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Keeping Christ in Christmas

Originally written for Living Better 50 Magazine.

It was a snowy December day when I found myself walking in a very slippery Fred Meyer Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 4.57.50 PMparking lot. As I approached my car, I saw a couple who looked to be in their 80’s or 90’s. The husband was trying to push the cart through the snow and help his wife who was very frail. Watching them made me think of my grandparents who I missed deeply. Carefully I walked toward them extending my arm to the woman to help her keep her balance.

When we reached their car she hugged me, and for a moment, it felt like my grandma had given me a hug. While her husband put the bags in the trunk I helped her into the car and told her that the hug she had given me blessed me because I missed my grandma. She took my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “You are my angel and God sent you to me today.” I wished them a “Merry Christmas”, closed the car door, and returned the shopping cart with teary eyes and a heart filled with joy.

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season don’t forget that you are a witness for Christ. That day I was in a big hurry to get a lot of things done. I very easily could have ignored that couple and moved along to the next thing on my long list of to-do’s. I wonder how many times I have missed a chance to show kindness toward others because I was in too much of a hurry to stop and share the love of the man who laid down his life for me. Maybe you are also missing opportunities.

Every year it seems as though Christ gets pushed out of Christmas more and more. We must make a point of not getting so “wrapped” up in holiday parties, baking, and gift shopping that we forget the reason we are celebrating Christmas. Let’s not get so caught up in finding the perfect decorating ideas on Pinterest that we “Pinterest Jesus” right out of the season.

This holiday season take time each day to look for ways to be the hands and feet of Christ. I can almost guarantee someone will cross your path that needs a helping hand. Just a short five-minute interaction changed my perspective greatly, it might change yours too. Six years later I am still filled with joy when I think of that sweet couple I helped in that snowy parking lot.

Show grace to the tired clerk or grumpy shopper. Think of the grace Christ has shown you. Rather than snap at the driver who cut you off, have a heart full of forgiveness and say a prayer that they would slow down. How many times has Christ forgiven you? As you wrap a gift say a prayer for the person who will receive it. Prayer can work wonders in the hardest of hearts.

In the simplest of actions you can keep the love of Christ alive this holiday season. After all, it really is about Him.

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Check your burdens at the cross

Tonight was her Christmas party – an elegant ballroom party, it was a dream come true. The last two months at this job made her feel like her past was finally behind her. The dress and shoes she had borrowed fit her perfectly. However, as she slipped on her tattered winter coat, feelings of sadness and shame came over her.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 11.31.31 AMUpon arriving at the party, she noticed a coat check. What would they think when they saw her dirty coat? She turned away and rolled her coat over her arm. Inside out, no one would see the stains from her past life. The coat told the story of many wild nights partying and waking up in drug houses and hotel rooms that were rented by the hour. Past memories followed her to the food table.

Walking around the room, she carried the coat and balanced her plate of delicious looking hors d’oeuvres. Every few minutes she would try to shift her coat to the other arm without spilling her food.  It was a burden to carry her coat but it was nothing compared to the burden she carried in her heart. The mistakes of her past were so heavy but she just couldn’t let them go.

The guy from accounting was on his way over to her and she had nowhere to run and hide. He was probably going to ask her to church again. Like any church would want her, she thought. Besides, he was an accountant and he would have a heyday tallying up all her mistakes. He reached out and said, “Let me check that coat for you, it looks like a burden.”

As he took the coat from her, he noticed the stains. Here comes judgment, she thought. But instead he looked at her with the most amazing kindness and said, “This coat looks like it has known its share of heartache. It reminds me of my life before Christ. I dragged my shame around with me wherever I went. It kept me from enjoying life. One day I found myself wanting to end it all, but something pulled at my heart. Before I realized what I was doing, I walked into a church. I guess I wanted to see if God was real. I opened a Bible and I will never forget what I read. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ It was at that moment I realized I could leave my burdens with Christ. Finally, I had found rest and peace.”

There was no judgment in his eyes. Instead, there was a joy that seemed so different from anything she had ever seen. He walked away with her coat and she stood there for a moment thinking about how good it felt to no longer be carrying it. With tear-filled eyes, she wondered if there was any truth in what he said. Could she find rest and peace too? Right there, in the middle the party, she said, “God, if you are real, can you give me rest? I am tired and I hurt so badly carrying all my mistakes. I want to live my life differently. Can you take my burdens and give me rest?” In that moment, she found peace that she had never felt before.

Today Christ wants to give you rest. If you are carrying burdens that are weighing you down, Christ is waiting to take them from you. He wants you to check your burdens at the cross and enjoy a life free of shame. You simply need to ask Him. He is not concerned about how you word it – it doesn’t have to be fancy. He is looking at your heart. You can hand Him whatever it is you are carrying around with you and He will take it no matter how ugly it may be.

I recently talked with a man who had just given his life to Christ and in our conversation I told him, “Whatever you gave to Christ, you have been forgiven for all of it. Do not go back and pick it up. It was checked at the cross and it no longer belongs to you.” The same is true for you when you check your burdens at the cross. They are no longer your burdens to carry. Please don’t wait another minute. A simple prayer is all it takes.

 

Originally posted at Living Better 50 magazineLB50ContributorSQ

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Three Gifts

 By Cassie’s Corner

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Yesterday, my husband and our family decorated for Christmas; the tree, the lights, the garland, and all the trimmings. Our children loved the way the house looked and have not stopped talking about how beautiful the tree is in front of our large living room window. My son, who is 3, walked out of his bedroom just before bed and exclaimed, “Mommy, thatʼs the most wonderful tree Ever!” I loved his enthusiasm and excitement. My daughter, who is 7, agreeing with her brother that the tree was beautiful, reminded him that Christmas wasnʼt about the tree or Santa Claus. She proclaimed, “Christmas, is Jesusʼ Birthday!” Then, as they stood together looking at the tree, I heard them say in unison, the most amazing statement, “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” They giggled, then laughed, leading them to pure joy in telling Jesus, Happy Birthday.

Christmas TreeOur simple five foot artificial Christmas tree brought true bliss to my children, without a present underneath it. So often, we as parents think, the more we put under our tree, the more excited our children will be with their “Christmas Morning” discoveries. A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook, how her family does Christmas; three presents for each child. She wrote, “Jesus only got 3 gifts and he survived, Iʼm sure my kids will too.” I loved everything about this statement, then, yesterday as I watched and listened to my children regarding the celebration of Jesusʼ birthday; my husband and I made a decision, this would be our tradition too.

Matthew 2:10-11 states, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (NKJV)

Jesus is the reason for this Christmas season and for every season of life. Regardless, of our ability to put one or three or a dozen presents under the Christmas tree; Jesus only received three presents and he was blessed. This year, I encourage every person who reads this to remember three precious, treasured gifts, that God has given them and pass the same along to those whom they hold dearest.

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!

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