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"Deserving Full Acceptance"
Note: We will share two messages today. Our daily encouragement is in its normal place but we also share a colorful Christmas memory written by a friend if you scroll down.
"It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15).
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
Over the last several days earnest believers have gathered all over the world to give focus to the true meaning of Christmas. We continue to worship through this Christmas season with song, reading and recitation of the Christmas narrative, Scripture, prayer, cantatas, dramatization, listening to the Christmas narrative, partaking in communion, candlelighting ceremonies, in addition to other ways in which we honor our Lord Jesus Christ. We gather in homes, churches, classrooms, hospitals, rehabs, prisons, soup kitchens, and in many other settings to express our faith in the very heart of the Christmas story; "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
Speaking of dramatizations, I (Brooksyne) have enjoyed a children's book, "Mary's Treasure Box" and decided to present it as a brief dramatization. When I was much younger the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, was one that I could easily tackle fairly convincingly. But now the years have piled on, rather quickly I might add, and Mary is a role reserved for the younger ladies. But not so in this "Mary's Treasure Box."
Tonight, during our Christmas Eve service I will take on the role of Mary once more, not as a young mother, but as Mamme Mary. I will recount the events that took place during Jesus' birth to my granddaughter Sarah, some 40 years later. Sarah prompts my memory as she removes items from that miraculous night saved in Mary's treasure box, i.e. straw (humility), wool, (kindness), gold (purity), etc.
As I've been working with young Tirza who plays the role of Sarah, I've been reminded of how much the Christmas story is filled with wonderment and excitement when viewed through young eyes. Much like Christmas morning when you have little ones waking up first thing in the morning excited beyond words. Of course, for many of you, that season has long passed, and you find it again through being with your grandchildren and for some of you, great-grands.
Of course the dramatization, "Mary's Treasure Box", is a fictional account, but we can more fully grasp the true account as recorded by Luke and Matthew. I say, "more fully" because I find it impossible to fully grasp the amazing, beyond words account of our Lord Jesus choosing to leave the glory and splendor of heaven only to exchange it for one "putting on skin" and joining the human race. Even as He did so He knew that He would face ridicule, mockery, rejection and ultimately martyrdom.
The epistles give little emphasis to the birth of Christ. Apart from the historical record in the narratives of Matthew and Luke, and the prophecies foretold centuries earlier, we have no other information on our Lord's birth. It's not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles or in the epistles with any detail. Actually there's no record of the early church celebrating Christ's birth as we do today.
But they certainly believed in it! Paul introduces a saying that appears to be an early creedal statement of the primitive church. He introduces it as a "trustworthy statement" (literally a "faithful word"), easily memorized, and perhaps used to teach and reinforce the faith in earliest believers.
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" is an absolutely trustworthy statement that impacts the lives of every human born into the world and evident in those present during the time of Christ's appearing. Consider the message of salvation in these verses.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, how grateful we are that Jesus came into this world to save sinners; to turn despair to hope, darkness to light, and death to life. All that we have need of and presently rely on is supplied for us in abundance from Your generous Hand. You are worthy of our trust and deserving of our fully surrendered life. From the cradle to the cross Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Lord of earth. We celebrate the birth of Your Son, Jesus, our Savior, and give thanks for all that He means to us. Amen.
Special Note: We want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year. We typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful. We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. Our ministry (and support) is essentially comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies (of course, this varies week by week). Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job for each of us (20+ hours weekly). Our goal for many years is that each phase would provide half of our ministry expenses and family income. You can donate by check, online or using PayPal. If you would like to make a donation see here for more information or donate directly online here. Thank you! Note: We thank those who have contributed the last several weeks. Due to a very busy schedule we are behind in our thank you's and acknowledgments.
More Scenes from Longwood Gardens Christmas
Last Friday afternoon we took Stephen's sister and her husband to visit Longwood Gardens, which is about an hour from us.
A "tree" made from bird nests.
Brooksyne and my sister Genelle in front of the DuPont home.
The lighted fountain was accompanied by Christmas music.
This was sure an interesting tree!
