Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Push is coming to shove now…Christmas is just 2 weeks away and I have birthdays before and after and a 3-day trip. How will
I ever get ready?

My neighbor had a lovely party Saturday night. Her house was beautifully decorated – as was the whole neighborhood. Yes, I did get my house somewhat decorated – my oldest daughter helped bring the smaller tree from the attic so it could go by the front door as well as 3 pretty red lanterns with “automatic” candles inside.

On Saturday, we had 2 inches of snow so it was very Christmassy. The houses were all decorated – lights twinkling from every window. The “town” Christmas tree was all lit up and everything looked so festive. As I walked out the door, I could hear voices coming from every corner. And as we left, I could hear each one call “Merry Christmas!” Almost like in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

Then yesterday I was ordering Christmas gifts on-line but was frustrated with one website – it wasn’t doing what i thought it should so I called their 800 number. A very pleasant woman said rather than her take my order she would help me with the on-line order as that would give me better discounts and advantages. I was all for that!

We chatted a bit and she indicated her husband was a minister. I told her I was ordained, too.

When It came time to give my credit card information, I gave the name on the card: Ruth B. Graham. She took it down and then said, “You have a famous name”. I replied, “I have a famous father.” She didn’t comment. But she continued to ask for information. Shortly, she tentatively asked me, “Are you by any chance related to Billy Graham?” I told her he was my father. She was so pleased – she had been a counsellor in his Cleveland crusade years before. She loved him and my family.

In our conversation she indicated she has two grown children who are “prodigals”. The church has not been kind to her husband – he is in a new church now – not as senior pastor – but the senior pastor is good and her husband enjoys working with him. The transition hasn’t been easy.

As we wound up the order, I asked if I could pray for her. She agreed. I prayed for her two children and her husband. I told her to tell him not to get discouraged; God would honor his faithfulness to His Word.

What an unexpected gift for both of us! I was just ordering from a stranger…an ordinary act – she was just taking orders from strangers who called in. An ordinary day.

But we had a divine encounter! While we started as strangers we finished as sisters!

Only Jesus can do that!

The Christmas carols are playing…I mailed packages this morning…I lit a pine-scented candle, I baked cookies yesterday to give to friends…it’s beginning to feel like Christmas! My neighbors have decorated their houses…I haven’t – yet. The pressure is on!! I’ll get my outside decorations up before this weekend when all my neighbors gather for a party.

I like to savor Thanksgiving just a bit longer – part of Thanksgiving is the anticipation of Advent. Certainly one of the things I am MOST thankful for is the coming of Immanuel.

We celebrate God breaking into human history in a remarkable way. God drew near to us. That is astonishing. No other religion has God reaching down to man – all other religions have man trying to reach their god by good works and sacrifice. Not Christianity. It is God coming to us because He loves us. He wants an intimate relationship with those He created. Wow! The only way to do that was for Him to come to us – face to face.

No wonder Zacharias was “troubled” and “feared” when the angel, Gabriel, suddenly appeared to him in the Temple while he was going about his priestly duties. That had to be unexpected for Zacharias and, not a little bit overwhelming.

Yes, the Jews anticipated the Messiah’s coming for a very long time but they had not heard from God for over 400 years. Not a word. Not a prophet’s voice heard. Nothing. God was silent. There was a faithful remnant that kept waiting and expecting but I doubt many expected His coming to be announced to Zacharias that day.

It’s funny how God does the unexpected.

Gabriel told Zacharias that he and his wife, Elizabeth, were going to have baby boy. This baby was going to be the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah.

Zacharias asked this great angel how could he believe the angel. I doubt he’d ever seen one much less talked to one. Zacharias was practical – he and Elizabeth were old. He doubted what Gabriel was telling him. The sign of the truth of this message was that Zacharias would not be able to speak until the baby was born.

That had to be frustrating. He couldn’t tell all his friends and neighbors about the experience he had with the angel. He couldn’t talk to Elizabeth about the plans for the baby…

But in the silence in their home their must have been a sweet communion. Words are not necessary for communication. They must have felt God’s awesome presence and joy. And no doubt, awe-struck.

Why had God chosen them? What would their son be like? The Angel told them a bit about him. He would be great in God’s sight. He would not drink alcohol and he’d be full of the Holy Spirit. His purpose was to turn many back to the God of Israel in preparation for the Messiah’s coming. He would have the spirit and power of Elijah, one of Israel’s greatest prophets.

What an awesome privilege to get a front-row seat to the coming of the Messiah!

The morning I was reading my Daily Light – as I have since I was about 12 years old. It is the King James Version because that is what I grew up with – the familiarity of the words brings comfort.

I read of God’s glory. God’s glory is so dazzlingly bright and magnificent He cannot be seen by human eyes. Moses asked to see God’s glory but God told Moses that “no mind can see me and live.”

In Scripture it talks about the “likeness of the glory of the Lord.” It cannot be described. St. John had the same issue as he wrote the book of Revelation. What he saw was so fantastical, he couldn’t describe it. it truly overwhelmed him. As it did the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel.

I can only imagine it would be like looking at the sun – but 1000 times brighter.

God knew we frail human could not stand in or look at His glory. So He sent an exact representation in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote in II Corinthians, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.”

God the creator created the sun and moon just by speaking them into existence. He wanted to light the world which was empty and shapeless. This great creative God whose Word is creatively powerful has touched our own human, frail heart with His light.

Why? “To give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus.” God wanted us to see Him but He knew it was dangerous so He sent one who reprints Him to a “t”.

Take time to think about that!

And this exact representation came in the form of a baby. Mind-blowing! If God wanted to show us His glory why did He sent a helpless baby? Would not a light saber or army or powerful creature work better? No one would take a baby seriously. Power and majesty do not bring a baby to mind. A baby is vulnerable. Helpless. Approachable.

Perhaps that is part of God’s glory – humility.

With family arriving, laundry to be done, meals planned and fixed, loose ends tied together, children under foot, good smells emanating from the kitchen, noise and messes it must be a family gathering.

For some it is time of dread. Family relationships are strained, quarrels have never been settled. Jealousy arises. Fighting breaks out. Or someone is holed up in another room drinking too much. This, too, can be family gathering.

For some it is tinged with sadness. There is an empty place at the table. By death. Or a move. Or divorce. Or sickness. Or any number of losses. This Thanksgiving will be different.

Different is different. We can’t try to make it look like it used to be, because it isn’t. It is different and we adapt.

One good way to adapt is to be grateful for everyday. Even on the bleakest days, there is something we can be grateful for. Like breathing – being able to breathe is a blessing.

There used to be an old hymn, “Count Your Blessings”. The chorus went like this: “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done.”

What blessings will you count?

I know, after my surgeries last year, it is a blessing to be able to get out of bed on my own. Simple but very true. And again, since my surgeries, my good health is a blessing. My children and their children are blessings. They now bring me joy! It wasn’t always the case but, as I told someone the other day, I have lived long enough to like my children! That is a HUGE blessing! But the best blessing of all is knowing I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus!

I encourage you take time to count your blessings this Thanksgiving and every day. Perhaps start a gratitude list.

Happy Thanksgiving!