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A Christmas Prayer for the Merry... and Not-So-Merry - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 25


A Christmas Prayer for the Merry ... and Not-So-Merry


"But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!'" Luke 2:10-11 (NLT)

Editor's Note: Today, and always, we pray you experience God's love through the gift of His Son, Jesus. We wish you a very Merry Christmas! From your friends at Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Father God,

We thank You and praise You today for the miracle of Your Son's birth. Thank You for bringing great JOY to the whole world!

Thank You for giving us the assurance that because You came to us in the form of a human, we who believe in Jesus can know with absolute certainty that we'll spend eternity with You.

We thank You, Lord, for the many reasons we have been given a merry Christmas. And we rejoice for each blessing. New life. New love. A home. A job. New opportunities. Second chances. And more.

We know, Lord, that You bring the sun and the moon and set the stars in motion. You tell the ocean where to stop and the snow when to start. And we thank You for the mighty gift of Your creation.

Thank You, Father, for spiritual leaders and faith-filled friends who keep encouraging us when we are close to giving up.

And although we have many reasons to rejoice today, Lord, we also know December 25th can be not-so-merry for a whole host of reasons. We pray for those who are experiencing loss this Christmas: relational, financial, spiritual and physical.

We pray for those who are coping with loving a prodigal and our friends and family members whose hearts are far from You. We pray for those dealing with unemployment and addictions and chronic sickness ... and unending pain and frustrations of all kinds. Thank You, Lord, that You are The Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, even in the midst of our not-so-merry circumstances.

Finally, Lord, we ask You to grant us peace. Peace in our homes, peace in our churches, and peace in our hearts, when the world all around us spins out-of-control.

Help us to stay focused on You, this Christmastime and always. Thank You for loving the whole world enough to send the greatest gift, Your Son, so that we might truly have a very merry Christmas.

In Jesus' Name,
Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 3:16, "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (NLT)

Luke 2:10, "But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.'" (NLT)

1 John 5:13, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (NIV)

Psalm 95:1-2, "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." (NIV)

Job 38:8-11, "Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, 'This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!'" (NLT)

Psalm 72:12-14, "He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him." (NLT)

Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (NIV)

1 Thessalonians 5:23, "Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again." (NLT)

Prayer © 2014 by Steph Raquel. All rights reserved.


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The Seduction of Christmas - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 23

It's just a few days before Christmas and I'm reminded of my love/hate relationship with this holiday. Over the past few weeks I've done the shopping thing [love], the baking thing [hate], the decorating thing [love], the party thing [hate] and even the church play thing [love].
I've been stressed over money and disillusioned by the idea of a perfect family get-together.

But more than anything, I feel like my entire identity has been controlled by this [almost sickening] need to achieve the ultimate Christmas. If I keep this up, by Christmas Eve, I will be perfectly exhausted from chasing after something that seems so deceptively good.
My confession: I've been seduced by a manufactured idea of Christmas.

But today, I am working through this. I'm realizing that:

I can abandon this desire for the ultimate Christmas.

I can flee from the greatest temptations this season throws at me.
I can still have an amazing Christmas by setting my desires in the right direction.

The first thing I'm doing is reminding myself that Christmas is not about traditions and doing. While as a culture we have convinced ourselves that in order for Christmas to look like

Christmas - we have to do certain things. But there was nothing traditional about the birth of Christ. It was a miracle. While it's great to do for others, the greatest thing I can do is point people to what was done for each of us through the birth of that child.

The second thing I'm doing is realizing the best moments of Christmas are when I choose to stop the busyness and focus on being grateful. Gratitude is one of the best ways to take our eyes off ourselves and give the credit back to Jesus. When gratefulness is flowing from my heart, it will be almost impossible to allow these seasonal stressors to compete with that.

While Christmas seasons past have fed me lies of what it means to have an incredible

Christmas, I want this year to be different.

With that determination in mind, this Christmas will be so much more than exhaustion, mediocrity and empty promises from TV commercials. In this present moment, the idols that rival my heart for God's place are in check. The manufactured idea of Christmas may tempt me to want many things, but the awareness of Jesus in my heart will help me keep Christmas in its rightful place.

From the entire She Seeks Team, Merry Christmas.

Resources...

