Lights of the Christmas Tree

In the years when we were teenagers, Mama bought a silver aluminum Christmas tree, and we decorated it with all our old decorations she had accumulated over those early years. Our favorite lights were the old-fashioned bubble lights that looked like oil pumping up inside, made to look like a candle.

We had a couple of little plastic reindeer which looked like a rocking horse. I still have one of those plastic reindeer, pink and fragile, probably 60 years old. There was also a little Santa Claus and maybe an angel made out of the same plastic material. We had a beautiful angel to top the tree but I don’t remember much about what it looked like.

 I still have a few of those items myself, and have picked up a few over the years. Sorry to say, many of those items have totally fallen to pieces, because items made in the 1940s and 50s were made of a low-quality plastic and were not made to last 75 years.

 We loved the silver icicles or tinsel that we threw over the tree branches, and as recently as two years ago, I bought some like them to decorate my artificial tree. I read that the early icicles were made out of lead but the new ones available today are some kind of plastic with a metallic coating.

 What does any of this have to do with Christmas? Many Christians have turned away from decorating a tree for Christmas since it was obviously not part of the early-day Christian church’s holiday observations. There are many traditions that have sentimental value to many Christians and I’m one of those sentimental types. My personal opinion is that what the Bible speaks about, I teach. When the Bible is silent, I remain silent.

 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

All my memories of Christmases past revolve around the story of Jesus’ birth. He is the Light of the world and that’s what I remember when I see the lights of the Christmas tree.

Christmas Traditions

Christmas has sure changed around our house. When our children were at home, our whole Christmas revolved around school and church plays.

“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh in the white and drifting snow.” No, we didn’t travel very far to grandma’s house, because our grandmas lived in the same town.

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.” Well, no white Christmas here. I looked it up on weather.com and the historic possibility of snow for Christmas in our area of Oklahoma is 5-10%.

“I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.” Yes, we seldom traveled far from home, and we never traveled at Christmastime. Our time was committed to church and our families were here. Some people we knew traveled to Colorado to ski, but not us.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la la.” Most years the Christmas decorations went up two or three days before Christmas and came down New Year’s Day.

“Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.” We always had a good-sized adult choir for the Christmas cantata and most years we had a children’s choir too. We practiced every week from the middle of October until about the second week of December. Each year as I stood among the choir hearing the sweet voices raised to heaven, my heart swelled with love for Jesus Christ my Lord who willingly came to earth as a baby to live and die for me. Now Christmas choir practice is a distant memory.

“For is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11 NKJV

And yes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. There’ll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing, when loved ones are near. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Traditions change, seasons change, but Christ must remain as the center of our Christmas

Resist Fear

 

As I was walking up to the post office the other day, a shadow on the sidewalk over my head caused me to duck my head. Fear rose in my heart as I thought a bird was attacking me. Imagine my surprise and delight when a beautiful Monarch butterfly passed within inches of my face. Then I had to laugh aloud to myself.

That made me think of the many times when fear tried to grab me. When I had to go back for a second mammogram and then for a biopsy, under anesthetic.  When I heard a news report of a carjacking and murder within a mile of my daughter’s home in Oklahoma City. When I failed a test at work and worried I might lose my job.

The person who lives in fear of germs with incessant hand-washing catches the flu, while another doesn’t. The mother who overprotects her child sees that child break a leg. The overly cautious driver gets in an accident.

It is typical of all of us to dwell on the bad things that we are facing as if by thinking about the bad things we can make them disappear. We talk and think about our predicament, until it becomes giant, magnified by our own minds.

When fear attaches itself to your heart and you begin to accept that fear, it opens the door for  those things you fear to happen. Job said, “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.” Job 3:25 NKJV.

Resisting the fear closes the door, but just resisting is not enough. You alone are not a match for the enemy.  “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:7-8

When you submit to God, then you have the power to resist the devil and he will have to flee.

