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Christmas Thoughts

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SIMPOSIOUS WISHES EVERYONE A MERRY CHRISTMAS!

SIMPOSIOUS THANKS THE LORD JESUS CHRIST FOR MAKING IT POSSIBLE TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AND WORSHIP GOD. ( Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.)”  John 14:6.

 

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The Christmas Story: Does It Still Matter?

From: Thoughts-about-God.com

Written by Rusty Wright

What does Christmas mean to you? Times with family and friends? Perhaps carols, cards, television specials. Maybe hectic shopping, parties, and eating too much.

All these and more are part of North American Christmas. But what about the first Christmas? Why is the original story—the baby in a manger, shepherds, wise men, angels—important, if at all?

May I invite you to consider eight reasons why the original Christmas story matters, even to you? You may not agree with all of them, but perhaps they will stimulate your thinking and maybe even kindle some feelings that resonate with that famous story.

First, the Christmas story is important because it is. . .

A Story that Has Endured

For two millennia, people have told of the child in a Bethlehem manger; of angels who announced his birth to shepherds; of learned men who traveled a great distance to view him.{1}

That a story persists for many years does not prove its truthfulness. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy survive in the popular imagination. But a twenty-century tenure at least merits our consideration. What deep human longings does the Christmas story portray? Why has it connected so profoundly with millions of people? Is the story factual? Curiosity prompts further investigation.

Second, the Christmas story is also . . .

A Story of Hope and Survival

Jesus’ society knew great pain and oppression. Rome ruled. Corrupt tax collectors burdened the people. Some religious leaders even sanctioned physical beating of Jewish citizens participating in compulsory religious duties.{2}

Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary traveled a long distance to Bethlehem to register for a census but could not obtain proper lodging. Mary bore her baby and laid him in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. Eventually, King Herod sought to kill the baby. Warned of impending risk, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt, then returned home after Herod’s death.

Imagine how Mary felt. Traveling while pregnant would be challenging. Fleeing to another nation lest some king slay your son would not be pleasant. Yet she, Joseph, and Jesus survived the ordeal.

In the midst of social and cultural challenges, the Christmas story offers hope and encouragement toward survival, hope of new life linked to something—someone—greater than oneself. One of Jesus’ followers said Jesus’ “name . . . [would] be the hope of all the world.”{3}

So, the Christmas story is important because it has endured and because it speaks of hope and survival.

Reason number three: the Christmas story is . . .

A Story of Peace and Goodwill

Christmas carolers sing of “peace on earth.” Greeting cards extol peace, families desire it, and the news reminds us of its fleeting nature.

I encountered ten-year-old Matt from Nebraska in a southern California restaurant men’s room one afternoon. Alone and forlorn looking, he stood outside the lone stall.

“Could I ask a favor?” inquired the sandy haired youth. “The door to this stall has no lock. Would you watch and be sure that no one comes in on me?” “Sure,” I replied, happy to guard his privacy. Matt noted, “In a lot of nice restaurants the stall doors don’t have locks.” “I know,” I agreed. “You’d think they would.”

After a pause, his high-pitched voice said, “You know what I wish? I wish there could be peace in all the earth and no more arguments or fighting so no one would have to die except by heart attacks.” “That would be great,” I agreed. “How do you think that could happen?” Matt didn’t know.

“It seems that the Prince of Peace could help,” I suggested. “Do you know who that is?” He didn’t. “Well, at Christmas, we talk a lot about Jesus as the Prince of Peace,” I explained.

“Oh, I see,” conceded Matt. “I don’t know about those things because I don’t go to church. Do you know what it’s like to be the only boy in your town who doesn’t go to church? I do.”

“Well, I’m a church member,” I replied, “but really the most important thing is knowing Jesus Christ as your personal friend. When I was eighteen, some friends explained to me that He died and rose again for me and that I could begin a relationship with Him. It made a big difference and gave me a real peace inside. He can also bring peace between people.”

