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Christmas Eve #3

Tonight is our third Christmas Eve. Tomorrow we will celebrate God’s gift of the Christ child by exchanging gifts with family in Illinois. I have no doubt that there will be much silliness and laughter. It’s a great ending to a wonderful Christmas holiday. 

Our gifts aren’t expensive, but they are nice and they were picked out with each individual in mind. For instance, we won’t be giving a gift intended to a young college-age man to our daughter-in-law who is the mother of two college-age daughters. And vice versa. 

Our gifts were selected for each individual. And, we hope that each person will use the gifts we have given to them. 

The best example of gift giving comes from God. And, we each have received gifts selected just for us by our Heavenly Father. 

For instance, I am reminded often of the gift of citizenship in this amazing country that I received at birth. I did not have to wait in line and compete for my citizenship as friends of mine have done. It was a gift to me; I did not earn it nor purchase it. I want to use the gift of citizenship well – staying informed, helping others, doing my part. 

I received the gift of being born into my middle class, hard working and loving family. My family is a gift to me; again, I neither earned it nor bought it. 

My body was a gift to me – prone to arthritis and all – a gift from my Heavenly Father. I have abused this gift at times with poor eating habits and lack of attention. But, it was a gift to me and I want to use it well, doing what God has for me to do. 

What gifts have you received?  Trust that God has given you unique talents and abilities that He selected just for you. And then use those gifts!  

I love the advice given in the book of Romans:

“Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, then prophesy whenever you can—as often as your faith is strong enough to receive a message from God.

“If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching.

“If you are a preacher, see to it that your sermons are strong and helpful. If God has given you money, be generous in helping others with it. If God has given you administrative ability and put you in charge of the work of others, take the responsibility seriously. Those who offer comfort to the sorrowing should do so with Christian cheer.

“Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good.

“Love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.

“Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.

“Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always.”  (Romans 12:4-12)

Great advice!!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

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The day after…

John and I are on our way to celebrate “Christmas 2016 part three.”  What fun.  Tomorrow we will see more family and sometime during the next few days, we will hand out more presents.  It is an exciting time.

But, many of you woke up to a “mess of Christmas.”  The beautiful wrapping paper is now torn and smashed together into paper balls.  Ribbons have been tossed to the side.  And, the amount of cardboard in your recycle bin is approaching the last pile of “moving boxes” level.  The day after Christmas can be as stressful as some of the days that led up to the holiday.

As we start the “clean up” process from the celebration of Christmas, let’s not run too fast toward the “New Year resolutions” time.  We still have time to send that note, to deliver that gift.  We can still say “Merry Christmas” in person, or text, or mail, or phone or even via Facebook.  Let’s not let this season pass without making that contact that we know we should make.  Do the right thing.  Yes, we may be a day late, but we still have time.

When, I was working full-time for pay (rather than my full-time work with no pay status), I found myself dreading that project at the bottom of my in-box or drafting the reply to that email.  And, so I sometimes put it off to the next day…or the next day…or (I would pray) never.  It didn’t work.  Eventually, I had to do the work.  And, I never found that extra time made it better.

So, let’s do the right thing.  Let’s get it done.  It isn’t too late.

Love you,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

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“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”   (Romans 12:2)

 

Come and worship 


In this year’s choir Christmas music an interesting theme was presented – all of heaven watching as Jesus gave up His crown to come to earth. 

I cannot imagine the conversations that must have taken place among the angels. God Himself was going to live on earth as a man, with all of man’s vulnerabilities and challenges. And, even more surprising, God would come as a child, the weakest, the neediest, the smallest form of man. The angels must have been amazed to hear God’s plan. 

Should anyone be surprised that the angels should shout the good news. 

          “And suddenly there came with the messenger a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,

          “‘Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men — good will.'” (Luke 2:13-14)

The Bible speaks of angels from the beginning to the end. They were given the mission to proclaim that the Creator had made Himself to be like the created. And, as the angels proclaimed God’s truth, good men listened and were called.

It is still true on this Christmas Eve. You and I are called. 

