Advent 2022 – God’s Love Story
Advent is a time of preparation as we await the appearance of our Savior. This year, I’ve prepared another series of 24 devotionals but, of course, the theme is new: “God’s Love Story.”
This December, we will take a journey through the early 1940’s when my father was attending seminary in New York City. He wrote home to his parents every week, and they saved all his letters. Thus, I have a collection of Dad’s personal “advent,” from the times of anticipation to meeting his future wife, from falling in love to celebrating his wedding. Along the way we’ll see parallels with our eager anticipation of Christ’s arrival at the end of Advent.
Nov. 19, 1940…on this date, my dad was pondering his future. He wondered on paper if any of the girls he had recently met might one day become his wife. “The girl that caught my eye most of all was [RM] whom I hope I may see again – too bad she lives so far away in Washington [DC].” My father had no idea that exactly seven years later to the day, he would have not only married a different young woman but have four children. That included his daughter who would be born on…Nov. 19! (And as for a girl living far away? The woman Dad eventually married would be from even farther away, from Dublin, Ireland!)
Like Dad, when I was young, I had no idea if I would ever marry. I didn’t know what that person might be like, nor when/where our paths might cross. And some of us never marry. But each Christmas, we all have the opportunity to greet Someone who is already madly in love with us. Galatians 4:4,5 tells us, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law.” God is full of surprises. After a thousand years of anticipation, in the fullness of time, our Savior was born in a humble stable in a small town called Bethlehem. Join us here tomorrow for more of the unfolding love story.
Advent 2022 – Day 2
Welcome back to the second installment of our Advent season. “God’s Love Story” unfolded over thousands of years, but ours will take only 24 days.
February 2, 1941…Dad’s letters since the previous November were full of descriptions of girls he met in college and seminary. They went skating, watched movies, went on picnics, and danced until 1:00 am. In this February letter he had a date with another girl. Describing their time together, my father told his parents, “Much as I like Virginia, she isn’t quite the girl I would consider marrying.”
Dad knew what kind of girl he wanted to marry and he had high standards. This girl did not fill the bill. How many of us are glad we did not marry the first person we dated? Waiting can be hard, but I am so thankful that I waited for the right man to come into my own life!
In a similar way, many people explore or “date” other faiths that appear interesting. The Hindu pantheon might seem intriguing. Buddhism might attract some. Islam can feel intimidating. However, none of these faiths offer complete assurance of acceptance and eternal peace with God. Only Christ can fill that longing. He promised that all who have faith in him would become forever children of God.
Peter understood this. When Jesus asked if the disciples wanted to leave him, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom else can we turn? Your words are the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
My father wanted the very best as a wife. In Christ, we have the gold standard. Take a moment today to think of all the blessings He has brought into your path.
Advent 2022 – Day 3
Thanks for returning for another thought involving our Advent theme, “God’s Love Story.”
Yesterday, we saw that my father had a clear idea about what he was looking for in the woman he would marry. He soon got a little help from his Uncle Jim and Aunt Vera. They often invited young people to their home. They had a reputation for match-making, so it seems appropriate that they were the ones to introduce my parents to each other. (FYI, Aunt Vera’s full name was Vera Scott Cushman, and she was one of the founders of the YWCA.)
February 2, 1941…continued. In the same letter from which I quoted yesterday, on the very next page, my dad describes his first encounter with the girl who later became his wife: “As a matter of fact, on Friday morning up at Uncle Jim and Aunt Vera’s, I met another girl whom I think I really would like to marry if I ever get the chance, but I’m afraid it’s unlikely.”
How interesting that family members often play a key role in introducing us to people that will change the course of our lives. The same was true for the apostle Andrew. In John 1:40-42, right after Andrew met Jesus, the first thing he did was seek out his brother Peter. “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew wanted to share good news with his brother, just as my father wrote to share his good news with his family.
Who introduced you to Jesus? Take some time today to thank God for those members of God’s family who shared their good news with you! How might you, in turn, impact the lives of your friends and family?
Advent 2022 -Day 4
Does it seem that Christmas is a long way off? Here’s another thought from our “Love Story” to help you during this period of anticipation.
February 2, 1941…continued. My father had met this new girl, and he immediately wrote home to his parents, “Her name is Joan Lee-Cole, and her father is a minister in Dublin, Ireland. She’s over here on a fellowship from the English Speaking Union, and it seems she has been here in NY for two months, and Friday was her last day here before going up to the Harvard Graduate School to study biology until June.”
Can you imagine the consternation that my father must have experienced, meeting a wonderful woman only to learn that she was leaving New York the next day to head to Massachusetts?
Before Jesus’ cousin ever began baptizing, God had revealed that John would one day meet the Messiah. In the gospel of John, the Baptizer reported, “I didn’t know [Jesus] was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘When you see the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon someone, you will know this is the one you are looking for.’” I wonder how many months went by as John eagerly anticipated meeting the Christ. Would this person be the one? Or perhaps that man standing over there?
At last, John baptized his cousin. There were no doubts. “I saw it myself and I have born witness. This is God’s Chosen One.” (John 1:34) Then Jesus immediately disappeared into the wilderness for over a month. Picture how John must have felt: He finally realized that his own cousin was to be the Messiah, only to see Jesus leave town that same day! John went from elation to confusion in less than 24 hours!
Have you ever thought everything was moving smoothly in one direction, only to be jolted as you suddenly faced obstacles and delays? Never fear, God’s timing is perfect…to the day and hour! So stay tuned!
Advent 2022 – Day 5
Welcome back to the fifth of these Advent thoughts about “God’s Love Story”! Have you wondered how my father overcame the obstacle of distance in his love story?
In that same February 2, 1941 letter, my father wrote, “She’s a perfectly lovely looking girl with that beautiful English coloring and complexion and she has the sweetest personality. She’s the kind of girl that I would never have any doubts about and I know that you would love her.” His interest in her only intensified over the next week.
February 11, 1941… “I’ve never had anything so strange happen to me as this thing about nice Joan Lee-Cole, whom I was telling you about last week. I haven’t seen her of course since that one evening a week ago Friday, and I don’t even remember exactly what she looks like – except that she’s sweet and a little taller than my sister Priscilla. But the ridiculous thing is that I still wake up every morning about 5:00 or 5:30 thinking about her, and it’s terrible, because with this loss of sleep I feel like a wreck during the morning. Of course this has been partially stimulated by two awfully nice letters I received [from her] this week in reply to mine, and I almost think that perhaps she has a bliss feeling too! Isn’t it amazing?”
There is a thrill about meeting someone special and falling in love, but imagine discovering the other person finds the same delight in you! In Luke 15, Jesus tells us how the Prodigal Son returned home and was overwhelmed by his father’s welcome. If that father rejoiced when his son came back, we can be confident the Lord too has a broad grin on His face when we turn to Him!
Think back on your own life. Were you excited to first know Christ? Believe me, the feeling was mutual. He was just as excited to welcome you into His family.
Advent 2022 – Day 6
Christmas is coming, and it is hard not to feel excitement building around us. Thanks for taking a few moments here to pause and reflect on “God’s Love Story.”
My father was a thoughtful and quiet man. He did not get wildly excited except when his college team was playing on the ball field. So the following excerpt from one of his letters home is more than a bit out of character.
February 11, 1941…continued. “Anyway, here’s the stupid thing I’m going to do. I don’t have any classes on Friday the 21st, and we have a holiday on Washington’s birthday, so I’m planning to whip up there to Cambridge for that weekend…I can go up on a boat Thursday night…that will give me almost three days to see [Joan], and after that I can tell a little more whether this has all been castles in the air or the real thing…Heaven only knows what we’ll do those three days – but I don’t care much – I mostly want to talk….I’m sort of nonplussed at conservative John dashing off on this somewhat wild venture. Dick [Dad’s seminary roommate] just laughs and laughs and makes stupid faces at me.”
That excerpt reminds me of a brief parable Jesus shared with His disciples. Jesus said the Kingdom of God was like a man who found a treasure in a field. In his excitement, the man did something likely out of character, something crazy. He went home, sold everything he had, and bought the field so that the treasure would be his.
