Hope Reflected

Encouragement and Hope from God's Word

Christmas Archive

Friday

10

December 2021

The Lord has His way

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

“The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power… the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” (Nahum 1:3)

"Wherever this Christmas season finds us, may we remember that the Lord has His way in the whirlwind and in the storm (Nahum 1:3). Read more on hopereflected.com

Even in the midst of circumstances that we don’t understand, even when it seems that everything is being thrown at us, and even during trying times when we long to grasp God’s purpose, He is working. “…the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm…” When we are being thrown about, tossed and turned, the Lord still has His way.

Our response during the whirlwind and the storm is important. That is not to say that it’s wrong to be troubled, or that it’s wrong to ask questions. Take Mary for example.

Mary trusted the Lord. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38). Read more on hopereflected.com

Mary had questions

In Luke 1, when the angel Gabriel is sent by God to share with Mary that she will conceive and birth Jesus, we read that Mary “cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.” (v. 29) and was troubled at Gabriel’s words (v. 29). Rather than be flattered, Mary was confounded. “How shall this be?” she asked Gabriel (v. 34). After Gabriel’s explanation, Mary ultimately accepted the responsibility, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (v. 38).

Mary sought godly counsel

Immediately following her encounter with the angel, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth (v. 39), where she found encouragement from Elizabeth regarding what had transpired. As Matthew Henry wrote, “Sometimes it may prove a better piece of service that we think to bring good people together, to compare notes.” During the whirlwind and the storm, when we find ourselves questioning what is going on, it’s wise to seek godly counsel from trusted Christian family and friends. It’s encouraging to be enveloped in prayer by fellow believers. It’s reassuring to know that we are not alone.

Mary was faithful and "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19). Read more on hopereflected.com

Mary was faithful

When it came time to give birth to the Messiah, Mary brought Jesus forth “and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7). Imagine, hearing from an angel that God has chosen you to deliver the Son of God, of whose kingdom there shall be no end, and then delivering him in a seemingly sad surrounding. If we were in Mary’s place, we would likely have images of grandeur in our minds; thoughts of huge celebration, attention showering, rejoicing, and gifts.

Talk about underwhelming; imagine Mary’s thoughts as she birthed our Lord, wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger – used to hold animal feed, likely in a stable or just outside. Was she disappointed, or upset? Evidently Mary didn’t become overly emotional, but rather “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (2:19). Mary remained faithful.

“Wherever this Christmas season finds us – in the whirlwind or in the storm – may we remember that the Lord has His way.”

Hope Reflected

C.S. Lewis wrote that, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.” Wherever this Christmas season finds us – in the whirlwind or in the storm – may we remember that the Lord has His way. And may we be faithful like Mary, even when things don’t quite go as we plan, and even when we don’t understand.

Originally published as “The Lord has His way.” Independent Plus. December 10, 2020: 5. Print. Web.

Thursday

9

December 2021

What are we doing while we’re waiting?

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

There is a blessing when we wait on the Lord

As much as Advent is a season of celebrating, it is also a season of waiting. Read more of "What are you doing while you're waiting?" on hopereflected.com

Advent is a season that’s filled with anticipation as we celebrate the first advent of Christ, and prepare for Christmas. As much as Advent is a season of celebration, it is also a season of waiting.

When I was a child, there were several years that I found it particularly difficult to go to bed on Christmas Eve. My heart was filled with such anticipation of waking up to a stocking hanging on my bedroom door, gifts under the tree, delicious food to eat, and cousins to play with – it felt like I literally could not wait for Christmas. I had to, however. I can recall my parents tucking me in to bed, saying that Christmas morning would be here soon enough, and I can remember thinking that it would never come, but eventually it did.

Advent means coming. When something is coming, it has not yet arrived, and therefore, we must wait. We have to wait for Christmas, as we do many things in life. Perhaps it’s not Christmas that you’re waiting for. Maybe you’re waiting for a phone call, for a difficult season to end, an exciting new season to begin, or for a certain milestone. We’re all waiting for something. My Mum and I recently talked about waiting and “what-ifs”, and she asked me, “What are you doing while you’re waiting? That’s the key.”

