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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Angels From the Realms of Glory

 

It  is a wonderful season of the year! There is excitement in the air as people prepare for family gatherings. This children’s excitement is very infectious! All of the wonder and anticipation that we see in their eyes makes this a very special time.  It is also a time when we hear more about peace on earth and good will toward men.

We all love the Christmas carols! It almost seems a shame that we only sing some of them at this time of the year. One beautiful hymn that expresses so well the meaning of Christmas is “Angels From the Realms of Glory”.  The composer James Montgomery gave us a beloved hymn to sing every year that pictures so well the birth of Jesus as told in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

James Montgomery, the son of a Moravian minister was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, November 4, 1771. In 1776 his family moved to the county of Antrim. Two years later he was sent to the Fulneck Seminary in Yorkshire. When he left there he went to work at a retail shop. He composed poems but was unable to get them published. At the age of 23, James took over a newspaper, the Sheffield Registerand changed the name to Sheffield Iris where he continued as editor for thirty-one years. During this time he was able to publish his poems. He gave lectures on poetry at the Royal Institution in London. Mr. Montgomery was also a strong advocate of the Foreign Missions and Bible Society in many parts of England. He lived peacefully to the old age of 82 and died in his sleep. After his death in 1854 he was honored with a public funeral. A statue was erected in his memory and a stained glass window was made in his honor at the parish church. A Wesleyan chapel was also named in his honor. (Recall that Charles Wesley was also a composer of Christian music including another famous Christmas hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – see my post on December 21, 2016).

Henry T. Smart composed the tune for “Angels From the Realms of Glory” in 1866. It was originally written as the tune called “Regent Square”. It was first published in a Presbyterian hymnal for the Regent Square Church.

 

At Christmas we remember that Jesus was born in a stable. We can picture Mary and Joseph there. The shepherds came. The angels gathered in the skies singing praise to God! What beautiful pictures of love, peace, and joy.

 

We can read about the birth of Christ in Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels. The verses in the hymn “Angels From the Realms of Glory” proclaim the story in an awe-inspiring and majestic song!

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased. (Luke 2:13-14)

1 Angels from the realms of glory,
wing your flight through all the earth;
heralds of creation’s story
now proclaim Messiah’s birth!
Come and worship
Christ, the new-born king;
come and worship,
worship Christ the new-born king.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “do not be afraid; for behold I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)

2 Shepherds in the fields abiding,
watching by your flocks at night,
God with us is now residing:
see, there shines the infant light!
Come and worship
Christ, the new-born king;
come and worship,
worship Christ the new-born king.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have
come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.  Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.(Matthew 2:1-12)

 3 Wise men, leave your contemplations!
brighter visions shine afar;
seek in him the hope of nations,
you have seen his rising star:
Come and worship
Christ, the new-born king;
come and worship,
worship Christ the new-born king.

In the last verse we are given a picture of the glorious future for Christ and all those who love Him.

4 Though an infant now we view him,
He will share his Father’s throne,
gather all the nations to him;
every knee shall then bow down:
Come and worship
Christ, the new-born king;
come and worship,
worship Christ the new-born king.

God bless you all this Christmas! In all of the hustle and bustle take time out to remember that the best gift of all is the Lord Jesus Christ. May the true meaning of Christmas remain in your hearts forever.

 

 

 

 

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The Song of Mary

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob; forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. –Luke 1: 30-33

There is so much to praise in Mary who as an ordinary human being had great faith, courage, and piety. She proved her faith with obedience, her courage with humility, and her piety with thoughtfulness, prayer, and submission.

Her cousin Elizabeth confirms this, “and blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 2:45)

We admire Mary for her example to us in how Christians should respond in faith. Mary exalted God alone. Mary would wish us to keep Christ on the throne.

Mary herself says as much in her beautiful song that we have called the Magnificat. (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary’s song follows the pattern of the other famous songs in the Old Testament. Here is a list for you to look up: Song of Moses (Exodus 15:1-18); Song of Miriam (Exodus 15:20, 21); Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31); Song of Hannah (I Samuel 2:1-10).

The songs follow a pattern of praise, adoration, ascribing magnificence to God, thankfulness for salvation, a history of how God has always saved His people, and a hope and belief in God’s promise for the future.

Filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoicing in God’s goodness Mary sang:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

Hannah – “My heart exults in the Lord.” (I Samuel 2:1)

Moses – “I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:1).

Miriam – “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted” (Exodus 15:21)

Deborah – “Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I – to the Lord, I will sing, I will sing praise to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Judges 5:3)

 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

“My heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation” (Psalm 9:14; 13:5; 35:9; 48:11; 68:3; 97:1; 149:2)

Isaiah – “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord; My soul will exult in my God” (Isaiah 61:10)

 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

Hannah –

“For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the Lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“For thus says the high and exalted One… I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit.” (Isaiah 57:15)

 For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

“How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4)

“How blessed are all those who long for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18)

“And she (Elizabeth) cried out with a loud voice, and said, ‘Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. … And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Luke 1:42, 45)

 Why is Mary going to be called “Blessed”? Note the word is “blessed” not “bless-ed”. She is the one who has received the blessing. Why? Read on.

 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

“Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord, or can show forth all His praise?” (Psalm 106:2)
“The Lord has done great things for us; We are glad.” (Psalm 126:2)

“Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, for the Lord has done great things.” (Joel 2:21)

 And holy is His name.

“And give thanks to His holy name.” (Psalm 97:12; 105:3)

“Holy and awesome is His name.” (Psalm 111:9)

“Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 47:4)

 And His mercy is on those who fear Him

“’I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

 From generation to generation.

“Thou, O Lord, wilt keep them; Thou wilt preserve him from this generation forever.” (Psalm 12:7)

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever; The plans of His heart from generation to generation. …. I will cause Thy name to be remembered in all generations; Therefor the people will give Thee thanks forever and ever.” (Psalm 33:11; 45:17)

“Thou, O Lord, dost rule forever; Thy throne is from generation to generation.” (Lamentations 5:19)

He has shown strength with His arm;

“Splendor and majesty are before Him; Strength and joy are in His place.” (I Chronicles 16:27).

“I love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 18:1)

“With the saving strength of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6; 21:1; 28:7; 31:4; 37:39; etc…)

“For the Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2).

“The mountains quaked at the presence of the Lord,” (Judges 5:5)

 He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

Hannah – “Boast no more so very proudly; Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth.” (I Samuel 2:3)

“Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him; And tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12)

“Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render recompense to the proud.” (Psalm 94:2)

“Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 16:5)

“For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty.” (Isaiah 2:12)

 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

“Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on his Throne to the first born of the captive who was in the dungeon…” (Exodus 12:29)

“And I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations” (Haggai 2:22).

 And exalted the lowly.

“He sets on high those who are lowly” (Job 5:11)

“Yet He regards the lowly” (Psalm 138:6)

“I dwell on a high and holy place and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit” (Isaiah 57:15)

 He has filled the hungry with good things,

Hannah – But those who were hungry cease to hunger. … He raises the poor from the dust.” (I Samuel 2:5, 8)

“For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.” (Psalm 107:9)

“Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry.” (Psalm 146:7)

And the rich He has sent away empty.

Hannah – “Those who were full hire themselves out for bread” (I Samuel 2:5)

“Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich, …. For when he dies he will carry nothing away” (Psalm 49:16, 17).

“… his eyes were not satisfied with riches” (Ecclesiastes 4:8)

“But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20)

 He has helped His servant Israel,

Moses – “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name. … Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.” (Exodus 15; 3)

Miriam – “The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.” (Exodus 15:21)

Moses – “So Israel dwells in security, …. Blessed are you, O Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?” (Deuteronomy 33:28, 29)

 In remembrance of His mercy,

I am the Lord your God, etc……..

“The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.” (Psalm 145:9)

Referring to Israel and God’s dealing with them:

“In His love and in His mercy, He redeemed them; and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.” (Isaiah 63:9)

“’Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, declares the Lord.’” (Jeremiah 31:20)

“Let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.” (Judges 5:31)

 As He spoke to our fathers,

The Ten Commandments – “Then God spoke all these words saying” – (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5: 1-22)

“Hear now and I will speak” (Job 42:4)

“Hear, O My people, and I will speak.” (Psalm 50:7)

“God has spoken…” (Psalm 60:6; 62:11; 85:8; 99:7; 105:31; 108:7, etc…)

 To Abraham and to his seed forever.

