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Christmas Gift for Disobedient Children

You better watch out…or you’ll get nothing for Christmas. Today’s kids understand better than mine did how in the world Santa Claus can know whether they’ve been bad or good. As I was told by some first graders last year, everyone has an elf that tells Santa about what goes on in their homes. I replied that I don’t have an elf, but they didn’t believe me. Then it happened. One sneaked into my house.

In August, I picked up a bag of Christmas ribbon at a garage sale. It was a bit messy and I couldn’t see what was in the bottom, but I handed the lady $1 and carried it home. Later, as I rewound the ribbons, going deeper into the bag, I found two surprises.

    This tiny little Santa figurine…

AND THIS CREEPY LITTLE ELF!

As I understand it, Santa’s Scout Elves can be very mischievous. In fact, it was quite surprising what some of the 1st graders told me about their elves’ activities. But that’s not the point of the elf. No that little fella’s job is to report to Santa each night whether the kid has been good or bad, so Christmas gifts can be doled out accordingly.

I had no need for an elf on the shelf, as our kids are grown up and my husband behaves very well. Still, my boys will be visiting before Christmas, so I’ll play the game for a bit.

According to the Elf on the Shelf website, no one is allowed to touch the elf. Moms enjoy photographing the funny things elves do so they can share them on Facebook, and some teachers like having an elf in the classroom to motivate good  behavior. By the way, I’ve just named our elf Grace.

Grace the elf will now help me explain the most amazing thing about Christmas. Long before the first Christmas (the time of the birth of Jesus) God chose a family to be different from the rest of the people on earth. They were supposed to follow the Ten Commandments and lots of other laws in order to stay in good standing with God. And they wanted to. They even promised to. But they couldn’t. They keep doing the things that were forbidden and not doing the things that were required. God still loved them, but bad things did happen to them because of their sins. All along, God kept hinting that things were going to change. Someone was going to come to save them.  Through his prophets, he said things like,

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

and

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

Immanuel means “God with us.” But how could the Holy God be with such disobedient children. Strange. Another puzzling prophecy told of the son’s death – and our peace.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Now there were some religious leaders who wanted to make sure that the people did what they were supposed to do. They didn’t want any more of the bad things to happen. So they made lots more rules and were very strict about them. It seems that they even spied on the people so they could catch them when they were bad.

Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down

with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
 (Luke 11:46)

Keeping all of the laws was very hard. No one was perfect. Even the “good guys” like Noah and King David did wrong sometimes. The law that was given by God through Moses made the people aware of their failure – their sin.

But then something AMAZING happened! The son was born of a virgin in exactly the place where the prophets said it would happen. And the angels proclaimed peace to men on earth!

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,

from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,

whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2)

The baby Jesus grew up. Even though he was tempted to disobey God, he never sinned. He prayed to God and did only what his Father (God) told him to do, even when it was VERY HARD. After he became a man, taught the people about the Kingdom of Heaven, and even did miracles, Jesus did the hardest thing of all. Just as the prophet said, he was crucified (pierced) for our sins (transgressions) even though he had never sinned.

That was the plan all along. God’s “new thing” was to bring peace to us. Peace in our hearts because we could be right with God when we believed that Jesus paid our penalty. Jesus called it being born again. It is a gift from God. It’s grace.

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God

and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:16-18)

Now we all know that God still wants us to be good. But it’s also true that no one is perfect, so no one is good enough to be with our Holy God. Except Jesus, who died so we could live with him. He couldn’t wait until we were already good enough, because that wasn’t going to happen. The Bible makes it clear that ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23) So we needed to be rescued from sin and death. That’s what Jesus did. That’s amazing grace.

That’s what Christmas is all about. Not Santa, who we’re told only gives good gifts when they’re deserved. Not the elf who spies on kids and gets them in trouble, but doesn’t do anything to help them. It’s about peace. When I think about peace in my own heart, I define it as knowing that I am right with God because of my faith in Jesus (not myself) and that God is working all things in my life (even the stressful things) together for my good. (Romans 8:28)

The men who knew Jesus and spent their lives teaching other people about Him often used the words GRACE and PEACE together. That makes sense to me. Because of God’s amazing grace we can have peace!

 

 

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Christmas Card P.P.S. – Peace

Oh, what peace we often forfeit! Oh, what needless pain we bear! 

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

The nonreligious Christmas card we sent out to friends and family this year included a wish for love in every home and peace in every heart during a joyous Christmas season. Those are gifts I would  wrap up and give to many people if it were possible. Maybe the next best thing is to share what has brought love, peace, and joy to my heart and home. I began with love yesterday in Christmas Card Post Script  and continue today with some thoughts about peace.

Most people want peace. Interestingly, peace is often defined as the absence or lack of something or even freedom from something. World peace means a world without war. Peace of mind means freedom from anxiety, fear, confusion, frustration and worry.

Peace is often paired with quiet. During busy days of holiday preparations, moments of peace and quiet can be precious and few. Homes full of children,TVs and telephones are rarely quiet. Malls are crowded with people and filled with seasonal music, songs like Let it Snow, I’ll be Home for Christmas, Sleigh Ride, and Its a Marshmallow World. Maybe what our hearts long for is a Silent Night!

