Tag Archives: Mary

Why candles in the window at Christmas?

candle in windowThe practice of placing lighted candles in the windows at Christmas was brought to America by the Irish. The historical background of this custom is quite interesting.

When religion was suppressed throughout Ireland during the English persecution, the people had no churches. Priests hid in forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say Mass there during the night.

Every Irish family longed for at least one chance during their lifetime to be visited by a priest at Christmas to celebrate the Divine sacrifice during Holy Night. Many hope and prayed for this all through the year.

When Christmas came, they left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity would know they were welcome and were guided to their home through the dark night. Silently he entered through the unlatched door and was received by the faithful who were grateful that their home was used to worship the birth of Christ Jesus.

To justify this practice in the eyes of the English soldiers, the Irish people used to explain: “We burn the candles and keep the doors unlocked, that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay, will find their way to our home and be welcomed with open doors and open hearts.” The English authorities, finding this Irish “superstition” harmless, did not bother to suppress it.

Candles or not the choice is ours. God’s Spirit resides in us and pausing to be aware of that makes any moment or any location sacred.

question mark orangeIn the midst of another busy holiday season are we making room for Jesus to enter more deeply into our hearts?

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.


Filed under Advent, Christmas, Divine presence, Holy Spirit, intimacy with the Lord, Jesus, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality

Waiting for the MRI results

The strange, tingling sensations in my hands and arms were like nothing I’d ever experienced before. The episodes were intermittent but had been occurring daily for over a month.

So last week I saw our family doctor. After an exam and some blood work – four vials worth – I was scheduled for an MRI. Among the possible causes the most concerning was MS or Multiple Sclerosis.

I’m not a fan of close, tight spaces but I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I’ve heard rumors of “open” MRI machines but our local hospital has none.

The TV goggles and headphones were a big improvement over a similar experience I had 10 years ago. But History Channel running a special on TUNNELS UNDER MANHATTAN was a bit too ironic! I had them change the channel.

The other ironic incident that week was preparing a sermon about Mary. She’d been told by an angel that she’s going to become pregnant by the miraculous power of God. Though she couldn’t know all that the journey would involve, her response was…

May it be to me as you have said. ~ Luke 1:38

This is not a statement of passive resignation over circumstances she couldn’t control. This is a sincere surrendering of herself. She is giving up her agenda, her dreams, her life, who she is…

As I waited for the results of the MRI Mary’s response weighed heavy on me. It’s one thing to trust God when everything in life is OK or comfortable. But could I pray that same prayer even when I didn’t know what was going on with my body?

Preaching about Mary’s response while waiting for the MRI results brought new depth to my appreciation for the role God had given her to play in His story of redemption.

Turns out my issue is not MS but four bulging discs in my neck. I’d rather not have them but am grateful it’s not something more serious. How will dealing with these discs influence my part in God’s story?

I don’t know what the circumstances of your life are; good or bad, easy or hard, temporary or long-term. But I do know that God has a role for each of us to play in His unfolding story.

Can we trust Him? Are we fully surrendered?



Filed under God, God's Will, Surrender, Trusting God

Where did Jesus learn that?

It’s one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. In fact, Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell of it.

Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane praying. He is about to be arrested and led off to be crucified. Knowing what is to come He is agonizing over it.

We don’t know exactly how long He spends in prayer but we do know that the breakthrough moment comes when Jesus prays…

 Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. ~ Luke 22:42

Jesus’ prayer is heralded as the supreme example of surrendering to the Fathers’ will; of giving ourselves to serve His purposes. But where did He learn that?

Jesus could have learned it from Holy Scripture (Old Testament) or from discussing kingdom issues with the rabbi’s like he did when he was 12. It’s also possible that He learned it from the Holy Spirit who came to dwell on Him after His baptism in the Jordan River.

Those are all viable options but I think Jesus learned it a little closer to home.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” ~ Luke 1:38

Without fully understanding all that would come with it, Mary responds to an angel’s announcement by surrendering herself to God’s purposes in her life. Given the difficult circumstances of raising the son of God it’s likely that Mary whispered that same prayer of surrender nearly every day.

The prayer that Mary prayed when Jesus’ life began is the prayer that her Son prays when His life is about to end!

It’s still a dangerous prayer to offer God, but the only way to be fully embraced in His bigger story!

Do you have the faith to pray this prayer and trust God with where it will lead?


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Filed under Faith, God's Will, Jesus, Prayer, Surrender, Trusting God

What it looks like to magnify God

Yesterday I blogged about the greatest Christmas song ever written – The Magnificat – and how Mary burst forth in praise when she met up with her relative Elizabeth.

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” ~ Luke 1:46-47

We explored what it means when our soul praises and our spirit rejoices – a celebration that involves every fiber of our being. And I explained that the name The Magnificat comes from the Latin translation meaning “magnify my soul, magnify the Lord.”

We all know that to magnify something is to enlarge it, to make it more visible. But what exactly does it look like to magnify God? This much is for certain:

To magnify or glorify God is not just something we do with our lips or when we gather on Sunday mornings; it’s what we do with our whole life.

Dallas Willard gives what I think is the best definition of what it means to magnify or glorify God when he says:

“It means to live in such a way that when people look at your life, they say, ‘What a good God God must be to think up somebody like you.'”

When others look at us, does what they see magnify God and draw attention to Him; or do they see just another human being doing life like most of the world – focused on their own concerns and comfort?

John Ortberg tells the story of their church hosting a Christmas party for their leaders. They contacted a vendor, a business guy, to help them with the desserts. One staff person called this guy and said:

“I work at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. We are going to have a party for our Elders and there’s a man at our church who recommended you to us. Can you help us with a dessert deal?”

And this vendor said, “You mean this guy goes to your church and he recommended me?”

The staff person said, “Yeah, do you know that guy?”

The vendor said, “Know him? I’ll tell you what. Not only do I know him. He is such a good guy. He has been so kind to me and the people that I work with that if you’re his church, I will provide my part of the dessert for free. You are not paying me anything. I will give the dessert away to a church that produces a person like that.”

How amazing is that?!

Lord, be magnified in me today and in Your church always!



Filed under Christmas, Glory of God, influence with the world, involvement with the church, Praise, Worship