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to 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 snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger." - Luke 2:8-12

No Other God's by Kelly Minter

Nicki is a girl who loves Christmas and is learning to balance it.

Visit Nicki's blog at www.nickikoziarz.com

© 2010 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.


Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 12/23/2014 (04:22)
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Christmas Giving - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 22

The relationship of Christmas with gift-giving may be bemoaned by many, but the connection is a biblical one. I am not referring to the crazed run through the mall in late December or the White Elephant gift exchange at the office party, but the concept of generously and freely giving gifts because God gave us his Son to redeem us; this is the association that cannot and should not be avoided. The Bible says that our love for each other, and thus our love for God can be measured, at least in part, by our generosity and the willingness with which we give tangible gifts to one another (see 1 John 3:16-17).

Being the targets of God's love necessarily implants a desire to be the kind of person who meets the needs of others. Knowing what it is to be loved by God is an experience that the Bible says should drive us to give as freely as we have received. A redeemed heart will find increasing satisfaction in reaching out, even at great personal cost, to enrich and enhance the lives of others through the giving of time, talent and resources. So while the world may be giving gifts for all the wrong reasons (and complaining about it a good part of the time) we can piggy-back on this "gift-giving season" and give to help, benefit and encourage as a reflection of Christ and for the glory of God.

-- Pastor Mike Fabaraz

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The Christmas Tree - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 21

THE

CHRISTMAS TREE

I KNOW WHO I AM

I am God's child. (John 1:12)

I am Christ's friend. (John 15:15)

I am united with the Lord. (1 Cor. 6:17)

I am bought with a price. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

I am a saint (set apart for God). (Eph. 1:1)


I am a personal witness of Christ. (Acts 1:8)

I am the salt & light of the earth. (Matt. 5:13-14)

I am a member of the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:27)


I am free forever from condemnation. ( Rom. 8: 1-2)

I am a citizen of Heaven. I am significant. (Phil. 3:20)

I am free from any charge against me. (Rom. 8:31 -34)

I am a minister of reconciliation for God. (2 Cor. 5:17-21)

I have access to God through the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 2:18)


I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. (Eph. 2:6)


I cannot be separated from the love of God. (Rom. 8:35-39)

I am established, anointed, sealed by God. (2 Cor. 1:21- 22)

I am assured all things work together for good. (Rom. 8: 28)


I have been chosen & appointed to bear fruit. (John 15:16)


I belong to God


And that is who He says I am. How about you?



“The LORD bless you and keep you;


the LORD make His face shine upon you

and be gracious to you;

the LORD turn His face toward you


and give you peace…”

Numbers 6:24-26

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM HOMEWORD!


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The Strains of Christmas - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 20

by John UpChurch, Senior Editor, BibleStudyTools.com

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)

Christmas at my house meant preparing for the worst. The worst didn’t always come, but you couldn’t be too careful.

You see, the thing about holidays is that people tend to be together, pushed into the same room by tradition and baked turkey. My family spent most of the year avoiding such things, as we hurried off to school or work, buried ourselves in music and books, and generally enjoyed the comfort of a closed door.

We could usually navigate the raging Scylla and Charybdis of Thanksgiving because it only meant a day together before we scattered again. But while we chewed stuffing, my father would chew on his disappointment over his life and his family. My older brothers would try not to notice. The tryptophan made us all too sleepy for much more—at least, that’s what I like to think.

But then Christmas came lumbering into the UpChurch household with all its vacation days. We had too much time off, and too many unspoken issues. We were like a pot of boiling potatoes with the water sloshing out on the stove. There’d be some sizzling over a lack of job, a splash or two over how much something cost, and then boom… the lid blew off.

An hour and two new holes in the wall later, we surveyed the wreckage of the yuletide cheer. My brothers would fume back into the basement, my father would escape to his computer, and my mom would try to figure out what to do. Usually, the anger just sunk back into the pot for another year.

When I moved out of my house, it took years for Christmas to reclaim its festive atmosphere. Even when the war ended, the shellshock didn’t. There were too many things unsaid, too many things not dealt with. The embers of home-fought battles wouldn’t die down.

Then, Christ.

