“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, ” which means, “God is with us.” -Matthew 1 :23 (NRSV)
Every year we put up two Advent calendars. The old one was made by my aunt when I was a baby. It’s a felt Christmas tree on felt backing, with tiny stuffed felt ornaments hanging from brass bead sewn into the tree. At the top goes an angel on December 24. Traditionally, the Santa Claus ornament gets hung second to last just below the angel.
As children, my brother and I fought over who got to hang Santa, which we considered more exciting than the angel. My kids get into the same argument, with each one gauging how to pace his or her turn hanging ornaments in order to end up with Santa.
The new calendar is sent each year by my mother-in-law. It’s a thin cardboard Nativity scene with tiny cutout windows to be opened each day. Inside are pictures and a Bible quote.
I used to prefer the felt calendar because it was from my childhood.
But now I like both because they disclose different gifts each day, slowly and deliberately, just like Advent.
The felt ornaments are ingenious – a toy soldier, an owl, some presents wrapped in glittery bows, a reindeer. I picture my aunt carefully stuffing and sewing each one. Her love and the combined love of our family linger on the tree.
But the cardboard calendar tells the story of Jesus. The Bible verses lead us ever closer to that moment when God’s Son is born in a stable. The last window shows Him there, lit by a star, ready to begin His life that will change the world. It’s the moment the kids and I have been waiting for.
Lord, I will consider each day its own facet of the gift of Your incarnation. – Jim Hinch
Digging Deeper: John 1:14; Hebrews 1:2-3


The Police Report
Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”)  a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.
 A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter “Claus”) would arrive at sometime thereafter.
The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.
Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as “I”), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter “Mamma”), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)
Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtent to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature,
cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.
At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter “the Vehicle”) being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.
Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically indentified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter “the Deer”). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named “Rudolph”may have been involved.)
The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.
Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.
Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute “gifts” to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)
Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as “lookouts.” Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.  
However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim:

“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” Or words to that effect.


See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are, -1 John 3:1 (ESV)
So what would you like for Christmas?” my father-in-law asked my  seven-year-old son, Isaiah. “Come tell me.”
My little boy stood beside his grandfather’s chair. He smiled at grandpa and then glanced at his own daddy and me. “Well, I want a runner sled,” he said. “More than anything. But I’m not sure it’s okay.”
He looked down and scuffed his wool-clad toes over the carpet. We’d been to the hardware store the day before, and Isaiah had fallen for an old-fashioned wooden sled with metal runners. His daddy said it was an accident waiting to happen. But Grandpa’s grin stretched wide. He leaned close to my son. “I knew a little boy who used to have one,” he whispered. “In fact, that little boy’s sled is still in the garage.”
Isaiah’s green eyes went round. His daddy, across the room, smiled in surprise.
“If it’s okay, we’ll go get it,” Grandpa said.
My husband, Lonny, nodded. Grandpa started to push up from the chair. But Isaiah stood still. “Grandpa, you’ve kept that sled a long time,” he said. “Are you sure you want to give it to me?”
My father-in-law reached out and pulled Isaiah to his lap. His arms wrapped around my son. Well, you’re my grandson, he said.            “Aren’t ya?”
Isaiah, his brothers, Lonny, and I have spent many sunlit winter afternoons sledding at the park near our home. But even more than flying down that snow-covered hill, cheeks stained red and smiles shining from the soul, Isaiah loves to tell the story of the day the sled became his.
“And then Grandpa sat me on his lap,” he says. “And he said, ‘You belong to me.
Lord, You created us to belong. Thank You that I am Yours. Amen.
-Shawnelle Eliasen
Digging Deeper: Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 43:1; Romans 14:8


Q: What was so good about the neurotic doll the girl was given for Christmas?
A: It was wound up already.


Santa goes up and down so many chimneys that he’s thinking of getting a yearly flue shot?


A man went to his psychiatrist and said,
“What’s wrong with me? I’m afraid of Santa.”