I have always placed myself in the role of the man finding the treasure and selling all he had: Would I ever be so completely sold out to the Lord? But God is not asking us to do anything more than what He Himself has already done. The Father gave up all that He had, even His only Son. In Romans 8:32, Paul writes, “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” The Lord gave up everything He had – including His own Son – to purchase us, His treasure.
Is the Lord asking you to do something wild and extravagant to demonstrate your love for Him this season?
Advent 2022 – Day 7
Are you ready for the next installment about this Advent account of my father falling in love? What new aspect might it reveal of “God’s Love Story”?
My father was unable to think of anything else as he planned a trip to Massachusetts to see the woman he hoped would become his wife. They had only met once before, but Dad was anxious to get to know her better.
February 18, 1941… “It all seems so far away and remote from the Seminary that I can hardly believe that I’ll be up there so soon – but the sooner the better because I’ve got to get this out of my system so that I can settle down and get some real studying done – and I do hope I find that Joan is as nice this time as I think she is.”
The word about my father’s love-interest spread quickly within his family. His aunt Helen sent $10 for him to have a nice time in Cambridge. According to Google, $10 in 1941 is the equivalent in purchasing power to about $200 today! And Dad’s brother-in-law loaned him his car to use for the trip to see Joan…no small gift with gas rationing beginning during World War II.
When we are excited, that emotion spills over to others around us. When Peter visited Cornelius in Acts 10:24, Cornelius was so excited that he had gathered all his family and friends at his home to listen to what Peter would say. Naturally, our faith should cause others to be excited about the Lord too.
With whom could you share your joy about the arrival of our Savior this season?
Advent 2022 – Day 8
Welcome back to the eighth thought in our Advent series on “God’s Love Story.” Are you wondering what happened when my father went to Cambridge to see the girl he hoped might become his future wife?
Remember that my father’s first mention of meeting my mother was in a letter he sent to his parents on February 2, 1941. Then a few weeks later, he traveled north from New York to Massachusetts to meet her for the second time.
March 2, 1941…[to his brother David, one month after meeting Joan] “Guess what I’ve gone and done – I’m engaged to the most lovely girl in the world – at least I think so and I hope you love her as much as I do…It’s the strangest thing I ever did in my life – because I’ve only seen the girl about 25 hours altogether, but it was long enough for me to know that she was the one I wanted to marry – and we’re just as happy as can be.”
Actually, the couple had already discussed marriage over a week earlier during Dad’s visit north. In less than three weeks, they had met, fallen in love and become engaged! Excitement had turned to love and love turned to commitment.
In Mark 1:16-20, Peter and Andrew, James and John all decided quickly to follow Jesus. So did a tax collector named Matthew. They each made a commitment. They didn’t have a full understanding of where that decision might take them. The newbie disciples had no idea that for most of them their decision might lead to their own deaths as martyrs. When I first came to know Christ, I too was excited about being loved and forgiven, but it took years to understand how I was to love Him and to fully commit every area of my life to Him.
That first step of commitment is important, but it is only a beginning. Why not pray today about what new steps of faith Jesus invites you to take in the year ahead?
Advent 2022 – Day 9
You are back! Love stories appeal to everyone. And more than any other, “God’s Love Story” holds a special grip on our attention.
March 2, 1941…[to his brother David, continued] My father wrote, “Of course we can’t get married until after I graduate in a year from this June, but we aren’t in any terrific rush because we have a whole life ahead of us. I think Mother and Father…must have just collapsed when I wrote to them, but they seem very happy about it because she really is a marvelous girl – tall (about 5’10”), dark, brown eyes, and a lovely complexion – and plenty of brains and heaps of fun.”
My father is already thinking of a whole life together, but he’s not so spiritual that he doesn’t also notice this woman’s physical beauty, like the bride in Song of Solomon!
Have you noticed that we have very few portraits in scripture? We know Saul was head and shoulders above other men, David was handsome and had a ruddy complexion, Elisha was bald, and that St. Paul was near-sighted. But we have no such portrait of Jesus, the most important character of all! The closest we come is in Is. 53:2-3 where it says, “He had no beauty, nothing in his appearance to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected…We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we did not care.”
