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?

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My Secret Love

by Janet Perez Eckles

We love because he first loved us.  1 John 4:19 NIV

Some months back, two girlfriends and I relaxed in the balcony of a hotel room, chatting about groups popular in the 70’s. We swayed to the oldies, singing the lyrics with the same ease as the year we wore bell bottoms.

We confessed. Each of us back then looked for the true love. Each of us had a list of what we looked for in the husband of our dreams. Back then, all traits on the list seemed crucial. Now, the fact that Mr. Right needed to be built with muscles of a football player echoes with sad shallowness.

But whatever our secret list held, we all questioned. “Did we marry the man of our dreams? Are we sharing the house with the husband who displays true love?

How unrealistic. How immature of us to expect that the true love we sought would be inside the man who said, “I do” at the altar. If any of us were tricked into thinking the perfect man wore that tuxedo beside us, future disappointment was as sure as dirty dishes in the kitchen.

That delusion is the reason for happiness to fade away in the darkness of long nights. And married bliss is lost in the hamper of dirty clothes.

The only true love comes from the man who wore but a cloth and displayed muscles ripped by lashes on the way to Calvary. And when we make Jesus our only true love, our husbands can play the role they were meant to have–our mate, our companion and lifetime friend.

While swaying to the music of God’s divine, true love, expectations sing with joy. The exquisite blend of love and reassurance only Jesus brings echoes nearby. It’s the divine and true formula that brings peace to storms. Brings logic to life. And gives a colorful hue to married life.

And that life shines when we read what was tucked in the Valentine card God signed with His promise: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again…” (Jeremiah 31:4).

Father, when life is broken, desires echo with emptiness, and we wonder how to find true love, your reassuring commitment soothes the anxiety and your reminder brings a new song to my life. Thank you for the love no one else can give and for the promise no one else can keep. In Jesus’ name I thank you. Amen.

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My Secret Love – insight and encouragement from Janet Perez Eckles on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

janet perez ecklesAbout the author: Blindness tried to darken her life, but Janet Perez Eckles became an international speaker, best-selling author, personal success coach, radio host and best playmate to her grandchildren. Her books include Contagious Courage: a Thirty Day Journey to Overcoming Stress and Anxiety and Simply Salsa: Dancing without Fear at God’s Fiesta. You can learn more about Janet at www.janetperezeckles.com.

Janet’s book,  Hola, Happiness: Finding Joy by Dancing to the Melody of God’s Word is a brief Bible study to nudge you to the next level of triumph and joy. It is packed with deep reflections and answers from God’s Word. No matter what you face–disappointment, fear, heartache, shame, insecurity, sorrow–you will say “Hola” to happiness, peace, and the joy for which God created you.

Join the conversation: How has living in the love of God affected your relationships?

God’s Family Plan

by Christina Rose

 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem!  Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.” Luke 2:13-16 NLT

The story of Jesus’ life begins with his birth into a family chosen by God who would help him fulfill his destiny of salvation for the world. The foundation of the family unit is an important concept in the Bible. Almost every major person in the Bible is introduced in relation to their families and genealogy before telling their story. Throughout Jesus’ life we see how his family and disciples, who he considered his family, were essential in helping him fulfill his destiny. God loves families and carefully knits them together to accomplish his perfect plan. “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19 NLT).

The Bible is filled with stories and miracles that are centered around families. When God saved Noah from the flood, he also saved his wife, his sons and his sons’ wives. When God asked Abraham to leave his native land, his family went with him. Even though Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers, he forgave them and the family was restored. Even though Ruth was widowed, she refused to leave her mother-in-law who she considered to be her family. Queen Esther and her Uncle Mordecai worked together to help save their people. These are just a few of the many stories where family bonds of love empowered people to do God’s bidding.

Our first baby was born just a few weeks before Christmas. We decorated our cozy little home with a tree and all the trimmings, but they were soon forgotten with the arrival of our beautiful new daughter. We were in awe of her perfection, from her 10 tiny fingers and toes to her big blue eyes, soft baby skin, and gentle coos.

As I held her that first Christmas morning, wondering who she would become, I thought of Mary in the Manger holding and admiring her precious new baby, Jesus. As the angel Gabriel had told her that her holy Child would be called the Son of God, I can only imagine the wonder she must have felt at what lay ahead of them.

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” (Luke 2:16-20 NLT)

Just two years later our second baby was born, just a few days after Christmas. After tucking my toddler into bed on Christmas Eve, I settled into wrapping the remaining gifts. I was weary and worn out after months of carrying a big baby in my tiny body. Once again, I thought of Mary, who was very pregnant, riding a donkey at night as they searched for a  place to give birth.  That had to have been an extremely uncomfortable journey—in light of how advanced her pregnancy was. How did she do it?  And what would she have done without Joseph?

God has a heart for creating families, and through sharing His son Jesus with us, He calls us to become a part of His family. This season, take time to appreciate how your family is just a foreshadow of what lies ahead for the family of God.

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…we have obtained an inheritance…you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance…  Ephesians 1:5, 11, 13-14 NASB

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God’s Family Plan – encouragement from Christina Rose on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

christina roseAbout the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. A devoted mom of two daughters and great aunt to over 40 nieces and nephews, Christina loves spending time in nature and hosting gatherings for family and friends.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. Her marriage in shambles, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself. After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power that is available to us all, especially those who are in need of hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: What impact has your family had on you? How has God used them in your life?