Daily Archives: December 24, 2013

Book Review: Christmas in Apple Ridge

13532254Warning: You will be reminded of the reason for Christmas by the time you’re through!

Reading Christmas books always puts me in the mood for the season. I begin to anticipate the season of Advent, Christmas carols, decorating my home, doing a little shopping, holiday baking and rereading the story of Christ’s birth.

Christmas in Apple Ridge: Three in One Collection was sent my way via WaterBrook Multnomah. It’s a collection of three novels in one and tells the stories of three couples as they discover the true meaning of Christmas and life.

In The Sound of Sleigh Bells, we meet Beth and Jonah. Beth is a business woman, mourning over the loss of her fiancé. Each year, she travels to find Amish goods to sell in the shops her family owns and one trip, she finds a carving that unites her with Jonah. Let the match-making begin! Jonah also has his own story and it’s their grief that brings them together – and together, they overcome and find more than they were looking for.

In The Christmas Singing, we meet Mattie and Gideon, childhood sweethearts who were pledges to be married, but just before the wedding, Gideon calls it off and marries another. Mattie, upset, moves away to start a business and be closer to family, only to return a few years later when Gideon finally tells her the reason for the failed engagement and the choices she has to make.

In The Dawn of Christmas, we meet Levi and Sadie. After both parties have experienced great heartache, life literally throws  them together. Yet, after both make feeble attempts at staying single, they come to realize that life may have had more in store for them after all.

Overall, each story was a great read and I plan on rereading them again in the future (next Christmas, perhaps). I would recommend them to anyone looking for an easy and truthful holiday read.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review; all opinions are my own.



hope arrived

We have lasting hope through the salvation we have in Christ – Hope means that even when it looks like it’s all over, it’s not all over yet. That’s why the Bible says we can rejoice even in our tribulations. God is working in our hard times to produce proven character and hope in us.  – Dr. Tony Evans, “Totally Saved”a2f99134889ad13c7c739ed264224338

For millions of people around the world, Christmas is nothing more than parties, gifts, decorations, and time off from work.

For me, a Christ-follower, it’s so much more than that.

Sure, I love the decorations and enjoy giving gifts (and receiving them – who doesn’t?), but that all pales in light of the real reason I celebrate this season: a season to remember the hope we have because of Jesus Christ.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6.19

Before Jesus came, God seemed distant. Read any book in the Old Testament and you’ll understand what I mean by that. He was hidden away in the Holy of Holies in the temple, accessible only by the high priest. Worshipers wondered whether their sacrifices were acceptable. They probably often doubted their salvation.

Then Jesus came and with him, hope arrived.

He has come for us
This Jesus
He’s the hope for all mankind
He has come for us
The Messiah
Born to give us life

Christ means hope – to the person out of work, to the struggling single mother (or father), to the dying believer. Even if you feel that you can’t find your way out of the murkiness of the struggles of this life, if you have Jesus, you have hope.

The hope he brings is not a false hope. It’s very real.

And when he arose from the dead in his new, resurrected, physical form (a form we will one day be in too), God ended that argument once and for all.

Christmas renews that hope for us; it reconfirms this hope for us, especially when our vision has grown dim. God settled it long ago and we have no reason to doubt. Jesus is the fulfillment of that hope; our deepest longings have come true.

Do not be afraid…be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! Joel 2.21

Find your hope in him this season… and choose to continue finding that hope beyond this season.


traditions: O Holy Night

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the Glory of your people Israel! Luke 2.32 NLT

Each year, I take part in singing Christmas carols, whether within the four walls of my downtown apartment, in front of church or with another group of people (via caroling or during a Christmas Eve service somewhere). I love them all, but O Holy Night is by far my most favorite Christmas carol. I have favorites…as in I like most of them (with the exception of Presley’s Blue Christmas and Burl Ives croon Holly, Jolly Christmas – I could so do without those each year), but O Holy Night takes the cake.

Every year

Every time I hear it.

Yes, I’ll admit that the vocal range is pretty broad, but, if played in the right key(s), I can hit them all and this little personal form of excitement (a triumphant Hallelujah!) takes over.

I had the privilege of hearing this song played out and even got to sing it at a pre-Christmas Eve candlelight service I attended last night with a dear friend.

You see – I work until close this evening and wouldn’t have had an option of even attending a Christmas Eve service somewhere by the time I’m off. When my friend asked if I’d like to join her and her mom for last night’s service, I immediately said yes.

It was awesome

The gospel was taught enthusiastically and being on the other end of the music part of the service, well, it was a nice reprieve. I could sing as loud as I wanted and when I heard the beginning chords of O Holy Night, my heart soared, just as it has since I was a little girl.

My favorite Christmas hymn

One that brings my heart to its knees the moment the chorus hits

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, divine! O night, O night divine!

[I’m even listening to David Crowder’s version right now…ending on Jeff Buckley’s chorus of A Broken Hallelujah…beautiful).

And then my favorite part arrived: the last chorus where the “O night…” is drawn out on a “ritardando,” held and then finished out. [You can hear Selah’s version here].

My soul soared

Just as it always does

Two thousand years ago, in the midst of so much imperfection, Christ was born on what can be considered one of the most perfect nights even in the history of mankind. God used imperfection circumstances and an imperfect location in the form of a humble manger to bring His perfect and holy Son into our world.

He could have so easily made Jesus’ birth a triumphant one, allowing Christ to be born in a palace, but he didn’t.

He chose not to.

This was the only way he could save all of mankind.

It is through all that imperfection that made this night so holy and so perfect.

The way God brought Jesus into our world is very similar to the way he works in our lives.

More often than not, God takes our imperfections – situations, circumstances, personalities, etc. – and uses them to perfect us; to make us who he intended us to be at the dawn of creation.

God loves to take the physical and emotional scars and use those to help us grow into stronger people. He also desires that we take what we have learned from our imperfections and help others who may be struggling with similar things.

And just as Jesus was a light to reveal God to all nations, we can be that same light as well.

Perhaps that’s why I love this song so much. Through the lens of the cross, I see my imperfections, and in spite of the fact that I am my worst critic, Jesus gives me the grace, strength and mercy to be kind to myself and, in doing so, I’m able to see what God is doing with and through my imperfection and where he has started perfecting certain aspects of my person.

Don’t let your imperfections hinder you from what God has for you. Allow God to use them to shape you into the person he designed you to be – and be a light in this dark world. Submit your weakness to God so that he can turn them into your greatest strengths.

December 24: the Son of God appeared

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. – 1 John 3.7-8

When verse 8 says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil,” what are the “works of the devil” that he has in mind? The answer is clear from the context.

First, verse 5 is a clear parallel: You know that He appeared in order to take away sins. The phrase “he appeared to…” occurs in verse 5 and verse 8. So probably the “works of the devil” that Jesus came to destroy are sins. The first part of verse 8 makes this virtually certain:

The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.

The issue in this context is sinning, not sickness or broken cars or messed up schedules. Jesus came into the world to help us stop sinning.

Let me put it alongside the truth of 1 John 2:1: My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. In other words, I am promoting the purpose of Christmas (3.8), the purpose of the incarnation. Then he adds (2.2), And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

But now look what this means: It means that Jesus appeared in the world for two reasons. He came that we might not go on sinning; and he came to die so that there would be a propitiation – a substitutionary sacrifice that takes away the wrath of God – for our sins, if we do sin.

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