The Body of Christ at Christmas By Lori A Alicea

You never realize how much you need the body of Christ until you find yourself quarantined behind the front door at Christmas.

Holiday festivities came to a halt two weeks ago and the Christmas rush ended before I even had time to pick up the last minute push.

Thankfully, all my decorating and shopping were done two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, but due to the circumstances behind the front door of December, the remnants of the holiday will be salvaged early January, though minus a bit of Christmas magic.

Hardships are put into perspective against the backdrop of those recent tornadoes which decimated complete towns, dreams, lives and any hope of Christmas.

So when I start to feel sorry for myself for the grandchildren and family I won’t be gathering around the dinner table with on December 25, I have to remember Christmas is an attitude of the heart, a child like faith that can be celebrated every day of the year.

‘Tis the season to count it all joy; the body of Christ has been the hands and feet of God these last two weeks outside our front door at Christmas.

You realize how grown-up your daughter has become over the years, showing up with grocery pick ups, video calls and bringing the grandchildren to smile at me through the front door window. Kissing their faces smeared against the glass, both begging me to open the door and let them in is almost too much to bear. DE7ED407-628C-4661-86AA-547266555F2A

Even Santa took the time to lift our spirits, as grandson Ethan sat in his Texas lap while visiting his father. F45729BF-C480-432B-9A32-69FD44E0B805

I’m sending Mrs. Claus a thank you note for this one.

 Our son ‘n love goes above and beyond by bringing us comfort things not on the list, things he believes might bring us joy during these hard times. 2A8305E3-E91E-4DD7-B4A4-9BD8B7A5D577

Our other children have been just as attentive with their gifts of chili, consistent calls of concern and care. We parents stand back and praise an almighty God for their maturity in honoring their parents when we need them most.

Such are the friends we’ve worshiped together with over the last thirty years who have stood outside our door as ambassadors of Christ, handing out hope during our hours most bleak.

You realize how blessed you are to have a Pastor who calls along side his wife who drips of true love in her encouragement.

How do I say thank you to the intercessory team who answers every text message with a powerful word of prayer.

Our life group leaders have stood closer than any brother; they are an extension of family and we can’t imagine not having them in our life.

David’s buddies have taken turns checking in on their friend; passing on the word to the other friends in their circle of influence.

My sisters have been an extension of our mother, reaching out in her simple ways had mom still walked this earth.

My older sister sends her heartfelt life verses taken from the trouble waters she’s navigated through the years, for which I find great comfort.

The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth and delivers us out of our troubles. Psalms 34:17. B6AA8B3F-BD0D-4DC0-B049-BA3FE801100A

My younger sister’s compassion gift lines the bottom of our tree with all her heart can unload. Her generosity will never find her lacking in life with the seeds she has sown throughout the years.

Standing behind the front door at Christmas I look back and remember mother never complaining when the holidays found her behind closed doors herself.

 Whatever God allowed and provided, mother seemed to capture the spirit of the season with her daughters looking on. But I only imagine when we left, a mother longed for Christmas in her own home, around her own tree with her kids and grandkids nearby.

Mother is my inspiration to harness the joy of Christ this Christmas, even with the remote possibility of David and me spending the holiday apart.

 Then are the late night text messages dear friends send because they can’t sleep and want to inquire of us no matter the hour. Lord, thank you for friends who shoulder the burdens, lighten our load too heavy to carry alone.

My youngest granddaughter Cova appeared in my dream singing about the power of Jesus, for which I woke up thanking God for this small gift through her.

I opened the dearest Christmas gift just yesterday when the telephone rang. A dear friend hosting a holiday gathering called as a group to encourage me after I unknowingly encouraged them thru an old blog of mine, “Countdown to Christmas Miracle”, for which was read at their table.

Only you Lord could orchestrate this moment of surprise. You never realize the power of words, even words spoken years ago. God’s words through us never go out void.

Without rush these beautiful ladies spoke a Christmas prayer over us through the phone, a gift I treasure more than they know.

David and I have been caught and swept away in the waves of the body of Christ; their hands and feet of generosity have brought a deeper meaning to our front door at Christmas.

Even after all of this, my heart keeps returning to those Kentucky towns minus so much this Christmas.

The news captured a man in the midst of his personal devastation, sitting at the remains of his piano giving God his Christmas gift of song:

There’s Something About That Name

By Gloria Gaither and Bill Gaither

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name. Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all heaven and earth proclaim.  Kings and kingdoms will all pass away, but there’s something about that name.

