Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10-12)
There was no warning. It was a dark night with only the faint light of the stars. The shepherds on the Bethlehem plain were routinely watching their sleeping sheep. All was at peace, so the shepherds were beginning to drowse.
Suddenly the Sky burst bright with holy light. There in the sky was an angel, glorious in brilliance. Startled out of near sleep the shepherds were stricken with fear. They cowered in terror.
But the angel declared,
Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign unto you: Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:10-12)
Miraculously, the terror bled out of the shepherds’ hearts, and they were left in holy awe at the majestic angel. Perhaps this was the Archangel Gabriel, who brought the news to Mary that God would conceive in her the Messiah.
The angel said he had good tidings. The Shepherds began to be excited.
He said the news would give them great joy. Their anticipation increased.
He said the joy would be for all people. Likely, the Jewish shepherds interpreted “all people” to mean the Jews. But the angel was speaking to encompass all the world’s people.
He announced that the Messiah was being born. This was exceeding great news to the shepherds. As Jews, it was the answer to the fervent desire of faithful Jewish hearts. The Messiah was the long-awaited deliver of the Jews from bondage.
The Messiah had first been promised to Moses,
And Jehovah said unto me, They have well said that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:17-19).
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The Announcement by the solitary angel concluded with a sign, the proof of the truth of the announcement.
With the close of the announcement, again without warning,
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 among men in whom he is well pleased. (Luke 2:13-14)
We should contemplate the message that the Angels delivered. We are two millennia past the first Advent of the Messiah, but we have another Advent coming. We should have our hearts tuned to the Second Coming, when Jesus our Lord will come to deliver us from this fallen world and transform the world by his righteous reign.
Father, You sent Your Angels with the best news in all the world–my Savior, came to die in my place for my sins. Give me a true heart to eagerly accept Him with great joy as did the angels. Give me a true heart to embrace Him, the most wonderful gift in creation.
To the glory of God, our Father; Amen.
This is the season when Christians look forward to the birth of Jesus the God/man. Born a baby in the natural way, this child grew up to be a powerful preacher and miracle worker. He was fully man and operated in the power of Almighty God. He was fully God and participated in human life because he was a limited man. Through his life He did not sin; therefore, He was the perfect sacrifice for the sin of mankind. This God/man was tortured and killed, amazingly at the command of God. The ultimate purpose of the baby born in a Bethlehem manger was to be the perfect atonement for your sins and mine.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line 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 firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 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. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:1-20)
For believers, this is the best of good news; there we celebrate his birth starting just after Thanksgiving. For the four Sundays before Christmas Day, December 25th we celebrate Advent. This is the anticipation of His coming into the world. The advent of Jesus the Christ, Emanuel = “God with us”.
One of the traditions is to set out an Advent Wreath. There are many styles of the wreath. Nearly all of them include a ring of evergreen boughs and candles. Christians have adopted the evergreen tree as a symbol of the Christian faith in everlasting life. The candle with its burning wick symbolizes the light of Christ that came into this dark world.
The style of wreath I favor is the ring of four candles – three purple and one pink, and then as a pièce de résistance on Christmas Day a large, white candle set in the center.
Each candle is symbolic of something or someone. The meanings I favor are:
First Sunday in Advent
The Angels candle
Second Sunday in Advent
The Shepherds candle
Third Sunday in Advent
The Mary candle
Fourth Sunday in Advent
The John the Baptist candle
The Christ candle
Our family bought 100 acres on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. The home was a lodge. Our main room was 20’ x 40” all in knotty pine. It had a cathedral ceiling to 20’ with 12” square beams 10’ above the floor. The chandelier was a wagon wheel with eight lights. At the near end was a fire pit and fireplace. The pit was below floor level about 18” for sitting in front of the 6’ wide by 5’ high fireplace opening. The floor of the pit was marble and the chimney was river stone that went through the ceiling and up to the roof. Above the fire pit was a balcony that joined the upstairs rooms. At the west end of the room, the windows were on three sides to take advantage of the 180o view of Puget Sound.
