Traditions and Christmas

Traditions and Christmas

I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you. Luke 2:10–11

As you savor a candy cane this Christmas, say “danke schön” to the Germans, for that confectionary treat was first created in Cologne. As you admire your poinsettia, say “gracias” to Mexico, where the plant originated. Say “merci beaucoup” to the French for the term noel, and give a “cheers” to the English for your mistletoe.

But as we enjoy our traditions and festivities of the Christmas season—customs that have been collected from around the world—let’s save our most sincere and heartfelt “thank you” for our good, merciful, and loving God. From Him came the reason for our Christmas celebration: the baby born in that Judean manger more than 2,000 years ago. An angel announced the arrival of this gift to mankind by saying, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10–11).

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13

This Christmas, even in the light of the sparkling Christmas tree and surrounded by newly opened presents, the true excitement comes when we turn our attention to the baby named Jesus, who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). His birth transcends tradition: It is our central focus as we send praises to God for this indescribable Christmas gift.

Lord, we thank You for coming to join us on that first Christmas. During a time of the year filled with many traditions, help us to keep You first.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13

By Dave Branon 

INSIGHT

 

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “[Jesus] will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32–33). The angel who appeared to Joseph said, “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. . . . [Y]ou are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20–21). Mary and Joseph knew Jesus would be the Messiah, and as faithful Jews they would have known the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Perhaps when Joseph was ordered to Bethlehem for the census he thought, So that’s how God is going to get us to Bethlehem!

How does reflecting on the miraculous events that led to the birth of Jesus fill you with renewed awe and wonder?

Adapted from Mystery of the Manger by John Greco. Read more at discoveryseries.org/hp161.

The Powerful Name of Jesus

John 16:7-24

The disciples must have felt bewildered when Jesus said it was to their advantage that He leave—for three years He had guided and protected them. The Lord could say this, though, knowing that His Spirit and His name would powerfully guard and direct them until they were reunited in heaven.

In the same way, we’ve been saved and promised heaven, but there is still a long road to walk before we arrive. Yet in the name of Jesus, we have everything we need to complete our course, no matter what obstacles and challenges we face. Just consider the following ways Jesus comes to our aid:

Advocate (1 John 2:1-2). Although we are called to live righteously, there will be occasions when we sin. Jesus is our Advocate, who stands as our defender because His blood continually cleanses us from sin.

Authority (Matt. 28:18). We live under the divine authority of Christ. Nothing touches us without first going through His hands. And He empowers us to do all that He calls us to accomplish.

Assistance (John 16:13-15). Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit as our Helper, who comforts, guides, teaches, and empowers us to live holy, obedient lives.

Answer (John 16:23-24). When we ask in Jesus name—that is, according to what He desires—we will receive answers to our prayers.

Do we realize what an amazing privilege it is to belong to Christ? God’s hand moves at the name of Jesus when we have a holy and pure heart before Him. Therefore, let’s make it our ambition to live in complete dependence on this powerful name. Therefore, let’s make it our ambition to live in complete dependence on this powerful name—not just on Christmas but every day of our life.

Thanks for the Greatest Gift

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

We who have known and sought to follow the Lord for many years have received many, many blessings for which to thank Him. “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits” (Psalm 68:19), we can pray again and again.

But there is one blessing that is so great that it cannot even be put into words—it is unspeakable! That gift is so great that when we try to comprehend it, the sense of awe and gratitude becomes so overwhelming (or at least should become so overwhelming) that our joy is also unspeakable—indescribable! That gift, of course, is the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior, “whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, . . . ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

It is significant that the Greek word translated “unspeakable” occurs only these two times in the entire New Testament. God’s unspeakable gift to us produces unspeakable joy in us. We who deserve nothing but eternal separation from God in hell, instead will enjoy eternal life with God in heaven, and all because of that amazing and truly inexpressible gift!

