Christmas at MacPherson (Luke 1:68)

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About 230 families and individuals live at MacPherson Gardens, Block 72 in my neighborhood. Each person has his or her life story. On the tenth floor resides an elderly woman whose children have grown up, gotten married, and moved out. She lives by herself now. Just a few doors away from her is a young couple with two kids – a boy and a girl. And a few floors below lives a young man serving in the army. He has been to church before; maybe he will visit again on Christmas Day. I met these people last Christmas when our church went caroling in the neighborhood to spread Christmas cheer.

Every Christmas – as on the first Christmas – there are many people who do not know that God has entered into our world as a baby whose name is Jesus (Luke 1:68; 2:21). Or they do not know the significance of that event – it is “good news that will cause great joy for all people” (2:10). Yes, all people! Regardless of our nationality, culture, gender, or financial status, Jesus came to die for us and offer us complete forgiveness so that we can be reconciled with Him and enjoy His love, joy, peace, and hope. All people, from the woman next door to the colleagues we have lunch with, need to hear this wonderful news!

On the first Christmas, the angels were the bearers of this joyous news. Today, God desires to work through us to take the story to others. – Poh Fang Chia

Lord, use me to touch the lives of others with the news of Your coming

The good news of Jesus’s birth is a source of joy for all people.

  • December 4, Vol. 25, Our Daily Bread

“Where’s the Baby Jesus?” (Matthew 1:21)

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It all starts happening sometimes in early November. Christmas decorations begin to adorn store windows. Newspaper ads announce “the perfect Christmas gift.” Toy commercials start punctuating television shows. Christmas music fills the air. Before you know it, there are banquets to attend, parties you can’t miss, gifts to wrap, family gatherings to plan, trees to decorate, baking to be done, and a host of other activities that manage to crowd out the real meaning of Christmas.

Delores Van Belkum told me a story about her young grandson that forcefully drives home the point. His mother and father had been instructing little Justin about the birth of Christ. They had used a simple manger scene to tell him about Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. They tried to impress on him that the child born in Bethlehem was someone very special. As the holiday approached, Justin went on a shopping trip with his mother and grandmother. One salesperson showed him a sparkling display of Santas, toys, and decorations. He was fascinated. But he spoke words that far surpassed his years when he looked and said, “But where’s the baby Jesus?

This Christmas, let’s work at keeping foremost in our minds the reason for the celebration. We need to focus not on all the commercial hype but on the birth of God’s Son into the world. Then we won’t be asked, “Where’s the baby Jesus? – David C. Egner

Let not our hearts be busy inns
That have no room for Thee,
But cradles of the living Christ
And His nativity. – Cushman

The most important part about “Christmas” is the first six letters.
– December 3, 1988, Our Daily Bread

Christmas Spirit (Philippians 2:5)

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How would you define “the Christmas spirit”? Would it be a friendly smile between strangers, the sound of familiar carols, a tree with twinkling lights in a sea of brightly wrapped packages, or just that good feeling you get this time of the year?

None of these elements captures the real meaning of the phrase. They represent feelings that may be a response to the commercialism that distorts the real spirit of Christmas.

James Innell Packer goes to the heart of this matter in his book Knowing God. He writes, “We talk glibly of the Christmas spirit, rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity …. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the [temperament] of Him who for our sakes became poor, … the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellowmen, giving time, thought, care, and concern to do good to others … in whatever way there seems need.

In Philippians 2, Paul described the God of heaven and earth as laying aside His divine glory and becoming our servant by dying on the cross for our sins. Then he urged us to duplicate that same mind of humble service to others. That’s the true Christmas spirit. – Dennis J. De Haan

If we look beyond the manger

To the cross of Calvary,

We will know the reason Christmas

Brings such joy to you and me. – D. J. De Haan

The spirit of Christmas giving should be seen in all our living.

  • December 1, Vol. 13, Our Daily Bread

What If? (Galatians 4:4)

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Several years ago a group of historians authored a book called If – Or History Rewritten. Some of the ifs those scholars considered were these: What if Robert E. Lee had not lost the Battle of Gettysburg? What if the Moors in Spain had won? What if the Dutch had kept New Amsterdam? What if Booth had missed when he shot at Abraham Lincoln? What if Napoleon had escaped to America?

