Lessons from the Nativity

Many years ago, I heard a sermon about lessons we could all learn from the Nativity. They are lessons you can use throughout the year. These lessons touched me very deeply, so much so that when Christmas was over that year I didn’t want to pack the Nativity set away. Instead, I typed up the lessons and framed them. I set the frame beside the Nativity set and it remained up year round for several years.

When Aurora was a toddler she was fascinated with the animals and broke some of their legs while playing with them. After they were replaced, I started packing it up every year after Christmas. I now keep a copy of the lessons in my Bible for reference. Credit for these lessons goes to Dr. David Dykes of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler. I am going to share them with you. It is my hope that they will bless you as they have me.

  1. Mary – The impossible happens when you surrender to God.
  2. Joseph – It’s hard to trust what God is doing in the lives of those we love.
  3. The Stable – As bad as your life may be, you can still identify with Jesus.
  4. The Manger – God’s presence changes the simple into the supernatural.
  5. Jesus – God became like you so you can become like him.
  6. Animals – All of creation recognizes Jesus as Lord.
  7. Angels – Good News! You don’t have to be afraid!
  8. Shepherds – God wants you to share the story of Jesus with everyone.
  9. The Star – When you honestly seek God, He will guide you to Jesus.
  10. Magi – You are wise to bow and offer Jesus your finest gifts.

Blessings and Peace this Christmas and throughout the coming year.

Marian Lindsey

Joseph’s View at Fleeing to Egypt

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the Prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
Matthew 2:13-15
I, Joseph, am a simple man and never expected to be involved in so many spectacular events: the birth of baby Jesus in a manger, the celestial display with angels, the visit of shepherds and kings. The adoration and adulation was overpowering.
Now the Lord has come to me in a dream and told me to take Mary and the baby to Egypt, a place I have only heard of. On very short notice, we have been asked to go to a foreign land where we are unfamiliar with the language, food, and customs. This will be a very arduous trip through difficult terrain with less than ideal transportation arrangements. We will be immigrants with no contacts, no family, no housing, no job? How will we manage?
As we travel through the night, through wind and sand, with very little travel provisions, we wonder what we will face and how long we will be required to be away from home. I am charged with the protection and safety of Mary and the Baby and I do not feel confident that I can cope with what is required of me. What will sustain me?
Then I am reminded that the Lord is with us; His steadfast love and care will sustain us. He will surely provide for us. I will trust in His goodness and mercy.
Barbara Hugghins

Herod: A Kingdom View

Not everyone was thrilled by the birth of the King of the Jews.
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled…
Matthew 2:3 ESV
Herod held the title himself— king — any new king threatened his domain. I look at Herod and see a man who did not want his kingdom disturbed.
When the wise men failed to return with the location of the newborn king, Herod’s desire to keep hold of what he believed was his sent him on a frantic murderous hunt to dispose of the competition.
I know a man who does not want his kingdom disturbed. One who refuses to acknowledge the King, because if He is King, then his life will have to change. Someone else will rule his domain. You may know one or two yourself with this kingdom view.
Many see Jesus as a threat to their way of life. A threat to what they want to do and what they perceive will make them happy. Like Herod, they see Jesus as a disturbance in their kingdom.
But really, what do we have? What do any of us have that He hasn’t given us?
…He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things…
Acts 17:25 NASB95
Any semblance of our own kingdom, any semblance of control, is merely an illusion — a deadly deception.
The irony is, for those who refuse to come under the authority of the one true King, they miss out on all their hearts desire. Whatever they think they can receive from what they have will always elude them.
When we give up our own kingdoms for His, we gain an eternal inheritance, more than we could ask for or imagine! We become sons… daughters… of the King!
And I wonder… Are there areas in my life, where the arrival of Jesus disturbs me? Areas where I hold onto an illusion of control? Places the King’s presence leaves me feeling defensive?
What about you?
No, not everyone is thrilled by the birth of Jesus. It all depends on your kingdom view.
Lord, I choose to lay down my illusion of control 
and let You be the King of my life.

Carol Weaver

Fourth Sunday in Advent

Prince of Peace is his name.  We strive for peace.  Peace in our world…our land…our homes.  There are days that it just seems to be missing.  What does it mean really?

Webster’s defines peace as a state of tranquility or quiet, and harmony in our personal relationships.  Jesus is this kind of peace…and so much more.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…
Colossians 3:15
The fourth candle is a symbol of peace. 

(Light the first, second, third, and fourth candle.  These can be lit each day until Christmas.) 

Share with those around you what brings you the most peace.  Did you have peace this week?  If so where?  What brought that peace?

Pray:  Jesus, thank you for the moments of peace in my life.  I believe that even when life doesn’t seem peaceful, you are the Prince of Peace…Amen.

Saturday’s Sabbath Moment

The rush is on… four days and counting. I’ve come to the realization that everything will probably not get done. There is just not going to be enough time. The thing is we all get the same amount. Twenty-four hours in a day. That’s the way God designed it.

