Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Name for a New Year

by Danetta Kellar

In the very place where they were once named Nobody, they will be named God’s Somebody. Hosea 1:10 (The Message)

I once knew a girl who was ashamed of her name. 

It was an unusual name, an uncommon name, a name which caused others to ask its origin. When the unavoidable question came, the girl would avert her eyes and mumble a soft explanation that left the questioner confused but with the distinctly uncomfortable impression that this topic was complicated.

Her name had been given in haste, created by two people who found themselves in more trouble than they anticipated with a baby they had not planned. In the middle of a dark and chilly night, they escaped together to another place where no one knew them, and there she was born in relative anonymity. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Place of No Reputation: The Humility of Christmas

by Danetta Kellar

In the quiet night sounds of the little town of Bethlehem, among softly rustling sheep and the gentle munching of hay, the God of all Creation laid aside His reputation. 

In the prickly straw of a manger, He lay down His praise. 

Within rough-hewn homespun strips of cloth He wrapped his glory. 

In the arms of a young, obedient girl and a brave and gentle man He yielded his power and was held.

Such humility is unknown to us in common life.

But in the midst of ordinary life is exactly where this humility broke into our mundane routines and showed us true Greatness comes when we lay aside our reputations to become like the King of Christmas.

One’s reputation is perhaps the hardest thing to lay upon the altar. When falsely accused, misunderstood, misrepresented, we strive to defend ourselves, to be understood, to justify our own righteousness. We angrily tout our good deeds, our good standing, the many reasons we should be admired and respected.

Our rights are our rights and how dare anyone challenge them. This is the world we live in today.

However, as I quietly meditate on the Savior this Christmas, I am struck by how willingly, how utterly, how completely, he laid aside His reputation, that ours might be made clean and upright. He deferred His rights that we might be rescued. 

Have you ever remained silent, deferring your rights for the benefit of another? It is extremely difficult. Something in us rises up and demands justice. We are smitten with righteous indignation and self-preservation in such moments. It is rare for a man to lay aside what is rightfully due him that another may be rescued, protected, or praised. 

Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” 

Is it possible to be completely humble? Jesus was. And if He says to be completely humble, it must be possible. Jesus is calling us to follow Him to the Place of No Reputation. The place where we are not driven by what others think of us or where we stand socially. The place where we are completely fixed upon His will for our lives, His reputation in us, His righteousness in place of ours. This is a place of obedience, and this is a liberating place to dwell.

Jesus showed us the way to complete humility on Christmas in that splintery, coarse manger.

Before you lay the baby Jesus in his manger in your nativity this Christmas, pause a moment and hold it in your hands. Take time to reflect on the very reputation of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords laid aside in mere hay. Precious, eternal, lasting treasure held by rubbish. 

Let us all say a quiet prayer that we may follow His example and lay aside our reputations this Christmas to follow the humble Christ. We are moving ever swiftly into an era where we need to be courageous to follow Christ, no matter what our reputations might suffer in the eyes of others. 

Merry Christmas to you, dear readers!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

O Come, All you Naughty, Grumpy and Self-Centered

by Danetta Kellar

Tears streamed down her face as she tried to explain to me what was causing her so much woe. 

I could not understand her jumbled words between the sobs.

“jusdhat siadillf mmmeisgah wumph!”

I do not speak Sobbing Hiccup very fluently, and I truly had no idea what was making my child so upset. One minute we were driving happily down the road on a sunny afternoon, talking about Christmas. The next thing I knew she was unintelligible and crying her eyes out.

Turning my rearview mirror so I could look directly at her splotchy sweet face, I implored, “Calm down, and tell me what is wrong.” I don’t know about you, but drama seems to thrive when we are all in the car together. Something about the close quarters, I suppose.

“I-I-I-I’m a bad girl. I know I am on the naughty list! And now I won’t get any presents on Christmas morrrrrrnnnnning,” she wailed.

