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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.”

December 22

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

Christmas around the Grandi household was magical. It had its challenges (traditions and money) but mom and dad made the best of it. We never had an empty tree. I found out later that sacrifices were made for us to enjoy Christmas. Lights went up early in the windows but the tree not until we went to bed Christmas Eve. That was largely due to the fact that we didn’t get the tree until Christmas Eve day because they were so much cheaper to buy. But Christmas morning was magical. We went to bed with nothing and woke up to the whole living room being transformed-tree, lights, trains, gifts. I can still see pictures of me on the steps with my two, then three brothers, as we stared at what was before us.

I wish I could say I didn’t cheat but I can’t. We hunted for the gifts and usually found them but, and this is a big but, I never knew ahead of time what I got. We went against my parent’s wishes by searching out the gifts, but I never opened a gift; never looked at one; never shook one; or never cut the paper only to tape it back together. I think as I look back I would say because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.

I like surprises. I guess in some way that is why I like to think about grace. I am surprised that God’s love is so evident in His grace. Grace can radically change a life; it is always there. We don’t have to go hunting for it or sneak around looking for it. We don’t have to wait for one special moment and say, “OK God. I open grace.” Grace is always there. God’s grace may be a surprise to us, but not to God. His grace has always been there, always extended, always for the taking. Christmas is about grace. God’s grace. John 3:16 tells us that.

“Father, may grace be my song this Christmas. But not just for Christmas but for every day, all day.”

December 21

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

“Do not be afraid (Fear not); for behold, I bring you good news of great joy…” Luke 2:10 (NASB2020)

Those words are meaningful and bring comfort to many. Tragically, there also many whose lives are overrun by fear. It’s almost like they live in a perpetual horror movie. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of what lurks behind the door. Afraid of every person. Afraid of taking a step into the unknown. Paul David Tripp wrote: “There’s nothing that could ever be known, exposed, or revealed about you that isn’t covered by the present grace that is yours because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” (O Come Let us Adore Him-p.141)

The December 20th devotion from Our Daily Bread had the story of Linus from the Peanuts comic strip. Linus had a blue security blanket. He knew he should depend on it less but had trouble parting with it.

In the movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas” when a frustrated Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus steps forward, with security blanket in hand, and quotes Luke 2: 8-14. When he hits “Fear not” he drops his blanket-the thing he clung to when afraid.

That begs the question: what do you cling to? What is your security blanket? Remember the Scripture says, “Fear not.” At this time of the year, don’t you think it is good time to lay aside that heavy weight and trust Him for your security?

“Father, help me to lay aside that which I am afraid of and lean on You more.”

December 20

Monday, December 20th, 2021

I am not a watcher of commercials. I despise them. I mute them. I “Ahem” if Jo has the remote and fails to mute. This was especially helpful when the endless-and I do mean endless-appeals for Medicare during open enrollment time played more times that I ever want to remember. And if had I seen William Shatner fake putting up four fingers instead of three one more time I think I would throw up.  Yes it was that annoying…AND THAT IS WITHOUT SOUND!

But there is one commercial, that even though I have not heard it, I have seen it.  It strikes my funny bone. It is the commercial for a car company. The mom is taking the kids home when she apparently open a panoramic window and the kids see snow falling. The father is on top of the roof with a snow machine making snow fall. As the drone camera pans away it shows their house as being the only one with snow falling…and…it is a desert-like setting.

I know one thing for sure: that snow will not last.

There really is only one thing which will last: love. We often get so wrapped up in other pursuits that all of our overtime and energy is spent running after the wrong thing(s).  What better time to show love than right now, at Christmas time. After all, the greatest example of love was shown by a God who entered time and space as a human in order to save us.

I agree with Bob Goff who wrote:

“Leave a legacy of love. The rest will blow by like it never happened.” (#354-p.407)

“Father, You left a legacy of love and leaving one should be our ultimate goal. A love that leads others to you. “

December 16

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

During my communion thought this past Sunday, I shared a story I read. It really is quite moving:

In 2010, at the age of 94, George Vujnovich was awarded the bronze star for organizing what the New York Times called “one of the greatest rescue efforts of WWII.” Vujnovich, the son of Serbian immigrants to the US, had joined the US Army. When word arrived that downed American airmen were being protected by the rebels in Yugoslavia, he returned to his family’s homeland, parachuting into the forest to locate the pilots. Dividing the soldiers into small groups, he taught them how to blend in with the Serbs (wear Serbian clothes and eat Serbian food). Then over months he walked each small group out one at a time to C-47 transport planes waiting at a landing strip they’d cut out of the woods. Vujnovich rescued 512 elated, joyful men.

Every Christmas we celebrate what I consider to be the greatest rescue event in history. God became man so man could be rescued. He willingly gave up all He had to come to earth to give up even His life. But He didn’t go from heaven to miraculously show up on a cross. No, it started with a baby. And that led to the greatest rescue event in history.

“Father, thank You for the reminder of rescue we happen to observe each week. But what is important is that we recognize the impact and importance of what we celebrate.”

December 14

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

I have always been a music person. Ever since I can remember (that might be a day or two) 🙂  I have always been a person who listens to music. I used to tell my folks I could study with music playing. Not true.  I have to admit that when I am studying or reading it has to be quiet or at least with background music I cannot know the lyrics to, i.e. classical.

Christmas is a time for songs, for singing. One of the best parts of this season is the songs-both old and new.  It doesn’t get much better than O Holy Night or Joy to the World.  The angels sang. Children sing. Adults sing. Young folks sing. Old folks sing. We can’t stop singing.