My father was enchanted by my mother’s beauty, but Jesus had nothing in his appearance to attract us. Or perhaps, to say it another way, nothing in his appearance to distract us! We have no idea whether Jesus’ eyes were blue, his hair brown, his nose noble. Was he handsome? Those human descriptions were of little consequence. His true beauty lay in the unchanging qualities of his mercy and love.
As you go about this day, take a moment to look at others who cross your path. Don’t look on them as humans do but see them through God’s eyes and seek out their inner unchanging beauty.
Advent 2022 – Day 10
Have you made travel plans for the holidays? Thanks to the Internet, you can still keep up with our Advent celebration of “God’s Love Story.”
Remember that my father and mother became engaged after only two dates and less than three weeks from the time they met. I think almost any of us might have had second thoughts, right?
March 3, 1941… “I’m so happy that you [Father and Mother] love Joan so much, and your letters to her were such a comfort. I called her up last evening and she spoke [of the letters] immediately. I felt the emotional and nervous strain immediately [of the engagement] after it all happened and that’s why I came back here so exhausted, but apparently Joan didn’t feel it until several days later – not any change of heart, but just frightened at the whole idea, so your welcoming letters gave her a new lease on life.”
In essence, Joan was wondering, What have I done, turning my life upside down? Yet she was not changing her mind. And Dad was still convinced that Joan was the girl for him. His parents played an important role in supporting the young couple.
Peter & Andrew, James & John walked away from their fishing boats to follow Christ. What do you think Peter’s mother-in-law thought about that sudden turn of events? Who would support her daughter? And how did Zebedee, the father of James and John, react when his sons packed up and left home? Who would do the fishing and mend the nets? But despite the sudden turn of events, none of the twelve apostles seemed to have had second thoughts.
Have you ever had second thoughts about following Jesus? What events prompted those thoughts and who has encouraged you to continue walking forward in faith?
Advent 2022 – Day 11
Sometimes I wish I could watch your faces as you read these brief words each day during Advent, but you readers are all spread out across the country and even around the world. Let’s reveal the next episode in “God’s Love Story.”
You may remember that my mother was from Ireland. She came over to the United States on a speaking tour but when the tour was done, she found it difficult to return to her family in Dublin due to the dangers of U-boats in the north Atlantic. The Irish embassy encouraged her to find a job – any job – in this country until the stress of the war calmed down. She met my father that year.
March 3, 1941…continued: My father wrote, “[Joan] would like to go back to Ireland to be with her family awhile and get things ready [for the wedding], but she’s afraid if she goes back, there is danger that she may not be able to get away again, not to mention the danger of bombers and submarines…As you can imagine, this has been most disrupting to my work…”
My parents didn’t want to risk being apart. They wanted no European war to prevent them from being with the person they loved, nothing to separate them like the Atlantic ocean. Even the possibility that they would be apart made it hard for Dad to focus on his studies.
Remember St. Paul’s words in Rom. 8:38-39. Paul assured the believers in Rome that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, no height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, nothing shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” No wars, no U-boats, no bombs…nothing can separate us from God’s love.
What problems lie ahead of you today? No difficulty you face will ever be able to come between you and the God who loves you!
Advent 2022 – Day 12
We are already halfway through Advent! My father’s excitement about his engagement continues to rise!
March 12, 1941… “Does Uncle Jim say that I touch ground every fourth step? Well, that is about the way I feel at the thought of seeing Joan tomorrow evening, and the hours can’t go by fast enough… We want to go to Tiffany’s about the ring, but aside from that we haven’t any plans, and as Mary [Dad’s sister] says, we just want to be quiet and alone if that is possible anywhere in New York – perhaps Uncle Jim and Aunt Vera will let us use their library.”
For my father and mother, the hours couldn’t go fast enough until they could spend more time together. It didn’t matter where they were as long as they could be in the same room. They looked forward to talking to each other, listening to the other person’s voice, simply getting to know each other more and more each day.
Is that the way you feel about spending time with the Lord? You and I don’t have to wait until a train arrives at Grand Central Station as my father did. We don’t have to worry if a plane’s arrival is delayed until the middle of the night or canceled until the next day. We can reach out anywhere, at any hour of any day, and sit in the presence of the One who loves us more than anyone else.
