Why Christmas is Important

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There was once a man who didn’t believe in God and he didn’t hesitate to let others know that he felt religion and religious holidays, like Christmas, were a lot of childish fairy tales. He said that religion was a crutch for people who were too stupid to figure things out for themselves or too fearful to live by their own strength. If God were real He sure wouldn’t do some of the dumb things people said He did.

His wife, however, did believe in God and was always quick to say that she was born again. She raised their children to also have faith in God despite his disparaging comments.

One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him, as always to come, but he refused. “What a lot of nonsense!” he said. “Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That’s ridiculous!” So she and the children left, and he stayed home.

While they were gone, the wind and snow grew stronger until it was a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire. He knew his wife would not venture back on the road till the storm abated and he knew there were good snow tires on their SUV. So, nothing to do except enjoy the peaceful evening.

Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. Then another thump. He looked out, but couldn’t see more than a few feet. When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window.

In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn’t go on. They were lost and stranded by this storm. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed. The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It’s warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm.

So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn’t seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them. The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them and they moved further away.

He went into the house and came with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread crumb trail leading to the barn. They still didn’t catch on. Now he was getting frustrated. He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe.

“Why don’t they follow me?!” he exclaimed. “Can’t they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?” He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn’t follow a human. “If only I were a goose, then I could lead them,” he said out loud. Then he had an idea.

He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it.

His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn–and one by one the other geese followed it to safety. He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind: “If only I were a goose, then I could save them!”

Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. “Why would God want to be like us? That’s ridiculous!” Suddenly it all made sense. That is what God had done. We were like the geese, blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us. That was the meaning of Christmas, he realized.

As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood what Christmas was all about, why Christ had come. Years of doubt and disbelief vanished like the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: “Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm!”

 

Are You Lukewarm?

1. Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe “good Christians” do, so they go. Isaiah 29:13

2. Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the church as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so, After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right? 1 Chronicles 21:24, Luke 21:1-4

3. Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives. Luke 6:26, Revelation 3:1, Matthew 23:5-7 4.

4: Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it; they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them. Lukewarm people don’t really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one. John 10:10, Romans 6:1-2.

5. Lukewarm people are moved by stories of people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones. Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers. James 1:22, James 4:17, Matthew 21:28-31

6. Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion. Matthew 10:32-33

7. Lukewarm people gauge their morality or “goodness” by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren’t as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street. Luke 18:11-12

8. Lukewarm people say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives, their money, and their thoughts, but he isn’t allowed to control their lives. Luke 9:57-62

9. Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love Him all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn’t really possible for the average person; its only for pastors and missionaries and radicals. Matthew 22:37-38

10. Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their love for others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people they know and connect with. There is a little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, who kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable. Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached. Matthew 5:43-47, Luke 14:12-14

11. Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give. Luke 18:21-25

12. Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven. Daily life is mostly focused on today’s to-do list, this week’s schedule, and next month’s vacation. Rarely, if ever do they intently consider the life to come. Philippians 3:18-20

13. Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor. Matthew 25:34, 40, Isaiah 58:6-7

14. Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be “good enough” without requiring too much of them. 1 Chronicles 29:14, Matthew 13:44-46

15. Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them sacrificing and risking for God. Matthew 10:28

16. Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America.

17. Luke warm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens-they have their savings account. They don’t need God to help them—they have their retirement plan in place. They don’t genuinely seek out what life God would have them live—they have life figured and mapped out. They don’t depend on God on a daily basis-their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health. The truth is, their lives wouldn’t look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God. Luke 12:16-21

18. Lukewarm people probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Matthew 23:25-28, Luke 14:34-35

Source:Francis Chan

John 3:16

One cold, dark night, a blizzard was setting in. A little boy was selling newspapers on the corner, while other people were in and out of the cold. The little boy was so cold that he wasn’t trying to sell many papers. He walked up to a policeman and said, “Mister, you wouldn’t happen to know where a poor boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight would you? You see, I sleep in a box up around the corner there and down the alley, and it’s awful cold in there at night. It sure would be nice to have a warm place to stay.”

