A Winner Plus My Favorite Christmas Verses

4037699377_b218f58079_zToday’s the day to announce the winner of the Little Christmas Warmth Giveaway—yes, time to make someone a little warmer! The lucky winner who will soon be wrapping her cold hands around a luscious hot drink from Starbucks is . . . Tamra! Congrats, Tamra! I’ll dash to my mailbox as fast as I can (without a one-horse open sleigh!) and send the gift card on its way. Hope it makes your holiday season a little merrier!

For all of you dropping by today, I’d like to pass along the best holiday joy I know by sharing my favorite Christmas verses from the Bible. I love reading all of the passages related to the birth of Jesus, but the verses below have become my favorites. May God’s Word bless you today, friends!

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 KJV

“‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 KJV

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

A child. A son. A Savior. The Word. The One and Only. Amen and amen!

*Which of these verses speaks to you in the most powerful way?

*Flickr photo by sakarias.ingolfsson, Creative Commons License

Undone by the Gift of Our Savior

4161935408_9b02a46dd9_zLast year at this time, my husband Don was enduring a season of pain like he’d never known before. On November 15, 2014, he fell roof-high from a ladder and fractured his spine in eight places. He was laid up at home for almost two months before he could attempt a return to a modified work schedule. He needed pain medication on a regular basis for a while. It was rough.

One day during December while I had a favorite Christmas cd playing and “Joy to the World” was wafting through the air, I went in to check on Don and he was crying. He was completely undone by the gift of our Savior.

He said, “He could have come down from the cross. He could have come down. But he stayed. He suffered. For me.” Because of the pain Don had been enduring, the fact that Jesus came to earth to die a painful death to pay for our sins took on a whole new level of meaning for him. Our “Joy to the World” came at a great cost. A cost Jesus was willing to pay.

As we listen to and sing the carols of Christmas this year, let’s listen and sing as if it’s the first time we’ve heard or sung them. Let’s be touched afresh by them. Let’s come undone by the gift of our Savior.

Why not start with “Joy to the World”? I’ll print the words below. Let’s glory in its message together today!

“Joy to the world , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”
*lyrics by Isaac Watts

*Has a carol of Christmas ever taken on special meaning for you?

*Flickr photo by jeffweese, Creative Commons License

Guest Post by Jeneal Rogers: The Perfect Tree

To start your December right this year, I have a special treat for you—a guest post by artist and writer Jeneal Rogers. You may remember that I featured her art and photography this summer in one of my Summer Photo Fun posts, and now it’s my pleasure to share some of her writing with you.

As we head into the holiday season, may Jeneal’s piece set the tone for a perfect holiday season for us all. Enjoy!

The Perfect Tree

by Jeneal Rogers

Thunk! “What was that?” The look of confusion on my husband’s face turned to alarm, as it dawned on him what had made the noise.“The tree!” He gunned the car out of the wash and pulled over to check the load fastened to the top.

The whole thing had been John’s idea. A few days before we left for my mother’s house, he confessed to me that it seemed wasteful to him to buy a live tree each year only to throw it out with the trash before Christmas even arrived. I took pity on my frugal husband, but I wouldn’t accept just any old pile of plastic. If we were going artificial, the tree must be perfect. We developed a plan.

The day after our arrival at my mother’s house, we went into action. We elbowed our way through the crowd of last minute Wal-Mart shoppers to the display. Part A of Mission Christmas Tree was under way. I carefully scrutinized all they had to offer. Finally, I saw it. Just the right height for my living room, it was a natural pine color with branches lush enough to hide it’s metal trunk. “This is, by far, the nicest one of the whole bunch,” I pointed out to John. “This is the one.”

John had been doing his own research. “This is, by far, the highest priced one of the whole bunch,” he said.

I smiled at the tree adoringly. “Perfect,” I whispered.

Defeated, he duly noted my selection and we left the store.

On December 26, John put Part B of the plan into motion. He made many trips to the store, patiently stalking his prey until the price dropped to over 50% off. Then he pounced! He returned from the hunt with his prize strapped to the top of the car.

A few days later we loaded up the kids and our Christmas loot and headed for home stopping, as was John’s custom, to wash the car at the first opportunity.

That’s when we heard the “thunk.” Oh no! Not my perfect tree!

After looking it over John assured me only the box had been damaged.

