Who Holds the “Watch”?

by Terri Gillespie

Do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16 TLV

Have you ever watched children playing? There are mostly natural sharers—who willingly sacrifice their toys to be able to play with someone else. Then there are those who don’t understand the value of sharing. They hold that toy so tightly, maybe to the point of fighting the other child to keep what is theirs.

I was in the company of four young sisters last year. Three of them were fascinated with my watch. I allowed the eldest, who was five, to wear it first. She was careful—actually, she was quite clever figuring out its functions. She undoubtably would have worn it for some time, except her younger sister fussed about a turn.

But older sister wasn’t quite finished with her time.

When I suggested she share my watch with her sister, she said she didn’t want to.

But after staring at the watch a few seconds, she then willingly and sweetly placed the watch on her sister’s wrist. Oh, how I wish I could have peeked inside that young brain to see how she came to that decision in such a short period of time.

I’ve been thinking about that; how tightly I hold onto things. Not just physical things, but time—my private time. Because as an introvert, I need time away from people to recharge. It is too easy to become stingy and not share my time much at all.

In verse 14 (TLV), the writer of Hebrews reminds the Jewish believers,

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come.”

Let’s think about that. If this is not our “city”—our home—then all this “stuff” really isn’t ours to begin with. We certainly can’t take it with us.

As I think about the tug-of-war that happens with children when they want the same toy, I wonder how often I do that very thing. How often do I want to take credit for an idea—when the Creator of the Universe is the Author of all great ideas? What about my home? Do I hold that too tightly? Or realize that I am but the responsible steward, and that it should be shared through hospitality?

I have a friend who taught me the phrase, Hold things lightly. Isn’t that great? Because when we hold things lightly, there is no tug-of-war. No squabbles over who holds “the watch.”

Like the older sister, she knew the watch wasn’t hers, and that I had shared it with her. So, when I asked her to share—even though it was a sacrifice to relinquish the fascinating toy—she did it. And when I thanked her and praised her for sharing, the sweet smile and hug was precious.

So, next time our Heavenly Father wants us to share our “watch,” it’s okay to acknowledge that it is a sacrifice, but it is more important to remember the watch is His.

This article brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, because of His Son Jesus. Her book, Really Bad Hair Day won the 2022 Golden Scroll for Contemporary Novel of the Year.

Really Bad Hair Day (Book 3 of The Hair Mavens series) The Mavens bring their sense of style of really good hair out into the community and to the homeless. But as much as the ladies want to help others, they discover they need help, too or they may lose a maven. And, yes, the final book answers whether or not Shira and Jesse get married.

Join the conversation: What seems like a sacrifice for you to share?


Jesus Loves Me

by Maureen Miller

The picture hung on our wall.

It was a simple portrait depicting our Savior, and as a girl of seven, I imagined this was how Jesus looked around the time he began public ministry. When he called his disciples. Held children on his knees. Gave sight to the blind. Prepared for the cross.

He appeared kind, and the framed depiction, to borrow a familiar adage, “gave a face to a name.” In truth, from a very young age, I loved him, and the image in our hallway was who I pictured when I prayed or sang happy Sunday School songs, like Jesus Tender Shepherd and Jesus Loves the Little Children.

But more than merely an oil-painted portrait—a rendering by an artist whose name I didn’t know—was the truth my parents taught me about the painter’s subject. As I’d pad out of the bathroom in Winnie the Pooh slippers, there he’d be, smiling down from high above, and I knew the words of another familiar children’s song were undeniably true.

Jesus loved me.

And because he loved me—loved my sister and Momma and Daddy, too—we could trust him. Indeed, we could tell him anything, and it was this that made the painting of Jesus particularly special.

For as far back as I can recall, our mom told us, “Girls, the Bible tells us to cast our cares upon the Lord. So, when you have a burden on your heart, something you want to pray about, write it down. Then we’ll tuck the request behind the picture of Jesus and wait for his answer.”

And we did.

Over the years, our family’s prayer concerns were taped behind Jesus’s portrait, requests only taken down when a prayer was answered, and not always even then.