Because we had such a large room, we hosted our larger family for Thanksgiving. Our family had six plus Grandma Stiverson, my great-grandmother, who lived with us. My mother’s mother, Nanny, came from Seattle. My Dad’s sister, Harriet, husband Reg and his two children Phyllis and Dale, came from Mount Vernon. His other sister Ana and her husband, Bob and their two adopted children, Alan and BabbaraJoan, came from Lake City. Perhaps twice Daddy Bradshaw, my father’s father and Mary, my mother’s sister joined us. With our family of two girls and two boys, we had as many as eighteen at Thanksgiving dinner.
It was a time of great joy. The larger family, in contrast to those often depicted in the movies, cared for one another and took joy in the too seldom times of get-togethers. Dale and I were the same age. We enjoyed playing together. At Thanksgiving, we vied with one another to see how many helpings each could consume.
My older sisters, Barbara and Joan, were early teens, so they were helping Mom early prepare all the food. Harriet and Ana always brought salad, dessert, or both. The turkey was perforce a large one, so it was cooking all morning. My brother, John, was too young to help.
After breakfast, as the preparations began, Dad and I headed to the barn for morning chores – I collected eggs while Dad milked Jenny our Jersey cow. I watched while Dad strained the milk, and then separated some into cream and skimmed milk. We put the skim milk in the slop barrel to feed the hogs and took the cream, the rest of the milk and eggs home.
The day before, I had chopped the head off the turkey. Mom plucked, and dressed it. She put the liver, kidneys, heart and craw on to boil to be ready to add as giblets to the stuffing.
All the hard work that my mother, sisters and aunts invested resulted in a feast. With all the side dishes steaming on the table, everyone sat down while Mom went out to the kitchen to retrieve the turkey. When she appeared around the corner with the platter containing the pièce de résistance, murmurs of approval arose from around the table (our family was not given to emotional outbursts).
As Dad carved the turkey, everyone passed their plates to him for individual selections of white and dark meat. Once all had their turkey, then we passed the side dishes – first the mashed potatoes, then stuffing, then gravy (in that order), then yams, and the rest of the vegetables (commonly string beans in cream of mushroom soup) and salads. Many of us had seconds – mostly on turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing and yams.
Dessert consisted of apple pie with cheddar cheese, maybe à la mode, pumpkin pie and mince pie, with brandy for the adults. Dad always lit his on fire. We wondered at the blue flame.
TV was new, so no football. The dads sat in the living room and talked politics, cussing the government. Mothers were in the kitchen cleaning up and coffee-ing around our breakfast table.
When the sun was westering and as night drew on, we began the fond goodbyes, vowing to do this again next year. These are treasured, joyful memories of our festive gatherings of the larger family for Thanksgiving.
As I observed earlier, our family was not given to emotional outbursts. We did not offer a prayer of thanks. We thanked Mom for commanding and preparing the feast. But whatever other thanks we had were hidden in our hearts.
Now I realize we missed something. The expressions of gratitude are one of the important things that grease the interchange among peoples. Offering thanks is an acknowledgment of a debt owed to another. It blesses the giver and, in a mystical way, blesses the receiver. You both feel good. The giver, who is not compelled, but offers the gift freely gets joy in the giving. The receiver, when one sets pride aside and receives the gift, gets joy in receiving. In reaching out a hand of help and the other taking it creates a bond, a form of communion, a togetherness that is mutually uplifting. Those individual joys are multiplied in the giving of thanks.
Thankfulness is an important aspect of character. When it comes naturally, it is spontaneous. When someone goes out of her way to be kind, be helpful, give a gift large or small, it evokes a sense of gratitude, not only for the thing offered, but also for the thought–the caring, the sensitivity, the love that prompted the gift.
If the receiver has an attitude that he is entitled, he has no spontaneous gratitude. Perhaps the reason is “Well, it’s about time!” The sense of condemnation in this ungracious attitude comes through, even when the words “thank you” come out of the ungrateful mouth.
