Do you ever get a bit anxious when faced with something completely new?
Like how to find a new job in an economy that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before? Or how to navigate a world that’s turned upside-down?
Many of us shrink from the prospect of entering uncharted territory.
And we’re not the only ones: even some animals balk when confronted with something unfamiliar.
Cows are notorious for disliking disruptions to their routines and environments. They’re particularly averse to new gates. Cows are made so nervous by new entrances and openings that they’ll stubbornly resist going through them.
This trait is so well known that it’s given rise to the phrase, “like a cow looking at a new gate.” It means to view something with bewilderment and confusion, as though to say, “Are you serious? I’m not going through that.”
Do you feel this way when faced with the uncertainties that the new year may bring? Is fear of the unknown keeping you from stepping forward in faith to realize your dreams?
Fear has a way of paralyzing us, so that we stay stuck where we are instead of trying something new.
With 2020 behind us, it’s time to believe that good things are in store for us in 2021.
Are you having trouble believing that? Has your faith been a bit battered by the events of the past year? Do you find it difficult to believe that God has something good lined up for your future?
You’re not the only one to think certain things are simply impossible.
Have you read the book, “Alice in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll? At one point in the story, Alice is challenged by the White Queen to believe impossible things.
When the Queen says that she’s a hundred and one years old, Alice is incredulous.
“I can’t believe that,” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said, in a pitying tone. “Try again; draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Even though this story is fictional, I think we as believers in God can learn a lesson from it. Sometimes God wants us to believe things that the world might consider to be “impossible.”
If you live in an region where the trees drop their leaves in the fall, you’ll have noticed something.
Some species of trees are quick to cast off their leaves once the weather turns colder. In my area, the mountain ash trees are always the first to be denuded of leaves in October.
Other trees seem more reluctant to give up their leafy attire, holding on stubbornly until the frost and the wind finally make them release their grip. In my backyard, an old sugar maple is usually the laggard.
The most notorious holdouts, however, are immature beech trees. They retain their dried leaves through the whole winter, only dropping them when the new growth of spring finally forces the old leaves off the branches.
We can be a bit like young beech trees, too, I think.
We may hold on too long to something that isn’t working, despite evidence that we should let it go.
Or we may cling to a dream that is clearly unrealistic, even though God is trying to nudge us in a different direction.
Sometimes God is telling us that it’s time to turn over a new leaf, so to speak. He wants us to cast off outmoded ways of thinking and let go of unproductive ways of doing things.
What traditions does your family have when it comes to Christmas gifts?
Do some of your family members like to give “prank” gifts?
This seems to be the specialty of a lot of Dads. Kids unwrap a gift from Dad to find an iPad box, and squeal with glee. When they open the box, however, they discover that inside are a bunch of eye pads! Thanks, Dad!
Or perhaps your family likes to disguise what the gift really is by wrapping it in a way that leaves you guessing. You might receive a large box, but when you unwrap it you find that it contains a series of increasingly smaller boxes. The last one contains the real gift, which might be a tiny box with jewellery inside.
In my family, we always open our gifts on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day itself. This tradition started when a certain little girl, who shall remain nameless, couldn’t wait until Christmas morning to see what “Santa” had brought her.
But no matter how a gift is wrapped or when it’s given, offering the gift is only half the equation.
It has to be received before the action is complete.
Sometimes we don’t realize what we’re looking at, do we?
This winter solstice is a good example of that, because tonight we’ll be able to see a particularly bright “star” in the night sky.
That is, you might assume it’s a star, but you’ll actually be seeing something quite different.
This rare “Christmas star” will actually be a planetary conjunction. The planets Jupiter and Saturn will be so closely aligned tonight that they will appear to be one ultra-bright object.
At other times, a bright “star” you see might actually be a binary star system; that is, two stars orbiting each other. Or it could be the planet Venus. You’d need to study it through a telescope, adjust your focus and consult an astronomical guide to know for sure.
The truth is, sometimes we don’t really understand what we’re seeing.
That was certainly true for many of the people who saw the baby Jesus and the star which heralded His birth.
If you still believe in Santa Claus, please avert your eyes from the screen right now.
For the rest of you, how old were you when you realized that there wasn’t really a Santa Claus?
Five or six? Nine or ten? Thirty?
For me, the realization came on bit by bit over the years when I was little.
First off, on the gift tags on my Christmas presents, I noticed that the “To Lori, Love Santa” inscription was written in handwriting that looked an awful lot like my Mom’s. In fact, exactly like hers. I realized that it was, in fact, my Mom’s handwriting, not Santa’s.
That was my first inkling that something was up with this whole Santa thing.
When we think of the Christmas story, we often focus on the birth of Jesus as the only miraculous event that occurred.
And indeed it was an awesome miracle: the virgin birth of a baby who would become the Saviour of the world.
But there was another miraculous birth that happened around the same time, described only in the gospel of Luke.
The angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive without having had relations with her betrothed, Joseph. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, and she would give birth to a son, who was to be called Jesus.
This was no doubt astounding news to Mary. But the angel didn’t stop there: he had another amazing news flash.
“The footprints are still there,” the article began.
Whose footprints? And where?
The article was talking about the footprints of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the ten others who have walked on the moon.
Astonishingly, their footprints are still there. It’s been over 50 years since humans first walked on the lunar landscape, but the moon’s dusty surface is still marked with our historic bootprints.
How can this be?
After all, here on earth, footprints in the dirt can be washed away by rain days later. An imprint of a foot on a sandy beach might be erased in seconds by an incoming wave. Other people or vehicles can trample a footprint, cancelling it out.
But it’s different on the moon. The moon has no atmosphere, and therefore no breezes or rain to erode any footprints. Earth’s satellite also doesn’t get a lot of visitors, so no one else’s footprints or vehicle tracks have obscured those made half a century ago.
Scientists suggest that the lunar footprints of the astronauts might last a million years, maybe almost as long as the moon itself continues to exist.
That couldn’t happen here on earth. Or could it?
Are there footprints on earth that will last for millennia or eons, or even for eternity?