The Place for Silence – A Simple Christmas Day Challenge

One theme that has stood out to me this Christmas season has been the episodes of silence in many of the accounts and events leading up to and resulting from the birth of Christ. Fitting with the celebration of our Christmas season, we often focus on the singing, laughing, and joy of Christmas. There was certainly lots of that to go around, but at advent there were also very poignant, very personal moments of silence – some self-motivated (think Mary’s pondering) and some imposed (think Zechariah’s muteness).

In the hurried, jingled, tinseled days of Christmas, in the news-cycle, buzzfeed, post-frenzied lives we often slip into;

join me in this challenge:

BE SILENT.
PONDER.
FALL PRONE & worship.

Read for yourself the accounts of that first Christmas, and let God speak through them.

Quiet the day and ask others to share in your amazement at such a miraculous, mysterious salvation.

Find a moment away and plant seeds of wonder in your child’s heart.

Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Luke 1:18-20 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (19) And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. (20) And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.”

Matthew 2:11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

When do we shut our mouths in silence at the chorus of God’s majesty? The incomparable wonder of God’s proclamation of redemption smothers my foolish heart and drowns my ignorant speech. “I am undone!” says Isaiah the prophet. I am put in my place – a place of receipt, a place to lie flat and not stand, a place to be silent.


DISCLAIMER: Damaris says that I sound like the Grinch – “all the noise, noise, noise!” Maybe there’s truth to that – Hah!

Let me not forget that this exhale of silence, this moment of awe is effectively a calibration of my spirit – a moment to gather in all the truth of who I really am in the great universe of God’s scheming. A realignment that fits me into my true place – as the creature…then….then…I can sound. Then we can sound the pure ring of praise from mere creature to exalted creator, from freed prisoner to righteous ransomer, from lowly shepherd on a hillside to searing radiance of a glorious God. These responses all have their place and will find their voice as witnessed in Mary’s magnificat (Luke 1:46) , the wisemen’s joy at finding the Messiah (Matthew 2:10), and the shepherds jubilation:

Luke 2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

May an awesome silence lead our families to an awesome celebration of the Christ child this Christmas!

a thought from Nathan

Advertisements

We Wish You a First Christmas!

From our family to yours, we wish you a“First Christmas”!

Our prayers as a family this advent season seem to have focused on the desire for God to grant us the freshness of sight of that first Christmas.

Amidst all the festivities of the season, the pageantry, the stockings and growing skirt of presents under the tree, even the familiar carols and Scripture passages; we flail out for rescue. Our hope lies in revisiting His Christmas anew:

May He shock us with His glory like those shepherds cowering on the night hillside.

May He bewilder us with His mercy like old Zechariah.

May He humble us with His favor like young Mary.

May He bolster us with His strength like obedient Joseph.

May He draw us with His inextinguishable light like those searching scholars from the east.

Let us all together flee with desperate need to the overwhelming graciousness of the Immanuel, God with Us!

One recent resource we found that helped our family to these ends was this video produced by VidAngel. It is a fresh, poignant reminder of the tangible need of each of us and our children for God’s divine intervention into our darkened world, and of the welcome light His Son has brought!

a thought from Nathan


Winter Wonder

Mid December is snowy and bright with predictable bitter cold nights. We make attempts to combat our drowsiness by playing Christmas music all day and allowing ourselves to fade at 4:33. All the candles in the windows light up, we light the lamps, and we light the oven. It smells like beef stew, and the large emerald Dutch oven’s fullness reminds us of our empty stomachs. Barn chores already done, Eva lights the candles on the long table. This farmhouse’s glowing across the frosted snow offers a welcome and speaks of rest. But this evening, I am not in step with the ambience. My heart is all undone, stretched thin across the many things that need my attention.

While dusk dims the rooms, I feel my heart wax in the frustration of bad piano practices and forgotten laundry baskets. Regretfully, I lash out short answers, scolding remarks, and impatient commands. I can’t blame this on the winter blues – this is my lack. Why is it so much easier when Nathan is home?

