Resting upon His Shoulder

by Patti Richter

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. Isaiah 9:6 NKJV

The words proclaim a good-news message set to music that much of the Western world either welcomes or tolerates each December.

Handel’s Messiah, theultimate Christmas (and Easter) composition, contains hopeful promises from the book of Isaiah, who foretold of the coming King whose reign would never end. God spoke through the prophet to a nation weary of sin, strife, and disappointing rulers. This sounds a lot like the world today.

While Christmas carols and concertos serve to temporarily dispel some of the gloom that plagues the nations, the Word of God provides long-lasting hope for humanity. Any meager outlook regarding peace, health, and freedom, gives way to a better view.

Isaiah continues with hopeful news indeed: “And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6 NKJV).

Some 700 years before the advent of the Messiah, Isaiah spoke words that must have disconcerted and raised eyebrows among God’s people: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV). They must have wondered when—and how—it would come about.

The prophet’s words, cast upon the waters of time, came ashore when the angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin, Mary. (More eyebrows would be raised.) But those who love the story never grow weary of the announcement: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus…. and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31, 33 NKJV).

While we rejoice in the gift of God’s Son, his kingdom can seem far away and unresponsive to calamities here and abroad. We may grow anxious in frustrating circumstances. Like some of the early disciples, we long to see Jesus toss our enemies over his shoulder. We desire peace and security, along with assurances of freedom and prosperity.

Like those in Isaiah’s day who awaited the advent of the Savior, we look forward to our Savior’s return. We wonder when and how this will happen. Meanwhile, if we lose heart over the condition of our world, it may be that our hearts need to refocus on Jesus in the here and now, as he is “sitting at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1 NKJV), with “all things in subjection under his feet” (Hebrews 2:8 NKJV).

The current Year of Our Lord will close out with serious unresolved issues, and the new year will surely produce fresh troubles. Yet one thing is certain:

Immanuel . . . God with us. Matthew 1:23 NKJV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She is a freelance journalist and long-time faith columnist at BlueRibbonNews.com with more than four hundred published articles.

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Patti is the co-author of the award-winning Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: Do you cling to the hope we have in Jesus?

Hold on to Hope

by Pam Farrel

Have you ever felt like this?

You drag yourself in the door. Your arms loaded with more work than you feel you can ever get done, so you drop the burden of books, papers, briefcase, files, and bags in the middle of the floor. You don’t even bother to turn on the light because you don’t want to look at the state the house is in. You’re not sure if you want to take a long, hot bath or just skip it all together and collapse on your bed fully dressed. You are hungry but making anything to eat seems like such a bother. Your head is pounding, your heart is racing, and your body aches.

You are sick of coffee, sick of people, sick of demands, and sick of life. Everyone seems to need a piece of you, family, friends, neighbors—people you dearly love, but at this moment, it seems overwhelming to move to help them. You want to lock all the doors and unplug from all the phones, social media, and e-mail, but even that seems like work. You are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Something needs to change!

HOPE—a heaven-sent answer to the common plight of humanity—is the good news of the Christmas story. Each Christmas, I speak at various women’s holiday events. Using an Advent wreath and candles, I weave a message of hope, help, and inspiration based on Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (NIV).

This verse is well known to anyone that has performed or listened to Handle’s Messiah. During the Halleluiah chorus, it is tradition for the audience to stand. I think that in that inspiring moment, every heart looks for hope on the horizon.

More hope is available in the surrounding context of 9:6. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. …The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace….The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:1- 7 NIV, emphasis added).

When Isaiah wrote Isaiah 9, the people carried a desperately heavy burden. They needed a Savior and a light to lead them. We need a Savior and a light today, too. Only Heaven can send help when life looks impossible. That message is included in the Angel’s message to Mary explaining how the Messiah would come:

And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.”  …:

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. …

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1: 29-37 HCSB emphasis added)

We can have hope, because of who Jesus is, and what he has done and will do in the future.

