Hidden inside the ordinary, will you see God-alongside?

Christmas eve worshipAs you gather with your family and/or friends, ponder this question:

What was your favorite part of the Christmas Eve worship service?

I’ll bet you get a variety of answers.

My unofficial poll included the music offerings, and when all the lights are turned off and Silent Night is sung by candle light.

The telling of the story didn’t make our list.

I wonder if we have become so familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth, that we forget to be amazed?

Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem

I spent Christmas Eve too sick to attend worship. Home alone, in bed, I decide to read the story. I’m glad I did. Functioning as the only component of “worship” that I had, it allowed for deep contemplation.

I was reminded of the wondrous, amazing aspect of Christmas.

What’s that you say?

As explanation, I’ll use a phrase often heard in this season:

The Incarnation

Star of Bethlehem Nativity

The Incarnation is a concept that leaves me awestruck. (And also feeling a bit jumbled – reminding me that sometimes we have to live in the mystery.)

Incarnation is a big word that comes from Latin, meaning “the act of being made flesh.” It’s what God did in the birth of Jesus. Somehow, mysteriously, Jesus is both fully God and fully human!

In Jesus, God is with us!

The prophet Isaiah had described our coming Savior as Emmanuel. What a perfect title for Jesus, because “Emmanuel” means “God with us.” It’s the very thing we need and look forward to the most: the presence of God himself! Jesus wasn’t born just to save us from our sins; God came to be with us.

God loved us so much that he chose to come into the world in the actual person of Jesus. We find this expressed in John 1:14, which paraphrased reads…

The “Word” was made flesh and moved in with us.

The Adoration of the Shepherds, a painting by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

Even more amazing (if that is possible)… God joined us, not just in human form but as a tiny, helpless baby! What are we to make of this news? Knowing what we know, what will we do?

Who would have looked for God as a baby in a manager in a stable?

If the way we live shows what we believe, should we be actively looking for God among us?

What does God with us look like today?

Richard Rohr calls it, “hidden inside of ordinariness.”

The Incarnation

A humdrum home for animals, equipped with a feeding trough. Where will God-with-us show up next?

Have you observed God, hidden, yet present with us, in the ordinary?

Let’s look for Emmanuel! Here are a few searching suggestions:

  • Go for a drive at night, and be dazzled by the neighborhoods festooned in Christmas lights.
  • If it snows, go outside and catch flakes on your tongue. (Or spend time studying the rain drops rolling down the window pane.)a child ponders the first snow
  • Lay on your backs under your Christmas tree and silently gaze upward, pondering the beauty and perhaps the scent of pine or spruce.
  • Watch and notice when your child seems in an attitude of awe. (A moment of wonder is often characterized by quiet stillness rather than enthusiastic activity.) Silently join them in their observation.
  • Where will you find God?

May you experience God with you — in whatever ordinary awesomeness he arrives.

a blue line

Photo credits:
The first photo is from my archives.
Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem was created by moi from an Unsplash.com image by Tim de Groot. The figures were adapted from wpclipart.com; the words are the start of Luke 2:4, NIV.
Star over Bethlehem by Garrett W. offered on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Birth of Jesus is a portion of “The Adoration of the Shepherds,” a 1622 painting by Gerard van Honthorst; from Wikimedia, in the Public Domain.
Babe in a manger by Rapolas; from Pixabay, in the CC0 1.0 Public Domain.
First snow by Joe Thorn, offered on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

How to practice kind words? Chutes and Ladders anyone?

a word cloud with kind, caring words

You’ve heard the old rhyme about sticks and stones, and words not wounding?

Not true!

Our words do matter; to others, and to God!

God really cares about the words that we use and how we use them. How do we talk about this issue with our household? Join us for some discussion!

Start the conversation in the car, or around the family dinner table, or wherever your family is gathered together. Spread the questions out over several sessions. Ask these questions even if you missed the video showing!

Have some family time discussion…

  • Do you find it easy or hard, to use kind words with someone you know well? What about with someone who is a stranger? With someone you dislike? Someone who is giving you a hard time?
  • Have you ever heard the expression: “Kill them with kindness” — what do you suppose it means?
  • Do you suppose that there is a difference between acting kindly and true kindness that comes from the heart? How would the two look different?
  • The Bible tells us that our words are important to God. Why do you suppose God really cares about what we say?
    Jesus taught that “A person’s mouth says everything that is in their heart” (Luke 6:45). What we say reflects what is in our innermost selves. God loves us, so of course God would care about us. And, since God loves everyone, he cares about the effect our words could have on other people. What we say to others matters!
  • The Bible has lots to say about how we should use our words. Take turns looking up a verse and talking about what it means to you: Luke 6:45, Proverbs 15:1, Proverbs 15:4, Proverbs 16:24, Psalm 19:14, and Ephesians 4:29.
  • Several of these verses were from the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a book full of short instructions on living wisely. Watch this short video about Proverbs. (If reading this in an email, you can watch this video on YouTube.)


 
Chutes-and-Ladders game boardIn class on Sunday we played a version of Chutes and Ladders. If your child didn’t bring home a game board, get two here. (This will download a Word doc to your downloads folder. Print it in “Landscape.”)

Play this game at home. Use small items as game pieces and toss a die to play a round, or two.

 

Have fun while practicing using kind words.

We hope you’ll continue the learning at home! Be sure to notice kind word usage. (Respond by saying: “I notice you are using healthy words!”)

Note: This post refers to a video watched during our Summer Sunday school: # 14 “How Do We Show Respect to God Through Our Words?” from Clive & Ian’s Wonder-Blimp of Knowledge.

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Photo credits…
A created word cloud by moi. Shared at flickr, licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND 2.0). I also created the game board. Enjoy!