Finding Salvation in the Midst of Advent

I stumbled on this hymn, which was not previously known to me.  The lyrics tell not just of Advent but the story of salvation.

THOU DIDST LEAVE THY THRONE
by EMILY S. ELLIOT music by Ira David Sankey

Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown,
When thou camest to earth for me
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For thy holy nativity:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee;
Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus, come,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth cam’st Thou, Lord, on earth,
And in great humility:

The foxes found rest, and the birds had their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch the sod, O Thou Son of God
In the deserts of Galilee:

Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary:

Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus!
Thy cross is my only plea;
Oh, come to my heart, Lord Jesus, come,
Thy cross is my only plea.

When heaven’s arches shall ring, and her choirs shall sing
At thy coming to victory,
Let thy voice call me up, “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee!”

And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus!
When Thou comest and callest for me;
And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus!
When Thou comest and callest for me.

Shared by Annemarie Edwards

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Grace

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2: 8-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9 

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
Anne Lamott

“Grace, then, is grace,–that is to say, it is sovereign, it is free, it is sure, it is unconditional, and it is everlasting.”
Alexander Whyte

“Grace is available for each of us every day – our spiritual daily bread – but we’ve got to remember to ask for it with a grateful heart and not worry about whether there will be enough for tomorrow.”
Sarah Ban Breathnech

Shared by Agatha Pratt

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A Lesson from the Jewish New Year

Happy Rosh Hashanah. Wait!! Isn’t this a Christmas Blog. Well, I’d like to share with you the Christmas lesson that I received during the Jewish New Year.

One Saturday morning in September, I was driving through a narrow street. Suddenly I felt the dreaded thud of my car mirror hitting another car. I pulled up until I found a spot where I could safely pull over. The other car pulled in front of me. When I got out I could see the mirror of the other car dangling from its hinges. “Oh no”,I thought. When I looked closer at the car I realized it was a very expensive car(and thus a very expensive mirror). The gentleman was very civil despite the situation and I greeted him by apologizing. It was my mistake. We exchanged information and agreed that we would decide how to further handle the situation. Later that day I got the most surprising text of my life:

In brevity the text included the following:

Tonight starts the Jewish New Year. My parents who are both gone, always taught me to do an act of kindness for the new year. My parents were Holocaust survivors and 90% of their family were murdered by the Nazis for being Jewish. Despite this they raised me to think of others not only yourself. I have decided that I will take care of the full cost of repairing my car. I ask of you to do kindness for a stranger.

He continued by telling me about an organization in which he is involved . I immediately followed up by seeking out ways in which I could support the organization. We communicated back and forth sharing more life stories. I told him about the wonderful work being done at Marble.

I’ve shared this story with friends and others who might be questioning the kindness of humanity. Each time I read the texts sent by my new friend it ignites the spirit of Christmas in me. I ask myself, “What more can I do?” May I encourage you to do the same?

Shared by Denise Kaaland

 

By Faith Alone

God’s challenge to us is always about following Him in true faith. It shouldn’t be a walk of faith that is “mamby…pamby.” One that is forged on whether we get what we ask for, in the way we want it and at the time we want it to happen. Oftentimes, we pray and then go ahead and think and do things as we see it and leave God’s intervention and authority out of the equation. It’s easy to do, especially when we are laser focused on what we want instead of what God wants for us. So the question is, do we trust God with our lives?

Trust is a major lesson and a difficult one to practice in our faith walk. It requires us to go deep into defining what our relationship to Christ really is. It requires us to center our hope in the assurance of God’s love for us and not a hope of maybe or possibly.

At times I struggle in accepting God’s grace because I know I don’t deserve it. Yet each day I experience that grace and it humbles me. His grace is tenderness which washes over me, increasing and deepening my faith. It reveals a sense of belonging and deeply being loved by someone I cannot see but who sees me. It expands and nurtures my love for Him. I hear God’s voice which says, “I am infinitely tender with you.”

1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.

Shared by Myrna Rodriguez

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Faith: Transformed by Grace

Years ago, I worked at a major media print company.   Unbeknownst to me, the company was about to go through their own transformation.   It meant downsizing and my department was their way of reaching their bottom line.

It was a glorious summer day,  and when I got to work I was immediately told by an embarrassed VP that my position as Editorial Manager was going to be eliminated and folded into another area. It was a swift punch in the stomach. I composed myself, smiled and said I understood. I fled his office holding back bitter, hot tears . The minute I hit the pavement the Tsunami began.  What does a mature woman do in this circumstance? She goes to the nail salon. Sitting getting my nails done before heading home gave me the chance to silently confer with God. It was my way regaining composure.

My mantra: when the going gets tough, the tough get their nails done.

What to do?  My young daughter had just broken her wrist and was in a cast. My husband was headed down under to do a major film and his “15 minutes of fame” awaited.  And I  was unemployed facing a long hot summer. Misery, anger and fear loomed large.  I arrived home still overwhelmed and at the front door of my apartment, “Faith: Transformed by Grace” kicked in. I walked in all smiles and had a very needed glass of wine.

