The True Meaning of Christmas

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Thought for the Day:  Remember the true meaning of Christmas

Over the past weeks, since Thanksgiving, actually, the busyness of the Christmas Season and end of school semester has kicked into full gear.  Children’s musical, school observations, grading, planning for Christmas parties, Christmas Cantata rehearsals, etc.  My mind has been put to the ultimate test. This weekend has been spent doing the chores around the house that have been put off for weeks and now, I sit and ponder.  I sit and ponder what it is all about.

Our children’s musical, “Christmas Spirit”, was presented one week ago with children remarkably telling us about the True Meaning of Christmas.  Experiencing the cast members learning their parts so perfectly and so quickly (to my amazement) was such an answer to prayer, and the choir learning the music to such beautiful songs touched my heart.  My heart was touched several times during the rehearsals, but one thing touched me more than any other.  It was when I saw with my eye one cast member “getting it”.  As the lines were rehearsed, we noticed that this child smiled at times when the character should have been very serious.  In watching, we realized that the reason for the smile was that she didn’t understand what the lines meant.  How does a young child understand the meaning of the birth of Christ and the meaning of the Crucifixion? As we shared with the child that Christ is the Son of God who was born in a manger and who died by being hung on a cross for us – for her, she began having a look in her eye of understanding.  She had heard the story of Jesus Christ before, but had never understood the true meaning.  During the presentation, she was able to portray her character perfectly and was able to tell the true meaning of Christmas.  So, what is the true meaning of Christmas.  “That God loves me…He sent His Son beloved, to die on Calvary.  And on Christmas morning, a new hope was born – and now I know the secret.  That’s what Christmas means to me.”

The Christmas musical was about a little girl who saw all the hustle and bustle of the season in the gifts given and the craziness that surrounds the time.  In her heart, she knew there must be more…but no one gave her a satisfactory answer.  It took a dream, or was it a dream, for her to get the answer and for her family to see the answer as well.  That was the same little girl who “got it” in rehearsal.  And she told the true meaning of Christmas to those in attendance.

During the coming weeks, as we go through the hustle and bustle, keep in the forefront of your mind the true meaning of Christmas.  The true meaning of Christmas is that God loves you…He sent his Son to die on Calvary…for you.  Hear that…for you, He died on the cross for you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for sending your Son to be born in a manger for us, and for sending Him to die on the cross for us.  This love you showed to each of us should not be overlooked by the hustle and bustle of the season.  Please forgive us when we let busyness and selfishness keep us from seeing You.  Be with us each day to help us hear over and over the true meaning of Christmas.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  The True Meaning of Christmas


Jesus in the Children

Matthew 19:13-14

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Thought for the Day:  See “Jesus” in the smiles of children

In my daily routine, I work with students on different grade levels.  I have been blessed to be in a place, for a time, where I work with small groups of children.  In my time with them, I have given some of myself to teach them.  Seeing the “light bulbs” go on when they understand a concept, and witnessing excitement when they know an answer, makes my heart leap as I know something has gone right.  But what I have received from them seems to be a true gift for me.  These precious ones, these children who appreciate you for just being you, have given hugs, fist bumps, and those special words, “Are you coming to get us today!” – with a “Yes!” called out after I have affirmed their question.  What a precious blessing I have received from these darling children!

As I arose this morning, I remembered a little boy who helps me with one of my groups.  Each day, he comes in to help me with my last group of the day giving encouragement to the children.  After that time, and before dismissal, we ask each other about what our plans are for the evening or for the weekend.  We wish each other well and give the words, “See you tomorrow!”  My day ends with this boy, this precious boy, bringing my heart to a grand place before I leave for the day.  Who are these children? Who is this boy? My answer is, “God!”  To me, these children with their special hugs, smiles, and sweet words are “Jesus” to me.  These children remind me of His love and compassion.  These children bring me a special gift each day, and I can only pray that they see even a tiny glimpse of the love of Jesus in me.  God has brought me to this place – even for a small time – to be with “Jesus” through these children.  “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me the Bible tells me so.”

