December 15, 2017

An Unapologetic Merry Christmas - Tracy Krauss

Perhaps you've noticed the trend to replace the words 'Marry Christmas' with  'Happy Holidays' or 'Seasons Greetings'. I have nothing against these phrases. I use them myself on occasion, and I don't feel offended when others choose to use them. In my own heart I recognize that Jesus is the 'reason for the season' and I'm not about to get militant or political about it.
On the other hand, I have come across several folks who are quite vocal about their disapproval of using the more generic phrases instead of 'Merry Christmas'. The really interesting - and somewhat ironic - thing about this is that most of the people who seem so offended don't really display a very Christian attitude the rest of the year. 
One acquaintance told me recently that when someone says 'Happy Holidays' or 'Seasons Greetings' to her, she ignores them and won't respond. Hm. I wonder... is that what Jesus would do? 
Another person explained - quite vehemently - that he lectures those who dare use a generic term rather than 'Merry Christmas'. "It's all those foreigners trying to take over our holiday!" he spouts. "I tell them where they can shove it. Go back to your own country, I say!" Yikes. Not exactly the best way to emulate the spirit of the season... with or without the word 'Christmas'. 
My husband and I watched a Christmas comedy special featuring a well-known comedian. His opening monologue included a rant about how people are afraid to use the words 'Merry Christmas' these days. He unapologetically wished the audience a 'Merry Christmas' to resounding applause. Kudos to him, I thought with a nod. Then the show proceeded to bastardize Christ by mocking the virgin birth and was full of sexual innuendo and other inappropriate content. What was the point of his opening rant if he was just going to make fun of Christ in the end?
Actions speak so much louder than words. No matter what the phraseology, we must show the love of Christ through our actions; we must be ambassadors of the good news both now and throughout the year. 'Merry Christmas' is a hollow greeting if I don't intimately know and represent the one the phrase represents. That is the true meaning of the phrase.

Tracy Krauss writes from her home in northern BC. visit her website: -fiction on the edge without crossing the line- 

December 14, 2017

Fresh Insights into Christmas - Ruth L. Snyder

When has Christ revealed something about Himself to you at Christmas? This is the question InScribe writers are addressing this month in our blog posts.

One thing I appreciate about my relationship with Jesus Christ is that He is always teaching me and giving me new insights in my spiritual life, both through His Word and through life experiences. This year He used the pregnancy of our eldest daughter and the birth of our first grandson to cause me to reflect on the birth of Christ from a fresh perspective.

Although our daughter greeted her pregnancy with excitement and anticipation, she also voiced concern and a need for support. She had many questions and faced many unknowns because it was her first pregnancy. 

The Book of Luke records several reactions Mary had to the angel's announcement:

Luke 1:29 - "Mary was greatly troubled. . . and wondered."
Luke 1:34 - "How will this be?"
Luke 1:38 - "I am the Lord's servant."

It's difficult for me to imagine everything Mary had to take into consideration when she heard the angel's announcement. Not only did she face the usual questions about pregnancy and child birth, but she also faced the possibility of losing her fiance and being publicly shamed. She was a young woman, engaged to be married. If the baby wasn't Joseph's, the natural assumption would be that Mary had committed adultery. Joseph could choose to divorce her and she would face public ridicule and rejection from those she loved. She also risked not having the support she needed for her pregnancy.

I had the privilege of being present for the birth of our grandson. I drove our Grand Caravan 40 kilometers to the hospital, and was greeted by a cheerful receptionist who directed me to the maternity ward. The spotless labor room had a comfortable bed for the mother-to-be and a separate bed for the baby, with all kinds of knobs and switches.  A container of ice water had face cloths we placed on my daughter's forehead. The nurse and doctor were attentive, explained procedures, and provided pain medication. 

Luke informs us that Mary and Joseph traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a distance of about 130 kilometers or 80 miles. We are not told how they traveled, but it is likely they made the journey on foot. (As our family went through an advent calendar this year, we discussed whether or not Mary rode a donkey. Our kids insisted she did. We discovered there is no mention of a donkey in any of the Biblical accounts of Christ's birth.) Traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem would typically be a week-long journey on foot. We are not told how many days Mary and Joseph traveled or where they spent the nights. This type of journey seems incomprehensible to me, even without pregnancy involved. Mary was at least eight months pregnant when she made the journey.

