A Christmas Devotional

By: Yves Blouin
Born in a manger
I’m going to share thoughts about God the Son, that is Jesus, that could seem irreverent or uncomfortable as we discuss Jesus’ humanity.  It would be more comfortable to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.  It would allow us to keep God distant in a neat package.  But God intended Jesus to take on our humanity because of his love for us.  Only through his humanity could he save us, to pull us out or our mire.  We need to be shocked afresh at the audacity that God became one of us.
 
We are emotional beings and since we were made in God’s image this tells us that God is definitely an emotional being.  The Bible is full of narratives where God displays emotions.  Sometimes it is anger, sadness, joy, but most importantly unqualified/unmerited love.
 
I remember when my children were born.  I was many things including silly, nervous but foremost full of joy.  My heart was bursting with excitement and love.  It only stands to reason that when Jesus was born God the Father was also ecstatic, bubbling with joy.  Imagine God the Father witnessing the human birth of Jesus – God the Son.  The Father’s joy at his Son’s birth.  It’s not a rational thing – it’s a full bore emotional thing.  Our minds should be spinning at that thought.  Can we fully understand or appreciate this?  This was the greatest miracle of all times – God with us!  I wonder if God the Father thought – Aw, Jesus is so cute, cuter than any other baby (by the way, full disclosure, in my totally unbiased opinion I can assure you my kids were the cutest babies).  Imagine God born as a fragile tiny little baby in a stinky stable.  Of all the places for the King of Kings to be born couldn’t God have picked a more royal setting?  And born as a baby, not exactly the picture of might and power, plus we all know what comes out of a baby.  Hardly what you would associate with the Creator of the universe.  Jesus needed to be washed, changed, taught to speak, read and write.  All the things that as a human he would require.  
Hebrew Child Being Taught
 
Did God laugh when Jesus did his first giggle, was he sad when Jesus first bruised himself or took a bad fall, was he proud when Jesus first counted from 1 to 10 or laughing when he gave Mary a kiss like only a toddler can.  I know that when Bradyn, my grandson, first grabbed my head with both hands, yanked it to his face and gave me a kiss straight on the lips, a) it surprised me and b) it made me laugh and filled me with joy.  Why would it be any different for God the Father?
 
I believe that Jesus, though a “perfect child”, was likely very much misunderstood at times. We would be forgiven to think that Mary and Joseph understood that Jesus was God and the Messiah given the revelations by the Angels but mostly through narratives that include Mary we suspect she didn’t quite understand until after the resurrection.  Imagine after Mary and Joseph had lost their 12 years old Jesus in Jerusalem for 3 days how anxious they must have been.  I’ve had to frantically look for one of our kids for only minutes when they slipped out of our sight.  I can’t imagine 3 days.
Joseph and Mary looking for Jesus Jesus teaching at 12
Joseph and Mary found Jesus Joseph and Mary reunited with Jesus
 
Luke 2:48-52 NLT
His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.  Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
 
If they understood that he was God would Mary address him this way?  Why would Jesus knowingly make her and Joseph anxious about his absence?  They didn’t comprehend his response and Mary stored these things in her heart.  Two facts that also stand out – God was obedient to them – what a thought!  God being obedient to a lower life form – human parents.  Not that parents are a lower life form than other humans – though some teenagers would like you to believe this.  Also it points out that Jesus didn’t start off with full wisdom but grew in wisdom.  Again we can imagine God the Father being ever so joyful at every new accomplishments that Jesus would achieve or at every new act of wisdom.
 
Mary and Joseph had an incomplete picture of who Jesus was and what was to come, yet did God love them any less than a great theologian like Martin Luther?  Knowledge is great if it deepens your relationship with God and leads to godly wisdom but not if it takes away from spending time in intimacy with Him.  Knowledge can puff up and it can plant doubt, it may dampen our first love.  God is looking for those with a child-like faith that set their pride aside to realize their need of a saviour – The saviour Jesus Christ.
 
To quote theologian Woody Allen (speech to the graduates on Aug 10, 1979 – same year that I graduated from grade 13):
 
This is where worldly wisdom or intellect takes you.  If those are the only two paths then there is not much to pray about or hope.  I would rather trust Christ for my future.
 
Colossians 2:8-10 NLT: Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and highsounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.  So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

C.S.Lewis
To paraphrase CS Lewis: Some people say that because Jesus was both God and man then his sufferings and death would have been easy for him and therefore of no value.  What they fail to understand is that the perfect suffering, the perfect death were only possible because He was God.  If I’m drowning in a river and a man who has still one foot on the river bank offers to give me his hand to save my life will I refuse it because it’s not fair as he has an advantage given he still has a foot on the bank?  I think not.
 
