Merry Christmas!

Days of Praise

Thanks for the Greatest Gift
by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. | Dec. 25, 2017
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
We who have known and sought to follow the Lord for many years have received many, many blessings for which to thank Him. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19), we can pray again and again.
But there is one blessing that is so great that it cannot even be put into words—it is unspeakable! That gift is so great that when we try to comprehend it, the sense of awe and gratitude becomes so overwhelming (or at least should become so overwhelming) that our joy is also unspeakable—indescribable! That gift, of course, is the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior, “whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, . . . ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
It is significant that the Greek word translated “unspeakable” occurs only these two times in the entire New Testament. God’s unspeakable gift to us produces unspeakable joy in us. We who deserve nothing but eternal separation from God in hell, instead will enjoy eternal life with God in heaven, and all because of that amazing and truly inexpressible gift!
To think that the mighty Creator, God the Son, would not only humble Himself to become His own creature, man, but then also suffer the unimaginable agony of the cross and separation from God the Father in order to deliver us from the just penalty of sin! This act speaks of such love and grace that all we can do is whisper softly, “Thank you, Lord, for this unspeakable gift,” and then shout it over and over again in our hearts wherever we go and share its unspeakable joy and blessing with whomever will listen to its message. “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Psalm 126:3). Thank you, Lord! HMM

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Our Daily Bread

Traditions and Christmas

Traditions and Christmas
December 25, 2017

Read: Luke 2:1–10 | Bible in a Year: Zephaniah 1–3; Revelation 16

I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you. Luke 2:10–11
As you savor a candy cane this Christmas, say “danke schön” to the Germans, for that confectionary treat was first created in Cologne. As you admire your poinsettia, say “gracias” to Mexico, where the plant originated. Say “merci beaucoup” to the French for the term noel, and give a “cheers” to the English for your mistletoe.
But as we enjoy our traditions and festivities of the Christmas season—customs that have been collected from around the world—let’s save our most sincere and heartfelt “thank you” for our good, merciful, and loving God. From Him came the reason for our Christmas celebration: the baby born in that Judean manger more than 2,000 years ago. An angel announced the arrival of this gift to mankind by saying, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10–11).
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13
This Christmas, even in the light of the sparkling Christmas tree and surrounded by newly opened presents, the true excitement comes when we turn our attention to the baby named Jesus, who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). His birth transcends tradition: It is our central focus as we send praises to God for this indescribable Christmas gift.
Lord, we thank You for coming to join us on that first Christmas. During a time of the year filled with many traditions, help us to keep You first.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13
By Dave Branon | See Other Authors

INSIGHT
The angel Gabriel told Mary, “[Jesus] will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32–33). The angel who appeared to Joseph said, “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. . . . [Y]ou are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20–21). Mary and Joseph knew Jesus would be the Messiah, and as faithful Jews they would have known the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Perhaps when Joseph was ordered to Bethlehem for the census he thought, So that’s how God is going to get us to Bethlehem!
How does reflecting on the miraculous events that led to the birth of Jesus fill you with renewed awe and wonder?
Adapted from Mystery of the Manger by John Greco. Read more at discoveryseries.org/hp161.

 

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The Hope of Christmas | Day 10: One Size Fits All ~ Our Daily Bread Ministries

The Hope of Christmas

One Size Fits All
By: Joe Stowell
Today’s Reading: John 3:10–21
Everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16
Like most children, I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas. With great anticipation, I would snoop under the tree to see what toys and games awaited my eager grasp. So I felt deflated when I started getting things like shirts and pants. Grownup gifts were no fun! Then last Christmas, my kids gave me some cool socks with bright colors and designs. I almost felt young again! Even grownups could wear these socks, as the label reassured me: “One size fits all.”
That welcome phrase “one size fits all” reminds me of the best gift of Christmas—the good news that Jesus is for everyone. The point was proven when the first invitation sent by angel choirs was to shepherds on the bottom rung of the social ladder. The news was underscored further when the VIPs—the wealthy and powerful Magi—followed the star to come and worship the Christ-child.
After Jesus began His ministry, an influential member of the Jewish ruling council came to Him at night. In the course of their conversation, Jesus invited “everyone who believes” to come to Him. The simple act of faith in Christ grants eternal life to those who trust in Him (John 3:16).
If Jesus were only for the poor and marginalized, or only for the famous and well-to-do, many of us would not qualify. But Christ is for everyone, regardless of status, financial situation, or social standing. He is the only gift truly fit for all.

