#ShortNews: A 7-year-old boy writes letter to Santa asking for ‘very good dad’

A domestic violence shelter has shared a heartfelt letter written by a seven-year-old boy to Santa asking for gifts and a “very very very good dad”. The handwritten letter was first found in the child’s backpack by his mother – who shared it with the SafeHaven of Tarrant County staff, in Fort Worth, Texas.

The touching letter has since prompted hundreds of donations, including all of the presents on Blake’s list, according to the shelter, who wrote: “Blake is getting exactly what he asked for from Santa.”

And while the organisation received “more than 10,000 donated gifts” this year, the shelter’s staff hopes that the letter will shine light on the bigger issue – the prevalence of domestic violence.

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/santa-letter-domestic-violence-shelter-dad-books-fort-worth-texas-a9254046.html

#ShortNews: Inside Wakefield Cathedral at Christmas

Inside the Grade I-listed building, which is open 365 days a year, Christmas trees are twinkling and rehearsals are under way for a lunchtime concert and a later carol service. It is a hive of activity with school children coming and going.

The cathedral has about 100,000 visitors annually and has a target that everyone who lives in the Wakefield district will come in at least once a year. Visitors wander around the cathedral, many craning their necks to take in the details of the roof or the dominating rood screen. But others come in to find peace and reflection.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-leeds-50717046?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/c630drz91jyt/christmas&link_location=live-reporting-story

#ShortNews: Holiday Stress Can Be Unbearable. But You Will Miss It When It’s Gone.

Anyone desperate enough to Google the term “holiday stress” will be rewarded (or become more overwhelmed) with about 395,000,000 results. Limit the search to “holiday stress statistics 2019” and the results come down to a measly 28,100,000 or so. There are even specific memes and GIFs on how to handle the financial, social and emotional stresses of the season, including my current favorite, the article that ran in this newspaper by a Buddhist teacher who advises practicing “acceptance,” an activity that even on nonholidays can often seem as challenging as climbing Mount Everest in an ice storm.

As the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute’s newsletter put it, “Because the holiday season often requires us to keep track of and pay attention to a greater number of responsibilities than usual, the brain’s prefrontal cortex goes into overdrive. Over time, a high level of demand can decrease memory, halt production of new brain cells and cause existing brain cells to die.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/20/opinion/holiday-stress.html?emc=rss&partner=rss

Advent Week-4 (2019): The Candle Of Love

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

When Jesus came to this earth, He brought a special kind of love. This love is unselfish, compassionate, unconditional. He loves us just as we are. Our condition is irrelevant to His love. It is a love that picks us up just where we are in life and carries us further than we could ever go on our own.

He gives us His love so we can give it away in the same unselfish, compassionate, unconditional way He gave it to us. He tells us this love will be our trademark. It will distinguish us as followers of Jesus.

Your actions reflect Jesus to the world around you. You can choose to offer love or to hold it back. In situations where it is hard to offer love, ask Him to give you an abundance of His own in your heart so you are able to give it away.

As you move into Christmas this week, be reminded of the distinguishing mark you carry as a follower of Jesus. Ask for His love to be evident in your words and actions as you interact with others. Seek to bring unity and balance into relationships or situations. Listen to people with sincerity and interest. Ask for a graciousness that comes from His Spirit as you mingle with those in your circle.

Wear the love of Jesus as your distinguishing mark as His follower.

A PRAYER FOR LOVE

Heavenly Father,

The whole meaning of Christmas can be explained in one little four letter word…LOVE. You sent your gift of pure love to us that first Christmas. Love descended from heaven to be born of a virgin. Love lay in the scratchy hay of a manger in a meager barn in Bethlehem. All of your love, God, was robed in the delicate skin of a baby and wrapped in swaddling clothes. This final week of Advent, help us to reflect on the magnitude of love that was made manifest in Jesus.

Your word became flesh and you made your dwelling among us when Jesus was born. You set aside all of the glory and splendor of heaven and chose the most humble way to enter into your kingdom. Beneath the stars, surrounded by all of the hosts of heaven, Love came. Welcomed by an earthly mother and father, shepherds and wise men, Love came. 

You are King and King and Lord of Lords, Messiah and Ruler of All, yet you came not as a lion but as a lamb. You came as an innocent baby whose purpose was walk this earth in complete love, and then to sacrificially give his life as an atonement for the sins of His children. Emmanuel. God with us. Love in the form of a man.

That was your plan. From beginning to end, you knew every minute of Jesus life. You knew that the cross of Calvary was waiting for Jesus, yet you still sent your only Son so that our sin debt could be paid and we could walk blameless because of the shed blood of Jesus.

There is no greater gift then this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You willing gave the gift of your life because of your love. Your righteous blood covered our sin. You redeem and restore us when we confess you as Lord and Savior of our life. In that moment you give us the gift of your love for all eternity. We receive grace upon grace and mercy upon mercy in that moment.

The greatest gift of all came that first Christmas. It wasn’t wrapped in a beautiful package and set under a decorated tree. The greatest gift came wrapped in the flesh of baby Jesus and laid in the rough wood of a manger. Our perfect gift would later be rewrapped in the scars of our sin and nailed to the rugged wood of a cross on Calvary, all because of love.

Father, this final week of Advent, fill our hearts and minds with the significance of that truth. Thank you, Lord, for loving us enough to send Jesus.

