Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas - Day 25

 Merry Christmas!

Here is the day we have all been thinking about since the beginning of the month.  This is the celebration of Jesus birthday!
As you gather around and begin to give and receive gifts, may I suggest that you pray, even before you open even one gift, and thank the Lord Jesus for everything  He has already given you as well as for the gifts of love you are about to receive?  “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).  “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that no of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I love you all….have a wonderful celebration!
Blessings.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas - Day 24

Christmas Eve – The reading of the Christmas story

This has always been one of my most favorite times.  Our family gathers around and my husband reads the Christmas story from Luke 2.  We all listen quietly and think about the words he is reading.  We have been doing this for 37 years now, and we never tire of hearing the account of Jesus birth.  What an amazing event.
I hope you all will take the time to do this if you don’t already.  Then after the reading is completed, take some time to talk about what you just heard.  Did you notice something you hadn’t noticed before?  Did something really impress you?  Share your views, questions and insights with one another.  
The Christmas Story brings such wonder - how could it be that God would humble Hiimself, become a man who would give His life on the cross for people who were against Him?  Truly this is beyond our understanding....but though we can't understand, we are forever grateful.  He was born to die - that we might live.  "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Have a wonderful time rejoicing in this truth,  May your hearts overflow with love and gratitude for Jesus our Lord!

Blessings.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas - Day 23


Share Greetings of Meaning

Merry Christmas!  What does it mean?  Merry means “pleasant” or “Joyful.”  Christmas comes from an old English word which means the “feast of Christ.” 
A “Feast of Christ” was a worship service where people would take bread and wine and celebrate the Lord’s Supper – the last meal He ate with His disciples before He went to the cross.
Why would we remember the death of Jesus on His birthday?    If Jesus hadn’t been born, He couldn’t have died on the cross to take away our sins.  If He hadn’t died on the cross, He couldn’t have risen from the dead and defeated death.  If He hadn’t risen from the dead (His resurrection), there wouldn’t be any reason to celebrate – anything – ever.
Because He did do these things, we can be pleasant and joyful as we remember His great love and sacrifice for us and we can share with others how they, too, can be pleasant and joyful – because of what Jesus has done for them.  We can encourage them to accept His forgiveness and give their lives to Him.  So – let’s be sure to say “Merry Christmas”!
Blessings.

  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas - Day 22

The Christmas Stocking

Do you have a Christmas Stocking hanging someplace in your home at Christmas time?  Well, there is a story that goes with this tradition, too.
A long time ago there was a hard working man who worked as a shoe cobbler and had three daughters. One day, a stranger came into his shop and the cobbler was telling him about his daughters who all wanted to get married but he didn’t have enough money to pay the ‘bride price’ which was expected in those days. 
Some time later as the cobbler and his daughters were at home one evening, an expensive gold coin came in through an open window!  The cobbler ran outside to see where the coin had come from but he didn’t see anyone around.  This would be enough for the first daughter to get married.  This happened again, and again he ran out to see who had thrown the coin….but found no one.  Now the second daughter could be married.  And then, once again, another coin came in through the window.  This time when the cobbler ran out he saw a man hurrying away and called out to him.  To his surprise, it was the stranger who had come into his shop some time before.  The cobbler was so surprised!  He asked the man why he had given so much to his family when they didn’t even know him and didn’t deserve such expensive gifts.  The man replied that he knew what Jesus had done for him by coming to earth and dying on the cross to pay for his sins.  He said he hadn’t deserved that either.  But because Jesus gave him a very expensive gift that he didn’t deserve, he wanted to follow His example and give expensive gifts to others who didn’t deserve them either.  This is how he showed his love for Jesus. 
This story makes a good point.  One of the greatest things we can do to show our love to Jesus is to love other people – that is an expensive gift that we can give to others…..just as Jesus loved us so much that He was willing to give His very life for us.  Let’s see how much love we can share with others!

Blessings.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas - Day 21

The Wise Men

After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, some wise men from the East came to Jerusalem saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?   For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matt. 2: 1b-2). 
Then “they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.  And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
What a marvelous thing this was!  These wise men saw the star and then followed it.  It stopped right over where Jesus was.  When they got there they were so excited.  Can you imagine?  How would you have felt?  They were able to go into the house where Mary and Joseph and the Child Jesus were and when they saw Him they fell down and worshiped Him.  Oh, my!  How very thrilled they must have been!  Then they gave Him the gifts that they had brought to Him – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  These were very special and expensive gifts, the kind that you would give to a king.  This was their way of expressing how wonderful Jesus was and showed their desire to honor Him.

