Joyful Greetings {12.20.18}

There are two little 4-year old girls at our church that just love being together. They are the best of friends. I have had the blessing of spending time with them in the nursery until this past year when they moved up to an actual class. But I still see them as they enter church and recognize each other. What a joyful greeting they share. girls huggingThey hug, giggle, hold hands, share treats and simply enjoy being together. Last Sunday was one of those days when I witnessed their joyful greeting. It is contagious! You just can’t help smiling or laughing at their exuberance as they get together and just enjoy being alive and having a friend. Do you have a friend like that? You just simply love spending time together, no matter what you are doing or even if you are not doing anything at all? I do. We may not skip around, giggle and hold hands but we still share a joyful greeting. It’s a special thing – friendship.

These little girls reminded me of another joyful greeting. The Bible tells us of a joyful greeting with Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mother, Mary’s relative). This joyful greeting is recorded in mary and elizabethLuke 1:39-45 “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” What a joyful greeting they shared!

There will be many joyful greetings soon as we gather with family and friends for Christmas. There will no doubt be memories shared (and re-shared), favorite traditions observed, great food devoured and maybe even presents unwrapped. Christmas dinnerIt is by far my favorite holiday. I love the Christmas lights, decorations, cards and candles. I love spending time with family and friends. But, most of all, I love celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What a gift was given to all of us! All we need to do is receive it (Him). That’s the thing – we must unwrap and receive the gift. Salvation is open to all who will receive. It’s not a one-time gift either – we walk out our salvation every day as we obey God and follow Him. With God, it’s not impossible. Only two things are critical to our salvation – Love God with all our heart, Jesus birthsoul, mind and strength, and love others. What a gift! The best gift ever! And, it’s given freely to all! What we must remember though this gift for us was at the cost of a life, a precious life – the only life that could redeem us from sin. Jesus Christ had to be born a baby and die on a cross as a sacrifice for us. That’s how much God loves us! (John 3:16). After Christmas had to come Easter. Both holidays are celebrated because of the love God has for us!

As we gather together this Christmas with joyful greetings, let’s remember that…

JESUS is the reason for the season!

 

Exchanging Gifts {12.24.17)

Merry Christmas to you all! I couldn’t miss this opportunity to celebrate with you the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. After all, Christmas is a celebration of His gift to the world. The gift is free to any who will enter into a gift exchange with Jesus. He offers His life and love in exchange for our life offered to believe in and serve Him. If we enter into this gift exchange He offers the greatest gift of all – eternal life – in heaven. We will never get a better gift offering. We can read about His glorious birth in the gospel of Luke. Chapter 1 and 2 tell about His birth. As we celebrate this Christmas, let’s not forget the reason we have to celebrate – Christ!

The Birth of Jesus Foretoldnativity

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

shepherds and angelAnd 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. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Gift Wrapping {12.14.16}

Maybe like me, you have been wrapping gifts lately. I love to wrap gifts. Some find it a chore but I find it relaxing and enjoyable. Whether it is wrapping gifts for family, company Christmas parties, special occasions or “just because” gifts, I can sit for hours on the floor in front of the TV wrapping. When wrapping gifts I tend to use a lot of tape (so my family tells me). I want everything neat and tidy. Gift bags are great, beautiful and perfect for certain gifts but I still like to wrap boxes with pretty paper and ribbons. Of course with mostly boys in our family I don’t get much chance to make things “pretty”. I don’t think they really care that much about ribbons and bows. But, even the simplest of gifts can seem special when in beautiful wrappings. While wrapping Christmas gifts this year, I have been thinking about the best gifts any of us could ever receive, those gifts weren’t pretty by human standards but they were the most special of all – priceless in fact.

The gift, the reason we celebrate Christmas is the birth of Christ. His birth was not what we would call beautiful by our earthly standards, would we? Let’s review the special wrappings around Jesus’ birth.

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. baby-jesus

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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly hosts appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:4-14)

God had a purpose in sending Jesus to earth. It was to save mankind by being the perfect, once for all, sacrifice for our sins (yours and mine). It’s sad to think that all could have been different if only obedience had prevailed in the Garden of Eden but, God loves us all so much that He made another way for us to live with Him forever. His name is Jesus. The crucifixion, cruel as it was, was a gift to us, wrapped in hardship and intense pain but mostly wrapped with a love that is beyond our understanding. This wrapping for all to see was harsh and inhumane. Jesus gave for us…oh what a love!

“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews? Pilate asked them. Crucify him! They shouted. Why? What crime has he committed? asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, Crucify him! Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, Hail, king of the Jews! Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.” (Mark 15:12-20)

Not a pretty wrapping for this very special gift was it? Thankfully, the story does not end there. Jesus was once again going to give us a gift and it also was wrapped.

“Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea and he was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid.” (Luke 23:50-53)

 “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. Then they remembered his words.

jesus-tombWhen they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away wondering to himself what had happened.” (Luke 24:1-12)

The thing about gifts is that they can be given freely but it is up to the recipient whether or not to unwrap and receive the gift. You see, the gift of Jesus was opened that day as He rose from the dead. He unwrapped the gift for us. But, we still must receive it to ourselves. It’s simple. Here is all that is required: Believe in Jesus, repent and ask forgiveness for our sins, go in faith, loving God and others. Then, you will receive another gift – the Holy Spirit to live within you helping you to trust God and follow Him in loving obedience.

“Jesus answered, I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

Then, we can all look forward to the ultimate gift!

“”Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

So, as you celebrate this Christmas, please don’t overlook the real gift – Emmanuel – God with Us!

Thank you Jesus!