It doesn’t matter how rich or poor our life seems to be, we must seek God and thank Him for our blessings. We have all had a pretty traumatic year – a death of loved ones, a loss of jobs, or moving into new situations. But there comes a time when you just have to stop and thank your lucky stars for your blessings. This is God’s plans for your life.
I watch the sun creep through the pine trees as it melts away the early morning frost. The winter cold reaches deep into our souls as we try to explain the trials and tribulations of the past twelve months. God has a way to keep our humbleness intact. Christmas may begin with a little morning music, last-minute wrapping, or perhaps church. But ultimately, give God the praise He so richly deserves on this beautiful season!
Sit quietly, maybe with a cup of coffee, reach deep into your heart and realize it’s time to count your blessings, not your problems. This was my dad’s favorite saying at Christmastime. Now, late in life, I understand the meaning of his wise words. It’s an awesome God we serve!
And so, this morning, I want to begin by thanking our Father for my health first, and then my skilled hands to write His messages. He blessed me with the gift of helping you to know and understand His word a little better. This is a miracle in my life. I thank God for all the wonderful people who entered my life, such as you, my friends. I hope I touched your life by reinforcing the promise of God’s love for you. I could never imagine He, alone, could make this happen to me. Along with my beloved wife, we have tried to brighten your world with His promises.
The Christmas message I bring to you this morning is monetary riches mean nothing without God being placed first in your life. Otherwise, you’ll stagger like the inebriated trying to exist in a fallen world. If you place Him first, in everything in your life, watch the blessings sprinkle down. I speak from experience. It will not be free of bumpy roads, but it will be the “yellow brick road” God desires for you. At the end of the day, lay your head on the pillow and count your blessings.
A little tree twinkles on the coffee table. The instrumental music of Elvis Presley’s song, “Blue Christmas” softly plays while you rub your stocking feet together. Staring into the flickering light of the fireplace, you glimpse the Three Wise Men moving on the mantel. It was an inherited nativity scene, now meant for one person only to enjoy this Christmas.
It’s a ‘single’ holiday. Perhaps the children are grown and gone, you’re a widow or widower, or just alone with no one to snuggle with under the covers and to wish a “Merry Christmas” to on this day. But, did you know singleness is a gift from God? In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul speaks candidly of this aloneness as being a higher calling–a time to dedicate our lives to serving the Lord. Single people can devote themselves entirely to His work without marriage troubles or the anxieties of children interrupting the flow of your Christian duties. So, make the most of being unattached while it lasts!
Depression knocks quickly on the door during the holidays when you are alone, but turn this negativity into positive energy. This world is full of others who want a visitor at Christmastime. Visit a homeless shelter, senior homes, other single members of your church, a food bank, or help deliver gifts to the needy. A smile of gratefulness will brighten your season.
Not into the above suggested community activities? Try turning on an inspirational Christmas movie, or one which will cause you to laugh (“Elf” perhaps??); deliver cookies to your neighbors, or read the Christmas story in the Bible; call someone you haven’t connected with in a while for a light conversation. Did God bless you with creative talents? Get crafty and build something or create new tree ornaments; accept a dinner invitation. You have the gift this year to do what your little heart desires, and you never know who God will place in your way along the path of fun.
You’re not alone this season. The Holy Spirit is trying to anoint you so feel your blessings and rejoice! The ultimate gift is to live better with compassion and faithfulness. Don’t let the Star of Bethlehem shine on a nativity for one – let it glow God’s love for others too!
God bless you and have the merriest of Christmases!
Christmas – another year of rushing to find the perfect gift. You know, the latest state-of-the-art, hottest item on the market? What a time to share your love by giving gifts to others! It might be cold outside, but come inside and feel the warmth of Christmas. The tree ornaments, decorations, and the smell of baking cookies stimulate excitement for the holiday. It’s a season full of hot chocolate and marshmallows.
Once upon a long time ago, my favorite toy was all I ever needed from Santa – a remote-control XK Jaguar convertible which ran on Eveready batteries. Fascination ruled the eyes of this little lad because it had a steering wheel right on top of the battery box. Boy, it was sure better than a plain old car for it was dove gray with a red leather interior. Wow, my very own Jaguar! So what if it was sixteen inches long; it was the best gift ever.
At the flip of a switch, the headlights shone, and I steered my very first Jag around the living room. Oh, I was in seventh heaven driving it down the right side of the dark hallway. But, suddenly, my older brother opened his bedroom door. He walked out and stepped on my brand new Jaguar! In a second, the tie rods broke, and he demolished the plastic wire-spoked rims. So much for my favorite toy that Christmas!
