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Activated December 2015

Following the Star - December 2015

Discover the magic of Christmas—wonder, hope, and love.
 

01-12-2015
Full of Wonder
Full of Wonder

The story of the first Nativity scene is a well-known Christmas staple: Saint Francis of Assisi is traditionally believed to have asked the citizens of the village of Grecchio, in 1223, to play the characters in the Nativity. What’s certain is that these “living cribs” became highly popular and the tradition spread around the world.

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01-12-2015
The Best Christmas
The Best Christmas

The year we had very little money to spend on Christmas turned out to be our best ever! After a recent move to a new country, we’d had to leave behind all of our Christmas decorations, and I wondered how we could decorate our home, especially since we were tight on cash and had extra setting-up costs. Thankfully, one autumn weekend while on a forest hike, my kids got the idea of collecting pine cones and using these to make Christmas decorations. We began right away, and by evening we had a large bagful.

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01-12-2015
Celebration, not Perfection
Celebration, not Perfection

If you’re like me, you have an idea of what the perfect Christmas should be like. Maybe you have a mental picture of the perfect tree and decorations, somewhere ideal to go on holiday, the perfect Christmas dinner surrounded by family and friends, drinks, Christmas cake, or whatever it is that you love. Maybe the music would be playing when you open your presents, and they would be exactly what you’ve always wanted …

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01-12-2015
A Time of Miracles
A Time of Miracles

A number of years ago, I lived and worked in a small volunteer center in the south of Russia. A week before Christmas, a snowstorm blew down the main power line for the whole region. Nobody knew how long the blackout would last, as the repair crew had to wait for the weather to clear before they would be able to reach the affected area up in the mountains and fix the cables.

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01-12-2015
Telegram of Hope
Telegram of Hope

The well-known motivational author Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” This quote evokes pictures of a roaring fire in a hearth, with colorful stockings hanging from the mantelshelf; an evergreen tree laden with baubles and tinsel, surrounded by a pile of cheerfully wrapped presents; a happy family sitting comfortably on a sofa, reading stories to their children while they sip hot chocolate. Through the window, we see snowflakes gently falling upon the white ground, sparkling in the moonlight. Is that the soft and beautiful world he...

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01-12-2015
Why the Stable?
Why the Stable?

She brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.—Luke 2:7

The Lord of the universe could have picked anywhere for Jesus to be born. That raises the question of why God picked a humble dwelling where animals were housed and fed—possibly a stable, although it could have been a cave or even a guest room in a relative’s house.

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01-12-2015
God With Us
God With Us

Some people cannot understand how God could have come down and been wrapped in human flesh. That isn’t strange to me, though. In fact it is quite easy for me to believe, because I see Jesus born in human hearts every day. He comes and lives in hearts and transforms lives, and to me that’s a great miracle.

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01-12-2015
Following the Star
Following the Star

Every Christmas I picture the three wise men as they traveled through the desert in pursuit of that mysterious star. I can visualize them crossing the hot, sandy deserts by day and camping at night. Nowhere on earth are the heavens so laden with beauty and mystery as on a clear night in the desert! I can see them sitting before their tents and looking in wonder at the heavens, with no other lights to distract from the pure artistry of God. That new star had not been there before. It must have amazed them.

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01-12-2015
In It for the Long Haul
In It for the Long Haul

It’s wonderful to think about the manger, the angels, and that night when Jesus came to earth. It’s a thought that we focus on for a few weeks over the Christmas season, and we might even ponder it from time to time throughout the year.

But that was only part of a much bigger picture. 

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01-12-2015
Alone at Christmas
Alone at Christmas

I’d been trying not to think about Christmas, dreading the day, hoping against hope that some angel would come into my life and make everything okay. I even tried pretending that it was just a normal day, nothing special, in hopes that would make the loneliness go away. But I couldn’t avoid it: Christmas was all around me, and I was alone. No one to talk to, no one to laugh with, and no one to wish me a happy Christmas. With each minute that passed I was getting more depressed, and that’s what I dreaded the most!

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01-12-2015
The Most Important Thing
The Most Important Thing

—A Christmas adaptation of 1 Corinthians 13

If I decorate my house perfectly with holly, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny balls, but do not show love, I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love, I’m just another cook.

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01-12-2015
At the Close of the Year
At the Close of the Year

The path of the past year is ending. We can look back at what has passed and recall the happy moments, the unanticipated joys, the good news that arrived like refreshing waters to a thirsty soul.1 Then again, we may also heave a sigh of relief that the troubles of the past year have finally come to an end.2 In between those high and low points, there were the average days when nothing out of the ordinary happened.

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01-12-2015
What Will You Give Me?
What Will You Give Me?

What can you give Me, the King of kings and Lord of lords, whose throne is heaven and whose footstool is earth?1 What could you possibly give Me, the One who has everything? What could I possibly need?—Gifts from the heart. Any gift from the heart is a gift that I will treasure.

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