Christmas browsing by tag


December 22

Thursday, December 22nd, 2022

As we inch closer to Christmas, uppermost in many (maybe most) people’s minds is “Did I get so-and-so something? If I didn’t is it telling them something?” “Will he/she be happy with what I got them?” Questions of uncertainty flood our brain.

With that mind, I give you my Christmas gifts to you. I hope you aren’t disappointed. 🙂

I give you LOVE. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

I give you JOY.  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

I give you PEACE. “My peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives.”

I give you HOPE. “He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope.”

May you experience all those and more this Christmas season.

Note: I will probably be absent from “Shadow” for a few days. The weekend is a given, but Sunday after our one service that morning, Jo, Tami, and I will be taking off for Ohio and plan to return Tuesday. My plan is to enjoy my time away, giving very little thought or attention to things back home. That includes “Shadow.” At this point, my next post will be Wednesday morning.

Have a joy-filled and a blessed Christmas. May God fill you to overflowing with His gifts.

December 20

Tuesday, December 20th, 2022

Last night the Owen County Chamber of Commerce hosted a movie night at our local theater, the historic Tivoli. You can read about its history here.

Tami, our daughter, has been a chamber captain for the past two years and her commitment is up. I have been asked to come back onto the board after a year off and I accepted. The movie was a thank you to the captains for their service to the Chamber.

The movie was one of my favorites, especially at Christmas time: The Santa Clause. It was part of my regular Thanksgiving Day staple to watch, along with It’s a Wonderful Life. Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) puts on the Santa suit and thereby agrees to become Santa Claus. It’s a fun and funny romp, a light-hearted step back in time to the innocence of a childhood belief. Tim is in rare form (Can anyone say Home Improvement?).  I know what people say about Santa Claus. “You are teaching them a myth.” “You are teaching them mistrust.” “You are teaching them to believe a lie.”

Seriously? I was told all about SC, the Easter bunny (a bit harder to believe), the tooth fairy, etc and I turned out okay. (Although some do call that into question from time to time). 🙂

I’m not advocating the worship of SC.  But come on! Don’t you think we ought to let kids be kids? Let them learn from fantasies. Can anyone say Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars, or Back to the Future?

I have to admit I did a lousy job of perpetuating SC. I was a Scrooge. If I had to do it all over again, I would do some things differently. But I can’t, so there’s that.

But…I can help put (or keep) the wonder in Christmas for the little ones I meet.  Maybe even the big ones. I think we lose the wonder, the magic, the childhood “playfulness” of Christmas. No, I’m not saying adults should believe in SC. That would be ridiculous.

But how about reviving the spirit of Christmas in our hearts? Love. Joy. Peace. Wonder. Awe. Worship. Excitement. (and a whole lot of other words which fit). Can there truly be anything more amazing, more spectacular, more breath-taking, more captivating than God became flesh and lived among us?

You tell me.

December 19

Monday, December 19th, 2022

Have you ever noticed how we sometimes just simply talk too much? In an effort to carry on a conversation: in an effort to cover a lull in a conversation; in an effort to look like we know what we are talking about; in an effort to not look unprepared; in an effort to look like we are smarter than we are; in an effort to fill empty air; we engage in what has been come to be known as a “word salad.” We want people to think we are more knowledgeable that we really are.

Political people do it. Athletes do it. Pastor do it. Teachers do it. Kids do it. I remember once watching a sitcom (I think it was Room 222) and it may have been the only time I ever watched it. The student teacher was asked a question and pretended to know the answer. She was wrong and got caught in the cover-up. Her mentor said, “Never pretend to know the answer. Simply say, ‘I don’t know but I will try to find the answer.’ ” (paraphrased from memory).

That’s good advice…for all of us.

So…here is your practice round. What answer would you give if someone were to come up to you and say, “In one sentence, give me the essence of the Christmas story”?  In other words, no word salad. One short sentence.

Here is your answer:

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)

That’s it. End of story. What will you tell them?

December 14

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

Have you ever noticed that some things we take for granted are missed by other people? As a pastor I have to guard against that when I’m preaching. I was raised by a godly mother who always wanted to be a missionary. She was! She had 4 sons.  🙂 An important verse to her was 2 John 4: “I have no greater pleasure than to know my children walk in truth.” (True that was not referring to physical children of a mother, but she adopted that verse to declare her feelings). So having been raised in the church and being a pastor for 50+ years and walking with Jesus for 62 of my 70 years, it is easy to forget some don’t have that luxury of knowing the story of Jesus as I do.