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A Thrill of Hope    ~    Our Daily Bread

A Thrill of Hope

A Thrill of Hope
December 24, 2017

Read: Luke 2:11–20 | Bible in a Year: Habakkuk 1–3; Revelation 15

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11
Reginald Fessenden had been working for years to achieve wireless radio communication. Other scientists found his ideas radical and unorthodox, and doubted he would succeed. But he claims that on December 24, 1906, he became the first person to ever play music over the radio.
Fessenden held a contract with a fruit company which had installed wireless systems on roughly a dozen boats to communicate about the harvesting and marketing of bananas. That Christmas Eve, Fessenden said that he told the wireless operators on board all ships to pay attention. At 9 o’clock they heard his voice.
Without Christ there is no hope. Charles Spurgeon
He reportedly played a record of an operatic aria, and then he pulled out his violin, playing “O Holy Night” and singing the words to the last verse as he played. Finally, he offered Christmas greetings and read from Luke 2 the story of angels announcing the birth of a Savior to shepherds in Bethlehem.
Both the shepherds in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago and the sailors on board the United Fruit Company ships in 1906 heard an unexpected, surprising message of hope on a dark night. And God still speaks that same message of hope to us today. A Savior has been born for us—Christ the Lord! (Luke 2:11). We can join the choir of angels and believers through the ages who respond with “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (v. 14).
God, we give You glory and thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior!
Without Christ there is no hope. Charles Spurgeon
By Amy Peterson | See Other Authors

INSIGHT
Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ is a study in contrasts. We are introduced to the Son of God in the weakness of an infant, while powerful world rulers play their part in moving the family to the city of David. The shepherds were likely guarding temple flocks that would supply the sacrificial system at Jerusalem’s temple. Yet though they were treated as unclean by the religionists of their day, they are invited into the presence of the ultimate Sacrifice. From the humble to the heavenly and everything in between, these contrasts launch the journey of the Son who came from the highest place to be the Lamb of God.
In what way does the coming of Jesus touch your heart?
For further study download the brochure “10 Reasons to Believe God Offers the Perfect Gift” at discoveryseries.org/perfectgift.
Bill Crowder

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “O Little Town of Bethlehem” ~ December 23 2017

Written By Prophecy In The News

 The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

 

December 23, 2017

 He was a dynamic pulpiter. He would preach at a rate of 250 words per minute. In thirty-five to forty minutes, he could deliver a sermon that would take the average minister an hour. His preaching was topical rather than expositional. There were times when he was criticized for his lack of depth in doctrine. However, he is recognized as one of America’s greatest preachers.
He had only been in the ministry six years when he was asked to preach the final rites over President Abraham Lincoln.
His ministry was also characterized by his love for children. Brooks’ study was filled with many scholarly books, papers, and journals, but it also held toys and dolls for his little friends, whom he always gave time for play.

 

He took the words to the church organist, Lewis Redner, and asked him to write a tune for his simple carol. Brooks wanted the children to sing the carol. Brooks wanted the children to sing the carol the next Sunday, which was Christmas Day. Brooks told Redner if he would compose a good melody he would name it after him. Redner gave much thought to the carol and tune all week long but the inspiration would not come. On Christmas Eve, he went to bed without a melody. Very late in the night, he was awakened by what he called an “angel strain” singing the melody he was to put with the carol. Early on Christmas morning, he found himself filling out the harmony for the carol. Lewis Redner said many times that the melody was a “gift from heaven.” Thirty-six children and six Sunday School teachers sang the carol for the first time on that Christmas morning in 1868, proving once again God never comes too late with too little; Brooks named the tune after his organist. To keep from embarrassing Redner, he changed his first name “Lewis” to “Louis” and called it “St. Louis.” The carol was printed in leaflets and was used locally. Then in 1874, William R. Huntington first published it in Church Porch. It has become one of the best-loved Christmas hymns in the English language.
Phillip Brooks was made Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts in 1891. Two years later, he died in Boston at the age of fifty-seven. Brooks has been called a great preacher. He has been referred to as having a “princely form towering… as a giant.” Probably the best description of Brooks’ was given by one of his five-year-old “little friends.” When told that her big friend had gone to heaven, she replied, “How happy the angels will be.”