Ephesians 1:7Jesus was closer to the Father than any one of us has ever experienced with anyone.  Jesus already had spent an eternity with the Father.  On the cross he felt the separation from the Father for our sakes.  Christmas is a time of celebrations but also for some it is a time of grieving as we remember and miss loved ones that are no longer with us.  We suffer when we’ve seen a love one suffer, whether due to illness like cancer or some other cause.  We suffer when a loved one dies, whether a friend, a parent, a child and even an infant through miscarriage.  At the cross God the Father endured the unimaginable pain of seeing his son both suffer and die for our sake. Why? Because he loved us and wanted to provide a means to redeem us from our sins.  Our God is not a cold God but one filled with emotions.
 
Some of the following thoughts are borrowed from G K Chesterton.  Maybe you wonder how can God care about you and I amongst so many people in this world in the past, today and in the future.  What is so special about you and I that He cares for us.  Each human birth may seem like a mindless repetition to no end if we were to trust the intellectuals of the world.  Some of them would say that this repetition is an indication of the absence of a higher purpose or life.  But to God each birth is an encore with new possibilities.  Children like things repeated and unchanged.  For instance Bradyn delights having his Papa (what he calls me) help him do somersaults over and over until his Papa can’t move anymore at the shout of “Do it again”!  Bradyn doesn’t have a lack of of life but an excess of it.  Us adults are not strong enough to delight in monotony.  We easily get bored but children of a certain age exult in monotony.  Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  Perhaps God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun and at night “Do it again” to the moon.  The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.  How much more do you think God gets excited at each of us as we step out in faith, whatever the challenge.  He knows the beginning from the end (Isaiah 46:10) but yet he is excited at our every step like a proud parent at their toddlers learning to walk.  He is saying – “That’s my child! Look at him or look at her!”.  You pretty much know that your toddler will likely eventually walk, so does that make you any less excited about his first steps?  I think not and so it is with God.
 
Matthew 18:3 NLT I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
 
Mark, in his gospel, often describes a Jesus full of emotions.  Of the gospel writers he seems to do this more.  Interestingly Mark wrote his gospel based on Peter’s accounts – and of all the apostles Peter probably was the most overtly emotional guy of the group.
 
Mark 10:13-16 NLT One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
 
How does a child receive a gift?  With unbridled joy – especially if they are destitute.  The younger the child the more likely they are to be free of ambitions and pride and more likely to be humble and teachable.  God wants us to receive the gift of Christ in a similar manner with humility and unbridled joy.  Pride will stand as an obstacle to receiving this gift.  We may believe that we don’t need Him, that we are self-sufficient, that we can do it on our own.  But we can’t.  Children don’t have their lives filled with other cares of the world and schedules unless us adults impose it on them for “their own good”. 
 
Billy GrahamTo paraphrase one of Billy Graham’s thoughts.  What was the innkeeper’s response to providing a room for the child to be born?  It wasn’t antagonism, hatred.  He had a full inn.  He was too preoccupied with the cares of this world to take notice that God, Christ was at his doorstep.  In a similar way how many of our relatives and friends are not opposed to God or deny his existence but other than at Christmas and Easter are too preoccupied with the cares of this world to find room for Christ in their lives.  Their heart is already crowded with other interests.  They feel they don’t really need him.  Maybe like what Bradyn does when going for a walk we need to slow down and stop to pick up every dandelion on the way – be amazed by them, see joy in them and in the process take the time to open our hearts to Christ.  In the rush of the Christmas season, maybe, just maybe Jesus wants us to slow down and find time for him and at the same time maybe, just maybe our stress level will go down.
 
As Charles Dickens said, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child Himself.”
 
Maybe you think you can’t be accepted by God because of your past.  For some of us there is so much past.  I’m reminded of it every time I have to bend down to tie my shoes.  The good news is that we’re not forgiven on the basis of what we do or did but on the basis of what Jesus did for us at the cross.  Jesus met a lot of sinners in his earthly ministry.  He didn’t get on their case about their past when they came to him for their salvation.  He didn’t dwell on it.  He didn’t say because of your past “well you’ll get a 3rd class salvation, and you’ll get a 2nd class salvation”.  We all get a 1st class salvation that wasn’t dependent on our merits but on our repentance and his grace.  Repentance is humbling ourselves to admitting that we can’t earn our way, that we fall short and that we bring nothing to the table but the need for His salvation.  The hope of our salvation lies in his resurrection.  Death had no hold on Jesus and neither will it for those who put their trust in him.
 
Don’t you prefer to have a gift you wanted than a gift someone thought you should have?  Christ doesn’t want our attempts to merit heaven as a gift. 
  • Romans 3:23 AMP We all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:15-16 NLT: But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.

