Overcoming Fear at Christmas

by Cynthia Cavanaugh @CavCynthia

It’s a demanding season. A season with lots of room for failure. I worry that my preparations for the holiday will be insufficient. Will I give the right gifts? Decorate the house well enough? Make the kind of goodies my family will appreciate? It’s so easy to fall into a people-pleasing trap.

Believe it or not, potential for fear is a big part of the Christmas story. Remember the reaction of the shepherds on that dark hillside when the angel suddenly appeared? (One we can completely understand, given the extraordinary event!) But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10 NIV).

God addressed their fear first before giving them the news. He told them they didn’t need to be afraid because what they were about to hear would bring them great joy. They needed to calm down before they could hear what the angel had to say.

In the same way, God wants to address our fear this Christmas.

Of course, we first have to acknowledge that we are afraid. That may take slowing down long enough to fully recognize it. Once you do, grab a piece of paper and start writing. What are you afraid of this December?

Ask God to help. Because if we let fear drive us, our need to control will take over like a run-away train, and we will be miserable. Take it from me; I’ve done it so many times, and I’ve made not only myself miserable but my family, too!

We can’t miss the second part of the announcement. The angels told them what they could discover once they let go of their fear. “Today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savoir, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 NIV).

What waited for them was the tiny Messiah. They would recognize Him right away, because of His humble surroundings, sleeping in a crude manger. Immanuel, God with us.

When the angels had left them and the dark and quiet had returned, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” (Luke 2:15 NIV ). The next verse tells us that they hurried to see Jesus.

My fear this Christmas is that I won’t have enough time to get everything done, no matter how I rush around and frantically plan. It’s all so exhausting. The only kind of hurrying I really want to do is to hurry to see Jesus, as the shepherds did that night. Because He is the greatest reason for joy.

So in order to make sure that fear doesn’t dominate my Christmas, I am purposely choosing to simplify a few things this year. And allow myself the joy of being in His presence.

Let’s name our fears together, then let them go, and hurry as the shepherds did to spend a few moments with Jesus. I believe that in that process, that our joy for the season will be recaptured.

… ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. John 16:24 NASB

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At Christmas, take your cue from the shepherds and spend a few moment with Jesus – @CavCynthia on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

cynthia cavanaughAbout the author: Cynthia Cavanaugh is the author of five books, including Anchored, and is a speaker, life coach, and leadership professor at Trinity Western University. She knows nothing about coffee and is a self-proclaimed tea addict who loves connecting with women helping them to flourish. 

Join the conversation: What are the fears that bother you during the busy holiday season?

 

Messy Christmas

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Christmas often comes with high expectations. We think everything has to be just so. Perfect decorations. Perfect family. Perfect gifts. Perfect meal.

Our culture perpetuates this fantasy. In the dozens of made-for-TV Christmas movies, the girl always finds her soul mate, the estranged father is always reunited with his family, the boy always gets the puppy, and the table is always laden with beautiful food (which must have been made by Christmas elves, because you don’t see anyone slaving away for hours in the kitchen).

But here’s the problem with high expectations: many of us will be disappointed. Life will never be perfect – not even at Christmas. Maybe especially at Christmas. The arrival of December 25th does not magically heal broken relationships or ease the pain of loss or pay the bills.

In fact, Christmas tends to intensify any grief, anxiety, and sadness we feel because we compare our imperfect, messy lives to that unrealistic perfect image. When our lives don’t measure up, we lose hope. Without hope, Christmas becomes a time we have to get through instead of a joyful celebration.

Here’s the good news: Real hope for Christmas is not in a golden turkey or a new Kindle or a happy family gathered around a gorgeous tree. Real hope is in a babe in a manger. God come to earth to be with us. Immanuel.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us… In Him was life and that life was the light of men… We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.  John 1:4, 12, 14 NIV

This life is messy and will be messy until Jesus comes back for His children. In the meantime, we will encounter trials, pain, death, sickness, divorce, heartache – oh, just name it! However, in the middle of all our mess we can find strength, joy, and peace in the Savior. The birth of that one tiny baby long ago provides hope – for this life and eternity.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV

Does your life feel messy this Christmas? Lay it all at the manger. Find your Christmas joy and peace in the Child of Christmas. In your Savior.

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Does your life feel messy this Christmas? @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s Bible study. Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Are you struggling with a messy life this Christmas season? Share a thought about the hope, joy, and peace you can find in Christ!

