What Christmas is All About - thanks to Linus

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Devotions - Day 17

Luke 2:16 "So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger."

We hurry off to those crazy 4am store openings to get huge bargains on gifts… we hurry off to work, school, the gym, soccer practice, lessons, recitals, grocery stores, doctor appointments… the endless activities that jam-pack your calendar each day. However, one definition of hurry is “a state of urgency or eagerness”, and that puts a more positive spin on a word that is usually given a negative connotation. 

Do we come to our time alone with Jesus in a state of eagerness? Or is it just one more appointment in this hamster wheel season we call Christmas? Another activity we race through so we can check it off our list and get on to the next pressing matter?

When the shepherds acted upon their eagerness, they found Jesus. We have the same opportunity – Jesus is waiting for us each day to find Him, to come to Him with the enthusiasm and zeal of a child racing to the tree on Christmas morning to unwrap her gifts! He has the gifts of love, joy, peace, rest, abundant living -- all wrapped up in Himself, just waiting for you to receive them.

Advent Devotions - Day 16

Luke 2:14 "When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

Have you ever had the experience of someone telling you about something, and you dropped everything to go see what they were talking about? Didn’t realize you had so much in common with those shepherds, did you? Imagine, here they were, coming straight off the experience of seeing and hearing a multitude (a LOT) of angels singing in the sky. Instead of talking each other OUT of the truth of what they had just heard and seen, they put “feet to their faith” and decided to check out what these here angels had said to them. Notice, they immediately understood that this was from the Lord, something He had told them about. They took immediate action.

Have you been praying about something lately? Are you watching and listening for the Lord to give you an answer? Now I grant you, He may not send a heavenly multitude of angels to sing outside your bedroom window tonight (then again, you never know…), but are you paying attention and looking/listening for His answers? And when He does answer you, do you procrastinate or analyze-to-death what you think you might have heard Him whisper into your soul? Or like the shepherds, do you jump up spiritually to see the thing which the Lord has told you about?

Maybe it’s time to get up and take action on what He has told you… today.

Advent Devotions - Day 15

Luke 2:14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 

When we give glory to God, we honor Him, and He is pleased. Glory is translated from the Greek word doxa, the root of the word doxology -- an expression of praise to God, especially a short hymn sung as part of a Christian worship service. Doxa speaks of splendor, brightness, majesty, a thing belonging to Christ; the absolutely perfect inward or personal excellency of Christ. Another reference says “the glorious condition of blessedness into which is appointed and promised that true Christians shall enter after their Savior’s return from heaven.”

God’s glory came to earth once in the form of a tiny baby. And the glory of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, Messiah, will come again soon when He returns in victory. We can experience that peace today, if we ask confess our sins and ask Christ to become our Savior and live in our hearts, until that day when we shall be blessed to be forever with Him in His glory someday. Receive His gift of eternal life, and peace on earth, in your heart – won’t you invite Him in today?

Advent Devotions - Day 14

Luke 2:13 "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,"

What do you think of when you hear “heavenly host”… Martha Stewart, perhaps? All poised and utterly perfect in every way? Ehhhh... mmmm... maybe not so much?

Well the heavenly host here means a multitude coming from heaven – an army/band of soldiers. The greek word stratia comes from a derivative of stratos (an army from the base of, as encamped). Psalm 34:7 tells us that “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.”

The shepherds weren’t the only ones who had a host of heavenly angels with them. We do, too! God has sent His angels to encamp around us and rescue us. Encamp can also mean to abide, to pitch a tent – angels are abiding with us, staying awhile to watch over us. Now while we are meant never to worship the angels --  but the Lord Himself, creator of angels --  we certainly can thank Him for sending these winged warriors to protect us from the enemy and his army. As you go about your day, stop and thank God for all the things from which He has protected you with his angelic army.

Advent Devotions - Day 13

Luke 2:12 "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

A sign – the Greek word used is “semeion” and it also means mark – that by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others and is known. The signs of Christmas are all around –houses and lawns decorated with brightly colored lights, a pine tree filled with ornaments, special events at schools and houses of worship, parties, and of course, the endless commercials vying for your attention and dollars! Subtle holiday hints? Not so much!

Often the most beautiful houses are adorned only with small white candles in each window, a green wreath decorated with a solitary red bow, or a simple manger scene on the mantle. These quieter remembrances of Christmas are classic, proclaiming the season in a rich and striking manner.

What mark are you making today for Christmas? Is your life a sign which points to the Savior? Don’t get so tangled up in the tinsel that your sign to the world is just that of another harried and hassled, gift-toting Christmas casualty. Purpose yourself this day to allow the Christ-child to mark your walk/talk as “that by which you are distinguished from others”. Be known as a Christ-follower this Christmas – make your mark for Him.

Advent Devotions - Day 12

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, "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; he is Christ the Lord. 

Even though the better part of my daily mail is bills, flyers, catalogs and rubbish, I have to admit that there is always a bit of anticipation when I read through my mail. As the Christmas cards begin to arrive, I often smile just reading the return address, reminded of a distant friend, and then I tear open the card with childlike enthusiasm to see what they have written. Our hearts always seek out good news that will bring us great joy, don’t they?

Tis’ the season – how are you sharing the good news of our Savior’s birth? Are you praying each day for the Lord to bring someone into your life with whom you can talk about Him, and share the joy of salvation? Do your Christmas cards offer the true Christmas story tucked somewhere within the holiday pictures and Christmas letter? Have you taken the opportunity to invite someone who doesn’t yet have a personal relationship with Christ to come with you to church, or to your home? We may not have the commanding presence of an angel, but certainly we can quietly, in our own way, bring the message of the love and gift of Christ to others this Christmas. Ask the Lord to give you “God eyes” to see opportunities to tell them "... a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."

(Picture is "Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds" by Govert Teunisz Flinck, 1639)

Advent Devotions - Day 11

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

God’s glory shown around them – the Greek means to encircle, encompass with light – the light of the glory of the Lord, the Shekinah glory, the brilliant white light of God’s glory, which represented the holiness and presence of God. Just as Mary wrapped the baby Jesus in swaddling clothes, all snug and safe and warm, God wraps us in His light, His love. And yet often we are still afraid.

What do you fear today? Fears can manifest themselves in any/every thing from worry about Christmas not being perfect, anxiety over getting just the right gift, or deep fear of a major loss of relationships, health, beauty, youth, job, home, position. What is causing you fear, worry and anxiety? The past? The present? The future? He holds them all in His nail-pierced hands.

Take it to Jesus – tell Him, tell Him everything, every little detail. Pour yourself out like an offering before Him, unburden yourself. Ask Him for direction on how to deal with whatever is bothering you. He is more than willing to provide you with answers, and if the answer is wait awhile, He will provide you with His incredible peace… simply meet with Him. Allow Him to wrap you up in His love. He will surround you with His light, a lightness that will lift your heart and soul. He calls us to Himself in Matthew 11:28-30, promising we will find rest for our souls. And who can’t use that kind of love, peace and rest, especially in this hectic season? Breath, pray, rest in Jesus, be swaddled in Him this day.

Beautiful Christmas Woven Star Craft Project!

The Hallelujah Chorus

How to Make a German Star

Christmas Craft - Holiday Origami Christmas Tree