Today's Word for Pastors...

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
Luke 1:32-33

Today's Preaching Insight...

I wrote the following as the introduction to the last PreachingNow of 2005. It garnered a lot of responses (mostly positive, thankfully!), and I thought it might be time to share it again:

There's been a lot in the news recently about the failure of stores and other commercial enterprises to use the word "Christmas" in their advertising. There's even a book out called The War on Christmas (Sentinel), and the news is filled with angry protests from commentators and church leaders calling for boycotts of stores insisting on greeting their customers with "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

I wonder why all this surprises us. In an increasingly secular society in which the cultural elites are more and more pagan in their worldview, why is it a shock that commercial enterprises want to encourage us to spend without reference to the birth of a baby born in a manger? Why are we surprised that many schools -- fearful of litigation and influenced by the secular academy -- would want to celebrate a "winter holiday" instead of the intervention of a holy and righteous God into history?

Should we help civic officials and educators deal with the legal tightropes related to celebrating the Christmas season in a pluralistic culture? Of course. But rather than declaring "war" on stores and organizations that fail to use the language of Christmas, perhaps we will make an even more profound impression by acting authentically Christian at this season of the year. Maybe if they hear us sharing the good news of Christ's love and see Christ living through us as we serve, give and love one another, then the word "Christmas" will have an even greater influence in a culture where love, giving and service are so rarely seen.

Merry Christmas to you.
Michael Duduit, Editor

Today's Extra...

Christmas, Jesus

In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage.

As it neared the holiday season, the orphans heard the traditional Christmas story for the first time. The Americans told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem; and after finding no room in the inn, Mary and Joseph went to a stable, where Jesus was born and placed in the manger.

Throughout the story, the children listened in amazement. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. As a follow-up activity to the story, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manager. Each child was also given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that the children tore into strips, and then carefully laid in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel from a discarded nightgown were used for the baby's blanket. Pieces of tan felt were used for the doll-like baby.

As they made their way around the room to observe the children, one of the Americans noted, "All went well until I got to one table where 6-year-old Misha sat. He appeared to have finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, I was startled to see, not one, but two, babies in the manger! Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger."

The observer noted Misha very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger. "Misha then started to ad lib his own ending," recalls the observer.

"And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no momma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn't because I didn't have a gift to give him like everybody else did.

I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. So I asked Jesus, if I kept Him warm, would that be a good enough gift? And Jesus told me, 'If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.' So, I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and told me I could stay with him -- for always!"

As Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table, and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him -- for always!

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