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Activated December 2012

A love-filled Christmas - December 2012

May the wonder of God's love and the joy of His presence be yours this Christmas and always through His Son, Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate this month.
 

01-12-2012
The Unopened Gift
The Unopened Gift

Can you imagine being given a Christmas gift and not opening it for 20 years? Well, that’s exactly what I did. Year after year I unwrapped all of my other gifts and enjoyed them for a few minutes or a few months before I lost interest or outgrew or wore out each one. I don’t know why I never got around to opening that one gift. When I was small, my other gifts all looked more fun, I suppose, and as I grew older, I thought I knew what was inside and wasn’t interested. Most years I didn’t even notice...

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01-12-2012
Christmas Hope
Christmas Hope

Two years ago, some friends and I took boxes of food to families who had been displaced by the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami in Constitución, Chile, and were still living in makeshift camps ten months later. Margarita, one of the volunteers, had taken a collection of Christmas decorations in her office building, so we included a few of those in each box, along with a copy of the Christmas issue of Conéctate (the Spanish edition of Activated) and a CD of Christmas music. One person in Margarita’s office had also donated a Christmas tree, which we also took with...

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01-12-2012
Six Things I Love About Christmas
Six Things I Love About Christmas

Most people have a few things that make Christmas special to them. Here are a few of mine.

 

The spirit of giving

I love the spirit of giving that permeates Christmas. It’s often a time when even the least generous become more giving. It’s a time when children can learn the joy of giving as they share what they have. It’s also a time when everyone can give something, whether they have a little or a lot, and find reward in doing so.

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01-12-2012
A Guide to Giving
A Guide to Giving

“Mommy, I think you like those toys more than we do,” I remember saying to my mom as we shopped at a discount store. The way she would inspect each toy, carefully read through each book, count puzzle pieces, and put together toy sets (discount items tend to miss pieces), I was sure she loved those toys every bit as much as we kids did. She was always on the lookout for sales so she and my hardworking father could put presents under the Christmas tree for us kids.

But my parents’ giving wasn’t limited to things. Sometimes their gifts were...

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01-12-2012
A Role to Play
A Role to Play

“I knew you would come!” said a frail grandmother as she gripped my hand tightly.

It was Christmastime, and my children and I had been visiting retirement homes and orphanages, as we had done each of the last few years. At orphanages we would do our best to entertain the orphans by organizing games and performing, and we would also distribute presents that our sponsors had provided. We also passed out small gifts and performed at the retirement homes, but usually my children’s presence was enough to delight the elderly residents. “What adorable children!” was a chorus that I heard often.

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01-12-2012
A Christmas Healing
A Christmas Healing

Eiko was 31 kilos (68 pounds) that Christmas. Her skin stretched tightly across her cheekbones, and even her bulky winter clothes could not hide her extremely thin body. Only thirteen years old, she was suffering from a severe eating disorder that had begun at the age of nine. My parents and we, her siblings, hadn’t been fully aware of her struggles in the earlier stages, but now their impact was glaringly apparent.

Our sister, who had once been the joy of our family, could barely smile. Instead she wore a tightly controlled look of isolation. The more we encouraged her to...

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01-12-2012
My First Noel
My First Noel

We all know the story of Jesus’ birth. We’ve also seen it depicted on Christmas cards and in Nativity scenes—Mary in her flowing gown, the tidy surroundings, the Christ Child wrapped in spotless white or baby blue swaddling clothes. But what was the first Christmas really like? I’ve often wondered about that. Now I think I know.

It was almost Christmas 2004, and a few of us had made the long trip from Kampala, Uganda, to a remote mountainous region in the north. We were taking medicine, school materials, and radios to an agrarian and goat-herding people known as the Ik....

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01-12-2012
The Gift of Life
The Gift of Life

Every year, a month or so before Christmas, I used to go to the same office to renew my visa. My visit there was usually made easy by the help of Judy, one of the office staff.

One year, after several minutes of small talk, Judy burst into tears. Her husband’s cancer had returned—he had already had one tumor removed from his liver—and his doctor said he didn’t have long to live. “Thomas is only 42,” said a tearful Judy, “and our two sons are so young!”

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01-12-2012
Double Shot of Spirit
Double Shot of Spirit

What Actually Woke Me Up at Starbucks

I was staying with my grandmother just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. It was wonderful in every way except when I needed to get some work done online. One morning shortly before Christmas, I needed to answer some important emails, so I decided to head for the nearest WiFi spot and take care of that before running a few other errands and grabbing some coffee.

I arrived at the first location and was unable to get online. I went to a second and was unable to send email over their network. Frustrated, I headed to...

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01-12-2012
Christmas Thoughts
Christmas Thoughts

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.

—Mother Teresa (1910–1997)

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It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.
—Charles Dickens (1812–1870)

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01-12-2012
Opening the Door
Opening the Door

The visual focus of this spiritual exercise is British painter William Holman Hunt’s (1827–1910) most famous work, “The Light of the World.”

The lone figure in this picture is Jesus. It is the risen Jesus we see, dressed in a white robe, crowned with thorns, and bathed in light. Jesus was so much more than a good man or a wise teacher; He was God in the flesh.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”1

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01-12-2012
Gift Exchange
Gift Exchange

The first Christmas was all for you. It was My Father’s gift of love to the world, but it was also His gift to you specifically. And it was a “gift that keeps on giving.”

For those who witnessed it firsthand—the star, the choir of angels, the baby in the manger—it was an unexpected and overwhelming spiritual experience. For the blessed few who recognized that baby as their Messiah, it was a dream come true. For them and the many millions since who have likewise believed, it has been the door to eternal life. And it’s the same today. If you...

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01-12-2012
Musings on the Magi
Musings on the Magi

One part of the Nativity story that has held particular fascination for me is the visit of the wise men.

Matthew is the only Gospel that mentions these mysterious men that are sometimes called the magi, and he gives only scant details.

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