Category Archives: Christmas

After-Christmas Gifts

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11

Late-Comers

Part of the Christmas story can be found in the book of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament. There, in chapter two, we read of several wise men, Magi, who followed the star till it rested over the place where the young Jesus was living.

But what most people fail to notice is that only the shepherds came to visit Jesus while he was still a baby in a manger. The Magi came later, once they were living “in the house” and Jesus was a “young child.” And, based on Herod’s decree that all male children 2 years old and younger should be killed (Matt. 2:16), Jesus could have been a toddler up and walking.

Simply put, generally, every manger scene protested against by atheists is not a faithful representation of the Christmas story. How ironic is that? But I digress…

The Gifts

When the Magi came to Bethlehem in search of “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2), they brought with them three very rare and valuable gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They were not random gifts, but ones with specific political, spiritual, and practical importance; they were meant to recognize a literal, earthly, but also heavenly King.

gold frankincense and myrrhGold was a universally recognized precious metal, symbolic of all wealth. Frankincense was a substance primarily used as incense, but also mixed with other substances to create the holy anointing oil placed on high priests and kings. Myrrh was a substance used for things ranging all the way from cosmetics and antiseptics, to perfuming the living and embalming the dead.

According to Matthew 2:11, the Magi fell down before Jesus, which would have been an appropriate response when in the presence of royalty (and these men knew the difference). But the wise men did more than fall prostrate before royalty, they “worshiped him.”  This young king was more than just “King of the Jews,” but the long-promised Messiah, and they offered their gift to the Son of God.

Are You Wise?

As long as I can remember there have been sermons preached during and before Christmas entitled, “Wise Men Still Seek Him.” The sermons focus primarily on the seeking leading up to Christmas, but rarely, if ever, on the gifts given after the celebration is over. But today is different.

Today, I am going to ask you to consider three gifts we should give, now that the birthday celebration is over.

  • Gold. Gold represented wealth. In your worship of the King, will you give Him your wealth? In reality, God owns everything, including everything He loans unto you. But with your heart, are you willing to lay everything that is most valuable to you at His feet?
  • Frankincense. Frankincense represented worship. Would you be willing to fall down before Jesus, or do you hold back some of your Frankincense in reserve? Are there idols in your life – people or things – for which you reserve a little of that anointing oil, making those things lords of your life? Would you be willing to make Jesus Lord of all? Will you worship him without reservation?
  • Myrrh. Myrrh was symbolic of the beauty of life, from beginning to end. Would you give to Jesus everything that makes you happy? Everything that brings you hope? Everything that is sweet-smelling? Everything that hides your faults and failures, disguising your true self? Would you give Jesus your life? He can do more with it than you can do on your own.

Returns

For several days after Christmas people will stand in line to return and/or exchange unwanted gifts. Many will trade what others gave them for something they want more. Others will just ask for a refund or in-store credit.

Rest assured that when you give your gifts to Jesus, he will not return them, exchange them, or re-gift them next year. But will you, once you realize what you’ve given, want to take something back?

Don’t wait for a New Year’s resolution. Now that Christmas is over, be like the Magi and leave everything at Jesus’ feet, then “depart…another way.” Once you give Jesus those three gifts, you’ll never be the same.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christmas, God, Love of God, salvation, wisdom, worship

Keeping Watch at Night

“And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan…” (2 Samuel 7:4)

2:30 a.m.,etc.

Believe me, I am not one who enjoys getting out of bed before the sun does. If it were up to me, I would prefer stumbling to the coffee pot in daylight. But that’s not my life – I’m a school bus driver; 5 o’clock mornings have been my norm for the last 10 years.

But I am also a pastor. A “shepherd.” And because I am a shepherd of souls, sometimes I have to do like the shepherds of old, keep watch over my flock by night. That requires being on call all the time, including the dark times. And when I say “dark times,” I mean that literally and figuratively.

In the Christmas story, we read of shepherds “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Have you ever wondered why the shepherds stayed awake? Simple: because wolves and thieves work the night shift, too! Sometimes shepherding involves looking out for your sheep while they sleep. Often it is in the dark times that pastors and intercessors are needed most.

Because of my shoulder surgery, I have been woken up by pain nearly every hour every night this past week. A few of those times I decided to pray while awake, and that got me to thinking.

The Night

It was in the night that “the word of the LORD came unto Nathan.” What would have happened if Nathan had refused to wake up? What would have happened had he refused to listen, but instead said, “I have GOT to get some sleep?”

This morning, like a lot of recent mornings, the Lord placed a prayer on my heart long before any alarms were set to go off. He gave me a “vision in the night.” I could have griped, rolled over, looked at the clock, and asked, “Why now?” Instead, I sat up, forced myself to thank God for the pain I’ve been enduring, and began to intercede for certain individuals and the ministry in which I’m involved.

