Category Archives: Christmas

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

 by: Kerri Young

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

With Christmas coming up next week, I wanted to write a post about Immanuel: God with us. But, between a household of puking adults and children and the tragic events at the end of last week, I have struggled to come up with a blog post that flows or comes together in a coherent way. So, I apologize, sweet friends, for this kind of jumbled group of thoughts. However, I have prayed and will trust the Holy Spirit to use my mesh of words for His glory and to minister to some of you as He sees fit.

“’Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” Luke 2:10-12

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that God chose to kick off His plan of redemption for the world by sending the King of Kings as a tiny baby? And at that, a tiny baby born in a barn and not a palace or even a home. Whoever would have expected such a thing?

But that’s exactly the thing I love about my God. He is a God of the unexpected and He delights in working in ways that might seem crazy and illogical to us. The Israelites waited in silence for around 400 years for the promised Messiah, and I can almost guarantee none of them would have dreamed God would deliver them the way He did. Whatever you are waiting on or experiencing right now that doesn’t make sense, just lay it down and trust the same God who sent His Son to be born in a barn by a young teenage girl has it under control.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.” Luke 2:6-7

And speaking of that young teenage girl…. I think having grown up in the Christian church and having heard the story of Christmas since I was old enough to listen, I sometimes don’t take the time to truly ponder the fact that Jesus was a baby who was actually birthed by a living, breathing woman.

As such, I could never identify with Mary, the mother of Jesus, very much until I became a mom. And then, all of the sudden, the majesty of the moment Mary looked into her baby’s eyes for the first time and not only fell in love with her child but beheld her Savior just became more personal to me. Can you even begin to imagine the joy and awe she must have felt all in one instant? It takes my breath away to think about it….

Jesus was just as much Mary’s Savior as He is ours. And the amazing thing is that we can experience that same joy and awe, even in the midst of the darkest storm, if we will only look into our Savior’s eyes.

“For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.” Psalm 27:5 

Whatever hardship you are experiencing right now, I want to encourage you to find shelter from the wind and the rain in Jesus’ loving arms. He might not quiet the storm or completely take away the pain that comes with life’s deepest tragedies, but He will provide you with peace that surpasses understanding, hope to go on living, and joy to ease your mourning if you look to Him.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.” Isaiah 61:1-3 

For those of you who have never come to a place of decision concerning what you are going to do with this baby who was born in a barn over 2000 years ago: there has never been a better time than today to ask Jesus to become your Lord and Savior.

There is so much in this world that just seems hopeless; and there is only one thing that is certain and can be counted on. One thing that provides hope, peace, and joy in the midst of life’s storms: Jesus Christ.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you would experience the inexplicable joy and peace that come from having a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you have never made that commitment, I encourage you to go here and learn how you can do so right now.

Finally, I want to leave you with this. My pastor read a poignant prayer this morning at church that was written by Max Lucado in response to the shootings in Connecticut.* I wanted to share it with you today because it speaks so much more eloquently than I could to what has been on my heart since Friday.

Dear Jesus,

It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.

These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.

The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?

Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.

Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.

Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.

This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.

Hopefully,
Your Children

*Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/max-lucados-prayer-in-response-to-conn-school-shooting-86681/#itiexVtSXuAxxCmr.99

 

 

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Christmas Sugar Cookies

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 NKJV

By: Gretchen Speer

Everyone loves my mom’s sugar cookies-everyone!  I don’t know how many dozen she makes at Christmas time, many for sure.  I remember when my brother and I were growing up getting to help her make the cookies and frost them.  We loved it!  This is a tradition that I have continued in my own home.  Every time I smell a batch of these cookies baking I think of her.  I’m so thankful she spent that time with me, and now I get to do them with my own kids.

My cookies are a little different from my moms b/c of two things.

1) Hers are PERFECTLY frosted in a “I really hate to eat this because it’s so pretty, but who are we kidding, it’s a yummy cookie..” kind of way.  I just don’t have it in me.  I have tried, and they look horrible.  So, my kids frost every single one of them-and the love it!  You know what the best part about eating a cookie that a four-year old has frosted?  There is a ridiculous about of frosting and sprinkle on it.  My DD somehow manages to frost both sides of the cookie-they are awesome.

2) My mom tries to get the most amount of cookies from her dough, and I make humongous cookies so I don’t have to bake all day. There is value in doing it both ways, I like my way b/c I like humongous cookies.  🙂

 

 

 

Mom’s Sugar Cookies (x3)

2 1/4 C. Shortening (Crisco sticks-butter flavored)

3 C. Sugar

6 eggs

3 tsp baking powder

3 tsp vanilla

7 1/2 C. flour

3 t. salt

Mix thoroughly: shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla

In separate bowl mix dry ingredients

Blend dry ingredients into the wet gradually. (You may have to stop using the mixer at some point and use your hands.)

Cover

Chill for at least an hour

Roll out with rolling-pin and use cookie cutters of your choice.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes.  (The baking time will vary depending on the size of the cookies.  My humongous ones take over 10 minutes.)

