Monday, December 23, 2013

The Hearld Angels SING!

Dr. David Jeremiah of Turning Point Ministries made some interesting comments about Christmas songs last week.  First, he remarked in his sermon how singing is integral to the Christian faith.  The praise in our heart needs expression.  We see this demonstrated by the many songs in scripture and the popularity of Christian music, especially at Christmas.  Recently I had the privilege of seeing the New York Philharmonic perform Handel's Messiah, for instance.  Scripture was sung for almost two hours in the heart of Manhattan, and it was incredible on many levels.

Dr. Jeremiah made a surprising observation about the Bible too.  The books that have the most songs are Psalms, Revelation, and the Gospel of Luke.  I would have expected the former, but I would not have guessed the latter.  I have always appreciated Luke's gospel for its attention to social justice and the treatment of women, but now I like it for its songs too.  It contains six songs in its first two chapters, and all of them surround our Saviors' birth.

Luke knew it, and we know it:  The birth of Christ is something to sing about.  Whether it's the sound of giddy children singing with a humbling innocence, whether it's an adult clinging to the hope of familiar choruses in their own dark night, or whether it's experiencing the joy of communities coming together in witness to a hope that's bigger than our everyday worries, we sing.  And we are inspired.

Have you ever read the history behind the songs we treasure as our hope at Christmas?  Click here to read my favorite article that I came across this season.  Its author tells us the history behind five Christmas classics and includes a link to hear her favorite rendition of them.  I pray this historical exploration enriches the joy these carols bring you and your families this Christmas.

{Photo by Sister 72 at Flickr}

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reclaiming Christmas

I live in a neighborhood that really gets into decorating.  Inflatables were everywhere in our neighborhood last Christmas.  And by inflatables, I do not mean small ones.  No.  There were penguins in a life-sized sleigh, a six-foot Frosty, an eight-foot Snoopy, and a traveling twelve-foot Santa who graced several lawns...that was curious.

Our kids loved riding around and seeing the characters, huge outdoor ornaments on trees (we never had those growing up), and lights.  But on one drive by, I was disappointed to see an inflatable Santa in an outhouse.  He would move to peek his head out as the sign above him read, "Occupied."

I get the joke, three shades more crass than the beloved movie classic Christmas Vacation.  But we can choose when to turn a movie on and off in our house.  When something's on a neighborhood lawn, it's a different story...

To read the rest of this article, please click here to find it on  The article is about honoring Christ first this Christmas and not allowing culture or the holiday flurry to dictate the terms of our celebrations. 

If this article resonates with you, please join me in prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for sending your precious son Jesus into the world.  Help us to honor that gift as we teach our children.  Give us insight into establishing meaningful traditions that breathe new life and hope into our families and bring us closer to you.  Make us your witnesses, for we praise your glory and marvel at your love.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.

{Photo by KB35 at Flickr}

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Virgin Mother

My father grew up Catholic.  I always remember his mother, my grandmother, relaying to me that she had a special relationship with Mary.  When she died, she was holding her rosary, which was later given to me.  While I am not Catholic, and am in fact a Presbyterian minister, I too have felt a closeness with Mary - an awe, really.  Amidst so many church fathers, she serves as a female biblical example of ultimate faithfulness.  The fact that she did so through mothering is that much more inspiring.

As we approach Christmas, I want to draw our attention to Mary, who is a largely unsung hero in the Protestant tradition.  What can we all learn from her as Christians?  The story of Mary's faithfulness begins in Luke 1:26-38.  An angel visits Mary and tells her that she will bear the "Son of the Most High" even though she is a virgin.  She agrees by telling the angel, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." 

It's interesting to explore what Mary's thought process might have been at the time of angelic announcement.  At first she is incredulous:  How can she become pregnant as a virgin?  But it's possible she was fearful too.  She had a lot at stake by saying yes to God in light of the patriarchal society of her day.  She was risking being shunned as an unwed mother, and her access to basic provisions like protection would have been in jeopardy. 