I am looking forward to a silent night on Christmas Eve. We will be sleeping at my mom’s house where I usually wear earplugs to quiet the frequent train whistles. On Christmas Eve, there are no trains. Ah, peace and quiet. Sometimes military leaders declare ceasefires for observance of Christmas. This year, the leader of the Philippines  is seeking to give the people a “stress-free” Christmas season by declaring a ten day ceasefire from guerilla warfare. Let there be peace on earth!

While most of us are not dealing with the horror of war, our lives are far from stress-free. Can we have peace in the midst of stress? Yes. Today a friend whose brother recently died and whose daughter has begun a battle with cancer told me that she still feels calm and peaceful. I have experienced peace in very difficult situations in my own life at times. At other times, I have been a wreck. What makes the difference?

Oh, what peace we often forfeit! Oh, what needless pain we bear! 

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

These words from the hymn What a Friend we Have in Jesus ring true in my life. Centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah foretold, “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 9:6)  On the night of his birth, angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) With the coming of Jesus into the world, God was offering reconciliation of sinful people to himself. Friendship. Freedom from the fear of death. Peace.

God’s Word on Peace:

Psalm 29:11 – The Lord blesses his people with peace.

Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jesus to his disciples)

Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Philippians 4:6,7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Perhaps you have seen a bumper sticker that says NO JESUS – NO PEACE. KNOW JESUS – KNOW PEACE.

If you know Jesus as your Lord, Savior, and friend, you have the opportunity to take EVERYTHING to him in prayer and know peace. If you have been going through life wanting peace without knowing the Prince of Peace, as an ambassador for Christ, I implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.(2 Corinthians 5:20)

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Card Post Script

The cost of a stamp keeps rising, it takes a lot of time, and technology offers other ways of sending greetings. Nevertheless, we continue to send Christmas cards to many people. I do not, however, hand address each envelope since my husband figured out how to make a list, check it twice, and print the addresses from the computer. One reason the tradition lives on is my love of finding boxes of cards during the After-Christmas sale season.  In the last days of 2016, I was in a drug store hoping to find our 2017 Christmas Card in the post-season mess. We needed several boxes and the selection was limited, but I was determined. Therefore, I settled for a nice, sentimental design, brought the cards home, and stashed them away in a closet.

Thanksgiving passed and I pulled the boxes out for post office preparation. They were strange. I had a hard time opening the card and had to make a crease in each one prior to signing our names. In addition, while the sentiment was nice, there was no mention of Christ, no nativity image and no scripture verse. Instead, the card displayed a whimsical row of townhouses and the words, May you have love in your home and peace in your heart…Let Christmas be a joyous time right from the very start! We do want our loved ones to have love, peace, and joy, but I felt that the words were a bit trite. After considering the time it would take to add a meaningful verse to each, I signed, sealed, and mailed them as is.

I’m not apologizing. And some of our friends and family did receive Christian Christmas cards because we ran out of this year’s design. I’m simply taking this opportunity to add a P.S. regarding “love in your home” today and hoping to add a P.P.S. regarding “peace in your heart” tomorrow.

Love In Your Home

  • The Source: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  1 John 4:7-11
  • The Description: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Merry Christmas!

With love,

Dave and Lisa

 

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Breaking a Bad Habit

I realized quite suddenly that I have a bad habit! It is one that involves my tongue and affects my mind and my mood. It also has the potential to negatively affect other people. Those are good reasons to break it.

My Revelation

I have a habit of including unnecessary negative details when giving a report about an event.  I can make a positive change to my life and others’ lives by breaking that habit.

How It Happened

  1. I was at a training meeting where important information was being presented. I needed to hear and remember what was being said.
  2. A distraction occurred that made it very difficult to do so.
  3. I decided to move away from the distraction and closer to the speaker.
  4. Someone else addressed the people involved and the room became quiet.
  5. I learned what I needed to know.
  6. Toward the end of the meeting, this surprising thought entered my mind, “You don’t need to tell your husband about the bad behavior of others when you get home.” I knew instantly that the words came from the one who knows what I am going to say even before I say it. (Psalm 139:4) When the Lord speaks, I listen! As I agreed with Him, I felt a strange sense of excitement and peace.
  7. When I got home and Dave asked how the meeting went, I said “fine” and told him a few things I had learned.

I confess that my usual response to, “How did it go?” would have been different. I might have said,”Fine.” and then added, “But, you won’t believe what happened…”  Then I would have given negative details that, in the end, did not even affect the outcome. He would, no doubt, have agreed with me that others had been rude, and his opinion of someone else would have been tainted by my report. In this case, it was over and I needed to let it go without repeating it.

A Positive Change

I’m still excited about the difference that will occur in my life as I make an intentional effort to not repeat negative details that are in the past. They cannot be changed and they don’t need to live on. Unless there is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed, which was not the case this time, I can avoid telling the juicy details that, truthfully, reveal an attitude of superiority in my heart. I can love the other by covering over their offense and not come away feeling offended. By eliminating negative reports, I will feel more positive, more joyful, more peaceful.

What’s the Big Deal?

By deciding not to include unnecessary negative details, I will

  1. Feel better about myself.
  2. Spare other people some negativity.
  3. Be obedient to Jesus.

As I conclude this post, this thought comes. Assuming that I have sometimes done or said something that irritated someone else,  how do I feel about the possibility that they later gave a negative report to someone about my behavior? If I am to treat others as I want to be treated, then I must give up grumbling, gossiping, and tale telling. It may sound like I’m being hard on myself. Not so! I am grateful for the revelation and excited about taking tighter control of my tongue.

Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3

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