Chris Tomlin has written a (non-Christmas) song with the lyrics: “How can I stop from singing Your praise? How can I ever say enough, how amazing is Your love/How can I keep from shouting Your name. I know I am loved by the king and it makes my heart want to sing.”

This will be a different type of devotion today. I want to share some of my songs with you-those which have been meaningful to me this Christmas season. I hope it will give you something to sing. So here are a few of my favorite “new” Christmas songs. Enjoy.

If you want the lyrics (except for the last song which has them), hit CC and the lyrics will come on the screen. Enjoy the songs! May they lift your heart to heaven and put a spring in your step and a song in your heart today…and tomorrow…and the next day…(you get my drift).

December 13

Monday, December 13th, 2021

An excerpt from Paul David Tripp’s book, Come, Let Us Adore Him struck me big time this morning:

“If God was willing to send His Son to restore our relationship of love with Him, you can be sure that He will not let anything separate us from His love. You see, the Christmas story is the world’s best love story {Ed. note: sorry Hallmark. 🙂 } It’s about a God of love sending the Son of His love to live a life of love and die a death of love, so that all who believed in Him would be welcomed into the arms of love forever and ever. Embedded in the Christmas story is a promise of unbroken love for the children of God.”

There is so much that is right about that statement. Do you realize how important and appropriate the Scripture in Romans 8 is that says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus”? (8:39)

The Christmas story is more than a baby in a manger (although that would be enough). It is also a love story. One of unconditional love. One of love given away when it is undeserved.

“Father, may that truth become clearer as each day draws me closer to the celebration of the birth of Jesus.”

December 9

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Am I alone? I think not. Here is why I ask that. In fact, I’ll answer that with a question:

Why is it that for many of us, Christmas is a mixed blessing?

I suspect some of you are saying, “What? What in the world is Bill asking that for?” Hang in there with me.

While I will smile and laugh and be jovial, there will be those who are sad, will cry, and feel as thought their heart will break.

While I will receive some gifts (I have, after all, been very good) 🙂  there will be those who will receive nothing.

While I will hopefully spend time with family and friends, there will be those who have no family or friends and will be alone.

While I will be warm and “snug and a bug in a rug” at night, there will be those who will shiver and long for a warm bed or fire.

You get my drift now? Happy. Sad. Laughter. Tears. A mixed bag. I realize life is like that. I’m not telling you anything your don’t already know. But while I am experiencing all the good of the season, there are those who have been forgotten, are forgotten, or long for what maybe once was.

The tragedy is that I’m not really sure what to do about it. I don’t live in a big town that has a homeless population or even a home for those on the street. So let me turn it to you: what do you suggest? Do you have this same dilemma? What is your solution? I’m open for suggestions.

“Father, help me not to close my eyes to the plight of others. Give me wisdom to see with Your eyes what others need.”

December 8

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

I read a sad story this morning. Dewberry Baptist Church split in the 1800s over a chicken leg. The story goes that two men fought over the last drumstick at a church potluck.  One said God wanted him to have it; the other said God didn’t care, and he really wanted it. The battle got so heated one moved a couple kilometers down the road and started Dewberry Baptist Church #2. They have since settled their differences.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to say that God could not have been pleased with that. I’m guessing He wept. Just like He does when a church splits over paint, the color of carpet, chairs or pews, style of music, or stained glass windows. Doctrine and ideology, Mission and Vision are different animals altogether. But a chicken leg? Seriously?

What we humans fight over! Totally nonsensical. Defies Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for sure. “May they be one, Father, as You and I are one.” I’m thinking God has to weep over our disregard of Jesus’ words: “By this will all men know you are my disciples if you love one another.”

There is always a good time to show love and unity, but what better time can there be than at Christmas? After all we do sing “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

“Father, help me to be a catalyst for unity and not a stumbling block for disunity. May I be one who brings people to the Source of unity, not push them away.”

December 7

Tuesday, December 7th, 2021

I hate to admit that I’ve had a mixed “love affair” with Christmas down through the years. Maybe it is more accurate to say with Santa Claus. Of course, as a youngster I looked forward to Christmas.  What kid doesn’t? As a husband and father I was excited about my daughters’ excitement. But here is where things get a little “dicey.” I was not thrilled about the Santa Clause deal. And while I tried to focus the church folks on Jesus, I found myself getting “hard” against SC. We didn’t really talk about him with the girls nor did we talk against him. After all, Jo’s mom went all out and it would have been an effort in futility to do that.

Long story short: I’m ashamed to admit I became a bit of a Scrooge at Christmas time. While I enjoyed the nostalgia of celebrating Christmas as a child-the secrecy, the tree, the lights, the trains, the snow, etc-I was almost a Scrooge in taking that away from mine. Fortunately, Jo covered for me. 🙂 I enjoyed the laughter of my girls during Christmas. And I eventually straightened up. Strange that I would forget how much Christmas meant for me as a child and almost try to deny my own.

I know what my problem was…now. I was so focused on making sure others remembered the real meaning that I lost sight of it for me.  I focused so much negativity toward SC that I lost sight of Jesus. How crazy is that? Sure Christmas is more than being about presents and shopping and trees, all the trappings. But it is about giving.

And God set the standard! He gave the first gift! It doesn’t hurt to follow suit. And while I still try to focus myself and others on the meaning of the season (Jesus), I don’t want to lose the magic of the season either. The best gift I can give is myself. I can also give grace. My prayer is that will be my song this year.

Will you join in singing with me?

“Father, in spite of all that is going on around me, please help me to sing a song of joy to You this Christmas.”

Note: today is Veteran’s Day. Remember to thank one today for their service to our country and to preserving the freedom we enjoy.