Christmastime

A poem by Erica Green –December 2013

A tree in every window;
Shoppers fill the malls.
You hear the distant jingle bells
As people deck the halls.
 
“Christmastime is coming!”
You hear the people cheer,
“Buy more presents! Sing more songs!
The day is almost here!”
 
People don’t remember
All throughout the year,
They don’t think on goodwill toward men
Till Christmastime is near.
 
The baby in the manger.
A gift from God above,
Welcomed to earth by angels,
He was a gift of love.
 
So please try to remember,
As you trim the tree,
He gave the greatest gift of all,
The gift that set you free.
Nativity

The Story of the Christmas Guest

When I was a child, we received a Christmas card featurning Helen Steiner Rice’s poem ‘The Story of the Christmas Guest.”  This beautiful poem quickly became a favorite of mine.  It reminds me of Jesus’s words to His disciples regarding caring for those in need found in Matthew 25:34 – 40

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

I hope this poem speaks to your heart and reminds you that the true joy in Christmas comes from sharing God’s love with those He brings into your life.

The Story of the Christmas Guest
by Helen Steiner Rice
 
It happened one day at December’s end
Some neighbors called on an old-time friend.
And they found his shop so meager and mean,
Made gay with a thousand boughs of green.
 
And old Conrad was sitting with face ashine.
When he suddenly stopped as he stitched the twine.
And he said “My friends at dawn today,
When the cock was crowing the night away,
 
The Lord appeared in a dream to me.
And He said, ‘I’m coming your guest to be”
So I’ve been busy with feet astir,
Strewing my shop with branches of fir.
 
The table is spread and the kettle is shined,
And over the rafters the holly is twined.
And now I’ll wait for my Lord to appear;
And listen closely so I will hear,
 
His steps as he nears my humble place.
And I’ll open the door and I’ll look on his face.”
Then his friends went home and left Conrad alone,
For this was the happiest day he had known.
 
For long since his family had passed away.
And Conrad had spent many a sad Christmas Day.
But he knew with the Lord as his Christmas guest,
This Christmas would be the dearest and best.
 
So he listened with only joy in his heart,
And with every sound he would rise with a start,
And looked for the Lord to be at his door.
Like the vision that he had had a few hours before.
 
So he ran to the window after hearing a sound,
But all he could see on the snow covered ground
Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn.
And all his clothes were ragged and worn.
 
But old Conrad was touched and he went to the door
And he said, “Your feet must be cold and sore.
I have some shoes in my shop for you.
And I have a coat to keep you warmer, too.”
 
So with grateful heart the man went away.
But Conrad notice the time of day
And he wondered what made the dear Lord so late,
And how much longer he’d have to wait.
 
Then he heard another knock, and he ran to the door,
But it was only a stranger once more.
A bent old lady with a shawl of black,
And a bundle of kindling piled on her back.
 
But she asked only for a place to rest,
A place that was reserved, for Conrad’s great guest.
But her voice seemed to plead, “Don’t send me away,
Let me rest for awhile this Christmas Day.”
 
So Conrad brewed her a steaming cup
And told her to sit at the table and sup.
After she had left, he was filled with dismay
For he saw that the hours were slipping away
 
The Lord had not come as He said He would
And Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood.
When out of the stillness he heard a cry.
“Please help, me and tell me – Where am I?”
 
So again he opened his friendly door.
And stood disappointed as twice before.
It was a child who had wandered away,
And was lost from her family on Christmas Day.
 
Again Conrad’s heart was heavy and sad,
But he knew he could make this little girl glad.
So he called her in and he wiped her tears,
And he quieted all her childish fears.
 
Then he led her back to her home once more.
Then as he entered his own darkened door,
He knew that the Lord was not coming today,
For the hours of Christmas, had all passed away.
 
So he went to his room, and he knelt down to pray.
He said, “Lord, why did you delay?
What kept You from coming to call on me?
I wanted so much Your face to see.”
 
