Lorri Dudley

Be moved. Be changed. Love because you are loved.

Category: Christimas

Girl under Christmas Tree

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Girl making list under the Christmas Tree

“Is it time yet?” A gallon of Redbull doesn’t compare to Christmas anticipation. The merry gentlemen may be resting but the holiday electrifies little children as they countdown the weeks, days, and eventually hours.

My legs used to wiggle under the covers, and my ears strained for the sound of jingle bells or reindeer hooves on the rooftop. My brother refused to sleep until the moment of Christmas arrived. He’d call out, “Is it time yet? Is it Christmas?”

If you enjoy sleep, Christmas Eve at my house was not the place to be. We’d rouse our parents every fifteen minutes to see if it was time to open presents. By the time morning arrived, Mom would drag her sleep-deprived body out of bed and stumble to get a cup of coffee. Dad would get their revenge by making us wait at the top of the stairs while he checked to see if Santa truly paid a visit.

The anticipation was almost our undoing. Permeant smiles fixed on our faces, and the occasional nervous giggle burst through our lips. Our hands gripped the railing and our feet danced beneath us, ready to bolt the moment we were given the okay.

Are we looking for the return of God the same way?

Matthew 24:42 and 44 says, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming… You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Are we prepared?

Do we wait with expectancy, or have we become complacent like the foolish bridesmaids from Matthew 25:1-4? “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.”

Are we staying awake with anticipation?

Sleeping Santa

Matthew 25 continues: “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 
The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”

Are we ready for the banquet or late for the party?

The decorations are set, dishes prepared, and table arranged for a wedding feast. Jesus awaits his bride. Are we anxiously anticipating the day our Bridegroom arrives? Are our oil lamps full? Have we set our hearts right?

As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’s birth, let us not forget the reason He came.

And that He’s coming again.

Girl with lamp waiting expectantly

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The Duke's Refuge book cover

It’s the Final Countdown

The Duke's Refuge book cover
Less than a month until The Duke’s Refuge will be available. Preordering for paperback copies will be available in the next few days.
Christmas Mall Shopping

The count down begins. Two weeks until Christmas. Thirteen shopping days left. Seven or less if you’re ordering online with delivery. We have our who-to-buy-for lists, a pile of Christmas Cards that we still have to run to the post office and buy stamps to mail, and presents to wrap (but the good scissors keep disappearing, and so we get desperate and start using kiddie scissors much too small for our fingers).  Then there’s always that one person for whom you forgot to purchase a gift. The one that springs up at the last minute. With a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you dash down to the nearest store, whether it’s CVS, the grocery store, or the gas station and grab anything that looks like it might be somewhat thoughtful. You try to play it off, “Oh, well I remembered that one time when you had a hankering for Slim Jim’s, so I just wanted to make sure you never again went without.”

Christmas can be crazy and unnerving, but things haven’t changed in a couple thousand years. It was much the same the night Jesus was born.

Bethlehem bustled with people pouring into town. The census drew men, women, and children from far and wide. Relatives laid out blankets on the floors and rooftops to accommodate all the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who were forced to visit by a decree of the King. Vendors worked overtime to sell their wares, not wanting to miss out on the opportunities provided by the influx of customers. Innkeepers made up beds in every alcove and crevice to accommodate guests. They were much too busy seeing to the demands of their current patrons to make room for a poor couple. Overwhelmed and understaffed, they didn’t have time to care for the needs of a teenage girl about to go into labor or notice when a messiah was born in a nearby barn.

They didn’t miss it because of their evil acts or because they were bad people.

They missed it because they were too busy.

Stained Glass Manager Scene

Life doesn’t slow down or stop around Christmas, it only gets busier, but I don’t want to miss the miracle and blessing of Christmas. I can get caught up in the demands and the hustle and bustle as much as the next person, so I have to make an extra effort to pause and remember why we celebrate. I have to set aside moments to seek God and soak in the true reason for Christmas.

A savior was born.

God took on human form with all its frailties, infirmities, and weakness, so that we could understand the depths of His love, the extreme measures He would take, and how much he would sacrifice not to be separated from His beloved children.

God stepped down from His royal throne and curled up in a dirty and dank manger, so we may call ourselves His children and know His peace and joy for all eternity

Come, Lord Jesus.
Our Immanuel
God with us.

