Tag Archives: Christmas

What Do You Expect This Christmas?

 What do you expect this Christmas? Society has painted a picture of a happy family gathered around the dinner table by the Christmas tree.  Abundance prevails – gifts, food, laughter and love. This may be the reality for a few, but not for all of us.

Years ago, Bing Crosby sang “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.” Loneliness, sickness, grief, job loss, hunger and more, do not disappear just because we’ve flipped our calendars to December. Our Christmas story reminds us that on the first Christmas, Jesus was born into poverty, not abundance – in a stable, not the Best Western, and far from home. And yet I am sure there was abundance – the abundance of love and joy that can come  with the birth of a baby. Christmas is the celebration of love and new life in the midst of whatever life offers at the moment. There is truly no ideal Christmas for us to expect.

Instead, each year at Christmas, we receive the peace, hope, joy and love that come from new beginnings. Regardless of our circumstances, even if we are in the midst of deep sorrow, anxiety, fear, we can expect God’s presence among us. We can open our hearts and feel God’s love enfold us. We can pick up a baby, hug a loved one, drop money in a Salvation Army bucket, bring a meal to someone in need. We can expect God’s presence on the street, at the food bank, in the palace, in our homes.

When we expect to meet God, we will.  God is always with us, in the people we meet. All we need do is open our eyes, our ears and our hearts. God will come in stranger, enemy, friend.

I suggest that you expect an opportunity to hold the Christ-child this Christmas. Let me know how Jesus came to you this year. Your experience will be a blessing to me. Thank you.

Hypocrites

It’s Advent and I have been out selling books at church craft sales. For me, it’s a struggle to sit behind a table, try to catch someone’s eye and say hello. I’m not a salesperson, but I do want people to read what I have written. Very often, people glance at my table, read the signs and keep right on walking. I can only think that they see the words “anchored in faith” and make the judgment – Don’t look at those books. They’ll be selling religion.”

One of the biggest heartaches for me as a Christian is the judgment of today’s world that all Christians are fanatics and hypocrites. As I talked with the people who had the courage to stop at my table anyway, I heard stories of difficulties experienced with “religious people”. One man said, “I used to be involved with a church, but the people weren’t helpful. They said they were being followers of Jesus’ way, but they weren’t. They spoke the words, but they didn’t live them. I didn’t leave God, I just left religion and the church.” He walked away his mind closed to my message of God’s peace and love because, in his mind, all church people are hypocrites.

Today, it is widely believed that church people should be able to totally live as Jesus taught. They should always be compassionate; never judge; always accept everyone. The list of “should” goes on and on. Christians should be perfect. When we’re not, our message is thrown away.

My suggestion, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31NIV) Christianity is a life journey. As Christians, we go astray at times, some of us further than others. We get tired; we are grumpy at times. We are passionate; we get lost in our enthusiasm and overwhelm others. We have all the temptations to greed, violence, whatever and we make bad choices.  We are not perfect.

What we have learned through experience is that together, we can more often make good choices. Together we can encourage one another. Together we are stronger, more able to live that unconditional love that Jesus taught. Together, we learn and grow in our understanding of Jesus’ message. Our religious rituals help us on the journey. Being church people helps us live the faith. Christmas is a perfect example. As we gather this Christmas, to hear once again the story of the baby born in difficult circumstances to ordinary parents, our hearts will soar at the peace, hope, joy, and love that fills our souls. Once again, we will be renewed and drawn back to the journey of a life of Christian love.

Give a Gift of Faith!

 

Give a Gift of Faith!

As I live my ministry of writing, I trust that God’s inspiration is with me. I trust that God’s message of peace, acceptance and love is woven into each of my books and my reflections. My life is good and fun and I am grateful. And now, it’s almost Christmas season again. Usually at this point I have lined up several guest speaking engagements, and four or five Christmas craft sales.

This year I’m not doing that kind of marketing. Today we’re on the way to Vancouver to visit our grandchildren and my Aunt. We usually go much earlier but circumstances prevented that. When we get back the end of November we will have less than two weeks before Tom gets his new hip.

This year I need the internet to sell my books. How do I make that happen? What would it take? When I ask for advice the marketers tell me I need my blog to reach a wider audience. “Ask your subscribers to share your reflections with their friends and ask their friends to share them with others. Make sure you have a recommendation about your books at the end of each blog. Just a short two sentence ad with your web address as well.