If one were to peer behind the picture, she’d discover a child’s scribble, likely in bold crayon—Help me read. Or—I want a puppy.

Momma’s too, in neat cursive—Please keep Maureen safe at church camp. Or—Heal Kathleen’s headaches.

And then there were Daddy’s, his handwriting almost illegible. I have a new patient battling breast cancer. Please help me care for her. Or—We’re putting together a team for next summer’s medical mission trip to Haiti. Guide us.

Even when requests were answered, the prayers would often remain. Momma would encourage us to add the date, noting exactly when the answer came, then return the paper to its place behind Jesus, like a stone of remembrance, at least for a season.

This literal giving of our cares and concerns to him turned what may have seemed ordinary into that which was extraordinary. Over years, we witnessed our Good Shepherd’s answers, time and time again. Sometimes they were yes. Other times, no. But he was always faithful.

As I matured from a girl of seven to a young woman of seventeen, my developing stature enabled me to gaze at the portrait of my Savior more closely. Though his was always that kind and caring face on the wall in our hallway, I saw more over the passing of time.

I saw compassion.

I understood grace.

I knew more of his forgiveness.

Most of all, I knew the old familiar lyric was true, and it made all the difference. It’s making a difference still—Yes, Jesus loves me.

…casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. I Peter 5:7 CSB

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Maureen Miller lives and loves on Selah Farm—a hobby homestead nestled in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. With Bill, her husband of 32 years, and their three “born-in-their-hearts” children and three grandchildren, they raise a variety of animals. Maureen loves books, movies, and music that make her cry. She asks daily to have eyes and ears wide open that she might experience the wonders of God’s Word and His created world and blogs regularly about His extraordinary character discovered in the ordinary of life at www.penningpansies.com. Taking Spirit-breathed ideas and framing them with words is her passion. Living Jesus is her highest aim.

Join the conversation: Do you have childhood memories of first learning about Jesus?

The Argument

by Ronda Wells

“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT

When hubby and I travel, we avoid chain restaurants. A small-town diner got several good reviews and had lots of cars in the lot, so we stopped. The food turned out to be decent, but the floor show was another matter.

After we were seated, a petite young woman with cerebral palsy struggled awkwardly on her hand canes to reach her seat near our table. Her companion, a man easily five times her size, cursed her out for how long she’d taken in the bathroom. His voice carried throughout our end of the restaurant. The woman argued back, but her halting speech and child-like answers indicated some degree of cognitive impairment.

He told her she could just walk home (in ninety-degree heat) or “go back to mommy and daddy.” Oddly, no one else in the diner reacted, not even the waitress. Perhaps they knew them, or sadder yet, this wasn’t unusual for the area. I determined if he made a threat to harm her, I would call the police.

Physicians are trained to look for signs of vulnerable women and domestic abuse. I’d treated many abused patients in my family practice. But this man’s verbal abuse was the worst I’d ever heard. He even made fun of her disability. If this was in public, how did he treat her at home?

If I tried to intervene, it would likely make things worse, but I’d had enough.

I normally don’t make a show of praying in public settings, but this time I put my hands together, bowed my head and prayed silently. I asked that the demons of anger and hatred surrounding this couple would be banished, and the man would stop his tirade. I prayed they both would find Jesus.

The argument lulled.

I stopped praying and studied my menu. The bully started cursing again. By now, she was crying, and he mocked her tears. I made a deliberate show of setting down my menu and prayed again. My husband gave me a puzzled glance but said nothing. He told me in the car he knew I had to have a good reason for what I was doing, being this obvious.

Three more rounds of argument ensued, followed by prayer each time. The last time, when I opened my eyes, the man looked at me with shame on his face before returning to eating. The argument stopped.

We finished our meal and left. I prayed for this couple all the hundreds of miles home. Hopefully what the man saw would impact him and be used by God even more than if I had actually spoken. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” NLT

I think soft prayers can do the same.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the Author: Doctor by day, writer by night, Dr. Ronda Wells is an award-winning author who has written inspirational fiction for over twenty-five years. She has helped numerous other Christian writers with creating authentic medical scenes for their books. A lifelong Hoosier, Ronda is a wife, mother and grandmother who lives in Mooresville, Indiana, and loves to travel. She writes fiction and non-fiction stories that illustrate extraordinary faith among the conflicts of ordinary life. Her contemporary inspirational novel, Harvest of Hope, is currently under consideration with a publisher. Visit her website to read a bonus chapter at www.rondawellsbooks.com or connect with her via Linktree at https://linktr.ee/rondawellsbooks.

