The Manger Awaits

“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us”. And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.”

Luke 2:15-16

Why were the shepherds the first to hear the announcement of the birth of the Savior? Perhaps it was because they were humble enough to believe and to act upon the good news. They went with haste down the rocky hillside, guided by a wondrous star. They did not tarry until they found the precious babe. What joy must have filled their hearts as they knelt at the manger!

Just as the baby Jesus was waiting for the shepherds on the first Christmas Eve, he is waiting on this night for all who will hasten to Him in love and humility.

Let us go to the manger once more and kneel before the Christ Child with joy and thanksgiving.

Loving God, we thank you that you were willing to come to earth, live as we live, and die to save us. We do not understand the wonderful mystery; but we accept it with grateful hearts. We confess that we have not always loved one another as you love us. On this glorious night, we pray that you will forgive us and strengthen our desire to be more like Jesus. May the song of the angels and the light of the star remain with us and bless us forever. Amen.


Marcy Lang—1990

Have you opened your heart to Jesus? have you received Him with love and humility?
If you have consider sharing your story of Jesus’s birth in your heart with someone this week. If you haven’t consider why you haven’t. He’s waiting for you…

Extraordinary in the Ordinary

I eagerly anticipate Christmas because of those special once a year activities that mark the holiday: putting up lights, decorating the tree, baking cookies, singing carols, receiving gifts, gathering with family, and on and on. My ordinary daily routine gets put aside as we celebrate the extraordinary event.

But when the holiday ends and the decorations are put away. I breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the return of an ordinary daily routine.

We celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, (the word means God with us), that life changing and world changing event that began in an ordinary way with the birth of a baby. A birth is an extraordinary event for a family but an ordinary, routine process that has happened billions of times since the world began. God chose to live with us in an ordinary time and an ordinary place and in an ordinary way to show us that that is where the extraordinary happens.

I wait for miracles expecting them to be announced by angels singing and a star lighting up the sky and wise men bringing gifts. I wait for God’s call and look for a burning bush and listen for a rushing wind or a thundering voice.

But while I am waiting for the extraordinary to happen, it is in the small, seemingly insignificant, routine events that I am suddenly aware of God. When lighting a candle during the Christmas Eve service, I know God is with me and calling me by name. That small flames passed from person to person lights up the sky and announces the presence of God. Standing with my children and hearing them sing a familiar Christmas carol is when I hear the angel’s announcement ringing through the heavens.

The extraordinary love and grace of God is always there, whether I have decorated and baked and shopped and prepared or if it has just been an ordinary day. It all depends on if I let the stresses of the ordinary block my ability to see the possibility of the extraordinary in my daily routine.

Ann Culotta–2003

Lord Jesus, give me eyes to see You in every ordinary happening this season,
make every moment extraordinary by Your presence.

Responding in Faith

Scripture: Luke 2:1-14

In Luke, chapter 2, beginning with verse 8, we read the story of an angel of the Lord, then a multitude of heavenly hosts appearing before the shepherds who were watching their flocks at night. It is hard for one to imagine how frightening and overwhelming that must have been for these men. But as amazing as this sight must have been, an equally marvelous happening of this treasured Christmas story is the faith shown by those shepherds that night.

Imagine these men, going about their daily routine, tending the sheep just as they had done so many nights before, and suddenly an angel appears to them telling of a Savior who has been born in the town of David.

The Bible tells us how terrified these shepherds were, but the angel said to them, “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” As soon as the angel had left them, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” The story then tells us the shepherds hurried away and found the newborn Savior, and they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.

What a great showing of FAITH by these shepherds. They did not let their initial fears overwhelm them, they did not try to ignore or dismiss what they had just experienced, or try to formulate some explanation of what happened to them that night. They simply, and immediately, responded in faith, and found the Lord Jesus, and ultimately spread the word of the Savior to those who had not heard the great news. How wonderful it would be if all of us would have such faith to follow God’s plan for our lives immediately, enthusiastically, without fear, without doubt, just trusting in the Lord.

