What Child Is This?

Have a blessed Christmas, everyone!

God’s most precious gift to humankind is our savior, Jesus Christ.
The basic Nativity Scene, courtesy of Avon. Oh, no…Joseph lost his staff!

I enjoy many secular Christmas songs but I especially love Christmas and Advent hymns – sacred songs about the birth of Jesus Christ. One of my very favorite hymns is “What Child is This.”

I usually end up crying when I sing it.

Often, I hear this song played on the radio during the holiday season, but these versions often skip the second verse of the song. Why? I can only surmise that people find it disturbing. This is Christmas, the time of glittery lights, presents, eggnog and good cheer. Many love the story of the little baby born in Bethlehem – the child of hope, goodness and light – all the angels singing and the shepherds rushing to the stable in joy.

But we don’t want to think about the reason God chose to become incarnate in the first place – humankind’s sinful condition. We don’t want to think about that sweet little baby, Jesus, growing up to sacrifice himself on the cross because of us. We don’t want to remember how he suffered, shed his blood, and died to save us. That’s too gruesome for Christmas! We should save all that macabre stuff for Lent and Good Friday, right?

Now is the time to CELEBRATE, right?

Absolutely! Please do celebrate, both now and always – no matter the time of year. Christ’s birth is definitely something to celebrate about! God the Son came down from heaven and was incarnate as human – the Word made Flesh – fulfilled God’s law perfectly, atoned for our guilt, died and then rose from the dead to proclaim victory over sin, death and the devil. All for us. We have so much to be thankful for because of God’s mercy and his ultimate gift to us.

In case you never heard the full hymn version of “What Child Is This” and were curious, here are the lyrics:

I’m not sure how to cite this, but the above photos come from Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, authorized by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. 2005. Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee WI USA

Happy Holidays!

Tis ALSO the season for cats under the tree!

My thoughts on…Gratitude

 

“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.” Deuteronomy 8:10

One thing that I am thankful for is that my employer offers a Wellness Program and incentives for their employees to engage in a healthy lifestyle. Periodically throughout the year there are fitness or healthy eating challenges and I participate in pretty much every single one of them. Not only has this program raised awareness regarding my health, but there have been major improvements in my health because of it. I managed to lose almost fifty pounds last year, and I have taken up running – something that I never imagined in a million years that I’d ever do!

This wellness program has expanded beyond fitness challenges, though. Last year there was a journaling challenge that promoted having a positive attitude. The topic was to write down three good things that happened during your day. This year’s journaling challenge also focuses on developing a positive mind-set. Specifically, participants are to journal once a day for five days in a week on – you guessed it – whatever they are grateful for.

Whatever is going on in your life, I believe that gratitude is always a timely topic. Here in the great U.S. of A. we are profoundly blessed with wealth, worldly goods, and boundless opportunities to express and improve ourselves. We have the freedom to worship God in a church of our choice, to worship a different deity entirely, or not to worship a god at all. We have the freedom to speak, write, and otherwise express our opinions (so long as we accept the consequences of doing so). Adults have the freedom to fearlessly cast votes in elections for the political candidate of our choice, or to choose to not vote at all. And that’s just three of our freedoms as Americans, the ones nearest and dearest to my heart. I’ll have to revisit the Constitution sometime soon and refresh my memory.

We, as Americans, have so many freedoms that we take for granted every day. Freedoms for which people fight, shed blood and have died for. And yet, I feel that most privileged Americans (myself included) lose sight of the fact that we have it so good in comparison to people in many other nations around the globe. And guess what? We execute our freedom to express ourselves: we complain, and gripe and moan because someone else out there appears to have a better job, more money, a nicer house, a cooler car, more well-behaved kids, a healthier body etc. & etc.

We (read: I) grouse about not being able to afford to take that dream trip to Alaska. We lament that the budget does not allow for a new laptop computer. We resent having to work an eight to four (because I would rather have more time to write). Or we even whine about lacking the funds to repave our shamefully decrepit driveway (about which I just know the entire neighborhood, maybe even everyone with nicer driveways, is judging me).

However, that’s really just small potatoes.

All the while, there are people out there – in our own communities as well as in other countries – that have a much tougher row to hoe. They may not have a job, or a place to live, or a means of transportation, the ability to adequately provide for their families, or they suffer from a chronic illness or disability. Perhaps a number of these things are happening in their lives simultaneously.

I’d say these folks have earned the right to complain a wee bit. Wouldn’t you?

Well, now that I’ve made you (not to mention, myself) feel guilty for complaining, it is time to look on the bright side of things. Not to sound trite, but it is time for us to count our blessings.

First off, I believe that God graciously provides for everyone, spiritually as well as physically. None of us has earned this; God simply loves us all so much that he has done this. He has given us life, body and soul. He has given us this world to live in and use responsibly, as well as all of our worldly possessions. He has given us talents and abilities to provide for ourselves and for our families in some way financially. He has also given us our families and friends – people who care about us and will take care of us when we need help.

Most importantly, He has given us Jesus Christ, who died for the sake of all sinners – and that means everyone. Because of all Christ has done for us, we have the hope of going to heaven to be with Him after we die, instead of that Other Place.

That is merely the tip of the blessings iceberg. Although, one could argue that Jesus is probably a huge part of that iceberg. Go ahead, now, and make your Titanic jokes. No, seriously. I’d love to hear your Titanic jokes.

In any event, I am sure that you have many things that you are thankful for, as well. Perhaps you don’t believe in Jesus as your savior like I do. That is your right as an American and a human being with free will. I can respect that. I’m sure that you respect my right to be a Christian. Another thing that I am thankful for are people who are not Christian and nonetheless respect the rights of those who are, and do not deride or persecute others for their beliefs. For example, I have a close friend who is an atheist and she is always respectful regarding my faith. I appreciate her friendship and all the moral support she has provided to me in the five years that I’ve known her. I think of her as one of those generous souls who wishes to make the world into a better place. She also has seven cats! And now she knows for sure who she is. 🙂

Wow, this blog post has grown rather long. If you have read along this far, then I am grateful that I’ve managed to hold your attention for this long. I could really go on and on about gratitude and this out of control attitude of American entitlement and all that jazz, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before from other sources. Wasn’t this was supposed to be a blog primarily about my writing and outer space, or something?

Anyway, I’m going to shut up now. Please send some G-rated comments my way about whatever you are grateful for. More to come next week!