Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The First Christmas

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Luke 2:1-20 (KJV)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Beth-lehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David): To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Beth-lehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Gift Inside

The house is decorated. The gifts have been purchased. The baking is done. The only thing that remains is wrapping the presents. A quick inventory of supplies, reveals a myriad of gift wrap and bags to choose from. Colorful bows will add the finishing touch to each present.

Christmas is only a few days away. Our family will pass out gifts, one at a time, and watch as the recipient opens each present. Candid photos will record enthusiastic responses and surprised expressions for us to enjoy throughout the year. As the wrapping paper is torn from each box, it's the gift inside that will be treasured.

Travel back in time with me to a little town called Bethlehem. The marketplace is thronged with merchants selling their wares. The sound of voices fills the air as salesmen strike deals with customers. Townspeople stand in line, waiting to buy food and drink. Every inn is filled to capacity - some weary travelers are turned away.

Unbeknownst to the people of Bethlehem, a precious gift is born that very night. "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn," (Luke 2:7; KJV). 

This baby is God's gift to mankind. 

The Savior, who willingly left His throne in heaven, veiled Himself in flesh to live a sinless life and shed His blood on the cross to pay our sin debt. In the words of the apostle Paul: "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift," (2 Corinthians 9:15)!

Gifts are supposed to be accepted and unwrapped by the recipient. The present that I leave unopened under my Christmas tree won't be of any use to me. 

The same is true regarding the gift of Jesus Christ. He was sent for your benefit. He "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," (Philippians 2:7-8). 

His desire is to give each one of us eternal life: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," (Romans 6:23).

How can such an amazing gift be unwrapped? He provides the answer: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," (John 3:16).

Believe in Him. Believe that you are a sinner. Believe that Jesus shed His blood and paid your sin debt on the cross of Calvary. Put your faith in Him, and receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ!

Have you left the most important gift unopened this season? Don't wait till Christmas. You can receive this gift today. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. And you'll spend an eternity rejoicing in heaven!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to be born as a babe in a manger all those years ago. I praise you that Jesus willingly went to the cross, shedding His blood in payment for my sins. Thank you for the gift of eternal life you give me when I believe in the finished work of Jesus. To God be the glory! Amen.

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Come join in the discussion!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Price Worth Paying

December. The month we celebrate the birth of Jesus. As I decorated our Christmas tree and festive music played in the background, I couldn't help thinking about the time leading up to that first Christmas so many years ago...

No doubt Mary was excited. I imagine she was anticipating her marriage to Joseph, the talented carpenter. Wedding preparations were in full swing. No detail would be overlooked. The list of food for the celebration was thoroughly checked and re-checked. Although modest, accommodations for the guests were carefully thought through.

After a full day of chores and working on her wedding dress, Mary was more than ready for a good night of sleep. Little did she know this night would radically change the course of her life.

The being in her room could be none other than an angel. Before she could react, he was speaking, "Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women," (Luke 1:28; KJV). 

A bit frightened, Mary was troubled at his words, and wondered what he could possibly mean. Before she was able to respond, the angel delivered his message, "Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus," (Luke 1:30-31).

What? How could this be possible? Mary was a virgin. 

The angel gave her the answer, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God...For with God nothing shall be impossible," (Luke 1:35, 37).

Incredible! To be highly favored by God, and chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary's response was immediate, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word," (Luke 1:38).

No hesitation. 

Full obedience.

As I continued to hang the Christmas ornaments on my tree, I couldn't help but think of the cost of obedience. For Mary, her reputation would be ruined. She would be shunned by family, friends, and society for becoming pregnant outside of marriage. It was possible that she could be stoned. Even her fiancĂ©, Joseph, may not believe her. 

But Mary chose to believe God, and fully surrendered to His will for her. Although her life wasn't easy, Mary's obedience was rewarded by God. The Messiah was born Who would provide salvation for all mankind.


Being willing to submit to the Lord's authority. 

I had to ask myself if I am willing to pay the price of being obedient to my Savior, if it means running the risk of suffering. 

Tough question. But one that I can answer in the affirmative when I contemplate the outcome - hearing the words of my Heavenly Father, "...Well done, thou good and faithful servant," (Matthew 25:21a).

Are you willing to pay the price of obedience to Christ? What step will you take to be obedient today?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your Word. I love the examples of ordinary people, just like me, who chose to be obedient to You. Help me to choose to be obedient to You today. In Jesus' name, Amen.

*The events leading up to the appearance of the angel are fictionalized. The quoted scriptures contain the factual account. For the entire story, read Luke 1:26-38.

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Come join in the discussion!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Stay Tuned

The month of December is always exciting: decorating, baking, getting together with family and friends. Most importantly, it's a dedicated time to reflect on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I'll be taking a blogging break on Thursdays this month to enjoy the season and work on a few surprises to be unveiled in the New Year.

Please join me on Mondays for some special posts leading up to Christmas! 

God Bless,


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Created for a Purpose

The app is incredible. Google SkyMap. I can point my phone up to the sky in any direction, and the application will tell me which stars I'm looking at.

Pretty mind boggling. 

In Google's own words, "If there’s a specific constellation you’re looking for you can search through the application’s database, and SkyMap will help you find it in the sky, using an intuitive arrow system to tell you which direction to turn. When you get close, a circle will appear on the screen surrounding the stars that make up the constellation. It’s really a stargazer’s dream come true."

This amazing technology has made me more aware of a marvelous Creator! I'm convinced of the Psalmist's words, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork," (Psalm 19:1; KJV).

Imagine how handy this tool would have been 2000 years ago. I can picture the wise men holding up their smart phones, searching for the star that would lead them to the new-born King. But God's plan was infinitely better! 

An easily recognizable star, shining in the east, that would lead the men directly to the Savior.

Their journey was long. They came a considerable distance from the east to Jerusalem. Their excitement mounted as they made their way through the crowded streets to the palace. But no one knew anything about a baby.

King Herod called the priests and scribes together to do a little research. Where would this baby be born?

The scrolls contained an answer, "In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel," (Matthew 2:5-6).

Cold chills must have gripped the King as he contemplated this potential menace to the kingdom. He feigned kindness to his guests, telling them to find the baby and return to the palace, so he could go and worship the baby too. His unspoken plans played out in his mind. When the wise men returned, he would send his troops to do away with this threat to his throne.

The wise men continued their journey, destined for Bethlehem. They searched the sky. Sure enough, there it was: the star that had led them faithfully thus far. "...And lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy," (Matthew 2:9-10).

The star had been created for a purpose - to shine in such a way as to guide these men to the Savior. 

It did its job: "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh," (Matthew 2:11).

See the connection? You were created for a purpose too. 

Just like the star of Bethlehem, each of us is given the opportunity to shine for Jesus, pointing others to Him. Don't let the hustle and bustle of the season dim your light. Instead, choose to be like that brightly shining star of long ago, leading others to the truth of a loving Savior who was born to reconcile sinful man with a holy God.

When your light is shining brightly, it won't take a neat app to find you, you'll be clearly visible. Doing your part to make your Heavenly Father known!

 Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity to shine for You. During this busy Christmas season, help me to be still and know You are God. I humble myself in worship of You. Help me to shine brightly, pointing others to You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

*I'm hosting over at Living by Grace today. Come join in the discussion!

*A re-post from 12/2010