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A Christmas Devotional for You and Your Family

Christmas is just four days away. I hope we will all get a chance to take a break from the busy holiday preparations to prepare our hearts to celebrate our Savior. The following Christmas devotional can help us do just that. Use it alone in your quiet time or use it with your family. Some of my favorite Christmas ornaments inspired these thoughts. If you’d like, gather a few of your own Christmas ornaments to add a hands-on element to your Christmas devotional! (Christmas devotional in PDF for your use!)

The real reason we celebrate Christmas can easily be lost in our culture’s version of the holiday. But, many of the ornaments we use to decorate our trees and homes today remind us of the real Christmas story.

Christmas Devotional

The Christmas Angels

God’s messengers played a vital role in our Savior’s birth. The angels did not take God’s good news to kings or rulers or religious leaders. Instead, these mighty messengers visited the humble. The lowly. Those willing to hear, to believe, to receive.

The angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary and gave a greeting that would change her life forever:

“Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Read Luke 2:29-38 for the whole encounter.)

Gabriel also visited Joseph, the carpenter betrothed to Mary:

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Read Matthew 1:18-25 for the whole encounter.)

On the night Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord also appeared to shepherds in the fields surrounding Bethlehem:

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord!” (Read Luke 2:1-20 for the whole encounter.)

Question for reflection: How would you have reacted to the angel? Would you have run in fear? Listened with skepticism? Or humbly and joyfully accepted God’s great news about our Savior? 

The Christmas Star

Stars at Christmas remind us that God longs for us to know Jesus. The Christmas star appeared to magi in the east and led them far away to Bethlehem so they would find the baby King.

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. …The star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Read Matthew 2:1-12 for their story.)

But the star also reminds us of Jesus Himself, the bright, morning star who lights our hearts.

Time of Thanksgiving: Thank God for the guidance He gives to bring you to Himself. And thank Him for Jesus, the true and eternal Light.

The Christmas Crown

The crown reminds us that Jesus – that tiny babe born in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago – is our glorious, eternal Lord and King.

Centuries before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Isaiah foretold His eternal reign:

“Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever” (Isaiah 9:7)

The magi from the east endured that long journey for one reason – to worship the King:

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star when it rose and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:3).

Yet many failed to acknowledge Jesus as the divine, eternal King. Thirty-three years later, when He was arrested, beaten, and condemned to die, the Roman soldiers ironically mocked Him:

“And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head and put a reed in His right hand. And kneeling before Him, they mocked Him saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!'” (Matthew 27:28-30).

But God’s truth, will, and purposes prevail. Jesus was, is, and will always be our King eternal!

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15)

Time to worship the King eternal! Alone or with your family, sing a favorite carol, hymn, or praise song that acknowledges Jesus as King!

Here is this Christmas Devotional in PDF format for easy printing!

I pray that you and your family have a joyful Christmas and a year ahead experiencing the glory of Jesus our King!

  • You and your family might also enjoy this Christmas Trivia Quiz! Find out how well you know the real Christmas story! 
  • If joy is hard to find this Christmas, you may be encouraged by this post, Messy Christmas
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It’s Not Too Late to Help a Child This Christmas

Last week, my husband and I did something new together and had a blast! We volunteered our time at a shoebox processing center for Operation Christmas Child.

When our children were growing up, our family packed three Christmas shoeboxes every year. Each of our kids got to pick boy or girl, the age category, and the items for one of the boxes. Since they are all grown, it’s been a few years since we packed one. So this year, we helped our 5-year-old grandson pack a shoebox.

Christmas Shoebox

When I went online to print a trackable label, I was drawn to the opportunity to volunteer. Since we moved last summer, we now live close to one of the processing centers. So I signed us up. We spent the better part of a day working and felt as if our time truly made a difference in the effort.

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, delivers more than 9 million shoeboxes each year around the world. These boxes are checked and sorted in one of 8 processing centers across the United States. Volunteers are responsible for removing financial contributions, checking boxes for inappropriate items, adding additional items if needed, and sorting and packing the donations into shipping boxes.

