The Twelve Gifts of Christmas – An Afterword

As we approach the end of the calendar year and begin to plan for 2013, we realize that Christmas is already becoming a memory. The gifts have been unwrapped, the toys have been played with and the gift returns and exchanges have begun. My question for us is, what will we do with the gifts that Jesus gave us?

These gifts are free. They are given with love. They are eternal and they are ours for the taking. Jesus wants us to accept His gifts. He waits for us to use them, to share them, and to spread them to the people around us who need these gifts more than they need gift cards to Starbucks or cashmere sweaters or the latest, greatest toy of the season.

But how many of us will use the gifts of Christ and Christmas as we go in to the New Year? Will we allow the world to guide us to what is important, or will be keep the gifts of Christ ever in the forefront of our minds and hearts as we begin 2013.

My goal is to focus on one of each of the twelve gifts for a month next year and to find in the deeper study of them to gain more understanding of the importance and value of the gift. If Jesus is willing to give them to me through the shedding of his blood then how can I refuse them? Why would I refuse them?

I want relationship with Jesus more than I want any present that I received for Christmas. Without relationship with Him nothing else makes any difference in my life or the life of anyone I know. The key to relationship is putting in the time to get to know the person you want to have relationship with. And, in the person of Jesus that means spending time in the word, in prayer and in service.

May our prayer for 2013 be that of the Psalmist in Psalm 25:4-5

“Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.”

Join me, won’t you?

Lynn

 

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The Twelve Gifts of Christmas – Day 12

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Father gave to me the greatest gift of all my gifts, the baby Jesus, my Lord and King.

The birth of Jesus – Luke 2: 1-21

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

So 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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

15 When 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.’

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

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

Merry Christmas! Happy Birthday Jesus!

Lynn

Christmas Tree

The Twelve Gifts of Christmas – Day 11

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my Father gave to me safety and protection underneath His wing.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4

After my dad died, when my son was eight, he became terrified of the dark and afraid to sleep by himself. To help him find peace before he fell asleep each night, my mom made him a picture with this verse and the three that come after it. She told him that no matter how afraid he was, God had given him this gift of protection and had him under His wing so that nothing could harm him.

A few weeks after she gave him this, he got to see the concept in person as we traveled to visit family who lived on a farm. On a visit to the chicken coop to gather eggs, we saw a mother hen with her chicks tucked up under her wings being sheltered from us or any other evil that might befall them. AJ said, “Mom it’s like my verse.” and I had to admit that it was a better example of God’s protection than any I could have given him. And, it’s a great illustration for us as well. Just think. When we are afraid, God just scoops us under the wings of his protection and gives us His shield.

The gift of God’s protection is one we sometimes take for granted. We try to explain away the narrow escapes from evil, the almost accidents, the wrong decision we almost made but didn’t. We sometimes don’t take the time to praise God for our ability to overcome. In Psalm 91:5 -7 the Psalmist says it this way,

“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.A thousand may fall at your side,ten thousand at your right hand,  but it will not come near you.”

With this gift of protection how can we be afraid to do anything that God asks us to do. How can we be afraid of being the child of God he wants us to be. These verses don’t promise us that there will never be trials or trouble, but they do promise us that we always have the gift of God’s protection with us.

Wow! That’s a gift worth celebrating on this Christmas Eve and every day throughout the year. With this promise from Psalm and Paul’s promise from I Corinthians 10:13 where he tells us “No temptationhas overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

God’s gift this Christmas. Protection, refuge and faithfulness. May we carry these gifts into the new year and claim them and their promise to make 2013 a new beginning.

Lynn

Mother Swan and chicks

The Twelve Gifts of Christmas – Day 10

On the tenth day of Christmas, my Father gave to me the Bible, a book to read, with all the answers to the questions of how to live and how to be like Jesus who died for me.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

As Christians we have a road map for how to live and how to act and how to worship. It’s called the Bible and as John tells us it comes to us from God. Just another gift of Christmas that we should be paying particular attention to at this time of year. But for many of us not only is this the time when we look to the Bible for the story of Christ’s birth, it is the only time we dust off the front of the Bible and open its pages. And this pains God.

He gave us this gift as a way to share with us our legacy, our prophesy, our promise and our place in the Kingdom of God. But how often do we reach first for the Bible when we have a question or need to make a decision in our life? When the troubles of the world begin to close in, do we remember Jesus’ words in Matthew when he told those around Him, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27.

Most of us just worry. We don’t look at these verses, we don’t claim them as God’s promise and therefore we don’t receive the victory that they promise. What if the next time you have a problem or the next time you are worried about how you’re going to make rent, or buy groceries or put gas in your car, you claim the next promise in Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I know. It’s not easy. I worry about EVERYTHING! My grown children, my husband, my brother, my friends and the list goes on. Sometimes I turn to the Bible when I exhausted every possible human solution. How about you?

I want this year to be different though. I want to claim God’s promise to not worry. I want to claim his promise to care for me and those I love. I want to commit to a deep study and understanding of the word of God and I want to further make a promise to Him and to myself to look first in His word for answers not last.

The Bible also reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect to be loved by the Father, I just have to be who I am in Him. And, as Paul did in I Corinthians 15, I have to remind myself that I have to die daily to self and live in the presence of God through His word to me, the Bible.

The gift of the word. What a great expression of His love for us and what a great way to begin our Christmas weekend and new year. Will you commit with me to study deeply the word of God next year and to hear Him above all the noise of this world? I hope so.

May this be one Christmas gift from Jesus that we use every day, not just on Sunday.

