I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Happy New Year!
Though Christmas is over, many Christmas memories and questions linger. Many of us can still remember Paul Harvey's unique voice and cadence as he would read his The Rest of the Story over the radio waves. But I had never heard this Paul Harvey Christmas story until recently . . . when the Director of Women's Ministries at my church shared it one evening. If you have five minutes to spare, then listen. It is well worth your time.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Happy New Year!
I now own the Hallmark Movie App. Okay, okay, so I know this is a very controversial subject. Some people LOVE the Hallmark channel while others … well, shall I say, find it less endearing.
Many argue that the stories are predictable and sentimental. Hmmm. That is exactly why I like them.
Life itself can be unpredictable and sometimes cold and harsh. We can be blindsided by illness, disappointment, betrayal, and death. Friends will rally round us for awhile, but most then drift back into their own lives, leaving us very much alone.
But a Hallmark movie gives us hope. Yes, there is always a glitch, or a hiccup, or even a devastating event that occurs in the life of the protagonist, but everything works out in the end, and the good in people surfaces.
The Christmas movies are the best, because after all is resolved, the final scene, which is either Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, features a fresh sprinkling of snow, often the first of the season, and sometimes in places that never get snow! The world becomes quiet and the landscape, pure.
But what I love most about a Hallmark movie is that it reminds me of God's love and faithfulness, especially at Christmas, because while the world is still an unpredictable place and can be harsh, there is one Certainty. There is one Hope. Jesus came into the world as a baby in order to go to the cross to save the world from its sins, so we can be “whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7). Even Hallmark snow.
’Tis the season to walk around the neighborhood and look at all the Christmas decorations, particularly the light displays.I bundle up in coat, beanie, and gloves and take to the streets. I love it.
But I find that home “decorators” usually fall into one of three categories.
First, no lights. Some people call these individuals the bah-humbug group, but I beg to differ. Primarily because I fall into this group. No lights on the outside does not mean a lack of love for the season. I, like many, decorate the inside of my home and love doing it. It is all Christmas inside. I just don’t have the ability nor inclination to string lights on the outside, at least not in a tasteful manner. However most of us who fall into this category have a very nice wreath on the door, and if you look, you will see a warm and welcoming twinkle of lights coming through the window.
The second group of people are those who have tastefully decorated homes. This usually equates to a nice string of lights on the eaves and a few decorations on the lawn. Not too much. Not too little. All decorations blend nicely with each other.
The third group is what we might call the “Griswold” decorators. Not a square inch of lawn is free, not a socket without a plug, and often the overall effect can be bit garish. But most of us still stand completely amazed at the effort, enthusiasm, and financial expenditure that went into such a display. When an entire neighborhood or street works together, people flock from miles away to admire the sight. And if we can say one thing about this group of people, it is that their love of Christmas cannot be missed.
We, as Christians, are called to be the light of the world, and just as we should not judge people by how they display their Christmas lights, we should also not judge Christians by how they let their inner lights shine.
Some, like this last group, are on grand display for all to see. Their enthusiasm for their Savior’s love is in no way hidden. Some more “reserved” Christians might not be as comfortable with such an overt display, but still their light is visible through the love and grace they show to those around them through both word and action. And finally, there are some whose love of Jesus is emitted through a warm and peaceful glow. Come closer and one will be invited into the comfort of their heart.
Yes, we are asked to let our light shine so that the world can see God’s love, and as Christians, we should make sure our lights shine. But not all have to burn at the same intensity. We love the big lights of the city, but also the comfortable streetlights of the neighborhood, and even the peaceful candle in the window. All are welcomed displays of God’s love.
If you were to do a quick Google search about which two words are the most important, you would find a number of answers from “I want” to “I am” to “keep going” to “I’m sorry” (which is technically three words). But this past year has taught me that “thank you” has to rank near the top as being the two most important words to have in one’s vocabulary.
Psychologists claim that being able to tell people what you "want" is key to healthy relationships. One article quoted Sigmund Freud as saying, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Another article claimed that “I am” are the two most important words because “whatever you put after them will determine your reality.”
A third claimed that in the face of the certain failures, disappointments, or hardships we will undoubtedly face, we must vow to “keep going.”
And no one can argue the importance of apologizing. One article said that “admitting that you made a mistake is the first step toward self-improvement and a better relationship.”
I would have to agree with all of the above, but, most of all, I would have to agree with Robert Eckert who in the Harvard Business Review asserts that “thank you” are the two most important and powerful words. I agree. To express our gratitude regardless of how small or enormous the task costs us absolutely nothing and can mean the world to someone else. Recognition and appreciation for someone’s act of kindness, selflessness, or self-sacrifice is the ultimate display of humility. We have done nothing. All praise goes to the giver.
This realization hit home this year as fire after fire devastated California. First responders spent days and weeks and sometimes months in volatile and dangerous situations to save and protect property and person. And all we could really do was say thank you. But we did. All across the state, on street corners, on overpasses, on cars, one could see “THANK YOU” emblazoned on any available surface. So small an act for such huge acts of valor. Even the USPS’s issuing of the Forever Stamp, recognizing these men and women, is just another way of saying thank you albeit on a grander scale.
You would think “thank you” would come easily during the Christmas season as it falls right on the heels of our national day of thanks. But unfortunately, the calm (hopefully) of the Thanksgiving meal often catapults us into the chaos of the Christmas season.
So for these next few weeks while we are waiting in long lines or trying to work our way through crowed aisles or sitting in holiday traffic, let’s make a concerted effort to say thank you. To those trying to check us out, to our fellow shoppers willing to move their baskets, and to God for keeping us safe.
Few us will ever forget Janice Jackson’s suspect wardrobe “mishaps” at the hands of Justin Timberlake during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, when the term “wardrobe malfunction” became a household word.
But not too long ago during a communion message at church, another malfunction was mentioned––a more serious one—and one that occurs more often than it should. Memory Malfunction.
I am not talking about forgetting where we put the keys or a missed appointment, but forgetting, in times of difficulty, all that God has already done for us.
Our youth pastor was reminding the congregation of the Israelites own faulty memory. Though God had led them out of Egypt, miraculously made a way for them to escape through the Red Sea, and provided them with food daily, the minute they hit a rough spot, they complained, sometimes to the point of blaming Moses for ever taking them out of Egypt. So soon were those hardships and His consequent blessings forgotten.
And this, unfortunately, is a fault many of us have in general. Most teachers would agree that it only takes one nasty parent phone call to discount all the positives that have occurred before. Others will attest that one person’s negative feedback erases all the kudos others have given them.
So when it comes to our present difficulties, let’s try hard not be like the Israelites who so soon forget God’s providence and protection just because He hasn’t responded immediately. Instead let us be like David when he says, “Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me” (NLT).
Jody Eileen Solinski spent her career teaching in the California public school system where she enjoys helping young adults take their place in society. A native Californian, she enjoys the outdoors and so loves living in Northern California where she can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation up close.