Monday, December 16, 2013

Peek Into the Manger

Great Bend First United Methodist Church
The light  makes the scene glow like sapphires, emeralds and rubies. The scene is perfection in that light: Each little piece of glass comes together perfectly to make a beautiful picture.

It would be easy to think that's what the Nativity is all about ... beauty, perfection, peace.  It's Advent. At our church, we pull out the perfectly-white porcelain Nativity scene and light the candles.
Nativity made by Dorothy Newell, Stafford UMC

In another church, the glow of stained glass catches the light of gold threads which run through the elaborate clothing garbing Mary, Joseph and the angel. 
Trinity UMC, Great Bend
In sanctuaries across the world, the winter light streams through stained glass windows, showing an idyllic, pristine scene. Mary glows. Joseph beams. Baby Jesus is bathed in the star's light. 
Holy Cross Catholic Church, Hutchinson, KS
But then I remember. Mary was likely 13 years old (or so). Maybe she wasn't so different from the girls in middle school choir, the ones I witness from the piano bench. Yes, the same ones who are nice as pie one day and then moody and withdrawn the next. (Who am I kidding? You don't have to be 13 to be like that.)

Mary was a young, unwed mother. She had just had her first baby - not in a well-appointed delivery room - but in a stable with animals all around. She laid Him in a manger filled with straw, not a crib with sheets that match a nursery theme. It wasn't all that pretty.

Jesus was born to a family that possessed little and worked hard to make ends meet.
How can we, in the midst of our culture's conspicuous consumption and demand for perfection, turn our focus on the Child who was born into poverty as a sign of hope and salvation for a broken world? While it may seem the world demands perfection, the Gospel message demands nothing from us. Rather, God invites us to gather around the manger just as we are: unfinished lists, burnt pies and all. No matter our imperfections, great or small, God invites us to peek into the manger and gaze at the real Christmas message: That Christ came for us all to be a beacon of hope for the hopeless and to bring peace.
Rev. Amy Slater, Stafford UMC newsletter, Christmas 2012

So, when the list seems overwhelming ... and the oven timer is ringing at the same time the dryer bell is sounding ... and there's too much to do in too little time: Remember it's not about perfection. It's about grace. And, like teenage Mary, listening for God's voice in our lives, then obeying.

Gifts don't have to cost a lot of money to be meaningful. I enjoy giving gifts from the kitchen to family, friends, the mailman, the choir director ... the list goes on!

Snack mixes don't take much time to make, but they can be something that your gift recipient can use for unexpected guests or their own family gatherings. And, kind of like stained glass windows, the bits and pieces come together to make a delicious whole! Here are a few tried-and-true recipes that we enjoy at our house and I've given as gifts. Click on the links for the recipes and ENJOY!

This is my December post from Lovely Branches Ministries. Click on this link to read my friend, Suzanne's, ideas for simplifying Christmas.

I'm linked today to Michelle DeRusha's Hear It On Sunday, Use It On Monday. Check out what other bloggers of faith are saying today by clicking on the link.


  1. Kim,

    Stained glass windows are beautiful and fun to look at.

    I like the thoughts of Rev. Amy. Food for thought to help us open our minds and hearts to the real meaning of the season.

    I have my Santa decor and pretty glitter jars out to make the house look more festive. Other than that I have not done much to prepare for Christmas. J and I did most of our shopping on-line. We have talked about Christmas Eve and Day plans with his family and are still waiting to hear back.

    Between chores and the weather it's hard to set anything in stone.

    What is your family doing to celebrate? Are you traveling or cooking?

    1. We are doing a little of both. We'll have our kids and Kinley here on December 23, then go to my folks' house for Christmas Eve (also my Mom's birthday). Brent gets to stay a few days, but Jill & Eric go back home on the 24th. I did finally get my tree up, so I feel better about it. I have more baking to do, but I'm trying not to go crazy this year. We'll see if I can accomplish that! Merry Christmas!

  2. We are on the exact same page, Kim - I was just writing about something very similar earlier today! You nailed it: "Remember it's not about perfection. It's about grace." Amen ... and thank you, too, for linking up with #HearItUseIt - I am so grateful for your participation there!

    1. Michelle - It was so good to hear from you. Thanks for taking time to comment. Merry Christmas to you and yours!