Let’s just take a moment to stop. Stop cooking and running… cleaning for company… stop… just stop.

Here in this time of stopping let’s remember who we are celebrating. Take a few moments to read the story. It’s found in the second chapter of Luke. Quick, go find your Bible and gather those in the house. Take time to sit and read Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus.

This is what we celebrate. Ancient words passed on to us through generations. 

Consider the journey Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem. Picture shepherds in the field. Imagine a great company of angels in the dark sky. Go with them to Bethlehem to see. Take a peek into the manger. There he sleeps. The child who would save the world. The greatest gift ever given. 

The waiting is almost over, and the next four days will rush by in a blur. Let us not forget that there is always enough time to celebrate Him.

A Time to Speak

For everything there is a season…
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 ESV
Four-hundred years of silence lay between the time of the Testaments — old and new.
No prophecy.
No Word from God.
Just… silence…
The silence was broken by a man who experienced his own personal silence for nine months. Zechariah.
The one who was spoken to first, by the angel in the temple, received the blessing of breaking God’s silence to Israel.
…Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied…
Luke 1:67
Can you imagine the joy of being the first prophetic voice in four-hundred years? To a community who had been waiting thousands of years for the Messiah?

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people…”
Luke 1:68
God used Zechariah to break the silence and bring a message of hope to His chosen people…

You are not forgotten.
Your are loved.
You will be restored.
Who’s silence can you break? Where can you bring joy? hope? peace? to someone who needs the Good News of His grace?

Consider this Advent Season if you’ve been silent too long. Or if He’s been silent in your life too long.
Find the joy and blessing of allowing God to use you to break His silence in someone’s life.
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation…
Isaiah 52:7 ESV
Carol Weaver

Simeon Sees Christ

Luke 2:21-35

The ways of God had been revealed to Simeon in Scripture. He was very intent on observing those who would do what was customary after the birth of the first male child. For Jewish parents, their first male child belonged to the Lord and would indeed be brought to the temple to be presented to the Lord. For such was prescribed in the law. As Simeon waited, Mary and Joseph were in preparation to bring their son to the Temple.

Simeon had long awaited for the restoration of Israel. He earnestly believed that the glorious destiny of the restoration of Israel, which God has promised for his people, was shortly to come to pass. He and his contemporaries expected the forerunner of this to be the Lord’s Messiah. The Holy Spirit gave Simeon not just guidance and supernatural knowledge, but above all, the gift of prophecy. He knew the greatness of God and how the glory of the Lord would be revealed as told in Isaiah 40:5, …all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Surely it would shortly come to pass. For this Simeon had been living: The fulfillment of God’s promise, not only to him, but for the world. This particular baby was to belong to the Lord in a unique sense. He would be taken to the Temple and “presented” to the Lord. Simeon was a witness of what was to be, The Lord’s Messiah! The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

When it came to pass, Oh, the joy and elation he must have felt as he held that small babe in his arms! The Lord had kept his promise. What a depth of feeling in seeing the Lord’s Prophesy fulfilled. He clutched the small infant — the Light of the world — no doubt, with intense delight. God knew that we would need a Savior. That is why he came. Now Simeon could depart in peace. He held the son of God in his arms. What exhilaration of joy it must have been!

Simeon’s Moment by Ron DiCianni
“Lord, you are now letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation…”
Luke 2:29-30

God set the course for humanity’s dignity and Simeon saw with his own eyes the Lord’s Salvation. He held him in his arms. Now, it is up to us to hold this child in our hearts…

As I reviewed this story I recalled many spiritual insights given to me over the years. I was growing in the knowledge of Christ. There were those feelings of special times at church, and at school, of Christmas dramas we took part in. As we waited in the process, we felt a blessing in the many rehearsals as we had our hearts spiritually warmed. Surely, Simeon grew in his faith over the years, too, as he waited.

The Holy Spirit made our souls swell as the truth of the Savior’s birth was embraced more and more fully. Thinking back now, gives me cause to thank God for the grace visited upon all of us during those years. Every Christmas season, as we began to sing carols, though unaware, our searching wrought spiritual insights to our hearts. I feel blessed even today, thinking back.

A revelation of the glory of the Lord brings us closer to spiritual fulfillment. Wisdom and grace from God is visited upon us, anew. Surely the fulfillment of God’s promise to Simeon is a prophesy fulfilled to us, too.

Rev. Enid Shepard

A Page from Elizabeth’s Diary by Linda Tomlinson

Dear Diary,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written. Life just gets so busy and the days fly by. Amazing (can that possibly be a strong enough word) things have happened and I need to write them here to always remember – as if I could ever forget.