We are called to worship Him who left the glory of heaven and came to earth. We are called to follow Him and Him alone. But, we cannot worship Him, who is holy and pure, until we ask for His forgiveness of our selfishness and wicked ways. We must truly and honestly repent. 

Friend, come and worship!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

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Angels from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth; Ye who sang creation’s story, Now proclaim Messiah’s birth: Come and worship, Come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Shepherds, in the fields abiding, Watching o’er your flocks by night, God with man is now residing, Yonder shines the infant Light; Come and worship, Come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Sages, leave your contemplations, Brighter visions beam afar; Seek the great desire of nations, Ye have seen His natal star; Come and worship, Come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Saints before the altar bending, Watching long in hope and fear, Suddenly the Lord, descending, In His temple shall appear: Come and worship, Come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Not what or when but whom

This morning, our scripture reading included Hebrews 11 – the great chapter about faith. Stick with me and read on. 

Hebrews 11:32-40 and 13-16 “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect…

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”


Faith that the Messiah would come had inspired the children of Jacob for hundreds of years. But, it appears that they had interpreted the promise of the Messiah in their own way . They read that a “virgin would conceive” and “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” And, after reading those passages and making up some things on their own, they decided that the Messiah would come to defeat the Romans!  The Messiah would bring an army to defeat their current enemy!!  The Messiah would restore Israel on their timeline and in the fashion that they had decided!!!
How wrong they were. 

I am learning more and more that my faith is not in “when” or in  “what” but in “whom.” I believe that we each must come to the point with God where we can honestly say, I trust You no matter what. 

As we gather together this holiday, let’s trust more. Let’s trust God with that burden, that loved one, that need. We may not live to see the end of the story, but we have every assurance that God knows our hearts and He has a plan. 

Don’t decide what the Messiah is supposed to do. Just trust Him. 

Merry day before the day before Christmas!!!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

4 Kings

I always like the song “We Three Kings.” It is a little like a chant, but yet it is uplifting!  

The Bible says that the Magi brought three gifts, so tradition says that there were three kings. 

But, what about the fourth king? King Herod…Herod the Great, the man that Rome had named King of Judea or the Herodian Kingdom. 

  • Herod was enjoying life on his throne with (history reports) his 2,000 body guards. The Magi were seeking and traveled. 
  • Herod built great structures with his name being glorified. The Magi brought gifts for a king. 
  • The Magi were scholars. Herod had people who could look things up for him. 
  • The Magi sought to worship the new king. Herod sought to murder him.
  • Herod and the Magi had the same opportunities and could have the same information.
  • The Magi were seeking. Herod was hiding. 
  • The Magi knew that they were not the center of all things. Herod eliminated all potential competitors to his throne. 
  • The Magi worshipped the Messiah. Herod tried to kill him. 

Herod…so sad. 

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

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“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.” (Matthew 2:16)

Try wonder


When we were in a Peru, we would often see a single farm animal, like a pig or goat or cow, tethered by a rope to a tree or stake. A person would be working, not too far away from the animal. As the worker tilled the soil or gathered the crop, the animal would graze on the land around them. Working around the animal looked peaceful and easy. And, i could never do it!  
I am not an “animal person.” I am just not naturally comfortable around them. Even when someone introduces me to their dog or cat, I am on my guard while I am in their home. I don’t know why this is, it just is. 

But, I am very comfortable doing other things. 

I have a feeling that the shepherds were comfortable in their field, taking care of the herd assigned to them. And, they were incredibly frightened when the angel appeared to them to share that the Messiah had come. But, they got over their fear quickly as they ran to the stable. The excitement of the promise fulfilled did away with their fear. 

I’ve read that the Bible says something like “fear not” 365 times, once for every day. And, I’ve read that the number is much lower. It really doesn’t matter to me – the Bible says it enough for me to get the point. 

I want my excitement for God to drive away my fears. And, to do that, I must praise Him more and more. I need to spend more time and energy recognizing how the Creator of all heaven and earth saved me and that He loves me!

Friend, instead of fear, try wonder!

Love,

Jill (just one of God’s kids)

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“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
  and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. (Luke 2:8-20)