Following their advice, I make this request of you, my web friends. Each time I post a blog, either on my website, facebook or twitter, please hit the share button.  Let’s see if you can be the source of one of God’s miracles as I care for Tom over the Christmas season.

And yes, I will still continue to sell my books, one and two at a time. Every where I go. You can find me at the Christmas craft sale at St. John’s Church, Peterborough on Dec. 1 and at the one at Keene United Church, Keene on Dec. 8. And of course, you can visit me on line at www.janetstobie.com. As you do your own Christmas shopping, remember that my books are a great Christmas gift, hostess gift, and donation in Christmas baskets. They are a gift of enjoyment and faith. If you email me for a book or two, or more, I will sign them for you or you can find many of them on Amazon as well. Remember the more you order the lower the shipping cost. Happy shopping! And thanks for your support. Blessings Janet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What is Christmas? Over the last few days all of my readings have pointed to one of the basic definitions. Christmas is about relationship? I offer you today this quote by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Earth is crammed with heaven,

and every common bush afire with God,

But only those who see, take off their shoes.

The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”

Celebrating tonight and tomorrow are those who have come to pick the blackberries. They know that Christmas is about family, giving, love. They, like all of us, can see and enjoy the blackberries, the joys of relationships.

When we come to Christmas with the eyes of Christian faith, we see the bush loaded with blackberries and alight with the fire of God’s love. We know that bush will never be consumed. We know the delicious blackberries are always available to nurture us with life.

I am excited, thrilled, privileged to come to church tonight and see, experience, the wonder of God’s love, what Elizabeth Barrett Browning calls heaven on earth. I have already taken off my shoes. I will enter the stable and feel God’s love; a love so committed, so strong, so unconditional, that God risked being born as a helpless baby needing us for life. I will listen to the story and let the wonder, the miracle of God’s love, acceptance, forgiveness well up in my soul.

The miracle of Jesus’ birth happens every day, with the birth of every child, even with my birth and yours. I can only take off my shoes and enter God’s presence with total joy. I can live the miracle  of Christmas everyday.

My wish for you is another step into the joy, the miracle of Christmas tonight and tomorrow. Stop, remove whatever keeps your mind racing, soak in God’s love until your entire being glows. Risk becoming the “God’s miracle of Christmas for 2018”.

How Do We Prepare for Peace?

This is Christmas!

The December 10, 2017 reading from the Daily Disciplines published by the Upper Room touched my heart. I will share it with you in its entirety. I typed this into my computer this morning before church. I didn’t have time to look for a picture, besides where would I find a picture of a tree covered with white envelopes. When worship was over we went to the church hall for refreshments. This tree stood by yesterday’s bake table, resplendent in it’s white notes waiting to be part of our tree lighting tonight. God incidents never cease to amaze me. I pray this story will speak to you as it did to me. Blessings as you wait for the Christ child.

“Mike hated the commercialism of Christmas. When forced to retire early, he checked out altogether. ‘Get me nothing,’ he crouched, ‘until people understand what Christmas is all about.’ That year, his wife, Nan, gave him a white envelope, which she nestled into the tree. Inside, Nan pledged to sew uniforms for an underprivileged wrestling team. Once she started, Mike decided to help. Together, they sized the children, cut the fabric and befriended the school kids. By year’s end, Mike was ready for another envelope. Each year thereafter, Nan gave him another envelope. The acts of kindness they shared together sprouted throughout their city: birdhouses for a refuge shelter, a playground for an orphaned children’s home, a community garden from a vacant lot. Those became the best years of Nan’s and Mike’s lives.

One year, Mike died just three days before Christmas. Friends and family gathered to share Nan’s grief. On Christmas Eve, Nan placed for Mike, one last envelope into the tree. She awoke Christmas morning to squeals downstairs. As she came down, she saw their Christmas tree covered in white. Dozens of envelopes from every child, grandchild, nephew and niece – pledged acts of kindness in honor of Mike, the man who had come to love Christmas.

How do we wait faithfully for God in today’s wilderness? The prophet Isaiah says, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” We pave a straight path for through acts of kindness, justice, generosity and compassion. When we love, God will come. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me,’ John says. As sure as a baby’s birth in a manger, as abundant as Christmas envelopes multiplying into the future, God will walk the path laid out. Love will encompass the world.

PEACE WILL COME!!!!!

Dear God, Baby of the Manger, may each act of kindness be a straw in your crib, preparing the way for your coming. Amen

A Wonderful Day!

