Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bits and pieces of Christmas

Christmas day has come and gone! I have loved this Christmas time, not just the 25th of December, but the days leading up to it.

I am slowly learning and realising that Christmas is not just about a certain day, but its something we celebrate for many days and treasure in our hearts always.

While chatting with a friend last night it really dawned on me that we don't have to sit and ponder the birth of Jesus all day on the 25 of December each year to make it meaningful, that's something we contemplate many times throughout the year and so much more around Christmas time.

I remember my days before I was married I would strive hard to make Christmas day meaningful by taking time out to think about the birth of Jesus, but I would often come away from the day feeling guilty that I hadn't spent enough time pondering, but much more time shopping etc.

But this year, and come to think of it in more recent years, I have spent more time leading up to Christmas day thinking about the wonder of Jesus' birth, and the whole nativity story.

Some of the things which I have done this year which has helped me to 'focus' more on Jesus include:

  • Reading the Nativity Story (even though I am still not finished!);

  • Reading when I can Immanuel - Praying through the names of God through the Christmas Season;

  • Going through Getting ready for Christmas with the kids, most days!;

  • Listening to lots more meaningful Christmas songs and carols;

  • Reading other people's blogs about their thoughts on Christmas;

  • Going to two carols nights, plus two church services, I have been blown away this year by the depth of the words in the traditional carols.

I feel like its one of the first years I have come away from Christmas feeling like I have truly celebrated Christmas, and it wasn't because I was super organised and got everything done that I wanted to, or that I had spent all day Christmas day meditating on the birth of Jesus.

I think its because I have taken many opportunities throughout the month of December to stop and think, not just leave it all up to Christmas eve or Christmas day. I also tried hard not to allow myself to become anxious or stressed about things to do and things I just can't do!
So here are some of my Christmas highlights for 2008.

  • Making nativity gingerbread stables for my neighbours;

  • Going to carols and Elder park and watching the awesome lightening over the river Torrens - God put on a great show (most of the singing was pretty good too!)

  • Going to carols at our old church with our kids and friends from England who had never been to anything like it before - it's pretty cold on the other side of the world this time of year!

  • Watching my husband coordinate an awesome Christmas eve service and then come home and put together two trampolines!
  • Hosting a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas eve for 23 kids involving cake, making cookies to give away and a nativity story!

  • Managing to avoid any crazy shopping expeditions by choosing to shop only in the quiet times (i.e early morning or after tea!)

  • Lots of Christmas cooking with my kids, they love to help and watch!

  • Going to the Lobethal Christmas pageant with our kids, they've never been to one before and it was so nice to see so many nativity floats!

  • Watching our 3 girls sing a Christmas song on stage for the Christmas eve service, our 2 and 1/2 year old didn't sing, but stood there looking pretty while swinging her dress!

Now that its all over, I need to make sure I write a list of all the things I loved this year about Christmas and a list of the things I would like to try or do differently next year.

In the post Christmas sales yesterday at Koorong I picked up this book which I will have to start reading next July called, Can Martha have a Mary Christmas? - Untangling Expectations and Truly experiencing Jesus by Brenda Poinsett.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thoughts about Mary

I have been reading The Nativity Story a novelisation of The Nativity Story movie. I have really enjoyed getting into the characters, to take the time to ponder and consider what it would have been like for Mary, Joseph, their families, the wise men.

So far, I am loving the way the author, Angela Hunt, has portrayed all the characters, especially Mary. I have always been so drawn to Mary, and even more so since having children.

A few years ago I read through most of Francine Rivers, Lineage of Grace, but I chose not to read the account of Mary, I didn't want to to be caught up in the all the reality and emotions of what she may have experienced at the cross. But I have enjoyed getting to know the Mary of this story. In an interview with Angela Hunt at the back of the book she responds to this question:

Of all the women in Judea, why do you think God chose Mary to give birth to the Saviour of the World?

