Tag Archives: Christmas

Exchange the Gifts

Many people will be at the store the day after Christmas exchanging gifts. It is normal to receive a gift that is the wrong color, wrong size, or in some cases, just not desirable. Making these exchanges has become part of the Christmas tradition. Stores may even have extra staff to ensure the lines at the return counter do not become too long. Gifts can go back, and we can leave the store with something even better. There are many things in life we may desire to exchange, especially from the past couple years.

Gloomy is a description of many events from the past couple years. From global headlines to personal tragedies, there has been much in the way of bad news. Absorbing it all is burdensome and weary. It leaves us longing for rest just like the Israelites in Isaiah’s day.

Isaiah was delivering the Lord’s message to people amid much gloom and despair. They were toiling physically, probably spent emotionally, and struggling spiritually. Amid it all, the Lord sends Isaiah to bring hope of rest.

In chapter 9, Isaiah reminds the people this gloom will not go on forever. A different day is coming; a rest like none other is coming. Verses 6-7 say, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders, and he will be called wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s armies will make this happen.”

Though these words were spoken hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, they point directly to him. Israel was on the lookout for a political messiah. Someone who would establish rule and slam their enemies to the ground, but God had a different plan. God was working to establish an eternal rest. This would not be a rest just for the Israelites, but it would be a rest for you and me. This rest would not be temporary but eternal, and on Christmas day, the child that brings this rest arrived.

His arrival was not in a grand fashion, but he sure made a grand difference.

As you read this today, you may feel like the Israelites. Physically, you are toiling and don’t know how you are going to have the strength to continue. Emotionally, you may be spent, and your spiritual life is a constant struggle. As Isaiah says, the Lord offers rest to you. Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30, invites us to exchange all of this weariness for his rest and peace. Allow this exchange to happen. Trade your gloom for peace, your despair for hope in Jesus.

Visitors at the Door

Peering into the stars, the scholars noticed something different and amazing one night. As they researched, their familiarity with the Scriptures caused them to follow the star. They knew a Messiah was coming, and they wanted to see him. Their journey took them to the land of King Herod, who asked a lot of questions, and eventually, their journey took them to the home of Mary and Joseph.

Matthew 2 records, “After this interview, the wise men went their own way, and the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped at the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshipped him, then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route. For God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.”

These wise men’s example offers some pointers for anyone desiring to deepen in our relationship with the Lord.

  • They were sensitive to the Lord’s leading. When they saw the star, they followed it. They didn’t ignore the prompting of the Lord. Do we pay enough attention to the Lord to know when he is prompting us?
  • They worshipped the Lord. The wise men realized who they were in comparison to the Lord, so they offered the Messiah praise. How often do we thank the Lord for what he has done for us?
  • Matthew tells us the wise men shared with the Lord. They shared gold, which is something of value, and frankincense and myrrh, which are incense. For us, we can share the gold of our time and talents with the Lord and the incense of our prayers with him.

As you think of the wise men’s example, try putting these pointers into practice in your walk with the Lord.

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Different Views of Christmas

Given the opportunity to have a conversation with one of the characters from the Christmas account, who would you choose? I was recently asked this question, and it spurred my thinking. The people starring in Jesus’ birth story would have witnessed the events from a wide array of perspectives, yet we see much faith shine through each perspective.

Mary

Mary obviously plays a crucial role, being the young mother of Jesus. This would have been a lot for her to take on, but she does in a faithful way. Luke records the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to reveal her part in God’s grand plan. Luke 1:28 says, “The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

After reassuring Mary his visit was to bring good news, Gabriel explained how she would be the mother of Jesus, and reminded Mary God can do anything. Mary was an ordinary girl, but she was given an extraordinary part to play in God’s plan. We know she inquired about the virgin birth, but we can only imagine what else went through Mary’s mind’ as she listened to the angel’s words.

She would have to explain this to Joseph. A pregnancy can’t be easily hidden, and people would speculate about her as they would not understand what the Lord was doing. This would have been a lot for Mary to process, and she may have not fully grasped it, but because of her faith, Mary was willing to offer herself as a servant. She realized fulfilling her purpose would have rough parts, but she trusted the Lord to be with her during those times. 

Joseph

Joseph would have to take on much in his role. Joseph was certainly put in a unique spot. Hisfiance was pregnant, but the baby wasn’t his. As Joseph was struggling with what to do, he was faithful to the Lord’s calling. Matthew 1 tells us Joseph was going to divorce Mary, but listened when the Lord told him to stay. Joseph’s response in this moment truly demonstrates his faithfulness.

Shepherds

The shepherds could have stayed in the field with their sheep and dismissed the angel’s message, but they had a different response. “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.’ So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the manger” (Luke 2:15-16).

