The Gift; The Wonder

Good morning! Today is Friday, the twenty-fourth of December, 2021. It is Christmas Eve!

May the peace of Christ be with you!

Day 23,297

One day until Christmas!

C is already busy cooking. She has cut up the fudge that was made last night. It is delicious! She is currently putting together a couple of crescent roll pull-apart Christmas trees. One has garlic and herb soft cheese inside, and the other will have cream cheese, powdered sugar, and chocolate chips inside. We have never tried the chocolate chip one before.

C’s sister, brother-in-law, niece, and niece’s boyfriend will be coming over, this evening. I believe they plan to bring a deep-fried turkey, something we have yet to try. We will be preparing our usual fare for holidays. Ham, green bean casserole, corn casserole, and mashed potatoes. And some of those “Parker House” style rolls. We also still have most of the bundt cake that I bought at Nothing Bundt Cakes. C gave in and cut into that a couple days ago. I’m not sure how much is left.

Tomorrow, after we have our Christmas celebrating, we will load up more food and gifts and head to Mineral Wells, where we will celebrate some more, along with some Facetiming with R & J, up in Indy.

I wish everyone who reads this a joyous Christmas, if that is what you celebrate. For the rest, I will say, gladly, “Happy Holidays,” in whatever your celebration of choice is. I’m not one of those grumpy folks who insist that everyone say “Merry Christmas.” That’s just silly. And quite disrespectful, in my opinion.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

All Is Calm, by S. Michaels (LightWriters)

All peace,
all joy, what
great love

©2021 S. Michaels
All Things Bright
(Haiku 2-3-2)

I pray for peace and joy for all people. Please check out this poet’s site at the link provided above.

"But I say to you who hear,
 Love your enemies, 
do good to those who hate you, 
bless those who curse you, 
pray for those who abuse you. . . .  
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. . . .  
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
(Luke 6:27-28, 31, 36 ESV)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the gift of Christmas, the love of God coming down to mankind in the Christ-child
2. that our Father is merciful, even to those who are "ungrateful and evil" (Luke 6:35)
3. that Jesus is our Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His sheep
4. that I am one of those sheep, and my salvation is secure (John 10:28-30)
5. for the wonder and miracle of Jesus, God's ultimate gift
Neglect not the gift that is in thee . . .
(1 Timothy 4:14)
If you then, who are evil, 
know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will your Father who is in heaven 
give good things to those who ask him! 
(Matthew 7:11 ESV)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of lights 
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 
(James 1:17 ESV)

Okay, so right off the bat, I will acknowledge that some of this is taken out of context. So sue me.

Nevertheless, here is my takeaway from these, this morning. The older I have gotten, the more joy I get from giving gifts than receiving them. When we are children (and sometimes beyond), we love to receive gifts. Countless Christmas Eve nights are spent in sleepless suspense (see what I did there?), waiting for parents to get up and indicate that it is finally time to see what Santa has put under the tree. Or, if we have grown beyond the Santa phase, what the parents have put under the tree.

But now, for me, at least, the joy is in the giving. Our Father in heaven takes great joy in giving. Jesus Christ gave His life “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2). “Every good and every perfect gift is from above.” So, to me, that means that, if my gift to you is “good” and “perfect,” then it came from God. Because any gift that I could possibly give is flawed.

And look at that verse from Matthew. I am, as human, inherently “evil.” That’s not a topic for today’s discussion, just go with it. And if I, being “evil,” can give “good” gifts to my children, my family, my friends, “HOW MUCH MORE” is our Father able to give REALLY GOOD gifts to us??

So, over the next day or so, take a look at the gifts you receive (hopefully you are receiving some), and if you really like them . . . if they seem “perfect,” consider how much better God’s gifts are!

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. 
(Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
"Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? 
Who is like you, 
majestic in holiness, 
awesome in glorious deeds, 
doing wonders?"
(Exodus 15:11 ESV)
And awe came upon every soul, 
and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 
(Acts 2:43 ESV)

An interesting thing that I have learned, this morning. The word translated “wonderful” in Isaiah 9:6 is the same as the word translated “wonders” in Exodus 15:11. The Hebrew word is pele (pronounced “peh’-leh”) and means “a miracle, a marvelous thing.” Taking that into consideration, we see that the gift of Jesus, the son that is given, is the ultimate wonder of God, the ultimate miracle. In Jesus, the miracle and wonder of God’s love is displayed, and the miracle and wonder of our salvation is accomplished.

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

CHRISTMAS EVE

INVITATION

Restore us, O God; 
make your face shine on us, 
that we may be saved. 
(Psalms 80:3 NIV)

As I pause, this morning, I continue to ponder the wonder of the Gift.

BIBLE SONG

Sing to the LORD a new song; 
sing to the LORD, all the earth. 
Sing to the LORD, praise his name; 
proclaim his salvation day after day. 
Declare his glory among the nations,
 his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; 
let the sea resound, and all that is in it. 
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; 
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. 
Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, 
he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness 
and the peoples in his faithfulness. 
(Psalms 96:1-3, 11-13 NIV)

BIBLE READING

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). 
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. 
(Matthew 1:18-25 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

As I read these passages again, slowly, I look for words or phrases that catch my eye or move my heart. I pray my thoughts and desires and needs and feelings to God, reflecting on things that I have already read, this morning, as well, enjoying His presence.

Father, I praise You for this gift, this miracle, this wonder of Jesus Christ. I pray that, today and tomorrow, and days after, that people all around the world will know the peace and joy that comes from participating in this life, this wonder, this miracle. He has saved us from our sins, indeed. Because of this, I will sing to You a new song, and I cannot wait until that day when I sing a brand new song in Your presence, along with everyone else from every tribe and nation and tongue and people on this planet. What a day, glorious day, that will be! In the meantime, let the fields be jubilant; let the rocks cry out; let the rivers clap their hands; let the heavens rejoice; let the earth be glad; let the sea resound; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy!

