Thanks Be To God For His Inexpressible Gift!

Good morning. It is Thursday, December 25, 2014. Merry Christmas to all!

Today’s Word of the Day is “nativity.” (I’m not making this up, it really is the OED word of the day!) Nativity has multiple meanings. It is the feast of the birth of Jesus; more simply, it is the birth of Jesus. It is a work of art depicting the birth of Jesus. More archaically, it can mean the birth of anyone. It used to refer to a person’s birthday. It was also once used to refer to the creation or origin of something. I’ll stop there, as there are still more. You can check it out by clicking on the above link.

Decides being Christmas Day, today is also Pumpkin Pie Day. We still have some left from last night, I think, so I might have a piece. I’m not sure, though, because there is delicious Kahlua fudge that Christi made, plus I made these cookies!
chocolate-crinkles
They are also delicious. My mother is making dump cake, and has banana bread and fruitcake, as well. Heck, I may just skip lunch and go straight for dessert.

We had a pretty good Christmas Eve celebration last night. Everyone behaved well, there was lots of good food, and plenty of good conversation. Gifts were exchanged, and I believe everyone was happy. After Christ’s Mom and Don left, Rachel, Justin, and I sat around talking to John (Christi’s sister’s soon-to-be-husband) for at least an hour or two. I’m not sure what Christ and Karen were doing during that time. After they left, we all sat around for another hour or so, watching some strange You Tube videos (Nostalgia Critic and Cinema Snob), followed by an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Don’t judge me.

This morning, so far, only Christi and I are awake. I just heard a door, elsewhere in the house, so chances are, I will have to interrupt the blogging for Christmas morning gift-opening. Christi will be working on today’s lunch, in a little while, and we will pack it up and drive to Mineral Wells, probably aiming to arrive there between 1:00 and 2:00 PM.

Unfortunately, we must go back to work tomorrow, but just for one day, and it will be the weekend again.

(Source: Christian History Institute)

It was on this date in 1621 that the Puritans attempted to abolish Christmas. “Their objections were religious. Not only were there no grounds for believing Christ was born on December 25th, but the Bible had also not established the practice. Further, they objected that for many people, Christmas observance was a sacrilege; a time of heavy drinking and pagan customs. ” So, Christmas has not always been quite so popular, as it turns out.

“After the Puritans came to power in England, they began issuing laws against Christmas in 1642. In 1647 Parliament passed a law that the feast of the Nativity of Christ should be no longer observed. Some English folk protested through pamphlets, others by holding celebrations in defiance of the law, still others by refusing to open their shops. At Oxford, Ipswich, and Canterbury, people rioted. A mob beat the Mayor of Canterbury senseless, breaking his windows as well as his bones. Thousands vowed that if they could not have Christmas, they would bring the king back to his throne.”

I, personally, agree that there are no grounds for believing that Jesus was born on December 25. I have also noted that there is no Biblical command to observe or celebrate the birth of Christ, while there are such for commemorating his death and resurrection. Nevertheless, I have no problem with Christmas celebrations, and I have a strong suspicion that Jesus doesn’t mind, either, as long as we are celebrating for the right reasons. I daresay, he is none too pleased with the commercialism, nor the horrific scenes that American retailers have promoted on “Black Friday.”

Christmas birthdays include Jimmy Buffett, Humphrey Bogart, Clara Barton, Annie Lennox, Sissy Spacek, Dido, Rod Serling, Barbara Mandrell, Shane MacGowan, Cab Calloway, Robert Ripley, Louis Chevrolet, Rickey Henderson, Ron Foos, Conrad Hilton, Anwar Sadat, Mac Powell, Alannah Myles, Larry Csonka, Orlando Gibbons, Carlos Castaneda, Nellie Fox, Noel Redding, and The Veronicas (Lisa and Jessica Origliasso).

