Archives For christmas

Dealing with Disappointment

December 2, 2016 — 1 Comment

broken-ornament-by-sally-crossthwaite

In A Christmas Story, young Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun, but his parents’ only response is, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” All the adults in Ralphie’s life seem united in keeping him from this dream.

Even his teacher at school seems intent on dashing his hopes for a Red Ryder BB gun.

Have you ever not gotten what you really wanted?

I asked some people on Facebook to share the most disappointing gift they’ve ever received on Christmas as a child or an adult.

Jani B.—A hockey jersey that was 10 sizes too big #fail #didimentionidontlikehockey

Gary C.—A Christmas Card reminding me how much I owed someone.

Mark S.—Senior in high school… luggage.

Larry M.—I bought my wife an electric razor. Helpful tip: don’t do that.

Megan B.—Every year… my Grandma would wrap up and give us the freebies she received in the mail from TBN. I mean, I had all the free southern gospel music I could handle. Along with key chains, books, note pads & calendars….I should add… one year my sisters and I wrapped them all up and gave them back. I’ve never seen Grandma laugh harder. It was a grand Christmas

Steve L.—My aunt packed a sweater in a box that had contained a really cool truck (evidently given to someone else). My excitement upon unwrapping it quickly turned to utter hopeless disappointment. I am still not over it.

Donna R.—My Grandma would crochet these socks every year. They were pretty and warm but they hurt the bottom of your feet to walk in. Try walking on rocks while smiling at Grandma so you wouldn’t hurt her feelings

Aaron W.—True story. My aunt (moms sister) got my brother a cool star wars toy. She forgot me, so she sent my cousin eric out to the car. She wrapped and gave me…wait for it…a used, faded, cracked gloria estefan cassette tape from her car. I died a little inside.

Austin J.—A block of wood.

Stephany (my assistant and Austin’s mom) said Austin repeated himself all Christmas, “I got wood.”

Tammy D.—My mom made me a Christmas sweater with an appliqué of a cat on it decked out with a bow and bell. I am deathly allergic to cats and Christmas sweaters.

Tammy can relate to Ralphie in this scene.

Who hasn’t found themselves holding a bunny suit when you wanted to hold a Red Ryder BB Gun?

Who hasn’t been disappointed at some point in life?

So, I’m reading Luke from a copy of The Message and I read this:

1 1-4 So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.

5-7 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

Zachariah and Elizabeth didn’t deserve this.

They lived honorable lives.
They kept the commands of God.
They enjoyed a clear conscience before God.

Yet, they were old and childless.
Anyone here discouraged about getting older?
Anyone here ever dealt with infertility?

Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

What do you do in the midst of disappointment?

Pity party?
Stay in bed?
Unfriend people?

Zachariah gives us a good example of how to deal with disappointment.

Zachariah went to work.

8-12 It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering.

This is a good example of what we can do when we are facing disappointment.

Keep serving.
He was a priest, so he went to work, serving God.
Do you serve God to be blessed by God or do you serve God because you’ve been blessed by God?

Keep seeking.
Here’s what the temple looked like in the time of Jesus:

herod-560x657
The High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies only one day a year—the Day of Atonement.

The Holy Place (where Zachariah entered) was on this side of the curtain and it contained the lamp stand, the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense.

Zachariah was disappointed, yet he still went into the Lord’s presence.

What keeps you from seeking the Lord?
Pain?
Anger?
Hurt feelings?
Disappointment?

Nothing was going to keep Zachariah from seeking the Lord and nothing was going to keep the Lord from seeking Zachariah!

Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.

4 things:
1) Angels are terrifying beings, not sweet little Precious Moments Baby-Like beings.

2) I wonder how many times we’ve missed an unannounced visit of the Lord because we chose not to seek Him?

3) God is not unaware of our suffering.

4) God hears our prayers.

13-15 But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

15-17 “He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

This promise is very specific.
A son.
Named John.
Zachariah will leap (he’s an old man).
Many will delight in his birth.
John will do great things for God.
He’ll not drink wine or beer (like the Nazirites).
He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit as he leaves the womb.
He will prepare the way for Christ’s ministry.

What do we learn from this?
God is powerful.
God is purposeful.
God is passionate about lost people.

And remember…this all came out of the prayers of disappointed people.

They also had doubts.

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

You’re going to see that God’s answer to that question is: Yes!

God expects us to believe that He can do what He says He can do.