 

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together,
Proclaim the holy birth,
And praised sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth!
How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
Be born in us today,
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel!
Source: “Song of Christmas” and the stories behind them – by Tommy and Renee Pierce (Copyright 2008)

The Hope of Christmas | Day 9: Reclaiming the Lost ~ Our Daily Bread Ministries

The Hope of Christmas

The Hope of Christmas | Day 9: Reclaiming the Lost
By: Joe Stowell
Today’s Reading: Luke 19:1–10
The Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.
Luke 19:10

A few years ago, a friend of mine lost track of her young son while walking through a swarm of people at Union Station in Chicago. Needless to say, it was a terrifying experience. Frantically, she yelled his name and ran back up the escalator, retracing her steps in an effort to find her little boy. The minutes of separation seemed like hours, until, suddenly—thankfully—her son emerged from the crowd and ran to the safety of her arms.
Thinking of my friend who would have given anything to find her child fills me with a renewed sense of gratitude that God did everything in His power to seek and save us. From the time God’s first image bearers—Adam and Eve—wandered off in sin, He lamented the loss of fellowship with His people. He did everything in His power to restore the relationship, ultimately sending His one and only Son “to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10). Without the birth of Jesus, and without His willingness to die to pay the price for our sin and to reunite lost souls to God, we would have nothing to celebrate at Christmastime.
So, this Christmas, let’s be thankful that God took extreme measures by sending Jesus to reclaim our fellowship with Him. Although we once were lost, because of Jesus we have been found!

Christmas is about God taking extreme measures to reclaim the lost.

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December 23, 2017

Our Daily Bread

God with Us

God with Us

Our Daily Bread

God with Us
December 23, 2017

Read: Matthew 1:18–23
Bible in a Year: Nahum 1–3; Revelation 14

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.—Matthew 1:23
“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left . . .” These hymn lyrics, written by the fifth-century Celtic Christian St. Patrick, echo in my mind when I read Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth. They feel like a warm embrace, reminding me that I’m never alone.
Matthew’s account tells us that God dwelling with His people is at the heart of Christmas. Quoting Isaiah’s prophecy of a child who would be called Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isa. 7:14), Matthew points to the ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy—Jesus, the One born by the power of the Holy Spirit to be God with us. This truth is so central that Matthew begins and ends his gospel with it, concluding with Jesus’s words to His disciples: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
St. Patrick’s lyrics remind me that Christ is with believers always through His Spirit living within. When I’m nervous or afraid, I can hold fast to His promises that He will never leave me. When I can’t fall asleep, I can ask Him to give me His peace. When I’m celebrating and filled with joy, I can thank Him for His gracious work in my life.
Jesus, Immanuel—God with us. —Amy Boucher Pye
Father God, thank You for sending Your Son to be God with us. May we experience Your presence this day.
God’s love became Incarnate at Bethlehem.

INSIGHT: We can only imagine the emotions Joseph experienced when he discovered his fiancée was pregnant. But in a dream he was told that Mary’s child was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. In obedience to this divine revelation, Joseph took her as his wife and did not consummate the marriage until she had given birth to the child.
The Father, Son, and Spirit all share in our redemption. God took on human form and came to Earth to live among us. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Spirit now dwells within us (1 Peter 1:11; Gal. 4:6; 1 Cor. 6:19).
How does knowing Christ is present in your life through the ministry of the Holy Spirit encourage you?  Dennis Fisher

Bethlehem TODAY – The Birthplace of Jesus!

Bethlehem TODAY – The Birthplace of Jesus!
November 28 2017
Written by: Prophecy in the News

Bethlehem TODAY – The Birthplace of Jesus!