Wow! So many! Annie Lennox is a Scottish singer/songwriter who was part of the hit duo, The Eurythmics. (I just realized they spelled “rhythm” wrong in their name!) She has since had a successful solo career, as well as getting involved in political activism and philanthropy. For her Christmas birthday, here is her rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” I really like her recording of this song.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 95:6-7
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2
I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he who walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me.
Psalm 101:6
If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.
John 5:31-36
The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.
The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Psalm 33:13-22
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Purify my conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ,
at his coming, may find in me a mansion prepared for himself;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:6-7
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15

Today’s Gospel Reading

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.
Matthew 21:28-32

This conversation is continued from the passage I read yesterday. In fact, the paragraph break seems to come in the middle of Jesus’s statement. It’s like he barely took a breath between saying, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things,” and “What do you think?”

In this passage, Jesus makes a very pointed comparison between the religious leaders and the son who said he would go work in his father’s vineyard, but then did not do what he said he would do. The one who first said he would not go, but later repented and went, is the one who did his father’s will. I cannot even imagine the anger that these leaders must have felt when Jesus told them that tax collectors and prostitutes would go into the kingdom before them!

Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “Kneeling in His Presence.”

“Is there anyone in our midst who pretends to understand the awesome love in the heart of the Abba of Jesus that inspired, motivated, and brought about Christmas?

“God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability, and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.”

“And this will be a sign for you:
you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:12

Abba, Father, I praise you, this morning for entering our world as Jesus, in weakness and vulnerability. I praise you that you came in such a way that enabled us to know you. I thank you that your advent in this world confounded the religious leaders who would imprison us with man-made rules. Thank you for allowing us to get close to you, Jesus! I pray that, as we celebrate this Christmas morning, we will be all that much closer to you. May we spread the joy of the Christmas event as we go about our lives, today, tomorrow, and every day.

I pray for safe travel for all on this day, and for us as we travel to Mineral Wells later. I pray that our hearts will be drawn ever closer to you, and that our time with my parents will be a blessing to them, just as they have been a blessing to us, over the years. May your grace fill us all as we acknowledge the birth of your Son.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!”

Grace and peace, friends.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen

Good morning. It is Friday, December 5, 2014. Welcome to the Friday PTO edition! Only 20 more days . . .

Did you know that there are studies that show that listening to music while eating makes the food taste better? Makes sense. Music makes everything better, doesn’t it?

Today is Salesperson Day. I surprised myself by picking this one out of six other choices, one of which was Bathtub Party Day (seriously?? I don’t think so). But the salesperson, especially during this season of the year, hardly gets a day off, and don’t you know everyone is just yelling at them all day long about something or other? So have a care for the salesperson, and treat them, well, like you would want to be treated.

Yesterday was an okay day. Work was fine, but I had a “shadow,” all day, which I really don’t like. We got a new employee on Monday, and he has been just watching people all week, and yesterday was my turn. I got nothing against him, personally, he’s a great guy. I just don’t like having that shadow all day. He also has no access to anything, which means he has to be escorted everywhere. It’s not horrible, just a slight inconvenience, and it’s not his fault.

Christi had her Huddle meeting last night, which went okay. I guess it might be a good thing that we have segregated Huddles, this time. There is a lot more openness and transparency when spouses aren’t around, which can make for some tremendous ministry. But it can also tend to distract from the main purpose of the Huddle group, so the leaders have to do a good job of keeping on point.

Today, as referenced above, I am on PTO (Paid Time Off). I really wish that we could roll over our vacation time. I would rather not have to just take random days off at the end of the year, just because I’m going to lose the PTO time if I don’t take it. Don’t get me wrong . . . I would always rather be at home than at work. But I’m taking PTO days for no reason, other than to not lose the PTO. Seems useless to me. I am, however, planning to go have lunch with my favorite person in the world, in a little while. That’s my wife, Christi, in case you didn’t figure that out. 🙂 Stephanie may or may not go. You never know with her. But we love her dearly, anyway.

Any other plans today? Not really. I will probably put up some laundry, maybe practice trombone, maybe play WoW . . . I don’t know.

