Tag Archives: Christmas

Do You Have 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

After Christmas: Proof We Need Redemption

So, how was your Christmas?

Was it everything you dreamed it would be? Did everything go as planned without any family drama?

Were all the decorations beautiful?

Have you been listening to Christmas music since the day after Thanksgiving? Have you been drinking egg nog for the last three weeks? Have you spent hours shopping while listening to Salvation Army bells ringing?

Are you glad it’s over?

Are you a little tired of the parties, the celebrations, the concerts, the pageants, the tons of gift wrapping, the crowds, and the never-ending tunes about lights, bells, joy, and Santa?

Fact is if you are tired of it all and are ready for life to get back to normal, then you’re human and not an elf, and that’s an important truth to consider.

Celebrating Christmas has completely worn me out. I’ve had my fill of carols, smiles, joy, and jingle bells… even eggnog. I need a break.

And believe it or not, these feelings we have after Christmas – the weariness of celebration –  point to the fact that we have not been fully redeemed; our bodies are still waiting for that final transformation.

[We] also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. – Romans 8:23b CSB

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor can corruption inherit incorruption. Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. – 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 CSB

So, just imagine how difficult it would be to survive heaven for more than a day or two?

Not only will we need new bodies that never grow old, get weak, and want to go to bed before sundown, but we will need to be set free from all the chains of this mortal flesh – everything that turns an elf into a Grinch around December 26th or 27th.

Our corruptible minds and bodies must be exchanged for that which is incorruptible, else we won’t be able to endure the eternal and glorious celebration that is to come.

Without being changed, heaven would be full of worn-out billion-year-olds leaving the dirty dishes for the angels to deal with.

Heaven will be a celebration of the Redeemer by the redeemed.

So don’t be surprised when I say, “You must be born again” (John 3:7 NLT). 

If the corruptible got in, heaven wouldn’t stay heaven for long; it would feel like hell.

Think about it: Are you ready for Heaven?

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Filed under Apologetics, Christmas, clothing, salvation, the future, worship

Merry Christmas from Georgia

Merry Christmas from my family to yours, wherever you are in the world!

Included in this family photo taken in our living room in the parsonage of Bethlehem Baptist in Warthen, GA: Myself, Valerie (my wife of 25 years), Marie (my mother of 52 years), Haley, Emma (11-month-old granddaughter), Alicia and Josh (Westbrook), Katie and Gus (the fiancé Pearson).

Nothing like matching pajamas, right? Funny thing, though…it has been so warm yesterday and today that we had to turn on the air conditioning in December!

Happy birthday, Jesus!

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Filed under Christmas, Family

Time Passing By Too Quickly?

Only 6 Months

It’s June; he’s only six years old; and he’s just seen a commercial for the coolest, most awesome toy ever created by man. The problem is that Christmas is still 6 months away.

I could have used my grandaughter, Emma, for the illustration, but at less than a year old, she doesn’t have a concept of “6 months.” But ain’t she cute?

Little Billy (it’s always Billy, isn’t it?)  asked, no pleaded with his mom and dad to immediately go to the toy store. He HAD to have it. But mom and dad, with words that bring tears to any kid’s eyes, calmly, cruelly said, “You’ll have to wait till Christmas.”

What? NOOOO!” cried Billy. And so, in response to his anguish, what words did his dad choose to comfort poor Billy? “Now son, Christmas is only 6 months away.” Again, Billy cries out “NOOOO!”

What is Billy’s problem? To a child looking forward to the best day of the year, the day when his dreams will come true, six months seems like an eternity! Every day will pass by like snails on Valium.

Only 6 Months?

He’s only 60 years old. There are so many things he’d like to have done, but time just slipped away. Now it seems like every moment is picking up the pace. Time is flying by and he is scared.

Not long ago Bill went in for some tests, only to get a call from the doctor the next day. There were some results that needed to be talked about in person, so William was asked to come back into the office. With a sullen look, the oncologist said, “William, you’ve only got about 6 months to live.” Only 6 months?

Want to Slow Down Time?

For Billy, 6 months is an eternity. Nothing he can do will make time go by any quicker. It will seem like forever until Christmas.

For William, 6 months will seem like a blink of an eye. There will be nothing he can do to slow down the clock. Eternity will come knocking at his door.

How could William, then, become more like Billy? What would make William’s time seem like an eternity here on earth? The answer could be found in the truth of Colossians 3:2…”Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Oh, that our hearts could long for heaven the way we long for earthly pleasures! As a child longs for Christmas, why can’t we long for that celestial homecoming? The day that we set our affections on things above will be the day time down here slows down.

Need More Time?

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Watch the sands in your hour-glass multiply as you “look forward to a city whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).

Wouldn’t it be great if we could look toward the end of our lives with the same expectation of a child longing for Christmas?

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christmas, Future, Life Lessons, the future

A Christmas Wish

Lists

Christmas wish lists can be really amusing. Recently a mother of a needy family gave me a list of requested items for her children. I was told that the children would be happy with anything. Really? Would her children be happy with chalk, a box of Crayons, a wooden train, and a slinky? What about a stick?

Today’s children are more spoiled today than ever before. Not only do they want the newest toys and gadgets, but the toys and gadgets they want are more advanced than anything Captain Kirk used.

Wishes

And then there are the wishes that people make around Christmas time. Some people wish for world peace. Others wish for Michael Jackson to return from the dead to do a benefit concert for world hunger.

Right now the most popular wishes involve one side or the other of Trump’s impeachment. Some wish Nancy Pelosi would have a broom accident when she flies home from Washington. Others wish Trump would finally be convicted for conspiring with the Russians to move the US capital to Trump Tower.

My Wish

So what’s my wish? My wish is that things would just go back to the way they were when this picture was taken.