No matter the season or location, we enjoy seeing old stone farmhouses!
We will share our final set of Longwood Gardens Christmas photos with our Friday message. (We do not plan to post a message on Christmas Day.)
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
“O Holy Night” Video David Phelps
We have been in contact with Jim and De Scanlon for many years through daily encouragement. In April of this year we met them personally and joined them for a church service in New Braunfels, Texas. Jim is a retired pastor who is a strong contender of the faith. He is also a colorful storywriter! Not surprisingly, something surprising happens to make this children's Christmas program a real memory!
The church was out in the country, ten miles from any town. It began serving the small town that used to be there many years before. The town eventually disappeared, leaving little evidence of its existence.
There was the old school, the cemetery and the church. The church was originally a small, white, clapboard building. In the 1960s the congregation built a larger, but still not very big, red brick building. The old church was turned in to a Sunday School Building and joined to the new church.
It sat at the corner of no place and no place else! Well, that's not quite true, as taking the South road, eventually led you to a town of 20,000. If you took the road North, it led to a lake, and eventually to the area school. If you went East, you got to the old school, not used in years, and the cemetery, used on a regular basis. If you went West, you would eventually get to a town of 5,000. On a good Sunday morning, around 100 people came to worship in that Country Church.
On the first Sunday of March 1979 I officially became the Village Missionary Pastor of that Country Church. Even though the church was way out in the country, there were plenty of people out there. There were three Lake-shore Communities, as well as the farms that dotted the rolling hills of Southern Oklahoma, along with some oil wells.
That Fall, the talk at church began to gravitate to the Annual Christmas Program. I had never been much involved in planning and putting together a Christmas Program, even though I had been a part of a good number of them. But, I was the pastor, and I was expected to be the person to make it all come together and work.
Yeah! Right! I knew as much about Quantum Physics as I did about putting together a Christmas Program. Thankfully, very thankfully, the Lord looks out for novice preachers, in some marvelous ways.
The first way was having a wife who had some great ideas about how to do things with a Christmas Program. Then there were some ladies who were “volunteers”, who came forth and assisted in many ways.
But, first, we had to have a Congregational Meeting. Congregational Meetings were a staple in the Southern Oklahoma churches. It was agreed that we would have a Christmas Program and funding was approved. Many suggestions were made, most of them ignored by me and the ones doing the program.
Sooner than I thought possible, it was getting close to time to put things together. That meant assigning parts in the program to all of the children. None of the children were left out.
Although, some had their feelings hurt because they couldn't all play Mary or Joseph. They finally accepted that we also needed Shepherds, Wise Men, People of Bethlehem, and, of course, Angels. That taken care of, the script, music and staging had to be arranged.
Well, the script is pretty much contained in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke, so didn't have to do an extensive search or do a lot of writing.
The songs were not in the Biblical narratives, so regular Christmas Hymns and Songs had to be used. One, “suggested” by a grandmother, was “The Little Drummer Boy”. She also “suggested” that her grandson be The Little Drummer Boy. That didn't present any problems, as everyone was expecting it.
My bride, along with the ladies who were helping, decided the platform in the chapel needed to be decorated to fit in with the program. That ended up being a bit more work than any of them anticipated. But, when they got it done, it was well-worth every bit of work. The choir pews had to be moved to a side room. The pulpit was also moved to that room. Then large sheets of protective plastic, like you use on the carpet when you paint, were spread across the carpet of the platform. The walls of the platform were transformed in to a stone stable.
The ladies used rolls of Butcher Paper, lots of Chalk and other things, to make that paper look like stones. There were also animals put on those sheets of Butcher Paper, a Donkey, a Cow and Sheep.
The window of the Baptistery needed something, so a sheet of Butcher Paper, decorated to be a Star-filled Sky was hung across the back of the opening, with a large star at the upper center, the Star of Bethlehem. There were even Doves around the window.
After that was all hung in place, it was time to make the platform look even more Stable-like. So bales of Hay were spread out on the plastic sheeting, several inches thick. Some hay bales were put in strategic places on the platform, and made to look like piles of hay.