Fenelon Falls United Church invited me to bring my books for sale at their Christmas Bazaar and luncheon today. Tonight I am still flying from the experience. When I arrived this morning, the room was aglow with the Spirit. Tables loaded with jams, jellies and a myriad of other tasty preserves filled a big square in the middle of the room. More tables around the outside held baking, gift baskets (there must have been 100), antiques and on and on. Lunch was scrumptious homemade soup, ham and cheese croissant, and an ice cream sundae. The decorations and layout were beautiful. They had my table decorated too. Before we opened the doors, about 50 of us gathered in a circle for a few moments appreciation. This was the church, prepared and ready to serve the community.

The community responded. They came and shopped. We sold lots, including me with my books. I give thanks to God for Fenelon Falls UCW and their invitation to me. Today has been a true blessing.

How Will We Experience Jesus This Christmas?

Christmas 2015

Our Christian Christmas story talks about a young woman, Mary, probably a teenager, pregnant before marriage. The culture and religious beliefs of the time offered only judgment. “She is guilty. Cast her aside. Have her stoned.” And yet, Joseph loves her. God intervenes, and they are married. The emperor’s decree orders Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. Homeless, they find shelter in a stable and Jesus is born. This wee babe, vulnerable, fragile, needing our care, comes into the world. Christians believe this child, so full of potential, came as God to live among us.

How will Jesus enter my world this Christmas? All three of my children and their families will gather around the table in our beautiful middle class home. Will Jesus be there?

Maybe Jesus will come in Vanessa, our beloved 26-year-old granddaughter, as each one of us takes special care to ensure nothing is done to increase her anxiety. Even though her mind cannot comprehend all the rules, her cousins will include her in our family games because they love her. I wonder will we experience Jesus in our Vanessa’s vulnerability?

Maybe Jesus will come in the form of my middle son, who easily tells us he’s not a Christian. He’ll remind us of his pain with our society that can treat animals as inanimate products to be exploited.

Factory farms that ignore the blessing of life within animals horrify Dave. Will we see Jesus’ caring in Dave’s commitment to animal rescue?

Maybe Jesus has already come with grandson Chris. We welcomed him home for Christmas almost a month ago. Delight dances in his sister’s eyes every time she greets him. Have we realized that Jesus has come in Chris’ love for all of his family.

Maybe Jesus is a spirit winding itself in and through our blended family. Maybe we’ll greet him on Skype when Tom’s daughter calls and we see and hear our two youngest grandchildren. Will they bring us the  laughter and innocence of the Christ child.

I must remember that Jesus is present in the beggar I see at the corner of Water and Parkhill Streets here in Peterborough or the clerk who gives me a smile and a Merry Christmas at the grocery store. He is present in the grief of my beloved friends as he weeps with them over the death of their son. Yes, Jesus will be born all around me this year as he is every year, if only I make room for him.

I suggest you look for Jesus in both the sparkling eyes and the glistening tears this Christmas. He’s there, I guarantee it. Watch, and listen, for Jesus is truly God with us.

Christmas Blessings to you all.

 

 

 

 

 

The Reluctant Shepherd

This morning, I woke early with “The Reluctant Shepherd” running through my mind. I had intended to tell it at the Fenelon Falls UCW Christmas gathering. Instead I was in Montreal. Today it feels necessary to share the story on my blog. Some of you have bought my Christmas book, Can I Hold Him?, and therefore will have read this story. That’s ok. It’s good to read stories and whole books more than once. I think I will share several of the stories over the next few days. For today, sit back, take a rest, and enjoy the story.

THE RELUCTANT SHEPHERD

reluctant-shepherd

It’s Christmas Eve. The church is packed with strangers, and I’m wearing Dad’s old bathrobe. Mom’s tea towel is fastened on my head with a rope. You guessed it. I’m a shepherd in the Church Christmas Pageant. I scanned the crowd and spied Eddy from my class at school. Why is he here? Oh no, I thought. I’m too old for this and too tall! I turned 13 last summer. How did I get myself into this mess? It’s a long story.

Last September, I was ready to quit coming to church.  It’s not that church is awful or anything. In fact, I kinda like it. At least, I like Mr. Woolacott. He’s my friend Jamie’s

grandpa. He always seems to find time to talk to me on Sunday mornings. He likes to tell stories just like my Papa. I miss my Nana and Papa. We moved here two years ago. Now, my grandparents live three hours away.  We don’t see them very often, so it’s nice to talk with Mr. Woolacott.