I came across a poem entitled Mary, Pondering that attempts to delve into her thought process furtherI invite you to read it as we glimpse into her faithfulness:

What is this seed which God has planted,
Unasked, uncompromised, unseen?
Unknown to everyone but angels
This gift has been.
And who am I to be the mother,
To give my womb at heaven’s behest,
To let my body be the hospice
And God the guest?
Oh, what a risk in such a nation,
In such a place, at such a time,
To come to people in transition
And yet in prime…
What if the world, for spite, ignores him,
And friends keep back and parents scorn,
And every fear of every woman
In me is born?
Still, I will want and love and hold him,
His cry attend, his smile applaud.
I’ll mother him as any mortal,
And just like God.
Mary chooses obedience at great potential cost, and she does so with a song of praise on her lips.  Less than one chapter later in scripture, we read Mary's song of praise to the Lord that's known as the Magnificat.  You can find it in Luke 1:46-55.  It begins with Mary proclaiming, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."  She then describes the depth of the Lord's provision, mercy and strength for his people.

Mary's willingness to live in service to Christ and actually praise God’s provision in doing so is a powerful example of faith.  It involves faith because considering Mary’s precarious situation, provision was not a certainty.  Her obedience was risky, but she sings of the virtues of God as reason enough to trust him.  It is interesting to note that the biblical Greek used to describe God’s work in the Magnificat is in the past tense, yet it describes God’s work in the future.  Some commentators conclude that this is a testament to Mary’s faith:  She is describing God’s future promises with such conviction that it is as if they were already accomplished. 

As we seek to keep our focus on Christ this Christmas, may we dare to answer the Lord's call too.  [Tweet that.]  Is there an area in your life where God is calling you to obedience however risky it might be?  Our faith in the Christ child sometimes dictates that we simply trust while clinging to his promises.  It sometimes involves uncertainly while we're armed with only the praise on our lips.  Christmas is a reminder that hope is always being born even into our darkest hour, and if we agree to take that next step in faith, God may use us too to change the world for that little baby's glory.

Mary, Pondering is a poem from the book Cloth for the Cradle by the Wild Goose Worship Group.  It can be found on page 47 in the paperback edition that was published by the Wild Goose Resource Group (a division of the Iona Community) in 1997.

{Photo by Ted Hodges at Flickr}

If this post inspired you, please pass it on to friends and family through email or Facebook.  It would be a fantastic Christmas gift to me to continue to spread the word about this ministry!  Thank you for the gift of your reading, Friends. 

Vocational Mothering was invited to join the site Mommy Hot Spot.  My blog is listed there, and they are having a winter contest.  If you haven't yet, please click the button on my homepage to vote for me!  You can vote every 24 hours, so feel free to do so whenever you check in here.  It just takes a simple click!

Finally, make sure to stop by Vocational Mothering's Facebook page.  I often share quick links that you will not find on my blog.  For instance, I will be sharing my favorite Christmas article I've read from another author this season soon.  If you "Like" the page, you won't miss it!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Moms, We Have a Microphone

This winter I am challenging myself to be positive. And I don’t mean positive in a superficial kind of way. I mean being intentional about what I verbalize about myself, my husband, and my children. It’s one thing to have a negative or discouraging thought; it’s another to speak it aloud and allow it to take root.

There are so many things that can plague our minds as moms. Our job can come with a lot of responsibility and little accolades. And to make matters worse, we can be hard on ourselves all the while. “Why am I having trouble losing weight…praying more…scheduling it all…” Sound familiar?

As much as we need to be mindful of the beautiful creations that we are, we also need to think about the creations who are forming under our watch...

Click here to read the rest of my article over at (In)Courage: Home For The Hearts of Women.  I'm so excited to be featured there - it's a wonderful website for Christian encouragement.  Check it out, and let me know you stopped over by leaving a comment!

{Photo by Juan Alvaro}

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