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Sharing the Joy

December 1st, 2017

Christmas is sharing the good news with others

 “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people . . a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “sharing the joy.”

I love this season of year. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite times. They are calendar events but so much more. I enjoy their accent of my three priorities: faith, family, and friends. We gather together to give thanks for the bounty of God’s goodness and provision, and soon after we gather again with family and friends to celebrate the birth of Jesus and His coming to earth as the Savior of the world! As thankfulness distinguishes the first, joy validates the latter. Can you even imagine the spectacular pageantry that first Christmas? To say the least, Angels and Kings and shepherds are unusual companions. The message of Christmas is simple and direct, “Good News of great joy for all the people.” Read Luke 2:8-20 NKJV.

How could anyone improve on the Angels announcement? “I bring you Good News of great joy that will be for all the people . . a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 NIV. Good news! Great joy! For all people! What was the shepherds’ immediate response? They believed the truth and they shared the joy. “They came with haste . . and when they had seen Him . . they made known abroad what was told them concerning the Child.” My premise is this: Christmas isn’t really Christmas until you share the Good News. Your joy is incomplete until shared with others. I have observed the truth of that. Joy is the purest and fullest when given to others, freely and extravagantly.

I see three common behaviors to avoid. Don’t let the world run away with the party. It is easy to be disappointed by the superficial hype and hoopla the world attaches to the holiday. Their superficiality exposes that they lack any real cause for celebrating. They must pretend the good times, because they have not heard and believed the Good Tidings. Our celebration should out shine theirs

Don’t trudge wearily through the season, unable to be released into its joy. Avoid being wearied by the frantic pace and artificial merriment the culture imposes, or emotionally overwhelmed by your own disappointment or difficulty. The most world changing event of history deserves your full celebration. The simple truth is, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Read Nehemiah 8:10-12 NLT. Why wouldn’t we throw a party the world would be unavoidably drawn toward? Why don’t we become people the lost would long to become? Why can’t we incarnate the message the unbelieving world could not help but embrace?

Do make the Good Tidings available and the great joy believable. Sharing the joy must become your passion and purpose. Our message should be, “Unto you is born a Savior.” Our passion must be to, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” The Greek word, “evanggelion,” is translated into English as, “good tidings.” You can notice the similarity to evangelism and evangelist. As were the Angels at His birth, you and I are to be everyday evangelists proclaiming the Gospel of His birth, life, death, and resurrection as Savior to all men.

A friend expressed our task this way, “In every way, preach Jesus. When necessary, use words.” Your life and mine is to shine the light and bring hope to a sin darkened world. “How beautiful [is the one] who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation.” Isaiah 52:7 NKJV. Together, let our voice and His Word be heard, “Because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:14-15 NIV. Let this Christmas season be life-giving to someone because you shared the joy.

Today, I pray for you to experience a truly joy-filled Christmas season and celebration.

Christian Communications 2017

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Christmas Wonder

December 16th, 2014

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ.

This Advent, my thoughts and comments are about “Christmas wonder.”

Life presents moments that pique your curiosity until you just must know more. Some of those are coincidental; a few, but more than you might realize, are providential. I regret any time I was too busy to notice moments of divine providence. I am grateful for every time I allowed God to interrupt my plans with His opportunities. Such instances can change your course and shape your life in unexpected ways.

Christmas should be one of those times. On the first Christmas, the eternal and almighty God personally came into our world at an unexpected time (after 400 years of Heaven’s silence), to an unlikely place (to a stable, not a palace), and in an unimaginable manner (in a natural process possible only by supernatural means). The Creator became as His creation; the Eternal became subject to mortality; the Omnipotent became conventional.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ, presenting questions only God and faith can adequately answer. The Apostle Paul described the Incarnation to Timothy, his young protégé, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous.” 1 Timothy 3:16 NLT. Peter simply wrote, “[We] were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 NIV.

I love the Christmas story as told by Luke. Read Luke 2:1-20. Angels fill the Judean night with praise and pronouncements to humble shepherds routinely busy about their drab and daily life. Leaving their flocks, the shepherds hurried to find this One of whom the Angels sang. Of course, the shepherds told Mary and Joseph their story, as they later, “spread the word that had been told them about this child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” People’s “wonder” is variously translated as, “amazed, marveled, or astonished.” Christmas should arouse wonder and amazement.

Mary’s response provides my thoughts and comments today; “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV. What a model of spiritual life for you and me. Mary “treasured and pondered in her heart” the words and workings of God. Spiritual discovery originates in the heart, then engages the mind for understanding and the will for appropriate action. Generations earlier, Solomon gave strong counsel, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.” Read Proverbs 4:21-27 NKJV.

