Thursday, December 24, 2009



"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

Charles Dickens

She came toward me bearing the beauty.  It was an amaryllis in full bloom that looked like a bowl of peppermint lolipops, with its tall stalks and bright red and white flowers.  "I just didn't know what to buy you," she said.  "I sure hope you and your husband enjoy it.  I thought it was so pretty."  

That precious one's joy in giving melted my heart.  Christmas gifts always dig deep into my soul's soil, for during the holidays, everyone has so many other people to think about and so much to do.  Boxes of candy, gift cards, loaves of banana bread, homemade cookies, ties for my husband, necklaces for me, tins of popcorn, flowers, candles, cash, and anything and everything are received into our lives with a lot of loving thoughts.  To us, each remembrance is a sweet sacrifice of self and finance.

We received the gift of the aforementioned Christmas amaryllis several years ago, and it remains very special to me, not only because of the lady whose grace and love gave the gift, but also, for its symbolism and its continual living message. 

This very day, this very moment as I write, the pretty peppermint-like flower lives and speaks because of its symbolic nature.  What was once a present of gratitude and fondness now means more to me than it ever has.  The tall, pristine winter flower symbolizes pride and beauty, just as a rose symbolizes love.  That message of the amaryllis is personal and moves my spirit.  My own amaryllis became a symbol of my personal testimony of  the spiritual conflict of true beauty and pride. 

When I first learned about the amaryllis and discovered that it represents pride and beauty, the two ideas sounded worldly and humanistic, like a theme from a short story whose heroic, self-sufficient character teaches the value of human strength.  But God refreshed my thoughts and gave me a personal message of Christ's strength and His hope for my own need.

Pure loveliness is Christ Himself.  Jesus is beauty incarnate, and His beauty reaches far beyond our frail, worldly concept of outward appearance.  Christ, in complete humility and sacrifice, divested himself of the glory of heaven, became a baby, grew up in a small, common village, and as a man and the Son of God, gave his life for our salvation by dying shamefully on a cross, then rose again for our justification, and now lives, sitting at the right hand of God, our Father, praying for us, always interceding on our behalves.

Jesus is true beauty.  He is pure.  He is noble.  He is real.  He is incomparable.

Pride is the opposite of true beautfy.  It is anything raised above the knowledge of Jesus; i.e., whatever longs to function and/or achieve on its own.  Pride is not pretty.  It grieves the heart of God and makes me amazingly unattractive to Him.  In heaven, Christ intercedes for me.  And I know He prays that I will lose my miserable pride and gain His glorious beauty.

In constant awareness of my own need and humanity, I search continually in my heart for the loss of pride and the real image of Christmas, the King's beauty.  Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, was born into this world, as a baby in a self-imposed state of utter humility, just for my need, my deliverance, and my redemption.

My search for inner beauty often leaves me disappointed.  Oh, yes, Jesus lives in my heart.  He is my life.  My All in all.  But my imperfect state of being yearns for the selfless love and giving up of self that comes with a deeper walk and a greater faith.

On my own I am hopelessly selfish.  But, with His love, God has enlightened my thoughts and has given me a new gift of the hope of a holy life in which God will be pleased:  the letting go of my own self and the reaching forward to Christmas beauty. 

Christmas day, not only will I share joy and blessing and comfort with my family, but also, I will share with the Lord an awareness of Himself and His glory in light of Who He is alone and in light of who I am compared to Him and His almighty power and endless love.

And in God's endless love, together, we can all wholly rejoice.  We can celebrate Christmas, the birthday of the one and only Savior of the world and of ourselves, despite whatever weakness or problem or burden we have.  Yes, we rejoice because of Who Jesus is and His great love for us!  May we all be overwhelmed by that amazing love and enjoy God's gift of life.  Praise Him!  Edify Him!  Exalt His name!  He is worthy of it, and He intends Christmas beauty and joy for you. 