“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country … to the land which I will show you; …. I will make you a great nation … I will bless you …. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” (Genesis 12: 1-4)

As you celebrate Advent and Christmas remember to thank and praise God for His many blessings to you!!

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When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41).

Glory to God in the Highest and Peace and Goodwill Towards Men*

 

At this time of the year there is much anticipation in the air. Children can’t wait to be done with school for a while and have a nice break. Of course, the main object of their anxious waiting is Christmas!

Moms and Dads are filled with anticipation of the happy Christmas morning when they can see their children’s eyes light up when they come into the family room and see the beautiful tree and all of the presents.

These are wonderful traditions. I pray that at this Christmas everyone will take time out and remember that the One that they should be anticipating is the Lord Jesus Christ. The presents under the tree are fun, but the best gift ever is from our Heavenly Father.

Our best gift is the Savior Who can give us a better life and an eternal home with Him.

In Luke’s Gospel we encounter the story of the Savior’s birth along with many details surrounding it. Luke gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people who would be special in the life of the baby Jesus. Last Christmas, we talked about His mother Mary. This Christmas it seems appropriate to talk about a relative of Mary’s family, Elizabeth.

Who was this woman and why was she so special that the evangelist Luke should commemorate her story?

We don’t have many details, but what we know is important. Both Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias, were descended from Aaron (Moses’ brother) and therefore they were both in the priestly line. Therefore, their child, John the Baptist, would be from the priestly line from both sides of his family. John the Baptist was the great prophet who was foretold in the Old Testament who would introduce Jesus at the beginning of the Savior’s ministry. Elizabeth had the privilege to be the mother of this great person.

Elizabeth understood that God had chosen her for a special task. Like some of the other women we have studied, such as Sarah and Hannah, Elizabeth was childless for a long time. In Jewish society barrenness was both embarrassing and humiliating. It was assumed that the woman had disobeyed God somehow and was being punished with childlessness. Elizabeth responded to God’s blessing by praising Him. “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men” (Luke 1:25). Of course we know that God has His own purposes for how He deals with us. The stories of these women are a great encouragement to those who are suffering misfortunes in their lives.

We are told specifically that sinfulness was NOT the reason for Elizabeth’s condition. Luke tells us that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were “righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of he Lord” (Luke 1:6). The Father was merely waiting until the time was right to bless Elizabeth with motherhood. God’s timing is perfect; He was also about to visit Mary the future mother of Jesus. These women were relatives.

After Mary became pregnant with Jesus she went to visit Elizabeth. A wonderful thing happened. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped for joy. Even her unborn child recognized the nearness of the Savior of the world. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoiced saying to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:42-45).

Note especially the last verse, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” Elizabeth believed and was blessed.
This year as we anticipate the wonderful Christmas season, my prayer is that all will believe and be blessed. Jesus is the Son of God the Most High Who will reign forever; His kingdom will have no end.
A blessed Christmas to you and your families.

  • I posted this story on Elizabeth 5 years ago. At this time in Advent I was meditating on the how we should be looking forward in anticipation to the Second Time that Christ will come to earth. I couldn’t think of a better way to think about the Lord Jesus than to rediscover the story of the two women who play a part in Jesus’s first coming. A post on Mary will follow in two weeks. God bless you all!

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It is a wonderful season of the year! We all love theChristmas carols! It almost seems a shame that we only sing some of them at this time of the year. How often do we pay attention to the lyrics? One hymn especially, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, by Charles Wesley, actually contains the true meaning about the coming of Christ.

At Christmas we think of Jesus in the manger. We can picture Mary and Joseph there. The shepherds come. The angels are gathered in the skies singing praise to God! What beautiful pictures of love, peace, and joy.

nativity-angles

But why did God send His Son to earth? Why did Jesus have to be born in a lowly stable? Just what is the real meaning of Christmas?