Psalm 139:1-6 tells us, “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!”
The Lord already knows everything about us. But do you know everything about Him? Why not find a quiet place and listen to His voice as He whispers in your ear?
Advent 2022 – Day 13
“God’s Love Story” has never ended, so read on for the next installment in our Advent series!
At the time when my parents were engaged, it was traditional to have formal embossed engagement announcements printed up, followed later by a second set of formal wedding invitations. And just as engraved wedding invitations can be costly, these initial engagement announcements were not inexpensive. My mother placed an order…and then canceled it. She explained that the custom was an unnecessary expense during a time of war when so many people, including her own parents in Ireland, struggled simply to put food on the table. Refugees flooded out of Germany with no clothes except what was on their back. Sending engagement announcements seemed like an unnecessary expense.
March 12, 1941…in one of his letters home, my dad quoted my mother. She said, “Your father, in his book, puts it so well when he says about money, ‘It belongs to God, who expects us to use it in accordance with his will and purpose, and not to be wasted.’”
My father fell in love with a beautiful woman, but he also was discovering through her actions that she was practical and careful with money. She was also revealing her heart for pleasing God. As Dad spent more and more time with his fiancée, he was learning to appreciate new aspects of his future wife.
Just as my father got to know my mother by writing letters back and forth throughout their engagement, the Lord also has written a set of love letters so that we can know Him in deeper ways. I was initially attracted to Christ by His love but later, as I studied His Word, He taught me more and more about His grace and forgiveness and patience. Jeremiah 33:3 tells us, “Call to me and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” As we seek Him, the Lord will reveal more and more of Himself to us.
Reread Psalm 23 today and focus on what God’s actions in those verses reveal of His character.
Advent 2022 – Day 14
Thank you for sacrificing a small portion of your days during Advent to join me here to learn more of “God’s Love Story.”
Thus far, the road for my father and mother had unfolded smoothly. But love also demands sacrifice as you will see in this next letter that Dad wrote to his parents. My mother came to the conclusion that she should give up her graduate studies in Cambridge where she was doing research to determine which component of human blood mosquitoes needed in order to reproduce. My father and his parents tried to encourage her to continue her doctoral program in biology, but to no avail.
March 12, 1941…continued: “As for Joan’s plans for next year – she seems to want to not go on with her studying…she says she doesn’t want to feed mosquitoes all her life and she would rather darn my socks!”
Engagement was a major change for both of them, but for my mother it also involved a sacrifice of her educational goals and plans. Getting to know God may involve sacrificing our intentions, only to discover huge joy in submitting to His greater plan. Before I married, I worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico. I could not imagine giving up that work to marry. However, God convinced me that He had different ideas for my future. There was a cost – letting go of my plan – but what I received in return was so much more than anything I could have imagined.
Romans 12:1 tells us, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies [and plans!] to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”
Never be afraid to let go of your plans if God is pointing you in a new direction.
Advent 2022 – Day 15
Are you so busy that you might forget to enjoy this season of Advent? Slow down, take a deep breath, relax, and consider another aspect of “God’s Love Story.”
March 18, 1941…on this date, my father wrote to his parents about a recent visit with Joan. “We had such a good time this weekend, and I love Joan more and more every minute that I am with her – so much so that at times it almost hurts.” They were busy shopping and preparing for a wedding during a period of wartime rationing and shortages, but their joy was still very evident. As they walked up 5th Avenue after looking at settings for rings at Tiffany’s, Dad wrote, “We happened to meet Jerry Beekman and his mother, to whom I introduced Joanie…His mother afterwards remarked that she had never seen anyone look so obviously happy as we did!”
True happiness simply bubbles over and can’t be suppressed. One of my favorite verses is Zephaniah 3:17. “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
There are several Hebrew terms for “joy” in that verse but the one I love is, “he will rejoice over you.” Picture a father holding on to the arms of his young son and spinning the child around in circles in the air. The child whoops with joy and the father laughs out loud. That joy bubbles over and infects all who watch them. As John the Baptist said of Jesus, “That joy, that perfect joy, is now mine.”
