Friday, December 19, 2014

The True Gift of Christmas

For God so loved the world that He gave…
                                           John 3:16  KJV  

     The long-awaited day of both children and child-like hearts seems out of reach for eleven months of the year. Then, almost without warning, it has come and gone!
     Wrapping paper covers the floor like plush thick carpet. Ribbons and bows capture the toes of those brave enough to walk barefoot through their colorful curled trappings while the evidence of too much or for some— too little, leaves behind either dreams fulfilled or longings for that one desired gift.

     But the true gift of Christmas will never disappoint or leave you searching for something more. The true gift of Christmas is God’s bountiful grace, announced to the shepherds, displayed in a manger and eventually delivered to the cross. The true gift of Christmas came down from heaven in the supreme act of love.

     The true gift of Christmas is Light in a dark world. Hope for the hopeless! Healing for the afflicted! Joy for the broken hearted! Peace in the midst of turmoil! Abundance rather than lack! Forgiveness exchanged for unforgiveness! Rescue from a storm-tossed life! Encouragement for the down and out and for the up and out!

     The true gift of Christmas is grace—God’s abundant, over-flowing, never-ending, always available grace. Don’t miss it! Grace is available today! For you! Now! It is grace for living and grace for dying. It is grace for the sunny days and the dark, cloudy, storm-filled days. The true gift of Christmas—For God so loved the world that He gave more than we needed, before we realized we needed it and long after we thought the need had passed.

     The true gift of Christmas—Jesus came to live in the human heart. Open yours! Let Him in! 

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Will You Let Him In

And she gave birth to her firstborn, a
son. She wrapped him in cloths and
placed him in a manger, because there
was no room for them in the inn.
                                Luke 2:7 NIV 

Last year my husband and I took a road trip. We drove through fourteen states on our route to visit with family and friends—some of whom we had not seen in decades. While I was not riding a donkey, there were evenings when a “No Vacancy” sign was the last thing that I wanted to see. I did not want to be invited to sleep in the barn. I wanted a hot shower and a soft clean bed.
My mind cannot fathom the physical and emotional
distress that Mary must have been experiencing as she and Joseph reached Bethlehem and found a no vacancy greeting just in time for the birth of Jesus. Could she have expected at least a warm clean bed in which to birth the Savior of the World? Among the ponderings of her heart, could she have expected the number of times and places where Jesus would be rejected—a “No Vacancy” sign hanging on the hearts of those He encountered.

I wonder if she pondered through the millennia to the places of rejection—homes, battlefields and even churches. I ask myself how much she knew about the coming years of her Son. What did she know about His ministry and His death? What did she feel on resurrection morning? Could her human mind actually comprehend the events of her life and the life of her Son?

While we can only speculate on how much Mary knew and what she felt, there is one thing that we know for sure: “And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Luke 1:38 KJV) Mary gave a resounding yes answer when asked to let Jesus come into her life, and that answer’s impact on the world reaches through eternity.

The innkeeper said no, Judas said no, Pilate said no, and down through the centuries thousands upon thousands have continued to say no—I will not let Him in. But today there is only one question. During this season when we celebrate the birth of the Savior, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will you let Him in?

© Joyce Powell

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What Can I Give the King?

And going into the house they saw the child
with Mary his mother, and they fell down and
worshipped him. Then opening their treasures,
they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense
and myrrh.
                                      Matthew 2:11 ESV 

Shopping lists and hurried phone calls abound during this Christmas celebration season as we make decisions about what to purchase for whom. We make every possible effort to attain the perfect gift for each family member and friend.

As I thought about gifts, I wondered about my gift to the King of Kings. After all, it is HIS birthday that we celebrate. Perhaps an enameled scepter or a purple velvet robe intertwined with threads of gold would be appropriate. Silly—right!

Jesus walked through His ministry time on earth with no visible wealth. He had no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58). He does not want material possessions offered at an altar of sacrifice or brought as a gift. So what can I give the King?

While doing some research, I stumbled across a verse familiar to most church goers. “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22 ESV) And I thought, what if that could be the gift that I give the King—wholeheartedly giving myself to be a “doer” rather than a hearer only.

As Christians, we often like to think that we have it all together; we are doing the right things, saying the right things and behaving the right way. For the most part, I suppose that is true. But I am going to be bold enough to say that there seems to be something missing in most of our lives. Power! Power with God! Power with man! And I have to ask myself why? Perhaps many of us hear the Word and do the Word by habit rather than from the overflow of a heart of love for our Savior.

Perhaps we deceive ourselves into thinking that our efforts to gain God’s favor through good behavior is what He desires when it is really legalistic law following instead of truly immersing ourselves in God’s grace. Perhaps we have not truly plugged into the power of God through prayer.

Do we “act” a certain way because it is expected or because we are so in love with Jesus that we cannot help ourselves. Why do you go to church? Why do you sing in the choir? Why do you teach Sunday School? Why do you serve in the kitchen ministry? Why do you and I do what we do? Legalism vs. Grace—love!

During this busy Christmas season, I am going to take a few moments to ponder those questions.  Like you, I do not have all the answers. Will you join me as together we look into our hearts and search for that perfect gift for Jesus and we ask ourselves—what can I give the King? 

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sing, for the Savior Has Come!

