Ribbons of Celebration and Reflection

by Dec 4, 2016Cultivate, Deepen2 comments

I tug the ribbons loose on a Christmas box I labeled long ago, “Nativity Sets and Other Often-Used Decorations.” I always open this box first. Inside is a nativity set I’ll arrange across the top of our upright piano and several smaller sets that also have their special places around our home.

Among those I’ve collected is one my father gave to me with tiny Latin American figures all in white with features and accents of brown, black and gold. Another nativity my mother shaped from flour dough. Dressed in soft colors Mary and Joseph kneel before the baby Jesus in his small crib.

As I look at the simplicity of each nativity scene, I notice how meek and humble the first Christmas was. No fanfare. Just pure realness. And that, I realize as I set the figures in place, is what I most crave when I return home from holiday activities to cocoon and refresh. I want the solid ground of the realness of that baby in a manger—Jesus, Emmanuel, “God with us.”

Among your “often-used” decorations and activities of this season,
what do you most long for? What is your solid ground?

Now I tug the ribbon loose on Advent, the scripture reflections and prayer that also bring me to solid ground and the realness of the first Christmas. Ruth Haley Barton, in Advent Reflections: Come Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord, writes:

“Advent literally means ‘arrival,’ and the themes of this season sensitize us to the coming of Christ, not just way back in biblical times, but now—in the places where we long for his presence and need his intervention. Advent ushers us into a special kind of active waiting that is alert and watchful, patient and yet full of anticipation.”

Oh, how we need his magnificent intervention and that kind of active, watchful anticipation stirring our soul and shaping our view of things. I know I do. 

When I read through Advent reflections or consider the figures of the Nativity, I think of God’s gift and sacrifice, his life-transforming presence among us. I think of love and hope wrapped in human flesh sent to intersect humanity’s despair and our culture’s rippling anger. I think of grace weaving its way into the fabric of our hearts where it can do its deep and beautiful work. And I think of how in all this God changes us at our very core so we may become a people of love and grace in our conversations with and in service of others–the reason for his gift of his Son.

What ribbon would you tug loose on your Christmas season? What would usher you into life giving, active waiting and watching for the presence of Christ?

My prayer and hope for you this Christmas is that you may be fully and creatively present, free to engage with your whole being in all this season brings and the opportunities it holds to graciously love and serve well. Enjoy God’s ribbons of reflection and celebration!

Please share what is stirring for you, your thoughts and perhaps the ribbons you are loosening as you move into this wonder-filled season honoring Christ’s birth.


After you take a moment to comment, return here to download God With Us, Rhythms of Prayer at Advent, a Voice of Courage Christmas resource including suggestions for daily evening prayer to guide you in watching for the presence of Christ, plus recommended resources and planning tips to keep you refreshed for the season.


  1. Susan Sage

    Thanks for this reminder of the simplicity of Christmas. This was refreshing. God bless and Merry Christmas.

    • Jan Kern

      You’re so welcome, Susan. May God bless your Christmas greatly with simplicity and many reminders of his wonders and presence. We’ve so appreciated your continued participation and contributions of your “voice” here on Voice of Courage!

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