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It’s possible that doing something for a second year in a row constitutes a tradition. If so, this collection of advent thoughts might possibly be a tradition. It’s the second set of daily Christmas thoughts shared on Twitter (and Facebook) to celebrate the year’s advent season. [I enjoyed sharing advent thoughts for the 2014 Christmas season, and decided to do it again in 2015!]

Advent is the season we spend celebrating the coming of the Son of God to this earth at Christmas. It usually lasts from the first day of December till Christmas Day. For me sharing a short, condensed thought each day during this season is a way to focus my thoughts on Christ, connect with loved ones, and prepare my heart for Christmas–mostly by seeing how the truths of Christmas connect to my life.¬†This year, I was greatly blessed by those who responded to my thoughts and shared with me their own thoughts on God’s amazing gift to us.

Here is the collection of my own thoughts from this past Christmas, thoughts that connect to life as a whole, not just “Christmas.”


“You know w/all your heart&soul that not one of all the good promises…God gave you has failed” ~Josh23.14b(niv) #adventthoughts (Dec01)

In the time of Judges, God used farmers, tiny armies, simple tools to deliver His people–is a baby that surprising? #adventthoughts (Dec02)

Is My hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? ~God Isaiah 50.2b #adventthoughts (Dec02)

“Were you born in a barn?!”–Things Jesus’ mother could never say to him (even if she’d used American idioms) #adventthoughts (Dec03)

Bethlehem, City of David the king who demonstrated that God has the heart of a shepherd #adventthoughts (Dec04)

Generosity finds NO VACANCY in minds filled by obligations & needs. We give out of hearts that know there is enough. #adventthoughts (Dec05)

The gift tag reads, “I see you and know you, all you’ve done, all you’ll do. This highly-valuable gift is for you.” #adventthoughts (Dec06) . . .¬†You know, how you see yourself really determines how you read the tag, doesn’t it?

When Eternity steps into time, every moment of history–past, present, future–changes forever. Even mine and yours. #adventthoughts (Dec07)

Travel–a Christmas tradition: Magi from afar, shepherds from fields, Mary&Joseph from Galilee, Son of God from Heaven #adventthoughts (Dec08)

Because God loves His Son, He has given Him everything. Because God loves us, He has given us His Son. #adventthoughts (Dec09)

“Expect the unexpected”–sound Christmas advice since the days of Caesar Augustus. #adventthoughts (Dec10)

A gift can only be truly received when it is valued. #adventthoughts (Dec12)

Our value of the giver affects our value of the gift. #adventthoughts (Dec13)

Christmas reminds us we are valued beyond our performance; treasured for ourselves, not our abilities. #adventthoughts (Dec14)

One small gift is enough for the whole world. #adventthoughts (Dec15)

The real gift is the heart of the giver, not the stuff. #adventthoughts (Dec16)

The best gifts are always bigger on the inside than on the outside. #adventthoughts (Dec17)

The good news of Jesus Christ–if we’ve experienced it for a long time–can become old news. ~Pastor Dana Chau #adventthoughts (Dec18)

The good news of Jesus Christ is like the Christmas tree that stays green&fresh amid even the snow&darkness of winter. #adventthoughts (Dec19)

We are Jesus’ gift to the Father. Those who long for children of their own understand the preciousness of this gift. #adventthoughts (Dec20)

When Jesus arrives, it really is “the beginning of the holidays” and of all things good and true and warm and lovely. #adventthoughts (Dec21)

At the 1st Christmas Wise men traveled to the Prince of Peace. Wise men today take Him with them wherever they go. #adventthoughts (Dec22)

Poverty, sickness, broken or tense relationships, losses & helplessness (of all kinds) make a Christmas heart elusive. #adventthoughts (Dec23)

The griefs & the sicknesses, the poor, captive, or broken places–Christ was born for this. Christ was born for this! #adventthoughts (Dec24)

“Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!” ~Father Christmas (in Lewis’s Narnia) #adventthoughts (Dec25)

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” ~Julian of Norwich #adventthoughts (Dec27)


It’s morning. I can tell it by the amount of light in the room. I can tell it by the way my body feels. I can tell it by the sounds coming from outside and from other parts of the house. But I can’t get up. Traces of a dream linger in my fuzzy consciousness, blurring the line between reality and unreality, dreams of going somewhere I can’t reach, struggling to be someone I can’t be, stuck between crushing stresses–not pleasant dreams at all. But I can’t wake up either. I dread the reality of the expectations and needs of my day: they resemble my dreams more than a little–trying hard to meet needs I can’t meet, be someone I can’t be, stuck between crushing forces I don’t belong between. At this point in the morning, it’s sometimes hard to tell which is the dream and which the reality. And sometimes it’s hard to tell which is worse.