The shepherds responded to the angel with much faith. Believing the angel, the shepherds acted upon their belief. The shepherds’ faith shined through brightly.

Magi

The Magi allowed their faith to push them. As they were studying the stars, they could have ignored the star introducing Jesus as another supernova, but they chose to seek the answer to why the star suddenly appeared. Their faith pushed them to investigate God’s Word.

Each of these characters has a different perspective of Jesus’ birth, but they all respond with much faith. As we all approach life from differing perspectives, we should share this commonalty with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi. We should approach the Lord with faith. The writer of Hebrews reminds us the Lord rewards those who earnestly seek him.

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Trading Spaces

The show Trading Spaces gives couples a chance to trade houses with a neighbor for a few days. They trade so that each couple can give a make-over to a room in the other’s home. New paint, wall hangings, and furniture usually go into place, and at the end of each episode, the couples go back home to offer their reaction to the newly decorated space. Sometimes it turns out well. Other times not so much. Trading spaces can mean giving up something valuable.

It did for Jesus. The Bible teaches he traded places with us. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Allow these words to dwell in your mind for a moment.

Jesus had everything. He was not confined by time or space; he did not have the limits of our bodies. He was in Heaven and had it made, yet he was willing to trade spaces with us. He traded all of Heaven’s perfection for all of this world’s imperfection. He did this so we could experience Heaven.

His trading spaces allows us the opportunity to have a spiritual make-over. Through Christ, all the richness and fullness of Heaven awaits us. All the difficulties of this world will give way to no more pain, sorrow, or suffering. The imperfection will give way to perfection because Jesus traded spaces.

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Wishing You A Very Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:11 says, “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 to you. He is Christ the Lord.”

You and I have been given a gift. The gift is Jesus. Jesus brings the gift of grace. He came to help us. Jesus did not stand at the top of the mountain and tell us to climb. He came down to hold our hand as we climbed. Jesus did not stand on the opposite side of a gulf and tell us to cross the bridge. He came across to help us. Jesus came as our Christmas gift.

The angel’s good news to the shepherds is for you and me also. As you celebrate today, I hope you have a moment to reflect on the gift of Jesus.

I appreciate you spending part of your day reading this, and I hope you have a blessed and merry Christmas. Please share this post.

Exchanging Gifts

Many people will be at the store the day after Christmas exchanging gifts. It is normal to receive a gift that is the wrong color, wrong size, or in some cases, just not desirable. Making these exchanges has become part of the Christmas tradition. Stores may even have extra staff to ensure the lines at the return counter do not become too long. Gifts can go back, and we can leave the store with something even better. There are many things in life we may desire to exchange, especially from the past couple years.

Gloomy is a description of many events from the past couple years. From global headlines to personal tragedies, there has been much in the way of bad news. Absorbing it all is burdensome and weary. It leaves us longing for rest just like the Israelites in Isaiah’s day.

Isaiah was delivering the Lord’s message to people amid much gloom and despair. They were toiling physically, probably spent emotionally, and struggling spiritually. Amid it all, the Lord sends Isaiah to bring hope of rest.

In chapter 9, Isaiah reminds the people this gloom will not go on forever. A different day is coming; a rest like none other is coming. Verses 6-7 say, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders, and he will be called wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s armies will make this happen.”

Though these words were spoken hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, they point directly to him. Israel was on the lookout for a political messiah. Someone who would establish rule and slam their enemies to the ground, but God had a different plan. God was working to establish an eternal rest. This would not be a rest just for the Israelites, but it would be a rest for you and me. This rest would not be temporary but eternal, and on Christmas day, the child that brings this rest arrived.

His arrival was not in a grand fashion, but he sure made a grand difference.

As you read this today, you may feel like the Israelites. Physically, you are toiling and don’t know how you are going to have the strength to continue. Emotionally, you may be spent, and your spiritual life is a constant struggle. As Isaiah says, the Lord offers rest to you. Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30, invites us to exchange all of this weariness for his rest and peace. Allow this exchange to happen. Trade your gloom for peace, your despair for hope in Jesus.

Host of the Dwell On These Things podcast John Stange goes deeper into this concept in this episode. Check it out!

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No Broken Promises

It has been said promises are made only to be broken, and since we do not live in a perfect world, this holds true on many occasions. Someone with the best of intentions makes a promise to us, but the person is unable to keep it. For many, politics comes to mind as soon as they think of broken promises. An imperfect world leads to imperfect promises.

But what if I told you there was someone who always keeps promises. What if I told you there is someone who always tells the truth? There is! He is the Lord, and we see this lived out the night the shepherds heard of Jesus’ birth.

