Archive for December, 2013

From Our House to Yours

By Kathy NickersonDecember 23rd, 2013mercyNo Comments

Merry Christmas

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Angelic Thoughts

By Kathy NickersonDecember 19th, 2013mercyNo Comments

AngelAda

 

Bless this glorious angel. May it remind us to always announce the good news of your birth to the world.

I think we underestimate angels. I mean, I don’t want to worship them. When the apostle John tried that in the Book of Revelation, the angel said, “Stand up! I’m just a fellow servant.”

But, they do live in Heaven, which is pretty awesome. And they do flit about the earth doing marvelous and mysterious things. And, they must be fierce characters because almost every time they showed up in the Bible they started the conversation by saying, “Don’t be scared…”

I don’t want to freak you out, but I’ve had a couple of encounters in life where I thought I could feel the presence of angels. Okay. I probably freaked you out. But I’m pretty sure that if God opened our eyes, we’d see that angels really are “all around us” as the songs have said.

They aren’t here to wow us, but to help us. That is their job description. “Help the weak humans transcend their earth stuff and touch the supernatural things of the spirit.” Or, something like that.

At this time of year, angels show up mostly as Christmas ornaments or as little girls dressed in bed sheets for the church pageant. Those things are sweet. But let’s not forget angels are warriors. Special Forces, in fact. And they meant business when they came to announce Good News to men and Peace on Earth. They came declaring war on the world of darkness.

And… they win.

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Walking with the Wise Men

By Kathy NickersonDecember 16th, 2013mercy2 Comments

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Bless these wise men bearing splendid gifts. May they inspire us to lay our shining best at your feet.

This is one of my favorite prayers from the nativity tradition in our house. I’m especially fond of the magi, who are only mentioned in Matthew’s gospel. I don’t really care if they came to the manger or if they showed up two years later as some scholars suggest. I don’t even mind that the Bible never says there were three of them. Only that they brought three gifts. And, we don’t actually know their names.  Those have been made up for television, movies, and songs. (But they do sound wonderful, don’t they?)

However, those are side issues to me. You can call the wise men Phil, Willie, and Si if you want. The main point is this: A group of dreamers from a distant land followed a star for at least two years in search of a baby king.

Seriously, that makes all my dreams seem so reachable.

Doesn’t it inspire you? Surely, if the God of the Universe could accomplish that, He can show me how to love my husband. Or simplify my life. Or write my next book.

If you are like me, you probably don’t think your gifts are all that shiny in the first place. (Except for our children, of course. They sparkle.) But most of us struggle with even admitting we have a gift to write or sing or paint or rock other people’s babies all day. (That’s a biggie.)

Even so, let’s lay them at His feet. Every gift we’ve been given, whether large or small. Let’s bring them to the manger and put them down beside the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, let’s let Jesus use them any way He wants.

 

 

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A New Shepherd’s Prayer

By Kathy NickersonDecember 12th, 2013mercyNo Comments

Today’s Nativity prayer from Thirty Days to Glory goes like this:

Bless this caring shepherd and the small lamb cradled in his arms. May it whisper of your caring embrace in our lives.

possible shepherd

We always used that prayer, but I’m going to revise it. Those phrases are much too tame for the fierceness of a shepherd in ancient Palestine. Those guys killed lions and bears with a club. They fought off thieves and parasites. They battled the stupidity of the sheep and the despair of their own isolation. These guys were more John Wayne than Mister Rogers.

I’m not sure what the prayer should say, but it should be manly. And rugged. It should speak of battles and protection, storms and shelter, life and death. Then, it should lead over dark hills into a crowded city where the rest of society cringes at the smell. It should kneel at a manger with a star overhead. And then it should whisper words of adoration from the lips of men more accustomed to rough speech.

And, when the prayer ends, it should tell everyone who hears it that “Unto you is born this night in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

That would be an appropriate prayer.

 

 

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The Blessing Grows

By Kathy NickersonDecember 9th, 2013mercy13 Comments

Decades ago, our family started a tradition of saying prayers as we assembled our nativity scene each year. When we first started, our youngest child was so small we had to lift her so she could place the Baby Jesus in the manger. With four young children and a country-doctor husband, I felt a bit stretched in those days. So, when I put Mary in the scene, I took this prayer to heart:

www.kathynick.com_newmother

Bless this virgin mother. May she teach me patience as I tend my little ones.