It’s funny how material things mean everything to a young child. But, as we mature their significance fades, especially when God enters your soul. He refills our dreams with blessings galore even if they get crushed. What greater joy than to have God illuminate your heart at Christmas, for His gifts will last a lifetime! He will give you peace, forgiveness, and a chance at a relationship with Him. Jesus paid the cost of God’s present so let us be thankful for our gift of eternal life!
From my family to yours, I pray God blesses you this season! May His light always shine love in your life! Merry Christmas!
Be sure to join us on Christmas Day for the final episode of “Everything Christmas Blogs”!
It’s interesting all holidays, especially Christmas, are based so frequently upon superstitions, wondrous representations and mystical beliefs. I have to wonder if some bored individual sat in a chair, tapped their fingers like the Grinch, and came up with a brilliant idea to announce as a new custom. The basic colors of the season, red, and green, is one such bizarre association to this holiday.
Can you recall your elementary school years when teachers announced they were decorating the classroom or hallway for Christmas? They handed out huge packs of construction paper and paste, and the class made one long paper ring garland. Every color choice was available, and it was up to you to decide what looked the prettiest and best.
I vividly recollect a year when one of my fellow students made his rings in every different colored paper. One little classmate told the teacher, “His garland isn’t Christmassy! He has yellow, white, and blue rings in his chain!” The teacher’s response was, “Who said Christmas is only red and green?You have multi-colored lights on your Christmas tree, right?” Point well taken! So, how did we end up with these two shades representing the holiday? After all, primitive facts reveal all colors were used for this festive celebration.For sure, someone’s creative mind went into overdrive!
In the 14th century, churches built partitions, called rood screens, to separate the congregation from the priests and the altar. They also represented the end of the old year and the start of a new one. These elaborate wood displays of biblical figures were often painted red and green with just touches of other hues. In those days, these complementary tones were the easiest paint colors to purchase; it was difficult to find different hues.
But, you can also find red and green Christmas colors in medieval times. Ancient Celts used holly to decorate their entire home for the Winter Solstice. Their superstitions believed it kept their homes and families safe. The holly, of course, is green with red berries.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, ‘The Paradise Tree’ was a popular play held on Christmas Eve. It depicted Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They used a pine tree and attached red apples as stage props. Was this the basis of the green Christmas tree and red of the forbidden fruit, which later, the Victorians displayed during the holidays? Perhaps, so. There isn’t evidence to support the theory, but it sure sounds logical.
Moving forward in time to 1930, Coca-Cola decided to hire a gentleman, named Haddon Sundblom, to create a character representing the Christmas season. Artists never cease to amaze me! Their imagination prolifically abounds as they design in their own mind. This man generated the contemporary appearance of Santa Claus – the red suit on a fatman, a white beard, and a red floppy hat trimmed in white fur. Yes, this was his own image because the Father Christmas of olden days wore green, blue and red robes and was depicted as very skinny. Maybe he reflected on the red robes worn by Bishops at Christmas and then later used in the image of St. Nicholas in Europe. Who knows?
Today, Christianity significantly endorses red and green as the colors of Christmas. Green represents our everlasting God and eternal life. Red, as in the shade of berries, portrays the blood of Jesus shed to cleanse our sins. However, silver, gold, and the purity of white are a close runner-up too. In any case, all these colors have one thing in common – they are the basic shades of God’s creations in nature. Let us thank Him now for the beauty of the season!
Be sure to join us again Sunday, December 23rd for another “Everything Christmas Blog!”
Welcome to Part Two of a three-part Special Edition of Everything Christmas Blogs. As Christians, it is important to know about Jesus. For example, how many details do you actually know about His family? Though most information is minimal, try to use your imagination, along with the details and facts of the Bible, to understand this holy dynasty. Today, we will learn of Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. Enjoy!
Enjoy this gorgeous Christmas song, “Mary, Did You Know?” sung by Clay Aiken:
Nothing is more glorious or miraculous than giving birth to a child. Who will the baby resemble and what will they become in adulthood? But, can you ever imagine going to sleep a virgin and waking up to discover a baby growing in your womb? And then, to compound the mystery, you are told the child will be a Savior to all mankind! What?? How does this happen? God’s power over man is astounding, if not scary. It proves we, ultimately, have no control over our lives. His miraculous deeds exceed earthly desires, so let us praise His name!
