In the book Endangered Species (about reaching the needs of others), a parable is shared about some friends who join together for an after-worship meal on a nice fall Sunday. As they are settling in, a couple of children, notably in need of a healthy hot meal stand at the restaurant window craving just a morsel of the sumptuous meal laid before the diners. According to the parable, one of the women of the group (whom we expect to invite the children in to join them) gets up from the table, draws the curtains closed to hide the scene outside, and returns to her seat with the declaration, “There now, isn’t that much better?”

One of the important marks of Christianity—and by extension, the church—is the spirit of generosity borne out of knowing the blessing of salvation. Often our generosity expresses itself in giving our cast-offs, extras, and no-longer-needs to someone in the name of a generous spirit. Lots of churches are filled almost to capacity with pianos that someone no longer wants (many of these will no longer hold a tuning if someone were willing to pay for the process). At the same time countless church nurseries are filled with worn-out, broken, and useless toys that people feel generous to donate once their children have outgrown them.

We are also willing to “generously” donate that coat that we are replacing to the shelter down the street.

Generosity gives the best from the first that we have, not the leftovers that we no longer want. What has happened to our generous spirit?

 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? —1 John 3:17


At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker, let me repeat a saying that for some has become cliché: “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” This year, as we go through all the trimmings and trappings that have become Christmas to us, it is worthwhile to pause for a moment of devotion. Christmas is not about presents or trees or pretty lights. And although carols and angels and shepherds and stars have all become fixtures for us, it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder that Christmas is Christmas because of a birth.

This birth was normal in the respect that the mother carried the child in her womb as the baby developed his fingers, his toes, his eyes, ears, and nose. It was typical because a hard travelling trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem most certainly put a strain on both mother and child during pregnancy. It was unassuming since the mother dreamed about what her baby would look like, how healthy he would be, and what kind of man he would become (although this mother already had an idea because of the circumstances).

But Christmas is about a birth that was anything but normal. The setting was difficult at best—away from home, no room at a traditional stopover place, makeshift shelter and a makeshift bed, all after long, arduous travel because of governmental interference with normal, everyday life. It was beyond typical because the child was the Son of the Living God. It was more than perfect since He would grow up to provide salvation for all the world (including yours and mine). Like our traditional Nativity Scenes, let us make Christ the focal point of our Christmas this year.

 “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  —Luke 2:12

[Please note: this article is a follow-up to last week’s. I have been posting to coincide with weekly sermons at FBC Mulberry Grove, and due to a slipping accident, a dear friend preached in my stead last Sunday. To provide continuity, I will be preaching “All Things through Christ” from Philippians 4 that I had planned for Jan. 15. This article is related to that message (as was last week’s post).]

As I have paid attention to our national history being made this week with the instatement of our 45th president, it dawned on me that as divisive and derisive as our nation’s politics has become, neither our outgoing leader nor our incoming administrator has the capability of “saving” our country—not even from ourselves.

Regardless of my ideology, or your theology, our true help comes from a place of higher standards, a Person of higher power. If this life is to find meaning; if the tough questions are to be answered; if any good is to ever be seen on this or the other side of eternity, our hope must find this higher resting place: God Almighty.

So many things are out of our reach; so many goals unattainable; so many dreams unachievable. And then there is Jesus. As we step out into the unknown thing we call “future” let us hold a firm grasp in the hand that holds more firmly onto us. Trust in Jesus for a future. Trust in God to be your Guide.

  “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Jesus, in answer to the question, “Who can be saved?” Luke 18:27

[There is a message that is centered on Christ Jesus. It is the same today as it was 2000 years ago. It will continue to be the same 2000 years hence. What is my role as a Christian and a pastor in this ever-changing, always-corrupt world in which we live? To make that message known, to make the message clear, to shine a spotlight on the relevance of Jesus Christ to every age.]

As a high school senior, I was assigned to memorize the preamble to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in old English. Although it was English it looked and sounded like gibberish to me. Reading and reciting the words meant nothing to me—just like my dad’s toolbox. Today we should make the message make sense for those around us to hear and understand.

When I was growing up, I thought that my dad could do anything. And rarely was I ever disappointed when I asked him for help or even just to do something for me. He was what many people would call a “jack of all trades.” He could figure things out; he could make things work; he could take things apart and put them back together again. He just knew stuff.

While I have not inherited his ability to work on machinery, and I don’t often have the patience to try and figure out how something works, I can take a lesson from my father’s life. That lesson is: do what is necessary. As we walk through this world living our Christian lives, it is important for us to figure out how to make the message plain for the world to hear.

In our world today, people are not hearing the Word of God, not because the Word is no longer relevant, but because we’ve packaged the Word in a way that does not get through.

  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  – Hebrews 13:8

I would like to take a moment to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas!

The word “Majesty” carries with it a lot of weight. In monarchies the king and queen are referred to as “Your Majesty.” Webster defines the word as “sovereign power, authority, or dignity.” When we look at a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or at a panoramic view of the beauty contained only in nature, we describe it with the term “majestic.”

And so, as we think of the event of Christmas on this Christmas Day isn’t majesty just the right word? Consider the Baby born in a manger, tucked away where no one would see Him. And then His very birth is announced out in the countryside to a group of unlikely witnesses:  shepherds, just going about their routine duty. So majestic was the announcement that they abandoned their duty (most likely a capital offense) and not only rushed to see the sight, but also spread the word throughout the rest of the night as they traveled to and from Bethlehem. Majesty!

And to top off the whole picture, we see wise men, sages from a far away land, arriving in a caravan shortly after the birth to present this One they recognize as a new King with gifts fit only for One of great majesty. And to think that we still celebrate all of these centuries later. That is Majesty!

  “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  – Isaiah 9:6b

I like a good, sturdy umbrella, don’t you? Umbrellas have a specific job to do, and if they are built well they do that job nicely. They keep the rain from crashing down on me, and I don’t have to stay inside all the time.

I have discovered, though, that if you are going to purchase an umbrella, it is worth your while to fork over a little bit extra and purchase a well-made one rather than try to save a buck on the cheap ones. You know the ones: they “conveniently” fold up into a tiny size that fits neatly in the pocket or purse. What I found out about these collapsible models is that they are easily left behind and lost, whereas we never leave behind an expensive model that is big enough to use as a club if necessary. Most of the cheap umbrellas I have owned didn’t provide very good protection from the elements anyway—one big gust of wind and they flip inside-out  and let all the rain in. I prefer the Mary Poppins variety of umbrella that could carry me off in a strong windstorm.

God is a sturdy umbrella. He is portable enough to stay with us everywhere we go, and strong enough to protect us from all the elements of any storm.

 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)

When my daughter was a preschooler she was accustomed to having a nightlight burning in her room at night when she slept. There is a measure of comfort to know that the light is burning. Occasionally the bulb in the nightlight would burn out. For my daughter it was a frightening experience when this happened at night-time. If she awoke and the light was not there she called out to let me know that something was wrong. By replacing the bulb, fears are calmed and the whole household can return to sleep.

Jesus tells us that he himself is the light of the world. Without this light, we cannot see, we cannot find comfort. With the light of Christ we are comforted and we can enjoy life calmly. The light was first introduced into the world at the first Christmas. Today, Christ-followers carry the light of Jesus in their spirits. While the light will not burn out (like a nightlight’s bulb), we must let it shine out through the things that we do, and the way that we live.

This is the message of Christmas—Let your light shine!

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