Yes, there’s something about that name.

Countless times over these last two weeks I’ve called on the name of Jesus to intervene on my husband’s behalf while praying in the hospital parking lot for him. B8FE7E9E-E7A7-4FFA-9DB0-D11A9D78E05A

 I must tell you the peace that passes all understanding when you call on the name of Jesus.

Jesus was born this Christmas; for you and for me.

Might we all find a moment to personalize this powerful song at Christmas.

As Jesus came to give us hope in whatever circumstance December finds us in.

A Christmas Child is Born By Lori A Alicea

With the Christmas celebration almost here, most have found themselves weary from the hustle and bustle of shopping, wrapping, baking, serving and gift giving; myself included.  

With the traditions of the season keeping us overwhelmed in the details, I find myself guilty of glossing over the true reason while we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Savior.

With children and grandchildren seated beside the tree come Christmas morning, it’s every parents dream to bless them with gifts from the heart. While putting smiles and magic into a child’s holiday is wonderful, this year I long to pause and ask myself the question: “Have I set aside a meaningful gift for Jesus?”After all, he truly is the reason for the season.

Come December 25, Jesus will receive this song from my heart, honoring what he wrapped and gave to us all at Christmas; Himself.

It’s not too late to find that perfect gift for Christ on Christmas morning.

A Christmas Child is Born By Lori A Alicea

Two thousand years ago began,  the story of one night. Appears to shepherds keeping watch, an angel caused them fright.

The angel said, be not afraid. I bring you news of joy. The Savior has been born to you, the barn he sleeps this boy.  

In Bethlehem, a sign awaits, where swaddling clothes are worn.  When find a manger bed, rejoice, the Christmas child was born. Jesus Resting on a Manger

The shepherds left their flocks at night, in Bethlehem they went. They hurried off, amazed to see, the child that Heaven sent. A7B196C1-0F72-4506-AEB0-C777AAA46E56

That night a Christmas star appeared, from East three Wiseman see.   The star would lead them to their King,  the place this child would be. wisemen following star

Bowed down three Wiseman worshipped him, this child’s face behold. Presenting myrrh and frankincense, to him their gifts of gold. 3AD1E282-5D1E-4250-ADB2-10DE43309096

A barn received Immanuel, no royal robes were worn. Expecting grand, so many missed, a Christmas child was born. 6B4B4ADB-6C1C-4278-897E-4C5E944F393D

Dear Lord, the shepherds left it all, to see if it was true. The stories told them long ago, to get a glimpse of you.

Might I be willing, leave behind, the minute when you call. Might I be stirred for one small glimpse, of you to leave it all.

The Wiseman traveled far because, their heart was for their King.  Prepared to share their love for him, arms full of gifts they bring.  

Might I come bearing gifts myself, for you this Christmas day. Surrendered heart I give to you, my life, please have your way.

This Christmas child no room for him, no vacancy the inn. Two thousand years ago one night, his story does begin.

Remind me when I leave no room, or vacancies within. No guest room but the Master Suite, reserved for you my Inn.

And though from heaven you were sent, to live with us on earth. The baby born a manger lay, a barn received your birth.

Might I allow you to grow up, from manger where you lay. Who died for me then live again, on Resurrection Day.

Dear Lord you are my gift today, a treasure wrapped in Thee.  Immanuel, our God with us, my present ‘neath the tree.

OH COME…By Lori A Alicea

With two weeks remaining until Christmas Day, I find myself in the throes of the season’s busyness, checking off lists and making new lists with moments to spare when Christmas morning arrives.

The grandchildren have wish lists of their own.thanksgiving writing santa

Our house is decorated with twinkling lights in every corner to capture a grandchild’s fantasy.IMG_E9218

Homemade sugar cookies are ready for them in the freezer to bake; my mother ‘n laws recipe which doesn’t disappoint their visit.

I can’t seem to find the time to write those Christmas poems I love to send each year instead of cards. But I am giving you access to one of my Christmas stories for your delight.

Countdown To A Christmas Miracle By Lori A. Alicea

My husband wants to bless our neighbors with a loaf of fresh baked bread and a jar of newly canned strawberry jelly, which has found its place on the list.

Christmas crafts await their turn, with a loud alarm sounding to get busy.

Mounds of gifts have yet to be wrapped, although for the small price of a home cooked dinner, my sister and daughter have scheduled a day to take this undesired task from my hands.IMG_9988

Yes, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.

The little girl in me refuses to grow up during this magical season.