(Source: Christian History Institute)

It was on this date that Father Louis Hennepin, while visiting Niagara Falls, drew “the first known sketch of the awe-inspiring landmark.”
niagara falls louis hennepin

Today’s birthdays include Walt Disney, Frankie Muniz, Kali Rocha, Little Richard, Amy Acker, Martin Van Buren, George Armstrong Custer, John Rzeznik, Margaret Cho, Andy Kim, Nick Stahl, JJ Cale, Jim Messina, Fritz Lang, Sonny Boy Williamson, Alvy Moore, and Jim Plunkett.

Amy Acker is an actress, born on this date in 1976, in Dallas, TX. She has appeared in many of Joss Whedon’s projects, but the character I love her most as, is Fred/Illyria, in Angel. Here is a clip from the episode where Fred dies and Illyria “awakens.”

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(From The Divine Hours)

First Week of Advent

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.
Psalm 66:5
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,

Psalm 17:7-8
Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.

Psalm 118:25-26 (The word for “save us” is “Hosanna!”)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8
The Cry of the Church
Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Marana tha!)
The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, give all of us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the
armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came
to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his
glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel Reading

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:14-20

At first, Jesus’s words seem harsh. “O faithless and twisted generation . . .” My question at this point is, who was Jesus speaking to? He seems to have been speaking to the father, not the disciples. Note that the disciples seemed surprised and disappointed that they could not accomplish the healing. Did this happen so that they would realize that they are, indeed, powerless without Christ’s presence in their lives? Were they overly dependent on their own “power,” which truly is not their own, at all? In Mark’s telling of this event, the nine disciples (for three of them had been on the mount with Christ, during the Transfiguration) were arguing with the Scribes over their inability to heal the boy. Afterwards, the disciples came to Jesus in private, wondering why they were unable to cast out the demon. The first thing he said to them was, “Because of your little faith.” Is he speaking here of “little” as in “not a lot?” Or is he speaking of “little” as in “young, immature?” Frankly, I’m not sure. Once again, he uses the simile of a mustard seed in comparison with faith that can move mountains.

Reflections for Ragamuffins
Today’s reading in Reflections for Ragamuffins is “A People of Hope.”

Brennan Manning wrote these words in a private journal: “Jesus Christmases in us whenever people come home to themselves in our presence, and when they feel a little less hopeful and joyful because we are absent.”

We who call ourselves Christians are (or should be) people of hope. Others should be able to “find in us a source of strength and joy.” If we are not, all of our professions of faith and creeds are “academic, tentative, and hopeless as the alcoholic who promises, ‘I’ll quit tomorrow.'”

These are challenging words, but truthful. We should be people of joy, people of hope and strength. This doesn’t mean that we always present a face of having it all together, because we most certainly don’t. But it is in those times of not having it all together, the times when our lives appear to be turning upside down, that we can present the strongest face of hope to the world. Not because we know all the answers, but because we know the One who DOES! whatever the circumstance, Jesus will get me through it. Therein lies my hope and strength!

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:19

Father, may your people be people of hope, strength, and joy, not just during this season, but especially during this season, when people all around the world experience an epic amount of depression and lack of hope. May we be the beacon that is needed, not simply to draw people to you, although that should be one of our primary purposes, but also simply to let people know that there is hope, and that all is not lost. Just as in yesterday’s song choice at the end of my blog, all is well. Heaven is coming to earth, and has already appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the one in whom our hope is founded. He is the one who knows all the answers that we do not. He is the reason that we can have joy, even in the darkest of times. He is the reason that we do not despair when our circumstances go haywire. I pray that we can present this truth to the world around us, in a manner that is reasonable. I pray that we would spend more time showing the hope and joy to the world than chastising them for not saying “Merry Christmas.”

I pray for this day, Lord, that Christi would have a good work day. I pray for safe travel as I go to have lunch with her in a little while, and that we would have a joyous time during this rare opportunity. I pray, as always, that you would show Stephanie your great love for her.

May your grace shine brightly during this joyful Christmas season.

May we be people of hope this Christmas, for those who would be hopeless.

Grace and peace, friends.