O Come Let Us Adore Him

O come let us adore Him.

If there was ever a cause for love at first sight, a newborn baby would be it.

Such promise and power packed in a tiny being.

A baby who would grow to rescue and ransom

to come for the slave and the sinner

the weak and the wealthy

the tired and troubled

the broken and beautiful.

A baby.

Fully dependent, fully God.

O come let us adore Him.

They knew He was coming- but not that night, not that way.

An unexpected, startling blessing.

The star spoke for itself yet left so much unsaid.

Is this what we’ve waited for?

Where are his riches? Where is His crown? What king lies in straw with animals abound?

Did we miss a turn? Did we misunderstand?

But one look sent grown men to their knees. It silenced their questions, it stilled their souls. This. This is what we’ve waited for.

O come let us adore Him.

We wait too.

In between resurrection and return, death and life, presence and distance.

Jesus, come quickly.

Will we follow a star with fear and uncertainty?

Will we cling to what we know to be true?

Will our knees hit the ground before we even know what’s happening?

May we be shaky but certain, humbled but hopeful, speechless but saved.

May we worship the Lord, the risen King, our Maker, our Master, our Jesus.

Love at first sight- once felt for a baby, now the God of the universe. We know Him now.

We know the beginning of the story. We know the end.

O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

We are so close. In the homestretch. It’s TOMORROW! The day we’ve waited for all year is less than 24 hours away.

Are you starting to worry about last minute preparations? Are you realizing the things you forgot to do? I forgot to buy our boys’ annual matching Christmas pajamas. After two or three unsuccessful trips, and past the point of Amazon delivery, we are deciding to forego them. And we will be okay. They will be okay. Surprise! Christmas will go on.

This year, I’ve broken more ornaments and decorations than I usually do. Thank goodness for the hot glue gun; we’ve managed to salvage a few pieces for another year.  But just yesterday, my living room looked like I was setting up a Kevin McAllister style booby trap. Those shattered ornaments are no joke! Some have been replaceable, some have been sentimental. It feels like a punch in the gut to lose them, but it’s truly just a material item at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, I’m also starting to let hints of comparison slip in, even when I know better. Dollar signs are starting to appear. We spent how much? Can we afford it? Did we over do it? How can they afford all that? Why can’t we? This is not what it’s supposed to be about. I feel guilty.

Where should my focus be? What does matter? We are with family. Tonight, we will sing Silent Night by candle light with a body of believers. We will take communion to remind ourselves of the sacrifice Jesus made when He came to the manger.

Jesus. Jesus matters.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors! -Luke 2:14 CSB

So you didn’t get your hop-along boots or your pistol that shoots. Maybe you didn’t get a hippopotamus or your two front teeth. Maybe you didn’t find those dreaded Christmas shoes. The calendar will still show December 25 tomorrow. Meals will still be eaten-even if it’s at a Chinese restaurant. Wrapping paper will be torn off, no matter how well or how poorly the present was wrapped.

May your ears be filled with the sweetest little voices singing “Olaf fun it mister ride on a one horse open sleigh” or “Deck the hallway shoe be jolly”. We tried.

Praise the Lord for His gift. Better than anything we can get on Amazon or Target. Better than the best Black Friday sale. More important than finding the perfect gift, with more grace than we even need for forgetting one…or seven details. My soul magnifies the Lord, not myself.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
 and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
 from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
 he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” Luke 1:46-55 CSB

On the Tenth Day of Christmas

Guest post by Whitney Davis

Oh, Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree, in which state will I see thee?

When I was in the fourth grade, I had an assignment to write where I thought I would be in 10 years. My 10-year plan was simple: dating to marry, a college degree, a little white pooch with a super hipster name, and a nice Lexus sedan in my driveway. Boy did I get it wrong!

Not only did I think I would be living it up in Suburbia, America, I also thought Christmas would remain the same my whole life, year after year. My mom would always insist on opening presents while listening to Amy Grant’s Christmas album (Amy was Queen in the Davis household). Our habitual breakfast was cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, which we ate while opening our stockings; we saved those for the end! Dad would rock some variety of a completely ridiculous pair of Christmas boxers and I would wait patiently to play with all my sister’s presents instead of my own.