Prayer:  God, thank you for children and for the love they bring.  Thank you for their innocence in the way they accept us adults right where we are.  Help us each day to show You to them in the way we speak and by the smile on our faces as we greet them.  As we see You face in them, may they see Your face in us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Children

Out of the Mouths of Children

2 Timothy 3:14

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 

Thought for the Day:  God’s words often come through the mouths of children

My husband’s father lived in a retirement home in his later years. His area of the building had a gathering area beside the elevator on his floor. The elderly men and women spent time in that sitting area sharing stories with each other and watching to see who was going to get off the elevator. We went often to visit but one special day we got off the elevator to see many precious people with Mark’s dad, Reeves, sitting right in the middle. Our son, Nathaniel, who was five at the time went directly to PawPaw and sat beside him. The little ladies immediately began commenting on his beautiful red hair and how cute he was. After a few minutes, Mark asked Nathaniel if he would be willing to say the 23rd Psalm for these sweet friends. Reluctantly, he agreed and stood proudly and said the 23rd Psalm, which brought tears to the eyes of several of the ladies and oohs and aahs from others. PawPaw, in such a proud way, smiled and hugged Nathaniel for what he had done. The next few minutes were precious and all of the elderly ladies wanted to hug Nathaniel and touch his hair. He took it in never letting on how uncomfortable he was. His sweet spirit led the way and gave these friends a wonderful gift to remember. As we left that evening, Mark stated, “Now you know they are going to be talking about you (Nathaniel) for the next two weeks. Son, you gave them something very special.” We could almost hear the conversation, “Do you remember that cute little red-headed boy who said the 23rd Psalm – Reeves, you have a precious grandson.”

On that day, Nathaniel was God’s messenger to these precious people that they were loved. Nathaniel, at age 5, gave them an unexpected gift and one that they would remember for the rest of their lives. The words possibly gave some of these elderly ladies and gentlemen a reminder of God’s words to them: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Prayer:  God, from the mouths of children, we hear Your words. Thank you for our children who through their innocence give us Your words. Be with those special older friends that they feel your presence today. Amen.

Prayer Focus: THOSE AGING

Have Courage and Be Kind

Galatians 5:22-24

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Thought for the Day: Kindness, be kind

I can’t help it.  When the movie is on T.V., I let it run and watch as I am working around the house.  The 2015 movie of “Cinderella” is a wonderful telling of one of our precious storybook fairytales.  In the movie, Cinderella’s mother tells her the secret of life right before she passes away.  “I want to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer.  Have courage and be kind.”  Through the story, Cinderella is indeed faced with many hard and horrible life events.  But, through it all, she showed courage and she continued being kind.  That kindness is what showed the prince who she was and he fell in love with this beautiful and loving girl.  This is a fairytale, yes, but the message is for real and true people.  As I attended a funeral of a precious man earlier this week, that is the message I heard over and over.  The many, many people who had experienced this wonderful man through the years all had one thing to say about him, “He was the kindest person!”  God used him through his life to be kind to others and through that kindness, showed them Jesus.  He was Jesus to so many and even through his illness, had courage and showed kindness.

What lessons can we take from Cinderella and from Mr. W.T.!  How can we change the way we think and act as we hear about these two perfect examples.  As I heard Cinderella say, “I forgive you”, to the wicked stepmother at the end of the story, I immediately thought about the people I need to forgive in my life.  Her life was turned inside-out by this woman, but she still had the courage to forgive.  I could take a great lesson from this.  As I heard the words, “W.T. was a person I wanted to be like”, I realized that this man, bigger than life to me, had touched everyone he met in a special way.  He was KIND in the best sense of the word, He was kind in the way that exampled Jesus to everyone he met.  “I want to be kind like Mr. W.T.!”

Prayer:  Father God, You are almighty and all knowing.  You know our hearts and You know our souls.  Thank you for giving us examples through life of how to be kind.  Help us to always be kind no matter what happens in our lives.  Through that kindness, we can show Jesus Christ to those around us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Kindness

Face of Jesus

John 13:13-17

“You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.  Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.  If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

Thought for the Day:  How can we be the Face of Jesus to others.