And suddenly there was with
the angel a multitude of the
Heavenly host praising God,
and saying, Glory to God in
the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men.
                 Luke 2:13-14 KJV


Christmas is a time for singing. The Savior has come!
The First Noel the Angel Did Say
Angels We Have Heard on High
Joy to the World! The Lord is Come
O Come, All Ye Faithful
There’s a Song in the Air
Hail, Thou Long-expected Jesus
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Silent Night, Holy Night
Good Christian Men, Rejoice
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Angels, from the Realms of Glory
Away in a Manger
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 

     Be blessed today by remembering the songs of the Christmas season. They sing of a Savior who is born, Christ the King! Let your heart rejoice as you remember the Redeemer! He came to rescue, ransom and redeem! He is Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Today let us sing it in our homes, on our streets, in our churches and around the world. The Savior has come! His name is JESUS!

© Joyce Powell

Friday, December 5, 2014

It's Christmas - Jesus Came

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

And Mary kept all these things and
pondered them in her heart.
                         Luke 2:19 KJV 

     Hustle, bustle, noise, traffic, people everywhere—no place to steal a quiet moment alone with God. Pushing, shoving, snatching the best sale item before it can no longer be found—purchasing becomes the top priority of life.

     Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus—the radio blares the secular until my head wants to explode!

Stop! Be still! It’s Christmas! Jesus came!

     Silent Night, O Holy Night, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear—the world needs to know! It’s Christmas! Jesus came!

     He did not come with golden crown and royal scepter. He did not come with a brick of gold from the streets of home. He did not come wearing a royal robe and ring. He did not come in a manner that made Him easy to pick out from the crowd. He did not come with a written decree hailing the birth of the new king!
     There was a birth announcement—a heavenly decree. It was given to shepherds in a field of sheep. When they rushed to see the new king, they found a baby born in a stable and lying in a manger—not very royal! His garments were swaddling clothes, and His companions were stable animals. Yet the shepherds knew He was special and “made known” what had been told to them about this child. (Luke 2:17 ESV)

       Just as it was when Jesus came, our world is in a mess. Sin abounds. Sin is loud and gets our attention. It is blasted across our radios and televisions so that even in the privacy of our homes we cannot escape it’s clutches, and it seems to grow more brazen day by day—open and shocking with no embarrassment by partakers or viewers.

     If there has ever been a time to be still and ponder the things of God, it is now. Now is the time to “be still and know” that the baby born two thousand years ago is seated on His throne, next to His Father, interceding for those who are willing to accept Him as Savior and Lord.    

     Now is the time to saturate our hearts with the grace of God, ponder the mercy of God and share the love of God with family, friends and neighbors who do not know Him as Savior.

     Now is the time to be still before God, pray for His wisdom, seek His will and share His love! Jesus is the greatest gift ever given. He is the gift we must share. Now is the time to be still—It’s Christmas! Jesus Came!

©Joyce Powell   

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Little Did They Know He Was the King

And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed
him in a manger, because there was no
room for them in the inn.
                                       Luke 2:7 NIV

      My husband and I have three children who now have children of their own. I cannot imagine any of them being born in a barn, laid in a manger, and surrounded by clucking chickens, mooing cows and braying donkeys. Yet God chose that scenario through which to deliver the King of all Creation.

     Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn. Offered the stable instead, they settled in for the night. Lest we forget, God already knew that.

     I can imagine the celebration going on inside the inn as the innkeeper hung the no vacancy sign over the door. A full house provided a good night’s income and he must have jumped for joy at the sound of the coins dancing together as he dropped them in his coin box. I can picture a room filled with men laughing, drinking, and telling the tales of their journeys from afar. Yet no tale that they were telling would ever match the one unfolding right under their noses.

     Soon the cries of a newborn baby boy would fill the air. Perhaps they heard something as He announced His arrival to the world while Mary swaddled Him tightly. Perhaps they even raised their goblets of wine in jest to toast this child born in the stable. Perhaps they heard nothing, saw nothing, and knew nothing. 

     I wonder how many times you and I, like those in the inn that night in Bethlehem, miss Him. How often does Jesus whisper I’m here or follow me but we hear nothing, see nothing and know nothing.

     Today we have history to remind us, the Bible to instruct us, and the Holy Spirit to indwell us. We know Jesus is Lord of all and King of all Creation. He calls us to live so that others may also know as we share the good news of this baby born in Bethlehem. Remember, we are without excuse, we are unlike those in the inn, for little did they know He was the King.

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Beginning of Christmas

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in
this way, “When his mother Mary had been
betrothed to Joseph, before they came
together she was found to be with child
from the Holy Spirit.”
                                Matthew 1:18 ESV 

     According to the custom of the day, Mary and Joseph were betrothed. A legally binding contract had been signed and could be broken only through death or divorce. Although considered married, physical intimacy during this portion of a relationship was considered adultery, and the penalty for adultery—death!
     The genealogy listed in Matthew 1:1-17 reveals Jesus’ legal claim to the throne of David. Jesus Messiah would be born of a virgin and raised by an earthly father whose heritage included patriarchs, a prostitute (Rahab) and a King (David).
I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster of this young girl; from the excitement of betrothal to the unbelievable pregnancy without hope that anyone would believe she had committed no sin. The stares, whispers and judgment of others who did not know the truth would follow her as she walked through the crowds. Yet chosen by God, she faced her future knowing that this child growing inside of her was a gift of love from Yahweh, Jehovah, I AM.

     As I read these words, written centuries ago, I am reminded of how often we look at another’s situation and make a mental judgment without full knowledge of the truth of their circumstances. And I wonder how much pain we cause others with our less than friendly hello and our fake fellowship.

     It is Christmastime! What better gift could we give our Lord than to love one another with the same kind of love bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father? I can think of no better way to celebrate Christmas than to spread the love of God throughout our homes, our families, our churches and our communities.

     Today would be a good day to lay aside judgment without knowledge and really begin to love the unlovable people in our lives. It is the beginning of Christmas: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 ESV)

©Joyce Powell