Describing salvation couldn’t be better summed up than in those two words set apart in their own paragraph: then, Christ. There was no choir of angels singing (audibly to me, at least) or a special star shining light down on my apartment, but it was a moment that clearly separates time into two epochs. That separation is for both BC/AD and OJ/NJ—Old John and New John.

As this New John, though, I noticed something that might as well have been as miraculous as angels breaking out the tunes over my head. When Christmas came, the dread didn’t. I’d plucked the Christ off Christmas, and the mass didn’t seem so heavy. In fact, I even looked forward to it.

No, the tension didn’t suddenly melt away. The tempers weren’t all snuffed out. There were still moments that stretched tightly across our gatherings. But I now knew something just slightly flip-the-world-upside-down, mind-blowingly awesome: A baby, born poor and away from home, had taken the worst this world had to offer. A king wanted Him dead, and His country had no place for Him. But still He came… for me.

For you.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Christmas has no shortage of strains. It’s a holiday that seems perfectly designed for stress—at least, in the way we Westerners celebrate. Family tension has a way of bubbling up with the egg nog, and old arguments never seem to die.

But my prayer is that you aren’t afraid to face the day, and not just face it, but be filled with the mystery of it all. Here is a day to remember our God adding humanity to deity and giving up the sweet spot in heaven to plop Himself into our world. He came because He didn’t hold our sin against us; He wanted to hold it for us.

And when you keep that perspective, family arguments and stress suddenly seem trivial amid the menagerie of hams and yams and red velvet cakes.


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What Christmas is All About - HomeWord - December 19

This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt

Note: Today's devotional is part of HomeWord's Family Christmas Devotional series, 16 family devotionals to help your family make the most of your Christmas season focus. To download the entire series, click here.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” —Luke 2:8-11

One of my favorite Christmas television specials of all-time is A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the cartoon, Charlie Brown wrestles with the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of a world that seems overloaded with commercialism. First appearing in 1965, the issues Charlie Brown grapples with ring just as true today as they did over 40 years ago.

In one scene, Charlie Brown is so frustrated, he yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” To answer, Charlie’s friend Linus steps out onto the auditorium stage and recites the Christmas story straight from the Gospel of Luke. It seems so simple.

Yet today, many people celebrate the holiday for a lot of reasons, and some have nothing to do with the birth of Christ, like family traditions, a day off from work, a time of gift-giving, Santa Claus, parties, and so on. Commercialism and materialism is a part of the fabric of Christmas celebrations in our society. It’s easy to forget that “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
Jesus, to Thee be
all glory given;
Son of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ, the Lord.
(from O Come, All Ye Faithful)

Make this one of your best Christmases by choosing to make the birth of Jesus the primary motivation for your celebrations.

GOING DEEPER:

1. What problems did Charlie Brown face in trying to understand the real meaning of Christmas?

2. How does commercialism and materialism detract from the real meaning of Christmas?

3. What can you do this Christmastime to remind yourself of the real meaning of Christmas?

FAMILY TIME:

Watch A Charlie Brown Christmas with your family and use the content above to debrief after the program is over.


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How You Can Have 'A Wonderful Life' - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 16

by Dr. Jack Graham

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us
Acts 17:26-27

One thing I love about this time of year is the traditions we have in our family. One of them is sitting down to watch the Jimmy Stewart movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. You may have seen it, but it’s about this fellow named George Bailey who grows up in a small town and has great dreams and aspirations of seeing the world and making lots of money.

But through a series of circumstances that he couldn’t control, George never could get out of that little one-horse town. Every time he tried, something happened to keep him there. And to top it off, through a mistake one day it appeared that he would be sent to jail.

He was ready to end it all when an angel came to show him what the world would be like if he’d never been born. And George Bailey came to understand that even though he didn’t get to achieve his dreams, he did have a wonderful life that impacted many more people than he realized.

I’m convinced there is a little George Bailey in all of us. We want to achieve significance on a huge scale and often forget the small ways that our lives have deeply impacted those around us. Thank God for where He’s placed you and the people you’ve been able to impact. And one day when you meet the Lord, you’ll realize you really did have a wonderful life.

THANK GOD FOR THE LIFE YOU’RE LIVING AND IMPACT OTHERS HE’S PLACED AROUND YOU!

www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/christ
ma
s-devotionals/



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Don't Miss Christmas! - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 14

Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16, NIV).