My point is, there was about a 10-year streak where Christmas was the “BEST DAY EVER”.
As I got older, Christmas got colder. My once-perfect image of a family was eventually dispersed to three different states, and I began to rely on others’ families for comfort on this highly expectant holiday.  It is hard to remember the reason for the season when you are worried about where you will spend Christmas every year. This particular year I am fortunate enough to spend the day with some of my absolute favorite people, but there is still a little part of this ticker that wishes the ole “Davis Family Christmas” still occurred.
I can only imagine what Mary thought when her traditions were turned upside down. I am sure her family had a hard time understanding her circumstances, and they definitely did not spend Christmas in a cozy home opening gifts and drinking hot chocolate.

Mary’s world was changed forever! Nothing in her life would be the same after learning the news that she would in fact carry the light of the world in her womb! But what did Mary do that most cannot? She had hope and embraced change.
“ButMary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19
My Christmas might look different every year with different people. Loved ones will come and go, but one thing is for sure. I will lift my eyes to the Maker and remember that He gives us everything we need when we need it. Mary held on and embraced this new life, for she was chosen and holy and loved by the Lord, our Savior.

1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “(Love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” When you know the Lord and believe in your heart that He gave his Son for you, the sweet Son that Mary carried and raised, you know He will not let you go. He will love and protect you and you will persevere. I hope to one day have my own family Christmas traditions, but for now, I will embrace the adventure of December!
Remember to love on those who do not have a traditional family Christmas, love on those who tend to be a Grinch in December, and mostly love on those who struggle with depression this Holiday season.

On the Ninth Day of Christmas

We are on a break! And not the Ross and Rachel kind! No school for two weeks, no work for four days, egg nog milkshakes, White Christmas, cinnamon rolls, presents, and no alarms! My heart is ready.

I love that Christmas helps us slow down, even though the days leading up to it can seem like a whirlwind. I need help remembering to slow down.

As I type, Harrison is picking out sight words and punctuation in my blog. He’s my reminder to not to rush. Hudson is counting his new baseball cards with painstaking care. He’s making perfect stacks and sorting them by teams. I’ll embrace the slow. We don’t have anywhere to be at this very moment, and I will choose to be here.

Our efforts to find the perfect presents have come to fruition. Our decorations are set. We may have some laundry to fold and some suitcases to pack, but we have time. What a gift.

I’ll make this short and sweet. Spend time together today. Enjoy the slowness of the weekend before Christmas. Settle in, enjoy a movie or two, eat foods that aren’t on your diet because they only come around once a year, and savor the slow.

Be merry!

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I do not get involved with things
too great or too wondrous for me.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted my soul
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like a weaned child.- Psalm 131:1-2

On the Eighth Day of Christmas

“I am pleased to tell you about the miracles and wonders the Most High God has done for me. How great are His miracles, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.” -Daniel 4:2-3

“Miracle” tends to be a word we often relate to Christmas. “It’s a Christmas miracle!” or Miracle on 34th Street come to mind. Those are words we, as humans, have added to Christmas, but it doesn’t make Christmas and our own experiences any less miraculous.

I’ve been following the story of a little girl with a very sick heart. She was hospitalized for about three months, with a very up-and-down hospital course, which ultimately ended in a heart transplant. She got to go home yesterday! Her story has been nothing short of miraculous.

A few of my own patients have turned corners in the last few days and are now ready to go home for Christmas. They’ve received their own Christmas miracles.

Some are still waiting on their miracles; some are expectant, some are weary, some are doubtful, some are hopeful. Christmas brings out all of the emotions, especially when the need for healing is on the line.

The beautiful thing about being in an environment where little miracles happen every day and big miracles happen regularly is that it’s easy to see God’s nearness and goodness. I suppose it is more magnified because we also see the sadness and walk with the broken hearted. It’s starkly contrasted before our eyes.

When someone dies anytime between November and December, I feel like someone always utters the phrase “right here at Christmas, too”. We feel protected during this time, like nothing bad could or should happen, because it’s Christmas. We’ve called Christmas magical. God called it miraculous.

Death, for a Christian, is miraculous. We safely arrive at home, forever in the arms of Jesus. Our gift of salvation is a miracle, and it started on Christmas day. Our Rescuer, our Redeemer, our Lord and Savior came to dwell with us that we may live forever with Him. Does it make it less sad? No, but I think it takes the sting away a little bit. As Christians, we can have hope while we wait for a miracle and when the miracle looks a little different than we expected.