Join the conversation: Have you ever encountered a situation like this? How did you handle it?

Like a Platter of Christmas Cookies

by Stacy Leicht

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Jeremiah 1:5 ESV

What is more delightful than baking Christmas cookies with your family? Do you use Christmas cookie cutters of all shapes and sizes, or do you prefer a dough-rolled ball or sliced-and-bake cookie? The options are endless.

In the U.S., the tradition of making cookies started in the 1700s when Germans settled in Pennsylvania and brought the unleavened treat. Around the world, many countries enjoy baking cookies to set out the night before Christmas for Santa to enjoy. The tradition of putting out milk and cookies for Santa began in the 1930s during The Great Depression, created by parents trying to instill thankfulness in their children.

The tradition of baking cookies is still common in many countries today. In Sweden, they might bake peppery Pepparkakor cookies. In Germany, they create Lebkuchen, and in Italy, they make Neapolitans. Everyone loves their particular version of this treat.  

Last year our family was given a tin of cookies from a neighbor. We were each excited about a different kind of cookie when we exclaimed as it was opened. “Oh, there’s a chocolate chip!” “Gingerbread!” “Fudge!” We laughed, realizing how different our tastes were in Christmas cookies. As I stood eating the chocolate chip cookie, while my brother enjoyed gingerbread and my mother some fudge, it made me appreciate our differences.

Our family is very much like a platter of cookies. We are all basically the same but also different in many ways. Looking back at the tin, I noted that although I liked the chocolate chip, I didn’t dislike the other cookies or find fault in them. Wouldn’t it be lovely if, this Christmas, we could look at one another the same way?

During the holidays, we may have opportunities to be with groups of people we are not with a great deal. Each of us is God’s creation and perfect in his eyes. He created each person intentionally, the way a cookie is purposely made with a recipe. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (ESV).

This Christmas, may we be delighted not just in cookies and presents but with the amazing people God has put in our lives.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Stacy Leicht is an author, a Speak Up Certified Speaker, and a veteran teacher. Stacy currently teaches at UNC-Greensboro in the Elementary Education Department, where she supervises juniors and seniors to be future educators. Stacy published her first children’s book in November 2021 called Good One, God, which won a Golden Scroll Award. Additionally, Stacy is a contributing author of the Radical Abundance Devotional Book, released in October 2022. Stacy’s suspense novel, Dear Teacher, I’m Watching You, will be released in early 2023. Stacy loves baking and reading, but her favorite hobby is walking on the beach. You can reach Stacy at https://stacyleicht.com

Join the conversation: What are some interesting differences in your family members?

An Unexpected Gift

by Shadia Hrichi

How many times did you hear as a child, “It is better to give than to receive”? Perhaps from a parent or grandparent or favorite aunt or uncle. It often preceded a trip to the shopping mall to buy Christmas presents. As children, it was a challenge to resist wanting the toys for ourselves.

Even as adults, we can struggle with the temptation to seek our own interests over other’s. When it comes to giving gifts to support the work of God’s Kingdom, even as a Christian, we may struggle at times. How much should I give? What if I can’t pay the rent? Or maybe we are more than happy to give, only to find ourselves tempted to become prideful in our giving.

I am a very black and white thinker. As such, when I became a Christian as an adult, I didn’t struggle too much with the concept of giving. To me, it made sense and God commanded it. That was enough. However, one morning I was deeply moved by the unexpected gift described in 2 Corinthians 9:10-14.

In this passage, Paul is speaking of gifts given to those less fortunate, whereby the gifts did more than simply provide for their needs. They prompted a gift to be offered up in return – a gift that far outweighs what they received. Paul writes,

They [the recipients] will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you (2 Corinthians 9:14).