Friend to Friend

The Christmas rush is on! I know many of you are still looking for the perfect gift, wrapping presents, baking your famous sugar cookies, packing the car for a long trip and wrestling with overly excited children. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Stop right where you are! Take a deep breath and travel back with me to a time when there was no hope and no celebration. I can’t imagine a world without Jesus and yet, many times I live my life as if He doesn’t even exist. A trial comes and I try to handle it on my own. Loneliness floods my heart and instead of reaching out to Him, I withdraw into the darkness.

He then interrupts my life and fills each black corner with Light. His love flows over the pain like a soothing balm and once again, I experience the manger. Once again, He steps into the smelly, unlikely and very ordinary existence that is mine to change everything – everything!

Jesus could have come to us in many ways, but He chose to interrupt the very ordinary with the most extraordinary. He could have chosen to be born in a palace. After all, He was a King. Yet His life on earth began in a manger housed in what amounted to little more than a dirty, smelly barn. The simplicity of His birth is one of His most precious gifts to me, and one of my most profound life lessons.

I often wish I had been there that holy night when Jesus was born, but then He reminds me that I have my own manger; my own holy moment when God became a reality to me, and I worship Him!

Every year I am reminded of the very heart of Christmas -- Emmanuel, God with us. God wants to be involved in the simple, ordinary happenings of daily life: where we go and what we do, the smile we give the harried stranger and the patience we exhibit in the crowd of impatient shoppers, the love that prompts the secret gift and the heart that constantly celebrates His birth through every sparkling light, every beautifully wrapped gift, each special meal, every card, phone call and visit.

Join me in this quest to celebrate Him and His birth in everything we do. Have a birthday party for Jesus. Bake Him a huge cake and invite neighbors to join in the celebration. Adopt a family in need. Reach out to the lonely. Look for Him in the crowd. Emmanuel, God with us! Wow!

Let’s Pray

Father, today I celebrate the reality of Your presence in my life. I celebrate Your birth, Your life, Your death and Your resurrection. And as I celebrate, Lord, help me to be “God with skin on” to those in need around me. Open my eyes and let me see them as You see them! I love You. Happy Birthday, Jesus!
In Jesus’s name, amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

Put your faith in action by making a step-by-step plan to keep Jesus at the heart of your Christmas season. Give a gift to someone you don’t know. Invite a needy family into your home for a special “Friends” dinner. Go through your closet and give the clothes you don’t wear to those who have no clothes.

More from the Girlfriends

I pray that your life is filled with God’s peace this Christmas. Don’t let anyone or anything steal your joy. Guard your heart and mind and keep your focus on the birth of Jesus as you begin to prepare for the Christmas holidays. No matter what your circumstances may be, you can celebrate the Christmas holidays because God is with you, girlfriend.


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I'll be Home for Christmas - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 11

Alex Crain, Editor, Christianity.com

“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”
Hebrews 13:14

Recently, I got my parent’s old Christmas records out of storage and began making mp3 files of them so that we could play them again around the Christmas holidays. Bing Crosby’s classic rendition of "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" came on. Its melancholy sound filled the air.

I pictured the war-weary allied troops hearing this song the year it was recorded in 1943, listening to it on their radios at night, spellbound by the sound; longing to be back at home with their loved ones.

I'll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me.
Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree.
Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams.
I'll be home for Christmas… if only in my dreams.

Does any other version of the song capture the sense of sadness to the same degree that he did?

Believers in Christ are soldiers engaged in war (Ephesians 6:10). And deep within us there is a longing that nothing can suppress. We want to be home. It’s great to know that we are on the winning side, but we often get weary of the fight.

Hebrews 13:14 encourages us to remember and find strength in the fact that “we seek the city that is to come.” It’s a losing battle to pursue lasting satisfaction in this life. The words "Here we have no lasting city" drive us to only source of contentment: the promise that Christ is always with me (Matthew 28:20) and that He’s bringing me home to a place where love, joy, and satisfaction never end.

