The Party’s Over – What Now?

I posted this three years ago. This year it is a good reminder to me. Christmas this year was not anything I had anticipated. A few days before Christmas I contacted Covid. All the plans for candlelight service at church and gathering with my daughter and her family for a fun day had to be cancelled. Christmas Eve my husband caught Covid from me and we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day basically sleeping when we were not coughing our heads off.

Our daughter, who normally would have been over – wearing a mask – to bring us food and check on us also had Covid and like me she shared it with her husband.  We are so thankful our granddaughter has remained negative.    So, we were basically on our own.

Spending Christmas alone while we struggled to have enough energy to sit up awhile and wish each other Merry Christmas made this anything but the Christmas we had always enjoyed. Today we are on the mend but still so tired. It will be quite awhile before we will be back to normal. But as I am saddened by no Christmas for us – I am thankful that the real reason for Christmas is still true. In the midst of our sickness, we are minded that “the joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Grandma's Ramblings

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Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of…

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A New Christmas Carol

I love the old Christmas carols that I grew up singing and listening to on the radio and at church. But a couple of trees ago a new carol was written. To me, it is one of the best conveyors of the Christmas story.

Hope Has a Name.

Hope you enjoy it!

The Christmas Story Not Found in Matthew or Luke

At this time of the year we turn to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to read the Christmas story. Each Gospel gives us a different aspect of the birth of Jesus.

Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the King. He starts his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus showing his descent from Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people, and David, their great king. It is the story of Joseph we read. Matthew tells us of the wise men who came from a distance bearing gifts and seeking for the newborn king of the Jews.

Our nativity sets showing the wise men at the manger are not correct. Exactly how many wise men there were we do not know – only that there were three gifts. Their arrival happened sometime after the birth of Jesus as Matthew tells us that they found Jesus in a house and calls him at that time a child. When Herod realizes the wise men are not coming back to tell him where this child is, he orders all boys in the area who are two years old and under to be killed.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi

While they asked for the king of the Jews, they clearly recognized that Jesus was God as Matthew tell us:

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. 

Matthew shows us that his birth is for all people. These wise men were Gentiles, yet they were one of the first to worship him.

On the other hand, Luke emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. He traces the line of Jesus all the way back to the first man, Adam. It is not of the wealthy, educated Magi that Luke writes, but the lowly shepherds in the fields, the lowly widow Anna who has been awaiting the arrival of Messiah.

While these two portions of Scripture are the ones we look to as we read of the birth of Jesus, I think there is a passage in the book of Philippians that gives a greater understanding of the meaning, the purpose of the birth of Jesus.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As we celebrate the birth of this little child, let us not forget the very reason He came was to save us. And just as the shepherds and the wise men worshiped Him, let us bow down in gratitude and love to our Lord and King.

He Knows My Name

One of my favorite parts of the resurrection story is when Mary Magdalene was standing outside the empty tomb, heartbroken because the tomb was empty, and she did not know where the body of Jesus had been taken.

When Jesus appeared to her, she did not recognize him and thought he was the gardener. “Sir, if you have carried him away, please tell me where you laid him.” At that moment, Jesus spoke her name. “Mary,”

At the sound of Jesus speaking her name, she realized it was Him!

Something is very special to us – the sound of our name in the voice of a loved one.

Jesus spoke of knowing His voice in John 10

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

In Psalm 139 the writer reflects on how well God knows us.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

To me, in times of difficulty – it is so good to know that Jesus knows my name.

What Are We Celebrating?

It’s that time of year again!

Time for making cookies, shopping for gifts, decorating the Christmas tree and all our house inside and out. Time for family gatherings, parties at friends, watching Hallmark Christmas movies. The list goes on and on.

As I listen to people talk about the holiday, it almost seems at times as if it is more of a stressful time for some than a joyous celebration. People wonder if they will get the right gift for that special someone, if their decorations will look as nice as the neighbor’s next door, if they will have enough time for all they need to do to celebrate this holiday.

And I have to ask myself: what are we celebrating?

The Early Church did not celebrate Christmas. For them the important date was the day Jesus arose from the grave. Granted without His birth He could not have grown up and died for us. But for the Early believers, the important thing to celebrate was His resurrection. Two of the Gospels do not even mention the birth of Jesus but all four Gospels give great detail of the last days of His life as He was crucified, buried and rose again. The Aposle Paul shared that this was the heart of the good news.

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Doing some research into church history, I discovered that the first Christmas was celebrated December 25, 336. The Roman emperor Constantine decreed this celebration to take place throughout the Roman Empire and Pope Julus I selected the date of December 25. Bible scholars tell us there is nothing in the Bible or in Early Church history to know the date of the birth of Jesus. Many reason that it was more lately that his birth was in the spring. Would shepherds be out on the hills with their sheep in the middle of winter?

