Monday, December 24, 2012

Joy to the world

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From The Gospel of Luke
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
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46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

From The Gospel of Matthew
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

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20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

From the Gospel of Luke, here is how that happened.

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

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13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

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15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

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16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

From the Gospel of Matthew

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

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11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”[c]
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
The Return to Nazareth
 19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.



My prayer is for you all to have God's peace this Christmas and always, the peace that surpasses understanding, peace that fills your heart in spite of circumstances, peace that comes from the knowledge that Someone bigger and stronger than you has everything under control, peace that settles in your heart’s most secret places and assures you that you are loved -- just as you are, peace that shelters you from the stressful struggles of this life.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The God of peace be with you all. Amen. Romans 15:33

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas at my house

Even though I am notoriously slow about getting into the Christmas spirit (Humbug could be my middle name), once I get rolling I am very keen to set out all of the red and green lovelies that are my Christmas tradition. You won't see me out with the neighbors when they're decorating their homes the day after Thanksgiving. No, that's almost never me, partly due, I’m sure, to my other middle name… procrastination. However, along about the middle of December I get the urge to pull down the Christmas boxes, and dress up almost every corner of the house with my Christmas treasures.

This year I found my dream tree - a tabletop 6-footer with hinged branches and pre-lit with colored lights on sale for $25. That made it official! I was in the Christmas spirit!!
Mine is not a sophisticated pastel Christmas, so beautiful in other people's homes. Mine is the boldest red and the most evergreen green that I'm sure comes way too close to tacky, but I love it.
My most prized Christmas decorations are the the little wooden ones I found in 1981. They were derogatorily dubbed "pigs in space" by my #2 son, Wayne, when he arrived home as a college freshman. Not his idea of Christmas, I guess, but I think he's warmed up to them over the last 30 years. Some of them are a bit beat up and dog-chewed and missing spaceship parts, but Christmas isn't Christmas without my pigs in space.
They get hung carefully and strategically so they'll get the most notice, but I'm sad to say that hardly anyone ever notices them. The expectation of my Christmas-spirit-filled heart is always that guests will stand at the tree for minutes on end to cherish each ornament - as I do.
If they did, they'd clearly see all my Christmas memories.

All the golden, sparkling ones.
Ornaments come alive at Christmas, don't they?
I'm sure they frolic and dance while we sleep.
And then get still and wooden again when we awake.
Silver tinsel hung on the Christmas trees of my childhood. To this day I have never put garland on my trees. It just doesn't fit the tradition, but the day I found this new-fangled red tinsel - some uncounted number of years ago - I almost did a dance in the store. Red tinsel!! How Christmas-y!
Over the years I noticed the Santa Claus population growing to larger and larger numbers.
So I went with the trend.
Santas are quite lovable, you know, in all their various shapes and sizes and derivations.
There are lots of them on the tree.
Along with angels, of course.
Santa on a pine cone. Santa on a mushroom. A Santa mouse on a clear glass ball.
Oh, yes, the glass balls. Well, so many have broken, crashing to the floor. Many have faded and lost their bright colors tiny chips at a time.
My favorites are the painted ones with sparkles on them. They don't seem to make them much anymore.
My other favorites are ones with sunken designs that look like Faberge eggs.
Plastic has become the material of choice for the ornament manufacturers. Aren't they elves anymore?
Be they wood or plastic, they co-mingle sweetly on my tree.
Of course, some of the pigs in space aren't really pigs in space. Did you really expect accuracy from an 18-year-old boy? What were you thinking? Here's a wooden little fellow ready for the slopes.
My trees are mostly whimsical, but I love to find reminders of the Savior whose birth I celebrate.
Somehow my heart thinks the wood and gold and glass and plastic all fit together into such a beautiful picture.
Red and green are Christmas colors. Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.
But blue is good for the bold nutcracker boy who guards the precious painted, sparkling glass ball.
Gold reminds me of the gifts they brought.
A mouse on skis and a sweet snowman from a Bible-study toddler years ago.
Snowmen and icicles adorn this Florida tree side-by side with the Wise Men..
What fun Christmas is!
The old ornaments don't seem to mind at all that the new ones have come.
Hey, wooden mouse! Wayne is coming on Sunday!
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Did I mention that I like a lot of ornaments on a tree? Empty space bothers me. Fun space makes me joyful.
Can't you see Santa and the wanna-be Rudolph and the harp-strumming angel dancing as we dream?
And the angel who sounds the Savior's arrival.
Red berries adorn almost everything at Christmas time.
The first time I placed red Santas and stuffed Teddy Bear Santas on every shelf in every corner my DH was a bit overwhelmed. He kept intimating that I was overdoing it. Then the day came to pack all the red away, and DH was bereft and missing all the color.
Santa also sits on the grandmother clock. What else is a Santa to do with no fireplace in the house?
Kick-off time!
All the blue and white do-dads that were there and now aren't, packed away in the same boxes that held Christmas for so long.
Waiting on the foyer bench to cheer Christmas guests.
The bathroom door tinkles while you tinkle.
Is there anyone so jolly as St. Nick?
Ah ha! Prime decorating real estate!

Since this is a blog about roses, here’s one I snapped for you today with my cell phone on the way out to pay our property taxes. ‘Tis the season, you know.

'Madame Lombard' - bred by Francois Lacharme in France in 1878. Cooler weather brings big blooms.

I have more Christmas goodies to post on Christmas Eve. Until then…let the sugar plum fairies and red-nosed Rudolph dance around in your head, and don’t even be thinking about getting any sleep between now and the 25th. After all, we’re all children at heart, excitedly waiting, hoping to sneak a peak at Santa. So Ho! Ho! Ho! and have a  - - - -