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Hard Candy Christmas

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The phrase “hard candy Christmas” has been running through my head for the last several days. If you’re not familiar with the term, as my husband wasn’t, it refers to a Christmas when parents can’t afford to get their children anything but hard penny candy.

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While the phrase implies lean financial years, I feel it may be applicable to this year another way as well. It’s a very different kind of year for a society that’s used to running itself ragged with Christmas gatherings–immediate family, extended family, extended extended family, friends, Sunday Schools, gym friends, church programs–well, the list could keep going, I’m sure.

Maybe we’re feeling like it’s a bit of a hard candy Christmas because the traditions we’re accustomed to can’t be executed in the same way.

But candy is still candy.

One of the ornaments on my tree.

One of the books we’ve been reading with Peter this week is Angel Pig and the Hidden Christmas by Jan L. Waldron. My dad gifted it to me back in, well, honestly, I don’t know because I can’t read the date he wrote in the front. Here’s one of my favorite parts:

“Giving and sharing and just helping out, That is what Christmas is really about. Look all around you, that’s where you should start. You’ll find the best giving is done with your heart.”

We may not be travelling and gathering in big groups this year. But we have what is right around us. We have neighbors who may enjoy a homemade treat; we have stamps that mail letters to those we love. . .perhaps a hand written note expressing their value is exactly what they need in this very different year. We have the people who live in our household with whom we can celebrate the accomplishments and the victories of this year and maybe start some new traditions.

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Yes, Christmas this year will look different. We may need to mourn a bit for what was, but in that mourning, I pray we don’t neglect what we do have.

I pray we don’t miss the opportunity to savor some hard candy.

Cause the thing about hard candy?

It lasts.

Pet peeves

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Why do we call them that? It’s not like they’re fluffy and cuddly and fun to have.

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  1. People who don’t put the mask over their noses. Seriously, why wear it if you don’t cover your nose?
  2. Thinking that it’s always “I” when in combination with someone else. It’s not. Sometimes the right word is “me.”
  3. The 12 days of Christmas are actually the 12 days between Christmas Day and Epiphany, not the 12 days before Christmas; that’s part of Advent.
  4. Using apostrophes incorrectly. They don’t show plural. They only form contractions and show ownership. {There’s [see, a contraction] a car wash close to us that uses “Clean’s”–bugs me every time I see it.}
  5. Not using a turn signal {interestingly, I used to be in this group. . .now, I get annoyed when people don’t [a contraction!] signal–age causing wisdom?}
  6. And, finally, that apparently there is only one space after end punctuation instead of two when you type. I still use two. I can’t [look, another contraction] change, and you can’t [my goodness, another one] make me!
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Thank you for joining me for this airing of my grievances. I can continue my day with a lighter heart!

God’s Gift: Christ, our Saviour

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Thank you for taking a few minutes each day over the last month to travel to this final gift with me.  I hope you have found the journey rewarding, and it has been a blessing for you.  As we continue to walk towards Epiphany in these twelve days of Christmas, may God show Himself in tangible and unmistakable ways to you. With the love of Christ, Season

Bible Reading: Luke 2:6-21

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The Shepherds and the angel, Carl Bloch, 1879

Shepherds.  They see Christ first.  They are the images used in Old Testament prophecy.

Shepherds who protect, guide, discipline. Shepherds who restore their relationships with the lost of their flock.

Christ is here! He is here to restore what was broken in the Garden.  He is here to provide the peace that surpasses understanding. . .because it is His peace, not human peace.  He is here to draw us closer to the kingdom of Heaven, the rule of God

He is what we have been waiting for.

Thoughts for today:

How does knowing that Christ is here change your time of waiting?

What does this, the final gift of God, mean to you personally?

Oh, how undeserving we are of this gift.  But how grateful we should be. Jesus. What is there to say in response to the enormity of this gift? Our reliance on His embodiment of every other gift from God is the only way to show our gratitude.  God doesn’t say that it will be easy. He understands our human hearts. He knows that while we want to do right, we won’t. But He’s here, while we wait, while we struggle, while we try.  

And He loves us. He is our gift.

God’s Gift: Prophecy

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Advent officially ended with the celebration of Christmas Day. However, sometimes, it’s longer and I have two more days in God’s Gift for those years when it does. May days 26 and 27 bless your heart and glorify God.

Bible Reading: Luke 2:1-5

It’s almost time.  The waiting is almost over.  In the midst of the busiest time of year, the child is coming.

It’s interesting here that despite the fact that the scriptures aren’t describing our modern Christmas season, there are distinct parallels. . .crowds converging in one place, no space or elbow room.  Both times following the decree of society, because what is Christmas shopping if not a societal sanctioned norm?

But in the middle of meeting government requirements Joseph and Mary fulfill God’s plan, prophesied in the Old Testament. 

It’s happening. All that we’ve been told would happen.

Will anyone slow down enough to notice?

Thoughts for today:

How can you slow down today and take in the details of happenings around you?

What part of the prophecy of Christ’s coming resonates with you most deeply?

We can thank God.  We can thank Him for each of the gifts He has put in place for us as we wait.  Preparation, promise, prophecy. He has not left us here to wait alone. Our circumstances are not without His knowledge and His care.  Each of His gifts is a helpmate during advent.

God’s Gift: Fulfillment

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Day 25 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Merry Christmas! May the peace and love of Christ light your day with joy.

