New Beginnings

I know what you’re thinking … I’ve got my posts mixed up, and I’m posting a New Year’s meditation on Christmas Day.

No. This is a Christmas reflection.

A quiet morning, this Christmas morning. A little time to read by the fire. And here I find the Christmas story.  This is from The Hawk and the Dove, a novel by Penelope Wilcock. One of her characters reflects:

‘It’s a funny thing. The thing life is fullest of is the thing we find hardest to believe in. New beginnings. The incredible gift of a fresh start. Every new year. Every new day. Every new life. What wonderful gifts! And when we spoil things, and life goes all wrong, we feel dismayed, because we find it so hard to see that we can start again. God lets us share it too, you know. Only God can give life, it’s true — make a new baby or a new year — but he gives us the power to give each other a new beginning, to forgive each other and make a fresh start when things go wrong.’

The story of Christmas — a fresh start, a new beginning, new hope for God’s creation.

He gave us that gift one night in Bethlehem.

As His children, living by the power of His Spirit, may we give the gift as generously to others.


Birth of Hope

Now what?

We have just paused in our year to commemorate the birth of the one we say is King.

Now what?

After that night in the stable, Mary and Joseph still had to tend to the business that had brought them to Bethlehem. Could Mary rest while Joseph reported to the census officials? Did they find a room somewhere for a few days? Or were they faced the next day with a long trip home? We know the shepherds returned to their flocks (although they were telling everyone they met about what had happened), and I’m sure the innkeeper was busy with all his other guests and the constant traffic in and out of the town. Life went back to …busy life.

And today we go on with our daily lives.

Last year, I wrote about our “ruined” Christmas. Through everything that happened, I  caught a glimpse of the real story of Christmas—Christ the Light coming into our darkness and Christ our Hope coming into our hopelessness.

This year, the message of good tidings of great joy that has been with me all month is that Christ the Answer comes into my every day.

Prophecies foretold the destiny of the child who would be born:

For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
(Isaiah 9:6 NLT).

While those prophecies were given to a nation and spoke of one who would rule on a grand scale, they are also meant on a very personal level for each one who believes God’s promises.

The government will rest on his shoulders. This transforms our view of the world and our own lives. He is the King! Our allegiance is to one who has authority over all of heaven and earth. Our lives go far beyond earthly realms, worldly principles, and political systems. Our King rules all!

He is Wonderful Counselor. We jump from recognition that the universe is under our King’s command to this comfort of a very personal, intimate relationship with the King. He knows us, through and through. He holds all wisdom and truth. His counsel can be trusted to be wise and loving. Don’t we all need just such a Counselor?

He is Mighty God. I need a mighty God. I need to know that I can trust in something mightier than human effort and influence. I need to know my God goes beyond all natural, social, and political “laws” I observe at work in this world. I need to worship Someone greater than our own man-made idols.  

He is Everlasting Father. I just finished a novel that won a Pulitzer Prize. I read as a writer; that is, I was fascinated at the skillful techniques the author used, especially to develop characters. Yet I finished the book feeling unsatisfied and flat. Why? Because the book held so little hope. There was not even a whisper of God. Characters grew old and some died. And what hope did they find in life? Only a greater “self-awareness.” Sorry, that’s not enough for me. I need eternal and everlasting. I need hope in a loving God who says “Come to me, and I’ll give you life. All of life, as I intended you to have when I birthed you.”

He is Prince of Peace. Whether it’s on a world-wide scale or private and personal, we all crave peace. Jesus said, “I give it to you.” The world knows nothing of peace—not how to create it, give it, or maintain it. The Prince of Peace holds the key, He is the only Way, to the peace we all seek.

And so this Christmas season, the old prophecies have rung in my ears to tell me this baby born in a stable came to bring me everything I need, every day of my life.

Another of God’s promises concerning Jesus is that He is “a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken (Isaiah 28:16).”

Good tidings of great joy! We have a precious cornerstone on which to build our lives, and we need never be shaken.

That birth in Bethlehem was the birth of hope for all of us.

Gifts of Love

From guest Mary Jane Smith, thoughts on the gifts of Christmas:

Christmas Past

I Cor. 13: 13 “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love.”

In my childhood years, we didn’t have lots of money, but our home was filled with lots of love.  I remember that particular Christmas vividly because all I wanted was a Shirley Temple doll (all the rage that season, and for many years to come).

Christmas morning dawned and when we were allowed, I raced to the tree, sure as only a child can be, that the longed-for doll would be nestled under the boughs of the Blue Spruce.  When I opened that large box, I was shocked to find a “grown-up” doll with an entire wardrobe of clothing, accessories and shoes.  Another large box contained a stylish wooden clothes rack.  I vainly struggled to hide my disappointment.