When you’re hurting, it’s hard to see the lights and hear the music this time of year. It magnifies the fact that everyone else seems to be having a better time than you. It mocks your grief, or at least that’s how it feels. Imagine God’s picture. The bigger one that we only catch a glimpse of. The one with every detail that He’s painted, every brushstroke intentional for His glory. In those fine lines are His interwoven details to present something that’s nothing short of miraculous. When you forget the twinkle lights for a moment and look to His Light, there is a glimpse of hope.

Don’t forget that God is still performing miracles as we speak. Don’t forget that He is good when your circumstances are not.

How can you look for miracles today? How do you see God’s kindness at work in your life? May you see a miracle and praise our God, who makes it all possible.

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.” -Luke 1:32-33 CSB

 

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard, which were just as they had been told. -Luke 2:17-20

Do you know anyone who is really good at being quiet? Someone who doesn’t feel they need to contribute to every conversation? This person is usually very mature and poised, kind and respectful, calm and not easily shaken. This person is not me.

I’m getting better, but sometimes the words just come out before they’ve been sanctified, to borrow a line from Chonda Pierce.

The line in Luke 2 about Mary keeping things in her heart and meditating them struck me a few years ago. I thought about all she probably wanted to say about the emotional roller coaster she was on. Did she have doubts about Jesus’ true identity once she saw such a tiny, helpless, baby? Was she ready to scream at gossiping neighbors? Was she nervous about all the fanfare and the amount of visitors to the stable? We don’t know, because she kept it to herself.

If I give myself a few extra seconds to think before speaking, I often come back to this line: treasure these things in your heart. There are A LOT of things that run through my head, and heaven knows I’m so glad they don’t all come out. But there are some that do that make me embarrassed. I’ve said it before, I’m a work in progress. I enjoy being funny, and sometimes sarcasm just flows right out before I have a chance to think about it. But sometimes it’s unkind. Sometimes I feel like I portray myself as negative and cold. I don’t like that feeling. I need to store up my treasures, so to speak. Or not to speak.

It’s a self-control issue. Just don’t say it.

It’s a pride issue. I want to be thought of as funny.

It’s a heart issue. Love your neighbor.

Christmas helps us think of others. We donate to charities, we feed the hungry, we sponsor needy children. Sometimes the holiday does bring out the best in us. But sometimes the stress is too much. We get too busy to think or we are stressed and let our guards down.

Mary had every reason to explode that first Christmas. She had travelled a long way-on a donkey, the hotel was full, she just delivered a baby- without an epidural, she had flocks of sheep and shepherds at her doorstep while she was still recovering, and oh yeah, she was now the mother of God. No pressure. Yet she kept her thoughts to herself.  I want to be like her when I grow up.

Little Mary full of grace, she’s taught us so much. God chose an excellent woman to be His mother, didn’t He?

I’ve heard the phrase “throw kindness around like confetti. On this seventh day of Christmas, let’s trim the tree with kindness.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

The word “glory” has been on my heart for the past few days. I keep seeing it in Bible verses, in songs, even in my dreams. I just keep coming back to it.

So what does glory mean, exactly? “High renown or honor won by notable achievements; magnificence or great beauty” (Google dictionary).

What could be a better time to think about God’s glory than Christmas? The newborn King has come! “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” (Luke 2:14 CSB) We give Him glory because of what He has done. He has sent a Savior to the world to rescue us. He declared war against the enemy so that sin would reign no more. He made plans to conquer the grave, defeat death, and give us eternal life with Him in heaven. 

And He did it with a baby–through two ordinary people, on a night that had no significance. There were no man-made announcements, but a radiant star in the sky and a host of angels proclaiming His arrival. Glorious.

Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

Revelation 5:13 says, “I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say, Blessing and honor and glory and power be to the one seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

You see, God doesn’t need us to bring Him glory. He can do that Himself. He’s done it Himself; but if we are following Him like the shepherds and wisemen followed the star, we just can’t help but want to. He has done great things for us, and we return the praise.

Christmas is the perfect time to bring Him glory through our actions, our words, our songs, and our practices. More people are singing about Jesus than usual. He’s woven into Christmas music on all avenues of radio, movies, overhead speakers, and advertisements. People that typically shrink from His name are singing about His birth. Bringing Him glory. Luke 19:40 says that even the rocks will cry out if people remain silent about Jesus. It sounds like the rocks are singing. Psalm 150:6 says “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord”. I’m breathing- are you?

Giving God glory honors Him, it points others to Him, and it brings us closer to Him.