The needy will pray… for Me?

It never occurred to me that those whom I viewed as being in real need would turn around and pray for me. Don’t I already have everything I need? So much so that I can share some of it with others?

But that’s where they are so rich and I am so poor. Those who must depend on God for even their next meal recognize the grace, faithfulness, and compassion of God in ways we never will. Day-by-day and moment-by-moment. It’s a humbling thought when you consider that from such grateful hearts, those who have so little offer up prayers for those who have so much.

Our gifts to those in need are certainly important, but they are temporary. However, what they give us in return—sincere prayers of “deep affection”—are gifts that no amount of money can buy. What a glorious God we have! Only in God’s economy, can the gifts we give come back to bless us in ways that last for eternity.

I am well supplied, having received … the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. Philippians 4:18 ESV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Shadia is a passionate Bible teacher, award-winning author and speaker who has a heart for seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She holds a master’s in biblical and theological studies and is the author of various Bible studies, including TAMAR, HAGAR, LEGION and WORTHY OF LOVE, a Bible study for post-abortion healing. Currently residing in California, Shadia regularly speaks at churches and women’s events and loves to visit the ocean each week for ”a date with Jesus.” Visit www.shadiahrichi.com.

Join the conversation: What blessing from God have you received after giving?

Recalibrating My Priorities

by Sue Likkel

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV

Full disclosure: when the leaves on the trees blow away and my chunky sweaters come out, I think of Christmas….tasks. Yes, Christmas tasks. I wish I could say that I think of celebrating Jesus’ birthday but usually, it’s the lists– of items to purchase, food to make, and events to host.

Even though my Christmas’s are more toned down than most, I can still get caught up in a season I find very distracting, taking my eyes off the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Two Christmases in particular recalibrated my priorities.

One year we had the privilege of spending Christmas in the Midwest with our son on the occasion of his wedding. After a long flight and various modes of transportation, we sat on the floor of a tiny apartment, eating our first home-cooked meal in a few days. 

With a strand of lights taped to the wall and a scrawny, mini tree leaning on an end table, the trappings were thin, but we were so happy.  We’d spent more time apart than together in the last few years and these three days were precious to all of us. Mostly, we wanted to reconnect, and there among us was our Jesus, smiling and eating with us.

Another year, my mom died on Christmas day. People were there, supporting, listening, encouraging.  No one said they couldn’t come because it was Christmas; they knew their presence was important. Jesus was there, too, arms around shoulders, taking a quiet walk with those who couldn’t believe what had just happened.

When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate nor fully understand the doe-eyed look my mom gave us kids when we were all home for Christmas.  Now I do.

Nothing underlines the importance of your people like losing one or having them absent either physically or emotionally. I get it. Just their presence is enough for me.  Sure, we’ll still exchange gifts, but their gift to me is just sitting in the living room watching the big game, making a mess in the kitchen while making cookies, or wrapping presents with the music cranked up.

I’ve come to realize that we just want relationship for Christmas. That’s exactly what Jesus offers us: relationship.

My best gift to my Lord is acknowledging my gratitude to Him through the joy I experience with my family and others I love. It’s a gift back to Him that I can give every day. Whether I have another lean Christmas, a more sumptuous one, or a quieter, lonely Christmas, Jesus will be there on my couch, in my kitchen, tasting my cookies.

Some years, circumstances force us to do Christmas differently. Life still happens at Christmas – someone’s in the hospital, the flu wipes mom out, or a job is lost. Thankfully, that baby in swaddling clothes is there for it all.

The joy of togetherness after miles of travel, the grace to weather a financial storm, the fortitude of managing family stress…baby Jesus gets the credit for it all. 

He doesn’t care much if we spend $70 or $7,000. What He cares about is our glorifying Him and celebrating His life through loving the people we’re with. And no matter where I am or who I’m with, I’ll follow my mom’s lead. Jesus and I will look at them doe-eyed, too.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sue Likkel is a reader, writer, speaker, and teacher. A lover of words, she has spent decades in the classroom teaching English to middle and high schoolers. A child of God, she’s humbled and grateful for all He has done for her, like guiding her through challenges and blessing her with rich experiences. Native to Michigan but residing most of her life in the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys both the beaches and mountains with her husband, kids, and grandkids.