The Glory of the Lord

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

 “Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:5

Nothing could be heard but the occasional bleat of a lamb or the gentle rustle of leaves blowing in the night breeze. Several shepherds dozed around the fire as the rest kept watch over the flocks. Darkness surrounded the small group like a protective cloak. It was an ordinary night, quiet, sleepy, and calm.

Suddenly an angel stood before them. The hillside suddenly lit up as if it were daytime. The shepherds were terrified. There was more to come. After the angel’s announcement, the skies filled with a multitude of heavenly beings singing a glorious chorus of praise. It was a jaw-dropping climax to the proclamation of the Savior’s birth as the glory of God shone all around them (Luke 2:8-16).

The shepherds knew without a doubt they had just witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event. So in the darkness and sudden quiet that followed, they picked up their staffs and headed to Bethlehem to worship the newborn King.

Why the bright light that sacred night? What statement was God making by shining His glory around those startled shepherds?

The shepherds would have known that in the past God had demonstrated His glory with light to His people. Following the exodus out of Egypt, God showed His glory as a cloud of light (Ex 16:10). When Moses was receiving the Law at Mt. Sinai, light indicated the glory of God’s presence on the mountain (Ex 24:16). At the Tabernacle dedication, the light of God’s glory filled that place. His presence, continually displayed as a pillar of light, remained with the people to guide them in their journey to the Promised Land (Exodus 40:34-38).

But the light of God’s glory did not remain with His people forever. Over the next several hundred years, the people rebelled and turned to worship idols. God eventually sent judgment in the form of invading armies. The prophet Ezekiel, one of the 10,000 captives taken to Babylon, was given a vision while in captivity: the glory of the Lord departing the Temple (Ezekiel 10:18-19, 11:22-23). In the following centuries, the glory of God no longer resided in the land—and Israel walked in spiritual darkness.

Four hundred years after Ezekiel’s vision, the promised Savior was born. And how did God reveal the Messiah’s coming? God shone the light of His glory to announce His presence with His people once again. Emmanuel, God with us, was born.

As Isaiah had prophesied:

“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.” (Is 9:2)

Now, these two thousand years later, God’s presence remains with us.  No longer must we walk in darkness. The Light of the World now shines in the hearts of those who believe in Him. Jesus promised His disciples: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts, as a seal guaranteeing our promised inheritance and eternity with Him (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The glory of the Lord continues to dwell among men. In response to His presence within us, He has asked us to live as light, shining in such a way that those around us will give glory back to God (Matthew 5:14-16). “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9

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The glory of the Lord continues to light our way this season and throughout the year – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: How is God revealing Himself to you this Christmas season?

Mary, Obedient Servant

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

For Mary, a young woman, engaged and preparing for a wedding, the appearance of the angel Gabriel was unexpected and terrifying. But despite her fear and confusion, Mary didn’t run from the heavenly apparition. Instead, she listened with enough composure and attention to understand the announcement, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (Luke 1:31 NIV).

Then Mary asked a simple question, “How can this be?”

Mary was not questioning God’s call on her life. She was only asking for clarification, wanting to understand the mechanics of how something such a thing could happen. Once the angel answered her, she yielded herself totally to God’s plan.

If an angel appeared to a teenage girl today with shocking news such as Mary received, there would be numerous questions, or an exclamation of “No way!” Doubtless, Mary realized the potential problems inherent in God’s mission for her life, yet she didn’t voice hesitation. Instead, she calmly trusted God’s plan for her must be the best plan.

Mary’s acceptance tells us something about her relationship with God. Her faith was deep enough for her to trust and offer herself willingly. Perhaps it was Mary’s servant-heartedness that caused God to select her as the one “highly favored among women.” It seems appropriate that God chose this obedient servant to be the mother of a child, who would later offer himself in the greatest act of servanthood ever.

The Bible leaves us wondering about Mary’s parents’ reaction to her news, but we can imagine. Perhaps they were skeptical about the authenticity of her story, or even angry and disappointed with her. Mary went to visit her relative, Elizabeth, soon after the angel’s announcement, maybe to allow time for her family to adjust.

Joseph was embarrassed and hurt by Mary’s pregnancy and planned to quietly break their engagement. (Obviously, Joseph loved Mary because it was within his rights, and the customs of the day, to publicly denounce her.) When the angel appeared to Joseph, verifying Mary’s story, he abandoned his plan and also acted in obedience.

Surely, Mary, Joseph, and their families experienced all the conflicting emotions that we do today when faced with a situation that seems out of our control and life-altering. Sometimes God asks us to do things that bring skepticism and criticism from those around us, family included. Often, obedience to God’s will involves some degree of discomfort.

