Saturday, December 28, 2019

Remembering and Anticipating

Photo by Richard Collett 2019
As I walked around our tree this Christmas Eve, eagerly awaiting the arrival of our son, daughter-in-law, and dog, I enjoyed reminiscing of Christmases past and looking forward to future celebrations. The brilliant light radiating from the tree invited me to pause for a moment and reflect in the beauty and special meaning of its ornaments.

The angel atop the tree, proclaiming the Good News of the Saviour’s birth (Luke 2:10-11). Mary, Joseph, and the Holy Child in the manger (Luke 2:12-16), because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7). May the room of my heart always be open and welcoming to receive Him. The miniature Bible, for Jesus is the Word Who became flesh (John 1:1-14). 

The cake inscribed with “Happy Birthday Jesus,” reminding us that He is the reason for the season. The cross, because He was born to die, to be the perfect sacrifice to save us from our sins (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 7:27; 9:26). And, praise God, the empty tomb! He rose from the dead, proving He was the Son of God, to give all who trust Him eternal life! (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 3:16).

Yet the ornaments also reminded me that He came to give us not only eternal life, but abundant life here and now (John 10:10), from the moment we are born again (John 3:3-8). Every ornament that caught my gaze reminded me of a special, unique blessing. Those given to me long ago call to mind the love, thoughtfulness and generosity of the givers – my mother, and many others no longer with us. Many left this earth long before I was saved, so I don’t know whether they knew Christ, but I hope they did so that we will meet again in Heaven. 

A porcelain medallion, “Our First Christmas Together,” for the year God brought my husband and me together, and a key chain from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we met. That year completely changed my life from bleak hopelessness to the thrill of new love and anticipation for a bright future. 

A silly felt Rudolph reindeer we picked up at a McDonald’s pit stop as Richard drove me and all my belongings from New York to Florida to begin a new life here with him.  Rudolph sat on the dashboard throughout the trip like a protective watchdog, guarding us through getting lost in Newark, snow storms, engine trouble, and finally having the trailer containing all my furniture stolen. It was decades before either of us would be saved, but still that reindeer reminds me of God’s provision (Psalm 37:25, Matthew 6:8) protection (Psalm 91:10-12), and perfect plan (Jeremiah 29:11), working all things together for good for those foreknown to be His children (Romans 8:28). 

Photo ornaments capturing our son as a toddler; our dance performance in Russia in 1992 as the only amateurs on a professional cultural exchange tour sharing American style dance with thousands of Russians; our audition for Silver Stars in 2014 that resulted in a solo performance at the Grand Old Opry. 

Mementos of our son as he grew from a precocious child to a Godly young man: first the curious infant bouncing and exploring on his walker. Then a felt London bobby, to commemorate our Christmas shopping trip to the toy department at Harrod’s when he was four. A wooden piano and guitar inscribed with his name, for God blessed him with musical gifts from an early age. Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, representing a dance my son and I performed when he was only six years old. 

The ornaments he made us of popsicle sticks painstakingly glued together and painted as a snowflake, and a felt mitten proclaiming Psalm 103:5: He fills my life with good things. How very fitting! Later an eagle that he traced on metal and inscribed with “On Eagle’s Wings,” (Isaiah 40:31) to commemorate our Theatre Arts dance to that song. 

A porcelain ornament of a front door, with the address and date of his first apartment, painted in gold. And now he has embarked on a successful career, has his own house, and is married, but praise God, he and his lovely bride still spend quality family time with us, including our joyous Christmas celebration this year! 
Ornaments symbolizing our dance ministry to glorify God: a Nativity and star for “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.” A heart bursting with flames, and an ice crystal in blue glass, for “Fire of the Spirit” (“melts the heart of ice”). A butterfly for “Transformed,” representing the change in every believer who becomes a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). 

A graceful ballerina and toy soldier, reminding us of “Christmas Toys Come Alive,” portraying the change from being dead in sin to having new life in Christ (Romans 6:11). And ornaments from places we have been blessed to visit across the globe, whether performing in Japan, Hong Kong, and Italy; hiking through national parks in Utah; or sightseeing in Ireland, France and Switzerland. 

Truly God has given us richly all things to enjoy! (1 Timothy 6:17) He has entrusted us with many treasures here on earth (James 1:17), but these are only temporary. May we store up treasures in Heaven to enjoy throughout eternity, and may our heart be in heavenly places until then (Matthew 6:19-21). 

My stroll around the Christmas tree and down Memory Lane brought to mind a much earlier time -- the evening before our son was born. I walked around the nursery, which we had lovingly prepared and decorated, and I sat in the rocker where I would cradle him in my arms. As I checked all the drawers I had filled with baby clothes, diapers, and other necessities, I imagined what life would be like once he was actually here. 

What glorious anticipation! And yet, there is an even more momentous event I am awaiting – the return of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to call up His children at the Rapture to meet with Him in the air! (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Then in a moment we shall all be changed, given glorified bodies that will never age, weep, feel pain, or die (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). Then we shall rule and reign with Him and our loved ones in Him throughout eternity! 

Come quickly, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20) And while we await your return, may we remember your faithfulness (1 Samuel 7:12; Psalm 30:4; 102:12; John 14:26), abundant blessings, and freely given gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). May we live each day as if it were our last, doing all to your glory!

Wishing a Happy New Year to all! May we thank Him daily for all His blessings, looking forward to seeing His perfect plan unfold!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives

children's ministry blogs

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Legend of the Candy Cane

Photo by Mikereichold 2008
Familiar Christmas decorations and their colors may open the door for Christians to talk to unsaved people about Christ, as their symbolism reminds us of different aspects of Christ’s life and God’s plan of salvation. Legend has it that in the 18th century, a candy maker in Europe designed the candy cane to serve as a witness to his Christian faith and to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus.

In the candy maker’s home country at that time, Christian oppression made it illegal to make public displays of Christianity or even to own a Bible or cross, let alone a manger scene. He prayed that God would show him how he could share the true story of Christmas with with local children by offering them a unique and meaningful treat.

This confection would be a stick of candy, white to symbolize the Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35) and the sinless purity of Jesus (I John 1:7), and hard to symbolize the solid Rock, the Foundation of the Church (2 Samuel 22:3,47; Psalm 18:2,46;62:2,6, etc. Matthew 16:18). It was flavored with peppermint, an herb of the same family as hyssop, which was used for temple sacrifices and purification (Psalm 51:7; Exodus 12:22; etc; Hebrews 9:19) and offered to Jesus as He suffered on the cross (John 19:29). 

The candy cane is shaped like a "J" for the name of Jesus (Luke 1:31, Matthew 1:21), and like the staff of the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd Who gave His life for His sheep (John 10:11,15; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). who would hear His voice and follow him (Psalm 23:1, John 10:27-30, Isaiah 40:11). Two canes together touching at both ends forms the shape of a heart, symbolizing God’s love for us (1 John 4:8; Zephaniah 3:17).  

A large red stripe on the candy cane denotes the blood shed by Christ on the cross (Romans 3:25; Colossians 1:20) for the remission of our sins (Matthew 26:28), by which we are saved to eternal life (Revelation 1:5, John 3:16, Luke 22:20), and three small stripes symbolizing the whipping Jesus received, by which we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)

White at Christmas time reminds us of angel robes (Matthew 28:3) and wings and of snowflakes falling, as pristine as Christ is pure and completely without sin (Psalm 51:7). The glorified body of Christ was clothed in shining robes “white as snow” when He appeared to Daniel as the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9), to the inner circle of apostles at His transfiguration (Mark 9:3), and to John at His revelation (Revelation 1:14). 

The nativity scene would be incomplete without white sheep led by shepherds, emphasizing the importance of our following the Good Shepherd and depending on Him for all we do (Psalm 23). The purity of white reminds us that Jesus is the lily of the valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1), and that the Holy Spirit took on the appearance of a dove as Jesus was baptized (Matthew.3:16). 

Red symbolizes each drop of precious blood Jesus shed for us on Calvary’s cross (Matthew 26:28), which washes us clean so that when God sees us, He sees not our sin, but the perfect sacrifice of His blameless Son (Hebrews 9: 11-13; John 1:7)

When we see a red stop sign or traffic light, it warns us of danger. “Red” means stop – - our sinful ways, our wicked thoughts, our worldly lifestyle (1 Peter 4:1). And yet, red also symbolizes fire or passion. God wants us to be on fire for Him, as He is a consuming fire (Heb.12:29; Revelation 19:12), our hearts burning with His Word (Jeremiah 20:9; Luke 24:32) and our lives burning brightly with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3). 

As we enjoy a candy cane, may this iconic symbol remind us of Jesus Christ, God Himself, Who came in the flesh (John 1:14) to save us by paying our sin debt in full as He died on the cross, was buried, and rose again the third day, proving His Deity! May we lead others to invite Him into their heart by trusting in this Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), so that they too can have eternal life! 

Merry Christmas to all, and all blessings for 2020 and until He comes again! May you experience the love, joy and peace that comes only from knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior!

© 2019 Laurie Collett