When a Greeting Becomes a Promise

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“Be of good cheer!” That sounded to me like a greeting from an old-fashioned Christmas card. But that’s not where I found it. Those are actually the encouraging words of Jesus, spoken first to a paralyzed man whose friends brought him to Jesus. He said it again to calm the fears of terrified disciples as he walked on the waves toward their boat. Then – one more time – he said it to his disciples who feared a future without his physical presence: “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And now…in this very moment, whatever its fears and frustrations, he says it again…to you and me. “Be of good cheer”.

But what is this “good cheer”? I looked it up. The dictionary says that “to cheer” is “to instill with hope and courage, to comfort, to gladden the heart, to dispel gloom or worry”. In my experience of stormy seas…and yours…Jesus offers all of those qualities. His offer of “good cheer” doesn’t minimize life’s realities. In the midst of them he offers the calm and the courage of his presence.

It is our LORD’s rock-hard, iron-clad promise of his help in our time of need: “Be of good cheer”. Join me in celebrating God’s great gift of himself at the manger and the cross.

Prayer – LORD, help me to draw on all that your promise provides. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

The Wonder of Wonders

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The songwriter called this “the most wonderful time of the year”, and then began to reflect on memories of past Christmas seasons: “there were parties for hosting, marshmallows for roasting” and, of course, “holiday greetings and gay happy meetings”. He was reflecting…and anticipating a warm repeat of those happy times.

There is joy in those happy memories, and maybe some sadness, as “the most wonderful time of the year” is dimmed by the everyday realities of caregiving and being cared-for. Finding the strength to hold on to old Christmas traditions is important. Little touches of the season can lift the spirit of the one you care for… and yours. Lighting a festive candle each day could be a time of remembering  Christmases past. And it can be a time to share the truest, deepest wonder of all wonders – the awesome wonder that, flawed as we are, God loves us still…and promises to keep on loving us. He never gives up on us.

Another songwriter wrote: “There’s the wonder of sunset at evening, the wonder of sunrise I see; but the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul is the wonder that  God loves me.” That makes this “the most truly wonder-full time of the year”.

Prayer – LORD, help me to see all the ways you make this day wonder-FULL. Amen.

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016

Joy to Your World

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It’s only just beginning and, already, I’m feeling the pressure of all that this festive season is supposed to be…and bring. The first time I hear “Joy to the World”, it reminds me that “the LORD has come.” And right on the heels of that message, my mind starts thinking of what I need to “do” for Christmas.

But wait! I can’t let myself get caught up in the promotions that say, “buy, buy, buy”. The true joy of the season is not in the material gifts we give, but in the quiet, brave ways we give of ourselves. It’s in bringing a little light in life’s dark, troubled places. And in taking the first risky steps to bring peace in tense situations.

It may be in praying for strained or broken family relationships…and giving the costly “gifts” of forgiveness and understanding that can begin to bring healing,

The richest gifts may be the simple acts of reaching out to another in unexpected ways, the gracious gift of patience in tense situations, or calm in the midst of all the yuletide rush.

Begin today to bring” joy to your world”. And in the giving, find your own true joy. Make this a season of giving the deepest, most life-enriching gift. Yourself.

Prayer – LORD, give the strength to be a carrier of true joy. Amen

Photo courtesy of Ken Jones, copyright 2016