In preparation for the busyness that we all know this season brings, I had committed to go through December with complete enjoyment. Making things beautiful and special during the holidays is rewarding far beyond my effort, but now it’s obvious to everyone around that I need to take time for some peace. I know that my body and mind need a little rest. It’s not a bubble bath, a TV show, or calling a friend that can soothe my undone heart and mind. I will take a few, unusual, before-dinner moments to be with God. He will remind me that He came to be my Counselor, my Prince of Peace.

These are some of my treasured verses about God’s peace that I pray encourage you too:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans15:13

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:15

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

2Thessalonians 3:16

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6,7

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

1Peter 5:7

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

Psalm119:165

May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Psalm 29:11

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

with love. Damaris


A Simplified Advent

The busyness of December can quickly gobble up our anticipation for the amazing arrival of God With Us. Advent readings help us see Jesus’ birth through the eyes of God’s people. We can share in their anticipation, their fear, their yearning and experience a renewal of our own wonder at the gift of the promised Messiah. The longing and expectant hope of the people of Israel that brightens every passage of Scripture brightens our homes, too. While we already know the account of the Messiah’s birth (and have probably each sat through hundreds of Sunday School lessons to ensure it), these readings take us back to the early promises of Jesus’ coming – promises to a people desperate for salvation, walking by faith through mysteries, prophecies, and shadows. Advent’s renewal of hope quickens our faith in God’s promises and our gratitude for His great mercy.

Daily advent readings also help us to not only look forward but also look inward – preparing our hearts to long for Jesus. Setting short times for the daily readings aids in personal reflection and in teaching children a love for the anticipation. By preparing our hearts for advent, we can experience Jesus’ coming afresh and our sense of wonder and amazement is renewed – we will know Him at his arrival and our joy will be full. What Joy? As Christians, know that the waiting and anticipation is not for a baby, but for a savior. The Christmas story may start with a star and manger; but it ends with a cross, a death, and a joyous resurrection!

There are many advent resources for families, and one we’ve thoroughly enjoyed in the past is a Jesse Tree. This December, we are reading a second time through All Is Bright: A devotional journey to color your way to Christmas. It is different in that it includes short readings for the whole month of December and beautiful coloring pages accompany each daily devotional. Perfect for some of the children to color while you read aloud.

Each evening, at the dinner table, Nathan reads these advent Scripture passages:

with love. Nathan and Damaris


December: Preparing For The Season

The twinkling lights glowing day and night and the extra greenery brought inside fill our home with wonder. With little effort, we all can turn our homes into a snow mountain lodge overlooking the frozen lake (that’s what imaginations are for- wink!) This is the month for stringing up a little tinsel, sneaking a kiss under the mistletoe, and sampling the entire array of hot chocolates – embracing all the simple joys! yay!

Our family loves December because it’s the month we get to spend extra time together! …and Christmas! Full of advent readings and carols, we also enjoy the mood with a few fun activities. Over the years, many of these have become traditions.

Here are the activities we’ve been up to:

  1. wearing our flannel plaids

  2. making stock pots of soup

  3. listening to Christmas music all day long

  4. trekking across a tree farm for the perfect Christmas tree cutting

  5. burning seasonal candles like “mulled cider” and “fresh balsam”

  6. diffusing essential oils that complement our freshly-cut tree (3 drops cedarwood+3 Douglas fir or 2 wintergreen+2 rosemary+2 peppermint)

  7. trimming the tree and decorating the house – the kids love it!

  8. making cookies

  9. advent readings

  10. popping giant bowls of popcorn

  11. roasting chestnuts

  12. filling up our Christmas book basket

  13. making homemade hot chocolate (recipe coming soon-yum!)

  14. writing cards to friends near and abroad

  15. taking the obligatory cheesy smile portraits

  16. making a bucket list for our upcoming Christmas break (sharing it on the blog tomorrow)

What do early December days look like at your house?

with love. Damaris