The psychiatrist said, “You must be Claustrofobic


THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLICITY: Nothing More Important It’s a good thing to quietly hope …. -Lamentations 3:26 (MSG)
Something strange happens when a boy gets older. He pulls away from his mama. At least my son did. Everybody says this is normal, but sometimes I miss the relationship Thomas and I had.
Spending time with him is different from being with his older sister. My daughters and I chat nonstop. Although Thomas feels deeply, he only talks when he has something to say. When we’re together, I ask too many questions. I should be calmer. Quieter. Wait for him to take the lead.
Newly engaged, he bought his first house and accepted a position with a telecommunications company. He works outdoors, something he’d always wanted to do. He drives a company truck and climbs poles. I had so many questions. Still do. “Do you wear a uniform? What happens on rainy days? Do you have friends? Do you bring your lunch to work?”
He answered but finally said, “Enough, Mom. No more questions.”
Last week he texted pictures of his house. Thomas’s dad was content with that, but I wanted to see it in person. However, I decided to wait for an invitation.
On my birthday, Thomas called. “Want to see my house?”
“Sure!” I answered with such joy. “Want me to drive over?”

“I’ll pick you up,” he said. When I crawled into his truck, I kept quiet. Soon, we passed his middle school. “My house is on this road.”

“Near the school?”
He nodded. “Sixth one on the right.”
“Remember when I drove you to school?” I said softly. “I prayed for you every morning.”
My son looked at me and smiled. “I remember, Mom. Thanks.”
For a split second, we connected. It was all I needed.
Jesus, You’re teaching me how to relate to my grown-up son. Thank You.
-Julie Garmon
Digging Deeper: 1 Corinthians 13:11-13; Hebrews 11:1


Christmas Carols for the Psychiatrically Challenged
Paranoid — Santa Claus is Coming to Get me
Borderline Personality Disorder — Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire
Personality Disorder — You Better Watch Out, I’m Gonna Cry, I’m Gonna Pout, Maybe I’ll tell You Why

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder —Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells…


Truly I’ll tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
When I saw her, I knew something wasn’t right. She was wearing a school-uniform shirt at least two sizes too small. She had to keep pulling down her shirt, which kept riding up above her waistline,and every time she tugged at her shirt, it tugged at my heart.
I got busy, though, directing my staff as we taped the girl’s classroom for a story we were producing for the TV station where I worked. I thought about her again over the next week but would quickly dismiss
  1. It was nearing Christmas, and there was lots to do. But then I began hearing about helpers.
First, my daughter Misty shared how she was leading a project at church to collect donated Christmas gifts so that single parents who needed help could shop for their children at no cost.
And there’s my colleague Inkie, who reaches out to a local school to find a student in need whom she can help. Sometimes the request is for I hike. Once it was to buy letter jackets for two student athletes who’d earned them but couldn’t afford them.
I knew what I needed to do. I e-ailed m principal and offered to purchase the child I’d seen some new school uniforms. I asked her to find out what else I could do to help. The principal responded quickly.
“Thank you! Her mother will be so grateful for your help.”
I smiled, recalling a quote from Mr. Rogers, a favorite TV personality, who’d said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Thank You for giving me an opportunity to be a helper, Lord
-Melody Bonnette Swang
Digging Deeper: Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:3-4


The top 18 ways to confuse Santa Claus
  1. Build an army of mean-looking snowmen on the roof, holding signs that say “We hate Christmas,” and “Go away Santa”.
  2. Keep an angry bull in your living room. If you think a bull goes crazy when he sees a little red cape, wait until he sees that big, red Santa suit!
  3. While he’s in the house, replace all his reindeer with exact replicas. Then wait and see what happens when he tries to get them to fly.
  4. Leave him a note, explaining that you’ve gone away for the holidays. Ask if he would mind watering your plants.
  5. While he’s in the house, go find his sleigh and write him a speeding ticket.

And the number way to confuse Santa Claus

  1. Instead of milk and cookies, leave him a salad, and a note explaining that you think he could stand to lose a few pounds.


Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” -Matthew 7:7 (NRSV)
It seemed so unfair to be in the midst of heartache from a recent breakup while everyone else was fa-la-la-ing all around me. Quite frankly, I wasn’t in the mood. I wanted to stay in New York City, in my pj’s and in my feelings, watching TV and crying, But my trip to Indianapolis had been booked for months. So though my heart felt empty. I put on the bravest face and brightest smile I could muster and went home for the holidays.
By the end of the trip I felt exhausted, sad, and depleted. The night before I flew back to the city, I finally confided in my brother. “I really needed someone to be there for me this time,” I told him. I had been waiting for someone to care for me. Why hadn’t anyone done that?  I felt like I was always the one present for others while no one could be bothered to be present for me.
My brother asked, “Why didn’t you tell me what you needed? I’ve got many talents but mind reading is not one of them.” I chuckled and considered what he had said. Though I had told him and a few others
about the breakup, I didn’t ask for what I wanted or needed. But  once it was clear, he was there. He then listened and let me cry. And it was just what I needed.
God, thank You for the reminders that I don’t have to wait for what I want or need, but can simply ask. Thank You for those who practice Your presence and patience with me.
-Natalie Perkins
Digging Deeper: Matthew 7:7-11


The top 18 ways to confuse Santa Claus
  1. Leave out a copy of your Christmas list with last-minute changes and corrections.
  2. Take everything out of your house as if it’s just been robbed. When Santa arrives, show up dressed like a policeman and say, “Well, well. They always return to the scene of the crime.”
  3. Leave a plate filled with cookies and a glass of milk out, with a note that says, “For The Tooth Fairy.” Leave another plate out with half a stale cookie and a few drops of skim milk in a dirty glass with a note that says, “For Santa”.
  4. While he’s in the house, find the sleigh and sit in it. As soon as he comes back and sees you, tell him that he shouldn’t have missed that last payment, and take off.
  5. Set a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney. Wait for Santa to get caught in it, and then explain that you’re sorry, but from a distance, he looked like a bear.
  6. Leave a note by the telephone, telling Santa that Mrs. Claus called and wanted to remind him to pick up some milk and a loaf of bread on his way home.


If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)
My colleague’s sabbatical is coming up. During our weekly prayer time, Jonathan worried out loud that, instead of working on the academic writing he’d planned, he should spend his semester off on a time-intensive training program for his nine-year-old son, who has autism.
Somehow, Jonathan’s quandary brought to mind a Gospel story I’d read that morning. In it, Jesus asks two blind men who’ve come after Him if they really believe He can heal their blindness. When they say yes, He says, “According to your faith, let it be done to you,” and they can see.
l read the story out loud to the group. Evidently, I concluded, our faith shapes God’s answers to our prayers. Everyone but Jonathan nodded. He understood me to be criticizing his faith, compounding his conviction that he was the source of his son’s problems, and he became even more distraught.
Later, I remembered feeling exactly the same way about others’ well meant parenting advice. Indeed, though my daughters have no disabilities, I’ve worried Jonathan’s worry throughout their development: that if I could just be the perfect parent, my girls would have no problems.
“God picked you as your girls’ mom,” a friend said. “He had exactly you in mind.”
That’s the most comforting but hardest-to-believe lesson of parenting-and of life in general-I’ve ever learned. God chose us for the jobs He’s given us.
” “God chose you as Logan’s dad,” I e-mailed Jonathan later. “Whatever you do in love is the right thing.”
Father, banish my worries about doing the right thing and replace them with pure love.
–Patty Kirk
Digging Deeper: Luke 15: 11-32


The top 18 ways to confuse Santa Claus
  1. Instead of ornaments, decorate your tree with Easter eggs. Dress up like the Easter Bunny. Wait for Santa to come and then say, “This neighborhood ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
  3. Paint “hoof-prints” all over your face and clothes. While he’s in the house, go out on the roof. When he comes back up, act like you’ve been “trampled.” Threaten to sue.
  5. Leave out a Santa suit, with a dry-cleaning bill.
  7. Leave Santa a note, explaining that you’ve moved. Include a map with unclear and hard-to-read directions to your new house.
  9. Leave lots of hunting trophies and guns out where Santa’s sure to see them. Go outside, yell, “Ooh! Look! A deer! And he’s got a red nose!” and fire a gun.
  11. While he’s in the house, cover the top of the chimney with barbed wire.