Wonderful Counselor:  An astonishing advisor

Mighty God: The Almighty God: a strong, heroic, warrior Champion

Everlasting Father: The First and Forever Father of All

Prince of Peace: Ruler, Captain, Chief, Commanderof perfect peace and prosperity.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Pam Farrel is the author of 50+ books including this adapted excerpt from Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament: A Creative Bible Study Experience  (At DiscoveringJesusintheOT.com, Pam has posted her family’s Christmas Conversation Dinner and Dialogue devotional based on Isaiah 9:6.) More from Pam: www.Love-Wise.com

Join the conversation: What about Jesus has given you hope this Christmas season?

What’s Your Excuse?

by Nan Corbitt Allen

“My dog ate my homework.” The well-worn classic grade school excuse.

This present student generation has a new take on that: “My computer crashed and it didn’t save my paper.” (I’ve heard that one a lot from teaching college students.)

Here are a couple of the excuses I hear when someone tries to explain why they didn’t return my call, my email, or my text in a timely manner.

“I’m up to my elbows in alligators.”  “It’s been a zoo around here.”

The latest, of course, is: “…because of COVID…” Though this virus is awfully real and serious—it has gotten on the list of excuses. We blame it sometimes for our idleness, our anxiety, or our anger.

Excuses showed up early in the history of mankind.

In the Garden of Eden, just three chapters into the Bible, man and woman sinned. It’s a good story and explains the Great Fall, but look at Adam and Eve’s response when God asks them to explain their behavior:

“The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me some of the fruit of the tree, and I ate.’  Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Genesis 3:12-13 NASB emphasis mine) Accuse God, accuse the wife, accuse the Deceiver, and somehow it exonerates the sinner. Psychologists might call it transference. Simply put, it’s blaming someone else for our failures and our sins.

“Pass the buck.”  

This is a phrase that originated in the early American frontier when poker players put a marker (sometimes a buck-handled knife) in front of the dealer. If the marker was passed to a player who didn’t want to accept that responsibility of dealing, he’d pass it to the next player. Passing the buck.

Thirty-third American President Harry Truman, had a sign on his desk that read “The buck stops here.” This meant that he would accept all responsibility for decisions he made and for those made under his administration. This is the whole point of this article—encouraging us all to take full responsibility for our actions, no matter who has hurt us or mislead us.

Only Jesus could take our past sins upon Himself and absolve us from them. However, we’ve got to admit to our weaknesses, short comings, or sins in order for that to happen. “He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 HCSB).

Lucy was four years old when she raided the candy jar that her mother had so carefully hidden. When the mother found out that her daughter had done this, she asked Lucy to confess. When the child was hesitant to admit to the crime, the mom said, “Did someone else in this house eat all of the candy?” Lucy looked around, shrugged, and then sighed, “No, but right now I just wish I had a little brother.”

Homework-consuming dogs, alligators, serpents, or little brothers should not be used as excuses…. “For every person will have to bear… his own burden [of faults and shortcomings] for which he alone is responsible” (Galatians 6:5 AMP).

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books. Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: Are there other stories in the Bible showing our human tendency to blame others for our mistakes?

An Unwanted but Perfect Gift

by Janet Holm McHenry

It was a lousy parting gift for the coming year.

The pink slip indicated that I would be laid off. The school district in which I had taught four years had issued over 30 layoff notices for teachers in a hard season of budget shortfall . . . and I was close to the bottom in terms of seniority.

“Save my job, Lord!” I prayed every day.

And though I made routine appeals, they had no effect . . . .and I headed into summer without a job for the fall.

Then one week before school started, I learned not just one, but TWO local English teachers had decided to retire in the school district right in my hometown. I got the temporary long-term sub job and a couple months later, the permanent position.