We, too, want to honor Jesus, the King of Kings.  We do this whenever we honor Him with our love and obedience.  These are our most important gifts to Him.

Blessings.

Christmas - Day 20

Candles

As you walk or drive by many homes during this Christmas season you will often see candles in the windows.  They always look so warm and inviting to me, I just want to go inside! 
Here is the story behind these candles in the windows:   On Christmas Eve, many Irish families of faith put a single candle in each of their 3 windows to represent Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.  If a traveling priest saw these candles he would know that the doors of that home were unlocked and he could go in, have a meal with that family, and celebrate Christmas with them.  These believers in Jesus knew the scripture that says “Jesus is the Light of the World: (John 8:12).  No matter what happens, the darkness can’t put out the light that Jesus is!  He is the light of salvation to all who will trust in His sacrificial death for lost sinners.  And that means all of us.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  Jesus is our Savior form the darkness of sin.  Trust in Him and walk in the light of His deliverance.
To illustrate this, some evening take your children into your basement or a closet and turn out all of the lights.  Talk about how very dark it is.  People who don’t know Jesus are living in the dark.    Then, all at once turn on a flashlight or flip the light switch and let it shine brightly.  This light represents Jesus, the Light of the World.   The darkness vanishes in the light.   Jesus also tells us that we are His lights in the world….we can shine brightly when we obey Him and tell others about Him.  Then they can be in the light too.
I hope you have experienced the light of His love during this season of lights.
Blessings.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas - Day 19

The Shepherds

On that one special night, the shepherds were out doing their jobs.  It was a normal evening for them.  There they were, alone in the fields keeping watch over their sheep.  Sometimes, at night, wolves would come and try to hurt the sheep.  The shepherds’ job was to keep them safe and not let anything happen to them and that’s just what they were doing.  But suddenly, something incredible happened!  An angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  (would you have been afraid?  I would!).  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you; you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!  Wow!  Now what?  When the angel had gone, what do you think they angels did?  They said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.  When they had seen Him, they told everyone what the angel had told them about this Baby and the people who heard this marveled at what they said. 

Wouldn’t you love to have been one of the shepherd’s?  There are a few things we can learn from them. 
First, they were doing their work just like they were supposed to.  God has given each of us some work to do, and we are to do it cheerfully and diligently.
Next, once the angel told them about the baby Jesus and where to find Him, they went immediately to see Him.  Like the shepherds, we can meet Him by asking Him to forgive our sin and giving our life to Him.
Lastly, again like the shepherds we can go and tell everyone we know what we have learned about Jesus.  Maybe they would like to meet Him too!

Blessings.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas - Day 18

Angels

The Bible tells us that angels wait to do God’s bidding.  They delight in serving and are happy to do whatever He asks them to do.  We see some specific examples of this as it pertains to Christmas.  For example:

An angel by the name of Gabriel appeared to young Mary and told her she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit and that He was going to save people from their sins.  She didn’t understand all of this, but she replied, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.  May it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:26-38).  She didn’t understand, but she was obedient to God.

A little later this same angel appeared to Joseph, Mary’s fiancĂ©.  He told Joseph that Mary was going to have a baby but that it was by the Holy Spirit.  She had done nothing wrong and he would not need to divorce her (Matthew 1:18-22).  He didn’t understand all of this either, but he, too, was obedient to God.

Then, on the very night that Jesus was born, many, many angels appeared in the sky.  The light shone brightly in the night sky and they sang ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace, good will toward men, (Luke 2:8-14).

Did you notice that both Mary and Joseph were willing to do whatever God said, even though they didn’t understand?  This is an important lesson for us; sometimes God asks us to do things we don’t understand, but He still wants us to obey.  Because Mary and Joseph obeyed God they were blessed.  God will bless us too, if we obey Him.

Blessings.

