Day 24: The Gift of Jesus

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Jesus”

 

The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David.  Luke 2:11 NLT

Christmas eve marks the final hours of waiting for the great unveiling of presents across the world. At last, you get to see what’s in the variety of boxes with your name on it. It is a fun – and sometimes funny – experience. Who hasn’t received a present and thought, “What is this?” One time, my redheaded grandmother took small clippings of her own hair, put it in small plastic bags, wrapped it in boxes, and “blessed” all her grandchildren with it…we all still chuckle at that one.

But the Present that meets everybody’s need was wrapped in swaddling cloths, not paper; the Gift was anticipated but there was no big unveiling; the Offering was not under a tree, but upon the lumber provided by a tree; God gave the greatest Gift of all.

Jesus, the baby born in a manger, initiated this annual worldwide celebration and gift exchange not through any deliberate intention other than to be a Giver. Out of the one Gift, comes unlimited giving.

He is indeed, the greatest Gift of all!

Merry Christmas Eve.

Today’s Challenge: Bring someone to church with you.

Day 23: The Gift of Perseverance (Part 4)

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Perseverance”

 

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 2:20 NLT

As we discussed yesterday, it is natural to want to spread good news. In the case of Christmas, the Good News is the birth of Jesus. When they came back after seeing Jesus and spreading this Good News, the shepherds continued to praise God!

When we look at this Biblical account, it may be easy to say, “Well, that’s easy for the shepherds to do because they did not have any problems!” However, taking a closer look at the life of a shepherd we realize that nobody dreamed of being a shepherd. Rather, this was the last job on the list. It is safe to assume that shepherds had their share of problems, let alone an overall sense that they did not belong in their community.

For various reasons, our lives are overly busy, overly stressed, and sometimes not nearly as fulfilling as we want them to be. However, the shepherds give us a good example, that in the midst of difficult times, we must keep praising God. They were able to look past their circumstances to their King.

This season, realizing that life can be difficult and at times feel unbearable, let’s lift up praises. Let’s persevere in giving thanks and praise to God, regardless of our circumstances, No matter what situation we are in, God loved us so much to send His Son for us so that we can live in a perfect relationship with Him for all eternity – and that’s something to be thankful for!

Today’s Challenge: Pray with your family or a friend, giving thanks and praise to Him.

Day 22: The Gift of Perseverance (Part 3)

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Perseverance”

 

After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.”  Luke 2:17 NLT

Receiving good news naturally makes us want to share it with others. Imagine how the shepherds felt when the angels came to them, announcing the birth of Jesus! Their response was to go and see this newborn King. After they witnessed the Savior, the Messiah (the Christ), they then went and told everyone what had happened.

It it interesting that the group the angels announced the birth of the Savior to were shepherds. After all, they were not respected and could not even testify in a court of law if they witnessed a crime. But still they knew the stories of the coming Messiah, the coming King. They may have told the stories while tending to their flock. Perhaps at times they even wondered if the promised Messiah was ever going to come.

When the promised Messiah did come though, they rejoiced, saw with their eyes the fulfillment of prophecy, and went and told everyone! And after this account, there is no indication that they stopped sharing the news of the message of the birth of Jesus.

What about us? Do we get discouraged and want to give up? The shepherds may have wanted to give up hoping that their Messiah would come – but he eventually came! This Christmas season, what are you hoping that the Lord will do in your life? What have you been praying for in recent years? And who are you praying will come to Jesus? Let the shepherds’ story encourage you that at any moment God can show up and change anything – and until then – be faithful.

Today’s Challenge: Post on social media about Jesus (maybe a verse, or share something about our upcoming Christmas Services, etc.).

Day 21: The Gift of Perseverance (Part 2)

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Perseverance”

 

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.”  Luke 2:13-14 NLT

Flash mobs were quite the craze a few years ago (for those of you who have not heard, now it’s the mannequin challenge). Flash mobs are choreographed routines by an organized group of people taking place at unusual locations and/or times – like a master choir serenading a mall of shoppers during their gift buying endeavors.

