Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Christmas Blog Swap Part IV

Today is the last day of the Christmas Blog Swap!  I hope you've enjoyed reading these posts as much as we have!  It's been so much fun writing and swapping posts with other bloggers this Christmas season.  Today I'm back on my blog concluding with the last, forgotten character of Christmas.  Please head over to the other three blogs and check their final posts as well!  Merry Christmas :)

"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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:16-17

The last, overlooked member of the Christmas story is you.  Without you, the story would be incomplete.  Without a lost, wretched soul drowning in his unending sin and despair, there is no need for the Christmas story.  We don't need God if we can fix ourselves.  We don't need a Savior if our lives are perfect.  We need a baby in a manger because we are destitute and helpless.  Because for century upon century, we -- humanity -- have made no solution to our own desperate problem.  We discovered electricity, cured diseases, eliminated so many "inconveniences" on this earth, but we cannot create beautiful freedom from sin.  

If we look at Christmas as a sweet sentiment or fanciful story, then its purpose is destroyed.  If Herod's madness, Simeon's belief, the innkeeper's provision -- if that is only a nice story, then we've missed it.  But, it's impossible to see ourselves as a piece of the story and still misunderstand its point.  When we look to our Savior, sleeping in a stinking manger as a tiny baby, healing the sick that lie groveling in the dirt, then see Him gasping for breath on the cross -- and we still can't see that He did it for us, then we've missed the most important point of our existence.  

Jesus came for you and for me.  He lived and died for us.  And if we fail to see it, then we'll have missed the most breath-taking, beautiful Love that has ever pursued us.  This Christmas, I pray that you will remember all that makes Christmas important -- the provision and blessing that God has in store for you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Blog Swap III

Here's the Christmas Blog Swap number 3!  Today I'm swapping with Hannah!  I've just recently met Hannah through this blog swap and really enjoyed her posts about Christmas traditions.  This post that I'm sharing today is especially fun for me, because she's talking about one of my favorite traditions, too!  After reading Hannah's post, you can head over to her blog to read my Christmas post, and the one's on Lizzie and Shelley's blog, as well!

Christmas Traditions: Candlelight Services & Christmas Carols

When I think back over holiday memories, I remember being so excited about our church's Christmas Eve service! It was so exciting to go to church and sing Christmas carols with friends. It was exciting to praise God and take time to remember the true meaning of Christmas--Christ's birth. And as a kid, it was always exciting to hold a candle and sing in the candlelight. 

When my family moved from Massachusetts to Florida when I was in high school, our new church didn't have a Christmas Eve service. But my family made sure to set aside time to sing carols together! And we even lit candles or would light a fire in our fireplace. 

I want my kids to grow up singing Christmas carols! I love how many carols are so worshipful and can direct our attention from the busyness of the season to thinking about Christ's birth. I started playing Christmas carols for my 1.5 year old and he loves "Angels We Have Heard On High" because of the part where we sing "Gloria"…now when he sees a Christmas angel he sings "Gloria!" 

Other favorite carols are "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel", "We Three Kings", "O Holy Night" and I could keep going! I love how these songs focus not only on Christ's actual birth, but also on why He came--to lay down His life for our sins so that we could know the Father! 

I would love to hear about your favorite carols and why! Last year I shared some carols with my Compassion kids and asked them to share songs that they sing during Christmas. It was fun to read some of the songs! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Blog Swap II

It's time to swap blog posts again!  This time I'm swapping with +Lizzie L, my wonderful sister and fellow-blogger.  Enjoy her post about traditions in Haiti, and then go check out her blog!

Because I have been thinking a lot about my Samantha this week, I decided to see what Christmas traditions take place in Haiti!

Christmas is celebrated and enjoyed by all the people in Haiti!  It is a time of celebration and cheer.  Christians in Haiti often view Christmas as an opportunity for a new start, recognizing their need to repent and have new life in Christ.  The people will decorate a tree or pine branch with ornaments and lights.  Then they place a large nativity in front, which will likely take up most of their living room.
Christmas for a Compassion Child

The children in Compassion projects can forget that their lives are different from the wealthy on Christmas.  The projects will give them gifts and a good meal.  They have celebrations and activities to participate in too.  Some of the kids place their shoes with straw in them in from of the Christmas tree or on the porch.  Santa Claus comes in the night, removes the straw, and places gifts in and around the shoes.

Most Haitians observe Christmas on Christmas Eve.  People may go caroling or attend a mass4.  However, most churches do not hold a traditional US Christmas Eve service.  Instead, they will have a midnight mass.  After the people come back from the mass, they will have a "reveillion" (meaning "wake up") supper.  It is more like a breakfast, though, as they start the meal in the early morning.  The usual Christmas or reveillion meal is fried chicken, rice, and beans.

I really enjoyed learning about some ways that my Samantha and Lucie will celebrate Christmas.  It is so excited to know how they will celebrate the birth of the Savior!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Christmas Blog Swap, Part One

Today is the start of the Christmas Blog Swap, which +Lizzie L masterminded to help spread fun and excitement this December.  Today, I bring you a thoughtful, Christmas post from Shelley, over at Unforced Rhythms of Grace.  Although I don't know Shelley very well (I actually just met her because of this blog swap!) she seems like such a wonderful person -- completely sold out for Jesus Christ and His mission for us here on this earth.  After reading this post from her, you should definitely head over to her blog and check it out.  Also, you can read my Christmas swap post on Shelley's blog today, too.  The other bloggers in the swap are on the other blogs listed around this picture, and I definitely recommend checking out their posts as well!

Anyway, without further adieu... here's Shelley!

I can’t believe its December already.

College finished for Christmas last Friday, and we followed tradition by sharing in a Big Breakfast (Full English meets American, anyone?!) followed by one last chapel service. 

The message brought this year was one that I’d never thought of before, so I could think of no better way to start this wonderful Christmas Blog Swap than sharing with you the beautiful, profound message that greeted my heart last Friday.

So often, when we read the Christmas story, we focus on Mary, the angels, Jesus, even the shepherds and magi. But there’s one character that often gets overlooked. He’s shoved somewhere near the back of the traditional nativity scene, and his part in the Christmas story isn’t often read for all it’s worth. Joseph.

We read in Matthew 1:18-21:
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

This story hinges just as much on the obedience of Joseph as it does on Mary. Joseph was presented with a choice (and praise God, he made the right one!). He had a choice to accept Mary and Jesus, or he could have divorced Mary quietly as he had planned to and moved on with his life.

But what would have happened if he had followed his own plan? Society in Bible times didn’t look favourably upon those who were pregnant outside of marriage, so Mary, if she wasn’t killed for being pregnant outside of marriage, would have had an incredibly hard time raising a child on her own, so there is so much more to Joseph than simply not divorcing her. He was protecting her from being killed or shunned by society, and that’s a big deal, especially considering that people today are of the opinion of getting rid of something that you’re not happy with. Joseph was prepared to take responsibility for a child that was not his. He was prepared to be obedient to God and trust that He knew how this was going to work out. 

The challenge I want to present to you this Christmas is to take hold of God and trust in His instruction and direction. I often wonder if Joseph was fully aware of just what he was signing up for when he was obedient to God, and if he understood the impact that his obedience would have on the world. We don’t know the difference one simple act of obedience might make in someone’s life, so let’s try and be brave enough and give it a go.

Shelley x