The stillness of their night had been interrupted by an angel giving them good news of great joy, so the shepherds went to investigate. Luke’s Gospel tells us, “They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph, and there was the baby lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16). They investigated the message they received from the angel and found that it was true. Everything was just like they had been told.

God doesn’t lie. He doesn’t change his mind or his character; he doesn’t go back on his word. Hebrews reminds us the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever more. He will always keep his promises. His word will always be true.

We can trust the promises given to us in the Bible. We can trust that the Lord will give us peace. We can trust that he will be with us. We can trust that he will provide for us and protect us. There is not one promise in Scripture which will be broken. God will always keep his word, so we can be like the shepherds, praising God for finding things just as we were told (Luke 2:20).

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Good News of Great Joy

The sun had set, and the shepherds were gathered around a small fire keeping warm in the darkness and coolness of night. Their sheep resting close by. It seemed like an ordinary night, but suddenly it became extraordinary. The darkness was pierced by the light of an angel, and the shepherds were terrified. Who can blame them? The darkness of night interrupted by the brilliance of an angel is enough to make the hair on anyone’s neck stand on edge.

“But the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said, ‘I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. The Savior, yes, the Messiah, the Lord, has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David. And you will recognize him by this sign: you will find a baby, wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger.’ Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast host of others, the armies of Heaven, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest Heaven and peace on earth with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:10-14).

Good news of great joy is what the shepherds needed. We all need good news of great joy, especially in the darkness of this era. Everywhere we turn we find negative headlines, but Christmas is a reminder there is good news, joyous news that is for everyone. This good news is Jesus. He is our way to peace with God.

The Bible says, “Do not let your hearts be trouble, but present your requests and petitions to God in prayer. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Because of Christmas, we can take the anxieties of this world and hand them over to the Lord. We can rest in the peace he offers.

The shepherds were the first to receive good news of great joy, but it is also for you and me. Allow the light of the Lord to pierce the darkness around you and bring you peace this Christmas season.

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Less Than Ideal

The census had been ordered, and everyone was to return to their hometown to register. For Joseph, that meant traveling the 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This was a 3-day trip, and it would be more difficult because Mary was expecting a child. The couple made the trip, and Luke’s Gospel records the birth of the child happening while Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem.

Luke 2:6-7 records, “And while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them.”

This was certainly not an ideal situation from our perspective. Making a 3-day journey to give birth among the goats and sheep was probably not on Mary’s bucket list; however, the Lord used this “less than ideal” situation to bring salvation to the world. Amazingly the Creator of the world allowed himself to be a baby lying in a manger among the livestock. God was quietly at work.

The setting for Jesus’ birth is not one in which you would expect a king to be born, but a Savior is born. God used a livestock area as the first throne room and a manger as the first throne. This “less than ideal” situation is the last place we would expect God to work, but he did some mighty work.

There are many “less than ideal” situations in life, yet God works through them.

  • It is less than ideal when we feel all alone in a moment of life. We find ourselves amid a life season we don’t think anyone else could even begin to understand, yet God does. The writer of Hebrews tells us Jesus understands, and he is able to help us in our time of need. It may not be a perfect season, but God is still working.
  • It may be a season where you feel absolutely alone. No family close, so you’re just mingling around your house by yourself. You’re not really alone though; God is there. Hebrews 13:5 tells us the Lord will never leave us; he will never forsake us. Even when we are alone, the Lord is there with us and he is working.
  • Maybe your heartbroken and devastated. Your marriage ended as your spouse walked in and said, “I’m done.” Psalm 34:18 reminds us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and heals those who are crushed in spirit.

Much happen on that first Christmas night. We see the extent of the Lord’s love and are reminded he can work no matter the circumstances. In spite of everything happening around us this Christmas season, try to take a moment to rejoice in the truth that a Savior has been born to us.

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The Extent of God’s Love

A census had been ordered, and everyone was to return to their hometown to register. For Joseph, that meant traveling the 90-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This was a 3-day trip, and it would be more difficult because Mary was expecting a child. The couple made the trip, and Luke’s Gospel records the birth of the child happening while Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem.

Luke 2:6-7 records, “And while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them.”

Christmas shows the extent of God’s love. The Lord has such a sacrificial love for you and I that he came to us.

The Gospel of John reminds us the Lord became human and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14), and we know from the Bible, he gave up much to come be with us. Philippians 2 says Jesus did not consider equality with God something to cling to, but he gave it up in humility so he could be with us. All this out of love; John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but to save it.”

You see, Christmas is the result of God’s love. It demonstrates how close the Lord will come to help us. He is right beside us helping us.

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