PUTTING AWAY THE BOWS

Read Philippians 2: 1-11

You have fellowship with the Spirit, and you have kindness and compassion for one another.        – Philippians 2:1 (TEV)

The frantic last minute rush is over. Bright, bow-bedecked packages have disappeared from under the tree, and a rainbow of crumpled paper spills out of a large cardboard carton.

Bows and curly ribbons, saved each year, have been carefully placed in a box. As I tape it closed, I begin thinking. These bows were used on presents that were bought and wrapped while our  hearts were overflowing with the warm, loving spirit of giving, the Christmas spirit. No gift was too expensive or too hard to find if it would make someone we loved happy.

Now, I wonder, will we pack away that generous spirit along with the bows, to be brought out again next year? Tomorrow, will we forget the joy of today? Will we still he willing to help fill a food basket for a needy family, clothe a naked child, set aside grievances, or forgive a sharp word?

If we shared our lives with the same generosity and warmth as that with which Christmas gifts are given, we would be honoring Christ the entire year.

 

PRAYER: Lord, help us to nourish the loving spirit we have shared with others this season, so it gives others happiness and serves you throughout the year. Amen.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : Hang on to the Christmas spirit.

-June M. Boone (Tennessee)

The Upper Room

 

Santa and his reindeer need to be really quiet when they deliver presents so no one will know they are there.

One Christmas Eve when they landed on a roof top, there was a loud, “Snort, snort, sniff, honk, honk, sniff.”

“Shhh,” said Santa and he proceeded to get out of the sleigh.

Once again, louder this time, there was a “Snort, snort, sniff, honk, honk, sniff.”

Dogs began to bark in the neighborhood. “Shhh,” Santa said again, “Stop doing that.”

He started to lift his sack of toys out of the sleigh when he heard it again, even louder.

“SNORT, SNORT, SNIFF, HONK, HONK, SNIFF.”

Lights came on all over the neighborhood. Some people opened their windows and stuck out their heads trying to see where the noise came from.

Horrified, Santa jumped back in the sled and flew off to the North Pole. When he got there, he lined up all the reindeer and said, “OK, we are not going to deliver any more presents until the reindeer who is trying to be funny by making those noises confesses and apologizes.”

He waited. No reindeer came forward.

“I know who it is,” said Santa. He held up a piece of paper. “I’ve written your name here and I will read it. But I want to give you a chance to do the right thing,”

Still no reindeer came forward. So Santa did the only thing he could. He read off the rude-nosed reindeer.



CHRISTMAS COOKIES

Read Isaiah 11: 1-10

A little child shall lead them. =-Isaiah 11: 6 (RSV)

Mr. Baker was a grouch. All the neighborhood children said so. Our older boys used to fight with hIS children-nothing serious, just bickering back and forth. But he told mutual friend that our children were brats and that he didn’t like our family. .

Along with our teenagers, we had a three-year-old child, Brian. For some reason Brian had always liked Mr. Baker and even helped him work in his yard. He called him his buddy.

When Christmas rolled around Brian wanted to bake cookies and decorate them. “Mommy, I’d like to take a plate of my cookies to Mr. Baker.” I tried to discourage him. “Please, Mom,” Brian had said. “We’re pals.” I gave in.

/We placed the cookies on a paper plate, covered them With foil, and put a ribbon on the top. I watched as Brian was greeted by Mr. Baker, who grinned as he took the cookies, dispelling my apprehension.

As I stood at the door he yelled “Merry Christmas” and waved. “God bless,” I yelled back. These were the first words spoken between us in seven years. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

 

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for little children. Please make us aware of the ways in which they can lead us to Christ. Amen.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: The ways of a child can strengthen our faith.

-Pat Stackhouse (Indiana)

The Upper Room

 

How do snowmen get around?

On their icicles.

 

Christmas is just plain weird. What other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree in your living room eating candy and snacks out of your socks?

 

Q: What do you call a bunch of grandmasters of chess bragging about their games in a hotel lobby?

A: Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer!



IT IS A GIFT

Read Ephesians 2:1-10

It is by [God’s] grace you are saved …. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. -Ephesians 2:8-9 (NEB)

One day I heard a mother tell how her young son worked through three quarters of a football game gathering soft drink bottles in order to pay her back for the price of his admission ticket.

“We didn’t want him to work during the game,” she said sadly. “We wanted him to enjoy it.” She was obviously torn between hurt for the child’s missed enjoyment and bewildered appreciation for his efforts.