Intersecting Faith and Life: In the words of author, Randy Alcorn, "Things won't always take a better turn on an Earth that is under the curse. Sickness, loss, grief, and death will find us. Just as our reward will come in Heaven, laughter (itself one of our rewards) will come in Heaven."

www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/christ
ma
s-devotionals/


Edited by: JUDITH316 at: 12/11/2014 (17:34)
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Christmas Lights - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 10

by Ryan Duncan, Editor, TheFish.com

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

When I was still a child living in Illinois, my father drafted me into his yearly Christmas decorating. Every December, with the snow heavy on the ground, the two of us would bundle up and tramp outside to begin putting up the Christmas lights. I hated putting up Christmas lights. The process always took forever, robbing me of my well-deserved break from school. To make matters worse, my father had a fondness for those icicle-styled lights that were supposed to drip down from the rooftop in merry "winter-wonderland" fashion.

Except the high winds always blew the strands of light up into the gutters, so once again we would have to go outside and set them right. It got to the point where I would do anything to avoid putting up Christmas lights. I hid, I threw tantrums, I’d sulk, and eventually my father decided dealing with both me and lights was too much work and set me free. Looking back now, I regret how short-sighted I was. I was so upset at having to do a few hours' work that I never realized how beautiful our house looked when it was all lit up, or how fulfilling it was to know I had helped my father make it that way.

It’s funny how our Christian walk can mirror the experience of setting up holiday decorations. At times it can be difficult, and we can resent what we believe we're being denied, but take a look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Life offers us plenty of easy roads, and when it comes to living out the Christian life, these paths can be especially tempting. The world will tell us to go with the flow of the current of culture, to follow the past of least resistance, but God calls us to do differently. Christians are meant to reflect Christ’s glory on Earth, and this cannot be done without hard work, sacrifice, and grace. So whether you serve God through ministry, or simply through your everyday life, remember to live in a way deserving of the prize.

Intersecting Faith and Life: Consider whether you are running in such a way as to win the prize.

Further Reading

Matthew 6:19-21

Check out fantastic resources on Faith, Family, and Fun at Crosswalk.com!


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Why Bethlehem? - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 8 by John Piper

Quote of the Day

"That’s the beauty of the Christmas event. Jesus took His place in a manger so that we might have a home in heaven."
- Greg Laurie (from The Perfect Gift in the Manger?)

Today's Answer

Why Bethlehem?
by John Piper

Bethlehem is scarcely worth counting among the clans of Judah, yet God chooses to bring his magnificent Messiah out of this town. Why? One answer is that the Messiah is of the lineage of David and David was a Bethlehemite. That's true, but it misses the point of verse two. The point of verse two is that Bethlehem is small--not that it is great because David was born there. (That's what the scribes missed in Matthew 2:6). God chooses something small, quiet, out of the way, and does something there that changes the course of history and eternity.

Why? Because when he acts this way we can't boast in the merits or achievements of men but only in the glorious mercy of God. We can't say, "Well, of course he set his favor on Bethlehem, look at the human glory Bethlehem has achieved!" All we can say is, "God is wonderfully free; he is not impressed by our bigness; he does nothing in order to attract attention to our accomplishments; he does everything to magnify his glorious freedom and mercy." ...

God chose a stable so no innkeeper could boast, "He chose the comfort of my inn!" God chose a manger so that no wood worker could boast, "He chose the craftsmanship of my bed!" He chose Bethlehem so no one could boast, "The greatness of our city constrained the divine choice!" And he chose you and me, freely and unconditionally, to stop the mouth of all human boasting. This is the point of Romans 11 and this is the point of Micah 5.

The deepest meaning of the littleness and insignificance of Bethlehem is that God does not bestow the blessings of the Messiah--the blessings of salvation--on the basis of our greatness or our merit or our achievement. He does not elect cities or people because of their prominence or grandeur or distinction. When he chooses he chooses freely, in order to magnify the glory of his own mercy, not the glory of our distinctions. So let us say with the angels, "Glory to God in the highest!" Not glory to us. We get the joy. He gets the glory.

Excerpted from "From Little Bethlehem Will Come a Ruler in Israel" by John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.

