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Christmas Thoughts

Articles at this site:

The Advent by Anthony deMello
The Day I Touched the Manger by Mary Carol Lewis
Advent Thoughts by Henri Nouwen
Christmas Blessings
The Story of Christmas Parents

The Advent

The events of history were controlled for my coming to this world 
no less than for the coming of the Savior.

The time had to be ripe, the place just right, the circumstances ready, before I could be born.

God chose the parents of his Son and endowed them with the personality 
they needed for the child that would be born.

I speak to God about the man and woman that he chose to be my parents 
until I see that they had to be the kind of human beings they were 
if I was to become what God meant me to be.

The Christ child comes, like every other child, to give the world a message.
What message have I come to give?
I seek guidance from the Lord to express it in a word or image.

Christ comes into this world to walk a certain path, fulfill a certain destiny. 
He consciously fulfilled what had been "written" for him. 
As I look back I see in wonder what was "written" and has thus far been fulfilled in my on life, 
and for each part of that script, however small, I say, "Thanks" to make it holy with my gratitude.

I look with expectation and surrender at all that is to come and, like the Christ, 
I say, "Yes. Let it be done."

Finally I recall the song the angels sang when Christ was born. 
They sang of the peace and joy that give God glory. 
Have I ever heard the song the angels sang when I was born?

I see with joy what has been done through me to make the world a better place, 
and I join those angels in the song they sang to celebrate my birth.

Anthony de Mello in Wellsprings: A Book of Spiritual Experiences (Doubleday)

The Day I Touched the Manger

by Mary Carol Lewis

It was a glowing day in late September when I received my final divorce decree — after three years of tragedy and sorrow and more than fifteen years of unrequited hope. I drove that day toward the mountains to morn the loss of my husband, my marriage and my future. I stopped for a long walk in the same park I had visited in the spring of another year when I first felt the loss of everything familiar and beautiful in my life.

It was a beautiful, fresh afternoon when I left my car and began another lonely journey along a simple path. The breeze was shimmering the tips of the yellow and orange trees, and the brooks were whispering among the rounded stones that winter was near. (I shivered, for I felt the nearness of winter keenly.) A few hawks and ravens flew overhead; a chipmunk came out to stare at me before he went off to check his storehouse, and a few summer insects were singing their last song in the bright sun.

I had so wanted a home for myself and my family, and now even the hope of that dream was gone. As I continued down the pebbled path, the song I often sing on my lonely walks came into my head again:


This world is not my home,

I'm just a passin' through,

My treasures are laid up

Somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from heaven's open door,

And I can't feel at home in this world anymore.


Oh, Lord, you know

I have no friend like you.

If heaven's not my home,

Then, Lord, what will I do?

The angels beckon me from heaven's open door,

And I don't feel at home in this world anymore.

I use the songs that come into my head to tell me how I'm feeling. My therapist had given me an anti-depressant to help me through the final portion of this trauma, but it did not stop my desire to leave all this behind me and go to my rest. I had worked so hard for so many years, and there was still no rest in sight.

After a short walk I saw a sign for a campground ahead and noticed a shelter off the path, a bit to my right. I longed for a permanent shelter myself, and I thought, "That looks like a place someone could stay for the night, especially in cold or stormy weather." It was open on one side, and as I approached, I could see it was an old stable that had been built by the people who had this farm before it was made into a park.

It was the first time I had seen a real stable, and of course I thought about the precious little family that had once sheltered in a stable in Bethlehem. And as I thought about them — the mother and the father and the baby — I realized that God had turned this world into a home through them, and I stopped singing that song about leaving it.

I walked up to the stable and saw a beautiful plant I had never seen before. It had pods in striking colors -- somber brown with jet black seeds, opening in curving beauty. The pods were covered with sharp spikes to render them untouchable, but as I leaned closer to examine this new member of my herbaceous repertoire, I saw the lovely, lavender, tube-like flowers on the plant. "God has made even this truculent weed beautiful," I thought. "Just think what he could do with me if I gave him the chance."

I walked into the stable and saw the manger against the wall, thinking all the time about the precious gift God gave us in a manger. But when I reached out and touched it, tears came to my eyes. The weather had worn it smooth in the many seasons it was exposed to sun, wind and rain. It was as soft as a baby's hands: a perfect place for a newborn.

