Christmas preparations, secular and sacred

Our family has a dual heritage when it comes to Christmas preparations. There’s a combination of the sacred and the secular because my hubby and I came from those two backgrounds. Christmas was always a special time when we were children, but for different reasons, and celebrated in different ways.

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When Advent begins, along with the nativity figures, our decorations come out, lights are strung and a tree goes up. Christian friends might wonder how we can put energy into all the secular preparations and still focus enough on the anticipation of such a holy season, but somehow we do.

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Last night, for the umpteenth time, we watched the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street“.  “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” will probably be next, along with “It’s a Wonderful Life“, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and assorted other television specials. Years ago we watched these with our children. Now we’re on our own and we still watch them.

Soon I’ll turn my attention to a bit of baking. Not a lot, since there aren’t many of us to eat it, but we need a few of the annual goodies, like Shortbread, Melting Moments and Peanut Butter Snowballs. We’ll also be caroling to shut-ins, finding delight in the children’s Sunday School Pageant, singing a Cantata with our choir, and of course attending all the special Christmas worship services.

There’s a little magic and a lot of mystery associated with Christmas, and we experience both, in ways that are meaningful to us. I doubt that God minds our strange muddle of traditions. We still meet Him at the manger.

What are some of the meaningful traditions you’ll experience again this Christmas? In your writing, have you allowed your characters to establish traditions?

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Transitioning from Thanksgiving into Advent

 

 

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Sunlight filtered through the trees last weekend as we neared the spot where we would see the eagles. It was more of a stroll than a hike to get there, as the trail meandered through the woods toward the Chehalis River.

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Later we crossed over a stream via a log bridge and wandered back along an easier path that paralleled a golf course. It was a gorgeous day — a day that filled us with thankfulness for the beauty of our surroundings.

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But thankfulness is more than expressing appreciation for what we have. It involves a response to Him who is the giver of all we have and are.

This weekend many will be transferring attention from Thanksgiving to Advent. We begin the annual time of preparation, readying ourselves to receive again the Gift beyond imagining… God among us, the Creator and Saviour of the world. But truly, there shouldn’t be a transitioning from one celebration to another. We need to carry our thanksgiving on through and into Christmas.

What traditions are a part of your Thanksgiving-into-Christmas preparations?

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“Thanks be to God for his indescribable Gift.”

2 Corinthians 9:15

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Transitioning from Autumn to Winter and Pre-Christmas

Fall’s wardrobe is dusty with a hint of winter to come — a sharp, crisp morning turned fuzzy with frost.

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Neglected garden flowers are iced and finished, reminding me there is still work to be done before winter takes hold… before I turn resolutely away from summer memories and embrace Christmas preparations.

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Except for baking my Christmas cakes six weeks ahead, I don’t begin thinking seriously of Christmas until Advent begins. This morning I realized that’s barely a week away! I won’t begin digging out the bins of memory-drenched decorations quite yet, but it’s not too soon to start planning how I want to celebrate this year.

Yesterday I watched a webcast with Ann Voskamp and Liz Curtis Higgs, Christmas at the Farm: Unwrapping the full love story of Christmas. It was the perfect precursor, reminding me that having “a sane, sacred and simplified Christmas” is not a matter of circumstances — but a matter of focus. “Simplify Christmas? Celebrate Christ.” The webcast video will continue to be available online, so if you missed its debut, do please consider pouring yourself a steaming cup of coffee or fragrant tea (or perhaps a spicy eggnog if you’re already that far into the season) and settling in to watch it now.

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Frost is in our forecast for the next week or so, with freezing nights and sun-filled days. I’ll need to take advantage of this last opportunity to finish up some of the fall chores and get set for the about-turn into winter. Then, except for meeting my NaNoWriMo goal, I’ll be more than ready to welcome December! How about you?

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(Consider a click or two on the photos to enlarge for a closer look.)

Wednesday’s Words of Worship: Life Shadows

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Writers know a lot about insecurity, rejection, disappointment and discouragement, but I don’t suppose there is anyone whose life at some time hasn’t dipped into the shadows. The reassurance and confidence expressed in this hymn remind us of God’s promises. He said he would always be here for us even when shadows make it difficult for us to see him. We can depend on that. Great is his faithfulness!

 His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. 

Lamentations 3:22-23

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How’s your week going? Some of you have been particularly on my mind, so this is just a bit of mid-week encouragement to keep you going until Sunday rolls around again. 🙂

Great Is thy Faithfulness
(Chisholm / Runyan – 1923)

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Wood for a Cross

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

[John 3:16]

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We don’t often stop to wonder where that cross came from, do we? Rough timber, that’s what we think of.  Timber formed into a device of death. But the wood? It was cut from a tree — a tree that grew from a seed, just like every other living thing. God gave it life and allowed it to grow, despite knowing its destiny.

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“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” 

[Galatians 2:20]

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“It is the Spirit who gives Life, … the words that I speak to you are Spirit,
and they are Life.”

[John 6:63]
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Still Saturday: Listening for Silence

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                         In the stillness before night descends

                              Breath catches and waits —

                                   Absorbing the presence of God,

                                        Listening for His silence.

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Linking with Sandra Heska King’s Still Saturday: