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Christmas Season Happenings

Dear friends,                                                                     December 2016                                                                                                   Shepherds kneeling.jpg

            Christmas may be right around the corner for most Americans but, for Claire and I, exuberant fans of the season that we are,  Christmas has already settled in and made itself comfortable.  Our home is beautifully decorated (inside and out); the carols are playing; our full slate of dinner parties is beginning; we’re reading Christmas books; and our prayers and discussions concerning our New Year resolutions have begun in earnest.  But the sweetest evidence of Christmas’ arrival may well be that we have started into our December schedule with the lovely, warm-hearted, and profoundly inspirational Christmas edition of  “When Swing Was King.” We have a total of 15 presentations this month – 13 in senior care facilities, 1 that is serving as a community outreach for our good friends at Herman Community Church, and 1 that we’re hosting (along with a cookie exchange) for several of our neighbors. 

            Also, as I explained a few months ago, we have added a delightful new twist to our “When Swing Was King” ministry this year: that is, the publication of a quarterly newsletter for the senior citizens and others who make up the audience for our shows.  These 4-page, big print newsletters feature big band trivia, fun historical facts, a little artwork, quotations and Scriptures, and then a personal note from us.  Our purpose is not merely to give our friends in the senior care facilities another gift (although that’s a good thing), but also to underscore the Christian motivations behind our ministry.  I’ll illustrate my point by printing below the personal note from our latest “WSWK” newsletter: 

A Note from Denny & Claire 

As Johnny Mathis sings, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and we most wholeheartedly agree!  We love Christmastime and have ever since we were kids.  The colors, music, festivity, cheerfulness, the special tastes, the glorious traditions – we grew up relishing all these Yuletide treasures. 

However, it’s been since we became adults that our love of Christmas has grown stronger and more profound.  Part of that is that we met and fell in love at Christmastime.  Part of it is that we work very hard at our celebrations.  For instance, our schedule is packed all of December and then the 12 Days of Christmas besides!  But the foundation of our Christmas joy is the celebration of the Advent of Jesus, He Who came to bear the sins of mankind.  Jesus truly is the Star of all our Christmas activity. 

And, in recent years, we have been blessed by yet another wonderful Christmas gift; namely, the opportunity to share “When Swing Was King” with some of the neatest, nicest people on the planet!  You!

            Of course, we would love those of you on the Vital Signs mailing list to come enjoy the beauty, the fun, and the spiritual impact of our “When Swing Was King” outreach.  The full schedule (well, not counting the show we’re giving for our neighbors) can be found on the Vital Signs Ministries website at vitalsignsministries.org

            Christmas had another fine moment for Vital Signs Ministries on November 29 when 17 of us gathered for a Christmas-card version of our ongoing letter-writing evenings.  It was a rousing success.  Our place was packed that night with resolve, prayers, and the joy that comes from doing what you can to shine Christ’s light in the world.  In this particular case, the saints gathered that night were shining their light not at an abortion mill or a nursing home or a public forum (although they do all that too), but at a festive and purposeful letter-writing party.  And what a job those 17 people did.  They wrote 283 Christmas cards in just over an hour and a half!  

            The recipients of those cards included 17 persecuted Christians who are languishing in prisons in places like China, Eritrea, and Pakistan.  Because of preparations I made earlier in the day, these prisoners were each sent 4 lovely Christmas cards with messages and Bible verses in their own language! But that wasn’t all.  We took the first half hour of the party for everyone to write Christmas greetings, thank yous, and other spiritual encouragement to senior citizens who served in the U.S. military.  We needed at least 116 Christmas cards in order to give one to every resident of the Eastern Nebraska Veterans Home.  Well, we got that number and more. Claire took those cards (each one lovely, lively, and with a splendid personal message inside) to the volunteer coordinator of the ENVH who was absolutely thrilled and very grateful.  She dared to ask if maybe the veterans could count on receiving Christmas cards from us next year too. Certainly! 

            By the way, the “extra” cards to military veterans will be well used as Claire and I hand them out to veterans at our “When Swing Was King” shows this month.

            Of course, our Christmas card party also dealt with the crucial issues that concern us at the other letter-writing evenings we host throughout the year.  These issues included appeals to American politicians to get serious about such crucial pro-life issues as defunding Planned Parenthood, appeals to officials in totalitarian countries to stop persecuting Christians, protests to companies who support abortionists, protests to

so-called news media who spend more time lying and covering up than they do actual reporting, thank yous to businesses who support faith and family values, and thank yous to various Christian heroes.  It was a swell party -- the perfect mix of Christmas cheer, stimulating fellowship, dessert treats, and the opportunity to make a real difference in culture and in individual lives for Jesus Christ.  We urge all of you to prayerfully consider joining us in this important ministry. 

            With the cold weather, our mornings at the Planned Parenthood abortion mill are particularly trying.  These old bodies certainly don’t hold up to winter like they did when we first started sidewalk counseling 34 years ago.  But God remains faithful in every way and one great day we will trade these bodies in for brand new ones! What a wonderful prospect that is. Anyhow, we celebrate Christmas even on the street as we pray, share Christmas poetry and Scriptures, and sing carols.

            Christmas always finds us hosting a lot of dinner parties here at the house, writing scads of personal Christmas cards, reading Christmas-themed books, and making “Santa runs” to friends who can’t get out much. We also do a Christmas Eve breakfast in Lincoln with Claire’s family and Claire hosts a special Yuletide tea up here in Omaha for the girls in her family. Claire also bakes a lot of cookies that we decorate together – cookies that are then distributed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to the staff at Life Care Center and to the police and firemen in our neighborhood. Oh yes, there is also an Christmas theme to much of what I do on Vital Signs Blog, The Book Den, and our Facebook pages.  I encourage you to check out those posts throughout the season.

            Also this month we’re doing a little promotion of my novel, The Christmas Room.  You can order a copy from Amazon (a Kindle version is there too); pick one up at Divine Truth, Bookworm, or Gloria Deo in either Omaha or Lincoln; or you can contact us for an autographed copy. You may even want more than one. After all, there’s nothing better for a Christmas gift than a book!

            What else is happening this December for Vital Signs?  Well, among other things, we take time to pray and talk through our “grades” on last year’s New Year resolutions. We take these resolutions very seriously, seeing them as our Christmas presents to the Lord. There are also a lot of end-of-year finances and business duties that Claire handles as well as plans she will be making for our participation in the Walk for Life in Lincoln on January 14th, the March for Life in Washington, D.C on January 27th, and the L’Abri Conference in Rochester, Minnesota the first weekend of February. As you can see, with all this plus the dinner parties, the “When Swing Was King” shows, the mornings in pro-life witness, the cyberspace activity, and so on, our Christmas season will be plenty full.

            One quick word to close this month’s letter is about Vital Signs’ financial situation.  We are down quite a bit this year and I promised the Board at our meeting last week that I’d mention it in this letter.  Your prayers and help, as always, are greatly appreciated.

            May the merriest and most spiritually profound Christmas blessings be yours in abundance and may you greet the New Year with courage, resolve, and a wholehearted trust in our great God.