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.
Christmas – the actual day is past. Most of us have enjoyed our family gatherings and opened our gifts. My sister Anne told me today that all her decorations are put away as well. For her everything is back to normal. Not so at our house. We’ll have our tree up for at least two more weeks, maybe even three. It’s merry lights and statuesque beauty greet me every morning. I love it. I’m in no hurry to see it gone.
There is a song in our hymn book, titled “I Am the Light of the World” by Jim Strathdee. The first verse says,
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and the shepherds have found their way home,
the work of Christmas is begun…
For us as Christians, Christmas is so much more than a family celebration that lasts at the most a few days. Christmas is a beginning. Christmas, like the new baby born in the stable, is filled with potential. Each year we travel to the manger. Each year we have the opportunity to begin again our attempt to live the “way” of Jesus.
This year with our response to the refugee’s as individuals, groups, and a nation, the work of Christmas has begun. These families that have come and are coming will need our help, will offer new experiences, new stories, new learnings all year long. This year we won’t put Christmas back in a box and get back to our familiar normal. For that normal is changing every day.
This year we will need to open our hearts to God’s strength and leading for “the work of Christmas has truly begun.”
Friendship Is a Special Gift.
Yesterday, I enjoyed a lunch with two of my long-time friends. We talked. We ate. We exchanged gifts. We shared what was happening in our lives. For two hours we ignored the world around us and found comfort and laughter together. Today, Tom and I are having another good friend for dinner. Sometimes, particularly at this time of the year, we begin to think that the special Christmas lunches, dinners, and parties are unnecessary. Why do we do this? After all we’re busy enough without squeezing in one more gathering.
Friendship is a precious gift that requires nourishment. In our chaotic world, with all the demands on our time, it would be easy to let friends slip away. We don’t mean to, but it happens. Christmas reminds us, pushes us, to reconnect. It’s Christmas and we haven’t seen our friends for months. Let’s make sure we get together. And because it’s Christmas we make that special effort. I’m grateful.
My thought for today is rather than complaining about our busyness, let’s use today to connect with one special friend. Make a phone call or send a text to set up a couple of hours together sometime over the next two weeks. Give yourself the gift of friendship for Christmas.
FRIENDSHIP IS A PRECIOUS GIFT.
“Live the Story. Let Love Enter Your Heart.”
Part of my preparation for Christmas is attending our Keene United Church’s live re-enactment of the Christmas story at Lang Pioneer Village. This year as always, the service was well attended. It’s become a Christmas tradition for many.
Whether you claim no religion, or Christianity or another religion, the magic of the Christmas story can make a difference in your living. During these last few days before Christmas, I encourage you to seek out a variety of ways of learning more about the traditional Christmas story. Google “Live nativity presentations”. Consult your local library or bookstore. They’ll have lots of books to choose from, that tell the Christmas story. Dust off your Bible(or borrow or buy one) and find the Book of Luke. Open it to Chapter two and read the story together as a family. Once you’ve heard the story this year, use the following guide to think about the story.
1. What would it be like today to be Mary, 9 months pregnant and unmarried? Imagine travelling a long distance on a bus, using all your money for the ticket. When you get to family/friends, there is no place for you. You go to the homeless shelter.
2. Who are the Mary’s, the innkeepers, the shepherds, the Herods, the Wisemen today?
Thinking about the characters as real people like you and me will make a huge difference in your Christmas celebrations, secular or religious. Let the story speak to your life. On Dec. 25, 2015 make room in the Inn of your heart for love to enter.
“…the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)
I Can Make a Difference!!!
My son Dave, his wife, Joanne and granddaughter, Jenna, are not coming home for Christmas. We’ll miss them. We want to include them, but how? We can’t mail gifts to them because the mail where they live is not as reliable as it is in Canada. Packages tend to be opened and their contents shared long before they get to our loved ones. It would be easy to send money, and I’m sure it would be appreciated, but for me, that leaves Christmas out of the equation. I need to honor my faith in my gift giving.
The United Church’s “Gifts with Vision” Catalogue and Kiva’s Microloan Catalogue and others like them provide a wonderful smorgasbord of gifts that will help change the world through love. Every year we give each family on our list one of these gifts. This year, shopping in these catalogues will be even more fun. We’ll have more money to spend because these gifts will make up our entire package for Dave’s family.
We can support building a water treatment and supply plant for Duplan Secondary School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We can provide clothing, basic personal care, and pastoral support at St. Matthew’s-Maryland, West Broadway, and Oak Table community ministries in Winnipeg. We can stock a medical clinic in far off Africa. We can join with others to enable Domitila in Bolivia start a business making clothing so she can support herself and her family. In a very real way, we can act to feed the hungry, care for the poor, and to change systems that perpetuate resource inequities.
Our faith calls us to make a difference. If you’ve never seen one of these catalogues, or experienced the joy of this kind of Christmas giving, it’s time you did. They’re available on line and at your local church. Make sure that this year, that at least some of your gift giving makes a difference in the world. For today, keep the thought:
This year, I want to give a gift that will transform someone’s life.
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.
The second week of Advent begins today. Traditionally in the church, this is the week in which we focus on peace, peace in the world and peace within our individual lives. Today, my prayer is based on transformation of each one of us as individuals. Jesus refused the “devil’s offer” of using power to control the world. He chose to work with his presence, his love, his teaching. Today, I want to be God’s peaceful presence everywhere I go. Today I suggest that the goal of our words, our actions, our thoughts be based on being a channel of God’s Peace. This is our faith. I give thanks to God for coming to our world through individuals like you and me. Today I’ve used the words of that wonderful hymn:
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.