To think that the mighty Creator, God the Son, would not only humble Himself to become His own creature, man, but then also suffer the unimaginable agony of the cross and separation from God the Father in order to deliver us from the just penalty of sin! This act speaks of such love and grace that all we can do is whisper softly, “Thank you, Lord, for this unspeakable gift,” and then shout it over and over again in our hearts wherever we go and share its unspeakable joy and blessing with whomever will listen to its message. “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Psalm 126:3). Thank you, Lord! HMM

I would thou wert cold or hot.”

Hosea 7

Hosea 7:1

Notwithstanding the goodness of God, and his sending prophets to warn and instruct the people, they went on with all the vices so common to idolatrous nations; they plundered one another, and justice was utterly perverted.

Hosea 7:3

Sad is it when the great ones of a nation are patrons of iniquity and take pleasure in falsehood. What can be expected of the common people when the princes delight in crime?

Hosea 7:4

They were as hot with depraved desires as a baker’s oven when prepared for baking.

Hosea 7:5

Drunkenness and blasphemy were common in the court. Have we not these sins even among us in all ranks of society?

Hosea 7:6

As the baker, though he sleeps, rises early to light his fire, so were they, even when they were quiet, meditating fresh sin.

Hosea 7:7, 8

He is neither one thing nor the other; he professes to fear God and yet worships idols. This double-mindedness is common now-a-days, and is very distasteful to God, who says, “I would thou wert cold or hot.”

Hosea 7:9

The nation did not know its own decays, even as sinners do not know how sad is their condition.

Hosea 7:10

Bad as they were, they yet had a high opinion of themselves, and therefore did not repent nor cry for mercy; this is the secret cause of all impenitence and rejection of Christ.

Hosea 7:11

They ran after many false trusts, and instead of relying upon God they veered from one of the great rival nations to another.

Hosea 7:13

When God cries, “Woe,” it is woe indeed. Against every impenitent sinner, such words as these are levelled. It is a dreadful thing to remain at enmity with the Lord.

Hosea 7:14

Men can be loud enough in their cups, but they are dumb as to prayer or praise.

Hosea 7:15

The strength which God gave them they used to rebel against him. Are any of us acting in this manner?

Hosea 7:16

Their punishment would have an element of shame in it, for the heathen nation to which they looked for help would treat them with supreme contempt. If we will make earthly things our gods, we shall be for ever clothed with shame. Lord save us from this. Amen.

 

Every Knee Will Bow To the Name of Jesus Christ!

Philippians 2:9-11

Merry Christmas!! pray that this will be one of the most wonderful Christmases you have ever known in your entire life! And as you celebrate the first coming of Jesus Christ, don’t forget to make sure your heart is ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, I urge you to use today as a special reminder to tell everyone that Jesus is coming again soon!

Because Jesus came to earth the first time and became obedient unto death on the Cross, the Bible joyfully declares: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

My friend, the first time Jesus came to this world, He came as a little baby boy that was born in Bethlehem. But the next time Jesus comes—and it could be at any time—He will come as the Lord of lords and the King of kings! According to the Bible, at that moment “… every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.”

Notice it says that “every knee should bow.” The word “bow” is the Greek word kampto, and it means to bow low. The same word is found in Romans 11:4, Romans 14:11, and Ephesians 3:14, where the apostle Paul uses it to picture a person who bends his knee in acknowledgement of God’s authority. It is an action that expresses honor, respect, humiliation, and worship.

According to Philippians 2:10, a day is coming when those in Heaven, earth, and hell will bow their knees in honor, respect, humility, and worship of Jesus Christ! It is not a question of if people will bow their knees to Jesus; it is only a question of when and how they will do it. Will they freely do it while still living on this earth? Or will they do it from the vantage point of hell? Everyone will bow—including those who have already died and gone to Heaven; those who are still alive when Jesus comes; and even those who have died and are eternally separated from God. All will bow their knees in acknowledgement of Jesus Christ’s Lordship!

And the bending of mankind’s knees in acknowledgement of Jesus’ Lordship will be no quiet affair, for Philippians 2:11 goes on to tell us, “… every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The word “confess” is the Greek word exomologeo, which is a compound of the words ek and homologia. The word ek means out, and the word homologia refers to a confession. When taken as one word, it means to audibly, vocally, and publicly declare a fact. It also means to speak it out, to yell it loudly, or to declare it out. This means Heaven, earth, and hell will resonate and resound with the voices of all who have ever lived as they thunderously shout out and acknowledge: “JESUS IS LORD!”