Did you know that the first flash mob was in the Bible? Well, sort of. We see it in the verse above when the heavenly host joined the angel and they praised God.

The shepherds went to work that night preparing for another normal night of watching the sheep and protecting them from any potential dangers. Their only anticipated company was their fleece-covered companions.

Yet that night, God announced His Son’s arrival.

The shepherds received an angelic announcement that night, followed by a heavenly flash mob, or “host,” filling the night sky with praise.

God opened up the shepherds’ eyes to see the supernatural that night. He let them see the unseen to make them the first, and unlikely, earthly heralds of the Messiah’s arrival.

And that is exactly what God has done with you. He has let you see His Son’s grace and be an unlikely herald of His Good News to those around you. Each time we share our testimony we are testifying to His work in our life.

Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

In the sharing of your testimony is perseverance. Why? It immediately brings back to memory what God has done and should spur you forward in the work He is doing.

Don’t stop sharing about His goodness. Even if life just feels “normal” He has entrusted you to be a messenger of His love.

Today’s Challenge: Give a compliment to someone you normally wouldn’t.

Day 20: The Gift of Perseverance

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Perseverance”

 

but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.”  Luke 2:10 NLT

When crisis arises, on whom do you rely on? What do you turn to?

Do you check your bank account, numb out on social media, or lean on your spouse or significant other? Do you feel as if your world is falling apart, that you’re out of control? Do you feel afraid and anxious?

Maybe you “try praying,” or “try reading your Bible,” or “try talking to someone,” but you quickly become exhausted and drained…

Perseverance means more than getting through a crisis – more than simply holding on until the end. Your life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something you cannot see, but the Lord continues to stretch and strain, so that in the end His glory might be revealed to you, in you, and through you.

In hard times, you should reach out to God. But the “good news that will bring great joy” is that God reached out to you! He sent His Son, Jesus, who stepped out of heaven and met you where you are at on this planet. You are not forgotten, and in Him you can put your trust. Because of the good news, you can persevere!

Don’t just “try harder.” Trust Him more.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Today’s Challenge: Take a moment to identify a current crisis or hard pressed issue you are facing. Spend a few minutes in prayer and share these things with the Lord, let Him speak to you and love you.

Day 19: The Gift of Love

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Love”

 

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 NLT

Love is not always premeditated – sometimes it is spontaneous.

When we allow God’s Spirit – The Holy Spirit – to have His way with us, we live according to His standard without even realizing it. And when we look back, we are amazed at how unconcerned we have been about ourselves and our emotions, which is evidence that real “spontaneous love” was there.

If we try to prove to God how much we love Him in our own strength, we will fail. But when we choose to trust Him and daily “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5), we’ll see evidence of the spontaneity of our love because Christ’s nature (“the fruit of the Spirit”) will flow naturally from us.

If you are not feeling connected to God’s Spirit and the evidence of His love is not being exhibited in your life, consider your priorities:

Are your thoughts consumed with God’s Word, with His message, and with His heart for the people in your world?

Or are your thoughts consumed with work, “to-do” lists, money and other people’s inadequacies?

God’s purpose for you today is to love your neighbor in need. Is someone having a bad day? Perhaps write them a note of appreciation. Is someone grieving a lost loved one? Offer your comfort and support. Is someone lonely? Make them family. Is someone unable to put food on the table? Make them a meal.

Today’s Challenge: Find someone who is less fortunate and do something to bless them.

Day 18: The Gift of Perseverance (Part 2)

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Perseverance”

 

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.”.  Luke 2:15 NLT

What captures your attention? Are you the first to buy tickets when your favorite artist is coming to town for a concert? Do you prioritize attending the games of your favorite team? If the waves are big, are you heading to the beach?

What about…do you make sure to meet God everyday in quiet time? Are you faithful in your worship? Are you regular in your fellowship with other believers?

The shepherds were invited by heaven to behold the most remarkable but understated event in human history, the arrival of the Messiah as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. Their only response was, “Let’s go to Bethlehem…Let’s see!”

The angel didn’t come to the business leaders of Jerusalem, the Roman rulers, or the ultra religious people.