The policeman looked down at the little boy and said, “You go down the street to that big white house and you knock on the door. When they open the door you just say ‘John 3:16’ and they will let you in.”

So the boy walked up the steps to the door, and knocked on the door and a lady answered. The little boy looked up and said, “John 3:16.”

The lady said “Come on in, Son.” She took him in and she sat him down in a split bottom rocker in front of a great big old fireplace and she went off. He sat there for a while, and thought to himself “John 3:16… I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a cold boy feel warm.”

Later she came back and asked him “Are you hungry?”

He said, “Well, just a little. I haven’t eaten in a couple of days and guess I could stand a little bit of food.”

The lady took him in the kitchen and sat him down to a table full of wonderful food. He ate and ate until he couldn’t eat any more. Then he thought to himself “John 3:16… Boy, I sure I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a hungry boy feel full.”

She took him upstairs to a bathroom to a huge bathtub filled with warm water and he sat there and soaked for a while. As he soaked, he thought to himself, “John 3:16… I sure don’t understand it, but it sure makes a dirty boy feel clean. You know, I’ve not had a bath, a real bath, in my whole life. The only bath I ever had was when I stood in front of that big old fire hydrant as they flushed it out.”

The lady came in and got him, and took him to a room and tucked him into a big old feather bed and pulled the covers up around his neck and kissed him goodnight and turned out the lights. As he laid in the darkness and looked out the window at the snow coming down on that cold night he thought to himself, “John 3:16… I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a tired boy feel rested.”

The next morning she came back up and took him down again to that same big table full of food. After he ate she took him back to that same big old split bottom rocker in front of the fireplace and she got a big old Bible and sat down in front of him and she looked up as she asked, “Do you understand John 3:16?”

He said, “No, Ma’am, I don’t. The first time I ever heard it was last night when the policeman told me to say John 3:16.”

She opened the Bible to John 3:16 , and she began to explain to him about Jesus. Right there in front of that big old fireplace he gave his heart and life to Jesus. He sat there and thought, “John 3:16, I don’t understand it, but it sure makes a lost boy feel safe.”

The lady then said: “You know, I have to confess I don’t I understand it either; how God would be willing to send His own Son to die for you and me, and how Jesus would agree to do such a thing. I don’t understand it either, but it sure does make life worth living.”

John 3:16: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.(NIV)

Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer

I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River;
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the Cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour;
The service of the Seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death-wound and the burning
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Let God Do It His Way

Life started out on a canvas,
With Christ making a painting of me;
But I took the paint brush from Jesus,
And painted what I wished to see.

…The colors I painted kept running,
And the objects grew all out of size
Till the mess I made on the canvas
Seemed now so completely unwise.

Then I brought back the canvas to Jesus
With the colors and figures so wrong,
In the market it simply was worthless,
Yet His blood made my painting belong.

He stood there with no condemnation,
Never mentioned the mess I had made;
He just started the painting all over,
For the price had already been paid.

As He dipped His brush in the rainbow,
The colors grew brighter in hue;
And in the Glory of Heaven’s Salvation
Brought the forms in perspective anew.

Since I took the brush back to Jesus,
And let Him do the picture for me;
I’ve found that the painting by Jesus,
Is the one that I first hoped to see.

The Visitor

One day, a man went to visit a church. He arrived early, parked his car, and got out. Another car pulled up near him, and the driver told him, “I always park there. You took my place!” The visitor went inside for Sunday School, found an empty seat, and sat down. A young lady from the church approached him and stated, “That’s my seat! You took my place!” The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing. After Sunday School, the visitor went into the church sanctuary and sat down. Another member walked up to him and said, “That’s where I always sit. You took my place!” The visitor was even more troubled by this treatment, but still said nothing. Later, as the congregation was praying for Christ to dwell among them, the visitor stood, and his appearance began to change. Horrible scars became visible on his hands and on his sandaled feet. Someone from the congregation noticed him and called out, “What happened to you?” The visitor replied, “I took your place.”