The Real Christmas Tree

When we were kids, we always got our Christmas tree the last day of school before Christmas, given to us by the school teachers. Every year for many years, we put the tree up on Christmas Eve and left it up until New Year’s Day.

After I had my own home, I couldn’t get in the mood to decorate until Christmas Eve and I usually left my tree up until long after New Year’s Day. One year I even thought about turning my tree into a Valentine tree, a St Patrick’s tree, and an Easter tree, maybe even a 4th of July tree.

Of course I love a real cedar Christmas tree. I used to buy a real tree every year, usually from the Fire Station or grocery store. The last few years that I bought a real tree, I got a 3 or 4-foot tall Scotch pine to set on a corner table.

I love the smell of a real Christmas tree, but about 5 years ago, I was tested for allergies and discovered I am allergic to all cedar trees. I should have known. It seemed like I always had a cold, with a runny nose and sneezing around Christmas time each year. When I finally gave in and bought that first artificial Christmas tree, I mysteriously didn’t get sick.

Within the Christmas story is the story of the cross. God becoming flesh through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of a virgin, Mary—this is the beginning, but the end of the story is Christ on the tree, the cross of Calvary, giving Himself completely for the whole world.

“Because Christ also suffered for us… who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” I Peter 2:21-24.

From the words of the old hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, written by George Bennard, (1873-1958.) “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.”

SONGS OF THE HEART

Our holiday has always revolved around school and church Christmas programs. “Away in the manager, no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.” Baby’s first song, sung at home and at the church altar for the grown-ups when we were too small to be in the regular Christmas play.

At school, from Thanksgiving on, we practiced for our Christmas play. Mamas made costumes for angels, shepherds, sheep. We envied the two who got to play Mary and Joseph. We sang “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” We memorized the unfamiliar words, singing them over and over with our music teacher, until we could sing them in our sleep. With no shyness,we sang at the tops of our voices, little children loving to sing.

In high school, we began to sing the harder songs. “O, Holy Night.” “Little Drummer Boy.” “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” “Hallelujah Chorus.” We started practicing long before Thanksgiving. Our Christmas concert was the culmination of months of work. We were proud of our hard work and sang with all our hearts.

I lived through it all again with my children. We put on huge productions at church with recorded music to sing to with rehearsals every Sunday night for at least 6 weeks. The music has changed, yet it stays the same. The same songs, new arrangements. Lavish stages, painted backdrops, special lighting.

At school, my daughter sang in the choir as I did many years before, so we had two  performances to work on—one at school and one at church. At times, it seemed music was running through our minds all day and all night.

What better way for God to get His Word into our hearts? He set it to music and caused the world to play it through the airwaves night and day, constantly, for 2 months of the year, sometimes starting as early as Halloween.

Christmas means music to me. It really was a “Silent Night, Holy Night” when Jesus was born. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill unto men.”  Luke 2:14

Flat-bed Diesel Dually

One time years ago, I asked my little 4-year-old grandson what he wanted for Christmas and he said, “Just four things,” holding up four fingers. “A motorcycle, a four-wheeler, a race car, and a flat-bed diesel dually.” It took me a while to figure out what he was saying, “flat-bed diesel dually,” but I finally had him say it very slow.

I told him, “That is a lot of riding toys for one little boy. Can’t you think of anything else you would like?” “Not right now,” he said.

He is really expecting a lot. Every little kid always asks Santa Claus for some things he won’t get, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting and expecting. Then he is usually very happy with whatever he gets for Christmas.

As adults, we have been trained by the world not to expect much. The world says, “If you don’t expect much, you won’t be disappointed.”

Peter and John were on their way to the temple at the hour of prayer, when they met a lame man lying there begging for alms. No telling how many times they had passed him before, but this time they really noticed him. And he noticed them. The Bible says he looked at them expecting to receive alms, but they had something better for him than money.

Peter spoke to him and said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.  So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. Act 3:5-8 New King James Version.

You might not get a new flat-bed diesel dually, which for you city folks is a flat-bed diesel truck with a set of dual wheels on the back, but Jesus has only good things to give you. He has promised life everlasting, healing for your body, peace for your mind, and a home in heaven when this life on earth is over.

What are you expecting to receive from the Lord? You won’t be disappointed.

