On a personal note, many people have been asking about our Christmas traditions. So we thought we’d give you a behind the scenes look at the Mahaney Christmas—which looks a little different than in years past. It used to be that after the Christmas Eve Service, we would all return home for snacks and hot chocolate and fall asleep watching “A Christmas Carol” (the version with George C. Scott which, in Dad’s opinion, is really the only version that ever should have been made). Christmas morning we would open presents and enjoy Mom’s cinnamon rolls (see Thanksgiving recipes). These were just a few of many treasured Christmas traditions. However, come marriage and babies, things have changed. We now make new traditions, every bit as special as the old ones. As we explained at Thanksgiving, each of us girls spend the better part of the Christmas holiday with our in-laws. (We’ll be doing a photo diary of those celebrations next Monday.) So we celebrate Christmas with my family over three Mondays in December; Monday being the day all of our husbands are off work. The first Monday is a special Christmas “Guys Day Out.” They go to one of their favorite spots, Five Guys (a hamburger joint), and exchange presents. Each of the five guys (just a coincidence) has picked the name of another, and their wife (or mother in Chad’s case) have purchased gifts on their behalf. Then the guys talk about the stuff they always talk about, like their ministry spheres and sports; and they also laugh a lot about stuff we just don’t really get. The next Monday is “Girls Day Out,” the Christmas edition. We go to our favorite restaurant, Clydes, and have fun chatting over steak salads about our families and churches, and what God is teaching us. We laugh a lot too, but we think our humor is a whole lot more intelligent and refined than theirs. We’ve also picked names, so we open gifts from one another. This year, Janelle gave me a shoe holder made of mailboxes which she and Mike had made (pictured here). It was so big it had to sit next to the fireplace in the restaurant! The final Monday is for the little guys. They open gifts from each other, have a special lunch of Lunchables, and decorate Christmas cookies. See below for some pics Janelle snapped of the boys. Although these new traditions may be different than before, one thing hasn’t changed: throughout our times together, in numerous ways, and at numerous times, gratefulness to the Savior is expressed. As Janelle quoted Spurgeon earlier today, “the gospel is above all things intended to promote, and will most abundantly create the greatest possible joy in the human heart wherever it is received.” May your family traditions—whether old or new—be full of joy this year! Andrew Liam Jack Owen
Of course our list of favorite teachers has to include Charles Spurgeon (a regular “guest contributor” to our blog). I grabbed a few wonderful quotes from his sermon, “Joy Born at Bethlehem,” for you to enjoy as you go about your day…
“‘And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ Luke 2:10-12
The joy which this first gospel preacher spoke of was no mean one, for he said, “I bring you good tidings”—that alone were joy: and not good tidings of joy only, but “good tidings of great joy.” Every word is emphatic, as if to show that the gospel is above all things intended to promote, and will most abundantly create the greatest possible joy in the human heart wherever it is received.
But why is it that the coming of Christ into the world is the occasion of joy? The answer is as follows:—First, because it is evermore a joyous fact that God should be in alliance with man, especially when the alliance is so near that God should in very deed take our manhood into union with his godhead; so that God and man should constitute one divine, mysterious person. Sin had separated between God and man; but the incarnation bridges the separation: it is a prelude to the atoning sacrifice, but it is a prelude full of the richest hope. From henceforth, when God looks upon man, he will remember that his own Son is a man. From this day forth, when he beholds the sinner, if his wrath should burn, he will remember that his own Son, as man, stood in the sinner’s place, and bore the sinner’s doom. As in the case of war, the feud is ended when the opposing parties intermarry, so there is no more war between God and man, because God has taken man into intimate union with himself. Herein, then, there was cause for joy.
Rejoice, ye who feel that ye are lost; your Saviour comes to seek and save you. Be of good cheer ye who are in prison, for be comes to set you free. Ye who are famished and ready to die, rejoice that he has consecrated for you a Bethlehem, a house of bread, and he has come to be the bread of life to your souls. Rejoice, O sinners, everywhere for the restorer of the castaways, the Saviour of the fallen is born. Join in the joy, ye saints, for he is the preserver of the saved ones, delivering them from innumerable perils, and he is the sure prefecter of such as he preserves. Jesus is no partial Saviour, beginning a work and not concluding it; but, restoring and upholding, he also prefects and presents the saved ones without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing before his Father’s throne. Rejoice aloud all ye people, let your hills and valleys ring with joy, for a Saviour who is mighty to save is born among you.”
