boxing-dayThey saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11


Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas Day in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations. December 26th also commemorates the life of St. Stephan, a Christian deacon in Jerusalem, known for his service to the poor and the first Christian martyr (he was stoned to death in ad 36). In Britain, tradespeople collected “Christmas boxes” of money or presents the day after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. Since domestic helpers would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food.


Today, in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the United States. Boxing Day sales with dramatic price reductions are common in Canada, often becoming the day of the year with the greatest revenue. My parents were married on December 26th, so it was a long-standing family joke that Boxing Day was the day my mom and dad got out the gloves.


The old tradition of Boxing Day reminds me that giving gifts doesn’t have to be limited to December 25th, or any other specific day of the year. The Magi were a little late for the party, but I’m sure Mary and Joseph appreciated them showing up, especially with some pretty ritzy gifts for that time in history. I imagine the frankincense and myrrh—and especially the gold—were put to good use in Joseph’s household.  And the fact that these kings had travelled such a distance to see this special Baby made their visit all the more appreciated. Surprises are often the nicest presents, for both giver and receiver. So even when all the leftover turkey sandwiches have been eaten and the last guest has gone home, let’s continue the season of giving: of ourselves, our time and our talents throughout the new year!


Baby Jesus, You were the best gift ever to humankind! Help us to continue giving ourselves in Your name. Amen


christ-carrying-the-crossThen He said to them all: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23


I ordered a Lenten Bible study for my group to work through during Advent! I knew and loved one of the authors, and I was so excited to use her new book, I didn’t even think about the two different seasons of the church year. So I sent for several copies of Walk In Her Sandals edited by Kelly M. Walquist with a special section written by my friend and neighbor Stephanie Landsem.


Maybe this wasn’t such a dumb idea after all! Our Bible study group has been together for several years and we all want to challenge ourselves to dig deeper into the Word of God and His enduring love and grace. What better way to do that than to contemplate His life, death and resurrection simultaneously?


As Advent ensued, I began to see many parallels between the season of Christ’s birth and the days of Holy Week. As we studied Christ’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, it reminded me of all the fanfare at Christ’s birth—heavenly hosts proclaiming the news, angelic choirs singing, kings visiting from afar. And Holy Thursday was clearly a time of gifts being offered from the King in the form of His body and blood, just as gifts were offered to the King at His birth. Good Friday shows us the depths of human despair, foreshadowed by the words of Simeon to Mary at the infant Jesus’s consecration: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Holy Saturday is the in-between time when those who loved Jesus waited and prayed, not knowing what was ahead, just as Joseph and Mary went about raising their first-born Son with no concept of His future. And Easter Sunday—yes, we know the rest of the story! And so we gaze upon this tiny Infant King each Christmas, in wonder and awe, within the fullness of our faith. We see the whole panorama of His life and we are not afraid. Christ was born, Christ lived, Christ died, and He rose again. From Christmas to Easter, the story ends with God’s amazing surprise.


Thank you, Jesus, for the story of Your life. And thank You for the story of mine. Amen


walk-in-her-sandalsWalk In Her Sandals: Experiencing Christ’s Passion Through the Eyes of Women (Ave Maria Press Inc., 2016), edited by Kelly M. Walquist, is available at


breadBut you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One Who will be ruler over Israel, Whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Micah 5:2


Did you know Bethlehem means “house of bread?” It is not a coincidence that the One Who gave His body as bread and His blood as wine in sacrifice for our sins was born in a town called “house of bread.” Though our Lord was born to unwed teenage parents in a filthy stable that stunk of animals, His birth was attended by angels and heavenly hosts and kings from far off lands. The prophet Micah said He would rule over all of Israel, but not in the way the people expected Him to rule. Not with might and great force did this Infant King come to reign over the people. But He would reign in the promise God made many years before, to melt our hearts of stone and write His Word on those tender, gentler hearts. With a Child Who lived to die, to be the perfect Lamb sacrificed for our sins—our sins, that held Him to the cross as surely as the nails driven into his flesh.


Jesus said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh” (John 6:51). During Advent, as we await the celebration of His miraculous birth, let us remember His words—God’s Word—that we would not be won to Him by force or compulsion. No, this Child would lead us into a New Covenant of redemption and forgiveness, grace and everlasting mercy. All we need to do is ask Him into our hearts—confess that He is Lord and Savior of our lives, and pledge to live with Him as our guiding light.


Let’s sing our Christmas songs with extra feeling this year and remember the Infant Who offered Himself as the “bread of life” (John 6:35). We shall never again experience spiritual hunger if we remember the One born in “the house of bread.”


Come now, Lord Jesus, into our hearts and our lives. Make Your presence known in our celebration of Your birth and each day of the New Year. Amen


mouseFor all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23


I love all of God’s creatures. Except mice. Our basement seems to be mice’s preferred place to live in our neighborhood. We can’t figure out how they are getting in because we have plugged up every hole we can find. We live right next to a two thousand acre nature preserve, so as soon as we have a good solid freeze in the fall, the mice pack their little mouse luggage and make a bee line for the Mystery Hole. We have resigned ourselves to deal with the mice the old fashioned way: trap them out.


My husband and I take turns with “mouse patrol.” Every day, one of us has to descend to check the traps, remove the dead mice and reset the traps. Some days there are no mice in the traps, but we know the mice are down there. They leave telltale signs like nasty little droppings or entire nests in unique places like my conch shell collection. Sometimes all of the traps are full, which is a bad day for the mice.


I’ve decided my sins are like those mice. They seem to crawl into my life, even though I think I’ve got all my “sin holes” plugged with “the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11) But I must have overlooked some weak spots in my spiritual protection because the sins sneak in and wreak havoc in my otherwise abundant life. They leave inconspicuous signs in my Christ-like mind, like a bad attitude, or a tendency to gossip, or an unkind thought that becomes a thoughtless comment. And suddenly there I am with my little sins hanging out, like the dead mice in the traps in my basement. Then I have to clean out the leftover little sins and reset my spiritual filters to a higher setting so the little sins can’t get in again. (But they do anyway.)


Keeping little sins (and mice) out of my life is a busy job, but it’s an important one. Constant vigilance is required, as well all as that spiritual armor. But with little sins (like mice), it’s best to deal with a small problem before it becomes a big problem.


Lord, cleanse my life of small sins and my basement of mice! I can’t do this without You! Amen