Tag Archives: Christmas

3 Words that Change Everything


There is a single phrase I really love to hear at the beginning of a weekly discipleship meeting with a young Christian: “I have a question.” It means the person sitting across from me is personally engaging in understanding and applying truth.

On this particular occasion, it was late in the month of December—the week before Christmas, if I remember correctly—when the recently-saved Christian I was meeting with began our discipleship meeting with that statement. It was her first Christmas after being saved as an adult a few months previously, so much was new to her.

I’m not usually taken off guard by questions of young Christians, but this one surprised even me: “Who is Emmanuel?”

Before I could answer, she continued, “I mean, we’ve been singing about Him in church a lot this month. Who is He?” Continue reading

If You Were in a Christmas Carol…

If I could insert myself into one of our Christmas hymns, I think I’d see myself as one of the shepherds on the hillside or the three kings of orient. Maybe I could pretend I was that mother mild. With a greater stretch of imagination, I could join the choir of herald angels.

But without even needing to imagine myself in the scene, I actually am mentioned in one of the carols. Not by name, of course (my name is not Gloria), but by affiliation. It’s in the third stanza of “Joy to the World,” the line that reads “far as the curse is found.”

That’s me. The curse reaches me.

The curse set off by sin enshrouds our world and touches every aspect of life as we know it. Merry as Christmas is, even holidays are beset by pain from the curse. What family circle has not been touched by divorce, cancer, or separation—pain of any sort is a direct or indirect result of the curse.

But it gets worse. The curse reaches deep in my own heart. And I’m not imagining here. Reality is, I’m not an angel—or even eligible to apply as an angelic candidate. Yes, the curse reaches me.

But that’s exactly why this line of “Joy to the World” is my favorite, because it reminds me that Jesus “comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” If the curse reaches me, so do the blessings!

I, of all people, have great reason to rejoice that the Lord is come!

“Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20)!

The Turn Key Word of the Christmas Story (and mine)

It’s the fiction writer’s staple, but we seldom anticipate it to grace our own daily reality. In fact, our low expectations reveal how little we understand our God’s ways.

In truth, we serve a God of miracles (hello, just read Luke 2), but our tendency when peering into the future is to predict it based on the rate of past progress. We pray desperately for God to do what we can’t, then we rise from our knees, look at the date the prayer request was first entered, and sigh. “Not gonna happen, at least anytime soon,” we feel, even if we don’t say.

But some years ago, a friend pointed out a truth to me that pierces through hazy doubts. Her statement echoed so deeply in my heart, that I’ve been noticing it illustrated in Scripture ever since. Here it is:

God doesn’t usually move immediately; He moves suddenly.

I have a pretty good inner clock, so I easily think God’s late, behind time, letting “perfect” opportunities for action slip by. But just outside your and my line of sight, He is preparing in ways we can’t see. Continue reading

Freedom from a Mechanized Christmas

One of my most-anticipated Christmas traditions is a personal ritual. Our family is often at my grandma’s house on Christmas morning, and she has a large barn with a great hayloft. Each year, I try to find a moment when the coast is clear and slip out to the barn for a few minutes of quiet reflection.

If you’re not familiar with barns, let me tell you, there’s not much in a pile of hay to inspire awe. Really. It smells good (which is nice), but I’ve never been one to worship hay. But on Christmas morning, when you settle into a pile of loose hay, rest your back against hay bale, and read the Christmas story with the light coming in from the crow’s nest above…it evokes worship. It brings a fresh realization that God was born into…of all things, hay. He chose to enter our world through a stable. It’s humbling. It’s a stirring reminder of the depth of Jesus’ love.

I wish every Christian I know could experience Christmas morning in the barn.

It’s easy—more accurately  the norm—for the month of December to turn into something like a grueling marathon of activity and exhaustion. December is rich in activates and overflowing in opportunities for outreach. Parties, ministry, shopping, family…it’s all wonderful. But it makes for a challenging schedule. And if we’re not careful, we can move through it like machines—going through the motions of the Christmas schedule. Continue reading

The Label

The first Christmas gift had the most miraculous label.

To: sinners
From: God

What love!

Christmas is a miracle because of what God did, but it’s also a miracle because of who He did it for—me. And you.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.—John 3:16


You know that line you’re tempted to use in a thank you note: “I can’t tell you how thankful I am for…”? Usually that phase would be more accurately worded, “I don’t know how to put into words…”

There are very few emotions, ideas, or responses that cannot be communicated through the English language. Sometimes we just don’t want to put the effort into finding the words to express them.

But Christmas is different. Continue reading

Christmas Is a Gift

Ordinarily, I don’t believe in celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I changed my mind this week when the shipment of Striving Together’s new minibook by Dr. Paul Chappell came in. I had the privilege of helping with this book prepress, and seeing it arrive felt like an early Christmas!

Christmas Is a Gift—Unwrap the Significance of the Season is beautiful inside and out. The glossy hardcover makes it perfect for a coffee table decoration or gift, and the full-color Christmas photographs throughout make you want to read it in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot tea.

But the message inside is the best. Through this 130-page minibook, we see that Christmas is more than an event—it is a gift. Christmas is the gift of Christ’s presence, and His presence in our lives changes everything. Continue reading