Operation Christmas Child

4 Ways to Help a Needy Child this Christmas

It’s too late to volunteer at a Shoebox processing center this year, but it’s not too late to give to a child in need this Christmas. (FYI, in case your interested in volunteering next year, here’s the link to the Operation Christmas Child volunteer page.) Here are 4 opportunities to give now:

  1. Build a Shoebox online at Operation Christmas Child
  2. Help the child of someone in prison through Prison Fellowship’s ministry, Angel Tree
  3. Share the love of Jesus with a child in poverty through Compassion International
  4. Give a gift that helps a family in need through World Vision

Because of the most precious gift ever given to us – Jesus Christ our Savior! – let’s give back. I’d love to hear about ways you’re giving back this year!

Some other Christmas posts you may be interested in:

 

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Less Than Perfect Christmas

Christmas often comes with high expectations. We think everything has to be just so. Perfect decorations. Perfect family. Perfect gifts. Perfect meal. Perfect Christmas.

Our culture perpetuates this fantasy. In the dozens of made-for-TV Christmas movies, the girl always finds her soul mate, the estranged father is always reunited with his family, the boy always gets the puppy, and the table is always laden with beautiful food (which must have been made by Christmas elves because you don’t see anyone slaving away for hours in the kitchen).

Christmas

But here’s the problem with high expectations: many of us will be disappointed. Life will never be perfect – not even at Christmas. Maybe especially at Christmas. The arrival of December 25th does not magically heal broken relationships or ease the pain of loss or pay the bills.

In fact, Christmas tends to magnify any grief, anxiety, and sadness we feel because we compare our imperfect, messy lives to that unrealistic perfect image. When our lives don’t measure up, we lose hope. Without hope, Christmas becomes a time we have to get through instead of a joyful celebration.

Here’s the good news: Real hope for Christmas is not in a golden turkey or a new iPad or a happy family gathered around a gorgeous tree. Real hope is in a babe in a manger. God come to earth to be with us. Immanuel.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us… In Him was life and that life was the light of men… We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.  John 1:4, 12, 14

This life is messy and will be messy until Jesus comes back for His children. While we wait, we will encounter trials, pain, death, sickness, divorce, heartache and more. However, in the middle of all our mess we can find strength, joy, and peace in the Savior. The birth of that one tiny baby long ago provides hope – for this life and eternity.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

Are you facing a less than perfect Christmas this year? Does your life feel especially messy? Lay it all at the manger. Find your Christmas joy and peace in the Child of Christmas. In your Savior.

Are you struggling with a messy life this Christmas season? Share a thought about the hope, joy, and peace you can find in Christ!

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4 Christmas Gifts from Jesus

One of our family’s Christmas traditions has been to read the biblical Christmas story together on Christmas Eve. We read those chapters from Matthew and Luke about the angels, the shepherds, the star, the magi, and the infant Christ born in a stable in Bethlehem. These beloved passages are so dear and familiar I can recite huge chunks of them from memory.

But did you know there is also a Christmas account in John’s Gospel?

Christmas gifts

John gives us a different perspective. He didn’t write about the earthly circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. Instead, John’s account is more of a heavenly perspective. He wrote about the eternal, divine nature of Jesus the Word and His purpose in coming to earth.

4 Christmas Gifts from Jesus to You

If you have time, read John 1:1-14 now. Or read it tonight with your family. As you read, look for the 4 things Jesus brought to the earth with His first coming. They are His Christmas gifts to us.

  1. Life – In his Gospel, John uses the Greek word zoe, translated as “life,” 36 times! True life – eternal, spiritual life – is in Jesus. He embodies life (John 1:4). He alone can give life (John 5:24-26; John 11:25-26). And He came to earth to bring it to us (John 3:16).
  2. Light – This world and everyone in it is dead and dying without Jesus. We stumble around in the darkness and can’t find our way to God. Jesus came to light the way to God (John 1:4-5). Many claim to know the way, but Jesus is the “true light” that gives light to everyone (John 1:9).
  3. Grace – Jesus came from the Father to bring us grace (John 1:14). Jesus’s death on the cross is the ultimate act of grace. Our sin separates us from God and we cannot save ourselves. But Jesus’ death paid the penalty our sins deserve. When we put our faith and trust in Jesus and His death and resurrection we receive God’s gracious gift of salvation (John 3:16-17).
  4. Truth – Jesus came to bring us God’s truth (John 1:14). During His time on earth He testified to the truth of God (John 18:37). Many reject it. Many cling to the world’s “truth.” But only Jesus gives us God’s truth (John 3:31-36).

You may receive gifts this Christmas that cost a lot of money. But none compare to the 4 gifts Jesus longs to give. Open them up. Embrace them. Share them.

May God abundantly bless you with His life, light, grace, and truth this Christmas.

 

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6 Ways to Impact Your Children with the Real Meaning of Christmas

A couple of years ago, while speaking at a ladies’ Christmas event, something significant happened. I had planned to read portions of the Christmas story from Matthew 2 and Luke 2. But as I began to read from my open Bible, I discovered I did not need it.

The words flowed from memory – KJV style. “Being great with child… They were sore afraid.”

Christmas truthHere’s the truly amazing part: I’ve never worked to memorize those sections of Scripture. The passages were embedded in my heart simply because my father read them to our family every Christmas Eve. My dad desired to keep our hearts and minds on the real meaning of Christmas. And God honored his commitment to impress God’s truth on his children (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

We can all have the same kind of positive spiritual influence on the children in our lives. Whether a parent, grandparent, aunt, babysitter, or Sunday School teacher, we can point them to Christ in Christmas with purposeful intent. Even in the midst of the commercialization of the season, we can help them understand the real meaning of Christmas.

People over things. Spiritual over physical. Lasting over temporary.

6 Ways to Help Your Kids Focus on the True Meaning of Christmas

Although you can probably come up with a longer list, here are 6 ways you can help impact the children in your life with the truth of Christmas. We used them all with our own children!

  1. Tell the story of the 1st Christmas – And not just once! Let’s use various ways to share it with them again and again. For instance, do daily Advent devotionals with your family. (These are offered free from BillyGraham.org.) For younger children, use a childproof nativity to tell the story and then leave it out for them to play with. And don’t forget the most basic way – read the biblical account to your family.
  2. Give to someone in need – It is so easy to get caught up in the “getting” of Christmas. But the season is the perfect opportunity to teach our children the joy of helping others. When our children were young we involved them in filling shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Since they’ve been grown, my husband and I have given in multiple ways including World Vision gifts, Angel Tree, and more.
  3. Sing the faith songs of Christmas – Most of our kids know Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman, but do they know Silent Night and Away in a Manger? The “religious” Christmas songs tell the real story! Play these great songs of faith while baking cookies, driving to school, or making the trip to Grandma’s house. Carol on your street or in a local nursing home.
  4. Tell someone about baby Jesus – I used to have one of those “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” pins. And I wore it too. But I don’t remember anyone ever asking me about it. We must look for opportunities to tell others about the reason for the season!
  5. Christmas Eve Service – Taking the time to attend church on Christmas Eve sends an important message to our children. “Jesus takes priority.” “Christmas is about Him.” Plus, the time in worship and fellowship helps put our focus where it belongs.
  6. Birthday Cake for Jesus – We began this tradition when our children were little. They always looked forward to helping make the cake, singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, and of course, eating it!

I would love to hear how you help your children focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Please share your ideas and traditions with us in the comments!

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6 Christmas Bible Reading Plans

The Christmas season has officially begun. More than likely, activities like shopping, baking, and gift wrapping fill your December to-do list. If we aren’t purposeful, all the holiday activity can easily overshadow the reason we celebrate.

Christmas Bible Reading

I have a challenge for us – for you and for me. Let’s commit to putting Jesus at the top of our list every day between now and Christmas. Let’s make time with Him each morning a priority. (Check out these practical tips for having a Quiet Time.)

What would that look like? For me, it means sitting with a mug of hot coffee, my Bible, and my journal before I start my daily activities. I read and meditate on God’s Word to renew my mind with His truth. I talk with God in prayer, sharing my heart and listening for His direction.

