The kids are all gone, out of the house, for the very first Christmas. You have anticipated for a few months now the fact they won’t be there to eat the traditional foods, open presents, sing carols, gather around the table, play games, frolic in the snow, etc. Are you on your way to the Kleenex box?
Monday’s Ministry Encouragement: Written to encourage you, my friend in ministry, to be refreshed and renewed as we live for Christ and look toward the Bema.
Tis the season to be . . . extremely busy!! Well, the song as you know says “jolly” and not “busy,” but so many ministry events happen in this final stretch of the year that “busy” can and many times does eclipse “jolly!”
Joy has dawned upon the world, Promised from creation— God’s salvation now unfurled, Hope for ev’ry nation. Not with fanfares from above, Not with scenes of glory, But a humble gift of love— Jesus born of Mary.
Sounds of wonder fill the sky With the songs of angels As the mighty Prince of Life Shelters in a stable. Hands that set each star in place, Shaped the earth in darkness, Cling now to a mother’s breast, Vuln’rable and helpless.
Shepherds bow before the Lamb, Gazing at the glory; Gifts of men from distant lands Prophesy the story. Gold—a King is born today, Incense—God is with us, Myrrh—His death will make a way, And by His blood He’ll win us.
Son of Adam, Son of heaven, Given as a ransom; Reconciling God and man, Christ, our mighty champion! What a Savior! What a Friend! What a glorious myst’ry! Once a babe in Bethlehem, Now the Lord of hist’ry.
We have spent many hours together this month due to my bout with covid.
So what have we done to merry up Christmas and keep our marriage on the scenic route?
Trust in forgiveness and the grace of God. When you are not feeling well, you can be demanding and words can have an edge. Throw in our hearing issues, and . . . . Therefore, just like every day of marriage, you must rest in the grace of God and forgive, not apologize.
Give each other space. My wife has taken up the hobby of water color painting. She has received refreshment from going to her craft room in the afternoons and/or evenings and losing herself in a winter scene.
Read Paul David Tripp’s, Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional, that our daughter gave to us.
Go for a drive just for some sunshine and a change of scenery. My wife’s Jeep is good for that. Now that I am gaining ground, I feel like driving. So, I’m her chauffer dropping her off at the door as I wait in the car.
Movies. Denise and I are not TV watchers, but we have joined the ranks as we viewed many Christmas movies as well as some others. In the early going of this bout, I had to just sit and be still. No movement. We enjoyed White Christmas, Mrs. Miracle, The Christmas Edition, Elf, The Christmas Lodge, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Christopher Robin, Father of the Bride, It’s a Wonderful Life (my very first time), etc. Miracle on 34th Street awaits.
12 Days of Christmas. Denise and I have shared in this way of exchanging gifts several times over the years. For twelve days, before going to bed, we give a gift to each other. In the early days, we kept it to around $1-5 gifts. Of course, inflation has struck and it’s around $1-$20. How did I shop? Thank you Amazon delivery and Walgreen’s curbside pick-up services!
Listen to hours of Christmas music via Amazon Music on Alexa. This has helped with a light-hearted atmosphere all through our home.
Enjoy the fireplace at our meals.
Share with each other what the Lord said to us through our daily Bible reading or sermon podcasts. This has been a blessing of joy, tears, conviction, challenge and encouragement.
Nothing much. A few days, my wife was on her own. Well, she had Liza Jane, family communication, friends and the rigors of being a sweet caregiver. But as for us, some lonely hours.
Well, here it is two days before Christmas, and we still like each other! (And love one another, too!) God is so very good. Merry Christmas!!
There I sat with my car backed into the parking lot at Target in observation mode. Still in quarantine, my wife made her trek into Target to purchase a gift.
What did I observe? A steady of stream of shoppers entering and exiting their cars and the stores with sad, frowning, hardened faces. Some were walking briskly, some on a mission, others at a snail’s pace. And, what season of the year is this?
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—Go ahead; sing it! You are hearing it in your head anyway!
It’s the celebration of good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Luke 2:11)!
Isn’t Christmas all about joy, cheer, good news, giving, laughter, family traditions, get-togethers, etc.?
