More Christmas Wisdom
Years ago, Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote of a man who came up to him at the end of his sermon, shook his hand, and said "I can understand "God bless me,' but how can I "Bless God?' What does it mean when we sing, "Bless the Lord, O my soul?'"
Barnhouse replied, "Do you have any children?" "Yes," the man answered, "I have a boy who is six and a girl who is five." Again, Barnhouse asked, "At Christmas time do they ever give you a present?" "Sure," the man replied.
"Where do they get the money?" he asked. With that, the man said, laughing, "Well, I give it to them."
"That's exactly it," Barnhouse said, "You pay for the Christmas presents your children give you. You're so glad when they are talking about it with their mother. They are whispering secrets. They are excited that they are going to surprise daddy. Then on Christmas morning they come and say, 'daddy, here is a blessing for you.' It ultimately came from you, but it was a blessing because it came back with their love."
When we sing, "Bless the Lord, O My Soul" we are praising Him with the blessings He puts in our lives. This Christmas, as we exchange gifts blessing others, and in turn are blessed ourselves, remember to give praise to God, from Whom all blessings flow!
I recently heard someone say that only men could possibly bring gifts like the "wise men" brought to Jesus. They said that if it were women doing the giving, the gifts would have been far more useful and appropriate, easier for Joseph and Mary to transport, and would have been beautifully wrapped!
I can't really make any meaningful comments on that - but I can say that the Maji - the Wise men - most surely demonstrated great wisdom in their actions as they went to visit the newborn King of Kings. In fact, there are four very specific areas that not only prove their wise actions, but more importantly, serve as examples of wisdom that each of us should be using in our own life!
He walked into the world with all the power of Almighty God at his bidding, but He was carried out a mutilated body lowered from a cross.
He rebuked the pious, but He comforted the sinner. He refused earthly Kingship, although He was still a King. He loved His mother yet gave her away at the Cross. He healed the broken-hearted, yet He himself, died with a broken heart.
He loved the fellowship of friends, yet was cast out by His kinsmen. He rebuked both sage and seer, and then blessed the little children. He held an executive meeting on the Mount of Transfiguration, then wept alone in the Garden of Gethsemane.
He could walk on water, but could not walk away from the tears in the eyes of the Widow from Nain. He could command the stars in their orbits, but he refused to change the circumstances of His own execution. His mission was a commitment to free all men, yet He was imprisoned on the testimony of one man.
He delivered many from pain, but He was delivered to suffer agonizing pain. He dried the eyes of multitudes, but no one dried His eyes in Gethsemane. He carried the burdens of the world, but only one was brought forth to help Him bear His Cross to Calvary.
His execution was thought to be insignificant, but became the controversy of the ages. His life was extinguished in a brief second of time, but then ignited to lighten the world. His short span of thirty-three years on Earth should have passed unnoted were it possible, but no one life has ever had such impact on the minds of men.
His three and one-half years in the public's eye was brief indeed, but His achievements are the greatest ever recorded.
He has inspired more men, conquered more hearts, delivered more prisoners, consoled more mourners, than any figure in the history of man. He spoke of love, but was murdered with hate. He shared all that he had, and then on the Cross...He shared paradise with a thief. He gave the World light, only to be driven into the cavern of Death. He gave mankind guidance, only to be guided to Golgotha. He pointed men to the Tree of Life, and they nailed Him to a tree on a hill called the Skull. He laid down a scepter in heaven, to be laid in a borrowed tomb.
He walked out of heaven, pure, perfect, and beautiful. He returned beaten, mutilated, and nail scarred. He fulfilled all that was written of Him, and yet man did not believe Him. His coming changed the course of nations; His return will be to judge the nations. His title was simple as stated on the Cross, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews," but to those who have ever known Him, He is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
Ten Commandments for Christmas
2. Thou shalt keep Christ at the center of Christmas. Don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the commercialism of the season. Resolve to read one of the Gospels during December. Mediate upon what it means that Christ came into the world.
3. Thou shalt make Christmas a family time. Do things together: Decorate the tree, play games, bake cookies, shop, write cards, have devotionals, go caroling, attend church together.
4. Thou shalt remember those who are less fortunate. Contribute significantly to an organization serving the needs of others throughout the year. Give a Christmas gift to your church.