I’ll leave you with “Your Glory” by All Sons and Daughters. The chorus says:

Your glory is so beautiful

I fall onto my knees in awe

And the heartbeat of my life Is to worship in your light

‘Cause Your glory is so beautiful

 

Give God the glory in your Christmas celebrations today. Use the mention of His name to spark a conversation or thank Him for what He’s done. Glory to God in the highest!

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

Five year olds are really good at telling you how they feel. Today, Harrison said he was so happy, tears were falling out of his eyes. It was because he got to color a giant picture of Superman. Later, I was listening to the NSYNC Christmas album, and he told me “this music makes me really happy”. Me too, kid. Me too. We have our Christmas service at church tonight, and he is singing for the first time. He said he is really excited.

I think we forget to say how we feel once we grow up. We hide our feelings, whether it’s out of fear of looking silly or being vulnerable. We talk about “losing the magic of Christmas”, but I think we forget to feel it.

We avoid feelings of awe about the Star. We don’t want to think about how scared and confused Mary and Joseph were. We don’t humble ourselves at the thought of our King coming as an infant. I get it. It’s easy to gloss over the story into a perfect nativity scene and a Hallmark movie. But Christmas is packed with emotions.

People are missing loved ones on Christmas. People are realizing it’s the end of the year, and their New Year’s Resolutions are kaput. Someone is wishing life wasn’t so hard or life was different. Someone is riddled with guilt or fear or pain. Christmas can become a magnifying glass for these emotions. It’s easy to wrap it up and tie it with a bow, painting a pretty picture for Instagram to see.

Feelings are hard, but we need them. As we learned from Inside Out, we need all of the emotions to really experience joy. If we were happy all the time and our lives were perfect, we wouldn’t need a Savior. Baby Jesus would be a cool bonus, but He wouldn’t be as meaningful. We are hot messes, and our only hope is that baby in a manger. He came to save us from these stressors.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Revelation 21:4, which says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.” What we feel now is temporary–can I get an amen, hallelujah?? He will redeem every tear that has fallen, every queasy stomach, every bump and bruise, and every broken heart. Without feelings, we forget we need Jesus. And oh, how we need him.

This is as much for me as it is for you- don’t be afraid to feel. We were created to feel all of the emotions…just maybe not the sadness endured from watching animal movies. That’s just another level. Let’s not get carried away.

Be emotional about the Bible. Get excited about the Good News, and rejoice that our Savior has come. May tears fall out of your eyes from being so happy this week.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king!

 

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

My love language is gifts. I kind of have a tendency to “speak” all of them at any given moment, but gifts is always my highest score. With that being said, Christmas is really fun for me! While I like receiving presents, I honestly love giving, too.

Just last night, Daniel and I were talking about the way the pressure of Christmas sometimes takes the fun out of it. My favorite way to give is randomly. If I see something a friend or family member might like, I enjoy picking it up, just to let them know I was thinking of them. The craziness of the holiday season can steal that joy a little, but I’ve learned ways to take it one step at a time. Note: I’ve learned this, but I oftentimes let myself get too busy to implement it. Working on it!

My coworkers and I have an annual Christmas party where we do a “favorite things” theme. There are usually anywhere from 6-10 of us, so it works well with this size. Everyone brings three gifts in a $10-$15 price limit. We draw three names, and then you get the presents to correspond. Over the years we’ve had a ton of laughs, we’ve gotten some really cool products we never would have known about otherwise, and we’ve shared the idea with others.

Because of the relatively low cost of these gifts, I wanted to share a few of my favorites to give you some ideas for teacher presents, party gifts, or even a few things to check out yourself.