Let others see your joy today as you walk with Jesus.
Advent 2022 – Day 16
Welcome back to this Advent series of devotionals about “God’s Love Story.”
Ordering Christmas gifts on line is a challenge for me. I am so thankful that my daughter helps me navigate the mysteries of Amazon.com! We all need people in our lives who can advise us when perplexed. During their engagement, my father and mother were no different. Dad was studying in New York and Mom in Massachusetts. My mother’s parents were over 3000 miles away in Ireland. There were many decisions to be made. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive. Wartime mail service was unpredictable. Communication with those she loved was difficult.
March 18, 1941… Dad continued his letter home, “All her life, I imagine, [Joan] has looked to her father for advice, and I know that she misses him greatly.”
Did Jesus ever feel the same way? He traveled not across a mere ocean but moved from heaven to earth, he stepped from eternity into time. What was it like for Jesus not to sit at His Father’s side in the same way as before His incarnation? Jesus looked to the Father for guidance as He spent a night in prayer. Which of all the men he had met should be among the Twelve? He was still dependent upon the Father.
In John 5:19,20, Jesus told the Jews, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he does only what he sees the Father doing; what the Father does, the Son does, for the Father loves the Son and shows him all his works, and will show greater yet to fill you with wonder.” And just a few verses later, he added, “I cannot act by myself; I judge as I am bidden, and my verdict is just, because my aim is not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”
What big decisions lie ahead of you in the New Year? Need some good advice? Step aside from all the rush of this season and spend some extra time in prayer as Jesus did.
Advent 2022 – Day 17
Tomorrow is Sunday. I hope you will be able to join God’s family in worship at your church, but I also hope you’ll take time right now for another thought in our series on “God’s Love Story.”
Going to church was important for both my father and mother as they prepared for marriage. My mother grew up as a Methodist while Dad was planning to follow his father into ministry in the Episcopal church. Yet they were united by their faith in Christ,
March 18, 1941…continued: One Sunday, they enjoyed being able to attend church together. “Joan came over for the 11:00 o’clock service and I sat with her in the congregation – which created quite a stir and much turning of heads and curious glances, especially from the young people in the choir. Everyone seems to notice us – especially in the subways, and I enjoy seeing their faces light up as they look at Joan.”
Dad was not threatened by people paying attention to my mother. In similar fashion, John the Baptist too never pointed people to himself but to the coming Messiah. In John 1:15, John cried aloud, “This is the man I meant when I said, ‘He comes after me, but he takes rank before me.’” And he repeated this just a few verses later: When Jesus walked by, John told his followers, “There is the Lamb of God; it is he who takes away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I spoke when I said, ‘After me a man is coming who takes rank before me.’”
We can be happy and proud of our relationship with God’s Son. As He grows greater, we must grow less. Are you walking in a way that causes others to take their eyes off you and see only Jesus?
Advent 2022 – Day 18
Only one week left until Christmas arrives. Only one more week to complete the story of my father and mother’s engagement, but we will need all of eternity to grasp the fullness of “God Love Story”!
Weddings rings have deep significance. For hundreds of years, a Roman woman received only a simple wedding band made of ivory or iron or copper or even bone. The ring was a mark of ownership. (Not very PC in our culture!) A thousand years later, the engagement ring entered the picture. And diamonds and jewels did not appear on these rings for another 500 years. A diamond has a natural beauty with all its facets and planes reflecting the light, but, being the hardest of gems, it also represented the enduring nature of a relationship. My father chose to have a family diamond reset in a ring for my mother.
April 2, 1941…he wrote, “I gave Joan the ring last evening which I think greatly delighted her – and it does look well on her, if I do say so.” Dad laughed when “Joan’s friend, Daisy Nixon, put on her dark glasses when she heard Joan was coming down to show her the engagement ring.” My father gave my mother a diamond because he planned to be with her for a long time!
