Away in a Manger


In this second Christmas post from December 2011 I reflected on my own feelings at my son’s birth and how it helped me look at Christ’s lowly birth from a different perspective. Recently one of our pastors spoke on how “God Came Near” with respect to His humanity. Jesus felt deep emotions, He valued and dignified humanity, He showed us what God is like, He fully understands all we go through, He was willing to temporarily put aside some what is rightfully His as a member of the Godhead in order to provide redemption for us. 

Away in a Manger…This familiar Christmas carol takes many of us back to our earliest childhood memories of Sunday school programs, pageants, and recordings by various musicians. As I mentioned last week, my manger scene is the first decoration I put up as we approach the Christmas season. As I was trimming my tree this week, I decided to focus my next few blogs on significant aspects of the story of Christ’s birth recorded by Luke in the Bible.  We read,

“While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7, NIV)

Blog article 105 He will be called…

When I think back to my own son’s birth, it was a very cold January night with snow on the ground. But we were safe and warm in the relative comfort of a hospital with attentive nurses and doctors looking after us. I knew the best care was available and once my precious baby was taken to the nursery, I could start to relax and get much needed sleep and a little pampering.

Not so for Mary and the birth of her son, Jesus. Prophecy had revealed that the Saviour of the world would be born of a virgin and His name would be Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). He would also be called “Wonderful Counselor”, “Mighty God”, “Everlasting Father”, and “Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6) For a baby with such noble and esteemed titles, one would expect a birthplace fit for a king…perhaps a palace or at least the home of a high official or aristocrat.




It is evident from the verses above that Joseph had either arranged for the couple to stay at an inn or tried to find lodging once they arrived in Bethlehem. Because of the census being taken, it is likely all available rooms were filled and they arrived too late. Whatever the reasons, we know that God orchestrated all circumstances and individuals involved to accomplish His plan of sending His Son to this world. There was no vacancy at the inn and Joseph and Mary found themselves staying where animals were kept. Whether it was in a stable, cattle stall, barn, or cave we are not specifically told, but what we do know is that when Jesus was born, Mary lovingly wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger.

A manger was a feeding trough for animals. I can’t imagine not having a warm, fuzzy blanket to wrap my newborn son in, let alone having to lay him down in scratchy, dusty hay or straw lining a box that animals had fed from and drooled all over. Then there would be the unpleasant smells associated with the animals which probably grazed and rested nearby.  It was no doubt cold, uncomfortable, noisy, unsanitary, and a very lonely place for a young woman to give birth for the first time. Had the couple been turned away simply because there was no room, or might they also have faced rejection due to Mary’s controversial conception or their lack of financial means?

We do know that when Jesus Christ came to this world, He would humble Himself, take on the very nature of a servant, and be made in the likeness of human beings. Eventually He would even submit His body to death on a cross so that through His shed blood He would make salvation from sin possible for all who believe in Him. (Philippians 2:6-8; Colossians 1:20; Hebrews 9:22) Even Joseph knew that the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ birth would be to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21) Mary would also have been familiar with the prophecies regarding the Messiah’s birth, so when the angel announced to her that she would be the mother of the Son of God, she humbly submitted to the will of God. (Luke1:30-38)

A manger…obscurity, loneliness, humility, submission…God’s way of providing for our salvation and future with Him. That’s what I marvel about as I lovingly handle and find special places for my manger ornaments each year.

Until next time,





Stef’s Kitchen Creations ~ Hidden Treasures


This recipe comes from Betty Crocker’s CHRISTMAS Cookbook! Tis the season to start baking.


1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup softened butter or margarine
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (if desired)
1/4 tsp salt
12 caramel squares, each cut into 4 pieces
Additional icing sugar


Heat oven to 400. In large bowl mix icing sugar, butter and vanilla. Stir in flour, nuts if desired, and salt until dough holds together. Mold portions of dough around pieces of caramels to form 1 inch balls. On ungreased cookie sheet, place balls about 1 inch apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set but not brown. If desired, sprinkle icing sugar over warm cookies once out of the oven.



The Very First Advent


This coming Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent (“coming” or “arrival”), the beginning of the church year, when we celebrate Jesus’ first coming as a baby and anticipate his return as King. For two young people in Israel, this season was nine months long instead of four weeks, as it is for us, and what happened during in those months is a beautiful lesson for our teens today.

Mary and Joseph were happily “betrothed”, meaning that they had the status of marriage but not yet the rights of marriage – they were not to live together or be sexually intimate. For Mary to become pregnant during this time would be a disgrace. When this happened to a young woman in Galilee it was considered a moral and legal offence.

Mary did become pregnant, and Joseph knew the child was not his. Because he was a “righteous” man, he needed to back out of the betrothal. In Israelite culture that meant he was obligated to divorce Mary, and to do it publicly. His reputation was at stake.