I took a moment to think, and pray, and breathe instead of react. Traditional Christmas lore was stepping on my toes and infringing on my family peace. I was feeling more than a little resentful of the old naughty/nice fable as I looked into the sincerely anxious eyes of my dear, made-in-God’s-image, growing-in-grace, learning-to-forgive-her-brothers, encouraging, beautiful, seven-year-old.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Stinky Stables: Lessons Learned From the Real Mary

By Danetta Kellar

I journaled the words below several years ago at Christmastime when we lived in a country far away. I was expecting our third child, and my sense of smell was working overtime. I was nauseated and homesick, and my attitude was anything but joyful. I was pretty sure I was inadequate for the tasks in front of me at that time in my life, and a sick pregnancy was not helping me feel courageous or motivated. A walk by a dirty, smelly stable one afternoon opened my eyes to a side of Christmas I had never before encountered, changing my perspective.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Looking for Jesus at Christmastime

Christmas was nowhere to be seen.
by Danetta Kellar

I needed sweet potatoes for a special Christmas recipe that I wanted to make for my family. It was Christmas Eve and we were very far from home. I made my way out of the ancient, walled part of the city where we lived and wound up the narrow, curving road which clung precariously to the towering hill. My small car joined a throng of little taxis, dusty vans, donkeys, and people on foot. The sounds of one of my favorite Christmas carols rose in my ears as I turned up the volume on my CD player. 

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, who mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.

The Jewish quarter rose to my right, its shops spilling forth spices, furniture, linens, and colorful shoes onto the busy streets. Built beside the King’s palace, this old section of town had been a safe refuge for the many Jews running for their lives in centuries past. Jews and Muslims, living side by side in peace. 

The new city came into sight ahead, with its modern buildings a stark contrast to the ancient stone arches and massive gates of the old one just moments behind me.

Men, women, and children mulled about on the streets, oblivious to the season so dear to me and my family. 

Women with veiled faces shushed unruly children while robed men stood in clusters discussing important matters with serious faces and bent heads. Young boys rushed past with handmade baskets perched atop their heads, filled with noisy, flapping chickens.  The poor with withered hands and feet sat by the road begging for alms. Old women crept along the paved sidewalks with stooped shoulders, bearing heavy burdens. 

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer, our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night. And death’s dark shadows put to flight…

My spirit soared with the music as my heart crushed under the weight of the loss I was observing through my car windows. Just outside. A mere touch away. Passing my line of vision like a surreal movie clip, people walked unknowing, unaware, utterly, completely, lost. Oblivious to the coming of a Savior. 

Christmas was nowhere to be seen. 

No lights hung on these streets. No trees in the store windows hailing the season. No gifts wrapped in bright shiny paper. Nothing but life moving onward, marching incessantly toward the insignificant, the mundane, the dullness of life with no rescue in sight.

O come, Thou key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery…

I wanted to stand on the roof of my car in the midst of the throngs and shout, “He has come! Your Hope, your Rescuer, the One who bears your burdens! He has come! Let us celebrate!” 

Many have asked us if living in a land where Christmas is so absent made our celebration very difficult. The truth is, with all the wrappings stripped away, Christ rose shining and glorious to the epicenter of our Christmases in that land. With nothing else competing for our energy, our time, our focus, He became the simple, magnificent Center. We could see Him clearly there, against a backdrop of such absence.

Years have passed since that drive through the city of no Christmas. 

We live near our loved ones now, snugly tucked into the suburbia of America. This year, the local holiday lights went up the week before Thanksgiving. I never forget to be thankful for them. They always bring me delight. 

The Christmas songs have begun on the radio, in the stores. Even in the car lots. I love to sing along with every one, and I do not get tired of them even after a month.

People are busy planning and shopping, celebrating, and gathering. Christmas is indeed present among us, this first week of December.

I am still looking for Jesus in the melee. 

I am casting about, searching for that bright, clear face of Hope and Rescue I saw so starkly against the backdrop of the lost, to the words of O Come, O Come Emmanuel years ago. I feel a bit anxious, worried, as if I have lost something and cannot quite find it.

I see Christmas. It is everywhere around me already this year. 

But where is Emmanuel, God with us?

Is He in the face of the homeless man I shared hot chocolate with last week outside the train station?

Is He just over the shoulder of the Muslim woman I met in Ikea recently as she curiously examined a box of Christmas ornaments?

Is Christ in my home, in the midst of the comings and goings of busy children, friends, and family, gathered around good food and laughter?

Most of all, can Christ be seen in me this Christmas? Can others find Him in me? Or do they see only the shuffle and noise I make as I rush around distracted and busy, worry-planning our holiday season?

I hope you will join me this Advent as I search carefully and intentionally for Him. Share with me how you have found Him in the midst of the joyful noise of Christmastime.