Category Archives: Christmas
I saw this on Facebook a little while ago. I love it so much that I just made it my desktop wallpaper. Here’s the link to this particular wallpaper at Crosscards.com in case you want to do it too.
Lord, be gracious to us;
we long for you.
Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of distress.
You Will Rejoice
Therefore you too have grief now;
but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
This year has had its ups and downs, but then when doesn’t it? That’s life here on earth!
Rick and I still love living here in northern Arizona and are thankful for our 14 years of marriage, which we just recently celebrated. Every year we see God at work in us, bringing us closer together as we mutually rejoice at His presence in our lives. No matter what is happening, we have grateful hearts for the One Who leads us in life and in our marriage.
Christmas is a time of great joy as we meditate on the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, and what His humble birth means to us. We’re surrounded by sights and sounds of the season everywhere we look.
Are we able to feel and express that joy? Or are we despondent in spite of seeing Christmas trees bedecked with lights and ornaments, surrounded by holiday aromas of pine, vanilla and cinnamon?
We may happily look forward to being surrounded by family and friends, but that happiness may give way to discontentment because illness will not allow us to decorate as much as we used to, or bake Christmas cookies, or wrap gifts, or cook up a fabulous Christmas feast. Maybe this year has been filled with financial problems and there is very little to make a Christmas for our family.
Too many of us may be stuck dwelling on past Christmases when everything seemed perfect. We had enough money to buy gifts for family and friends. Our health was good. Perhaps we were whirlwinds of activity as we prepared that “perfect” Christmas for our families to treasure.
However, our true joy is not in the trappings of the Christmas season, but on what this season represents. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to earth as a human being in order to experience everything we do so that He could completely understand what we go through. He knows our sorrows and burdens. He appreciates how difficult it is to live on this earth.
And He is with us every single step of the way.
Beloved, Jesus did not lead a trouble-free life. It cannot have been easy to know that He was born to die such a horrible death on the cross. But he willingly did so as the punishment for our sins so that we can have the chance to live with Him forever.
True joy is based on the fact that Jesus did indeed die on that cross for us. The blood He shed there paid the price for our sins. And three days later, His resurrection from the dead proved that death no longer has a hold on us… if we only believe on Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.
Without Jesus in our lives, happiness comes from our circumstances. Any negative experience, however minor, can shatter that happiness as quickly as snapping our fingers.
On the other hand, we can possess true joy regardless of our trying or seemingly hopeless situations—as long as we keep focused on the Reason for this season. Life may be difficult now, but take heart! Someday God will turn our “mourning into joy and will comfort [us] and give [us] joy for [our] sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13).
Look up, Beloved! Trust in the only Way to a truly joyful heart: Jesus!
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Much love and blessings from Anna & Rick
This post is today’s devotional by Dr. David Jeremiah…
Not So Familiar Christmas Scripture: Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
The virgin birth of Christ makes possible His sinlessness. This is one of the most wondrous and marvelous aspects of Jesus of Nazareth. He’s the only person in history who lived righteously on earth – a full life of eating and drinking and socializing and working and talking and sleeping, yet totally free from the taint of sin. There was no moral failure in His dealings, and He was untainted by evil. He was pure and perfect to the depths of His being, and He maintained that purity every moment of His life.
Because our Lord was conceived in the womb of a virgin who had been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, He was holy and pure, uncontaminated by the blood disease of sin that has infected every other man and woman on the globe. It is a mystery, but it is marvelous; and it’s vitally important. Jesus could not have died for our sins had He not Himself been sinless.
Today take a moment to praise God for providing us such a Savior and for giving us such an amazing story.
Revelation 1:1 – 5:14
So many of us are hurting, mostly in ways not easily understood by our friends and family because we put on a good front. We don’t want to bother our loved ones with the details of how much pain we endure each day. Or we’re so busy caring for others in dire physical circumstances that we don’t have the time or inclination to think about how much we go through as we care for these dear ones. Perhaps we don’t know how we’ll pay the bills this month. When or how will we get our next paycheck—or meal?