By now, Matt was out washing his hands as his father stuck his head in the door to hurry him along. I gave him a small booklet that explained more. “Thanks,” smiled Matt as he walked out to join his family for lunch.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman in his bestselling book Emotional Intelligencetells of boarding a New York City bus to find a driver whose friendly greeting and positive disposition spread contagious warmth among the initially cold and indifferent passengers. Goleman envisioned a “virus of good feeling” spreading through the city from this “urban peacemaker” whose good will had softened hearts.{4}

The Christmas angel announced to some shepherds, “‘Don’t be afraid! . . . I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!”{5} A crowd of angels then appeared praising God and proclaiming peace among people of good will.{6}

The Christmas story brings a message of peace that can soothe anxious hearts and calm interpersonal strife.

Reason number four: the Christmas story is . . .

A Story of Family

Christmas is a time for family gatherings. This interaction can bring great joy or great stress. Estrangement or ill will from past conflicts can explode.

Joseph and Mary had their share of family challenges. Consider their circumstances. The historical accounts indicate that Joseph’s fiancée became pregnant though she was a virgin. Mary believed an angel told her she was pregnant by God. Now, how would you feel if your fiancé/fiancée exhibited apparent evidence of sexual activity with someone else during your engagement? Suppose your intended said that God had sanctioned the whole thing. Would your trust and self-esteem take a nosedive? Would you cancel the wedding?

Joseph, described as “a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace . . . [Mary] publicly.”{7} But an angel appeared to him in a dream, explaining that the child was conceived in her by God, and told him to “name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”{8} Joseph followed instructions and cared for his family. His continuing commitment to Mary and Jesus played a significant part in the boy’s birth and early childhood. With God’s help, the family overcame major obstacles. And so can your family.

Fifth, the story is Christmas is also . . .

A story of Humility

When kings, presidents, and other rulers appear in public, great pomp often ensues. From a biblical perspective, God came first not as a ruling king but as a servant, a baby born in humble circumstances. His becoming human helps humans identify with Him.

Imagine that you and your child are walking in a field and encounter an ant pile with hundreds of ants scurrying about. In the distance, you see a construction bulldozer approaching. Suppose your child asks how to warn the ants of impending danger. You discuss various possibilities: shouting, holding up signs, etc. But the best solution would be if somehow your child could become an ant and warn them personally. Some ants might not believe the danger. But some might believe and take steps to ensure their safety.

Paul, an early follower of Jesus, wrote of the humility Jesus displayed by becoming human:

Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven.{9}

The Christmas story speaks of family and humility. But is it true?{10}

Reason number six why the Christmas story matters: it is . . .

A Story that Was Foretold

Jesus’ followers noted numerous clues to his identity, prophecies written many years before His birth.{11}

The Hebrew writer Micah told around 700 BC of deliverance through a coming Messiah or “Anointed One” from Bethlehem.{12} We know that “. . . Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea. . . .”{13}

Isaiah, writing around 700 BC, foretold that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. He wrote, “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.”{14} The name “Immanuel” means “God is with us.” Biblical accounts claim Jesus’ mother was a virgin when she bore Him.{15}

Additional prophecies concern the Messiah’s lineage, betrayal, suffering, execution, and resurrection. Peter Stoner, a California mathematician, once calculated the probability of just eight of the 300 prophecies Jesus fulfilled coming true in one person due to chance alone. Using estimates that both he and classes of college students considered reasonable and conservative, Stoner concluded there was one chance in 1017 that those eight were fulfilled by fluke.

He says 1017 silver dollars would cover the state of Texas two feet deep. Mark one coin with red fingernail polish. Stir the whole batch thoroughly. What chance would a blindfolded person have of picking the marked coin on the first try? One in 1017, the same chance that just eight of the 300 prophecies “just happened” to come true in this man, Jesus.{16}

In a similar vein, consider reason number seven why the original Christmas story matters. It is . . .

A Story that Has Substantial Support

Can we trust the biblical accounts of the Christmas story? Three important points:

• Eyewitness Testimony. The Gospels—presentations of Jesus’ life—claim to be, or bear evidence of containing, eyewitness accounts. In a courtroom, eyewitness testimony is among the most reliable evidence.

