I grew up on a farm and occasionally my dad would come in from chores and complain about a sow that ate her young piglet. Now this was an extremely rare occurrence or we would quickly have gotten rid of all our pigs. But it occasionally happened. Recently, curiosity led me to explore why this happens. Sometimes a sow eats her piglet if it is stillborn, in order to make sure that the remains do not contaminate the rest of the newborns. Sometimes she accidentally rolls over and squishes the piglet, thus resulting in injuring the piglet beyond help. But then occasionally there is the rogue sow who just turns to cannibalism for some reason. All of these are regrettable instances. And truth be told, we are horrified just even reading about it.
But a recent conversation led me to think about eating the young. We experience cannibalism in the church on a frequent basis. Oh, it may not be intentional in many cases, but it happens. We have our spiritual young who are born into the church, and yet, we sometimes savage them and “eat” our young.
Christmas and the New Year celebrations are finished for another year. Facebook has been flooded with pictures of family and friends. Those who dreaded the holidays because of the loss of a loved one, the increased levels of stress and anxiety, or just the thought of being alone for them, can breathe a sigh of relief that it is over. The clean up has commenced and is even completed for some people. Usually January 1 is the day I take down all the decoration and pack it up until after Thanksgiving.
It is somewhat bittersweet for people like me who love the family gatherings, the holiday decorations and lights, and the overall ambiance. From Thanksgiving to my annual New Year’s Eve party, I love it all! This year has been a little more difficult in getting everything finished since I had a bout of vertigo to deal with after Christmas. But at last I have gathered it into a somewhat manageable place in anticipation of getting my house back to normal.
Here is the thing about the mindset that Christmas is over. It’s not. The reason we celebrate Christmas is because it commemorates the occasion of Jesus Christ taking on human flesh and becoming like us. Scripture tells us plainly that Christ was human. He was tempted in all the ways we are tempted, and yet he lived a sinless life.
The thing that makes all of this significant is that not only did he walk here on earth among us, but he died for the forgiveness of our sins. His shed blood was the ultimate sacrifice that makes God’s grace a truly magnificent gift to us. His resurrection and ascension back into heaven, his original home, makes it possible for us to have just a glimpse of what is to come for us when we believe his word and acknowledge him as our Savior.
So one way to celebrate the joy and meaning of Christmas all year long is by remembering to read the Bible and find out what happened after that lowly birth. From Jesus stumping Jewish scholars at the age of 12, to living a sinless life, to gathering and teaching disciples, to his death and resurrection–all of Scripture tells the wonderful story of Christ and the true meaning of Christmas.
So here is hoping you find a joyous year ahead that is full of learning and growing in your faith. And that your Christmas lasts all year long!
During this Christmas season we tend to focus on the story of Jesus’ birth as narrated in Matthew and Luke. However, I love to read the story of Jesus as told in John. John doesn’t start his writings with the birth of Jesus, but rather he shares Jesus, who was present as the Word since the beginning. This is so important that the first 18 verses of John focus on Jesus as the Word and the light.
John 1:1-18 (NLT)
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,[a] and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.[b]
6 God sent a man, John the Baptist,[c]7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
14 So the Word became human[d] and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.[e] And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”
From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.[f]17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God,[g] is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. (NLT)
At Christmas time, it is easy to get caught up in the story of a child born of a virgin and placed in a manger because there was no room at the inn. In many ways the Christmas story is fascinating in its telling. It would actually make a good book, don’t you think? A virgin birth. A skeptical fiancée. A visit from an angel. A journey to Bethlehem. The visit of the wise men. The flight to Egypt. It has all the makings of a gripping story.
Jesus was with God in the beginning and he was the Word and the Word created everything. He was present as the Word of God in the very beginning of the creation of earth. He spoke the earth into being—everything was created through him. Jesus was and is and is to come—he is infinite. Something we have difficulty wrapping our heads around. He existed with God.
Colossians 1:15 – 17 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
In John 14:8-11 Jesus was interacting with the disciples and Philip, who had been with him since the beginning of his ministry said “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.”
Jesus was light andhis life brought light to everyone. His light shines in the darkness and the darkness will never extinguish it—no matter how it may seem at times. He came to a world that rejected him. Yet, he still loved us and his light still shines forth.
He brings salvation to a world that needs him desperately. We become children of God when we believe in Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord and Savior. He brings light to our darkened world. John 12:46 says, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.” So no matter how dark things around us seem, we can count on the Lord to shine in the darkness.
