Love Came Down at Christmas

Today’s verse is very familiar. Most people have heard it, even those who are not Believers. Our verse today is John 3:16. Almost everyone has memorized this verse, and I think it has become so familiar that we don’t even think about the significance of it. We rattle it off, not even thinking about how wondrous it is. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NASB) Most people wouldn’t associate this verse with Christmas, but it ties in more than we may realize.

When I was a teenager, I sang in our Christmas Cantatas at church every Christmas. It was a family tradition. My parents, when he was old enough, my brother, and I. My sister wasn’t old enough to participate, and at the time, she wasn’t interested. I come from a musical family. My parents started their teaching careers as music teachers, my uncle was a band director for elementary and high school, my aunt played many instruments, including the organ at her church. My grandmother played piano for her church. Many times, my parents and I would sing trios for special music at church. When I married my first husband, we would do quartets with my folks. So, music is very important to me, especially Christian music.

One Christmas Cantata we did had a song called, “Love Came Down at Christmas.” It told of how God sent Jesus, His Son, to be born as a baby, to live, and to die on a cross, because of His great love for us. If it wasn’t for the virgin birth of Jesus, there would be no Easter, and without Easter, there would be no need for Christmas. The cross and the manger are tied together.

In my Bible Journaling, I love how the name of Jesus is written in the form of a cross. It’s part of a kit in this series, and I felt it was fitting to include it in the manger scene. God so loved that Jesus came. He came, not as a King with great fanfare, but He came as a baby, someone who entered this world in the most unassuming way. Only a few knew Who He was.

I think sometimes, we leave Him in the manger as a little baby and forget that He grew up to be a man, a man who would die for the world, as a sacrifice for our sins. He lived a sinless life, showed us how to live, taught us about God’s character, and above all, He loved us “with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

I’m so glad that He didn’t stay that baby in a manger. I’m glad that He lived and walked on this earth, experienced the things we do, knows and understands our thoughts, our feelings, our struggles, and our joys. I’m so grateful for His sacrifice for our sins; I’m grateful for His forgiveness, and I’m grateful for His love. Love Came Down at Christmas!

Christmas Hope

As we continue to look at Christmas, today we look at the hope that Christmas brings to us. Isaiah 9:6 is a familiar passage for us. It has been spoken in countless church Christmas programs by shining little faces acting out the Christmas story. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah some 700 years before it was fulfilled. The Jewish people had hope that God was going to step into their lives and rescue them.

Jews today are still looking for the Messiah. What they don’t realize is, He already has come. Two thousand years ago He came in a way they weren’t expecting, and so they missed it. They are still in hope of seeing the Messiah come, they look for His coming. As Born-Again Believers, we have seen that Hope realized in our lives. Jesus came to earth as a baby born in a stable to common people. He didn’t come as a King. The Jews were looking for a grand entrance with lots of fanfare. Jesus came quietly, in a small town, with no fanfare except for a chorus of angels telling of His birth to lowly shepherds on a country hill looking after their sheep.

He lived a simple life, preached to those who would hear about what His purpose for being there was, showing them how to live, who God was, who HE was, and then fulfilled His purpose by becoming a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the whole world. He came to be the Savior of the world and provide the hope of eternal salvation for everyone. That hope is still available today.

Jesus invites each one of us to tap into that hope by accepting His free gift of salvation. He loves us so much that He wants us to become part of His family. He wants to provide for us, not just physical or financial things, but He wants to provide eternal life, He wants to provide to us eternal blessings.

That is the greatest hope we can ever have! The hope of eternal salvation! The hope of having a Friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), the hope of walking with Him daily, the hope of a love greater than we could ever imagine, the hope that our lives will be full of joy, peace, and grace. These things can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Life in this world is hard, that’s a fact. However, Jesus can help us in those times when it seems life is smacking us down. He can give us hope that He knows what’s going on, hope that this will not last forever and that He has a plan for our lives, and it’s a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11). When we feel as if we can’t take one more step, He will carry us.

He will provide blessings that will overwhelm us. In those times, He will rejoice with us. The joy of His presence, of experiencing His blessings, of finding the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is one of the greatest gifts He gives us. Jesus is God’s gift to us! How we love Him for providing such an amazing gift! That is the Christmas Hope we have.

If you haven’t asked Jesus to be your Savior, ask Him to come into your heart and life, confess your sins, and make a conscious decision to live for Him. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. You will then have that Hope!

Have You Any Room?