She said, “I’ll never forget his sweaty little face as he told me he lacked only two bottles before he could pay us back. His father and I had thought all the time that he was enjoying the ball game with his friends.”

We relate to God that way much of the time. We work and sweat and strain to pay God back for the gifts of life and love when God wants us to relax and live our lives fruitfully. God wants only our love.

 

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to accept your gifts and to show my gratitude by loving you and others. I pray as Jesus taught, “Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honored; May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day the bread we need, Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil.”* Amen.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Peace comes from the acceptance of God’s grace.

-Dorothy C. Potts (Georgia)

The Upper Room

‘Matthew 6:9-13 (Phillips).

 

Q: What do snowmen eat for breakfast?

A: Snowflakes.

 

Q: How do sheep in Mexico say Merry Christmas?

A: Fleece Navidad!

 

What does Santa call reindeer that don’t work?

Dinner.



CHRISTMAS DAY

Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. -John 3:16 (TEV)

Some of my wooden soldiers are missing. My father gave away those highly decorated soldiers on Christmas morning, 1945. I remember with pain my first lesson in sharing.

On that Christmas morning we children were opening our gifts in the splendor that parents seem to create on Christmas morning. A knock came at the door, and I could see our neighbors Wayne and Kate standing on the porch looking through the frost-coated window. “Come on in,” bellowed my father. “Come and join us.” Two neighborhood children had interrupted our extravaganza. “Hey, Wayne,” I yelled, “what did you get for Christmas?” In a very quiet voice came the reply from Wayne, “Nothing.

Santa lost his way and missed our house.”

The festive room suddenly became very quiet. All of us realized that our visitors had missed Christmas gifts of their own. We all knew their family was struggling to survive. The father had abandoned the home many years before. The mother was trying desperately hard to keep her family together. There was nothing left for the extras of Christmas.

My father broke the silence. “Hey, kids, Santa did get lost and left your gifts at our house.” I knew instantly that some of my soldiers were going to sleep in another home that night. Without another word, my parents started picking their way through some of our gifts and handing them to

Wayne and Kate.

The joy and laughter in their faces will always remain in my memory. I found it hard to understand everything at the time, but my father explained everything later in the day. On my tenth Christmas I discovered the meaning of sharing.

I really don’t know where Wayne and Kate are today, but I’ll never forget my father’s love and my mother’s grace so many years ago. At Christmas we share the good news by the giving of gifts. The shepherds brought their sheep to the manger and the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and

myrrh. What gifts will we give this Christmas to celebrate God’s gift of himself to us?

 

PRAYER: God, our Father, we thank you for giving us life, and for teaching us that to give is to live. Empower us to show your love by loving those of your children who share the same time and space with us. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

At Christmas we share the good news by the giving of gifts-the greatest of which is ourselves.

-Douglas S. Miller (Montclair, New Jersey)

The Upper Room

 

When you consider Christmas, there are four stages in your life:-

1) You believe in Santa

2) You don’t believe in Santa

3) You are Santa

4) You look like Santa

 

On the Sunday before Christmas Reverend Billy Graham was walking down Highland street in Mt Holly, North Carolina on his way to see a parishioner. However, he wanted to post a parcel urgently so he asked a young boy where he could find the post office. When the boy had directed him, Reverend Graham thanked him and said, ‘If you’ll come to the Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.’

The boy replied, ‘I think I’ll give your sermon a miss. If you don’t even know your way to the post office, how will you lead me to heaven?’



THE GIFT OF SELF

Read John 10:7-10

The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind.   -John 1:4 (TEV)

She lived alone in a mobile home in an area of Miami that many people considered dangerous. She was about to celebrate her 99th Christmas.

A well-dressed man carrying a poinsettia arrived at her door on the afternoon before Christmas. With great caution she demanded to know who was there. She was surprised to discover that it was her doctor, for she was used to seeing him in a white coat. With a smile that brushed away most of her wrinkles, she invited him in for a chat and cup of coffee.

When I visited her the next day, she told me about the event of this special visitor with so beautiful a gift. With mellow, joyous restraint, she said, “Pastor, he didn’t send the gift, he brought it himself!”

How well she expressed the Incarnation-God coming into our hearts and lives. And God’s gift was very God! As John expressed it in his Gospel, this life brought light to everyone.

PRAYER: Eternal Love, thank you for coming in person with life’s greatest gift. Amen.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

God is willing to come to every heart in person.

-Lee R. VanSickle (Florida)

 

 

“Here’s a Christmas request I can’t give,” Santa said to Mrs. Claus.

“Why not?” asked Mrs. Claus.

“Here, read the letter.”

