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Activated December 2014

God with Us - December 2014

Embrace the extraordinary—it’s Christmas!
 

01-12-2014
Magical Season
Magical Season

A few years ago, a very talented friend of mine spent untold hours building a wonderfully intricate Christmas model out of salt dough. The centerpiece was the stable, but the scene stretched well beyond that, deep into Bethlehem and the surrounding countryside.

The buildings were painted, the streets were strewn with very fine gravel, there was moss in the gardens and on the hills, and the village was alive with mansions, hovels, shops, inns, and a multitude of people (and stray cats) milling about.

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01-12-2014
Shiny Red Apples
Shiny Red Apples

Christmas 1984 was our family’s third Christmas away from Europe, and the remote village in eastern India where we had moved to help as volunteers had become a second home. After some initial difficulty in adjusting to such a different climate and culture, we soon came to appreciate the wonderful people we lived around and to embrace the new sights, sounds, tastes, and fragrances. I began to especially look forward to shopping at our local market, which seemed to have a year-round selection of fabulous juicy fruits—mangos, bananas, lichees, papayas, jackfruits, limes, and others.

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01-12-2014
Timeless Carols
Timeless Carols

Something I’ve always loved about Christmas is listening to and singing the beautiful Christmas carols that have been written over the centuries. I like them so much that I often listen to them at other times throughout the year. Many are masterpieces and deeply moving. Recently, when looking online for the words to some of my favorites, I was impressed by the beauty of their poetry as well as the power of their purpose in a way I hadn’t been before.

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01-12-2014
He Came to Us
He Came to Us

Recently, I was reading about the history of Christmas and where our various Christmas traditions come from, including ones that may have originated in pagan rituals or festivals, and it struck me that one of the most fundamental truths about Jesus is how He accepts each of us where we’re at. 

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01-12-2014
Repainting the Angel
Repainting the Angel

The statuette of an angel holding the hand of a little boy had been placed on a neglected back shelf in an antique shop. It was covered with soot and dust, lost amidst the clutter of jars, dishes, and ornaments. A man browsing through the shop discovered the figurine and had an inspiration: He would rescue it from oblivion, restore it, and give it a place of honor among his Christmas decorations. 

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01-12-2014
The Christmas Shoes
The Christmas Shoes

The Christmas season—undoubtedly my favorite season of the year—holds many unforgettable memories. It was on a snowy December day when I was six years old that our family flew home to the U.S. from the Philippines, where we had been missionaries for the previous several years. This was the first time I met my grandparents and the first time I experienced snow. When I was 15, I spent the Christmas season playing percussion in a band that had come to Mexico from Washington D.C. to hold benefit concerts. I had a blast.

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01-12-2014
Those Dirty Shepherds
Those Dirty Shepherds

“There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”—Luke 2:8 NIV

When I was a child, one of my favorite pictures of Jesus depicted Him as the Good Shepherd, carrying a lamb around His shoulders. If you’re like me, you might have expected that those shepherds watching their flocks on the hillside the night He was born would have been respected members of society, considered honest, dependable, believable witnesses, trustworthy and upright. Why else would the angels have entrusted them with such an important message as testifying of the coming of God’s Son?

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01-12-2014
Sky Ballet
Sky Ballet

It was Christmas morning, and my wife and I were enjoying a break at the end of what had been a hectic December. The view from our hotel balcony—a pristine lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains—was idyllic, but as an avid bird watcher, it’s what was happening above that caught my interest.

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01-12-2014
1,001 Gifts for Jesus
1,001 Gifts for Jesus

Last Christmas, the magical spark never came. I was bothered by all the commercialism that plagues our city months in advance. Somewhere between the flashy ads in magazines and feeling I didn’t have much to offer Jesus due to the limitations of our circumstances, I lost my enthusiasm. I wasn’t looking forward to decorating the tree, neither did I want the guilt and stress that would come from cramming and rushing to “make things meaningful.”

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01-12-2014
What Would the Birthday Boy Like?
What Would the Birthday Boy Like?

I love my birthday and everything that comes with it—especially the many congratulatory phone calls, text messages, emails, Facebook wishes, and greeting cards from family and friends. For that one day, everything is about me—my favorite food, where I’d like to go, what I’d like to do, basically whatever I want. I love to bask in the “birthday girl” glory.

Sadly, I know of a birthday boy whose special day is becoming less and less about Him.

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01-12-2014
The Baby Who Changed the World
The Baby Who Changed the World

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NIV

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He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute.
St. Augustine (354–430)

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01-12-2014
December: The Extraordinary Month
December: The Extraordinary Month

December is a month of extras. There’s usually extra preparation work to do at home, extra visitors, and extra expenses. Most of us get extra time off from studies or jobs. Many churches see extra people in their pews. Charities receive extra donations, even extra volunteers. We may eat and drink extra this month, and put on some extra pounds as a result.

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01-12-2014
Your Christmas Gift
Your Christmas Gift

I have a special gift for you—one that’s different from anything you’ve ever received from anyone else. It can’t be bought or sold in any store, but I give it freely to everyone I can. It will never get old, never break down or wear out, and you can never outgrow it. No one can take it from you, and it will last forever. You can take it with you wherever you go and enjoy it anytime, all the time. It never changes and will never cease to surprise and amaze you. You can share it all you want, and...

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01-12-2014
Nine Seasonal Survival Tips
Nine Seasonal Survival Tips

There are many fortunate people who enjoy the celebrations, relishing the break from work, savoring the culinary treats, treasuring happy memories or making new ones, and relaxing in the company of family and friends. But it’s not like that for everyone. Christmas can be one of the most difficult times of the year for those suffering from depression. In fact, it’s well documented that the seasonal break is followed by a spike in attempted suicides and enquiries about divorce.

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