After reading the Upper Room Devotional for today, I had thoughts of people who have become Jesus to others.  There are so many in our church who seem to volunteer all the time.  There are those who work on different teams to cook for the staff and for Wednesday evening dinners.  There are those who sit at the Welcome Center to give a smile to those who enter the building, giving them the assurance that someone cares for them.  There are others who work at the Church Food Pantry each week who organize food donations and then work with families in need to receive those donations each Saturday.  One stands out in my mind this morning.  She comes around to each table on Wednesday evenings taking dirty dishes and then cleans the table.  She always offers conversation and loves sharing herself with those seated around the tables.  On Tuesday evenings, during our Chancel Choir rehearsal, she seems to be a busy bee as she works to organize our music library.  She is not in the choir, but her husband is and she always comes with him each week.  Since the music library is in file cabinets in our choir room, we see her diligence as she never stops working to organize our music.  After rehearsal, she almost always gives me an encouraging word about how well my little boy behaved as he sat and played quietly during our practice.  She gives us a little glimpse of Jesus each week in her wonderful spirit as she volunteers and in the words of compassion that she speaks.

As I think back over my life and the list of people who have shown Jesus to me and to others, I realize how long the list is.  My mind races as I think of the overwhelming number of people who have been Jesus to me.  They have been the face of Jesus and they have helped form who I am in my faith.  In this moment, my mind seems to see a collage as different ones come to my mind.  It is absolutely amazing!  Today, I still meet and grow in my faith through new friends I meet.  I will never outgrow my need to see Jesus in the faces of those around me.  But, today, I also look at myself and wonder where I can improve to be more of the face of Jesus to others.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the amazing people you place in our lives to be the face of Jesus to us.  So many have helped form our Christian faith.  From the time we are babies to the time we grow old so many show Your love to us.  Today, help us the be face of Jesus to others.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Being the Face of Jesus

The Light in the Night Sky

Luke 2:1-2

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” 

Thought for the Day:  Let the light in the night sky lead your heart to Jesus.

Over the past couple of months, news about the “Super Moon” had friends and photographers grabbing their cameras to take many awesome photographs we saw on Facebook and on the news channels.  I was one of those as well, although my images did not turn out as vibrant as the others.  As that night progressed, I took my camera out every few minutes to see if I could get a good view of that wonderful moon.  It was built up for several weeks before the night came and the night came and went.  We had great photographs to look at but it didn’t really change anything.  But one night over two thousand years ago, another bright light lit up the night sky.  That star appeared leading the wise men to the place where Baby Jesus laid.  They followed the star to Bethlehem where they brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  That star, that bright and glorious star, led the wise men to Jesus and it did indeed change everything.  There were no pictures of the star, there were no newscasts telling of its coming, but it changed everything.  There were no pictures of the Baby Jesus, there were no newscasts telling of the birth, but it changed everything.

As I think about that event that changed everything, I reflect about how it has affected me.  That baby, that sweet Baby Jesus, changed me.  I would have been a totally different person if Jesus had not been in my life.  I have always known about Baby Jesus and Christmas, and that knowledge has formed my life.   God sent His Son in the form of a baby to live on earth and to die to save us from our sins.  I have seen the bright light, not in the sky, but in my faith and love of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Father, our Father!  Thank you for bringing Your bright and glorious “star” in our night sky to bring our hearts to Jesus.  We may not have seen that light as the wise men saw that night long ago, but we have seen that bright light in our hearts.  Thank you for Jesus.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to see the star

The Baby Jesus

Luke 2:42-46

And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem.  His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfold and acquaintances and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Thought for the Day:  Remember the life of Jesus

