Category Archives: Christmas

Merry 2023 Christmas

I have to marvel at the simplicity of it all.  A simple manger, a simple couple, simple shepherds.  It was not a spectacle at all. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords came in simple fashion.  No big procession, no great attendance, no important parents, no caring staff to swaddle the child.  Simply a baby being born.

I have to wonder at the grandeur.  A grand angelic host, a grand and glorious star, grand kings from afar.  This was not a normal birth, by any mean.  Even though it was simple by all means, it was grand in the sight of angels, kings, and even the heavens above.,

I have to marvel at the humility it took.  A humble father in Joseph, a humble mother in Mary, a humble Son of God coming in such fashion.  Joseph said not a word about the magnitude of His child, although He knew this baby would be the Messiah.  Mary only pondered these things in her heart when the shepherds came.  She did not speak of the confirmation they brought about her child.  Jesus could have come in a brilliant flash of light, with the angelic hots singing so loud in the heavens that all would hear.  But, He did not.  He came simply, but in grand fashion, with all the humility of a human baby boy.

The historical significance of His birth cannot be overstated.  Time stood still for a minute, and then changed direction.  No longer were years counting down, but they were counting up.  No longer would the calendar say BC, but it would say AD.  A mere mortal can do nothing to change time, but this child, this simple baby boy, completely changed the course of history.  His story is the very bedrock of history.

Today we celebrate His birth.  It was not on this day that he was actually born, for no one knows that exact day.  His birth is a mystery even to all of us who follow Him.  It is a mystery of the greatest magnitude.  Why would He leave His throne in heaven to come and save a wretch like me?  Why would He leave His throne to come into a lost and drying world, only to be crucified?  Why would the creator of the universe come in such a lowly fashion?  It is a mystery to all of us, yet it is a mystery revealed in His word if we look carefully.  It is a mystery that the Holy Spirit can help us to understand when we ask for that kind of wisdom.

We overlook all these things to merely give each other presents and gifts, and to have a feast of the food He has provided on this earth. We gather our families together, perhaps even praying over this food.  We overlook what He gave up and the sacrifice He became for our sins to have a party.  What are we doing?  What a I doing on this greatest day in history.

More importantly we forget why He came on the day He came.  He did not come so we would have these fasts, give these gifts and gather as a family. He came to show us the Father, to be beaten and bruised, and to die for our sins.   He came to fulfill the law.  That does not mean He came to cancel out the Ten Commandments.  Those commandments are as true today as ever.  He came to fulfill the sacrificial law.  No more would trespass offerings, sin offerings, burnt offerings, meat offerings and peace offerings be necessary.  He was our offering for all our sins.  He took away the sins of everyone who believes in Him. Yet He strengthened the Ten Commandments.  He said one who lusts commits adultery and that one who calls another a fool is the same as a murderer.

How will you honor His birth this Christmas.  Will you go abut things as you always have on Christmas Day?  Will you ignore the sacrifice He became for your sins, and only celebrate His birth?  If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, make today that day.  Perhaps He is your Savior, but you have not made Him Lord!  Give your life over to Him today.  Perhaps you are following Him with all your heart.  Give Him more today by rededicating your life to Him and setting forth on a new journey. 

On this Christmas Day, give a present to Jesus.  Give yourself to Him.  It is the least we can do.  Paul says, in Romans 12:1, that we should present ourselves a s living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.  I don’t know about you, but do not live as holy as I should.  I do not always give myself completely to Him. I do not always present myself to Him, but keep back parts of myself for my own foolish desires.  He has a better plan for me.  Paul says this is our reasonable service.  This is not the service of only those who minister the word, but for all of us, Present yourself to Him!  We look at Jesus as a present to us, but we forget to give the present of our lives to Him.  Make today that day!

Let us pray.

Jesus, I am a sinner.  I need your grace. Today, I turn from my sin and turn toward you.  I accept the sacrifice you became for my sin, and believe you rose from the dead.  I ask you to be my Savior. And, Lord, I also give my life to you.  You gave your life for me, and now I give my life back to you.  You have a better plan.  Be my Lord today.  I submit to your authority in my life. I give my days to you. I ask you t reveal your word to me and show me what I should do.  Give me wisdom each day, Lord, to fulfill your plan for my life. I praise you for this day.  Thank you, Lord.

Merry Christmas to you!


What Happened?

What exactly took place that made
Christmas so important?

