Tag Archives: hope

Above All Else Christmas Means LOVE!

     Winter Solstice came and went on December 21st. The day with the shortest period of sunlight in 2018 is now history. Slowly but surely, dark winter days will lengthen. It won’t be long until we’re watching for the first signs of Spring. Bulbs will begin poking their sweet little green heads up through still-snow-blanketed soil.

     Christmas 2018 is also now history. At our house, we’re already thinking about taking down the beautifully-decorated tree. It doesn’t look nearly as welcoming without brightly-wrapped gifts beneath. In a few days, Ron will disconnect the timer which has so faithfully turned on our cheery outdoor Christmas lights.

     Christmas Eve, our two youngest grandkids, 7-year-old Emmi and 3-year-old Reeve, lit the candle representing Jesus on the Advent Wreath. It joined the candles of HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE.

     I now find myself asking, “Where the rubber of my faith meets the often mundane, cluttered and unkind road of life, how do I keep alive the Light of LOVE Christmas is all about?”

     The word “love” is used 202 times in the New Testament (KJV). John, the youngest of Jesus’ twelve original disciples, penned those words a whopping 71 times.

     John often described himself as the “one whom Jesus loved.” There wasn’t a doubt in John’s mind that he was beloved by Jesus, and he in turn loved Jesus deeply.

     So, how can I, how can you, love Jesus deeply?

     The Apostle John, writing words when in his elder years, provides that answer in a letter to his friends. John’s words remain relevant to you and me in the 21st Century.

 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

     1 John 4:7-11 (NLT)

     These are great words. If I’m honest, however, I’ll confess that way too often, I desire to be loved by Jesus more than I want to love like Jesus. This is an area of life where I want to grow.

     As we recover from the stress of the Christmas season caused by too much—perhaps too much spending, decorating, gathering with family and friends and eating rich foods—I hope you’ll join me to reflect on the gift of God’s LOVE, JESUS.

     What if each one reading these words asked this question of God prayerfully:

Since you loved me SO much, God, how can I love you by loving others more like JESUS loved?

     Somehow, I imagine that’s a question God will like and be pleased to answer.

In closing today’s post, quoting Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol,

“…And God bless us everyone!”

Sue Reeve

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you…
yes, it is Christmas every time you smile…and offer…your hand.
~ Mother Teresa

Hope Helps Me Hang On…

“Every day I put hope on the line.”

     (attributed to Eugene Peterson)

     In Monday’s post, the first of the season of Advent, we recalled the hope of the nation of Israel. For hundreds of years, prophets foretold the coming of the Messiah.

Some scholars believe there are more than 300 prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. These prophecies are specific enough that the mathematical probability of Jesus fulfilling even a handful of them, let alone all of them, is staggeringly improbable—if not impossible.[1]

     Hope concerning the coming of a savior helped many in the Jewish nation hang on to their faith. Others lost hope. They weren’t interested in words spoken by the prophets. Instead, they chose to listen to voices that led their nation into even deeper darkness.

     Hope is huge! Hope helps you and me hold on during dark days, or even long, dark seasons. Sometimes, though, people lose hope.

     A few years ago, a friend of mine ended her life. For some time, the smart, funny, big-hearted lady had been making very unwise choices. Friends and loved ones tried to warn her, but she chose instead to listen to the deceptive voice of a scoundrel she’d never met face to face.

     My friend at last lost hope. I’d like to think her situation is rare, but statistics show that isn’t the case.

More than 47,000 Americans killed themselves in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday, contributing to an overall decline in U.S. life expectancy. Since 1999, the suicide rate has climbed 33 percent. [2]

     The suicide of one we love is devastating on oh, so many levels. The loss feels especially difficult during the holidays. If you are navigating that kind of grief this season of Advent, I’m praying for you right now, asking God to give you a good dose of divine grace and hope.

     Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, lost a son to suicide. His experience makes these words especially powerful.

What gives me the most hope every day is God’s grace; knowing that his grace is going to give me the strength for whatever I face…. [3]

May hope be kindled in your heart this holy season of Advent…

Sue Reeve

  1. https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/old-testament-prophecies.html
  2. https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/surviving-suicide/2018/11/28/suicide-prevention- suicidal-thoughts-research-funding/971336002/
  3. https://www.brainyquote.com

 

Advent – Week One HOPE

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.  Romans. 15:13

     Wow, it’s hard to believe! Thanksgiving 2018 is now history, and we’ve entered the Christmas season.

     If you know me well, you know I love everything Christmas. The sights, the sounds, the scents of the season fill me with excitement—and, I admit, sometimes, exhaustion.

     In my non-liturgical faith tradition, little emphasis was placed on Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Last year, I decided to download an Advent devotional, which I read daily until December 25th. Ironically, our pastors also chose to place emphasis on Advent, and each Sunday lit a candle on an Advent wreath.

     I loved my newfound dimension of Christmas, delving more deeply into the sacred meaning of the holy season. I determined to learn more about the liturgical tradition and wanted to create an Advent wreath for our home this year.

     During December, I will be placing emphasis on Advent in my personal devotions and in the Listening on the Journey… blog posts. Each week, my focus will be on traditional themes of Advent:

     Week One, the candle, known as The Prophets’ Candle, symbolizing HOPE;

     Week Two, The Bethlehem Candle, symbolizing FAITH;

     Week Three, The Shepherds’ Candle, symbolizing JOY;

     Week Four, The Angel’s Candle, symbolizing PEACE.

     On Christmas Eve, we’ll have our two young grandkids light a fifth, taller candle, which will be symbolic of Jesus.

     The Jewish nation hoped and waited for a savior for a very long time. More than 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet, Isaiah, foretold their Messiah’s birth,

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

The ancient Christmas hymn, O Come O Come Emmanuel summarizes beautifully the hope of the prophets:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

     The first week of Advent focuses on the HOPE of Christmas—the arrival of Immanuel (also spelled Emmanuel) through the mystery of the incarnation.

Christmas is about the incarnation of Jesus. Strip away the season’s hustle and bustle, the trees, the cookies, the extra pounds, and what remains is a humble birth story and a simultaneously stunning reality — the incarnation of the eternal Son of God.

This incarnation, God himself becoming human, is a glorious fact that is too often neglected, or forgotten, amidst all the gifts, get-togethers, pageants, and presents…[1]

     In Thursday’s post, I will focus further on the importance of the hope of Emmanuel in our lives today. Until then,

Blessings as you ponder the mystery of the incarnation and the hope of Christmas…

Sue Reeve

  1. Joseph Scheumann, www.desiringgod.org/articles/five-truths-about-the-incarnation