5. Thou shalt give thyself with every gift. Put some thought into the gifts you purchase. Give a gift that represents you. If possible, make something instead of buying something.
6. Thou shalt learn to be a good receiver. Many of us have trouble receiving graciously and gracefully.
7. Thou shalt put music into Christmas. Buy several Christmas CD's and play them again and again. Attend church choir cantatas and special Christmas programs. Sing carols with loved ones.
8. Thou shalt slow down. Remember: Christmas is supposed to be a season of peace, not hypertension.
9. Thou shalt remember to worship. The church is the place you are most likely to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.
10. Thou shalt receive Christ into thy life. Don't just talk about the Christ of Christmas, receive him into your life as Lord and Savior.
'Twas the Week Before Christmas
No one sang "Away in a manger - no crib for a bed."
Then what from the T.V. did they suddenly hear?
And, as they made their way home from their trip to the mall,
There were presents to wrap and cookies to bake.
On Wal-mart! On K-mart! On Target! On Penney's!
And up on the roof, there arose such a clatter,
Christ's eyes - how they twinkle! Christ's Spirit - how merry!
Are We Missing Something?
It is 1:00 on Saturday afternoon two weeks before Christmas. The kids are with their friends and will be well cared for until the evening hours. You and your spouse decide this is the perfect time to finish up your holiday shopping. "Let's go to the mall and get this done," she says gleefully. "Okay" you respond with a little less glee. Off you go.
You live only five minutes from the mall on a normal day. However, on this particular Saturday afternoon, it takes you fifteen minutes to get to where you can see the mall. Traffic is crazy. When you see the line of cars waiting to turn into the mall is backed for up more than two blocks you have your first thought that this might not have been such a good idea. However, not wanting to appear to be lacking in Christmas cheer, you do not dare to reveal these feelings to your spouse. So, you wait. The light changes four times before you get close. Finally it's your turn. You are ready to turn except the driver in front of you sits there talking on the phone as the light turns green and then turns red. Just as the light changes the driver realizes what's happening and guns it, just making it through and almost being broadsided by cars coming from the other direction. Several friendly drivers honk to encourage the move.
Finally you and several thousand other shoppers reach the inner circle of the mall and you are all looking for the same parking space. You've been down every aisle near the food court and finally work your way over to the Sears lawn and garden area. At least you are in the area where you can see the lawn and garden area. You see an opening and are just about to pull in when your wife says, "Oooh. It's so cold. Let's look for one just a little closer." You cannot believe it but you don't want her know you are just a little frustrated. So, on you drive on. Ah. After three more loops you find one. As you walk toward the mall entrance you count to spaces and realize you are three spaces closer than you were earlier. But, she's thrilled at how the space "opened up just for us." So, you say nothing.
You are inside the mall. Now, the real fun begins. People are everywhere. Lots and lots of people. Mobs of people. Busy people. Hurried people. Weary people. Stressed-out people. Children. Thousands of children. Children who are looking for Santa. Children who have seen Santa, had lots of candy, not had a nap, and are now ready to go home. Moms and Dads who stopped having fun a long time ago.
All these people are now standing in line. Lines in the stores. Lines at the coffee shop. Lines at the food court. Lines in the restroom. One line seemed to be a line you had to stand in until it was your turn to stand in the other line. Guess what? The old idea that the left line moves faster is not true. None of these lines move fast.
Long lines. Crowded stores. Tired and fussy children. Tired and fussy parents. And the music playing over the loud speakers is a jazzed-up version of the elevator-music-version of what sounded like "I'll Be Home for Christmas."
You and your wife are almost to the breaking point when you look at her and she looks at you. She smiles at you and you smile at her. The she says the words you've longed to hear, "Let's go home!"
You successfully exit the mall, find your car, and get in the long line of cars leaving the mall (at least that's where you hope you are going). You both sit quietly wondering what it was you just did. You turn on the radio and hear a choir softly singing, "All is calm, all is quiet... Sleep in heavenly peace." You turn to your wife and say, "Do you suppose we are missing something?"
You recall these words from the story: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14, NIV)
You still have time to not miss the real meaning of the season.
as seen in Tom Norvell's "A Norvell Note," Vol. 9 No. 50, December 10, 2006.