Jesus teaches the same thing when He confronts the disciples for having “little faith.”

Remember when Jesus and the disciples were on a boat at night. Jesus was sleeping and a storm came up and the disciples started freaking out.

Matthew 8:23-27
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

“What sort of man is this?”
He’s the Son of God and He can do unbelievable things!

Do you know that God can do unbelievable things?

Are you asking God to do unbelievable things in your life?
Do you need help? Ask God.
Do you need healing? Ask God.
Do you need direction? Ask God.
Do you need financial help? Ask God.

Let’s have big faith not little faith.

I heard Matt Chandler say this is a sermon recently, “God may say ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘wait,’ but He will never say, ‘I can’t.'”

When God intends to make something wonderful, He begins with something difficult. When He wants to make something miraculous, He begins with something impossible.—Lord Coggin, Archbishop of Canterbury

Does God expect us to believe this? Yes!

19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

Well, God was a bit annoyed with Zachariah’s little faith so he made it so he couldn’t talk.

Side note: I don’t want you wives praying for God to silence your husbands! 🙂

Side note: If you do, don’t get mad when your husband prays that you’ll get pregnant at an old age.

Silence seems to be so rare these days.
Silence is a great spiritual discipline.

Do you have any time when you are silent?

When we are silent before the Lord it helps us to…

Hear more clearly
I’ve found that when I’m disappointed, I hear a lot of things that aren’t helpful.

I hear my own crying.
I hear my own justifications and rationalizations.
I hear horrible advice from well-meaning friends.

Jesus knew the importance of being silent so He could hear His Father more clearly.

Luke 5:16
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Speak more effectively
When we’ve been silent before the Lord, we learn more about the Lord so we have more to say that is meaningful.

Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.

But, if we’ve not been silent before the Lord and heard Him, what do we know?
Only what we see.
Only what we feel.
Only what we know…which isn’t really that much compared to God’s perspective.

Zachariah had more influence over the people because they knew that he had been in the presence of the Lord.

21-22 Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.

23-25 When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy. “So, this is how God acts to remedy my unfortunate condition!” she said.

26-28 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary.

We’ll all be focused on that part of the story for the next few weeks, but–for now–back to this story.

57-58 When Elizabeth was full-term in her pregnancy, she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.

Disappointment can make us self-centered.
If we give into that temptation and throw a pity-party, we miss the opportunity to see God use our pain to bless others.

Her neighbors and relatives were able to party (celebrate) with Elizabeth because she refused to throw a pity-party for one.

59-60 On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah after his father. But his mother intervened: “No. He is to be called John.”

I find this scene very funny.

Our relatives and friends just need to stay out of the baby naming process. They’re not that good at naming Our kids. Really Zachariah? You want to call him, “Zachariah”? Very creative!

Mama always wins when it comes to naming the baby. 🙂

God’s will should always win. God already said that the boy’s name was going to be “John.”

61-62 “But,” they said, “no one in your family is named that.” They used sign language to ask Zachariah what he wanted him named.
63-64 Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.” That took everyone by surprise. Surprise followed surprise—Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!

What would have been the first thing you would have done after not being able to talk for over 9 months and it was the Lord who took away your ability to speak and forced you to learn sign language?

Would you pout or praise?

Pout or Praise?

We can pout or we can praise and Zachariah is praising God because He’s experienced the power of God.

65-66 A deep, reverential fear settled over the neighborhood, and in all that Judean hill country people talked about nothing else. Everyone who heard about it took it to heart, wondering, “What will become of this child? Clearly, God has his hand in this.”

When we are disappointed, do people feel pity for us or praise for God?

We’re all going to be disappointed sometime or another.

Do we want to be pitied or do we want God to be praised?

Pity or Praise?

God longs to be praised, so—if we will let Him have control—He will lead us to praise Him.

I love how Zachariah allows God to speak prophesy and praise through him.

Look at what his and Elizabeth’s disappointment what transformed into:

67-79 Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
    he came and set his people free.

Bondage to disappointment is transformed into praise for Freedom.

He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives,

Death at the hand of disappointment is transformed into praise for Salvation.
    and in the very house of David his servant,
Just as he promised long ago
    through the preaching of his holy prophets:
Deliverance from our enemies
    and every hateful hand;

Enslavement to disappointment is transformed into praise for Deliverance.