What would have happened had Nathan decided to go back to sleep? We can only guess. What would have happened had I brushed away God’s nudging? Only God knows. But if history is any kind of teacher, disobedience in even the smallest of things can be catastrophic; going back to sleep might have fed a wolf.

Your Call

Just the other day I mentioned to my wife how that I didn’t want to miss what God was wanting to teach me through this painful recovery. When I told her about David, Nathan, and my inability to get more than an hour or two of sleep each night, immediately she replied, “Looks like you’ve found your lesson.” As she pointed out, since I can’t do much else right now, God is calling me to pray more – especially in the night.

Have you ever woken up at night with another person on your heart? When that happens, what do you do? You see, dark times come at all times, especially when it’s most inconvenient. As a matter of fact, the “darkness” may even be a difficult time in your life. It may be in the wee hours of your “night” that God chooses to speak.

God wouldn’t call in the middle of the night if it wasn’t important.

Don’t ignore Him.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christmas, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching

“They are killing us”

This morning, as we go to church to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and thank Him for entering this world as a child, born of a virgin, only to one day die for us that we might receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Him, think on the following message I received this morning from a pastor friend in Pakistan…

“Brother we are dying here
they are killing us
please pray for us”

That was it…just three lines of text on Facebook Messenger.

Inside Bethel Memorial Methodist Church, Quetta, Pakistan

Earlier today a Methodist Church was attacked by two suicide bombers while the congregants were inside celebrating the birth of Christ. The attack was meant to be a message, one that was meant to strike fear. For some, I’m sure it worked. Thankfully, neither bomber was able to get inside the building, and only one was able to blow himself up at the entrance, so only around 10 people (including children) died, as opposed to the 400 who were in attendance.

But how does this affect my day? How would it affect yours? Are you even planning on attending a worship service? While there are Christians who are attending corporate worship services in places where their spiritual enemies are literally trying to kill them, do we take advantage of the complete freedom in America to congregate, or do we shun it? “Forsake” it?

How does the above message from my brother in Pakistan affect my preaching? My worship? Do I go about my day as usual? Or, do I recommit myself to the seriousness of the call to “take up your cross and follow me”?

“Brother we are dying here.” How long before we start dying HERE? With Islam on the rise, and with very few who are willing to challenge its destructive works-based theology for fear of being labeled “islamophobic,” how long before suicide bombings become more common-place than shootings?

“Please pray for us.” How long before we realize ALL of us stand in need of prayer? How long before we repent of our Laodicean lukewarmness? How long before we take seriously the calls from our brothers and sisters enduring persecution and pray for them? In reality, we should be asking them to pray FOR US!

Our churches will be relatively empty, today. Our post-modern, social-justice-minded, hedonistic society will go about this morning without a thought of God, while those who call themselves “Christian” will blend in with them. The relatively few who do attend worship services will hardly consider the rare privilege of worshipping in peace without the fear of being blown to bits while singing “Silent Night.”

Yet, somewhere in another land, there will be followers of Jesus Christ who will not be intimidated or deterred, bravely walking into proverbial lions’ dens. As the Hebrew children who refused to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, there will be some who will pray for deliverance from the furnace, but continue to worship Jesus and not bow down to Allah, even if the fire is inevitable (Daniel 3:18).

There are many who are dying. How are you living?

I’m going to church, now.

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Filed under America, Christianity, Christmas, Church, worship

Remember the “Least of These”

A few years ago I made a lot more “Monday Monkey” videos than I do now. Sadly, as I look back, I can see how much my girls have grown up. The following video is a good example.

In the following video you will see my youngest, Haley, doing her part to help the “least of these,” a freezing puppet next to a tree…and I wasn’t exactly warm, either.

Remember, Christmas is not about getting; it’s about giving. God gave Jesus Christ unto a world who didn’t deserve Him, and that supreme act of love (both on the Giver and the Gift’s part) should be reflected in our giving.

This Christmas, why not give something of value to someone in need, someone who won’t expect it. Then, take the time to talk about the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind.

Seriously, ask the Lord to give you the opportunity to share Jesus with someone; He will make it happen.

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Filed under Christmas, Love of God, ministry, Witnessing

The Devolution of Society as Evidenced By the Gender of a Singer

This morning I stopped by a Hardee’s to get a biscuit for breakfast. Upon walking in, I heard a familiar Christmas song – one that I actually like – being played.

Let It Snow

But what has society become when a woman is the one singing this song? Is there no more chivalry in the world?

That’s right, a female was singing: “When we finally kiss goodnight, how I hate going out in the storm. But if you really hold me tight, all the way home I’ll be warm.”

What kind of jerk would sit there by the fireplace, continue to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and let his girlfriend walk home in a blizzard? Is there no decency left? Can she not find someone better than this?

So, I drew the following illustration on my phone.

Ladies – you know who you are – leave “Let It Snow” for the guys to sing. Western Civilization is at stake.