Many pagan societies observed this date as a celebration of the winter solstice. This was the shortest day of the year and would lead to the return of the sun. In ancient Germanic cultures, they would burn a Yule log, light bonfires, tell stories and drank ale. Ancient Romans had a seven-day celebration, Saturnalia, beginning December 17. They would have a sacrifice at the temple of Saturn followed by several days of a carnival atmosphere. oldest winter celebrations in the world.

It is believed by many scholars that the Pope chose December 25 to try to turn people away from the celebration of Saturnalia and begin to follow the Christian way of life.

Whatever the reason for the choice of December 25 it has come down to us as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

But again, I ask: what are we celebrating?

I recently visited a Christmas celebration at a local mall. I wondered what someone who had no knowledge of our customs and came to the celebration would think it was all about. There were all kinds of items with Santa Claus, the elves, the reindeer. But I saw nothing about the stable, the manger, Jesus.

Now – do I sound like Scrooge?

I certainly do not mean to. I love the decorations, the Christmas movies of the Elf on the Shelf and all that goes with our holiday in America. This week I will be busy putting up my tree and decorating my home all in red and gold, looking for that perfect gift for my husband.

But I wonder: What if you were told your friends were going to have a party to celebrate your birthday. You get excited and come to the party expecting greetings from everyone – and maybe some presents. You arrive early because you are so happy your friends want to celebrate this day with you. When you arrive, no one acknowledges your presence. No one offers you a seat at the table. There are no signs saying, “Happy birthday.” Instead, another person is seated at the head of the table. Everyone is talking to him, wanting to have their picture taken with him, toasting him. You are totally ignored.

You might go home wondering: what were they celebrating?

I hope you will enjoy this month and all the food, decorations, shopping, family gathering, parties. But I hope you will truly remember who and what we are celebrating.

I hope you will take time to listen to this song – and ask yourself: what am I celebrating?

I

To What Do You Pledge Allegiance?

I try to stay away from political posts because my goal for this blog was to encourage, and maybe make someone smile.

However, our current political scene is so chaotic, and our politicians are contributing, not to unity, but division. What makes me sad is to see the church trading its beliefs to gain political power. So when I read this today in my study, I must share it.

These are not my words. The following is taken from the book “The New Testament in Its World” by N.T. Wright.

When Paul says that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20) he is emphasizing that the Messiah, who reigns in heaven, and who will one day return from heaven, is the object of our hope and loyalty. There was nothing wrong with being a citizen of Rome, just as there is nothing wrong with being a British or an American citizen. But when the gospel of Jesus is unveiled it reveals the true empire, the true citizenship, the true lord and in that light all the pretensions of empire, not least the arrogant and blasphemous claims of the emperor himself, or the propaganda of power-hungry presidents, are exposed as folly. The church’s vocation is not to bless the power, policies, and pantheon of civic leaders, but to measure them by the standard of Christ, to pursue the things that make for peace and justice, and to proclaim that all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The church was never intended to be the religious department of any empire, but always to be building for the true kingdom, setting up an embassy for the one true lord, living lives according to his symbols, his teaching, his story and no other. If that means suffering, that will mean following the pattern of the Messiah, and confidently expecting his rescue and reward. The church’s loyalty cannot be auctioned off to those who promise it political influence; not can its core convictions be pummeled into submission to fit the reigning zeitgeist. For citizens of heaven, the gospel should be declared, not domesticated.

Want Eternal Life?

A rich young ruler came to Jesus with an important question: “What can I do to inherit eternal life?”

Depending on what religious background you come from, there could be different answers.

Some religions reject the very idea of “eternal life” and believe your spirit will live on in some form or another and that reincarnation depends on how you lived in the present life.

Other religions believe you inherit eternal life by the good deeds you do in this life.

Christianity is unique in stating there is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life, but that it is a free gift given by faith in Jesus Christ.

Yet, when we look at this young man’s encounter with Jesus, the answer Jesus gave seems to imply we do inherit eternal life by what we do.

Jesus told him “If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Is Jesus saying that we are saved by obeying the commandments? What about the verses that declare we are saved by grace and not by our own efforts?

When the young man asked Jesus exactly what commandments he should keep, Jesus recited six of the ten commandments. The young man informed Jesus that he had kept all these commandments all his life, but then asked, “What do I still lack?”

The rich young ruler was confident of his goodness. Still, he apparently recognized that something was missing. He had been honest and truthful. He had kept himself pure from sinful deeds. So what did he lack?