Shalom Napkin HolderChrist gave us many gifts.  Through his incarnation Jesus brought love to the rejected, joy to the downtrodden, hope to the hopeless and peace to the weary.  Lately (the last 25 years or so) I fit in the latter category of being weary.  Chester Donaldson one year asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said peace.  This is what he brought me back from Israel.  Mr. D had quite a good sense of humour.  It says Shalom which we know means peace.  It stays on my desk as a reminder of Mr. and Mrs. D. but more importantly in my need to trust in Christ for peace.  I’ve definitely not reached the point where I trust Jesus without fail but I’m a work in progress and definitely have more peace with Him than without Him.  There is no such thing as happiness or peace apart from Jesus.  It is not simply not there.
 
In summary:
  • Colossians 1:19-20 NKJV For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
 
What can we give Christ this Christmas in return for his great gift of dying for our sins on the cross?  Nothing we have is worthy of him but we can give him our hearts.  That is all he desires from us.

SHERIFF TO ATHEIST GROUP: “WE WON’T BE BULLIED. I ONLY BOW TO ONE MAN—BUT YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN HIM ANYWAY”

illinois-sheriff-in-god-we-trust-squad-cars

An Illinois sheriff called freethinking Freedom From Religion Foundation representatives oppressors, and is vowing not to back down from their legal threats after they said the two nativity scenes erected at the local courthouse last month were unconstitutional. The sheriff just penned an excoriating letter to the activists proclaiming he will not bow to “bullies.”

The battle surfaced after one of the foundation’s attorneys sent a letter to the Jefferson County Board to complain about Sheriff Travis Allen’s decision to put the Christian scenes on display along with other holiday elements at the courthouse. The foundation is a national nonprofit whose staff and members believe in nontheism, and are dedicated to the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

Allen rejects the charge that the nativities are unconstitutional. “We’re not putting crosses at the courthouse. We’re not putting Bible verses up. This is a Christmas display,” Allen told WPSD-TV. “What has our country become when we can’t put a nativity scene out in celebration of Christmas because we’re worried about offending somebody That’s embarrassing!”

Allen said he added the nativities to help celebrate the Christmas spirit, noting there used to be a “big Christmas celebration” in the past and that many citizens had requested a new display be put out; so he complied, reports The Blaze.

Foundation lawyer Ryan Jayne maintains the county courthouse lawn is not the right spot to be having religious debates. Jayne told WPSD-TV, alleging in a Jan. 22 letter to local officials that Allen “promotes and endorses the Christian religious aspects of Christmas” – something the attorney said is unconstitutional.

In a Jan. 27 response letter, Allen accused the Freedom From Religion Foundation of including “half-truths” in its letter, and claimed the organization did not include photo evidence of the other non-Christian elements that were part of the holiday display.

“Your letter was full of half truths and I think we both know the court of law does not make decisions in half truths,” Allen wrote. “You did not even take a picture of the inflatable penguin, which I am sure you are also offended by.”

In his letter, he also asked the foundation about its reported 700 members in Illinois. “I would like to know how many reside in Jefferson County,” he wrote. “I am not sure I would be bragging about 700 members in a state that has almost 13 million residents. We have almost 10 times as many people on our Facebook page.”

Allen said he was the foundation attorney sent the letter to the County Board because they thought they could bully them into complying with their demands. “The thing is, in Jefferson County, we don’t really like bullies, and we are not very good at bowing down to organizations. I actually only bow to one man, but you don’t believe in him anyway,” he included in the letter.

Allen and the Freedom From Religion Foundation representatives previously clashed over the presence of “In God We Trust” on squad cars.

Read Original Article Here

Christmas Near The North Pole

IMG_1735Unfortunately, this is what the average person in Northern Ontario has in mind when they think of Christmas. This photo was taken of a local building that was straight across from the post office for everyone to see.

 

On December 23 a few of us decided to brave the cold weather and go outside at the local mall and distribute the gospel.  We put together some packages that were handed out to people as they were shopping.

IMG_1615

Each package included a “Good Person” tract, a DVD of “The Biggest Question?” and a tree ornament that was made with a nail, a red ribbon and a card with a poem of how a nail was used to hang Jesus on the cross.

 

 

 

IMG_1671To our surprise we stepped outside and it was… let’s say frigid.  Nothing a cup of hot chocolate couldn’t fix! After quickly freezing our little toes (approximately 1 minute), we decided to step into the mall for the distribution. It only took 1 hour before we ran out!

There was 1 person who refused the gift. A couple of people were surprised that we weren’t charging them anything for it, and most everyone was pleasant as we wished them a Merry Christmas.

The one time of the year when you can talk about Christ and the majority of people will politely accept what you give them. If you were to try this the following month, you would get a very different reaction.

I think this will be a new yearly tradition. Of course, we will have to expand it over several days leading up to Christmas.