Over on his UK blog, Adrian Warnock interviews Joshua Harris about being mentored by our dad. Although Josh’s thoughts on mentoring are primarily directed toward men, there are truths we as women can glean on this important topic as well. To purchase and listen to a message by Mom on women mentoring women, you can go to the Sovereign Grace Ministries Store.
This week leading up to Christmas we decided to assemble four of our favorite authors and teachers to share their thoughts on the season. We began yesterday, with a sermon from our hands-down favorite, my husband, C.J., taken from one of the earliest Christmas carols every written, in 1 Timothy 3:16.
Today, we will consider another Christmas carol through the eyes of one of my favorite authors: Elisabeth Elliot. As a little girl, I still remember my mom reading Through Gates of Splendor, a book that left an indelible impression on my young mind. Since then, I have read many of her books, listened to many of her radio broadcasts and messages, and had the privilege to meet her on several occasions. One of the all-time highlights of serving the women of Covenant Life Church was when Elisabeth Elliot came to speak at one of our retreats.
In this contemplation of the well-known carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” taken from a December 2000 broadcast, Elisabeth Elliot encourages us to put our trust in Christ, even when we cannot comprehend His ways. She considers the following line from this song:
“‘In the dark streets shineth the everlasting Light—the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’ Why not with trumpet blasts? Wouldn’t you expect that the coming of the King of kings would be with trumpet blasts, with royal proclamations and fanfare and maybe camel trains and pomp and ceremony—and who knows what other kinds of ceremony, celebration? It was a strange method for God to choose. But God is in the business of doing things in ways we never imagine.”
Let me encourage you to grab a few moments in between the wrapping and the baking, sit down with something hot to drink, and read all of what Elisabeth Elliot has to say about “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
Have you purchased and wrapped all your Christmas gifts yet? Don’t worry, I’m not finished my Christmas shopping either. However, if you have a pile of gifts to wrap, then I’ve got a sermon just for you. This message by my husband is about one of the earliest Christmas carols ever written, found in 1 Timothy 3:16. May this “Christ-saturated hymn” turn your eyes toward our Savior this week! (To listen to last week’s message about Mary, the mother of Jesus, click here.)
From “I’ll be home for Christmas…” to “No man is a failure who has friends…” (It’s a Wonderful Life) to “Underneath the mistletoe,” the Christmas season is replete with reminders to enjoy the blessings of family, friends, and prosperity. Problem is, these reminders can also tend to highlight what we don’t have, whether it be a house or possessions, friendships, a loved one close by, or even a spouse.
At Thanksgiving, our dear friend and fellow-blogger Carolyn McCulley wrote of the struggle many singles experience when they come upon yet another holiday celebrated without a spouse. But she doesn’t simply identify. Following the example of the Psalmist in Scripture, she speaks truth to herself, and all of us, about trusting God with a hope deferred. May the faithfulness of God shape and inform our Christmas celebrations this year.
It’s not you, it’s us. There hasn’t been anything wrong with your computer today (at least we hope not!). And if the Friday Funnies seemed vaguely familiar, that’s because it really was last week’s installment.
Unfortunately, we woke up this morning only to discover that our weblogging service was experiencing technical difficulties. This caused all the posts from this past week to temporarily disappear. It also hindered us from being able to explain to you what was going on. So, we hung around all day and ate grilled cheese sandwiches and waited until we could post again. Just kidding about the hanging around part.
Even though it’s a little late, we know you have to get your Friday Funnies Fix. So for those of you who are still up this time of night, here’s this week’s laugh, which comes to us courtesy of Karen. She writes:
“Your latest Q&A post about how to answer questions about Santa provoked a funny memory. When my two oldest daughters (16 and 17), were about 5 or 6, they were out shopping for Christmas presents with their Dad. At one of the stores, they were asked “what is Santa bringing you for Christmas?” to which they promptly replied, “oh he can’t bring us anything, because he wouldn’t fit down the pipe to our radiator!”
Thanks for sticking with us through the glitch today. Lord-willing we’ll be with you again Monday morning!
for Carolyn, Kristin, and Janelle
While everyone else is counting down the days until Christmas, we in the “Mahaney” clan are counting down the weeks until the first female grandchild, the future of GirlTalk, is born. We thought we’d invite you to join in our anticipation. So every week, until the baby comes, Janelle will be giving an update on her road to delivery. We’ll even keep you posted on the up-to-the-hour details when she goes into labor.