How to wait on the Lord

Are our hearts focused on Christ? Are we worrying or resting in Him? Worrying is tiring because it requires a great deal of energy. Remember what the Bible says about waiting on the Lord: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) When we wait on the Lord, we rest in Him. Even if we have to remind ourselves multiple times throughout the day, we should choose to rest in Him rather than to worry. Waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean that He’ll remove our challenges or speed up time, but when we wait on the Lord, He promises to strengthen our hearts (Psalm 27:14).

“Waiting on the Lord doesn’t mean that He’ll remove our challenges or speed up time, but when we wait on the Lord, He promises to strengthen our hearts (Psalm 27:14).”

Hope Reflected

Rather than fretting about the future, we should commit our way to the Lord. “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” (Psalm 37:5) When we wait on the Lord, He will bring it to pass! Though the outcome may not always be what we think – or sometimes even what we want – there is a blessing when we wait on the Lord.

Working faithfully while we’re waiting

While the shepherds were waiting, they worked faithfully. “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:8) As a result they witnessed the first incarnation of Christ, what we celebrate today as Christmas. The Lord is good to those who wait on Him! (Lam. 3:25) As we celebrate Advent, may we recognize the benefits and blessings of waiting on the Lord. As C.S. Lewis once said, “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.”

Originally published as “What are we doing while we’re waiting?” Independent Plus. December 19, 2019: 5. Print. Web.

Monday

29

November 2021

The Reason for the Season: A primer on Advent

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

What is Advent?

Advent, taken from the Latin word adventus, means "coming". Read more about what Advent is on hopereflected.com

Advent, taken from the Latin word adventus, means “coming”. During the four weeks of December each year, we celebrate the first advent of Christ and prepare our hearts for Christmas. Some families have an advent calendar for each day leading right up to Christmas day. Others prepare by reading through a selection of devotionals each day.

Some churches use an advent wreath and light a candle for each of the four Sundays:

  • the Prophecy candle, which symbolizes the hope of fulfilled Scripture;
  • the Bethlehem candle, which reminds us of the humility of Christ and symbolizes our faith in Him;
  • the Shepherd’s candle, which symbolizes love and reminds us that Christ came for all (including the shepherds who were some of the most inconspicuous people of their time);
  • the Angel’s candle, which symbolizes peace and reminds us of the Good News that angels announced.
During the first four weeks of December each year, we celebrate the first coming (advent) of Christ, and prepare our hearts for Christmas. Read more about what Advent means on hopereflected.com

Why does Advent matter?

Advent matters a great deal, because through it, we’re reminded of the accuracy of God’s Word. Advent represents truth. However we celebrate Advent, we remember that we are celebrating the first advent of Christ. After all, that is what Christmas is all about.

Christ’s birth fulfills so many prophecies in Scripture:

  • the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14);
  • the incarnation of Christ (Isaiah 9:6);
  • the timing of Christ’s arrival on earth (Daniel 9:24);
  • man’s rejection of Christ (Isaiah 53:1-4);
  • Christ’s crucifixion (Psalm 2);
  • Christ’s resurrection (Psalm 16).

Does Advent matter if I’m not a Christian?

It sure does! Advent is an opportunity for you to come to know Christ and have a personal relationship with Him. (If you’re wondering how you can come to know Christ, please read this). Advent serves as a reminder that Christ came to this earth so that every person could come to know Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). Advent is a reminder that God so loved the world, and that includes you and I!

Should I celebrate Advent?

Should we celebrate the fact that God sent His Son to be birthed in a lowly manger, sent His Son to offer salvation to anyone who calls on His name? Yes!

This is a time of year when each of us can be reassured that no matter where we’re at – lonely, discouraged, or overrun and under-appreciated – God has a purpose and He cares about every detail. Look how He worked in the lives of the shepherds. There they were, “abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night,” (Luke 2:8). God’s glory shone around them, and everything changed. No matter where we are, God can work. We just need to be faithful. Notice how the shepherds were being faithful, quietly going about their work, and that’s when God works. He is all about recognizing the unnoticed, the overlooked, and the under-appreciated.