He came to the simple shepherds of the hills of Palestine. The revelation was granted to those who understood faithfulness, hard work and self-sacrifice. The shepherds of Bethlehem were not used to getting invited to anything special, but God saw something that no man could see — a heart for Him.

“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

He found some shepherds who fit that description, faithful, fully committed folk, who had the gift of perseverance.

Most of us will never be invited to palaces, or the boardrooms of the super-rich. But we are all invited to behold the Savior born in a manger.

Who will you invite to “go and see?”

Today’s Challenge: Keep praying for your family members or friends who don’t know the Lord that they would be saved.

Day 17: The Gift of Perseverance

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Perseverance”

 

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.”.  Luke 2:15 NLT

Shepherding…what a job!

The duties of a shepherd in an unenclosed count country like Palestine were very burdensome. In early morning he led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed; and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, he sought it diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose had to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs.

At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. And that wasn’t necessarily the end of his day. Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief.

The Bible tells us that Jesus is our Good Shepherd (John 10:11). Aren’t you glad that He has the persistence to guide and guard His flock (you and me)?

Maybe it took the perseverance of “shepherds” to seek the wonder of the Babe in the Manger.

Do you have that sort of dedication and love?

Do you hunger and thirst for the things of God (Matthew 5:6)?

Are you a God-seeker?

King David, who was also a shepherd, cried out,

O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
Psalm 63:1a NLT

Today’s Challenge: Go back to one of the challenges you missed (or skipped) and complete it.

Day 16: The Gift of Courage (Part 7)

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Courage”

 

And Joseph named him Jesus.  Matthew 1:25b NLT

We name all kinds of things — pets, cars, coffee drinks…When we think about naming something, of course we also think of our own name.

Our parents had the pleasure of choosing our name. Some parents choose a name based on how it sounds, others are more interested with a name’s meaning.

When your name is mentioned, what do you think immediately comes into someone else’s mind? Do they think about how you “did them wrong”? Or do they think about what a great person you are and how you have impacted their life?

Jesus is the name above all names, chosen by none other than God Himself, and conveyed to Joseph through the angel Gabriel. The Bible says that at its utterance every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). There is power in His name to change your circumstances and your life!

Regardless of how some might view your “name” because of past mistakes, failures, or sin, when Christ is the center of your life, you are a brand new person (2 Corinthians 5:17)! This means everything has changed and God can work through you (Philippians 4:13).

Therefore, make it your life’s goal to have others speak of you as one who models Christ’s characteristics. Be the one that is always there to help a friend, who always loves regardless, who has integrity in all that they say. Don’t let others dictate who you are, be who God said you are!

Today’s Challenge: Call someone to say hello that you haven’t talked to in a while.

Day 15: The Gift of Courage (Part 6)

A 25 Day Preparation for the Celebration of Christ

Every day leading up to Christmas, we’ll “unwrap” a gift from the Lord. Today’s gift is…

“The Gift of Courage”

 

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  Matthew 1:24 NLT

Sometimes we think we have our life all planned out. We make decisions both big and small that guide our careers, our finances, our health, our spiritual life, and our relationships. The simple decision of who you sit next to at dinner dictates what conversation you have.

The Lord’s plan is not always in line with our preferred plan or even our desired timing. With the news that his bride-to-be was pregnant, Joseph made the decision to obey what the Lord said through the angel. He didn’t hesitate and took her as his wife when he woke up! He trusted God.

When you “wake up” from a dream that God has given you and return to the reality of what you have to face, how quickly do you move to do what God has placed in you? It took an angel for Joseph to understand the magnitude of what the Lord was asking him to do. The Lord calls us to love others, regardless if they have hurt, offended, or even betrayed us. Joseph could have had Mary stoned to death for committing adultery, but rather chose to embrace the call of God on his life. He courageously did what the angel said in the dream and married Mary. He protected her and blessed her. Together the two courageously parented God’s Only Son.

Doing what the Lord commands takes courage. Sometimes it’s inconvenient and it almost always defies what we think is possible or attainable. God’s ways are always better.

Today’s Challenge: Do something unexpected to bless your spouse or loved one.