December 24, 2003

Encouragement for Today

 

The Reason for the Season

Mary Southerland

 

Key verse:

 

"The virgin will conceive a child. She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel, meaning, God is with us." Matthew 1:23 (NLT)

 

 

Devotion:

 

Christmas!

 

My favorite time of the year!

 

* Brightly wrapped presents

* Houses draped in lights

* The smell of cinnamon and pine

* Secret shopping trips

* Children whispering and giggling

* Old movies that make me laugh and cry

* Phone calls from friends miles away

* Chocolate covered cherries

* Carolers and hot chocolate

 

Something important is happening! The literal meaning of "Christmas" is "Christ’s Mass", the celebration of Christ. We all want a joy-filled Christmas that truly celebrates Christ but the holiday season often leaves us with very little joy and a feeling of emptiness. How can we have a joy-filled Christmas?

 

I believe that the secret to the celebration of Christmas is found in giving. Maybe we are giving the wrong gifts. Maybe we are giving gifts to the wrong people or maybe we are not receiving the right gifts. The first step toward a joy-filled Christmas is receiving God’s gift to us.

 

Luke 2:8-12 "There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (NIV)

 

God gave the greatest gift of all when He gave Jesus! "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son". John 3:16

 

Christmas is not a date on the calendar. It is a way of life. But like the innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary away, we often put up a sign in our heart that reads, "No room!" Oh, we can participate in the festivities of the Christmas season but until we receive the gift of Jesus we will never truly experience Christmas.

 

To have a Christ-centered Christmas we must not only recognize God as the center of a season but we must make Him the center of our whole life! He chose to dwell in our hearts but He didn’t have to do it that way. He could have been born into a palace. His first home on earth could have been a mansion but He came to a manger and His birth was announced by shepherds instead of Kings. The greatest of all miracles took place in the midst of total simplicity. And today He comes to us once again in the midst of our simple daily lives.

 

It was Christmas Eve. The family was preparing to attend church, a familiar and important tradition at the heart of their Christmas celebration. Everyone was going except Dad. He was an honest man, a good man most would say. But he simply could not understand or believe the story of the baby in a manger. It was just too complicated and surreal for him to comprehend. How could God come to earth in order to save mankind? He didn’t want to be a hypocrite or spoil the night for anyone, so he chose to stay home while his family bundled layer upon layer and laughingly tumbled out the front door. He was a man of solitude and gentle spirit, the quiet moments an unexpected gift to his troubled soul. He wanted to believe. He longed for a genuine faith that would accept this extraordinary plan of God coming to earth as an infant, a child who would become the Savior of man and his personal Redeemer. With a sigh, the man stared into the fire as if the answer lay among the logs and flames.

 

Giant snowflakes fell softly against the window as the outside temperature dropped and the wintry wind began to blow. It was a bitter night, the prelude of an even colder weather forecast for Christmas morning. Satisfied that the crackling fire would last for hours, the man settled into his favorite chair, pondering the strange longing of his heart and waiting for his family’s return.

 

Suddenly, he heard a knock. Who could possibly be out on a night like this? When he opened the front door no one was there. Thinking it was only the wind or an overactive imagination he shut the door against the bitter cold. Once again he heard the knock and realized it was coming from the living room window. Peering into the dark night, he saw a tiny bird, crashing into the window pane, desperately trying to escape the cold. Over and over the battered little bird flew toward the warm light – but could not find a way in. Feeling sorry for the lost and confused winged creature, the gentle man opened the window inviting the nearly frozen visitor to share the warmth of his fire. The tiny bird refused the invitation and the man finally gave up, frustrated by the bird’s rejection of his rescue plan. But the relentless knocking drew him back to the window where the now frantic bird hurled its little body at the window pane in frenzied desperation. There had to be a way to make the bird understand that the man was his Savior, that the bird could trust this man’s heart for deliverance.

 

Then it came to him. He knew what to do. He knew how to save the bird! Grabbing his coat and gloves, the man dashed into the freezing night, determination etched across his face. Reaching the barn, he threw the huge wooden doors open wide, certain that the doomed bird would finally be drawn into safety. Still, the disbelieving and frightened bird refused the offer of shelter. "If only I could be a bird, for just a moment," the man thought. "I could make the frightened bird understand and lead it to safety. I could save this bird, if it would only let me."

 

It was then that the church bells began to ring – and the man knew. Like the sun rising, truth dawned upon him, flooding his heart with faultless peace. He finally understood why Jesus Christ left Heaven and came to earth as a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. He had to become one of us in order to save all of us. God became man in order to lead man to the Light of God’s truth and the power of His deliverance.

 

Hebrews 2: 17-18 And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. For since he himself has now been through suffering and temptation, he knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and he is wonderfully able to help us.

 

Christmas has a longing in it placed there by God. It is a longing for home, for something beyond our selves – something eternal. That longing can only be fulfilled through a personal, intimate relationship with God. That’s why Jesus came. He is the heart of Christmas and our reason for living. "The virgin will conceive a child. She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel, meaning, God is with us." Matthew 1:23

 

 

My prayer for today:

 

Lord, I want to believe in You but my faith is weak and my doubts are strong. I have done so many things that are wrong. I desperately need Your love and forgiveness. I need Your power in my life. Help me to believe, Father. Amen.

 

 

Application steps:

 

Recognize the fact that you need God.

 

Face the sin in your life and confess it to God.

 

Thank Him for His forgiveness that wipes that sin away.

 

Thank Him for loving you and giving you eternal life.

 

Celebrate your new life in Him!

 

 

Reflection point:

 

Right now, celebrate Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ. Let His sweet love and healing forgiveness wash over your soul. Accept His free gift of abundant life now and eternal life forever. Surrender all that you know about yourself to all that you know about God. Praise Him for His presence in your life and His power to live each day. Merry Christmas! Amen.

 

 

Power verses:

 

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. (NLT)

 

 

Additional resources:

 

Celebrating a Christ-Centered Christmas by Sharon Jaynes

http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/celebrating.html

 

The Sweetest Story Ever Told by Lysa TerKeurst

http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/sweetest.html

 

P31 Woman Magazine by Proverbs 31 Ministries

http://www.gospelcom.net/p31/resources/newsletter.html