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Bethlehem TODAY – The Birthplace of Jesus!
November 28 2017
Written by: Prophecy in the News

If you have ever had the opportunity to visit the town of Bethlehem in Israel, you will find that the place where Jesus was born is nothing like you would imagine. Perched on a hill at the edge of the Judaean Desert, Bethlehem is the historical place where Jesus was born “in a manger” and is now preserved by the “Church of the Nativity.” It is considered a major Christian holy site and is one of the oldest surviving Christian churches.
The birth of Jesus is told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
Matthew 1:18-25 – King James Version (KJV)
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.
Luke 2 – King James Version (KJV)
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
According to the Bible, both accounts agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth. According to Luke 2:7 (in the traditional translation), Mary “laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.” However, the Greek can also be rendered, “she laid him in a manger because they had no space in the room” — according to some scholars, they perhaps imagine Jesus being born in a cave. The gospel accounts do not mention a cave, but less than a century later, both Justin Martyr and the Protoevangelium of James say Jesus was born in a cave. Some believe this is reasonable, as many houses in the area are still built in front of a cave. The cave part would have been used for stabling and storage – thus the manger.    justin-martyr

Saint Justin Martyr, (born c. 100, Flavia Neapolis, Palestine [now Nāblus]—died c. 165, Rome [Italy]; feast day June 1), one of the most important of the Greek philosopher-Apologists in the early Christian church. … He spent a considerable time in Rome.

WIKIPEDIA: The Gospel of James, also known as the Infancy Gospel of James or the Protoevangelium of James, is an apocryphal Gospel probably written about AD 145, which expands backward in time the infancy stories contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and presents a narrative concerning the birth and upbringing of Mary herself. It is the oldest source to assert the virginity of Mary not only prior to but during (and after) the birth of Jesus. The document presents itself as written by James: “I, James, wrote this history in Jerusalem.” The purported author is thus James, the brother of Jesus, but scholars have established that the work was not written by the person to whom it is attributed.

History of the Church of the Nativity

church-of-the-nativity

The first evidence of a cave in Bethlehem being venerated as Christ’s birthplace is in the writings of Justin Martyr around 160 AD. The tradition is also attested by Origen and Eusebius in the 3rd century.
In 326, Constantine and his mother St. Helena commissioned a church to be built over the cave. This first church, dedicated on May 31, 339, had an octagonal floor plan and was placed directly above the cave. In the center, a 4-meter-wide hole surrounded by a railing provided a view of the cave. Portions of the floor mosaic survive from this period. St. Jerome lived and worked in Bethlehem from 384 AD, and he was buried in a cave beneath the Church of the Nativity.
The Constantinian church was destroyed by Justinian in 530 AD, who built the much larger church that remains today. The Persians spared it during their invasion in 614 AD because, according to legend, they were impressed by a representation of the Magi — fellow Persians — that decorated the building. This was quoted at a 9th-century synod in Jerusalem to show the utility of religious images.
Muslims prevented the application of Hakim’s decree (1009) ordering the destruction of Christian monuments because, since the time of Omar (639), they had been permitted to use the south transept for worship.
The Crusaders took Jerusalem on 6 June 1009. Baldwin I and II were crowned there, and in an impressive display of tolerance the Franks and Byzantines cooperated in fully redecorating the interior (1165-69). A Greek inscription in the north transept records this event.
The Church of the Nativity was much neglected in the Mamluk and Ottoman periods, but not destroyed. Much of the church’s marble was looted by the Ottomans and now adorns the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. An earthquake in 1834 and a fire in 1869 destroyed the furnishings of the cave, but the church again survived.
In 1847, the theft of the silver star marking the exact site of the Nativity was an ostensible factor in the international crisis over the Holy Places that ultimately led to the Crimean War (1854–56).

 In 1852, shared custody of the church was granted to the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches. The Greeks care for the Grotto of the Nativity.

grotto-1grotto-2grotto-3grotto-4

The Grotto of the Nativity, a rectangular cavern beneath the church, is the Church of the Nativity’s focal point. Entered by a flight of steps by the church altar, this is the cave that has been honored as the site of Christ’s birth since at least the 2nd century.

grotto-6grotto-birthplace-5

A silver star in the floor marks the very spot where Christ is believed to have been born. The star’s Latin inscription reads, “Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ was born — 1717.” The floor is paved in marble, and 15 lamps hang above the star (six belong to the Greeks, five to the Armenians and four to the Latins).
All other furnishings date from after the fire of 1869, except for the bronze gates at the north and south entrances to the Grotto, which are from Justinian’s 6th-century church.