Then softly, in the silence, a voice he heard.
“Lift up your head – I have kept My word.
Three times my shadow crossed your floor.
Three times I came to your lowly door.
 
I was the beggar with bruised cold feet;
I was the woman you gave something to eat;
I was the child on the homeless street.
 
Three times I knocked, three times I came in,
And each time I found the warmth of a friend.
Of all the gifts, love is the best.
I was honored to be your Christmas guest.
 

Proverbs 31 and the Ten Commandments of Thrifty Living

The Christmas season is a time for being generous and gathering with family and friends.  However, after the holidays are over, many people find themselves saddled with significant debt accrued by giving gifts and throwing parties that went beyond their budgets.  Even as we seek to be generous and shower affection on our loved ones, we must remember that the true spirit of Christmas is celebrating the birth of Christ and sharing God’s love with those around us.  Being generous and sharing with others does not require one to go into debt.  It does, however, require some time, effort, and planning.

Today I am sharing some ways you  “Applying Proverbs 31 to the Ten Commandments of Thrifty Living”.  The ‘commandments’ in bold were created by the author of this list–I found it many years ago and I no longer have any idea who authored it.   The Scriptures were included in the list and are from the New International Version. The application of these principles are my own ideas.  I believe these principles are still valid, and if you apply them to your holiday planning and spending, you will be able to have a meaningful Christmas celebration while staying within your budget.  

Applying Proverbs 31 to the Ten Commandments of Thrifty Living

1) Roll up your sleeves.  “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”   Proverbs 31:17

Convenience items can save time but cost more.  Sometime the trade off is worth it as the time saved may be more valuable than the money spent.  Be wise in choosing convenience items that give you a good value for your money and do truly save time.  Likewise, paying others to things you are able to do will save you time but cost you money.  Make wise decisions about what taks you should do yourself and what tasks are worth paying someone to do for you.

2) Organize your world.  “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  Proverbs 31:27

Organization helps you save time and money.  Organize shopping trips to accomplish multiple tasks while out to save gas and time.  Organize online shopping to ensure that you get free shipping and don’t have to pay rush delivery charges to get gifts delivered by Christmas.  To get ahead for next year, organize holiday decorations and leftover gift wrap and cards so they can be stored properly and be found easily next year.

3)  Provide for each day’s need.  “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family.”  Proverbs 31:15

Caring for your family should be your first priority.  Don’t let the business of the holidays interfere with taking care of the day-to-day needs of your family.  It easy to get so busy that we end of eating out a lot and making multiple trips to the store for groceries and other necessities, both of which can wreck havoc with your budget.

4) Waste not; share your excess.  “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  Proverbs 31:20

The holidays are a good time to clean out closets and give away items no longer needed.  They are also a good time to share generously with others what God has given to you.  I set aside a portion of my Christmas budget each year to buy new gifts for one or more children whose families need a bit of help. There are many, many ways you get share with others in deed.  A few ideas are:  donate unwanted items to Goodwill or similar organizations, buy new toys and clothing for children in need and donate through the Salvation Army, and pack a shoebox with small gifts to be donated to children in improvished countries through Samaritan’s Purse.

5) Discover your creative genius.  “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”  Proverbs 31:26

God has endued each one of us with creativity, although we each express it differently.  Pray and seek God’s direction in using the creative gifts He has given you to bless others.  I enjoy knitting and knit Christmas stockings as gifts.  I have friends who bless others with homemade jams, jellies, and baked goods.  If decorating is your talent, your gift to a friend could be to help her decorate her home.  Handmade gifts can save money but do require an investment of time, so plan ahead and be organized.

6) Learn prices.  “She sees her trade is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”  Proverbs 31:18

Don’t fall for ads declaring that something is marked down 50% or more.  Many stores mark prices up before the holidays to give the illusion that you are saving more money than you really are.  The Internet and phone apps make comparison shopping easier than ever.  Check prices on the items you need before you go out shopping.