Christmas - Day 17

It’s Better to Give than to Receive

We have already talked about gifts, but this time I’d like to suggest something a bit different.  During these difficult economic times, many people are finding it very stressful and can hardly imagine how they will even have enough money to provide a good Christmas dinner.  We can help! 
You can either do this as a family, or you could ask some friends to join with you on this endeavor.  Set aside an afternoon or an evening and go shopping for Christmas dinner items.  You might also like to spend some time making fudge, baking cookies or making some other special things that you enjoy  
When you have everything together, place the items in a basket or bag (maybe adding a nice red bow!), put it in your car and wait until dark.   Drive to the family’s home but be careful not to be seen!  When no one is around, let the children take the basket/bag quietly up to the door, place it on the porch, ring the doorbell and….RUN!  Hide behind a tree or run to the car and drive off.  The family will find your gift….but not know where it came from.  What a blessing!  This has the added benefit of teaching your children about giving without expecting anything in return.  The people you have blessed can’t even thank you because they don’t know whom the gift is from.  It is better to give than to receive!  Enjoy.

Blessings.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas - Day 16

Pageants                     
When our children were young they used to delight in putting on pageants or plays for our family and friends.  It was fun for all as they enjoyed doing it and we enjoyed being entertained! 
Why not give your children the assignment of putting together a play of the Christmas Story and presenting it to the family? You can give them some help, of course, but let them use their imaginations.  Would they like to be at the manger when Jesus was born?
Perhaps they would like to be the shepherds in the field when the angels announced His birth and then followed the star to find the Messiah.  Put out some sheets and let them make ‘robes’ for themselves and you might even supply some large plastic candy canes to serve as shepherd’s staffs!

If you have older children, why not ask them to act as modern day news reporters announcing the birth of Jesus?  One could be in the field with the shepherds, one reporting on the heralding angels, another at the inn where Joseph and Mary were turned away.  How would they explain these events?
Set a date, invite your guests, and prepare to enjoy the evening!   Not only will this be a fun activity, it will also open the door for some great conversation with your children, family and friends.

 Blessings!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas - Day 15

The Dilemma of Santa

Ah, Santa Clause!  What do we do with him?  Some like to incorporate him into their Christmas activities; others don’t want anything to do with him.  Such a dilemma!
Whether you choose to include or exclude Santa, the choice is yours.  However, I think it’s important to give the correct story regarding this man.

Tradition tells us that he was a real person who loved God, was very wealthy, and was known for giving much money to the poor and needy – anonymously.  Out of this, though, the story grew and grew.  Today we hear that he flies through the sky with reindeer, comes down your chimney with gifts, and knows everything you do.  This sounds like our modern day Super-heros!
Some years ago I saw something that put this all into perspective.  There is an ornament that shows Santa Clause kneeling at the feet of the Baby Jesus.  Here is the truth.  Santa Clause was a real man who also needed a Savior to save him from his sin.  Yes, he was a good man and did good things for others, but he was still a sinner and needed the Savior.  Seeing him kneeling before the Lord says it all.  No matter how good you are, you can’t be good enough.  Jesus knew this – that’s why He came.  He humbled Himself, took on the form of man and lived among us.  This culminated in His death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.  Of course the account doesn’t end there – 3 days later He rose from the dead!  He conquered sin and death and granted forgiveness and eternal life to all who would believe in Him. 
Just as the ornament portrays, we must bow the knee to the Lord Jesus, believe He is God and that He payed the penalty for our sin so we could be forgiven.  We give Him the control of our lives, recognizing that He is Lord of all, and enter into a relationship with Him.  This is why He came!  Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Blessings.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas - Day 14