In 1739, Charles Wesley wrote the lyrics to one of the most popular Christmas carols – “Hark! The Herald Angels sing”. The music was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1840. Let us take a closer look at the words. Charles Wesley’s hymn contains the true meaning of Christmas.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

The reason that Jesus came was to reconcile sinners to God. Jesus was sent “through the jesus_on_cross_wallpapertender mercy of our God to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78,79). When Jesus “made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20), He made peace with God for us so that our sins may be forgiven.

Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King.”

Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem to register for the census. Bethlehem was a small town. Who would have thought that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would be born there? But Jesus showed us how much He loved us by being born in a lowly estate to save us who are not worthy of God’s love on our own. (Luke 1:52, I Corinthians 1:27).

Christ, by highest Heaven adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

In our day there are many other religions that do not recognize Jesus as fully God and fully man. Charles Wesley reminds us that Jesus is “incarnate Deity, pleased with us in flesh to dwell.” When we sing this beautiful song we are singing are affirmation of the basic truth that sets us apart from non-Christians – the full deity and humanity of Christ.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Son of righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King.”

The most wonderful miracle of all is that God came in the flesh to save His people. Jesus is truly God and truly man. Jesus was found “in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). “Mild, He lays His glory by.” Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to live the life of a servant in order that we may be made right with God. Jesus gave us our example of how we should live also.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving pow’r,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

With the coming of Jesus is a promise that all things will be made new. One day there will be no more tears or pain. But even now, on this earth, Jesus gives us the power to live a holy life. We no longer have to fall to the whiles of the devil. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2). Even ruined nature will be restored. What a joyful day to look forward to!!

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

This is our humble prayer as sinful humans. When we pray to Him, Jesus forgives and restores His full fellowship with us. What a wonderful privilege when Jesus restores His love in us and gives us joyful hearts to serve Him. We desire to show more of the image of Jesus and less of the image of “Adam” as we grow in our walk with the Lord. Jesus came not only to reconcile us to God, but to give us a holy life while we are on this earth.

It will really help us to bring back the true meaning of Christmas when we sing the wonderful hymns that God has blessed us with. Let us pay special attention to the words. Try singing and praying them at the same time.

Most of all, let us get back to worshipping Jesus at Christmas time.

holychildtopHark! The Herald angels sing
Glory to the Newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!

Merry Christmas!!

 

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angelgabrielcomingtomaryNow in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And Mary said, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

At this time of the year when we remember the birth of the blessed Christ child, let us also honor His courageous parents, Joseph and Mary.

Mary has been admired universally above all women. She was truly remarkable. Sovereignly chosen by God to bear the Christ child, from among all of the women who had ever been born, she was the one who brought our Redeemer, the Messiah into the world.

Mary’s blessings and graces were given to her by God. She was an ordinary human being, like us. And yet, she showed her strong faith in God, by trusting Him with whatever He chose for her. We can look up to her for that.

We don’t know very much about Mary’s upbringing. We know that she had a sister, Salome, who was the mother of Jesus’ disciples, James and John. Of course, we also know that Mary was related to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Besides this, we only know that she grew up in Nazareth as the daughter of a poor but hardworking family.

At the time of the Annunciation, Mary was probably a teenager. Back in that day, girls were often betrothed at age thirteen. Her marriage was probably arranged by the parents of Joseph, her prospective bridegroom. Joseph was a carpenter. He was also a godly and righteous man.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been dream of st joseph angel messengerbetrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

We do not know very much about Joseph’s background. In the Scriptures Joseph shows what a godly man he was by his actions. Mary must have known what could happen to her when Joseph found out that she was pregnant. She knew that the horror of public scandal might await her. But she trusted God to take care of her. She surrendered herself unconditionally saying, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary did not doubt or question God. She just immediately, humbly, and joyfully submitted to God’s will. Joseph also submitted to God’s will and took Mary to be his wife.

Mary willingly followed Joseph to Bethlehem when it was time for them to enroll in a mandatory census. They knew that God was watching over this holy family.

Christ is born in a stableJesus was born in Bethlehem in a stable. It is a famous story; there was no room at the inn and so Joseph took what shelter was available to him and trusted God to protect his family. A beautiful star appeared in the East. Angels in the skies sang the praises of the newborn King.

Wise men and shepherds visited Jesus with much rejoicing.

