Hallelujah – Barlow Girl
Little Drummer Boy – King and Country
Welcome to Our World – Chris Rice
A Strange Way to Save the World – Mark Harris
Laura Story – Love is Here
Years past I have posted a musical advent calendar to celebrate Christmas. This year I am putting up a few of my non-traditional favorites all together instead of one by one. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas week remembering God’s most gracious gift to us.
“When the Time is Right” – Ginny Owens
Do Not Be Afraid – Scott Krippayne
God with Us – Bob Bennett
Rejoice – Aaron Shust
Unto Us – Aaron Shust
(First published December 12, 2013)
“And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins. Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying; BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL, which translated means, God with us.” Matthew 1:21-23
We don’t think of that verse as offensive, but more than likely it would have offended the religious leaders of the day. They were being oppressed by Rome. Their country was overrun by foreigners. They were being abused and mistreated at every turn. They wanted a Savior who could save them from the trouble around them. Shockingly Matthew points to the real problem. It wasn’t their circumstances it was their own hearts.
“…He will save His people from their sins.”
How dare he talk to persecuted people like that. How dare he not enter into their pain and ask them how they feel. How dare he accuse them of being sinners.
And so it is. The gospel is offensive. We think our life would be better if we just had different circumstances. If I just had a different wife, husband or different children. Maybe a different church or friends or job. Maybe if my past hurts weren’t so great. The list is endless.
Trouble is everywhere. You can find atrocities sprinkled throughout history. Your circumstances, however horrifying, are nothing new. The sooner we see the problem is within us instead of without us the sooner we are ready to hear the wonderful story of the gospel.
God became man. (Amazing)
God is with us (Incredible)
His purpose? …to save us from our sins. (Freedom at last)
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! II Corinthians 9:15
(First published 12-19-2015)
“I can’t wait for Christmas!!!” My six-year-old granddaughter blurted out to the clerk restocking the shelves at the grocery store. The clerk responded with, “Have you been good this year so Santa will come?”
Arianna looked a little confused and then answered, “Santa’s not real, God’s real.” Now it was the clerk’s turn to be confused. Not knowing just what to say, I smiled, and we moved on down the aisle.
I thought about the conversation all the way home. I don’t think of Santa as evil, but Jesus is so much better.
Santa keeps a list of who is naughty or nice. The theory is he only visits those who have been good. We use it to motivate kids to cooperate with us those last weeks before Christmas, or those gifts aren’t going to show up.
Jesus, on the other hand, came knowing we weren’t nice. We needed a Savior who could save us from our sin. (Matthew 1:21) His coming depended on God’s goodness, not our goodness.
Santa supposedly leaves a lump of coal to those who don’t measure up. Jesus offers complete forgiveness and has taken the punishment we deserve by dying in our place.
Santa lives forever to keep track. Jesus now lives forever to intercede for us before God. (Romans 8:34)
Santa shows up one day a year. Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b-6)
But the most important difference between Santa and Jesus is the one Arianna pointed out so simply. “Santa isn’t real …God is real!” It is fun to pretend, but my belief in God isn’t a fantasy. It is something I have staked my life on. So as you celebrate Christmas this year remember it is about a Savior, not a Santa.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
Now that’s something to be excited about!
I can still see him sitting in the corner of our living room, pen in hand, next to a small handmade bookshelf, where he kept his Bible and other reading material. He sat there either early morning before his day started or late at night while he waited for one of his three daughters to come home. Once we were home he quietly locked the door and went to bed. His job was done for the night.
I didn’t notice how carefully he kept track of us until one night while working the late shift at a local nursing home. The commercial washing machines that were entrusted to my care decided to leak all over the floor. When I came back to the laundry room, after putting linens away, I was met with a small lake.
My shift should have ended at 11:00, but it took me until after midnight to mop up the mess. Assuming my parents would be in bed I didn’t call to tell them I would be late. When I finally made it home the lights were on and my mother met me at the door.
Why was I late? What had happened?
Her voice was a mixture of rebuke and relief. Before I could answer she told me Daddy had gone looking for me, tracing the path I would have taken from home to the nursing home.
I apologized and we waited together for Dad to get home. I’m not sure what time it was when he finally drove into the driveway. He didn’t say much, just that he was glad I was ok, and please call next time. He quietly locked the door and we all went to bed.
It made me wonder how many other times he had sat and worried about us. Praying we would make it home safely.
But as much as my earthly father took care of me how much more does my Heavenly Father. He waits for me to remember that he is waiting for me… day after day, week after week, year after year.
How long has it been since you have sat at His feet?… read His word?… met with other Christians?
But God wasn’t content to wait. He came looking for us, even going so far as to send His son to walk among us, and eventually die for this race of rebellious, thoughtless people.
In this season of celebrating Jesus birth wouldn’t now be a good time for you to come to Him? Come for the first time or return to Him from a long absence. He is not only waiting, He is pursuing.
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10
“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hear my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them”, Ecclesiastes 12:1
“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown.” Jeremiah 2:2
(See also John 3:16; Romans 10:9&10)
(Written November, 2011)
In early November I got out the Thanksgiving decorations box. I carefully unwrapped a ceramic pilgrim man and put him on the buffet. Our three year-old granddaughter, Arianna, gasped with wonder and said,… “Jesus!”
I had to tell her, “No, it’s a pilgrim.”
I unwrapped the matching pilgrim lady and again Arianna whispered, …”Jesus.”
“No,” I responded, “Another pilgrim.”
We hadn’t been talking about Jesus. We don’t have statues of him standing around our house and yet when something new and wonderful was taken out to be displayed she just assumed it had to be Jesus.
When the first snow came in November she squealed and said, “God sent the snow.”
“Yes, Arianna, God sent the snow.”
I smile at her simple happiness and wish I could rewind my life to a simpler time. My grown-up heart is cynical. I have lived in this broken world too long to be optimistic. The reality is, life is hard. It isn’t how God intended. We have each royally messed up.
…And so we have Christmas. Not to distract us from what is bad in our lives. Not to have a month of gift giving and parties. We have Christmas because God promised he would send a redeemer all those years ago when our first parents sinned.
Just as Adam and Eve chose sin over God, we have chosen our own selfish ways. Instead of turning our face to God we turn our faces inward. We turn them anywhere but toward God. And yet…
“God so loved the world… (God so loved me, you) that He gave…” He gave his son, not only to be born, but eventually to die for my lost condition. What a marvelous hope!
So I stay close to Arianna. As she delights in Christmas and wants to learn all about the baby and what God did, I feel my own heart melting. It is becoming a little more childlike. As I tell her about the great God who loves her, I am reminded of just how great He is.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79