The one who strengthens us became weak

He had all the strength of thousands of armies and was victorious in every battle.  No foe could stand against Him, no enemy could stop Him.  No problem was too big, no trial to hard, no test too overwhelming.  Nothing scared Him or made Him fear.

Jesus, who is my strength, became a baby, the weakest of all men.  No strength to help Himself with any need. Only a cry could bring Him someone to provide strength in His little life.  From ultimate strength to ultimate weakness, all for me.

My provider became the neediest of all

He says if I ask anything in His name, He will do it.  He is the creator of all things, the supplier of food, water and air.  All that I need comes from Him.  Without Him, I am nothing and I would have nothing.  All that I have come from Him.  All peace, joy, hope, faith and love comes from Him.  All good in this world comes from Him.  He is the source of life.

Jesus, our provider, became the neediest of all humans, a baby who could not feed Himself, relieve His thirst by Himself, clean Himself, change His clothes.  Completely dependent on everyone and everything. From provider to needy, all for me

He went from knowing all to no knowledge

He numbers the hair on my head.  He knows my every need. He knows my voice and He hears me when I call. He knows my heart, my thoughts, my desires, my dreams.  He knows the plans He has for me and they are good.  He knows all there is to know.

Jesus, who was­­ omniscient, became one with no knowledge. A babe in a manger. Barely learning to know His parents’. Not knowing anything around Him.  Not knowing how to talk, or understand or reason.  From all knowing to knowing nothing, all for me

He went from Creator to created

He was there at the beginning, the Word that went forth when God said “Let there be..”.  He was the Word, and all things were made by Him.  He made the stars above and names them one by one, 400 billion in our galaxy alone.  He made all the animals, birds, bugs, and things in the sea.  He made the earth, the seas, the rivers, the dry land and the mountains.  All things were made by Him and without Him nothing was made

Jesus who was the creator, was now created in Mary’s womb.  He had no control over this creation.  He could not speak His desires into existence.  He was subject to the DNA of Mary.  He could not determine His hair color, or His eye color, or His height or weight.  He was helpless in His own creation after creating all things.  From creator to created, all for me.

He went from being King of Kings to a lowly babe. 

All power, all authority, all knowledge, all wisdom was His. Undefeated for all time. All the kings of the earth are subject to Him.  H controlled their destiny, the length of their reign, the people who serve them, and every battle they fight. Creator of all things.  Knowledge of all things.

Jesus, King if all Kings, Lord of all Lords, humbled himself and became a man. Leaving all His kingly praise, power and strength to come and die for us.  He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.  He withheld His power to escape this excruciating death for all of us.  He humbled himself more than we can imagine.  From King of Kings to Lowly babe, all for me

Jesus gave His all to pay it all so we could have it all.  A divine act of humility

That’s what happened. That’s why we Celebrate Christmas.

That is His love for us.

A Star is Born

I love looking up at the stars.  To me, there is no greater majesty than these pinpoints of light that dot the sky at night.  I always loved getting out in the early morning hours, before the sun even thought about rising, and looking up to the heavens to see what they had in store for me that morning.  In Iowa, it’s easy to get to a place where there is little man-made light to interfere with the grandest display of God’s majesty.  I could walk away from the campground in the summer months, over to the blacktop road, and down a few hundred feet and the stars would brighten up like a 3-way lightbulb does as you turn the knob.  Glorious!

My favorite constellation is Orion by a long shot.  It rises in the Easter sky in the spring after a long winter hiatus.  On the horizon you see it smaller and less pronounced.  That rectangular shape with three stars in the middle slowly makes its way through the sky, getting larger and larger it seems as it gets higher and higher.  Called the hunter, he dominates the sky with his size and outstanding features.  It seems he is hunting right in your backyard.  But, in truth, the closets of those stars is estimated to be 693 light years from earth.  Or, to make the number a little more real to you, that is around 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles away from earth, and the farthest star away is almost double that.  I don’t even know how to pronounce that kind of distance. Yet, they look so close in the night sky, and so bright,

Even the planets of our own solar system are seen as lights in the sky, and often appear as stars to our eyes.  Usually, the most brilliant of those are Jupiter and Venus.  Venus is often seen in the wee hours of the morning just before the sunrise in the eastern sky.  The truth is, while the stars in the heavens are mostly just that and give off their own light, these planets are mere reflections of the suns light upon them.  This star we call the sun is so bright and gives off so much light, that even its reflection makes a dark place look bright to our eyes.  Yet the sun, which dominates our sky and light our way, is about 93 million miles away from us, and is a small star in comparison to many stars over our heads. Jupiter is 390 million miles away and Venus is 153 million miles away.  Yet they shine so brightly.

