The Advent Wreath

The woman who was 'hosting' the late-August yardsale must have been fond of candles, at some point.
She had an entire table full of the decorative sort that sell for big bucks at the 
tourist shops in vacation towns, priced for pennies. Maybe she finally got tired of dusting them? 
Perhaps she needed space on the holiday decor shelf?
Maybe her husband is a closet candle hoarder, and selling them was her sweet revenge.
Who knows - I bought a bunch of them with this in mind - 
a cheap and lovely advent wreath.
I've never done an advent wreath, neither formal or informal like this one, but have always wanted to.
While lighting one candle each Sunday of December, attention is focused on the 
coming of the Christ child and the anticipation of His second coming. 
More on the history of the advent tradition here.*
In my imagination, my family would have a deep spiritual experience while lighting and 
pondering the two advents. We might talk about our hopes and fears, 
sing "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel", and take turns reading scriptures aloud. 
Of course, that is NOT the way it went.
There was a minor skirmish over who would light the candles, 
confusion around how to use the unfamiliar lighter which required 
pressing two switches in perfect coordination, and intense dinnertime hunger 
which completely blocked any soul-scraping discussions.  
I should know better than to spin expectations by now - I'm no rookie, after all.  
So it was what it was, and I pondered my own advent 
thoughts while passing the ranch dressing and dishing the potatoes.

I was reminded again of the wisdom of this little girl.  


Chat With Mary

What if you could have a cup of tea and a chat with Mary?
Roll some cookie dough or wrap a few gifts  together?
What kind of a neighbor do you think was; what sort of friend? 
Did she bubble over with the joy of youth, the first to make a joke, the instigator of pranks?
Or maybe she was a young woman of wisdom, with the gravity of 'knowing' to mark her demeanor. 
Did she parent with infinite calm, or did she occasionally lose it? 
I wonder if she was 'an excellent wife, who can find'  to Joseph. 

This cheap plastic figure of her sits on my mantle, reminding me to ponder and treasure up.
I make myself stop running Christmas-crazy and consider again her response to the angel who brought 
news that would turn her world upside down and inside out. 
"I am the Lord's servant ... may it happen to me as you've said."
And I ask the Lord to give me the same beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit
what a special Christmas gift that would be!

* a great sermon on Mary here


Christmas Music Without Hippos

We delay listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, 
just so we don't get sick of the same old tunes repeating overandoverandover...

This season, we've been playing some actual albums found at a summer yardsale.
Henry Mancini is rocking our house, big band style, with his 1966 album, a Merry Mancini Christmas
It's been fun to hear holiday favorites accompanied by the subtle scratch of an old-school record player.

And by the way, the wonder of hearing the GOSPEL via Christmas music 
in the public marketplace, blaring through loudspeakers and store sound systems - 
that never gets old!
"... cast out our sin and enter in..."
"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.."
" ... and with His blood mankind has bought..."
"His law is love, and His gospel is peace."
"Let every heart prepare Him room..."

We discovered Songza a couple years ago and now it plays almost daily during December. It's a free website offering multiple Christmas playlists. These lists are extensive - you've got to browse when you get a minute. Don't miss "Christmas at the Castle".
* Classical Christmas playlist - not a single mention of hippopotamuses or front teeth.
** Acoustic Guitar Christmas playlist - hard candy and washing in snow completely excluded.

      Songza Christmas playlists here.


Specializing in N&R

Holiday Nonsense and Ramblings
with links. 
Don't miss the links for extra fun and educational opportunities.

- 'Iced Berries'  While ice on the roads is awfully dangerous, ice on berries and winter vegetation is beautiful. This photo is from last year, the famed Polar Vortex Winter.

- Why doesn't Blogger add Jellyka King's Hat font?  It would be like wearing the most elegantly black six-inch stiletto heels with every outfit. It would make your writing look outstanding, even if it wasn't in actual fact. 
If only I could address my Christmas cards like this. 

- If you lived in the top .001% of the world's wealthy, would you get one of these for Christmas? Thank goodness the rest of us in the everyday throng are not going to be getting this 'under the tree'! I ask you who would, who could ever get up from there? Lord, preserve me from ever having enough to purchase a Dream Wave! 
(advertised on WLW during this morning's school drive. 
hello - know your audience!)

- A dear friend gave me a leather journal as a gift because she knows I have a love affair with blank paper. So I used it this morning. Who knows,  maybe this will be the first journal ever in which I write on more than fifteen pages. I'm a journal starter, not a journal continuer. That being confessed, I must contradict myself to say that I do have a journal in progress that I've added to for at least ten years. It's an old journal from 1963 that I found at a yardsale and snapped up for it's mid-century good looks. I record scriptures in this one - the game changers that demand to be written down and remembered. Occasionally, I'll add something that was said in a sermon or a conversation that proved to be rhema. But absolutely no pressure for a daily/weekly/monthly update - maybe that's the secret to persevering in journal-keeping.