Although Mary found favor with God, and acted in obedience, her life was not without suffering. Upon seeing the infant Jesus in the temple, Simeon predicted a sword would pierce Mary’s soul. Mary was alive during Jesus’ ministry, his arrest, trial, and present when he was crucified. She saw the fulfillment of God’s plan, but she also endured a mother’s anguish as she watched her son die a brutal death.

The true test of our faith and trust comes in our obedience to God. If, like Mary, we willingly offered ourselves, without questions or delay, to God’s purpose and plan for our lives, how much more could God do in and through us?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Luke 1:38 NIV

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What We Can Learn From Mary, Obedient Servant – @CandyArrington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Join the conversation: Has God ever asked you to do something that involved great discomfort?

How a White Christmas Showed Me God’s Love

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

The first Christmas I spent away from my family was also my first Christmas of walking with the Lord. Having grown up in the deep south, my assignment to Boston after college couldn’t have been more exotic if I’d been sent to Mars.

I arrived in early October. The beauty of the colored leaves intoxicated me. The quaint town of Needham, with its mixture of Victorian houses and small clapboard homes, held storybook charm. The locals’ accents fascinated me. One student, named Barbara O’Conner, introduced herself as “Barba-er O’Conna.”

The ministry team I joined was made up of seven young single men and women. We quickly became fast friends.

I’d planned to return home for Christmas. But our national director had other plans. He asked everyone to remain on assignment to prepare for the conference that would begin the day after Christmas.

The Lord had prepared my heart for this change in plans. I was excited to experience a New England Christmas. Since Boston winters were much colder than Savannah winters, I wanted the perks of a northern Christmas. I asked the Lord for a white Christmas.

The Boston natives groaned at my desire. “We don’t want to travel in snow,” they said. No problem; I asked the Lord to let my friends get safely on their way, and then bring snow.

Christmas Eve arrived, and there was no sign of snow. The guys on our team came over to our house, and we talked and laughed late into the night. At 2 a.m. I climbed into bed. There was still no sign of snow.

Christmas morning my housemate Candi padded into my bedroom and wished me a Merry Christmas. “You want to see our white Christmas?” I joked.

I pulled the shade and gasped. Six inches of marshmallow cream glistened in the morning sun—a living Christmas card.

We squealed in delight and rushed to dress. The guys showed up with sleds, and we romped like kids.

I baked my first turkey that Christmas. A widow joined us for dinner. In the evening we gathered in our small living room and thanked God for His Christmas gift of Jesus and for His forever family.

Instead of feeling homesick being hundreds of miles away from friends and family, I felt full and loved. God had not only granted the desires of my heart, He’d protected my friends’ travel.

Perhaps not having expectations for that year freed me to recognize and enjoy the treasures that matter most. And God granting me a perfect white Christmas reminded me that He knows and cares about our heart’s desires.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32 NIV

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How a White Christmas Showed Me God’s Love – @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks, writes, and coaches to help women discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog. debbieWwilson.com

Join the conversation: Do you have an unexpected Christmas memory to share?

Lord, I’m Just Wondering…How Will This Be?

by Pat Layton @patricialayton

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34 NIV

I remember the first Christmas after believing in Jesus back in 1984. I had always loved Christmas and all that it entailed, but that year was different. Quieter. Sweeter. Personal.

It had been just a few months since I laid my messy-self down at a physical alter and completely surrendered to Him. I brought my heartbreak and shame from a life of bad choices, including the heartbreak of abortion. I brought my broken-to-pieces marriage. I brought my overwhelming sense of failure and worn to the bone weariness from trying to make it all better. With a clear head and a humble heart, I had just heard exactly what the “Gospel” meant for the first time. I enthusiastically received Jesus as Lord of my life and never looked back.

As the Christmas season approaches, I have been contemplating this verse with a fresh heart. I have been thinking about how the unexpected turn of events might have left Mary with even more questions than she started with! Talk about an “unplanned pregnancy”!

Mary’s “How will this happen?” challenge was answered by the angel with “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.” It was a reply that offered more questions than answers. Surely she was left wondering: when He does come will I know? Will He tell me when He is coming? How does “the Holy Spirit” feel?

Today’s verse and good news shows us God is not afraid of or offended by our questions, just as when Mary asked, not with doubt but with a sincere wondering, “HOW Lord? I am a virgin.”

So friend, what is going on in your life today that prompts the question….”How will this be Lord?”