Lynn

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The Twelve Gifts of Christmas – Day 9

On the ninth day of Christmas, my Father gave to me, membership in the holy priesthood of Jesus, our living Stone.

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 2:4-5

I don’t often think of myself as a member of the priesthood and I rarely feel spiritual enough to impart wisdom to anyone, but that is in my humanness, not in the lordship of Jesus. In Him, I realize my place in the royal family and through Him I know that I am an important part of the spiritual house that the body of Christ represents.

But, do I offer spiritual sacrifices that are worthy of being acceptable to God? I don’t know that I do. I’m not sure that in my comfy, cozy, middle class American life that I sacrifice for the cause of Christ. No one is threatening to kill me for my faith as happens in some parts of the world. No one prevents me from attending the church of my choice and no one burns my Bible or takes from me the connection I have through it to the Holy Father.

No one, that is, except for myself. But I don’t take it out of sacrifice. I cast it aside out of apathy or lack of desire. In a county where I can worship as I choose, openly read my Bible in public and proclaim my belief in God without fear of retaliation, I am quiet. I make no sacrifice. I don’t deserve to be a member of this holy priesthood, but I am. I am because of the gift of Jesus. I am because He offered the ultimate sacrifice coming to Earth as a baby on a cold night in a manger in Bethlehem.

He deserves more from me. He deserves for me to sacrifice for Him He deserves for me to be who I was created to be. He deserves that I live my life believing he is the cornerstone.

Today, I leave you with the words of Peter because they proclaim this gift better than I ever could. Be a member of the royal priesthood and be willing today, to make a spiritual sacrifice that is acceptable to God.

Lynn

2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

The Living Stone and a Chosen People

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.”[b]

Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone,”[c]

and,

“A stone that causes people to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall.”[d]

They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. I Peter 2: 1-10

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The Twelve Gifts of Christmas – Day 8

On the eighth day of Christmas, my Father gave to me, the gift of intercession through Jesus Christ my King.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. “ Hebrews 7:25

What a gift. Because of my relationship with Jesus, he sits of the right hand of the Father interceding for me and taking my petitions straight to God. There is no longer a need for sacrifices, for the curtain between me and the Holy of Holies because Jesus Christ, who is the Holy of Holies hears my pleas and he stands in for me. As Paul tells us in I Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

But how many of us use this gift expecting there to be an immediate response to our request and for that response to be “yes”? And, further, how many of us use this gift when we don’t want, or need something from God? How many of us use the gift, and then when we don’t get the immediate yes we wanted but rather get a “wait” or even a ” no”  we throw a temper tantrum and stop praying.

I’ve done it. I know you have, too.

The thing about this gift, though, is that God knows what we want AND what we need before we ever bring it to him. He’s waiting to give us the desires of our hearts. The Bible promises this in Matthew 7:7-8

“Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.”

But, the question we have to ask ourselves this Christmas is, do we really believe these words from Matthew or, are we trying to achieve things on our own and only after failing miserably asking, no pleading with Jesus for God to intervene.

James 4:2-3 puts it this way:

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

that second part hurts. Wrong motives. How many times have I asked that I “may spend what (I) you get on (my) your pleasures.” I don’t want to think about that part. I don’t want to believe that I could ask because I am selfish or desirous, but I know I am and you know you are too.

This gift. This intercessor. We must learn to use this gift for things other than our wants. Only when we bring our needs to the Father and only when we realize that without Him we are lost does the price Jesus paid for this gift even begin to make sense.

Think about this. The next time you come before the throne and ask Jesus to go to the Father on your behalf, do it in expectation and in reverence for the gift it is. And then thank Him for both the gift of the intercessor and for the right to petition him for your needs.

It’s more than we deserve.

Lynn

Praying Man

The Twelve Gifts of Christmas – Day 7

On the seventh day of Christmas, my Father gave to me, forgiveness from my sins, and then when He sees me, He sees His son who bore my sins for me.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”I John 1:9

“…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

What a gift. Forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins. I don’t deserve it, I’m not worthy of it, but the Father gives it and more importantly Jesus gave it. Gave forgiveness in the form of His death on the cross. Not something we usually think about at Christmas. It doesn’t fit the Hallmark card image of what Christmas is all about. But without the death of Jesus and with out the Father’s turning away from Him as He took on the sin of the world, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas. The birth is only the beginning. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the true gift of Christmas because through it I have forgiveness of sin.

And, as the verse from Psalm promises, He forgives our sins and forgets them. But do we? If we can’t accept the forgiveness the Father gives us, then we haven’t really accepted the gift Jesus gave us on the cross, have we?

Imagine knowing, even as you agree to become like man, that the final act will be death on a cross. And, imagine loving someone enough to do it anyway. Be born that is. In a manger. To a poor carpenter. Then imagine living your life trying to teach those around you to forgive when they’ve been wronged. They don’t know. But you do.

Even as Peter was asking Jesus about forgiving, Jesus knew. And this is how the Savior replied “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22. Turn the other cheek. Forgive those who wrong you. Forget their transgressions, and your own.

Because forgiveness is not for the other person. It is for me. When I forgive, I am drawn closer to God. When He forgives me, I am drawn closer still. Forgiveness. Maybe not a normal Christmas gift but one of great value and worth. May our prayer be especially today for forgiveness for those we’ve wronged and for the wrongs we’ve done.

Perhaps Jesus’ greatest gift given on the cross. The taking of my sins and forgiveness. I want to accept this gift anew this Christmas and to be thankful for such a gift as this.

Lynn

Forgiveness