Angela Hunt: While I can't presume to know the mind of God, I realised something while I was working on the scenes in which Mary travelled to see Elizabeth. In my first draft, I had Mary thinking the sort of thoughts I'd think if I were her: Am I delusional? Was I hallucinating when I saw the angel? If Elizabeth really is pregnant, I'll know I didn't dream that encounter in the olive grove.

I had to strike all those thoughts when I studied Elizabeth's response to Mary. Luke 1:45 tells us that when she saw her young cousin, Elizabeth said, "You are blessed, because you believed that the Lord would do what he said"(emphasis added).

While I'm sure Galilee was filled with virtuous young virgins who loved and followed ADONAI, I'm not sure there were many who had Mary's pure faith. She went to Elizabeth not to test the angel's word but fully and happily expecting to find her aging cousin six months pregnant.

Mary provides a stark contrast with Zechariah - the priest doubted the angel, but the young girl accepted Gabriel's word with unquestioning faith and obedience.

I still marvel at Mary's trust and faith in God, an unbelievable miracle was about to happen inside of her and she didn't question the angel, she chose to believe and obey. The Nativity Story Movie gave me a glimpse into what it must have been like for her, the questioning, doubting, persecution, rejection. But God chose her and she remained faithful.

I pray that I will have a faith like Mary's, so trusting and confident in her God. He was all she had to trust, no one had ever been through what she was about to experience, she knew full well how impossible it would be for her to be pregnant for she knew she had never known any man. But her faith was in God, not in anything human.
I am daily confronted with so many distractions and temptations, and I put my hope and trust in so many things, but God alone is the one I need to trust and hope in, He alone is the miracle worker, my helper, my Saviour.

I pray that your faith will be simple like Mary's, a quiet, confident trust in an Almighty God.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Our ENORMOUS Christmas tree!

We started a tradition about two years ago, the boys go and find a tree and the girls decorate! Our son loves the fact that its just the boys who go, and he's not too fussed about not decorating! (Although he does add 1 or 2 decorations and then gets tired!).

They went out last Saturday hunting for a tree. After going to about 4 different places they finally found one at a Christmas tree farm, all the others they had seen were not 'good enough' for Mummy! They cut it down and dragged it to the owner, who then measured it and informed my husband of the price - probably the most expensive tree we will ever get! But it is beautiful, straight, tall, compact and wonderfully green!

The next day at church our son proudly went and told everybody about our ENORMOUS Christmas tree!

Whenever I think about Christmas trees I am reminded of Colin Buchanan's song King of Christmas.
Let the Christmas tree remind you of
the one who trusts the Lord
who walks the path of godliness
and loves to hear God's word.
Pray that as you grow up
that's just how you will be
Standing tall for Jesus
like the Christmas tree.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas links

Here are some Christmas links I have come across the past few weeks.


Gingerbread nativity

I am hoping to make an adapted version of this gingerbread nativity to give to my neighbours. I might also use bits of this design as well. I wil post some pictures!

Christmas crackers

We always make our own crackers each year. Our kids like to make them and give them out to their friends on Christmas eve. Here is a good idea of putting bible verses inside instead of jokes.

Easy Christmas ornaments

We made these easy angel and wreath ornaments in about 10 minutes this morning. Pretty and easy for kids to do. They put them on their own Christmas tree in the playroom.

I think we will also try these paper lanterns with some of my scrapbooking paper.

These tinsel stars can also be made out of glitter piper cleaners and beads.


Here are some easy handmade gift bows.

And some pretty gift wraps and bows.


Distracted or downcast?

If you find yourself distracted or downcast this Christmas listen to the sermon at this post.

5 Keys to joy at Christmas

Here is a series of posts about 5 keys to joy at Christmas.

Christmas books to read

The Nativity - Angela Hunt. This is a novelization of the 'Nativity Story' movie.