“I have never heard that song before”, and “I have listened to that song before but never thought about the words” were comments I heard after I sang one of my favorite songs for a program last evening.  Steven Curtis Chapman captures the “real” life of Jesus in his song, “This Baby”.  The words share little things about Jesus’ life as a baby, youth, and grown up man.  It has been a while since I have sung the song, but I realized as I was rehearsing it that the words make even more sense now.  The last time I sang the song, my oldest child was a baby so the first verse spoke to me.  “Well he cried when he was hungry, did all the things that babies do.  He rocked and he napped on his mother’s lap, and he wiggled and giggled and cooed.  There were the cheers when he took his first steps and the tears when he got his first teeth.  Almost everything about this little baby seemed as natural as it could be.”  Every word shared in that song was where I have been with both of my boys so singing those words is special.  Now, as my oldest is now thirteen, the second verse made more sense as it is where we are living with him right now.  “This baby grew into a young boy, he learned to read and write and wrestle with Dad.  There was the climbin’ of trees and the scrapin’ of knees and all the fun that a boy’s born to have.  He grew taller and some things started changing, like his complexion and the sound of his voice.  There was the work to be done as a carpenter’s son, and all the neighbors said, ‘He’s such a fine boy’.”  As I rehearsed and then sang later, this verse touched me the most.  As I look at my child and see the young man he is becoming right before my eyes, I realize that his young man is now several inches taller than me and that in ten years, he will probably be graduating from college.  I, in a small way, am experiencing what Mary and Joseph did as I am watching a child grow into a young man.  But Jesus, God’s son, our Savior was that baby born of Mary.  He made the angel’s sing, made a new Star shine in the sky, and came to save the world.  The shepherds, wisemen, and people for over two-thousand years have fallen on their knees to worship Him.  That precious baby, that grew in stature as our children grow today, was Jesus.

Today, as we find ourselves closer to Christmas, the words and music to this song will live in me.  Each year we celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Each year we look at the pictures of Jesus lying in a manger.  Today, let’s look at things differently and remember how he lived and that he came to earth to learn and grow, just like our children.   Today, I share three links.  First, the sermon about Mary offered by our Pastor Jonathan Andersen two Sunday’s ago.  Second, the sermon about Joseph offered by our Pastor Mark Westmoreland this past Sunday.  Both sermons put the lives of Mary and Joseph in perspective in ways I had not pondered before.  The last link is to the video of “This Baby”.

Sermon – Pastor Jonathan Andersen –

Sermon – Pastor Mark Westmoreland –

“This Baby” – Steven Curtis Chapman  –

Prayer:  Jesus, our Lord!  We praise You today as You are our Lord and Savior!  Thank you for pastors and writers who bring us to a better understanding of how Mary and Joseph must have experienced you as a baby.  You were a baby, youth, young man, and then our precious Jesus who hung on that cross to save us.  We love you, precious Jesus. Amen.

Prayer Focus:  The Life of Jesus


Ephesians 4:11-13

And HE gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.   

Thought for the DayWork to bring everyone together as One in Christ.

“I am picking this up better than I thought I would”, “I didn’t think I would ever get these notes” are words I think and hear from others as we come to the days drawing close to our cantata.  Our Cantata this year is the music to the Christmas portions of “Messiah”.  Remembering back three months ago as we were handed our music and began learning the parts still gives me a panic feel.  Most of the music came back to me, but those special places in the music, you know the places I have always had difficulty with, haunted me each time I turned to the pages.  Others choir members had their own difficulties as well.  After time, we all began to feel more comfortable singing the pieces and working with the parts secured the notes (thank you, Judy).  Now, one week prior to the Cantata, the music has become beautiful and most everyone feels comfortable singing to their greatest potential. The next step in the Cantata preparation is bringing in the orchestra instruments, lighting, and sound.  The biggest step is the way God has entered in to the hearts of each of the musicians, and God entering in to the hearts of those in the congregation.

Next Sunday morning, each Chancel Choir member will open their “Messiah” music and will stand to sing.  Each instrumentalist will lift their instruments to play their notes.  The speakers will be prepared to read their words in a practiced tone.  The sound and lighting professionals will be ready in their booth.  The conductor, my husband Mark, will stand with baton in hand and will lift his baton for the music to begin.  God has been and will be with all involved to bring His music to the heart of each person in the congregation.  The hours, the many hours, of rehearsal for each individual person will come together in that moment to be One.  We will not be individual voices and instruments, but we will be One in spirit and music as we sing “Messiah” in praise to our One God.  Our God be praised!

Prayer:  Father God, thank you for rehearsals.  Thank you for showing us that through work with others, we can become one voice.  Help us use that one voice to bring praises to You, our One God.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Musicians

Santa for a Time, Jesus for an Eternity

santa-and-nativity21 John 5:13-15

 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.  And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him. 

Thought for the DayJesus is with us throughout the year, and every day of our lives.

