Christmas Gifts & Kids

My husband and I are both from large families. Consequently, when our children were small they would receive an over-abundance of gifts.  We knew they’d be overwhelmed on Christmas morning, so two weeks before Christmas we’d permit them to open one gift every 2-3 days.

But wait—we had a rule!  Before they could open their second gift, they had to write a personal thank you note to the person whose gift they had already opened.  By the time Christmas arrived, all the thank you notes had been written!  The kids were able to take their time writing their notes, knowing there was only one to write—that is, until the next gift was opened.

When they were very young, I would help them compose their notes.  As they grew older they became more confident and creative in their letter-writing.  It also developed into a good habit that continues to this day.

Now we are receiving precious thank you letters from our grandchildren!  What a delight to know they are being trained up in the way they should go.

  •  Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.    Proverbs 22:6
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Reach the Dying at Christmas

Christmas is the one time of year when it’s legitimate to share the message of Jesus. Everywhere we turn there are people dying for one little drop of kindness.  People are dying from lack of hope that is gained through knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The dying may keep busy with work, family, sports, hobbies, addictive behaviors, etc.  But if they don’t have Jesus, they are restless and without hope. All their busy activities are temporary solutions to their restlessness.  Jesus is the only permanent solution.  Jesus IS our peace.  Jesus IS our hope.

One way to reach out is with a simple plate of warm cookies. Personally, I don’t bake, but we have fruit trees.  We’ve walked the neighborhood, singing Christmas Carols, pulling our wagon  filled with bags of avocados or tangerines from our trees.  Tied with brightly colored ribbons, we’ll attach a Christmas card with the true message of Christmas.  Or it might be a Christmas tract or the booklet, Would You Like to Know God Personally? by Bill Bright.

Remember the postman, gardener, newspaper boy, hair dresser, etc.
Have a nut or persimmon tree? Share them!  Attach a note, “Merry Christmas from the Smith Family! Jesus loves you!”  The “Jesus loves you” part is most important.  Be bold!

This is fun to do as a church family: reaching out to the neighborhood surrounding your church campus with gift bags of homemade cookies or produce.  Be sure to enclose a booklet with the message of Jesus’ love and then extend an invitation to attend your church’s special Christmas program!

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Christmas Pageant – Script

So you want to put on a Christmas Pageant?  Do it!  Our grandson was too small to have a speaking part, but his mother transformed his jammies into a lamb costume!  Use your creativity!    I wrote the following simple script for our family.  Many have already enjoyed it!

SCENE 1 (Excerpts from Luke 1)                                                                             Narrator: “In the time of Herod, king of Judea, God sent an angel named Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said,”

Angel Gabriel: “Greetings Mary! The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid, because you have found favor with God. You are going to have a baby boy. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. You are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

SCENE 2 (Luke 2:1)                                                                                                       Narrator: “It came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her first-born son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were so afraid.”

Shepherd 1: Act afraid, jump back: “Ooh!”
Shepherd 2: Act afraid, cover your face with your hands: “Oh what’s that?”
Shepherd 3: Act afraid: “Help!”

Angel of the Lord: “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 which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Narrator: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying…”

Angel of the Lord: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men with whom God is pleased.”

Everyone sing:
Angels we have heard on high, Sweetly singing o’r the plain
And the mountains in reply, Echoing their joyous strains
Gloria, in excelsis Deo. Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Shepherd 1: (rising) “A Savior? Did he say, Christ the Lord?”
Shepherd 2: “Come on! Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

SCENE 3 – The Shepherds Arrive in Bethlehem                                             Shepherd  1: “Look! There’s an inn. They might know where we could find the baby.”   All Shepherds: Knock on door of Inn #1                                                                    Innkeeper opens door: “Shepherds? At this hour of the night? Listen, all of you. There is no vacancy here at this inn.”                                                                                            Shepherd 1: “Sir, if you don’t mind, we just came down from the hills because an angel appeared to us in shining glory and told us that in Bethlehem a Savior had been born to us who is Christ the Lord. Do you know where we might find him?”                             Innkeeper: “What? The Savior has been born in Bethlehem? You don’t say! Hmm… Actually, perhaps it’s my grandson! He was born here in Bethlehem just six months ago. He’s the most beautiful baby you’ve ever seen. Yes, of course it’s my grandson!  This is a marvelous thing! Just think! My own grandson is the promised Savior!”

Shepherd 1: “Well Sir, actually, it couldn’t be your grandson, because the angel told us the baby was born today.”                                                                                                  Shepherd 2: “He also said the baby would be wrapped in swaddling clothes and would be lying in a manger. Is your grandson lying in a manger? Is he wearing swaddling clothes?”