Join the conversation: What is your biggest priority this Christmas season?

In the Fullness of Time

by Sheri Schofield

I’m a Scrabble fan. I like the planning and mental challenge of the game, and my family often plays it when we’re together at Christmas. But then someone introduced me to Upwords, a three-dimensional version of the game that can be built up from the board, not merely across it. Wow! Now that is a challenge!

One day I realized the parallel between Upwords and how God works in our lives. He doesn’t plan our lives on a flat plane. If we mistakenly miss his direction, he will still get us to his end goal as we live in surrender to him. He builds upwards and around obstacles. We cannot blow God’s plan by our mistakes, as long as we trust and keep following him.

That understanding of God became crystal clear to me when our son met his future wife. My husband and I had planned on serving God in either Santa Rosa, Argentina, or in Quito, Ecuador. But the sins of someone else destroyed that plan and sent us to Montana for many years. And this was where our son Drew met Chelsea for the first time. Her parents were missionaries whose home church was in Montana, and they were home on furlough after having served in Santa Rosa, Argentina and after she had attended a missionary school in Quito, Ecuador. Those same two cities! Our son and daughter-in-law could not have missed meeting one another on this earth! God’s plans included the detour we’d had to take.

Sometimes when I feel anxious about other people sabotaging my plans, God reminds me that he remains in full control and can build upward from the place I was derailed.

King David wrote, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13, 16 NIV).

When the Jewish people were taken into captivity to Babylon, God told Jeremiah he would bring them back to their land in his own time. Jeremiah wrote, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).

Galatians 4:4 says God sent his Son to earth in the fullness of time. And God has good plans for each of us—in his time. His heart for his children is the same now as it was in ancient times.

.This Christmas, remember that God sent Jesus to us, “in the fullness of time.” God has a fullness of time in each event of his children’s lives.  He knows when we are delayed unexpectedly, or when someone else derails the plan he has for us. He has taken this all into account. When we hit a roadblock, God incorporates the change and puts us back on the right track.

It is not our job to worry or to be anxious. It is our responsibility to simply hand our problems over to God and let him do the work of directing us. Our all-wise God does not make mistakes. He’s got this!

As the Christmas season surrounds us, may the knowledge of God’s sovereignty comfort, calm, and fill each of us with joy.

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Matthew 6:31-34 (NIV).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sheri Schofield, award-winning author and Bible teacher, has added a new way to share faith in Jesus: Her latest book, Before You Find Me, is a contemporary romantic suspense featuring a strong Christian who faces a crisis that tests her courage. Tara, a freshman at West Texas A&M whose parents are dead, learns that her younger sister witnessed a murder. To protect her siblings, she must spirit them out of Texas before the murderer learns there was a witness to his act. Tara has one day in which to act. Can she do it? She remembers a family ranch in Montana…and Ben, the boy next-door, who captured her heart once. Will he still be there? Will he help her protect her family now? This book entertains while it presents godly responses to danger and struggles. Sometimes fiction can draw people closer to God when they will not be drawn by nonfiction. Before You Find Me is available at http://www.sherischofield.com.

Join the conversation: What worries you this Christmas season? How does knowing God has all things in hand help the anxiety?

My Favorite Name

by Linda L. Kruschke

Christmas is here. It makes me wonder where the rest of 2022 went! We’ve spent the month thinking of the perfect gifts for family and friends. Then came the shopping and wrapping. But the older I get, the less Christmas is about the giving and getting of things. For me, it is now more about the one gift given long ago, the best gift of all. The gift of God’s Son.

My favorite part of decorating for Christmas is deciding where to display my 28 nativity sets and figurines. As I set each one in its place, I am thankful for the gift of the Holy Child.

I’ve been thinking about the many names given to Jesus in the Bible. He is called the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Prince of Peace, King of kings, Lord of lords, Alpha & Omega, and many more. But my favorite name of Jesus? Immanuel.