Thank God that he gave us the child that lay in such a homely place. Thank God that he used such simple, common things to wrap his most precious gift — so that I could discover the gift again on a lonely walk and come again in touch with his plan for his children.

Thank God he provided Someone who could make us whole again. Someone who made it possible for a decent person to make a home in this world full of negligent people. Thank God he provided Someone who could make each of us — regardless of our faults — into someone that decent people could live with.

I caressed the soft, smooth wood of that manger and thought again of the time a manger very like this one had been used as a cradle. I realized that I could make a home for myself and my children and the new people that would come into our lives because God had made the world into a safe place we could call home.

All we have to do is accept the gift he has provided. We just need to become a child again, and look to our Father’s provision — the one who started his life on earth in a simple manger like this one. And suddenly a new song came into my head:

Thank you, God, for saving my soul.

Thank you, God, for making me whole.

Thank you, God, for giving to me

Thy great salvation, so rich and free.

This article first appeared in December 1997. Mary Carol Lewis' new book is Season of Lovers, based on her sensual challenges of being single, available on this web site.

"Advent is a time of waiting in joyful hope. 
Waiting for God is active – 
we live in the present moment  to the full. 
When our words are full of warnings, 
our eyes full of fears, our bodies full of unfulfilled needs, 
and our actions full of distrust,  we cannot expect 
ever to create around us  a community that shines 
a light in the darkness.

Henri Nouwen

Christmas Blessings

Christmas Parents

from "Christmas Ponderings"
by Judy Kifer

During the Advent season of 1998 
a very special daughter was born to some inexperienced human parents.

In the wee morning hours during Advent season last year, little Catherine Elisabeth Kifer made her debut. She was not aware of the flurry of excitement she caused as her time arrived to slip into this world. The comforts of the womb were not giving her up easily. Her life line served as a seat belt – holding her back in her repeated efforts to be free.

With speed, doctors and medical science stepped in to rescue her, and in response her tiny six pound 15 ounce frame reverberated with gusto – seemingly none the worse for her difficult delivery.

For a while her mother held her, but in time she handed the baby to her daddy. He held her close, kissing her tiny forehead. Gone was the trauma, and now, wrapped and warm, little Catherine closed her eyes – relaxed and secure in her father’s big arms.

"Want to hold her, Mom?" Kevin’s words sounded strange…my son was offering me his first born!

The Gift of Life: a new granddaughter!

Then it was her new grandfather’s turn. As he held her, Catherine’s little glassy eyes attempted to focus on his smiling face. What a phenomena! This is not our child and yet she is our child! I marveled at the ease of feeling utmost confidence in these two young people, now in charge of our granddaughter. Only God could have thought up Grandparents!

Three weeks later, I watched my daughter slip into the privacy of the back bedroom to nurse Catherine. Shayne, my Hearing Dog, eager to be introduced, lay down quietly outside the closed door, attentive to each unusual new sound. When he finally did lay eyes on Catherine, he sat up, his ears alert. He did not rush the baby, but stayed seated a short distance away ... watching – his eyes never leaving the tiny bundle. In time, he stared at me, let out a series of short muffled barks and retired to a distant spot to observe.

A new life! So small, so fragile, so vulnerable… so in need of protection.

Following the Advent season in the first Anno Domini, a very special Son was born to some inexperienced human parents.

Since that beautiful, life-giving morning, my thoughts have often wandered to another long-awaited Birth …in Bethlehem. During those long night hours surely Mary experienced many of the same fears that our daughter did before her baby girl finally slipped into the darkened world. Mary’s medical team consisted of one inexperienced husband. Her attendants were stable animals.

I wonder … as Mary finally clutched her crying infant, attempting to quiet his piercing cries, calming his unsteady head, and cuddling him to her breast… Did she – through the shadows of that chilly night – sense the wide, attentive eyes of their donkey, his ears alert, watching from a distant spot as my dog Shayne watched the new mother in his house? And did God also choose to have animals as the same amazed and marveling audience when He created man and woman in the beginning of time?

I wonder… when the shepherds arrived…Had Mary already had time to quiet and nurse and clean and wrap and settle the Baby to sleep?