Mercy to our fathers,
    as he remembers to do what he said he’d do,
What he swore to our father Abraham—
    a clean rescue from the enemy camp,
So we can worship him without a care in the world,
    made holy before him as long as we live.

Doubts about whether disappointment will ever end is transformed into praise for the fact that God keeps His Promises.

RueBea R. shared this with me:
(parents are divorced) one year my dad said he was going to pick me up and take me to see the Christmas lights around town. I waited by the window to see when he pulled into the driveway- ended up waiting all night and fell asleep there because he never came. I didn’t get to see the lights that year either. #disappointment

She is a part of Journey and praises God with us because God is a Father who keeps his promises.

And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,”
    will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
Present the offer of salvation to his people,
    the forgiveness of their sins.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
    God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
    those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
    down the path of peace.

Disappointment about unfulfilled dreams is transformed into praise to God for a brand new Destiny through an unexpected son.
Back to A Christmas Story….
At the end of the movie, Ralphie is resolved that he’s not getting a Red Ryder BB Gun and then this happens.

Now, I can’t promise you a Red Ryder BB Gun, but I can promise you this:

God hears your prayers.
He knows all about your disappointments.
He loves you.
And, He’ll never give you a block of wood, a cat sweater, or a Bunny Suit, so He’s definitely worthy of our praise this Christmas.

©2016 Arron Chambers

Advertisements

Kaitlyn’s Gift

December 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

The response to my last post has been so positive, I thought I’d share at least one more Christmas story and devotion from my book, Scripture to Live By.

This is a great story by the well-known author, Kim Vogel Sawyer. She is a gifted story-teller and I’m still so grateful she agreed to submit a story for my book.

Author, Kim Vogel Sawyer

Author, Kim Vogel Sawyer

Kaitlyn’s Gift

By Kim Vogel Sawyer

“Mommy, what is that talking about?”

I looked over the edge of the kitchen counter to my daughter, who pointed at the television. A commercial played, advertising the 1993 Toys for Tots campaign.

Coming around the counter to stand beside her, I explained. “Those soldiers are asking for people to give toys to them. Then, on Christmas Eve, they’ll give the toys to boys and girls who otherwise wouldn’t get any presents for Christmas.”

Kaitlyn’s blue eyes widened as she peered up at me in dismay. “Some kids don’t get presents?”

I shook my head, smoothing her wispy blonde hair from her face. “That’s right, punkin. Some kids aren’t as lucky as you.”

I watched Kaitlyn process this information. Small for her age, having come into the world a bit ahead of schedule, Kaitlyn had nonetheless always had a big heart. I could see she was troubled at the thought of children not receiving Christmas presents. To reassure her, I said, “Don’t worry about it, sweetheart. That’s why they have Toys for Tots—to make sure nobody gets left out at Christmastime.”

That night, as Kaitlyn said her bedtime prayers, she added a postscript: “And God, about those kids who don’t get presents…, could you make sure people give a whole bunch of toys so every kid will get a Christmas present?”

Every night for the next two weeks Kaitlyn made that same prayer. My heart thrilled at the tenderness being expressed through her innocent prayer, and I found myself sending up the same petition when I went to bed at night.

December 10th, a week before Kaitlyn’s seventh birthday, she hopped through the door after school and pulled herself onto the breakfast barstool for her snack. Her mouth full of peanut butter cookies, she asked, “Mommy, can I invite my whole class to my birthday party?”

“Everybody? Not just the girls?”

“No. I want the girls and the boys, too.”

I sent her a teasing wink. “Oh, I know why you want lots of kids at your party.”

She sat up straight, her expression expectant. “You do?”

“Mm-hm. You just want lots of birthday presents.”

Immediately her little face clouded. She climbed down from the stool and disappeared into her bedroom. Assuming I had hurt her feelings in some way, I followed her. She sat on the edge of her bed, her head down.

I sat down beside her and put my around her small shoulders. “What’s the matter, punkin?”

Kaitlyn looked up at me. Tears glistened in the corners of her eyes, making her sky blue eyes appear even brighter. “I don’t want any more presents for me. I have lots of toys already. But can I ask my friends to bring a present for that Toys for Tots thing?” For a moment, she seemed uncertain. “I prayed for God to give those kids toys. Do you think it’s okay if I help?”

Tears stung my eyes as I gave Kaitlyn a hug. “Honey, I think God would be delighted for you to help.” I knew the Toys for Tots campaign was nearing its end. I wasn’t sure if they would still collect toys after Kaitlyn’s birthday. “Do you want me to call and find out if the soldiers need some more toys?”