My husband loves to collect Clothique Santas.  As we decorate for Christmas each year, the boxes with the Santas are the first ones we open after the Christmas tree is finished.  As I look at them lit in our entertainment unit, I see Santas in a variety of situations.  There are several that hold Coca-Cola bottles as the Santas enjoy that refreshing drink.  There are some that show patriotism as they hold American flags or are dressed as Uncle Sam.  There are those dressed from clothing from around the world.  There are those of different jobs such as farmers, cowboys, firemen, and musicians.  Some show Santa sharing time with children with the children obviously giggling with joy.  Some show Santa on Christmas morning delivering the toys to the children, and taking happiness from riding some of the toys he just delivered.  Our favorite Santa sits in the middle of our mantle as it shows Santa bowing beside a nativity scene.  What fun we have as we decorate placing those nearly fifty Santas on the shelves.  What joy they bring to our hearts.  What memories of Christmases past!  But, after Christmas, those Santas will go back in their boxes to be hidden out of sight until next year.

Looking at that nativity scene that Santa is bowing to admire, my heart warmed as I realized that our Lord Jesus Christ never goes in a box to be hidden and forgotten for any period of the year. Santa seems so important during the month of December, and brings such smiles to the faces of children.  But what about true joy that lasts a lifetime.  Where does that come from.  It comes from God and it comes from the knowledge that His Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to save us.  It comes from the love of Christ being shown by those around us on a daily basis.  As we go to church throughout the year, not only at Christmas, we realize that God is there through the people and through the study of the Bible. God is there through the ministries that bring love to those in the community.  God is there in the sermons and in the songs.  There are still those who only get a taste as they come at Christmas and Easter of the Joy of Jesus Christ.  Then there are those who get a lifetime of Joy as they experience God’s love every day.  So, today we feel the joy of Jesus Christ in our hearts that we can experience Him every day.  Today, enjoy Santa as he is here for a time.  Through the year, enjoy the joy we feel from Jesus Christ each day.

Prayer:  God, thank you for the Joy You bring us through the birth and life of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us remember that the joy You bring is constant and is always available for us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Jesus All Year Long

I Luv God

i-luv-godMatthew 22:37-40

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”    

Thought for the DayTaking children to church is important in learning about the Love of God.

Sweet surprises happen occasionally that touch the heart and when those surprises are about your child, your heart is touched in a special way.  As I began preparing to put my six-year old son to bed last evening, and as he was reading books to me, a message came in on my Facebook page.  It was from his teacher who wrote, “Look at this sweet message that Jonathan wrote on the playground today!  Made my heart happy!”  As I looked at the picture, I was touched so deeply and I immediately went to show it to my husband.  That moment, that special moment, when you realized that your child “gets it”.  Your child “gets” that God is first and that God is love.  Your child “gets” that we are to love God with all our hearts.  When we sit at the dinner table, this precious six-year old immediately begins saying the blessing.  It is just in him, God is just in him and it comes across to his teacher and to others who share time with him.

As I ponder the moment my eyes saw the image of what my child drew with a stick on the playground, I think about where his thoughts came from.  Sunday mornings are difficult on me, as a mother, trying to get my children ready for church.  This child, precious one, begins saying, “I don’t want to go”, or “No, mama, can I stay with you” when I begin taking him to Sunday School.  He eventually goes in and has a great time learning about God.  Wednesday evenings come and I remind him that we have Children’s Choir and Wednesday children’s programming.  This child, precious one, begins again saying, “No, I don’t want to go.” And again, he goes in and loves it.  He also sits in the room when the adult Chancel Choir rehearses each week.  So, where does His love for God come from.  It comes from learning from us, his parents, to know that God is love and that our blessings are from God.  It comes from sharing prayers around the dinner table and by ending the evening with bedtime prayers.  It comes from watching parents read the Bible and talking about God.  It comes from going into Church each week during weekly activities and having leaders who teach him about the Love of God.  Even when he doesn’t want to go, as we adults feel sometime, when he gets there he is touched deeply by being there with God.   “I Luv God”, written on the playground, says it all.

Prayer:  Father God, you are awesome and You are Love!  Thank you for helping our children understand that Your love is with them, even when we don’t feel they have understood.  You are amazing, and You are Love.  Thank you for entering the hearts of our children and for entering our hearts each day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:   Parents and Children