During Advent I’m using a resource titled The Uncluttered Heart by Beth A. Richardson. She talks about an ancient tradition of the Christians Church in which pilgrims would ask of their spiritual leaders, “Give me a word of life.” Following in this tradition, I will be offering you “A Thought for Your Day” throughout the season of Advent as part of my preparation for Christmas. My hope is that you will carrying this thought with us will help us to keep centered on
opening our heart to Jesus. I’m starting three days in posting these so today you are getting three at once. Choose the one that speaks to you. Think about it through the day. Please let me know what effect focusing on God does for your day. Blessings Janet
Advent – Week 1 Hope gives power to life’s journey.
December 1 Give God 5 minutes today. God is waiting.
December 2 Thank you God for…
Logos are big in today’s world. Advertising has taught us the meaning of the “Nike Swoosh”. We know the message it carries.
Today, I’m thinking about angels as a symbol of Christmas. For me they are one of God’s wonderful logos. Angels can be male or female, they can speak directly to our hearts, they can sing heavenly music, and they can touch us through other people and animals. Angels for me are somehow free of the limits of this world. They carry God’s message as they watching over us, prodding us, celebrating with us and holding us when we cry. In the Christmas story, angels bring God’s message of new life – first to Zechariah, then Mary and Joseph, then the shepherds.
Every time I see an angel on a Christmas card, atop a Christmas tree, in a Christmas scene, I remember our entire Christmas story. I give thanks that God came in Jesus to teach us how to live and love. I give thanks that God comes in each one of us today. As a logo, the symbol of an Angel feels great to me.
In my home, I have “knick-knack angels” – black, brown, white, native, children, adults. They are a gentle reminder for me that God is here in my home. They speak of the amazing variety of God’s creation. Into my life, God has sent human angels: family, friends, even sometimes strangers. Each one reminds me that God loves us and cares for us. Each one reminds me to treasure God’s beautiful world.
As you begin your Christmas preparations, keep your eyes and your hearts open for God’s angels. Every time you see one, every time you experience one, tune into God’s love. And don’t forget, that you, too, are God’s angel. A spark of God was born within you at conception and has grown within you ever since. Enjoy God’s presence within you. Look for your opportunities to share God’s love.
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’” (Luke 1:26-28)
How Do I Prepare For Christmas?
By Janet Stobie
Many of us have begun Christmas preparations. Whether or not we are religious or Christian, it’s important to understand why we celebrate Christmas. The easiest way to learn is with our children. At a used or new bookstore, or your local library, choose four story-books based on the Christian biblical story of Christmas. With your child (grandchild, neighbour’s child) read one a week as part of your Christmas preparations. The list of Christmas books is endless. Sift through the stories. Choose carefully. Find ones that have meaning for you. Take time to talk about the message of the book. Even if you have no children in your life, read the children’s books anyway. You’ll be surprised by what you learn. Remember that Christmas is a Christian celebration of God’s choice to come and live among us in the person of Jesus.
Of course, I suggest my two Christmas books, “Spectacular Stella” and “Can I Hold Him?” They are both available directly from my website www.janetstobie.com, from Journeys Bookstore in Millbrook, from Kent Books or Footprints Bookstores in Lindsay. A few more suggestions are “God Gave Us Christmas,” by Tawn Bergren, “Room for A Little One,” by Martin Waddell, “The Gift of the Magi,” by P.J.Lynch, and of course, the Bible, Chapters 1&2 of Matthew and Luke. If you’re looking for a novel with a Christmas theme, try my latest book, Fireweed. I’m receiving rave reviews about it.
This year, make Christmas a time of learning for you and your family. Step away from the commercialism of Christmas and discover its meaning in your world today. I guarantee that understanding will add to your joy this Christmas season.
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.” (Luke 2:4-7)
Many of us try to get everything right at Christmas. Those in charge of cooking endeavour to prepare the most sumptuous feast of the entire year. In our effort to choose “the right gift,” plan the “best party,” do “the right thing” that will keep everyone happy, we get buried in the work of Christmas. The celebration becomes a mountain of expenses and a valley of exhaustion. We declare, “Christmas is ruined. Society has commercialized it. Let’s run away. Let’s not celebrate at all.” For Christians escape is not an option. The celebration of Jesus’ birth is second only in importance to the celebration of Easter. What then can we do?
On our front lawn, a spot light illuminates the word “JOY”. The “O” carries the silhouette of the Christmas nativity, announcing Jesus’ birth. Many years ago, a friend, shared his creative gift with wood, by making this for me. When the preparations and celebrations of Christmas leave me exhausted, this beautiful piece of art reminds me that two thousand years ago, God came in Jesus and changed the world.
At Christmas, I give gifts because I am grateful for God’s love, because I want to share the abundant blessings I have been given. I celebrate at parties because I am called to share the Joy of knowing God’s love and forgiveness. There is no “right” to our Christmas celebration. We are carrying on the joy that began with a carpenter, who through us is still touching lives with God’s love. We are lighting up the world with the “Good News” of creation. To be the gift of Christmas is a “holy privilege.” There’s no right way to do it. We need only give in love. It’s God’s job to make it “right”.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)