It’s Christmas Eve!

Advent stories and messages from around the world

December 24, 2021

“It’s Christmas Eve!”

John 3:16; Matthew 28:18-20

The Christmas story (Luke 2:1-21; Matthew 2:1-12) will be read at church tonight and tomorrow on Christmas day. A child was born over 2000 years ago. He was born of a virgin. It had been prophesied for centuries that He would come to save His people.

Jesus was not a conqueror in the traditional way we think of one. Instead, He did something else, He conquered sin. Jesus lived as a man for about 33 years, and His ministry lasted only 3 of those years. He brought God’s message of love, service, and eternity to the civilized world in those three years. Finally, as predetermined, He died on a cross for our sins, and three days later, He rose again, overcoming death itself.

This is the greatest Christmas gift you and I will ever receive. God’s gift of eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Our Advent journey is now complete. But our mission set forth by Jesus in Matthew 28: 18-20 has just begun.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:8-20

Thank you for allowing me to share my messages and some traditions from around the world with you. May your family and friends have a Blessed Christmas as you share your traditions and the Gospel message with everyone.

And now:

Amen!

“The Poinsettia”

Advent stories and messages from around the world

“The Poinsettia”

December 23, 2021

Matthew 2:1-12

The Poinsettia plant first arrived in the United States in the early 19th century. The plant is named for the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett. He brought the plant back to the United States after he found them growing wild in the wilderness of Mexico.

Today poinsettias are a part of a tradition in the U.S. We even use the plants to decorate the church’s altars at Christmas. The poinsettia even has its own holiday. December 12 is National Poinsettia Day in honor of the plant and the man who brought them to America.

A Mexican legend tells of a little girl (Pepita) who only had weeds to give as a gift for Jesus on Christmas Eve. But, when she brought the weeds into the church, they blossomed into the red plants we know call poinsettias. In Mexico, they are known as Flores de Noche Buena (Spanish for “The flowers of the holy night. “

Today, poinsettias are still grown in southern Mexico and exported to the U.S. each year for Christmas. The shape of the poinsettia brings to mind the star that the Wise Men followed to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and eventually Jesus.

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It’s amazing the things God does to make His plans come to fruition. He set a special star in the western sky for the wise men/Magi to follow. (The Bible says they came from the east).

It’s commonly believed that the wise men came from Iraq, Iran, or Saudi Arabia. For the sake of argument, let’s say they came from Iraq. The distance from Baghdad to Jerusalem is over 600 miles. That’s a two-and-a-half-hour flight in a jet plane today. The problem is the wise men probably came by camel. This wasn’t a two- or three-day journey. Their travel time would have been weeks. Likely, they didn’t start out in the direction of Jerusalem until after Jesus was born. After the wise men left Jerusalem, they had an additional six miles to of travel to Bethlehem

Wait! That would mean the wise men weren’t at the birth; they weren’t in the stable. Let’s see what the Bible says (again) 😊:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi2:1 Traditionally wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel? Micah 5:2,4

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” Matthew 2:1-12

The Bible is very specific. The wise men/Magi didn’t arrive at a stable, barn, or cave and see Jesus immediately following His birth. Instead, they showed up weeks, if not months after Christ’s birth. By this time, Joseph had probably established himself in the community as a carpenter and purchased a home for his family.

It’s incredible, isn’t it.? The wise men/Magi travel well over 600 miles following a star that led them first to Jerusalem and finally to Jesus’ home in Bethlehem.

There is a bit of irony here, though. As far as the wise men traveled, how many times are we unwilling to travel 1, 2, 5, or even 10 miles to go to church on Sunday and worship Jesus.

Make sure that you and your family take time this Christmas and every week to travel as far as you must to spend time worshipping our King, Jesus.

Dear Lord. You are amazing. You used a special star to bring the wise men hundreds of miles to see the Christ child. We can presume that when they returned to their homeland, they shared the experience with others. Help us to share your love with others and share the story of Your Son, the baby born to die for our sins. Amen.

Exchanging Gifts at Christmas

Advent stories and messages from around the world

“Exchanging gifts at Christmas.”

