Christmas celebrations were filled with all of these in my childhood home. We attended family gatherings for both my mom’s and my dad’s side of the family. These family times occurred sometime during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and in true North American tradition, included a tables full of delicious food. One aunt and uncle on my mom’s side had eleven children, and there were ten children in my dad’s family. I was surprised to learn, years later, that many families were not blessed with such large, noisy Christmas dinners.
Travelling with my friends in a caravan of cars to sing carols for the shut-ins of our church congregation is one of my favourite teenage memories. We usually visited the elderly who could not attend service very often. I trust that the carols we sang brought as much joy to their hearts as it did to ours. Each stop usually ended with a Christmas cookie or two thanking us for making time for them.
Our North American culture has fostered the desire for us to draw close to family and friends during the holidays. No matter what our spiritual beliefs are, it seems that being with family and close friends is the most important aspect of the Christmas Season.
Mary and Joseph, however, had to leave their families that first Christmas season. They had to travel away from what was familiar. They did not have the joy and comfort of family and friends around them to celebrate the birth of the new precious little one placed in their care. They were alone, possibly cold, hungry and very tired. Not in the state of mind for celebrating anything, let alone the birth of the Son of God, the King of Israel.
Not far away, on a hill near Bethlehem, there was a celebration underway that would soon spill over into the foul-smelling, dirty barn where Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were spending the night. There were shepherds caring for their sheep just outside of Bethlehem, probably very tired at the end of the day. Some were probably sleeping, while a few stood guard against preying animals. Scripture describes the scene this way:
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors! “ Luke 2:9–14 (HCSB)
A multitude of angels raised joyful voices proclaiming the birth of Jesus. Their celestial choir delivered a heavenly message that penetrated the shepherd’s ears, and hearts. For hundreds of years the Jews had been waiting for their Promised Messiah, and the angels told these humble shepherds that He had finely been born.
Singing and music have been vital components of the Christian’s Christmas celebrations for centuries. But today there is an effort to silence the songs that speaks of Christ’s birth. Join me this Christmas season as we celebrate Christ’s birth with song and music. Don’t let the spiritual carols and songs be lost, and don’t let the message of Christ’s birth be silenced. The message of that first “Silent Night” is needed by each person today, just as much as it was needed at the time of Christ’s birth.
To those who feel desperately alone this season, I encourage you to go to God’s Word and read of Christ’s birth in the first chapters of Luke. Then read of Christ’s life in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus Christ is able to fill the void in your life. He wants you to be part of His family. He wants to be your best friend. Scriptures declares to us:
“…but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24 (HCSB)
Jesus can give you the family you need. He wants to be the friend you deserve. He wants to bring joy into your life so you will have a song to sing.
These are some of my first memories of Christmas preparations. Mom would bring out paper, glitter, and glue and my sister and I would draw stars, cover them in glue and then pour the glitter all over the page. We then held up the paper, shaking off the excess glitter onto a clean dry piece of paper, and would be thrilled to see the glittering star appear. We spent many happy hours decorating our home.
Mom and dad did many things to help make Christmas magical for us. The preparations started with the annual Hudson’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We anticipated seeing Santa riding in his sleigh at the end, but we were just as excited to look for dad playing his trumpet in the Detroit Fireman’s Band. The next weeks were filled with trimming the tree, and visiting the many light displays around the city. One year my Grandpa Clinard helped to build the Christmas Fantasy Display at the Ford Rotunda in Dearborn, Michigan. I was so very proud as I walked through
that magical display, knowing that my grandpa had helped build it.
But there was no “Magic” involved in the events of that very first Christmas. It was a miracle, not magic that brought joy to the world that night. Mary, a very young woman, was told that she would become the mother of the Promised Saviour. I can’t imagine what this young devoted Jewish woman could have been thinking. She had kept herself pure, a virgin, to be worthy of a good Jewish husband. If what the Angel was saying were to come to pass, would her intended husband cast her aside? What would her parents say? What would the people of her town say? Would anyone believe her when she told them exactly what the angel had told her?
Luke 1:30–38 (HCSB)
Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end. Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?” The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless.
For nothing will be impossible with God." “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
Mary believed the prophecies she had been taught telling of a promised messiah. That night she trusted that the words the Angel proclaimed were the intent of her heavenly father. She believed, trusted and obeyed. There have always been those who do not believe. There are many who choose not to trust the message of the Bible. They choose to ignore the truth that has proven itself throughout the years.
The birth of Christ was a miracle, not magical. While preparing your home for Christmas with glitter, glue and stars, remember to
thank God for His first Christmas gift to us, the birth of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are events that are forever seared into my memory; the day I saw Mt. Rushmore for the first time, the night I “really” noticed my fellow classmate who later became my husband. These are great memories.
