The Fifth Day of Christmas
The Fourth Day of Christmas
The Third Day of Christmas
The Second Day of Christmas
The First Day of Christmas

The Fifth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Interruption

It’s seven days before THE DAY!   My mind is making lists of all that still needs to be accomplished before Christmas Day arrives, but my body is still recovering from surgery and telling me to slow down. 

This surgery has interrupted the way I typically do life at Christmas — BUSY.

Interruptions are by nature an uninvited guest, especially this time of year.

I like to have my day planned out with a list that I can methodically check off. But the Christmas story is all about the greatest interruption. 

  • The Father interrupted His Son’s comfortable existence and sent Him to earth as a baby.  He temporarily left His position next to His father to arrive on Earth as a helpless infant.
  • Mary’s life was interrupted by the angel Gabriel to receive the astonishing news that she would be with child.  She lost her reputation, the excitement of preparing for a traditional Jewish wedding, the trust of her fiancé’ (temporarily), and living a normal life. 
  • Joseph’s life was also interrupted by an angel, confirming that the child Mary was carrying was not his own, but the son of the Most High God.  Because he chose not to abandon Mary, Joseph’s reputation suffered. He even lost the right to name his firstborn son after himself, a special honor in his Jewish culture. 

Interruptions are often accompanied by loss.   It may be as simple as the inability to complete a task or as devastating as the death of a loved one.

When interruptions happen in my life, my response leans toward anger and frustrationAs I contemplate the response Jesus, Mary, and Joseph gave to their interrupted life, I am challenged.

Each of them said Yes to having their lives interrupted. Knowing it wouldn’t be easy,  they chose to trust God with their interruption because they remembered His faithfulness and chose to trust the Father.

Our lives were interrupted almost three years ago, when the Lord asked us to say Yes to leaving the pastorate, a large salary, and a way of life we had known for over 35 years to join Life Action Ministries.  Now we travel all over the United States calling others to give their Yes to God.  At times I miss my own bed and seeing my grandchildren as much as I used to.  I often wake up not knowing even what state I am in, yet I am blessed to see God healing marriages, families, and changing lives for eternity. 

I can almost guarantee you that in the next week, God will attempt to interrupt you.  It may be a small child who needs some attention; it may be your spouse who needs to feel prioritized over your daily tasks and wrapping up Christmas.   Or it could be someone who has never seen the Christmas story lived out in someone’s life.   

God is looking for those who are willing to be interrupted.  He is looking for someone to say Yes to Him and no to their typical to-do list. When you’re faced with the interruption, stop and thank the Lord for it as a gift.  Watch and see what He will do!

The Fourth Day of Christmas

The Gift of Joy by Kristi Nolan, a dear friend who has encountered JOY

If you asked me, Kristi, to describe 2019, JOY is not the word I would use.  Disappointment, anxiety, depression, loss – those are the words that would quickly spill from my lips.   But 2019 was full of milestones that should cause my lips to smile and my eyes to brim with watery pride:  our oldest child graduated from high school; our family took an amazing vacation; we received a special scholarship we’ve been praying about for three years for our middle child; just to name a few.   

Thankfully, the gift of God’s Word reminded me that the difficult period we have walked through was meant to produce something much different:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…  James 1:2.    I don’t know about you, but trials don’t typically make me feel “joyful”.  God’s Word doesn’t just tell us: Have Joy in your trials.  He tells us how and why — because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…..James 1:3-4. There is purpose in our trials, and an unexpected gift: JOY. 

Jesus gave us the perfect example of this: …fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.   For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand on the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2-3.

Jesus knew the cross was going to be painful, so He looked past the coming trial and saw the JOY on the other side.   

JOY isn’t just available to us on the other side of difficulties – JOY is a gift of living and walking with JesusBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23. 

In Luke 1 we see a young girl, Mary, already pledged to be married, encountering an angel who brings her what must have been confusing and frightening news.   She immediately travels to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also unexpectedly with child. When Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.   Mary’s response is what we call “Mary’s Magnificat”.  It can be found beginning in Luke 1:46:  My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…  Her spirit, like her cousin Elizabeth’s, was filled with JOY.   Mary chose to receive this most unexpected gift with joy.  

What unexpected situations have filled your year? Are you choosing JOY in this season? Are you taking time to remember the JOY of your salvation?  

If not, I pray you will spend time with Jesus and receive the gift of Joy He brought on a cold night in Bethlehem.  

The Third Day of Christmas

His gift: The Word

“And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  John 1:14

When Jesus was born in the manger, the Word came to live with us.   The Word came into the world to sleep in a cold, dirty manger, entering a dark world to mend broken lives. The Word came as a gift to fulfill every promise of a Holy Father, revealing His full message to a lost world.

Up until this point the Jewish people had only known the Word as written laws upon tablets, on scrolls.  They could not comprehend that The Word was now living, breathing, and dwelling among them.

The Word comes to you this Christmas season ALIVE!   He comes to us in our busyness, our pain, our hurt, our sorrow, and our imperfections.

The Word wants to be a part of our lives.   

For years I lived as though God’s word was not living and active. I viewed my time in God’s word as a duty to be fulfilled, an item to simply check off my to-do list, a practice to be maintained as a good Christian, and especially a good pastor’s wife.