This is the true account of Jesus’s mother, Mary, a poor Jewish girl who lived in Nazareth. Her honorable family was descendants of King David, but they were not any different from others who struggled to live daily in the thriving, small town. Mary’s parents raised her with strong convictions and a deep love for the Lord. She was carefully trained in the Scriptures and so highly favored by God to be the mother of His Son.
Mary’s story begins in the Bible at the tender age of twelve to fourteen where she lived with her parents but betrothed to Joseph. (This is young to be engaged but the lifespan of the generations in biblical days were short.) One day, the angel, Gabriel, came to visit her and said:
“….Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Put yourself in Mary’s place. What would your reaction be to such a claim? I think it would terrify me, as it did Mary, for she was still a virgin. Though she didn’t understand, she humbled herself before the Lord. Her faith and trust in God would see her through the explanation to Joseph and the birth of the child. What a remarkable young girl!
Mary paid a visit to her older cousin, Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah in a small town of Judea. Would they believe her story? They were preparing for the delivery of their first child. As the Bible tells, when Mary arrived, Elizabeth dropped to her knees and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” God used Elizabeth to confirm to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God. She knew nothing was impossible for God. But, Elizabeth understood, too, an unmarried mother in their culture could be stoned or put to death. It would place shame on the tribe in their township. So, she let Mary stay with her until their son, John the Baptist, was born three months later.
Upon Mary’s return trip home, many thoughts afflicted her. How would she explain her pregnancy to Joseph and her parents? They would accuse her of something she did not do. This young woman of such character was about to be put to the ultimate test.
When Mary relayed her story to Joseph, he appeared extremely upset and hurt. She knew he didn’t believe her. What would she do now, and where would she go to stay safe in Nazareth? The Bible does not detail her parent’s reaction, but one can only imagine. Mary’s stress level must have been unbearable.
The next day, Joseph arrived at Mary’s home to pick her up and take her to his house. He loved her! A visit from an angel to him the night before confirmed her pregnancy. (Read Joseph’s history in the first part of this Special Edition – www.danabicksauthor.com/blog/a-real-father-christmas). He protected her and her character, and still wanted to marry even though the townspeople gossiped and shadowed her reputation. Is being a servant of God ever easy?
Near the end of Mary’s pregnancy, she and Joseph trudged an eighty-mile path to Bethlehem. Caesar required the citizens to enroll in a tax census but there was a hidden agenda. He knew a child was to be born who held the name “Savior.” The only way to find out who was carrying the miracle was to demand all citizens report to him in person. So, not only was Mary very pregnant, tired, and concerned of Caesar’s request, she endured a trip which must have been physically painful. Little to eat and little to drink, Joseph, and Mary climbed the many mountains, probably making many short stops along the way for her to rest.
As they approached Bethlehem, Mary began the early stages of labor. The city was full of people, and no place was available for them to stay the night. Joseph found a stall for animals and made a bed of straw for her to lie upon and be comfortable. In a strange town, with no relatives to help, a young Mary gives birth to her first child. She must have been terrified, and perhaps, even a little sad she could not share their joy with family members. But God’s celebration of His son was her drive to remain strong and steadfast. What an extraordinary, uncomplaining mother!
Mary, the humble mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ, was an incredible girl. She served God at any cost and was an obedient follower. How many women, today, can hold a candle to her? She was a nurturer, entirely devoted to her son’s health and spiritual well-being. But, as like all servants of the Lord, there’s great suffering too, especially being the mother of a Messiah. She was a holy woman of rare strength, confirming the human nature of Jesus Christ.
I think it’s proper to remember Mary on Christmas. She taught us to reach out and take a gift, accept God’s blessings, with a faithful and sincere heart. This is the reason for the season, my friends.
This is part one of a three-part Special Edition of Everything Christmas Blogs. As Christians, it is important to know about Jesus. For example, how many details do you actually know about His family? Though most information is minimal, try to use your imagination, along with the details and facts of the Bible, to understand this holy dynasty. Today, we will learn of Joseph, the carpenter, legal father of Jesus Christ. Enjoy!
Jesus’s father, Joseph, was a real father Christmas – he personified a great example of fatherhood. A direct descendant of King David, his birthdate is circa 1782 BC, according to the Gregorian calendar method. In the book of Matthew, Joseph was one of eleven children, but only one of two natural-born children to Jacob and Rachel. Rachel could not conceive until late in life. Joseph was her first child and the most favored by Jacob.
Joseph lived in Nazareth, a tiny town of 400 residents, just twelve miles southwest of the Sea of Galilee. The meager, peasant families, all of whom were Jewish, barely survived farming the rocky, hilly terrain. But he became a skilled carpenter and later a well-respected contractor. He passed his family’s inherited talents on to his son, Jesus.
