“And when they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” Luke 2:17-18
I love how The Message translates this passage, “Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child.”
The angels left as quickly as they had appeared. The shepherds talked it over and decided to go as fast as they could to see exactly what the angels were talking about. I’m sure it wasn’t how they had expected to find one of such great importance, but it didn’t seem to matter. For them, seeing was believing.
But it didn’t stop with the seeing and believing. They had to tell what they had heard from the angels and what they had seen with their own eyes and what they now believed in their hearts.
Believing doesn’t sit quietly. Somewhere deep down, it stirs a passion to share because it is too overwhelming marvelous to keep hidden.
Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”
Confessing and believing work together. The shepherds believed and because they believed, they could not help but share. They understood the magnitude of what they had heard and seen, and it was too good to keep to themselves.
Christmas is only a few days away. We are getting ready to celebrate the greatest gift ever given. Let’s boldly tell everyone we see about the child in the manger because, like the shepherds, we too believe.
Art by Caroline Cromer
God had been silent for 400 years. He had warned and explained through His prophets about what was to come, but very few listened.
And then the prophets were gone. No one heard a word from God. There was only silence. It was a loud kind of silence if that makes any sense. It was the kind of silence when one knows it is purposeful. God was purposefully silent. So all Israel could do was wait. Wait for the promised Messiah who would come and set everything right again.
Near the end of those 400-years of silence, the Jewish people found themselves oppressed not only by the heavy hand of the Roman government, but also by the self-indulgent hands of their own religious leaders.
All these things culminated into a dark time in Israel’s history.
What thoughts, I wonder, must have raced through the angels’ minds as they watched the Son turn to leave the Father’s presence? Were they silent? Did they whisper among themselves?
“He’s leaving. The time has come for the prophecy to be fulfilled.”
They knew the prophecy. They knew The Father was infuriated with Israel’s shepherds who were more concerned about their own comforts and high positions than they were about the sheep that were scattered everywhere. It’s not like He hadn’t warned them over and over again to change their ways. But they had not listened. The angels knew that the time was close at hand for God the Father to send His Son to search for those lost sheep. They knew He would send Him to bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.
Yes, they knew the prophecy well. But now, here it was. The time had come to do what He said He would do.
Did they weep as the Son turned to leave His throne? What thoughts must have swirled around in their minds as they realized all that the Son was leaving behind in Heaven to carry out the Father’s plan on earth? Who would exchange the glories of Heaven for the darkness of earth? They had been to earth. It was dirty and the people were vile. It wasn’t a pleasant place, nothing like Heaven.
I wonder if they followed behind the Father as He escorted His Beloved Son to the gates of heaven. Were their hearts saddened by the knowledge that they would be without the Bright Morning Star for over 30 years?
Did they say goodbye?
Every Christmas while my children were growing up, they were given a Christmas book that focused on the real meaning of Christmas. Before they went to bed on Christmas Eve, they got to open the book and read it. It was such a treasured tradition, that my Mom painted the picture above of my Dad reading to my children on one of those Christmas Eves.
We decided to compile a list of books for you that are not only beautifully written and illustrated, but that also focus on the true meaning of Christmas. This is just a small number of books. We would love to add to the list, so if any of you have suggestions please list them in the comment section.
Where was He? I looked around in the mass of crumpled tissue and packing materials, went back through the boxes of already packed up ornaments. I rechecked the other nativity boxes. I got down on hands and knees and peered under every piece of furniture. He was nowhere to be found!
Now this is where I expose the fact that I am not a great mother. Not by a long shot. I start yelling and fussing at my children to stop their present inferior and unimportant activities, even if those activities may be Godly ones like reading their new Bible storybook or their young men’s devotional book, in order to GET IN HERE AND HELP ME FIND THE BABY JESUS! Now my “Momma Logic” reasons that since, 1. I do not play with the toy manger set and 2. One of them was the last one to handle Him, that one of them must be to blame for his current missing status and therefore my current state of frantic frustration.
Don’t they know how much work decorating and undecorating is? Don’t they know that their careless misplacing of THE key piece of the whole shebang is stalling my progress and throwing my meticulously organized schedule to the wind? How dare they lose something as important as the Sweet Baby Jesus? What kind of mother has kids who lose the Star of Bethlehem? What kind of mother is flushed and ranting like a lunatic at her children about the Christ, rather than acting like Him?
That would be me.
After minutes of tense silence and clenched jaw while I simmered, Charlotte Rose squeals joyously while triumphantly brandishing the tiny babe lying in the plastic manger in her tiny little fist. She has been victorious and has saved the day, all while beating her brother to the punch. She beams as she proffers the baby and says sweetly, “Look, Mommy, he was in the sofa the whole time. I don’t know what you were so upset about. You said Jesus lives in our hearts and we should always act like he is in there. I guess maybe he got tired of being stuck in there and hopped on the couch!”
From the mouths of babes, wisdom does flow! I was rocked. I smiled at her, gave her a big kiss and sat back on the floor, humbled and ashamed. I had yelled and acted like a crazy person over a small piece of plastic, when I was missing the whole point. At that moment, I realized Jesus was missing all right, but it wasn’t from a cardboard box full of plastic toy figures. Jesus had temporarily gone missing from my heart.
How often do we get so caught up in the chores and clean up, the removing of the outward signs of the holidays, that we remove the celebrated One from our hearts as well? While busy stowing the decorations in the attic for next year, do we pack away the Savior too? This Christmas I am considering leaving the kids’ manger set out all year for her to play with. Maybe if He stays unpacked all year I will have a visual reminder of the time we had to almost put out an Amber Alert for Him. And maybe if she plays with Him all year, my daughter will know that, although He loves being in our hearts, He is welcome to hang out in the sofa sometimes too.