She nodded with enthusiasm. “Yes!”

Kaitlyn was at school the next day. I called the Army Reserves Armory in nearby McPherson, the nearest collection point.

“We generally don’t receive toys after December 16th, ma’am,” the voice on the other end told me.

My heart sank. Kaitlyn’s birthday was the 17th, and if we had her party on her birthday as we’d planned, we wouldn’t be able to deliver the toys until the 18th of December. I couldn’t bear facing my daughter’s disappointment. Breathing a silent prayer, I asked, “Could you possibly make an exception?” I explained what Kaitlyn wanted to do. The voice asked if I could hold, and it seemed I waited an interminable amount of time until someone returned to the telephone.

“Ma’am? What time could you be here on the 18th?”

“Not until after five, probably,” I said, almost holding my breath.

There was another pause as I prayed inwardly—Please, God, please, please. Kaitlyn will be so crushed—and finally the person said, “I tell you what. I’ll stick around that afternoon so I can let you in.”

“Oh, thank you.” My breath whooshed out with the words. “And bless you!”

Together, Kaitlyn and I designed birthday invitations. In crayon, Kaitlyn painstakingly wrote on the bottom of each invitation, “Bring one unwrapped gift for a boy or girl for Toys for Tots (not for Kaitlyn).” She followed the line of instruction with a smiley face.

She handed the invitations to every classmate during recess at school the next day. At suppertime, I asked if her friends were excited about her party.

“They all want to come, Mommy! That means seventeen presents.” Then she paused, her brow furrowed. “But it will be eighteen if I buy a present, too.”

I laughed. “Okay, we’ll buy you a present, too, to give away.”

She grinned her thanks.

The day of her party, Kaitlyn squealed with delight at every toy that was carried through the door. She deposited the cars, dolls, coloring books, games, and stuffed animals in big boxes, which we had decorated with Christmas wrapping paper and bows. With each delivery, she announced, her eyes shining, “Won’t those kids be surprised?”

The morning after her birthday, she and I loaded the boxes into the back of our van and drove to the Armory. Three volunteers greeted us.

“Hello!” Kaitlyn chirped, beaming her toothless smile as she bounced through the doors with her arms full. “Look! These are my birthday presents, but you can have them. They’re for those kids for Christmas.” She hummed as she helped the volunteers arrange her gifts on tabletops scattered with every variety of toy.

Kaitlyn walked between the rows of tables, pointing to the piles of unwrapped toys, her blue eyes wide with wonder. “Look at all these presents, Mommy. I bet every kid gets a present now.”

“I’ll bet you’re right, punkin.” How it lifted my heart to see Kaitlyn in action, her joy so obvious at the opportunity to give.

Before we left, Kaitlyn gave each of the volunteers a hug and wished them a merry Christmas. All the way home, she jabbered about what she’d seen—the abundance of toys awaiting delivery to boys and girls. She seemed awed by the number of presents. “Where did they all come from?” she asked.

“Well, just like you gave presents, other people gave presents, too. Lots of people brought in toys for those boys and girls.”

She nodded, satisfied with my answer. That night, when she knelt for her prayers, she said, “God, thank you for the people who gave all those toys. Give them a hug for me, would you, please? And thank you that all the boys and girls will have a good Christmas now.”

When I went to bed that night, I gave God thanks, too—for the others who had generously given so a needy child might enjoy a gift on Christmas morning, but mostly for Kaitlyn, my precious little girl who could see beyond selfishness to the joy of giving. “God, bless Kaitlyn….”

On Doing “I Love You”…For Your Consideration

by Arron Chambers

I John 3:16-18

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “That’s easier said than done.”

So many things in life are easier said than done:

“Dad, I want to learn how to ride my bike.”

“When I grow up I want to be a doctor.”

“Let’s get married.”

“Let’s have a baby.”

“Of course, I can handle watching all four kids on Saturday while you’re at the “Women’s Retreat.”

“I’m going to start exercising tomorrow morning.”

“I’m going to have daily devotions for the next thirty days.”

“I think it’s time for us to start going to church, again.”

“Yes, your parents can stay with us for a month this summer.”

Mother of fourteen-year-old girl: “Honey, can you go in there and find out why your daughter is crying?” Father of aforementioned fourteen-year-old girl: “No problem.”

