The Lights Went Out at Christmas – Encouragement Café – December 22

The Lights went out at Christmas
 By Judy Fussell

Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” John 12:44

The Christmas season is upon us. A cold front has descended here in the Piedmont, and it’s been snowing in the North Carolina Mountains. Festive decorations and lights appear everywhere heralding the upcoming holiday celebration of 2020 that will be like none other in history for believers and nonbelievers alike!

Our prelit tree is up and decorated. My husband breathed a deep sigh of relief this year as he put the branches into place, and they came alive with radiant light. Now, at night, surrounded in darkness, we are dazzled by the shimmering brilliance as each tiny bulb does its part to illuminate our beautiful tree.

Light is a unique phenomenon that’s been studied by scientists through the ages. Some indisputable facts are that light is energy and has no shadow. Light always overcomes darkness. It always moves in a straight line, and its speed in a vacuum is a constant 186,283.397 miles per second. Traveling at this speed would take you around the earth 7.5 times in a second! Just the incomprehensible speed alone makes it a marvel and sets light apart from anything else in the universe!

James 1:7 declares, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” 

Christians around the world prepare to celebrate the coming of the greatest gift ever offered to humankind and that is Jesus. Hundreds of prophetic scriptures from the Old Testament writings are fulfilled at the miraculous birth and subsequent life and death of this one child. Isaiah 9:6 was penned 700 years before the birth of Christ.

David called God’s Word a lamp for his feet that lit his path. (Psalm 119:105) Just as light is straight, God’s word makes our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) God’s words are life and we have access to them right now!  Thank goodness we don’t have to understand the laws of physics in order to recognize God as light in this world. Psalm 119:130 states, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

God is light (1 John 1:5). Jesus came into the world as light. (John 12:46) As Christ followers, we no longer walk in darkness but also become children of God that we might bring glory to the Father. (Matthew  5:15-16) The light of Christ shines brightly in the hearts of all believers!

One Christmas past, after our brilliant tree came to life in the darkness, we were thrilled with its perfection. However, later in the week, we returned home to find that darkness covered an entire section of our beautiful creation. Our hearts sank as we scurried to remedy the ugliness left by those lifeless bulbs. 

I had to wonder then, if that is God’s view as he peers into my heart and those who surround me on this journey of life. Does he observe hearts, alive, teeming with the brilliance of Christ; or does an empty, lifeless void surround hearts remaining trapped in the darkness of sin’s curse? God’s remedy for all is Christ, the Light and life of this World! (John 8:12) (John 3:16)

God’s glory illuminated the night sky that first Christmas night. Later a single star led wise men to seek him. Will you seek to follow him today and allow his Holy brilliance to shine forth in you? 

In these troubled and uncertain times, let’s hold fast to Truth Just as the properties of light are established and do not waver or change, so is God. He is an unchanging constant throughout eternity. Peace came to all in a lowly manger those long years past. Love is our gift. Let’s worship and celebrate King Jesus! 

Lord, you alone have conquered the darkness of this world. May you be lifted up and glorified this Christmas by all who claim you as Lord.  For those who continue to stumble in darkness, give them eyes to see and hearts to receive the gift of life from your heart of love this Christmas. For you alone are worthy. Amen 

Be encouraged as you hear truths lifted in song by Lauren Daigle:  Noel and Light of the World 

© 2020 by Judy Fussell.  All rights reserved.

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Transformation Garden – December 22, 2020

Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Matthew 25: 40

K.J.V.

Christmas Lessons

“Christmas should teach us to be Christ to others all about us, that from our very garments may flow the virtue that shall heal and bless all who touch us. There are few people whom God calls to do great things for Him, but the best thing most of us can do in this world is to live out a real, simple, beautiful, strong Christian life in our allotted place. Thus in our little measure we shall reap the life of the Master Himself, showing others some feeble reflection of His sweet and loving face, and doing in our imperfect way a few of the lovely things He would do if He were here Himself in our place.”

J. R. Miller

In Green Pastures

Today’s Study Text:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place under these circumstances: when His mother Mary had been promised in marriage to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. And (Mary’s) promised husband Joseph, being a just and upright man and not willing to expose (Mary) publicly and to shame and disgrace her, decided to repudiate and dismiss divorce her secretly. But as he was thinking this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua, which means Saviour, for He shall save His people from their sins…Then Joseph, being aroused from his sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him; he took her (Mary) to his side as his wife. But he had no union with her as her husband until she had borne her first born Son, and he called His name Jesus.”