Picture from Pixabay

 "While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:6-7).
The Bible makes no mention of anyone helping Mary with the birthing process. Perhaps her bed was a cloth thrown over straw. How long was she in labor? We are not aware if she had any way of reducing the pain. Did Joseph cut the umbilical cord?

Me holding my grandson, Dane.

I am looking forward to watching my grandson grow up. Will he be shy or outgoing? What will he be passionate about? My hope and prayer is that he will come to understand and accept the amazing gift of salvation God provided through Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

December 10, 2017

A Holy Night to Remember by Sharon Espeseth

This memoir piece comes from my year at Covenant Bible Institute in Prince Albert, SK decades ago and was first published in the Voices Column of the Edmonton Journal in 1998. In 2002, it was published in Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul and subsequently published in the French version of the book. My story has been "borrowed" by several online sites and was thus translated into other languages.

On InScribe Writers' Online this story is posted, for the first time, by myself. As young people at Bible school, my friends and I learned we could share the gospel and ward off homesickness by offering our joyful Christmas music to others. The story begins . . .

As Canadians and northerners, we share many memories of cold winters. At Christmas time, I often reflect upon one particular evening of a prairie winter in the early 1960s. Though the frost was cruel that night, the reminiscence is warm.

We were college students, most of us living away from home for the first time. Hanging a few strips of tinsel in our rooms didn't relieve the feeling of homesickness that had overtaken our dorm. What could we do to bring on the Christmas spirit, stave off our longings for home and brighten someone else's life?

One of my friends suggested going caroling. That was it! Every student at our small college was rousted out for the occasion. No auditions. No voice lessons. No excuses. Warmth of spirit was the only requirement. And our enthusiasm served as an electric soul-warmer for those who seemed lacking in spirit of their own.

We divided into groups so our music would resound over much of our college town. The group I joined had nothing resembling four-part harmony, but we could collectively make a joyful noise. Bounding boisterously and carrying a tune in our hearts, we made our first call. "Deck the Halls," we tra-la-laed.

Soon we discovered that carolling brings a variety of responses. When you carol for people you know, you can be sure of open doors and open hearts; when you carol for strangers, you can't be so sure of the reception you will get. Some folks remained in the safety and coziness of their homes, watching and listening passively through living-room windows. Others cautiously propped the door open enough to hear us, but not enough to let in the cold or their unknown guests. Some flung their doors wide open and sang along; some, I believe, watch in silent reverie.

One of the stops on our journey was a three-story apartment building. With no intercoms or security cameras to deter us in those days, we walked right in. Starting our performance in the basement, we sang mostly to closed doors. After a couple songs, we headed for the main floor. Two doors swung open. One doorway framed a young couple, obviously expecting a child. In another doorway, two preschoolers clung to their parents' legs. Surprise?Wonder?Curiosity? Who are these strange bundled-up people? And why are they doing this?” the children's faces seemed to ask.

We sang "Away in a Manger" for the young ones. We continued with "O Little Town of Bethlehem" for our seemingly appreciative gathering. Mounting the stairs to the third floor, we burst into "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," a song that suited the night.

One door on the top floor slowly creaked open. A stately gentleman, grey-haired and thin, held onto his doorknob. He became our audience of one. As we murmured about what to sing next, the elderly fellow asked, "Would you come into our apartment and sing for my wife? She's bed-ridden. I know she'd love to hear you. My wife used to be an opera singer," he added proudly, "and she's always loved music."

All eight of us stepped timidly into the couple's tiny, crowded bachelor suite. Books, records, china, antique furniture and mementos whispered stories to us. I reminded myself not to stare for fear of invading their privacy. This was their home, their sanctuary, a hallowed place where the old-timer watched over his fragile partner. Her silver, bed-mussed head made only a small dint in her pillow.

Without a word, he adjusted his wife's headrest so she could see and hear us better. Then he gave us a nod to sing. Our voices rose and warbled through "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Had our vocal chords been given extra grace and beauty for this occasion? Perhaps they had, for we sang rather well for such a motley and impromptu crew.

Our motley, impromptu crew

A smile flickered on the lady's gaunt, wrinkled, yet beautiful face. Her eyes sparkled softly. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Her husband requested, "Joy to the World" and "Silent Night," two of her favourites. As we finished our renditions, her eyes closed. Now the man shed his tears. Quietly we turned to leave, closing the door on the housebound couple.

The winter moon and stars shone down on us. It had become a silent night, a holy night for we had been in the presence of love that was gentle and mild. All was calm; all was bright as we headed back to our residence. We had found, and maybe even given, the Christmas spirit.