Have you ever heard of Louis Giglio?  He does an amazing job showing the majesty of God’s creation in two videos.  The fist is Called “How Great is Our God” and the second is “Indescribable”  There are longer and shorter versions of these videos, and I highly recommend them if this is of interest to you.  Incredible and vast are the heavens above us.  There is one more about something called Laminin that will blow your mind!

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday that had a link attached.  This link led to an article in Forbes magazine about the appearance of what they called the Bethlehem Star.  In so many words, it explained how the confluence of planets coming together would form a more brilliant light in the heavens than is usual and customary.  Man has such a strong desire to explain the supernatural so that they can comprehend it. Scientists do this all the time because they just can’t believe the miracles that happen in the heavens or on this earth.  But science cannot explain a miracle.  Doctors cannot explain when someone is all of a sudden healed from a disease they said was terminal.  They cannot explain why many narrow escapes happen to people, or how they escaped an accident with little to no bruises.  Science can explain the natural, but not the supernatural. 

The star that night was supernatural.  Don’t let scientist fool you.  If it was a natural heavenly event, like every picture we see depicts it, all the people would have seen it and flocked to Bethlehem.  It would have been apparent to all that something amazing was happening when that overly bright star appeared.  But only three men saw it, and only three went to where it was.  The wise men said to Herod that they “saw His star in the East” (Matthew 2:1).  Then, in verse 9, Matthew writes “And behold, the star they had seen in the east went on before them, until it came to rest over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great gladness.  Why didn’t Herod send his men behind them if the star was so brilliant?  Why would Herod wait 2 years before going to kill all the firstborn? The Bible also tells us that the wise men want to the house, not to the manger, where we typically depict them.

It is nice to include the wise men in the story of Christmas, as well as the star. No one knows where the wise men came from, only that they travelled far.  Estimates range from 400 to 1200 miles and longer.  Some say they travelled 6 months, others 2-1/2 years, to get to Jesus.  The Bible says they saw the star in the East.  So, does that mean they were in the East when they saw the star, or that the Star was in the Eastern sky?  It makes a big difference which one of those is true, and we really do not know.  All we know is what the Bible tells us – they saw a star that no one else could see, and they travelled to a destination that no one knows in a year that we also do not know.

This star that they saw was supernatural, as it had to have appeared to only them.  No one else came to where the star was.  This star was more than just a star, it was a light that transcended the stars.  It guided three men from a far country to a very specific location.  That is what God does.  He leads us by a light only we can see.  Others do not know our path.  They do now know where God is taking our lives.  Only we can see the light that goes before us to the destination God has in store.  Do you see His light in the silence of the night?  Are you looking for His direction, and praying He will guide you?  He may not speak audibly to you, but deep in your heart the Holy Spirit will stir you to the right direction.  His light will shine on the path you are to take.

That Bethlehem Star was born just for the wise men, not the whole world.  It was born for them to see that night, and it guided them to their destination.  A Bethlehem Star can also be born for you if you ask God to light His path in your life.  No one else may understand or see the direction you are going because they cannot see that star – only you can.  Good men can give advice and wise counsel, but only you know where that star is leading you. God speaks to your heart and sheds a light on your path.  Let His light guide you to the Savior, because that is the final destination for us all. And when you get there, you can be that light to other.  Jesus said that our light should shine so bright that everyone would see our good works, and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).  The star that appears to us should reflect off of us so others can find the light, just as the sun reflects off the planets and they appear as light.  We should be the beacons of light, the stars, that shine so others can find their way to Jesus! We should be 300-watt light bulbs not 25-watt night lights.  Let the Bethlehem star be born in you, and for you, this Christmas.

The Beauty of Silence

(As a disclaimer, I have been listening to messages by Alistair Begg that inspired me to write this piece, and I may use some of his material here without actually quoting him.  This thought came to me yesterday morning while listening to him and I felt it was worthy of sharing with you.)