I drive on purpose through the town’s crowded streets, slowly taking in the festival of lights on every corner.

Every now and then though when the chaos of the holiday rests for a moment of silence, I hear the Lord in the background beckoning me with the words of an old familiar hymn,

Oh Come….

Having my undivided attention, God whispers again to this child at Christmas,

Oh Come…

To a place two thousand years ago, where shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night, are visited by an angel, with good news to tell them.

8There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)

The shepherds said to one another,

Oh Come….

To see what the Lord has told them about.

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

To honor the Christ child, born lying in a manger.

Oh Come…let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Luke 2:15-16
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I’m guilty every year of being too busy at Christmas.

Yet, God wants to tear up our lists and start a new one with just two small words,

Oh Come…

To witness a child born in a lowly stable, as there wasn’t any room for them at the Inn.

A child born with nothing, but would grow up to give us everything in eternal life, when He gave up his life in exchange for ours on the cross.

Forgive me Lord for my overcrowded lists during the month of December.

Forgive me Lord for my inability to hear those two small words which are drowned out during the hustle and bustle of the holiday,

Oh Come…

To stop and adore you, the true reason for the season.

Lord, you are worthy of our praise.

You deserve the hymn of our heart…

Oh Come…Let us adore him, Christ the Lord.IMG_9991

Countdown To A Christmas Miracle By Lori A. Alicea

It’s the day after Thanksgiving in the year of 2000, and the holiday spirit couldn’t be any more exciting. The stores are bursting with shoppers and the smell of Christmas is in the air. Bell ringers are everywhere and Santa is taking orders from all the good little boys and girls. Holiday music is playing on the radio, and everyone seems to agree that Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year.

Looking through the fantasy eyes of a child at Christmas is so amazing. They still believe the unbelievable. They hold out hope for the impossible. They just know that somehow when Christmas morning arrives, all their dreams will come true. Of course when they wake up to their presents under the tree, they scream because they know that Santa didn’t forget them.

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How priceless to have a childlike faith at Christmas. Why does growing up cause us to lose the faith of a child? If only we as big kids could still believe the unbelievable. If only our hearts could hold out hope for the impossible. God has never forgotten us. He showed up on that first Christmas morning with His Son lying in a manger. And with every magnificent sun rising in the morning, God displays his unending faithfulness to show up. But why do we still doubt the Faithful one?

This particular Christmas I was having the most marvelous holiday season. For the first time in fifteen years, I wasn’t working and now enjoying my new professional title, “stay at home” mom. If dreams really do come true, I was living the dream of a lifetime. My wonderful life felt richly full, like a well springing up, spilling over and over. I couldn’t contain my happiness.
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Though Christmas for me was tremendously ecstatic, I couldn’t ignore the sad faces of the others in the family. Minus my income this year, Christmas would arrive without us being able to afford presents for the children. What mother couldn’t feel sad about that? For just a moment I wallowed in guilt, wondering if I made a mistake about my job. But I decided that choosing my family was the best choice and that God would have to take over during this holiday season.

As a child I remember watching the Charlie Brown Christmas show. While all his friends thought that Christmas had to be great lights and fancy ornaments, Charlie knew the true meaning of this holiday. That a baby boy was born in a humble stable; that three wise men traveled far following a bright star leading to this child lying in a manger. How this little boy was born with nothing, but would soon grow up to give everything. This is what Christmas meant to Charlie. This is what Christmas should mean to us all.

I decided that baby Jesus in the manger would be all that mattered this Christmas. I would count my blessings and name them one by one. I would begin to celebrate the joy of my family. And I would allow God to give us back our childlike faith by believing in the impossible. Whatever happened this year, Christmas was going to be the best ever.
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Though nobody was in the mood, I prodded that Christmas should continue and we should do all that we could to make this season special. So, with holiday music playing, hot chocolate simmering, it was time to trim the Christmas tree. Though we didn’t have money for a fresh tree, we did have a small artificial one to place in the bay window. I brought out all the ornaments that the children made during their early years of school. I loved looking at these works of art when my children’s hands were small. We hung lights around the window and lights around the tree. We decorated this miniature spruce with love as if it was real and when we plugged in this magical display, it looked as magnificent as a store front in Chicago on Michigan Avenue.

The advent calendar says it is now four weeks until Christmas. It seems strange not to be participating in all the holiday stress of planning and shopping. I really didn’t know what to do with myself during this time. But I do know the birth of Jesus was constantly on my mind. As Christian radio stations played Christmas music around the clock, a celebration of true Christmas resonated in my heart.