Innkeeper:  No of course he is no longer wearing swaddling clothes. He’s already crawling! But did you say a manger? You mean a feeding trough for animals?  What kind of crib is that for the Savior of the world! That’s the craziest story I’ve ever heard! Get outta here! (Slams door)

2nd Innkeeper opens his door: “I’m sorry shepherds, we have no room at this inn. Not even in the stable out back!”                                                                                      Shepherd 2: “Did you say STABLE? Does it have a manger in it?”                         Shepherd 3: “And a baby?”                                                                                          Innkeeper: (Suspiciously) “Well, yes it does. You’re awfully nosy for a bunch of shepherds.”                                                                                                                            Shepherd 1: “Sir, if you don’t mind, we just came down from the hills because an angel appeared to us in shining glory and told us that a Savior had been born to us who is Christ the Lord.”                                                                                                                               Shepherd 2: “The angel said we would find the baby in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”                                                                                     Innkeeper: “Yes! There was a baby born in the stable today. And yes, they did lay him in the manger! But you said an angel told you it is THE CHRIST? That’s hard to believe! Why would Almighty God allow the promised Messiah to be born in a stable? It doesn’t make sense. But come along. I’ll show you the baby anyway.”

SCENE 4: At the Stable                                                                                             Innkeeper Knocks on Door:   Joseph opens the door: “Yes?”                            Shepherd 1: “We have come to see the Savior.”                                                        Shepherd 2: “Where is the Lord?”                                                                                  Shepherd 3: “Where is the little baby in the manager?”                                                 Joseph: “Come this way.”                                                                                                                All Shepherds:  Gather around the baby,  kneel and bow their heads.

Narrator: “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, WHICH WERE JUST AS THEY HAD BEEN TOLD!”

Everyone sing:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the night sky looked down where he lay—
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes
I love thee, Lord Jesus! Look down from the sky,
And stay by my side until morning is nigh.

 

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Creating Christmas Traditions

Let’s create good and healthy memories!  An excellent family devotion during the Christmas season is to pray for the senders of the Christmas cards we receive each day.

Years ago a Bible study leader recommended we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 to small children every day between December 1 and 25.  We did this.  Remarkably, the kids did not tire of hearing the same story again and again.  In fact, they enjoyed the repetition! Soon they were reciting with me.  The following year we did it again.

What to do on Christmas day with the extended family?  Once the gifts are opened and tummies are full, what next?

We enjoyed talent shows—with one rule:  Every family had to take part!
They could sing, dance, recite poetry, tell a story, juggle oranges, play an instrument, show off their gymnastics, recite Scripture, read Scripture, etc.

My father played guitar and although he’d begin leading us in Christmas carols, he’d end up singing his favorite oldie,  “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”  Daddy typically sang off pitch, but we loved him and loved his singalongs.

I remember the violin duets I did with our daughter and the musical ensemble when my husband would join in on his recorder. We’d inevitably make mistakes and there would be laughter and fun.

One year we put on a family Christmas Pageant with cousins. Today our grandchildren are doing the pageants and will invite neighbors to attend.  They make it an event, serving hot chocolate and cookies.  How sweet it is to see a newborn grandchild asleep in the manger.

Want the script?  I’ll share it with you next time!

  •  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.      Deuteronomy 11:18-19
  • SONG:  Dear Lord of Lords – by Kathleen     Click here to listen:
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Philippines’ Typhoon God’s Judgment?

This morning I again corresponded with a GMO (Global Media Outreach) friend in the Philippines. She had emailed updates the past several days asking for prayer as Typhoon Hagupit threatened to be catastrophic. Today she was expressing thanks for the prayers and especially thanksgiving to God for sparing her family and their home.

She asked me an interesting question.  “There are many evil people in our country. Do you believe the typhoon is God’s judgment on our country because of the evil?”

I told her that I cannot answer for God.  But I do believe there are evil people in every country. Such events shake our confidence in this life and force us to think about eternity. Churches are usually filled after disasters as people realize how temporary this life is.

We know that God is good!  Amazing miracles often occur during a natural disaster that prevent even greater loss of life. People suddenly reevaluate their priorities.  Millions of dollars in aid is sent to help the people who are suffering. Christian ministries have the opportunity to help, minister, counsel, pray, and lead people to a saving faith in Christ! God can, and does, bring great good out of terrible tragedies.

  •  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.   Romans 8:18
  • For more info on Global Media Outreach:                  
  • www.godlife.com/look-to-jesus      &
  • www.greatcommission2020.com/map   

 

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What Will Happen to the Children?

When our children were young my husband’s work required that he travel to attend conferences. Of course he preferred I accompany him, but we had small children and I hated to leave them.

Yet there were times when I did travel and the grandparents would come and stay.  Always in the back of my mind there was the thought:  “What if something happens and we never return? What will happen to the children?  Will they grow up learning to love Jesus and the Word of God?”

My heart would ache as we prepared to leave. A few days before departure I would have a private conversation with each child.  I’d take one aside and say, “I want to talk to you about something that is very, very important.”

His eyes would get big and questioning. I’d continue, “What I’m going to tell you is the most important thing in the whole world. Nothing is more important than this.  It’s about Jesus Christ.  I want you to always remember that loving Jesus and putting Him first in Your life is the most important thing in the whole world.  Nothing is more important than this. Okay? You will remember that, won’t you? I know you will.”  Then I’d give a hug.