The attempt to reconstruct the past on the basis of these ifs was only a historian’s game. But apply it for a moment to the central event in history – the birth of Jesus Christ. It was foretold with pinpoint accuracy hundreds of years before by the prophet Micah. The greatest if, therefore – the most startling question to the imagination – is “What if Jesus had not been born as predicted?

Such an if staggers the record. It is like imagining the earth without sunrise or the heavens without stars. Yet this if must be taken seriously, especially at Christmas, because our world is oblivious to the true meaning of Christ’s coming.

On this first Sunday of Advent, try to think of the world would be like without Christ. What would history have been without Him? And at a personal level, what would your life be without Him? Thank God that there are no ifs in history. – Haddon Robinson

If Christ had never left His throne
To enter time and space,
We’d have no hope beyond the grave,
No knowledge of His grace. – Sper

A world without Christ would be a world without hope.
– November 27, 1994, Our Daily Bread

Who Is Your God? (Deuteronomy 6:5)

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At a funeral, I once overheard someone say of the deceased, “He was close to his god. He’s safe now.

At times like that, I wish it were true that everyone could have their own god, live in whatever way they wanted, and also be assured of eternal life in heaven. Then we wouldn’t have to think too seriously about death. We wouldn’t have to be concerned about where our unbelieving loved ones went when they died.

But the Scriptures say that there is only one true God. “The Lord our God, the Lord is one!(Deuteronomy 6:4). And He is holy (Leviticus 19:2). He says that we don’t measure up to His standard for a relationship with Him. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23). Our sin has alienated us from Him.

In love, the heavenly Father provided the way to Himself through his perfect Son Jesus who died to pay the penalty for our sin. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life(John 3:16). But we need to humble our hearts and receive His gift of forgiveness.

There is only true God. He is holy and has provided the only way of eternal life through Jesus. Is He the God you are trusting in? Think about it – seriously. – Anne Cetas

There is a place reserved in heaven

For everyone who has received

Forgiveness and eternal life

From Christ, n whom they have believed. – Sper

To get into heaven, it’s who you know that counts.

  • October 31, Vol. 15, Our Daily Bread

Best Deal Ever! (Ecclesiastes 5:11)

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How much is enough? We might ask this simple question on a day many developed countries increasingly devote to shopping. I speak of Black Friday, the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday, in which many stores open early and offer cut-price deals; a day that has spread from the States to other nations. Some shoppers have limited resources and are trying to purchase something at a price they can afford. But sadly, for others greed is the motivation, and violence erupts as they fight for bargains.

The wisdom of the Old Testament writer known as “the Teacher (Ecclesiastes 1:1) an antidote to the frenzy of consumerism we may face in the shops – and in our hearts. He points out that those who love money never will have enough and will be ruled by their provides possessions. And yet, they will die with nothing: “As everyone comes, so they depart (5:15). The apostle Paul echoes the Teacher in his letter to Timothy, when he says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and that we should strive for “godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Whether we live in a place of plenty or not, we all can seek unhealthy ways of filling the God-shaped hole in our hearts. But when we look to the Lord for our sense of peace and well-being, He will fill us with His goodness and love. – Amy Boucher Pye

You have formed us to Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You. – Augustine, The Confessions.

True contentment does not depend on anything in this world.
– November 23, Vol. 24, Our Daily Bread

Be Filled with Thankfulness (Hebrews 13:15)

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Throughout history, many cultures have set aside a time for expressing their thankfulness. In the US, Thanksgiving Day originated with the pilgrims. In the midst of extreme hardship, loss of loved ones, and meager supplies, they still believed they were blessed. They chose to celebrate God’s blessings by sharing a meal with Native Americans who had helped them survive.

We know we’ve lost the spirit of that original celebration when we catch ourselves complaining that our Thanksgiving Day has been “spoiled” by bad weather, disappointing food, or a bad cold. It’s we who are spoiled – spoiled by the very blessings that should make every day a day of thanksgiving, whatever our circumstances.

Billy Graham wrote, “Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible.” He then quoted Romans 1:21, one of the Bible’s indictments against rebellious humanity. Then Dr. Graham added, “Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. and nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.”

Which condition describes you? – Joanie E. Yoder

A grumbling mood of discontent
Gives way to thankfulness
When we consider all God’s gifts
And all that we possess. – Sper

Gratitude is a God-honoring attitude.
– November 25, Vol. 11