MONDAY, JANUARY 1

A wise son makes a glad father …. -Proverbs 10:1 (NKJV) .

The Tournament of Roses Parade! Here I was, wedged into the Pasadena bleachers with my husband, taking in a New Year’s celebration I had seen previously only on TV. Fantastic floats covered with

millions of flowers rolled along Colorado Boulevard, rose fragrance wafting in their wake. High-stepping palominos bore their riders on flashing silver saddles. One marching band had scarcely passed our

stand before another band’s brassy march drifted through the sun-drenched morning.

This New Year’s celebration capped our first Christmas holiday with Thad’s California family. Now we would drive back to our home in Wyoming. Frankly, I was ready for quiet time after a week in the

exuberant chaos of a household overstuffed with Thad’s six madcap siblings, spouses, and erratic comings and goings. So when Thad’s dad asked us to stay another day or two, I resisted, to no avail. We had no pressing obligations back home, so my husband insisted we stay to humor his father.

Dad sensed my frustration and cajoled, “In a year or two, you’ll never remember staying here an extra day.”

Ah, but I do remember, even though that was thirty-eight years ago. Mercifully, during those intervening years, I evolved from a self-absorbed bride to the tuned-in mother of four adult children. Only now do I understand the pang of parting with them after even the briefest visit. Though both my husband and his father have passed on, they awakened me to the precious gift of presence. My presence. Once a year, a beautiful parade reminds me.

Loving God, in this coming year, may I better discern where You need me to be-and to be there gladly.

-Gail Thorell Schilling

Digging Deeper: Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 22:6

DAILY GUIDEPOSTS

 

A Bad Dream?

Jemima was taking an afternoon nap on New Year’s Eve before the festivities. After she woke up, she confided to Max, her husband, ‘I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond ring for a New Year’s present. What do you think it all means?’

‘Aha, you’ll know tonight,’ answered Max smiling broadly.

At midnight, as the New Year was chiming, Max approached Jemima and handed her small package.  Delighted and excited she opened it quickly. There in her hand rested a book entitled: ‘The meaning of dreams’.

 

How you elect to spend New Year’s Eve will depend on your:

  1. age
  2. remaining levels of optimism
  3. threshold of pain

– Joseph Connolly

 

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.  – Bill Vaughan



WORN, FADED AND BEAUTIFUL

Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-12

Paul wrote, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.” -2 Corinthians 4:7 (RSV)

The white pitcher’s once-bright finish is now dulled with time. Embellished by tinges of brown, a checkerboard pattern of cracks is scattered across the glaze. On one side there is the faint imprint of a bouquet of pink and blue flowers. The scalloped lip of the pitcher dips at one edge, forming a shallow

spout. The handle is gracefully curved, and the body widens as it nears the base. The charm of the pitcher lies in the character etched by the years into its finish. The faded bouquet imprinted on its side betrays countless washings. The pitcher has grown beautiful not by being set upon a shelf in some china cabinet but by being used over the years. The finish has worn, the flowers have faded, and the pitcher has become beautiful, like a face creased by years of laughing. Christians, like pitchers, are made for a particular purpose.

God bestows gifts on each of us that we may enrich the lives of others. With years of service, we become beautiful-not because we have been saved high on a shelf where we cannot be marred but because we have been used for God’s purposes.

 

PRAYER: Dear God, help us open ourselves to being used again and again for your work. Amen.

 

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY : We become beautiful as we allow ourselves to be used for

God’s purposes.

–Stephanie Whitson (Nebraska)

The Upper Room

 

It was Christmas Eve in at the meat counter and a woman was anxiously picking over the last few remaining turkeys in the hope of finding a large one.

In desperation she called over a shop assistant and said, ‘Excuse me. Do these turkeys get any bigger?’

‘No, madam, ‘he replied, ‘they’re all dead.’

 

Q: Why was Santa’s little helper depressed?

A: Because he had low elf esteem.

 

Q: What do you get when you cross an archer with a gift-wrapper?

A: Ribbon hood.



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.”




 

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