• Early Date. Dr. William F. Albright, one of the world’s leading archaeologists, dated every book of the New Testament (NT) before about AD 80.{17} There is no known record of NT factual authenticity ever being successfully challenged by a contemporary.

• Manuscript Evidence. Over 24,000 early manuscript copies of portions of the NT exist today. Concerning manuscript attestation, Sir Frederic Kenyon, director and principle librarian of the British Museum, concluded, “Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”{18}

The Christmas story is notable for its enduring messages of hope, peace, goodwill, family and humility. It was foretold by prophets and has substantial manuscript support. But there is another reason for considering the story of Jesus’ birth, perhaps the most important.

Reason number eight: the Christmas story is . . .

A Story of Love

Jesus’ followers taught that His conception and birth were part of a divine plan to bring us genuine peace, inner freedom, and self-respect. They believed the biblical God wants us to enjoy friendship with Him, and meaning and purpose. Alas, our own self-centeredness separates us from Him. Left to our own, we would spend both time and eternity in this spiritually unplugged state.

Jesus came to help plug us into God. Mary’s baby was born to die, paying the penalty for our self-centeredness, which the biblical documents call “sin.” If I had a traffic fine I could not pay, you could offer to pay it for me. When the adult Jesus died on the cross, He carried the penalty due all our sins then rose from the dead to give new life.

Jesus explained, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”{19} God can become your friend if you believe in Him, that is, if you trust Him to forgive you. He will never let you down.

Perhaps you are becoming aware of the importance of the Christmas story in your own life. Might you like to receive Jesus’ free gift of forgiveness and place your faith in Him? You can celebrate this Christmas knowing that you are a member of His family. Perhaps you’d like to talk to Him right now. You might want to tell Him something like this:

Jesus Christ, thanks for loving me, for dying for my sins and rising again. Please apply your death as the means of my forgiveness. I accept your pardon. Come and live in me and help me to become your close friend.

If you made that decision to place your trust in Jesus, He has entered your life, forgiven you and given you eternal life. I encourage you to tell another of His followers about your decision and ask them to help you grow in faith. Call this radio station or visit the Web site probe.org to learn more. Read the Bible to discover more about God. Begin with the Gospel of John, the fourth book in the New Testament, which is one of the easier ones to understand. Tell God what is on your heart, and tell others about the discovery you’ve made so they can know Him too.

Christmas is meant to celebrate peace and joy. Amidst the busyness of shopping, parties, presents, and fun, remember that the Prince of Peace came to spread peace and joy to all who believe in Him.

 

The Gold Wrapping Paper – An Inspirational Short Christmas Story

From: WantToKnow.info
Once upon a time, there was a man who worked very hard just to keep food on the table for his family. This particular year a few days before Christmas, he punished his little five-year-old daughter after learning that she had used up the family’s only roll of expensive gold wrapping paper.

As money was tight, he became even more upset when on Christmas Eve he saw that the child had used all of the expensive gold paper to decorate one shoebox she had put under the Christmas tree. He also was concerned about where she had gotten money to buy what was in the shoebox.

Nevertheless, the next morning the little girl, filled with excitement, brought the gift box to her father and said, “This is for you, Daddy!”

As he opened the box, the father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, now regretting how he had punished her.

But when he opened the shoebox, he found it was empty and again his anger flared. “Don’t you know, young lady,” he said harshly, “when you give someone a present, there’s supposed to be something inside the package!”

The little girl looked up at him with sad tears rolling from her eyes and whispered: “Daddy, it’s not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was all full.”

The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his precious little girl. He begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger.

An accident took the life of the child only a short time later. It is told that the father kept this little gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. Whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems, he would open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of this beautiful child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each of us has been given an invisible golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends and God. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.

The Christmas Puppy

From: InspirationalArchive.org.

Many and many a year ago,
In a city bleak and dark,
A Christmas miracle began one night
With a hungry puppy’s bark.