Matthew 1: 18-25

Amplified Bible

Exploration:

“He Came to Them First” Part 3

Joseph, The Unsung Hero

“We can never afford to forget that we teach our children to call God Father, and the only conception of fatherhood that they can have is the conception which we give them. Human fatherhood should be molded and modeled on the pattern of the fatherhood of God.”

William Barclay

As I read about Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, what lessons can I learn?

How did Joseph’s faithful life affect Jesus, especially during the first 30 years of his life?

“There is something ultimate in a father’s love, something that cannot fail, something to be believed against the whole world. We almost attribute practical omnipotence to our father in the days of our childhood.”

Frederick William Faber

Inspiration:

“It is the thoughtful, not the unthinking, whom God will guide.”

Matthew Henry

If we will take a few moments this Christmas to read the Advent story along with the lineage of Jesus Christ spelled out by the disciple Matthew in the first chapter of the first book in the New Testament, we’ll find that it was through the bloodline of Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, that Jesus was linked to Abraham, to Ruth, to David the King of Israel, and finally this chapter of the begats ends with these words: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matthew 1: 16, K.J.V.).

Carrying such a legacy, in my mind, would make Joseph a “star” in the Bible story. One would expect many fine words written about Christ’s earthly father. And yet, as I researched volume after volume, to my utter shock, few words are penned about this “unsung hero” as I like to call Joseph.

It was author Meray Oduyoye whose words about Joseph caught my attention for she expresses the same thoughts which went through my mind:

“A young woman preparing herself for marriage is confronted with a most unwelcome message. She is to become pregnant before she begins her married life. It is totally unexpected and deeply embarrassing. The shame of it will be enough to kill her. She is being asked to do what is wholly against her religious tradition and social upbringing. She is to sacrifice her social standing and expose herself to society’s disapproval. She is being asked to put the plan of God above her social and religious expectations. Who will believe that what she is carrying it of the Holy Spirit and that her act of obedience will profoundly affect the history of all humanity? Against all conventional wisdom she says, “Yes!” to this plan of God for her. That young woman, Mary of Nazareth, has gone down in history as the Mother of God.”

Joseph, Too!

“What about the man who is to marry her? He stood by Mary because he too has heard the voice of God and he too believes that Mary’s submission to God’s purposes will bring new life to the whole human community. Joseph too is going against custom and tradition when he takes a pregnant woman for wife. We never stop to think how embarrassing his own position is. What will his parents say? What will his friends say? Here is a man who stood in solidarity with a woman he loved and trusted. A man who had an ear turned to what God is saying to him and to the world.”

What profound thoughts to consider this Christmas Day. Do we, female and male, have our ears tuned to hear the heavenly message that God is sending us today? Do we in quietness listen for the call to serve God, no matter the personal cost?

While we frequently shine the light on Mary’s spirit of obedience in following God’s call to be God’s handmaid, we need to also turn our focus on Joseph who chose to be obedient to the angel messenger who also visited him. In the words of Peter Armstrong, “Joseph could not have known where his trust was leading him: We pray for his patience.” What a shock awaited the faithful Joseph.

In examining the words penned by the disciple Matthew regarding Joseph, Bible commentator Matthew Henry points out that this “righteous” man could have, according to the law, been completely “in the right” if he had chosen to walk-off and leave Mary in the situation she found herself – pregnant and unmarried. But as the Bible tells us: “While Joseph thought on these things” he was sent a heavenly messenger.  As Henry observes: “God graciously directed him what he should do. Note, those who would have direction from God must think…When (Joseph) was at a loss, and had carried the matter as far as he could in his own thoughts, then God came in with advice. Note, God’s time to come in with instruction to His people is when they are nonplussed and at a standstill. God’s comforts most delight the soul in the multitude of its perplexed thoughts.”

It was in a dream – in quietness and peace – that God sent a message to Joseph. And interestingly, the angel called Joseph, “thou son of David.” As Matthew Henry further points out, “the angel puts (Joseph) in the mind of his relation to King David, that he might be prepared to receive the surprising intelligence of his relationship to the Messiah, who everyone knew, was to be a descendant of David…It was a requirement that this poor carpenter keep in mind his own high birth.” “Value yourself,” was what the angel said to the humble Joseph. “The Line of the Messiah is going to be drawn from you.”