A faithful and devout man to Judaism, Joseph raised his family under the same practices and beliefs. As the story of Mary and Joseph unravels in Matthew 1:1-18, this compelling man was of middle age when he met Mary. In biblical days, the parents of young girls arranged marriages. Because the age span of humans was short (35-45 years), girls wed at twelve to fourteen years old. It is unclear in the Bible if a marriage arrangement was the situation with Joseph and Mary because their story began when they were betrothed.
So, to describe Joseph’s personality and strength of character, let me set the scene of events. He was an honorable man who loved his soon-to-be-wife, Mary, very much. One day, Mary solemnly approached him and told him she was pregnant. His first instinct could have been anger and rejection. An acceptable response, in those days, would be to send her off to be stoned and ridiculed by the masses because she was pregnant with another’s child. Instead, his faith in God led him to believe her story of an immaculate conception.
Joseph lovingly took her under his wing, setting aside his own needs for Mary’s protection. Men in this culture were not inclined to bend to a woman’s needs, but he set the bar very high. He traveled many miles with Mary until he found a safe and quiet place for her to give birth. But his starring role was about to begin.
Mary gave birth to our Savior, and Joseph was overcome with emotion. He named the baby Jesus (meaning Savior). Biologically, Joseph was not the father, but in every way, this man was a proud, surrogate patriarch. He raised Jesus in the Jewish religion and taught him a spiritual life. His role as a protective father ensured the survival of the child. This was evident when a second angel relayed another message:
Again, Joseph traveled by night with Mary and Jesus, from Egypt back to Nazareth. He humbly and quietly saved Jesus’s life and established a residence for his family. Joseph certainly proved his willingness to be obedient to God’s direction and guidance.
Though an exact date of Joseph’s death is not available, we can surmise it occurred sometime between the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and His crucifixion; Jesus made arrangements for John the Baptist to take care of His mother after His death. This was indicative Joseph was not alive.
What a silent hero Joseph was and a real role model for Christians today! He took his son, God Almighty, and taught him to pray and how to work. This is a man who was forced to live, initially, a life of purity within his marriage to Mary. Sacrificing the ability to have any kind of normal life came with many struggles and much criticism, but Joseph overcame them all. Few examples of these godly traits were seen in biblical days and even less so in today’s generations. Is it any wonder Jesus was a sinless man with such endearing and loving qualities?
Joseph was a gentle and wonderful man. Thank you, to this real, Father Christmas for living and teaching us the example of true love.
Enjoy this video called, “Joseph’s Hands”:
To be continued…. please join us on Thursday for Part Two of Everything Christmas Blogs!
My childhood and young adult years were informative times in the Lutheran church. But, as strong as my family’s practice was in this religious conviction, I cannot remember a time we celebrated Advent. Christmas always revolved around being good for Santa or decorating a tree and our home, or other festive activities. Never once did we slow down and light the candles of an Advent wreath. Perhaps this concept is foreign to you, too, but the German Lutherans started the holy season of Advent in the 4th century. This was my family’s background! I cannot understand why my early years at church did not create a celebration for this special time of the year.
As I researched for this blog, I discovered Advent traditions are usually a personal choice for each church to decide, if or when it is celebrated at all. Well, now I understand why I didn’t learn about it as a child. This serious time of fasting, reading of scriptures and hearing a sermon related to Jesus’s birth just wasn’t critical enough to exploit to a listening parish. Gulp! As a non-Lutheran, Christian informative, I want to impart upon you today, the meaning of Advent because it is so essential to our beliefs.
Let’s listen to this beautiful Advent tune, “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” sung by Enya:
Christians should embrace the four Sundays, or four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. It’s a time to prepare our hearts; the second coming of Christ and Jesus’s birth. The beginning of this liturgical year includes Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. When candles are lit, and twinkling lights appear this time of the year, it reminds us Jesus overcame darkness for our salvation. He is the reason for the season!
Hundreds of years ago, the Advent evergreen wreath became a tradition in many churches and homes. Each week, one of five candles is lit to symbolize our preparation of the coming of the Lord. Today, in fact, marks the first Sunday of Advent. A burning purple candle (other colors may be used too) is representing the expectation of God’s return as He so promised us. Next Sunday, a second candle will symbolize hope; the third Sunday’s candle is for the joy of our Savior’s impending birth and God’s love; and the fourth Sunday’s candle, burning on Christmas Day, signifies the purity of Jesus’s birth. The large Christ candle in the middle of the wreath will be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day reminding us Jesus is the light of the world.
Many symbols of Advent exist today, but the most common are:
• The Chrismon tree decorated in white and gold ornaments, indicative of Christ’s majesty and purity, is used in many churches at Christmas.
• The Jesse tree or Advent tree is decorated each week with handmade ornaments or objects representing Old Testament events from creation to the Birth of Jesus. It was named after the bible scripture Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.”
• Advent Calendars which typically begin on December 1st and go through December 24th. Most calendars have little paper doors over each date. When opened, there may be an image, Bible verse, or even a piece of chocolate. This custom dates back to the mid-19th century when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors to count the days leading up to Christmas.
• Trumpets were used by God throughout the Bible. They symbolize the truths God would have us learn and were used in biblical days to indicate to Israel the advent of seasons of worship.
• A six-pointed star, known as the Star of David, is hung on the second Saturday of Advent. Though a Jewish symbol, many churches use it during Christmas because it serves as a reminder Jesus was born Jewish and is a descendant of King David, whose kingdom was to be eternal.
The Star of David
• The fleur-de-lis represents purity as in the Virgin Mary. Its three points, also symbolize the Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
My Christian friends, if you have not introduced Advent into your home, it’s a great time to do so. Christmas isn’t just about Santa Claus and gifts. Slow down and light the candles for Jesus! Remember the reason for the season – Jesus Christ taking on human flesh. God bless each and every one of you! www.danabicksauthor.com
Next week will be a SPECIAL EDITION of Everything Christmas Blogs! You will not want to miss these incredible stories! We will see you on Tuesday!
Several years ago, I visited Williamsburg, Virginia at Christmastime. I walked the streets of this historical town, and it amazed me how preservationists kept the buildings true to the colonial period of the 18th-century city. If you never visited America’s roots during the holidays, it should go on your bucket list.
Enjoy the music of the Galway Christmas Singers, “Deck the Halls”!
Part of the charm of Williamsburg was the authentic decorations used to recreate a true Christmas era. The most magnificent was the elaborate wreaths hanging on every door. I’m sure they are made by professional designers now, but what a site to see! Every item used to decorate them are from sources in nearby areas, such as shells from the nearby James River, coffee beans, dried native plants, drumsticks, fruit, and straw. I returned home with a camera disk filled with pictures of these beauties.
Williamsburg, VA Christmas wreaths
I’m always amazed at the creativeness of people! How do they come up with their ideas and what was their initial inspiration? Artistic talents seem to be evident in wreaths as far back as the Persian empire. I wonder how they figured out making a round circle of dried plants delivered a beautiful headband? It seemed to work because soon after, the Greeks, in 776 BC, constructed round wreaths of olive leaves worn by the winners of the Olympic Games. Yet others wore laurel or oak leaf headpieces to designate a person’s status and rank in society.
Olympic Games laurel headbands circa 776
Soldiers in the Roman Empire inserted the first bits of decorations into wreaths using fresh holly. They thought this plant had magical powers so using it kept evil spirits away from their homes. The trend of receiving good luck from wreaths moved forward into Europe as the wheat circles, now hanging on doors, brought good luck to their harvests. It was a sure sign of growth and accomplishment for the Europeans.
During the Renaissance period, in England, wreaths symbolized political and religious alliances. The Lutherans initially created the Advent wreath in Germany. They used evergreens, signifying everlasting life through Jesus, and large, circular shapes implying a God with no beginning and no end.
“O God, by whose Word all things are sanctified, pour forth Your blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from You abundant graces. We ask this through Christ our Lord.” ~~St. Jerome Catholic Church~~
The country of Poland created wreaths of grain plants, fruit, and nuts for their Harvest Festival called Dozynki. When the construction of this “circle of eternal life” was complete, they walked to a church to be blessed by a priest. God now sanctified their harvest for the new season.
And so, wreaths for holidays became a household inspiration and custom. Today, the wreath is used in many celebrations, but most important at Christmas. For Christians, it is the preparation of the coming of Christ. Will you hang one on your door this year?
There is always a welcome invitation at our doorstep. We believe in God and the Immaculate Conception, so we honor Him by displaying a wreath of goodwill. God bless all who take the time to read and share our posts.
We wish you all the best holiday season from the bottom of our hearts. Merry Christmas and a very blessed New Year! ~~Dana and Anne
I wish everyone of you a very Merry Christmas, you don’t you how much of a difference you made in my life these past months. My followers, readers, fellow authors and fellow guest authors, participants in Blogsphere, WordPress advisers and administrators are all special people. Stay Blessed