Today's Video

Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?
- by Greg Laurie


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The Essential Message of Christmas December 7 By Greg Laurie

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ ” —Matthew 1:23

At this time of the year, we say, “Merry Christmas.” I prefer that to “Happy Holidays,” but I don’t get confrontational about it. Instead, I want to be gracious. After all, Christmas isn’t always a happy time for everyone. For someone who has lost their job, this is not the most wonderful time of the year, because so much emphasis is placed on a merry Christmas being a materialistic one.

There are also those who have lost loved ones. I am one of those people, and things that once made me happy at this time of year now make me sad. Those things that once brought happiness are now things that bring sadness, because they evoke memories of times we spent together. Therefore, Christmas becomes a difficult time for some.

There are many who are in need of encouragement at this time of year. They don’t need a Christmas present; they need His Christmas presence. They need to be reminded of what this season is all about. It is not about things. It is not about presents.

These things have their place, but we need to remember the essential message of Christmas, which is Immanuel—God is with us. And for the hurting person, the lonely person, the sorrowing person, this is the time of year to bring the gift of encouragement to them and say, “The message of Christmas is: God will be with you. God will help you. God will strengthen you.”

So look for opportunities to share the love of God during this season, because it is a time when we seem to be more open to engaging in conversation with others. Now is a great opportunity for you to bring encouragement to someone who is struggling. Who needs your encouragement today?

Copyright © 2011 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.


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A Homerun Christmas Gift - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 6

Jeff Schreve, Pastor

A HOMERUN CHRISTMAS GIFT

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4

The Christmas season is here! It is time to pull out the shopping list and find the perfect gifts for those special people in your life.

I remember one of the best Christmas days we ever had as a family. My wife, Debbie, loves gifts. It is one of her love languages. I don't speak that language too well, so communication on that end has not been stellar over the years. But this one Christmas several years ago, I jacked it out of the park.

When Debbie's mom died, Debbie was given all her jewelry. Debbie's mom had redone her wedding ring some years earlier, taken the diamonds out of her original set and placed in another ring. Debbie never liked the new arrangement. She had mentioned a time or two about her desire to restore the original wedding set. So, as a surprise to Debbie, I had the original wedding ring redone. It looked GORGEOUS and had so much sentimental value to her. When she opened the box and saw that ring, she began crying big tears of joy. (Then I started crying, and the girls started crying, but they were good tears.) It was the perfect gift for Debbie. I was so thrilled that I blessed her heart with something so special.

THE PERFECT GIFT FOR JESUS

Wouldn't it be awesome to give Jesus a gift this Christmas that would bring great joy to His heart? Did you know that special gift is out there? It is within reach of every single one of us.

John said, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth" (3 John 1:4). The thing that rejoices the great heart of God is not diamonds or gold (remember that He paves the streets of heaven with gold), but simple obedience to Him. Jesus said, "He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me" (John 14:21). Walking in the truth shows God you really love Him, and that brings Him great joy!

I believe the key to walking in the truth is to walk honestly and humbly before the Lord. God is not looking for sinless perfection from you or me. That is a good thing, since you and I cannot live a life of sinless perfection. What God is looking for is openness and honesty before Him. When we mess up, He wants us to fess up. God hates it when we cover up. He cannot work in a heart that is full of cover up. Proverbs 28:13 tells us, "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion."

This Christmas season make it your goal to give to God what He really wants - to see you walking in the truth. Take Him at His Word and start doing what He says. It is a home run gift for God this Christmas and every day following.

Love,

Jeff Schreve
Pastor

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Celebration Time - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 4

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.’”
Luke 2:9-11
King James Version

EXPLORATION

“Celebration Time -- Heaven’s Glory Comes to Earth”

“It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
Charles Dickens

What emotions fill my heart this Christmas season?

How and where will I look for God’s glory to fill the earth?

“O the strength of infant weakness, if eternal is so young.
God all-bounteous, all creative,
Whom no ills from good dissuade,
Is incarnate and a native:
Of the very world He made.”
Christopher Smart

INSPIRATION

“Glory” – “Great honor, praise and distinction, reflecting the splendor and perfect happiness of heaven.”

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
Isaiah 6: 3
K.J.V.

Here at Transformation Garden we are studying about the lives of all the women in the Bible from beginning to end – Genesis to Revelation. Every time we come to a story about a woman, named or unnamed, we stop and study and dig into the Biblical truth about her life.