I learned a great deal about the true meaning behind the “exchanging of gifts” that year.

Mom & Dad took me into their arms and explained that it had been a tough year for everyone, and Shirley Temple dolls were very expensive and not every family could have one.  They told me they had found a beautiful doll that needed a home with a child who would truly love her.  Mom said she had made the clothes, hats and purses for her when I was asleep.  She also let me know that the clothes rack had been fashioned by Dad so there was a nice place to hang all the lovely dresses.  I named the pretty Horseman doll “Holly”, in honor of the season she came to live in the Smith household.

Over the years, I have thanked God many times for wise and loving parents who saw the necessity of modeling a life of honesty, integrity, and self-sacrifice. They gave us the gift of giving us what we needed rather than what we wanted.  Much like God the Father that first Christmas, Who gave us His Son because we needed Him, not because we wanted Him!

Mom and Dad have had many Christmas celebrations with Jesus in Heaven, but I still miss their wisdom and example.  I will always remember the year Holly came to stay.  It was one of the best Christmases we ever had, not because of what we received, but because of the love of the giver!



Mary Jane Smith lives in Florida and will be guest posting again on New Year’s Day.

Read The Tag Again this Christmas

“Merry Christmas.”

The gift is laid into your hands. A small, flat box. It doesn’t look like much. Doesn’t weigh much. Isn’t even wrapped as you expected.

The tag on the top says,

Because I love you, and because I knew you needed this.”

Inside is a check written out to you, with numbers bigger than anything you’ve ever seen before. All you’ll need to do is deposit that slip of paper, and you can pay off all the debt your living has piled up plus you will have all you need for the future. You’ll never have to worry about resources again. Just deposit it. It’s yours.

Because the giver loved you and knew you needed it.

Now I know that this little story is not quite a perfect story of Christmas. There are many other things that most of us need and long for, things that cannot be bought with any amount of money. But this does illustrate exactly what happened on the night we now commemorate as Christmas: someone you did not even know at the time gave you a gift, because he loved you and because you need it.

That gift is
release from your prison,
the gift of sight,
a wonderful counselor,
a mighty God,
a father who supplies all you will need,
and a sovereign who holds all the keys to peace.

The gift makes it possible for you to climb out of the hole of debt you thought you’d never be able to escape.

The gift opens the door for you to have and enjoy everything that was previously out of your reach.

The gift makes possible all that you long for but that has always seemed impossible.

You could work all your life, but you know you’ll never earn this.

You also know you’ve never done anything to deserve this.

But this gift is placed in your hands now.

I hope you open it, savor it, delight in it,

and let it change your life. 

Because you are loved. And because He knows you need it.


Celebrating Christmas

Usually on New Year’s Day I am looking forward. This morning, I’m still looking backward, at a Christmas season that has left me so thankful for the Gift.

Some might say Christmas was pretty much ruined this year. The flu bug rampaged through the ranks of my family and friends. Gatherings were canceled or postponed, church services skipped, Christmas hugs and kisses scarce or at best, cautious. Cars developed mechanical problems at the worst possible times; big repair bills dampened spirits; snow, while delightful, changed travel plans. A mother’s death changed lives. Friends were in a serious accident. I spent Christmas Eve in the waiting room, sitting through my Dad’s emergency surgery and later in the week had my own episodes of illness. And over everything, every day, I felt the terrible shadow of Newtown.

Yet, after having celebrated many previous Christmases, this year I finally began to see the real story. Years of trees and tinsel, food and gift-giving and parties and yes, even beautiful Christmas Eve services, have not helped me understand Christmas as well as these weeks of living in a world that holds so much disappointment, despair, hopelessness, and death.

Most of our traditional Christmas celebrations were stripped away this year and I caught a glimpse of what happened that night in Bethlehem. Christ stepped into our darkness, was willing to live right in it with us, so that He could battle and defeat its power and make a way for us back to God. The real story is light coming to darkness and hope coming to hopelessness.

Joy to the world! The Lord has come — and continues to come to all our darkness.

How will I celebrate next year? I am still pondering that; I’m not sure what I will do next December to honor the Light and the hope we’ve been given. But it seems to me that love that bestows such a gift should be celebrated all year; and that the children of God, who are now a part of His mission on this earth, should be bringing light and hope into dark corners, every day in every way they can.

One thing I know: celebrating Christmas will be different for me, for the rest of my allotted seasons.