There are some memories, however, that bring sadness, even years later.
I was visiting a family with my mom and sister when I was about ten or eleven years old. The family had three or four children at the time. The mom and dad are lovely people with hearts of gold.
They are the kind of folks who go out of their way to help others. They loved their children and provided well for them.
Their youngest son was in the room, and began to misbehave. He continued to pester and cause a scene. What I could not believe, even at the young age of eleven, was that the parents looked at us and laughed! They didn’t speak to this child, correct him, or even send him to his room. When my mom, sister and I left, I mentioned this to my mom. She was also surprised at the lack of discipline.
As the years passed, I was not surprised as I would hear news that one child after another, except for one, went through difficult times, and brought much heartache to those parents.
It makes me very sad when I see parents afraid to give their children boundaries. I am sad when they are afraid to say “no” to their children. Someday these children will learn that they cannot do whatever they like, and will suffer the consequences. Who better to teach and guide them than the people who love them the
most? Who better to discipline them than those who will do it with love and understanding? Giving children boundaries and limits does not hem a child in or harm them in any way. It gives them a
sense of security, safety and freedom. They learn how to live within guidelines that benefit them and others.
"Son (and daughter) hear the instruction of your father, and do
not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head and chains about your neck."
The ornaments described in these verses will not only be worn on the children, but these children will be graceful ornaments for their parents.
Then there are children who seem to ignore all of the godly teaching and guidance their parents have tried to instill into their lives. My heart breaks for these parents. There are verses that give hope and comfort to these dear parents.
Hebrews 12:11: “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but
painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it..."
“train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old will not depart from it.”
Parents, be the loving guide, protector, and teacher your kids need! Be the parent your child longs for, and then commit them into God’s loving hands each day.
Have you ever realized that you were doing something good and honorable for all the wrong reasons? It’s a very humbling experience.
Years ago I was asked to be president of the Women’s Ministries group at our church. It took a few years, but later I realized that my endeavors in this role had started out all wrong. There were warning signs, but, in my inexperience, I didn’t see them.
I accepted the position because it was offered to me. I assumed that since they asked me to take this leadership position they must have thought I had the skills and ability to do the job. My husband and I were fairly new to the church and the other women of the church didn’t know me well enough to know if I could fill the position. The church was not very large. I didn’t realize that others had taken their turn and now they were down to me. I let others direct my course.
I had no clear understanding of what outcomes were expected of me, or of the group. The Women’s Ministries functioned under old guidelines, rules and traditions. The group had not evaluated their values, or purpose. I’m sad to say that after several frustrating years, I stepped down from that position not knowing why we were floundering. I led without goals and action steps.
I felt as if I were a huge failure, but at the same time the desire to learn how to become more effective for the Lord was born. When opportunities to attend women’s leadership seminars presented themselves, I attended whenever possible. I wanted to become a woman like the strong women of leadership in the Bible: Esther, Deborah and Lydia. I searched for women whose lives demonstrated aspiration to godly goals, and from whom I could learn how to obtain confidence and skills. I needed to learn from these mentors so I could progress in fulfilling the role God had for me. My goal was not to be a successful leader, but to be a woman of God who made a difference in the lives of other women.
Slowly I was beginning to understand how to align my aspirations and desires with those of Christ.
“Turn my heart to Your decrees and not to material gain. Turn my eyes from looking at what is worthless; give me life in Your ways.” Psalm 119:36-37 (HCSB)
Knowing the destination and the purpose for a family vacation brings excitement and anticipation. Not knowing the reason for the journey or the destination can lead to disappointment.
My husband and I love to travel by car on our vacations and getaways. We like short weekend excursions, and longer vacation times. However, early in our marriage we learned that our planning styles differ. He likes to let things happen, and I like to plan every detail. It took a few years, but we have learned to mesh these two ways of thinking so that we both enjoy our travels. First we usually have a
particular reason for the trip, places we want go and things we want to see and
do. Then we decide how long we can be away, and where we will spend the nights. Will we take our travel trailer, or will we stay in hotels? I make the appropriate reservations and then we agree that what happens throughout the trip will be an adventure. We have made some fun discoveries along the way with this plan. However, we had agreed on the purpose and destination of our journey before we left home.
Jesus knew, before He left his heavenly home, the reason for his journey to earth. He came to do His Father’s Will.
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39 (KJV)
And a verse we looked at previously:
“Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me—nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 (HCSB)
Jesus knew that he was born to die. He came to earth to take the punishment for my sins, so that one day I would be able to live with Him, forever in Heaven. He did this for each person who has ever lived. Jesus’ aspiration - to do the Father’s
will. His purpose was to provide the way for people to have their relationship with the Heavenly Father restored.