So when I am preaching I have to be careful of excluding some, of assuming they know “the story” and what I am talking about. Tragic mistake to make.

I think we can get that way about the Christmas story, especially in our post-Christian culture. It is easy to assume the “Charlie Brown Christmas” would have the same effect on a cynical Gen Z-er as it did on this Boomer. It doesn’t. I read of a child who was asked who Jesus was. His answer: “He was the one who took from the rich and gave to the poor.” A legendary Robin Hood!

We know He is more than that. He is the God-man; born of a virgin; took on human flesh; went to a cross where He died as a sinless replacement for us; rose bodily from the grave; ascended into heaven where He sits at the right of the Father awaiting the word to return.

I can assume people know that. They don’t. I can also assume they know the Christmas story. They don’t. Heard it? Possibly. Know it? Probably not.

Romans 10: 14 says, “And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are the to hear without someone preaching (telling them)?” Let’s not assume they know the Christmas story. Let’s make sure they do-lovingly, convincingly, and gently. But let’s make sure they at least have heard!

December 13

Tuesday, December 13th, 2022

There are all kinds of heartwarming stories told at Christmas. Just check out the Hallmark channel or the new Great American Family channel. Actually, take my word for it. 🙂

One of the best and greatest stories that I can find-other than the very first Christmas story about a baby in a manger-is the short story written by O’Henry called The Gift of the Magi. I’m guessing there is hardly a person on the planet who has not heard of or read the story.

It is the story of a young couple (Jim & Della)- in love and married- and wanting to celebrate that love at Christmas. But one obstacle stands in their way-they are poor. But that won’t stop them. (Spoiler alert: story revealed} Della has beautiful, long hair, her pride and joy; Jim has a family heirloom-a pocket watch. On Christmas morning they present their gifts to each other.  Jim bought Della combs for her hair; she bought him a chain for his watch. All well and good EXCEPT she cut her hair for the money to buy him the chain; he sold his watch to buy her the combs.

O’Henry finishes his story with these words:

“Let it be said that of all who give gifts, these two are the wisest. Of all who and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest. They are the magi.”

I was moved to wonder the first time I ever read that story and the irony of it. I still am. I want to be like Jim and Della. Keep nothing back. Hold nothing close. Except a profound love I receive from my Savior, my wife, my children, my grandson, and those I pastor.

May the gift of the magi be my story. May it be yours as well.

December 8

Thursday, December 8th, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion, I wrote about the saying we often hear at Christmas: “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Today I’d like to give my thoughts (opinion) on another very common statement we hear and see more and more frequently:

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Now…before you get all bent out of shape over what you may perceive as another attempt to downplay Jesus’ role in Christmas, please hear me out all the way to the end. Please.

“Jesus is the Reason for the season.” I know the intent with this statement. For the longest time I used to share this same sentiment-verbally and written. The intent (at least I’m guessing) was to keep the focus of Christmas on Christ. I totally, totally agree with that. We have way too much distraction from the real meaning of Christmas as it is. So focus on Christ.

However, IMHO, the statement is at the base not true. Jesus is not the reason for the season. We are. Phil.2:5-8 (take the time to read it please) is one of the reasons I say that. Pay particular attention to verse 8. Jesus did not come as God in the flesh; He did not come as a baby because He needed it. He did that because WE NEEDED HIM TO!! The need on His part was to come and die on a cross for us. Hebrews 9: 11-14 is pretty plain. So is the Scripture which says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (9:22) Hebrews 10:4 also says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

So I repeat-sentiment aside-Jesus is not the reason for the season. We are. I think it would be better to say, “We are the reason for the season; Jesus is the meaning.”

I know mine is not as sentimental and you may disagree with what I’ve said. That’s ok. More than anything I want to remind all of us that Christmas is more than a slogan.  Christmas is all about Jesus leaving the comforts of heaven to come to earth as a baby-God in the flesh- to go to a cross to die in my/our place so we may have forgiveness of sins. Focus on Christ and not a slogan. Put all your heart into loving and worshiping the One who gives meaning to the whole season.

Your thoughts?

All Scripture is from the ESV.

December 7

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

I’m convinced that sometimes we speak and we are oblivious to what or how we say it.  Sometimes we are totally unaware of what we say. Even truer is that we often don’t know why we say something. Please let me explain.

There was an old saying the British Government used during WWII: “Careless talk costs lives.” I heard it used another way: “Loose lips sink ships.” The implication of that saying is more than clear. I guess it is not implying, but stating a fact: speaking loosely and freely could have consequences. In that case, one never knew if a spy was just waiting for a juicy tidbit to share with his superiors.