In the closing thoughts expressed by Matthew Henry, he carries a tremendous message for you and me today – Christmas, 2015:

“God may thus say to every true believer: ‘Fear not, thou son or daughter of Abraham, thou child of God; forget not the dignity of thy birth, thy new birth’…for it is a great mercy to be delivered from our fears, and to have our doubts resolved.”

This is my prayer for you today.

Affirmation:

O Little Town of Bethlehem

“O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by,

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven

No ear may hear His coming

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him still,

The dear Christ enters in.”

Phillips Brooks

1868

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus

Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

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Where You Live – One Year Devotions for Women

“I know that you live in the city where that great throne of Satan is located, and yet you have remained loyal to me. And you refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you by Satan’s followers.” – Revelation 2:13

The Christians in Pergamum lived right next door to Satan himself! Pergamum was not a Satan-worshiping city full of witch doctors, but rather a Satan-worshiping city full of priest doctors! The city was famous for its medical library and hospital. It boasted fantastic temples and a theater that seated thirty-five hundred people. Psychiatry and hypnosis were practiced there, and on the top of a huge hill stood the famous temple of Zeus! Was this “Satan’s seat,” we wonder? In 1871, an altar with the words “Zeus the Savior” inscribed on it was found in that area.

We have to wonder what it would have been like to live in a place like that, daring to believe in Jesus the Savior, the Healer and the Lord of all! Antipas, Christ’s faithful martyr, found out what it was like, and sealed his witness with his blood. Others would be faithful to their deaths in that place. Still, the risen Christ had some things against his church there. Basically, many were compromising their faith in the face of the opposition. Error had been mixed with truth, and morals had been corrupted. “Repent,” commanded Jesus. “I will give [you] manna that has been hidden away in heaven . . . a white stone, and . . . a new name” (Revelation 2:16-17). Jesus promised he would reveal intimate secrets to those who stand firm, however hard it is!

For Further Study: Revelation 2:12-17

Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Women, Copyright ©2000 by Jill Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.

For more from Jill Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.

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Pearls of Grace – December 22

December 22

An Enduring Presence

“..and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20

I’ve often said that if there was a T-Shirt that read: ”Life is hard and then you die”, that it could most likely become a number one seller! Why? Because life is hard! Living in the world is challenging, and at times cold and callous, and it seems that it intends to leave no survivors in its path of destruction. People will hurt us, they will disappoint us, family and close friends will reject us, those we love will betray us, and during our life some will judge us and turn away from us in our hour of need. The bottom line is, we will all know pain of some kind while we live upon this earth. There are no exceptions to this and no remedies to correct this problem. 

This is the reality of, “Through many trials we must enter the Kingdom of Heaven.“ Did you notice what He said? He said not one trial, but many. In other words, the trials of this life will continue until we enter into the place where troubles will cease, the place every child of God will come home to; it’s heaven. Heaven is the only place where there will be no striving, no troubles, no tears or pain, no confusion, no struggles of survival, no fear or want. Hallelujah that God would give us such an end! 

Jesus knew this, beloved. He understood the struggles, the hardships and sufferings that would come for each of us because He has lived upon the earth just as we are now. He understood how absolutely vital it would be for you and I to know and to have a constant in our life: A constant source of strength when we are weak, a constant presence of comfort when fear has gripped our heart, a constant balm of healing when we have been hurt by the hand of another, a constant light illuminating the darkness, so we will know the way in which we are to go, a constant tower to run and hide ourselves away from our enemies, a constant rock to stand upon when everything around us is sinking, a constant well of unconditional love to draw from when we have drank the bitter waters of rejection, a place of boundless forgiveness when we have stumbled and given way to sin, and a constant hope when our soul is in despair. Our constant, beloved, is not found in people, in our jobs, our talents, our finances, our pastor, our world leaders, our marriage, not even in our families, it’s only found in Jesus. 

It matters not what storms you are passing through this hour. It matters not what troubles your soul. It matters not when loneliness engulfs your soul. It matters not the pain, the struggle, the fear, the confusion, the hopelessness, the devastation. Jesus is there, and He is everything you and I will ever need, and the greatest promise knit to this truth is that He will never leave you, never. What a glorious constant we have! He is as sure as the dawn, He is your bright and morning star, your lily in each and every valley, your bread of life, your light in a dark world. He is your peace in the midst of it all.

I am never alone.

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