Thank You for Your perfect Gift!

"God with us,
quiet me before the Christ-child,
filled with wonder that in this tiny child,
You have come near.
Amen."

BLESSING

"May the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven,
shine on those living in darkness and guide our feet into the path of peace."
(based on Luke 1:78-79)

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV).

Grace and peace, friends.

Noel, Noel!

Merry Christmas! Today is Wednesday, December 25, 2013.

Besides being Christmas, today is “Pumpkin Pie Day.” Not my favorite, but I’ll have a piece, now and then. I’m not expecting any today, though. If it’s your favorite, I hope you get some today!

Merry Christmas to everyone who stumbles across this blog today.


We had a wonderful Christmas Eve! The service went very well, and we had a pretty good turnout. As noted before, I got to lead the four songs that we sang, and I just played guitar for them. Someone took a picture of me while I was playing.

Jeff leading Christmas Eve
Jeff leading Christmas Eve

We headed back home and continued preparations for Christi’s family Christmas Eve gathering. Let me tell you that it could NOT have gone any better! Everyone got along famously, we all had a good time, and stuffed our faces full of delicious food! Then, even though we could barely move, we opened presents! I think everyone was happy. Rachel and Justin arrived at some point, it may have been close to 9pm, but I’m not positive. They got there before anyone else left, and got to see all the family.

Later today, after we open our Christmas morning presents, we will travel to Mineral Wells, where we will celebrate Christmas with my parents. More food, more presents, but mostly love.


(From Great Stories from History for Every Day)

On this date in 800, Charles the Great (aka Charlemagne) became “the first Holy Roman Emperor to be crowned by the Pope.” This began a revival of the Roman Empire, which had “lapsed in the 5th century.” This revival of the Roman Empire would last for 1000 years until Franz II abdicated in 1806. Charlemagne was 48 when he was crowned, which is rather old “for that time in history.” He was known “for his personal leadership and excellent administration.” His court was famous for attracting intellectuals from around the world, in spite of the fact that Charlemagne, himself, could not write. Being rather religious, he attempted to ban dancing throughout the empire, but his efforts were “widely ignored.” I suspect Kevin Bacon had something to do with it.


Who has Christmas birthdays? Orlando Gibbons, English composer, 1583, Isaac Newton, physicist, 1642, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, 1821, Robert Ripley, collector of odd facts, 1890, Humphrey Bogart, actor, 1899, Cab Calloway, band leader, 1907, Anwar Sadat, Egyptian president, 1918, Louis Lane, conductor, 1923, Nellie Fox, baseball player, 1927, Billy Horton, The Silhouettes, 1929, Jimmy Buffett, 1946, Larry Csonka, NFL running back, 1946, Barbara Mandrell, country singer, 1948 (Houston, TX), Sissy Spacek, actress, 1949 (Quitman, TX), Annie Lennox, singer, 1954, Allanah Myles, singer, 1955, Rickey Henderson, king of stolen bases, 1958, Dido, singer, 1971, and Hideki Okajima, pitcher, 1975.

Jimmy Buffett is a singer/songwriter, famous for his tropical, casual lifestyle. Here is a clip of his song, “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” which pretty much sums up his philosophy of life.

By the way, Jesus was almost certainly NOT born on this date.


TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

(For some reason, the Divine Hours website is blank for today’s readings, so I will insert my own.)

Psalm 25:1-2 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
Psalm 25:4-7 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!

Psalm 25:11-12 For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.
Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.

Psalm 25:14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.


Today’s reading in A Year With God is “Thanking God.” The scripture reading is Deuteronomy 16:9-15.

“You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the LORD your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the LORD your God blesses you. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you, at the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there. You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes.
“You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing floor and your winepress. You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.”

The Lord rescued Israel from Egypt, and now he provides them with crops for their sustenance. Three times each year, they are to celebrate their thankfulness and joy by having these festivals/feasts. Modern Christians seem to have lost this valuable tradition. Not that we should revert back to Old Testament feasts or festivals, I covered that yesterday. But it wouldn’t hurt us to take time throughout our years to stop and thank God for everything he’s done for us. What better way to do that than to throw a huge feast like the people of Israel did?

On this special, celebratory day, I thank God for Jesus Christ, our “Passover Lamb,” who has saved us from our sins. I thank him for our jobs, which provide our sustenance. We don’t grow crops, but we work for paychecks, which allow us to buy groceries to feed our families. Our God provides for us.

Charles Wesley wrote this hymn, “Jesus, Thou Soul of All Our Joys.”

Jesus, thou soul of all our joys,
For whom we now lift up our voice,
And all our strength exert,
Vouchsafe the grace we humbly claim,
Compose into a thankful frame,
And tune thy people’s heart.


Father, on this day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I pray that people all over the world will be thankful for that moment in time when you became flesh; when the Spirit of God became incarnate to save a world from sin. Make us remember that we celebrate a real event in history, and event that changed the world. But may we not just remember on December 25 of each year. May we stop at various times in our year to remember the bounty which you have provided for us and our families. Let us not take you and your gifts for granted, but celebrate that which you give us faithfully throughout the year.

I pray for this day. May our Christmas celebration be joyful and thankful. May we be at peace, both with one another, as well as with the world around us. May there truly be peace on earth.


Noel, noel, noel, noel!
Born is the King of Israel. . .

Merry Christmas!

Grace and peace, friends.