Oh, we may have a deep and abiding faith in God because we know He loves us and cares about every single little detail of our lives…but these days we are clinging to that faith by our fingernails.
We are understandably so focused on our own pain and suffering or that of our loved ones that we’re afraid to confront our frustrations about a situation that never seems to end. How do we get through this Christmas season of joy when everything around us is in shambles?
Beloved, I’ll be writing more about this in the next days before Christmas, but today I want to share something with you that arrived in my inbox this morning. I pray you will be blessed by this as much as I am, and I will be praying for each and every hurting heart who reads this.
To Those Hurting This Christmas
by John Knight | December 9, 2012
I know some of you are praying you’ll make it through Christmas—just make it through—not anticipating anything good will come from gathering with extended family and friends. It has become a cliche—right next to the article on what second-graders are excited about for Christmas is the article on the rise in depression during this last month of the year.
You know the sadness is real. While you change the diaper of a teenager, or administer complicated medications, or prevent your non-verbal ten-year-old from hurting himself again, or explain yet again the complicated life of your five-year-old without a diagnosis for her disability, your nieces and nephews and young friends are playing and running and eating, happily talking about the toys they want or travel they’re excited about or things they are doing in school. They easily do things your child will never do, no matter how many therapies or medications or prayers are offered.
Or maybe the disability in your family member means you can’t gather with other loved ones, and the heartache is almost more than you can stand.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, italics added)
More than that, he endured and is victorious!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2, italics added)
And there are some of you who can’t see it. There is still hope!
From Pastor John’s book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy,
It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. This is the way Paul thought of his own strivings. He said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). The key thing to see in this verse is that all Paul’s efforts to grasp the fullness of joy in Christ are secured by Christ’s grasp of him. Never forget that your security rests on Christ’s faithfulness ﬁrst.
Our faith rises and falls. It has degrees. But our security does not rise and fall. It has no degrees. We must persevere in faith. That’s true. But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible. In fact, the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his. Yes, it is possible to be so overwhelmed with darkness that you do not know if you are a Christian — and yet still be one. (216, italics added)
Jesus understands. Jesus is victorious. Jesus is the answer. May you find him, and in finding him, find hope and peace in these hard days.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
John Knight is Director of Development at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.
The sounds of Christmas are starting earlier every year. Halloween isn’t even here yet when the stores start decorating for Christmas. And before Thanksgiving is on the horizon, Christmas music starts playing.
In fact as I sit here writing this I am listening to my own mix of Christmas music. My taste in this has changed somewhat over the years. Now I prefer instrumental music over songs with lyrics. It soothes and calms my heart and makes me feel more in touch with what I believe Christmas should really be.
Celebrating Christmas involves a host of activities. Buying—maybe making—and giving presents. Baking cookies and other holiday yummies. Christmas trees, ornaments and decorations. Singing and listening to carols. Connecting with others.
What is it about Christmas that makes us want to embrace it so completely?
There are countless magazine, ezine and other online articles showing us how to create the perfect Christmas for our families. Some magazines are even completely dedicated to the Christmas theme, filled with new or traditional recipes for cookies and other treats. They illustrate ways to decorate our homes to enhance that Christmas feeling and show us how to create to-do lists to keep track of everything that needs to be done by December 25th.
We rush around in an effort to find the best deals on gifts for friends and family. And why not? Since everything is more expensive now and our paychecks are probably not keeping up with rising prices, we need to save money wherever we can. Maybe we’ve decided to try for a more basic Christmas by making gifts and goodies. That still means we have to actually buy whatever it takes to make them. In a frenzied effort to provide our families with the perfect Christmas, we may miss the point of the whole thing.
And that is…?
Celebrating the birth of Jesus because it paved the way for us to live with Him forever in heaven.
Worshiping the One who made us and sent His Son to be born as a human being.
Thanking God for the humanness of Jesus Christ so that He experienced everything we’re going through and completely understands our joys and sorrows.