From my crazy household to yours, we wish you peace and blessings this Christmas.
When Louise first asked me to write about our family traditions and mainly how we have tried to keep Christ the center of Christmas in our home over the years, I was a little stumped because a lot of how I feel we have done that is through conversations. I could name a list of treasured traditions that are carried out each year (heaven forbid I mention not doing one and at least one of my kids would revolt, even at their older ages). But really, they aren’t all that “Christ-centered”, just Christmas centered. So I went to the source-my kids. I asked each of them individually, “How have we tried as parents to keep Christ the focus of our home during the holidays?” And ALL of them had the same response in at least several ways.
One thing we have always done is before a single gift is opened on Christmas, we read the Christmas story from Luke together. We also have tried to help our kids understand that it’s never about the presents, how many, how big- but about THE Gift that God sent us in Jesus.
Each year for as long as I can remember, we have done boxes for Operation Christmas Child, and for the last 9 years, we have gone with our youth group to process boxes. That experience has truly opened our eyes to what the phrase, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” means.
Over the years, we did advent calendars when they were small, adopted needy families for the holidays, put dollars in the red buckets- lots of little things. I think a big part of keeping Christ the center starts in our hearts and with our attitudes during the holidays. Whether we are baking cookies, putting out reindeer food, packing a shoebox, watching a Christmas movie- it’s all about LOVE- The love that the Father lavished on us when he sent his Son to earth. And if we can reflect that love to those around us by being kind and patient and giving, especially during the holidays then that speaks volumes to our kids. Don’t misunderstand, I have definitely had holiday seasons of at least inward stress because I wanted things to be “perfect”, whatever that is. But I am learning more and more as my kids are growing and some are not living here anymore that the greatest gift I can give is a peaceful and loving heart focused on Christ and cherish the moments I have with those I love. God IS love- and I want to be a good reflection of that.
My favorite Christmas tradition involves my husband leading our family in communion and or prayer after a day of serving others. (He leads differently every year)
The families that make up Camp Legacy divide up and take food to the neighbors of the camp. This is a sweet time that our family looks forward to where we love giving to a stranger and taking some time to listen and talk with them. Our children have grown so much in how they learn to share the love of Jesus with others. Often times now they lead the conversations and share the story and love of Jesus with those we visit. When all the families return to the camp we gather for a meal and end the night around a camp fire where the story of Jesus' birth is shared and where we all join together to sing hymns. Before we all leave for the night the husbands of each family gather with their specific family members. Our family uses this time to reflect on our blessings and maybe even hardships that have occurred over the last year. We talk about what God has shown us about himself and how we have served others. Our time wraps up with the leaders of each family leading prayer. Its a beautiful and fun day we gather with our family and friends to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
“For a child will be born for us…He will be named…everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Christmas has always held very special memories for me. When I was growing up, I remember going to bed on Christmas Eve not able to sleep. When I went to bed, our Christmas tree was decorated with not a gift under it. I would be in bed with my eyes shut, listening for the sounds that stories promised…reindeer paws! I would always drift off for a little while, but I could not wait to wake up my mom and dad and see what Santa had left us under the tree! Every Christmas…my mom and dad were there. One Christmas, I remember getting a Simon game, a Merlin, a bunch of records/albums, a typewriter…pure joy as a child! Not one single memory of a Christmas that my dad was not there. My dad was not a perfect dad, but he was there. As I have grown up, I am not sure my children can think of a Christmas that my dad has not been there. He has always shown up with gifts in his hands and a lot of jokes. He would only stay a few hours and he was ready to go home…but he was there.
This Christmas is my first Christmas without my dad. He passed away last January and this has been my year of “firsts” that everyone has told me about. As I have tried to get through the season with joy, I have had a lead stone on my heart and a lump in my throat knowing my dad will not be there.
This morning, I was reminded that I have consolation. I have a Father in Heaven that is always there. Thousands of years ago, God knew that I would need a reminder in my time of hurt. Through a prophet named, Isaiah, God leaned down and gave me refreshing joy! “For a child will be born for us,” (for Stacey) “He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” My Father in heaven never intended for my earthly father to be there every Christmas. His Son would fill that place. His Son would be born in a very uncomfortable stable, in very uncomfortable circumstances for people like me to have stability and comfort in His love for us! My Father in heaven never intended for my joy to rest in the comfort of what has always been. My Father in heaven intends for my comfort to be in Him alone. He sent His Son to encompass all of my “emptiness” and “loneliness”! He sent His Son to be my Prince of Peace when change in inevitable! He sent His Son to be my joy in my sorrow!
“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” This Christmas, I will look to the Son on Christmas morning and be filled with peace!
Here’s an idea to help your family focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Have each person decide what gift he or she might give Jesus. Suggest that each spend time in prayer and ask Him what He would like from each one. It does not have to be monetary, though it can, but it does need to cost something on behalf of the giver. Focus on what changes might need to take place in order to grow closer to Christ. Maybe an idol needs to be surrendered or a habit needs to be broken. Write the gift to be given on a slip of paper, wrap it, and place it under the tree. On Christmas morning, open the gifts. If anyone is willing to share his or her gift, encourage them and offer to help by holding them accountable. Encourage everyone to keep the slip of paper in a place where they will be reminded throughout the year of the gift that was given to Jesus.
Merry Christmas from Parking Space Faith!
We always did a nativity advent calendar. The girls alternated turning over the square each day to see which piece of the nativity showed up. My daughter,Christine, uses Noel Piper's nativity advent to tell a bit of the Christmas story each day through Christmas day. The boys help tell the cumulative story each day. By Christmas Day, they tell the whole story.
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