CHRISTMAS IS FOR EVERYONE

December 24, 2015

“Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you…”
(Luke 2:10-11)

When young parents today have children, it is common for them to mail “birth announcements” to their family and friends. And, of course, they also post several pictures on Facebook for everyone to see and admire their new baby.

When Jesus was born, God announced the birth of His Son to very few people: to a few shepherds near Bethlehem, some Magi (wise men) from Persia, and an old man (Simeon) and an old woman (Anna) in the Temple.

Take a moment and consider how different the shepherds and wise men are from each other.

  • The shepherds were Jewish – the wise men were Gentiles
  • The shepherds were paupers – the wise men were royalty
  • The shepherds were poor – the wise men were wealthy
  • The shepherds were young (teenagers) – the wise men were mature men
  • The shepherds were uneducated – the wise men were highly educated
  • The shepherds were social outcasts – the wise men were social elites
  • The shepherds were despised – the wise men were highly respected

This was no accident. God intentionally chose to announce the birth of His Son to the shepherds and the Magi for a reason. In doing so, He clearly demonstrated that Jesus came for all people, without exception. He came for men and women. He came for the poor and the wealthy. He came for young and old. He came for everyday laborers and corporate executives. He came for prison inmates and presidents. He came for the lowest and the highest and for everyone in between. He came for you and He came for me.

Jesus offers His gift of salvation to all mankind.  The “good news of great joy” is for everyone.

Merry Christmas!

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ANTICIPATION

December 22, 2010

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon,
who was righteous and devout.
He was waiting for the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.”
(Luke 2:25)

Caleb and Ethan are very excited about Christmas this year.  At one point Caleb commented, “This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”  Of course, from a 4-year old perspective, everything that happens is the “best ever” – there has only been 4 years of life to compare it with.  But both boys love all the Christmas decorations, trees, lights, cookies, and best of all – the presents.  They are anxiously waiting for the big day to arrive.  They can hardly wait for Christmas!

Everyone in Israel was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Promised Messiah.  In fact, they had been waiting for hundreds of years for Christ to come.  Unfortunately, when He came, most missed his arrival because He didn’t fit their picture of Messiah.  But, Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he wouldn’t die until he saw Messiah.  So he was looking for the Christ.  And when Simeon saw the baby Jesus, he jumped with joy and began praising God, “…my eyes have seen your salvation…”

The first arrival of Messiah also serves as a reminder that Jesus is coming back again.  He came the first time as a baby in a manger; he will come the second time as a warrior in the skies.  He came the first time as a Sacrificial Lamb; he will come the second time as the Lion of Judah.  He came the first time as a Suffering Savior; he will come the second time as the Conquering King.  He came the first time to establish his reign in the hearts and lives of God’s people; he will come the second time to establish his kingdom over all the earth. 

Are you looking for Messiah’s return?  Are you anticipating His arrival?  Are you ready for the second coming of Jesus? 

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the gift of Your Son, Jesus.
As a child anticipates Christmas, I look forward to Your Son’s return.
As I wait for Him, may I be faithful in serving You.
And may You use me to share the good news of Jesus with my oikos!
In Jesus’ name, Amen!


CHRISTMAS GIFTS

December 15, 2010

“Then they opened their treasures and presented him
with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”
(Matthew 2:11) 

Do you have your Christmas shopping done yet?  That’s one of the most commonly asked questions this time of year.  And every time I’m asked, I answer with another question:  Is it December 24th yet?  Hey, I’ve still got a few more days to go.  Then, after Christmas the most common question for the next few days is:  Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? 

Giving Christmas gifts is a time-honored tradition of Christmas.  We give Christmas gifts to family and friends.  We have gift exchanges at school and at work. And I love playing that “white elephant” gift-exchange game at Christmas parties where we can steal gifts from other people; then they can steal from someone else, etc. etc.  But with all the parties and gift exchanges I find myself having to do more and more Christmas shopping.  I guess that’s just part of the fun, right?

So, where did the tradition of giving Christmas gifts begin?  I don’t really think it began with Santa Claus.  Some have suggested it began with the Wise Men?  I don’t know if that’s where our modern-day tradition of gift-giving actually began, but I do like the example of the Wise Men.  They brought gifts to Jesus.  And they weren’t trivial gifts.  They were meaningful gifts.  The Bible even calls them treasures.

