Jan 1

Isa­iah 43:19 and many other Bible verses tell us that God is always doing some­thing new. From the very first words of Scrip­ture, we know God as cre­ative. Some­times, cre­ativ­ity means tak­ing some­thing old and shar­ing it in a new way. The mes­sage of Christ­mas — the Good News of Great Joy that Jesus has been born to save all peo­ple! — is not new, but it must be told in new ways in order to be received and embraced by each new gen­er­a­tion. The video at the link below is truly clever! (The only thing I would change is the sound­track, per­haps to a lively ver­sion of “Joy to the World.”)

Enjoy! And remem­ber — it’s still Christ­mas, accord­ing to the Church-Year cal­en­dar!

Dec 24

A very merry Christ­mas to all of you! I wish you relax­ation, bless­ings, and delight­ful memory-making with your loved ones (be they humans or pets!).

Most of all, I wish for you the peace that comes only from know­ing that the Babe born in Beth­le­hem is GOD’S Christ­mas Gift of Love to YOU.

The angel said…, “Do not be afraid; for see—…to you is born this day…a Sav­iour, who is the Mes­siah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–11)

Joy and Love!

from Heidi at Final Touch Proof­read­ing & Editing

Nov 29

2008.12.24 - By candle lightphoto © 2008 Adrian Clark | more info (via: Wylio)

It’s ironic, con­sid­er­ing that much of what we cel­e­brate this month is religion-based, but it’s often hard for indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies to make time and space for mat­ters of faith amid the hec­tic hol­i­day hap­pen­ings. Whether you cel­e­brate Hanukah, Christ­mas, Kwan­zaa, or another spe­cial event, you may find your­self, come Jan­u­ary, won­der­ing how the holy sea­son flit­ted by so fast with­out feel­ing very “holy.”

Before that does hap­pen, con­sider some sug­ges­tions to retain — or retrieve — the sense of holi­ness that is the foun­da­tion of this time of year.

* Make meal time holy. No mat­ter what hustle-and-bustle is con­sum­ing you on any given day, you have to eat, right? And many of those meals will be the ordi­nary kind around the kitchen table at home. So, gather the fam­ily — or if this is not your household’s com­mon prac­tice, try it once or twice a week, just for the hol­i­day time — and grace your table not only with food, but with can­dles or other décor to make the meal feel spe­cial. No need to wait for Christ­mas Eve or a spe­cific day for a par­tic­u­lar rit­ual. Choose to light din­ner can­dles as a sym­bol of mov­ing toward the Light, or as a sym­bol that the Light is already build­ing within your hearts. Some Chris­t­ian fam­i­lies observe Advent, the 4-week time of prepa­ra­tion for the cel­e­bra­tion of Christ’s com­ing, by light­ing an “Advent wreath,” often at meal time. The first week, only one of four can­dles is lit; the sec­ond week, two are lit; and so on until there is so much light that, on Christ­mas (when some Advent wreaths even offer space for a fifth can­dle), you can eat by can­dle­light if you desire! Addi­tion­ally, some fam­i­lies share spe­cial prayers, read­ings, or devo­tions around the table at this time of year.

* Trans­form all the shop­ping and gift-wrapping. Do you find your­self so stressed out by the shop­ping chaos that you don’t even feel gen­er­ous? Does a fam­ily mem­ber irk you to no end, yet you feel obliged — or, in your heart of hearts, you really do desire — to give her some­thing? Then make the process of hunt­ing for that per­fect gift a time of prayer and (believe it or not, amid the hol­i­day crowds!) med­i­ta­tion. Pon­der what would mean the most to the recip­i­ent. (Value doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean high price.) Let God, or your Higher Power, or Jesus, or the Uni­verse — or what­ever Holy Entity you cel­e­brate this sea­son — lead you to just the right thing. It may be a pur­chase, or it may be some­thing you make; it may be a gift of time or a spe­cial expe­ri­ence (an out­ing to a zoo for your 5-year-old nephew, per­haps, which also becomes a gift to his par­ents of a child-free after­noon!). Then, as you pre­pare and wrap that gift — or a gift cer­tifi­cate describ­ing the intended expe­ri­ence — instead of let­ting your­self feel grumbly and grouchy, say a prayer for the recip­i­ent. Another thought: Give money to a char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tion in your loved one’s name to honor him while giv­ing where the need is likely greater.