He was too careless to mind his mom;
So one day in the chilly fall,
The puppy wandered away from her
And now had no home at all.

Alone he’d lived for weeks gone by
On what little food he found,
And several times he had just escaped
The catcher from the pound.

Until one night the shivering pup
Found nothing whatever to eat
As swirling snow began to fall
And settle at his feet.

The fright he felt was only matched
By his feeling of despair
As people stepped right over him
Without a thought or care.

At last the puppy faltered
As he neared a humble home
Where within a woman’s tears fell
As she knelt and prayed alone.

Precious little did the woman have
To give her much-loved son;
Her wages barely would buy his food
When each day’s work was done.

And now she waited with grieving heart
For the passing of the night,
For she had no gift to give her son
At Christmas morning light.

And as she knelt and prayed and hoped,
She heard a feeble bark;
So she rose and opened up the door
And looked into the dark.

Outside she found a sodden bundle
Of tangled puppy fur
With two big eyes with glistening tears
That fastened tight on her.

Unable to deny those big sad eyes
That looked at her with trust,
She brought the puppy into the house
Away from the cold wind’s gust.

Inside she settled him near the hearth
And warmed a precious cup
Of milk and oats with cooking fat
And watched him lap it up.

And then she brushed his golden fur
And fluffed it as it dried
And knew her prayers were answered
When she brought the pup inside.

Around his neck she tied a bow
(Of ribbon saved for years)
And rejoiced because her son would not
Wake up to grief and tears.

For now he’d have a Christmas puppy
To give him lots of joy,
And he would love the Christmas puppy
More than any Christmas toy.

Christmas Wonder

 

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Christmas Wonder

 — by Randy Kilgore
Our Daily Bread Radio is hosted by Les Lamborn
Remember His marvelous works which He has done. —1 Chronicles 16:12
Bible in a Year:
Micah 6-7; Revelation 13

After my first semester in seminary, my family was given airline tickets to fly home for Christmas. The night before our flight, we realized we had less than $20 for the trip. Parking, transportation, and other incidentals were certain to cost more than $20. Heartsick, we resolved to pray about it. Though our children were small (6 and 2), we included them in the prayer time.

As we were praying, we heard footsteps in the hallway of the apartment building, and then “whisk”—the sound of an envelope sliding under the door. Inside the envelope was an anonymous gift of $50.

The wonder reflected on our 6-year-old daughter’s face matched the wonder in our own hearts. Here was a mighty God writing His name on a little girl’s heart by hearing and answering our prayer in the same instant. And so we, like the psalmist David, could “talk of all His wondrous works!” (1 Chron. 16:9).

So it was that first Christmas night, when a mighty, all-knowing, all-powerful God wrote His name on the heart of humanity, stunning us with the generosity of forgiveness and the joy of unconditional love. The birth of Christ is the answer to our most fervent prayers for love and forgiveness. Can you feel the wonder?

Lord, restore to me the wonder of Christmas,
felt most keenly when I first met Jesus;
for I long to tell the story with all the
joy it brought me that day.
A wonder-filled life is ours when we know the Christ of Christmas.
From: Our Daily Bread

The Drawing of the Father

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him . .  —John 6:44

When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. Will I react positively to the truth that God has revealed? Will I come to Him? To discuss or deliberate over spiritual matters when God calls is inappropriate and disrespectful to Him. When God speaks, never discuss it with anyone as if to decide what your response may be (see Galatians 1:15-16). Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself. But will I commit, placing myself completely and absolutely on God, and be willing to act solely on what He says? If I will, I will find that I am grounded on reality as certain as God’s throne.In preaching the gospel, always focus on the matter of the will. Belief must come from the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to a persuasive or powerful argument. I must deliberately step out, placing my faith in God and in His truth. And I must place no confidence in my own works, but only in God. Trusting in my own mental understanding becomes a hindrance to complete trust in God. I must be willing to ignore and leave my feelings behind. I must will to believe. But this can never be accomplished without my forceful, determined effort to separate myself from my old ways of looking at things. I must surrender myself completely to God.Everyone has been created with the ability to reach out beyond his own grasp. But it is God who draws me, and my relationship to Him in the first place is an inner, personal one, not an intellectual one. I come into the relationship through the miracle of God and through my own will to believe. Then I begin to get an intelligent appreciation and understanding of the wonder of the transformation in my life.