So, without further ado, here’s Janelle:
Week thirty has arrived and I’m still alive. Yes, I made it through the “hanging over the toilet” phase and moved right into the “rapid growth” phase, now to find myself right in the middle of the “slightly uncomfortable” phase.
I think I have mastered the doctor visit “routine”—arrive a couple minutes early; take a seat in the waiting room and pretend to look at a magazine; have your name called so that the nurse can weigh you and record it on some secret chart; head to the examination room and don the doctor’s outfit of choice for patients—a large paper napkin; wait in the examination room while studying all of the sharp-looking instruments lining the counter; do some more waiting while contemplating what a little redecorating might do for the surroundings; wait still longer trying not to watch the second hand on the clock; jolting awake as the doctor flies into the room, pushes on your belly, listens to your baby’s heart beat with her special radar device, and disappears as quickly as she came; then stumble back out to the waiting room and wait for the receptionist as she eagerly books your next “visit.” Yeah!
I have finally overcome my fear of needles (a result of a bad experience when I was 12) and you all would be proud to see me offering my arm to the nurse without flinching and even watching as they drain half of my blood supply into little plastic tubes.
I have learned that you shouldn’t consume candy on your way to the doctor as they (just like your mother) “know these things”. It can be a little humbling to admit, when asked about the results of your glucose test, that you just finished a box of grape and strawberry Nerds (strawberry being mine and my girlies favorite flavor). I felt a little like I should be back at the pediatrician’s office.
While pregnancy brings much laughter, it also causes me to marvel. The feeling of my baby kicking my stomach, the detail found in the sonogram picture hanging on my refrigerator, the sound of another heart beating inside of me, and the joy I experience when Mike gets close to my belly to have a “talk” with his little girl—all leave me amazed. Every little ache, pain, and slight inconvenience point to a miracle. Ten weeks will come and go in the blink of an eye and I want to savor every minute. February 20’th is just around the corner.
This post is for all those male GirlTalk readers who have been pleading for a masculine alternative. My son-in-law, Brian Chesemore, along with several of his fellow pastors have started a blog for the married couples in my church entitled MarriedLife. However, all married folk, and especially husbands will benefit from this blog—it’s written by men! For starters, check out this post by Joe Lee called “Mommy Doesn’t Work.” I know it’s a week old, but we think it’s a great place to begin reading this latest worthy addition to the blogosphere.
BTW – We’ve also provided a link to the MarriedLife blog on our sidebar.
Q. It happened again today. We were at the doctor’s office when a well-meaning secretary told my son that “Santa was watching.” My son had a puzzled “are you crazy?” look on his face, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do. It will happen many times this season (akin to the “what are you going to be for Halloween?” questions). My concern is that I don’t want to stumble my unbelieving neighbors. I don’t want my friends who do Santa to feel uncomfortable. And most of all, I do not want my children to be self-righteous about our convictions concerning holidays as a family. Do you have any suggestions about how to instruct my children to respond? Or suggestions for what I might say to diffuse an awkward situation if my kids do blurt out “we don’t believe in Santa Claus”?
A. This is a hard question to answer because this issue comes up in a variety of interactions, many of them brief and passing. However, here are a few thoughts, mostly drawn from how my parents handled this issue when my sisters and I were young.
First of all, it is helpful to remember that belief in Santa isn’t a major theological front on which we mothers must fight. The well-meaning people who ask our children “What is Santa going to bring you?” aren’t questioning the diety of Christ or the authority of God’s Word. They might be perpetuating the myth of Santa, but the essential truths of the gospel are not at stake in these conversations with strangers (or friends). And the motives of these individuals are generally an expression of kindness to you and your children.
Having said that, here’s how you might serve both your children and the adults in these conversations:
1. Prepare your children - When they are old enough to understand, explain to them the origin of Santa. Tell them “This is what many people believe, and even though we don’t believe the same as them, we want to be gracious and polite when they ask us questions.”
2. Intervene and Redirect – Answer the adult’s question for your child with a response such as: “That is so kind of you to ask. We actually don’t do Santa in our family. Daddy and Mommy will be giving our children gifts this Christmas as a way to express our love for our children and our gratefulness to God for the gift they are to us.” In a kind way, seek to move the conversation away from Santa and focus on your love for your children.
3. Follow up - A refresher course after one of these conversations will probably serve your children as well. It’s a great opportunity to remind them once again of the truly joyous reason we celebrate Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ.