Scripture for Today: Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance. kindness, goodness, faithfulness. gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Another Christmas in the books. That warm fuzzy feeling of “goodwill toward men,” unfortunately seems to be over a bit too quickly. The extra attention given and received by family and friends has been wonderful and affirming. But now the tendency is back to business as usual. The routine and obligations of life reassert themselves and somehow the “love, joy and peace” of the season is forgotten. But it was for love that the Son of God came to earth. His coming means that peace is now possible between God and man. Could there ever be a more important reason forjoy?
These same words are part of today’s verse. Love joy and peace are just three of the nine aspects of the fruit of God’s Spirit living in the believer. These are to characterize the life of the one who follows Jesus. The love I have for the Lord is to be extended to others all year long. The peace I enjoy as a result of my communion with Christ is the same peace that carries me throughout the year. And the joy that He gives in knowing my sins are forgiven is a joy that does not falter in the face of trouble.
The ornament pictured says to “believe Christmas.” It is a nice sentiment but the truth is that belief in the Christ of Christmas is what gives me love, joy and peace all the year long!
Thank you Lord, that though Christmas may be over, Your love, joy and peace are not!
Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 5:8 “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
I love the carol, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.” Much of my decorating for Christmas is done in the hopes of making my house seem more “homey.” The right ambiance and the painstaking emphasis on feeling tones are all done with the hopes of creating a sense of HOME. But of course, the important element is the people there to enjoy it! Everything can be in its place. The decorations can be perfect. The right carols can be playing and the air filled with wonderful scents of cinnamon. But without loved ones there, it all falls flat.
Today’s verse expresses Paul’s preference to be “home with the Lord” rather than at home in his body. Even if conditions on this earth were perfect, there would always be a sense that we are not home yet. Paul believed that being home with the Lord is far better than living here on earth. That’s because to be home is to be with Him. HE Himself is our “home.”
There are family and friends of mine already with the Lord. I miss them. But they are home. What is more, they are home for the holidays, in their true home. The holidays they are enjoying far outshine what we can do to celebrate here on earth. No budget, no tiredness, no dashed expectations, no overindulgence! Those in Heaven have no trouble keeping Jesus front and center! It is true, there is no place like home for the holidays. How much more this is true for our eternal home!
May Christ be my “home” during this holiday and every day!
Scripture for Today: Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).”
This image came from a site that provides greetings to friends and families, personalizing them with a name. Immanuel or Emmanuel is not a name I hear too much except in France. There, it is used for boys or for girls but with a different spelling. But in both cases it is often shortened to “Manu.” I cannot hear the name Immanuel without thinking of this verse and its meaning; God with us.
Today’s verse is part of the angel’s message to Joseph. Not only does it reassure Joseph, but the name Immanuel also ties in to a prophecy in Isaiah 7. The wicked King Ahaz was in a tight spot, his reign threatened by two kings. God sent Isaiah with God’s promise to deliver Israel both then and in the future. Despite Ahaz, Judah and David’s line would be preserved through the coming of the Messiah! Because “God is with us” Isaiah says to be careful, keep calm, do not be afraid and do not lose heart (verse 4).
What an amazing message is wrapped up in the name, Immanuel! Because God is with me, I can stay calm, despite what is happening around me or even to me! There is no reason to be fearful because God keeps His Word. He will never leave me or forsake me (Deut. 31:6) even when surrounded by enemies! He will never leave or forsake me when facing financial challenges (Heb. 13:5). His presence is constant so I do not lose heart. I may not understand what is happening but I understand that He is there and He loves me!
Scripture for Today: Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Somehow, this simple nativity scene has survived 17 moves including some transatlantic ones! It has also endured the sticky hands of young children, both my own and my grandchildren! And yet it still comes out of storage every year unscathed. When I start to feel that pressure to decorate perfectly, to display the latest bauble or to create just the right ambiance, I look at this and sigh.
Today’s verse tells us that we do not have to follow the pattern the world has of doing things, including how we celebrate His birth. We have the choice and the freedom to do things differently, to even do things God’s way. And His way is far better. It is good, pleasing and perfect. In belonging to Him, our minds can be renewed through His Word to know and appreciate what His way is.
I want to be intentional this Christmas. It is a challenge to avoid overcommitment and stress. But I so want to resist the pressure to have everything decorated Pinterest style or impress people with my cookie baking skills. The best way I know to celebrate Christmas is to slow down enough to ponder and reflect like Mary did at the birth of her Son. I want to turn my thoughts toward Him of whom the angels sang, and sing to Him myself! And I want to love sacrificially as He did in coming to this earth.
Lord, help me celebrate Your birth in a way that pleases You.