Regardless of pain, regardless of imperfection, regardless of situation, Christ is who He says He is.  He is our Christmas beauty for all days and all times.  And His love is always present with us.  Soak in His comfort and peace.  Breath in His love for you.  Whisper His name with a grateful heart.  And study His beauty, His loveliness, that was first revealed to us in the form of a tiny baby that was humbly born in an animals' stall. 

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (ICorinthians 2:9, NIV).

Christmas hath a darkness;
Brighter than the blazing noon;
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low. 


Christina Rosetti    

Saturday, December 05, 2009


I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.

Taylor Caldwell

When I was growing up, our family had a red tree topper.  It was a tall spire with an open globe stuffed with angel hair.  Each year we would find it packed away in our little attic.  We always took it from hibernation, and put it in its proper place atop our prickly tree.  Finding the red swirly object was not my favorite part of tree-trimming.  I was never too happy with the spire.  Not that it wasn't pretty; it was truly quite elegant, but it just never said "Christmas" to me.  I wanted a star.  In my childlike faith, a star said "Jesus."

One Christmas season, my parents noticed the red spire's beauty waning.  Its angel hair had thinned, its plastic had begun to crack, and its paint was chipping.  A new topper for our tree was added to our shopping list, and it was decided that we would buy a star.  So, we went star-shopping and brought home a lovely five-point symbol made of gold tinsel and colored lights. 

I could not wait to see it crown our little artificial Scotch Pine tree.  At last, when I did see the gllittery star settle on the tip-top branch, I was elated to see it glow brightly with joy of Christ's birth.    

Several weeks ago, when we had the fire incident, we lost our Christmas decorations.  I have thankfully been able to salvage the sentimental items.  I do not know if they can be cleaned and used again, but they will be kept!  I could never let go of paper snowmen made in a kindergarten class, a little handprint engraved with "Steven," a clothespin angel with "Chris" written on its back, and homemade felt frames and clear, acryllic-shaped trees sprinkled with glittery images of my sons within.  No Way!!!  Though they are sooty and smoky, they will at least be stored with our most precious family belongings. 

Included in our sooty collection of Christmases past is a tree topper.  It is not a star.  It is a lighted angel dressed in ivory tafetta with beautiful white wings edged with gold glitter.  As a family, we always enjoyed the angel atop the tree.  It reminded us of the proclaming of Christ's birth to the shepherds and the rejoicing of the heavenly beings as they recited, "Glory to God in the highest."

With the loss of our angel topper and other Christmas ornaments, my husband and I decided that a shopping trip was in order.  We knew our temporary apartment home would never feel like Christmas without a tree and trimmings, so Jeff  and I ventured to Walmart Thursday night and bought an inexpensive pre-lit tree, gold and red glass balls, sparkling snowflakes, and twinkling crosses, and tiny little angels.

And, yes, we bought a star to place atop our new tree.  It seems made of iron and is covered in gold with clear lights embedded within.  It will glow with joy, just as the tree topper did in my childhood Christmases. 

After buying our new Christmas decor, we meandered around our city.  I noticed no stars visible in the heavens.  It was quite overcast here in northern Alabama, and fog had settled into the Tennessee Valley.  Surveying the starless sky led my thoughts to the star, the shining heavenly ornament that graced the heavens and announced the birth of our Savior over 2000 years ago. 

The real star of Bethlehem was an amazing sight!  It brought awe and "exceeding great joy" (Matthew 2:10) to the wise men and other seekers when they beheld its glory in the heavens over Judea.  That stunning celestial body proclaimed the path to a king, the King of all kings, Jesus, the Messiah.  Though much speculation is made about its cosmic components, the nitty gritty of its make-up matters little.  What really matters is the spiritual significance of the star.  It is beautifully powerful.  Its prophetic praises move my soul.

For those in ancient Judea, its shining was a testimony of the One, real Light Who had come into a dark, depraved world.  Our Savior, the Son of God, the sinless One, came to sinful earth to suffer, to be our Redeemer, and to rescue us from evil and death.   

Our personal, kinsman Redeemer, Jesus, the Holy and Anointed One, the Son of the living God was then proclaimed, is now proclaimed, and will forever be proclaimed Savior of the world. 