Note:  I was in Israel just after Christmas in 1987, exactly thirty years ago from writing this.  I was inside the Church Of The Nativity and toured this holy site.  I agree totally with the above article that the early church historians, led by Justin Martyr in 160 A.D., and followed by Origen, Eusebius and others, give this site the best credence as the genuine place where Christ was born.   Merry Christmas, Pastor Steve  <><

 

Key The Following Link From The Southern Baptist WMU, For A Celebration Of Christ’s Birth:

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https://wmu.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=75b53a89cb51c58debcd56a81&id=94a86b59f4&e=38daae5135

The Hope of Christmas | Day 8 ~ Our Daily Bread Ministries

The Hope of Christmas | Day 8: A Fragile Gift

The Hope of Christmas

The Hope of Christmas | Day 8: A Fragile Gift

Our Daily Bread Ministries

The Hope of Christmas

Day 8
A Fragile Gift
By: Keila Ochoa
Today’s Reading: John 1:1–14
For this his how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16
When we give a fragile gift, we make sure it is marked on the box that contains it. The word FRAGILE is written with big letters because we don’t want anyone to damage what is inside.
God’s gift to us came in the most fragile package: a baby. Sometimes we imagine Christmas day as a beautiful scene on a postcard, but any mother can tell you it wasn’t so. Mary was tired, probably insecure. It was her first child, and He was born in the most unsanitary conditions. She “wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7 nkjv).
A baby needs constant care. Babies cry, eat, sleep, and depend on their caregivers. They cannot make decisions. In Mary’s day, infant mortality was high, and mothers often died in childbirth.
Why did God choose such a fragile way to send His Son to earth? Because Jesus had to be like us in order to save us. God’s greatest gift came in the fragile body of a baby, but God took the risk because He loves us. Let us be thankful today for such a gift.

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Our Daily Bread

Silent Night of the Soul
December 22, 2017

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:14–21
Bible in a Year: Micah 6–7; Revelation 13

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here!—2 Corinthians 5:17
Long before Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber created the familiar carol “Silent Night,” Angelus Silesius had written:
Lo! in the silent night a child to God is born,
And all is brought again that ere was lost or lorn.
Could but thy soul, O man, become a silent night
God would be born in thee and set all things aright.
Silesius, a Polish monk, published the poem in 1657 in The Cherubic Pilgrim. During our church’s annual Christmas Eve service, the choir sang a beautiful rendition of the song titled “Could but Thy Soul Become a Silent Night.”
The twofold mystery of Christmas is that God became one of us so that we might become one with Him. Jesus suffered everything that was wrong so that we could be made right. That’s why the apostle Paul could write, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17–18).
Whether our Christmas is filled with family and friends or empty of all we long for, we know that Jesus came to be born in us.
Ah, would thy heart but be a manger for the birth,
God would once more become a child on earth. —David C. McCasland
Lord Jesus, thank You for being born into this dark world so that we might be born again into Your life and light.  God became one of us so that we might become one with Him.

INSIGHT: At the heart of the concept of becoming one with Christ is His work of reconciliation in us. In today’s passage, Paul weaves several themes together—life, love, new creation, and the ministry of reconciliation—all framed by a call to act with urgency. It is because of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection that we can be reconciled to God. Those who accept Christ’s gift of reconciliation must “no longer live for themselves” (2 Cor. 5:15). Instead, we are compelled to view everyone differently (v. 16), as people in dire need of Christ’s reconciliation. And what is this reconciliation? God will no longer “[count] people’s sins against them” (v. 19). With urgency, Paul tells us that we are now Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation and says, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (v. 20, emphasis added).
With whom can you share this offer of reconciliation today? Tim Gustaftson

 

The Hope of Christmas | Day 7 ~ Our Daily Bread Ministries

The Hope of Christmas

The Perfect Gift
By: Julie Ackerman Link
Today’s Reading: Romans 12:1–8
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his courts.
Psalm 96:8
Every year our local botanical garden hosts a celebration of Christmas around the world. My favorite display is a French nativity. Instead of the traditional scene showing shepherds and wise men with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh gathered around the manger, it shows French villagers bringing their gifts to baby Jesus. They bring bread, wine, cheese, flowers, and other items that God has given them the ability to produce. This reminds me of the Old Testament command to bring the firstfruits of our labor to the house of the Lord (Exodus 23:16–19). This depiction of the nativity illustrates that everything we have comes from God, so the only thing we have to give is something that God has given us.
When Paul instructed the Romans to present themselves as a living sacrifice, he was telling them to give back to God what God had given them—their own selves (Romans 12:1). This includes the gifts He gave them, even their ability to earn a living. We know that God gives people special abilities. Some were skilled in music (1 Samuel 16:18). Some were skilled in artistic works (Exodus 35:30–35). Others have skill in writing, teaching, gardening, and many other things.
When we give back to God what He has first given to us, we give Him the perfect gift—ourselves.