It all began that day Zechariah came home from the Temple unable to speak. You can’t imagine how weird it was when he started writing me notes. And then there was the jaw-dropping news that he was telling, about being visited by an angel in the Temple (I can see him now nodding his head so I would believe him). The angel told him I was going to have a child. Zechariah told the angel he didn’t think this could happen since we are both old. The angel responded and told him that because he didn’t believe, he would not be able to talk until after the child was born. What do you mean you can’t talk? I’M GOING TO HAVE A BABY!?  What? My mind was spinning trying to take all of this in.

Oh, the emotions that flooded through me. How do you wrap your head around such earth shattering news? First there was disbelief: I’m too old, how can this be possible? Why now? An angel, God, can this possibly be true? Am I dreaming, because I have followed and prayed and served my God for so long and I want this blessing so badly?  When I heard my mind say blessing, something snapped, and I began to praise my glorious God and King. He had heard me and he answered. Soon, I would be holding my own very dear child. Oh, my Lord, I will accept this remarkable miracle and I will not doubt, for you are able to do the impossible. And I will trust that things are done in your time for your reasons.

And so I am/was pregnant. Every morning I woke up filled with overflowing joy. I can barely remember the years of disappointment and sorrow. Waiting each month and always the same outcome – no, not now. At last, I am preparing my home for this baby and my heart is humming.

Then, in my sixth month, my niece Mary came for a visit. She entered my house and my child leaped within my body and I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I was able to tell her that she indeed was having God’s son. That she was blessed by God above all women and her child was blessed. 

She was blessed because she believed that the Lord would do what he has said.  
Luke 1:45

My husband was silenced because of his unbelief. Oh my, there’s something to think about.

Anyway, today, our son had his circumcision ceremony and all our relatives and friends came. They wanted to name him Zechariah after his father, but I said, “No, his name is John.” Everyone was surprised as no one in our family is named John. They all looked at Zechariah for his response. He motioned for a piece of paper and wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly, my husband could speak again and he immediately began praising God. 

Well, as you can imagine, the whole neighborhood can’t talk about anything else and why not, it was, and continues to be a miracle. They knew the hand of the Lord was on John and they wondered what he would turn out to be. At that, Zechariah, his father, was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to prophesy about a mighty Savior, from the line of David, and of his son John, who would prepare the way for the Lord. My heart was near bursting. My God was not only faithful to me, his lowly servant, but to all who would believe.

With joy in my heart and hope for the future, I praise you my God. Because of God’s tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

Your child, 

Strong Women

Throughout the Bible there are many stories about women who faced adversity and remained strong in their faith, such as, Ruth and Esther. Mary, without a doubt, would have to be one of the strongest.

Mary, a beautiful young woman, betrothed to Joseph. Eagerly anticipating a wedding when suddenly the angel Gabriel appears to her and tells her she will conceive a son and call him Jesus. How can that be? Mary is a virgin. Gabriel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High will overshadow her so the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.

Most women would be more than afraid, they would be terrified. But Mary is strong. She realizes how important, how life changing, this birth will be.

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. 
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; 
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Luke 1:46-49
How many strong women are in your life? Your mom, grandmother, sister, friend?
Do you appreciate their strength? Have you told them?
My dad always said he felt like he was living in a girl’s dormitory with my mom and my two sisters, all of whom had very strong personalities. How do you think he would feel about four granddaughters and eight great-granddaughters with another on the way? All with the same strong will my mom displayed. Extremely excited! (There are a few boys thrown in there.)
Strength of character and a strong faith has carried my family through many challenges. It is what helped Mary through the birth of Jesus all the way to his death on the cross.
During this time of Advent, let us be thankful for the strong women in both the Bible and in our families. A special blessing to all of them and to all of you.
Love, Di

A View from another Crib

“His name is John.”
Luke 1:63

Read Luke 1:57-80

I never really noticed him before. But he’s there, in the Christmas story.
A baby named John.
The one who came to prepare the way for Jesus.

I see him in his father’s arms on the day he was named.
Surely, Zechariah held him as he prophesied of the Savior to come and of his son, who would prepare the way for Him.

And I think about every new Believer.
Each one of us a baby John the Baptizer.
Each disciple called to make the way for Jesus.

“… Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe
all that I have commanded you. …” — Jesus
Matthew 28:19
I find comfort in the fact John had to grow into his calling.
He began as a baby, just as each of us begin our walk with Jesus as a spiritual baby.
We have growing to do before we are able to… go therefore and make disciples.

I hear baby John give me permission to grow and learn this walk of following.
Encouraging me to feed on the Word through prayer and spiritual disciplines.
Reminding me I have a responsibility to grow and fulfill the call He has for my life.
What about you? Do you have some growing to do?
Where are you in your spiritual walk? What can you do to stimulate growth?
Do you know a more mature Believer whom you could ask to mentor you?

Be encouraged by baby John, grow into the call and privilege of preparing the way for Jesus to enter the lives of others by loving Him.
And the child grew and became strong in spirit…
Luke 1:80

Carol Weaver