Mary’s attitude was reverential; Mary “treasured” the Angel’s words that began her journey of obedience and trust, as she embraced the awe-filled story of the shepherds’ angelic visit and pronouncement, just as she would esteem the Wise Men’s journey from afar. She placed high value on all that God said and did and cherished it all in her heart.

Mary’s posture was wonder and worship. Mary “pondered” the Angel’s words. “Ponder” is the process of, “putting one thing with another in considering circumstances.” Mary was deliberate, reflective, and ultimately receptive. Mary’s reasoned response was, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior for He has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant . . for He who is mighty has done great things and holy is His name.”  Read Mary’s joyous Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55.

This Advent, my prayer is that Christmas is released in your heart with fresh wonder and discovery.

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Christmas Joy

December 10th, 2014

“You believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV.

Great joy is unknown wherever the Good News remains untold.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Christmas joy.”

“Merry Christmas!” is an all too familiar greeting, but “merry,” seems a bit underwhelming when describing the history changing birth of Jesus. Merriment is a good thing that comes from enjoying good times and good friends. But Christmas is so much more. And God has more for you, much more. I believe, “Joyous Christmas,” is more appropriate for God’s intent for this season and year round.

This Advent, open your heart and home to be overwhelmed by, “an inexpressible and glorious joy.” That’s how Peter chose to describe Jesus’ presence permeating your heart and daily life. “You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV. Your experience and expression of the Savior’s birth, life, and sacrifice promises no less, deserves no less than great and glorious joy.

That auspicious Christmas night, the Angel’s’ announcement to the shepherds described the moment, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today, there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” At such news, Heaven could be silent no longer; “Suddenly, there appeared a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased.” Luke 2:10-14 NAS. Indeed, the Incarnation was “good news of great joy.”

But such joy did not begin with the first Christmas, nor does such abandoned joy end there. Christmas simply dramatized the eternal intent of the Father for all His creation to know glorious joy – at all times. Christmas’ celebration underscores the essence of your experience of His inexpressible joy every day. “In His presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11. That glorious joy will also flood your heart as you stand before God, “Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” Jude 24-25.

However intended for you His joy may be, great joy is not automatic. Joy is a gift God chose to give; joy is a choice you make to receive. Advent invites you to choose inexpressible and glorious joy. Nurture joy in your heart because it is not natural to your fallen nature. Mature joy in your life until it becomes a more settled disposition of your spirit, as you continually draw on unfailing, spiritual resources. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you . . My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:7/11 NIV. You have His joy completely; express His joy consistently.

You can’t share something you don’t have, and you can’t keep something you won’t share. When you give joy, you gain joy. Christmas isn’t really Christmas until you share your joy, and His joy, with others. Inexpressible joy should not be left unexpressed. Great joy is unknown wherever the Good News remains untold. This Advent, share the joy of Christmas every day, to every person, in every imaginable way. Celebrate without apology and with abandon. Invite, include, involve, welcome, laugh, love, express life, be real, and celebrate joyously.

Incarnate the joy of the message an unbelieving world cannot resist. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom 15:13 NIV. Hope, joy, and peace – my prayer and God’s Christmas gifts for you.

Today, my prayer for you this Advent is that His joy is real in you and irresistible to others.

 

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A Christmas Change

December 26th, 2012

Christmas as a heart experience is forever.

When the angels had gone away into Heaven . .” Luke 2:15 NKJV.

The wait for Christmas seems interminable. Then each day grows busier and busier with preparations until the day arrives. The family and friends gather; the dinner is served and enjoyed; family gifts are shared, and carols sung. But then what? Inevitably, Christmas as a calendar event concludes. But Christmas as a heart experience is forever. I would suggest that how you enter the Christmas celebration is not as personally impactful as how you exit the occasion.

Consider Joseph and Mary’s experience of angels’ visitations, shepherds’ hurry and wonder, royalty’s worship and lavish gifts, then life returns to normal or unfolds in ways you could not have imagined. Obviously, Joseph and Mary could never be the same as they had been before the wonder of that amazing, miraculous night in Bethlehem’s stable. But the initial aftermath was not as idyllic as you might expect it should have been. Disruption appeared to be their new normal. Christmas does not mean that everything will always be pretty and peaceful. An angel came again to Joseph in a dream, warning of Herod’s evil determination to destroy the young Messiah. “. . flee to Egypt and stay there until I bring you word . . when he arose, he took the young child and his mother and departed for Egypt. And was there until the death of Herod.” Read Matthew 2:13-23 NKJV.