The next day I waited with my husband, holding my daughter’s good hand for the  car to pick him up. I waved and  smiled.  I felt composure. I had put others need  before my own and felt good about it.  My silent  prayer at the nail salon gave me the strength and grace to put others first and I am happy I did.

Of course, I had many trips to the nail salon in my future. It took me two years to get another job in media. But that’s another story.  Remember you never know when Grace will come calling.

It happened for me at the nail salon.

Shared by Carmen Matias

Joy

I feel no joy in sorrow, suffering, disappointment, sadness or difficulty. I don’t like it. I believe in God’s word, but during these times in my life it has been very hard for me to transcend my brokenness.

However, what I found time and time again, I must allow myself permission to acknowledge and feel the place and pain that I am currently in. For this is the beginning for me to realize what God has done for me in the past; His presence and promise to keep me and watch over me.

I eventually arrive at a place where I believe God never leaves us to fend for ourselves in difficult times. He promises to be with us in all that we face, and His whole heart encompasses our pain, surrounds us in peace, and gives us incredible hope and grace to keep pressing through.

Is this Joy?

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace
with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have
also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand,
and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we
rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces
endurance, and endurance produces character, and character
produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy
Spirit who has been given to us.

Shared by Brenda Walker

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I HAVE LEARNED THAT GRACE

 

  • Is from God
  • It means all the good gifts we enjoy so freely in life
  • Are the gifts that we perceive it in the skills and intelligence of ALL God’s creations
  • Is the wondrous gift of being human
  • As humans we are given a unique and special place in the created order
  • Is God’s gift of redemption focusing clearly in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Is the assistance given to us when we choose to become the people that God wants us to be
  • Is the knowledge of full and total acceptance by God without condition, deserving it and without question.
  • Knowing that we are cherished, loved and guarded from ultimate evil
  • Is knowing that we are valued, honored and respected
  • That we do not have to earn or deserve such care, it is simply there for us as a gift
  • Is given to us at God’s initiative
  • Is an expression of God’s love for us, of God’s desire, of God’s unconditional acceptance
  • Is an expression of the very nature of God’s being
  • Is God’s protection of His children
  • Grace is the difference between Man and God. God has the ability to “forgive and forget.” Man, on the other hand, has the ability to forgive, but not forget. Another difference is that God always forgives, while not all of us are capable of forgiveness.
  • Is the difference between Man and God. God has the ability to “forgive and forget.” Man, on the other hand, has the ability to forgive, but not forget.
  • IS ALL AROUND US

Shared by Agatha Pratt

Peace

Everything we read and hear every day is about wars, gun violence, destruction, separateness/walls and oppression. It’s depressing. Do we really want peace? It turns out that peace is something different.

Peace is a right relationship with God. And a right relationship with God always places us into a right relationship with each other. We do not make it a right relationship. God has already done that. God has already made peace with the world.

Advent is about looking forward.

We read in Ephesians 2:

In Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

God is our peace. Peace is a gift from God. We are praying for this gift, eagerly awaiting this gift of peace. It’s like coming home for your Christmas family feast. You are not there yet, but you can almost taste it!

Advent is a time of transition and new beginnings.

Isaiah 9
He will be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, prince of peace.

Shared by Brenda Walker

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What? No Snow?!!!

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While attending a social gathering shortly after moving to New York City, a new acquaintance asked where I was from.  “Tucson, Arizona”, I replied.  She surprised me by stating, “Oh, then you’ve never had a real Christmas.”  When asked what she meant, she responded, “You’ve never had a Christmas with snow.”  I gently responded, “The first Christmas happened in a desert and did not have snow.”  She turned and quickly walked away.

Had she stayed, we might have had a conversation about her Christmas experiences and mine and we may have become good friends.  During the conversation, she would have learned that the Christmas experiences of my youth were enhanced by the desert environment since it made me feel connected with Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born.   The desert of my youth inspired me to think differently from those who were raised in more temperate climates.  The dry, dusty desert terrain can range from silent when the there is no air movement to a gentle whisper; or, it can roar loudly as it blows loose sand, small pebbles and tumbleweeds into a form known as a dust devil that swirls around like a funnel while rapidly racing across the desert floor.  One never wants to get caught in a dust devil!  Prior to the Christmas season, some people will find tumbleweeds, spray paint them white, pile two or three of them on top of one another; and secure each pile to form “snow people” decorations for their front lawns.

Then there are the vast, amazing heavens that span the horizons in all directions, which made me feel small and insignificant in comparison to the infinite number of stars that seem to hide the planets.  The milky way always makes me think of an illuminated highway across the nighttime sky.   Based on the earth’s rotation, the stars can seem so close that it’s almost possible to reach up and touch or hold them in one’s hand; or, they can seem very far away.   For me, each star is a metaphor for the number of possibilities each of us has throughout our lifetimes.