7) Presentation is everything.  “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”  Proverbs 31:22

You can make even simple meals special by using nice dishes and decorating the table to be festive.  You can make your home welcoming and inviting by adding inexpensive decorations, such as lights and tinsels, to your entrance. Simple, inexpensive embellishments can dress up your presents. Presentation does not have to be expensive to add a nice touch to your home and gifts.

8) Adjust your attitude.  “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”  Proverbs 31:25

Don’t let the holidays cause you to become overwhelmed and stressed.  If you get too concerned about buying everyone the perfect gift or creating the perfect holiday, you will wind up not enjoying the holidays.There is no such thing as a perfect holiday, anyway.  Remember Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ and a time to spend with friends and family. Keep your focus on Christ and you will have a more satisfying holiday.

9) Out with impulse.  “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”  Proverbs 31:16

Plan your shopping before you leave the house.  Know how much you plan to spend on each family member and stick to your budget.  Impulse shopping leads to overspending and often to being less satisfied with your purchases than planning ahead and sticking to your plans.

10) Honor God.  “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”  Proverbs 31:30

Everything we do should honor God. When our focus is on God and celebrating the birth of His Son, our celebrations will truly be meaningful and enjoyable.

T’was the Years Before Christmas

I read this stirring poem tonight.  It was written by a good friend Steve Weber.  In Steve’s own words, “God gave me a poem that came faster than I could write it for my sermon this morning based on the “silent” 400 or so years before Jesus’ birth. the title of the poem is, “T’was the Years Before Christmas”. Hope this provokes you to realizing that when God appears to be silent in your life it may very well be because He has something climactic planned.”

I am reprinting here with Steve’s permission.  I hope it blesses you and helps you to keep your focus on the true reason we celebrate Christmas–the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Merry Christmas!

 

Twas the years before Christmas and all through the land
The people were restless under Rome’s command
God’s silence was deafening in every home
His voice not heard for centuries as His people groaned

Who would deliver, who would set free
These people who once had such vic’try
When would God come to set His people free
When would the King Jesus return for you and me

As each voice rose up with a clatter, Lord Jesus knew what was the matter
The sheep needed their Shepherd so to the throne He did go
Dear Father they need me down below.
The time has come, all is in place, though they know not now, they will soon see my face

So to a young girl did Gabriel arrive, to deliver a message no man could contrive
“Dear daughter of the king, you shall carry His seed, that the world may know I am indeed…
The One whom the prophets spoke of before, the King, the Messiah, the Jesus of lore..
Fear not my dear girl, for you have been chosen, for with God the impossible is what has been spoken

The world as you know it will not be the same, your sins forgiven, no more shame
But He will not come as a prince or a King, but the Savior wrapped in clothes bearing “the Name”.
To Shepherds will I announce his arrival in time, and you will be called blessed because you are mine
Though the world may mock and your heart will be broken,
fear not my dear daughter, for your God has spoken”

Then turning away from heaven above, the seed entered Mary with tremendous love…
Now they shall know, now they shall see, T’was the years before Christmas prepared just for thee.
Now receive Him my friend, do not turn away
Let His love lift you as you surrender each day.
Though the journey be long and troubling at times
I am with you dear child because you are mine

by Steve Weber

Honoring God With Our Money: Lesson 6

In week 6 of our Bible study on honoring God with our money, we look at what the Bible says about the value of work and God’s commands regarding charity.  This lesson concludes our exploration of what the Bible says about money.  In the coming weeks, we will examine practical applications in regarding to budgeting and living debt-free.

God commands those who can work to work and provide for their families. 

Prov. 10:4 Lazy hands make a man __________, but diligent hands bring __________.

Prov. 21:17 He who loves _______________ will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be __________.

Prov. 28:19-20 He who works his land will have _______________ food, but the one who chases _______________ will have his fill of poverty.  A _____________________ man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go ____________________.

