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Let us continue to marvel at God’s unexplained wonders, and   wonders   of   His   Love!
  
Love is raining down on the world tonight,
There’s a presence here I can tell –
God is in us.
God is for us.
God is with us.
Emmanuel. 
“God Is With Us” recorded by Casting Crowns

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Advent Thoughts 2019 ~ Hope


“…Pursue a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy… to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous… that is truly life.”
1 Timothy 6:11-19 MSG

The Man Who Invented Christmas, the movie about how Charles Dickens writes A Christmas Carol in six weeks, is both creative and delightful. In 19th century England, only 40% of the people attend church; organized religion is on the decline. Theology and science clash. An effort for Christian revival comes from London pastor, Charles Spurgeon, and an American evangelist, Dwight Moody, who preach revivals in Great Britain. At the same time Darwin’s theory of evolution and Freud’s psychology attack the Christian worldview. Dickens' story, A Christmas Carol, offers an enormous impact, bringing an optimistic and transforming message during this dark time.

God’s 1st century Christmas story brings the same message of transformation - possibility of change, potential to be more, and a plan of redemption. In Dickens' story, the main character gets a glimpse into his past and sees the realities of his present and gloom of his future if he chooses to continue living a life of greed and selfish disregard for others. One certain truth with any life review is this: The past is gone, but the choices we make in our present moments greatly determine our future. At Christmas we celebrate the day when Grace comes into the world, when Perfect Love rescues you and me.

Our world today is sadly very much like England in the 1800’s, with a decline in church attendance, with clashing world views between Christian theology and science. We are more modern, with infinitely improved technologies; yet, the world tells us the same lies –power and greed and social status matter most. Most of our cities struggle with increased homelessness, recurrent violence, and spiritual darkness.

The ending of the movie reminds us that the joy of living is found in “kindness, friendship, and generosity.” In Christ, we have been given an “indescribable gift”! These thoughts reflect Paul’s words about righteous living. Let us live Christmas every day, live righteous lives for Christ, live in wonder, faith, and love, live doing good, helping others, being extravagantly generous! Let us live with great Hope! ~dho