THE WISEST MEN

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

Whether you call them wise men, magi, or kings does not really matter. What does matter is they are among the wisest men we will find in the Bible. These men brought three gifts to give to the Newborn King – three gifts for the King and three valuable lessons for us: Seek. Worship. Share.

First, we learn to seek. These men were most likely astrologers. They saw a new star, a different, brighter star and knew it was special.  They set out to follow the star and to find the Christ child. We would be living a different life if they had not sought Him out. Praise the Lord for them following the star.

Second, we learn about worship. Upon entering the house, they immediately bowed down and worshiped the Christ Child. There isn’t a pause. They knew they were called to do this, just as we are called to do the same today. He is mighty to save and more than deserving of our worship.

Finally, we learn about sharing our gifts.  This doesn’t mean just exchanging gifts at Christmas time, but also sharing the gifts God has blessed us with for use in His kingdom. We live in an amazing time where the impact of our gifts can be shared among the world quicker than ever.  They can be tangible gifts, gifts of time or even gifts of our presence. 

Again, these men were among the wisest men.  Even though they only get talked about in the book of Matthew, they are an important part to the whole, living story of Jesus Christ. We can continue to learn from them.

REFLECTION

What gifts and talents do you have?  Are you sharing any of them for the sake of His Kingdom?  Is there a way that you can?  It’s always important to take time and reflect on the gifts God has given us and to pray for Him to use them for His plan.

THE CHRIST THORN

“The holly bears a prickle, as sharp as any thorn, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in the morn. The holly bears a bark, as bitter as any gall, And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ for to redeem us all.” – The Holly and the Ivy 

“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.” John 19:2 

Holly and Ivy have been decorations for the Christmas season for decades. The Holly’s green leaves with red berries makes beautiful accents. There is a powerful symbolism written in each leaf and berry. The Ivy, in its own right, displays strength in what its vine is rooted in. This Christmas carol displays the power of what we may consider as simple accents in its lyrics. 

The edges of Holly are prickly and as “sharp as any thorn”. These represent the crown of thorns placed upon Christ’s head by the soldiers. In fact, in Scandinavia and Germany, Holly is known as The Christ Thorn. The red berries symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ shed for our sins upon the cross. 

Ivy is a vine. Vines need something to cling to if they are going to grow. Ivy can be a reminder for us to cling to God’s Word, to His promises, to the hope which is found in Christ and Christ alone. We must “let our roots grow up in him” (Colossians 2:7). 

It is my prayer for all of us to look at these decorations differently this Christmas and for every Christmas to come. They are more than just Holly and Ivy. When you look at them, stop and rejoice in celebrating His birth. Rejoice in Him who came to take away the sins of the world. 

He bore the crown of thorns for us. He shed his blood for us. He came to redeem us all. 

Rejoice! 

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” Ephesians 1:7 

PRAYER 

Great and merciful Lord, thank You for sending Your only Son to us. Thank You for undeserving redemption You have given us through the cross. Amen.

TAKE COMFORT

When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we are not guaranteed a life without heartache, pain, or suffering.  In fact, the Bible states that in this world we will have trouble.  We may suffer. We may be persecuted. We will have trials.  Jesus was born into persecution. He suffered and lived through trials and temptations. We can take heart, though, because we know that He overcame them.  He overcame the world.

 “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.”   2 Cor. 1:4-6

When we accept Jesus into our hearts, we aren’t just accepting Him for salvation. We are inviting Him into every aspect of our lives. He shares our joyous moments. He faces fears beside us. He holds every tear in His hand. When we suffer, He shares our suffering with us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He alone is our comforter.

REFLECTION

Jesus suffered for our sins.  We will suffer for the sake of Him.  We can take comfort in knowing that we are never alone.  He walks beside us down every path we take- the dark and frightening ones, the joyous ones, and the difficult, rocky ones.  He is there to comfort us every moment of every day.  Turn to Jesus.  In Him, you will find your comfort.

THE NATIVITY

One of the first Christmas gifts my husband and I received as a married couple was a nativity set. At first, I would put it out every Christmas because it was beautiful and made a nice decoration. However, as my relationship with Christ grew, so did my understanding of the miraculous and incredible story behind this ceramic display.

“And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”  Luke 2:16-17

Now when I put out this nativity set, I carefully place each figure where it belongs.  As I do it, I find myself wondering what they must have been thinking at that time.  I wonder if Jesus, being full human and fully God, cried and fussed like most newborns do?  Were the shepherds truly aware of the miracle that were witnessing? Were Mary and Joseph worried about being new parents. Let alone the parents of our Lord and Savior?  

The Nativity gives us a chance to explore the main characters of the story, but also even look beyond them. Who were the supporting characters?  Are all the characters even people?  How do all of these combine to bring us the most incredible and beautiful story ever told?  The reality is that even if we look at the parts people play as individuals, we must remember to always look at how all the characters are a greater part of the whole.

REFLECTION

Take some time to ponder the characters in the Nativity. If you are able, experience a live Nativity and think about how each of the characters complete the whole story.

A MAN OF FAITH

“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20

Besides Jesus, there is a lot of attention paid to Mary during the Christmas season.  This is rightly so.  However, I found myself more intrigued by Joseph this year – in particular, by his trust and faith in the Lord and in His plan. (Because, let’s be honest, I seriously doubt that Joseph’s plan was to marry a virgin who was pregnant with the Son of God.)

Joseph was a man of God and He remembered the words of the prophets, taking to heart the words of Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you”. Joseph’s trusting in God’s plan and having complete faith did not just affect him, but would affect all of us over 2000 years later.

