Merry Christmas!

I stayed up until almost midnight wrapping Christmas presents. This is the worst I have ever procrastinated. I'm up early after getting six very sound hours of sleep. We'll be going to see some of my family in Mt. Carmel today and then to John's mom's to celebrate with the Howertons. It will be a very good day. I have to frost my carrot cake and throw a few things together. So I really shouldn't be on the computer. I should be getting things done. But while I'm sipping a cup of coffee, I just had to leave a Christmas message for any of you who happen to log on here today.

Last night we attended our annual Christmas Eve service at church. We have Christmas Eve service every year, no matter what day it falls on. Everyone I know looks forward to this service. It's not long -- about an hour. But it's special and meaningful to so many of us.

John and I are always asked to serve communion at the Christmas Eve service. This is one of the highlights of my year. We do it as a couple. One of us serves the bread and the other serves the cup. Last night I served the bread so John wouldn't have to touch anything someone was going to put in their mouth (concerned about spreading his germs). Every time I looked into someone's eyes, broke off a piece of bread for them and reminded them of "the Lord's body, broken for you," I was overwhelmed with emotion. I always cry. There is a personal contact with each person in those moments, whether I know them or not, that is different from any other. We are remembering what Christ has done for us.

Sometimes when we interact with one another as human beings, there isn't a lot of eye contact. Some of us are comfortable looking people directly in the eyes and some of us aren't. In conversation, people look in all kinds of directions; up, down, off to the side, at another person, occasionally at the person they're speaking with. But in this moment, every single person is attentive and their eyes are more than casually focused on mine. As I speak these words (whether it is the Lord's body broken for them or the Lord's blood shed for them), I am speaking the words into their hearts. I look deeply into their eyes, as they do mine. They are not a stranger. They are my brothers and sisters. Christ died for each one of them. I will never forget the first time I had the opportunity to serve in this way. It was much more emotional for me than I ever dreamed it would be. It's hard to describe in words. But it opened my mind so big. It's so easy to hear and say the words that Christ died for the world or for all sin. But when you personalize it to a couple of hundred people, including children, in one setting, you are focusing on individuals and not a big corporate group. As I'm serving, I'm acknowledging for each person individually, "He died for you...He died for you...He died for you..."

This is something for which my words fall short. My description of the experience is hollow compared to what it means to me. If we are in town, I just can't stand to miss this service. It's not that we don't receive communion more often than on Christmas Eve. We do. But John and I serve communion on Christmas Eve. After telling someone on staff how meaningful it is to me, I got the feeling we may be enlisted to do this during the year.

I talk about being thankful a lot. It's because I truly am. I have much to be thankful for. This morning, I'm thankful for Jesus most of all. I'm thankful for my church family and my natural family. I'm thankful for John. I'm thankful for so many dear friends. I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve others. And I'm so very thankful for the forgiveness and grace God has extended to me.

I regularly say and do things that, in hindsight, I would say or do differently. There are times I speak my opinion when I later wish I had just kept it to myself. Especially if doing so might have spared someone else. I engaged with someone yesterday on a message board out of genuine conviction and from an honest heart. But that person wasn't served well by the conversation. He was not the person I should have asked any of my questions of. I genuinely love this person (even though he gets under my skin). And I wish I had just passed up the opportunity to make my points or ask my questions (even though they were valid). I did not set out to do harm. But I felt convicted last night as I was wrapping gifts that I could have used a lot more wisdom. I could have been more concerned for him and the repercussions he would have to deal with as a result of the conversation. I could have just been silent, whether justifiably provoked or not. And I felt regret because of the love I feel for this person.

I'm thankful for the conviction God puts on my heart. And I'm thankful also that I have progressed to the point where I don't have to crucify myself for days on end for making a mistake. There are no do-overs in life. There is only repentance. Repentance to God and repentance to each other. I've learned to ask forgiveness and then believe and rest in that forgiveness. I've learned to put my trust in God's promises. He knows how weak and flawed I am. There is no use denying it to myself or anyone else. I can agonize for days over what other people think of me when I mess up, or I can rest in the sovereignty and grace of my Lord, knowing that I am forgiven and loved in spite of my imperfections. I am learning how to do the latter.

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas and blessed New Year. And now I better get myself in gear for my own wonderful day.

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