However, there was one person who was not happy about the birth of the Savior – King Herod. Herod was intensely jealous and sensed a threat to his throne. He sent the wise men to find out exactly where Jesus was supposedly so that he could worship Jesus. Of course he was lying. The wise men were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. Herod was angry when they did not return and sent soldiers to slay every male child in the vicinity of Bethlehem who was two years old and younger.

Joseph again trusted God to help him take care of this family.

When the magi had gone, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream holy family flees to egyptand said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was till night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. (Matthew 2:13,14)

After Herod died Joseph took Mary and Jesus back to Israel. An equally evil king was ruling in Judea so Joseph didn’t dare take the family there. They settled in Nazareth instead where their Son Jesus, entrusted to them by God, “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40).

child Jesus in NazarethJoseph and Mary were no ordinary parents. Jesus is the Lord. Mary and Joseph understood this and nurtured Jesus as a child while worshiping Him as their Savior.

They clearly had received grace from God for this. They were ordinary people who had been given extraordinary blessings by God.

They had great faith that we should emulate, but let us be careful not to give them the adulation that only belongs to God. They were very humble and would not want anyone to venerate them as some do today. They would point us to Christ. Christ was the object of their worship. Jesus is the One we adore. He is the only One to recognize as Lord and Savior. All of their lives the parents of Jesus directed us to loving God and praising Him for His many blessings to us.

May we all remember the true meaning of the Christmas season. God bless you every one!

 

 

 

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Mary and Joseph Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was with child. 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 2:1-7)

christmas-nativity-wallpapers-1920x1200God bless you all this Christmas! In all of the hustle and bustle take time out to remember that the best gift of all is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Take time to explain to your children that giving is better than getting.

  1. Find an activity for them to do where they will make and give something away.
  2. Encourage them to spend some of their allowance on a toy for an underprivileged child. Many groups are collecting for the poor.
  3. They can put coins in their pockets and put them in the Salvation Army buckets wherever they see the Bell Ringers.
  4. Try and find time to read them good stories about the real meaning of Christmas.

It is so sad to see that the children in our culture are selfish and grasping. They will be more and more miserable as they grow up. In actual fact, giving is what gives true joy and happiness. So this week, I have included one of many great Christmas stories about the true meaning of Christmas. You can go online to “americanliterature.com” to find many more great stories.

Here is one of my favorites:

Papa Panov’s Special Christmaspapa_panov_title

This wonderful Christmas story was translated into English by Leo Tolstoy. The original story was written in French by Ruben Saillens and shows us the true meaning of Christmas.

It is based on a verse from the Bible:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” (Matthew 25:35)

christmas lightsIt was Christmas Eve and although it was still afternoon, lights had begun to appear in the shops and houses of the little Russian village, for the short winter day was nearly over. Excited children scurried indoors and now only muffled sounds of chatter and laughter escaped from closed shutters.

Old Papa Panov, the village shoemaker, stepped outside his shop to take one last look around. The sounds of happiness, the bright lights and the faint but delicious smells of Christmas cooking reminded him of past Christmas times when his wife had still been alive and his own children little. Now they had gone. His usually cheerful face, with the little laughter wrinkles behind the round steel spectacles, looked sad now. But he went back indoors with a firm step, put up the shutters and set a pot of coffee to heat on the charcoal stove. Then, with a sigh, he settled in his big armchair.

Papa Panov did not often read, but tonight he pulled down the big old family Bible and, slowly tracing the lines with one forefinger, he read again the Christmas story. He read how Mary and Joseph, tired by their journey to Bethlehem, found no room for them at the inn, so that Mary’s little baby was born in the cowshed.

“Oh, dear, oh, dear!” exclaimed Papa Panov, “if only they had come here! I would have given them my bed and I could have covered the baby with my patchwork quilt to keep him warm.”

He read on about the wise men who had come to see the baby Jesus, bringing him splendid gifts. Papa Panov’s face fell. “I have no gift that I could give him,” he thought sadly.

Then his face brightened. He put down the Bible, got up and stretched his long arms to the shelf high up in his little room. He took down a small, dusty box and opened it. Inside was a perfect pair of tiny leather shoes. Papa Panov smiled with satisfaction. Yes, they were as good as he had remembered- the best shoes he had ever made. “I should give him those,” he decided, as he gently put them away and sat down again.

