Saturday, December 19, 2009
I have always been fascinated by angels. As a child, I took to heart the concept of a guardian angel. Never one to enjoy being alone, it comforted me to know that an angel was watching over me and keeping me from harm. Besides that, I just knew in my child's heart that all angels were beautiful creatures. I mean, how could an angel be ugly?
Several years ago, my mother gave me the little angel you see in the photograph above. She did not give me any explanation as to why she gave her to me except to say that it was from my first Christmas tree and she just wanted me to have her. I had started collecting angel figurines several years before and Mother wanted to add this little angel baby to my collection. I have cherished it and keep it out all year long. One section of the skirt is a little ragged but she is lovely to me. She is a cherished treasure from my loving Mother.
For some reason this year, as I was decorating for Christmas, I became curious about my little angel. I wanted to know the story behind the gift and how she came to be so important. I phoned my Mother and asked her to tell me about my first Christmas angel. This is the story as Mother told it to me.
"You were about 18 months old when your Daddy and I decorated your first Christmas tree. We had so little money that year. All we could afford was a little table-top tree, about three feet high. We had one string of lights and about a dozen pretty bulbs. I ordered the little angel from a catalog---she cost a dollar. I put her on the top of the tree and she looked so pretty. When you came into the room and looked up to see the angel, you just kept saying, "Pretty angel, Mommy.". You just sat in a chair and kept staring at the angel. When your Daddy came home from work, you grabbed his hand and said, "See the angel, Daddy. See the pretty angel."
When you started collecting angels as an adult, I wanted you to have your first angel and to know that, though she didn't cost much money, your love of her and the memory of your first Christmas have always been precious to me."
Do I need to tell you how this story touched my heart? The thought of my sweet Mother, with almost no money to spare, selflessly making my first real Christmas one of beauty and joy. I could not hold back the tears.
But that is how my Mother has always been. She has always put her family ahead of anything she might want or need. To know that we have a holiday to remember---to see the smiles on the faces of her children, grandchildren and, now, great-grandchildren---to create memories that will last a lifetime---these have been Mother's gifts.
I am not able to go home for Christmas this year. My work schedule and other concerns prevent my making the trip. But, as I look at this little angel and remember the story Mother told me, I know that we will be together in our hearts. I will be hearing her sweet voice on Christmas Day. She will ask me if I've had a good Christmas and did the grandchildren enjoy their gifts. She will inquire about what we had for dinner and want to know if we have any snow. I will answer her questions with a smile on my face and a yearning in my heart to see her. I will be certain to let her know that the best gift I ever received was when she became my Mother. I want her to know that, of all the gifts of my childhood, I am most grateful for the gift of having her and Daddy to be my parents.
I am sure we all have a guardian angel. The scriptures teach us that the angels of God encircle us and watch over us faithfully. I know this to be true because, not only do I have a beautiful little Christmas angel to remind me, but I have a real-life guardian angel given to me by God Himself. My angel's name is Margie---but I call her Mother.
Friday, December 11, 2009
My favorite Christmas carol is "O, Come All Ye Faithful". I have always loved the words, the melody, the repetition of the adoration of Christ, our Lord. Each time I have sung this glorious melody, I have pictured in my mind what it must have been like to be a participant in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. I have often wondered what I would have said or done had I seen the tiny Babe lying in a manger. Being the one who always sheds the tears, whether happy or sad, I know my eyes would have filled with tears of joy upon seeing the little Saviour. I know the mother's heart within me would want to do as Mary did--snuggle Him close and look for the smile in His eyes.
The words of the song continue by inviting us to come to Jesus both "joyful and triumphant". Why that choice of wording? Why those particular emotions? I believe in my heart that the writer knew that no one could have come to Jesus without joy in their hearts---without feeling jubilation at the birth of the Son of God. When angels sang and shepherds bowed---when kings came from afar---when the Heavens lit up with the smile of God---I ask you, how could there not be joy? With the prophetic words of Isaiah coming to life before their very eyes, "...Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel...for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given...his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 7:14 & 9:6)--how could there not be joy? How could there not be a feeling of triumph to know that the promised Messiah had finally--finally--arrived?
My brother, Dan, brought the Christmas message at our church not long before our father retired from pastoring. We had just finished singing this beautiful melody and there was a beautiful, reverent hush that had come upon the congregation. My brother stepped forward and said these words:
" We have sung these words for many years, perhaps without realizing the true meaning. The most significant phrase of the entire song--'Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing". Jesus, the Word of the Father, now made flesh and dwelling among us. How wonderful are those words to us."
May we all know the joy and triumph that accompanied our Saviour as he came as the Babe in the manger. May we all come to know Him and walk within His light until we see Him face to face. May the joy and jubilation that surrounded His birth be renewed in us today. Come, all ye faithful. Come to Him and know the true joy of the season---a child is born---His name is Jesus---Immanuel. Come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Just the mention of the word "joy" brings thoughts of laughter, smiles and happy times. We recall those things that bring us joy and the moments of our lives that have been so full of joy that we have nearly burst from the memory. Joy, by definition however, is a "deep, spiritual experience". Those who were there at the manger, in the fields, and heard the angels sing, would truly know the meaning of real joy.
Nothing in the world is as joyful as the birth of a child. The scriptures even tell us that the pain of childbirth is forgotten when a babe enters the world. Recalling the births of my own children, I can say the scripture is true. Holding my son and my daughter, moments after they were born---smelling the sweet baby fragrance of their skin---snuggling against the softness of their tiny cheeks---kissing tiny rosebud lips---oh, the joy of those first moments. I am sure that Mary, in the first moments of motherhood, experienced the same flood of emotions--the same wonder of holding her tiny babe, the same overwhelming love, the same desire to protect him from the harshness of life, the same joy of having a child. But, I wonder---did she know how much joy his coming would bring to others?
To the shepherds who kept their fields by night, who saw the angelic host and heard them sing, who rushed to Bethlehem to see for themselves, could anyone know the joy that would flood their hearts as they gazed upon the tiny saviour? The message from the angels sent them on a journey that brought them into the presence of the, as yet unknown, Prince of Peace. Oh! the joy of such a moment.
To Simeon, the aged priest who knew Mary's son the moment he saw him, who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the "Lord's Christ", who was willing to face death after seeing Jesus, knowing that the babe he held in his arms would, quite literally, change the world. What joy must have filled his waiting heart.
To those of us who have experienced the thrill of salvation, whose joy has been made full by becoming children of God, whose hearts are renewed by the child Emmanuel---indeed God with us. To all of us who, by the birth of the child of Bethlehem, are now living lives free of the chains and darkness of sin. Oh! the joy of knowing we will, one day, see Him face to face. What anticipation we have. What joy springs up within us, even when the world around us is dismal and grim---the babe in the manger can still fill us with joy!!
"Joy to the world, the Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart, prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing."
May you, too, find the "deep, spiritual experience" of joy during this holiday season. Let us all take our eyes off of our problems, our sorrows, our despairs and let us look at the Babe in the manger. A child whose very birth changed the course of religious history---a child who loved enough to give His life---a child whose life would inspire others to follow. May our hearts today prepare Him room. May earth receive her King.