With the job I several bonus gifts fell my way:

  • I could shift from teaching elementary school to teaching secondary English, which was what my desire was four years earlier when I started teaching.
  • I no longer had a half-hour commute each day of the week. My “commute” took me just ninety seconds.
  • My new job allowed me to teach in my two oldest children’s school . . . with my younger two on the adjacent school campus.
  • I received a significant pay increase by shifting from one school district to another.
  • I collected unemployment benefits all summer, something teachers otherwise cannot do.

I could never have imagined that losing my job was the best gift ever. God aligned a much better job situation with the needs of my family. I was thankful then and even still now. In perspective now, I wish I had aligned my heart with that of my Lord by praying as Jesus did.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He knew he would be arrested, convicted of unjust charges, tortured, and crucified on a cross. So, when he prayed, he asked his heavenly Father that if it was possible, that the responsibility for taking on the world’s sin be taken away from him. On the other hand, he willingly submitted himself to God’s perfect will.

Twenty years ago in Daily PrayerWalk, I coined the term “the two-sided coin prayer”—the best possible prayer that we today can pray. We say that a coin has opposite sides—a head’s side and a tail’s side. Similarly, we can pray a paradoxical kind of prayer as the best possible human prayer. We can lay out our very personal desires and then pray for his will to be done in that matter. We offer up our needs, wishes, and wants to God . . . and let him do his perfect will through us. In Jan Karon’s Mitford novels, character Father Tim says that’s the perfect prayer: “Not my will but yours be done.”

And that is how I now pray.

Going a little farther, [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ ~Matthew 26:39 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Janet McHenry is a speaker and the author of 24 books—six on prayer, including the bestselling PrayerWalk and her newest, The Complete Guide to the Prayers of Jesus. Janet recently retired from teaching high school English and serving as her small school’s academic advisor in the Sierra Valley in northern California, where her husband Craig is a rancher. She loves coaching writers and hosts the Sierra Valley Writers Retreat several times a year; you can contact her at www.janetmchenry.com.

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Join the conversation: Has an unwanted gift ever become the perfect blessing for you?

Salvation of Our Countenance

by Terri Gillespie

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you murmuring within me? Hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, the salvation of my countenance and my God. –Psalm 42:12 [11] TLV

This is such a beautiful psalm, written by the sons of Korah—one of the elven written by them. Wait… Korah? As in the Korah who was swallowed up by the earth (in Numbers 16:32)? Yes. That one.

Korah was the grandson of Kohath, of the tribe of Levi. He was of the priestly lineage but ran with a bunch of malcontents and rebelled against Moses and Aaron out of greed and envy. After God cracked open the ground, 250 followers of Korah were consumed with fire (Numbers 16: 1 – 35).

Fortunately, Korah’s sons were spared and learned well what not to do. As a result, some served as guardians and gatekeepers of the tabernacle and others oversaw the baking of the showbread (1 Chronicles 9:19, 31).

Fast-forward to the time of King David, these descendants of Korah were known for their loyalty to the king and as fierce warriors. Yet, like David, they were talented in the gifts of music and lyrics. Also of note, the prophet Samuel was from the line of Korah (1 Chron, 6:33-34; 1 Samuel 1:1).

Truly, the stain of Korah’s rebellion was not carried for long. While Korah paid his own penalty with God’s judgment, God was merciful and gave favor to his sons. Still, their ancestor’s name represented great shame for the sons of Korah:

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why are you murmuring within me? Hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, for the salvation of His presence. (Psalm 42:6, TLV)

That wording is amazing: “for I will yet praise Him, for the salvation of His presence.” The same presence that destroyed their ancestor became the sons of Korah’s salvation.

In Psalm 42:12 (TLV), one of the sons of Korah says: “for I will yet praise Him, the salvation of my countenance and my God.” Because of God’s presence in the sons’ lives, their countenance has changed.

Could these sons, who took ownership of their identity as descendants of Korah, still have experienced ridicule and mistrust by association? Maybe. Ancestry within the Jewish culture is very important—think of all the “begats” in the Bible. They could have said they were sons of Levi or Kohath, but they held on to Korah’s name.