  1. Bath and Body Works aromatherapy collection This is a fantastic gift to give or receive. They make lotions, body wash, candles, and Wallflowers. I personally like the Energy scent, which is orange and ginger. The Stress Relief is awesome too with eucalyptus and spearmint.
  2. Mugs- They can get a bad rap, and I know teachers are overwhelmed by the amount they receive, but I use a mug every day, and it can be fun to remember who gave it to me. There are some really pretty styles out there, and a good mug can make my morning. One year I brought mugs filled with homemade granola for a gift.
  3. CDs- do people still use CDs? Either way, I love listening to music and sharing it with my friends. One year, I got a great Cyber Monday deal on Andrew Peterson’s Counting Stars album. His voice just feels like a hug. I always feel like I’m listening to a dear old friend when I hear his music, and he sings biblical truth. You should definitely check him out!
  4. Books- books can get pricey, but some of my favorites come from Lifeway’s $5 options. I’ve taken advantage of this deal before. When you’re working with a price limit, I typically go by what the item is worth. If I get a really great deal-perfect! But you can also buy another item and still stay in the price range. I also happen to know of a book called God’s Green Earth that’s available on Amazon. Wink Wink.
  5. Blankets- TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshall’s, Homegoods, etc. has some super soft blankets. I received one last year, and I’m using it as I type. It is the coziest.
  6. Jewelry- check out local boutiques or online shops like The Adopt Shoppe, Noonday Collection, The Giving Keys, or Etsy. Most of these run specials like buy one get one sales or clearance sections. Follow them on Instagram to keep up with deals. You can always buy presents early in the year and save them.
  7. Dr. Bronner’s Hand Sanitizer– this smells AMAZING! I received this from a sweet patient as a thank you present, and I am hooked. Their shipping is a little high, and it took a while to come in, but check your local grocery store too. I found some products there, but it just wasn’t the one I wanted.
  8. Essential Oils- I will be the first to say, I do not sell them, I do not know all there is to know, but I love what I have. I usually buy mine from Plant Therapy, but I have gotten some at Whole Foods as well. This year, for a church exchange, I found a diffuser with one oil for $9.99 at Target. A friend of mine gave us all a mini set one year with lavender, lemon, tea tree, and clove, and a little card explaining what each was for. I used that for months! Plant therapy has an email list, and I receive notifications about awesome deals each week.
  9. Soap- I learned about Preemptive Love this year, which employs women in Iraq and Syria. I love a good hand soap, but I love helping those in crisis even more. This allowed me to do both. The soaps are handmade with pure olive oil, and they smell so fresh.
  10. The Wet Brush– this was a gift a few years back, and this year everyone was still talking about how much they liked it. It helps with tangles after a good wash. It’s good for littles with tender heads, too. It would be easy to pair with nice hair ties or a mini hair product from Ulta.

Obviously, this is not an extensive list, and I am not an expert gift giver by any means, but I hope this helps with either last minute ideas or next year plans. Remember that we give gifts because we are honoring and recognizing Jesus’ birthday. As long as He remains at the heart of your holiday, everything else will fall into place.

On the fourth day of Christmas, I remember the wise men and their gifts to the newborn King.

After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was—the star they had seen at its rising. It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with joy.  Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped him.[d] Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. -Matthew 2:9-11 CSB

On the Third Day of Christmas

I don’t know how your December goes, but I’m at the point where I’m wondering how I’m going to finish doing all the things necessary for Christmas Day. I’m limping to the finish line. It’s dark when I leave work at 4:30pm, so I feel like I should be going home and getting in bed, rather than preparing dinner, assisting with homework, and grocery shopping. Bible studies are wrapping up, Christmas parties are coming and going, our major Christmas music service is happening this weekend, and my mind is blazing at 100 miles per hour. And let’s just say I haven’t skimped on any Christmas treats. Forget Polar Express…I am a full fledged Hot Mess Express.

I can’t help but think this is not what God intended for my Christmas season. I don’t know how to fix it. I can’t take away all the things, but I think I can ask for discernment about what to take on and what to give up. I can ask for peace in the storm. I can relish the quiet moments in the mornings when it’s just me and the Christmas tree lights, those sweet minutes with Jesus before interruptions occur.

I can meditate on His kindness in my chaos. I can think about His goodness and graciousness to send a Savior into our mess of a world. I may not have a silent night, but I can think about heavenly peace. My night may not feel so holy, but I can fall on my knees in adoration.

Maybe the shepherds were having a rough night when the angels began to sing over them. Maybe it was a “leave the 99” kind of a day, in search of a rogue lamb. Maybe they faced an animal attack or stepped in one too many piles of…well you know. Whatever was happening before, it was long forgotten once the heavenly hosts showed up. That makes me want to shift my focus, too.

I’m challenging myself to let my December point to God and not to myself. I’m making it a point, starting now, to make decisions based on what honors Jesus and the celebration of His birth. My bows on my packages will not be perfect–shoot, I might be lucky if there are packages! I may not finish a single book in December (gasp!), and we may eat more than a few frozen pizzas, but I will let my heart prepare Him room. In my state of overwhelming to-do lists, I will trade it for an overwhelming joy.

On the third day of Christmas, I take a deep breath, and focus on our Savior and His true gift to us.

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!- Luke 2:14 CSB