Barry and Leigh Ann Murray—1997

Father God, use the events of this season to increase my faith and trust in You.

The Promise of Coming

Years ago when I was very young, I learned an important lesson from my mother’s friend, Mrs. T. They had been friends for a long time. I liked Mrs. T. very much. I recall that she and my mother spent many times “delivering” things. I was curious. When I’m curious I ask questions. But I never got the answers, at least not then.

Several years later Mrs. T. became very ill with cancer and died. Even at my young age, that someone very special had died. Then my mother told me about the deliveries of food, new clothing and bedding, medicine, and toys for the children to people everyone else had by-passed or simply never looked for. Mrs. T. was tireless in her search for those who needed help and hope. She provided her deliveries from her own resources. She was, in fact, a practicing Christian. It isn’t an unusual story. Christians throughout the world give themselves every day.

Gradually, I realized that Christian love and caring bring “Christmas” every day. In the years before Jesus’ birth, the world prayed for his coming, for the prophecy to be fulfilled. The promise of his coming sustained them. He came and he is here now. If we truly wish to abolish the anger, violence, and fear from the world we live in, we must search for the peace. It will come true when we actively share the peace. It will come true when we actively share the reality of Christ. We can turn the world around beginning in our own time and place. It is the only solution.

Mrs. T. knew that.

Ruth Alexander–1992

Father God, show me the ones who’ve been by-passed by others,
those who need help and need to know Your love and care.
Use me to show Your love to others. 
Help me to bring Christmas every day.

Hope

Hope is such an important thing to human beings. Without hope we become filled with despair. I believe that Christmas is all about hope.

Jesus was born to two adults who were far from home and had no place to stay. Could we say they were homeless?

She was giving birth and they had no one to attend to her in the birth. Could we say they had no insurance?

They had no family or support group around them to help with the details or to celebrate the birth. Could we say they were lonely?

Joseph had not fathered the child, yet he stood by Mary when she said that the baby was immaculately conceived. Could we say there were marital problems?

Yet, in the middle of this unusual but very familiar circumstance a miracle happened. Who says it? The scholars and the powerful in their community did not. It was the shepherds and wise men from far away that recognized the importance of the event. The impact of that moment in times is to create a sense of hope and connection to the eternal for all of us who suffer and feel estranged from the goodness of life. Hope comes in small packages, but is very powerful.

Jim Brown—2004

Help me find hope in Your life, Jesus, and openly
share that hope with others. Amen.

Christmas Poem

Christmas is a time of love,
A time for thanking the One above
For all our blessings and joys,
A time for Santa to see the good girls and boys.

People laughing, cheering, and carrying on,
Until the break of a beautiful dawn.
Exchanging presents to and fro,
Taking long walks through the white snow.
Families unite from all around,
The talking and laughing creates quite a sound.
“Why Elizabeth! My how tall you’ve grown,”
Says the aunt year after year, when she calls on the phone.

Mistletoe hung high and low,
Couples stop there before they go.
Entertaining little ones with stories of joy,
While they drift off to sleep dreaming of bright and shiny toys.
Before they go to sleep they take time to pray,
Just like Mary and Joseph did on the hay.
Christmas is a time of love,
A time for thanking the One above!

Elizabeth Sorrell—1992

Thank You, Lord, for every moment of the Christmas Season.
Fill my thoughts and heart with love for You, the provider of all good things.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
Psalm 16:2 NIV84

A Light in the Darkness

God looked down upon the world and wept. The minions of Satan went freely across the face of the Earth. Humankind, tempted by evil, had turned to sinful ways. When the remaining faithful tried to light God’s candle, the devil’s henchmen stood nearby to snuff it out.

But then God acted. He rocked the foundations of sin when he sent His Son to be born unto the Virgin Mary. Jesus Christ, the embodiment of hope and light, had been born into the world.

