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It’s been a tough year. From friends and family members alike 2020 has been a realignment of any shortcomings from troubled times. At least it felt like that.

Health issues seem to sore for those that fill my life with love and affection. Financial woes edged closely to the top of the list for intercession before the Almighty. Heartbreak from loved ones passing drew so many of us closer together.

National malaise and international tensions sucked the joy out of many lives. There was an outcry for encouragement through rendezvous moments at the foot of the cross. It proved to be a salve for unspeakable discouragement.

Wait. If this year’s troubles drove us to prayer. Since our weaknesses found solace in the arms of the Almighty. After discouragement found its way into the unending trust in the sovereign determination of Jehovah, then, maybe 2020 was actually a good year in disguise.

Name those blessings. Name them one by one. See what wonderful things our Amazing God has done! Woohoo!

John 1.14 Jesus, God’s Son, was born on Christmas Day, so that we could live.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

A fragrant lip-smacking breakfast aroma made me feel hungrier than I really was. My buddy’s girlfriend was frantically cooking up a feast. Eggs Benedict, juice, rye toast, apricot marmalade, and fresh fruit topped off the spread. Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake my suspicions. It was almost like “Spidey-senses” were buzzing.

Soon it came in their words, “Would you come and visit our church this Sunday?”

“Sure. I would glad to come.”

It was really her church. They get “points” for bringing visitors. The speaker regaled against the Trinity, espoused Old Testament dietary restrictions, and mocked those who believed Jesus was both God and man.

“What did you think?”

Smiling, I camped on what the Bible says about Jesus being both God and man. John 1.14 was the testimony that I used.

“Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.”

The next day I asked him, “What did you think about that Bible verse?”

His words stunned me, “I think what you think.”

Wow! Just like Christmas his affirmation was a gift. Jesus, the Son of God, came and was born the Son of Man. The birth of Jesus was the historic story of John 1.14. It was the humble birth of God the Son becoming a man.

This is both heady theology yet at the same time remarkable simplicity. Jesus is God’s Son, fully God. Yet, in the miracle of Christmas, Jesus willingly was born as a man. He had to be fully human so that he could die. He was fully God so that his death would be satisfying as a substitute for all of sinful mankind.

My buddy is no theologian. I was biting my tongue to keep from complicating the explanation of this simple verse of Scripture with a long drawn out explanation. I was in awe that it made perfect sense to him just from reading it.

In anticipation of the Easter miracle, Jesus was born to be a sacrificial death for all of us who believe. The great gift of Christmas made the Easter story possible.

Acts 13.23

A perpetual college football powerhouse, the University of Michigan Wolverines, has built a culture of championship activity around the gridiron. Once the coaching staff was all taking note of a unique athlete on the team. He carried himself in every area of his life with an indescribable charisma.

One of the Michigan Assistant Coaches, under famed Bo Schembechler, couldn’t shake his curiosity. He talked to this athlete. With an infectious cheer this collegiate invited the Assistant Coach to a meeting. They rendezvoused at a gathering in a private home. There was a speaker who gave his faith-testimony. Coach Bill McCartney eventually accepted Christ as his personal savior through this ministry of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Coach Mac went on to be the head coach of the University of Colorado Buffalo, ultimately winning a national championship. More importantly, he founded the astounding ministry of Promise Keepers. PK touched millions of men around the world. With God’s help this throng of men vowed to become Promise Keepers, keeping their promises as husbands and fathers.

There is no better Promise Keeper than the Father in heaven. He promised to give the world a Savior, his own unique son, Jesus Christ. Luke recorded this phenomenon in Acts 13.23

“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus,

as he promised.”

This is Paul’s first recorded sermon. It takes place in Pisidian Antioch. Once selections from the Old Testament were read in the synagogue, leaders invited Paul to share a word of encouragement. Paul took the opportunity to survey the history of Israel. He traced this history from Egypt to the Resurrection of Jesus. Couched in the middle of the story, Paul gave central recognition to David. This spawned the natural connection with the Savior, Jesus, born from David’s lineage. This Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise to provide a Messiah. The Father and the Son are promise keepers. Their Word can always be trusted. Christmas is a blessing of the Promise Keeping God and his Son our Savior whom we worship during this special season. Merry Christmas!

reprinted from the Dallas Theological Seminary Christmas Devotional 2019

Christmas 2012 in Texas is a favorite memory. 

If you’re thinking of “a first,” then you are correct.  It was an unforgettable first for our family.  The celebration was spontaneous and sensational.

Our adult children were calling us together so that they could give my bride and me our Christmas gift.  They were unusually eager for me to hurry, but I was busy upstairs getting my camera gear ready.  Eventually, I succumbed to their entreaties, but puzzled at their relentless insistence.

Once I descended the stairs our children were giddy and our daughter gave us the clear instruction, “Look on the Christmas tree for your present.”  Curious and bewildered, Yvonne and I examined our tree.  Everything seemed familiar.

Then, my bride, exclaimed, “Here it is!  What is it?”  She held up a pair of reindeer shoes. 
“They are baby shoes,” I declared.
“What?” Yvonne uttered. 
“What kind of shoes are they, Mom,” our daughter teased. 
“Really?  Are they baby booties?” Yvonne was hopeful but cautious in her enthusiasm.