December 22, 2021

John 19:39-40; Matthew 2:1-11

When I say, “Exchanging gifts on Christmas,” what comes to mind? Do you think of the tradition of giving gifts to friends, family, and co-workers at or on Christmas day? Or, do you think of December 26, when you go to your local retailer and exchange or return a gift you received that you don’t like or have no use for?

Suffice it to say, today I’m talking about the gift-giving of Christmas. Giving gifts has been around as long as people have been around. People have given gifts to dignitaries and heads of state, and other times as a thank-offering for something someone has done for them.

All over the world, friends, and family give gifts to each other for Christmas. And, most children believe in a gift-bringer, like St. Nicholas, Santa, or Father Christmas. In parts of Germany, they believe it is the Christkind that brings gifts, and in Spain, it’s the Wise men, while in parts of Italy, they believe it is an old lady called Befana. (Sometimes she is pictured as a witch)

People around the world also open their gifts at different times. In the Netherlands, some gifts are open as early as December 5, which is St. Nicholas Eve. On December 6, St. Nicholas Day, many children in Belgium, Germany, and other European countries open their gifts. While here in the United States, England, and Japan, we open our presents on December 25, Christmas day.

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It’s the Monday before Christmas as I write this devotion. Last night at our church, we had a Christmas Nativity drive-through with 7 or 8 stations to stop at with music, readings, and Bible characters. I was one of the Wise Men (Dressed as a King). I was asked to present the reading for about 30 minutes at our station. So I read the passage below about 40 times and listened to it about 150 times last night.

I now have it memorized. 😊

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi2:1 Traditionally wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Matthew 2:1-11

As Christians, this is why we give gifts at Christmas. We commemorate the Magi/Wisemen and their gifts to Jesus when they arrived at His home.

According to the Bible, the baby Jesus received three gifts.

  • Gold – has long been associated with Kings. And we, as Christians, believe that Jesus is the King of Kings.
  • Frankincense – Is sometimes still used during worship in churches. It shows that people would worship Jesus, and it too is a Kingly spice.
  • Myrrh: is actually a perfume that is put on dead bodies. It is a prophecy that Jesus would suffer and die.
  •  

“Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds about 34 kilograms Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.” John 19:38-40

This year before you share gifts with your family and friends, take time to share the story of the Wise Men and the gifts that they brought the Son of God. Then exchange your gifts, remembering once again that without Christ, there is no Christmas.

Dear Lord. There are so many working parts to the Christmas Story. Angel, Shepherds, A Virgin, Wise Men, a jealous king, and of course your Son, Jesus. Thank you for sending Him for us, and never let us never forget that without His birth, death, and resurrection, there would be nothing to celebrate. Amen

Those Christmas Greeting Cards

Advent stories and messages from around the world

December 21, 2021

“Those Christmas Greeting Cards”

Matthew 4:18-22

The very first Christmas card was printed and sent in 1843. Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy businessman, was on the ‘A’ list in society and had many friends. So he was looking for a way to wish his friends, family, and colleagues a Merry Christmas.

Sir Henry approached a friend of his, John Calcott Horsley, with the idea of printing a card out to send to people for Christmas. So, John designed and printed it. At the time, it cost a penny to send a letter. So, it wasn’t a problem for a rich man like Sir Henry to send the cards out to people he knew.

The picture above is a copy of that original Christmas card. Some people disliked the card because they thought that it advocated for children to drink (You can see in the picture a woman giving a child a sip of wine).

Some people copied Sir Henry’s cards and sent them to their friends.

The modern-day Christmas card didn’t come into existence until about 1915. A new postcard company in Kansas City, Mo., started by Joyce Hall and later joined by his brothers Rollie and William, published the first-holiday greeting card. The Hall brothers’ company was renamed about ten years later. And yes, you guessed it, the name was changed to Hallmark.

Hallmark came up with a standard format for their Christmas cards. They were 4 inches wide, by 6 inches in length, and inserted in an envelope.

Today, Christmas cards are sent and received around the world. But, we’ve moved past just paper cards given or sent in the mail. Now there are e-cards available that can be sent via the internet. Many include music and personal greetings.