Jesus became human. He left the glory of heaven, left the presence of God, left all of the angels and heavenly beings who worshiped him, to become human. He followed a plan that had been laid the minute sin entered the world. For thousands of years, he knew what his destiny was, and he did not balk. He shed his glory to become flesh. That is pretty amazing when you think about it. I am not so sure I would want to leave the glories of heaven to become a frail human. But Jesus says in John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
This Christmas we need to remember not only the Christ child who was born of a virgin, but also the man who was God in the flesh. We not only need to celebrate his birth, but also his death and resurrection. Because he did all of this for each of us.
.Philippians 2:19 says, “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
His name is exalted from the time of his birth when the angels celebrated, to the time of he shed his blood for our sins, to his resurrection. That is the true story of Christmas.
When I was growing up during the Christmas holiday my mom would get together with my aunts and they would make candy all day long. They made divinity, fudge, chocolate peanut butter balls, peanut brittle–and the list went on! But another of our holiday traditions was opening one present on Christmas Eve. I remember carefully trying to figure out which present would be THE one that would have the best gift in it. Inevitably, I would choose the one with socks!
After I was grown, my mother started a new tradition. She collected Department 56 villages. When I say, she collected villages, I mean she had an entire room devoted to them. One of her friends wired the lights up so that all she needed to do was hit the remote for the village to come to life. Setting the village up and taking it down each year got to be such a huge chore, that she decided to leave the room up year round!
My children loved seeing the village and for every Christmas my mom received multiple new pieces as gifts. Her Department 56 club would tour her house for Christmas. Every year she hosted an open house for all the family and friends. When I would bring friends home for Christmas, they would marvel at how much decorating and baking she had done. Quite frankly, I miss my mom the most at Christmas time because she would go all out and decorate her house to the max for Christmas. Honestly, I do not know how old she was when she finally let someone else take over the job of putting up the outdoor lights–but it was well past the time she should be climbing a ladder.
My friend and I went shopping and I purchased new hangers for my closet. I absolutely love these hangers because a) they all match, and b) the clothing does not seem so crowded together when I use them. We also found a new Christmas store that had absolutely lovely things in it that I can only dream about because they are not in my budget (not to mention I already have WAY too much Christmas stuff!).
After shopping we decided to dine at a Chinese fast food restaurant. We were enjoying a leisurely meal when the door was thrown open and a lady stormed into the restaurant. She threw her hands up in the air like a referee calling a touchdown and began to yell. When I say she began to yell, I mean she was screaming at the top of her lungs at the staff. Things like, “You are fired. You are a lazy bunch of people who are not doing your job! The drive-through is extremely slow and there is no excuse for that.” She was taunting the staff to come over and face her.
Initially, I thought maybe it was a store manager who had totally lost control, because she had a red apron on similar to what the workers were wearing. But then I noticed it had a totally different logo. My friend and I assumed she had gone through the drive-through and they were too slow for her. She became inappropriately angry–or dare I even say, full of rage.
As she continued her rant, finally a young man came up to her and politely asked her to leave. She was screaming in his face and at that point he escorted her out the door. She left, but we watched as she continued to pace up and down the sidewalk outside the restaurant.
This past weekend I attended a worship night at our church. Of everything we do at church, worship nights are one of my favorite things. I came early so I could sit in a row close to the front and on the outside of the aisle, because of, well, short girl problems. If I am farther in the row and someone tall sits in front of me I may as well have saved myself the time of coming early.
As worship began and we were singing in earnest a father with his son nestled in his arms slipped into the row ahead of me. It was obvious the young boy, who was well past toddlerhood, was tired. I noticed when his eyelids gently shut and he snuggled deeper into his father’s arms. Soon he was sound asleep and even the enthusiastic singing all around him did not wake him up.
I watched as the father continued to hold his child tightly while he was singing praises to God. He held him during our entire worship service–sometimes when he was standing, and sometimes when he was sitting. But through it all he continued to lovingly hold him in his arms.
This past weekend my siblings and I rented a house in Branson, Missouri for a siblings weekend. This is our second gathering since Covid travel restrictions have lifted. While we were missing one sister, and a couple of the husbands, the rest of us had a lovely, relaxing (except for the long-distance drives for some of them) weekend.
Three of the siblings made the delicious evening meals and we had chicken picata, grilled hamburgers, and meatloaf. Everyone pitched in together to cook and clean up. But the best part for me was the homemade donuts my sister made–because I sort of begged her to make them. Don’t worry–we had some left to take home with us. We played games, laughed together, talked about old memories, and made new ones. We also did the obligatory silly sibling (and in-law) picture together, as well as a more serious one.