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Water drops splashing

Clean Behind Your Ears

“Did you wash behind your ears and neck?” my grandmother always Earasked before she squeezed me and kissed me there. I’d have a moment of panic knowing I’d probably forgotten. Sometimes, it was because I was in a hurry or too tired or lazy. On occasion, it was a willful act of defiance because I didn’t want to come in from playing when all my friends were still outside enjoying themselves.

It never seemed like a big deal until we’d visit my grandmother. I knew she was going to brush back my hair and perhaps find dirt. If she did, she never mentioned it. She kissed every square inch until I was squirming from the ticklish sensation.

Her kisses filled me with the hope that there is a love greater than my hidden dirt.

God’s love is like that. He sees our rebelliousness, our hidden sins. Yet, He loves us anyway. Enough to leave heaven and become human so that we might understand the extent of His love.

Back around the time of Jesus’s birth, the Israelites were waiting and praying for someone to save them from the tyrannical Roman rulers. God offered something even better—hope. It came in the unexpected form of a baby with a supernatural love to save us from our sins.

Hope is knowing that this isn’t all there is.

There is more to life than this moment.

Hope is a savior born who didn’t just come to save the day but to save us for all time.

water splashingHe washes us clean even the hidden dirt behind our ears and on the backs of our necks. He sets our eyes not on this world but on the one that is to come — one where we will have new bodies free of pain, where there are no tears, and where death has been vanquished.

That is our hope, born on Christmas day – not save from temporary troubles but to save us from our sins for all time and to give us eternity with Him. Hope is in the one who was, and is, and is to come because God is love (1 John 4:8).

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12

 

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Magi following Star of Bethlem

Wishing You a Messy Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas stories is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robertson. I choke up every time I read about the Herdman children, a ragtag group of troublemaking siblings, who discover the true meaning of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, book cover by Barbara RobinsonChristmas while performing in a church pageant. As I read, my kids will hear my voice crack, look up, and shake their heads, “Mom, are you crying?” I’m touched by how Imogene Herdman’s veil is smudged and crooked, and Leroy Herdman, dressed as one of the Wise Men, carries in the ham given them by social services instead of the customary bowl of incense. They made the church’s lovely, traditional pageant into a messy, discombobulated event.

Which, truth be told, was much more how the real event happened.

The delivery of all of my children took place in a hospital with nurses and doctors caring for me. They all suited up for the delivery and scrubbed with sanitizer before they entered the delivery room. Mary, a teenager, gave birth in a lowly dirt floor manger among animals and straw. There were no nurses to hold her hand and tell her when to push. There was no doctor to gently guide baby Jesus into this world. He was born in a barn and slept in an animal’s water trough with sheep bleating and donkey’s neighing.

And then God’s guests appeared. Back in Jesus’s day, there was no indoor plumbing. There was no deodorant. People stank especially those that tended Shepherd and sheepafter animals like shepherds. Shepherds spent days under the hot sun and slept on the cold ground at night. After the Israelites settled in agricultural based Egypt, shepherding lost its prominent position as a trade. Sheep and goats were a threat to crops and therefore a menace to settled farmers. Shepherds were relegated to pastoring their animals only in desert areas and were shunned like tax collectors (Shepherd’s Status, Alcorn 2008). Yet, God sent an angel to invite them to be the first to meet the savior.

There is not much known about the wise men, except that they were called magi and came from the East. Historical records depict the magi as dreamers and stargazers. They sat in the presence of kings who asked their advice for Magi following Starinterpreting astrological signs, dreams, and omens. But, they didn’t know everything as seen in the story of Daniel and in Joseph. When the magi were asked to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar and the Egyptian Pharaoh’s dreams, these wise men didn’t have the answers. They were still searching. So when a bright star appeared in the night these pagan magicians felt compelled to follow it through the desert and bow down to exalt a Hebrew baby as king (Magi, Wise Men or Kings? It’s complicated. by Chad Ashby).

When I think of Jesus’s birth, it’s as if God went out of his way to make a point: Jesus came for everyone. God chose for His one and only son to be born to a teenage girl in a dirty manger. The first visitors were stinky shepherds and pagan astrologers.

If anyone ever wonders if they are good enough to be loved by God, please remember the Christmas story. God didn’t send His son just to save the righteous. Jesus is the gift of amazing grace available to anyone willing to accept the offering. God gave His son to become the light and hope for the blue-collar shepherds, the spiritually lost intellectuals, and the Herdmans of this world.

And most of all, He came for you.

Wishing you a merry and messy, Christmas, because we all need a savior.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, here’s a snippet from the Best Christmas Pageant Ever movie (1983) where the Herdman’s are performing the Christmas Story.

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