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A greeting of “Have a Blessed Christmas,” sending a card with a Christian message, and having an angel atop our tree, are commonplace ways today to share that you are a Christian.

But sharing your faith was not always as easy as it is today. After Jesus died, Christians were persecuted by the government and Roman emperors who regarded themselves as God.

So followers of “The Way,” Christians had a unique way of identifying one another as a Christian. It was the use of the Ichthus or Ichthys.

The Ichthus is a Greek symbol meaning fish. Early Christians used this symbol to identify themselves as a follower of Christ. (Sometimes as simple as marking the sand or dirt they stood on with their feet or finger.)

Sometimes you may see the Ichthus like this:

The Ichthus breaks down like this:

Early Christians also used this symbol because Jesus refers to Himself as a “Fisher of Men.”

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 4:19 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women Immediately, they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John, his brother, in the boat with Zebedee, their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” Matthew 4:18-22

This year, whether you send Christmas cards to friends and family or are greeting someone at the checkout corner by saying, “Merry Christmas.” Remember and share with your family how early persecuted Christians greeted one another with a fish symbol. And how we, as His disciples, continue to “fish” for men and women every day.

Dear Jesus. You called your first disciples to be fishers of men. Help to continue your work each and every day. We want to spread the word of how you sent your Son Jesus to save us from our sins. Amen

Where’s the ‘Plum’ in the Pudding?

Advent stories and messages from around the world

“Where’s the “Plum” in the pudding”

December 20, 2021

John 3:16

Have you ever eaten Plum pudding (A.K.A. Christmas pudding; figgy pudding)? If you have, then you already know there are no plums in plum pudding. The word “plum” is just a generic name used for any kind of dried fruit (raisins, figs, etc.). But, if you haven’t, you at the very least heard “Tiny Tim in ‘A Christmas Carol'” references it, as well as two of the verses of, “We, wish you a Merry Christmas.”

The history of plum pudding goes back to the 15th century. Although it was initially called “Plum Pottage,” it was a flavorful concoction filled with meat and root vegetables that would be eaten at the beginning of a meal.

Over the years, it morphed into what we now call Christmas or plum pudding. Christmas pudding even made its way in the church liturgy in England, with the last Sunday, before the first Sunday of Advent being, “Stir up Sunday.”

  ‘Stir-up Sunday’ is the day when traditionally families gather together to prepare the Christmas pudding. Each taking a turn stirring the mixture … The Collect of the Day for the last Sunday before Advent starts, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.”

(Historic-UK.com)

One more point. You may notice that the Plum pudding above is, Flambé. This is because in England when serving the dish, the lights are generally turned out in the room. Then the pudding is lit after being saturated with rum or brandy.

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Stir up Sunday while having religious roots; today is celebrated more as a day for the family to cook a great Christmas meal together.

Family. I get a little disappointed when I watch a Christmas movie. Quite often, one of the main characters says something like, “This is what Christmas is all about; it’s about family and sharing love for one another.”

Christmas is and isn’t about family. The Christmas story includes the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. And today, it’s traditional to get together with family and friends and share a meal, Stir-up Sunday, and exchange gifts.

A meal is always a great way to bring the family together, sharing stories, memories, and love. And the gift exchange hopefully reminds us of the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus.

Yet again, let me emphasize something. Without Christ, there would be no Christmas. Don’t get so caught up in the yearly festivities that you forget that you wouldn’t be celebrating, but for one thing:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16

This year and every year, make sure you share the story of the birth of Jesus with your family as part of your Christmas celebration. Without Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, there’s no reason to celebrate, is there?

Dear Lord. This Christmas, please help us to celebrate your Son Jesus. Because of your love for us, you sent Him to sacrifice His life, so we might have eternal life. By Grace through Faith, we are saved. Amen.

The Angel on Top of the Christmas Tree

Advent stories and messages from around the world

“The Angel on top of the Christmas Tree”

December 19, 2021

Matthew 1:20-24; Matthew 2:13, 19, 4:10-11

The photos above are of my family’s Christmas tree and angel topper. We’ve had the same angel topper for our tree for 25 years. We also hang about 20-25 different angel ornaments toward the top of the tree.