Christmas Cards

One of the joys we have during the Christmas season is to share the message of Jesus birth with friends and family.  This is a great opportunity as we can share His Good News with others no matter where they may be.  Through this simple card, we are able to bring hope for hurting hearts with the same message the angels shared on that night so long ago: "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people" Luke 2:10.  Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but to save it,  He offers us peace; true, lasting peace that we can have in our hearts through Him.
Over the years, these Christmas cards have become Christmas letters, where we share with others the special things that have taken place in our lives over the past year.  Here again, we have a marvelous opportunity as we share what He has done in our lives.  The exciting times and the many blessings He has given, as well as the difficult times and things He has brought us through.  He is ever faithful and we have yet another opportunity to share the reality of Christ with others. 
Receiving these cards from others is also a blessing.  This year, as you receive Christmas cards in the mail why not place them in a basket and put it on your dining room table?  Each evening as you gather to eat together you can take the cards you received that day and read them aloud.  Then take some time to pray for that person/family.  Pray a blessing on them - that the Lord Jesus would grant them grace and peace, draw them closer to Himself, and that they too would share His love with others.  You can also pray for any requests they may have shared in their letter to you. 
In addition, this is also a perfect time to pray for the salvation of those friends and family members that do not yet know Him.  We can ask the Lord to open their hearts and give them ears to hear the wonderful message of Jesus.  Your children can share in this as well and, in the process, learn the importance of praying for others. 
Blessings.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas - Day 13

Don't you just love the imagination of children?  Watching them play and listening to their comments can be such a blessing!
Today I'd like to suggest that you acquire a 'soft' nativity set; one that is made of cloth and is unbreakable so children can play with it.  (If you don't have one or are unable to find one, substitute some dolls and name them for the Biblical people in the Nativity scene). 
Read the account of the birth of Jesus in the book of Luke, chapter 2 of the Bible*, and explain it to them in a simple way.  Then suggest that they pretend that they were actually there when the Baby Jesus was born.  What might it have been like?  What would they have thought?  How would they have felt?  Would they have wanted to go into the stable and actually see the Baby Jesus?  What might Mary and/or Joseph have said to them?  You can go more or less in depth depending on the age of the children.  This is a wonderful way to explore the account and make it personal. 
Encourage the children to play with these characters on their own.  Keep your ears open and you may have the joy of hearing what they have to say, as well as the opportunity to correct any misconceptions they may have. 
This is also a great activity for older children....or even adults.  How might you have felt if you had been there?  What would you have done?  You, as an adult, may well have known the Old Testament prophecy of the coming Messiah.  Do you think you would have recognized that this Baby Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah?  Would you, like Mary, have pondered these things in your heart?  Take some time to meditate on this account and enjoy the wonder of Christmas!
Blessings.
*for the rest of the story, see Matthew's account in his gospel, end of chapter 1 and beginning of chapter 2.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas - Day 12

Christmas – Day 12

Christmas Caroling

As we continue to think about the wonder of Jesus and His birth we are reminded that He came to die – He came to offer salvation to all who would come to Him.  The Christmas season gives us many opportunities to share Him with others and one of these is to go caroling! 
There are many people we know that perhaps would never enter a church, but would open their doors to hear you sing Christmas carols to them.  This is a wonderful tradition….and a wonderful opportunity.  Why not gather your family, or some dear friends, set a date, and join together to visit the homes of some people you know who need to hear the message of Jesus?  Pick a few carols that share the joy of His birth:
O Holy Night; Joy to the World; Silent Night; Hark the Herald Angles Sing, etc. and make an evening of it.

As mentioned above, this is a great opportunity to share the story of Jesus birth.  It is also an opportunity to show the love of Christ to those who might be alone or are going through a difficult time and could use a little encouragement.  Hearing the doorbell ring and finding carolers outside their door may mean more to them than you can imagine. 

As you go, why not take a package of those Christ Centered Cookies with you (see day 10) and leave them with your friends when you leave?  Knowing that you cared enough to come, to share, and to give them a little gift carrying a big message will help them to see something of the love of Jesus.

Have a wonderful time sharing the good news of Jesus and sharing His love!

Blessings!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas - Day 11

The 12 Days of Christmas

Do you know this song?  Do you like it?  Well, I know it but I never really cared for it.  That is, until I heard about the meaning behind it.  Let me share this with you.

Legend has it that some parents had a creative idea to help their children learn about God.  The story tells us that they got together and wrote this very song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, and used a secret code hidden in the song to teach their children about God and the Bible.  It goes like this:
            “My true love” represents God, who gives all the gifts listed in the song.
            “A partridge in a pear tree” is Jesus, who gave His life on the cross (a tree)
            “Two turtle doves” represent the Old and New Testaments.
            “Three French hens” are faith, hope and love.
            “Four calling birds”  represent the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
            “Five golden rings” represent the first five books of the Bible ( the Pentateuch).
            “Six geese a-laying” represent the six days of creation.
            “Seven swans a-swimming” represent the seven gifts of the Spirit found in
 Romans 12:6-8.
“Eight maids a-milking” refers to the eight beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-10.
“Nine ladies dancing" refers to the nine fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians  5:22-23.
“Ten lords a-leaping” stand for the Ten Commandments.
“Eleven pipers piping” are the eleven faithful disciples.
“Twelve drummers drumming” remind us of the twelve points of the Apostle’s Creed.