Many of us carry the stain of our families’ sins–our parents, children, or even a spouse. Or perhaps our own past was stained with sin. Possibly sins that warranted some ground swallowing.

Our Heavenly Father is all about redemption. Long before the Word became flesh (John 1:14), God sought those whose hearts were turned to Him. He is slow to anger and rich in love and mercy (Joel 2:13). We may have repercussions for the sins of the past, but through Jesus our Father can redeem even that for His glory and our growth.

Let’s learn from the sons of Korah who, with the Lord’s help, rose above the shame of their past to overcome and excel. They are a beautiful tribute to God’s salvation and a reminder of His great love. Lessons for us all.

Father, I don’t want the stains of the past to color my future. Help me to walk out Your love for me because of Your Son. Amen.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA)..

About the author: Award-winning author and speaker, Terri Gillespie writes stories of faith and redemption to nurture souls. Her novels, devotionals, messages, and blogs have drawn readers to hunger for a deeper relationship with their Heavenly Father, and His Son Jesus.

Terri’s newly released book, Sweet Rivalry, is the story of twins separated by a troubled mother. One twin is lovingly raised by her grandmother who owns a small-town bakery. The other sister is raised by an addict mother. They discover one another through a televised baking competition. But will rivalry break them apart again? The third and final book in the Hair Mavens series, Really Bad Hair Day, is a whirlwind of changes for the mavens—marriage, love, danger, loss, and redemption. The Hair Mavens series is a modern-day Ruth and Naomi story set in a hair salon.

Join the conversation: Have you allowed the sin of your past to color your future?

The Lopsided Poinsettia

by Sandi Banks

With Christmas waiting in the wings, my 10-year-old heart bubbled over with excitement—not at what I’d be getting, but what I’d be giving.

Our Girl Scout Troop 362 busily prepared for an outing to the Denver Convalescent Home—a memorable night of caroling and gift giving. Our annual visits seemed special to those folks. Even when we messed up lyrics or sang off-key, they still liked us. We made them smile, and they did the same for us.

I dubbed that year, “The Year of the Poinsettia.” We labored for weeks, crafting our crimson wonders out of crepe paper, flowerpots, colored foil, sphagnum moss, wire, and ribbons.

I wanted my gift to be perfect, but I had a problem. My artwork was usually the object of someone’s best guess: “Oh look, our little Sandi sculpted a rooster out of clay;” “No, dear, I think it’s a buffalo, or maybe a dump truck.” This time, I longed for someone to say, “Oh look, a poinsettia, a perfect gift!”

So, I worked extra hours, meticulously molding, gluing, and tending to every detail. At last, I deemed it perfect. I couldn’t wait to give it away.

The night finally arrived, and so did the fifty-two of us, sporting our green uniforms and clutching our red poinsettias, completing the Christmas palette beautifully.

Moving down the corridors, room by room, we caroled our hearts out, while I diligently searched for that special someone—the one who most needed my perfect gift.

Entering the doorway at the end of the hall, singing the first strains of “Joy to the World,” I spotted her: an elderly woman in the far corner bed. She looked sad, and alone. My heart melted. I made my way across the room.

“Merry Christmas!” I beamed, stretching out my gift-laden arms. But when I looked down, I noticed one leaf was loose, and the plant lay lopsided in its pot. Oh no! Quickly, I tried pulling it back, but it was too late.

The woman’s dim eyes brightened, her mouth quivered into a smile, and tears trickled down her cheeks. As her frail, trembling hands reached out to take the foil-covered pot, our eyes met. We grinned. And for a few precious moments, we spoke volumes without a word.

I placed the poinsettia where she could see it, and I watched her carefully study it, top to bottom, flaws, and all. She seemed to smile from the inside out. Suddenly the words flawed and lopsided didn’t seem so bad somehow. I had made a sad person happy with my less-than-perfect gift.