The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 NASB). This prophecy is quoted in Matthew 1:23 by an angel in a vision to Joseph. He defines the name Immanuel to mean “God with us.”

When I look at my many nativity scenes, that is what I see: God with us. For thousands of years, God tried to get the message across to His people that He loved them and would always be there for them. He spoke through miracles, such as the parting of the Red Sea, and through prophets, such as Isaiah and Daniel. But even with all His attempts, His people did not listen.

So God became one of us, to live among us in the flesh, to experience life just as we do. I like the name Immanuel because it reminds me that God left His glory behind to experience all the pain, trials, and heartache that we experience. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus is a high priest who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet was without sin. He has walked a metaphorical mile in our shoes. He can sympathize with our weaknesses because He has gone before us. All to provide those who would believe in Him an eternal relationship with God.  

This Christmas, I hope you will feel the blessing of being with God and of God being with you. I hope you will experience the fullness of Immanuel.

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

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Linda L. Kruschke writes candid memoir and fearless poetry. She aspires to show women that God’s redemption and healing are just a story away. She blogs at AnotherFearlessYear.net, and has been published in Today’s Christian Living, Fathom Magazine, The Christian Journal, Bible Advocate, Now What?, iBelieve.com, WeToo.org blog, The Mighty, Calla Press, Divine Purpose blog, Agape Review, Arise Daily, and several anthologies. She is the editor-in-chief for Swallow’s Nest, the poetry journal of Oregon Christian Writers.

Join the conversation: What does the idea of God with Us mean to you?

Christmas: Where the Sacred and the Secular Collide

by Heather Norman Smith

There are two versions of Christmas. They share the same date on the calendar and the same holiday name, but they are two very different celebrations.

First, there’s the holy celebration of the birth of the Christ child—the One who came to rescue mankind from eternal separation from God, demonstrating God’s deep love for humanity. We sing His praises and extol His goodness.

Then, there’s the Christmas celebration where a decorated evergreen tree becomes the centerpiece of our home. We sing songs about reindeer, bake cookies shaped like little men, and stress about finding suitable gifts for everyone on our list.

Through the years, I’ve struggled to reconcile the two Christmases. I tend to focus primarily on the birth of Jesus up until the Sunday before December 25th. Our church play with its nativity images is always the spiritual highlight of the season. Then my mind and heart give way to the excitement of family gatherings, classic holiday movies, and my children’s faces on Christmas morning.

But should there be a balance? Should we entertain that which distracts us from the manger?

Some time ago, I was struck by an unusual comparison: Christmastime is like a wedding with a reception. The vows and exchanging of rings at a wedding are holy, the sacred part. But it is often followed by a let-loose party. The reception is the celebration of what has taken place, though it rarely resembles the ceremony. At the reception, guests focus on the emotion of the day, if not specifically the reason for the emotion. In a similar way, Christmas blends the sacred and the secular; and the latter depends on the former.

All the warm and fuzzy, less-than-holy feelings of Christmas, find their roots in a singular emotion, created by, and embodied in God Himself: Love. We have love because He came. And the joy of the season, even feelings that don’t directly relate to the Christ child (magic, wonder, coziness, generosity, anticipation), are because of Him.

So maybe there is room for the fun of Frosty and Rudolph after all.

Let’s talk about the wedding crashers—unbelievers who celebrate the day set aside to honor Christ’s birth. Our Lord’s name defines this day, yet many who don’t claim Him still celebrate. It’s like not knowing the bride and groom but showing up for the party anyway.

They’ll sing carols and bake cookies, string lights, and give gifts, yet want nothing to do with the Christ of Christmas. But Christ came for them, too, whether they believe it or not. And while true joy can’t be found outside of a relationship with Him, a semblance of it exists in their singular version of Christmas, even when they haven’t met the Source.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll meet Him at the party. When Jingle Bells fades into O Holy Night on the radio, maybe they’ll be drawn to Bethlehem.

A collision of the sacred and the secular at Christmas really seems fitting since that’s what happened when Christ was born. The Holy One took on human flesh. A perfect God broke the plane between Heaven and Earth. The Most High took up residence in a fallen world. That’s the reality of Christmas. Our celebrations don’t have to be at odds when we are secure in His lordship in our lives.

