Advent: The Candle of Hope


It is my intention to write a post for each week of Advent. Whether that comes to pass or not remains to be seen, but that is my desire. Life often gets in the way of my good intentions, especially this time of year, perhaps only because I allow it. In addition to the usual daily responsibilities, there are decorations to be displayed, gifts to be bought and wrapped, cards to be sent, cookies to be baked, etc., but let’s not forget the whole point of Christmas—celebrating Jesus’ birth and its significance all these years later. Of all the items on my “to do” list, I can’t imagine any are more important than sharing the Good News.

We kicked off the Advent season at church last Sunday by lighting the candle of hope so I’ve been giving much thought to that word this week. Who can’t use a hefty helping of hope? The state of our world gets more depressing by the day as we wake up to news of yet another senseless act of violence or tragedy beyond our comprehension, all part of living in a sin-stained world. This is in addition to the more personal heartaches that touch each of us individually. As Pastor Chris frequently says, “Everybody’s dealing with something.” Your something may include grief, unemployment, a broken relationship, poor health, a big decision, or any number of other things that create turmoil in our lives. One thing is sure—we could all use a fresh infusion of hope as we deal with our somethings.

One of my favorite activities during Advent is to sing in my church’s annual Christmas cantata. It’s coming up next weekend. I think this is my 14th one and each year we participants, and sometimes even our audience, seem to say, “This is the best one yet!” They’ve all touched my heart in their own unique way. Oftentimes there is one song that especially gets to me. One that, if I think about the message, I’ll lose it. When singing, it’s best not to think too much. This year my tearjerker is titled “Unto Us.” We are ALL broken and in need of a Savior. God knew that from the beginning and put His plan of redemption into motion on that very first Christmas. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this event long before it ever came to pass.

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”         Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

I created and named this website a few years ago with the intention of letting my readers know that Jesus, our Messiah, is the Ultimate Gift. Unto you. Unto me. Unto us. He. Was. Given. May that good news fill you with hope in the middle of your something!

Not as Expected

A “do over”—I have joked with several family members that we should request one for this month. If only. December has not looked anything like I envisioned in my mind’s eye. I know a number of people who would agree with that assessment from their vantage point as well. It seems like there are a lot of people in my circle who are hurting right now for one reason or another. Don’t get me wrong, I have always liked the idea of escaping some of the hustle and bustle that seems to go hand-in-hand with December. I guess I just wanted the slowdown to be of my own choosing. As it turns out, the fallout from a simple cold has caused me to be still and tuned into the Hallmark channel for a sizable portion of every day these past few weeks.

My expectations and my reality leading up to this most holy of days are out of alignment.  I can’t help but think I have something in common with those who walked the earth thousands of years ago. They were watching and waiting for their Savior and promised Messiah. I imagine they were looking for their King in a palace. Instead His life started in a stable. I bet they expected Him to wear a crown made of jewels rather than one made of thorns. Reality doesn’t always equal expectation.

Admittedly, I like to have my ducks all in a row. I find they rarely line up as expected though. The bottom line:

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

When life doesn’t go according to plan (and even when it does), we can be thankful that He is in control. Because I know how much He loves me, I wouldn’t want it any other way. And He loves you too. I leave you with one of the promises God made His children, the Israelites, when they were taken into captivity by the Babylonians:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

May you find comfort in that promise and enjoy a peace-filled Christmas even if your reality doesn’t meet your expectations. Christmas is about the reality of who Jesus is—God in the flesh.  When invited into our hearts, He far exceeds any expectations we could ever have.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23 NIV)


Perfect Love

loveThe dress, the flowers, the tux. Shoes, hair, etc. Such great lengths young people (and their parents) go to in order to make their high school prom a night to remember. We are in the thick of it at our house this week. It has me pondering young love quite a bit. It takes me back to the time when I was preparing for that special night. At that time It seemed like my prom date/boyfriend was “the one”—my happily ever after. Like the majority of high school romances, that proved to be false over time. I won’t tell you it was easy, but eventually we each moved on. I found “the one” during my senior year of college and we’ll soon be celebrating our 25th anniversary. What I know now and wished I knew 25 years ago is that my husband doesn’t even qualify as “the one.” Now don’t panic, we’re not headed to divorce court. My point is that there is only One who loves me perfectly and completely. His name is Jesus. He is the only One with the capacity to love you perfectly too. We will never find perfect love apart from Christ because everyone else falls short. It can be good, but it won’t be perfect. I could have saved myself quite a bit of heartache had I realized this sooner and not set such unrealistic expectations on Todd. I am a slow learner. Whether you are single and alone, single and dating, a newlywed, or have been married for years, this message is for you.

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. (Ephesians 3:18, 19 NLT)

You are loved without condition by your Creator. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you any more, or any less. Receive His love today and celebrate!

The Unexpected

Thanks for stopping by and checking out my blog—The Ultimate Gift.  After numerous excuses on my part—too busy, not the right time, etc.—I decided it was time to follow Nike’s advice and “just do it.”  The ‘it’ I am referring to is answering the call to use my written words to glorify God by pointing others to Jesus, our true hope.

I really don’t know exactly what a blog is, but I found out that it’s a good place for an aspiring writer to start. The first step in setting up a blog is to come up with a domain name.  Of course my first choice,, was already taken so I had to choose an alternative. The math teacher in me jumped all over replacing ‘ate’ with 8!

As we close in on the end of November many of us are starting to think about Christmas and the preparations that come with it, myself included. I was doing some online shopping shortly before I decided to plunge into the blog arena. That could have played a role in my title selection.  I had gifts on my mind.  I am wondering how many people might stumble onto this site because they are searching for ‘the ultimate gift’ this holiday season and find something completely unexpected.  Divine intervention perhaps?

Whether you found this site on purpose or by accident,  I have good news.  The pressure to find the ultimate gift is off. Our Heavenly Father took care of that over 2000 years ago when He descended from heaven and came to earth in the flesh of a baby named Jesus. Talk about unexpected!  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NLT) Here’s the deal though—WE can’t give this gift, we can only receive it and share this Good News with others. Jesus can fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts, but we must invite Him in first. God won’t force us to unwrap the gift.  Having already opened it myself, I would ask, “What are you waiting for?”  There will never be a gift that will top it!

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)