Rejoining the group for the final line, I sang out with a thankful heart, and fresh understanding of the words, “…And wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world, indeed!

It was a night I’ll never forget: the imperfect gift, the joyful receiver.

Now, with a sense of awe, I reflect on that first Christmas night over 2000 years ago, when God gave His perfect Gift to us: the Baby in the manger, the Savior of mankind.

In a world where “buy-one-get-one-of-equal-or-lesser-value” reigns supreme, we wrestle with the very idea: How could God incarnate give His perfect life, in exchange for our flawed and sinful ones? That kind of love will always remain a sweet mystery to me, I suppose.

Christmas is the season of giving, but it’s more than that. It’s looking into the face of our Savior, and with a thankful heart, seeing His gift as the ultimate Gift, then reaching out to receive it with joy.

This Christmas, may we all be generous givers—and grateful receivers.

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. John 3:16 NIV.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sandi Banks is an author and devotional writer for numerous publishing houses. As a storyteller, she draws upon her years of ministry and travel in 40 countries, living abroad, leading Bible studies, and hosting Summit Ministries’ worldview conferences. Her passion is bringing the hope of Christ to hurting women through writing, speaking, and mentoring. Find her at sandibanks.com

Join the conversation: Do you have a Christmas memory of a gift you couldn’t wait to give?

All Things New and Beautiful

by Christina Rose

“Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new person. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new.”  2 Corinthians 5:17 TPT

The Christmas season was upon us; I sat in the rocker by the fireplace, enjoying the peace of early dawn while the twinkling lights of the San Francisco skyline appeared on the horizon. My first baby was due to arrive any day and my thoughts went to Mary, who, many years ago, was about to give birth to Jesus. A season of waiting and laboring would be rewarded with a new baby to make all things new and beautiful.

Another season of waiting and laboring happened at Christmas two years later when my second daughter arrived. Again we were blessed with all things in our life made new and beautiful. Seasons of great blessing can often begin with waiting and laboring.

A monarch butterfly starts life as a hungry caterpillar that hatches from an egg. It feeds off leaves until large enough to molt and shed its skin. It then hangs upside down from a twig or leaf and spins itself into a cocoon called a chrysalis (a Greek word for gold). Inside the protective case, the caterpillar radically transforms and then emerges as a butterfly or moth.

Creation is often preceded by a quiet time of seclusion, stillness and patience while the creator is at work. He knows when the time is right to call forth his new creation, even though the wait may seem long to us. Recently, I was in a place thousands of miles away from my home. My daughters are now grown, and I was tucked away in a tiny penthouse with a view of the Rockies. I nestled among fluffy white comforters and pillows by the fireplace to study Scripture, pray, write, and hear from God.

In my opinion, a new door was taking too long to open.

One day I prayed, “God, you’ve done great things for me before, why not now?”  I felt him answer, “Yes, I have done great things for you, and now I want you to do a great thing for me. Trust me for every thought, every word, every act, everything. And just as I sent David and Joseph out to do great things for me once they learned to trust me in the dark places, I will send you out to do great things for me.” As I pondered this, I drifted off to sleep. 

In my dream my white comforter became a white cocoon from which I emerged with giant, beautiful blue butterfly wings streaked with gold and began flying over the earth. The sense of freedom was powerful.  As the dream ended, I was left with the feeling of exhilaration and excitement that something new and beautiful was about to happen.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

Great changes upon the world at this time are forcing many into seclusion and isolation. People are turning to faith as the physical world is shaken.  Evangelists and prophets are rising up and thousands are coming to Christ.  Like the caterpillars who are permanently changed, God is at work in us, radically transforming us into the image of Christ. We must trust that God, the supreme Father of all creation, is at work, and his timing is perfect. We must have faith that God is in control and loves us all so much. He is creating a world with all things new and beautiful.