God in the Manger: The miraculous birth of Christ - John MacArthur. MacArthur explores the miracle and mystery of the birth of Christ.

Stories behind Christmas; Stories behind the best loved Christmas Songs; and More stories behind the best loved Christmas Songs - Ace Collins. Stories behind Christmas explains the history of the common Christmas traditions such as the origin of Christmas, the Christmas tree, advent, candy canes, Santa Claus.

Immanuel: Praying the Names of God through the Christmas Season - Ann Spangler. This book provides daily devotionals for 6 weeks over the Christmas season.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Handy shopping list

I just came across this handy shopping list. I am currently in the process of listing my shopping items in the order they are located in the shop I always shop at. But it is rather tedious, so in the mean time I might try using this shopping list.

I have this strange desire to create the perfect shopping list (perfect for my needs!). One that prompts me to go check everything in my cupboards to see if I need to restock and one that I can follow easily in the shop so I don't have to keep backtracking when I have missed something in an isle.

Grocery shopping for me has always been a lengthy, drawn out process. It got more complicated as kids came along, and then as they started to talk and walk and multiply!

But since the beginning of this year I decided to make my shopping trips more structured, consistent, and more specific! I used to try and juggle shopping trips around when my husband was home, sometimes he stayed home and looked after everyone and sometimes we would all go together. I have also tried early in the morning before he leaves for work and after tea when everyone is in bed. Then I was inspired by my friend who has always done her grocery shopping on the same day, and with all 3 in tow.

I knew I needed to get into a good routine of when I do my shopping, where and how. I shop on the same day once a fortnight. I travel about 10 minutes up to Gawler and shop at Woolworths. I must admit that I was attracted to the easy access to double trolleys and pram parks right outside the front door! Its great I don't have to push a trolley right around a big shopping centre and be distracted by clothes shops etc. I just go and do grocery shopping. I feed my two youngest a bag of snacks, which last just long enough to get through the shop, and then we head over to Hudsons for a coffee (for me) and babycinos!

So grocery shopping for me is now somewhat of a pleasant experience, and of course I know it will be so much better when I one day perfect my list!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Trusting and waiting

Don't you just wish sometimes that God would speak to you in an audible voice? I do. Sometimes I wish that He would sit down with me face to face and tell me exactly what I should do in situations. What to think, what to say.

But that's not how He works.

I want immediate answers and directions, and He wants me to trust and wait on Him. He speaks, directs and leads often in a way we don't expect, and He often doesn't give me immediate answers because He wants me to trust in Him, to seek Him earnestly.

The verses in this Psalm 37:3-11 tell me what I should do in times when I feel like I need Him to speak directly to me.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.

He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your justice as the noonday.

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;

Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.

For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more.

But the meek shall inherit the earth, And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

Trust in the Lord, dwell in the land, feed on His faithfulness, delight yourself in the Lord, commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him, rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, do not fret, cease from anger.

His way for me, the paths He wants me to take will become clear only as I am doing these things. He will give me the desires of my heart, He will bring my way to pass, He will bring forth my righteousness as the light and justice as the noon day, and I shall delight in the abundance of peace.

What amazing promises, but to get there, I need to come to that place of trusting and waiting. And not just waiting around, twiddling my thumbs, but I need to actively feed on His faithfulness - immerse myself in His goodness; delight myself in Him - meditate on and find joy in my salvation; and cease from anger and fretting - don't try and work it out in my head, leave it all up to God.

I like these words from John Piper from his book Future Grace.

"...loving God and delighting in God and drawing near to God mean looking to God as beautiful and worthy and precious. Waiting for God and taking refuge in God and hoping in God and crying out to God mean looking to him as valiant rescuer. Trusting God means counting on his trustworthiness to meet every need. And fearing God means standing in awe at the infinite chasm between his holiness and power on the one hand, and my sin and weakness on the other..."

You know before I started writing this post, my soul was downcast and heavy, but praise God for His word and way it has lifted me up and turned my focus all onto Him.

