A Fresh Perspective About Holidays

This year, we all experienced a different sort of Easter celebration than ever before. At our house, we had a simple dinner with just 4 of us. Nothing like the Easters past when we had a houseful of children, or grandchildren. After church we would do the traditional egg hunt and then we did a scavenger hunt. Each year Randy would write a series of riddles that were clues. Each child got a different color and had to follow their clues to a surprise. It was great fun to watch them racing around the house and yard to find their next clue.

No egg hunts or scavenger hunts this year. Any interaction was by phone or online. You might expect all of this to make me sad, but it doesn’t.

This is because of something God has been teaching me over the past year or so. It was confirmed the other day when I listened to a dear friend who spoke about what we might be called to “unlearn” during this strange season of pause for the world. You can listen to her devotion here. It would be well worth your time.

So what has God been calling me to unlearn? I believe it is the idea that we need things to go a certain way for holidays to feel special. This year has been a lesson in how I can celebrate holidays without my family surrounding me. For decades I have experienced a large gathering on each major holiday as well as for the many birthdays each year. With seven children, we had a birthday almost every 4 weeks for most of the year. Each celebration was a reason to gather the family—and it was usually at our house since it was the only one large enough for the whole clan.

This lesson had its beginnings earlier last year but came into clearer focus last Christmas. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, Randy and I found ourselves alone on Christmas Eve. We went to the Christmas Eve Service at our church and as we walked out into the warm Florida evening, I was overcome with thankfulness. I was so grateful for the true meaning of Christmas. It was such a simple moment, but it was profound. Everything that used to represent Christmas was not evident. There was no snow, no gifts or stockings, no family gathering for a big meal and celebration. But the true meaning of Christmas was very much alive in my heart.

Fast forward to Easter. Again, through circumstances beyond our control, we were by ourselves. We rose early and listened to our pastor’s sunrise devotion, then later watched the Easter Service online with thousands of our closest friends. Then we went to take a walk and were surprised to find several dozen colorful plastic eggs decorating our flowerbeds and sidewalk. Friends had come in the cover of darkness the night before and scattered the eggs. Inside we found symbols of the Easter story.

So today I am again reminded that Easter, like Christmas, isn’t to be found in the events of the day. Instead the real joy is found in celebrating the first Christmas and the first Easter. It’s in the birth, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. And in the knowledge that He came for me.

He came for you too. Take a moment today to thank Him for coming to earth and trading His life for yours.

“He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works.” – Titus 2:14 (CSB)

Mary and Joseph’s Packing List

unnamedThey embarked upon a journey that neither of them had chosen. They were compelled by the government to take a trip that would take them eighty miles from their home. Mary was not just a little pregnant, she was, according to the scriptures, “great with child.” She knew her time was near and yet she had to travel a long and difficult journey that would take about a week to complete.

What did she pack to take on her trip? Only what she and Joseph could carry themselves. There were no luggage handlers to load and unload their baggage. There were no suitcases with wheels and handles. Mary and Joseph didn’t take several changes of clothes, toiletries or reading material to entertain them on their journey. They didn’t take an extra pair of shoes or dress clothes for an evening out while they were away. They likely only packed the bread they would eat on the trip and perhaps a blanket or two if they had an extra. Talk about traveling light!

But they took one other thing with them. They took a complete trust in their Heavenly Father who had told them He would care for them.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”Psalm 23:1 (ESV)

They knew God would care for them because He had promised to do so and they believed Him. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fight some doubt but after all, if Mary was in the final days of her pregnancy, they’d had several months to wrestle with their doubts. I would like to think that by this time they were beginning to have some assurance in their hearts that God would keep His promise to them. He’d already seen them through the long pregnancy and the ridicule that they likely experienced from their friends and family.

They knew what a shepherd’s job was. They knew that if God was their shepherd, he would lead them and feed them. He would also protect them, provide shelter and keep them safe. He would care for their every need like he’d been doing since the day the angel had told them of the coming of their son, Jesus.

They were indeed, as helpless as sheep. They were vulnerable and weak. But they knew their shepherd was able to meet their needs. They were in want of nothing.

What do you need from your shepherd? Do you believe He is able and willing to care for you? Spend a few moments this Christmas season thanking Him for all the ways He gently and lovingly cares for you.

For the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want.

Are You More Like Mary or Zachariah?

We often read the book of Luke at Christmas time. It tells the story of the birth of our Savior. But it also illustrates two different ways we respond to God when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

There are two accounts of a birth being foretold. The first is Zachariah being told by the angel Gabriel that Elizabeth is with child. Zechariah responds in astonishment but he makes a serious mistake as he speaks to the angel. He asks, “How will I know this?” He’s asking for more evidence, more proof.

The second account is of the angel telling Mary she will conceive and give birth to a son. Her response is not “prove it.” Instead, she says, “How will this be?” She’s asking in wonder for she knows she is a virgin. She wants to know HOW God will do it, not IF He will.

How do you respond when God gives you direction that seems impossible? Do you say, “yeah, right. How can THAT happen?” Or do you say, ” Yes Lord, show me how You want to do it. I’m ready to do it your way.”

Big difference.

Zachariah lost his ability to speak for months because of his slip of the tongue. But it was much more than that. It revealed what was in his heart. His doubt was made clear.

When we respond to God, we are to do so in faith and not doubt. What has God been saying to You? And how will you respond?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” -Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)