We did not go to any shows, eat meals in a restaurant, or any of the other touristy things I usually do when I am in Branson. We sat on the balcony overlooking Table Rock Lake, and talked and talked and talked. Usually when we get together it is for a special occasion or holiday and it is hard to visit with one another during those times. I know we all appreciated the relaxed pace of the weekend, although my brother was bummed when he could not find his college football games on tv.
One of the things I love about our time together is the fact that each of us has their own distinct personality. To say that we are all strong-willed, is somewhat of an understatement. But despite that, we seem to understand each other and allow for our differences. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and believe no one is aware of them like family! But despite that we seem to still love one another. We can certainly squabble like most siblings do, but beneath it all is an abiding love of family and a respect for who we are.
We were lucky to have parents who disciplined us, taught us the value of hard work, and most of all, loved us. The dynamics of our family changed after Dad, and then Mom, passed away. We all lead busy lives and are not together as much as we were in the past. We each have our own families that are integral parts of our lives. We are finding that unless we make a deliberate plan to be together, time slips by and suddenly we look up and it has been months since we have seen each other. Our sibling weekend is a commitment that we will always try to make a place in our lives for one another.
I realize that there are some of you out there that have families that are fractured and highly dysfunctional. And in all honesty, my heart aches for those individuals I know who are caught up in the drama that some families can bring. But for me, I realize that my family is where God placed me. They helped shape and mold me and I am grateful for that gift. So here is to many more sibling weekends together as long as God allows!
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” –Desmond Tutu
Several weeks ago I managed to injure my big toe in the klutziest of ways. I was rolling up an area rug to take it out of the house and have it cleaned. Because it was so heavy, I was trying to hold one side with my foot, while still rolling the other side to make it even. The rug rolled back and hit my big toe, with the resulting feeling that it jammed it up into the rest of my foot! Needless to say, I jumped, the rug unrolled, and I had to start the process over again, with my toe throbbing the entire time.
The next morning when I looked at my foot there was a huge bruise from the toe all the way up to the top of my foot. I did not go have it x-rayed, because I have had broken toes before and there is not much they do for them except tape them and sometimes put you in a stiff shoe. However, I saw my rheumatologist for my regular follow-up a day later and she noticed my toe. I told her the whole ridiculous story of how I hurt it, and she insisted I go for an x-ray. I reluctantly went and found to her surprise and my delight that it was not broken. But that toe took forever to heal.
It is a funny thing about the body–every part serves a function. If you are like me you don’t think a lot about your toes, until one of them gets hurt. Then you limp and try to protect it as much as possible.
Today I will have reached another decade. When I was younger, I can remember thinking that 70 was ancient! And here I am. I have learned so much through my years and often think it is such a shame that it takes a lifetime to gain wisdom. If only I had known these things when I was younger. So, I want to share 70 lessons I have learned through the years (in no particular order). Not everything was learned from personal experience . . . well, maybe some of them were.
1. Despite my brother thinking my mom had a hard time delivering me because I would not put the book away, I really did not come out reading. Learn to read.
2. People say, “I could just squeeze those cute little cheeks,” DON’T.
3. Spiders are creepy, crawly, things.
4. Volunteer to catch grasshoppers for your uncles to use as bait for fishing. They may pay you a penny each.
5. Every 5-year-old covers their face for pictures. Just roll with it.
6. See Dick and Jane run really was a thing. Just change the names and ask my siblings what happened when someone yelled, “Snake.”
7. Some people move a lot. Just learn to roll with it.
8. No, butter really does not make a sunburn better. Use sunscreen and avoid skin cancer.
We have all met them; arrogant Christians who boast about almost anything. They tend to grate on us with their pride, wearing their roles like a shield and making their judgments on the rest of us. I was reading in 1 Corinthians 4 and 5 and it struck me that so much of the church discipline that was needed in the early church had to do with pride and power.
In the New Testament we read of conflicts between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians on what to eat, circumcision, and yes, even if you were baptized in John’s baptism or Christ’s baptism. Ananias and Sapphira allowed their greed to lie to the church and were both struck dead because of it (can you imagine if that happened today?). The Greek speaking Christians complained that the Hebrew speaking believers were discriminating against widows in the daily distribution of food.
We see in Philippians where Euodia and Syntyche had a disagreement that actually made its way to the news Paul received while in prison. He appealed to them to settle their disagreement amicably. He even asks the church to help these two women. The whole book of Galatians relates to refuting the teaching of some of the Jewish Christians. They were trying to bind people up to obeying and following the law in order to earn their salvation. Paul wrote an entire letter that talks about freedom in Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 4:18-20, Paul writes, “Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again. But I will come–and soon–if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power”