Christmas Blessings to all My Readers
For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
I find myself all wrapped up in wrapping paper and gift bags today. Gift bags simplify the wrapping process but I still enjoy handling a few special gifts for a few special people. Can I find a bow or a decoration that fits the personality of the receiver of a particular gift? What unique way can I wrap some colorful ribbons around a rather plain square box? Christmas is only one week away and I like to have the gifts under the tree ahead of time so I can enjoy looking at the colorful packages under the tree a few days before everything is opened. I need to get wrapping!
I wonder how long it took for God to wrap up His Son as a Christmas present. God did not wrap some tissue paper around Jesus and put him in a bag with pictures of angels on it. God did not find a box just the right size for a little baby, close the lid and wrap it with red or green paper and plop a shiny bow on top. Instead, God wrapped His only begotten Son in human flesh and placed him in a manger. There was no Christmas tree, but thirty-three years later there would be a tree he was placed upon, known to us as the cross.
As I continue to wrap up my Christmas wrapping project, I must make sure that I put the correct name tag on each present so each person receives the correct gift. Some of our grandchildren will be here before Christmas Day and they will be sorting through the packages to find which ones belong to them. Wishfully thinking, they might begin looking at the biggest packages in hopes that they will find their name on one of them. One may even let me know that a cousin’s name is on a bigger present. They do not understand the saying that the best things come in small packages!
When God sent His Son to earth for us, He did not specify by name to whom He was giving this gift. However, Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” When anyone asks Jesus to come into their heart, they receive the gift of eternal life. Although the baby Jesus we see in the manger at Christmas is small, He and what He gives us is the biggest gift possible! In relation to gift giving, I also like what is said in Matthew 7:11, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” God writes His name on His gift for each of us and it is up to us to receive it. It is a good gift and one that should be unwrapped.
My wrapping project is almost complete and ready for the unwrapping project in another week. Even now I wonder if each person will like the gift I have chosen for them. Will they like it? Will they use it? Will it be the correct size and color? I will just have to wait for Christmas Day to find out the answers to these questions.
I wonder what thoughts were going through God’s mind a week before His Son was born as both Son of God and Son of Man. Being an omniscient God, He knew not everyone would receive His Son and the gift of salvation available through believing in Him. My Reader, you and I have the greatest gift available to us not only on Christmas Day, but any day when we choose to accept His gift. If you have not already done so, accept Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord. Unwrap this gift and utilize it every day of your life! You do not need to question if this gift is the correct size or color because God has handcrafted it to fit you and your needs perfectly. I guarantee you will like it and be blessed by it. Accept this gift in the way the Giver has anticipated!
I know Christmas is still a couple of weeks away so maybe I am rushing the season by reading the account of Jesus’ birth in the Bible already, but maybe not. I am making Christmas preparations within our home so it is appropriate that I also prepare my heart to celebrate Christmas. Today as I was reading Luke 2:4-7, I began to think about Joseph and the innkeeper. I focused upon the fact in verse 7 that there was no room in the inn and yet Jesus was still born on the premises of the innkeeper.
When Joseph asked the innkeeper for a room in his dwelling, he was told that the inn was full and there was no room for anyone else. However, the innkeeper did answer Joseph’s request to a degree when he gave this couple, who was soon to be a family of three, a place in his stable. He did not completely ignore Joseph. It would have been nice if Jesus could have been born in the warmth of a cozy room, but a stable was better than an unprotected spot beside the road. If the innkeeper had known who was asking for a room, I wonder if his answer would have been different. What if the innkeeper had known he was closing the door on Emmanuel? What might have happened if the innkeeper would have made room somewhere inside the inn or if he had even given up his own room and allowed Jesus to be born within his heart and home?
It is not Joseph, but Jesus Himself, who each morning stands at the door of my life and knocks asking if I have room in my heart where His will for my day can be given birth and life. I have the choice as to how I will respond. Will I be so busy that I do not even hear the knock at the door? Will I be like the innkeeper over 2000 years ago and give Him only limited access to my life? Or will I totally surrender my day to Him and let Him have control? Jesus desires a place in my heart rather than just a scratchy bed of straw in a manger. Am I like the innkeeper or do I keep Jesus in the center of my life? I really do not want to settle for less than Emmanuel, God with me, this Christmas season.