Some families put stars at the top of their trees. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. The star commemorates the wise men’s star that brought them to the baby Jesus.

The practice of placing toppers on the Christmas tree commemorates the angels before, at, and after Christ’s birth. Because the angels appeared high in the sky to the shepherds, today, we place the angel at the top of our trees.

After people started placing angels on the top of their trees (circa 1848), some families decorated the trees with paper streamers and later tinsel. The children would be told that it was angel hair from the angels leaning in too close to the tree when they decorated it. 😊

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As I said earlier, angels were very much involved in and around the birth of Jesus.

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus; 1:21 Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the Lord saves. because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” 1:23 Isaiah 7:14 (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” Matthew 1:20-24

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So, he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” Matthew 2:13-14

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

So, he got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.” Matthew 2:19-21

As you can see from the three passages above, angels were quite busy directing Jesus’s earthly father. An angel also came to Mary to announce that she would be the mother of God, even though she was a virgin. Finally, thousands of angels appeared to the shepherds singing praise to God and directing them to go and see the Christ child.

There is another incident of angels involved in Jesus’ life.

“Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”

Matthew 4:10-11

After Jesus was baptized but before he began His formal ministry, He went into the wilderness for 40 days. While He was there, Satan tried to match wits with Jesus, but He was no match for the Son of God. The passage says that “angels came and attended him.”

Remember, Jesus was and is God, but he was also human. He got thirsty, hungry, and needed rest and sleep. It seems that the angels came and tended to His needs.

By now, many of you have decorated your tree. If you have an angel topper, share the store of the angels and how involved they were in the lives of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, as well as Christ’s.

Dear Lord. You sent your angel to announce to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. You sent angels to direct Joseph and proclaim our Savior’s birth to the shepherds. Thank you for all you do in our lives and for sending your Son Jesus as our Savior. Amen.

What is a Christingle?

Advent stories and messages from around the world

“What is a Christingle?”

December 18, 2021

John 19:30-37; Luke 22:14-20

Have you ever heard of a Christingle? I’ve used one in a children’s message several times over the years.

The word Christingle comes from the German word, Christkindl, which means “Little Christ Child.” It is used to celebrate and show how Jesus is the “Light of the World.”

In 1747 German minister, John de Watteville gave children a lit candle with a red ribbon around it during the worship service. The idea was that the red ribbon, which symbolized the blood of Christ, goes around the entire world.

Today, a Christingle is made with an orange, a candle, 4 toothpicks, sweets like soft candies, and a red ribbon.

The orange represents the world, the red ribbon represents God’s love and Jesus’ blood that was sacrificed on the cross.

The sweets and the four toothpicks represent God’s creation and the four seasons.

Finally, the candle represents Jesus as the light of the world.

It’s an enjoyable way to talk about God’s love for everyone and Jesus’ sacrifice for all the world’s people. And how Jesus remains the light of the world.

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Jesus was sacrificed on a cross for you and me. He was the perfect sacrifice, unblemished by sin.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 19:36 Exodus 12:46; Num. 9:12; Psalm 34:20 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” John 19:30-37

Jesus knew the kind of death he would have to endure, but He did it anyway, out of love for mankind.

He left us with a particular way to commune with Him as well as commemorate His death at Holy Communion.

 “Where His body and blood are really present in the bread and wine.

“When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way, after the supper, he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Luke 22:14-20

I’d like to encourage you to share the story of the Christingle with your family, especially the children. What a wonderful gift to them as you talk about how Jesus sacrificed Himself for everyone in the world.

Dear Jesus. Your sacrifice gave us freedom from sin. You died so that we may live. Thank you for saving us and sharing Your Holy Supper with us, so we may commune with you and others. In your name, we pray. Amen.

Tinsel on the Tree

Advent stories and messages from around the world

“Tinsel on the Tree”

December 17, 2021

Matthew 2:13-18; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 31:15

When I was a kid, one of the musts for decorating your tree was tinsel.

It came in rectangular boxes with a couple thousand silver metal strands to hang on your tree.

