The Constant of Christmas Plus A Blogging Break

The holiday season can be a difficult time for many. Heartaches hurt more, burdens feel heavier, and changes can be more challenging to accept. Loneliness looms larger and disappointment runs deeper. At times, Christmas joy can be hard to find. And of course, this year we have the added challenge of the ongoing pandemic impacting our lives—and our joy—as well.

Where do you find your Christmas joy? If you search for it in people—family and friends—those can change or disappoint. If in new possessions or extravagant treats, those can be stripped away or give only short-term fulfillment. If in well-laid plans for the perfect Christmas, a winter storm or unexpected illness can topple those in an instant.

Only in the manger can we find unchanging, unfailing Christmas joy. Sure, we can and do experience holiday joy with our families and friends, with our activities and traditions, with music and feasting. But the deep abiding joy of Christmas—and of our lives—that no circumstance or human failing can touch can only be found in the constant of Christmas. Only in Jesus.

Let’s look to the manger this holiday season. Let’s let Jesus anchor our Christmas joy. For he is a rock like no other. He is the constant of Christmas.

“‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:20 NIV

*What is most challenging about your Christmas season this year? How can you let Jesus bring you joy in the midst of it?

*Friends, I’ll be taking a blogging break until the first of the year. I pray that God will bless you with a joy-filled Christmas season and a hopeful and happy New Year. See you in 2021!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early February. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by jeffweeseCreative Commons License

Christmas Moments: Carol Your Way to Worship

Have you ever caroled your way to worship? I have. And one of the best ways I know to enter into sweet moments of personal worship is through singing the carols of Christmas.

As the season gets started, I urge you to find a hymnal or a songbook of classic Christmas carols and choose one to sing each day in your quiet moments with God. You probably know many of these long-time favorites by heart, but I encourage you to find the words written out somewhere so you can sing all the verses. I promise you will find treasure you have forgotten about or never knew was there.

Several years ago while singing “O Holy Night!” during one of my personal worship times, the Lord ministered such encouragement to me through the last half of the second verse—the verse that is usually left out when we sing it in groups or hear it performed. How grateful I am I didn’t leave it out as I sang privately to him that Christmas season.

Join me today, won’t you, and carol your way to worship this holiday season. Here is “O Holy Night!” to get you started (text by John S. Dwight; melody by Adolphe Adam). May the King of kings minister to your heart as you sing to him!

“O holy night! the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Fall on your knees, Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand;
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend;
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace;
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name;
Christ is the Lord, Oh, praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim.”

“Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness . . .” Psalm 96:9 NIV

*Which carol would you like to sing next as you carol your way to worship?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out early this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*I hope this slightly revised encore post from Nov. 2011 blessed you today!

*Flickr photo by infomasternCreative Commons License

A Winner Plus My Favorite Christmas Verses

4037699377_b218f58079_zToday’s the day to announce the winner of the Little Christmas Warmth Giveaway—yes, time to make someone a little warmer! The lucky winner who will soon be wrapping her cold hands around a luscious hot drink from Starbucks is . . . Tamra! Congrats, Tamra! I’ll dash to my mailbox as fast as I can (without a one-horse open sleigh!) and send the gift card on its way. Hope it makes your holiday season a little merrier!

For all of you dropping by today, I’d like to pass along the best holiday joy I know by sharing my favorite Christmas verses from the Bible. I love reading all of the passages related to the birth of Jesus, but the verses below have become my favorites. May God’s Word bless you today, friends!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 KJV

“‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 KJV

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

A child. A son. A Savior. The Word. The One and Only. Amen and amen!

*Which of these verses speaks to you in the most powerful way?

*Flickr photo by sakarias.ingolfsson, Creative Commons License

Undone by the Gift of Our Savior

4161935408_9b02a46dd9_zLast year at this time, my husband Don was enduring a season of pain like he’d never known before. On November 15, 2014, he fell roof-high from a ladder and fractured his spine in eight places. He was laid up at home for almost two months before he could attempt a return to a modified work schedule. He needed pain medication on a regular basis for a while. It was rough.

One day during December while I had a favorite Christmas cd playing and “Joy to the World” was wafting through the air, I went in to check on Don and he was crying. He was completely undone by the gift of our Savior.

He said, “He could have come down from the cross. He could have come down. But he stayed. He suffered. For me.” Because of the pain Don had been enduring, the fact that Jesus came to earth to die a painful death to pay for our sins took on a whole new level of meaning for him. Our “Joy to the World” came at a great cost. A cost Jesus was willing to pay.