Not Disposable

 

My mother gave me my Uncle Otis’ crank wall phone recently. It’s a wooden box just like the one you see in the movies, that hangs on the wall with a handle you turn, a earpiece, and a mouthpiece. I remember being fascinated with it when I saw it hanging on his wall in Albuquerque in 1958 when we stopped at his home on our way to California. It has been adapted to use as a dial-tone phone. That phone is over 100 years old.

I have my grandmother’s black dial desk phone too, with the clear plastic label in the center of the dial with her phone number neatly typed on it. She used it right up until she passed away in 1985. That phone is at least 50 years old.

I still have my own blue Slimline phone which I keep in the bedroom. I don’t keep it hooked up, since it has a loud ringer which can’t be turned off. That phone is about 41 years old.

We are now a throw-away society. It costs as much to fix something as to buy a new one. Many people are cancelling their landline phone and opting for only a cell phone. Some people get a new cell phone once a year when their contract runs out and throw away the old one.

If I were God, I would have been sorely tempted to discard Adam and Eve after they sinned.  After all, they were the only human beings alive. God could have easily created a new couple to take the place of Adam and Eve, and start all over with His plan, but He couldn’t do it. He created them himself out of the love in His heart, and, even when they failed, He had a plan to redeem them, because we aren’t disposable.

 “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.” Ephesians 1:4 The Message Bible.

Before He create the world, God in love had you and me on His mind

A Bowl of Beans

My husband loves to hunt and we eat the meat he harvests. I make spaghetti, meat loaf, chili, and chicken-fried steak from the meat he brings in. My dear hubby is a pretty good cook, too. His deer jerky is popular with all the family and friends.

Genesis 25:27-28 NKJV says, “Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. And Isaac (their dad) loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”

Jacob was the cook and Esau was the hunter. Jacob cooked a stew and when Esau came in from the fields, all worn out from a day of hunting, he begged Jacob for some red bean stew and bread. Jacob started bargaining with him. “I’ll sell it to you for your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die anyway, so what good is it to me if I am dead?” And they shook on it.

Later, Isaac who was 180 years old called Esau to him and said, “I’m hungry for venison, so go hunting out in the north forty acres. And make me some good deer stew, such as I love, so I can bless you before I die.”

While Esau was gone  hunting, Rebekah, their mother, put together a scheme to get Isaac to give Jacob the birthright blessing instead of Esau. They would cook him a lamb stew and disguise Jacob as Esau, so that Isaac would give Jacob the birthright blessing which was a double portion and the blessing of being in the lineage of the Messiah. So Jacob became the ancestor of Jesus Christ the Messiah.

The day Esau bargained with Jacob, he was hungry but not near death. He was just like his father, “I am hungry for some good stew, such as I love.” Esau was probably like some of us–it wouldn’t have hurt him to do without a few meals. He loved eating just a little too much. He put his earthly needs above his spiritual needs.

Esau gave up his spiritual birthright for an earthly bowl of beans.

Giving Thanks in Advance

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people.” Luke 9:16 NIV

Evidently Jesus always thanked God for his food. He thanked God for these small amounts of food just before the miracle of multiplication took place. What did Jesus do that we would not have done? He looked up to heaven and saw something in the spirit that indicated what he was supposed to do to meet that need. He saw God feeding the thousands of people with the small amount of food.

Jesus had a precedence. God fed the children of Israel in the wilderness with something not natural, but supernatural—manna. The word ‘manna’ means ‘What is it?’ It was something that they had never seen, something that didn’t come from this earth.

God also fed the little woman of Zarephath in I Kings 17. In this case, he used the prophet Elijah to instruct her so God could multiply what she did have to last to feed her, her son, and Elijah until the drought was over.

So knowing the nature of God, Jesus just thanked God in advance for doing it. If God did it once, He will do it again. If God had ever fed people supernaturally He could and would do it again.

Can you find the answer to your problem in the Bible? Are you short on cash for example? Jesus told the disciples to open the fish’s mouth and find money. If God did that once, He will do it again, maybe not in a fish’s mouth, but somehow somewhere God will get the money to you.

Are you racked in pain and need a miracle just to live? If God did it once, He will do it again. Jesus touched the withered hand and it became like new. He touched blinded eyes, opened deaf ears.

Let’s thank God in advance for what He is going to do.