Today I want to continue with the verse we studied yesterday, Luke 2:7, “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.” (NASB) Yesterday we talked about celebrating Jesus’ birth. Today I want to focus on the last part of this verse. As I explained yesterday, Mary and Joseph had to take refuge in a stable because there was no room at the inn for them, even though Mary was about to give birth.

Because of the census being taken, every inn was completely full in Bethlehem. How unsettling that must have been for Mary and Joseph. I can relate! Back in the 1990s, my first husband, Allen, and I went on a “driving vacation.” We only had a week and we decided to head from Montana down to Las Vegas, through Arizona, New Mexico, and back to Montana. Allen wasn’t one for making reservations in advance, much to my dismay. We managed fine until we got to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was something like 2:00 in the morning, we couldn’t find any motels that had rooms within a 100-mile radius, because, much to our surprise, the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival was taking place and every hotel, motel, and camping spot was taken. We found a motel in a not so good part of town, pulled in, and the counter clerk said they had no rooms available, especially since we had brought our dogs with us. Then, he said, “I have a room that you may be able to take.” He took us to this room, and there on the floor was someone’s suitcase. I said, “This room is already taken.” Then he took us to another room, and it was like the room from Hell! It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months. Dirt was everywhere, it had a kitchenette and the refrigerator had spoiled food in it, the bathroom was dirty, and the bed looked like someone had been sleeping in it. On top of that, there were people out in the parking lot that I could swear were doing drug deals. Needless to say, we left our dogs in the car! I told Allen to bring our sleeping bags in and lay them on the bed because there was no way I was getting into that bed between the sheets! The kicker to it all was the name of the motel…Desert Oasis! Wow!

As bad as that was, Mary and Joseph had it worse. They ended up in a stable full of smelly, dirty animals, and that was where Jesus was born. What a way for the Savior of the world to come into the world! No one had any room for Him! It has been that way ever since! When He walked this earth teaching and preaching, He was rejected by His own people. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of His day, called Him a blasphemer and plotted to kill Him. What they didn’t realize is that He was God’s Son, come to save the world from sin, to die on a cross willingly as a sacrifice for sins, past, present, and future. He then rose from the grave to be victorious over death and the grave and ascended back into Heaven.

Down through the centuries people have rejected Jesus, not making any room for Him in their hearts. They think that doing good deeds, or “not being as bad as the next guy” will get them into Heaven and save their sins. But the Bible says that we must accept Jesus as our Savior and ask Him to forgive us of our sins, and then allow Him to have complete control over our lives. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (NASB) Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (NASB) Romans 6:23 tells us, “But the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we can not be saved by our works. We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. “For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” (KJV) Only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ can we become new creatures, have our sins forgiven, and gain eternal life. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” When we ask Jesus into our hearts and lives, He forgives us, cleanses us from all our sins, and then He desires to fellowship with us. He wants a relationship with us.

If you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, this Season of celebrating His birth is a perfect time. Make room for Him in your heart. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He will walk with you every day.

Happy Birthday Jesus!

I’ve been gone from my blog for a couple of months while my eyes heal from cataract surgery, and I must confess, I have missed our times together. I miss most, the time spent in Bible Journaling. I had good intentions of trying to do a combination of a study on the light of God and Thanksgiving, but it was just too much for my eyes. So, I’m going to start with Christmas. Today we’re going to start at the very beginning…the birth of Jesus! The second chapter of Luke recounts the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. We will study Luke 2:7, “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.” (NASB)

I haven’t had the joy of bearing children. However, when my sister gave birth to her three children, I saw the joy and love pouring out of her. It was like, she couldn’t believe she could love a little person so much! My niece and nephews’ births were so different from the birth of Jesus. My sister was in a nice, clean hospital surrounded by a doctor and nurses. Jesus was born in a stable. If you have never been in a barn, trust me, it is anything but spotless! Animals are dirty, they have smells all their own, and it is an unpleasant place. It is most definitely not a sterile environment like a hospital.

Mary and Joseph had no choice. They had been told by the angel that they would have God’s Son. I wonder if they expected His birth to be different than it turned out to be. King Herod had ordered a census to be taken and each person was to go to their birth town to be counted, in Joseph’s case, that was Bethlehem. There were no cars in which to travel, Mary being fully nine months pregnant and close to her time to give birth, had to ride on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. One source I found said that it is a 70 to 80-mile journey depending on which route they took. The source said that one route took them through Samaria, which the Jews avoided at all costs because the Jews and Samaritans didn’t like each other at all, and so Joseph most likely took the longer route. Seeing as they traveled with a donkey, the journey could have taken at least 10 days. Imagine riding on a donkey for 10 days and be very close to having a baby. That could not have been comfortable at all.