But the next year, when I started to put the tree up, I saw some of the branches had been bent, permanently reshaped by the washing. I held them for a moment, pondering the situation. A giggle escaped as I remembered the look on John’s face when he realized what he had done. Other Christmas memories quickly followed. The bent branches hadn’t decreased the tree’s worth. Rather, they made it more valuable. They made it uniquely ours.

Every year, I pull the branches from their patched up box and smile adoringly. “Perfect,” I whisper, as Christmas memories infuse all my senses.

I see my children’s eyes shining brighter than the lights adorning houses and shrubbery as we take our annual drive. I hear their little off-key voices mix with mine as we belt out every Christmas carol we know. I taste the sticky sweetness of the sugar cookies we bake together every year, frosting piled on thick with sprinkles, not sprinkled but shoveled on by little hands. I smell the distinct Christmas fragrance of fudge, pine, popcorn, and peppermint. And I feel children snuggling up next to me, their warm, pajama-clad bodies still damp from their bath, ready for our Christmas Eve tradition. I read the same stories to them my mother read to me when I was a child, “A Visit From St. Nick,” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”All of these memories and many more wash over me every year, as soon as I lay my hands upon those special reshaped branches.

__ __

John is gone now. The children are grown, living their own lives. They have not yet provided me with grandchildren.

But I’m confident I’ll be a grandmother someday. The grandchildren will come to my house for Christmas. We’ll make sugar cookies and they’ll put as many sprinkles on them as they want. And we’ll eat the cookies together under my perfect Christmas tree, not worrying about the crumbs.

I’ll read to them about a special visit from Santa and about the grumpy old Grinch. We’ll laugh as I tell them about the year their grandfather washed the Christmas tree. And then I’ll tell them about the Savior whose birth we celebrate. I’ll tell them how He came to wash us clean from our sins. And about how He looks at us, permanently reshaped by the washing, and smiles adoringly.

Perfect,” He whispers.

*The artwork above is also by Jeneal. To see more of her work, be sure to visit her website – http://www.expressionsbyjeneal.com/index.html .

*What’s one of your favorite Christmas memories?

Return Trip

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:20

This final verse in Luke’s famous account of the birth of Jesus struck me differently than it ever had before when I read it last December. I’d always thought the phrase “The shepherds returned” meant they returned to their flock, but now I see an entirely different scenario.

If you’ll remember, the verses preceding this one tell how after hearing the angelic announcement of the birth of a Savior, the shepherds hurried off to Bethlehem to find the babe. After they saw the Son of God, “they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” (v. 17)

Now if they spread the word, they certainly must have gone out into the community and beyond to tell everyone they saw what they had seen and heard. So when scripture goes on in verse 20 to say “The shepherds returned”, might it mean that they returned to Bethlehem to see Jesus once again?

I think that might be what happened. After they spread the news, I think they may have felt irresistibly drawn back to the Babe. I think they may have wanted to come close to the Savior again. Their return trip might just have been back to Bethlehem instead of back to their flock.

Let’s plan our return trip even now. After we travel to and fro, celebrating Christmas—the birthday of the King—with family and friends alike, let’s make sure we return to glorify and praise our Savior in our daily lives when all the holiday hubbub is over. Let’s return to worship Him year round.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you . . .” James 4:8a

*Flickr photo by rahego, Creative Commons License

The Constant of Christmas

The holiday season can be a difficult time for many. Heartaches hurt more, burdens feel heavier, and changes can be more challenging to accept. Loneliness looms larger and disappointment runs deeper as well. At times, Christmas joy can be hard to find.

Where do you find your Christmas joy? If you search for it in people—family and friends—those can change or disappoint. If in new possessions or extravagant treats, those can be stripped away or give only short-term fulfillment. If in well-laid plans for the perfect Christmas, a winter storm or unexpected illness can topple those in an instant.

Only in the manger can we find unchanging, unfailing Christmas joy. Oh, we can and do experience holiday joy with our families and friends, with our activities and traditions, with music and feasting. But the deep, abiding joy of Christmas—and of our lives—that no circumstance or human failing can touch can be found only in the constant of Christmas. Only in Jesus.

Let’s look to the manger this holiday season. Let’s let Jesus anchor our Christmas joy. For He is a rock like no other. He is the constant of Christmas.

“‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:20b

*Flickr photo by jeffweese, Creative Commons License