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Candle in the Night

Sunday, December 25, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 32: Celebrate the Child!

Merry Christmas!!  I feel so blessed that I was able to take this journey with you throughout this Christmas season.  It has been such a blessing for me to have motivation to be in the Word, preparing these devotionals every day and I hope it has blessed you as well.  I pray that you all have a wonderful Christmas filled with warmth and joy and the Spirit of the Christ Child.  God's blessings to each of you!

If you do nothing else today, read this passage with your family.  Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:1-16
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all his empire should be taxed.  This same taxing was when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be taxed, every one in his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) To be taxed, with Mary his espoused wife, she being great with child.

And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was none to give room for them in the inns.

Madonna - Mary & Jesus 82
Photo Credit
And there were in the same country, shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.  And lo, an angel of the Lord appeared unto them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid.  But the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this is the way you shall find the babe, he is wrapped in swaddling clothes, and is lying in a manger.

Shepherds 22
Photo Credit
And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest; and on earth, peace; good will to men.

And it came to pass, when the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go, even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Candle in the Night


Saturday, December 24, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 30: Christmas Eve

I have been contemplating this post from the beginning of the series and hadn't decided until today exactly what it would be about.  Then, while running some errands this morning, I heard a radio host talking about Christmas and I knew exactly what I wanted to write.

What is Christmas to you?

We're all adults, right?  So we always focus on the true meaning of Christmas and don't get caught up in the stress, frustration, or disappointment, right?  Of course.  Well...most of us.  So for all the rest of you, I'm going to continue writing this blog.  (Okay, okay, so we probably all experience these emotions from one time to another!)  

The one I want to address is disappointment.  As children, we were disappointed about gifts we got or didn't get.  As adults, we might be disappointed about that, or it might be other things.  The ham tasted funny.  A glass broke, so we didn't have enough matching glasses.  There was an argument during dinner.  We weren't able to please our kids.  Money's tight.  Whatever your disappointment, know that this is just one more thing that links us to those around at the first Christmas.  

Mary and Joseph knew they were going to be mother and father to the Son of God.  They probably had a beautiful birth planned with a midwife from their town.  Joseph might have made a lovely cradle to place Jesus in and Mary may have scraped together enough money to buy a soft, cuddly blanket to wrap him in.  They would stay close to Mary's family so they could help the young couple in raising their first child.  

When the decree came that they all had to go to their hometowns to be taxed, disappointment must have crept into their hearts.  Mary certainly hadn't planned to spend the end of her third trimester on the back of a donkey.  Joseph probably had no desire to catch the baby.  Mary didn't want to deliver without a midwife.  Joseph was probably proud of the home he'd built and didn't want to leave it.  But that was what happened.  They followed the orders and in doing so, followed God's plan for their lives.  

Along with Mary and Joseph, there were others disappointed that first Christmas.  The Jews had waited for a ruler.  They wanted him to take down the Kings that were over them and raise them up into a mighty nation.  Instead, they got a baby in a stable.  A gentle man.  A child from unwed parents.  

So if you feel some disappointment this Christmas, know that you're in good company.  Allow even those negative feelings to bring you back to Christ.  Although He was a disappointment to many, He is our conquering ruler.  Remember this Christmas that if you trust in Him, you will never be disappointed.  

1 Peter 1:6-7 
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations; That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ;

Candle in the Night


Friday, December 23, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 29: The Lamb

As I was praying about this blog, I knew that the sacrifice that God made in sending His Son to die on the cross for us would have to come in at some point.  It turns out that has been a large part of the entire series.  When I was searching for the words to the song, "Vicit Agnus Noster" (listen below), I came across this blog.  This song is a beautiful testament of what God did.  God provided the lamb for us.  But the devotional by Michael Card who wrote the song touched my heart and I knew it had to be shared here.  See the entire blog by using the link above.  The following devotional is quite lengthy, but is well worth the read.  I pray it touches your heart as it did mine.  
(vicit agnus noster eum sequamur is an ancient Latin motto which means, "our Lamb has conquered, Him let us follow.") 

Should the motto not read, "vicit leo noster eum sequamur," "our Lion has conquered, Him let us follow?" What is the meaning of the motto as it stands? "Our Lamb has conquered." How is it that we have come to follow One who is predominantly represented as a lamb? Where does the paradox come from that teaches weakness is strength, defeat is victory and poverty wealth? The paradox is rooted in this disturbing image of the conquering Lamb. 