So there I lie, eyes tightly closed, curled up into a little warm ball to shut out the morning, knowing that all that precious time is slipping away and making things worse by making life more hurried. And as consciousness begins to drown out my dreams, I realize that I am praying: “God, please! Please, I can’t do this! I can’t, I just can’t. It’s not possible. I’m too small, I’m too . . . I’m not . . . I don’t have . . . I just can’t face today, God. Please help me. Where is Your strength? Aren’t You going to help me? Please, I can’t do this.” The track plays over and over again as I lie there waiting for something–a divine power-surge, perhaps? Finally there comes, not an adrenaline rush, but a tiny modicum of readiness, and I plunge head-first into the icy water of the day. My morning has begun.

I have been pondering and dreading this post all day. Pondering it because I knew that it was ready to be written. Dreading it because, as much as I have wanted to write it, I also do not want to write it. I have too many questions about the subject matter. It seems improbable and impossible. I don’t want to type. I don’t want to ponder. And I apologize for the rambling that is sure to result from pondering of this type (pun not originally intended–this is what happens when I post and ponder at night).

I think I’ll go get a cookie. A Mint Meltaway. This Christmas season is the first time I have ever had one of Grandma’s Mint Meltaway cookies. I am currently living with my Mom’s mother, and this means I benefit from her wonderful culinary abilities. Mint Meltaways are her favorite Christmas cookie, and I now understand why. They are small short-bread-like cookies, firm and buttery, but not too crunchy. On the top, Grandma spreads a generous layer of icing–icing the pink color of peppermint candy when it is mixed in ice-cream and starting to dissolve. And the icing itself contains pieces of crushed peppermint sticks. The combination is fresh and invigorating and . . . addicting. The funny thing about this addiction is that rather than wanting these cookies in great quantities, I find I crave them one at a time, but frequently. Leave out a plate of these cookies, and I will snatch one as I walk past then snitch another on my return trip. This cookie is the most cheerful cookie I have ever met. It is excited to meet the day; even melting away in someone’s mouth is a great adventure to this little treat.

That little cookie is everything I don’t want to be in the morning . . . or at other times during the day. I do not want to view life as a great adventure–adventures are unpleasant and uncomfortable long before they sound great in storybooks. I do not want to be excited about being where I feel so inadequate or so unwanted or so helpless (depending on the day and the moment, of course). I want my life to be perfect, I know it is not going to be, so I will not be cheerful about it. I will curl up in a little ball somewhere inside myself, if possible, and beg God to end the storm.

To be perfectly honest, I know that I should be able to view life as cheerfully as the little Mint Meltaway seems to. I know that the Bible commands it of me. But, in the spirit of honesty, I confess that I think this command impossible and unreasonable. Unreasonable because it is impossible. Impossible because I cannot do it. I have tried. I do not want to try anymore. It takes too much energy, energy I need to conserve if I am to survive the challenges life sends me. I have lived long enough to know that life is one big bundle of sorrows. It is not a video game where you can fall down many times and come away with a body un-bruised. Its sorrows are real, and they cut deep into our souls. Some of them burrow so deeply into us that we do not realize they exist until something brushes them, sending throbs of pain throughout our whole beings. Life is real, life is hard, life is pain. (To quote from the movie The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling you something.”)

And sometimes the “Christmas spirit” seems to ask that we forget the pain of life in order to have beautiful moments that will be remembered for years to come. And sometimes Christmas brings with it the most painful moments in the entire year. In spite of all its “Christmas cheer,” Christmas can be a very difficult time. And the rejoicing of the people recorded in the Bible seems far removed from the real life struggles of the present moment. “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly,” one of my favorite Christmas carols has presented this seeming unreality to me this Chrismas in glaring words.