An older pastor’s wife, Esther Walker, now in her 80’s, challenged me to go to The Word daily and cry out to God to speak to me.  She taught me that when God’s word spoke to me that I was encountering God Himself.   She encouraged me to put my name in Bible verses to make it more personable.  

As I begin to read God’s word in this manner, my life was truly transformed and soon I found myself longing for these encounters with Jesus.

When I was younger I struggled with an addiction to anger in my life, The Word revealed to me “man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”  (James 1:20)   God showed me that all the yelling and screaming in the world would not make my kids or my husband do the right thing.  Through His Word, God healed me of my anger addiction.

Two weeks ago as I lay on a hospital bed in fear, I begin to recite The Word, “Donna, rejoice!  Again, I say rejoice.  Let your gentleness be made known to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, Donna, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:4-7)   My anxious heart became peaceful as I fell asleep under the anesthesia. 

The Word is a gift that must be opened.   It’s under the tree this Christmas for all of us.  We can leave it under there and admire the beautiful wrapping, or we can open this special gift and allow The Word to transform our lives.

My prayer for you this Christmas is you will open this gift. When you do, Jesus –The Word made flesh, will come alive to you!

The Second Day of Christmas

The Gift of Light

I do not like being in the dark.  Ever. 

Not in the middle of the night when I wake up unexpectedly–that’s what night lights are for.

Not outside in the darkness–that’s what flashlights are for.

Not when the power goes out–that’s what candles are for.

Not when my life is unclear and I can’t make sense out of anything.  

That’s why Jesus came down to us.

In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”

There are dark places in my life right now, situations in which I do not know the outcome or how God will work in and through that season.   In those places I am clinging to the Light because Jesus promises if I follow Him, His Light will shine into those dark valleys.

The Greek word “follow” consists of several different smaller Greek words: together, a way, to move quickly and straight.  

When places in my life are dark, I must make the decision to go with Christ, His way, not mine.  I must practice first time obedience.   When His light shines on an area of my life that needs changing, I must respond promptly.  Before He even points me in a direction, I must already decide that I will say Yes and obey Him.

Are you experiencing darkness this Christmas?

Draw close to The Light of the World.   Find a quiet place to read His word.  Ask Him to shine His light onto your heart and through your life.

Be ready to respond quickly.

Remember, you are never alone in the dark.  The enemy may whisper to you, “no one understands or nothing will ever change.” Respond with truth. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

Every year to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season Preacher and I have a tree lighting ceremony.  We began the tradition when the kids were really little, but have carried it on even as empty nesters.  Preacher strings the lights on the tree, we hang all the ornaments, and then we turn off all the lights in the entire house. It is very dark.   However, I don’t mind the darkness.

Preacher is with me and I know what is about to happen.

The Christmas tree lights shine as Preacher flips the switch and we stand in awe of the beauty they bring to the once darkened room. 

There would be no appreciation of the lights if there was no darkness.

Friend, whatever darkness seems to be flooding your life this season, choose this day to follow Jesus–the Light who overcomes the darkness.

Stand in Awe of His gift: The Light of the World!

The First Day of Christmas

It’s 12 days before Christmas and although the traditional Christmas song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, really begins on December 25th and ends on the eve of January 5th,  I awoke this morning determined to use my time of rest and recovery in a productive way. 

I had surgery a little over a week ago.  All the reports have returned good and for that I am so very grateful.  But, honestly, I haven’t ever been good at resting.   Like many, I’ve been brainwashed by American culture that successful people are busy and rest has no purpose.

So now that all the aesthesia and pain reducing medications have exited my body, I want to humbly share with you twelve truths the Lord has been teaching me as a gift for you over the next twelve days.   My prayer is that during this busy season you take a few minutes each day to rest and enjoy His gifts.

Love is the first gift!

In the last few months I have literally heard Jesus shout to me through His word, music and the voices of others.  “I love you, Donna Avant.”   

The song Good Grace by Joel Houston says “So don’t let your heart be troubled; Hold your head up high; Don’t fear no evil; Fix your eyes on this one truth; God is madly in love with you.”

Casting Crown’s Somewhere in Your Silent Night declares “When your pain runs deep, His love runs deeper still; He has always loved you, child and He always will.”

I tend to think that when life becomes difficult, when I am struggling or hurting, that God doesn’t really love me.    I might not say it out loud, but my heart is screaming, “God if you loved me, you wouldn’t let this happen to me.”

I grew up believing I needed to earn love from others.   If my grades were good, if I looked good, if I performed well, then there would be love waiting for me.   Many call this performance-driven love. 

However, God’s love is not based on my performance.  His word declares His unconditional love for us in John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son……..”   God, the perfect Father, gave us His son as perfect love in the form of a baby.

We can’t earn it, buy it, perform for it, or look good enough for it.  Love is His gift to us.

Take a few minutes today to just ponder that little baby who was born, fully human and yet fully God.

He is love and He is madly in love with you!

Before surgery, I had to remove all my makeup, nail polish, perfume, and deodorant.  I had to literally strip myself bare of all that makes me feel more presentable and even somehow more loveable. 

As I laid unconscious on that operating table, I believe, no, I know that Jesus looked down at me with such love.  He loved me, Donna Avant, even when I was utterly incapable of performing. 

And, He loves you!    He always has and He always will!

I’m choosing this Christmas to rest in His gift of love.

Will you join me?

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