Frosting:

Mix Powdered sugar with small amounts of milk until you reach desired thickness.  Add food coloring if you wish.  (Start with 1 C. of milk and 1/2 tbsp of milk.  You want it thick enough that it doesn’t run off the cookie.)

I think sometimes carrying on traditions brings the burden of doing things exactly like you did with the person who taught you.  As with many things, you have to make adjustments so that it fits you.  There is no doubt in my mind that my kids will make their sugar cookies a little different from I do-and that’s okay!! 🙂

Merry Christmas Mommas!

 

 

 

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Just Say No

The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV

By: Gretchen Speer

My two-year old is watching Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! right now as I’m preparing to write this.  I was going about my preparation when something that was said in his show jumped out at me and, to my surprise, goes right with what I was going to write about.

“We’re so busy having fun, we’re not having any.”

That statement pretty much sums up where I end up most of the time during the month of December.  There is so much anticipation going into the Christmas holiday.  So many plans, so much “great” food, so much….distraction from what it’s actually about.

Even though I go into it all with the best intentions, I head into January exhausted , bloated, and wondering when it will get any easier to manage.

When I realized that I was actually experiencing some real anxiety about it this year, I decided to do one thing about it:  SIMPLIFY. I have stepped back from a couple things that I LOVE this month so that I don’t have to rush though picking presents for the people I love.  So that I can sit and watch Christmas movies with my kids without feeling sick about all the things I have to do as soon as they are in bed.  I have added one thing that I believe has made all the difference for me, and that is doing the advent readings our church provides. (You can get those here.)  Doing this one thing shifted my focus back to what this season is all about, and is continuing to keep it there.

As we are moving closer to celebrating the birth of Christ here are my personal goals to keep Christ the central focus of Christmas:

Simplify- For me this means less decorations, less baking,  less time shopping- just less in general.

Adjust expectations– I always want to give everybody the PERFECT gift.  I want my kids to be in adorable coordinated outfits for our pictures.  I want to have awesome a perfectly decorated tree  Reality check:  The perfect gift is often out of my budget.  Kids are likely to mess up those adorable outfits two minutes before you go to take the pictures.  And your two-year old WILL remove and hide/break several ornaments before the season is over.

Say No-Like I said earlier, I have already stepped back from a couple of things.  It’s not that those things were bad at all, but they kept me too busy.  I will definitely pick them back up in January, but for now they are on hold so that I can be present with my family as we prepare to celebrate our Savior.

I’m curious, what are the things you do to keep stress from taking over the Christmas Season?  How do you keep Christ the central focus?  Leave us a comment!

Blessings Mommas, and Merry CHRISTmas!! 🙂

 

 

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The Gospel Ornament: Tell the Story of Jesus to Your Kids

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,’Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ ” Luke 2:14

By: Jennifer Mullen

In the busyness of the season, it is important to remind our children (and ourselves) the reason we celebrate Christmas. This is a simple way to share the gospel story with your family.  Make this activity one of your advent events during your family devotional time.

What You Will Need: 

  • clear plastic or glass ornaments
  • white crafting feathers
  • red ribbon
  • raffia

Found all of these items at Hobby Lobby.

How To: 

While reading various scriptures about Jesus with your family, insert the following into the ornament:

  • Raffia– This symbolizes the hay in the manger. Read Luke 2.
  • Red Ribbon– This symbolizes the blood of Christ. Read Matthew 26:28 and Isaiah 53:5. 
  • Feather– This symbolizes the angel who proclaimed the resurrection at the tomb. Read Luke 24:1-12
Make it into a Gift: 
The Gospel Ornament is a inexpensive gift to share with neighbors, teachers, students, friends, etc. You could easy make 48 of these for less than $25.  Include in a paper sack all of the items for the ornament with the instructions on how to assemble. For a free printable to include with your gift, click here: Gospel Ornament Printable.
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Christmas Gift Ball: A Fun Family Activity

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:” 1 Peter 4:10

By: Jennifer Mullen and Gretchen Speer

Gretchen introduced me to this game a few years back when I first joined MOPS.  Her family does this game every Christmas.  Since I am in charge of the ice breakers in our MOPS group this year, I decided to team up with Gretchen to do this again.  This game could be used for a family gathering or a small Christmas party with your friends.

What You Will Need:

  • packing tape
  • foil
  • newspaper
  • gifts/treats
  • a pair of dice

Our treats for this occasion was chocolate, Mary Kay items, gift cards, and handmade jewelry.  The sky is the limit for ideas of treats.  You could do coins, hand sanitizer, lotions, small children’s toys..etc.  Also, you can substitute reused wrapping paper for newspaper   I hate just throwing that paper away.

First, wrap the prizes separately in foil.

Then layer the items in folds of newspapers making a ball as you go.  Tape each layer with a good amount of packing tape to hold it in a ball.

Isn’t Gretchen cute!

When you are done, it should look something like this:

At the party, divide into small groups.  A group of 8-12 per ball is perfect.

Then start the game!  The person holding the ball has until the person sitting next to them rolls a double with the dice to unwrap and find the treasures.

It does become competitive so watch out!

Enjoy!