“I love you.”

Love is easier said than done. Twenty-four years ago, I stood at the altar, looked at my lovely bride, and said, “I love you.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the easy part—saying, “I love you.”

Doing, “I love you,” is hard work and sometimes not that fun. Doing, “I love you,” requires sacrifice, patience, compromise, communication, selflessness, serving, commitment, in-laws, “I’m sorry,” and changing diapers when it’s your turn!

Knowing this, the Apostle John, points to Jesus as the perfect example of doing, “I love you.” John says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” Jesus spoke a message of love each day of his life, but never was his love as clearly communicated as it was on the cross. Christ’s words about love—his stories, his sermons, his prayers—describe love clearly, but his death defined true love once and for all time.

Saying, “I love you,” is easy—it doesn’t require sacrifice, effort, time, commitment, a marriage license, a cross, or a birthday party for needy kids.

But, doing, “I love you,” makes us more like Jesus . . . and Kaitlyn.

©2014 Arron Chambers

This post is an excerpt from my book, Scripture to Live By. In that book I accumulated stories from various authors and added a devotion to each story. This is one of my favorites from the book…and not just because my sister Leslie wrote it.

I hope this story “changes” your Christmas for the better.–Arron

Scriptures Cover

Change Through a Manger

By Leslie Wood

Don’t you just love Christmastime? All the decorations, wonderful songs, and poignant movies?

My childhood Christmas memories were filled with happy times with family and friends. I can remember riding on the church bus, caroling to our friends and neighbors. One year, we went to see the “Nutcracker” on Christmas Eve. Another year, we saw the movie Oliver! Cutting down our Christmas tree was always an exciting time, because it marked the beginning of the holiday season. When I became a mom, I had dreams of creating special memories with my own children, although, this particular event can’t really be described as beautiful or special. It was just—well, just bizarre.

It was the Christmas of 2000. We had been living in Stafford, Virginia, for about four years. Our church did not have a building, so we were meeting in a middle school gymnasium. Because we had church in a gym, it was often difficult to create those special, beautiful memories that I remember as a child.

Christmas Eve services offered a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the community and to   the church family with the message of Jesus’s birth. In fact, the Christmas Eve service is an easy opportunity to reach out to the community. It takes a lot to mess up a Christmas Eve Service. After all, it’s Christmas—right?

Well, that year we decided we would put a manger up in the front to allow our church people to participate in giving to others less fortunate. Everyone could either bring in non-perishable food items or a monetary gift to put in the manger. We envisioned a deeply meaningful time of sharing and giving—a truly wonderful memory in the making. Oh, it was a memory in the making, all right.

The evening of December 24th arrived.

Earlier that day, we had gone to the Rain Forest Café in Northern Virginia, which had become a tradition in our family. My twins, Connor and Taylor, who were just five at the time, and my daughter Kendall, who was two, were so excited! Not only was it Jesus’s birthday tonight, it also was the night a present could be opened. To add to the fun, we had my aunt and uncle from Florida visiting for the evening. They were on their way to Williamsburg and had decided to come up for our service. So anticipating a wonderful time, we bundled the kids up and headed for the church.

As we walked in, the candles were burning and beautiful music was playing. We found a seat on the last row, because as always, we came in at the last-minute (Did I tell you I have three kids?) My husband, the minister, spoke and prepared our hearts for the time of giving. I wish I had been prepared. I, of course, had forgotten to bring canned goods with me, and only remembered after we sat down that I was supposed to have brought something to put in the manger. My kids, who could sense my concern, leaned over to me and asked, “Mommy, what are we going to put in the manger?” I froze in panic and started digging in my wallet and the bottom of my purse for money, which is where all my loose change always ended up. Wouldn’t you know it? I had no bills with me, only change. If I had stopped to think about it, I probably would have stayed in my seat. Being the minister’s wife, I knew that my absence from participating would be noticed, especially by my children, so we proceeded to make my way to the front.

Most everyone else had already put gifts in the manger, so now it was our turn. Upon approaching the manger, I looked down and realized that the manger had big open slats in the side. Too late. My two-year-old daughter enthusiastically threw her money in, and down and out it went. Before I could warn the other two, their change dropped into the manger, fell out and proceeded to roll across the gym floor. Luckily, the beautiful song being sung drowned out the sounds of coins hitting and rolling across the basketball floor. Before I could grab him, my industrious son, Connor, crawled under the manger, rescued some of the money and said—loudly—“Mommy, I found some!” He then threw it in again and well, you know what happened.