“Look! I am creating entirely new heavens and a new earth! They will be so wonderful that no one will even think about the old ones anymore! As you wait for the reality of what I am creating, be filled with joy and unending gladness!
    Look! I am ready to create Jerusalem as a source of sheer joy, and her people, an absolute delight
!.”  Isaiah 43:18-19 TPT

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker with the John Maxwell Team. She is a DAR whose patriot ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.  

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story.  With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina appeals to heaven for hope and freedom just as her patriot ancestors did hundreds of years ago. She is a contributor to the Arise to Peace Daily Devotional and a frequent blogger for Arise Daily Devos.

Join the conversation: Is God taking a long time opening a door for you? How do you manage the wait?

Away in a Manger One Silent Night

by Jill Rigby Garner

We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NASB

The first Friday night in December came again in my hometown, but this year North Boulevard was different. The annual “Jingle Bell Run” was nearing an end. But rather than head home, many of the runners waited to experience the wonder of the first Christmas. Above the sound of jingling bells, the sweet refrain of “Away in a manger” could be heard floating through downtown. Goats, sheep and livestock grazed near a stable. Mary and Joseph took their places near the manger to await the arrival of a newborn who would reign over the earth. Shepherds kept watch with their sheep. Wise Men prepared gifts for the King.

People came from near and far. Elderly folks arrived in vans to view the manger, while school children came to see the animals and meet the special baby. Families gathered round the crèche to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. The return of the Live Nativity had finally come. 

As the chorus of “Silent Night” brought the evening to a close, children were invited to come to the manger. The youngest children quickly ran past the livestock to draw near baby Jesus. A precious young girl, not much beyond four, with eyes that sparkled in the soft starlight, climbed in Mary’s lap and asked if she could tell Jesus a secret.  

Mary looked in those adoring eyes and said, “Yes, my child. Jesus came for you.”

The trusting child leaned forward lifting the wrap from Jesus’ face to gently kiss his forehead and whisper, “I love you, too, Jesus.” Not, I love you, but I love you, too. The most profound proclamation of the gospel ever uttered. Tears streamed down the faces of all blessed to hear the words of her heart. Not only did she understand the gospel message, she received it by responding with love to the one who had first loved her.

Out of the mouth of a babe came the poignant message that God loved us first and sent His love to us through His Son that silent night so long ago. He delivered our Savior, who would deliver us from the destruction of sin and the emptiness of ourselves. The One who would heal our wounds with His. The One who would listen when no one else would listen. The One who would walk amongst us, feed us, cry with us and show us how to love.

This Christmas can be different for you too. This Christmas you can find healing from the hurts of the past. Comfort in the pain of your struggles. Peace amidst the chaos and confusion of our world. Courage to walk out your faith. And love everlasting at the manger.

May God’s holy light lead you to Jesus this year to behold with the wonder of a child, the gift of Christmas, as your soul murmurs the words He longs to hear and you long to speak, “I love you, too.” 

Merry, Merry Christmas from my heart to yours.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Jill Rigby Garner is an accomplished speaker, family advocate, author, and founder of Manners of the Heart®, a non-profit seeking to reawaken respect in our society for the sake of the next generation. By equipping schools, encouraging families and engaging communities in respect-based Heart Education, Manners of the Heart® helps children see beyond themselves and their circumstances to become all they are meant to be. Visit mannersoftheheart.org to learn more.

Join the conversation: What Christmas memory do you have that is most meaningful to you?

Reflecting on the Wonder of Christmas

by Debbie Wilson

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV

One year, my daughter and I flew to Chicago a few weeks before Christmas. Because Ginny works for an airline the flight attendant bumped us up to first-class. We flew coach on our return home. Let me explain the difference between our flights.

  • In first-class, four seats filled a row (two plus two). In coach, five seats were crammed into the same amount of space (three on one side, two on the other).
  • In first-class, a console separated our roomy seats. In coach, we fought for elbow space.
  • In first-class, they provided a steamy washcloth before a hot meal. In coach, they offered pretzels and a soft drink.
  • In first-class, after our meal, the attendant passed out warm chocolate-chip cookies. In coach, after the pretzels, well…that was it.