Years ago I decided that the purpose for my life’s journey would be to fulfill the Father’s will. I determined that I wanted to follow Christ in everything I did, in all of my ‘aspirations’. There is nothing more fulfilling than to discover what God’s will
is, and then to accomplish it with confidence. There is no greater joy than
surrendering to Him each day and being the best I can be through the strength He
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
Dear Lord, I do not know what today’s journey has in store for me, but I rest in the knowledge that you know, and you will be with me giving me the courage and confidence to meet each challenge and adventure. My desire is to follow your steps, one at a time, and to do your will as you make it known to me.
“Paying It Forward” has become a popular practice in recent years. Did you know that November 13, 2013 has been named World Kindness Day? There is even a Random Acts of Kindness week set for February 10 – 16, 2014.
If you have been reading my blog recently, you know that we are looking at the life of Christ. We have considered how to be like him in our Attitudes and now we are looking at how to be like him in our Actions. I found the following poem with this thought in mind.
From the example of Jesus,
Who went about doing good,
We are to honor our Savior
By helping wherever He would. —Hess
Not long ago I met a wonderful gentleman who was doing a couple of odd jobs for my mom. I was told later that this man is generous to many people, spending much of his free time helping others. He is reluctant to take payment because this dear man believes that if he does enough for others, and is a good person, he will earn his way into heaven. Friends have tried to explain to him that his generous acts of kindness do not determine his worthiness for heaven.
The only thing that qualifies anyone to enter into the eternal presence
of God the Father is their relationship with the Son, Jesus Christ. This dear
man chooses to believe it is his actions that qualify him to live with God for
ever in heaven. However, Isaiah explains very clearly that:
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Isaiah 46:6 (ESV)
Our good works do not determine our eternal destiny. Our good works are to be the outcome of a changed life through Jesus Christ. Doing good, even being good is not enough. Our eternal home depends upon our acceptance of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” Titus 3:5 (ESV)
Lord, help me to recognize where you want me to help to make someone else’s life easier. Help me to see what you would do. I want to do these acts of kindness because of my love for you, not because they will help me to “make it to heaven.” Thank you for providing a way for me to be a child of God that has nothing to do with what I “do”, because I could never “do” enough to be worthy of your forgiveness.
In recent postings we have considered how to be like Christ in our Attitudes. Today we will look at being like Christ in our Actions.
Peter summarizes what Jesus did while he lived on earth in Acts 10:37 & 38.
“… God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him.” (HCSB)
No, I do not have the ability to perform miracles; only God is
able to do that. However, “doing good” to those in my life is completely within my control. For Christians, that is one way to live in obedience to Christ.
Many people, whether they are followers of Christ or not, have
naturally generous hearts. They see the kindnesses that need to be done, and they do them, quickly and easily.
I need to put a lot of thought into my acts of kindness. I need to be very intentional. I stop and ask myself this question, “How am I able
to make today better for someone else?” Sometimes it is as simple as taking the time to listen to someone’s problems. No advice or remedy is required, only a listening ear and a compassionate heart. Perhaps it may be to mow the lawn for someone unable to do it. Maybe it means to take an undesirable shift for someone at work, or to offer to do a task that no one else wants to do. Possibly it is to leave a bag of groceries at the door of a family who is
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3 (NRSV)
Think and meditate on this verse often. Ask the Lord to help you
see with new eyes and an open heart fresh ways to touch lives throughout your day. Listen to that still small voice that reminds us to pray for the one who is sick, make a call to encourage the person going through a tough time, or give a ride to someone who needs it.
However, as we do these things, we need to remember to have the
same attitude that Christ had. These acts of kindness are for the benefit of the receiver. Never “perform” good deeds for the recognition, nor to give the impression of somehow being ‘better’ than the person helped.
Jesus was facing his ultimate act of “doing good” as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he continued to be humble and
“Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me--nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 (HCSB)
Father, help me to be like Christ as I live every day. Help me to “do good” in every aspect of my life, and to do it with the same attitude that Christ had, humble and obedient.
When we looked at Philippians 2:5 we found that it encouraged the reader to “have the mind of Christ”, that is, to have the same attitude that he possesses. The verses immediately following describe two of Christ’s attitudes.
Philippians 2:6–8 (HCSB)
6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. 7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.
Jesus did not consider using that fact that he was part of the Trinity, the very Son
of God, for his own benefit while he lived on earth. Quite the opposite, Jesus
humbled himself. He “emptied himself”. Christ set aside all thoughts of the privileges that were rightfully his as the Son of God, and considered himself a slave. He took on the demeanor of a slave. He made himself available to the wants and needs of those he served. He willingly left his heavenly throne, to live as a common man, walk dusty streets, endure hurtful criticism, and was misunderstood by those who loved him most.