Over the years, I have discovered that I need the discipline of a Bible reading plan. This great discipleship tool helps me be intentional and regular with my Bible reading. For a brief few moments I contemplated developing a plan to use and to share with you. But then I realized there is no need to reinvent the wheel and decided to find out what Christmas Bible Reading Plans are already available.

6 Christmas Bible Reading Plans for the Season

I’ve done a little internet searching and found 5 great Bible reading plans for the Christmas season.

  1. “Christmas Bible Reading Plan” on BibleStudyTools.com – “Designed for personal or family reading times, these 25 New Testament readings highlight the birth of Jesus and the purpose for His coming. Related Old Testament passages are also featured daily.”
  2. Spend Christmas Together– This 25-day advent plan is designed to help you slow down and prepare your heart for the coming of the Savior.
  3. “Rediscovering the Christmas Season” – Another YouVersion.com reading plan, this 25-day plan combines Old Testament and New Testament readings.
  4. “All the Colors of Christmas” – This family advent devotional by Focus on the Family has a small price tag but would be a great activity for you and your family to do together!
  5. “Family Christmas Bible Reading Plan” – I found this 25-day plan on the website for a church in Ontario, Canada. It focuses on the purpose of Jesus’ coming.
  6. “Bite of Bread: Bible Reading Plan for Christmas Week” – This 7-day plan by Christians author and blogger Andy Lee at Daily Grace focuses on the significance of the name “Jesus.”

What are some things you plan to do to keep Jesus at the top of your Christmas to-do list? Let’s talk!

Other helpful resources:

 

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May Your Christmas Be Merry and Light!

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. The coming of God to mankind. We needed a Savior. We were stumbling around in the dark and could not save ourselves. We needed a Light.

Then two thousand years ago, the Creator set His rescue plan in motion. The King left His throne in heaven and entered the world as a humble babe in a stable in Bethlehem.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). Anyone who believes in Jesus will cross from death to life. From darkness to light.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18

May the Light of the world fill your heart with His joy this Christmas.

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:2,6

From my family to yours, Have yourself a Merry and Light Christmas!

family

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Broken Christmas

Broken ChristmasEver wonder if this year will be the year of your perfect Christmas? You’ll find that impossible-to-find toy. There won’t be any arguing around the dinner table. And the turkey will not be dry.

But no matter how hard we work, how hard we hope, something always goes wrong. Not everything is the way we want it to be. In fact, some years things are worse than merely imperfect. Sometimes they are truly broken beyond repair.

Our world is full of brokenness. Broken families. Broken bodies. Broken futures.

Sin’s devastating effects are all around us, constantly impacting us. Illness and disease. Evil and violence. Lust and greed. Pain and loss.

Scripture says that all creation groans under sin’s weight (Romans 8:20-21). Even God’s children feel the burden and long for the day that Christ’s redemption will be fully realized:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:22-23

Yes, Jesus came to bring salvation. His death and resurrection brought victory over sin and death. But the last effects will not be wiped away until Jesus comes again.In the meantime, we groan.

Sometimes Christmas only magnifies our groaning. We are expected to be joyful and hopeful. Yet it is easy to allow our circumstances to overshadow joy and hope.

But here’s the Good News. This Christmas may not be perfect. Indeed, it may be shattered. But believers have an unshakeable joy and a sure hope in our Christmas yet-to-come. When Immanuel comes again, He will make everything right. Everything broken will be whole again.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

A broken Christmas does not have to be joyless and hopeless. While we wait for the Christmas yet-to-come, we cling to Christ’s love (Romans 8:38-39), we depend on God’s strength (Philippians 4:13), and we rest in the Father’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

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3 Activities for a Meaningful Christmas

Meaningful ChristmasChristmas is just a little over a week away. If you’re like most people, you’ve been working to prepare for the big day since you stored the leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the fridge. So how’s that been working out for you? Do you feel more joyous or frantic?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness and expectations of the season. Shopping, decorating, baking, cleaning. There seems to be no end. But much of that activity flows from a commercialized version of Christmas. And we don’t have to buy into it.

What should Christmas look like for us? How should we recognize and celebrate the birth of our Savior? A good place to begin is at the beginning. The biblical account of the very first Christmas shows us how those close to Jesus responded to His arrival.