Give your all to Christ who gave His all for you.

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Home For Christmas

Our Daily Bread

Home for Christmas
December 21, 2017

Read: Genesis 28:10–17
Bible in a Year: Micah 4–5; Revelation 12

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.—Genesis 28:15
One year Christmas found me on assignment in a place many of my friends couldn’t locate on a map. Trudging from my worksite back to my room, I braced against the chill wind blowing off the bleak Black Sea. I missed home.
When I arrived at my room, I opened the door to a magical moment. My artistic roommate had completed his latest project—a nineteen-inch ceramic Christmas tree that now illuminated our darkened room with sparkling dots of color. If only for a moment, I was home again!

As Jacob fled from his brother Esau, he found himself in a strange and lonely place too. Asleep on the hard ground, he met God in a dream. And God promised Jacob a home. “I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying,” He told him. “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Gen. 28:13–14).

From Jacob, of course, would come the promised Messiah, the One who left His home to draw us to Himself. “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,” Jesus told His disciples (John 14:3).

That December night I sat in the darkness of my room and gazed at that Christmas tree. Perhaps inevitably I thought of the Light that entered the world to show us the way home. —Tim Gustafson

Lord, no matter where we are today, we can thank You for preparing a place for us to be with You. And we have the presence of Your Spirit today!
Home is not so much a place on a map, as it is a place to belong. God gives us that place.

INSIGHT: Sometimes our perceptions of God get a startling adjustment. That was the case for Jacob in today’s passage. From our perspective we know through the Old and New Testament Scriptures that God is everywhere and is always with us. But Jacob’s knowledge was limited. His statement in Genesis 28:16 hints that he thought he was out of “God’s area.” How comforting it must have been to Jacob to realize that though he had left his family and his home, he was still in the presence of God.
How does knowing that God is always present comfort you? J.R. Hudber

Breaking The Silence

Breaking the Silence
December 20, 2017

Read: Luke 1:11–17
Bible in a Year: Micah 1–3; Revelation 11

He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.—Luke 1:17

At the end of the Old Testament, God seems to be in hiding. For four centuries, the Jews wait and wonder. God seems passive, unconcerned, and deaf to their prayers. Only one hope remains: the ancient promise of a Messiah. On that promise the Jews stake everything. And then something momentous happens. The birth of a baby is announced.

You can catch the excitement just by reading the reactions of people in Luke. Events surrounding Jesus’s birth resemble a joy-filled musical. Characters crowd into the scene: a white-haired great uncle (Luke 1:5–25), an astonished virgin (1:26–38), the old prophetess Anna (2:36). Mary herself lets loose with a beautiful hymn (1:46–55). Even Jesus’s unborn cousin kicks for joy inside his mother’s womb (1:41).

Luke takes care to make direct connections to Old Testament promises of a Messiah. The angel Gabriel even calls John the Baptist an “Elijah” sent to prepare the way for the Lord (1:17). Clearly, something is brewing on planet Earth. Among the dreary, defeated villagers in a remote corner of the Roman Empire, something good is breaking out. —Philip Yancey

You have come to us, and we rejoice! Jesus, You are the gift of redemption and hope for us. Thank You.
Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world. C. S. Lewis (from The Last Battle)

INSIGHT: The virgin birth of Christ is not the only miracle in the Christmas story. John the Baptist’s birth was also miraculous. His father, Zechariah, was a priest of the line of Abijah (a priest during David’s time descended from Aaron) who served at the temple in Jerusalem twice a year. John’s mother, Elizabeth, was a cousin of Mary and also a descendant of Aaron (the first high priest). Zechariah and Elizabeth faithfully followed God’s laws, yet they were “very old” and were childless because Elizabeth could not conceive (Luke 1:5-7). God miraculously blessed this elderly couple with a child—and no ordinary child. Their son would be “great in the sight of the Lord” (v. 15) and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (v. 17).
What in the Christmas story is most meaningful to you?
Alyson Kieda

Our Daily Bread Ministry

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What really matters is . . .