Now, there’s a good idea!  How about giving a gift to Jesus?  After all, it is His birthday!  So, as you’re running from store to store and from party to party, think about what you might give Jesus this Christmas for His birthday.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your many gifts in my life.
Thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus.
Thank you for the gift of eternal life.
As I celebrate Christmas this year, I give you the gift of myself.
May you be glorified through my life?
In Jesus’ name, Amen!


SURPRISE!

December 8, 2010

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were terrified.”
(Luke 2:9)
 

My wife and I had quite a surprise last weekend – an early Christmas present.  Our son and his wife (Josh & Jen) showed up at our door on Friday afternoon quite unexpectedly.  They flew down from Seattle for the weekend; just for fun & an early Christmas surprise.  Needless to say, we loved it.  We quickly changed a lot of our plans for the weekend (mostly working), and we had a great time with the whole family.  Oh, to be young and impetuous again.  Try it.  You just might have fun, too!

Have you ever thought about how much fun that first Christmas must have been for God?  He was full of surprises.  First, an angel appears to the virgin, Mary, and says “You’re going to have a baby.”  Surprise!  Then, her fiancée discovered that she was pregnant.  Surprise!  Fortunately, an angel filled him in on God’s plan.  He was going to be raising the Son of God.  Surprise!  About that time, some wise men in Persia saw this really strange star in the sky.  They traveled by horseback all the way to Jerusalem and asked Herod about a new King of the Jews.  Surprise!

When it came time for Mary to deliver her baby, there were no hospital beds or motel rooms available.  An innkeeper sent them to his barn where they delivered a baby. Surprise!  Then, out of the blue, a host of angels started singing to some shepherds in the hills.  Surprise!  They left their sheep behind and ran into town where theY found baby Jesus lying in a feeding trough instead of a bassinet.  Surprise!

But, the best surprise of all – that baby was no ordinary baby.  He was and is the Savior of mankind. 

I’m sure that first Christmas was a whole bunch of fun for God.  Apparently, He loves to surprise people.  Have you experienced God’s “surprise” in your life?  If so, enjoy His surprise this Christmas season!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your surprises;
especially the surprises of forgiveness & eternal life
through the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!


THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR

December 1, 2010

“Where is the one who is born king of the Jews?
We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
(Matthew 2:2) 

You’ve heard the song.  It was originally written in 1963 and sung by Andy Williams.  Since then, it’s been performed by artists like Johnny Mathis, Garth Brooks, Harry Connick, Jr., Kathy Troccoli, Amy Grant, the cast of Glee, and many others.  Here are a few of the words…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistletoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year.  There’s a little chill in the air outside – yes, even in Phoenix.  But, even better, there’s a lot of cheer in the air.  And as Christians, we have the most to be cheerful about during the Christmas season.  This is a celebration of the birth of our Savior.  I know it’s a worn-out saying, but Jesus really is the reason for the season.  

Not only is Christmas a wonderful time of the year, it’s also a very busy time of the year.  So, here’s a word of encouragement – don’t let the busyness of the season steal your Christmas cheer.  Amidst all the parties and shopping and baking and programs and gift-wrapping and busyness, follow the example of the Wise Men of old.  Take some time to simply adore the Christ-child and worship Him!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus, over 2,000 years ago.
As I ponder the wonder of it all – that God would become a man,
that the Creator of the Universe was born in a manger –
I am in awe and can only respond in worship.
I praise the name of Jesus, my Savior!
Amen!


THE MYSTERY & THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS

December 24, 2009

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born;
He is Christ the Lord.”
(Luke 2:10-11)

The mystery of Christmas is the incarnation of Jesus Christ – God became a man.  Max Lucado paints the picture well…

The omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable.  He who was larger than the universe became an embryo.  And he who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent upon the nourishment of a young girl. 

He looks like anything but a king!  His face is prunish and red.  His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby.  And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane.  Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat.  Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter. 