It takes humility to know that we are not alone in the world. We are in fact a member of any number of groups that form and disperse. Some take on a permanence, such as initially being born into a family, choosing to marry or to form one’s own family. Some are temporal, such as membership in a committee formed to solve a problem or standing in a checkout line at the grocery store. It is far better to acknowledge the relationship and be aware of the possibility of giving and receiving gifts of grace to the others of the group, if only a smile. Finding and filling another’s needs is friendly in the least and a great blessing in the extreme.
Conversely, reaching out in appeal may be admitting weakness, but it gives an opportunity to bless. In humility, giving another the chance of being a blessing can be a great gift.
When someone has blessed you with a gift the first duty (although it should be the natural spontaneous response) is to thank the giver verbally. In polite society, the receiver follows initial verbal thanks with a hand-written note of thanks.
Parents train their children in the polite interchange that forms congenial society. “What’s the magic word?” Through repetition, children learn to say, “please”. Even though they hate the gift that Aunt Matilda gave for their birthday, we prompt, “Aren’t you going to thank Aunt Matilda for the nice sweater?” Again, they learn the proper response.
Without an offer of thanks, the giver may believe the gift is unappreciated. When a person experiences that apparent lack of thankfulness, a sense of offense may set in. It appears that the receiver has disdained thought, the effort and the cost of the gift. Often givers take that as rejection of them. This can damage the relationship and may even break it.
I pointed out that “thanks” are the grease that makes society work. In contrast, lack of gratitude is the agent of distancing and breaking relationships. People expect that the receiver will appreciate their gifts; if not for the gift itself, certainly the sentiment expressed – love, generosity, concern for a need, etc.
Gratefully receiving a gift enlivens the heart. It stirs up the understanding that others care for us. This in turn evokes an increase of self worth. Gratitude for such a blessing motivates us to bless the giver in return with thanksgiving. Receiving a grateful acknowledgement warms the heart. It likewise enhances the giver’s self worth that they gave something appreciated.
When one gives a gift it begins a cycle of good feeling that cements relationships. It adds joy to both lives and it makes the relationship operate more smoothly.
To the rich person a $25 gift is insignificant. Mostly the gratitude is for the love expressed in the gift. In contrast, a gift of $2,000 to someone who doesn’t know how the taxes on the house will get paid evokes great rejoicing, relief and great sense of gratitude that finds expression in effusive thanks to the giver.
When I was young, I did not believe in Jesus as God, Lord and Savior. I was smug in my “mature”, “intelligent” unbelief. A man came into our lives, talking as if Jesus were real and carrying a big black Bible all the time. I resented him, and wanted nothing to do with the Jesus he described. Despite my rejection of him, he persisted in coming around. That led me unwillingly to discover Jesus was in fact not only real, but He was God who died for my sins.
Suddenly my life opened up! God filled me with joy and love I had never known before! My gratitude to Jesus and to that man knows no bounds. He led me to the doorway of life! My gratitude continues to this day.
The degree of gratitude depends upon the degree of need. The greater the need one has the greater the celebration of thanksgiving when another meets that need. Often times the great need to give thanks generates a desire to give a gift in return. At every level of a gift, the natural, human response is to be thankful, to acknowledge the generous spirit that prompted the gift.
One time, I could not afford a second car. The only vehicle I had to drive was a camper built onto a one-ton truck. My friend Joseph was saving money to take a trip around America before returning to India. He saw my need, so he gave me $300.00 he could not spare to buy a car. I was deeply grateful for the gift and wrote him thanks. Just at that time, another friend, Carlton’s car died. In his rural area, he was walking miles for his groceries and all. Since I had a vehicle and he had none, I passed the $300.00 to him. It supplied his need. When I told my Indian friend, what I had done and my reasoning, he was pleased that his money was meeting an even greater need.
In this case, my gratitude to my Indian friend doubled. I was grateful to him and my other friend’s gratitude added on to it.