Several stories or legends concerning tinsel being used on the Christmas tree exist.

One of the stories actually has a Christian background. Mary and the baby Jesus supposedly narrowly escape the Roman soldiers sent by Herod to kill baby Jesus. So, Mary hid in a cave, trying to avoid their capture and the inevitable death of her newborn son. After Mary and the baby entered the cave, spiders sealed the entrance with webbing. When the soldiers came by and noticed that the opening to the cave had undisturbed spider webs at its entrance, they simply passed it by.

Since then, tinsel has been put on trees to commemorate what the spiders did that day.

Another legend describes a family whose tree had been covered with spider webs after being brought into their home. But Father Christmas showed up that night while the family was sleeping and changed the spider webs into sparkling silver strands.

(Excerpts taken from bugoftheweek.com)

Interestingly enough, the tinsel my family put on the trees when I was a kid was banned in 1971, as it contained high amounts of lead and was toxic.

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The story of Mary and Jesus escaping the Romans is actually, partially true.

This is what happened after the wise men left the home of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So, he got up, took the child and his mother during the night, and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Hosea 11:1

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,

weeping and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children

and refusing to be comforted,

because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15

As you can see from the reading, Mary and the baby Jesus did escape the clutches of the Roman soldiers. This happened after an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take his family and leave for Egypt.

Unfortunately, their leaving did not preclude the horrible actions that a misguided Herod ordered in an attempt to stop the child from someday gaining power. All male children under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas were ordered to be killed.

Some theologians believe that thousands of children were slaughtered after Herod’s orders were given. But that number would be much too large as Bethlehem was a small hamlet of about 300 people. Today many religious leaders believe it was more like 30-40 male children were killed.

The numbers aren’t important; many families lost a child because of the tyranny of Herod.

Yes, Jesus and His family did escape capture and certain death. However, they did not return to their homeland until after the death of Herod.

God had a plan, and part of it was for Jesus’ family to escape, so He might live and return to begin His ministry at a later date and fulfill God’s promise.

Dear Lord, it’s a horrible story. Children were put to death because Herod believed Your Son was a threat to Him. We know that Your Son is not a threat but a blessing. He is the promised Messiah, the chosen one, who came to earth to give His life to save ours. Thank you for sending Jesus to rescue us. Amen.

“Bûche de Noël” – Yule Log

Advent stories and messages from around the world

“Bûche de Noël” – Yule Log

December 16, 2021

Luke 2:4-7; Matthew 6:25-34

Have you ever had a “Bûche de Noël”? It’s a delicious French pastry usually made during the Christmas season. It is made with sponge cake, and whipped cream rolled into a log. It is then decorated with chocolate and made to look like a Yule Log.

What? Did I just hear someone say, “What’s a Yule Log?” I’m so glad you asked. 😊

The history of the Yule Log goes back centuries. It was originally a Nordic tradition. Yule is actually the name of the Winter Solstice festivals held in Scandinavia and northern Europe.

Many people don’t know that the Yule Log was originally a complete tree. The tree was brought into the home. The large end was placed in the hearth while the rest of the tree lay in the room. The tree was slowly fed into the fire through the twelve days of Christmas.

In France, it’s traditional for the entire family to cut the log down, and a bit of it is burnt each night.

In some regions of England, some families have large bunches of Ash twigs instead of a log. This is done based on the Legend that Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus were very cold when the shepherds found them on that first Christmas night. So, the shepherds got some bunches of twigs and started a fire to keep them warm.

Finally, in Ireland, some families use a large candle instead of a log and light it only on New Year’s Eve and the 12 nights of Christmas.

(Excerpts taken from whyChristmas.com)

I guess my favorite Yule Log is the one I get to eat. Let’s face it, it’s chocolate cake, with whipped cream and then more chocolate on top of that. How can one resist?

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Did you pick up on the tradition in some regions of England where people burn twigs? The custom says that the shepherds burned twigs to keep the Holy family warm that night.

There’s been controversy as to what month Jesus was actually born for as long as I can remember. For argument, let’s say Jesus was born in Jerusalem in December. The average temperature there is 56 during the day and 47 at night.

