Christmas Every Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren–Book Review

Christmas Every Morning by Lisa Tawn Bergren (2008-05-03)

If you are looking for an easy, escapist beach read this may be the book for you. Otherwise, pick something else.

++SPOILER ALERT++The plot is completely predictable. Ever since she can remember, Krista Mueller felt unloved by her mother (her father was not in the picture at all). For years, her mother has been cared for in a facility for Alzheimer patients, and Krista has not visited with her. Now, notified that her mother is dying, Krista returns to her home town of Taos, New Mexico, to make peace. She also reunites with her teenage flame, Dane, who is (surprise!) the director of the Alzheimer facility. Old wounds are quickly exposed and healed, the lovers find one another again and the relationship between mother and daughter is restored.

The characters are not well developed and the Christianity portrayed is superficial. Conflicts are resolved too quickly to create much tension. I read it in one day.

The most edifying part of the book was the description of the Alzheimer facility. Here the author had done her research and suggested some interesting alternative therapies, such as the “Christmas room” where residents could hear carols and see Christmas decorations every day and garden paths that led back to the rooms to satisfy their desire to roam without the risk of getting lost.

VERDICT: 2 STARS. Even if you’re looking for an easy read, there are better choices.

For other Christian novels see:

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron–Book Review

white picket fences by Susan Meissner–Book Review

Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane–Book Review

The Hope of Christmas

The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross.”

– J.I. Packer

New Month/New Theme

This month our theme will be hope.  The Christmas season is a time when we remember the birth of Jesus, who brings light to our dark world and hope for eternity.

What are you hoping for this year?  An end to the virus?  A restored relationship?  A new job?  Healing?  A child? A friend?  Marriage? Renewed faith? Economic prosperity for our country?  Are you hoping to start something new?  Finish with something old? We all have hopes and dreams.  Hope is what keeps us moving forward and makes life worthwhile.

Sometimes our hopes are dashed.  Sometimes our hopes change.  Sometimes we receive something different and better than we hoped for.

Wherever you find yourself right now in regard to hope, here is my prayer for you today::

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe”  Ephesians 1:18-19

The Willing Servant

“…behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. …When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him:  he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.  And he called his name Jesus.” Matthew 1:20b-21; 24-25

We’ve talked about Mary this month, who was indeed God’s servant, but today I thought it would be appropriate to mention Joseph.  His sacrifice for God was also great.  No doubt he endured some disapproval and/or ridicule for marrying an already pregnant girl.  Later, after another God-sent dream, he flees with the family to Egypt, abandoning his home, friends and livelihood.  He does all this without complaint or questioning.  He doesn’t hesitate or procrastinate.  In fact, He never speaks!  The Bible does not include a single word spoken by Joseph. What we do have is a record of his action — obedience.  God knew the kind of man He wanted to raise His son;  a man who understood servanthood and could model it for Jesus as He grew up.

Christmas

It is humbling to realize how far I fall short of this ideal.  Often I obey, but in a slow and grudging manner.  I whine about my circumstances and wish for an easier life.  I don’t usually want to suffer or sacrifice, even if it’s for the good of others, even if it seems to be God’s will.  If I’m honest, I’ll have to admit that I’m more like Jonah than Joseph.

So today, of all days, amidst the gifts and the feast, the visiting and rejoicing, I need to take time to meditate on the lives of Joseph and Mary, God’s faithful servants.  The people who raised Jesus, the God-man who lived and died as a servant to all of us.  I’ll remember what truly pleases God.

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”  1 Samuel 15:22

God doesn’t want us to be “good” people;  He wants us to be His people. Dear readers, I wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas.  Go in peace;  serve the Lord.

 

 

 

Mary, a Servant

It’s Christmas time and one of the Lord’s greatest servants doesn’t get equal time with the birth of our Lord.  Of course, I’m talking about Mary!  Just think, and put yourself in her shoes a minute.  You are young, probably only teen-aged, betrothed to be married, and this Angel appears and tells you that of all the people on earth you are chosen to carry God’s son.  I don’t know about you, but I’d be really freaked out.  Mary only said:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  (Luke 1:38)

I’m sure that Mary had some rough days ahead.  Carrying this baby for nine months and traveling to Bethlehem.  What if Mary had refused.  We can’t even conceptualize that now, 2000 years later.  She was the perfect servant, even though I would bet she had her moments of doubt.

Breath Of Heaven sung by Amy Grant is a hauntingly beautiful song.  It just puts Mary’s position in perspective.  It helps that the images in this video is from the movie “Nativity Story”.  Just a warning, this song always makes me cry.