Silence.  Some of us dread it, others rejoice in it.  Some will not allow it, talking incessantly just to keep from entering into silence.  They can’t stand the quiet moment of wondering who will speak next.  The air has to have noise for them to be able to concentrate. They play music in the background, or watch TV while doing other things, or they just talk to themselves when alone. They do not look forward to silent times.  I am one of these most of the time.  I like to have something going on TV, or the radio in the car, or someone to talk to. Silence is welcome at times, but not too many times.

Then there are those who relish silence.  They look forward to the quiet times to pray, or to meditate, or just to reflect and write in their journal.  They prefer not to have background noise when they are doing things.  I am like this when I write, whether it’s a blog post like this or poetry.  I need the silence to hear God speaking.  His voice is what guides me to write the things I write, I learned to listen in the silence when I was going through chemo treatments and stem cell transplants during the cancer months.  He spoke to me a lot, and the silence helped me to listen.  It still does today.

The nation of Israel was waiting for God to speak after almost 400 years of silence when they were in Egypt.  They were doing hard labor for Pharaoh and longed for a way of escape from this brutal taskmaster. God had told Abraham that they would face 400 years of captivity and then they would be set free.  But they could not believe this would happen under these circumstances.  Then came Moses, back from the wilderness after escaping death as in infant under Pharaohs’ rule.  God brought ten plagues on Egypt which finally convinced Pharaoh to let them go.  400 years a silence turned into the freedom of a nation.

The prophet Malachi spoke some stirring words at the end of his prophecy.  Malachi 4:5 says Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Then there was silence.  No prophets, no word from God.  Nothing to let the people know God was still with them.  For about 400 years the people of Israel waited and waited for God to speak to them again, but nothing came.  I am sure they thought God had abandoned them again, just like it was in Egypt.  This time they had come under Roman rule.  It was not as brutal as Egypt’s subjugation, but it was demeaning.  They longed to hear from God.

Zacharias was a priest of the Lord, and it was his honor this day to bring incense before the Lord.  He was an older man, and his wife Elizabeth was barren after years of praying for a child.   She was past the age of child-bearing now, and I’m sure they had given up hope, but continued to pray anyway.  Zacharias was a righteous man, walking in the commandments of the Lord, as any good Levite would do.  The task of bringing incense was a solemn task, and only given once a year to a priest of the tribe of Levi.  I’m sure he was excited and somber as he entered the Holy Place to burn incense to the Lord on the table of incense.  All the people prayed as he entered the temple, and they kept praying all the time he was in there, As he offered up the sweet-smelling savor to God, an angel appeared to him.  I am sure he was frightened by this sight because the first thing the angel said was “Fear not.”  He told Zacharias Elizabeth would have a son, and they should call his name John. The angel also told him that this child would be great in the sight of the Lord, and that the Holy Spirit would be in him from the time he was in his mother’s womb.  Then he quoted words that Zacharias knew from Isaiah the prophet. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Zacharias did not know what to say.  These words spoke of the forerunner of the Messiah.  This could not be!  His wife was too old to have a child, and now the angel was telling him his son would prepare the way for Messiah?  Zacharias said to the angel “How will I know this?”  The angel replied that Zacharias would not be able to speak until the child was named and then he left.  Outside, the people were wondering what was taking so long.  Zacharias finally appeared, and I’m sure the people wanted to know what had taken so long.  But Zacharias could not speak.  He could not explain to them what happened.  He could not share with his wife what the angel had said.  For nine months, there was silence.  Then the day came when the baby was born. On the day of his naming, the usual practice was that he would be given a family name.  But Zacharias took something to write on and wrote that his name will be John.  Hen suddenly he was able to speak again.  The song he sang had much to say about this baby that had just been born,

Silence.  What a beautiful thing this can be.  How do you feel when God is silent?  I often wonder why, during a particular stretch of time, I do not hear God’s voice in the way of poetry and songs.  I do not think it was because He was not speaking, but rather because I was not listening.  The silence we hear is a silence of our own ears most of the time, because God is always speaking to us these days.  His Holy Spirit works in the hearts and minds of His children, guiding and directing them in the way they should go.  But there are times when God is quiet, and these are the times we should relish.  I believe God is doing His greatest work in us when He is silent.  He tests our faith so that it can become stronger.  He teaches us patience as we wait for Him to speak.  He watches from afar and sees whether we are true to Him or not.  This is all so He can speak once again and draw us closer.  He is a loving God, full of grace and truth, and will always draw us to His side.