By this time, I wanted to throw myself under the manger with my son, who was once again under the manger trying to rescue the money for Baby Jesus. I looked behind me and the entire front row was on the verge of hysterics. I thought, at the time, that we might have to perform CPR on more than a few of them. To the sounds of hushed laughter and “O Holy Night” I grabbed my kids and quickly walked back to our seats, which as you remember, were on the last row.

I wish that I had been prepared to give my gift. If I had just put three or four dollars in my wallet, there would have been no need to be ashamed or embarrassed about my gift. My intentions were good, but like so many times before, I hadn’t given my best.

I would have preferred not to stop at our seats, but head on out the door and home, but we didn’t. We sat down, grateful for God’s love and his grace . . . and for His manger.

On Re-Gifting…For Your Consideration

by Arron Chambers

Matthew 26:6-13

6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

She had been forever changed, so she responded with an act that will be remembered forever.

Now, I feel safe with you , so I feel like it’s OK to confess to you that I re-gifted once. Do you know what that is? It’s when you give a gift to someone that once was given to you. It was a glass candy dish we received for our wedding. It was beautiful, but my wife and I saw no future for that dish in our lives, so when we were guests at a wedding a couple of years later and a few dozen dollars below the poverty line, we decided to look for a gift a little closer to home. So we went to the closet and selected the nice glass bowl and the box that had never been opened.

I still regret re-gifting.

Those people deserved our best—or at least something on sale at Walmart. We spent nothing on them. What does that say about us? What does that say about them?

I wouldn’t re-gift my brother.

I wouldn’t re-gift my mom.

I wouldn’t even re-gift my mother-in-law, nor would I suggest it.

And, I definitely wouldn’t re-gift Jesus.

He deserves the best we have, not some afterthought we find way back in some corner of our closet.

That’s exactly what Mary thought, too.

Not THAT Mary. The other Mary.

We all know that Mary, the mother of our Jesus, was forever changed by the manger, but did you know that there was another Mary who was changed by the manger?

Matthew doesn’t name the woman who gave Jesus an amazing gift at the home of Simon the Leper, but John tells us that her name was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (John 12:1-8). This Mary wasn’t there when Jesus inhaled air for the first time, but she was there when Jesus called her brothers name, “Lazarus!” and he began to inhale air for the first time—again. She saw his power, his love, and his tears. She loves him. He saved her brother and he saved her, too.

She wasn’t there to give him a gift at his birth, but she is here—and Jesus is here—and she wants to give him a gift before his death robs her of the opportunity, so she gives him one of the best gifts in the history of gifts.

As Jesus reclined at the table Mary, poured very expensive perfume on Christ’s head. It was worth about a year’s wages, so, by today’s standards, she poured about $30,000 worth of perfume on Christ’s head.

The disciples, led by Judas, were beside themselves, “Why this waste?” they asked.

I bet Judas was a re-gifter.

Judas, and the other disciples, didn’t understand the extravagance of the gift. It appeared to be too much. Surely, Jesus, knowing the number of poor people sitting on street corners and beside wells in Jerusalem, would rebuke this senseless waste of money.

No.

Wrong.

Just the opposite.

Jesus praised her and promised that, “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Why? Jesus praised her because she gave him her best. She did what we all should do. The manger changed everything for us. It’s not a prop. It wasn’t a gimmick. It wasn’t a photo-op to help Jesus’ public image. It was a gift.

God loved us so much that He gave us a gift—his son—wrapped carefully in a manger. And the tag on this gift read, “For the World.”

That’s why Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, gave Jesus her best and wasn’t content to just throw loose change in the manger.

Put this post into action by giving Jesus a great gift. Maybe you need to write a large check to your house of worship. Maybe you need to make a donation of new clothes, supplies, or toys to a family who is in need. Maybe God’s been calling you to do something amazing for him. Maybe God’s calling you to do something that your family, or friends, may consider a “waste,” but you know it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it. Make this a wondrous day by giving your best gift to Jesus, now.

©2014 Arron Chambers

This is the sermon I delivered at Journey last Sunday. I’m sharing the entire transcript because I feel it’s an important teaching as we head into Christmas.

——-

Are you ready for Christmas? Do you have all of your gifts already?

If not, maybe this will help.