3 Activities for a Meaningful Christmas

  1. Share Jesus – Remember the shepherds? The ones out in the field watching over their flocks by night? (See Luke 2:8-20). After they found baby Jesus in the manger – just like the angel of the Lord had told them – they couldn’t keep the news to themselves. They “spread the word” everywhere that the Savior had been born! Can’t you just hear them? The Messiah has come! The long-awaited One is here! We’ve seen Him for ourselves! The shepherds were the first in a long line of witnesses to the Savior. Who can you tell today?
  2. Ponder Jesus – If anyone in the first Christmas story had cause to “ponder” it was Mary. An angel’s visit. A miraculous pregnancy. And a bunch of shepherds with a wild story about an angelic choir. No wonder the Gospel writer penned “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). She had a lot to think about. A lot to hold close to her heart for God to apply in His time. We can “ponder” Jesus too. Take time before Christmas to sit quietly and consider what the birth of Jesus means for you.
  3. Worship Jesus – The magi traveled a long way to worship the baby King (Matthew 2:1-2, 11). Yet sometimes we simply forget. Or get too busy. Let’s not simply observe a holiday. Let us bow our knee before Jesus and worship our Savior, Lord and King.

What are some ways we can we share, ponder, and worship Jesus today?

 

 

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8 Tips for the Perfect Regift

RegiftHave you ever received a regift? Have you ever given a regift? The term “regift,” first coined by Jerry Seinfeld on his hit TV show, means to give as a gift something one previously received as a gift.

For instance, on my 40th birthday a teacher friend of mine gave me a nice bath salts ball neatly wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon. The gift label firmly stuck on the cellophane read, “To Mrs. Smith, from your student Susie.” Whoops! (By the way, names were changed to protect a not-so-savvy regifter.)

My regifting friend could have benefited from the regifting rules below. Please keep these in mind as you finish up your Christmas shopping – whether at the mall or in your closet. Then keep reading to the end of the post to find out about the perfect re-gift!

8 Tips for Giving a Regift People Will Want to Keep

  1. Check your motivation – Do you have good intentions? Don’t re-gift simply because you ran out of time. Make sure the item will be desirable to the recipient.
  2. Update the wrapping – Do not re-give a gift in its original gift bag if crinkled or torn, or even worse, in the wrapping paper it was in when given to you. Most importantly check for original gift tags and cards. These are a dead giveaway, as I well know.
  3. Don’t regift something you’ve used – This includes partially used gift cards; one gift receiver found a few grains of rice in a “new” rice cooker she was given.
  4. Don’t regift to the original giver – That means you’ll need to keep track of who gives you what.
  5. Certain things should never be regifted – Obscure books and CDs, fancy soaps, fruitcake, promotional items like pens and ball caps, or anything you hated when you received it.
  6. Don’t give something you’ve had for awhile – If it has a thick layer of dust on it or has a tag from a company that no longer exists, then it should probably not be re-gifted.
  7. Don’t give anything that tells on you – If it’s monogrammed or personalized in any way you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Check also for books signed to you.
  8. Never regift anything you’ve bought at a garage sale – I mean, that’s just tacky.

A Few Exceptions to the Regifting Rules

Most rules have exceptions. Here are a few for the rules above.

  • The receiver knows it’s a regift
  • You have another new gift to give them as well
  • The recipient was with you when you received the gift and expressed admiration
  • You know without a doubt they will absolutely love it!

Jerry Seinfeld may have coined the phrase, but he didn’t invent the regift. In fact, the first Christmas regift was given on the very first Christmas.

As soon as the shepherds left the stable they ran into Bethlehem to share the gift of the Christ-child with everyone on their Christmas list. (See Luke 2:17.) Anna, the old prophetess that Mary and Joseph encountered at the temple soon after Jesus’ birth, shared Jesus with “all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

There is no better Gift to regive at Christmas – or anytime for that matter – than Jesus Christ. When we share Jesus, we point people to the hope, peace, love, and life that only Jesus can give. He is the Gift that keeps on giving.

What are some ways you can give Jesus this Christmas?

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