 From: My Utmost For HIs Highest

humbly His

by jennifer benson schuldt

Daniel 4:19-37

[God] is able to humble the proud (Daniel 4:37).

Read Deuteronomy 8:12-15to see how prosperity can lead to pride. Read Psalm 138:6 to see how God relates differently to those who are proud than to those who are humble.

Would you rather try to correct arrogance in your life, or to have God take action to do so? Why? How can pride and arrogance harm relationships?

Only a handful of people know who wrote the book Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything. The writer, who published the book under the name “Anonymous,” is a well-established author who is living out the main point of his (or her) message. According to Anonymous, the book is “a call to stop imitating the world’s formula for success and instead follow the model of our humble King.”

This book, written for Christians, shows that we can know who God is, yet be dizzied by a sense of our own importance. King Nebuchadnezzar had this problem. After seeing Daniel and his buddies escape—unharmed—from a furnace, he praised God, saying ultimately, “There is no other god who can rescue like this” (Daniel 3:29). Nebuchadnezzar had the right idea about God’s greatness, but he needed a lesson in humility.

His lesson began one day when he was strolling along the roof of his palace. Surveying the scene below, he said, “By my own mighty power I have built this beautiful city . . . to display my majestic splendor” (Daniel 4:30). A voice from heaven interrupted his self-congratulation. The voice told him he would go to live with wild animals and eat grass like a cow. He would return to society when he learned that “the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses” (Daniel 4:32). This is exactly what happened.

When Nebuchadnezzar regained his sanity, he declared, “all [God’s] acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud” (Daniel 4:37). When we allow pride to pollute our souls, we can expect God to take us down a peg or two. However, it’s encouraging to remember that if we follow the Bible’s teaching and “humble [ourselves] before the Lord,” he will lift us up in honor (James 4:10). We will be humbly His.

From: Our Daily Journey

Christmas Kindness

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Romans 12:7-9
If you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly (Romans 12:8).

Proverbs 11:17 to be true?

How has God shown kindness to you? What happens when we live out this character quality before others?

My son spent his first decade of life in a warm East Africa climate. For his 10th birthday, I used frequent flier miles and took him to the western part of the US to experience snow.

Friends graciously opened their home to us while they were away for the Christmas holidays. When my son and I arrived, we had just a garage door opener code to get in but a fluke power outage prevented the door from opening. It was 9:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve . . . and we were stranded. Sheepishly, I knocked on the neighbors’ door and explained our situation. To my surprise, the family invited us to spend the night with them.

Like Job, the family opened their doors to complete strangers (Job 31:31-32), blessing us big-time! When we walked in, they immediately whisked us to their backyard to roast marshmallows over a crackling fire. Yum! Later, my son and I stayed in their lovely guestroom, and we woke up on Christmas morning to a huge breakfast and stockings filled with gifts from our thoughtful hosts (see Romans 12:7-9).

I love the Wikipedia definition of kindness: “Good and charitable behavior . . . concern for others. It is known as a virtue . . . Research has shown that acts of kindness not only benefit the receivers of the kind act, but also the giver.” Kindness is also included in the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When we extend kindness to others, we glorify the Lord who “is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness” (Psalm 145:17).

This Christmas, like my new friends in Utah, choose to display the wisdom of Proverbs 3:3 and “never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.”

no other gods

Exodus 20:1-6
You must not have any other god but me (Exodus 20:3).

Read Isaiah 44:6-24 for God’s view of other gods and why it’s foolish to have them.

What person, hobby, or thing has been elevated to godlike status in your life? What will you do about it today?