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Filed under Christmas, General Observations, Humor, Uncategorized, Weather

Last Year I Gave You My Heart, Now It’s For Sale In a Resale Shop

Three years ago I wrote about my disgust with a familiar Christmas song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” That was three years ago…

This is now.

Back In 1984

I was a senior in high school; I was infatuated with Pheobe Cates and Susanna Hoffs; I drove a 1979 Pinto station wagon, and that Chrismas season the English pop duo Wham! released “Last Christmas.”

The year was 1984.

George Michael (the famous half of Wham!) wrote “Last Christmas,” and in the end donated all royalties toward the Ethiopian famine relief. However, it’s my belief that there was an alternative purpose for writing “Last Christmas.” Besides feeding the hungry, the idea was to create a song which every new and up-and-coming talentless pop star could record in lieu of composing something original.

It was December of 1984…the year the movie Dune came out. No wonder I hate this song.

It’s Now 2017

It is now December of 2017, and everyone from Ashley Tisdale and Taylor Swift, to Crazy Frog and Gwen Stefani has done a cover of “Last Christmas.” Just about every time I get in the car and turn on the radio, or walk into any store, restaurant, or torture chamber, “Last Christmas” can be heard degrading the airwaves.

You know, if mankind is supposed to be evolving, why doesn’t Gwen Stefani just do a cover of Handel’s “Messiah”? Oh, yeah, I forgot.

Why I Hate It

So what is my gripe about “Last Christmas”? I’m glad you asked.

It’s the chorus…the chorus that gets sung over, and over, and over, and over again.

“Last Christmas I gave you my heart / But the next day you gave it away /

This year / To save me from tears / I’ll give it to someone special.” – George Michael

Questions:

  • Was the person this song was written about not a special person when the singer’s heart was given away?
  • If this year you’re going to give your heart to “someone special,” what does that say about the person to whom the song is being sung? Was she nothing more than some floozy you met at the ski lodge? Did she wake you up before she went went?
  • If you’re in the habit of flippantly giving your heart away to non-special people – people who think so little of your heart that they give it away the very next day – what makes you think this year’s “special” person won’t do the same on December 26th?
  • I can see how a person would receive a heart, like during a transplant, but how does one “give it away” the very next day? Does one say to a new lover, “Hey, baby, let me give you this heart – some other guy gave it to me yesterday for Christmas”?

The Answer

The other day my wife and I stopped by a charity to donate some items for resale. Before we unloaded the items we no longer needed, my wife asked, “Do you want to go inside and look around?” “Sure,” I replied. “Anything to make you happy.”

A few minutes into our exploring of used or discounted items, my wife saw this strange, yet interesting music box sitting on a shelf. She said, “Look…a music box…it’s different…I wonder how much they want for it?”

Valerie reached up and turned the music box up on its side, and then she asked me to look at what she saw. Immediately I was struck with the awkwardness of the message and realized there was a potential blog post waiting to be written.

Here was the answer to at least one of my questions to George Michael and all of his subsequent knock-offs. Obviously, George was giving his special and non-special Christmas relationships tacky music boxes…

And they gave them away. 

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Filed under Christmas, Humor, music

Shopping – Evidence We Need Jesus

Last Minute

I will confess, I’ve not yet purchased any Christmas gifts for my loved ones and friends, all except for one particular gift that I’m more excited to give than any other ever. I really don’t care if anyone gets anything for me, just as long as they keep Jesus the main thing this year.

However, I did play the part of a loving dad and stood in a cold Black Friday line in front of Best Buy with two of my daughters

The Perfect Gift

But this whole shopping thing got me to thinking: will we ever find the “perfect” gift? So often people spend hours and hours navigating traffic, long lines, websites, and clearance racks trying to find a gift that is just right, one that is just “perfect” for the recipient. Color, size, flash, style, and price all play a part in trying to determine how the gift will be received – will they love it or hate it? Who knows?

Unfortunately, because of the stress of it all, much gift-giving has been reduced to whatever is on sale or the ultimately non-personal gift card. The fact is that the “perfect gift” is an illusion, or a sign, rather, that there is something just beyond our grasp – the real perfect gift.

Already Given

You see, here’s the thing: the only “perfect gift” has already been given; all other gifts pale in comparison. Jesus – the meaning of the season – was the Perfect Gift from God to man, making all other gifts mere reflections.

Seriously, what other gift can compare to the One that was delivered in Bethlehem?

  • He was given at the perfect time (Galatians 4:4);
  • He was wrapped like no other gift could ever be (Luke 2:12; Philippians 2:7);
  • He was exactly what everyone in all the world needs (Luke 2:11);
  • He was the greatest expression of love the world would ever see (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9).

There’s nothing you’re going to find at any mall or specialty store better than what was already given two thousand years ago. Our search for the “perfect” gift is nothing more than a sign – that there’s always something better, something that can’t be purchased, something only grace can provide.

Have a merry Christmas!

(The following video was made a few years ago. It features my wife, Mr. Monkey, and our little dog Nugget – we miss him very much ☹️)

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