Throughout most of the Bible He is not the lamb who conquers, but the one who is Himself conquered. In the Old Testament the lamb is the helpless, innocent substitute and sacrifice. It is slain to be consumed. Its' blood is splattered on the doorposts to mark the homes of the faithful so that the angel of death will 'Passover'(Ex.12). The Old Testament lamb is victim not victor. 
Likewise, throughout most of the New Testament, when the Lamb of God appears He seems the most unlikely candidate to conquer. He is born in a stable, like a lamb. He is first recognized by shepherds who themselves have just come from the fields and the birthing of other lambs. Except for a couple of incidents, primarily at the Temple when His "lionish" side surfaces, He is the innocent even weak lamb. He is finally apprehended at Passover and slain precisely during the three hour period when the other Passover lambs are being sacrificed, his own forsaken cries echoing together with the helpless bleating of those other sacrificial lambs. According to exact ritual observance the bones of the Lamb are not broken in the sacrificial process, ironically by two soldiers who couldn't have cared less about ritual observance (Jn.19:31-36). And even as the other lambs are eaten so He had earlier instructed His disciples to consume the bread that was His body. At the moment of His resurrection, when we might expect to hear the roaring of the Lion of Judah, we instead hear nothing but the confused shouts of the women witnesses, whose testimony would have been unacceptable in their own society. 

It is not until the close of the New Testament in the book of Revelation that the Conquering Lamb appears. Though still portrayed as being slain, He is yet the One who has conquered. 
In the first scene in chapter 5 John is standing amongst a great crowd witnessing an angel flying about with a scroll which no one, it seems, is worthy to open. So caught up is John in the vision that he begins to weep. He understands that if the scroll is not opened history itself cannot unfold. 

Then one of the elders standing alongside John in the midst of the great crowd says to him, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah... has triumphed...!" "The Lion" says the elder. So John looks up, blinking back the tears expecting to see just that. But what does he see? 
"Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain..." John sees not a lion but a lamb, a triumphant Lamb, sitting on a throne. The unfolding of the image of the conquering Lamb has begun. 

The second scene is from chapter 17. John has been transported to the desert where he sees a woman, a prostitute, astride a detestable scarlet beast. A conflict is about to erupt between her dark forces and the Lamb. 

v.14 "They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is King of kings and Lord of lords- and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers." 

The final scene, in chapter 19, takes place amidst the roaring sound of a great multitude in heaven. It is the long-awaited marriage supper of the Lamb, the final consummation of a romance that will last forever between the Lamb and His followers, His Bride. The context is exultant worship. The opening words of the thundering multitude "Hallelujah!" The conquering Lamb is finally wed. History has come to full blossom. It is the Kingdom. It is heaven. 

Christmas, the celebration of the first Coming of the Lamb, looks back to the humble stable and the simple shepherds. The setting is a dark, fallen world. He has come to expose through his weakness the impotence of what the world calls power. He has come to show us that it is we who are upside down. 
In that sense, Christmas is a preparation for the celebration that will be the second Coming of the Lamb triumphant. The contrast between the settings of the two Comings could not be more extreme. Instead of a silent stable and a bunch of motley shepherds, there will be a resplendent multitude whose praise can only be described as a "roar." 

Candle in the Night


Thursday, December 22, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 28: Caroling

Have you ever been Christmas caroling?  If not, you're missing something significant in your life!  I haven't gone in two years now due to having babies that shouldn't be out in the cold weather, but I can't wait to go next year when they're both a little bigger.  Going from door to door, spreading warmth and Christmas cheer.  We've frequently had people tell us that they'd never been caroled to before.
Getting to know your neighbors is such a neat thing to do and caroling is a great place to start.  This year, our neighborhood president sent a letter in our December newsletter and I really wanted to share it here.  Her sentiments were so beautiful, I thought they were worth sharing.  Because of the following letter, I went to the neighborhood Christmas meeting hoping to meet some of my neighbors, now knowing that at least some of them were worth meeting.  What a blessing!  I look forward to next month's meeting and getting to know my neighbors even more.

Here is the letter.

For twelve months now as your new president, each month I've struggled to share my own heart and vision for this neighborhood.  This Christmas as I reflect on all you are to me, it is my wish that you all are empowered each day, every neighbor to bring your own gifts to the table.  I want to celebrate all your gifts.  There is a place for them all.  

Perhaps you've heard it said, "Jesus is the Reason for the Season", but as I ran across an old Christmas classic and favorite by David Meece, I was reminded that, "We are the reason for the Season"!  Jesus was the gift of the Father for YOU.  The Christmas I know includes the birth of a little baby sent as the best gift ever, from the best gift-giver ever!  We can re-gift this gift of joy all year long.  And the wonderful thing is that in giving it away, we don't lose the gift, we still keep it!  And the gift is the same yesterday, today and forever.  It is timeless.  It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.  Especially at Christmas, this joy is often stolen.  When the days become stress-filled, when our bank account is empty, or we may not even have the income to have a bank account, when we question the circumstances we find ourselves in, we can still have this joy.  We live in a world that has taught us that if we do not get back, when giving, we've been robbed, or there is nothing in it for us.  This is a lie that leads to apathy and hopelessness.  And we have enough of that!  