My mother is Czech-American and we usually celebrated Christmas with her uncle (my Grand Uncle), and other members of her extended family who also resided in Tucson.   Uncle Elmer always made my sister and me feel welcome and to this day I treasure our visits with him while all the women and my dad finished last minute preparations to the Norman Rockwell-esque feast we were about to enjoy: roast turkey, sweet and white roasted potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, various vegetables (including green bean casserole), various yeast breads (including kolaches) and an assortment of delicious homemade pies for dessert including pecan and pumpkin.  Kolaches are a rounded Czech yeast roll that has risen; a filling is placed into an indentation at the center of each one, which is not covered.   A few fillings are poppyseed, apricot and prune.

Uncle Elmer’s dark features and laugh lines framed his deep blue eyes and his warm, open, friendly smile; his tall, broad frame shrank to our size when he sat in his rocking chair.  He was a railroad engineer and always wore overalls.  On Christmas Day, he wore new ones with a new shirt and heavy, well-worn brown work boots.  During our conversations about what we were learning in school, he rocked back and forth, and held up his end of the conversation by telling us about the latest antics of his favorite comic strip character, Little LuLu.  When reaching the end of his story, Uncle Elmer would raise his right hand, throw back his head, slap his right thigh and laugh loudly at how funny the story was.  My sister and I joined in and two shy little girls were a little less well-behaved and more relaxed.  Everyone in the kitchen would come out to find out what they were missing.  When we smelled the kolaches warming in the oven, we knew dinner was ready.  One year, after Uncle Elmer finished carving the turkey he picked up a drumstick and presented it to me; asking in a hushed voice, “Would you like to eat the drumstick?”  I felt like an honored guest.

A very special treat was served with the dessert course, Grandma’s delicious homemade candy sent from Nebraska in a Russell Stover candy box someone had given her.  The box cover was slowly opened, and the protective wax paper turned back to reveal a single layer sampler of Grandma’s candies: rice crispy balls, meringues that melted in our mouths, white fudge, and dark fudge with black walnuts.  The latter were my personal favorite and the nuts were harvested from a tree that grew in her pasture.

After dinner, we would walk around the Winter Haven neighborhood where Uncle Elmer and his family lived, which was decked out in high-end Christmas decorations to compete for prizes the local newspaper offered in different categories.  My favorite lawn decoration was the Three Kings riding on the backs of camels.  It reminded me of the Christmas carol, “Star of Wonder”, and made me wonder where they came from, how they knew which one of the infinite stars in the sky was the right one to follow to the Christ Child and his parents.  It also made me wonder why their gifts to Baby Jesus were so different from the dolls, toys, games and books my sister and I were usually given.

One year, after leaving Uncle Elmer’s home, my family set out to visit one of Mother’s friends from high school, who was in town for a few days with her family.  On our way to their temporary dwelling, we briefly discussed that the family was going through a financially difficult time and their two daughters would probably not have any gifts this year.  Mother had packed extra food for them and had prepared a card that probably included a monetary gift.  When we arrived, we learned their daughters had already gone to bed; my sister and I sat in the living room while the four adults visited.  At one point the father proudly picked up one of the two batons laying near him and twirled it before stating it was the only gift each girl had received from Santa Claus.  I felt sad and was sorry my parents didn’t tell us earlier.  We had so much that we could have shared.  It was the first time I knew that everyone was not as well-off as my family.

When in college, a friend suggested that four of us attend midnight mass at San Xavier Mission in the desert.  We arrived after the service started and four men in the back pew welcomed us by giving us their seats.  It was an amazing service and more celebratory than the one held at the small church my family usually attended on Christmas morning.  At the mission, the service was in Latin, the music was grander than what was played in our church, and it smelled of incense, which was also a new experience.  My friends and I had a lot to discuss on our way back home through the dark desert lit only by the stars and the headlights of our car.  The familiar giant Saguaros, growing up from the desert floor, looked mysterious at night.

When I was twenty-one, I became engaged to a New Yorker who was working on his master’s degree at my university.  I was flying to New York City to celebrate Christmas with my intended’s family; and, we planned to announce our engagement.   Heavy snow fell during the early morning of the day my flight was scheduled to leave Tucson, which made traveling to the airport difficult; it was a blizzard by Tucson standards!  Since snow is a rare event, Tucson does not have snowplows and the family car, like the cars of most Tucsonians, did not have snow tires, which made driving difficult on snow-filled streets and roads.  The desert floor shimmered from the snow and the snow-dusted cacti made me smile.  Although the snow did not fall on Christmas Day, it was close enough for me to count as a White Christmas; any snow in the desert is a miracle.

Some lessons learned from living in the desert during the Christmas Season:

  • Every locality has its own beauty.
  • Everyone’s Christmas experiences are special and have nothing to do with snow.
  • Don’t pre-judge or you will miss the real gift of seeing something new and unexpected that will stay with you the rest of your life as a treasured memory.
  • One of the greatest gifts of the Christmas season is when families and communities come together to celebrate the miracle of the birth of Jesus under humble circumstances.
  • It’s a miracle that those who needed to welcome Baby Jesus managed to find and honor him.

Merry Christmas!  And, Happy New Year!

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

veselé Vánoce a šťastný nový rok 

Karen J. Reynolds