The Party Isn’t Over!

How are you feeling today? Are you still smiling in the afterglow of Christmas? Or are you relieved the holiday is over? Possibly even feeling a little down after all the excitement?

As I post this on New Year’s Eve day, some of you may be gearing up for a night out on the town, a little get-together with friends, or a quiet night with a bowl of popcorn and a movie. But before you know it, that party will be over too.

Don’t fear—I’m not trying to depress you!

It’s just that I got to thinking one night, how similar getting ready for Christmas is to preparing for a wedding. The last eight years I’ve been involved with planning and implementing four weddings, so I’ve had some experience.

Of course, wedding preparations can take up to a year—sometimes even longer—while Christmas activities are usually contained within the month of December.

When we plan a wedding, we work for hours in an effort to make everything just right. We want it to be perfect. The bride’s dress has to be perfect; the flowers have to be perfect; the whole day needs to be perfect.

Similarly, many of us also put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create the perfect Norman Rockwell or Martha Stewart Christmas for our families. We work until we’re exhausted, and then before we know it, the holiday is over and it’s time to box up the decorations until next year. And we wonder where the warmth and togetherness have disappeared.

But here’s the deal …

A wedding is a ceremony—a party. After the bride’s bouquet has wilted and the dress has been hung in the closet, the real stuff begins. It’s up to the couple to keep the love and excitement alive in the relationship.

It’s also up to us to keep Christmas alive. It shouldn’t be celebrated only once a year and boxed up with the tree ornaments and garland. What we do during the holiday can be fun, and it can make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. But we don’t have to put our joy and giving hearts on the shelf until next December.

The party should never be over when it comes to Christmas. Spending time with loved ones, sharing with those in need, and sending thoughtful notes to people who could use a little pick-me-up should be things we do year round.

Spread some cheer … and a little peace on earth, good will toward men.

The party isn’t over!


The Gift

Do you enjoy shopping for Christmas gifts? Do you look for that one special item that will light up the receiver’s eyes? Or is trying to decide on purchases just plain stressful?

Regardless, giving feels good, doesn’t it? It’s fun to see the colorful packages under the tree. It’s entertaining watching children grow impatient with desire to rip away the wrapping, aching to discover what waits for them inside. It’s rewarding when loved one express that you found just the right thing for them.

We give gifts as an act of caring. It’s a way to show people they’re important to us.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in what can be placed in a box; we forget that some of the best gifts we can offer are impossible to wrap up with a bow.

You give a gift every time you:

Smile at a stranger

Take time to listen without an agenda or interrupting

Share a cup of coffee with a friend

Encourage someone who is going through tough times

Help your spouse with a chore without being asked

Read a story or play a game with a child

Feed the homeless

Invite friends into your home for a meal

The list could go on, because every time you give a piece of yourself to someone—whether it’s time, your talents, or just an empathetic word—you offer a gift. Even in small, simple ways, you let that person know you care.

And doesn’t everyone need to know they’re important?

God showed us how important we are to him by giving us the most wondrous gift of all. His Son. And Jesus wasn’t presented to us wrapped in glitter, gold, and satin. He came to us as a small babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes.

But what a gift!

Merry Christmas!

Do Not Be Afraid

Has a Christmas Eve sermon ever stuck with you long after the candles were blown out, the tree was untrimmed, and the ornaments were packed away?

Some years ago, I was going through a difficult time. I had no clue what the future held. Life just felt scary.

I didn’t know that things would turn around, and God’s many blessings would once again pour over me. I just knew that I was hurting emotionally and spiritually. The sermon that Christmas Eve happened to focus on not being afraid.

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’” (Luke 1: 26-31 NIV)

When Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive, her heart rate and anxiety probably increased substantially. After all, she was a virgin. And gossips were alive and well back then, too, not to mention the stress that would come with trying to explain a pregnancy to her parents and fiancé.