I guess I need to make my questions even more relevant for my situation today. If Joseph came knocking on our front door today, would I have room in the busyness of my preparing our home for the holidays to invite Joseph and Mary into our home? Would I be aware of Mary’s pregnancy and who the baby was that she was carrying? Would I move aside my boxes of Christmas decorations on the sofa so they could sit down? Would I offer them a cup of coffee and some Christmas cookies I had baked? Would I be sensitive enough to the leading of the Holy Spirit that I would know Jesus was here?
My Reader, what about you? How do you answer the request of Jesus to be born into your life and to reside within your heart? Do you deny his plea for a place of priority in your heart or do you delegate him to a safe place where you can say you have not shunned him and yet you do not unreservedly allow Him to interfere with your personal plans? Jesus wants to be born into your life and to find a place of warmth and acceptance and adoration in your heart. Listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit today and throughout this Christmas season.
Question for the week: Are you an “innkeeper” or an “in keeper” of Jesus?
Today I am taking time to focus upon how blessed I am to have Amy as a part of our family. It was her birthday just a few days ago. I did not have the privilege of giving her the gift of life but she has certainly been a gift to me through her life. My question is whether I should call her my “daughter- in-law” or my “daughter-in-love”? Legally she is my daughter-in-law because she is married to our son. However, I love her for who she is and not because the law tells me I should accept her as part of our family.
My thoughts meander toward a spiritual application of my questions in the previous paragraph. The Old Testament is referred to as the Law and the New Testament represents love through the message of the gospel. In the Old Testament God gives His people the Ten Commandments as a guideline for living. (see Exodus 20:1-17 entitled “The Ten Commandments”) Many of the laws God presented were necessary for health reasons and for the good of the people. These commandments were written on tablets of stone. In the New Testament Jesus answered the question of which was the most important commandment by saying in Mark 12:29-31, “’The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (see Mark 12:28-34 entitled: “The Greatest Commandment”) These commandments are written on the tablets our hearts. The law was cast in stone while love is written in the heart.
The Law given to Moses through the Ten Commandments was good. However, over time man made the Law both legalistic and ritualistic. The Ten Commandments and the other guidelines given in the following chapters of Exodus became binding rather than freeing. When we hear and follow the teachings of Jesus, we gain new guidelines, motives and purposes for living. Listen to Paul explaining this in II Corinthians 3:7-11, “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” Here is freedom from the law rather than bondage to the law.
Ezekiel 11:19 is one of my favorite verses and it fits well with what I am sharing. In this verse the Lord says, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” If my heart is a hardened heart it will represent my life as being bound by the Law of the Ten Commandments written on stone while if my heart is a heart of flesh my life will depict the freedom of being filled with the Holy Spirit. With this freedom, I will be able to love God and my neighbors as stated by Jesus in the two greatest commandments.
Amy may be my daughter because of the law, but she is definitely a daughter I love! I do not consider Amy my daughter simply because the law tells me this is her relationship to me. She is more than a daughter-in-law to me; she is a daughter-in-love. I love her for who she is and I consider it a privilege to be able to have her as my daughter-in-love. II Corinthians 3:3 says, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” Amy exemplifies this verse by the life she lives. When others read the epistle of Amy’s life, they learn about Jesus because of what is in her heart. Her heart is not a stone tablet, but a softened heart filled with the Holy Spirit.
My Reader, as you think about what I have shared today, let me ask you a couple of questions. Do you live your life under the Law or in the freedom of Christ? Is your heart a heart of stone or is it a heart of flesh filled with the Holy Spirit? The 10 Commandments given to Moses had their place in the lives of the Israelites and are still meaningful for us today. However, may the 2 Greatest Commandments given by Jesus be foremost in your hearts and minds.
Even though they are now belated, I continue to extend birthday blessings to Amy, my daughter-in-law who I prefer to consider my daughter-in-love! My Reader, what is your relationship with your family members? Do you have “in-laws” or “in-loves”?