Jason is dead serious about his studies. He’s striving to gain an overseas scholarship that will allow him to pursue a doctorate degree in mathematics. So he makes sure that he does well in all his required classes. He’s also gone beyond the basics to take higher-level classes. He eats, drinks, and sleeps math!

Has education become his god? It’s hard to tell. Any responsible student should put in the due diligence. Yet, on the other hand, it’s easy for career, family, hobbies, and other everyday concerns to be elevated to godlike status. We can begin to give them our total devotion.

God said to His people: “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3). For to have another god before the only God is to provoke Him to holy jealousy. John Calvin explained, “This is like a shameless woman who brings in an adulterer before her husband’s very eyes only to vex his mind the more.”

But can we obey this commandment? The answer is both “no” and “yes.” No, because the Law reveals our sinful inclination toward other gods. Yes, because of what Christ has accomplished on the cross for us. Now, with the Holy Spirit’s help, we can keep this command—as Philip Ryken puts it, “not as a way of getting right with God, but as a way of pleasing the God who has made us right with Him.”

May our heart’s prayer reflect these words from hymn writer Robert Robinson: “O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.”

From: Our Daily Journey

The Christmas Story

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The Christmas Story

As found in the Holy Bible, in the book of Luke.

Christmas storyThe story of the Birth of Christ Jesus

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was the governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s hometown, for the census. As a decendant of David he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancee, who was pregnant.

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped Him in a blanket and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the hostel.

There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: “Glory to God in the heavenly heights; Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him.”

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the shepherds were impressed.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The shepherds returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!”  (Luke 2:1-20).

christmas storyIt was a simple scene that first Christmas – a rough room, a young couple and nothing but a feeding trough to put the child in. It was probably quite cold and with family far away there was little help. Not exactly the Hallmark moment we like to show in Christmas pageants. And yet this rustic scene marked the greatest event in the history of mankind.

God’s Son became human and came to earth to save us. God had promised to send a Messiah, one who would save His people. He could have easily burst on the scene as a full grown man, a seven foot warrior with fiery eyes and arms of steel. This was what many people were looking for, but it wasn’t how God did it. He arrived in the arms of a young girl. He was, as another of our authors put it, “a very small package, wrapped in rags, given from the heart of God. The perfect gift.”

God gave His only Son to die in our place so that we, in all our brokenness, could know forgiveness. He came so that we could know what love feels like, real love – love that never leaves, love that never disappoints, love that is never betrayed. He sent His Son into a corrupted world to bring us hope.

How are you doing this Christmas?
Are you having a hard time finding hope in the world? Are you having a hard time finding peace? It doesn’t have to be that way. You can have peace and find hope and know forgiveness through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know You personally. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to You and ask You to come in as my Saviour and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Bring peace to my world this Christmas. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.

From: thoughts-about-God.com

Christmas Lights

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Christmas Lights

 — by Julie Ackerman Link
Our Daily Bread Radio is hosted by Les Lamborn
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned. —Matthew 4:16
Bible in a Year:
Daniel 5-7; 2 John

In December each year, a neighborhood of 13 families near where we live sets up a dazzling display of 300,000 Christmas lights. People drive for miles and wait in line for hours to see the flashing, colorful lights and hear the music that is programmed to go with it. The sound-and-light display is so elaborate that it requires a network of 64 computers to keep everything synchronized.

When I think about these holiday lights, I am reminded of the Light that makes Christmas a holiday for many—a single Light so bright that it illuminates the whole world with truth, justice, and love. This Light—Jesus—is everything that the world is longing and looking for (Isa. 9:2,6-7). And He has told His followers to display His light so that others will see and glorify God (Matt. 5:16).

Imagine if Christians worked as hard at shining and synchronizing the light of God’s love as the families of that neighborhood work when they illuminate their street with Christmas lights. Perhaps then the people still living in darkness would make an effort to see this great Light. When Christians work together to display God’s love, the gospel will shine more brightly and attract more people to Jesus—the Light of the world.