When they got to Bethlehem, every inn was completely full. By this time Mary was in full-blown labor and about to give birth. The situation was dire. They needed a place to stay, and they needed it right now! All the innkeeper could offer was the stable behind the inn. A place where the animals were kept. A smelly, dirty barn! When Mary gave birth to Jesus, the only place she could lay him was in a manger…a feed trough for the animals. Not a very clean place for a baby. This was not just any baby, this was God’s Son! There was no castle, no fanfare, just a quiet birth in a barn, and the world didn’t even know the Son of God was born. The only celebration came when the Shepherds came and worshipped Him, and that was low-key.

In today’s world, we celebrate Christmas, but it has become more about getting gifts than celebrating the birthday of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The world dismisses Him. They are all about Santa Claus and what he is bringing, and they ignore the greatest gift given to mankind in the history of the world. They have taken Jesus out of Christmas and He is the very reason we celebrate! He came to earth as a baby for the divine purpose of becoming our sacrifice for our sins. The world has no birthday parties for Jesus, no one sings Happy Birthday to Him. As we enter the Christmas season, let’s stop to remember WHY we celebrate. Stop and wish Jesus Happy Birthday and give Him the best gift you can give Him…yourself!

A Thankful Heart

For the past week or so, I’ve not been posting because I had cataract surgery on my right eye, and I need to let it heal. Today I decided to try Bible Journaling, and I’m finding that I may need to wait a while longer. I will be having the other done in a week, so I may be out of service for a couple more weeks or so. With that said, I need to finish our devotion to how we can be the light, and we will be working on being grateful for this month. I want to try and incorporate both of those thoughts this month somehow.

For today though, we will look at I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We need to have grateful hearts. There are so many things for which we can give God praise and thanks. Even during times of distress, there are things for which we can be grateful. As I was doing my Bible Journaling page, I listed a few things for which I am thankful that God has given me. I am so grateful for my husband. He came at the right time in my life. He ended a time of darkness in my life. God knew I needed him then, and He blessed me with another wonderful man of God! I have been so blessed to have two husbands who were/are in ministry with a heart after God. The time between them was a period of grief and darkness, but as our verse tells us today, we are to rejoice always…even in the darkness.

I am also thankful for the talent He has given me in music. I am so grateful to be able to be part of the Worship Team at my church. I find it a blessing to express my gratefulness, love, and devotion to Him through my singing and playing. I can use the talent He has given me for His glory.

Most of all I am thankful for His salvation. His grace is above and beyond anything I can even imagine. He loved me before I loved Him! He sought me out and drew me to Himself because He wanted a relationship with me. As I look at my Bible Journaling page, it kind of looks like a bit of a mess, but then I remember, He takes my mess and makes it something beautiful and for that, He gets the glory!

Our verse says we also are to pray unceasingly! Now, that doesn’t mean that we are in constant prayer, unable to do anything but pray. No, we are to be in an attitude of prayer daily. Our thoughts should be in a conversation with our Lord and Master throughout the day. In that way, we keep our relationship with God strong. It helps us to hear His voice, we become familiar to His still, small, voice even when constant chaos and noise is around us. As we listen to His leading and we spend time with Him, as we’ve been discussing, we can then allow His light to shine in and through us, drawing others to Him. As we go about our day doing the things we must do, our attitude should be that of being in contact with Him, seeking His will and asking what would give Him glory and honor.

Our verse today also goes on to say that we are to give thanks in everything! That includes times when nothing is going right. My husband is teaching me to praise God even when we don’t get what we prayed for, or when things are falling apart. He daily says, “Thank you God for this difficulty. I don’t understand why things went this way, but I give you praise for it anyway.” He is an example of giving thanks in everything. I admire him for being the example I need to see. I’m not one to say thank you for hard times, for the most part, and I need to learn how to honestly say thank you at that moment. What I notice about our verse is, it is God’s will for us to be thankful even in times of distress.

Even though this is the time of year that we are more conscious about being grateful, it is not just at Thanksgiving that we are to be thankful, it is for every day of our lives. When we show gratitude, it also allows God’s light to shine out to a dark world that needs to see a clear pathway to salvation and life.