With that in mind, read the passage below from Luke.

“So, Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register with Mary, who was betrothed to him and was with child. While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to give birth, and she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in [This was customary among the Jews and quite comfortable and protective for the baby. Wrapping the baby in strips of cloth was intended to strengthen the back and bones for good growth. Swaddling] cloths and laid Him in a, I.e., feeding trough for animals. manger, because there was no [private] room for them in the inn.”   Luke 2:4-7 AMP

So there’s no room for them at the inn, and Mary wraps the baby Jesus in the traditional swaddling cloth. Then she lays the baby in a feeding trough. The manger/feeding trough lends to the belief that Mary gave birth to Jesus in some sort of a stable.

We actually know very little about Jesus’s birth, just a few paragraphs in Luke and even less in the other Gospels. Would Joseph have started a fire to keep them warm?

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to worry about our basic needs; those will be taken care of; instead, we should seek to be righteous in the sight of God. One must believe that Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus’ needs were met that night. Perhaps it was a fire or warm blankets they had or were given to them by the shepherds.

Remember, God provides for our needs as well:

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life6:27 Or single cubit to your height?

 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet, I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:25-34

Yes, we will have troubles in our lives. For example, Joseph and Mary were probably distraught on that night because they did not have a proper place for their child to come into the world. But they had faith that God would provide, and He did.

God will always provide for our most basic needs. So put your problems and worries into His hands, and He will furnish an answer.

Hopefully, this year, you’ll be celebrating Christmas in a warm and cozy home and eating large meals (maybe even a Buche de Noel). As you exchange gifts with family and friends, remember what and who you are celebrating. How one star-filled chilly evening over 2000 years ago, the Savior of the world was born in a stable to die for you and me. Amen

Dear Jesus. We don’t know the exact circumstance under which you were born. What we do know is that you came into this world to save us. You had one task. To sacrifice yourself for us so that we may have the right to eternal life with you. Amen.

Why are those Stockings hung on the Mantle?

Advent stories and messages from around the world

Why are those stockings hung on the mantle?

December 15th, 2021

Matthew 6:19-21

There are many stories about how hanging stockings on the mantel at Christmas got started.

My favorite story involves the original St. Nicholas, who was known to help others. There was a needy family with three sisters. One night they were drying their stocking on the mantel of the fireplace. Saint Nicholas took it upon himself to prepare 3 small bags of gold coins for the sisters. Supposedly, he dropped the bags of gold coins down the chimney, and they landed in the girl’s stockings.

(I have also read that this money was given so the family wouldn’t have to sell their daughters as indentured servants or even prostitution.)

For some reason, Germany seems to be involved in many modern-day Christmas traditions 😊.  For example, traditionally, the children in Germany hung an empty sock on the mantel on Saint Nicholas Day (December 6th). In this way, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Santa Claus would fill them with toys and candy.

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These Christmas stories of receiving gifts from St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Santa Claus, and the like are fun, endearing, and joyful.

But let’s remember something. Any gifts we receive in a stocking, under the tree, or in our driveway with a big red bow on top are gifts that will only last temporarily.

 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus tells us that earthly treasures are temporary, or as the famous line says, “You can’t take it with you!” If our life is all about accumulating “stuff,” then that’s what our heart is all about. Our hearts can be filled with greed for more and more stuff, never being satisfied with what we have.

But, God gave us a gift that will never rust, never get old, and has no end date. He gave us forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. And this was and is a free gift, not because we deserved it or loved God, but because God loved us.

By God’s Grace and through our Faith in Jesus Christ, we are saved and now are blessed with the promise of Eternal life. No one can take that away from us. It’s set in stone. As a Christian, I am saved, and so are you.

Enjoy your Christmas. Hang the stockings, put up the tree, and exchange presents. Don’t forget to share the story of Jesus and the great gift He gave us with your friends and family. Amen.

Dear Lord, thank you. You’ve taught us to be giving and caring people. We do this throughout the year, with a particular emphasis at Christmas time. This year as we exchange gifts and come together with family, help us to remember your perfect gift to us, Jesus. Amen