So, as you sing Jingle Bells, think of Him. As you think about the manger, thank Him for the presents under the tree.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:17 NKJV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Heather Norman Smith is an author of Christian Fiction set in her home state of North Carolina. Her goal is to entertain and encourage while illuminating the redemptive love of God. Learn more about her work at heathernormansmith.com and amazon.com/Heather-Norman-Smith/e/B07DWLCXYG.

Join the conversation: What do you prioritize in your holiday planning?

Have a Mega Christmas

by Sue Badeau

Then Hannah prayed and said, “My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord.” 1 Samuel 2:1 NASB

 And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord.” Luke 1:46 NASB

Long before the stores have put away the remnants of Halloween candy and costumes, Christmas items began appearing everywhere. In pre-and-post-COVID times, this meant festive and sometimes tacky decorations popping up in every shopping mall, eatery, and corner store. During COVID, Zoom backgrounds magically transformed to winter wonderlands, jingle-jangle dancers, or even grinch-themed settings. Online businesses bombard us with their holiday specials, and most especially of all, the halls of mega stores are decked with mega decorations in preparation for their mega sales.

Sometimes it can all seem too much—all too mega.

I was watching a Hallmark movie last week that featured a young lady over-decorating her small antique shop. Her much more sophisticated friend opined that Christmas had “thrown up in here.”

In contrast to such overt holiday announcements, the above Scriptures quote two women who quietly offered their praises to God. When reading 1Samuel, we might imagine Hannah whispering her prayer to God as she humbly approaches his throne, feeling the full majesty of his presence encircling her. And Mary’s beautiful praise, which we know as the Magnificat, begin with almost exactly the same words that Hannah spoke so many years before. These verses feel reverent, deeply personal and filled with awe and wonder. So far removed from the hustle-bustle, jingle-jangle commercialism of the modern Christmas experience.

Many times, at the end of another crazy-busy day, I yearn for one of those simple, quiet moments of reflective, worshipful, Holy Spirit-soaked moments that both Hannah and Mary experienced.

Wanting to learn the exact meaning of the word “exalt” in their prayers of praise, I did some research, and that’s when it hit me: the word “exalt” in these Scriptures is based on the original Greek word translated as “mega.” According to Strong’s Concordance, it is used to mean “large, great in the widest sense.” Some synonyms: completely, huge, and all-the-more.

Both Hannah and Mary are saying that their hearts and their souls see and reflect back the completely large, great, wide, hugeness of our God. And in that respect, the trappings of our modern Christmas expressions aren’t so far off.

So, let’s go ahead and take a ride to look around—enjoy the mega-lights, the mega-blow-up Santas on people’s lawns, the mega-sized extravagant trees in town squares. Let’s be drawn in by the hugeness of it all. We should allow our heart and soul and mind to exalt in our Lord.

Oh Magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:3 NASB 1995

Dear Lord, Help me to exalt and magnify your name and your presence in my own life and in this world. Even in these dark days of winter, even in these dark times of so much loss and grief, let us exalt your name together and revel in the mega-ness of your all-the-more love for us.

Song for worship – a beautiful version, by a mega-choir, of Psalm 34, Magnify the Lord with Me by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfW2mkkMTAg.

This article is brought to you by the Advance Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sue Badeau is a Christian author, speaker and adoptive parent who trains, consults and speaks nationally and internationally on trauma, racial justice, family engagement and self-care .She and her husband, Hector are lifetime parents of 22; two by birth, 20 adopted, and have also been foster parents to 75 including refugees from Kosovo and Sudan. They have co-authored Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip, Adopting and Raising 22 Kids and Building Bridges of Hope: A Coloring Book for Adults Caring for Children Who Have Experienced Trauma. Sue also has authored a 6-week devotional book based on Psalm 51 and her experiences living with and loving people with trauma histories, entitled Clean Heart, Renewed Joy and she has a collection of short stories with holiday themes entitled, Our Special Christmas Joy.

Join the conversation. Are you drawn in by the hugeness of Christmas?