Christmas

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October 13

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

The church world goes through rages, as does the “secular” world. One of those rages of the past-probably in the mid ’90s especially-were angels. It seemed like everywhere one turned there was an angel. Go to a store and there were angels of all kinds wherever you turned. Books on angels. Children’s stories on angels. Even songs on angels (I can remember Alabama’s “Angels Among Us” being played over and over and over and…well you get the picture). Angel jewelry. Angel art. And, not surprisingly, picturing angels as they aren’t. Wings. Clouds. Harps.

What hits me even more is that what was happening at the time was the exact opposite of what they were created to do…except for one. Angels were supposed to be messengers, heralds; protect God’s people (angel armies); and deflect praise from themselves and toward the One they were to worship. Except one. He chose to garner his own praise. He chose to ascend his own throne. He chose to rival God.

What brought about this seemingly random devotion about angels? Reading a book on the characters of Christmas and finding out the key role they played-not only during the Christmas story-but also throughout the Bible story. Gabriel to Zechariah. Gabriel to Mary. Angels to shepherds. Possibly angels to Joseph in a dream; Simeon and Anna. Ultimately angels who encircle the throne and continually worship God. (Rev.4:8)

Angles don’t have wings, sit in clouds and play harps. They are messengers who will even go to battle and surround God’s people with protection.

“Father, angels are to be appreciated not worshiped. Help me to remember they are real and at my disposal and do continually what I am to do: worship You.”

October 7

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Are you kidding me? Seriously? You have got to be joking with me. Consider how we use those phrases. We use them when someone says something incredulous to us. We are stunned. Flummoxed. Dumbfounded. It is not that we don’t believe it; we are just bowled over by it.

There is, on the other hand, another way to use them.  Cynicism. Confrontive questions. There is a questioning there but it is almost one of rebellion.  We “pshaw” something someone says because we simply cannot believe it is possible.

I’ve been reading The Characters of Christmas by Daniel Darling during my Quiet Time. (Yeah, I know its only October but…). He raised a good point when talking about Zechariah and Elizabeth. When Mary said “How can this be?” in her response to Gabriel, it was laden with trust. But then Zechariah responded to the announcement that he and Elizabeth were to have a child his response was laden with cynicism and doubt. I think what Daniel says is true. I also agree with these words:

“God loves to hear our doubts, to field our questions, and to hear our anguished cries.  But it is disbelief that is a sin, our unwillingness to trust that God can do the impossible.” (p.41)

And there you have it. One similar response; two different perspectives.  Which one is yours?

“Father, may my questions be laced with trust not cynicism and doubt.”

December 25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

You SHOULD NOT be reading this today! You should be with your family and friends, not on the computer.  🙂  And I know what you are thinking: “If I should not be reading this you should not be writing this.”  True that. Except for the fact I still got up early to have my Quiet Time and to get my “mind juices” flowing before starting my day.

This morning the church I pastor will be offering a hot breakfast to the community. We typically have less than on Thanksgiving, but as Jo and I talked yesterday, it is a “crap shoot” to plan on how many to expect. We will still deliver breakfast to those who have requested it, plus to the civil servants and gas station workers who have to work this morning. At this point, we have about 30 deliveries to make to individuals and the number of workers is usually in the 30 range. So my drivers (I’m in charge of deliveries) will stay busy. We have generally served close to 20-30 on a typical Christmas morning. Who knows today?

Why do we do it?  For several reasons actually. One, several years ago I was asked by the Chamber of Commerce (of which I’m a board member) if the church does anything for Christmas. The local UMC does a lunch so we certainly weren’t going to reinvent the wheel. Don’t need two churches competing over that. So we offered a breakfast. Two, it had already been on my heart to do something so I took it as confirmation we were to take this step. Three, and this is my motivation: I don’t believe anyone should spend Christmas alone. For various reasons people do. I want to give them an opportunity to not be. Some are down and out on their life situations and are alone because of loss or because they have no family left locally. NO ONE should spend Christmas alone. And four, I believe it is what Jesus would do. His famous words “When I was hungry, sick, in prison…” motivate me to reach out. Those who help, those who give up some time on Christmas morning to help, are showing that same spirit.  I’m not opposed to but am not part of the social justice crowd. I prefer to do it one person at a time.

So very soon I will be heading off to the Lion’s Club where we offer the breakfast. It is right in the heart of the town and can be easily accessed by walking.  If you happen to be reading this, I would appreciate your prayers for safety for my drivers and for someone to not feel so alone this Christmas.

And I pray God’s blessing on your day of celebration of the birth of our Savior.