Here are some tips I wrote down for myself as I reviewed these verses:

  1. Study God’s Word for a promise that pertains to your CURRENT need or question.
  2. Check your Bible concordance and see where all your need is mentioned. (Be sure to look at the context to make sure you will not be putting words in God’s mouth.)
  3. Decide to believe what God says.
  4. Journal/record your question and God’s answers and state your faith as a prayer. Say it out loud so YOU can hear it.
  5. Let God speak and change your heart.Leave it with Him. He is able. If you find yourself carrying the question again, remind yourself that “God’s Got This!”

Mary had that kind of trust. “May it be done to me according to your word,” she answered.  And lived out that simple trust one step at a time.

Lord, you are amazing. You are good to me. In fact, you are GREAT! I trust you. I surrender to you. I look for your constant leading today, tomorrow and for as long as the questions loom ahead of me. I am thankful for the comfort of The Holy Spirit who walks with me through my questions and gives me the strength to believe. This is the day that you have made. I rejoice and believe!

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What prompts you to ask, “How will this be?” @PatriciaLayton on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

[a lifestyle photographer]About the author: Pat is a passionate and inspiring author, speaker and life coach who has founded and led a variety of organizations during her 25 years in full time ministry. She has published 6 books including her best-selling post abortion recovery Bible study, Surrendering the Secret, released by Lifeway and Life Unstuck: Finding Peace with Your Past, Purpose in Your Present and Passion for Your Future. Visit her website at http://www.patlayton.net for more information.

Join the conversation: What thing in your life did you think of when you read Mary’s question?

The Blessing of the Christmas Bike

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

I waited impatiently along with my sister Karen and brother Chuck at the closed door leading into the living room, where we could imagine the sparkling Christmas tree awaiting us. Nine-year-old Karen murmured, “I can’t wait to get my new bicycle. I just know it’s under the tree.”

Then it was time. We sprinted into the living room and gasped with delight. The tree blazed with colored lights. Karen’s eyes scanned over the gifts, some wrapped, some not. But there wasn’t any bike standing by the tree. I heard her murmur Where is it? and knew her heart felt heavy with disappointment. But I could also see that she was trying to push her disappointment aside as she grabbed the unwrapped doll sitting on top of her pile. It was the doll she wanted—but it wasn’t the bike!

From my vantage point, I could see Karen’s bike over by the front door next to the hall closet. Even though I wondered why she didn’t see it, I was too engrossed in my own gifts to say anything.

“Karen,” I heard our mother call, “please go to the hall closet and get me one of the folding chairs.”

“But Mommy, I’m not done with my presents…” Our mother’s warning look stopped her whine. She got up slowly. “Oh, OK.” I knew she wanted to scream, “Where’s my bike?” as I saw tears pooling in her eyes. She had been talking for months about getting that bike for Christmas.

Karen walked across the small living room to the hall closet and jerked open the closet door. Tugging at the chair inside, she pulled it out and carried it to where her mother sat. “Thanks, honey,” her mother grinned.

Moments later, Karen’s shoulders slumped as she reached for her last present which wasn’t her bike. “Karen, if you’re done opening your presents, what do you say?” her mother asked.

“Thanks for my presents. They’re nice.” But I knew what she really wanted to say. We all did.

Then our mother spoke up again, “Karen…” but started laughing before she could say anything more. Before she could control herself, our father had burst into laughter too. Mom’s giggling subsided and then she said, “Karen, would you please go to the closet again and stand there?”

My sister obediently trudged toward the closet and then jolted to a stop. There, right in front of her, leaning against the opposite wall, was her shiny, red bike decorated with a big red bow! As she stood transfixed with her mouth agape, we all roared with laughter.

“Honey, why didn’t you see it before?” Mommy called out. “It’s been there the whole time. That’s why I interrupted you with that silly task.”

Karen delightedly jumped onto her new bike’s red plastic seat that sported bright yellow sunflowers. “I guess I was so disappointed when I didn’t see it under the tree that I just didn’t notice it over here.” She paused. “But it’s here! My bike! I love it!” She ran to Mommy and Daddy and hugged them.

I’ve always remembered that Christmas morning. Karen thought the bike would be under the tree and her ability to see it was blocked by her locked expectations.

When I get disappointed by life and other people, and even God, I’m reminded how blessings are often all around me but I just don’t see them. I’m expecting them in a certain way—like under the tree, but not sitting by the closest door.