In Luke’s masterful narrative of the Christmas angels singing to shepherds on a Judean hillside, there came the inevitable moment, “When the angels had left them and gone into Heaven . .” Predictably, angels return to Heaven and people return to everyday life, forever changed by such moments of Heavenly encounter. “The shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go and see this thing . . which the Lord has told us’ . . The shepherds returned [to their flocks] glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:15-16 NKJV. Angels return to Heaven, but there are lives to be lived, families to provide for, responsibilities to be fulfilled, and work to be done – but also an unbelievable story to be told.

And Matthew writes of a similar experience for those royal visitors from afar, “They departed to their own country another way.” Matthew 2:12 NKJV. I know that is merely describing the different geography of their journey home, but I cannot avoid the application that life is never quite the same after you have seen and worshiped the Christ. Read Matthew 2:1-12 NKJV. A person cannot bow at Christmas with true heart and worship and be the same as they were. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV. Christmas changes routines, shifts priorities, adjusts values, and even alters lives. Ultimately, Christmas will pass but the Savior can and will change your life forever. Christmas is not about the pageantry of mangers, angels, shepherds, or Eastern kings; Christmas is about a Savior who changes lives now and forever. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God . .” See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that change came with Christmas and remains long after.

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The Mystery and Majesty

December 3rd, 2012

The Mystery and Majesty

This Christmas season will pass, but the Savior changes lives forever.

“We . . were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 NKJV.

I love Christmas and celebrating Jesus’ birth. Make no mistake; this is a holy day not a holiday. I love the carols and decorations – lovely nativity sets – the wonder in children’s eyes at the old, old stories – congregations singing “Joy to the World, the Lord is come; Let earth receive her King” – Christmas Eve Communions and Christmas Day dinners with family and friends. I love Christmas.

Most of all, I love the mystery and majesty of Christmas, an event so inexplicable only God could accomplish it. No wonder Mary “pondered all these things in her heart,” and all who heard the shepherds’ eyewitness account, “wondered at their words.” Consider the matchless wonder this miraculous season can bring: a worried king jealous for his throne, wondering shepherds rushing from their flocks, wandering kings with royal gifts from afar, and a worshiping couple left contemplating the angels’ startling pronouncements to them. See Matthew 1:18-25/Luke 1:26-38 NKJV.

Not much remains a mystery anymore. Christmas is, and will remain so. Paul wrote, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh . . was seen by angels and was announced to the nations.” 1 Timothy 3:16 NLT. This “great mystery” is: where would the Savior come – to Bethlehem, but not to Rome, and to a stable, but not a throne; and how would the Savior come – an infant miraculously born with our shared humanity, but not as a ruling conqueror; and for whom would the Savior come – for the worst and best among us, sinners all, but not the religious.

And how did this grand introduction to your world occur? “There were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock. And an angel of the Lord [said] . . ‘Do not be afraid; I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you today a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ . . and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.’” Luke 2:8-14 NKJV.

The shepherds could have remained with their flocks, just retelling their stories about angels. Instead, they hurried to become eyewitnesses of the Savior. “When the angels had gone away into Heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go and see this . . which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger.” Read Luke 2:15-20 NKJV. Inevitably, this Christmas season will pass, but the Savior changes lives forever. Then the mystery of His birth becomes the unequalled majesty of His life in your heart.

When the angels have gone away, and inevitably they will; will you be as you were or will you seek a life-changing encounter with the Savior? Christmas is not about the angels’ song; Christmas is about knowing the Savior and sharing His Good News with others. You have not experienced Christmas until you have personally found the One, “born to you this day, a Savior which is Christ the Lord.” This Advent, you can be an “eyewitness of His majesty . . until the Morning Star rises in your heart.” 2 Peter 1:16-19 “To God our Savior . . be glory and majesty both now and forever.” Jude 25 NKJV. Amid celebrations, reflect on the mystery and majesty of a Savior.

My prayer for you today is that your joy is unrestrained and celebration unreserved.

A Postscript: A friend and excellent writer, Dennis Gallaher, decided to publish an Advent Devotional for his Church families and asked me to contribute a number of Christmas devotionals for the book, one of which is today’s EveryDay Life. God With Us is intended for daily readings during Advent, concluding on Christmas Day. It is available for $10 and could be an inspirational tool for your use this Christmas Season, or a beneficial, holiday gift for friends. If interested, email EveryDay Life your request and mailing address, and I will contact you about shipping and payment. Joy to the World!

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