I have changed a lot over the years. When my children were young, I enjoyed all the hustle and bustle of decorating the tree and the house, baking all sorts of cookies and treats, shopping for those “perfect” gifts. I loved the excited smiles on my children’s faces as they saw the presents piled under the tree on Christmas morning and rushed to find those with their names on them.
Now I cherish more simple things this time of year: enjoying the long-standing tradition of exchanging Christmas socks with my daughter; listening to reflective Christmas music as I am right now; reading cards and notes from friends and family.
Other simple things? The look of twinkling lights. The aroma of a few cookies and quick breads baking. Hanging the stockings I crocheted on the mantel.
My Christmas trees used to drip with treasured family ornaments and colored lights. Now I put out this small but precious ceramic tree made especially for me years ago by my mother-in-law. There are also a few decorations scattered throughout the house and a wreath on the front door…
more than enough to satisfy my Christmas heart.
How about you, Beloved? Do you go all out for Christmas or have you scaled back in recent years?
I know this is the day after Christmas but I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and yesterday my wonderful friend Johnny Harkins at GEM Ministries published this in his newsletter. I hope you’ll enjoy it a day late!
“But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.”
What a wonderful example the prophet Micah is to us! As one of the minor prophets, the first few chapters of his short Old Testament book are basically messages of God’s judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem. But toward the end of this book, we see clear evidence of Micah’s faith and confidence that God would send a Savior.
As humans, we think we’ve got all the answers. And even when we don’t, we have the technology to find those answers in an instant by searching the internet for whatever may be baffling or confusing to us.
Just the other night a friend and I were struggling to remember the name for an Italian dessert. Both of our mothers (did I mention we are both Italian?) had made this as we were growing up, and she and I had actually made it together several years ago. But could we recall the name? No way!
Our friends at the dinner table waited for us to remember, but it didn’t happen. That’s when I caught myself saying, “I’ll just google it tomorrow and let you know.”
And I did! I googled it and then shared it with them in a private Facebook message!
But because of the huge advancements in technology over the past few years, many people today believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant in this modern world. However, the Old Testament is filled with verses which talk about a Savior or foretell His coming. Here are only a few:
- “You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.” —Psalm 65:5
- “It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them.” —Isaiah 19:20
- “Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me.” —Hosea 13:4
Read the longing in these and many other verses. They yearned for the Savior of the world to come soon and exhibited great faith that it would happen. They obviously loved God without restraint and absolutely believed that God would send a Savior, someone who would rescue them from themselves and their sins and provide a way for them to live with and worship God forever.
So many people say they believe in God but when it comes to eternal issues, they are floundering in a huge sea of doubt and frustration. It is understandably difficult to believe in a being we cannot see. On top of that uncertainty, we are asked to trust that believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior is the only way to heaven.
Wow. That. Is. Huge.
I love what J. Vernon McGee has to say about this: “You may think you have your way of salvation, but God is the only Savior, and He is the only one who can offer you a plan of salvation.”
Absolutely! God’s plan for our salvation was always in the works but truly began with the birth of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus was born a human man and lived an earthly life so that He could experience and relate to every single thing we humans go through.
The birth of Jesus Christ paved the way for His death on the cross, where He took our sins upon Himself and died on our behalf. That death paved the way for Him to be resurrected from the dead on the third day, proving that death and sin have no more eternal hold on us. All this to show how much God loves us and longs for us to live in heaven with Him forever.
But this is where faith and trust come into the picture. We must believe that our only chance for eternal redemption comes from Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with ourselves or what we do or don’t do:
“Jesus said to him, ”I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Sadly, though, too many of us seem unable to take that giant leap of faith and trust:
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” —John 1:10-13
Beloved, Christmas is definitely a time of celebration. If you take away all the glitter, packages, decorations, baked goodies and music, we still have the greatest thing for which to be thankful. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the one God sent to free us from the bondage of sin.
So if all you have to celebrate Christmas is that certain knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, then you have it all and more!
Let’s try to remember that Christmas is more about the Reason and less about the Season.
A very Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of you!
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” —John 1:14-16
“… for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:11
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” —Acts 5:30-31