The Greek word for Savior is Soter, and the Greek word for save is sozo, which means to protect, heal, preserve, to make whole.

Christ came to save you, and He came to do even so much more.  Being saved is only the beginning, and the depth of the Greek word sozo reveals God's dynamic plan for your abundant life.

We are saved by grace through faith.  We are saved, delivered from our sin and brought to the kingdom of God's light.  We no longer have to fear dying and going to hell.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  We no longer have to settle for isolation, intimidation, and incompletion.  God, in His sovereignty, is in control of our lives. 

He gives us great promise for our earthly journey.  He gives us a pathway to an abundant life of healing.  Jesus delivers from turmoil and leads us to peace and wholeness. 

"To make whole" is not only to be delivered from sin, but also it is to be brought to completeness.  Jesus came to this world not just to purchase our souls, but to heal our lives, to mend our broken hearts, to give us a sound mind, to give us abundant living:  Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience.  Kindness.  Goodness.  Faithfulness.  Gentleness.  Self-control. *

The star, the heavenly symbol placed in the heavens to give divine proclamation of the birth of the King, also glowed with the greatness of God, illuminating lives in ancient Judea, and it remains today in our hearts, leading us to the truth and riches of God's kingdom. 

Yes, today, the star of Bethlehem shines.  The star is still ours to behold.  It remains visible in our souls.  It glows unhidden, uncloaked by our Creator.  Shining forth, giving light, and telling truth to all who will look upon Him.  Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the Light of the World, our Savior, is present with us to bless, to heal, to deliver, to make whole. 

Yet not everyone looks upon the Star.  Many refuse to see Him at all.  And not everyone who does look upon Him believes.  Not everyone who sees Jesus sees a Savior.  Some see Him as an interuption in their busy holiday plans.  Some see Him as a controversial icon.  Some see Him as a wise teacher worthy of quoting.  Some see Hin as a simple carpenter wtih great ambition.  Some see Him as a madman.  Some see Him only as a man who somehow made history.

How do you see Him today?  When you see a Star adorn a tree, when you look into the heavens, when you hear "Jesus" spoken, when you read His words, when you hear, "Merry CHRISTmas," What do you really hear?  Whom do you really see?  Do you see Him for the King He is?  Or do you see Him in obscurity, unsure of His power, beauty, and grace?

As a Christian what does your soul bear?  What do you want from Jesus?  What thoughts make your heart burn with burden?  What is lodged in your spirit like a seed in your tooth?  What mountain holds you back from shining as God's child?

Does peace seem impossible?  Does exceeding joy seem elusive?  Does holy vision seem blurred?  Does something feel broken?  Do you need, dear friend, "to be whole"? 

Jesus is the Star who eternally shines with healing power!  And, . . . healing love!

Reach out to Him and grasp the love He has for you this season in your life.  Christ's love will make a miracle out of the mountain that stands in your way.  You can remember this Christmas as the time your life changed forever.

How?  By five simple steps:  1) look up to Him as the shining Savior; 2) humble yourself before Him, proclaiming Christ as Lord over all your life; 3) pour out your heart to Him, telling the Lord your deepest thoughts, fears, and needs; 4) praise God for His great love for you and personal intervention in your life; and 5) stand in faith, waiting patiently for His work, coninuing in an attitude of praise.    

As Christians, we feel the conflict of perfection and carnality.  In our hearts, we long to please God; yet, being human, living in a fleshly temple, we make mistakes.  We mess up.  We sin.  We go through depression.  We get discouraged.  We deal with imperfect thoughts.  We feel alone.

But, we are not alone because we all go through these struggles.     

Yet, we do not give up!!!  We turn to Jesus!

Look on Jesus today!  See His Star that proclaims truth to all nations and to all people and to you!  By believing Him, through trust in His name, by following the path that proclaims Him Lord of All, you, too, will be like those of ancient Judea and everyone who calls on His name.  As you receive His abundant life and allow His authority to rule your heart, you, dear friend, you will rejoice with hope and "exceeding great joy"!

*The fruits of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22
Research is from e-sword.