Day 10 of Holiday Traditions // Linda Reif

A Time for Baking and Breaking Bread

The baking, eating and giving of Christmas bread has been a tradition in our family for generations. Christmas just would not seem like Christmas without the smell of freshly baked bread, cranberries and oranges at our house. A Reif holiday breakfast usually consists of toasted cranberry nut bread with a generous amount of either butter or cream cheese. I can hardly wait!

Now that my husband is a pastor of a small church, we have passed this Christmas tradition on from our family to  include our church family. One morning before Christmas, my husband, Bill, comes home with a mind boggling amount of flour, honey, cranberries and all of the ingredients needed to make his amazing Christmas bread. After the bread cools, it’s time for my contribution to this Christmas tradition - carefully wrapping each bread in tin foil and decorating them with bright red ribbon.

On Christmas Eve, our church family gathers together and celebrates the Lord’s Supper. Bill serves each family communion - the cup and the bread. He then prays for them as a family and presents them with a loaf of the Christmas bread we have prepared. He usually ends his prayer with the phrase “And now, Lord, answer these prayers in a way that has Your fingerprints all over them so that all will know that it is You who has done this.”

David prayed a similar prayer in Psalm 109:26-27

“Lord my God, help me;
 because You are loving, save me.
 Then they will know that Your power has done this;
 they will know that You have done it, Lord.”

The problem with this kind of prayer is that I, or someone that I care about, might be facing an impossible situation – one where there is no hope apart from the miraculous intervention of our Heavenly Father. There is no credit card, no wealthy friend or relative, no human resource available to meet the need. I learn that His love for us is without limits. “Since He did not spare even His own Son for us but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also surely give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32)

Bill and I had been married for eight years and the odds of the great desire of our heart, to have children, were statistically zero when a pastor walked into Bill’s office. Jim began, “As my wife and I were praying this morning we came across this verse: ‘He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!’ (Psalm 113:9) Sandy and I both felt that I should share this scripture verse with you.”

Against all odds, Bill was studying and taking notes on Psalm 113 and was to verse 7, Hannah’s prayer for a child. I “happened” to drop by Bill’s office at that very moment. Bill explained how “coincidentally” Jim shared the very scripture he was studying. I interrupted, “For three weeks Psalm 113:9 keeps coming to my mind. Is that it?”

A few months later, Bill was a guest on a Christian radio talk show in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Someone called in and asked a parenting question. Bill responded to the caller by explaining that he did not feel qualified to answer her question since he was not a parent but, if there was anyone in the listening audience who knew of a child that he and his wife could adopt…...

There was and we received a letter asking us to adopt a child yet to be born. But, we needed confirmation. Was this God’s fulfillment of His promise that He had so clearly given us, Psalm 113:9? God provided airline tickets on a day’s notice, an attorney to handle the adoption (of our twins...yes, twins!), and cleared the way for us to bring the boys home with us directly from the hospital.

But, would I have the physical strength to care for two babies in my late 30s? I held on to Isaiah 40:31 “…those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Bill came running into the home where we were staying to tell me that an eagle had landed in the backyard! My eagle!

Four years later the Lord blessed us with another son. But what about His promise to us from Hannah’s prayer for Samuel? A few years ago I received a call from one of our sons who was expecting a baby with his wife. “We haven’t really decided on a name yet – but, we both like the name Samuel.”

So this holiday season I can enjoy sweet times with friends and family, sharing Christmas bread as I wait for Jesus to do the impossible because “I know the love He has for us and I can trust that love.” (1 John 4:16)

  • What concerns you? Are you concerned that someone you love has not accepted the Lord’s free gift of eternal life? Are you concerned because of a financial need? Are you concerned because the pressure of your responsibilities at home or at work have become overwhelming? Are you concerned because you need direction; you don’t know which way to go or what you should do? Tell the Lord your concerns. Trust Him to accomplish what concerns you.
  • Thank Him that His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness is to all generations. “Depend on the Lord; trust Him, and He will take care of you.” Psalm 37:5
  • Can you think of a time when the Lord answered a prayer in a way like the parting of the Red Sea, when it was obvious that it was His power at work? Ask him to meet your needs today in that same way so that all can see He is a good Father and that He takes very good care of His children.
  • Have you thanked the Lord for His kindness, His faithfulness, His love and His mercy towards you?

Please share your response in the comments section below or join the conversation with our Facebook Community Group. #undividedwomen

// Linda

Cranberry Nut Bread

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup whole, raw cranberries

Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. Mix the orange juice, oil and water together. Stir in the honey and egg. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry mixture. Add the nuts and berries and fold together. Pour into an oiled loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool on a rack.

YIELD: 1 9x5 inch loaf or 3 small loaves

Linda Reif received her Bachelor’s Degree in education from Louisiana State University where she came to know the Lord her junior year through the ministry of CRU, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ. Linda joined the staff of Student Venture, the High School Ministry of CRU in California where she met her husband, Bill, who served as the National Traveling Speaker for the ministry. Bill and Linda moved to Dothan in 1981 when Bill accepted the position of Youth and Family Pastor at First Presbyterian Church.
Their heart for ministering to families led Bill to serve as the Executive Director of the Wiregrass Hope Group for 8 years and as Director of Marriage Ministries for 15 years there. Linda is a member of Northside Methodist Church where Bill serves as Pastor and Head of School for Northside Methodist Academy. Bill and Linda recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. They have 3 sons; Josh, who lives in greater Atlanta with his wife, Lauren, his son, Sam and daughter Abby; Zac, who lives in Tigard, Oregon and Matthew who makes his home in Fitchburg, Wisconsin with his wife, Nicole.