God’s plan for Joseph involved finding out that his virgin wife is pregnant. Scripture doesn’t say Joseph was angry when Mary told him about the pregnancy. In fact, it alludes to more of his love for her.  He wanted to protect her and to keep her from being stoned by divorcing her quietly. He doesn’t walk out, he takes time to pray over these things.  It is while he is doing this that the angel comes to speak to him. He didn’t question the angel. His faith was strong, along with his trust in the Lord’s plan. Talk about faith!  The angel reminds him of  the words of the prophets: 

 “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

    and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Matthew 1:22-23)

Joseph’s story is one of faith and trust, not in himself, not in Mary, but in God’s plan for his life. Walking in faith as Joseph did is something we can all aspire to do. This Advent season, I pray that we will also remember this incredible part of the most miraculous story.

REFLECTION

It is said that “faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” We have to stay in the Word to stay strong in the faith.  With all the busyness of this season, it is easy to let this important time in the Word get away from us. My prayer is that we continue to be diligent in our “hearing.”

THAT’S WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT, CHARLIE BROWN

“Lights please”… Linus says, setting the stage for his recitation of the words of the heavenly hosts to the shepherds:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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, good will toward men.” Luke 2:8-14

Linus repeats these words in his response to Charlie Brown’s frustration about the commercialism of Christmas and his wondering if anyone even knows the true reason for Christmas anymore. At the end of Linus’ speech, he says those unforgettable words:  “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown”. 

I watch this Charlie Brown Christmas Special every year. Even though I practically have it memorized, this speech given by Linus makes me tear up every time. I think about the generations of people who have seen this special and heard God’s Word through it. I wonder how many lives were led to learn more about the true meaning of Christmas from this one part of a tv special? Such a simple message shared in this beloved classic since1965.

Retelling this miraculous love story is what Christmas is all about.

REFLECTION

As you enjoy the wonderful movies and specials this year, remember the reason for the season.

MARY PONDERED

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:18-19

I love this part of the Christmas story.  I imagine the shepherds, having just seen the Newborn King, left in awe and amazement, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. 

Then there’s Mary.

Luke says in verse 19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” The conjunction “BUT” is a powerful word here. It separates the woman Mary was from other women and, I believe, shows one of the reasons she found favor with God. Mary was a contemplative woman. She took time to consider, meditate, and quietly ponder things. The first words she says in her song are “My Soul Magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46).

It’s more than just the words of her mouth, though. Her faith goes to the deepest part of her soul – a quiet, constant place of discernment   We see the way she faithfully discerns in even the question she asks – ‘How can this be?’ I believe it was more of a rhetorical question, done in faith, but shows an overwhelmness within her.

Mary had nine months to get ready for the birth. Nine months to dwell on the angel telling her You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-33.

I bet she spent a lot of her time contemplating and replaying those words the angel spoke to her.

Mary teaches us a lot about pondering and being contemplative. She shows us the importance of learning to treasure things in your heart and share them in quiet prayer.  Many times we think of prayer as us talking, but there is so much about prayer that is done while listening and mediating on His Word.

REFLECTION

Choose your favorite Bible verse or passage to contemplate on. Do this in quiet, taking time to treasure the words in your heart. Spend this intentional time in the Word and with God – silently praying and openly listening.

MERRY MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

Dry:

1 ½ cups All Purpose Flour

½ cup Unsweetened Cocoa

¼ tsp Baking Soda

2 tsp Cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

½ cup White Sugar

¼ cup Light Brown Sugar

½ tsp Cayenne Pepper (adjust to your spice level)

Sprinkle of Chili Powder (adjust to your spice level)

1 tsp Espresso Grounds

Wet:

2 Eggs

1 tbsp Molasses

½ cup Salted Butter, cooled melted butter

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Other:

½ cup Semisweet Chocolate Mini Morsels

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Mix all DRY ingredients with a fork in a bowl until well blended
  2. Using a mixer, blend the eggs and butter. Add the molasses and vanilla and blend again.
  3. Add DRY ingredients to the egg/butter mixture and mix until well blended
  4. Stir in the mini morsels
  5. Cover and chill until they are easy to roll into balls. (I chilled them over night just because of my schedule)
  6. Preheat oven to 350
  7. Roll the cool mixture into small balls and place on parchment covered baking sheets
  8. Bake for 15-17 minutes
  9. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes
  10. Cool on wire racks

Notes:

  • I could not figure out how to make a marshmallow frosting drizzle for them that would not harden, but maybe you can
  • Another option is to roll the balls into a cinnamon sugar mixture before baking

WAITING FOR ARRIVAL

Christmas season for me as a child was an incredible lesson in learning to wait.  First, I had to wait for the Sears catalog to come to the house so I could circle everything I wanted.  Then, I had to wait for Christmas break to begin while I simultaneously waited and hoped for that first snow to fall.  Next, I had to wait for Christmas morning to come.  I would be so excited that I could hardly sleep!

However, the worst thing – the absolutely hardest thing I had to wait for was for my parents to get their cups of coffee before we could start opening the presents.  That was excruciating for a child!  We would sit trying to guess what was in each gift while the coffee pot brewed the coffee slower than molasses.  Finally, the moment would come.  With their cups of fresh coffee in their hands, Christmas would begin.

As an adult, I still get just as excited for Christmas to come. Only now it’s for different reasons.  I look forward to the church services, the waiting and anticipating of Christmas music to come on the radio, and for Christmas morning so I can celebrate the greatest gift of all – the one not wrapped in wrapping paper but wrapped in swaddling cloths. 

The celebration of the gift of Jesus Christ is always worth the wait.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:18-19

Reflection

How has the Christmas season changed for you since Christ has been in your life?

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