Tag Archives: Christmas

2 Chronicles 24; Revelation 11; Zechariah 7; John 10

As I enjoy the Christmas season, I am hearing more than ever before, that our celebration is not only of the babe that came to die but of the King who is coming again.  I am being challenged even in my devotions to do what is right in my walk with God.

Joash did what was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of the priest Jehoiada. – 2 Chronicles 24:2  NRSV

I love the fact that even though I have been a follower of Christ for almost 45 years, the Holy Spirit continues to work on my walk, continues to challenge me to be holy.  I am surprised, but I shouldn’t be, that even in the book of Revelation God has witnesses still bringing people into a relationship with God.

 And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for one thousand two hundred sixty days, wearing sackcloth. – Revelation 11:3  NRSV

I completed a spiritual assessment and then had my daughter complete one for me as well.  She is 27, so I felt she would assess me honestly.  Interesting how she noted that I tend to be a closet Christian.  She felt I needed to express my walk with Christ more openly with others.  Being invited to express some of my walk here in this blog has helped me do that better. I am looking forward to sharing more next year too.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another;  do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. – Zechariah 7:9-10 NRSV

Is a closet Christian a bad thing? Not really.  When I use the term I mean one who spends a lot of quiet time with God – listening to His voice, engaging Him every day in conversation.  I like getting to know Him and having Him work in my life. But I do realize that I need to take Him with me into the real world.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. – John 10:3  NRSV

Father, I love you. Already knee-deep in Christmas celebrations and You are still talking to me and challenging me to be more like Jesus every day.  Thank you.  As I take You out in the world with me, I pray that the gospel – the good news – of Christmas will be an easy message to share and that there will be open doors for those conversations to happen. Amen

evanlaar

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Filed under 2 Chronicles, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, John, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Revelation, Uncategorized, Zechariah

2 Chronicles 21, Zechariah 5, John 8, Revelation 9

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8

We live in such a dark and cold world. The effects of sin are far reaching and devastating. From physical calamities, pain and suffering to spiritual sin and death, evil fills our world. Car bombings, school shootings, fear of war, the refugee crises….there is no lack of darkness in the world around us. Though our world seems out of control and darker than ever, the darkness was present thousands of years ago just as it does today. Humans have always searched for something greater.

At Christmas time we celebrate the Creator of light who has become the shining light for us in a cold and dark world. He is our hope and brings peace to our hearts among the pain and suffering of life. Jesus is the Bright Morning Star who came down to earth to be born- God incarnate; Emmanuel, God with us. It is in following him and abiding in him that we not only receive life but are set free from the power of sin in our lives.

Jesus created light when there was only darkness. Jesus then stepped into darkness, coming to earth two thousand years ago to bring us hope. And Jesus will return again and bring peace forevermore for those who trust in him. This season and every season, may we remember the true meaning of Christmas when love came down from heaven bringing light into a dark and weary land. May the light of Jesus’ love fill your hearts and minds this Christmas as you celebrate his birth.

 

 

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1 Chronicles 11, 12; Hebrews 13; Amos 7; Luke 2

In 1 Chronicles 11, David becomes king over Israel.

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and David made a covenant with them in Hebron before the Lord; and they anointed David king over Israel, according to the word of the Lord through Samuel.” (1 Chron. 11”3)

Amos 7 is about visions seen by the minor prophet.

Hebrews 13 contains a commonly heard verse:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

(Hebrews 13:8)

But it’s the Christmas account found in Luke 2 that is the most meaningful to me as we approach the season of Advent.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give

    birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped

    Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no

    Room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

    “And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the

    Heavenly hosts praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the

    Highest, and on Earth peace among men with whom His is

    Pleased.’” (Luke 2: 13-14)

    “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told

    them by the shepherds, But Mary treasured all these things,

    pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:18-19)

Lord, help us to be like Mary and treasure how You came to be with us over 2,000 years ago.  When the busyness of the holidays hits with full force, help us to reflect on the true meaning of it all and give You all the glory.

Amen,

Kellie

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Zechariah 12-14, Psalm 94, 2 John

It was so funny to hear the refrain spoken by my granddaughter this week on the glossing over of Thanksgiving to usher in Christmas at the stores. It seems that every generation is disappointed in the commercialism at this time of year. Even Sally on Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving (1973) says, “I know what you mean. I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.” Black Friday has turned into a month of advertisement and pre-sales to draw money out of your pocket and to turn your mind away from being grateful for what you have today to ‘how I can I get more for less’, tomorrow. Nothing new. Soon we will bemoan the loss of money ‘that we didn’t have to spend’ but that was compulsively handed over for Christmas presents this year.