Dear Santa,

Will you please bring me some crocodile shoes for Christmas?

Thanks,

Pete

“But you have lots of crocodile shoes,” said Mrs. Claus. “Why can’t you give him a pair?”

“Because he didn’t tell me what size his crocodile wears.”



THE COMING CHRIST

Read Matthew 1:21-25; John 3:16-17

The coming Christ is our Savior. In a dream, Joseph was told to give Mary’s baby the name Jesus. ThIS. was a common name in biblical times. Meaning “Yahweh is salvation, it gave each Jewish family who chose it the hope. that their child would be the long-awaited messiah. By instructing Joseph to use the name, God was reaffirming Jesus mission as Savior of the world.

The Jewish people expected a Savior who would deliver them from their earthly struggles. Today, many Christians want the same type of deliverance. We want material blessings and a general elimination of all our problems. But Jesus didn’t come into the world to give us an easy life. He came to give us from our real problem-alienation from God. Jesus Christ came to deliver the best gift anyone can offer, eternal life with God.                     I

Make a mental list of what people fear most today – nuclear war famine economic disaster. Add a list of the worst things that could happen to you personally. Then read Revelation 21 and 22. Stack the list you made against the description of our eternal life in heaven. This is the life Jesus came to save us for Jesus wants to help us with our daily problems, and he offers us power to conquer the sin in our lives. However, Christ’s role is not limited to this world: Daily burdens cannot overwhelm us. Remember, we are being preserved by Christ for an eternity with God.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for the priceless gift of salvation and the joy of an eternity with you. Amen.

-Jeanette Strong

 

 

 

Q: Did you hear that one of Santa’s reindeer now works for Proctor and Gambel?

A: Its true . . . Comet cleans sinks!

 

What did the reindeer say before launching into his comedy routine?

This will sleigh you.

 

Christmas: The time when everyone gets Santamental.



EMMANUEL

Read Isaiah 9:6-7

The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called “Emmanuel”, a name which means “God is with us.” -Matthew 1:23 (NEB)

On Christmas Eve, I sat weeping in a hospital waiting room. Our daughter’s baby was coming too soon, and there was danger for her and for the child.

After a few moments, a woman moved across the room to sit by my side. She asked why I was crying, and, with relief, I poured out my worries and fears to her. Soon, we were talking together like old friends. My fears were forgotten for a while.

In time the woman was called away; her grandchild had been born. As she left the room, she turned to me and said, “Remember, God is with us.” On Christmas morning, our granddaughter was born safely.

As the family rejoiced, I thought of the kind woman and the help she had given me. The memory of her sweet face comes to me often. She not only knew the meaning of the word EmmanueJ; she knew how to share it.

PRAYER: Creator, we thank you for the witnesses you send to us when we need them the most. May we in turn share our faith and strength with someone who needs to be reminded of your love and care. Amen.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Our knowledge of the constant presence of God allows us to face any situation with courage.

-BilIye Reed (Tennessee)

 

 

There were two blondes who went deep into the frozen woods searching for a Christmas tree.

After hours of subzero temperatures a few close calls with hungry wolves, one blonde turned to the other and said,

“I’m chopping down the next tree I see. I don’t care whether it’s decorated or not!”

 

  1. What did Adam say on the day before Christmas?
  2. It’s Christmas, Eve.


WREATHED IN FLESH AND WARM

It is unlike most other kinds of waiting. Certainly it is not like waiting for other anticipated events, even momentous ones: a long-awaited letter from a friend, a wedding day, a coveted job opportunity, the end of a painful illness. There is a quality, a texture to the waiting we do during pregnancy that is one only with the waiting we do for God.

That pregnancy and the entry of divine life into the world are inextricably related is, of course, at the heart of the Christian message. God became human in the person of Jesus through the person of Mary, through this woman’s willingness to open herself, soul and body, to the divine seed that soon would flower for the redemption of the world. It was Mary’s assent to the angel’s startling announcement that

ushered in a new age. It was in her pregnant womb that heaven and earth were so lovingly intermingled, through the waiting experienced in her flesh and blood that God was made to walk with humankind.

The majestic and cosmic implications of this unique pregnancy may fill us with an awe that separates us from intimate identification with what went on there. Yet there is a more personal dimension to that one creative event which does speak directly to each of us. Like the simple young woman in Nazareth, we may be surprised, at any time, by the intuition that we too are chosen. We are hailed to receive into ourselves the seed that God wishes to plant there. We say yes and the life of God begins its course of gestation in us. We become the ground out of which the incarnate God flowers in the world.

