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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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Today is Christmas Eve. Our day is focused on completing tasks, chores, and jobs before families and friends gather together. We are quick to make our homes ready. But there is an older Christian practice of making our hearts ready.

As the world waits to proclaim that Jesus is the Light of the World, let us prepare our hearts to receive the message of Jesus again. Though you have heard the songs and scripture verses before, let the truth and joy of the message change you. Hear the promise of God’s Messiah arriving on earth and let it change you. Imagine a gracious Savior coming to earth for you to be redeemed and let it change you.

Christians are called to be changed people. We are called to live in a way different than the world. But change only comes when we experience Jesus. Those who have experienced Him are no longer the same. We are called to be transformed and to be children of light. People who now live in the love that they have received from Christ. We are called to be this group. One who puts off the old self and puts on the new. A person transformed by the grace of Jesus. Someone who can never be the same because of Jesus.

Precious God, allow us to make our hearts ready. May we hear the message of Christmas and feel the joy and love of Jesus in our hearts. We were once in darkness. Now we live in the light. Allow us to be transformed people who follow after Jesus, the Light of the World.

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The Scandal of Christmas

shepherds

The Christmas story sounds strange for a reason. It is. The events we find in Luke 2 give us a picture that doesn’t make sense.

First, we find an angel and the heavenly host proclaiming the Messiah’s birth in the remote region of Bethlehem. Jerusalem or Jericho would make more sense. These cities would have more people to hear the message. Instead, a small group of shepherds living in fields outside of Bethlehem receive the heavenly announcement.

Second, it is late at night when the angelic message is given. People are at home and asleep. Why not make the announcement during the day when the marketplace is bustling with activity and people.

Third, the announcement of Jesus is given to shepherds. While this was a worthy calling in the Old Testament, much had changed for the profession in the first century. At the time of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were considered the bottom rung of the social ladder. It was best for them to stay outside of the cities, in the fields. They were seen as petty thieves who could not be trusted. Shepherds were even prohibited from being witnesses in trial and court settings.

Bethlehem was the wrong place.  A dark evening was the wrong time. Shepherds were the wrong people.

The Christmas story is scandalous. It says much about our God and the kingdom that Jesus will establish. The Christmas story shares that God will go anywhere, at anytime, to anyone. Praise God for the divine example that our Father will go anywhere to seek and save the lost. It speaks to the hope and salvation that is found in Jesus Christ and is available to everyone.

When we look at the Christmas story we should see how deep it is with grace and love. The proclamation of Christ at that place, at that time, and to that people shows how great the Father’s love is for us all. May the gift of Jesus continue to be shared in the scandalous example of God’s great love.

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hallelujah-in-hand

Christmas is a few days away, but many may not feel like celebrating this year.  When a family member has died and Christmas is just around the corner, singing and rejoicing can easily feel out of place.

It is natural to feel a deep and prolonged sense of sadness when a loved one has died.  It is also easy for Christmastime to be an emotional roller coaster due to the many memories a family had with their loved one.  If a person is experiencing sadness, crying frequently, or feeling uncomfortable around others, attending a Christmas service may not seem like the right answer.

I encourage you to make time and space for God even in your sorrow.  If it is listening to a favorite Christmas hymn, lighting an advent candle, reading Scripture, or offering prayer share time with God this Christmas. This time can be in a public setting with other believers or privately at home.  Even a cold and broken hallelujah is an offering of love and devotion that God will hear.

In time, your song will change. The healing heart of God is there to strengthen and guide you through the difficulties of today.  Make time to connect with our Heavenly Father.  The peace of God is always there to restore, heal, and provide.

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nativity

Just about everyone loves the Christmas season. While reasons may vary, from hearing a performance of the Hallelujah Chorus to watching snowflakes, people love the Christmas season. It is the arrival of our promised Emmanuel, “God with us.” This season also has a funny way of changing people.

Yes, Christmas is the best time of year, but we often forget what it does to us. Christmas brings out the best in us. No matter where you live, there is an increased effort for people to be kind, caring, and generous. Drivers are more courteous on the roadways. You open the door for someone when their arms are full with shopping bags. Neighbors help each other by raking leaves or shoveling snow off sidewalks. We even tell total strangers “Merry Christmas!”

This spirit of gratitude and grace comes from our Creator. God has demonstrated His love in sending Jesus Christ to earth. We celebrate this perfect gift in many ways, but the power of God’s love changes us.

We reciprocate the love that God has shared with us, His children. The gift of Jesus is so tremendous that we live in a different way. We choose to be transformed, and in turn, show greater compassion. This beautiful event happens more now than at any other time of the year. Christmas and the celebration of our Savior yield a new and different world, one where people give gifts, adopt orphans, feed the homeless, care for widows, support unemployed veterans, and show compassion to total strangers. In short, we decide to live out our faith. We put God’s plan of grace into action.

As the Christmas holiday approaches, make the decision to be transformed. Reflect the love that God has poured out from heaven through Jesus, the promised Messiah. Demonstrate your faith and share the love that you have received from our Heavenly Father.