I remember raising 3 children, working 2 jobs, living in a house with no heat in the kitchen.  Christmas was approaching and I was convinced no one really noticed what I was going through.  The weather outside refleted my cloudy gray disposition to a "T." As I was struggling to find dinner in the cold kitchen, I heard a knock.  My kids' babysitter and her mother were at the door.  They burst into the house with piping hot homemade bread, hot soup, delicious jelly and a wonderful herbed cheese spread.  They left as quickly as they came.  They were unaware of my cold kitchen in the back of the house.  That little meal was so soul-warming.  To this day, I do not know if I can put enough words down to explain how nurtured and loved I felt.  I was not in a close relationship with them, but for some reason, I'd made it onto "their list" of people they wanted to share homemade gifts with that year.  Accepting God's grand invitation to celebrate Christ's birth every day is one way to appreciate the magnitude of Christmas.  

Merry Christmas to all my neighbors and friends!  May peace and joy find it's way to your heart, the hearts of your family and friends, this Christmas and into the year ahead.  

I was so blessed by this letter.  Look for ways this Christmas to bring warmth and joy to your neighbors.

Caroling (and sharing the Joy of Christmas with your neighbors in other ways) always makes me think of the shepherds.  They saw the Christ Child and had the best news ever to share!  That is essentially what we do as we carol to our neighbors.  We share the Joy of Christmas!

Luke 2:17-18

And when they had seen, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  All they who heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds;

Candle in the Night


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 27: The Christmas Meal

Christmas traditions vary widely throughout the world, but one thing we have in common is that we all enjoy a feast on Christmas day.  My family has always had a ham (despite my dad pushing for bbq chicken, steak, or ribs), rolls, casserolles, and a wide variety of desserts.  Others may have turkey, duck, or lamb.  Christmas dinner is always something to be looked forward to with great anticipation.
I know this is going to sound cliche, but I think it's important to mention anyway.  There are many people who will not enjoy a Christmas meal this year.  Whether they can't afford it or just don't have the family around them, they may not have that opportunity.  There are little things we can each do to help solve this problem.  I always try to donate to Salvation Army this time of year.  It's so convenient to just pull out some change on my way in or out of a store and drop it in a bucket.  But think a little deeper.  Do you have a friend or co-worker who will be alone on Christmas?  Could you invite them to join your family?  Usually, there are so many people at Christmas dinner that one more wouldn't be a burden and there's so much food that it'd probably be good to have an extra mouth to share it with.

So think about what you can do this Christmas.  Enjoy your meal, but try to help someone else enjoy theirs as well.

2 Corinthians 9:5-7

Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, where of ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness.  But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.  Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity; for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Candle in the Night


31 Days to Christmas Day 26: Luminaries

Luminaries are a common tradition throughout the United States, and especially in parts of New Mexico.  Paper bags filled with sand and candles are placed along the road, on sidewalks, porches, and rooftops to light the way for the Christ child.
I see it as a beautiful thing to invite Christ to stop and come into our homes at Christmas time.  When Joseph and Mary entered Bethlehem, they were not welcomed.  They both knew the child Mary was carrying was the Son of God, but still, they were given no place to rest but a dirty stable with the animals.  Mary was probably frightened as many women who labor with their first child.  Joseph was probably terrified.  Men didn't deliver babies in those days and it became clear to him as he went from door to door that not only would they not have a decent place to stay the night, but he would be catching the baby of a women he barely knew.
But God knew their plight and sent His spirit to wash over them.  Do the scriptures say this?  No, but looking at my life and the lives of others tell me that when God asks us to bear something that seems too much, He is with us, carrying us every step of the way.
So light the way this Christmas.  Place out luminaries not only outside your home, but also in your heart that invite the Christ child to come in.  Don't let another Christmas go by where Jesus is shut out in the cold night.

Revelations 3:20
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Candle in the Night


Monday, December 19, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 25: The Candy Cane

It had to be special to be a gift for the King of Kings, thought the humble candy maker from Indiana.  Not just any piece of candy would do.  It had to be hard candy because the church is built on solid rock and God's promises are a firm foundation.  It would be formed in the shape of the Good Shepherd's staff.  A "J" that would also stand for the precious name of Jesus.  But it had to say more.  White stripes would symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Christ.  Three small red stripes would represent the scourging Jesus suffered on His way to the cross.  One large red stripe would remind those with eyes to see and ears to hear of the blood Jesus shed as payment for our sins.  It would be a gift of love that would tell His story - the greatest story ever told.  
The Story:

A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would be a witness, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane.  He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ.  He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy: white to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the Foundation of the Church and firmness of the promises of God.   