Bible Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

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Joseph’s Dream in the Stable, Rembrant, 1645.

Joseph, a man trying to do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord through His law. Probably heartbroken.  His betrothed appears sullied, unclean, a liar even.

Even in his hurt he shows mercy.

In the dream from the Lord, he’s given the explanation and the instruction. And like Abraham many centuries before him, he doesn’t question.  He simply puts one foot in front of the other to move the way God last told him.

It doesn’t make sense. But he’s assured that it is part of the fulfillment of the Lord.  So, in the time of waiting, he does it.

Thought for today:

As you wait, what is the last instruction you received from God?

How can you feel confident, even in uncertainty, in moving forward with that instruction?

Like Joseph, do you need to show mercy?

God doesn’t owe us any explanation, but He will give us enough instruction to move forward.  The strength it takes to move one foot in front of the other while we wait comes from the Lord.  He will take all we do in His confidence and exalt it.

God’s Gift: Evidence

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Day 24 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-38

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Annunciation scene from Jesus of Nazareth, Franco Zeffirelli, 1977.

Mary, mother of Jesus.

But in these verses, she’s just a girl.  A troubled girl at that. She heard a proclamation that seems impossible; it goes against everything she understands about the world.

But Gabriel provides evidence that nothing is impossible in God’s hands. . .that this is not to be understood by the world’s standards.

Mary claims her servanthood to the Lord.  She claims her part in a plan much bigger than herself despite the earthly ramifications she is sure to face.

She puts her faith in God.

Thoughts for today:

Can you recall a time when God provided you with evidence to ease your heart?

How does the gift of evidence prove that God understands our human-ness?

God created us.  He understands our needs better than we do. He knows when we need reassurance.  In your time of waiting, don’t be hesitant to ask God for that evidence. He wants to give us all that He has.

God’s Gift: Preparation

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Day 23 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Matthew 3:1-6

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John the Baptist, Juan de Juanes, c. 1560

A season of waiting does not negate the need to prepare.  John the Baptist extols that need.

Repent–make radical changes to prepare yourself for the coming of God’s kingdom. Make straight the path for Christ to follow into your heart.

Preparation takes work.  It is not merely sitting in the quiet, though that is part of the task to hear God’s voice.  It is taking the knowledge of His promises and the evidence of His blessings and putting them to use.  

God worked to prepare the way for Christ’s coming. We should follow His example.

Thoughts for today:

Do you find it easy in a time of waiting to become lax in your own preparation?

In what area of your life are you waiting for something to change?

What could you do today that would be active preparation during your waiting?

Our body, mind, and soul need to be prepared for all that God calls us to.  It takes work to make each of these elements stronger. God, help us to do the work that is required to be strong in You during Advent.

God’s Gift: Favor

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Day 22 of Advent and God’s Gift, an advent devotional I wrote in the past year to help me work through my personal grief.

Bible Reading: Luke 1:5-25

Moving closer to the birth of Christ, John comes to Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Advent, the season of waiting, is mirrored in the waiting of Zechariah and Elizabeth for their child.

Even in the midst of what many saw as divine disfavor through their childless marriage, they remained upright and followed the Lord’s commandments. They waited.

And when the seemingly impossible was bestowed they continued to wait in the presence of the Lord and His favor, His approval.

Thoughts for today:

Have you ever sought the approval of someone?

What actions did you engage to try and achieve that favor?

How can maintaining the commandments help you remain in God’s favor?

How can doing things in love help you remain in God’s favor?

God approves of us.  He created us and it was good.  But it is our responsibility to do our part to maintain that favor.  While we can do nothing to earn His grace, we can do much to remain in His love. We need His guidance and His commandments to continue to remain upright in His presence.  May we be like Zechariah and Elizabeth as we wait.

God’s Gift: Hope

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Day 21 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Habakkuk 2:1, 3:16-19

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Image: public domain

Standing on the tower–waiting and watching. . .doing it with the knowledge that destruction is probable.

But, hope.

Hope is a powerful equalizer.  It lifts up despair, and like Habakkuk declares, makes one sure-footed, confident, as a deer.

There is hope even in the midst of the trials coming, or the trials now.  There is hope in the promises of God, in the evidence of blessings He has provided. 

There is hope in God’s sovereignty.

Thoughts for today:

How does remembering God’s promises help you have hope?

While you wait, what do you do to nurture hope?

Our God does not leave us in despair.  He provides us with a hope and peace that is very different from the rest of the world.  We can be confident in that hope. Sure-footed as we move forward in our time of waiting.  He will direct our paths.

God’s Gift: Tenacity

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Day 20 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible reading: Esther 4:10-17

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 image from One Night with the King, 2006, directed by Michael O. Sajbel

Esther is my favorite Old Testament book and this is my favorite passage. . .”For such a time as this.”

God’s plans and thoughts are higher than our own.  We have no way of knowing or understanding what He orchestrates when we are in the thick of it.  But we can have peace–wholeness–knowing that where and when we are can be for His glory in such a time as this.

Esther faced the unknown with this peace, granting her tenacity to address the king and possible death.  She did not deny her Father. And He had her in an environment that would reveal His power.

Thoughts for today:

In your season of waiting, is God asking you to step out in faith to face an uncertainty?

We may not understand why God has us where He does at the moment.  It could be a job, a relationship, a medical condition. But we can be certain that He is granting us the power to glorify Him in this time.

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