Lasting Present

Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Presbyterian Journal (Dec. 14, 1983)

Miracle Renewed

It would be easy … to criticize … the waste, the trash, the sad attempt to buy affection in a splash of wild extravagance. Yet, for all of that, this is a genuine time of family fun; a day when games are played together, books are read and puzzles puzzled, a meal is eaten family-style, smiles and kisses are in plentiful supply; a day when memories are brought forth, dusted off, and handed round.…

May I find in moments such as these an echo of those “tidings of great joy”? I wonder, would the Christ-child, if he sat beneath our sparkling tree, condemn as crass and empty all he saw? Or might he laugh and cheer and clap his sticky hands with glee to see his miracle take place again and life become abundant shared in love?

—J. Barrie Shepherd in A Child Is Born

Not Seasonal

Jesus is not to us as Christmas is to the world, here today and gone tomorrow.

—Rick Mylander in Covenant Companion (Dec. 1988)

The Truly Important

I often think: “A life is like a day; it goes by so fast. If I am so careless with my days, how can I be careful with my life?” I know that somehow I have not fully come to believe that urgent things can wait while I attend to what is truly important. It finally boils down to a question of deep and strong conviction. Once I am truly convinced that preparing the heart is more important than preparing the Christmas tree I will be a lot less frustrated at the end of a day.

—Henri J. M. Nouwen in the New Oxford Review (Nov. 1986)

Locus, Not Object

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.

—Roy L. Smith in Lutheran Witness (Dec. 15, 1974)

The Innkeeper As Model

The innkeeper who gave Mary and Joseph a Christmas Eve cave should be a holiday model for Christians as they celebrate the birth of the Messiah. That’s because that Middle Eastern Howard Johnson had the simple consideration to think beyond the “no” that could have easily been his complete conversation with the visiting strangers who came to his door.

In contrast, many Christians who honor the child born that night say no all the time to strangers during the very time of the year when they should be opening their doors to the lonely, forgotten, and alienated.

—James Breig in U.S. Catholic (Dec. 1986)

The God-Man

Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son.

—C. H. Spurgeon in the New Park Street Pulpit (Vol. 4, 1858)


Praise God for Christmas.

Praise Him for the Incarnation

for Word made flesh.

I will not sing

of shepherds watching flocks

on frosty night

or angel choristers.

I will not sing of stable bare in Bethlehem

or lowing oxen

wise men

trailing distant star

with gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Tonight I will sing

praise to the Father

who stood on heaven’s threshold

and said farewell to His Son

as He stepped across the stars

to Bethlehem

and Jerusalem.

And I will sing praise to the infinite eternal Son

who became most finite

a Baby

who would one day be executed

for my crimes.

Praise Him in the heavens.

Praise Him in the stable.

Praise Him in my heart.

—Joseph Bayly in Psalms of My Life; calligraphy by Tim Botts

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