Dec 29 2010

What's Your "Wow, God" Story of 2010?

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Dec 24 2010

The Christmas Story with Mark Hall of Casting Crowns

Luke 2

The birth of Jesus

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

 4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

 8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

 13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14"Glory to God in the highest,
      and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

 15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

 16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

 21On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

 22When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), 24and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."

 25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
 29"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
      you now dismiss your servant in peace.
 30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
      and for glory to your people Israel."

 33The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

 36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

 39When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Dec 23 2010

Good news!!

Isaiah 9

To Us a Child Is Born

 1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-

 2 The people walking in darkness
       have seen a great light;
       on those living in the land of the shadow of death
       a light has dawned.

 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.

 7 Of the increase of his government and peace
       there will be no end.
       He will reign on David's throne
       and over his kingdom,
       establishing and upholding it
       with justice and righteousness
       from that time on and forever.
       The zeal of the LORD Almighty
       will accomplish this.

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Dec 22 2010

Stille nacht, Heilige nacht

His name was Joseph and he was far away from home.

 

It was a few day before Christmas and he was so tired, down to his bones.  And hungry.  When did he last eat?  Certainly nothing even warmed up for several days.  But the worst was being so wet, and so cold.  Oh, and also so filthy.  He was way past getting used to smelling himself.  The fact was, he could not remember ever feeling more miserable.

 

And then, a miracle.  Well, almost a miracle.  For the first time in weeks the clouds parted and he could see the stars.  Clear, and bright this night, instead of shining through the haze of smoke and fog like usual.  Joseph could easily see around himself now, and saw what he knew to be true – that he was not alone.  He could see the others sleeping, allowing this connection with them to warm him for a moment.

 

And then Joseph heard something; something he had not heard in weeks, maybe months.  He heard…nothing.  For the first time since he could remember, the night sounds were not filled with the screams of shells, the staccato of machine gun fire, the moans of the wounded and despairing.  Not even the rats that shared their stinking trench seemed to be stirring.  Just the sound of nothing.

 

But Joseph knew better than to be fooled into laziness by that silence.  Just fifty yards away, across an ugly stretch of land filled with bomb holes and barbed wire and mines and poison, there were the fighting forces of the enemy, in their own trenches, also waiting for order to either attack or defend that day.  Again and again, over and over.

 

You see, this was almost 100 years ago in the fields and hills of western France, once-beautiful but now-destroyed and terrible.  Joseph was soldier in an infantry unit from America sent to this foreign war to help the fight against bullies and cruelty.

 

Joseph did not want to die here, so far away from home, but he was not afraid of death.  When he was much younger, he had prayed to give his life for God and become a Christian.  He knew that for him to keep living meant that he could help others to know about Jesus, but to die and actually BE with Jesus was even better.  And if he were going to die here in this war, he knew he would just leave that cold, wet, miserable body and be with Jesus right away.  That hope that he shared was helpful to many of his buddies in his unit who were sad and lonely.

 

Joseph was overcome with an impulse that he knew was not a good idea.  His officers would have a fit, but an urge grew up inside him as he saw the brightness of the stars’ light and heard the nothingness all around him.  A song rose in his heart, and he thought if he could just sing it, things might be just a little better for a while.  Maybe just softly enough that not many others would even hear him.

 

Silent night, Holy night.  All is calm, all is bright.

 

After finishing singing, Joseph wanted to sing another verse, but he couldn’t remember any of the words, so he sat quietly for a moment.  Then he heard something that amazed him.  Other soldiers around him, his buddies, started singing the song again, and this time others joined in, and like a row of dominoes that extends in both directions on and on and on.  A giant wave of song swept over that terrible place – not a loud, thundering sound, but a deep echo of music.

 

But the singing had not been a good idea after all.  The enemy, across the way, was on the move.  The soldiers were used to those sounds of preparation for movement that came before an attack, the stirring of bodies and equipment.  But an attack did not come.  Instead there was an attack of music, as the enemy soldiers picked up where the Americans had left off and began to sing the very same song in their own language.

 

Stille nacht, Heilige nacht.  Alles schläft, einsam wacht.

 

As the music died away, Joseph knew that for the first time, and maybe for only tonight, there would be…peace.

 

When we hear about something called the spirit of Christmas, that usually means a feeling of love and peace that seems to happen only this time of year.  People decide to stop bickering and fighting and even mail greeting cards to people they haven’t spoken to in years.

 

But for a Christian, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Jesus Christ Himself, the Holy Spirit, who live inside of us.  We have that spirit of joy and peace and love all year long...

 

because of Jesus.

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