December 24

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Your word: Bond vs Betrayal.

When I was young whippersnapper growing up, I remember often many adults, especially my grandfather and my father, saying, “Remember Bill. Your word is your bond.” Back then (it was the Dark Ages you know?) a handshake was enough. Deals were sealed by the shaking of hands. There was no “pinky swear.” Often times, there was no contract.

But times have changed. We recently had to have some maintenance done to our house. The biggest was replacing our 20+ year old roof made of shingles they no longer make. 🙂 I contacted different roofers and settled on one who gave me the best price and had a good reputation. We also needed more room badly so I asked him to extend our small kitchen and add an extension (18×14) using the existing patio. The work was to start in September. How does late October/early November sound? Then he kept putting me off-starting and stopping, skipping days on end-and fitting me in whenever and losing precious good days. Before he started I had also asked him about finishing the room inside as well. He shot me a price. Sounded good until it came time to possibly start. Suddenly his price was not all that good. His words failed. I had some friends help.

Sadly, his word did not mean that much. I’m glad God was not like Him. God gave a promise (a covenant) to Abram. He changed his name to Abraham which was like His handshake. And He saw it through. It turned out just as He said-Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Jesus. There were more, of course, but just 6 names alone show God’s amazing promise and keeping His Word.

“Father, Your Word, Your covenant, Your promise was enough. You said it would be and it was. Through all the highs and lows of Israel’s history, Your promise never wavered. It still doesn’t.”

{And just an aside: can you think of any better time (other than Easter) to remember this covenant-keeping God than right now at Christmas? Merry Christmas to all of you.  May this time of the year be filled with Jesus and the essentials He offers: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE.}

December 23

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

As it gets closer to Christmas my workload also amps due to the church serving breakfast on Christmas morning and also handing out at least 30 bags of groceries which will all be put together today. (There are actually 60 since not all the food will fit into one bag). So I am going to “cheat” again by using my #ChristmasChallenge devotion here.

My title for this devotion is Manger vs Cross.

I read the following quote:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ  brings us to God.

Growing up you really only think of Christmas-besides the whole Santa Claus and gift thing-as the occasion to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We like the story of the baby in the manger. It fits our “meek and mild” picture of Jesus. It fits our Away in a Manger and Silent Night theme.

But as C.S.Lewis says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I just finished reading again), “There is deeper magic here.” What is seen on the surface is just that: the surface. There is so much more to see and learn. There is so much more at work than just the birth; there is also the vision of the cross. Without doubt Jesus came with the specter of the cross in His sights. Phil.2 even tells us that. Jesus reminded His disciples over and over that the Son of Man must suffer and die.  The cross of Christ is always there. It is through the cross, and the cross only, that we find our way to God. It is only through the blood of Jesus that salvation is found.

But it is through the birth of Jesus as a baby, as God made flesh, that it all begins.  The quote again:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ brings us to God.

“Father, thank you for that truth. May this Christmas season take on extra meaning because it is more than a baby in a manger. It is also that baby on a cross giving Himself up for us.”

December 19

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is More vs Less.

One verse that may seem to have nothing or very little to do with Christmas has been one of my favorite verses for as long as I can remember. I have a plaque in my office with this verse on it. The verse is John 3:30. When John’s disciples are offended that Jesus is garnering more attention than John, he answers their statement with the words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Other translations might say, “He must become greater; I must become less.” No matter how you shake it, they all the same thing: Jesus must become more; I must become less.

Can anyone think of a time in the Bible where the greatness of Jesus is seen any more than at His birth and at His death? Why? His greatness is shown by his humility. First, the whole incarnation miracle (truth) blows me away. Second, to realize the humility He displayed for that to happen is mind-boggling! Sorta makes our petty jealousy and one-upmanship seem childish and silly. Here was the King of all laying down His pride, His status, His desire in order to display a humility that is unmatched. How can I insist that my agenda is the one that’s right? How can I insist that I do this or that? How can I be jealous when someone else gets to sing, play, speak, whatever and I don’t?  (You did notice the emphasis on the previous questions did you not?)

Humility-Jesus becoming greater and me becoming less-is where I need to be. It’s a trait that needs to be more common in my life. John 3:30 needs to be more than a verse in the Bible or on a plaque; it needs to be written on every page of my heart.

“Father, may You become more in my heart so there is less of me there. And may you become more in my thoughts and actions so people see less of me and more of you.”

I’m taking some folks to the Indianapolis airport for their yearly trek to Disney so I “cheated” a little by using a good part of my #ChristmasChallenge at my other blog as my daily devotion today. I needed to save a bit of time since I am leaving fairly early to take them.