I must be open to God’s unusual and creative ways to bless me and others. He knows what’s best.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 NASB

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Learning to Look for God’s Blessings in Unusual and Creative Places – The Lesson of the Christmas Bike (Click to Tweet)

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to see spiritual applications in the daily moments of life. Little did she know on that Christmas morning that one of God’s blessings would be becoming a writer and speaker. She’s an international speaker and author of more than 50 books including At the Heart of Friendship: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series. She writes and lives in Southern California, with her husband, Larry. They are parents and grandparents, co-authors and lay-counselors. Connect with her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com and www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor

Join the conversation: How has God met your expectations differently than you imagined He would?

Life in a Snow Globe

by Lori Altebaumer @Lori_Altebaumer

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV

The snow globes of Christmas are magical. The first thing I want to do when I see one is to give it a really good shake, and not because I’m a violent person who enjoys shaking things. It’s the after effect that I enjoy, watching the snow settle gently on the heart-warming display within the tiny glass dome.

There is something captivating about the way the little fake flakes swirl down on the peaceful little scene. It tugs at our longings to be a part of a scene so serene. Snow globes invite us in to something beautiful.

Snow globes are deceitful, though. We can pick them up, flip them upside down, shake them vigorously, and when we set them back down the same sweet, peaceful little scene remains intact. The gently falling snow is the only difference.

Not so with my life.

When I’m the one in a snow globe being flipped upside down and shaken, there is very little sweetness or peace to be found.

I had that kind of shake up recently, when my world was so jarred my eyes were rattling. Everything that could go wrong was doing so. I shared my feelings with a friend, and she reminded me: remember the snow always settles down eventually. True.

As I pondered this, I realized that the real beauty of the snow globe comes after it has been shaken. The scene is most captivating amidst the falling flakes.

What if my life is like that? What if the only way the real power and beauty of my existence can ever be fully realized is through the shaking?

No, I do not enjoy being shaken. It is scary. It is often painful. It is never fun.

But if the after effect is something beautiful, something captivating, something glorifying to the One who put me in this snow globe I call my life, I would do well to view the shaking with a proper perspective. This world may shake up my life, but it can never shake my hope.

The next time I feel my snow globe begin to shake, may I persevere in faith and joyful expectation that something beautiful is coming.

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Lessons learned from life in a snow globe – @Lori_Altebaumer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Lori AltebaumerAbout the author: Lori Altebaumer is a writer and editor who only half-jokingly tells others she lives with one foot in a parallel universe. She is a wandering soul with a home-keeping heart and a love of words and story. Lori loves sharing the joys of living a Christ-centered life with others through her writing. Now that her nest is empty, Lori enjoys traveling with her husband and visiting her adult children where she can rummage through their refrigerators and food pantries while complaining there’s nothing good to eat here (payback!). She blogs regularly from her website at www.lorialtebaumer.com, and can also be reached on her Facebook page @lorialtebaumerwrites.

Join the conversation: Can you remember when a time of instability or change resulted in something beautiful?

Have Yourself a Chocolate Covered Christmas

by Rhonda Rhea @RhondaRhea

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NASB

Anytime something breaks around the house at Christmas time, you should always glue it back together with melted chocolate.

Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I’ve said “no” to someone offering me something from their well-constructed tower of fudge-covered Christmas party delights…well, I would still have zero nickels. But there have been a lot of chocolate towers, just the same.

Is there anything we won’t cover with fudge during the holidays? Anything? Not that I’m complaining. I try not to encourage it, but it is apparently compulsory. Maybe I mentioned before that I would’ve named one of our children Ghirardelli if my husband would’ve let me. Fannie Mae? That name was in the running too. Godiva? Okay, that one just seemed wrong, even to me. But I was still strongly considering “Whitman” for one of the boys. I’m a long-time respecter of all things chocolate covered. My favorite is when people just give up the silly pretense and start covering chocolate with chocolate.

I feel like people who say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend don’t really understand how much we like chocolate chips.

You can’t really go by me as far as what women want, that’s true. As a matter of fact, all of us—women, men, children, teens—we all tend to want whatever is wrong for us. That off-kilter “wanter” came with the curse of sin.

But I love Christmas. It’s the concentrated, commemorative reminder that Jesus came to deal with the sin curse we were powerless to get rid of. Because He paid in full with His own blood what was needed to provide the remedy for sin, He gives us His own righteousness and a right and tight relationship with a holy God.

He makes us new. And with that newness comes a new way of wanting. Paul said, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Philippians 4:13, HCSB). He gives us the ability to do good—and the desire to do it. He’s got us covered in every perfect way, all the way to the soul.