Infant holy, Infant lowly,
For His bed a cattle stall;
Oxen lowing, little knowing
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.
Swift are winging, angels singing,
Noels ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the Babe is Lord of all,
Christ the Babe is Lord of all.

Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping
Vigil till the morning new
Saw the glory, heard the story,
Tidings of a gospel true.
Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,
Praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the Babe was born for you.
Christ the Babe was born for you.

~ Polish carol; tr. Edith M. G. Reed

It’s the end of the second verse that really catches at the tatters of my heart: “Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,/ Praises voicing, greet the morrow”! I’m supposed to wake up and greet the morning with praises, rejoicing and somehow free from sorrow? Right! Like that’s going to happen! But that’s what the song says; in plain English it tells me that I am supposed to meet the morning as the shepherds did in Luke 2: “and the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen as it was told unto them.” How could such a thing be possible?

Central to this issue is the word “sorrow.” At least the song does not ignore its place of importance in our lives. To rejoice as the shepherds did, we have to somehow be free from sorrow. And how, pray tell, is this supposed to happen? What magic potion is supposed to free me from sorrow, giving me the ability to greet the morning with eagerness and joy rather than dread and fear?

I’ve been pondering this for many days, almost two weeks since our church’s Christmas program in which my quartet sang this piece. A punctuation mark may hold the inconceivable answer. A colon. Observe with me: ” Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow,/ Praises voicing, greet the morrow:/ Christ the Babe was born for you.” There is a colon between the injunction to greet the morning with sorrow-free rejoicing and the next statement. A colon alerts the reader to either a list or an explanation. Since the last line of the song is very clearly not a list, we must take the colon to mean that an explanation will follow. How can we manage this impossible feat of cheerfulness in the face of a cold and sorrowful world? We can manage it by knowing that we have been given a gift. And by knowing that the gift truly is ours to open and own and cherish and keep.

But is it possible that a gift can outweigh sadness enough to make me able to greet rather than rue the morning? I’ve been wondering this, and I have come up with some examples from real life of outlook-changing gifts. I will try to briefly cite some: 1) What child does not look forward to Christmas and to the day after Christmas? Those days involve getting gifts and then playing with those gifts. The anticipation and excitement can last for days, especially as the novelty of the gifts continues: “tomorrow I get to . . . ride my bike . . . play with my new game . . . .” 2) How much easier it is to get up and face a long-awaited day off from work than to face the demands of the workplace! 3) Facing strangers and acquaintances at a party is much easier to do when I know that I have a companion with me who enjoys my company. 4) Last February, my dad was in critical condition with a blood clot in his lung and another in his leg. A friend of mine paid for me to fly out for a week to be with him. Being with him was wonderful–I was getting first-hand knowledge of what was going on, and I was watching him mend. But as the week drew to a close, I dreaded going home; a week seemed like far too little. And so I called another friend, a friend who had also offered to help me out with my ticket if I needed her help. I asked this friend if she would pay for an extension to my ticket for another week. Getting that extension to my ticket, having that extra week made life much easier to face. I could hardly believe it was happening to me, truly being given to me like that. I went from dreading the morning to relaxing in the morning. That gift made all the difference between sorrow and rejoicing.

What is this gift that made the difference for the shepherds? “Christ the babe was born for you.” There is a gift. It has your name on it. Mine, too. As simple as that.

Maybe it is possible that the knowledge of the great gift we have received will enable us to face the day and the sorrows it holds with rejoicing and excitement. Maybe it will make the difference between trumped-up cheerfulness and true joy. A small, cheerful little voice inside me is eager to find out if such knowledge and such a gift does have that kind of power. Part of me wants to be that joyful, that refreshed, that refreshing. “Try it,” the little hopeful voice inside suggests. “Try it and see if it truly works.”

So I am trying it, trying to accept that Christ’s gift for me has my name on it, wondering if it will produce in me the same rejoicing that it produced in the shepherds. Will you dare to test it out with me this Christmas season? If it works (and it HAS to!), it promises to be even more refreshing than a Mint Meltaway cookie. And it promises to last longer, too. The Mint Meltaway cookies don’t last long around my house.

Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see That without dust the rainbow would not be. ~ Langston Hughes

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