This is a time of year when we can be reassured that no matter where we're at - lonely, discouraged, overrun, or under-appreciated - God has a purpose and He cares about every detail. Read more about what Advent means on hopereflected.com

Who would have thought that the King of Kings would come to earth in the most humble of surroundings – in a stable, where the animals find shelter? Jesus, who throughout His earthly life was the model of humility, encouraged all of us to take up our yoke and come after Him, “for I am meek and lowly in heart:” (Matthew 11:29). It was Christ who reminded us – while speaking to perhaps one of the most prideful groups of His day, the Pharisees – “whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) Humility was one of the most incredible characteristics of Christ, and yet how often we fail to consider it during the Christmas season. Oh that our journey through advent will bring us closer to Christ. He is, after all, the reason for the season.

Originally published as “The reason for the season.” Independent Plus. December 12, 2019: 5. Print. Web.

Friday

20

December 2019

The Christmas Tree and The Cross

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

To truly celebrate Christmas, you can’t have one without the other

“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) | The Christmas Tree and The Cross | read more at hopereflected.com

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly,” Jesus said in John 10:10. By dying on the cross for our sins, Christ paid the ultimate price in order to grant eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.

How is eternal life associated with the Christmas tree?

Have you ever wondered how eternal life is associated with your Christmas tree? Centuries ago, Europeans apparently used evergreen trees as a symbol of eternal life. Years later, evergreen trees such as fir, spruce trees, or pine trees were brought into homes and decorated as a symbol of Christmas – this is a tradition thought to have originated with German Lutherans.

Regardless of your denomination, the Christmas tree is a symbol of Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth for one purpose: To save us. He willingly went to the cross and gave His life in order to save us from our sins and to give us eternal life. “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Trees referenced throughout Scripture

Trees are referenced so many times throughout the Bible. Two examples of trees used in Scripture that have incredible significance – and ties to Christmas – are the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the cross.  Adam and Eve sinned at the bottom of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when they ate the fruit (Genesis 3:6), and Christ paid for our sins when He gave His life on the cross (1 Peter 2:24).

But it doesn’t end there! Yes, Christ died on the tree, paid the ultimate penalty for our sins, and was resurrected to life three days later. If you choose to put your trust in Christ and believe in His name, you too will have eternal life. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) You just need to trust Him. Your testimony need not be an exciting story; your testimony can be as simple as confessing your sin to Christ and putting your faith in Him.

Why do you celebrate Christmas?

Why do you celebrate Christmas? If you don’t celebrate, ask yourself why not. Christmas is the celebration of our Saviour’s birth, and while the decorations of red and green, the talk of Santa Claus, all the presents, and the food, may hold a certain attraction and enjoyment, true contentment can only be found when you remember the Christmas tree and the cross. To truly celebrate Christmas, you can’t have one without the other. The cross is as integral a part of Christmas as the evergreen that’s standing in your living room. Just because you may not believe doesn’t mean it’s not true. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Originally published as “The Christmas Tree and The Cross.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest ConfederateWalkerton Herald-Times. December 13, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

Wednesday

18

December 2019

Peace, Be Still (I Saw Three Ships)

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work

"And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:38-40) | Peace be still | Read more at hopereflected.com

The Bible is filled with rich history that involves ships

I Saw Three Ships is an English Christmas carol with which many of us are familiar. While there’s always been some debate as to how the ships could be headed to Bethlehem (when the closest body of water is the Dead Sea), some people believe that the ships being referenced in the carol were not ships at all, but rather the three camels that the wise men used on their journey to meet Jesus.

The ship’s rudder determines the direction that a ship is going; whichever way the rudder turns, the boat will go in the direction with the least water pressure resistance. The direction we choose is based on our foundational beliefs, and that is why it’s so important that we have a firm foundation.

Peace, Be Still

The Bible is filled with rich history that involves ships, and we can learn many lessons from these accounts. It was from the stern of a ship that Jesus taught us the importance of finding peace and rest in Him. Mark 4 details one of the times that Jesus quieted the sea: “And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:38-40)

It was also from a ship that Jesus provided reassurance and reinforced our faith. When His disciples were caught up in unsettled waters, Jesus walked to them on water. Doubting whether it was really Jesus, Peter wanted to walk to Him on the water to be sure. And Jesus said, “Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:29-31)

Jesus used a ship to remind us that He is our provider

We can recall to mind the times that Jesus used a ship as the vessel to remind us that He is our provider, and that He does exceedingly abundantly above and beyond all that we can ask or think. In Luke 5, when Peter first meets our Lord, Jesus instructs him to let down his nets, and the multitude of fish Peter and his crew catch is so large that the net breaks (Luke 5:6). From this point on, Peter becomes a fisher of men. Or what about in John 21, after the resurrection, when Jesus appears to the disciples and tells them to cast their net, and they can’t draw the net in because there are so many fish (John 21:6).

