After Christmas instructions

The day after Christmas can feel like a “down” day for a lot of people. Reality sets back in as the distractions of parties, gift giving, visiting, and singing fade into normal things. You might find yourself hoping the new year, now less than week away, will be better than last year.After Christmas Instructions Just a week ago, Facebook was sprinkled with happy photos of decorations and gift swapping, Christmas programs and last minute Pinterest crafts.

The truth is, if Christmas meant anything real in my life or yours, we’ll know it on December 26th.

How do we live in light of Christmas all year? The answer lies in the Christmas story itself.  Just take a close look at “after Christmas” in the lives of Mary and Joseph. Jesus was no longer an infant, the couple was living in a house, and the wise men from the East had visited and just left for home.  Once the oriental worshipers departed Bethlehem, the Christmas story as we know it was officially over.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)

What happened after Christmas took place “to fulfill what the Lord had spoken.” God sent another angelic messenger, a lot like the pre-birth visitations, and gave the leader of the small family, Joseph, 4 instructions. We need to do these same 4 things if we want to live in light of Christmas. These 4 steps are the key to being blessed all year.

4 After Christmas instructions

  • RISE   ………  You’ve gotten comfortable here. Let go of your comfort.
  • TAKE ………. You are my servant.  Remember your job is to carry Jesus.
  • FLEE  ………. You have only begun. Follow Me obediently to hard places.
  • REMAIN ….. You have been obedient. Persist in trusting Me.

When the celebratory events of Jesus’ birth were done, the shepherds went home, the kings left, the gifts ceased, and daily routines began again. Maybe it felt like it was time to set “New Year’s resolutions” or goals for the year. Reality set it.  Just like it does for us, daily life took over. 

Like the young couple who held the Messiah in their arms, God wants us to let go of our comfort, keep on carrying Jesus, follow God’s ways when it’s hard, and trust in Him always. After we read the angelic directions, we read about Joseph, “And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there.”  He did exactly what he was told, right away (even though it was night!), and didn’t question God’s plans. Egypt wasn’t exactly a vacation destination; it was hard. What’s YOUR EGYPT right now on this day after Christmas? Obedience brings blessing and peace in the midst of our Egypt. If Christ’s coming matters, our response should be obedience flowing from our hearts as the only right worship due the Babe we just declared.

Christmas is over. If it meant anything at all, it should show today. It should show up in our goals for the new year and in our outlook for the days to come. If Christmas matters, it matters now.  Obedience is the key to living in light of Christmas.

May the new year be a year of obedience, when we follow God so truly that our worship carries on through each day we don’t call “Christmas.”

 

By Julie Sanders

Crockpot Brown Sugar French Toast

If you have lots of time to dip and fry individual pieces of french toast, or if you don’t like a sweet, holiday-ish french toast, this isn’t the recipe for you. BUT … if you could use a quick breakfast prep that feels like you’re serving up spoonfuls of the most wonderful time of the year … read on.
Crockpot Brown Sugar French Toast
Use a large crock pot for this recipe and you will have enough to serve breakfast for about 8 people. I like to spray the crock with cooking spray before I fill it, just to make for faster, easier clean up. (Says the girl who still doesn’t have her Christmas tree up!)

Crockpot Brown Sugar French Toast

  • 8 cups of cubed bread (I used a combo of not-premium homemade bread loaves & croissants I had frozen because they were in their last days. A combo makes it better!)Crockpot French toast
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 can of evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Topping: (Use a pastry blender or 2 forks to combine into crumbs)

  • 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Fill the crock with half of your bread cubes. Sprinkle half of the crumbly, brown sugar topping evenly over the bread. (You could add nuts now, if you want to) Repeat these layers.Crockpot French Toast
Mix the eggs, milks, vanilla and cinnamon well and pour the mixture evenly over all of the bread.
Cook this on high for 2 1/2 hours. You might want to give it a slight stir when it’s done to see that the egg has combined completely. If you let it cook for another 30 minutes, you’ll have a little more crispy “cinnamon roll-like coating” on the bottom layer. Jeff said this reminded him of a bread pudding, but I think it’s just a distant cousin.

This makes a warm breakfast that smells so good. I actually assembled mine the night before, popped it in the fridge, then took it out when I first stirred in the morning. By the time everyone was ready to sit down, it was ready! Would work well for a brunch after church, too … or that morning you need to take something to a Sunday School group. It’s quite sweet, especially served with maple syrup, so you might want to add a protein and a fresh fruit to complete the holiday breakfast. And definitely make coffee!

As “comfort and joy” goes during this time of year, this recipe definitely goes in the comfort category!

By Julie Sanders

Shooting for peace & safety in a violent world

Did you hear about the latest shooting at the New Jersey mall? And the shooting attack against TSA agents last week at LAX?  We’ve watched violence unfold at everyday places like school, a movie theater, a college campus, a mall, an airport, a shopping center, and a playground. Google these events, and you’ll turn up a list of video games marketed for the realistic experience they offer in gunning down other people.  The irony could make you crazy.  Or in some cases, it could inspire you to do things like shoot people in real life. How can you find peace for yourself and your family in a violent world?Shooting for peace and safety

If we’re honest, most of us would admit to wondering what we would do in such a situation. Would we know what to do to be safe? Could we keep our children safe? Would our faith hold?

Having lived in a city where violence was an everyday possibility, I’ve asked all of these questions.  I’ve resolved that until the Lord makes all things new, the world will always have violence. Until the Great Escape, there is no escaping it. I’ve also resolved that women can’t live in fear, though many do, and I feel for them. I want them to know that even in a violent world, there is something you can do to be more prepared today than if you didn’t ask the questions at all.

Here’s what I’ve learned about being prepared for yourself and your loved ones when you live in a violent world. The lessons boil down to two things:  what you SEE and what you DON’T SEE.

Shooting for peace and safety

  • SEE your exits. When you know violence is possible, you should be aware of your exits. Now we all know it’s possible. Don’t be paranoid (keep reading), but be observant. When you sit down at a theater, stadium, waiting room, or food court … where is your closest exit? I’ve had to use mine before, and you might someday.
  • SEE the people around you. Pay attention to people (which we should be doing anyways). So many signs of trouble are obvious if we are aware of our surroundings and the people near us. Learn to be a student of physical characteristics and demeanor. Be observant of people.
  • DON’T SEE but trust.  Cultivate trust with your family members. A crisis is not a time to teach a child to obey without arguing. You’d better have covered that at home.  Family members who have a culture of trusting and respecting one another are more likely to help each other in a time of crisis. I’ve lived it, and I know.
  • DON’T SEE but trust.  People (and, I believe, women in particular) have a tendency to want to dig in and defend themselves, depending on … themselves. But sin in the world makes us vulnerable. All of us. Ultimately, our greatest hope, our best defense, our sure foundation, is to put our faith in God.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” (Heb. 11:1).  This doesn’t mean events will unfold without pain or distress, but it means we can find peace in the midst of evil.  We can feel held and loved in the face of crisis.

In this violent world where a shooting is frequent on the daily news, we can prepare ourselves and our families. Our families not only need to be kept physically safe, but they need to be given a shield of faith. It all boils down to what we see and what we don’t.

We trust the unseen person of Almighty God with the seen threats of a violent world. And in that, sweet friends, we find peace.

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By Julie Sanders