Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas

The play is now over and yet the messages keep coming. Through a week of sheer exhaustion, I have wept and wept tears of joy. My heart is so full I don't know what to do, but to praise Him and praise him some more, and weep and weep some more.

I grew up in tune with the church-year calendar. At Christmas, you celebrate Jesus' birth. At Easter, you mourn his death and celebrate His resurrection. Easter has always had more spiritual significance to me. I am always left humbled by His death for me, but I am made new in His resurrection just as spring is blooming forth with new life. The crocuses are popping through ground, the magnolia trees are exploding with their all-too-fleeting beauty. Certainly Easter has always had more of an impact than Christmas.

But this year, something has drastically changed. I can only believe that this was God's purpose in making me write the play. I needed to grasp this lesson. I needed to make the Nativity real to me. As much as I believe it was meant for others, I now know it was for me, too.

So bear with me as I share this new message, this new revelation. Maybe some of you have captured this lesson long ago. To me, it is new and exciting and it has completely changed the significance of the Christmas Story in my mind and heart. May it be for you also.

We are called to be every person in the Nativity story. Each character serves as a model for what is expected of us in our Christian walk. It is so easy to dismiss each one's significance. But now, more than ever, I get so annoyed when I see a Nativity figurine set missing shepherds or missing kings, or worse - missing Joseph. Each one was written about in the Bible. Each one was there for a purpose. Each one of them represents us.

Let's begin with Mary.

Luke 1:26-38 -
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord {is} with you." But she was very perplexed at {this} statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. "For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Mary is our model for Faith. How many of us has God spoken to, and we respond, "Surely you don't mean me, Lord." How many of us use excuses to get out of doing what God is asking us to do. God told me to write this play. There was a little kicking and screaming, but I had to submit to Him this time. I am the better for it. There are countless things that I have refused God, or am still procrastinating. Mary reminds us that when God speaks, we should listen. When He says "Do," we do; when He says "Go," we go. To strive to have this perfect Faith should be each of our goals in our walk.

Then there is Joseph.

Matthew 1:18-25
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Joseph is another testament of Faith, but in a different way. To me, Joseph represents "the support network," as I like to call it. Our friends, our family and church members, even our spouses have stood by when we have been called to do something. They may have doubted us. They may have tried to talk us out of doing what God called us to do. We, ourselves, may have been in a position where God called someone else to do something and we doubted them. People tried to talk me out of doing this play, but I knew there was something greater at work. Let us be Joseph and remember his ability to have Faith, even though he and Mary were in a position to be targets of gossip and scorn. Let us remember to support those called to ministries, even when we don't understand.

Why the Shepherds?

Luke 2:8-20
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us." So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

We are to be the Shepherds, making the story known. We have been called to God through some miracle, just as the Angels chose Shepherds, of all people. We are to be guardians of "our flock," being sure that none of them should go astray. We are to bring more smelly sheep into God's presence, so that they too, may witness all that God has done for us and what's more - find what it is that God will have us do for Him. That brings us to:

The Kings, the Magi, the Three Wise Men

Matthew 2:1-8
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 'AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.' " Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."

After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

We are called to be like the Kings. We are to continually seek Him. We are to find our way to Him and present our gifts. Our gifts are the talents God has bestowed on us. We are to use these gifts to reflect the Glory back on Him.

We can be the Angels, woven throughout the Christmas Story - proclaiming His message, just as the Shepherds, using the words God gives us to speak into the lives of others.

That stable in which Jesus was born, with all those smelly animals, represents the world and we the people in this world. We were not worthy to be in the Lord's presence, but He came. The Nativity story shows us all the work we have to do.

We must have Mary's Faith.
We must support one another, like Joseph.
We must proclaim the good news, guide His sheep to Him and guard His sheep in Him like the Shepherds.
We must present our gifts to Him, just as the Kings did.
We must continue to let God use us, like the Angels.

And beyond all of that, let us not forget that Christmas is not just a time of celebrating Jesus' birth. That is only half of the message. He was born to die for us. As my favorite Choir song says so eloquently, "He came all this way to make your heart His home."

May your hearts be filled with awe and wonder for our God, Jesus Christ, this Christmas.

Thank you for reading my musings and meanderings. Thank you for taking the time to comment and encourage me.

Merry Christmas to all of you.


Friday, December 15, 2006


Tonight, I cried until I ached.

For the first time in my life the reality of what Christ did for me and what He's calling me to be has brought me to the point of speechlessness. I can't even find the words to express the awe I have for Him. I can't even express the praise my heart feels for Him. It is so overwhelming, I just cry. And moan. And cry some more.

It is an emptying out of the old Self. I feel like an empty vessel, ready to be used. All the dings have been gently tapped out of me. I've been polished a bit. I am now ready for God to use me for His service.

I'm going to stray away from my usual format today. There won't be an excerpt from "My Utmost for His Highest." This message isn't really based on a certain scripture or text. It does have a lot to do with the Christmas Story, so it is biblically based. But right now, God has revealed some things to me and I know nowhere else to share them but here, with you - my dear friends and readers. And so I must. That's all I know.

Maybe you have heard this expression: "K.I.S.S., or Keep It Simple Stupid." Well I don't exactly like calling myself, or anyone else for that matter, stupid, so I just say "Keep it Simple."

I believe it was August or September when I felt God calling me to write a Children's Musical. I had never written a play before, so I didn't know what God was thinking. Really. Derek is the playwright, not me. But there it was - this plot for a play, stuck in my mind, refusing to let me go back to sleep when I got home from my three-hour paper route. I tossed and turned. I prayed, "Lord, I just need some sleep." I would close my eyes and the children of Revival Tabernacle would be having entire conversations in my head, laying the play out before me. I could see them move around the stage. I could see the set. Finally, I had no choice but to get up and feverishly write this play. Then came the songs. They flowed off my pen with little effort from me. I know this came from God. I have actually considered entitling the play: "'A Reason for the Season' by God," because I have had little to do with its creation.

A theme has arisen for this play - and for the bigger picture - Christmas itself. It is: "Keep It Simple." When I started out, I had visions of Paper Mache sculpted camels and donkeys; angels with wings and all kinds of artistic spectacle. But every step of the way, with fabric in hand, waiting for God to show me what the end product is to look like, I have heard His voice: "Keep It Simple, Danielle." Then, it was revealed to me: how to take a foil bread pan and turn it into a camel's head; how to take yards and yards of fabric and turn them into choir gowns without sewing one stitch; how to make a small church stage into three or four different places by only moving one set piece. God has layed out every step of the way for me, and the message becomes clearer: "Keep It Simple. Keep Christmas Simple. It is not in all the pageantry and excessiveness that the Christmas Story is found. It is in the simplicity of one truth: God made Himself into a tiny baby of lowly means to be born unto this world for the one singular purpose of dying for our sins." It is that simple.

And here I am. I'm still looking for a job. I applied to Weis Markets and K-Mart this week. Haven't heard anything. Bills are piling up. Cell phones are off. Satellite TV - disconnected. Between our two cars, we've had three flat tires this week. I find myself unable to buy a Christmas card - for anyone. I want to get a few gifts for friends who have brought me through some real struggles this year, but I don't have the means. Of course our children are taken care of - we bought early for them, knowing we wouldn't have it now if I still couldn't find a job.

And then I have this vision that I am the Little Drummer Boy standing at the Nativity of Jesus.
"Baby Jesus, pa rum-pum-pum-pum
I am a poor boy too pa rum-pum-pum-pum
I have no gift to bring pa rum-pum-pum-pum
That's fit to give a King pa rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum
Shall I play for you pa rum-pum-pum-pum
On my drum?"

I can write a play to bring God Glory. I can direct a play to bring God Glory. I can make Christmas cards to touch the hearts of those around me. I can make gifts for those who have changed my life.

It is not about the wealth, or the lack thereof, the over-abundance or the excess.

It is about that tiny baby - born in a barn - for US!

It is about spiritually stepping out of the way, becoming that empty vessel that God can use for His purpose.

It is finding, and I mean, really finding, those gifts that God gave you and using them to reflect the Glory back on HIM.

This Christmas, I challenge you to examine it all: The gifts you give, the money you've spent, the food you gorge yourself with. Where is Jesus in all of that?

He's lying in a manger filled with the straw the animals would have eaten. He's waiting for you to turn your eyes to Him this Christmas and present your gifts. All you have to do is remember three words:

"Keep It Simple."