Whatever season you’re sailing through, you will find true peace, rest, and reassurance when you put your faith in the One whom even the wind and the sea obey. He will be the anchor for your soul.

Originally published as “I Saw Three Ships.” Minto Express, Independent Plus, Arthur Enterprise-News, Mount Forest ConfederateWalkerton Herald-Times. December 6, 2018: 6. Print. Web.

Monday

19

December 2016

Encouragement | Giving | Luke 6:38

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Encouragement

give luke 6:38 encouragement

“Give, and it shall be given unto you.” Luke 6:38

As we head into the season of giving, it’s important to remember the true meaning of Christmas: God sent His Son to die on the cross so that we would have eternal life.

It’s not the gift or how much we are able to give that matters; but rather how much love and the sincerity of our heart that we put into giving.

Proverbs 11:24-25 tells us, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

Ultimately, anything that we’ve been blessed with on this earth is a gift from God. This is an important thing to keep in mind when you consider how you’ll give this Christmas.

“Give, and it shall be given unto you.” Luke 6:38

Saturday

22

November 2014

Hope, She Wrote: How to Create Traditions and Make Memories

Written by , Posted in Christian Living, Published Work, Uncategorized

nov19_tradition

Christmas season comes and goes so quickly each year that it can be hard to embrace the spirit of the season. In my November 19th column for The Minto Express, I share five ways to prepare your heart for the holidays.

Every year about this time, I find myself getting sentimental and feeling somewhat melancholic for days of yore. Maybe it’s all the Christmas decorations going up, or the first snowflakes falling, or the traditions that surface so faithfully year after year. Whatever the reason, these are times when I find myself reminiscing and wanting to make memories.

It seems these days that we’re so caught up in the commercialization of the Christmas season that we’ve lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, it’s no longer politically correct to even say “Merry Christmas”. What is that?! Big box stores haul out the holiday goods right after Hallowe’en and somewhere between November 1st and December 25th society seems to miss the whole point of the season. Anyone else miss the days when we valued tradition, remembered our foundations, and celebrated our roots? Thought so.

While Christmas day may still be more than one month away, now is a great time to start preparing our hearts for this memorable time of year. Christmas is a time where we celebrate the greatest gift ever, and with that in mind, here are some suggestions for getting in the giving spirit (and maybe creating some new traditions along the way!):

  1. Support a local community cause. This doesn’t have to mean giving money; it could mean serving in a community kitchen to those less fortunate, donating non-perishable food items to your local food bank, or taking an hour or two to spend some time with a house-bound friend or aging relative.
  2. Start a gratitude list. In 2013, a friend of mine took time each day to write down one positive thing that happened in her life every day for most of the year. Then, near the end of year, she sat down and reviewed all of the awesomeness in her positivity jar. Whether you keep track with notes in a jar or a journal, take inventory of the positive things in your life.
  3. Be a thoughtful giver. It’s not about how much money you spend or who gives the coolest gift. Get creative in your gift giving; share your talents, and think outside the box.
  4. Share traditions with loved ones. My brother and sister-in-law do this every year, inviting family to help them trim the tree. Decorating for the holidays becomes less of a “to-do task” and more of an opportunity to create memories. Whether you’re setting up a tree or singing carols, or even baking cookies, spend some time with those you love.
  5. Remember the real reason for the season. Whatever your ‘religious’ beliefs or practice (or maybe lack thereof) throughout the year, the fact is, Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift ever. True story.

“Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s tradition.” [Lidia Bastianich] Try something today to help create meaningful memories and traditions for yourself, your family, and your friends!

Robertson, Hope. “Tradition.” Minto Express 19 November 2014: 9. Print.