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” John 1:14

Christmas is a time of Celebration! As Christians, we have the only valuable gift worthy of Celebration. It’s nice to get the material possessions of toys, clothes, and ugly Christmas sweaters, 🙂 but the real Joy comes from knowing that the Creator became our Savior. This Christmas, take a moment to reflect on what really matters: The Creator of the Universe, the All-powerful, All-knowing God, became part of creation to save humanity. Pondering that thought alone should keep us musing for hours and days and years on end.

From the team at Creation Today, which loves introducing people to this Creator and showing them how he became the Savior, Merry Christmas!

Eric Hovind
& The Creation Today Team

 

 

The Hope of Christmas | Day 6 ~ Our Daily Bread Ministries

The Hope of Christmas

The Hope of Christmas | Day 6: Christmas in Tokyo

Day 6
Christmas in Tokyo
By: David McCasland
Today’s Reading: Acts 17:22–34
This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.
Acts 17:23
On Christmas Eve 2003, noted painter Makoto Fujimura gathered with other artists for a party at Sato Museum in Tokyo. Many had donated their works for a benefit exhibit to raise money for children in Afghanistan. After the meal, Mr. Fujimura, an ardent Christian who lives in New York, shared some words about the true meaning of Christmas and their opportunity as artists to create works that help bring hope into the world.
Reflecting on that event, Fujimura wrote: “I was convinced, that evening in Tokyo, that Jesus invited Himself to be among artists who may not even know His name. Some of these artists, I suspect, have already sensed His presence in their studios as they labored to create peace via their paintings. All gifts of creativity, like the Magi’s [star], point straight to a stable in Bethlehem.”
Paul said that God is at work among people of all nations so that they should “feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:27-28).
We should be alert for the Lord’s presence where we least expect to see Him. Jesus may invite Himself to any Christmas party. After all, it’s His birthday.

This Christmas, be alert for the work and presence of Jesus.

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Away in a Manger”

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Away in a Manger”
December 19 2017
Written by: Prophecy in the News

One of the most loved children’s Christmas songs is “Away in a Manger.” The song is easily learned and the note range is quite within the vocal ability of all children. The lyrics are musical life lessons. They give a brief and simplistic summary of the Christmas birth of Jesus and go on to express a childlike love for the Savior with a desire and assurance that He is always near.

richard-hill

There is much speculation as to the origin of the simple hymn. Richard S. Hill, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress, is considered the authority on the song, having done extensive research on the subject. His findings were published in the Music Library Association’s journal, Notes, December of 1945, in his article “Not So Far Away In A Manger: Forty-one settings of an American Carol.”

According to Hill, the song first appeared in a Lutheran publication Little children’s book: for schools and families. By Authority of the general council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America. The song is listed as a nursery hymn with the book dated “Christmas 1884” and the copyright being June of 1885. In this printing, the tune for the poem is called St. Kilda and was written by J.E. Clark. Only two verses were included with this publication, and those used are without the listing of an author or source, a characteristic unlike other included hymns.

german-reformer-martin-luther

There is speculation that the two verses were from an anonymous play or story written within the German Lutheran sect found in Pennsylvania. In 1883, Lutherans as well as many Protestant groups were celebrating the 400th birthday of German Reformer, Martin Luther. The poem could have been written as part of a local presentation of this event, which possible could have led to the gross misinformation that was printed in a later publication.

It is also been commonly known as “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” Hill concluded: “Although Luther himself had nothing to do with the carol, the colonies of German Lutherans in Pennsylvania almost certainly did.”

james-r-murray

In 1887, the poem with a new melody was published in Dainty songs for little lads and lasses, for use in the kindergarten, school and home by James R. Murray. Mr. Murray, editor with the John Church Company, titled the piece “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” Beneath the title was the note “Composed by Martin Luther for his children, and still sung by German mothers to their little ones.” The composer indication was marked only with the initials J.R. M. Because of the recent celebrations of Luther’s birth, this may have been an act of giving credence to Luther for the sole purpose of affording the piece notoriety. It was well received, and as its popularity grew, Murray re-published the song the following year (1888) in the publication Royal Praise for the Sunday School. A collection of new and selected gospel songs… by J. R. Murray. He slightly changed the song from the original by changing the key and repeating the last phrase – enough to claim a copyright to the song and stated it at the bottom of the page. In 1892, the carol was again re-published by the John Church Company in a compilation of songs entitled Little sacred songs for little singers of the primary department of the Sunday school and for kindergartens and the home. Murray again edited the collection but this time changing the song back to its original key and adding his initials. It is interesting to note that Murray is not given credit for the piece in subsequent collections by other publishers. This is probably due to his initial indication that the piece belonged to Luther. Fear of copyright infringement probably drove others away from Murray’s claim of copyright.