My cousin flew from San Antonio, Texas, to Washington, DC, a few days later. Young soldiers being deployed overseas filled her packed plane. When the captain announced the soldiers were on the first leg of their trip to an unsafe region of the world, the other passengers applauded.

But one man did more.

A flight attendant from first-class walked back to the crowded coach section and picked an especially young, slender guy, and ushered him into first-class. A couple of minutes later a large man lumbered out of first-class and crammed his bulk into the soldier’s coach seat.

The Wonder of Incarnation

It touched me to think about these young soldiers leaving the safety of home and comfort of their families at Christmas to protect us and the large man surrendering his first-class seat for a soldier he didn’t know. Their sacrifices provide a small picture of what Jesus did for us.

  • Before Jesus filled a manger, His presence filled the galaxies. Jesus left the expanse and glory of heaven to be confined on one planet in a human body.
  • Before Jesus was an infant, He was the Almighty. He spoke and worlds were created. He set aside His power to become a helpless baby. The Creator became a creature.
  • Before the incarnation, Jesus knew everything. He set aside His omniscience to become like us and grow in knowledge.
  • Jesus did not move from first-class to coach. He moved from heaven to earth—to hell on the cross—so that we could live in heaven. He took our shame and guilt so we could share His glory.
  • He died in weakness so we could live in the power of the resurrection.

Have you pondered what Jesus did for you? When we do, we discover strength, comfort, and joy, not for just a season, but for a lifetime.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

Debbie and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: What about the Christmas story fills you with wonder?

Reflections by the Christmas Tree

by Nancy Kay Grace

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19 NIV

Can you imagine what treasured memories Mary must have had? She witnessed her baby sleeping in hay, shepherds telling of the angels’ message, and Simeon and Anna in the temple prophesying over Jesus. Mary held baby Immanuel, God With Us, in the midst of her reflections.

Our personal reflections are not as dramatic. After Christmas, we see unwrapped gifts, empty stockings, and scraps of shiny paper on the floor. The twinkling tree remains, full of memories from Christmases now past.

Personal reflections on Christmas memories become new gifts under the tree.

Sitting by the tree with a cup of mocha mint coffee, I reflected on warm memories—laughter in the sparkling lights, the joy of a grandchild discovering special ornaments, and cuddles with the newest family member, too little to care about the excitement.

Life moments were shared around the table and tree. Grandpa’s reading of the nativity story was memorable. The once-scattered family enjoyed meals together for the first time in months.

Unfortunately, not all Christmas reflections bring happiness. Some carry sorrow from remembering our parents who have passed on and will not know their great grandchildren. Many folks have heartache from loneliness or a recent loss. Some can’t wait to pack Christmas away because of the pain, hoping for better year. I’ve had Christmases like that.

With the inconsistencies of life, it is a blessing to know that we are not abandoned, though sometimes we may feel that way. At those times, remember the gift in the manger—Immanuel has come. God is with us in the highs and lows of life.

Through Jesus’ birth, God gave us hope to endure any darkness, peace that does not depend on circumstances, unconditional love that covers any unworthiness, and joy that gives us another chance.

These are the Christmas reflections that we can carry in our hearts all year.

What are your reflections by the tree? If they are painful, may the peace and hope of the Lord redeem your memories. If they are cheerful, may the embers of love and joy remain in your heart.

Either way, look to Immanuel, who is always with us.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is thankful for the gift of peace in the face of turmoil. She is a speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about the touch of God. As a cancer survivor, she writes about hope, perseverance, and God’s grace. For relaxation, Nancy enjoys hugs from grandchildren, playing worship songs on piano, hiking, and travel. Her website, blog, and GraceNotes newsletter sign-up are found at www.nancykaygrace.com.

Join the conversation: What memories from Christmases past are most precious to you?