There’s nothing more delicious in this existence than accomplishing “His good purpose” for our lives. It’s what we were made for.

People do come up with creative ways to celebrate the season. Some are good. Some are chocolate. Some are downright weird. I like what Joseph did. The one he was to marry—pregnant. What a heartbreak that must’ve been for him. But when God announced His “bigger purpose” in Joseph’s dream, do you know what Joseph did? He obeyed. From the second he woke up. “When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him,” (Matthew 1:24, HCSB).

Because Joseph obeyed, he got to witness God’s bigger purpose up close and personal. “Immanuel.” “God is with us,” (vs. 23).

“God is with us” is really all I want for Christmas too. Celebrating the redemption we have in Him—our most blessed covering—that’s enough for me.

Though if you insist on getting me a gift anyway, I don’t suppose I should argue. Let the chips fall where they may. You know I mean chocolate chips, right?

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Have Yourself a Chocolate Covered Christmas – @RhondaRhea on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown, mostly-coffee-drinking children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: How do you celebrate the real reason for Christmas? Share your ideas with us!

A Well-Appointed Christmas

by Julie Coleman @JulieZColeman

It’s that time of year. You know, when sitting down for a minute brings a feeling of immediate guilt, because there is just so much to do. Shopping and social events loom ahead. Presents need wrapping and the house needs decorating. So much to do. So little time.

Yet it all miraculously gets done year after year. As I fall into bed the night before Christmas, I marvel at the fact every gift is wrapped and under the tree. Food is ready to be put in the oven. The house is aglow with white lights and greenery. After weeks of rushing and sweating the details, all preparations are finally complete. A well-appointed Christmas is no accident. (And on the day after Christmas, my sister and I call each other to sing, “It’s the most wonderful day of the year!”)

We aren’t the only ones who put thought into Christmas details. A myriad of things had been prepared and were perfectly appointed for the Savior’s birth.

The world was ready. Until the Roman Empire, international travel had been difficult if not nearly impossible by land. Now, a system of roads guarded and maintained by the Roman army existed to make travel safer and easier than ever before. This highway system would make it possible for a quick spread of the gospel in the years following the resurrection.

In addition, a language barrier no longer existed in the Middle East. More than 300 years before the birth of Christ, Alexander the Great worked to establish Greek as a common tongue. Koine Greek had become the world’s common marketplace language. It would be in this language that the early church would be able to communicate its verbal and written message, able to be understood by both Jew and Gentiles in the surrounding nations.

And finally, the political atmosphere was now stable. Augustus brought in a time of peace and prosperity, called “Pax Romana.”

The nation was ready. Israel detested Rome’s control over them. Ever anxious for self-rule again, the Jews began to look intently for the Messiah to come and bring freedom at last. The Jewish people, chosen thousands of years earlier as God’s treasured possession and witness to the nations, served as custodians of God’s Word.  The Old Testament they preserved revealed the coming Messiah with several hundred prophecies. The precise details of the Messiah’s lineage, place of birth, life, death, and even resurrection would ensure an easy identification by those who would witness His coming.

The people were ready. Four hundred years earlier, a remnant returned to Israel from Babylon to rebuild the Temple and re-inhabit the land. In the ensuing years, the people had gotten bogged down in Pharisaical Laws and tradition which stressed outward actions and neglected an emphasis on the heart. Faith was no longer the issue. Outward compliance with the Law was revered. People strained under the burden placed upon them by legalistic religious leadership. Those without hope of gaining God’s favor waited for the arrival of the Messiah with a sense of anticipation unprecedented in the history of the nation.

Everything was ready. Galatians 4:4 tells us “But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son…” (AMPC). Every detail was planned and executed perfectly according to God’s purposes. As Daniel wrote, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings…” (Daniel 2:21 NASB).

God, who moves world leaders like pawns in a giant chess game, is then certainly powerful enough to care for the little things in our lives as well. The One who calls the stars by name, who knows when a sparrow falls, who has numbered the hairs on our heads, is a God who pays attention to details. Our difficulties may not be of cosmic significance, but they are important to us, and therefore matter to Him.  And just as He perfectly orchestrated His plan to bring salvation to the last detail, He will perfectly orchestrate His plans for us as well.

“You hem me in behind and before, you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain… all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139: 5, 16 NIV

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A well-appointed Christmas—then and now – @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Womenwas published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Join the conversation: What details about Christmas are the nearest and dearest to your heart?