The small wooden Manger was taken out of the storage area and put front and center on the platform. Some little girl lent one of her dolls to be the “Baby Jesus”.
Dress rehearsal time. The pianist was ready, the ladies were ready, the platform was ready. Were the children ready? Of course. Bathrobe garbed boys and girls with long dresses and other things to make them look like they were living in the time of the event they were depicting. The Wise Men, wearing head coverings to make them look like they were from The East. The songs were rehearsed. The actions and words were rehearsed. All without too many tears, or hurt feelings, by the children, the workers or by me.
Then it was Sunday Morning, time for the real thing!
The church was packed. People came in and “oohed and aahed” the transformation of the platform in to a stable. I didn't hear anyone say anything about how all that hay was going to be cleaned up, but maybe some thought it.
Soon it was time to begin. I began with a prayer, introduced the program and got out of the way. The program began. The songs were sung, the lines were said.
Then suddenly, isn't it always “suddenly”?, something “dramatic” happened. As Joseph, Mary and the rest, knelt on the hay-covered floor, a small child's voice interrupted the whole scene. Four year-old Ann looked at the doll in the manger, pointed and said in her childish voice: “Ooh, a Bug”.
Well, it wasn't a bug, but something larger. It was a full-size local denizen. There on the “Baby Jesus”, in all its hairy glory was a quite large Tarantula Spider!
Well, you can imagine the change of action, with a platform populated with country girls and robust country boys, at the sight of that Tarantula. Some laughter, some shouts, some stomping, some backing away, some trying to catch the critter. Before any of them could catch or dispatch the unwanted invader, it was gone.
As Tarantula can jump a bit, and move rather quickly when startled, it made an exit for the piles of hay and disappeared.
In a few minutes, very few, the scene got back to where is should be and the 1979 Christmas Program was completed. Our family left early the next morning for Christmas in North Dakota, so we were not there for the cleanup and getting the platform back to the usual setting.
I don't recall anyone saying they ever saw the Tarantula when they cleaned up all the hay, and maybe it was so imbedded in one of the hay bales that it wasn't in any danger.
To say that our first Christmas as a Village Missions family and for me as pastor of my first church was memorable would be a big understatement. Those memories are still with us after all the years that have gone by.
We also have the memories of the story that was told that day, a story over Two Thousand Years old. It is still the same, and has never changed.
The God of Creation, came to Earth as a baby, to a family from Nazareth, to be born in Bethlehem. But the story didn't end there.
That baby grew to be a man, and He preached Repentance, and Salvation to the people of Israel.
But His purpose was not to just preach, but to give Himself as the Final Sacrifice for the Sin of Mankind, upon the cruel Altar of a Wooden Cross.
And, it didn't end there. Three days after His human death, He rose from the grave and then rose in to Heaven, where He is seated at the Right Hand of God the Father, interceding for all who call upon Him for forgiveness of sin. One day, maybe soon, He will, as He promised, call His Bride to come to Him, for all Eternity.
During this Christmas Season, with all the activities and business we encounter, take some time to read the Christmas story. It is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Then like the Shepherds, seek Him out, then Worship and Adore Him.
From our home to yours, may the Christ of Christmas bring blessing upon blessing to you and your family.
Stephen and Brooksyne Weber
(Click on photo to enlarge)
"We want to encourage you daily in your walk with Christ!"
Personal Ministry Update (Revised 12/10/14)
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Our other blogs:
"A Daily Prayer" - A blog simply posting the daily prayer. We keep this up each day since it's merely the prayer from the Daily Encouragement Net message!
"A Little Foolishness" - Humor/satire blog (a great outlet for non-serious writing but at times with a subtle message!) (Note: This material is satire!)
"Clear Minded" - Longer, periodic articles on specific issues impacting the faithful believer and church. (Actually this is my intent but I haven't done much with it!)
"Hymns of Hope" - Brooksyne along with two friends made a CD using classic hymns. Brooksyne tells the background story of the 11 hymns. All of these songs are also available for download on the site.
Personal Mission Statement "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
How to become a child of God
Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version. Other versions are also occasionally used.
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