Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Awaiting the arrival of the Savior...

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them a light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
. . . . .
For to us a child is born
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2-3, 6

Perfection ... by Shannon

I usually decorate our Christmas tree. My husband, Lee, helps, but he asks me where everything should go. (Although, I must admit that somehow his Santa-with-a-shotgun ornament – yes, he's a good ole Southern boy – always ends up aimed at the deer ornament, and that has never been my doing!) This year was different; this year I had a helper: Jocelyn, who will turn two in January.

Before this year, our Noah's ark set of ornaments were always grouped near each other; this year, Noah is nowhere near his wife, the lion can't see his lioness, and the other pairs are all in places that Jocelyn deemed best (including the penguin who is hanging from the nightlight in her bedroom). In previous years, our plain ball ornaments were placed in the recesses of the tree to make it look fuller (especially this year, since our artificial tree is beginning to show that it was a great deal when we bought it as newlyweds); this year, Jocelyn decided that all the ball ornaments needed prominent positioning, since one of her favorite words is "ball." No ornament is where I would have placed it (except for her, my, and Lee's baby's first Christmas ornaments; those I placed near the top as usual), but it's beautiful. Special. Perfect. In a word, it's us. And I love it.

The biggest difference, though, is in how the ornaments were treated. I have my favorite ornaments, those with special meaning or memories or those that are just prettier. I usually hide some less favored ornaments in less conspicuous places, like the back of the tree or its interior, and reserve special spots for my beloved ornaments. This year, though, every ornament was beloved. Jocelyn carefully examined each, lovingly kissed each, and painstakingly selected the perfect spot for each.

My friend, isn't that the message of Christmas? God so loved the world (each of His "ornaments") that He sent His one and only Son so that whosoever believed in Him would not perish but have eternal life (a perfectly picked spot on His tree). He doesn't have favorites. He doesn't hide some of us away and show off others. On our tree, the ornaments this year were the same ornaments as last year; their monetary value didn't change. But, in how Jocelyn treated each, their worth did. When Christ came, the value of each person didn't change. But, as He paid the price for each of us, our worth was changed forever. Now that's worth celebrating! Merry Christmas!

Friends' Brunch ... by Melanie

One of my favorite traditions for the last 15 years has been the Friends' Brunch. Having been in a Bible study that had fellowships which encouraged sharing what we had learned and how we had been changed by studying God's Word together, I was struck by the richness of fellowship with women that I didn't even know that well. I thought what a blessing it would be to have that kind of sharing with friends with whom I had a history, but didn't get to see as often during the year. That began the tradition of gathering friends (new and old) for a brunch in the weeks before Christmas to focus on Christ.

At the brunch, everyone has an opportunity to share specifically a lesson the Lord has taught them over the past year. After we eat, there is a spiritual prompt for sharing, such as,

*What has God taught you about Himself this year?
*What atribute of God has been most precious to you this year and why?
*How had He encouraged you through His Word?

Each year, it is an encouragement to hear ones so dear share of God's sovereignty and faithfulness in joys and in sorrows.

In the first years I cooked all of the food, used the fine china and silver... but now many bring a dish to share. The sharing time is more important than the food---but the food is always good! Who doesn't love a brunch?!

Each year I pray for some visual reminder that each woman attending can take home with her -- sometimes it's a verse on a pretty card or bookmark. One year we made attribute ornaments together. One of the first years we each wrote down on a piece of paper what we were giving to Jesus for His birthday that year. Each of us had a small box and we used those scraps of wrapping paper (that never fit anything you wrap, but you still don't' want to throw them away) to wrap our gift to Jesus to put under the tree or in a place that it would be seen to serve as a reminder that we are celebrating Jesus. Each year God is faithful to bring to mind some little goodie that points us all to Jesus to share with each of those who come.

As we focus on Him, we are all encouraged.