Jesus is the Light – Reflect It

As we continue our study on Jesus being the light, our Bible Journaling verse today is John 8:12, “Then spake Jesus unto them saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’” (KJV) When we think of light, the first thing we think of is how light illuminates, it shows hidden things, it drives out darkness, it exposes things not seen in the dark.

Spiritually, when we come to ask Jesus to be our Savior, He exposes our sin. We know we are imperfect against His perfection. We are walking in darkness. Once we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, He shines His light in us. We become the vessel for His light to shine through. Jesus also says that when we follow Him, we will walk in the light. Jesus illuminates the pathway He has prepared for us. As we walk with Jesus and bask in His light, He also wants us to be a light to others around us. We are to be the vessel through which His light shines so that others will see and be drawn to Him.

I don’t often start a conversation with someone about Jesus. I’ve witnessed to people when the conversation turned to “religion” and then had the opportunity to share with them how Jesus has affected my life. I knew someone who was kind of the “in your face” type of person when they were witnessing. It was offensive to a lot of people. It made them want to avoid that person. I tend to witness by the way I live my life. I want to reflect that light that Jesus is shining in me. I want people to see that there is something different in me and ask me what it is that makes me different. I am currently in discussions periodically with a friend I’ve known for many years who doesn’t want to hear anything about God. He once let me know in no uncertain terms that he was offended by the fact that I was a Christian. The funny thing about it is, I had not said anything to him about being a Believer, yet he knew I was. When he sees me share something on Facebook about Jesus, he will usually make a comment and then we will have a thread that will go back and forth for several posts. I keep praying he will come to know Jesus, and that something I have said or shared will hit him in a way that he finally comes to know the peace, joy, love, and eternal life I’ve found by asking Jesus to be my Savior.

When we reflect the light of Jesus in our lives, those who are unbelievers, walking in the darkness of sin, notice it. They see the peace Jesus gives. They see the steadfastness we have even in difficult circumstances. They see not just happiness, but true joy in our lives. I Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (ESV) When we allow Jesus to shine through us and we reflect His light, people will notice. Jesus also told us that our lives should be such that others see Jesus so that He is given glory. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)

Reflecting the light of Jesus in our lives gives Him glory. He is given the honor He is due, and it gives Him an opportunity to speak to the lives of those around us through the reflection of His light in us. We are the vessel through which He shines. We need to be intentional about allowing His light to shine through us. Today, be the light in someone’s life that will draw them to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The Lord is My Light

As we look at how God is our light, our Bible verse is Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (KJV) I think of the different ways God is our light. The first thing I think of as I look at my Bible Journaling page is, I misspelled the word “light”. So, God illuminates our mistakes or sins, the things we struggle with. He does this because He knows we are not perfect, and we need His help to become who He wants us to become.

There are so many things I need help with in my life, and I am grateful that He is always available to help me, to put the light on my failings so that I can work on them. It is our job, once He shines that light on our frailties, to do something about them. If we are to live a victorious Christian life, we must work on fixing what is broken. We are to do what we can do, and then let God take care of the rest.

Another thing I see in our Bible verse is that God is our salvation. Without Him and His plan for our lives (the plan of salvation), we are lost. We wander aimlessly in life without a direction. His light guides us, His salvation saves us from ourselves and from what Satan would do to us.

I also see in our verse that there is nothing or no one of whom we need to be afraid. He is our protector. Isaiah 59:19 says, “So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” (KJV) The Holy Spirit will put a hedge of protection around us to keep the arrows of the enemy from hitting its target, namely, us. Does that mean we will never face a battle with the enemy? No, but we have an ally who will help us during the battle.

I also see in our verse that God is the strength of our lives. He is the one who gives us the strength to endure during hard times. Because of this, we have no reason to be fearful. Romans 8:31 tells us that if God is for us, who can against us? Therefore, we don’t need to fear man or circumstances or anything because God is on our side.

Fear comes in the dark. We can walk down a street in the daytime and not be fearful. But we can walk down that same street at night, especially one that is not well-lit, and we become fearful because we can not see our surroundings. God is our light in life. When we find ourselves walking a pathway in life that is dark, we can be fearful. But when we have God lighting our path, we have no reason to fear because we know He is walking right beside us.

I am so grateful for God’s light in my life. His salvation, leading, protection, correction, and the strength He gives help me become the woman He wants me to be. I encourage you to seek out His light in your life. Then you also can say, “The Lord is my light and salvation; whom shall I fear?”