Jesus saw that this young man was leading a selfish life. He had not cheated anyone, but he had also not been willing to share his riches to help others. He lacked the love of God for others.

Jesus was pointing out the one area where the man did not fulfill the Law. If inheriting eternal life meant giving up his wealth, he was not willing to do that. His love of wealth became the obstacle to his following Jesus. His love of money prevented him from obeying the two greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love you neighbor as yourself.”

Today many look at this story and say that only applied to this young man because Jesus knew the young man’s heart was focused on money. He would never ask us to sell all we have and give to the poor.

Probably not. But I think the lesson for us is to examine our own heart. Is there anything we want to hold on for ourselves and not surrender to the Lord. Maybe it is our money. Are we generous with the financial blessings we have been given? Do we spend it all on ourselves or reach out to the needy in our community? Maybe it is our time. Are we willing to turn off the TV and spend some time in prayer and God’s Word. Or give up that nap we had planned and go visit someone who is lonely and in need of encouragement. Maybe it is our talent. Do we seek how we can use the God-given abilities to not enjoy ourselves but to help someone else? Bake that cake for a neighbor, knit a scarf for the homeless, play music to the elderly in the nursing homes.

Eternal life is a gift from God. But we need to make sure that there is nothing that stands between us and a love for God that puts Him first, others second and then ourselves.

Is there anything I lack? Lord, show me.

Our Father’s Love

Reading this week a familiar parable Jesus told about the prodigal son that took his part of the heritage of his father and then proceeded to waste it away on careless living. The Bible says “when he came to his senses” he went back home to ask his father to just let him be a servant.

It is a very familiar story to anyone who has ever attended church or read the Bible. Being so familiar, I truthfully began to read over it quickly.

But this time something caught my eye.

The scripture says that the father saw his son “when he was a great way off.” Imagine the father every day going out to the road and looking down the path in hopes of seeing his son returning home. Imagine every evening before retiring for the day, taking another look down the road. Hoping, praying to see his son coming home.

The days, weeks, maybe years of disappointment as his glances show no sign of his son. But he never gave up. He kept looking, hoping, expecting an answer to his prayer.

As I read that this week, I thought of those who I am praying for. Loved ones, friends who have walked away from fellowship with others – some out of hurt, some out of misunderstanding, some out of losing sight of a relationship with God.

Honestly sometimes I lose hope that they will ever return. But this parable reminded me that I must remain faithful in praying, expecting and never stop looking down the road to see them returning home to God.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Words to Build a Life On

Although I wrote this 8 years ago, it is still true today.

Grandma's Ramblings

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When I was a young girl just learning to read, my primary storybook was the Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible for Young and Old.  Originally published in 1904 it was the complete Bible story including the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Unlike most of today’s Bible Storybooks for children, this book was a continuous narrative of the Scriptures told in one hundred sixty-eight stories.  I loved reading about the Old Testament characters – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel and King David.  While other children of my generation read books about Dick and Jane that said,

See Spot run!

I was busy reading about the prophet Samuel who said,

Is the Lord as well pleased with offerings as He is with obeying His words?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen to God’s word is more precious than to place offerings on His altar.

Today I am an avid and…

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Friday’s Fruitful List

The Bible lists nine fruit of the Holy Spirit. I find it interesting that it is fruit not fruits; singular not plural. Appears God desires for us to display all of His attributes; not pick and choose. It should be our prayer for all of the Holy Spirit’s presence to be shown in our life.

  1. love
  2. joy
  3. peace
  4. patience
  5. kindness
  6. goodness
  7. faithfulness
  8. gentleness
  9. self-control

Jesus said we would be known by our fruit.

Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit...Matthew 12:33

Two things I note about fruit.

First, for a tree branch to bear fruit it must be attached to the tree. Cut apart from the tree, it will soon wither and die. Jesus told us:

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

So, we cannot on our own display with any consistency the fruit of the Holy Spirit. That is the beauty of it. We do not have to work hard and strain to be loving, have joy, self-control etc. When we “stay in the vine” we will produce the fruit as naturally as an apple tree produces apples.

Second, the purpose of fruit is to provide nourishment for those who pick the fruit. Sometimes I think we feel having fruit of the Spirit is to make us some wonderful Christian. But I think the purpose is to provide love, joy, peace etc. to those around us who need it.

I pray I will have the love of God so those I meet who need someone to show love will find it in me. I pray I will have the joy of God so those I meet who may be discouraged will be encouraged by what I say or do. I pray all of the fruit will be shown in my daily life as I meet others so that I can be an encouragement, maybe provide a challenge, certainly show the character of Jesus to others.