Originally, the poem had only two verses, which, due to lack of any significant documentation, are considered anonymous, though the German Lutheran congregation of Pennsylvania probably gave birth to the poem. The third verse was added something in the 1890’s. It first appeared in Charles H. Gabriel’s collection Gabriel’s vineyard songs.

Bishop William F. Anderson attributed the third verse to Dr. John T. McFarland. He claimed that McFarland wrote the verse in response to his request for a third verse to be performed at a Children’s Day program. Although Anderson had requested McFarland write a third verse, it is unclear whether he actually wrote the verse or just provided a verse. Dates seem to indicate that McFarland may have supplied Anderson with a copy of Gabriel’s 1892 edition and Anderson may have assumed that McFarland wrote the verse. According to Anderson, McFarland wrote the verse sometime between 1904 and 1908, eliminating McFarland as a viable source of the verse. james-r-murray

The early 1920s saw a new name on Murray’s carol. It was Carl Mueller who was given compositional credit. According to Hill, Mueller may have been a fictional name given by some editors who were still unsure of Murray as the composer. Rather than no indication of composer, a common German name may have been printed so as to dilute the trail of information. It would be comparable to using John Smith if an American name were used. Hill and his colleagues could find no credence to Mueller as the composer or even to the existence to Mueller. Hill gives his allegiance to Murray as composer of the tune, which is traditionally sung in American as “Away in A Manger” although the carol’s tune is officially called “Mueller.”

James R. Murray was born in 1841 in Andover Massachusetts to Walter and Christina Murray. He received his musical training from such hymnology giants as George F. Root, Lowell Mason, William B. Bradbury, George J. Webb, and Whitney Eugene Thayer. After a brief military service during the Civil War, he joined Root assisting in editorial duties. After the Chicago fire, he returned to Andover where he taught public school until 1881. He then joined the John Church Company, where he fulfilled editorial duties. It is supposed that he died in 1904 when his name disappeared from the directory of Cincinnati where he and his wife Isabel resided, although his year of death cannot be substantiated.

Although there are numerous tunes applied to the poem, two melodies are most prevalent in use today. Murray’s tune has become truly an American carol. However, in England and Europe, another tune is more commonly sung. In an ironic sense, another American composer, William J. Kirkpatrick, took the American poem, composed a new tune based on a Scottish song, and introduced it across the seas. In 1895, seven of Kirkpatrick’s compositions were included in a pamphlet published by the Cranston and Curts Company. It included narratives and recitations along with songs, much like today’s sacred musicals or cantatas. The title was Around the world with Christmas. A Christmas exercise. The pamphlet described different settings of Christmas in various countries, including England, Scotland, and Germany. Kirkpatrick’s tune, as arrangement of the song “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, “was used with the poem “Away in a Manger” and titled “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” It was sung by children or a selected soloist as a tribute to The German Fatherland in the pamphlet. Because of the popularity of the pamphlet overseas, Kirkpatrick’s setting is more commonly sung in England as opposed to Murray’s setting, which is traditionally sung in America.

carl-muelleraway-in-a-manger-music

Recent collections, which include the carol, still give credit to Luther and the mythical Carl Mueller. Regardless of who wrote what version or verse, the indication is that “Away in A Manger” is truly an American carol loved by many, especially children. This musical portrait of an innocent sleeping king in the humblest of settings is truly a landscape of peace on earth.

Luke 2:7 (KJV)
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

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Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky,
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.

Source: “Song of Christmas” and the stories behind them – by Tommy and Renee Pierce (Copyright 2008)
“Then Sings My Soul” – by Robert J. Morgan

By Prophecy in the News| December 19th, 2017|Tags: Away in a Manger, Carol, Christmas, Songs