And when the shepherds were out tending their sheep—just minding their own business—again, an angel suddenly appeared. Anyone would be startled. The Bible says they were terrified.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 8-12 NIV)

Did you know the statement, “do not be afraid,” is used seventy-six times in the Bible? Hmmm …

As we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember that along with the promise of eternal life, Jesus’ birth also brought other blessings. Not only are we free from fearing death, we have the assurance that God will provide for all our needs while we still live on this earth.

So, next time you feel anxious about what’s happening in your life today, or what may happen in the future, just remember the angel’s words.

"Do not be afraid."


Silent Night

What holiday memories are held in your heart? Do they include decorating the Christmas tree? Candlelight services on Christmas Eve? A favorite gift received?

Many of the things we enjoy and have fond memories of may center on spending time with family and friends. The Christmas season is a time when our level of “activity” rises. We’re busy shopping, baking, decorating, writing letters, and sending out cards.

Sometimes our lives become so filled with the flurry of the holiday, we have to schedule time to breathe! *wink* And although I enjoy the festivities, one of my fondest memories has nothing to do with the hustle and bustle.

I grew up in a small Wisconsin town that had, and still has, a population of about five hundred people. The high school is on one end of town, while our house at the time was closer to the other end. After extracurricular activities, I walked down Main Street to get home. Most of the businesses closed up by 6:00 p.m., and there was never much traffic.

One specific December evening, the sky seemed especially dark. White flakes began to softly fall. The town was silent, except for the crunch of my boots on previously packed-down snow. Lit garlands hung across the street, as well as sugarcanes and bells from the light poles.

It was quiet. Peaceful. And though no one strode next to me, I wasn’t alone. It was one of those moments when I strongly sensed God’s presence with me.

God is always with us, but too often we can’t shut out enough of the world around us to feel Him. Just like the carol about the night of Jesus’s birth, we need a silent night—a holy night—when all is calm.

During this time before Christmas, I encourage you to turn off the TV and music. Grab a cup of tea, hot cocoa, or a glass of wine. Sit in silence for even a few minutes near your lit Christmas tree, or a fire in the fireplace, and just “be.” Sit with God. Feel His presence. And think about that night, so long ago, when a baby’s cry broke the silence.


To help get you in the mood … this wonderful, gospel version of “Silent Night.”

Book Review - If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schalesky

If Tomorrow Never Comes is the first novel I’ve read by Marlo Schalesky, but it won’t be the last. The author skillfully drew me into the characters' lives—their fears, hopes, and heartbreaks.

Childhood sweethearts, Kinna was known as the pastor’s daughter, and Jimmy was the boy with no mother and an abusive father who drank too much. When they married, their dreams included having a family.

But when twenty years pass without children, regardless of measures taken, Kinna becomes obsessed with getting pregnant. Nothing else matters. She’s determined to make her dreams come true, no matter what it takes, or how her actions hurt other people. At the same time, Jimmy, longing to be Kinna’s prince, loses his job and doesn’t know how to tell her. Wanting a happily-ever-after life, both husband and wife feel like failures. But God hasn’t abandoned either Kinna or Jimmy, and the author includes a surprising twist to the story.

Powerful questions are raised. If God asked you to give up your dreams for Him, would you? And are you willing to follow His plan for your life instead of your own?

You don’t need to have struggled with infertility, or have grown up with an alcoholic parent to appreciate this book and its message. If you’ve ever wondered why God didn’t fulfill your dreams or prayers exactly the way you desired—if you’ve ever struggled with family relationships, or wanted healing from a painful childhood—you’ll be able to relate to this story and be encouraged. If Tomorrow Never Comes is story about real love in marriage, and the love God has for His children.

Marlo Schalesky is the author of several books, including Beyond the Night and Empty Womb, Aching Heart. A graduate of Standford University, Marlo also has a masters of theology with an emphasis in biblical studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. Married over twenty years, she lives with her husband, Bryan, and their five children in California.

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