The next time we traveled I’d go through the same routine.  Now they are adults and I praise God that our kids are firmly committed to following Christ with their lives, as are their spouses.  To this day I believe that these short conversations were not in vain. Of course, there were other ways God helped me raise up godly children. There were our daily devotions, Bible study, prayer time and of course, guitar playing and singing praises to our God.

These memories I cherish.  I praise God as I see our children raising up their children with the same zeal for Christ.

  •  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:14-17
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Alcoholism? God Heals

A guy walking along the beach stopped at our Bible table. He reeked with alcohol, had slurred speech, but said he wanted to learn more about God.  I asked him if he were to die today, did he know where he would go?

He said, “Right now I don’t know. I know I need to get right with God, but I need to clean up my life first.”

“How much have you had to drink today?”

“Just two beers.”

I thought to myself, “Yeah, right. That’s what they all say.”  I said,  “I believe you have a drinking problem. You want to get right with God, but you think you need to clean up your life first.  I want you to know something: You cannot clean up your life. You cannot overcome your drinking problem by yourself.  Jesus can clean up your life, but first you must turn your life over to Him.  He can do it, but you cannot.”

I talked to him about enrolling in Teen Challenge, which has an 86% success rate for those who complete the program. I explained that he would have to live there for one year, but there is no cost.  His expenses would be covered by donations from people who want to help.  Participants must be over 18 to enroll,  but most are in their 20’s and 30’s.

He wasn’t sure he was ready to turn to Christ today.  He needed time to think about it, but he wanted us to pray for him.

We gathered around him and prayed. We prayed that he would recognize the depth of God’s love for him. We prayed that he would call out to Jesus for forgiveness and that he would surrender himself to God’s control. We prayed that he would allow the Holy Spirit to come and live inside him and change him forever, that God would fill him with peace and a new purpose in life. We also prayed that he would enroll with Teen Challenge where he would get help.

He thanked us with tears in his eyes.  He left with the phone number for Teen Challenge, a new Bible and a booklet that would show him step-by-step how to receive Jesus and then walk in the Spirit.  That is… when he is ready:  http://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/classics/the-spirit-filled-life.html

 

 

 

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Dog Bite

My husband accompanied me on a two-week mission trip to Central America.  One early evening we were walking on the beach when a large dog came barking and chasing after us.

I stopped, stood straight and still and spoke firmly:  “In the name of Jesus STOP and be still!”   The dog stopped, became quiet and suddenly took off running—after my husband!

Poor Dan is not yet a follower of Jesus and doesn’t understand the power in His name.  So he tried to outrun the dog!  When he saw the dog gaining on him he stopped and started kicking.  The dog sunk his teeth into Dan’s leg before running off.   Fortunately, medical treatment prevented complications.

The experience strengthened my conviction that God’s Word is indeed true.  Jesus’ name is powerful and He delights in us as we trust in Him.

  • Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.     Acts 4:12
  • Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.    Romans 10:13

 

 

 

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God Spoke to Me

There have only been a few times in my life when I actually heard God speak.  This was one of those days.

I was in a difficult situation. Things were not going well.  I desperately needed God’s help. I knelt down by my bed and cried out to God. “Help me!  In the name of Jesus, help me!” Throughout the day I would return to my knees.  Again calling to God, “Help me!  Please help me!  I can’t go through this! I need Your help!”

Then I heard it – God’s voice.  It was not audible, but it was clear.  I heard each word distinctly as He spoke to my inner being.

He simply said, “I will help you, but you must do it.”

That was it.  I knew it was God reassuring me.  Tears began to flow.  I praised God. I thanked Him. I stood up and I knew that yes, I CAN do it!  Yes, I WILL do it!  God said He would help me.  So of course I can do it!

I walked away from my prayer closet refreshed.  Hope had been renewed.

  • I can do all this through him who gives me strength.    Philippians 4:13
  • Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.   Jeremiah 29:12
  • I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue.  Psalm 66:17
  • What about you?  Have you ever called out to God with a desperate need and heard Him respond?
  • SONG: INTO THE LIGHT – Click on story’s title to listen: 

 

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Showing Cleavage

I recently had trouble listening to a Christian speaker — trouble getting beyond her cleavage! My thoughts were preoccupied with the poor example she was setting.

Our appearance is a reflection of our relationship with Christ. It is not necessary to cover our entire bodies as some religions believe.  We can be tastefully dressed without being provocative.

I have well endowed friends who are careful to maintain their modesty. They will wear cover-ups to the pool, swim their laps and quickly cover up again. Husbands are pleased when their wives dress modestly. Unfortunately with today’s styles, we see more and more Christian women giving in to being hip rather than honoring God and His Word.

It’s true that Christ came into the world to set us free.  Yet 1 Corinthians 8:9 says, “Be careful that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”

One woman defended her exposed chest by saying she had no time to try on her new top before purchasing it and had nothing else to wear!  Nothing else to wear? Then perhaps she should stay home.

This is serious!  In Luke 17:1-3  Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.  It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.  So watch yourselves.”  

Very serious indeed!

  • Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.    1 Corinthians 10:32-33
  • I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes            1 Timothy 2:9
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