Show me Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me;
For You are the God of my salvation:
On You I wait all the day.
Psalm 25:4-5

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Getting ready for Christmas

I am now officially in the Christmas mindset! I am one of those people who choose not to get too involved in Christmas until the 1st of December, at the very earliest! I think that has a lot to do with the way we did things when I was growing up. Our Christmas tree went up the day we finished school, and Christmas shopping didn't start until holidays did.

I used to love doing my Christmas shopping in the City. Seeing all the Christmas decorations everywhere, listening to the buskers in the mall. The busyness and crowds never really bothered me it all contributed to the excitement of Christmas!

But that was back in the days before I was married and had kids! Now it seems I do all I can to avoid being amongst the crowds and craziness. I think ahead about what presents to buy and what meals to cook, all to relieve myself of extra stress and pressure as Christmas gets closer.

I must admit that I do miss those school and university days when I could drive into the city and spend a day getting all my Christmas shopping done, it was fun and exciting and back then it helped me get into the Christmas spirit.

But now that I am older and have a family of my own, I enjoy creating a different Christmas spirit within our home.I don't want Christmas to be all about Santa, decorations, presents and food. We have such a wonderful opportunity at Christmas to talk a lot about Jesus and how He humbled Himself and came to earth. That's why I love advent.

You may know that 'advent' means 'coming' or 'arrival'. Observing Advent is a way of preparing spiritually for Christmas so that our celebration produces a sense of joy and hope rather than feelings of cynicism and exhaustion. Advent, then enables us to celebrate Christmas authentically. (From Immanuel - Praying the names of God through the Christmas season - by Ann Spangler)

All day yesterday, it being the 1st December, I was rather mellow and not at all inspired to get out Christmas decorations etc. My heart was distracted and grieved about other things and I was not in the mood at all. I remembered a book I had bought at the end of last Christmas, the one I mentioned earlier. I picked it up and started reading the first chapter, and almost instantly I knew that God was stirring me to focus on Him first this Christmas. Not decorations, trees, presents, food, I needed to fix my eyes on Him first. I was feeling rather overwhelmed etc at the thought of Christmas decorations, Christmas cards, Christmas cooking, Christmas presents, Christmas parties and so on. I am so thankful that it was not until I came back to thoughts of Him and what He has done for us in sending His Son to earth, that I suddenly became excited about Christmas.

So the first Christmas thing I put out was a book I got last year called Getting Ready for Christmas - A Daily Advent Prayer Book for the Family. I put it on the dining table and we did the reading for day 1 after tea. Each day there is a couple of bible verses to read, a prayer and some kind of activity to do. Last night we made angels for the Christmas tree. My two youngest had lots of fun spreading glitter all over the table! I was feeling so much more into Christmas!

After the kids had gone to bed a wonderful friend of ours gave us some cute Christmas decorations she had won in a competition. A blow up Santa Claus and a singing, climbing snowman!

I am always so amazed at how God works! I had prayed that morning that He would help me to get ready for Christmas, and I while I was so focused on getting all the decorations up, He was leading me to a place where I could put Him first this Christmas. If I wasn't feeling so mellow and uninspired I wouldn't have searched for Him, chances are I would have got caught up with the 'doing' of Christmas.

I am looking forward to spending time each day getting mine and my family's heart ready for Christmas. To gain a deeper understanding of what God has done for us by sending us His son to free us from everlasting darkness. I also look forward to all the gift giving, eating, and fellowship that comes at Christmas time.

I was thinking about what it must have been like for Joseph and Mary when they entered Bethlehem. It would have been so busy and full of people everywhere looking for a place to sleep, probably a lot like our shopping centres this time of year. But God led them out to a quiet stable, away from the crowds, for Jesus to be born.

I pray that there will be many times when God will lead you away from the busyness into a special place where you can truly meditate upon what He has done for us, and the joy of our salvation.