There are certain phrases we use at Christmas time which can be said glibly without stopping to think what is being said. For example:

Keep Christ in Xmas. I know that was started for the very reason I just showed. Xmas. And I also know what the insinuation is. You use Xmas and you are taking Christ out of Christmas. But in reality, that thought goes a whole lot deeper. Christ can’t be taken out of Christmas by a mere abbreviation. Far more deadly is our heart pushing Him away or losing sight of Him during the rush of the season.

It gets easy to push Him out of Christmas. I think that is when it really becomes Xmas. Not by abbreviation, but by a reckless disregard for His place in my heart.

I want to keep Christ in Christmas. Not by not using Xmas (which I do sometimes when I’m in a hurry writing), but by having my heart tuned into Him.

For your reading pleasure 🙂 : Tomorrow I plan to take another common phrase and write my thoughts about it.

December 6

Tuesday, December 6th, 2022

Have you ever noticed how we sometimes get caught up in the little things and forget that which is really important?

We have a saying:

“Remember to keep the main thing the main thing.”

I propose we do that for Christmas. There are those who want to talk about whether Christmas is a pagan holiday and therefore we should stay away. There are those who get wrapped up in talking about Christmas trees being a sign of pagan worship. There are those who want to discuss who the magi were-are they astrologers, stargazers, pagans, or those who remember the teachings of Daniel? And the star. Did it shine so bright the magi just knew to find it or did it literally lead them? When the magi came to see Jesus was He in the stable or a house?

Frankly, those are little things which do not affect the truth of the Christmas story in any way, shape, or form. You see…if our enemy can get us to focus on the side issues, he can get us from thinking about what Christmas is really all about: the holiness and love of God, the sin of man, the need for Jesus to humble Himself, and the salvation as a result.

Here is my suggestion: let’s put aside our peripheral issues and let’s really focus on why there was a need for a baby in the manger and why that has EVERYTHING to do with why we celebrate Christmas.

True fact: A baby born in a manger was God in the flesh who came to save us from our sin.

Therein should be our praise and our focus.

December 5

Monday, December 5th, 2022

I read recently about a woman named Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who was the first African American woman to earn a medical degree. During her lifetime (1831-1895), she was “ignored, slighted, and rendered insignificant.” However, she remained faithful to her calling and spent her life serving God by treating women and children and providing medical attention for freed slaves. It wasn’t until almost a century later she received her recognition.

Overlooked, devalued, and underappreciated. Sound like Someone you know? Born in an obscure, podunk village, the child of a peasant woman sums up the birth and early existence of Jesus. He flew under the radar of Herod (and would have been missed entirely if not for the wise men), the palace, and the religious “know-it-alls” who refused to acknowledge His birth…or His life for that matter.

Just like the example of Dr. Crumpler, Jesus never wavered from His reason for coming. He never wavered from “I came to seek and to save the lost.” He never wavered from freeing slaves (me and you) from an empty life.

In many ways, and to many people, His life was one of being overlooked, undervalued, and underappreciated. That is the way it started-as a baby in a manger-but may it not end that way because I was negligent.

He is not an obscure, forgotten child: He is the reigning King of kings who will soon return and will prove then and there He should not have been overlooked, undervalued, or underappreciated.

December 23

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

This is my last devotion until after Christmas (at least at this point, unless “the Spirit moves me”). You know how minds can change! 🙂 We plan to leave Sunday after church for Ohio to visit our family. Our planned return is Tuesday. I will not be taking my computer and my phone is ancient everyone says (it is an iPhone 5). So I leave you with this thought until next Wednesday.

In his book (which I have mentioned several times this month), Paul David Tripp writes the following:

My hope in writing is that this devotional would stimulate you to live with a birth-of-Jesus mentality. My prayer is that the story of the birth, life, and sacrifice of Jesus would be the story that would shape everything in your life. I hope that whether it’s your finances, your marriage, your work, your sexual life, your friendships, your education, your leisure, or your future, that you would make sense of every dimension of your life through the lens of what the Christmas story tells you about life.” (Come Let Us Adore Him-p.145)

I like that phrase “birth-of-Jesus mentality.” To me that speaks of living in the moment, of being present, but also of having every aspect of my life controlled by an awareness of Jesus’s involvement and presence in my daily life.

What a great through! It’s like what the apostle Paul talked about when he wrote about taking every thought captive.

“Father, may I live with a birth-of-Jesus mentality. I ask that every thought be brought under submission to You. May I live with the birth of Jesus always in my vision.”