As we listen to and sing the carols of Christmas this year, let’s listen and sing as if it’s the first time we’ve heard or sung them. Let’s be touched afresh by them. Let’s come undone by the gift of our Savior.

Why not start with “Joy to the World”? I’ll print the words below. Let’s glory in its message together today!

“Joy to the world , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”
*lyrics by Isaac Watts

*Has a carol of Christmas ever taken on special meaning for you?

*Flickr photo by jeffweese, Creative Commons License

Guest Post by Jeneal Rogers: The Perfect Tree

To start your December right this year, I have a special treat for you—a guest post by artist and writer Jeneal Rogers. You may remember that I featured her art and photography this summer in one of my Summer Photo Fun posts, and now it’s my pleasure to share some of her writing with you.

As we head into the holiday season, may Jeneal’s piece set the tone for a perfect holiday season for us all. Enjoy!

The Perfect Tree

by Jeneal Rogers

Thunk! “What was that?” The look of confusion on my husband’s face turned to alarm, as it dawned on him what had made the noise.“The tree!” He gunned the car out of the wash and pulled over to check the load fastened to the top.

The whole thing had been John’s idea. A few days before we left for my mother’s house, he confessed to me that it seemed wasteful to him to buy a live tree each year only to throw it out with the trash before Christmas even arrived. I took pity on my frugal husband, but I wouldn’t accept just any old pile of plastic. If we were going artificial, the tree must be perfect. We developed a plan.

The day after our arrival at my mother’s house, we went into action. We elbowed our way through the crowd of last minute Wal-Mart shoppers to the display. Part A of Mission Christmas Tree was under way. I carefully scrutinized all they had to offer. Finally, I saw it. Just the right height for my living room, it was a natural pine color with branches lush enough to hide it’s metal trunk. “This is, by far, the nicest one of the whole bunch,” I pointed out to John. “This is the one.”

John had been doing his own research. “This is, by far, the highest priced one of the whole bunch,” he said.

I smiled at the tree adoringly. “Perfect,” I whispered.

Defeated, he duly noted my selection and we left the store.

On December 26, John put Part B of the plan into motion. He made many trips to the store, patiently stalking his prey until the price dropped to over 50% off. Then he pounced! He returned from the hunt with his prize strapped to the top of the car.

A few days later we loaded up the kids and our Christmas loot and headed for home stopping, as was John’s custom, to wash the car at the first opportunity.

That’s when we heard the “thunk.” Oh no! Not my perfect tree!

After looking it over John assured me only the box had been damaged.

But the next year, when I started to put the tree up, I saw some of the branches had been bent, permanently reshaped by the washing. I held them for a moment, pondering the situation. A giggle escaped as I remembered the look on John’s face when he realized what he had done. Other Christmas memories quickly followed. The bent branches hadn’t decreased the tree’s worth. Rather, they made it more valuable. They made it uniquely ours.

Every year, I pull the branches from their patched up box and smile adoringly. “Perfect,” I whisper, as Christmas memories infuse all my senses.

I see my children’s eyes shining brighter than the lights adorning houses and shrubbery as we take our annual drive. I hear their little off-key voices mix with mine as we belt out every Christmas carol we know. I taste the sticky sweetness of the sugar cookies we bake together every year, frosting piled on thick with sprinkles, not sprinkled but shoveled on by little hands. I smell the distinct Christmas fragrance of fudge, pine, popcorn, and peppermint. And I feel children snuggling up next to me, their warm, pajama-clad bodies still damp from their bath, ready for our Christmas Eve tradition. I read the same stories to them my mother read to me when I was a child, “A Visit From St. Nick,” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”All of these memories and many more wash over me every year, as soon as I lay my hands upon those special reshaped branches.

__ __

John is gone now. The children are grown, living their own lives. They have not yet provided me with grandchildren.

But I’m confident I’ll be a grandmother someday. The grandchildren will come to my house for Christmas. We’ll make sugar cookies and they’ll put as many sprinkles on them as they want. And we’ll eat the cookies together under my perfect Christmas tree, not worrying about the crumbs.

I’ll read to them about a special visit from Santa and about the grumpy old Grinch. We’ll laugh as I tell them about the year their grandfather washed the Christmas tree. And then I’ll tell them about the Savior whose birth we celebrate. I’ll tell them how He came to wash us clean from our sins. And about how He looks at us, permanently reshaped by the washing, and smiles adoringly.

Perfect,” He whispers.

*The artwork above is also by Jeneal. To see more of her work, be sure to visit her website – .

*What’s one of your favorite Christmas memories?