Joseph knew it was right to divorce Mary, because she must have had sex with another man. But because he had compassion on her, he would do it quietly instead of publicly. Even though by so doing he would forfeit his reputation and the dowry his family had paid. (Matthew 1:18-24)

Mary, probably still quite young, was at first troubled when the angel Gabriel told her she would have a child. She was also puzzled, because she was a virgin, but bold enough to ask “How can that be?” And, even though it seemed impossible, she believed Gabriel’s answer and willingly accepted what she knew was a huge honor – to become the mother of the Messiah for whom Israel had been waiting. (Luke 1:26-38, 45)

Mary knew that she risked rejection, possibly from Joseph, most certainly from the neighbours in Nazareth, who would not know what was happening – or believe, even if they did know. But her response was, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me as you have said.” Joseph, told in a dream that he should take Mary to be his wife, did so, also risking condemnation because the required twelve months of betrothal were not yet finished.

This is a true story of teenage faith, love, and responsibility – of following God’s directions and considering the welfare of the other. These are the building blocks of healthy sexuality.


Anticipating Christmas


Three Christmases ago I wrote a series of five posts that I really enjoyed doing. So this year I decided to repost them, updating where necessary. In this one, there’s an exciting piece of news some of you may not have heard yet!

I love Christmas! Even more, I love getting ready for it! For the past week or so, I’ve been bringing up box after box, bag upon bag, flower arrangements, dragging plastic containers from under the bed, and decorating the house.

The first thing I always look for is my nativity set and advent candle wreath. They take priority because for me, Christ is the centre of Christmas. When God sent His one and only Son to be born as a baby in a manger, it was the beginning of His plan to provide salvation for you and me.


Away in a manger

nativity set_01

Oh holy night
My nativity set








As I enjoy setting up the crèche and positioning the little figures around the Baby Jesus, I always marvel that God chose such humble surroundings for the birth of the King of kings. Isaiah prophesied of Christ’s coming in chapter 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”


Our advent wreath

Next week is the first Sunday of advent, and we will be lighting the first candle

on my wreath, a special tradition we have observed since my son was a little boy.

As we look forward to Christmas day, we will light another candle each Sunday and on Christmas day, the centre Christ candle will be lit. I love this custom as it helps us keep focused on the true meaning of Christmas.

Another special decoration I set up each year is my Christmas village, which reminds me of the Victorian era and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I started out with just three buildings over twenty years ago, and every season I have added something new. A few years ago my dad built me a 4’ by 3’ table to house my growing collection and it’s always such fun putting everything together.

Perhaps the little girl in me comes alive as I lovingly place each piece and hook up all the lights, including lanterns and flashing train signals. The train has long since stopped working, but a little imagination brings it to life. The past three years I have set up my village on the shelves of our entertainment stand instead. There it stays until I get tired of winter somewhere around mid-March.


My village tabletop


Dickens comes alive








Of course, I also love my trees. Tomorrow I will begin decorating our 7.5-foot tree, which is sheer enjoyment. It’s always fun unwrapping all the decorations many of which I’ve collected from our travels and from years gone by. My gingerbread tree sits on a table in our dining room and my winter tree, you guessed it stays up until I get tired of winter, lights up a dark corner in our hallway. There’s also a tree on my front porch, and eight small lit trees that I put out there in the planter. Once they are all lit up, it looks so pretty and festive!


My planter trees on a snowy evening


My gingerbread tree










Our main tree


My winter tree











Then there are the many snowman ornaments, dolls dressed in winter clothes that I sewed for them, garlands and bows, Christmas platters and mugs, and my winter-theme bathroom decorations. Maybe some people think I go overboard, but it brings me such joy, especially with beautiful Christmas music playing in the background.

One of my favourite carols is O Come, O Come Immanuel:


My ceramic nativity



O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.




As I anticipate Christmas this year, we are expecting our first grandchild! It’s time for some new traditions to be started as well as choosing which ones to hold on to. But the one observance that will never grow old and will always remain central is the reading of the Christmas story from Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-20.

Let’s keep Christ the centre of Christmas!

Until next time,


November 24, 2014 - 10:48 am

Amy Grace - Can’t wait to celebrate Christmas with you! xoxo


Stef’s Kitchen Creations ~ Cookies ‘n Cream Cake


Love Oreos, cookies ‘n cream ice cream or chocolate bars? Try it as a cake! This is definitely one of my favorite cake recipes and you’ll love how easy it is to make!


1 package white cake mix
1 package white chocolate or vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix
1 cup oil
4 egg whites
1/2 cup milk
20 Oreo chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped + 8 quartered cookies for decorating


Preheat oven to 350. Spray 12 cup (10-inch) bundt pan OR 9 x 13 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil, egg whites and milk in large bowl; beat 2 minutes or until well blended. Stir in chopped cookies. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes in bundt pan, or 30-40 minutes in 9 x 13 pan.
Cool completely and frost with chocolate icing. Decorate top of cake with  quartered cookies.

(I use a 9 x 13 pan and it takes 35 minutes in my oven)