Tag Archives: Nativity

The Sweet Eve of Christmas Day – A Poem

‘Tis the sweet eve of Christmas Day
I pray that all will find the way
To the manger where Jesus sleeps
See the treasure His mother keeps

This quiet will last but a little while
For one day Mary will not smile
To see her son on a cross dying
His disciples all around her crying

But for now she cradles Him in her arms
Protecting the Christ Child from all harms
Seek Him now as the wise men do
He came out of love for me and you

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Joseph: The Forgotten Character

When we think of the Christmas story, it seems we tend to forget the role that Joseph played in this historical event. We rightly focus on the baby Jesus, or often on His mother Mary. To be sure, Joseph is there in every nativity scene, but do we really comprehend the importance he plays in this story and what we can learn from him?

Mary knew beyond any doubt that she was a virgin and when she found herself pregnant she had no trouble believing that what the angel had told her was true. But Joseph had no such assurance. He had been told in a dream by an angel that Mary’s baby was the Son of God, but surely he had doubts. For Joseph to believe, he had to have faith and to trust God’s messenger as well as his new bride.

This afternoon I’ve been listening to Christmas music and wrapping presents to the smell of a rib roast in the slow cooker for Christmas Eve dinner. The song Joseph’s Lullaby by MercyMe came on and I found myself pondering the thought of Joseph accepting Jesus as the Son of God while at the same time treating the Holy Child as his own son.

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, “In love he [God] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:5-6 (NIV). In the same way, Joseph adopted the baby Jesus as his son, even though he knew the child was not his. In faith, Joseph raised this miracle Child as his own, teaching Him the craft of a carpenter and the love of God. In all that Joseph did as the earthly father of Jesus, he glorified God the Father.

So this Christmas, let’s remember Joseph, the forgotten character of the story at the center of all history.

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The Problem with Santa Claus

For many people, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, they start looking forward to Jolly Old St. Nick bringing presents to all the good little boys and girls. Every shopping mall has a Santa Claus waiting for long lines of children to sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. I’ve even known people whose only Christmas decorations in their homes are Santa themed.

Now I will admit that I have a few Santa Claus decorations and we do hang stockings to be opened on Christmas morning. We even label some family gifts as “from Santa.” The spirit of giving that surrounds Santa Claus—which started with the very first real St. Nicholas who gave presents to needy children—is wonderful.

But there is a problem with Santa Claus. The whole idea of a Jolly Old Elf bringing presents only to good boys and girls contradicts the Gospel message of Christmas. We are reminded in Christmas songs that Santa “knows if you’ve been bad or good,” and if you are bad all you get is a lump of coal.

This is the story of most major religions—that if we are good enough we will earn whatever it is we want most.

Jesus tells a different story. Immanuel, God with us, came because He loves us all whether we are good or bad. He offers salvation and eternal life to all. It’s a free gift and all we have to do is accept it to be on His list.

Santa’s list of who’s naughty and who’s nice might seem to work for making kids be good. But long ago God showed that the threat of punishment or withholding of blessings doesn’t work to make people do what is right. “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:3 (NIV).

That is why for me Christmas isn’t Christmas without the Christ child and most of my Christmas decorations are nativity scenes. And my favorite Christmas songs aren’t about Santa Claus but are old standards like O Come O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, and Mary Did You Know?

Which is why today I want to share Jeremy Camp’s rendition of that last of these on his recently released Christmas CD.

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Advent – A Poem

I’ve been thinking all week about writing an acrostic poem about Advent. What I ended up with also uses alliteration so that there are four words for each letter in Advent, to represent the four Sundays of Advent.

My son saw me typing this poem and asked, “What’s with the shape?” I said that it’s supposed to look kind of like a crown, for the King of kings, though you have to look at it sideways to see it. I’m not sure it works, but decided to leave it this way anyway.

ADVENT

Anticipation

Accompanies

Angelic

Announcement

Divine

Directive

Declares

Delight

Vileness

Victoriously

Vanquished by

Virtue

Emmanuel

Expected

Embrace the

Excitement

Notice

Noel

Narrating

Nativity

Thankful

Thoughts of

Tenderness

Truth

 

For another Advent acrostic poem, click here.