John 1:1-14

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

I don’t know if you know it or not, but I just read about the best Christmas gift ever.

Let me explain why, but first let me point out a couple of crucially important points.

The birth of Jesus as a baby human was a nuclear collision between Heaven and Earth.

Between now and Christmas we’re going to look deeper into this collision, but let me just make the point today that the birth of Jesus as a baby was the collision of all collisions.

Of this collision, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 53:1-5

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
 and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
 and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

Talk about a collision.  Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be despised, rejected, acquainted with grief, pierced and crushed for our sins.

Jesus is the Word of God.

Words typically become more powerful when they become flesh.

When “I’ll call you” picks up the phone and actually calls you, it is powerful.

When “I’ll help you” shows up at your house with gloves and a moving dolly, it is powerful.

When “If you need anything let me know” shows up at the front door with a casserole, it is powerful.

When “I’ll be praying” grabs your hand and kneels down with you, it is powerful.

When “ I love you” takes a knee and puts a ring on your left hand, it is powerful.

And, when “I love you” puts a baby in a manger and himself on a cross, it is more powerful.

The Greek word used here is “logos” which was common in both Greek philosophy and Jewish thought in that day.

In the Old Testament, this terminology (the “word of God”) is a personification representing the execution of God’s will (Ps. 33:6; 107:20; 119:89; 147:15-18).

In Greek philosophy, the term “logos” was used to describe the bridge between a deity and this world.

So, John is introducing Jesus to the Jews as the living will of God and to the Gentiles as the living bridge between God and this world.

Jesus is God.

Regardless of what Jehovah’s Witnesses say, this passage does not say the “Word was ‘a’ God.”

The New World Translation of the Bible by the Watchtower Society is false and error-laden book and not God’s word. It should be rejected as of no value unless you are repapering a birdcage.

John affirms that Jesus was and is God.

Jesus also affirms this when He says

John 10:30

“I and the Father are one.”

Jesus was with God in the beginning.

He was not created; He’s always been.

His existence did not begin in that manger.

That manger was just the beginning of the next stage of God’s redemptive plan for humankind: the incarnation—God in the flesh.

Jesus created all things.

I believe this.

I believe that this world was created by God and is not the result of a Big Bang, alien experiment, or String theory.

I believe that Adam and Eve were created by Jesus out of the dust of the ground and were made in the image of God and infused with the warm breath of our Lord.

And, for the record, if you believe in the theory of evolution and that Adam and Eve are fictional characters made up by the Jews to make sense of their existence, then I need you to explain to me at some other time why Adam is mentioned by Luke in the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:38), Jude (Jude 1:14), and the Apostle Paul on six occasions (Romans 5:12, 14; I Corinthians 15:22,45; I Timothy 2:13,14).

In referring to how this world began, Paul wrote:

I Timothy 2:13

For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

Why would Paul refer to them as real people if they never existed?

And you’ll need to explain this verse to me:

 I Corinthians 15:22

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

If you reject the biblical account of creation and view Adam as a mythical character, then this verse should concern you, because Paul is clearly teaching that there are two facts when considering our salvation: 1) All of us are lost because of Adam’s sin and 2) All who put their faith in Christ are made alive.

If Adam is mythical, then you’re left with a mythical salvation…and I say “you’re left with a mythical salvation” because I choose to believe that both Adam and Jesus are real.

Jesus is God in the Flesh.

This truth is why Jesus is the greatest gift of all time, so I want to spend the rest of our time together “fleshing” this teaching out.

Let me remind you of what John wrote in John 1:

 John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Ok, so now let me tell you a couple of reasons why this is the greatest gift of all time.

Because Jesus came in the flesh…

He felt what we feel.

We have a God who has felt what we feel.

Jesus had diaper rash, skinned his knees, got splinters, and bled when he cut his finger.

He felt hunger and thirst. He fasted for 40 days in the wilderness.

He felt disappointment. His disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray for him in the garden the night he was arrested.

He felt rejection. The Jews in Jerusalem hollered, “Crucify him!”

He felt abandoned.  On the cross he cried out to his Father, “Why have you forsaken me?”

He felt grief.  He wept when Lazarus died.

He felt pain. He bled while on the cross.

He felt temptation, but he didn’t give in.

Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

He even felt what we should feel.

He felt compassion for hurting people.

He felt joy when lost people were found.

Why is this such a great gift?