Just as every knee shall bow, it is also a fact that every person will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! If a person confesses Jesus to be his Lord right now in this life, it guarantees him a place in Heaven. If a person refuses to make that confession now, he will still do it later—only then it will be too late for him to gain a place in Heaven.

How tragic that people die without confessing Jesus as Lord, for a day is coming when even in death, they will be required to make this confession! If they confess Jesus as their Lord now, they reap the benefits of salvation and all the promises of God. If they do it later, it will be an acknowledgement that they were wrong and that Jesus was right; however, it will not change their eternal status.

This Christmas as you celebrate with family and friends, take a few minutes to remind everyone that Jesus is coming again, just as surely as He came the first time. And if anyone has never confessed Jesus as the Lord of his life, offer to take that person into a quiet room. After bowing your knees with him, lead him in a confession of Jesus’ Lordship that brings him into the family of God. Can you think of anything more important that could happen on Christmas Day?

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, I ask You to help me to be bold today when I see my family and friends. If I see people who I know are not saved, please give me the boldness I need to speak up and ask them to pray with me to make Jesus the Lord of their lives. I don’t want this day to end without taking advantage of any opportunity that arises to present Jesus to someone who needs You and to lead that person in a prayer of salvation. Holy Spirit, I look to You for the wisdom and the boldness I need to be Your instrument in someone else’s life on this special day.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that I am filled with the Holy Spirit. Right now He is giving me the boldness I need to tell my family and friends about Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross for them. There is no better gift I could give to anyone today than the message of the Gospel, so I am choosing to give an eternal gift in addition to all the other gifts that will be exchanged. The Holy Spirit is helping me recognize opportunities to witness and to pray with people who need to confess Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. What family members and friends will you see today who are unsaved?
  2. Have you thought about how you could talk to them privately to see if they would like to give their hearts to Jesus on this Christmas Day?
  3. Before you go to Christmas festivities today, why don’t you take a few minutes to pray for any unsaved people you will be seeing today, asking the Lord to open a door for you to speak to them about Jesus?

 

Are You Available For Training

Some time ago, I had the privilege of leading a businessman to Christ. A business magnate observed what transpired and excitedly said to me, “Dwight! I want to learn to do that! Would you train my senior executives and me in discipleship?

 

So, for the next several months when I visited his city, I called his office to arrange for a meeting. However, his secretary repeatedly informed me that due to business pressures and opportunities, he regrettably was unavailable. I am reminded of Jesus’ comments about people who succumbed to secondary pressures, rather than respond to His initiatives:

 

Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses. The first said, I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets. Another said, I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets. And yet another said, I just got married and need to get home to my wife.‘” (Luke 14:18-20 – Message)

 

Some years ago, by way of contrast, Ron Holechek, a young military intelligence officer jumped at the opportunity for spiritual training and altered his career plans to get it. Today he affects military personnel around the world for Christ.

 

Similarly, Timothy responded to Paul’s offer to travel with him. As a result, he absorbed Paul’s godly values, perspective, and training:

 

[Paul] cameto Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy livedPaul wanted to take him along on the journey… ” (Acts 16:1b, 3a)

 

The effect of Paul’s life on Timothy became apparent years later in one of Paul’s letter to him:

 

Youknow all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings… ” (2 Timothy 3:10b, 11a)

 

Paul’s years of building into Timothy’s life drives home the point that the people who become qualified laborers are those who avail themselves for training. No wonder Christ commented on the chronic shortage of laborers, as few are willing to make the necessary sacrifice to obtain the training. (See Philippians 2:19-24)

 

QUESTION: Tell me, are you making yourself available for training in character development and ministry skills so that you will be able to effectively help accomplish Christ’s command to “gomake disciples? Or is your primary focus in life on the pursuit of a withering crown? (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 9:25)

 

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly… ” (Matthew 28:18-19a; 1 Corinthians 9:24-26a)

 

 

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