He was obedient to the will of God and submitted himself to physical death on a
cross; a death that included all the pain that accompanied a crucifixion. This was his supreme act of love given freely for us.
I recently heard the testimony of Kathie Moss, the mother of Megan, a young woman who was facing a health crisis a few years ago. Megan, as a high school
student, had written in her journal about her desire to be used of God. She indicated that she would obey God so that others would come to know Jesus. Megan had a history of heart problems and at the age of 24, this condition could have taken her life. God answered her prayer, and the prayers of thousands of others around the world. Because of the miracle God performed, her story of faith was told through all forms of media; television, radio, newspaper, internet, and a book. When Megan wrote those words in her journal as a teenager, she had no idea how God word answer her prayer. However, she meant every word. You can read her story in the book Megan’s Heart, by Sharon Bushey.
As a teenager, Megan emptied herself before God for his use. Her love for
Christ was so deep and so complete that she held nothing back. She humbled
herself and became obedient to Christ.
As a person who follows Christ, there are two questions that I need to answer in
light of these verses.
How do I empty myself for Christ?
Am I being obedient to the leading of the Lord every day?
Dear Lord, help me to empty myself for you. Help me to humble myself to serve
others, and to be willing to obey you, no matter what circumstances you allow in
Throughout God’s Word we are instructed to “be like Christ.” Philippians 2:5 is even more specific. This verse commands us to think like Christ, to have His mindset. This is a verse that keeps me on track. You will see it below in three different translations helping to explain its full meaning.
"Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus." (HCSB)
”In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (NIV)
”Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (NKJV)
I need to think like Christ, to have the same mind as Christ, to
have his attitude. I have fallen short of this many times.
Several years ago a colleague and I were reviewing the previous
night’s presentation. She kindly asked me what I thought I might do differently to be more effective. We were at the beginning of a ten-day blitz to introduce a new venture. I was so excited that I hadn’t stopped to even consider if I should change my presentation. Why would I? After all, the Lord helped me prepare it, so why would I change it? Allowing myself to accept my younger friend’s gentle guidance helped me improve the message, and keep the humble attitude befitting a Christian.
The Lord impressed two things upon me during those days. 1. I
still have much to learn, and, 2. I should be willing to learn from those I am leading, even those younger than me. Listening to those around me, and considering the ideas and possible solutions of others goes a long way toward helping me improve my effectiveness.
As we continued our trip, we were seeing God at work along the
way, but, even so, our relationship grew strained. Several days of travel in a small car, covering hundreds of miles took a toll. We both needed a “time out”. God spoke to me, and showed me my wrong attitude. I was putting myself first. Once we reconciled with God and each other, we were able to finish our tour with God’s blessing and our venture was off to a good start.
When I acknowledged my wrong attitude to Christ, and to my dear
friend, sweet communion with my Lord and my colleague was restored.
This step in following Jesus, having Christ’s attitude, is one
that raises another question. Just what was Christ’s attitude?
We will explore that next time.
One of the verses we looked at last time encouraged us to follow Christ’s steps. Today we are going to look at what his first step was.
I’m not a theologian. I have no idea at what point in his earthly life Jesus became aware of what the future held for him. However, I believe that by the age of twelve, Jesus knew something of His Heavenly Father’s plan for his future. I believe Jesus understood that he was the Only Son of God, and that God the Father had placed him on the earth to fulfill God’s plan.
Jesus and his family were in Jerusalem for the annual celebration of the Feast of the Passover. Like many twelve year olds, Jesus was inquisitive, and went off on his own. He was found three days later in deep discussion with the teachers and leaders of the synagogue.
Luke 2:46–47 (NRSV)
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
The traditional method of Jewish teaching was for the Rabi and the student to engage in both asking and answering questions. It seems that this is exactly what was happening between Jesus and the teachers that day. Those who heard the discussion “were amazed”. The questions Jesus asked and the answers he gave indicated there was something very unique about this young man. That day, God offered a glimpse of who Jesus really was, although most did not understand that this young man was the long awaited Messiah.
After Jesus’ three-day adventure, he followed his parents back home. Even Jesus, the son of God, creator of the universe, the one who would one day have millions follow him, began his ministry by following others.
Luke 2:51 & 52 (HCSB)
Then He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
Jesus followed his parents home and willingly obeyed them.
Lord Jesus, help me follow your every step. Help me follow you, even though I am uncertain as to where you will lead me. Please give me the strength to be an example of a willing obedient follower, so that others will learn to follow your footsteps also.