Sunday, December 26, 2010

It's a Wonderful Life, Isn't It?

What grace we are given to live each day, to touch others’ lives, and to be touched by the lives of those around us. The Christmas season is always a time of reflection for me. How did I make a difference in the lives of my family, my friends, or even of strangers whose paths have crossed with mine? Did I help them along in their journey through life or did I hinder their growth in some way?
I have always been a very traditional person. I treasure the values and the truths instilled in me since childhood. I love the traditional candlelight services at Church on Christmas Eve, spending the holidays with family and friends, and I even take special pleasure in giving and receiving gifts. Yet, in the midst of celebration, I often wonder why and how my life is important in the grand scheme of God’s plan.  
There have been numerous books written and movies made that help the lead character examine how the world would be different if they had not been a part of it. Of course, one of my very favorites is Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”. To some this movie is slow, outdated, a good film to fall asleep to, or to poke fun at. Although for me, this movie seeks to help us all understand how the smallest kindness or the least likely encounter can truly change another person’s life.
We are given but a short span of time to carry out God’s plan .We live our lives each day taking it for granted that we will still be around the next day, the next moment, the next second. This is the way we should live our lives, not in fear of death, but in pursuit of life and of life everlasting. I can think back through the many relationships and friendships I’ve built in my life, and know that not only have I impacted their lives, but they have also left their imprint upon mine. Some moments I would love to be able to go back and “do over”. There are words I’ve regretted saying and words I’ve regretted not saying. Sometimes a chance to share only comes around once, and then is forever gone.
Each day we are offered opportunities to change lives, to show the love of Christ to others, and to give of ourselves. Should we accost each person we meet and try to force our beliefs upon them? Would this make a difference or would it scare others away? If we follow in the footsteps of Christ, we can see the pattern his life took. He gave freely of himself each day. His love was not overt, not pushy, but through simple acts of kindness he drew multitudes to their knees. Christ performed many miracles in his short reign on Earth, but to me it was his honesty, his kindness, his spirit of love that drew his disciples to follow him.
I believe in miracles. I believe they happen every moment. I believe my very existence is a miracle of grace. Through this grace I too must offer God’s love to those around me. It might be a mere smile or even opening a door for someone. At times, it might be redirecting someone’s footsteps back along the path of righteousness.
I am not a prophet, I am most definitely not a perfect person, I am merely a small breath of God’s love that exists in his world. And though I strive to follow in his footsteps, I often stumble. Yet, as I reflect back over my “wonderful life” I realize that even through many times of trouble and many times of joy, it is how I cope with each event that reflects to the world the person I am in Christ. As I travel through each day of my life I can offer my friends and family the love which lives within me through Christ. To those lives mine gently brushes, I can offer small acts of kindness to share a little glow of Christ’s love with them.
And so, as my ramble concludes, I offer these simple yet powerful words as my Christmas gift to you.
New International Version (©1984)
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Thursday, December 16, 2010

O Holy Night

"O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!" 


O Holy Night is my most favorite of all Christmas hymns. Whenever I sing these words my soul fills with the glory and the majesty and sheer exalting glory of God. As I sing the words "Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angels voices!" my heart swells, tears flow, and I feel compelled to bow down and give praise to God. I believe in this magical, mystical time of sharing in the spirit of God, that I do hear angels voices singing praises and God's glory surrounds me, as all the world withers away. 


Words... the power of words can mold us, shape us, draw us close to the very heart of God. Words written by a mere man over a hundred and sixty years ago, yet they are so compelling, so pure, so filled with the glory of God that they are still sung today. 


God grants us the glory of his presence in so many wondrous ways. The gift of verse; of the written word; of the exalting music which he bestows upon his disciples will exist through all time, and continue to draw us towards his light and his love. 


As Christmas approaches, excitement reigns in the hearts and minds of us all. It is my prayer that in this time of giving and celebration, we pause long enough to realize the true meaning and the true gift of Christmas is love. True love, which God gave so long ago in the gift of his son, Christ Jesus.  


Sing the words of this beautiful song to yourself, to your children, to the world... 


"Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!" 


and I pray you are as moved by the spirit of God's love as I am.

O Holy  Night  written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. Music composed by Adolphe Charles Adams.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Thought for Today

God understands our prayers even when we can't find the words to say them.  ~Author Unknown

What we are is God's gift to us.  What we become is our gift to God.  ~Eleanor Powell

Certain thoughts are prayers.  There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.  ~Victor Hugo

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Greatest Gift of All

Christmas had always been a joyous time at our house. There was the excitement of church pageants, choir rehearsals, buying and wrapping gifts, secrets whispered about, and always imagining that your dreams would all come true on a magical Christmas morning. One of my very favorite "life moments" arrived early each Christmas morning when the whole house was still asleep. I would slip silently down the hallway, quietly open the door, and peer into the livingroom. In the dawn's soft light I would draw closer and gaze in wonder at all the delightful magic that had appeared under our Christmas tree. I never touched anything. I only wanted to look at it in undisturbed, silent, peaceful solitude. After a few moments, I would tiptoe back to my bedroom, climb into bed, and drift off to sleep. Later, as my sisters and brother ran about screaming in joy at all the wonderful things "Santa" had brought, I would remember the beauty of the undisturbed scene.
As in all things, lives change. Now I was sixteen and Christmas was fast approaching. I wasn't sure what to expect this year because my parents had recently divorced and my mom could not find a job.Times were hard for her because she had not worked outside the home in over twenty years. As usual, that Christmas morning, I awoke early. I crept down the hallway and peeked through the doorway. The tree was smaller, but the glow was still there. I gazed at the gifts under the tree. There were fewer this year, and only one small envelope for me. I wasn't disappointed, only curious. I couldn't wait to find out what was in the envelope. I laid in bed and waited for the trumpeting of feet in the hallway, then I slid out of bed and wandered into the livingroom. Everyone sat around the tree smiling and laughing as they admired their gifts. My mom caught sight of me and drew me towards the tree. Then she placed the envelope in my hands and kissed me lightly on the cheek. I sat down next to her and slowly opened the envelope. Inside I found only a folded slip of paper. I unfolded the note and read the following words: "I owe you one Christmas gift." I watched my mom's eyes fill with tears as she smiled at me. I hugged her hard to let her know I understood her sacrifices. It reminded me of the love God has for us, his children, and the great sacrifice he gave to us by allowing his spirit son to become flesh and blood that we might live eternally. I felt the truth of Christmas that day, but it was not until years later that I realized that simple "I owe you" was the greatest gift of all I'd ever received.

Thought for the Day

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.  ~Norman Vincent Peale

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness.  ~Bob Hope

 I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.  ~Burton Hillis