Way back in the book of Genesis, God gave His people a sign of His enduring commitment. He had just caused a flood to destroy all of humanity except for Noah and his small family on the ark. In Gen. 9:11-13, he told Noah, “I am confirming my covenant with you. Never again will flood waters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.” Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is a sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”
I find it interesting that God chose to give us His whole heart but only half a ring – an arc – to show His commitment. What sign do we offer as a symbol of our commitment to Him? Does it glitter for all to see?
Advent 2022 – Day 19
Will you gather with family for Christmas? For some people, this is is a difficult event, marked by tension and even abuse. I think that many people have never heard about “God’s Love Story.”
One of my former clients from the pregnancy center once told me that when she married, she looked forward to taking on her husband’s name. She had not been able to choose her original birth family or any of the foster families where she grew up, but marriage offered my client her first chance to choose her own family. With World War II in full swing, my father had no opportunity to meet my mother’s family until after the wedding, but his future wife met his parents and siblings. They welcomed her into their home.
Though the letter for today is undated, it occurs in chronological order…my father jotted a brief note to his parents: “[Joan] wrote such a happy letter about [her visit with Mother and Father] last weekend and I think you must have been lovely to her – her descriptions of everything were so true to life that I almost felt as though I had had a visit with you all too.”
In Christ, we become part of God’s family. Not just a niece or nephew, not a distant cousin, but children and heirs of the Kingdom. Romans 8:14-17 tells us, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.”
We do not need to fear abuse as an enslaved person might, but we are welcomed into the family as heirs! How do we offer a welcome when we meet new members of God’s family?
Advent 2022 – Day 20
Thank you for returning here faithfully each day as we prepare our hearts for Christmas and to see more of “God’s Love Story.”
Will you be apart from some members of your family during the holidays? Does that prompt sadness at your end? Some family members may have already passed on to Heaven, as my husband did two years ago. It seems like part of us in missing.
July 14, 1941…During the summer, my father spent several months studying in Ohio and thus was apart from Mom who was back in Massachusetts. The separation was difficult for each of them. Dad wrote about a party that he attended at the home of friends where he was the odd man out. “I felt very incomplete without Joan [when I was] among all these young married couples.”
In Col. 2:10, St. Paul says, “So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” And he wrote to a similar message to the Ephesians (3:17-9): “Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
I would feel incomplete without my Savior…I’m so thankful He is with me always. Do you feel the same way?
Advent 2022 – Day 21
Do you find that sometimes time passes slowly (like for children waiting for school vacation), but other times the days fly by (like parents trying to prepare for Christmas visitors)? Thank you for returning here each day to join us as we learn about “God’s Love Story.”
My father and mother were engaged for over a year. It must have seemed that time crawled by, but many busy months intervened between the second half of 1941 and the start of 1942. During this time, my father was completing his final year of seminary in New York. He gained experience by preaching at small churches. Meanwhile, my mother taught at a small private school and completed her semester courses at Harvard in New England. In the Spring of 1942, they were at last busy making plans for their June 19th wedding and investigating sites for the honeymoon. Dad’s letters to his parents were full of these daily activities. Still their love remained as an undercurrent.
Jesus too faced all the demands of daily life. He had to eat and sleep, to bathe and walk from place to place. He had only three years to teach his disciples but they were constantly interrupted by people who asked to be healed and other people who wanted to argue. Did those years fly by or were there some slow times also? In Matt. 12:15, Jesus withdrew from the area where people wanted to kill Him, but other people followed him. In Luke 5:15,16, we read, “despite Jesus’s instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” He never complained about the intrusions. After all, these were the people He came to save.
Our love of Jesus does not remove us from the obligations of daily life. We still have to eat, sleep and work. But His love is always there as an undercurrent sustaining us through toil and stress. If you find time is rushing you today and your plans are interrupted, thank God for stepping into your day.
Advent 2022 – Day 22
Christmas is only three days away! Hold on tight as we near the climax of “God’s Love Story”!
Each year, my son John offers a theme in his weekly reports from Rockville, MD. One year each letter to family offered a new word to learn, another year there were jokes each week. This year there is a favorite hymn mentioned in each letter. Do you have a favorite hymn? My mother had one.