SHOEMAKER-1
He was feeling tired now, and the further he read the sleeper he became. The print began to dance before his eyes so that he closed them, just for a minute. In no time at all Papa Panov was fast asleep.

And as he slept he dreamed. He dreamed that someone was in his room and he knew at once, as one does in dreams, who the person was. It was Jesus.

“You have been wishing that you could see me, Papa Panov.” he said kindly, “then look for me tomorrow. It will be Christmas Day and I will visit you. But look carefully, for I shall not tell you who I am.”

When at last Papa Panov awoke, the bells were ringing out and a thin light was filtering through the shutters. “Bless my soul!” said Papa Panov. “It’s Christmas Day!”

He stood up and stretched himself for he was rather stiff. Then his face filled with happiness as he remembered his dream. This would be a very special Christmas after all, for Jesus was coming to visit him. How would he look? Would he be a little baby, as at that first Christmas? Would he be a grown man, a carpenter- or the great King that he is, God’s Son? He must watch carefully the whole day through so that he recognized him however he came.

Papa Panov put on a special pot of coffee for his Christmas breakfast, took down the shutters, and looked out of the window. The street was deserted; no one was stirring yet. That is no one except the road sweeper. He looked as miserable and dirty as ever, and well he might! Whoever wanted to work on Christmas Day – and in the raw cold and bitter freezing mist of such a morning?

Papa Panov opened the shop door, letting in a thin stream of cold air. “Come in!” he shouted across the street cheerily. “Come in and have some hot coffee to keep out the cold!”

The sweeper looked up, scarcely able to believe his ears. He was only too glad to put down his broom and come into the warm room. His old clothes steamed gently in the heat of the stove and he clasped both red hands round the comforting warm mug as he drank.

Papa Panov watched him with satisfaction, but every now and then his eyes strayed to the window. It would never do to miss his special visitor.

“Expecting someone?” the sweeper asked at last. So Papa Panov told him about his dream.

“Well, I hope he comes,” the sweeper said, “You’ve given me a bit of Christmas cheer I never expected to have. I’d say you deserve to have your dream come true.” And he actually smiled.

When he had gone, Papa Panov put on cabbage soup for his dinner, then went to the door again, scanning the street. He saw no one. But he was mistaken. Someone was coming.

The girl walked so slowly and quietly, hugging the walls of shops and houses that it was a while before he noticed her. She looked very tired and she was carrying something. As she drew nearer he could see that it was a baby, wrapped in a thin shawl. There was such sadness in her face and in the pinched little face of the baby that Papa Panov’s heart went out to them.

“Won’t you come in,” he called, stepping outside to meet them. “You both need a warm by the fire and a rest.”

The young mother let him shepherd her indoors and to the comfort of the armchair. She gave a big sigh of relief.

“I’ll warm some milk for the baby,” Papa Panov said, “I’ve had children of my own- I can feed her for you.” He took the milk from the stove and carefully fed the baby from a spoon, warming her tiny feet by the stove at the same time.

“She needs shoes,” the cobbler said.

But the girl replied, “I can’t afford shoes, I’ve got no husband to bring home money. I’m on my way to the next village to get work.”

Sudden thought flashed through Papa Panov’s mind. He remembered the little shoes he had looked at last night. But he had been keeping those for Jesus. He looked again at the cold little feet and made up his mind.

babyshoes“Try these on her,” he said, handing the baby and the shoes to the mother. The beautiful little shoes were a perfect fit. The girl smiled happily and the baby gurgled with pleasure.

“You have been so kind to us,” the girl said, when she got up with her baby to go. “May all your Christmas wishes come true!”

But Papa Panov was beginning to wonder if his very special Christmas wish would come true. Perhaps he had missed his visitor? He looked anxiously up and down the street. There were plenty of people about but they were all faces that he recognized. There were neighbors going to call on their families. They nodded and smiled and wished him Happy Christmas! Or beggars- and Papa Panov hurried indoors to fetch them hot soup and a generous hunk of bread, hurrying out again in case he missed the Important Stranger.