God does not operate like a CPA. He does not try to balance the intake with the outgo, expecting to set aside the positive difference as profit, or the negative difference as loss. There is a principle called “zero-sum game” in which whatever gain one person has is equal to the loss of another person. This is not God’s way of doing business. He does not take merits from unbelievers to give to believers. God does not take blessings away from mature believers to give new life to those being born again.
Since He is the Creator, He has infinite resources. As a result, he operates on the Principle of Reciprocity. It is well described in…
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)
The process takes faith to start. You must give first. Whatever you initiate God reciprocates in “good measure”. That is the same as you gave plus more packed in and heaped up and overflowing.
In the situation I described above, that initial $300 Joseph gave me turned into 3 or 4 times as much, since Joseph received enough to make his trip, I received enough to by a $600 dollar car and Carlton bought a car with the $300.
This works in life as well. Let’s consider our lives as overcoats. When initially given it was brand new with bright colors. Over the years of wear and tear, it becomes faded, dirty and worn out at the elbows. The cuffs get frayed there are buttons missing. It is wrinkled beyond hope of an ironing.
Jesus says, “If you will give me your old, tattered life, I will give you a new crisp, clean one that never wears out, does not fade and lasts forever.” That is a trade worth taking.
God does not take away from what he has, to give to us. There is no diminishing in his “storehouse”. As we live in Christ, we get to draw against his riches, but we can never draw them down. Paul teaches,
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
Two significant words are “according to”. There was a movie called “Man with a Million”, staring Gregory Peck. He was a New England fisherman who got caught in a storm that blew him across the Atlantic to England. He landed starving and tattered with no money. His adventure made the newspaper. Two millionaire brothers gave him a Million £ note. They wanted to see if the fisherman could get all he needed without cashing in the note. In the story, merchants and an hotelier did give him everything just for a look at that note. That is “receiving according to”.
I have been writing about God’s giving. He is openhanded to all who will receive. The loving Father is generous with eternal life to all who seek. He gives His Holy Spirit to all who receive eternal life, He gives the righteousness of Jesus to each one who accepts his offer, he gives forgiveness of sin because Jesus won it on the cross.
Once we surrender our lives to Jesus, we have nothing else to give. It forces us to be thankful. It is humbling to be totally unable to pay for salvation, eternal life. the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the privileges of ministry in Jesus’ name. All who receive the magnitude of God’s gifts are profoundly grateful.
God’s generosity, His mercy and His grace call forth our enthusiastic praise and thanksgiving for Who God is and for what He had given. Each morning as we awaken, we can offer thanks for a night’s sleep that He provided. He made it to be a renewing of our bodies from the wear and tear during the previous day. We can offer humble gratitude for the ability to think, plan, consider and talk.
When we consider our spouses and the blessing God has given us through them, our hearts can swell with thanks, so that we must express it to our Father in prayer, praise and song.
The children God had gifted to us evoke thrills of joy that resound in thanks to our Creator and the Producer of the fruit of our bodies.
In this political season, we can offer deep thanks for the freedom we have and for the political process that allows for a change of government without violent uprising.
On the other hand, how do we handle the bad things of real life? How do we explain arthritis, cancer, gout, paralysis, stroke, heart attacks, and grief at the loss of a child? Can we really thank God for these terrible things?
Admittedly, this is harder to understand. We can base our understanding on the answer to, “How much do I trust God?” This answer hangs on another question, “Is God Sovereign? Is He really in charge of everything in my life – good and bad?”
For me the answer is clear. God IS Sovereign! Therefore, everything that comes into my life is according to his riches in glory. I do not understand when life is unpleasant or painful or limited, but this I know, my loving Father either brings each into my life or allowed it in for my benefit. And so, I will praise and thank Him for the bad along with the good. Jesus’ torture and death were terrible things; nevertheless, they were for my benefit. Thus, I will thank and praise my God for Jesus’ suffering and for all the other terrible things that may come to me.
Please join me in thanksgiving for all God’s benefits.
