Devotions By Jan


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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!


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Christmas Colors

Scripture for Today: Psalm 108:4-5 “For great is Your love, higher than the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.”

Credit to G. Lombardi https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1147a/

The Christmas season is all about the red and green.  Anytime I wear these two colors during the year I may hear the comment that I am wearing Christmas colors.  Nature has no such seasonal restrictions!  Red and green are part of the skies as seen in this photo of the “green flash” at sunset.  It is a rare event that few have the privilege of seeing.  This flash of green above the upper rim of the sun’s disk only lasts a few seconds.  Refraction bends the light, the atmosphere working like a weak prism.  I look for it but have yet to see this colorful display.

Today’s verse exalts and praises God for His love, faithfulness and glory.  They are seen in the beauty of the heavens.  From all over the earth one can look up and see His glory in the expanse and resplendence of the sky!  The red and green sky is one more reminder of His faithfulness at Christmas time.  He was faithful to His promise to send salvation in the person of Jesus.  He proved His love in putting on flesh to walk among us.  Jesus is now exalted to the highest place at the right hand of God (Acts 5:31 and Phil. 2:9).  He is higher than the heavens!

His faithful love was shown all over the skies, in the star of Bethlehem and in the appearance of the angels.  He continues to remind me when I am not feeling it.  He lifts my head to look up!  He is faithful and He is love.

Lord, remind me again today.

(Look familiar? This is a repost from 2017.)


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O Christmas Tree

Scripture for Today:Revelation 22:14b “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

Our sweet artificial Christmas tree has been all over the world and is the worst for wear.  Not only has our tree traveled everywhere in its now beat-up box but it is thirty-two years old!  Each Christmas I think will be its last with its frayed and missing branches.  But each year I end up squeezing one more year out of it!  There are so many memories attached to this tree that I cannot bear to part with it.  But someday it will be too ratty and will be thrown away.

Its ironic that there is so much attention given to the Christmas tree.  The description of Heaven in Revelation talks about an eternal tree that stands in the streets of the New Jerusalem.  This is a tree of life that spans a river of life flowing from the throne of God.  Its leaves are for the healing of the nations (verse 2).  The only ones who can enjoy this tree are those whose robes are washed.  This is what the Lord does for the believer, clothing us with a robe of HIS righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).

My Christmas tree is soon put away for hopefully another year.  And for those putting up a live tree, it will eventually droop, dry up and lose its needles.  But the eternal tree of life represents a beauty and joy that will last forever!  The joy and peace I experience over holidays will one day be the every-day-normal!  The curse will be lifted and because I belong to Him, I will enjoy Eden restored!

Thank you Lord, that the birth of Your Son gives me life now and eternally!