When my husband and I read about this legend and an accompanying game, we decided to make some*of the games.  There are two ways to play – one for smaller children or for those who have not played before, the other is for older children or adults, or those who have already mastered the first part.  This game is played like “Concentration” but has 3 sets of cards.

Children and Beginners: The first set of cards are numbered 1-12, one number on each card.  The second set of cards have the names of the gifts given on each day in the song, i.e, partridge in a pear tree; turtle doves; French hens, etc. (without numbers).  The cards are turned over and mixed up and then each player takes a turn, turning over two cards to see if the number and the gifts given on that day match up.  If they don't, you turn them back over and the next player takes a turn.
Older children, adults, experienced players:   You use the second set of cards again (with the gifts written on them)  partridge in a pear tree, turtle doves, French hens, etc.and the third set of cards.  This third set has the meanings written on them: Jesus, the Old and New Testaments, faith/hope/love, etc.  These are mixed up and turned over and each player takes a turn, turning two cards over to see if the gifts and the meanings match up.  As you play the game, you learn the meanings, and have lots of fun as well!  Enjoy.
 
*These games are available and may be ordered by emailing me at jtseiter. These are $5.50 per set.  Limited number available.@comcast.net

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas - Day 10

Christmas – Day 10

Christmas Cookies

 Today I want to share a wonderful, fun way to make Meaningful Christmas cookies.  In fact, next week my husband and I are going to visit our children and grandchildren and we already have our baking day planned.  The cookies we are going to make are what I’m going to share with you right now.  Here we go!

You will need cookie cutters in the following shapes:* 
            Christmas Tree
            Angel
            Star
            Heart
            Cross
            Dove
            Church
            Candle
You can either make your own sugar cookie dough or purchase it.  As you roll it out on a well-floured board you can cut the shapes and, at the same time, share why those particular shapes have been chosen.
                                   
Christmas Tree –What goes under the Christmas Tree?  Gifts!  Jesus is the first, and the
  best give anyone could ever receive. 
Angel – Angels were sent to proclaim the birth of Jesus to the Shepherds.
Star   The Wise men followed the star and they found Jesus.
Heart –The heart represents love.  Do you know that God loves you?  In fact, He loved
 you so much that He gave you a sacrificial gift.  What is a sacrifice?  That’s
 when you have something that you really love and you give it away,,,just like God gave Jesus to us.
Cross –The cross which was used to bring death, became a symbol of life.  The cross
represents Jesus.  He went to the cross to die for our sins and when we believe in Him, He forgives us our sins, allows us to have a relationship with Him, and gives us eternal life.
Dove – This represents the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit comes to live in us when we believe in
 Him and gives us the power to live for Jesus.
Church – This is where we go to worship God, learn more about Him, and fellowship
with other believers.
Candle – The candle represents light.  Jesus is the light of the world and we are to let our
 light shine so that others can know Him.

When you are finished, and after you eat some, of course, you can frost these by making a mixture of powdered sugar and water and adding the appropriate food coloring as follows:

 the Christmas Tree-green; the angel-white; the star-yellow;  the heart – red; the cross-white with red stripes; the dove-white; the church; white; the candle yellow with a red ‘flame’. 
Once they are completely dry, place them into a clear cello bag in that order, tie it closed and attach a tag to the tie that explains the meaning of each shape.**  These can be given to lots of people as little ‘thank you’ gifts.  I share them with my postal carrier, the tellers at the bank, the pharmacy where I purchase my medications; the men who pick up my trash, etc., as well as my friends and neighbors.  Enjoy!

Blessings.

*These cookie cutters are available and can be ordered by emailing me:  jtseiter@comcast.net   $15.50/set, only 8 sets left, must be picked up by Dec. 13th.

**These bags and tags are also available at the above address – 20/$5; 10/$3;  5/$2.