Anticipating Advent: My Christmas Tree is a Cross

My parents made Christmas a very special time of remembrances, especially putting up the tree and decorating the house, both inside and outside. I brought that to my family. My wife made special treats to eat, years before I had made a special tape recording (reel to reel if you’re old enough to know what that is) of Christmas music, all for us to enjoy as we, together put up our tree and decorations.

I’m happy to say that my kids carry on some of that tradition today.

My Christmas “Tree” today is a cross.

I remember the first time that I saw a nativity set with little tiny nails laying in the manger, next to the Baby Jesus hands. It was a startling sight but pregnant with the reality and purpose of His birth, life, and death over 30 years later.

I still love and admire the decorations, the wonderful music, the Christmas trees, all of the precious age old traditions at Christmas…unless that’s all there is.

I have come to see that Christmas for believers is a call to MINISTRY of the greatest gift of all!!

It’s the “Ministry of Reconciliation,” as talked about in I Corinthians 5:17-19

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to US the word of reconciliation.”

Reconciliation is the only topic that is repeated in the Lord’s Prayer. First, Jesus says “Forgive me my trespasses AS (in the same way and extent) I FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST ME.”

And then, as if to to make sure His disciples got it, Jesus says “If YOU forgive men for their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. BUT, if you do NOT forgive men, then your Father will NOT forgive your transgressions.”

Maybe that’s why we’re supposed to “leave our gift on the altar and go and first be reconciled to your brother and then present your gift.”

Oh the weight and significance of this message at this time of year especially!!!

The Ministry of Reconciliation means that you kids forgive the classmate who made fun of you on the playground. It’s forgiving the classmate who posted something you said or did on Facebook to embarrass you. It’s forgiving the neighbor next door who keeps letting his dog crap on your lawn. It’s forgiving your spouse who doesn’t do or say things you think he or she should.

When we refuse to overlook and forgive the shortcomings of those God has put in our life, when we make ourselves their judge and jury and pass sentence on them, when God has said “Vengeance is MINE, I will repay,” when we demand of our friends, neighbors, or spouse something we ourselves can’t, don’t, or won’t give, then we seat ourselves on God’s throne.

There’s only ONE God. The position is not open, it has already filled. The throne is occupied.

Forgiveness is easier SAID than done, but Jesus came to give us the example and He went to the cross to prove it and to provide it!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!
~Lee Mielke

Nothing Else, Nothing Less

All the paths of the Lord are loving and faithful
Psalm 25:10


“All does not mean ‘all – except the paths I am walking in now,’
or ‘nearly all – except this especially difficult and painful path.’
All must mean all.
So, your path with its unexplained sorrow or turmoil,
and mine with its sharp flints and briers –
and both our paths,
with their unexplained perplexity,
their sheer mystery – they are His paths,
on which he will show Himself loving and faithful.
Nothing else; nothing less.
Amy Carmichael–Anglican missionary to India 1867-1951

Sometimes we come upon forks in the road where we may not be certain which path to take. Perhaps explore the Robert Frost “less traveled” one? Or take the one that seems less tangled and uncertain from all appearances?

Sometimes we are walking along a particular path, minding our own business, and we start bonking our heads on low hanging branches, or get grabbed by stickers and thorns that rip our clothes and skin, or trip over prominent roots and rocks that impede our progress and bruise our feet.

Sometimes we come to a sudden end in a path and face a steep cliff with no choice but to leap or turn back.

Navigating the road to the cross must have felt like ending up at that steep cliff. There was no turning back, no choosing or negotiating a different pathway or taking time to build a staircase into the rocks. His words reflect His uncertainty and terror. His words reflect our deepest doubts and fears–how can we trust we are on the right path?

When we take that next step, we end up in the Father’s loving and faithful arms.

Nothing else; nothing less.

~E. Gibson

Walking in Obedience

Jeremiah 7:23
Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.

We like to subsist on a Hollywood diet of stories of fated destinies.  We like to think our feelings could direct us well.  God’s way indicates a different type of “destiny”:

“Follow me,” he tells us.
“Seek me if you wish to find me.”
“Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.”

We desire a life of wellness.  God’s economy doesn’t promise prosperity, yet he invites us to walk in obedience to whatever unknown end.
In his Son, we see, in the flesh, the promise of God’s unending faithfulness if we approach the manger and the cross with the same devotion.  Walking with Jesus becomes the ultimate wellness that is our destiny.

~Breanna Siebring