Devotions By Jan


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The Little Drummer Boy

Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your strength.”

The Little Drummer Boy is one of the more recently written classic carols.  It was originally a Czech song entitled, “Carol of the Drum.”  Translated by Katherine Davis in 1941, and later modified with the help of Henry Simeone and Henry Onorati, it was first performed in 1958.  It made the top 40 list for five years in a row, establishing itself as a well-loved classic.  The repetition of the “rum pum pum” twenty one times makes it  a very rhythmic song to which “the ox and lamb kept time!”

I cannot imagine Mary allowing the drummer to play his drum for Jesus when he asked!  What mother would appreciate such a loud intrusive sound startling her baby?  But I love the sentiment of this song.  The drummer boy is poor and has no gift to bring the newborn King.  Even so he wants to honor Him.  So he uses his talent as a gift, and is rewarded with a smile from the baby Jesus.

Today’s verse encompasses all of what Jesus wants from us today.  He quite simply wants it all;  all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our strength.  There is no other gift more appropriate after everything He has given us!  When we love Him in return with our entire being, it honors Him more than any show of a costly gift.

To give the Lord my all is a life-long challenge.  But every Christmas I am reminded that this is what Jesus did for me when He stooped to earth to redeem me.  How can I hold back anything?  Amid all the gift giving this Christmas, I want to give my all to Him and see His smile.

Lord, may the gift of my heart be pleasing to You.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2016)


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Upside Down Tree

Scripture for Today: II Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

Does anyone else feel that this sort of tree would be appropriate for Christmas this year? There was a time when the upside down Christmas tree was all the rage (and judging from this advertisement from Wayfair, they are still available!) I would see them decked out and hanging from the ceiling in boutiques. Aside from the fact that bumping my head was a possibility, the logic of something being top heavy escapes me! But logic may not be important here. Maybe it is all about how something looks! And Christmas looks a lot different this year.

Today’s verse puts the accent where it belongs. And it is not on how we decorate, what foods we enjoy nor what gifts we exchange. Christmas first and foremost is about the gift of Christ. What a pivotal moment in history this was, that God would humble Himself and enter our world as a baby!  At that instant, everything changed.  From the courts of Heaven He lowered Himself into our messy world to redeem us.  He brought light and life to a hopeless hurting world.  And He did it out of love for each of us!

It does seem to be a messy world right now. For a variety of reasons, divisions run deep in families. Disappointments and dashed hopes mark the Christmas season for many. The usual distraction of concerts, parties and even family gatherings have been stripped away. But what remains is a baby in a manger. What remains is an indescribable Gift. The truth of Christmas can never be stripped away. We celebrate His first coming. We look forward to His second coming. And before too long, He will be asking each of His children to come home.

Lord, the gift of Yourself is indescribable.


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Mistletoe

Scripture for Today: Romans 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.”

Today is our 42nd wedding anniversary and no one needs to remind us to kiss today! But this mistletoe has long been associated with kissing. It seems strange as it is just a parasitic plant feeding off its host tree. But kissing under mistletoe has been part of Christmas tradition since the 18th century. In fact, it goes much further back having supposed magical powers to fend off evil spirits! I prefer the idea of love and romance!

Today’s verse tells us that believers are to warmly greet one another. The custom then was to greet with a chaste kiss. This custom continues today around the world. After more than three decades in France, I am accustomed to greeting others with a kiss on the cheek. It could be twice, three times or four depending on the region. But the idea is to acknowledge one another’s presence and make the other feel loved and important in whatever way is socially acceptable. In these days of hyper-sensitivity to germs, the elbow tap or fist bump has become another way to greet.

That warm greeting is so important. I love it when churches actually have folks at the entrance who officially greet you with that smile and handshake. We need to affirm one another and show genuine interest. We are all members of the same “body” of Christ and we need each other. My problem is that I am so centered on myself and my own needs. I forget that we all have the same need to be encouraged. It takes such little effort to greet as we should, but how much it can do to lift one’s spirit!

Thank you Lord, for mutual encouragement!


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A Smiling Angel

Scripture for Today:  Luke 2:10-11 “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'”

Does it seem bizarre to think of an angel as smiling?  Unlike all the other angel sculptures on the facade of the cathedral in Rheims, France, this one does!  She has stood there smiling since the 13th century.  She continues to smile even though she was bombed in World War I and needed restoration.  Despite destruction and death, she remains a symbol of victory and joy.

Today’s verse was spoken by an angel to the shepherds in the field, announcing the birth of a Savior.  He announces this good news as “great joy.”  How could he not smile in delivering this message?  This is a joy that will be for all the people, in fact for all the world.  The carol, Joy To The World, captures clearly the reason for our joy; the story of our redemption.  This carol, attributed to Isaac Watts in 1719, is exuberant and victorious, ending with Christ’s triumphal return.

We sing Joy to the World as a Christmas carol but it was not written for that purpose as it is a song that celebrates the end of the story; Christ’s victory over sin and death.  And He is not only a Savior, but He is my personal Savior.  Despite the turmoil of this world around me, there is hope for a brighter tomorrow because of what He has done!  He gives me a deep joy, being confident of His plan.  One day He will “rule the world with truth and grace.”

Thank you Lord, for Your first coming, and for the one to come!


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Gift Exchange

Scripture for Today:  Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.”

I love a Christmas party when there are gifts involved!  Whether it be an ornament exchange or even a white elephant exchange, there is the anticipation of bringing home something different or unexpected.  The only problem for me comes when I bring home something a whole lot nicer than what I brought!

Today’s verse teaches that there is nothing we can exchange with God for our salvation.  Very clearly it states that salvation does not come through our work or efforts.  We want to think that somehow, something we did contributed to being saved.  But no matter how hard one works to earn Heaven, man will always fall short of the perfect standard of God’s holiness.  Trying to exchange our righteous deeds for His free gift of salvation does not work.  Those good deeds are just “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).  Salvation is a gift from God.  There is nothing I can offer Him in exchange!  Because this is true, none of us can boast about having anything to do with it!

My gratitude towards God grows by leaps and bounds when I grasp this truth.  It is all grace and it is amazing!  There is tremendous freedom in my spirit to be assured that my salvation depends on Him and not my efforts.  Without this truth, I would always be in a state of fear and worry about my eternal destination.  Putting my faith and trust in what HE did on that cross rather than in what I can do makes my heart light!

Thank you Lord, for Your incredible gift of grace!