 

Beginning the Work of Christmas

Many people are now experiencing an after Christmas let-down.  The gifts are opened, the parties are over, family and friends have gone home.  Hopefully, as Christians, we see Christmas as a beginning, not an end.  Advent is only the start of the liturgical year, and when Christmas Day is over, the Christ candle remains and is lit during our services to symbolize the presence of Jesus with us and His ministry on earth.  That ministry now belongs to us, His body, the church.  Below is a poem composed by Howard Thurman, and African-American theologian, educator and civil rights leader.  It expresses my thoughts well:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

How are you planning to carry Christmas forward into the New Year?  I’d like to hear your thoughts.

 

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE (Written in 2014)

It’s Christmas. That should come as no surprise. The traffic around the malls has been backed up for two weeks. Christmas carols have been playing on the radio since Thanksgiving. And stores have been decorated since before Halloween. If anything, we should be saying, “Thank heaven it’s finally Christmas.” But Christmas is anything but final.

For Christians, there are constant reminders that Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. Slogans such as “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Wise men still seek him” appear on Christmas cards and sweatshirts and Facebook posts—reminders that it isn’t about the gifts or the decorations or the food. But I have to say this: Christmas is NOT ALL about the birth of Jesus.

If Jesus had only been born, we would have nothing to celebrate. If God had come to us in the form of one of us and . . . what? Just lived and died? Lived and ascended? Lived here forever? . . . Christmas would not have the meaning it does for our lives.

The celebration of Jesus’ birth is only fulfilled by the agony of his death and the glory of his resurrection. When we bask in the gentle glow of the manger scene, it is with the certain knowledge that of all babies everywhere, this baby was born to die—and not just to die but to die for us. And everything in that scene and everything in our celebration points to that certainty.

o The infant sleeps in a manger because people did not make room for him.
o The man will walk the road to the cross because people do not accept him.

o The nighttime sky turns bright as day at the announcement of his birth.
o The daytime sky will turn dark as night at the moment of his death.

o His mother wraps him in swaddling cloths—a tight wrapping all around his body.
o Friends will wrap his body tightly in cloth to prepare it for the grave.

o Sometime in his early years, and still associated with the Christmas story, wise men bring him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
o The gold is a symbol of kingship, the frankincense a symbol of priesthood, but the myrrh is a foretelling of his death. John says that Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about 100 pounds to be used in the preparation of the body for burial.

o He is laid in a borrowed manger, which was probably a hollowed-out stone.
o He will be laid in a borrowed tomb, which was probably a hollowed-out stone.

Even our Christmas traditions echo the reality that this birth is also about his death.

o Loving family around us reminds us that through this child’s sacrifice we become part of God’s family.

o The feast we eat at Christmas reminds us of his final meal with his disciples and of the feast we will share with him forever.

o Evergreens remind us of the eternal life this child will suffer to bring us.

o Cutting down a tree reminds us of his cross, made from a tree, and of his life cut down.

o Carrying the tree reminds us that he carried his cross.

o Lights on the tree remind us that the child in the manger is the light of the world, the light that shines so that no darkness can overcome it—but the darkness will try.

o Sharing with the poor reminds us that he came to earth poor, that he cared for the marginalized people of his society, and that he told us to do likewise.

o Wrapping gifts reminds us that he was wrapped as an infant and again wrapped for burial.

o Opening gifts reminds us that the stone was rolled away and the tomb was opened and the empty wrappings lay folded there.

o Giving gifts reminds us that God has given us the best gift of all—the gift of himself.

For the most important comparison of the season is this:

o At Jesus’ birth, the angel said, “Fear not—he is here.”

o At Jesus’ tomb, the angel said, “Fear not—he is not here.”

And that is why we celebrate Christmas.

It’s Christmas. Make room for Jesus. In everything you do, remember the infant, remember the man, remember the sacrifice he made for us, remember his resurrection, and remember that he loves you beyond measure. Follow his light, for on this night of all nights Bethlehem is everywhere, and Christ is here, God is with us. Fear not.

Amen.

A CHRISTMAS SONNET

The day slips into memory; the storm

No longer keens among the weary trees.

A savage people in their anguish freeze

Before the God who wears a human form.

Stilled is the sound of battle, stilled the cry

Of pain, and stilled the voice of hate and fear—

For one brief moment all creation hears

The hush that echoes farther than the sky.

This night begins a day that for all time

Becomes the dawn of Time; the dream ignites.

The candle that alone withstands the night

Will kindle yet a flame to save mankind.

Listen for the laughter of the stars:

A child is born; tomorrow will be ours!

 

– M.A. Moore

In A Circle

This short poem was written by Avery Brooke, a spiritual director and author of books on prayer and meditation.  I think it captures the essence of the Christmas season in Christian community.

Mary, Joseph and the young Jesus, hold hands in a circle.

We, with family (and friends), hold hands in a circle.

And God’s circle weaves in and out of our circle while the light grows brighter,

the hearts fonder, and we feel like singing.

See the source image

 

Martin Luther on Christmas #2

Image

See the source image