On the 12th day of Christmas…

wise-menToday (or yesterday, depending on how you see it) marks the end of the Christmas season.  By now we have received every imaginable gift, from a partridge in a pear tree to 12 drummers drumming.  Not literally, of course, but if you count up every token of affection, gratitude, or umm… obligation you have accepted since Thanksgiving, chances are, they add up to at least as many items.

This day is also called Epiphany, the observation of the Wise Men’s visit to the Christ Child.  Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh honored the baby king and foretold his life and death.

History and folklore give us many other examples of gift givers such as Santa with toys for good children.  One of my favorite gift bringers is the little drummer boy with his gift of music.  Music is a one-size-fits-all sort of gift with no need for returns, but mostly I love that the little drummer boy found a way to give when he had nothing tangible to offer.  Another favorite is Amahl from the opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors.  When he had no gift to give the Christ Child, Amahl gave his crutch and was healed in return.  This story points out a universal truth.  When we give, we always get something in return.

During this new year, there will be many opportunities for each of us to give.  Sometimes we will give gifts to celebrate special occasions. We may donate money or supplies for those who have little or to further a cause.   Hopefully we will “lend an ear” or a “shoulder to cry on” to a troubled friend.  Some of us will give our time, talents, and hard work to make the world a better place.  I can’t wait to get started!  How about you?

May all your acts of giving bring you ultimate joy in the new year!

P.S.  It has been delightful to share these seasons of Advent and Christmas with my dear readers!  To those of you who purchased a copy of Waiting for Jesus, commented, “liked,” or offered other support and encouragement, please know that I am filled with gratitude.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Angels

angelBefore the journey to Bethlehem, before the lack of adequate lodging, before the manger or the shepherds or the wise men, there was an angel speaking to a young woman.  This is where our Advent story really begins.  This is where the wonder and the mystery and the waiting all start.  I began my Advent observance by placing an angel in the manger scene.

It was the angel, Gabriel, who delivered the good news to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38), but angels appear throughout the Christmas story.  When we think of the angel in the manger scene, we most often consider the one who appeared to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20).  An angel spoke to Joseph as well (Matthew 1:18-24).

If you read about each of these angelic encounters, you will notice a theme.  Each time the angels speak, they say, “Do not be afraid.”  In each case, there are plenty of reasons to be fearful.  It is difficult to imagine how we might react to finding ourselves in any of these situations.  But each time, there is someone there to offer reassurance.  “Do not be afraid.”

That same reassurance is offered to us today, and we, in turn, can offer it to others.  That’s really what HOPE is all about, right?

Hope

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Advent begins today.  I hope you are spending this Sunday of HOPE with family and friends.  Maybe you will worship in a formal setting, or maybe you will simply sit quietly with a cup of coffee and revisit the blessings from your Thanksgiving celebration.  Perhaps you are reeling from the aftershock of Black Friday, or you might be enthusiastically cheering your favorite NFL team to victory.  Maybe you’ll do all of the above.  Whatever this day brings, my hope is that it finds you in a spirit of anticipation for the special days ahead.

I love that Advent begins with Hope Sunday and follows so closely on the heels of Thanksgiving.  Hope is sometimes difficult to muster, but gratitude breeds hope.  God’s perfect timing.

My HOPE for you this week and throughout Advent is that you find ways to make your observance personal and then share it with others.  What is your HOPE for the upcoming holiday season?  Please share in the comments below and join us on the Waiting for Jesus Facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/Waiting-for-Jesus-225478267868701/

 

Preparations

stable-small     Today I unpacked the stable.  Tomorrow, on the first Sunday of Advent, I will unpack the angel.  Each Sunday of the Advent season, I will unpack another figure, another key player in the Christmas story, another person waiting to experience the arrival of the Christ child.

This stable appears to be old and drafty, the way we often imagine the birthplace of Jesus.  It was created by my father, so it holds a special significance to me beyond its role in the Nativity scene.

My father was an artist.  In my earliest memories he is sitting on the back porch carving wood with his pocket knife.  He called it whittling, but he was not mindlessly shaving slivers from a stick.  No, he created beautiful wooden sculptures with great skill and precision.  When the carving was done, he spent at least as many hours rubbing, polishing, buffing the wood to glossy perfection.  He also painted and sculpted in stone, but carving wood was a spiritual practice for him.  He saw God in the natural beauty of wood grain.

from Waiting for Jesus

We are approaching the end of a busy week.  You may have prepared your home for guests, cooked a lavish feast, “shopped til you dropped,” carried home a tree tied to the top of your car, attempted to make that same tree stand up straight, untangled miles of lights, watched hours and hours of football, or participated in any number of other holiday traditions.

I hope you are also preparing your home and your heart for the observance of Advent, and I hope you’ll  join me here at IdaBethGeschke.com and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Waiting-for-Jesus-225478267868701/ to share thoughts, reflections, creative expressions, and prayers during the Advent season.

I wish you blessings while we wait…

 

Waiting for Jesus

 

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Sometimes I have to write because there is something inside me that has to come out.  Once, however, I had to write because there was something I needed to read, and no one else had written it.  Waiting for Jesus is the result.

It’s a book about Advent and how to make your own observance of the season more personal and meaningful.  There are reflections, stories from my heart, that focus on the four themes of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love, along with some “bonus” themes.  I’ve also offered lots of ideas about how each of us can become active participants in expanding those themes into our own lives, families, and communities.  Here’s a little preview:

Once, while driving the Seward Highway in Alaska, I rounded a bend to see an entire hillside covered in fuschia fireweed blooms.  It was the most incredible sight I had ever seen, and I pulled my car over on the side of the road and sat, weeping with joy at such amazing beauty.  I have seen many other beautiful, natural wonders in Alaska and elsewhere, but nothing like that fireweed-covered hillside.  Luckily, there are other experiences that fill me with great joy on a more frequent basis: the Houston skyline, the “ah-ha” look on a child’s face when he finally understands, the smell of coffee brewing, the cozy comfort of a quilt on a cold night, the sweetness of a South Texas grapefruit, and music of almost any kind.  Sometimes I get so busy, so stressed, I overlook these simple joys.  I have to remind myself not only to notice, but also to savor these precious moments and to recall them at times when joy seems just out of reach.

If your church doesn’t observe Advent, or if you have never observed it in your home, I hope Waiting for Jesus will be a guide to help you become more familiar with this sacred time of year.  For all of us, I hope it will inspire different ways of thinking and acting during those busy, commercialized days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The eBook version of Waiting for Jesus is available now at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and iBooks for the very reasonable price of 99 cents.  It will soon be available on a number of other sites, so if you buy your eBooks elsewhere, please check frequently to see when it is offered.   There will be a limited number of hard copies printed.  They will be spiral bound, to stay open while you study, reflect, journal, or create.  The price will be about $10.  If you would like to reserve your printed copy, please email me at countyroadpublishing1@gmail.com.

Stay tuned for more about Waiting for Jesus and to find out how you can join the online community as we share this very special season in anticipation of the arrival of the Christ child.

Blessings…