However, for the next few weeks, I want to divert from our regular studies on the lives of women instead focus instead on devotional messages which tell of heaven’s gift of Jesus to this earth.

Every year, the world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ on a holiday we call Christmas. Amid all the glitter and tinsel, it is easy for our vision to become distracted from the real meaning of this annual celebration.

And so I want to look at the gift of Jesus Christ which we have been given and the eternal blessings this gift has brought into your life and mine.

This has been a very tough year for all of us. The financial world has continued to implode in ways few of us could ever have imagined. For many of us, our health has continued to challenge us on a daily basis. Many individuals have suffered the loss of a job and this situation has left so many adrift. While for others, the loss of a loved one has blanketed you in inconsolable grief. Sadly, 2010 has been a harsh year, as you may well attest to.

This is why I feel so impressed to bring you some good news as the year draws to a close.

While shepherds were in the field watching their sheep, nearly 2000 years ago, the Bible says the angel of the Lord appeared. This was an unexpected event, and the response of the shepherds was absolutely normal. We are told they were, “afraid.” As I read this text, I thought about how normal it is to be afraid today. I find myself afraid at times and I’m certain you do, too!

But I have to tell you, my fear completely lifted as I read the words of the prophet Isaiah which encourages us with the reminder that, “The whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord” (Isaiah 6: 3).

So often, the reason I am afraid is that I forget to recognize that Christ my Lord is filling every corner of this earth with His glory – all I need to do is look for it. And it is my prayer, that amid the continual sounds of Christmas bells and sights of holly-filled windows and jolly Santas, your eyes and mine will see clearly the glory – the splendor of heaven’s unlimited and unending gift of love to this earth, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Affirmation today comes from the words of a very familiar Christmas carol, It Came Upon The Midnight Clear. But I hope as you sing or hum this tune, the words to this song will help you reflect on God’s gift of glory to each one of us.

AFFIRMATION

“It Came Upon The Midnight Clear”

“It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing.
And ever o’er its Babel-sounds
The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the heavenly hymn have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And warring humankind hears not
The tidings which they bring
O hush the noise and cease your strife
And hear the angels sing.

For lo! The days are hastening on,
By prophets seen of old,
When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And all the world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.”

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@Transformationgarden.com

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Whose Birthday is it Anyway? - Christmas Devotional - Dec. 3 Dr. Ed Young

There was once a land that was backward. Everything was switched, everything seemed just a little off-kilter. In this place, the children didn't play football, they played knee-ball. Kids did not go to schools; teachers went to homes. In this unusual place, trees and flowers bloomed in the winter, and lakes froze in the summer. And in this place, a little guy named Jason had a birthday.

His grandparents came, but he never saw them. His mother baked a birthday cake, but she gave it to the mailman. All of Jason's friends gave presents to each other—not to Jason—in honor of Jason's day. Finally, he'd had all he could take. Jason got a megaphone, got on his bike, and rode through the main street of town, saying, "Whose birthday is it, anyway?

Whose birthday is it, anyway?"

Some folks miss the point of Christmas. Oh, decorations are displayed. Parties are attended. Gifts are bought and exchanged. But somehow it never dawns on them that it is someone's birthday. And that someone is Jesus Christ. How about you? Have you missed Christmas because you've missed Jesus Christ? He is God's gift to you. Jesus Christ the Savior came to forgive us and cleanse us of all our sin. Have you received Him? And if you know whose birthday it is, what gift do you have for Him this Christmas? Does the One who has everything have your heart? Why not give Him that?

MEMORY VERSE

Matthew 1:21

…She shall bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.


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December 2, 2014

O Christmas Tree

By Skip Heitzig

I read somewhere that in a recent Christmas season Americans used 28 million rolls of wrapping paper and 17 million packages of tags and bows, sent out 372 million greeting cards, and set up 35 million Christmas trees.

Some of our Christmas traditions are just that, traditions. Jesus was probably not born on December 25, for example. And the Christmas tree is based on the celebration of the reincarnation of Nimrod. The ancient Babylonians burned a “Yule” log (the Chaldean word for infant) in the fireplace, and the next day a symbolic evergreen tree was placed inside the house.