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One morning, my husband David and I were having coffee, talking about Christmas. He said he was so sad that he didn’t have any gift to give me this year. But a smile beamed from my face as I shared that he gave me the best gift ever, he gave me back my home. I meant this if I ever meant anything. Of course then we talked about gifts for the children. What would we do for them? I remember the Lord entering our conversation at that moment as he said, “Ask of me”. At that moment David and I looked above our dinner table as a plaque hung there for our reminder, “With God, all things are possible”. We stared at each other, got excited and begun to have the most childlike conversation. If we could give anything to the children, what would it be? Dreaming big, I declared I wanted to give the gift of memories this year. For my girls, I would give the gift of hope in the form of a hope chest. For my son, I would give the gift of promise with a diamond ring. And if God had any money left, I wanted to sew a quilt for each of my kids.

I always wanted my daughters to have a cedar-lined hope chest with the upholstery seat to pack away special things for their future. I thought it would bond my girls and me as we shopped for dishes and silverware, planning for their marriage someday. This chest would represent hope for a husband, dreams for a woman and a heritage passed from a mother to her daughter.

Our son was turning seventeen two months after Christmas. I wanted him to wear a gift of promise for this pivotal birthday. For the past year, our son had been on dating review, proving to us that he would honor and respect the girl he wanted to date. I tried to explain that this girl was somebody’s daughter and more importantly, God’s daughter. If he didn’t honor her during dating, a mother and two fathers would be hurt. Not to mention that he could emotionally wound this girl for life. But come his seventeenth birthday, if actions established trust, our son was free to date with our blessing. So, for this Christmas, I wanted to present our son with a diamond ring, representing his promise to God to honor him during his dating years until marriage.

After that morning of “ask and receive” revelation, David and I waited with bated breath to see what God would do. Sitting with our hands folded as Christmas inched closer, tested a husband and wife’s faith tremendously, but God has never failed in the past. Why start believing otherwise now. The advent calendar says it is just three weeks until December 24th.

Going to the mailbox has always been exciting to me. You just never know what surprise might be waiting. That Christmas, so many holiday cards of thoughtfulness arrived. If presents didn’t decorate the bottom of the tree, we at least had glittered cards to ring in the Christmas cheer into our home.

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I remember one particular afternoon, unusual excitement built as I made that walk up the hill to the mailbox. What did the mailman bring to us today? As I pulled down the door from the bright red mailbox, I reached my hand to grab what was inside. As I began to walk back down the hill, I sifted through the mail. Bills and junk make its way to the pile as usual, but oh, something different, a card from the Ladies Ministry at my church. Those ladies are so sweet to think of me. I couldn’t wait to open the letter, so I just ripped it apart like a little kid. Inside I found inspiring words of peace and good will. But as I finished reading the card, my eyes soon watered while my shaky hands held the faithfulness of God, a check for $150.00.

What three powerful words to live by, “God never forgets”. When the road gets rough with no place to go, when the night is so dark you wonder if you’ll ever find your way, when life becomes a puzzle that you just can’t put back together, remember, God never forgets. That Christmas afternoon, God’s promises became alive in my heart. God showed he cared enough to be there for me even in the small things.

I held that seed offering in my hand and marveled at God’s provision. While $150 in the natural surely wouldn’t cover the cost of two hope chests and a diamond ring. But I thought if Jesus could feed the multitude of five thousand with one small lunch and still have twelve baskets left over, what do I need to worry about? Who had time to worry anyway, the Christmas clock was ticking and power shopping was calling my name.

With two weeks left until Christmas, I had to move quickly. First on the list was finding two Lane hope chests lined with cedar wood, topped with an upholstery seat. I looked everywhere. I scanned the newspapers, checked out antique and resale shops, looked at naked furniture and even searched through bargain basement stores. But finding a hope chest within my price range became a futile effort.

With the hope chest search halted for the moment, I decided to shop for my son’s diamond ring. Like before, I searched the newspapers, visited resale shops and all the local jewelry stores. But as with the hope chests, I couldn’t find a diamond ring affordable.

At this moment, I had to admit that despair began to overwhelm me. I remember praying to the Lord while coming home from my last effort of shopping, “What am I to do?” I know the Lord didn’t put all of this on my heart for nothing, but it is now one week until Christmas and I still didn’t have two hope chests and a diamond ring.