Because Jesus came to this world in the flesh, he understands what we’re going through.

This is also such a great gift because…

Jesus experienced what we are going to experience and what we can experience.

Jesus physically died on the cross like we’re all going to physically die—if Jesus doesn’t return in our lifetime.

This is so important, the Apostle Paul includes this in what the Christians called “the kerygma”—the “center” or “core” of the Gospel.

I Corinthians 15:1-6

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

Jesus had a body and that body died on the cross and then that body rose again from the dead.

This is crucially important.

Why?

Let me give you some background.

Gnosticism

Greek pagans promoted a teaching called Gnosticism, which taught that flesh is evil and that our spirits are good and that we are only truly saved through knowledge.  The Greeks believed that our spirits are like birds trapped in a cage—the “cage” being our evil bodies.

Docetism

Since Gnostics believed that all flesh was evil, they rejected the belief that Christ had a real physical body.  When Gnosticism came into the Church it began to be called Docetism.  The word “Docetism” comes from the word “docetai” which means “illusionsts.”  Docetics believed that Jesus only appeared to be human—it was only an illusion.

Docetics believed that Jesus didn’t have a real body so he never really died and he never physically rose from the dead.  It was all an illusion.

Docetism was a major controversy in the early church, so much so that Paul devotes a lot of time in combating it.

Let me give you a few examples:

I Corinthians 15:12-22

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Docetism was a huge issue in the City of Colossae, so Paul wrote:

Colossians 1:15-21

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him

 And in Colossians 2, Paul writes

Colossians 2:8,9

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

 And, the Apostle John deals with Docetism too when he writes

I John 4:2,3

 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.

 You see?

Jesus, coming to Earth as a human baby in the flesh, is the greatest gift ever because it means that—if we put our faith in him—when we die we will be physically raised again.

Our flesh is saved because his flesh was saved.

One of the best summations of what John is teaching here comes from Philippians

Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If you call yourself a Christian but don’t believe that Jesus came in the flesh you are a heretic who is embracing Greek paganism and rejecting the word of God himself as expressed through the Apostles John and Paul.

If you are not a Christian and you don’t believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, then you are an unbeliever and I want you to open you heart to the possibility that this baby in the manger is the greatest gift you could ever receive.

I pray that this Christmas you’ll open your heart and receive the greatest gift ever: Jesus.

A little girl had been tucked in bed one night after the family prayers.  It was a stormy night, the lightning flashed across the sky and thunder shook the house.  The youngster endured this as long as possible. Then, she scurried to the living room and threw herself into her mother’s arms exclaiming, “I am afraid.”

The mother quieted the child as she put her back to bed saying, “Remember, honey, God loves you and He will keep you safe.”

But, no sooner had the mother returned to the front room and seated herself comfortably, than the child appeared in the doorway crying, “Mommy, I’m still afraid.”

Mother put the child back to bed telling her, “Honey, you must stay in bed, you are perfectly safe, I told you that God loves you and He will take care of you.”

The little girl replied, “I know God loves me mommy but, when it is thundering and lightning, I want someone with skin on to love me.”

As my mind turns more and more to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus, I find myself profoundly grateful for the gift of Jesus.

I’m so grateful that God loved us so much that He put skin on and came into this world as a baby to save us from our sins.

With all we must face in this life, I want someone with skin on to love me.

What an amazing gift.

Someone With Skin On

November 29, 2012 — 1 Comment

A little girl had been tucked in bed one night after the family prayers.  It was a stormy night, the lightning flashed across the sky and thunder shook the house.  The youngster endured this as long as possible. Then, she scurried to the living room and threw herself into her mother’s arms exclaiming, “I am afraid.”

The mother quieted the child as she put her back to bed saying, “Remember, honey, God loves you and He will keep you safe.”

But, no sooner had the mother returned to the front room and seated herself comfortably, than the child appeared in the doorway crying, “Mommy, I’m still afraid.”

Mother put the child back to bed telling her, “Honey, you must stay in bed, you are perfectly safe, I told you that God loves you and He will take care of you.”

The little girl replied, “I know God loves me mommy but, when it is thundering and lightning, I want someone with skin on to love me.”

As my mind turns more and more to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus, I find myself profoundly grateful for the gift of Jesus.

I’m so grateful that God loved us so much that He put skin on and came into this world as a baby to save us from our sins.

With all we must face in this life, I want someone with skin on to love me.