O to be filled with His life divine;
O to be clothed with His power and might;
O to reflect my dear Savior sublime—
Always to shine as the saints in light! —Anon.
Our witness for Christ is a light in a dark world.
From: Our Daily Bread

Repentance

Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation . . . —2 Corinthians 7:10

Conviction of sin is best described in the words:My sins, my sins, my Savior,
How sad on Thee they fall.

Conviction of sin is one of the most uncommon things that ever happens to a person. It is the beginning of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict people of sin (see John 16:8). And when the Holy Spirit stirs a person’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not that person’s relationship with others that bothers him but his relationship with God— “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight . . .” (Psalm 51:4). The wonders of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven person who is truly holy. He proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was previously, by the grace of God. Repentance always brings a person to the point of saying, “I have sinned.” The surest sign that God is at work in his life is when he says that and means it. Anything less is simply sorrow for having made foolish mistakes— a reflex action caused by self-disgust.

The entrance into the kingdom of God is through the sharp, sudden pains of repentance colliding with man’s respectable “goodness.” Then the Holy Spirit, who produces these struggles, begins the formation of the Son of God in the person’s life (see Galatians 4:19). This new life will reveal itself in conscious repentance followed by unconscious holiness, never the other way around. The foundation of Christianity is repentance. Strictly speaking, a person cannot repent when he chooses— repentance is a gift of God. The old Puritans used to pray for “the gift of tears.” If you ever cease to understand the value of repentance, you allow yourself to remain in sin. Examine yourself to see if you have forgotten how to be truly repentant.

From: My Utmost For His Highest

Managing the Mess

[Written by Joe Stowell for Our Daily Bread.]

“Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” Ruth 1:21

When we meet Naomi in the Scriptures, her life is a mess. She and her husband had gone to Moab searching for food during a famine. While in that land, their two sons married Moabite women, and life was good—until her husband and sons died and she was stuck, widowed in a foreign land.

Though honest about her pain, Naomi obviously had a sense of who was in control: “The Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me” (Ruth 1:21).

The Hebrew word for “Almighty” (Shaddai) indicates God’s sufficiency for any situation. The word “Lord” (Yahweh) refers to His faithfulness as the loving covenant-keeping God. I love how Naomi put these two names together. In the midst of her complaint, she never lost sight of the fact that her God was a capable and faithful God. And, sure enough, He proved His capability to deliver her and His faithfulness to care for her to the very end.

If there seems to be no way out of your despair, remember that Naomi’s God is your God as well. And He specializes in managing our messes to good and glorious outcomes. Thankfully, He is both capableand faithful. So, when your life is a mess, remember who your God is!

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last. —von Schlegel

Stand back and watch the Lord manage your mess into a glorious outcome.

From: Get More Strength

Hebrews 13:1-3

So you, too, must show love to foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19).

Read Job 31:32 and note the suffering man’s hospitable approach to caring for strangers.

 

Last summer, my son and I were heading to a connecting flight at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. As we walked briskly from one terminal to another, Wasswa said, “Look, Mommy, a Dinka!”

Dinkas comprise the largest tribe in South Sudan. They’re considered the tallest people group in Africa, and with their beautiful, deep skin color are fairly easy to recognize if you’re somewhat familiar with sub-Saharan tribes. We stopped to say “hello” to the man, and he was pleased, albeit surprised, that upon seeing him we identified his heritage.

Through broken English, the gentleman explained that a few years earlier he and his family had entered the United States as war refugees. He said they were thankful to be here, but they still felt like strangers in a foreign land.

Hearing this man’s plight caused me to reflect on Matthew 25:37-39, which states that the “righteous ones” will reply, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

As members of the body of Christ, we’re called to:

• Love each other as brothers and sisters (Deuteronomy 10:18-19;Hebrews 13:1).

• Show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! (Hebrews 13:2).

• Remember those in prison, as if we were there ourselves (Hebrews 13:3).

• Remember also those who are being mistreated, as if we were experiencing their pain in our own bodies (Hebrews 13:3).

Today, let’s ask God to help us recognize the people, including strangers, to whom we can show true hospitality.

From: Our Daily Journey