I wonder … Did Mary pick up the tiny, sleeping Jesus…and offer: "Would you like to hold him?" Is that one reason the scruffy shepherds were ecstatic, as they "told everyone what had happened"?

I wonder… Exactly how did God, the Father, feel that night… entrusting His Only Son to the care of this inexperienced, newly-wed couple? How did God feel seeing the hands of His Son, which had held the whole universe, now so small, jerky, and uncoordinated being securely wrapped against a tiny, newborn’s body? Surely it was a vote of confidence…

A Gift of Life! God…so small, so fragile, so vulnerable… so in need of protection.

And today, God leaves his message to be delivered in earthen vessels! Only God could have thought up Incarnation, Reconciliation and Redemption!

Judy Kifer and her husband live in Vienna, Virginia where they spend many happy hours with their grandchildren. Her hearing dog, Shayne, hears and interprets for her.


The Story of Christmas Parents

by Larry Davies

It always happens just before Christmas. I receive calls like this one: "I’m sorry to bother you, but I don’t know what else to do!"

"How can we help you?" "My husband’s been laid off and we have no savings." or "I’m a single parent and everything I make goes toward paying the bills." Or "My daughter has a drug problem, and I’m raising her children and doing everything I can, but there is no money."

They all end their plea saying: "Is there anything you can do to help our children have a better Christmas?"

Our church, like others, will do what we can. Several families receive food and a few gifts for the kids, but it never seems to be enough. Two questions keep haunting me:

bullet"How many more people are in desperate need of our help but never ask?"
bullet"How do you tell a child that Christmas is for others… but not for them?"

Let’s face facts. For a child, Christmas is about Santa Claus and presents: some giving and whole lot of receiving. You can say it’s about family and friends. "Yeah, right!" Hopefully you will try to remember the celebration of Christ’s birth. (Watch their eyes turn glassy.) But if you turn on the television, visit a department store or pick up a bulky newspaper full of toy ads, the ugly truth screams it’s horrific message. Christmas is about gifts and lots of them!

Unfortunately, for some children, Christmas and Santa Claus represents an all too visible and miserable reminder of who we are, and who they quite honestly, are not!

It was never meant to be. Jesus himself was born in a barn with only farm animals and a few shepherds as witnesses. He grew up the son of a blue-collar worker in a land occupied by Rome. Throughout his earthly life, Jesus had few, if any, material possessions. How did we get everything so mixed-up? More important… How can we recapture the Christ in Christmas?

We start by remembering the children. Jesus never forgot: The disciples had been arguing over which of them was the greatest. Jesus sat down and… put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, "Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me…" (Mark 9:34-37)

Christmas presents were meant to be symbolic of Christ’s gift of eternal life to us. In other words, what Christ has given to us… we pass on to others. Giving a gift should be our way of saying; "I love you in the name of Christ!" If we only give to our friends and family, where is the love of Christ? The challenge is to broaden our horizons and give to those truly in need.

Three years ago, religious and community leaders in our area met to talk about providing a better Christmas for all of our children. The result was "Christmas Parents." Last year, we were able to distribute gifts to 993 children. However, more important than the statistics are the stories. One grandmother found a stuffed bear her grandchild had wanted at our toyshop. Other parents made it clear that there would have been no gifts for their children without the help of Christmas Parents.

bulletEvery community has an organization like Christmas parents. Volunteer your help.
bulletTeach your own children about giving by going out to buy gifts. Then donate them.
bulletTake a child to a service or a special Christmas program.
bulletRead the Christmas story from the Bible to a child.
bulletJoin a group of children and sing Christmas carols.

This week has officially been recognized by our county as Christmas Parent Week: a few days with a circus, musical groups, crafts and lots of food. All provided by hundreds of people whose sole purpose is to help more than a thousand children have a better Christmas. For more information about Christmas Parents you can go to the web site. 

We have no paid staff and virtually all of our expenses are paid out of our own pockets. Our motto is always: Do It For the Children!

Speaking of Christmas carols. The third verse from "Away in a Manger" says it best: "Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by me forever, and love me, I pray; bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with thee there." Put Christ in your Christmas this year by helping a child. God will bless you for it. Have a Merry Christmas.

From: "Rev. Larry E Davies" <>


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