 

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emmanuel

What is the longest time you had to wait for something?  We wait a matter of minutes for food at a restaurant and it feels like a long time.  We wait 5 years to start kindergarten classes at school.  We wait 20 to 30 years to find a spouse.  As a people, we do not wait well, no matter how great the reward may be.

The Advent of Christ is also a story of waiting.  The time between the Old and New Testaments total 400 years.  This time span moves from Nehemiah to the birth of Jesus Christ.  These years are known as the intertestamental period, but they are often called the “silent” years.  A time when people were waiting to hear something from God.

The New Testament gospels give us more than a whisper.  They announce the long-awaited birth of the Messiah, the Desire of nations, the Son of David, the Prince of Peace.  Jesus arrives as our Emmanuel.  Jesus arrives as our Redeemer, Savior, and King.  The most precious gift we could receive.

His birth shows the faithful promise of God to provide salvation.  His birth allows God and sinners to be reconciled.  His birth brings light and life to a world that has only known darkness and death. Jesus was born that mankind may have life, a second birth, a home beyond this world.

We celebrate the Advent of Christ on earth.  We celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the deliverance that it brings.

Now we wait again.  We wait on the second Advent of Christ and His promised return.  May God hasten the day when we can finally see Jesus, the one pierced for our transgressions, the one crushed for our iniquities, the one who died so that we may have eternal life.

 

 

 

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There are certain times on the calendar when memories of past deployments run strong.  December often makes me mindful of my time overseas.

You are united with your unit as everyone has a job to perform.  You are also united in the hardships and difficulties of being separated from those you love.

December is a tough time to be separated from family and friends.  You miss the traditional family practices and customs like putting up the Christmas tree.  You miss the favorite food and dishes that made this particular time of year memorable.  You miss the gift exchanges.  But you also miss the church gatherings, Christmas pageants, and special worship services.  They are the times and events that keep us strong in faith.

When service members are deployed, we are able to receive packages in the mail.  Uncle Sam will serve us a meal with all the special fixings.  Folks will decorate an office or work station with a snowman, reindeer, or Christmas lights.  But missing church services as a family always proved to be a hardship for Soldiers to overcome, no matter where you were stationed.

This Christmas, 86,000 Soldiers will be forward deployed across the globe.  They will be overseas and away from their loved ones.  They will be working in guard towers.  They will be flying helicopters.  They will be driving tanks.  They will be constructing buildings, bridges, and roadways.  They will be aiding hospital patients.

As we gather in churches across America, let us remember those who are deployed around the globe.

Pray for our service members this month.  Lift them up as they perform their daily duties away from home and in harm’s way.  Pray for their families as they celebrate Christmas with an empty chair at the table and the heartache that can bring.  Pray for God to bring our warriors home safely and for families to heal when they are reunited.  Pray that they can gather next December and celebrate the birth of Christ as a family one more time.

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Seven hundred years before Jesus was born the Prophet Isaiah recorded a message for all of humanity.  “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah gives us a description of the Messiah that bears repeating.

First, “the government will be on his shoulders.”  This affirms the lordship of our Messiah.  We will no longer be disappointed in the judges, leaders, and kings of this earth, instead we will have the perfect, holy, and righteous Son of God to lead us. We anticipate that reign, a day when Christ is Lord over all of creation.

Second, Jesus has become our “Wonderful Counselor”.  In Hebrew, the idea is that His counsel is a thing of wonder and awe.  He is the perfect ruler, a King with no flaws.  As God incarnate, Jesus is the source of all truth.  There is no corrupt judge or lying politician to rule.  Instead we will have the absolute best, a loving Savior who teaches us how to live and find eternity.

Third, Jesus is our “Mighty God”.  The word for “mighty” also means hero.  This conveys how Jesus saves us from death.  Because Christ is God, He can forgive sin, defeat Satan, liberate us from the power of evil, redeem us, answer our prayers, restore our broken souls, and reign as Lord—“Mighty God”—over our newly ordered lives.  He is not only the Holy Son of God, but his actions rescue and deliver us.  In this way, he is the greatest hero of all time.

Fourth, Jesus is our “Eternal Father”.  Jesus, the Messiah, gives us “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12-13).  We are no longer orphans out on our own, but members of God’s family.  A family and kingdom that has no end.

Finally, Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”.  While many see this title as an end to war on earth, another battle is in mind.  Jesus brings about reconciliation between God and humanity.  He offers peace from God (Romans 1:7) to all who are the recipients of His grace.  He brings peace with God (Romans 5:1) to those who surrender to Him in faith.  He brings the peace of God (Philippians 4:7) to those who walk with Him.

This one verse continues to shine brightly among Scripture.  It delivers the promise of our Messiah.  It highlights the reign of our future and glorious King.  It also shares how we can ultimately be reconciled and redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

When George F. Handel composed his Messiah in 1741, Isaiah 9:6 was one of the Scriptural texts used.  He saw in this simple verse the profound message of a Savior arriving on earth and decided to set it to music.  May we never cease to praise and glorify God for the beautiful gift of Jesus, our newborn King!

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