How do we reign in these runaway holiday routines and reposts? Do we even want to? Isn’t the answer just as traditional as the traditions? That is, we can learn to live the continual theme in Messiah’s kingdom – thanksgiving. Zechariah 14:16 says that the Feast of Tabernacles is the only feast that will continue in the new kingdom. This is a feast that is celebrated at the fall harvest and is a time of worship and thanksgiving to God.

So what have we to be thankful for? Again, little Sally voices my own tired suspicion: “What have I got to be thankful for? All it does is make more work for us at school” [or in my case – in the kitchen, decorating the house, shopping for food, clothes, gifts, gifts, gifts]. Okay, now I sound like the Grinch.

It’s just that I’m looking for reasons in place of the next few weeks of blithering excuses for overextending my already tight budget and overtaxing my already exhausted 50++ year old body to the brink of collapse. How can I please others and at the same time focus on what draws me closer to God and Christ? As I’m turning blue from forgetting to breathe, I hear the answer in gentle words of encouragement: 2 John 3 “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.” Instead of the shock and awe approach of bombarding family with the latest and greatest contraptions and inventions on the media’s top ten list, I can commit myself to resting in God’s truth and communicating His love.

First truth – “The Lord knows the thoughts of man…” (Psalm 94:11)

Second truth – “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord.” (Psalm 94:12)

Third truth – “Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94:18b-19).

When I packed away the fading brilliance of autumn, I paused to look at a cute door decoration. The country girl perched on a fence, pumpkins at her feet, had the most cheerful face. Her blushing cheeks, her shiny black button eyes, and her wistful smile beckoned me to take the harvest welcome basket of garden delights from her chubby hand. All I could think was to say, “Thank you for this moment of peace and the years of fond memories you have given.” Perhaps communicating God’s love in this same simple way is the reason to continue the theme of thanksgiving each season and each of the rest of our days.

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Micah 4, 5; Revelation 11

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,

who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me

one who is to be ruler in Israel,

whose coming forth is from of old,

from ancient days.

Therefore he shall give them up until the time

when she who is in labor has given birth;

then the rest of his brothers shall return

to the people of Israel.

And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,

in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.

And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great

to the ends of the earth.

And he shall be their peace…Micah 5:2-5a

In a few short days, people all over the world will be celebrating Christmas. Everyone will be celebrating with their own traditions, unique to their families and unique to their cultures. Some will be making merry with the secular folklore of Santa Clause and his reindeer. And some will choose to remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.

From the beginning, the coming of Christ was foretold. Throughout the generations the people of Israel anticipated the coming of the Messiah, hoped for the time to come when they would be liberated from the never ending line of oppressors.

Much of Israel imagined that their Messiah would come as a king and slay the enemy in a violent way to make room for his kingdom. Some people would come to realize that He came in a much different way –as a baby who would grow up as the rest of us do and redeem us in a much different way.

Micah was a prophet who spoke to the future of Jesus – the King who would stand up for His people, becoming like a shepherd to lead them to greener pastures, a bringer of peace. Micah’s prophesies gave the people the opportunity to glimpse into Jesus’ life hundreds of years before He was born, before He walked the earth.

God used Micah to encourage His people and give them hope about their coming King. He increased the eagerness of the people for their salvation and gave them something so important for them to look toward.

I think about the anticipation that I experienced over the past 9 months, from the time that I first heard the news that I was pregnant. It was amazing to have the opportunity to carry a child, knowing that he is full of potential and has an exciting destiny, a hope and a future. It was incredible to peek into the depths of my body to see the ultra sound of my little boy, to see his face with 3D imagery, a hint at what he would look like and who he may resemble. And, it was thrilling to finally meet him face to face and begin the process of getting to know who God made him to be.

Though Christ was born over 2000 years ago, I still experience a similar expectation when I read the prophecies about Him. I know that many of them have been fulfilled in His first coming and I look forward to the rest of them being fulfilled in His second coming. I am excited to get to know Him more, to see His face in the midst of my life. And I am glad to be able to experience His peace and know that I can find strength and security in Him.

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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2 Chronicles 32; Revelation 18; Zechariah 14; John 17

Living in the West, it’s easy to take Jesus for granted. Our calendar, names of the cities and states, basic freedoms and rights, the institutions I rely on (hospitals, medical care, etc.) all have their roots in the life of Jesus Christ and those who followed him. History was forever changed when he came to earth. His existence stares me in the face everyday,  yet I can so easily miss his presence.

