Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

They connect us, they ground us, 
they comfort us.

They can also distract us.

Why do we do the things we do?
If we get too caught up in the 
of it all we risk loosing sight
of the reasons behind those traditions.

Christmas is a fun, joyous time.
It has many traditions.
Some relate back to the true 
"reason for the season."
And some, it's a bit of a stretch.

Lory and I have traditions.
Our friendship is rooted in God.
It may be a stretch to find 
God in some of our traditions. 
(think Margarita Fridays)
But they all 
connect us,
ground us, 
and comfort us.

Thanks for being part of this tradition of ours.
Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

O Tannenbaum

Is there anything more Christmas than a Christmas tree?  Besides the bit of drudgery digging it all out of the crawl space, I love everything about it!  Especially since we got a pre-lit tree a couple of years ago.  For you purest who go out and cut your own tree, I envy you the adventure, but not January clean up.

I love hanging the ornaments on the tree.  Over the years, we have quite the collection.  We add a new ornament to commemorate the year, which gives me time for reflection.  There is a purple snowman, expertly colored by a certain grandboy, and there is a carousal pony made by my grandmother.  Some ornaments are bright and shiny.  Some are over half a century old, tired but true.  I remember with great fondness the ornaments that came from friends and family.  There are no random ornaments on my tree; each has a story, a connection, a bit of love.

The Christmas tree celebrates family and love.  Its branches display iconic Christmas, reminding us of the birth of a baby, born to save the world.  The baby's life is bookended with trees.

But the first one means nothing without the last.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Angels we have heard on high
sweetly singing or' the plains.

So, Angels and the Christmas story
are a no-brainer, and after Rudolph, 
I'm happy for a no-brainer!

We know that angels first heralded
the birth of our Savior, 
but from everything I've read, 
sweetly singing was probably not the 
most accurate description of their announcement. 
Angels are God's warriors.
Most people were VERY afraid when 
they encountered an angel.
Mike is of the opinion they probably
didn't even have wings.
Talk about dispelling all my former
beliefs of sweet cherubic babies
with smiles and wings!

God is full of surprises.
He chose a TEENAGER as a mother.
His son was born in a stable.
He announced the great news to the lowest of society.
He has an army without guns or wings.
He knew what He was sending His son down into,
and that His son would die a terrible death
at the hands of those He longed to save,
and yet He did send that sweet baby to us.

And the biggest surprise?
He did this all to bring a poor wretched sinner
like me closer to Him.

Illustration by Mary Holder Naegeli

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Don't Stand Under the Mistletoe. Really - Don't!

Have you found yourself standing under any mistletoe this year?  Nothing wrong with a stolen kiss or two!  I was expecting to find some explanation of this tradition like white for purity and green for the everlasting Father.  But alas, like many other traditions, kissing someone under the sprigs of the plant was transplanted from other sources, probably the Druids or the Norse.  Early Christians tried to outlaw the tradition.  When that was unsuccessful, others tried to welcome it with open arms.  One minister in England held a special Mistletoe service where parishioners could come to have their sins pardoned - with a kiss, I assume.
Image result for mistletoe images

There are two fun facts about this Christmas cupid, though. First, while the berries are poisonous to us, they are good for birds, animals, butterflies and bees.  Secondly, the word actually comes from Anglo Saxons:  "mistle" (meaning dung) and "tan" (meaning twig or stick).  It's pretty, poetic name hides its literal meaning: poo on a stick.  Think about that next time you kiss someone standing under it!

So far, I have done a miserable job of relating this tradition back to Christ.  And I fear I have gone too far flung to make the connection now, but I'll give it a try.  I was going to say let's skip fun fact #2, but maybe not.  Human history being what it is, calling us Mistletoe in the literal sense seems an accurate description.  Yet, God did indeed bend down and give us a kiss.  And not a quick peck on the cheek, either.  He lived and breathed and walked among us.  He cried with us, laughed with us and washed our feet.  His love transforms us, making the unmentionable beautiful and lovable, indeed.  

Mistletoe, what a lovely term and a beloved tradition.

Monday, December 21, 2015


While there are animals present in the Christmas story,
I'm not entirely sure how I am going to 
find the Christ in them, much less Rudolph.

I appreciate the fact that God chose to reveal 
Himself to the lowest of low in the shepherds.
But, even before they got there, the animals were present.

So, perhaps there is a thin thread there....

Rudolph was a tale about bullying
before we knew that term.
Christ came to all of us, but most especially,
I feel, the oppressed. 

Another thin thread....

A light on Rudolph's nose lit his way
and saved him from the bullies.
Christ is the light of the world and He saves 
us from satan.

Another thin thread.....

If I gather enough of these can I weave a 
"sellable" tale?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Away in the Manger

Left to its own devices, the church tends to make the ugly beautiful (like the cross) and the mundane extraordinary (like the manger).  We are more comfortable with a shiny and sanitized Lord than the reality of the messes of life.  I count myself in that "we".

In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the start of the tradition of the creche.  Moving the Christmas service outside to accommodate the crowds, he had a simple manger constructed and brought in cattle and a donkey.  So overcome was he with the humility of a King in the manger, that he preached with tears running down his cheeks.

It's probably time, don't you think, to look closely and see the hay mixed with chicken feathers and bits of rocks and mud.  It's time to feel the crude construction of a trough meant for an animal, not a newborn.  It's time hear the braying of the donkey and rustling of the animals as they settle in for the night.  It's time to smell, not the sweet baby scent or even the rustic scent of new hay, but rather, the stench of the assembled livestock.  I don't really want Jesus sleeping there or Mary and Joseph having to watch their step when they get up in the night to care for their child.

I like a tidy manger.  But I am, quite literally, eternally grateful that Jesus is a King of the messes, as well.  Especially the messes.  There is hope for me only because He isn't afraid to get His hands dirty - and He proved from His very first moments.  Apparently a stable is a perfect nursery after all.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Jammies

Shanna started it. 
These jammies killed it.
The guys retaliated with a motorcycle in my
 family room and leather jackets.
So now it's a chick thing.
And everyone is happy.

And I will leave you with this classic:
3 Wise Women would have:
Asked for directions.
Been there on time.
Cleaned the stall.
Delivered the baby.
Knit a blanket.
And left the family with a casserole.

And worn their matching jammies.