The pure, golden light of the Lord shined forth from Jesus. The faithful and the needy welcomed its holy illumination as it eased burdens and restored souls. But the evil at heart feared the light. It exposed their corruption and hate, and they hid from it.

Enraged at God’s “invasion,” the followers of Satan led Jesus to a cross and crucified him. For a moment it appeared the darkness won. But then the news came of an empty tomb. Jesus had ascended and returned. Neither sin, nor death, nor the vast powers of the devil had been able to extinguish the light. The faithful of the Lord rejoiced.

From a blood stained cross, Jesus created a throne. From it he leads the righteous to light and life everlasting.

Through the years many have tried to put out the light. Hitler, Stalin, Nero and Pilate, and others have attempted to vanquish good through evil. But the symbol of the cross stands as an eternal reminder that no force can extinguish the light of God’s love. Jesus Christ lives. And the light burns eternal!

“…I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”  —John 8:12

Jonathan Foster—1990

Father God, thank You for sending the light of Jesus into the darkness of the world.
Thank You for making the way for me to live in and by the Light.
Use me as Your light in this world.

Kneeling is Standing

“The man who kneels to God can stand up to anything.” 

These words have been in our lives and on our refrigerator door for several years now. We’ve learned through the years that keeping our focus on God makes us strong. We do our best to remember this verse every day. It is a reminder to us all year and is our guide just as Jesus was given to us as our example. At Christmas we stop and are reminded of Jesus and his humanness. He had what appeared to be strong friendships, but he always went to God for ultimate direction. His birth is our hope, and he is the supreme mentor to us all.

As this is our 20th Christmas together, we look back at the deaths, the births, the nontraditional holidays in a second marriage, the illnesses both physical and emotional in our family and friends, the service, the joy and the passages we all realize when we really reflect on our lives. We remember that our happiest and most peaceful times come when we know that we can listen to God and do the best we know to do, but realize that God created this world and all that follows.

We remember a Christmas during our first years together as we attended our Christmas Eve Service here. Starting new traditions together was not without growing pains, but we had our whole family with us and it snowed! We looked around us and became aware that many among us were carrying their own “sack of rocks,” as a friend from Reklaw once said. As we looked at our friends at church that night, we became aware of such spiritual strength. We know that when we kneel to God, his power makes us stronger than we ever thought we could be by ourselves. We knew that the greatest examples were among us that night.

Billie and Chuck Hopson—2003

Lord, I choose to kneel before You.
You are my Lord, You are my strength.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:10 NIV84

Entertain the Angels This Year

“Come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing; Come adore on bended knee Christ, the Lord, the newborn King.” 

—Angels We Have Heard on High

The picture often seen in the Christmas story is of the Holy Family. How could the innkeeper of Bethlehem be so unkind as to turn Mary and Joseph away and send them to the manger? What was his reason for sending them to the manger? The innkeeper missed Christmas and with it the blessing of his lifetime. He could have been host to a King!

Some of us will miss Christmas this year, also, because we will concentrate more on the gifts than the giver. One verse of scripture that would save us all from the innkeeper’s mistake is found in Hebrews.

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” ––Hebrews 13:2

Christ came as a baby; we might look for Christmas in small packages too.

Dorothy and Eugene Stolze—1990

Lord, keep me from distraction this Advent Season.
Keep me focused on You and the heart of Christmas.
Today, take time to sing a carol of praise to Christ the Lord!
Below is a YouTube of Angels We Have Heard on High!
Click and sing along. 

He Works in Us

Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-7

The Advents season for me is a special time to renew my faith that God is and always will be at work in our lives. Isaiah said our Savior would be born and lucky for us there were believers who expected this event to occur. Now, two thousand years later we celebrate Jesus’ birthday with joy and happiness that His message from God can give us the comfort and peace within we all yearn for.

Dear Lord, help each of us to use the gifts you have given us to help others and to bring them the message of love and forgiveness you have given us. This we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.


Jeanne Baker—1997