Anyway, as I was saying, last September, I decided that I was too old for Sunday School and not old enough to sit through the adult service. I planned to stay home with Dad. He hardly ever goes to church, so why should I?

Then Mr. Green, the chair of property, called and asked to speak to me. That was a surprise. He’d never called me before.

“Kevin,” he said, “the Harper’s have bought the church a digital projector. Would you be willing to run the power-point during the church service, please? You won’t be the only one. We plan on having several people take turns. I’ll be drawing up a schedule. Now that you’re a teenager, I thought you might be willing to stay in church for the whole service.”

I was pleased to be asked, but nervous about it, too. “Ummm,” I said, “I dunno.” I didn’t want to tell him I had decided to quit coming to church altogether.

“I’d like you to think about it, Kevin, and pray about it,” he said. “Talk it over with your parents as well.  It is a big commitment. Our committee thinks you’re old enough to take on the responsibility. Tell me on Sunday what you decide, okay?”

“Okay,” I stammered. “I’ll talk it over with my parents. See you on Sunday.”

That was last September, and I’ve been running the projector ever since.  There are other people on the list, but I like doing it, so I do it most of the time. I like being considered a grown-up. I feel as if I’m making an adult a contribution to our church family. Besides, I like sitting at the back in the sound booth with Mr. Woolacott. I was sure this job would keep me safe from being in this stupid pageant. After all, I’m never in Sunday School.

Two weeks ago, Mrs. Rintoule, the Sunday School Superintendant, came and talked with me while I was putting the projector away.

“Kevin,” she said, “I need your help. We’re don’t have enough older children for the Christmas pageant. I know you no longer come to Sunday school, but we need a shepherd, one who can take care of the other two shepherds, the Kingley twins, Sam and Shelley.  They turned three last week.”

“But Mrs. Rintoule” I started, “I already have a job, I’ll be running…”

She interrupted, “Greta Franklin said she’ll run the projector for you. I really need you, Kevin. Please.”

“What about Jamie? Can’t he lead the twins down the aisle?”

“I’ve already asked Jamie to be Joseph.”

What could I say? I like Mrs. Rintoule. She’s fun.

So here I am, with a twin on each side, walking down the church aisle and listening to the people sing, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.” Sam’s yanking on my hand. “What is it?” I whisper, just as the Christmas carol finishes.

“Look,” he yells and points with his pudgy hand, “There’s a big star.”

The whole congregation laughed. I can feel the heat creeping up my neck. I wish I was someplace else, anywhere else but here in this overcrowded church. I stare at the screen.

A huge star is pulsating. How did Mrs. Franklin get it to do that, I wonder?

The angel Gabriel, little Susan Filbert, shouts, “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men. To you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord. You will find him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

Hey, I thought. She did that very well. That was a big speech and she’s only seven. Now, it’s my turn.

Shelley is yanking on my robe. She’s crying. I lean down to find out what’s wrong. “There’s too many people. It’s dark in here.” She sobs.

I pick her up and say with as much enthusiasm as I can muster, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place which the Lord has made known to us.” My voice sounds like thunder in the silence. We run right up to the front of the church. Well, Sam runs. I just walk fast because Shelley’s heavy, and besides, Mom’s never let me run in the sanctuary when I was a kid.

When we get to Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus, Sam sits down right in front of the manger.  I set Shelley down beside him, and then kneel.

The baby Jesus wrinkles up her little face and starts to cry. No, she wails… at the top of her lungs. She’s Jamie’s little sister, Melissa, born just a month ago. That’s the neat thing about being born close to Christmas. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re a boy or a girl. All you need to be Jesus is to be a baby. Anyway, Melissa is yelling so loudly that no one can hear the narrator talk about the kings.

I look at Ashley, our ten-year-old Mary, and whisper. “Pick up baby Jesus.”

“Oh no,” Ashley whispers back. “Mrs. Rintoule said I was just to sit here and look peaceful and beautiful.

Behind me, the chuckles ripple across the church.

I turn to Jamie, who didn’t want to be Joseph any more than I wanted to be a shepherd, and whisper a little louder. “She’s your sister. Pick her up.”

Jamie’s eyes are huge. His face is white. No, it has a greenish tinge. He swallows and stares at his hands. I’m not sure whether he’s afraid of his sister or the crowd, or he has the flu. It doesn’t matter. “God,” I pray, “make somebody do something. Make Melissa stop crying.