I think that’s why I like Christmas so much. It’s the time of year (regardless of whether or not people call Jesus “Lord”) when we more or less recognize his coming to earth. I remember as a child, gazing into the tiny private world of the family creche. There was  Mary and Joseph peering over the vulnerable form of Jesus in the manger. The lamb and calf, the rough looking shepherds, the three wise men. The tall angel in the background and at the top of the creche, the bright star. It was the tiny drama surrounded by the busyness of our home.  As a child, the mystery of the creche called out to my imagination. I would gaze at it for what seemed like hours and wonder what it all meant.

John’s record of Jesus’s prayer in chapter 17 works up the same kind of wonder in my mind today. What if Jesus’s words are really true? What if I really belong to God?  What if the glory of Jesus really is worked out in my life? What if the Holy Spirit really lives within me? What if this word that I read does sanctify me? What if?

The truth is that those all those “what ifs” really are “what is’s.” More than often, I am just too busy to stop and let my imagination soak in the reality of truth that is alive and well.  What does this miracle of Emanuel, God-with-us mean to the moment by moment, day to day workings of this life? Christmas is the invitation to pull up the chair, gaze into the creche and with childlike faith, wonder at the truth God wants to work  in our human lives.

Kathy

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2 Chronicles 29; Revelation 15; Zechariah 11; John 14

I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire. All of those who had won the victory over the beast and his idol and over the number of his name were standing by the sea of glass. They had harps that God had given them. They sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:

“You do great and wonderful things,

Lord God Almighty.

Everything the Lord does is right and true,

King of the nations.

Everyone will respect you, Lord,

and will honor you.

Only you are holy.

All the nations will come

and worship you,

because the right things you have done

are now made known.” Revelation 15:2-4 (NCV)

I’ve got to admit. I’ve been having a difficult time ‘getting into’ the Christmas season this year. It is tough to be listening to holiday songs that are singing about the snow and the cold when it is in the low- to-mid 90’s during the day. It is tough to be decorating a tiny, fake tree with tacky plastic ornaments when sweat is rolling down my back from the heat. It is tough knowing that my extended family and my friends will all be gathering together while I am feeling lonely on the opposite side of the planet missing everyone, missing the holiday rituals I grew up with. It is tough knowing that tomorrow, instead of spending time with our little family of four celebrating, we will be spending the day at church ministering to the widows and orphans.

Oh.My.Gosh! Even as I write this I am feeling selfish and shallow. I know that songs I sing in the season, trees that I decorate, and family and friends gathering together isn’t remotely what Christmas is really about. I need an attitude check…Right! Now!

I adjusted my Pandora station and changed the holiday music I was playing to carols that honor Christ – O Come, O Come Emanuel, The First Noel, Joy to the World, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, Angels We Have Heard on High, Away In A Manger, Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, O Holy Night (my all-time favorite), etc. I spent the first half hour with tears in my eyes, singing lyrics celebrating Jesus, remembering the true reason for the season.

Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me…I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me…Those who know my commands and obey them are the ones who love me, and my Father will love those who love me. I will love them and will show myself to them.” John 14:1, 6, & 21 (NCV)

I celebrate Christmas because it is the day all believers celebrate His birth. I celebrate Christmas to recollect His life, His miracles while on Earth. But most of all, I celebrate Christmas to remember the gift He gave to me. The real gift was, and is, and will always be His death and resurrection, His sacrifice, His grace, His mercy, His love. It is a gift that I don’t deserve at all, but it is a gift that He gave to me willingly and without reservation. All He asks is for me to trust and obey.

Hezekiah said, “Listen to me, Levites. Make yourselves ready for the Lord’s service, and make holy the Temple of the Lord, the God of your ancestors. Remove from the Temple everything that makes it impure…My sons, don’t waste any more time. The Lord chose you to stand before him, to serve him, to be his servants, and to burn incense to him.” 2 Chronicles 29:5; 11 (NCV)

And so, I choose to offer myself as a living sacrifice, good and pleasing to the Lord, because He chose me for this work. I will make myself, my heart ready for His purposes. I will honor Him by honoring others. I will serve Him, by serving the widows and the orphans. I will minister God’s never-ending love to them in the spirit of giving freely, as I have freely been given. I will lay down the Christmas customs of my childhood and alongside my husband and my daughters, create new traditions that will teach my children the real meaning of Christmas and strengthen our faith in the Joy of Our Salvation.

Yesappa, Thank You for coming to set me free from my fears and release me from my sins. Thank You for giving me rest and bringing joy to my longing heart. Thank You for coming to earth to taste my sadness and to give me gladness. Thank You for being my Redeemer, my Shepherd, my Friend. You were born to deliver me. You were born a child, and yet a King. You were born to reign in me forever, to rule in my heart alone.* Thank You for showing Yourself in the midst of my bad attitude and helping make change in me. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (writing from Sholavandan, India)

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOURS!

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

*Based on the lyrics of “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus” by Charles Wesley

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