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Girlfriends in God - December 8, 2011


December 8, 2011
How to Have a Joy-Filled Christmas Part 2
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16, NIV).

Friend to Friend
I believe the secret to a holy and joy-filled celebration of Christmas is found in giving. It always has been. Are we giving the wrong gifts to the wrong people? Maybe we are not receiving the right gifts with the right attitude. Over the next few days, we will examine several truths about Christmas that will lead us once again to the manger, where we will worship the Christ child and experience a Christmas holiday filled with love, peace and joy.

First truth:  We must receive 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)

Second truth: We must give the right gifts to Him.

Christmas is the birthday of Jesus Christ. Yet, we celebrate His birthday by giving gifts to everyone but Him.  What gifts does He want from us? What gifts are fit for the King? To answer that question, let’s go back to that first Christmas and see what gifts He received that first Christmas night.

·      The gift of trust

The gift of trust was given to Jesus by Mary, a teenage girl who was engaged to Joseph. I can only imagine what thoughts raced through her mind when an angel appeared to Mary announcing she would give birth to a son named Jesus. I am certain she could not have possibly understood what the angel told her, but she knew the one who sent the angel, and that was enough for Mary. I can almost guarantee you it would not have been enough for me if I had been in her place. After all, she was a virgin and last time I checked, virgins cannot be pregnant. What would Joseph think? Trust shines best in the darkness. Trust is a gift fit for the King.

Proverbs 3:5-6“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (NASB).

·      The gift of obedience

Joseph gave Jesus the gift of obedience. He was betrothed to Mary, and in Jesus’ day, a betrothal was legally binding. While engaged, Mary becomes pregnant. Joseph knows he is not the father of this baby because he has never slept with Mary. His first reaction was to divorce Mary quietly, but an angel comes to him and explains that Joseph is to keep her but not sleep with her. Joseph’s response could have been many things but he responded with obedience.

John 14:15(NIV) "If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Obedience is not just an outward action, but an inner attitude. I love the story of the small child who was riding in the front seat of the car. Wanting to be close to his dad, the youngster stood to his feet. Dad said, “Son, please sit down and put on your seat belt.” The little boy said, “But dad, I want to stand by you!” It took several attempts but the boy finally sat down. When his father bragged on his obedience, the little boy responded, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m still standing on the inside.” Obedience is a deliberate choice to do what God wants us to do. Obedience is a gift fit for the King.

·      The gift of praise

When the shepherds heard the news, they went to see Jesus for themselves. Afterwards, Scripture tells us they went on their way - praising God. Praise is a continual choice we must make again and again until it becomes a habit. A young hippie was sitting on a park bench, reading his Bible when he suddenly began shouting, “Praise God!  What a miracle!” A cynic walking by stopped to ask the man why he was so excited.  The hippie replied, “I was just reading how God parted the Red Sea and the whole nation of Israel walked on dry ground!” The older man snapped, “That’s ridiculous! Don’t you know the Red Sea wasn’t a real sea at all?  It was only a few inches deep.” He then turned and walked away. For a moment, the young man was confused and discouraged but it was only minutes until his shouts again filled the air. The unbeliever returned to ask, “What are you shouting about now?” “Well, I just read how God drowned the entire Egyptian army in only six inches of water!” Don’t let anyone keep you from praising God. Don’t let any circumstance deny you the joy of praise. Praise keeps us kneeling before the manger and is a gift fit for the King.

Psalm 150:6 (NASB) “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

·      The gift of sacrifice

The wise men came, bringing gifts that required sacrifice on their part because they knew true worship always involves sacrifice. They brought gold, a precious metal, myrrh, an expensive perfume like Mary later used to wash the feet of Jesus, as well as incense, a rare and expensive product used in worship. 

1 Chronicles 21:24 (NCV) “I won’t offer a burnt offering that costs me nothing."

Sacrifice goes beyond what is required or expected. The best gift, the most expensive and extravagant gift should go to the one whose birthday we celebrate. This year, give a sacrificial gift in His name.

As the Christmas season approaches, I encourage you to examine your heart and life. What gift does Jesus want from you this year? Is it whole-hearted trust? Is the Father waiting on your willingness to obey before revealing the next step on your journey? Do you live in the gear of attitude and praise? Is He asking you to lay everything down as a sweet-smelling sacrifice unto Him? The best gift we can give Him this year is our heart, soul and mind.

Yesterday, I revised my Christmas list from last year and it occurred to me that the name of Jesus is not on that list. To have a joy-filled Christmas, Jesus Christ must be in the backdrop of every gathering…every preparation… every plan and every holiday celebration. May it be so in our lives this Christmas. 

Let’s Pray
Father, I celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ who is the very reason for the Christmas season. My gift to You this year is me … every part of my life in full surrender to Your plan and purpose. Please help me keep my eyes firmly fixed on You as I celebrate Christmas this year. May others see the joy and peace only You can give as I honor You on Your birthday.
In Jesus’ name,

Now It’s Your Turn
Consider the following gifts you can give to Jesus this year. Read and memorize the verses listed below. Record them in your journal. When you are tempted to get side-tracked by the world’s materialistic view of Christmas, remember the gifts that are fit for the King.

Gift of trust

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Gift of obedience

John 14:15(NIV) "If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Gift of praise

Psalm 150:6 (NASB) “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

Gift of sacrifice

1 Chronicles 21:24 (ICB) “I won’t give an offering that costs me nothing.”

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