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Some people come to Jesus like the shepherds.
Out in the fields, minding their own business — and kablammo!  Something big happens!

Angels show up!  a huge angel choir!  Glory to God in the highest!  Life change in a moment!

The shepherds drop everything and run to Bethlehem, where they find the Christ-child lying in a manger.  They rejoice, celebrate and end up broadcasting the good news everywhere they go.

Glory!  Glory! Hallelujah!

Others come to Jesus like the wise men.

They see a distant star in the east and are puzzled by its appearing.  “What does this mean?”, they wonder.  After a long pondering, they begin a long, winding journey of faith.

It takes them quite a while to figure things out — with plenty of detours along the way.  But, eventually, they, too, end up in Bethlehem.

Departing, they did not cause a big scene like the shepherds –but had the experience of inner transformation as well (though of the “still waters” variety.)

I like the manger scenes where wise men and shepherds are all together at the manger.

Though most Bible scholars say otherwise, as a hopeless romantic, I imagine love to imagine it just like the Christmas cards.  I picture them kneeling before Jesus side by side:  rich and poor, wise men and shepherds, locals and tourists — all worshiping Jesus together!  It’s would be just like God’s timing to arrange it that way.

The important lesson here?  It doesn’t matter whether you are a shepherd or a wise man.  Shepherds aren’t better because they dashed dashed to Jesus.  Wise men aren’t better because they took a longer,
thoughtful, more reflective route.  The only thing that matters is that they both ended up worshiping Jesus in Bethlehem.

God’s Blanket

Awakening to a beautiful blanket of snow this morning, I was reminded of these words from Edwin M. Johnson, legendary Northwoods poet:

God laid a blanket on the hills last night,
A quilt all fluffy, downy and white,
He tucked the edges round flowers asleep,
Warned the litte one burrowed down deep,
Not to awaken until the Spring,
When thrush and robin and bluebird sing.

Yes, God unfurled a blanket last night,
And He looked on earth and loved the sight,
The spruce and the flowers fell asleep with a nod,
I think they were thankful for the goodness of God.
When I saw how He tenderly cared for a tree,
I just knew He would care for you and me.

(This beautiful picture of the trail in winter woods was taken by my friend, Sue Bartz.)

The Burning Brought the Berries

Strong winds destroyed a swath of trees — leaving jagged trunks jutting from the earth.

Driving by, a few days later, I shook my heads and sadly recalled how beautiful the land used to be.

I grumbled against the wind.

Good-hearted loggers tried cleaning it up a bit — by clearing the windfall debris. Their honest efforts seemed more of an invasion than a healing. Their cuttings left cruel scars, cold and stark.

Driving by the destruction, I shook my head, and grumbled against the loggers.

The burning followed. How the fire started is still a puzzle — perhaps a lightening strike, or careless cigarette. Regardless of the start, it took the firefighting volunteers a full effort for the finish. Acres of charred stubble marred the landscape.

I grumbled against the fire.

But passing time has a way of healing scarred soil and human hearts. From blackened ground, new life emerges.

Twelve seasons later, quite by accident, we happened upon the barren place and were amazed to find bushes loaded with raspberries — and a new patch of wild blueberries growing near the earth.


Before dinner that evening, we bowed our heads, and gave God thanks for the berries and

Blessed the wind,
Blessed the loggers,
Blessed the fire.