In Jesus’ precious name we pray.

Amen

 

Many thanks and blessings to Gail Rodgers and Bobbie Schaeperkoetter

A Visit and a Song (Part 04/04)

A Blessing Called Sanctuary

You hardly knew
how hungry you were
to be gathered in,
to receive the welcome
that invited you to enter
entirely—
nothing of you
found foreign or strange,
nothing of your life
that you were asked
to leave behind
or to carry in silence
or in shame.

Tentative steps
became settling in,
leaning into the blessing
that enfolded you,
taking your place
in the circle
that stunned you
with its unimagined grace.

You began to breathe again,
to move without fear,
to speak with abandon
the words you carried
in your bones,
that echoed in your being.

You learned to sing.

But the deal with this blessing
is that it will not leave you alone,
will not let you linger
in safety,
in stasis.

The time will come
when this blessing
will ask you to leave,
not because it has tired of you
but because it desires for you
to become the sanctuary
that you have found–
to speak your word
into the world,
to tell what you have heard
with your own ears,
seen with your own eyes,
known in your own heart:

that you are beloved,
precious child of God,
beautiful to behold,
and you are welcome
and more than welcome
here.

~finished.

by Debie Thomas

#MoralStory: Admire Their Glow

I looked at my beautiful Christmas tree and sighed. It was time. The New Year was a week old and my tree still stood in the corner of our room with its collection of memories proudly displayed in a shower of colorful lights. I’d procrastinated long enough.

I got up, went to the garage and hauled all the boxes into the room. The garland was the first to come down. The tree looked naked already. I took the large ornaments off next. They made a large pile on our bed. An hour later, our bed was covered with Christmas memories. Each pile contained an ornament along with its matching brothers and sisters from sets purchased many years ago.

I prepared the boxes and carefully placed ornaments in their protective packaging, pausing every few minutes to admire a favorite. “Hey, little Santa!” I held the Santa from my childhood. “Thanks for being my friend for almost fifty years.” He was a little ragged but still gives me a flood of wonderful memories. “Until next year, my dear friend.”

There was a collection of handmade ones. My children made them in their first years of school, more than twenty years ago. Made by tiny hands, they are far from perfect in design, but every year they go on my memory tree – memories of young giggles on Christmas morning and a smiling face when they handed them to me when I came home from work. “Look what we made, Daddy!”

“Oh! It is beautiful. Let’s find a special spot on the tree for it.”Read More »

When A Child is Born

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A ray of hope, flickers in the sky
A tiny star, lights up way up high
All across the land, dawns a brand new morn
this comes to pass when a child is born

a silent wish, sails the seven seas
The winds of change whispering the trees
And the walls of doubt crumble, tossed and torn
This comes to pass when a child is born

A rosy hue settles all around
You’ve got the feel you’re on solid ground
For a spell or two no-one seems forlon
This comes to pass when a child is born

It’s all a dream and illusion now
It must come true, some times soon somehow
All across the land, dawns a brand new morn
This comes to pass when a child is born

It’s all a dream and illusion now
It must come true, some times soon somehow
All across the land, dawns a brand new morn
This comes to pass when a child is born

When a child is born

#ShortNews: “Did you know Christians were the first Iraqis?”

Leaders of Iraq’s Christians unanimously cancelled Christmas-related celebrations in solidarity with the protest movement — but the aims of their stance go deeper than tinsel and fairy lights. Slogans of a united Iraq free of sectarianism resonate deeply within the community, which since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein has fearfully observed its diminishing influence amid growing Shiite-dominated politics shaping state affairs. The Christians have also left Iraq in huge numbers over the years, after being targeted by militant Sunni groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

Falling demographics capture their existential anxieties, explained Sako. Christians numbered around 1.5 million before the U.S. invasion 16 years ago, roughly 6% of the population. Today the Christian population is believed to be less than a third of that figure, though accurate estimates are hard to come by given the lack of census data in Iraq.

Christmas decorations were forbidden within the fine interiors of Baghdad’s Chaldean Patriarchate.

Source: https://apnews.com/07cfd7a97feb61b371708fcc6db0ab8e

#ShortNews: God’s works are unpredictable, Pope tells musicians

The time before Christmas calls us to ask ourselves: what is it that I am waiting for in my life?  What is the great desire of my heart? You too, with your songs, help awaken or reawaken this healthy human “yearning” in the hearts of many people. Deep down, it is God Himself who puts this desire, this “thirst” in our hearts. And He comes to meet us by this route. Certainly not in the vain compulsion to acquire possessions or to keep up appearances. It is not there that God comes; no one will meet on that route. But surely He comes wherever there is hunger and thirst for peace, hunger and thirst for justice, freedom and love.

In this act of humility, we find ourselves before a disconcerting mystery. God is unpredictable and constantly acts in unforeseeable ways. By taking us aback in this way, He constantly invites us not to grow proud but to grasp His disarming power in every little gesture of goodwill. This is all the more true for those who – like you – work closely with young people, and have a certain influence on their ways of thinking and acting. Speaking about your role, Saint Paul VI observed that the world “needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the heart of man; it is that precious fruit that resists the wear and tear of time, unites generations and makes them share in wonderment” (Address of Pope Paul VI to Artists, 8 December 1965).

Read more Holy Father Frances’s greeting the audience, in the Vatical Apostolic Palace last Saturday; http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2019/12/13/191213c.html