This baby had overlooked the universe.  These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity.  His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen.  And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

But the miracle of Christmas is the salvation of mankind – Jesus abandoned his throne in heaven for a lowly manger.  He was born in a manger to die on a cross.  And He died on a cross for our salvation.  As the angel said to the shepherds, “a Savior has been born.”  Jesus came to save mankind from their sin.  He came to restore man’s relationship with God.  He came to offer us the best Christmas gift of all; the gift of eternal life. 

I encourage you to take some time during your Christmas celebration this year to pause and behold the wonder of Christmas.  Take a few minutes to reflect on both the mystery and the miracle of Christmas.

 Heavenly Father,
Thank you for giving us the gift of your Son, Jesus!
Thank you for the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
And thank you for the privilege of being one of your children.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.”


WHOSE BIRTHDAY IS IT?

December 16, 2008

Have you ever been to a birthday party where everybody gave gifts to each other, except the honored guest?  That’s right, everyone got a present except the birthday-boy or birthday-girl.  Now, if it was your birthday, how would it make you feel?  “Hey, what about me?”  Sounds weird, doesn’t it?

And yet, that’s exactly what we do every Christmas.  We celebrate Christmas every year by giving gifts to everyone else except the birthday-boy – Jesus.  Isn’t Christmas His birthday?  Of course it is.  Then, how about giving Jesus a gift this year, as well?

Here are a few gift ideas you might consider…

  • Help a needy family enjoy Christmas by giving them some gifts in Jesus’ name.
  • Give Jesus a gift of your time – how about 10-15 minutes a day for prayer and Bible-reading?
  • Give up a bad habit & replace it with a good habit.
  • Give Jesus your talents and skills – find a way to use them to serve Him & further His Kingdom-work.
  • Give a gift of “peace on earth” – restore a broken relationship this Christmas.

These are just a few gift-ideas.  I’m sure, with a little creativity, you can come up with many more ideas.  If you have some other suggestions on gifts that can be given to Jesus this Christmas, feel free to share them with us, as well.  Let’s remember, Christmas is Jesus’ birthday!


CHRISTMAS ON A BUDGET

December 9, 2008

The malls are not as full this Christmas Season.  Retail sales are down.  Thousands of people have lost jobs.  The economy has tanked.  Everybody is trying to do Christmas a little cheaper this year.  So, is it possible to have Christmas without a new HD TV or a new X-Box?  How do you celebrate Christmas on a tighter budget?

It may not be quite as hard as you think.  In fact, it may actually be more meaningful.  So, I’d like to offer a couple of simple suggestions…

First, REFOCUS on the Christ of Christmas.  After all, remember that Christmas is first and foremost the birthday of Jesus, born over 2,000 years ago in a Bethlehem manger.  So, instead of getting all caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, take some time this year to celebrate the birthday of Jesus.  Here are a few suggestions how you might refocus on the Christ of Christmas this year…

  • Read anew the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2
  • Go to a Christmas pageant at a nearby church
  • Slow down and reflect on the words of some of the traditional Christmas Carols
  • Attend a Christmas Eve Service at a nearby church
  • Have a birthday party for Jesus, complete with birthday cake, singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, and giving Him some creative gifts.

Secondly, SIMPLIFY your Christmas gift-giving.  Believe it or not, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on Christmas gifts.  Try Christmas shopping without a credit card – you might be surprised how much money you can save.  In fact, you could even give some home-made Christmas gifts – like coupons that can be used throughout the years.  Here are a few suggestions…

  • Give the gift of time – i.e. a date night, or a quiet evening at home
  • Give the gift of fun – i.e. a family game night
  • Give the gift of touch – i.e. a foot massage or a back massage
  • Give the gift of service – i.e. cooking dinner for your wife or mowing the lawn for your husband, etc.
  • Give the gift of romance – i.e. a candlelight dinner and a quiet evening by the fire (with no TV the entire night)
  • Give the gift of rest – take the kids out for a night and leave your wife at home to enjoy a quiet evening alone

I’m sure if you use your creativity, you can come up with several more ideas for inexpensive and meaningful Christmas gifts.  In fact, I’d love to hear some of your ideas for creative gift-giving.  Feel free to share some by adding your own comments…