3 good Christmas stories

So this picture was taken earlier in the month...it's a little more brown and icy now. :)

Story One: 
Back in September our church hosted the Minnesota Teen Challenge Choir. We have the Rochester campus come to our church and in the choir was the granddaughter of one of our members. Also singing up front was the young mom who sits in front of us every Sunday morning. I knew she had been in rehab, but I didn't realize she was at Teen Challenge. She's a great girl. She comes with her mom every Sunday and now her two kids come with their grandma as she gets help to overcome her addictions.

This past Sunday she must have had a pass to leave the campus and came to church. We were sitting on the opposite side of our usual seats and so I didn't see her until I saw the commotion as we sang. She had been spotted by a good friend and the two were hugging and it looked so joyful. Then one of my favorite older men in the congregation got out of his seat and went to shake her hand and they talked for a while. And over and over I watched her be overwhelmingly welcomed into our fold with so much joy and gladness that she was back. It made me happy to be a part of the church- there was so much love surrounding her.

Story Two:
We got to church for the Christmas Eve service just as it was beginning. I was walking behind my clan with a toddling Alden who tripped and fell and by the time he picked himself up again, Rory had chosen our seats. He chose a row closer to the front in the middle of lots of people, next to our good friends with little kids. And immediately I felt like this was a bad idea. Christmas Eve is a quiet service and if I had been leading the pack I would have chosen the back row, with an easy exit for when we got to noisy. Instead I climbed over Rory to sit with all 6 of us in 4 chairs.

I was so annoyed. I didn't even look to see who was behind us as I climbed into my spot. I just felt embarrassed for what was to come. So I tried to be still and keep everyone quiet and fumed a bit at how stuck I was in this row.

But the kids were fine. And Alden kept smiling at the people behind us, and I just hoped they weren't regretful that their Christmas Eve came with a side show. Eventually I loosened up and I turned to see who Alden was beaming at. And guess who it was? Tony. Tony, Alden's very best friend at church. Tony is an old man who lives alone and comes to church an hour early so that he can feed Alden donut holes, one after another and scratch Alden's back. They love each other and I quickly realized Alden was likely making Tony's whole Christmas as he smiled and excitedly handed him ripped up scraps of paper.

And then I looked next to Tony and it was Gayla and her husband. Gayla teaches Hattie and Elsie's Sunday School class and adores my daughters. And when I made eye contact with her she lit up and wished me a Merry Christmas and her husband smiled and I felt so much grace.

It turns out we were surrounded by people who love us fully. I looked around and on every side were friends who love our family. And I felt that love go right into my heart as my body physically went from nervous and annoyed to relief and belonging.

Story Three:
This one involves you. A few years ago my mom got a Chronological Daily Bible and read the Bible in a year. The next year her brother Wayne bought this Bible for himself and for each of his siblings and they read it together. Last April I found this particular Bible at the used book fair in our town and picked it up. It took until September for me to start reading it and when I did I was so glad. This Bible is fantastic. The books for the prophets are woven through the stories found in Kings and Chronicles. The Psalms pop up from time to time, fitting the text. The book of Acts has been broken up with Paul's letters to the churches peppered throughout. The best part is that there are helpful paragraphs between readings that say, "Now remember while this is happening in Babylon, this is happening back in..." And it is so helpful! The story is alive and I am so grateful for the way the Word is made new through this Bible.

So I emailed my pastors and asked if I could invite our congregation to read this Bible with me in 2019. By 2020 we would have read the Bible together. And then I emailed a bunch of local friends to see if they wanted to join in. And at this time there are over 50 of us committed to reading God's Word together in 2019. Even the Hispanic small group bought 8 Spanish versions so they can join along!

So here's the thing. January first is right around the corner, and with Prime, you could have this Bible in your mailbox long before then. Or maybe it comes a few days late and you just pick up on the day it arrives because there is grace for this reading plan and because you likely know the creation story pretty well by now...

But I want to invite you to join in. It is 4-5 pages a day. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes. And I am telling you, I love this version.

It is called The Daily Bible in Chronological Order.  If you are feeling like your own faith life has been dry, or if you need a word from the Lord, then I highly recommend joining in. Because God is not quiet in his Bible! He has many words for you! They are right there.

And the thing about doing this as a group is that we are on the hook to read it! I need the accountability so much that I am leading this effort- think of the pressure on me to read it now! And you too! In a good way! I want to do this. Think about all that God wants to show us through his Word, if we would just open the book up. We will pray for discipline, obedience and steadfastness to keep our faces in the book- together. Literally on the same page.

So go order your Daily Bible. It's $20. I don't think you can regret this one!

Merry Christmas everybody.

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