All too soon the winter dusk fell. When Papa Panov next went to the door and strained his eyes, he could no longer make out the passers-by. Most were home and indoors by now anyway. He walked slowly back into his room at last, put up the shutters, and sat down wearily in his armchair.

So it had been just a dream after all. Jesus had not come.

Then all at once he knew that he was no longer alone in the room.

This was not dream for he was wide awake. At first he seemed to see before his eyes the long stream of people who had come to him that day. He saw again the old road sweeper, the young mother and her baby and the beggars he had fed. As they passed, each whispered, “Didn’t you see me, Papa Panov?”

“Who are you?” he called out, bewildered.

Then another voice answered him. It was the voice from his dream- the voice of Jesus.

“I was hungry and you fed me,” he said. “I was naked and you clothed me. I was cold and you warmed me. I came to you today in everyone of those you helped and welcomed.”

Then all was quiet and still. There was only the sound of the big clock ticking. A great peace and happiness seemed to fill the room, overflowing Papa Panov’s heart until he wanted to burst out singing and laughing and dancing with joy.

“So he did come after all!” was all that he said.

God bless you all and Merry Christmas! May the true meaning of Christmas remain in your hearts forever.

 

 

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For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;nativity of Christ
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

As we take time to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, let us also be thankful for the many blessings we have received.

Yes, our earthly government seems bent on making life miserable for us: socialized health insurance that is twice as much money and will deliver dubious benefits; invasions of our privacy as we travel; taxes skyrocketing; government subsidized banksters getting richer and richer while the average person cannot get a mortgage; women being victimized whether through human trafficking or being killed in the womb; and so much more. One might ask, “What is there to be thankful for?”

And yet, believe it or not, we still live in one of the wealthiest and freest countries in the world. We are still benefitting from the Christian foundation that our country has. No other country in the world was specifically begun with a Christian base. Our forefathers and foremothers wanted America to be a “City on a Hill and a Light Shining in the Darkness”. Our country was that for many years. It has fallen a great way down, but there is still hope.

Whether the government officials will admit it or not, Christ is still on His throne. He is still our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” As we celebrate His birth, His first appearance, we also long for His Second Coming.

In the meantime, we are thankful for what we have. This Christmas we can follow in Christ’s footsteps in bringing joy and peace to others. As you look around you at all of your material blessings, think about others who have few or none. What better way to celebrate the birth of the One Who came to bring peace and justice to the world than to share what we have with others.

There really isn’t any more wonderful feeling in the world than witnessing the joy of someone who has been given something unexpected. Isn’t that why we enjoy giving so much?

If you have run out of ideas for giving to the poor, here are some for you:

1.  Pray for those who are being persecuted in other countries. There are Christians in other countries who must celebrate the birth of the Savior in secret, if they are even able to get together to worship Him at all.

Nigeria:tabitha fundIn Nigeria for example, the Christians have been persecuted by the Islamic government. Muslims are allowed to kill Christians with very little repercussions. Followers of Islam can destroy churches, even burning them down with the Christians inside of them, without fear of arrest. The Christians practice their non-violent faith and do not retaliate. Because of this many have been killed and many have fled to other countries as refugees.

In Nigeria, where many Christian parents have been killed, a Christian organization has started an orphanage to take care of the children. It is called “The Tabitha Project” and you can donate to it if you wish. Groups such as Jubilee Campaign are working with the refugees. To find out more go to: http://www.jublieecampaign.org.

2.  Many cities have some time of Gospel Mission organization. Union Gospel meetUGM-580x300Mission exists in many large cities, including Salem, Oregon for example. If you wish to share the love of Christ in a more personal way you can get involved with such a Simonka Placemission. The rescued men and women need help in the form of prayers, meals, and friendship. You can show the love of Christ, Who “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8 Our Savior mingled with the poor and the downtrodden. This Christmas you have an opportunity to do the same.

3.  Every community has a food bank. As you are shopping for your own treats pick up some extra for those who are struggling just to pay their bills.

There are so many ways to show our thanks at this time. We are so thankful to God for sending His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The best way to prove how thankful we are is to share with others.

Have a blessed Christmas!

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