Monday, December 27, 2010

Joy to the World!

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth into joyous song and sing praises.… Make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.” (Psalm 98:4 & 6)

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns! Let all their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy
repeat the sounding joy
repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins & sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

He rules the world with truth & grace & makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders, wonders of his love.”

[–“Joy to the World,” by Isaac Watts, 1719]

My hope and prayer is that the true joy of the Christ-child has been yours this Christmas, and that that joy will continue with you into the new year! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Presents for God

“[And] opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Christmas is all about gift giving, right? It’s a time we celebrate the gifts we give to each other, and (if we are people of faith) the greatest gift of all – the one God gave to us: Jesus. But have you ever considered what gifts you might give to God this holiday season (and really the whole year long)?

As we continue our series “Advent Conspiracy”, consider this list shared with me several years ago containing 10 suggestions from Jesus about just a few ways that we can give back to God:

“1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way my birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of my birth and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile it could make the difference. Also, you might consider supporting the local Hot-Line: they talk with people like that every day.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then, stop shopping there on Sunday -- if the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary, especially one who takes my love and Good News to those who have never heard my name. You may already know someone like that.

9. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them (and I suspect you don't) buy some food and a few gifts and give them to your church, the Salvation Army or some other charity that believes in me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in my presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.”

You see, the real gifts that God wants from us don’t come from a store, but from our hearts. This Christmas, give the gift of “love in action” to all those around! And always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

(CLICK HERE for ideas and sermons which have been being shared during our “Advent Conspiracy” series, or visit the links to the right of this article)