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Epiphany

Today, January 6, is the holiday of Epiphany. It is a date commemorated in both the eastern and western Christian churches, though many western Christian denominations do not celebrate it in any way today. I remember mentioning it once to a friend who is Seventh Day Adventist, and she didn’t even know what Epiphany was.

Epiphany falls 12 days after Christmas, and is the source of the 12 Days of Christmas (which contrary to popular belief are not the 12 days prior to Christmas). Epiphany, based on the Greek word epiphaneia (ἐπιφάνεια), which means “appearance,” is the celebration of the appearance or incarnation of God to the Gentiles or non-Jews. In the western church, the focus is on the visit of the Magi to honor Jesus as the newborn King. In the eastern church, the focus is on the baptism of Christ, when He first appeared to the whole world as the Son of God when the Dove came to rest upon Him. In either case, the focus is not on His birth, which is the focus of Christmas, but rather on the fact that He is the incarnation of God for all people.

The primary way I have personally commemorated Epiphany (though I didn’t do it this year) is that when I set up my Nativity sets for Christmas I place the Magi somewhere different from the rest of the Nativity scene. This is because the Magi were still traveling at Christmas and traditionally it is thought that they arrived some time after the actual birth of Jesus. One year I even moved them closer and closer to the Nativity scene throughout Advent and the days following Christmas until they finally “arrived” to honor the baby Jesus on January 6.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for Epiphany more often refers to the prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming rather than His first appearance in the manger. Paul uses the Greek word epiphaneia six times. 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13. All but one of these verses refer to the time when Jesus will appear once again. Only 2 Timothy 1:10 refers to His birth, and says, “And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.”

If you have wondered why my blog header had the Nativity scenes after Christmas was over, my anticipate of this holiday was the reason. But tomorrow I will be changing the header; I will be taking down the Nativity scenes with the Magi and putting up something different. But for today, I wish you all a blessed Epiphany!

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Immanuel

December is here. It makes me wonder where the rest of 2010 went! But now that Thanksgiving is over I can officially start thinking about Christmas. For most people, that means thinking about what presents they want and shopping for presents for friends and family. I’ll admit it means that to me, too, as well as getting my Christmas cards sent.

But the older I get the less Christmas is about the giving and getting of things; the older I get the more Christmas is about the one gift that was given long ago and is the best gift of all. For me, Christmas is about Immanuel, God with us. And so I thought about writing a post about this most wonderful name of Jesus, but in the back of my mind I had this feeling like I had done that before. So I checked my archives and sure enough, there was “My Favorite Name” posted on Dec. 21, 2009. So instead of rewriting my thoughts on Immanuel this Christmas season, I decided to just copy and paste what I had previously written here because my hope this Christmas season is the same as last.

First published Dec. 21, 2009:

As Christmas is fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about the many names given to Jesus in the Bible. He is called the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Prince of Peace, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Alpha & Omega, and many more. But my favorite name of Jesus is Immanuel. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14. This verse is quoted in Matthew 1:23 regarding Jesus, and in Matthew the writer defines the name Immanuel to mean “God with us.”

When I look at one of my many nativity scenes, that is what I see: God with us. For thousands of years God tried to get the message across to His people that He loved them and would always be there for them. He spoke through miracles, such as the parting of the Red Sea, and through prophets, such as Isaiah and Daniel. But in spite of all His attempts to get through to them, His people didn’t always get it.

So God decided to become one of us, to be with us, to experience life just as we do. I like the name Immanuel because it reminds me that God loves us enough to be willing to experience all the pain, trials, and heartache that we do, to fully understand how we experience relationships and love. God did this in hopes that we could and would better relate to Him. Because ultimately what He wants is for us to be with Him.

This Christmas, I hope you will feel the blessing of being with God and of God being with you. I hope you will experience the fullness of Immanuel.

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