On April 28, 1942…my father wrote, “I had to laugh at the reason we aren’t having the Lohengrin wedding march. I always thought it was rather nice, but Joan tells me that Aunt Bess doesn’t like the way the story turns out!! However I shall be just as happy with a hymn for her entrance though I’ve never heard of it being done before.”
After reading this letter, I had to do some research. The traditional wedding march (think, “Here Comes the Bride”) was originally from the Lohengrin opera by Richard Wagner. Because Wagner’s work did not honor a bride’s trip to a Christian altar but was sung to the pagan bride as she was escorted to her bridal chamber, the Catholic church discouraged the music’s use in church weddings.
In addition, the story of the bride and groom ends in typical Wagnerian tragedy rather than happily ever after. Thus, my mother requested that she might process instead to the music of a familiar hymn, something unusual at that time but she started a tradition that I followed in my own wedding.
Newlyweds do not have guarantees about how their marriage will turn out. Some marriages are joyful, but others often end in tragedy or divorce. Thankfully, we know how the story for believers comes out…and it is no tragedy! In Revelation 21:4, at the wedding supper of the Lamb, we learn that the Lord “will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
Now listen to the hymn my mother chose: “For the Beauty of the Earth,” including its verse about human love….
Advent 2022 – Day 23
Thanks for sticking with me. Only one more day of Advent. Christmas is almost here!
During the month before their wedding in mid-June, both Dad and Mom faced additional stress above and beyond making plans for the wedding ceremony. Dad took his final exams at his seminary, graduated first in his class (tying for that spot with his roommate), faced his ordination exam, and then planned for his ordination into ministry.
For her part, my mother had to wrap up her teaching for the semester. Her visa permitting her to stay in the USA was expiring. Would Uncle Sam kick her out right after the wedding? But she had the extra stress of worrying about her parents back in Ireland: Due to WWII shortages growing worse by the day, as my dad explained to his parents, “they no longer have coal [for heat], all private cars are off the road [no gas]…The worst part is the long queues of poor people waiting at bread shops. The bread is just black bread and no flour to be available until June or July.”
Somehow, in that month, Dad did graduate and was ordained, Mom finished teaching her classes, and her parents survived the war. And, the wedding went forward!
Christmas is coming. We have no idea what feelings went through Jesus in that final week before He was born. Labor and delivery is a traumatic experience for both mother and child. But we do know that Jesus experienced stress in His final week of life on earth. He bore the pressure of knowing Judas was about to betray Him. Guards beat, mocked and spat upon Him. He faced a farce of a trial. Nails pierced His hands. Acts 2:25-27 reveals some of His emotions: “I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.” His body waited in hope.
As we have already seen, being a believer does not exempt any of us from the stress and problems of life. Yet we too can have hope!
Advent 2022 – Day 24
Advent is over at last and tomorrow Christmas will be here. What joy we will have opening gifts and being with family and friends. But take time for one last thought about the One we wait for.
June 20, 1942…no, my father did not write to his parents the day after their wedding! However, my grandfather wrote to everyone in the family giving a lengthy description of the joy shared by all on that day. A brief excerpt from my grandfather’s letter: “The great day has come and gone and I think it could hardly have been lovelier…There was a processional hymn in place of the wedding march, and as we clergy came into the chancel, it gave us a thrill to hear such a volume of singing.”
In the wedding ceremony, the vows state “until death do us part.” My mother died over 40 years ago. A year later, my father remarried a dear woman we all love and call Grandy. And then, after almost 35 years in that second marriage, my father died. Dad and Mom’s love affair is over and so is this series of Advent devotionals, but “God’s Love Story” continues. No such promise of “until death do us part” is necessary at the wedding supper of the Lamb. In heaven, there is no death. Nothing will ever be able to part us from our Bridegroom! You see, God’s love story is eternal. It will never end.
At Christmas, we sing carols and celebrate the long-awaited arrival of Jesus, but one day in the future, we will celebrate with joy when we attend the wedding supper of the Lamb. As we conclude “God’s Love Story,” I recommend you listen to a special love song, a hymn sung by the bride to her eternal Groom as she walks down the aisle… “Love Divine, all loves excelling.”
PS…I am also attaching a photo of my mother and father on their wedding day!