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Advent is nearly over… Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, Advent was nearly a week short. Too short for me. I love sitting down at the end of the day with his nibs and Brandon and reading devotions that center me and bring me back to what the Christmas season is really all about.

It had been years since I’d changed up our Advent wreath. I decided — after the crappy last six months — I needed something different. I must admit I was surprised when I ended up choosing materials that looked like ice, snow, and had red berries. It felt cold. In fact the few new Christmas decorations I bought ALL leaned in that direction. I can only assume that’s reflective of the way I’ve been feeling emotionally these many months I’ve been struggling with this autoimmune disorder. But I love the way it turned out.

This year we’re using a book called “Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. Nouwen” for our Advent devotions. I love Nouwen. He was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian. His writings always shoot straight from the hip and heart. Today’s devotion was very poignant for me in light of the world climate. I thought I’d share it with you..

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Quite often out of an intimate encounter with God encounters with other human beings become possible. If you are the Beloved of God, if you start thinking about other people’s lives, you start realizing that they are as beloved as you are. One of the profound experiences of the spiritual life is that when you discover yourself as being the Beloved son or daughter of God, you suddenly have new eyes to see the Belovedness of other people.

It is very interesting because it is the opposite of what happens in the world when they say you are special. That means you are not the same as the rest. If you win an award they say you are different than others, then that award is valuable because not everybody gets that award. The world is saying that you are only the best when not everyone else is the best. (from a speech, “Discovering Our Gift Through Service to Others”, Henri J.M. Nouwen)

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This has always been my creed, what my parents taught our family from the time we were old enough to understand. I smiled when I read the devotion because of the way it’s reflected in our home at Christmas. We were kind of strapped for cash the first Christmas we were married. I would have loved to have had a fancy manger scene for our apartment. But since we were eating a LOT of hot dogs just to make ends meet, I figured it would have to wait for another year.

To my surprise, his nibs bought some cheap balsa wood and a set of very inexpensive nativity figures and presented me with this.. (‘Scuse the crappy pictures, tremors are a part of this AI thingy.)

You may notice something odd about it. If you look closely you’ll see an alligator, an elephant, a duck, a teddy bear, Esther (from the book of Esther in the Bible), and few other unusual critters. And if you look by the manger you’ll see the big man himself, Santa Claus. That’s because there has always been room in our “inn” for one and all. These are lost gems we’ve found in doctors’ offices, on the street, and other places. They needed a home, and they found one in a stable.

His nibs made that manger scene 45 years ago, and never once have I wished to get a different one. It was such a wonderful gift to me.

What do you think of Nouwen’s devotion? Is there room in your “inn” or “stable” for all the different kinds of people in the world? When you want to feel “special” do you look for those kudos in the world and seldom ever find them, or do you understand that you are already loved and cherished for who you are? That baby changes everything, you know…

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