* Trans­form hol­i­day card-sending. If card-sending feels more like a chore than a joy, pray for and/or send out warm thoughts toward each indi­vid­ual or fam­ily as you write their name(s) and address on the enve­lope. Let this be a holy time of thanks­giv­ing for all the spe­cial peo­ple in your life.

* Resist the com­mer­cial pull of the sea­son. Don’t feel com­pelled to respond to every stim­u­lus thrown your way by the commercial/consumer arm of our soci­ety. Remem­ber that what makes these hol­i­days “holy days” is their basis in the giv­ing of the Divine Self to the world — in what­ever mir­a­cle your cel­e­bra­tions com­mem­o­rate. You are under no oblig­a­tion to spend down your life’s sav­ings — nor even to jeop­ar­dize your Jan­u­ary bud­get — in order to prac­tice a spirit of giv­ing. Instead, try vol­un­teer­ing some time at a home­less shel­ter or a nurs­ing home. Go Christ­mas car­ol­ing with your church group. Share in a ser­vice project spon­sored by your syn­a­gogue. Shovel snow for your elderly neigh­bor. And take your child(ren) along on these vol­un­teer out­ings to teach the next gen­er­a­tion the true mean­ing of the sea­son.
The entrance of St. Nicholasphoto © 2007 Face­Me­PLS | more info (via: Wylio)
* Com­mem­o­rate St. Nicholas rather than Santa Claus. Santa is all well and good, but instead of pro­mot­ing the notion that good behav­ior results in many mate­r­ial rewards and bad behav­ior doesn’t, why not teach the young peo­ple in your life about the ori­gin of this jolly char­ac­ter? St. Nicholas, who lived between 270 and 346 C.E. (A.D.), became the bishop of Myra in modern-day Turkey. He gained a rep­u­ta­tion for secret gift-giving, espe­cially to peo­ple in need. How might this under­stand­ing of St. Nicholas move your family’s obser­vance from greedy desire for presents to holy generosity?

* Spend time with a faith com­mu­nity. If the hol­i­day you cel­e­brate this year has its ori­gins in faith and wor­ship, make time this month to attend wor­ship, a Sun­day School children’s pageant, a con­cert, a fel­low­ship event, or other faith-community activ­i­ties. Mark them on your cal­en­dar early, and don’t let other activ­i­ties pre­empt them. Decide together as a fam­ily that the holy shar­ing of music, prayer, wor­ship, and other prac­tices is your top pri­or­ity this season.

* Share holy sto­ries. One of the most enjoy­able ways to pass your holiday-related beliefs and rit­u­als down to your chil­dren and/or grand­chil­dren is by shar­ing sto­ries. You might read Scrip­ture sto­ries, either in the fancy, old-fashioned lan­guage or in a more con­tem­po­rary ren­der­ing. You might tell fam­ily sto­ries of hol­i­days past. And along­side the fun children’s books about Rudolph and Frosty, make a spe­cial time of shar­ing holy sto­ries at bed­time (yes, even with older kids!) or before gift-opening. Many gor­geous and well-written children’s sto­ry­books are avail­able through local or online, sec­u­lar or reli­gious book­sellers. Teach the faith by shar­ing the orig­i­nal faith-stories in inten­tional ways.

Surely there are many other ideas for putting the “holy” into your “holy-day/holiday” cel­e­bra­tions. Be cre­ative, refuse to bend to soci­etal pres­sures, and open your heart to the Divine. Come Jan­u­ary, you will not feel you missed out on the real rea­son for the season.

Blessed Hol­i­days, one and all!

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