ANSWER: God created the world perfect. He created man and woman to be the stewards of His Creation. They had a perfectly balanced life with comfortable climate and plenty of food, soft grass to sleep upon and a loving relationship not only with each other but also with their Father God. By creation of God, they were the perfect son and daughter.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (Genesis 1: 26-28)
Tragically, they chose to violate God’s one simple command, “Don’t eat this.” That violation separated man from God. It broke the relationship. We became the creatures of God, no longer sons and daughters.
None of the works of man could restore the relationship with God. The Children of Israel tried and tried. The Pharisees tied themselves in knots with laws, but they could not repair the broken relationship
Restoration took a series of miracles of God. He sent His Son to be born of a virgin. His Son voluntarily died as the innocent sacrificial victim to make atonement for the broken relationship. The final miracle has been repeated Billions of times over in the lives of individual men and women. The Holy Spirit comes into one’s life and leads him or her to Jesus. He opens each heart to surrender to Jesus. In that instant, each person is born anew as a child of God, with soul cleansed of sin and covered in the righteousness of Christ. Further, God gives each one, as a part of that new birth, life eternal.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. (Romans 8:14-17)
So, to become children of God the relationship that was broken by Adam and Eve must be repaired. Neither you nor I, nor anyone else can repair that brokenness. However, God can.
But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. (Romans 5:8-9)
Because the death of Christ repaired the brokenness, there is the opportunity for us to be included as sons or daughters of God.
Thus, the Holy Spirit leads us to Christ, gives us the faith to believe that Jesus died for our sins and brings us into adoption by our Father as sons and daughters of God and, amazingly, half brothers and sisters of the true and only Begotten Son of God!
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You, Father. You have given me Your Son to be my Lord and Savior. You sent me Your Spirit to live in my heart and draw me to You. You sent Jesus to live and die for me. Thank You, thank You, thank You!
Holy Spirit, You are worthy of all my thanksgiving and praise. You live in me and with me to fill me with God. You teach me all that I need to know to be saved, to live in this world, and to prepare for God’s Kingdom. Please accept this poor offering of gratitude.
Precious Jesus, You have laid down your life for me and for all the saved, past, present and future. The scope of Your loving sacrifice is astounding. The fact that You included me causes my heart to overflow with gratefulness.
Holy, Lord, You have given me the victory over sin, death and temptation. Thank You! You have given me the wisdom to incorporate You in my daily thinking. Thank You. You have made me aware of Your pathway through this troubled world. Thank You!
You have shown me that I have a blessed future in the days months or years to come in this world. Thank You!
You have promised me eternal blessedness in Your presence, basking in the ocean of Your love, striding deeper into Your wisdom, running inexhaustibly in greater and further service for You. Thank You!
My Gracious Lord, Allow my thanks be an ever- flowing stream from my heart to Yours. Stir in me depths of profound gratitude. I would be worthy of Your generosity and the untold riches of Your Gifts.
You, Magnificent Lord God are worthy of all honor majesty, wisdom, glory, power, might, blessing and thanksgiving.
I praise You from the rising of the sun to its setting. I magnify Your name in my prayers and praising. I am caught up in the glory that is You. Your majesty is brilliant beyond my ability to comprehend it. Your blessings are myriad. They are uncountable for me. Open my spirit to contain more of You. Enlarge my heart to pour out Your blessings on those around me that are needy.
You have given me the magnificent gift of Life Eternal. Thank You! You have given me the Fruit of the Spirit. Thank You! You have given me the privilege of serving You through the power of the ministry gifts. Thank You!
Holy Lord God, You are purging me from sin and fleshly appetites. Thank You! You are transforming my mind into the mind of Christ. Thank You! You are maturing me in Christ to the measure of the stature of the fullness of my Savior. Thank You!
Hallelujah! My Lord and King! Hallelujah! My Savior and King! Hallelujah! My Teacher and King!
I humbly bow in worship. I eagerly stand to Your service. I pledge my love to you throughout eternity.Glory be to God Most Holy. I praise and magnify Your gracious love for me and rejoice in my love for You!
To the Glory of Christ my Lord! Amen!