I am delighted to welcome my first guest to Val’s Stage, the author of a beautiful, must-have Christmas advent devotional which I will begin reading again on December 1:
With the holiday season approaching, I thought I’d ask you a question:
How are you doing? I mean, really, how are you doing?
Honestly, I’m struggling emotionally. I’m tired of staying away from large gatherings and, with Christmas on its way, I’m having difficulty processing that.
If Santa braves the pandemic, he’ll be sending candy canes through a 6-foot shoot.
Many of the traditions we hold dear involve gathering in large groups with children shrieking in delight and racing from one room to another, giving the adults time to engage in meaningful conversation. We won’t have our packed-in, traditional family gathering of 30+ people. “Aunt Dori’s Cookies,” the star of our Christmas dinner table, will be enjoyed differently this year.
What I really want to do is curl up in my True Father’s lap—the safest place in the world, pour out my woes, and sip on a peppermint mocha topped with a fluffy dollop of whipped cream.
Thankfully, that is still possible! Our True Father, God himself, wants to delight in us this Christmas—no 6-foot separation necessary. That is certainly something to have hope in.
My new book Counting Up To Christmas: 24 Gifts from the Gospel of Luke is ready to help you cultivate hope and peace by opening a gift of Scripture from the book of Luke each day, from December 1st – 24th.
Our True Father is the gift opened upon reading Luke 3. The tone of family hems in this chapter with descriptions of relatives in ruling positions in Israel in the beginning and the genealogy of Jesus at the conclusion. However, we view that day’s gift by peeling through the layers of family in the middle.
The center of Luke 3 sets the stage for Jesus’ baptism. Scripture clarifies John’s purpose for his task: repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Luke 3:3) We also witness John’s pronouncement of humility—someone more powerful is coming whose sandal straps he is not worthy to untie. (Luke 3:16)
When Jesus arrives on the bank of the Jordan River, the two cousins seem to disagree regarding John’s credentials to baptize Jesus. (I think we can all relate to family miscommunications, right?) If we look in Matthew 3, we are privy to their dialogue. Jesus’ clarification of John’s role becomes as clear as the water he is about to be baptized in.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.”Matthew 3:13-15, ESV
Jesus’ response was flawless. His inauguration into public ministry wasn’t about repentance. “To fulfill all righteousness” (Luke 3:15, ESV) through baptism demonstrated approval from God—and His status as Emmanuel—God With Us. John understood the righteousness of Jesus and stepped forth in obedience.
Then, God, our True Father, breathed a gift in words over the flowing water of the Jordan River in the presence of His Son and the Holy Spirit descending like a dove. Perhaps you need to hear these words today, written especially for you?
I long to hear words like these, particularly this year when my usual way enjoying holiday gatherings will be quite different. Our amazing Father God wants to drop these words in our hearts like a lilting dove descending from the heavens. Will we open up enough to receive them?
As we prepare for Christmas, let’s remember that time spent with our True Father fills us with contentment and enables us to process feelings of disappointment with grace. If we center our identity around this truth, we will have everything we need to celebrate the birth of Jesus filled with hope and peace no matter the circumstances.
If you are interested in this study, the book is available at Amazon.ca (and Amazon.com). Additionally, if you would like to participate in community, we will do this together in the Facebook group “Counting Up To Christmas: 24 Gifts from the Gospel of Luke” and on Instagram @peacocksojourning. Freebies are available, including an accompanying Recipe Book, at http://www.jenniferelwood.com.
To help add some cheer to the season, I’m sharing “Aunt Dori’s Cookies” recipe with you. Recently, while watching a baking competition I heard someone describe their progress with the words “it smells like a blessing.” For me, that perfectly describes these delicious cookies.
Here’s to a different, but deeply meaningful Christmas—may you find creative ways to enjoy your family and friends this year while snuggled in the embrace of your True Father.
For the cookies:
1 cup softened butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp baking powder
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
For the frosting:
1/3 cup softened butter
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups powdered sugar
Milk to splash in if it gets too thick
- Preheat the oven to 350
- Cream the butter, sugar, sour cream, and vanilla.
- Add in the dry ingredients, save the flour for last and add one cup at a time.
- Refrigerate for half an hour. Then roll to your desired thickness. Cut out your shapes and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Set a timer for 12 minutes, but start watching them at 9 minutes. The secret is to pull them out the second any color appears on the edges. If you overdo it, the magical texture disappears.
- While the cookies cool, make the frosting. Mix the ingredients together and start with 2 cups of powdered sugar. Add more until you reach the desired consistency. If it gets too thick, have milk ready to splash in. Also, you will want to make sure the balance between the vanilla and almond extracts reaches perfection. If 1/4 tsp of almond is not enough, add one drop at a time until it tastes perfect. (Be careful, too much will ruin the flavor!) Color as desired and frost your cookies. You will want to let them sit and dry out a little if you plan to stack them between layers of wax paper. I hope you experience these treats “like a blessing!”
Jennifer Elwood resides in Yakima, Washington. She is a lover of Jesus, wife of Tom, mom of three, and bonus mom and grandma of many. She enjoys rich coffee, European chocolate, and the color orange. Going to Israel for the first time in 2015 sparked her desire to write and she has not stopped since. Counting Up to Christmas: Twenty-Four Gifts from the Gospel of Luke is her first book.
Stay up to date with her, download freebies, and receive the recipe book that accompanies Counting Up To Christmas, at http://www.jenniferelwood.com.