But I say unto you, Love your enemies … and pray for them which despitefully use you …. -Matthew 5:44 (KJV)
A friend called with shocking news. “I ran into Mark at the doctor’s today, Roberta. He was bent over double with nausea and pain.
Said it was either his liver or his pancreas.”
“Mark” could only be one person: my ex-husband. We had divorced nearly two decades ago after twenty-five years together. My friend didn’t utter the C word, but the nurse in me fast-forwarded to a diagnosis is of either liver or pancreatic cancer. In my mind’s eye, I saw Mark living out his last days in excruciating pain, jaundiced, and with a distended abdomen.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “I ran into Mark’s girlfriend the other day,
She didn’t say he had been feeling bad or anything.”
“Not that Mark,” my friend corrected. Then she provided the last name of a mutual friend.
All afternoon I replayed our conversation and the specifics of my troubled marriage. I’d had to start over at midlife because of Mark’s shenanigans. Relinquish a beloved home. Face a painful, catastrophic illness alone.
I thought I despised Mark for all of those wrongs and more. How was it that I still cared about what happened to him?
There was only one explanation: God. The Author of Love was moving me toward love for someone who had hurt me. It would never be the romantic love of my youth, but it could definitely be caring for another human being. A child of God every bit as cherished as I am.
Thank You, Lord, for stretching my heart in unexpected ways.
-Roberta Messner
Digging Deeper: Luke 6:27; Ephesians 4:32


Shortly before Christmas, a business man was anxious to get home. The business trip had been grueling and he was not in a particularly good mood. The airport loudspeakers blared Christmas carols he was sick of hearing. He thought their decorations were tacky. The worst decoration, he thought, was the plastic mistletoe hung over the luggage scale.

Being in a grumpy mood, he said to the woman at the counter, “You know, even if I weren’t married, I wouldn’t kiss you.”

“That’s not what it’s there for,” said the attendant. “It’s so you can kiss your luggage goodbye.”

  Q: What goes Ho, Ho, Swoosh, Ho, Ho, Swoosh?

A: Santa caught in a revolving door!


Lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt …. -Matthew 6:19 (KJV)
In 2011, I jammed all of my belongings into a storage unit in Wyoming, then raced to New Hampshire, where both of my parents had landed in the hospital. Dad died within a year, but my resilient mother lived another fourteen. I stayed close to my family, cobbling a home from mismatched silverware, freebie furniture, and yard-sale dishes, while my own earthly possessions languished in storage.
Now, years later, I begin the dreaded task of clearing out my dusty unit. Over seven days, I open every box and evaluate the contents. Decisions! Household items are easy; donate to the college apartments.
Some books are easy too; donate to the new kindergarten teacher. But some items, like the jelly-bean holder Tom created from a cement block, tug at my heart. Yes, he has just graduated with his Phd, but. ..I photograph the relic and let it go.
By the time I finish, I have salvaged mementos like baby books and shoes for my children. Most of my treasures, aside from a few cherished photographs, books, letters, and kid art, I relegate to the landfill. Why had I felt compelled to save so many reminders of happy times anyway? Didn’t I trust the future?
My children assure me they enjoyed happy childhoods and stay in close touch with me and with each other and friends in Wyoming.
Now I no longer need to trap memories in a storage locker. My children, and their families continuously generate more.
Lord, how few possessions I need when I feel loved.
-Gail Thorell Schilling
Digging Deeper: Matthew 6:21; Luke 2:51