Other than for the goofy safety glasses, I looked pretty cool!

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I worked for a company that serviced nuclear facilities. My job involved flying on commercial aircraft all over the country. And whenever I flew on a new or different airliner, I asked to take a picture of the cockpit.

Here, the pilot actually told me to sit in his seat and wear his hat while he took the picture. What’s even more incredible is that while I was sitting there the engines were still running. He told me to put my hand on the throttles while the engines were still running!

Can you even imagine this happening today? Not hardly. That’s why I wish we could go back to an earlier, more trusting day and age; long before 9/11 and the jerks that ruined everything.

My Hope

Well, even though things may never be the same again, there will come a day when peace will fill the land. There will come a day when men’s swords are beaten into plows. But that day will only come when the Prince of Peace assumes the throne.

When He came before, He came as a humble baby.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6

 The next time He comes, things will be a little different.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:” – Luke 1:32

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.” – Matthew 16:26-27

 What a Christmas that would be!

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Filed under America, Christmas, General Observations

Fear In the Christmas Story

Christmas Sermons

You may have never considered it, but it’s a challenge to come up with Christmas sermons year after year without being too repetitive. Sure, one could simply preach through Luke 2 every year, but a little creativity can go a long way.

This year I will preach a few sermons I have preached in other places, but they will be new to the folk here at Bethlehem Baptist. Here are the notes to one that I preached this past Sunday.

To Fear, Or Not to Fear

Did you know there are actually some honest-to-goodness phobias related to Christmas? Here are just a few.

  • Selaphobia – the fear of flashing Christmas lights.
  • Ghabhphobia – the fear of presents or gifts.
  • Krikophobia – the fear of church services.
  • Cyssanophobia – the fear of kissing under the mistletoe.
  • Festivalisophobia – a phobia of the whole Christmas thing.

Therefore, it shouldn’t be any wonder that we can find several places in the Bible where angels told people to “fear not.” Folks back in Bethlehem around 2,000 years ago probably didn’t have a fear of kissing under the mistletoe, but they had every reason to be frightened by talking beings clothed in bright light telling them about babies in mangers, virgin births, and wedding plans.

The story of Christ’s birth is associated with great joy, but it was also full of great initial fear. At least one person in the story (King Herod) never got over his phobias and paranoia, but he never heard an angel tell him “fear not,” either.

Below are my notes/outline from which I will deliver this morning’s sermon at South Soddy Baptist Church. When you have a moment, read the Scriptures I reference. See for yourself what the Spirit has to say.

“Fear In the Christmas Story”

1. Luke 1:12  Zacharias (a faithful, praying priest) was “troubled” (G5015, tarasso), and “fear”(5401, phobos) fell upon him.

The angel said, “Fear (phobeo) not…thy prayer is heard.”

2. Luke 1:29  Mary (a confused young girl) was “troubled” (1298, diatarasso)

The angel said, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.”

3. Matthew 1:20  The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph (hurt and scared) in a dream and said, “fear (phobeo) not to take Mary thy wife…”

4. Luke 1:65  “Fear (phobos) came on all that dwelt around” Zacharias and Elisabeth when Zacharias’ “mouth was opened…his tongue was loosed, and he spake, and praised God.”

5. Luke 2:9  The shepherds were “sore afraid” (phobeo phobos megas) …see also Daniel 10:7-8 and Revelation 1:17.

The angel said, “Fear (phobeo) not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

6. Matthew 2:3  Herod, because the wise men asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews,” was “troubled” (taraso), and all Jerusalem with him.

7. What should we take away from this today?

  1. True holiness will expose humanity’s sinfulness.
  2. Godly fear will be answered with peace, result in obedience, and respond with praise.
  3. The fear of Christmas will manifest itself in hate, a lack of peace and joy, and no hope.
  4. If you trust in Jesus, He promises the peace of Christmas year-round. John 14:27Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Boston Psychotherapist, Dr. Karen Ruskin (an agnostic) said: “[Some atheists are] not unlike the bully who pushes other people down in order to make himself feel better. There are atheists who have a very uncomfortable belief about [their non-belief] they feel the need to push other people down. There is an emotional confusion among some atheists that drives them to promote their product on others [to make them feel better about themselves]. – From an interview on Bill O’Reilly, 12/2/14

 

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Christmas, Church, Preaching

How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God

A Christmas Sermon Outline

Have you ever been given a gift, or seen one under the Christmas tree, that needed no card or tag informing you who sent it? Maybe the meticulous wrapping was a clue to who the wrapper was.

I know Christmas is still a few days away, but some of you might need something to preach or teach between now and then. Therefore, please accept as my gift of an outline I prepared, “How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God.”

Please, feel free to use it 🙂

“How We Know Jesus Was a Gift from God”

I.  Because of When THIS Gift Was Given

·   Galatians 4:4 “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son…”

II.  Because of How THIS Gift Was Wrapped

·   Luke 2:12 “And this shall be a sign unto you, you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

·   Philippians 2:7 “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”

·   Hebrews 4:15 KJV – “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.”

III.  Because THIS Gift Was Truly Free

·   John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…”

·   Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace…it is a GIFT of God, NOT of works…”

·   Romans 3:24 “Being justified FREELY by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

IV.  Because THIS Gift Was Exactly What We Needed

A.  To Bring Us Life – Luke 2:11 “Unto you is born, in the city of David, a SAVIOR…”

B.  To Bring Us Joy – Lamentations 3:22-23 “His mercies are new every morning”

V.  Because of the Love that Went Into It.

·   1 John 4:9 “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.”

VI.  Conclusion:

A.  Accept the Gift of Jesus

B.  Give Thanks! – 2 Cor. 9:15 “Thanks be to God for this unspeakable Gift!”

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Filed under Bible Study, Christmas, Jesus, Preaching