Into my mind marches the thought, Pick her up. So, I do. I put her on my shoulder and begin patting her back.  That’s what I’ve seen Jamie’s mother do. “Sh, Sh, Sh, it’s okay,” I say to her very softly. I sit back on my heels and then roll over onto my bum, so I can rock back and forth. I begin to sing the only thing I can think of, “Silent night, Holy night…”Actually, I’m a pretty good singer. At least, that’s what my mom says.

I’m all the way to “in heavenly peace,” before Melissa stops yelling. Sam reaches up and helps me pat. Three-year-old Shelley stands up and gives Melissa a kiss and then joins me with “Weep in hebbenwe pea.”

I start to hum, and then I realize that the kings are at the front, and the narrator has stopped talking.  All eyes are on Melissa and me. I hear the choir humming, too. Oh no! My microphone is still on.

Melissa squirms, so I lift her down from my shoulder and cuddle her close to my chest. Her hands are so tiny. She feels so warm and soft and alive. I look at her and say, “Jesus, long ago, you were just like this. Wow!”

“Joy to the world” comes blasting out of the organ, and everyone stands, even me. I hold the baby Jesus and sing to her, at the top of my lungs.  “Joy to the world, the Lord

has come.”  My smile is so big it feels as if it stretches right around the church. Joy, yes, Joy, Jesus is born. I look over at Mrs. Rintoule. “Thank you,” I mouth. “I’m glad you asked me to be a shepherd.”

It’s all over, and Jamie’s mom comes for Melissa. “No,” I say. “We’re fine. You take care of Jamie. I think he’s going to throw up.”

Sure enough, the words aren’t out of my mouth two seconds when I hear him. What a mess! I shift Melissa back to my shoulder. I can’t help, I crow to myself.  I’m busy with the baby Jesus.

There’s Mr. Woolacott heading my way.

“Merry Christmas,” I say to him.

“Merry Christmas, Kevin. Thank you for being a shepherd. They needed you. Baby Jesus needed you. You took care of them all. And you sing beautifully. You made the Christmas story real for me. I’m glad you’re my friend.”

 

*****

 

 

 

Faith and Fear Walk Hand in Hand

Courage
Courage

I’m not sure what is happening. I know only that I have been reading Psalms, traditional and modern, something new. And now poetry is flowing from my pen onto paper, my fingertips onto the keyboard. I’ve been listening to the confusion, the fear, that is filling our hearts as we hear words of intolerance and isolationism shouted at us through the media. Today, as we approach the first Sunday of Advent, I have two poems for you.

Prayer
Prayer

Lament

Hate is spreading.
Intolerance growing.
The icy fingers of fear
are creeping in
through the cracks of our being.
What can I do?

I teach your love.
I write. I speak.
Some listen.
Your love touches a few.
Hatred has gone viral.
Money and knowledge lead the way
Manipulate the media.

One at a time
That was Jesus’ “way”.
A finger in the dyke.
Can that hold back the flood?
Of evil unleashed.
Destruction, murder, genocide
It’s happened before.
It continues to happen.

God says,
“Only love can defeat evil.”
I know from experience,
God’s love can overcome.
God’s love is stronger than death.
God’s love does bring new life.

Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer,
Help us! Please!

Trust
Trust

Advent/Christmas?

A baby is born?
Bringing Wisdom, Compassion
Is there time?

Intolerance grows.
Fear festers.
Evil’s response to love.
A last gasp.
A last grasp for total power.
How big? How long?

I will trust in God,
who walked on water,
healed the sick,
brought sight to the blind.
I will trust in God,
who died in love,
defeated death
brought new life.
I will trust in God.

I will continue to love,
to love this world into new life.
I will trust in God.

This is my faith.

GOOD NEWS!!!

The second edition of Can I Hold Him? Christmas Stories for All Ages,  has arrived. It’s available on Amazon in both print and ebook form. It’s already selling well. My mystery novel/grief resource, Fireweed, is also available on Amazon in print and ebook form. If you order a print copy of both Fireweed and Can I Hold Him? through Amazon you will qualify for free shipping. Every time I have an opportunity to do inspirational speaking, people line up to buy my books. I am slowly beginning to feel like a “real” author.

cover-4-can-i-hold-him-2

"Fireweed" by Janet Stobie
“Fireweed” by Janet Stobie