Mary’s one unrepeatable pregnancy speaks to us of the life of the spirit growing within. This much we know. This much has been commented upon by Christian exegetes for centuries. But it is also true that each of our own pregnancies can speak to us of the direction of the divine wind moving in our world. For, if we are to take this incarnate God we worship seriously, we must come to learn that the wisdom of the marrow of our bones is being sucked out, as though we must die before God can be born through us. But the mystery we live is that our suffering is also a new birth. There is really one greater and more generous life of which we are one part. Our being born into it, our allowing it to come through us, is

part of the creative and redemptive process of our God.

Pregnancy is at the core of the Christian message. We are pregnant. We are the place of waiting, the place of the question, of the advent. We are the womb through whose pulsing life God is born.

-Wendy M. Wright

 

Sometimes Santa will fall down a chimney. Then he’s Santa Klutz.

Just before Christmas, two brothers were spending the night at their Grandma’s house. At bed time, they knelt down to say their prayers.

As they closed their eyes, one boy said in a loud voice, “Dear Lord, please ask Santa Claus to bring me a Wii, a telescope and a new bike.”

His older brother said, “Why are you shouting? God isn’t deaf.”

“I know,” said his brother, “but Grandma is.”



WAITING (2)

All my life I have waited: waited for the project to be completed, waited for supper to be ready, waited for the doctor to see me. I have waited at the traffic light, waited for the right relationship, waited to grow up.

I have waited alone or waited with friends. I have waited anxiously. I have waited expectantly. Some waits have brought . joy. Other waits have brought bad news. Some waits have been “worth waiting for.”

Now it is Advent, and I am waiting again. This time I am waiting in the darkness of my soul-ravaged by sorrow, anger, and fear. But I do not despair in the waiting, for I remember the way light looks and feels. The memories of silent nights with starlit skies are with me, and I have been bathed in the warmth of love’s light. And so I hope-for Messiah to come.

Voices sing, “Prepare him room.” I know now waiting cannot be passive. There is something to do, but where? I have no inn or stable, but in my heart, I can make room. Move over doubt. Move over despair. Make room for Truth, for Life, for Love. Make room for the Prince of Peace.

-Kathy Clark-Dickens

 

Q: What do you do if Santa gets stuck in your chimney?

A: Pour Santa flush on him.

 

The judge asked the defendant what he was charged with.

“Doing my Christmas shopping early,” was the reply.

“That not illegal!. How early were you shopping?”

“Before the store was open.”

 

How do you know Santa has to be a man?

No woman is going to wear the same outfit year after year.



THE HOLY SURPRISE

The Holy Surprise

Read Luke 2:8-14.

How many Christmas pageants, manger scenes, musical compositions, or paintings, or poems, or stories have tried to pass on to us something of the astonishment, the wonder, the fear, the hope, that are described in this story of the shepherds on the hillside?

There they were tending their sheep, some of them probably dozing off, or thinking of what they would do when they got back home, or of how their children were, or their wives, or girl friends, or their parents. Nothing special going on.

And then, “Lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid” (KN).

Who wouldn’t be afraid? If you have been present when an eclipse of the sun makes important changes in the quality of light, you know how disorienting that can be–even when you knew it was going to happen!

But here, we are told, the fear didn’t last. The message was one of incredible joy, or reassurance. What was the angel telling them? Of the birth of a baby? That they could understand, though this wasn’t the usual mode of announcement. But a baby who was Christ the Lord? They were even told how to identify that baby!

And then, as though to add even greater authenticity to the message of the angel, came this multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and foretelling an era of peace-which, according to the Jewish counterpart of the word for peace, shalom, means full and complete life.

Had you been on the hillside, what would you have thought?

 

PRAYER: Glory to you, 0 God, in the highest. And on earth may there be peace. Amen.

-Martha Whitmore Hickman

 

Top Ten Things To Say About A Christmas Gift You Don’t Like

  1. Hey! There’s a gift!
  2. Well, well, well …
  3. Boy, if I had not recently shot up 4 sizes that would’ve fit.
  4. This is perfect for wearing around the basement.
  5. Gosh. I hope this never catches fire! It is fire season though. There are lots of unexplained fires.
  6. If the dog buries it, I’ll be furious!
  7. I love it — but I fear the jealousy it will inspire.
  8. Sadly, tomorrow I enter the Federal Witness Protection Program.
  9. To think — I got this the year I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.

And the Number One Thing to say about a Christmas gift you don’t like:

  1. “I really don’t deserve this.”



 

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