Dear friends: I have made a grave error in this post. I have since made the correction. Diane’s comment pointed it out. I did not mean “reincarnation” but “incarnation.” My sincerest apologies. That was one ugly heresy I put out there by accident.

December 11

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Knowing vs Knowing About.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings…”  I’ve always liked that verse than for no other reason than one word: know. Our English language fails us here because our idea of know is sometimes pretty shallow. But the Greek word goes much deeper. The Greek word means to know intimately. Simply put: there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of people who have a knowledge of Jesus. Many non-theists and atheists have a better knowledge of Jesus and the Bible (for the purpose of arguing) than many followers of Christ. But that is different than what Paul is talking about.

It is also different than the “Christmas experience” (for lack of a better phrase this morning). When Jesus came it was for many reasons, but one of the primary ones was so God could reveal Himself to us. So we might know Him. We will never “know” Him like we should-our ability falls short because we are humans with limited everything. While Mary knew her son because of the mother/child bond, she too had limited knowledge.

But the limits placed on us by our humanness should not inhibit our desire to pursue Him, to want to know Him. If anything it should fan the flame of desire in our hearts. So use this Christmas time to pursue knowing Jesus. More than a baby; the Son of God.

“Father, may my Christmas season be one of a desire to know You. Help me not to be content with the baby in a manger. Help me to want to get to know Jesus-the King of kings and the Lord of glory.”

December 10

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Bright Lights vs Dim Light.

One of the most beautiful scenes of Christmas is a decorated house. Even better, a house of lights with music! 🙂  (Check out the multiple entries for this). The lights transform a dull, dingy exterior into a wonderland of beauty. In our house, one of our traditions is a Christmas tree (now of the artificial variety) that goes up on Thanksgiving Day and stays up until sometime after Christmas. It doesn’t just stay up; it stays on. That’s right. 24/7. The lights on the tree are never off. Growing up our lights were on Christmas morning when we came downstairs and then each subsequent evening. I suspect some of that was economically and safety-driven since both were suspect back then, but with the advent of smaller bulbs which don’t get hot or have you see your electric meter going nuts, ours stay on all day. We have certainly come a long way from the first lights on a tree…candles. Of course, many a house burned down back then. 🙁

The light displays are as numerous as the houses, as is the amount of work put into the display. Each year a local florist puts lights on their giant outside tree. I keep forgetting to ask him if he puts them up and takes them down or just unplugs them.

But those lights pale in comparison to “the Light of the World.” In John 8:12 Jesus calls Himself “the Light of the world.” If you are a Christ-follower the light of Christ has shown into your heart. Why not share that light with someone else this Christmas? Brighten their world.

“Father, your light transforms even the darkest scene and the darkest night. May your light shine in me and then through me to others.”

December 9

Monday, December 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Lasting vs Passing.

It is not unusual to hear or say-and I have-that Thanksgiving should be and is to be more than one day out of the year. Thanksgiving should be 24/7/365. The inference (although it is more than just inferred or implied) is that the spirit of Thanksgiving is so dominant in us that it weaves its way into every day of the year.

What would that mean if I said, “Christmas ought to be every day of the year? Does that mean we ought to have candy and cookies and eggnog and gifts and the other trappings of Christmas all year ’round? (I can say you will have a hard time with me saying no when it involves chocolate. But I digress… 🙂 )

In all seriousness, what does that mean? Seemingly endless shopping? No. Lights and decorations all year ’round? No. A tree in the foyer or living room? No on all counts. To say Christmas all year ’round is to have the attitude we find in Philippians 2: “Have this mind (attitude) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Paul had just been talking about doing nothing out of selfishness or conceit. But instead, we are to look out for the interest of others.

THAT’S the spirit of Christmas! Humility. Selflessness. Who couldn’t benefit from an attitude like that displayed? Giving our lives away for the sake of the Gospel.

“Father, may my life exhibit the Christmas spirit of humility and selflessness all year ’round. May Christmas not be just a once a year event but a lifestyle of giving myself away on a daily basis.”

December 8

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Sunday is a wash out day for me when it comes to posting. So I’m going to take the “easy” way out by posting a video. I heard this song a couple of years ago and was immediately “struck” by it. Okay, more like a 2×4 across the forehead.

I liked it so well I asked one of our young ladies to sing it. She nails it! I wish you could hear Hanna sing it. But since you can’t, I guess you will have to settle for 2nd best. 🙂

https://youtu.be/5Vwu-t7QRaE

If you prefer to have the lyrics you can check it out here.