It had become a silent night, a holy night . . .


December 09, 2017

When The Spirit Spoke - Shirley S. Tye

Many times the Holy Spirit has spoken to me over the years.  The words, feelings, and dreams have come unexpectedly.  But always, I have known with confidence that the messages are true and that I should heed them because they are from God.  Just recently, I began recording these messages into a little journal.  Sometimes I think I don’t hear often from God.  I feel a little disappointed – and yes, a little jealous - when others talk about when and what God has spoken to them.  I wonder, “Why doesn’t He speak to me like that?”  Ah, but now I have a record of when and what the Holy Spirit has spoken to me.  It encourages me. Through these messages, the Lord has revealed that indeed He is with me; He cares about me; He protects me; He guides me; He comforts me.  

The Lord has comforted me through dreams when I have grieved over the loss of family members. He has warned me of dangers as He did in 1975.  The front tire on the driver’s side of my car looked perfectly fine but the words which I clearly heard cautioned me to drive carefully because that tire was going to blow. And sure enough, it did.  Thankfully it happened on a city street where I had slowed down considerably rather than on the highway. Another, time as I was feeling frustrated and had no clear sense of direction, I screamed at God; “What do You want me to do?”  In His quiet and calm voice He answered; “You are doing what I want you to do.”  That’s all I needed to know; and so I was content.  And yet another time, when feeling afraid the Lord said; “Do not fear.”  Immediately, the fear left and a peace came over me. 

It is wonderful to hear the Lord’s loving, soft voice; strong, gentle, filled with love. It is awesome!  One time, while in prayer in a little camp church, as my eyes were closed I caught the sweet fragrance of the Holy Spirit when He passed by me.  It was the most wonderful aroma I have ever experienced.  I could not find words to describe it. 

The Lord is amazing!  And He is with me! 

December 06, 2017

My Christmas Forest, Revealed by Glynis M Belec

I've recently had a story published in a Christmas anthology, Christmas with Hot Apple Cider (That's Life Communications; NJ Lindquist,editor).
My story, "The Christmas Forest," is a true account of something that happened a few years ago now. In a nutshell, my husband suggested we replace our real tree and substitute the 'alternate' kind. I was all over him with disapproval, until the forest happened.
I shared in "The Christmas Forest" story, how my real tree was eventually replaced with a myriad of miniatures. Small, Eco-friendly (fake) trees soon filled my home. I had boxes of memories that needed to be hung so tree after tree appeared in my living room. Before long each tree was designated a name, a purpose and a lesson emerged from each.
 And as the trees emerged with meaning, I soon began to see, realize and understand what the Lord was teaching me through it all. The first step was to slow down and breathe in the true meaning of Christmas. God did not really care about a decorated tree. He cared more about the condition of my heart. I knew my next step was to prioritize. To think upon the Blessed birth of the King of kings. I did it and started with the Nativity.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17

In my story, I shared the lessons learned from eight trees. Here is a little overview of my trees and lessons learned:

1. The White Tree represents the purity of Christ, the sinless One, the One who creates in us a pure heart.
2. The Teal Tree represents good health and good friends, beautiful gifts from God.
3. The Heart Tree reminds me to be grateful
4. The Learning Tree reminds me about the responsibility I have in teaching others about why Christ came to earth.
5. The Treasure Tree makes me think of the treasure of family and how much I love spending this Holy holiday with them year after year.
6. The Imperfect Tree is a big reminder to me about how Christ was born unto this world to save imperfect people like me.
7. The Leftover Tree reminds me that God picks up our broken pieces and makes us whole again.
8.  The New Tree makes me ponder our new life in Christ. God sent His Son, and that makes me want to sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”

I like to have the 'New Tree' close to the Nativity scene so that when I glance from the baby in the manger to the tree, I’m reminded of how Christmas is an antecedent to Easter. So much God continues to teach me, year after year.
As I read my story now and as I gaze upon the Christmas external, it causes me to think about my Christmas internal. Joy to the world the Lord has come!
It turns out that the branches of my little forest of trees might not be the real McCoy, but what God teaches me through it all is as real as real could be. My heart is filled with gratitude. Nothing fake about that!
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

 Glynis lives, loves, laughs and does an awful lot of reading, writing, publishing and praying in her home office.
        How thrilled Glynis is to be part of CHRISTMAS WITH HOT APPLE CIDER - an anthology filled with a wonderful assortment of Christmas short stories, memories, drama and poetry.