Yet God commands us to be generous and share with the poor. What do the following verses tell us about how we are to treat the poor?”

Deut. 15:7  If anyone is poor among you…do not be __________________ or ______________________.

Deut. 15:11  There will always be poor people in the land.   Therefore I command you to be ______________________ toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Read Deuteronomy 26:12, Leviticus 19:10, and Luke 14:13.  To which specific groups of people are we commanded to show generosity?

1)      ______________________________

2)      ______________________________

3)      ______________________________

4)      ______________________________

5)      ______________________________

6)      _______________________________

In 2 Corinthians 9:11 and Proverbs 19:17, what does God promise to those who are generous?

1)      ______________________________________________

2)      ______________________________________________

Read Proverbs 17:15, 21:13, and 28:17.  What does God promise to those who do not assist the poor?

1)      _______________________________________________

2)      _______________________________________________

3)      _________________________________________________

Acts 10:1 – 4  Story of Cornelius—

 “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.”

What did Cornelius do that attracted God’s attention?

____________________________________________________________

What characteristics of Cornelius’s life should we emulate?

____________________________________________________________

 

Life Application:

Luke 12:33, 34 Sell your possessions and give to the poor.  Provide purses for yourself that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Christ is Born Today!

Wishing blessings to all today as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  May you have joy and peace today and blessings in the New Year.  Praise God for sending his Son into the world that we might have peace, forgiveness, and salvation.  Merry Christmas!

Good Christian Men, Rejoice!
By John M. Neale
 
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Give ye heed to what we say:
Jesus Christ is born today.
Man and beast before Him bow
And He is in the manger now;
Christ is born today,
Christ is born today!
 
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Now ye hear of endliss bless:
Jesus Christ was born for this.
He hath opened heaven’s door,
And man is bless forever more.
Christ was born for this,
Chris was born for this.
 
Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice!
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Jesus Christ was born to save;
Calls you one, and calls you all,
To gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save,
Christ was born to save!
 
What Child Is This?
by William C. Dix
 
What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greeet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the Kind,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste, to bring Him Laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
 

Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men

At Christmastime particularly, we pray for peace on Earth and we do our part to promote peace by showing goodwill not only to our loved ones and our neighbors but also to those in need.  We put change in the Salvation Army kettles, drop off new toys at collection centers, pack shoe boxes with gifts for Operation Christmas Child, donate food to our local food banks, and try to spread love and good cheer to those we encounter.  We pray that wars will end and the heroic men and women who defend our nation will soon return home and be reunited with their families.

Yet, as we look around us, we do not find a world at peace.  Wars rage around the world from Africa to Asia to Latin and South America.  Violence is escalating.  Our news has been filled in the last few weeks with the tragic stories of the senseless murders of innocent children and holiday shoppers.  We wonder what has gone wrong with our world.

The wish for peace on earth is nothing new.  For as long as mankind has existed, there has been strife on earth.  The first murder is recorded in fourth chapter of Genesis when jealously provoked Cain to kill his brother Abel.  In Psalm 120:6 and 7, the psalmist writes, “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace.  I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.”   The poet Henry Longfellow addressed these themes in his poem, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  He recognized that God is still in control of this world and that one day He will set all things right.

God did not abandon mankind after creating us.  However, He has given us free will and, unfortunately, many people exercise their free will in ways that lead to violence.  God has promised that Jesus will return to Earth one day to rule and reign over it in peace.  Until that time, however, we will only experience true peace on Earth when we turn our lives over to God and allow Him to give us the ‘peace that passes understanding.’

In these last few days before Christmas, I urge you to remember the true reason for the season, to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, who would die for our sins.  Invite Him into your heart and allow Him to give you inner peace and true joy.  Merry Christmas and may God bless you.

 

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Lyrics by Henry W. Longfellow
Music by  J. Baptiste Calkin
 
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.
 
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.
 
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
 
Then peeled the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead: nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
 
Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!