As I watched, my finite mind could not fathom all the stories in front of me in this “season of joy.” Perhaps sudden job loss, death of a dear loved one, disappointment in not finding the right gift, the general frustrations of life, cancer diagnosis, home life issues, heart-crushing memories, failing marriages, brokenness, fear, rejection, dread, chaos, thoughts of suicide, sorrow, discontentment, etc.
In the midst of these stories of life, many hoping that this season might bring a little good news, a little cheer, a little “Tender Tennessee Christmas” to take off the edge of the pain, my mind considered my own current “covidness” and was once again reminded that this season is only a mere shadow of the Realty. If my heart is fixed on all the ingredients of the season, I miss the preeminent, transcendent Person of this day, this season, this year, and this life. At that point, I have fallen into idolatry; worshiping the creature (and what the creature creates here) more than the Creator (Romans 1:18-25).
You see, the only Story that can completely deal with the root cause of all “the fears of all the years,” which began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), is the Reality of the living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ Who stepped into your life to be your substitute on the cross (Isaiah 53:3-5; 1 Peter 3:18). Life is the Eternal Story, not a temporal season.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV).
Today, tomorrow, on Christmas Day, and the days to follow, listen to and meditate on the Story of hope and redemption, the salvation of your souls, in exchange for the shadows of the season. No matter how good they may be for now, they are only shadows.
Don’t let the season steal what Jesus came to give and restore!
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
Cancelanddebt. Two words that loom heavily over this Christmas 2021.
Debt looks like that long line of overloaded, bulging Sam’s Club carts at the exit door that probably won’t be paid off before next Christmas.
Cancel looks like our holiday season due to Covid.
Pigeon Forge/Dollywood Lights/Time with friends (Cancelled)
Christmas shopping (Cancelled)
Perform wedding, Dec. 17-18 (Cancelled)
Christmas caroling (Cancelled)
Game date to Blackbird Bakery (Cancelled)
Getty Christmas Concert, Greenville (Cancelled)
December corporate worship with brothers & sisters in Christ (Cancelled)
And there is more, but . . .
Cancel and debt are GREAT words at Christmas! Quite frankly, what we would consider to be two negative, disappointing words are instead words that are full of hope and joy!
Christmas is preeminently and transcendently about the Lord Jesus Christ. Due to the sinful condition of mankind (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23), Christ in His glorious humiliation entered into the chaos of our depraved, full of death condition (Philippians 2:6-8) and cancelled the debt of our sin against us that He might reveal God to us (Matthew 1:21-23).
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him (Christ), having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Colossians 2:13-15).
Christ came to experience all that experience, die for our sins, and then return to Heaven to represent us before the Father. He is willing to save and able to save (Warren Wiersbe). [Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:25]
Therefore because my life is secure in Christ today and for all eternity, the words “cancel” and “debt” remind me of Christmas, the Gospel!
On this day in “Cancelember” I can sing the following old song of praise and testimony!
He paid a debt He did not owe I owed a debt I could not pay I needed someone to wash my sins away And now I sing a brand new song Amazing Grace Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay
My debt He paid upon the cross He cleansed my soul from all its dross I tho’t that no one could all my sins erase But now I sing a brand new song Amazing Grace Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay
O such great pain my Lord endured When He my sinful soul secured I should have died there but Jesus took my place So now I sing a brand new song Amazing Grace Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay
He didn’t give to me a loan He gave Himself now He’s my own He’s gone to Heaven to make for me a place And now I sing a brand new song Amazing Grace Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay
What will you do these next twelve days? Look for a partridge in a pear tree? How about five gold rings? Maybe eight maids a milking? Six geese a laying? (Better watch where you step!) No matter, they all came from your “true love.” Wow!
When you think of true love, I doubt you consider a partridge, milking a cow, seven swans gliding along on a pristine pond or drummers having at it! Now, I will give you this much, ladies, you might think of gold rings!!
So let’s set aside all of the aforementioned “true love” gifts and consider how you can give true love in the next twelve days between you and your spouse.
May sure your love relationship with the Lord is fresh and daily renewed (John 3:16; Matthew 22:37; John 15:9; Luke 10:42; Romans 12:1-2).
