Light a Candle for Love and Christ

What an Advent!  On one Sunday, we lit both the fourth Advent candle and the Christ candle.

I think we should also light a candle for priests and ministers who just had one epic Christmas Eve with regular Sunday morning worship services topped by an evening of Christmas Eve services.  And maybe light a candle for tired mamas, too.

Normally, my blog posts write themselves.  I just write down whatever pops in my head as I’m doing laundry or driving my kids here and there.

No words were coming to me for this final post of Advent.  How can I describe a Christmas that was at once so meaningful and precious to me and so exhausting?  I felt so blessed to be able to celebrate this Christmas surrounded by love, especially to be with my husband, our two young children and my parents and husband’s parents.

When I had no words for how I felt, Elizabeth Foss came through for me in her Christmas devotion from Rooted in Hope:

In those “rest and be grateful moments,” after a healthy birth of a healthy baby, there is a peace that comes with quiet joy.  The worry and work are past.  Contentment settles, a thick sigh of relief blanketed over extraordinary happiness.  These are the moments when praying mothers know to the core of our beings that God is near.

That pretty much sums up how I felt this Christmas; maybe I labored more for this Christmas than past Christmases in terms of reading Scripture, praying daily, and planning as a result of the beautiful “Rooted in Hope” Advent devotional.  When it was all finished, I was more happy and more tired than I expected.

Here’s a quick look at my last weeks of Bible journaling…

I love this beautiful promise of God’s love from Isaiah. Most of the stickers on this page are covering up mistakes. You can’t see it, but for me, it’s a reminder that we don’t have to be perfect to keep God’s love. I kept messing up this page, but it turned out ok.

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This is one of the simplest pages I’ve ever done, just a verse and two quick stamps…I love this reminder from Jeremiah.  We are clay in God’s hands.  May God be creating something loving!

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Ezekiel’s vision is anything, but simple.  I do better with simple verses that can be illustrated in a cute way than with prophetic images, but I was trying my best to envision what Ezekiel saw:  A sapphire throne, beryl wheels with eyes, a man dressed in linen with hot burning coals, cherubim, and a four-headed figure with wings.   Clearly whatever Ezekiel saw was beyond words.  His experience must have been a total assault on the senses. Reading this passage during Advent brought to mind the contrast between this vision of God’s glory, beyond description and the infant Jesus.  All that in a tiny, approachable baby!

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The story of Daniel and the lion den is a favorite of a friend whose daughter is in the NICU. I’ve been praying this story over baby Colbie as part of my Christmas prayers: God please be with baby Colbie and keep her safe just as you protected Daniel in the lion den. It makes me happy this story was in the Advent devotion!

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We went to see “The Miracle of Christmas” at The Sight and Sound theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The Sight and Sound version of the Christmas story made me appreciate Joseph and his courage and trust. My son was able to see Joseph as a hero for protecting Mary and making what provisions he could for baby Jesus. It was such a tender portrayal of Joseph, perfect for the day’s devotion.

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One of the things that I don’t really have words for is how my understanding of Mary has changed throughout this devotion and how much more clearly I understand the birth of Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture and prophecy.  In the past, I’ve always read Mary’s words:  “Let it be done with me according to your Word” as Mary’s response to God’s call to be the mother of Jesus.  And it can be read that way, but it can also be read as Mary’s recognition that all that God has promised since the beginning of the Bible when God said to Adam and Eve “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” was about to be fulfilled.  There are so many beautiful and complicated ways that the Christmas story fulfills the Word and the prophets.  It’s marvelous.  The whole study has been a good reminder that God’s promises are “Yes and Amen!”  I was looking for a blank page to put the beautiful lettering by Carolyn Svellerella.  Putting Mary’s words right at the beginning captured some of this understanding for me.

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Our Christmas Eve service at church was so sweet.  The pastor read the Bible story from the King James Version.  I saw many eyes wink and nod when the pastor said, the Christmas story just reads best this way.  He read from his grandmother’s Bible.  I’ve loved working in my beautiful My Promise Bible, which is in the King James Version, this Advent…

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The greatest gift is knowing that our salvation was born on Christmas day, with his rewards with him and his work ahead of him…

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Advent is a time of renewal.  This passage from Titus captures all that God has been working in my heart this Advent…

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I’ve never felt so sad to reach the end of a devotional!  But that’s it.

I just wanted to say a few words about my Advent prayers.  I prayed the St. Andrews Novena 15 times each day this Advent.

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment In which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires.

This is hard…Prior to starting this devotion, I did “Gratitude Documented” with “Illustrated Faith”.   I didn’t quite finish the project.  I got bogged down at “unanswered prayers.”  I just wasn’t in a place to be grateful for them.

I was praying for my husband’s cousin’s wife, who was pregnant with twins.  She went into labor at 23 weeks on Thanksgiving.  I decided right then and there that I would pray the St. Andrews Novena for her two tiny babies.  My daughter was spontaneously offering prayers for the babies, too.  Between Thanksgiving and the starting date for the Novena, one of the twins died.  I was angry, especially because my 5-year-old was praying!  (And in the prior year, on Thanksgiving, my daughter prayed for this couple to have a baby.)

Oddly, this tiny baby had the same first two names as someone very important to me.  (The first and middle names were reversed, but it was an odd coincidence, especially since there was no relation.)  I wondered if God wanted me to pray for the person I knew by the same name.

I prayed for baby Colbie and my friend throughout the Novena.  And I was able to pray often near a manger scene including this living creche at my church, which would have made St. Francis proud!  (That’s my boy as Joseph!)

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I also prayed during “The Miracle of Christmas.”  At the end of the performance at the Sight and Sound theater, staff from the production were available to pray at the front of the theater.  I felt led to the front, which is not something I would ordinarily do.  When I told the woman about baby Colbie, she said that her sister was born at equally premature and is now just fine.  Talking to her gave me peace, just as God gave peace to Hannah in the temple.

After my kids went to bed on Christmas Eve, I snuck out at 10:30 to go to 11:00 mass.  We heard the same Scriptures that I heard at my Presbyterian church earlier that night and sang the same songs.  I said a prayer for Christians to be one during the communion service.  When the service was over, I lit a candle for baby Colbie and my friend…

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Am I in a better place to thank God for unaswered prayers?  I’m still sad about the death of the baby boy, but in his short life, he inspired me to pray for another person by the same name, and my prayers brought me hope, peace, joy, and love, just as a tiny baby in the manger brought to the whole world.  I’m grateful that his sister is getting stronger every day; she is five weeks now.  Her mom and dad are now taking turns holding her, a good sign.  God has a way of working things out.

I keep thinking back to the start of this devotion and the words:  “It’s a journey and he’s taking it with you!”

I am so thankful for my many blessings this Christmas, most of all I’m grateful for a good God, who became a tiny infant that we might be able approach him and know him.  May Christ enter into all the prayer requests on your heart even if they don’t turn out as you expect and bring you hope, peace, joy, and love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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