Thursday, December 28, 2017

Small Beginnings Grow Into Big Endings

By Danetta Kellar

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. Zechariah 4:10 NIV

I lay there in the dark, alert and ready to leap out of bed at any given second. The sound of the rat running back and forth on the bed post inches from my head had me frozen in place, immobilized and afraid to breathe. What on earth is he carrying in his mouth with such dedication? I wondered to myself. Back and forth, back and forth. Scratch, scramble, swoosh, slip, patter-patter-patter over my head. Again. And again. He was very busy, and paid me no mind whatsoever. 

All of my senses, however, were completely trained upon his every move. I was trying very hard not to scream.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Night God Lay Down His Reputation

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!

TWEETABLES


Thursday, December 14, 2017

How to Help the Grieving When You Don't Know What to Say (The Christmas Names of Jesus: Prince of Peace)

by Danetta Kellar
@Danetta Kellar

I had intended this week to write about the Christmas name of Jesus: The Prince of Peace. Then tragedy struck in our church family, and hearts were thrown into agony, searching for the Prince of Peace in the midst of senseless loss. 


Here is my small offering, the words I have, to somehow comfort the hearts broken this holiday. May the Lord use you and me to bring the Prince of Peace to the hurting when they are too weak to grasp his hand. 


---

There it grew, defiant and ignorant of death. Living and green, vibrant. Pressing its tendrils up through the concrete, winding its way around the iron grating, clinging tenaciously to the wall. I hated it and resented its life. Death had robbed me of my joy, and I was devastated. Even the ivy made me angry. How dare it live? 

Kate came with her teenage daughter and quietly did what needed done. Mountains of abandoned laundry became neatly folded piles of order. I watched from my bed as her daughter organized my sock drawer. Warm food carefully arranged was delivered on a tray to my hiding place. Deep inside me, through the fog, I was grateful.

A letter arrived almost immediately from a quiet friend who had also known such grief at one time in her life. Its words spilled forth understanding, recognition, validation. I could hold that letter in my hands and respond silently even though my eyes could not hold another’s gaze and my mouth had stopped responding verbally to anyone.

There is an art, an exquisite discretion, to standing alongside those who are hurting. 

We may not always understand the pain they suffer. In fact, some events are so tragic, so unexpected, that we stand gaping in shock, unable to fathom what they must be going through. But we must not withdraw, we must not isolate them. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Christmas Names of Jesus: Emmanuel

by Danetta Kellar

It was December 24, and the haunting tune of O Come, O Come Emmanuel filled my car as I drove through the arched, crumbling gate into the walled city. 

Women in hijab, only their eyes peeking out, tugged their children along cobbled streets as donkeys carried loads of fruits and vegetables on sagging backs. Weary men sat in shaded doorways drinking sweet coffee, watching the passersby. The centuries-old walls of the medieval city sat golden in the evening sunlight as they had for generations.

No sparkling lights wrapped the shabby trees lining the streets, no stars hung high on the lampposts. The shop windows flickered not with Christmas lights, but with the reflection of colored glass lanterns and gold crafted hands of Fatima, turning in the breeze like applause. 

There was no sign of Emmanuel’s coming in this place, at least not to the naked eye. 

I continued to drive on, taking in the scene around me as I listened to the words of my favorite Christmas song. Had these people no idea? Had no one yet told them God came near at Christmastime? They continued as if it was a normal day without Him.

The lostness of the crowds caused a sob to catch in my throat as I tried to process the contrast between what I was seeing outside my car window and the promise words I was hearing. 

Emmanuel. God with us. 

Right here, beside us, with us, alongside us, in our midst. Promised. Expectation and longing rose up in my soul to see Him in this place, to worship Him here. 

I wonder if that is how old Simeon felt walking among the throngs in the temple, a longing for the Messiah rising up in his being like a song only he could hear. Watching the crowds mull around like it was an average day. A baby came into the barrenness and filled it with promise and hope, and Simeon held Emmanuel in his arms and worshipped. For the promise came in flesh and blood.

“Now, Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to leave [this world] in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your Salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a Light for revelation to the Gentiles [to disclose what was previously unknown], and [to bring] the praise and honor and glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32, AMP (The words of Simeon in the temple as he held baby Jesus in his arms.)

The presence of Jesus in our lives was so sweet, so tangible in those North African Christmases, where no manmade lights radiated to celebrate His coming. 

I think it was because He was all we had. In the absence of the cultural traditions, the decorations, the Pandora Holiday playlist, the stores bedecked with shiny bows luring in frenzied shoppers, He shone. We lifted him high and invited our friends and neighbors to come and see Emmanuel, God with us. And over the years, His light spread beyond our own humble home.

Emmanuel, God with us. Like our Christmases in North Africa, the presence of Jesus can be felt most strongly in the desert places of our lives, the places where we may feel furthest away from him. He comes like new life at our midnight, and changes our history. May He come to you in your barren places this Chrismastime.

TWEETABLES