Listen carefully when you pray.  Don’t make it a one-way street.  Give God time to speak to you in the silent time of your prayer.  The silence is the most precious time, because that is when God will come.  In our worship services, we err when we do not give time for silence, to hear God’s voice and to consider His mercy and grace in our lives.  He longs to speak to you.  He longs for you to listen to His words. Practice time of silence at least as much as you pray.  Give God room to speak to you, and I promise you will hear His voice.

Making Room

It seems to me that many times we disparage the innkeeper in the Christmas story.  We think he was rude and uncaring to Mary and Joseph, and that he should have found a way to give them a room at the Inn.  After all, she was pregnant and obviously had travelled a long way to get to Bethlehem.  I’m sure they were dirty and tired from the long 80-mile journey they had just finished.  I’m sure Joseph begged with the Innkeeper for a while before he finally gave up begging.  It had to be hard for the innkeeper to turn them away because no good businessman turns away a customer

In defense of this man, he was a successful business owner.  His inn was full because he ran a good establishment and people wanted to stay there.  People want to go to a place that is run properly, and I’m sure his place was.  We only hear of this one innkeeper, but I am sure Joseph tried every inn in the city before this one.  He was turned down at every one.  The city was full because of the census Caesar had commanded.  Bethlehem was a small city with a small population, but because it was considered the City of David, all people who were of the house of David had to return there for the census.  This not only overcrowded people’s houses but all the business establishments that were in the city.  I can imagine this business owner was having his best business day ever and was quite happy about that.

So, when this couple came riding up on a donkey, and she was pregnant and seeking a room, the innkeeper simply stated the obvious.  He had no rooms available, and quite possibly a waiting list of people who would like a room if one became available.  As he turned the couple away though, he had a moment of compassion.  He showed mercy to them.  He had a stable in the back, and they could stay there the night.  He was not a bad man.  This innkeeper is mentioned in the Bible and all the others Joseph might have tried are left out.  Why?  Because he was a merciful person who wanted to help this couple out.  He had mercy on the one who gives mercy.  He had compassion on the one who showed compassion to all.  He provided shelter on the one who provides all our needs.  We should be applauding this innkeeper, not disparaging him.  Jesus found a place in his heart even before He was born, before all the miracles, before all the teaching, before He died for all the sins of mankind.  He really did make room for Jesus!

How about you?  What will you do with this man Jesus?  What will you do with the

one who came riding into your life in all humility, only seeking a place in your heart?

Have you allowed the cares of this life and your success make you blind to your need for Him?  Have you had too many other distractions to consider His life, His cross and His sacrifice for your sins?  Do you even know who He really is?  He innkeeper did not know, and yet he still gave him a place.  Being in a culture that is full of the gospel message, certainly you now more about who Jesus is than this innkeeper did!  At this time of year, we call Christmas, the message is everywhere we look.  The lights show to us the star that shone so brightly above His manger bed.  The tree shows us the vehicle that brought His death.  The manger scenes all over town show us that simple picture of a babe in a manger.  How can you miss it?  He is everywhere, humbly seeking for you to make a place in your heart for Him.  He calls to you in the songs of the season that we hear on the radio, or in the thrill of children opening the presents under the tree.

You see, He was the very first Christmas present.  He was given to us to show us the Father, to teach us mercy, to be an example for us to follow.  He appeared suddenly and made an immediate impression on some lowly shepherds in a field, and a busy innkeeper who found a place for Him.  Here was no fanfare, no far-reaching announcement of His coming.  He King of Kings c am quietly to most.  Only some shepherds in the field were given the announcement of who this baby really was.  Some wise men from distant lands saw a bright star in the sky and knew it was the sign of a great Savior being born.  But no one else heard the angels, and no one else recognized the star. Just like Santa puts Christmas presents under the tree in the middle of the night, Jesus came into the middle of an unknowing world.  A present for all of humanity.  A present that would not only change the course of history, but change a persons’ life.

How about you?  Are you a successful business person and feel like your life is full?  Or are you famous and rich and don’t have room for anything else?  Or are you just a servant of some other business, making money in the middle of the night of your life? Whatever your situation, you need Jesus.  He is the only one who can save you from eternal Hell.  He is the only one who can rid you of your sin and cleanse your heart and mind.  He is the only way to heaven.  He comes in meekness and humility and asks you to make a place in your heart.  Won’t you let him in today?  Won’t you make room?