Christmas Carols for the Psychiatrically Challenged
Schizophrenia — Do You Hear What I Hear?
Multiple Personality Disorder — We Three Queens Disoriented Are
Dementia — I Think I’ll be Home for Christmas
Narcissistic — Hark the Herald Angles Sing About Me
Manic — Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Busses and Trucks and trees and Fire Hydrants and……


He has made everything beautiful in its time …. -Ecclesiastes 3: 11 (ESV)
I placed the wooden dog on wheels under the Christmas tree. Even though Micah was now a preteen, I still used her cherished gift from my grandmother as a decoration.
Shopping was Grandma Caryle’s passion. She traveled the world and gathered souvenirs to give as gifts. She had a knack for choosing just the right presents for the people she loved.
The year after I graduated, there was a gift under the tree for “Stephanie’s baby.” But I didn’t have children. I wasn’t pregnant It’ even married. For years, my nonexistent child received presents from my eccentric grandmother.
By the time I finally married and had a child, Grandma didn’t now it. Alzheimer’s had stolen her memories. Right before Christmas, I took one-year-old Micah with me to visit.
“Merry Christmas!” I called, kissing her cheek.
“Is it Christmas?” she asked. “Have I shopped? I need to get the baby something.”
I changed the subject. Some days Grandma didn’t know who I was, I doubted she understood that this was her great-granddaughter, this child she’d so desperately wanted for me.
That afternoon, I dug around the closet for extra wrapping paper while Micah napped. Buried deep on the bottom shelf, I came across a dust-covered box. Slowly, I lifted back the worn flaps. Could it be?
I gently lifted out a wooden dog on wheels from Denmark-the first gift to “Stephanie’s baby” nearly twenty years earlier! It was perfect for thirteen-month-old Micah.
Once again Grandma was right on target with the perfect gift.
Lord, thank You for my dear grandma who loved giving gifts, and for Your perfect timing.
-Stephanie Thompson
Digging Deeper: Habakkuk 2:3; Galatians 4:4



  Q: How come you never hear anything about the 10th reindeer “Olive” ?

A: Yeah, you know, “Olive the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names”

  What do lions sing at Christmas?

Jungle bells!


I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit. -Ephesians 3:16 (HCS)
Seven ways Alcohol May Be Good for You! That was the subject line of an e-mail from a medical Web site that popped up on my screen today. I guess they don’t know E. Grinnan quite as well as they think.
There isn’t a single way alcohol is good for me. The first time I held a bottle of Old Grand-Dad bourbon up to the light of a full moon and tipped it back to my doomed thirteen-year-old lips, I was an alcoholic.
I was probably an alcoholic before I took that first kiss of whiskey. I had all the attitudes in place-fear, arrogance, pride, shaky self-esteem, and  a screaming genetic predisposition. The booze was just the icing on the cake. The bourbon burned all the way down, like an electrical current, hut when its effects hit my brain a few seconds later a light went on: I want to feel this way all the time.
And, oh, how I tried relentlessly through the next several decades of my life until the choice finally became a binary one: drinking or dying. I’d lost everything else … relationships, jobs, friends, homes,self-respect, and faith. I only had faith in the bottle
When all else had been stripped from my life and I was naked before God, it was His hand that reached out to mine, the only force in the universe more powerful than my addiction. I liked the way God’s love made me feel. I wanted to feel that way all the time, a day at a time.
After I got sober I was humbled to learn how many people had me in their prayers, people I scarcely knew. In the many years since, I have never doubted that those unknown prayers helped get and keep me sober.
Today and every day, Lord, let me not forget the addicted.
Let me pray for all the suffering addicts, those I know and those I don’t.
-Edward Grinnan
Digging Deeper: Exodus 20:1-3; Jeremiah 31:3

  Q: What’s a good holiday tip?

A: Never catch snowflakes with your tongue until all the birds have gone south for the winter.


Christmas tag-sale. Handmade gifts for that hard-to-find person.


What do you call the fear of getting stuck in a chimney?

  Q: Why is Christmas just like a day at the office?

A: You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.



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