Then, she lost it completely.  We are going to be grandparents!  Sensational joy broke out!

For many years my wife has been preparing for the day when she could cuddle and love on her own grandchildren.  We had almost given up hope.  Just that morning we saw a baby at the grocery store and we both sighed, “It could be ours.”

Now, the wait was over.  There will be no more moments of gazing and admiring the grandchildren of others.  God is blessing us with our own grandchild!

Christmas is all about a baby. He was the Son of God born of a virgin.  His birth was announced to Mary and she received the news that would change the world forever. 

When the announcement of the baby’s birth came, angels singing and witnesses rejoicing accompanied the exceptional news.  Hope for many generations now would be fulfilled.  Joy filled the earth with the announcement of the birth of a baby, a very special baby.

Luke 1.31 “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”

Christmas is about gifts. Brightly wrapped paper with colorful bows hide wonderful surprises.  Boys and girls squeal, loved ones smile broadly and dear friends deepen their devotion.  While an uncounted number of gifts fill up the pages of history during the Christmas season, there is a treasured story of the first Christmas gifts.

After Jesus was born, He grew into boyhood. The years between were needed for several special unnamed travelers from an unknown country some where in the East (maybe China?) to make the journey to Bethlehem.  In the Bible these visitors are called Magi.  Traditional songs and greeting cards have suggested extra-Biblical ideas that they were kings, wise men or a trio of camel riders.

Precisely we only know that they saw a star from their Eastern country that captivated their attention. They came to investigate. Then, the star reappeared and led them to where Jesus was a young child staying in a home with his earthly parents.  What ensued was an act of worship that was supported by wonderful gifts.  The Magi brought gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.

Yes, the gifts were expensive but very appropriate for a King.  They were also timely gifts.  Soon Jesus and His family would flee for their lives to Egypt and this unexpected windfall would finance their journey. 

The first Christmas gifts elevated the worship to a regal status.  Subsequently, these gifts also bore powerful testimony to the Father’s provision.  He cares for those who are His.  Gifts are a reality of genuine grace in our lives.

Maybe this Christmas our list of gifts should have the first one on our list the one whose birthday we celebrate. Make your gift an expression of your worship to Him.  It will return as a blessing to you. 

Our fourth grandchild was born in April 2020. Our entire family was scheduled to rendezvous for the great welcome party. The Covid pandemic messed up our plans.

For days, then weeks, and finally months, we postponed and ultimately cancelled our trips to this grand meeting. Sadness fell on our family like a dark cloud. Online photos, videos, and face time exchanges had to fill the void.

THEN, a break came through. Relaxed travel restrictions, careful screening, and excellent testing formed a window. Now, our grandson is 9 months old and we shared our first hugs. Now, that’s real joy! Merry Christmas!

Our daughter and son-in-law played a trick on our grandkids. They got them all changed for bed, read them their night time stories, finished with prayers, and tucked them into bed. Then, “SURPRISE!” get you shoes on and grab your jackets. We are going to see the Christmas lights!

Traffic was snail-slow. But, there was a reason. Everyone slowed down in front of the houses that had a sensational display. Bright lights, twinkling strands, and Christmas characters made for a special night out for our family.

Then, the drive home ended with little eyes totally closed and dreams of a fantasyland far far away. Merry Christmas!

Do you remember a time when someone special in your life bared their heart to you. You weren’t expecting it. But, as the words from their lips sank into the depths of your understanding we were left dumbfounded. The impact of their heart was profoundly impactful to us.

Could we mean that much to someone to be the focal point of their care? We never knew that we could hold a position of such high honor in someone’s life. Nevertheless, there we were, the recipients of such wonderful adoration.

Jesus does that same thing about us. Can you imagine? The King of Kings lifts us up to a position of such esteem? The Son of God who transcends all things suddenly plunges through the massive numbers of humanity to look us personally eye to eye and say with all sincerity that we mean everything to him?

He has so many people to watch over. How could each one of us be held in such high regard? Could he love me as if I were the only one on earth? YES! Merry Christmas! Jn16

Grandpas can sit and rest while the next two generations romp and run, right? They are laughing, shouting, teasing, and trying to catch their breath. Youth is exuberant. I love it. More so, I love that they are a part of me. They are my family.

We were out at a local lake just to soak in the sun. That bench had my name on it. So, I thanked it with my repose.

With a smile and urgency I invited the kids to take a lap around the lake and I would watch them soar. That’s all it took. Off they went with squeals and giggles. That’s the sound grandchildren should be making.

It works because I sat there and beamed from the time they left, to the rendezvous across the lake, and kept it up even when the first one came running up to scare Goong Goong. Ha! Too much fun.

Over the years, I have had the privilege to speak to large crowds, teach important classes, and publish many words for posterity. Each of those moments were an honor. I was happy to help others pursue their walk with Christ. Now, I get to be a part of precious lives that are my family experience laughter, smiles, delight, and most of all know the thrill of enjoyment! It’s the best season of living. Joy!

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