While stopped at the light, waiting to make a final turn to my house, I’m thinking about the diamond ring I wanted to find for my son. While starring at the oncoming traffic, I couldn’t believe my ears when God began to speak as clear and audible as if he was sitting next to me in the flesh. God answers the question in my mind, “Where is this ring?” He said to me in His kind and gentle voice, “Don’t you remember? You always wanted to give the wedding band from the hand of your son’s father (my first husband), to him whenever he started dating”. With these words, tears overtook my eyes, because the voice of God just spoke. He shows up just like He always said he would. God never forgets.

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Since I had packed away this wedding ring many years ago, I had forgotten what it looked like. Finding the box was even more of a challenge, as I had moved three times since, but once the treasure hunt was over, I was excited to see this hidden surprise. When I slowly opened the box, sparkling on its velvet lining was a beautiful ring encircled in small diamonds. Who could have ever imagined such a priceless gift? Only God could have ever imagined. Immediately I took this ring to the jewelers to have it sized and cleaned and then wrapped for Christmas Eve. One gift down and two remained. The advent calendar says it is now four days until December 24.

By this time the tension is mounting, but my kitchen plaque still reminded me that “With God, all things are possible”. Miracles are always a moment away, even four days before Christmas. I was sitting back at the table where my husband and I made our original Christmas requests. In my heart I knew God was sending me a miracle, and that miracle came when the telephone unexpectedly rang. On the other end was a woman from my care group. She said she overheard me talking about my gifts of memories. She said that in her house was an old hope chest that wasn’t being used anymore. With a little bit of sanding and staining, it could look good as new she said. So, with this she wondered if I would be interested. Just as with the diamond ring, God overwhelmed me once again. If God pours His blessings from the sky, flood season was in high gear. In response to this generous woman, I said I would be honored to receive this gift.

As my husband and I were driving over to pick up the hope chest, my husband reminded me that we needed two hope chests instead of one. By this time my faith had swelled, ready to burst that doubt just could not enter in my mind. So I slowly looked over at my husband and simply said, “God doesn’t forget”.

I was so excited to arrive at this generous woman’s house to see the gift that God wanted one of my daughters to have. When we got there she first offered me some tea to share with her. As I am sitting at her table, I noticed many baskets hanging from her kitchen ceiling. At that moment I was reminded of the twelve baskets left over from the multitudes meal, all starting from a little boy’s lunch. Then I thought of the seed offering given to me in the afternoon mail; how it was yielding more than one mind could conceive.

After drinking tea with this friend of mine, she took me to the room where the hope chest sat. Just as she said, it needed the touch of a loving hand. But if love rested in the eye of the beholder, surely, I could see the love God wanted to give through this chest. After seeing my gift, I gave my friend a hug, coming from a truly grateful heart. Words couldn’t express my joy.

Just when I think it’s time to pack the chest and leave, my friend stops me and takes me to one more room in her house. Just as God says he is our God of the unexpected, I was not expected to see what I was about to see. Way in the corner of this room, underneath the many boxes that lie above it, sits another gift of my request, hope chest number two. But this time I felt I needed to go to heaven and give God a hug in person. How could one person take in all of this generous love from the Father? But that is how loved our Father wants us to feel all the time.

With four days until Christmas, two hope chests need to be sanded and 3 nosy kids at home, how could my husband be able to refinish this furniture without anyone suspecting. Of course God steps in once again as my sister calls to ask if the kids could spend the next 3 days with her as she has been missing them. What a mighty God we serve. He even organizes the babysitting.
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With the kids taken care of at my sisters, my husband and I rush to the store to buy sandpaper, stain, upholstery fabric and lots of coffee. Surely the next few days will be all nighters. After we pay for the needed items for the hope chests, I realize one final miracle has occurred. God had money left over to purchase material for the quilts I wanted to sew for the children.

With Christmas approaching in just hours, our house sounds like Santa’s elves working at the North Pole. The sander is blasting in the garage, the sewing machine is zooming in the kitchen and the cat is wondering what in the world is going on. If David and I ever bonded in our marriage, it was during this holiday season when Christmas was on God. How could love ever be more evident?

Christmas Eve has finally arrived and what joy is to be. I look at these Lane hope chests and can touch the love of the father’s hands that refinished them. I hold the quilts that will wrap around my children’s arms on a cold morning and can touch the love of the mother’s hands that made them. I hold the diamond ring that my son will wear and can feel the love of the father’s hands that once wore it. Christmas Eve has finally arrived and I can feel the love of my Father who went out of His way to show His unending love for me.

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