The Way to a Man’s Heart

When we were kids in the 1950s, Mama had lots of ideas to keep us busy. We loved to make popcorn, shaking the popcorn in a heavy club aluminum  saucepan with real butter.  In that same saucepan, we made old-fashioned cocoa fudge, and divinity from scratch. We made sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, and cookies cut out in different shapes.
Mom had a cookbook we loved to read through. I don’t remember the actual name of it, but it had the words on the front, “the way to a man’s heart.” Years later I found that cookbook with the cover ruined by the flood of 1999, but you could still read the words, “the way to a man’s heart.”
Mama sure knew the way to a man’s heart. Her bachelor brothers came to supper many nights, where we ate brown beans, fried potatoes, and cornbread.  In the summer, it was always accompanied by sliced home-grown tomatoes, fried okra, and maybe some green beans in with the brown beans. Dad usually wanted a yellow cake instead of cornbread with his brown beans.

Mama made the best chicken and dumplings, but sometimes she made chicken and noodles, with egg noodles made from scratch. She made the best fried chicken with white gravy, which I never ate, because white gravy gagged me.  There were many things I had to eat that I didn’t like, but she never made me eat gravy. (As an adult I learned to like chicken gravy—my own.)
In all her 25 years of cooking at the school cafeteria, she earned the love and admiration of all the kids who ate with her, not just the young men.  Mama really learned “the way to a man’s heart” which is apparently good cooking, but much more. She put love into her cooking and everyone who ate with her felt that love.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16 New King James Version
God knows the way to a man’s or woman’s heart—His love.

Missing Something

 
 
My husband and I have been watching videos about World War II. The series we are watching now is called the Diary of World War II, day by day, from the first day. We are up to 1941, but not the Bombing of Pearl Harbor yet. There’s a lot of information about the war in North Africa that I’ve been surprised to see.  I should have been paying more attention to the teacher when I was taking World History in high school and again in college.
 
For instance, in the early 1980s, not long after I was married to my present husband, he and my dad were talking one day about army tanks and vehicles. My husband had been in the Army for almost 10 years so he had a lot in common with my dad who serve in the Army in two hitches, during World War II and during the Korean War. They were talking about the cliffs of Japan and Dad mentioned that the US and Allies could never have won a war fought on the sea, since the cliffs of Japan faced out toward the ocean. Dad said that the cliffs were full of caves filled with vehicles and arms that would have kept the Allies from taking the country by sea.
 
And then he mentioned the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I said, “What’s Nagasaki?” Dad and my husband looked at me like I was a idiot. “You don’t know what Nagasaki is? That town that was bombed when we bombed Hiroshima?” Somehow I totally missed the story of Nagasaki.
 
What have you missed in your life that is important to know? Is there something that you should have learned in Sunday School that you never picked up? You have to get some things about God straight from the source—God’s Word.
 
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 NIV.
Go to God’s Word the Bible which has everything you might have missed.

All Who Sail With You

A great storm came up on the Mediterranean Sea when Paul was being taken as a prisoner to Rome. He had tried to tell the captain of the ship that there was a storm coming, but they decided to chance it and sailed anyway. According to some recent studies, this was the worst storm that ever came on that sea and was recorded by the local historians. This was a killer storm.

As the ship tossed and rolled on the waves, Paul was fasting and praying. He came to the deck and told them, “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ And I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” Acts 27:21–25 NIV

Some of the men tried to leave on lifeboats but Paul told them “Unless these men remain in the ship, you cannot be saved,” so they cut away the lifeboat and let it fall. Then he urged them to eat, because they hadn’t eaten in 14 days and again he said, “Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.”

Paul had a destiny and the destiny of all those on that ship with him was tied up with his. Because Paul must live, they would live too. Paul had enough faith for them all.

Who is sailing through the sea of life with you? Your family, your friends, your neighbors. Their destinies are all tied in with your destiny. Remember this promise when you are praying for them.

“God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” Acts 27:24 NIV