- On recent grocery visits, I have collected the ingredients for buckeyes at least twice, only to put it all back and rush over to the plasticware department - or any department where chocolate is not sold. These cannot live in my house until Christmas week. It's our dysfunctional holiday tradition that I make a huge batch in early December, hide them for Christmas, and the male-type people around here sniff them out and devour them. But these fun and games will have to wait, or I the only thing I will get for Christmas is new pants.

- And it's not too late, and no one is too old to enjoy an Advent Calendar by Jacquie LawsonI buy myself one every year, and everyone ends up browsing it for themselves, no matter that they are burley men. 


Make Space for Joy

Imagine you're about to cross into the city to get your hands on an item sale priced for one day only 
when an angel shatters the atmosphere above the bridge, churning air and water with powerful wing beats. 

What if you're doing an ordinary grocery run when, just as you are pondering the actual
value of celery, a fiery, celestial being lights the entire store overhead?

Can you fathom cleaning the tub, washing the dishes, or taking out the trash 
when reality, as you know it, tears in half to make room for a new one? 

What about those Luke 2 shepherds?
NO ONE had visited from heaven in 400 years, so NO ONE could have been expecting what 
happened that night in the fields just outside Bethlehem. It would be as shocking for us as it was for those shepherds! After all, angels in Old Testament most often carried out God's wrath and were  greatly feared. 
Check this amazing example in 2 Samuel when David actually sees 
an angel who's busy killing disobedient Israelites.

So the first words from the mouth of that specially chosen angel make sense, right?
Fear Not!

The opening phrase of God's message graciously took away the need for fear 
and made space for the wonder of the next part of the message.
... Good news of great joy! ... a Savior!

It's still the same for us today, isn't it? 
We sit in traffic and feel the racing heartbeat of an anxiety attack working its way to full force;
ponder celery and worry about the grocery bill in light of lengthy unemployment;
clean the tub with Soft Scrub wet by tears, fearing for the wayward child.

I think we often don't experience wonder and joy (they go together) because it's too often crowded out 
by fear. Fear boxes out and holds the places in my heart meant for real JOY.

But we can set aside fear and follow the example of the shepherds. 
They heard the message, shook off fear and dread, and chased down the Good News.
This golden angel has kept watch at our Christmases for about ten years. I like his serene face and poised, not clasped, hands. In this photo, he stood high on a shelf in our living room, sometimes lit with candlelight.
This year, he faces toward the road from a side window.


Not Overcome

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
I'm memorizing John 1:1-18. 
I've done it before, but it always seeps away. 
Not ALL of it; some bits are always left behind.

Christmas lights are my constant reminder in December.

... the darkness has NOT overcome it...


Meek Souls

For me, the old Christmas hymns are part of pressing closer this Christmas . . . 
and stopping long enough to hear.
Lord give me ears to hear what your Spirit would say!
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
No ear my hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.

For many believers who came before us, a hymnal was the second most 
important book in their journey of faith. Find one and read the Christmas hymns 
this season and don't stop with the first verse! 
Who needs an online devotional after all?


Be Present

I made my Christmas prayer this past Sunday in church. 
Call it a goal, a wish, a sought for miracle ... whatever you like. 
It's an important part of my spiritual life during the Christmas season.

This Christmas, I'm going to try to edge closer to the manger, if you can picture it.
I want to breathe in the smells of the stable and be present in the wonder of Emmanuel, 
God coming to live among us, as one of us.
I want to peek over the edge of the feeding trough and behold 
instead of just looking on from a distance, my arms and head full of holiday tasks.

What are you hoping for this month? 
Do you have the boldness to ask Him for an extra gift, something for yourself?


Less is More

Somehow all the Christmas decor is in place, and it's only December 1st.
More seems to be less this season, and not ALL the usual items found their way out of 
the holiday totes. 

How sad for the ringing-bell-snowman who has taken his place in our living room every year for ... 15 years? 

*** Are we on the downhill decline to that  hazy spot where the entire holiday decor consists of one candelabra of colored lights in the front window? When the most exciting holiday treat is a box of chocolate covered cherries from the dime store? Is this how it happens? 
SOMEone had the idea to pile all the Christmas lights in a heap in the front yard, run an extension cord and plug it all in. 
Voila! A mountain of colored lights! Outdoor Christmas - CHECK!
Is anybody with me on this?

It didn't happen this year, but maybe someday ...
 just before we plug in the candelabra of colored lights 
and toast one another with the last two chocolate covered cherries.