This pagan ritual is hinted at in the Bible, in Jeremiah 10:1-4. But before you get worried, I want you to know that if you come to my church, you’ll find a very large Christmas tree in the foyer! And you know what? Most people born in this country don’t know the origins of these things, and we aren’t worshiping Babylonian gods and goddesses. It’s not about that. (And it’s good to remember that Martin Luther was the first guy to put a Christmas tree inside the home.)

At the same time, what are we to do with some of these traditions? Let’s look at what Jesus did when He was faced with a festival that had a lot of tradition, some of which may have been true and some not. In John chapter 10, He was in the temple for the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights, or Hanukkah. You won’t find it in the Bible anywhere; it dates from the period between Old and New Testaments. But Jesus was celebrating Hanukkah, and He used the Festival of Lights to shine the light on who He really is (John 10:22-30).

And I suggest that’s what we do with Christmas. You can say, “Bah, humbug!” You can get “Santa Claustrophobic.” You can run from it. Or you can use it to shine the light on who Jesus really is.

People are singing the words we preach in evangelical churches every week: Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail, incarnate deity! Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel. Hark, the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn king!”

At least some of them don’t know what they’re singing, but that’s where we come in. We can redeem it by reminding them. Does it matter when He came? No, it matters THAT He came. Since the celebration is already ongoing, I say let’s use it to remind them of Him.

Copyright © 2013 by Connection Communications. All rights reserved.


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The Following Devotions are brought to you via the following website: Hope you don't mind me sharing them with you here, and hope you enjoy them! We did this last year and I remember you enjoying so thought we'd do it again this year...

http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/chr
istmas-devotionals/

A Countercultural Christmas

by Sarah Phillips

"Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh."
Romans 13:11-14

The first purple Advent candle has been lit. The once dark wreath now shines unevenly with one solitary light.

Advent is one of my favorite seasons in the Christian year. It's a special time where we reflect on the darkness and trials of this world in the light of our hope in Christ. We remember how, after centuries of waiting on the part of the faithful, God bridged the chasm between humanity and divinity through the humble birth of Jesus.

I've always loved Advent for its joyful anticipation of the Christ-child, but I also love it because it's a bit countercultural. Its sparse purple and pink decorations stand in stark contrast to the glitz the rest of our culture displays often weeks before Thanksgiving arrives. You see, Advent was not designed as a simple memorial of a past event, to bring us up to Christmas day and leave us there. Its purpose is to point the faithful towards a future event - Christ's second, glorious coming. This is why churches that celebrate this liturgical season read about the Lord's coming in both the Old and New Testament throughout the month of December.

The dramatic imagery found in these readings is far removed from the quaint Christmas decorations that currently surround us. They have a jolting effect as they remind us that our lives now should be lived in light of eternity, not in keeping with the current standards.

In this first Advent reading, Paul's words to the faithful carry a tone of urgency. He uses the image of awakening from a deep sleep. But notice he is not shaking his brothers and sisters out of their sleep at sunrise, but while "the night is advanced." In other words, it's not enough to simply wait for Christ to show up, but we must prepare beforehand. We need to seek God's grace now to help us eliminate sin from our lives

This is where the hard work of Advent comes in. This joyful season requires an examination of conscience. It's a time to reflect on the areas where we lack or on the recurrent sins in our lives, and to seek God's grace to help us to change.

Perhaps this seems like a real downer of an activity during the most wonderful time of the year. But let me share with you why, for me, it's never really been a downer. Have you ever failed to prepare for a big event (or had nightmares that you did?). Have you ever found yourself awake at night, panicking because you're envisioning yourself without a dress on your wedding day or lacking your PowerPoint slides for an important presentation? Needless to say, the joy and success of these events would seriously be compromised should these nightmares come true.

Surely, all good things in life require preparation. And God, in His mercy, has given us the gift of time to prepare for His arrival, which no doubt, will be the most important event we ever experience.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Take time this week to reflect on the joy of Jesus' first arrival and then, confident in His love for you, ask God to reveal to you the ways in which you need to prepare your heart to meet Him on Christmas Day.

Further Reading

Matthew 3:1-2
Psalms 139:23-24

Captive No More, by Greg Laurie

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