Share with your spouse the blessings of the love relationship between you and your Lord!
Join hands with your spouse and together talk/pray to Jehovah Who loves you with an everlasting, unconditional love.
Enjoy the marriage love relationship that God gave you by taking time to just look into each other’s eyes and share terms of endearment with each other and words of appreciation for each other.
After the kids go to bed, make popcorn and watch a Christmas movie. Be sure to snuggle up with each other and turn off your smartphone! Your relationship with each other is more important than your children and phone notifications.
Talk a walk in the snow holding hands all the while.
Sit by the Christmas tree and read Luke 2 or a Christmas devotional.
Make Christmas sugar cookies together and be sure to give each other some sugar!
Hang some mistletoe and . . . .
Give each other a small gift by the tree each night until Christmas; play Christmas music on Pandora.
Breakfast served to your spouse in bed on Saturday morning.
Without interruptions, sit by the fire and make up your own list of twelve true love gifts.
I promise you, this will be better than three French hens, four calling birds or ten lords a leaping!
Let’s go back to the Sears Christmas Wish Book I mentioned yesterday. So many memories..
Here’s a few of them:
How many times I would pour over the pages of the catalog, mark what I wanted, then proceed to my mom and dad and say, “You know what I want for Christmas?” And how many times did I hear them say, “We can’t afford that.”
What could they afford? The same thing that every parent can afford—time.
When I survey Scripture, I see God’s instructions to parents taking time not money.
Proverbs 22:6Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Ephesians 6:4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
To train, discipline (which is teaching, instructing, and correcting) and nurturing takes time.
Proverbs 29:15The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Often children get into trouble because they are just crying out for someone to pay them some attention. They want to know where you will draw the line. It takes time to teach what is right, what is wrong, what to do to stay right, and what will happen if we choose to go our own way.
Proverbs 13:24Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Please note again the meaning of discipline and the need to take time to be diligent to fulfill the complete picture of discipline/discipleship. If a child does need a spanking, it should not be a quick strike out of anger, but a time of loving correction and training.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Once again, you cannot teach, train and disciple on the run. It is your lifestyle. It takes time.
Parents, your greatest investment on this earth will be your children. They don’t need you to buy them things to make up for where you have failed. They need your love, attention, character-training, and fun times. They need you to teach them the Word of God. They need to hear how you came to salvation. They need you to pray with them. They need you to make spiritual applications of life with them throughout the day. They need you to teach them how to work, how to eat, how to be hospitable, how to serve others, how to talk, how to be a blessing to others, how to make their beds, how to get up and make the day count, how to cook, how to do life in general by the grace of God.
They need you. They need you every day.
Parents, this Christmas, rather than spending so much money, spend a lot of your time. Give your children something that will eclipse that banana-seat bicycle. Give them the best gift—your time; give them you.
Christmas is four days away? Seriously? It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated Christmas 2015! Of course, the older you get, the faster time seems to slide by. Also, retailers help us get cranked up for Christmas in August each year. So, here we are just days away!
My wife and I have always loved Christmas since our earliest recollections. My, how I remember waiting for the mailman to deliver the Sears & Roebuck Christmas Wish Book. By the time December 25th rolled around, it was well-worn with many dog-eared pages.
One of my all-time favorite gifts was in the fourth grade . . . an electric football set with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. The quarterback could even throw a felt football. If you hit your receiver with the football, it was a completion!
Another huge favorite was the seeming miles of Hot Wheel track, supped-up Hot Wheel cars and a Hot Wheel power house to send those cars tearing around the track. I can still hear ‘em!
Oh how I loved the snowfalls of Christmas in southeast Ohio and West Virginia. One Christmas in Bluefield, it snowed a foot by Christmas morning! What a time we had building sled runs and just wearing it out!
Those were simple, innocent Christmases that are etched in my mind and thought of with great joy and thanksgiving.
This Christmas, I am fearful that many parents will unknowingly give their children and teens a gift that could turn simple, innocent Christmases and lives into sinful, indecent, regret-filled Christmases and lifestyles. Please take time to read the following blog post and take heed. I am begging you to do so!!