The candy maker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior.  It could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who like all sheep have gone astray.  Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candy maker stained it with red stripes.  He used three small stripes for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.
This story is a legend and is probably false.  However, it is still a great way to keep Christ in Christmas.  Use the sweet candy cane to teach your children (or remind yourself) of the sweet little baby that came to earth to die for you this Christmas.  

Isaiah 53:1-6
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?  For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Candle in the Night


Sunday, December 18, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 24: Christmas Pageants

John 21:15
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

If you or your children aren't involved in a Christmas Pageant, find one to attend!  It's well worth it for children to grow up not just hearing the story of the birth of Christ, but seeing it acted out or acting it out themselves.  It ingrains it in the memory and makes it meaningful to them.  The pictures below are of the Christmas pageant my daughter and nephew were in this year.  The crawlers/toddlers get to be sheep.  M was too young to be in the pageant, but we had to put the lamb ears on her anyway since they were so cute and she was the only one who would leave them on!

Seriously???  Ears???

 Notice the sign...It was supposed to say, "No Vacancy", but didn't get turned around.  Yet another wonderful thing about Christmas pageants...the humor!  

 Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.

 My little lamb!

 My nephew who clearly told us once before that he doesn't want ears!


 Well, I guess E won.  No ears!  But still an adorable little lamb!

 H being a sweet little lamb.  She watched the whole thing and loved it!

 The cast's final song.  The sheep didn't join in for this one.  

M: "I forgot my lines!!"

Please take the time to listen to this song.  It's well worth it and really has nothing to do with Jimminy Cricket.  It's one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time.  I was telling my mom the other day that now that I have kids of my own, I understand why she used to cry when she'd sing it to us.

Candle in the Night


Saturday, December 17, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 23: The Wise Men

Matthew 3:9-11 
When they had heard the king, they departed; and lo, the star which they saw in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the young child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.  And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child, with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

I love this line from the movie "Nativity Story".  I think it justly sums up the gifts presented to the Christ child.  "Gold, for the King of kings.  Frankincense, for the Priest of priests, and myrrh, for the sacrifice He will make."  What a beautiful summary of our Lord.  The wise men brought gifts to the Child in the manger.  We remember them by giving gifts of our own.  

This Christmas, honor the wise men by making it a point to give a gift to someone you don't know who might be in need of some extra love.  Take cookies to a nursing home, make one of the candle jars or projects out of used Christmas cards and deliver them to a homeless shelter.  Gather up some toys and donate them to Salvation Army.  Step outside of yourself and give.  You'll be glad you did.  

Candle in the Night


Friday, December 16, 2011

31 Days to Christmas Day 22: Silent Night

Silent night, one of the most beloved hymns of all time.  I loved the story found here and I had to share it.  
"The year was 1914 and soldiers on both sides of the battlefield somewhere in France were enduring a dark and frozen Christmas Eve night. World War I -- the Great War, as it was called -- eventually took the lives of more than 10 million people. But it is doubtless that the mostly-young men of that Christmas Eve were contemplating much more beyond their longings for home and warmth and family.

When soldiers on the German line placed candles on small Christmas trees and raised them above their trenches it touched the hearts of their enemies. These men -- thousands of them on both sides -- spontaneously began to sing the carols of Christmas.

What began in those moments became the legendary Christmas truce. Weapons were put down, men ventured from their fortifications and gathered in No Man's Land to make note of the season together. They exchanged small gifts after agreeing to a truce so that all could celebrate the season.

And so for a short period of time, no shots were fired. The following day, men who only hours before fought fiercely now stood side by side and buried their dead. Together, with heads uncovered, they held a service to memorialize their fallen comrades. Before departing for another frozen night in the trenches, a solitary voice began to sing Silent Night, in French. He was joined by another voice -- this one singing in German -- the words of a hymn known and beloved by all.

Together they contemplated "heavenly peace".
By then, Silent Night was nearly 100 years old. That it was familiar and beloved by men on both sides of the line was no surprise. "Silent Night" was known around Europe and was sung in many languages for generations.

But for years historians have argued about its history. Books, magazine articles, news reports and Internet web sites have told tall tales of a grand history for Silent Night. But in reality, the story of Silent Night is as simple as the song itself.

In Oberndorf, Austria on Christmas Eve of 1818, Joseph Mohr, an assistant pastor, took the words of a poem he had written previously to Franz Gruber, a schoolteacher and talented musician. Joseph asked his friend to put the lyrics to music so that it could be performed that very night at Midnight Mass. The result was Silent Night, sung as a duet by Mohr and Gruber. They were accompanied by the Church choir and a guitar."

Luke 2:7
And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was none to give room for them in the inns.

Candle in the Night