This year, the ritual shows up in my novel, Thirty Days to Glory. My character, Catherine, is working hard to embrace the “changing scenes of this life.” That is autobiographical, of course. The little girl who used to place Baby Jesus in our manger just gave birth to her third child.

These days, I usually put the creche together on my own. If Wendell happens to be home, he joins me in spirit. But Christmas-mania is kind of my domain. I don’t mind a bit. I put on music, dim the lights, and unwrap each piece as if I’ve never seen it before. I still whisper all the prayers, too. More out of habit than ritual. But it is soothing to my soul. Especially when I settle Mary beside the manger. Because then I repeat the second half of her prayer. The part I added when our eldest child went off to college, and I could see her siblings lining up with dreams to follow.

… and courage when they have grown and I send them out as gifts into the world.

So, Merry Christmas from our house to Kirksville, Omaha, Casper, and the world.

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The Blessing of the Father

By Kathy NickersonDecember 5th, 2013mercy6 Comments

In Thirty Days to Glory, Catherine loves the family tradition of praying a blessing over each piece of the Nativity scene. It’s a tradition I borrowed from real life at our house. Each time my husband placed Joseph on the mantle, he read this prayer:

Bless this earthly father in his simple robe. May he remind me of all that you have entrusted to my care. 

John & Mike 3

True fathers are one of the greatest blessings in the earth. And, unfortunately, they are kind of rare, I think. If I were the HR Director of the Earth, these would be some things I’d like to see on a man’s resume before he was handed a baby.

1. Recognizes his assignment and call as a dad. Even if his children weren’t birthed from his loins.

2. Takes his job seriously. Willing to flee to Egypt if necessary. (Or to work a job he doesn’t exactly love so he can provide a home for the children he does.)

3. Gets his orders from God. And teaches his children how to do the same thing.

4. Knows how to protect his offspring from evil kings. (They don’t wear crowns and carry scepters these days.)

5. Doesn’t freak out when his children start to find their own way. (Staying behind in the Temple and such.)

6. Able to train up a child in the way he should go so perfectly that said child will eventually change the world. Or at least his part of it.

This job description from the life of Joseph of Nazareth might seem like a lot to live up to. But don’t worry. The prerequisite course is simply a heavy dose of life in the Holy Ghost. You can do it.

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The Cattle are Lowing

By Kathy NickersonDecember 2nd, 2013mercy1 Comment

If you have read Thirty Days to Glory, you know about Catherine’s ritual of praying a blessing over the pieces of her nativity each year. I stole that from real life in our house. We followed this tradition for almost twenty years while our children were growing up. And, if you drop in this year while I’m arranging our nativity on the mantle, you’ll still hear me whisper…

Bless this donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem and these animals in attendance at His birth. May they remind us to be humble in the glory of Your presence.

tired donkey

Everyone loves the donkey. His floppy ears. His gentle eyes. Those spindly legs and the sagging back, so frail to carry the heavy load of eternity-about-to-be-born. The donkey is the perfect symbol of humility at Christmas time.

But, he isn’t in the Bible, you know.

We can certainly assume the very pregnant Mary rode to Bethlehem somehow. It might have been on a donkey. Or,  it might have been in a cart behind an ox. Or, she might have walked. The writers left those details to our imagination. And that, dear Reader, is my point. It is fine to imagine.

I personally love the imagery of sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys lying quietly near the manger when Jesus was born. It certainly could have happened that way according to the customs of the day. And the picture magnifies the truth that Jesus moved from Heaven’s glory to the poorest place on earth so He could be Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

I want to remember that. In the midst of all the twinkling lights and the lavish gifts, I want to remember the humble donkey. His floppy ears. His spindly legs. His less-than-lovely odor. And I want to remember that our destiny, yours and mine, rested that night on the King of Glory lying in a manger. Possibly surrounded by cattle who were lowing. (Which is the sound cattle make, in case you ever sang the second verse of Away in a Manger and wondered about that.)

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