Posts

The Birth of Jesus

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 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 nearby, 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. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

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.”

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

‘Twas the Night Before Jesus Came

‘Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house, not a creature was praying, not one in the house. Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care, in hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed, not once ever kneeling or bowing a head. And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap, was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter, I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but angels proclaiming that Jesus was here. With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray, I knew in a moment this must be The Day!

The light of his face made me cover my head; it was Jesus, returning just like he had said. And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth, I cried when I saw him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which he held in his hand, was written the name of every saved man. He spoke not a word as he searched for my name; when he said, “It’s not here,” my head hung in shame!

The people whose names had been written with love, he gathered to take to his Father above. With those who were ready he rose without sound, while all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late. I had waited too long and this sealed my fate. I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight. Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear – the coming of Jesus is now drawing near. There’s only one life and when comes the last call, we’ll find that the Bible was true after all!

The Rushmore Report – A Timeless Christmas Message by Billy Graham

Read this timeless piece, originally penned by Billy Graham in 1969, on the reason for Christmas.

Christmas is a special time. It is a family celebration. Other holidays are different. Good Friday and Easter are usually celebrated in church. National days are honored with speeches, parades and the ceremonies of government. But Christmas is glorified in the home because it is the celebration of a birthday.

Yet there is irony in the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born away from home, on a journey that symbolized the restless and the wandering nature of the world into which He came. He was born in the insecurity of a barn, a symbol of the fact that during His public ministry, He would have very little home life. He roamed the roads and towns of ancient Palestine. He died, taking the ordeal of the cross so that out of His suffering and His victorious resurrection mankind could find redemption.

Christmas means different things to different people. To some, Christmas is merely a means to make more money. People vie with each other in their preparation for the celebration of the occasion. Some of them do not believe in Christ; they may even hate Him. But Christmas has become big business. People are more concerned to hear about their profit from Christmas than to hear about the Prophet from Bethlehem. The clinking sound of money is sweeter to some than the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angels to the shepherds.

Many people cannot hear Christmas carols today because their ears are attuned to different sounds. Some minds are riveted to Wall Street, and their eyes are focused on reports about the stock market going up or down.

Pleasure-seeking consumes the time and the thoughts of many people. Some try to find a merry Christmas in what they call entertainment and fun. Instead of imbibing the spirit of Christmas, they choose to imbibe spirits at Christmas. For many people the holiday is an opportunity to celebrate in the wrong way.

The Apostle Paul once said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He meant that he conquered his appetites and kept his passions and desires under control. We, too, need to conquer our hatreds, our fears, our doubts, our anxieties. We need to conquer selfishness—even the desire for special Christmas gifts for ourselves.

We cannot have a merry Christmas or a happy new year when we have become slaves to the passions and vices that hound us. These things—materialism, money, artificial pleasure—are crowding Christ out of Christmas for multitudes. They are so busy with a thousand and one other things that they have no time to consider the message of the Baby of Bethlehem.

On that first Christmas, 2,000 years ago, the world experienced three phenomena:

First, the star. Many stars shone in the sky, but none like this one. This one shone with aura and brilliance! It was as though God had taken a lamp from the ceiling of Heaven and hung it in the dark sky over a troubled world.

Second, a new song in the air. A world that had lost its song learned to sing again. With the coming of God in the flesh, hope sprang up in the hearts of people. Led by angelic beings, we can now take up the refrain, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

And third, good news—the Good News that at last a Savior had come to save men and women from sin: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus was the central theme of that first Christmas. The star, the song, the gifts, the kneeling, the joy, the hope, the excitement—all were because of Him.

God’s star promised peace to the world if we will believe and trust Him. But having rejected Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we have no peace in the world. Too often our synthetic stars bring only fear, anxiety and even more war.

In our world today are self-proclaimed saviors, people who claim to be God’s gift to the world. How different they are from Jesus, who “was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

The Scriptures say, “There is born to you this day … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Heaven and Earth joined together! God and mankind reconciled. Hope for the hopeless, pardon for the guilty, forgiveness for the conscience-stricken, peace for those who knew no peace, Good News for those who have had nothing but bad news!

Yes, Jesus Christ can save us from despair. I have talked with many leaders, and one thing that most of them have in common is pessimism. The tensions, conflicts and seemingly insoluble problems of this world tend to make them cynical and doubtful.

Many cynics will blame God for the troubles of the world. We should blame ourselves. We have a spiritual disease, and that disease is called sin. Until sin is conquered, the world will not be a better place in which to live.

When people willfully reject the Prince of Peace, they pay a terrible price. A secular and materialistic society that has rejected the Prince of Peace yields to pessimism and despair. The blighting cynicism that has come as a result of our rejection of God is reflected in our literature, our art, our films, our television programs and even our pulpits.

Christmas should be a time of renewed hope—not hope in a particular political concept, but Christmas hope; Christian hope; hope in Jesus Christ; hope that, despite our tangled bungling, God will bring order out of chaos.

But Christmas is even more personal. The angel who said, “He will save His people from their sins,” was touching the very heart of your need.

People today would rather not talk about sin. They don’t want to face the reality of their spiritual disease. I heard of a man who found conversation about cancer distasteful. When the subject came up, he would walk away. He would not consent to periodic examination.

He would permit no X-rays. But one day, having experienced a loss of weight and appetite, he was persuaded to have a physical examination. The doctors found a cancer of massive proportions.

So it is with sin. Our reluctance to discuss it, our tendency to ignore it, our resentment of anyone’s talking about it, may be a revelation of our secret fear that we may be sin-filled.

Jesus Christ has a great deal to say about sin. He came on that first Christmas night to “save His people from their sins.” No doctor in the world can treat sin. No psychiatrist in the world can cure sin. They can work on symptoms, they can help the sinner to live with his sin, but they cannot get rid of the disease. Only Jesus Christ can heal the disease of sin.

This is what the cross and the resurrection are all about. And Christmas is not Christmas without the message of the death and resurrection of Christ. This is why He was born. This was the message of the first Christmas night: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The Christmas message says that God’s grace is greater than our sin. It says that the sin question was answered at the cross. Christmas says that the cross went as deep as our needs. The cross was the cure—offered, paid for and administered by a loving God in His beloved Son.

I never come to Christmas without thinking of the thousands of people who are lonely, diseased and troubled at this time of year. Christmas is a reminder from God Himself that we are not alone. The Prophet Isaiah said that His name would be called Immanuel, which means God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus a reconciling love that rescues us from separation and loneliness.

At this Christmas season you can be assured that Jesus Christ is here. He is here to give us hope, to forgive our sins, to give us a new song, to impart faith and to heal our spiritual wounds, if only we will let Him.

The Christmas message has not changed after 2,000 years. Christmas still reminds us that God is with us.

In spite of all the pessimism and cynicism, in spite of all the headlines about murders, assassinations, riots, demonstrations and war, Jesus Christ is alive. He is alive to conquer despair, to impart hope, to forgive sins and to take away our loneliness. He is alive to reconcile us to God.

This Christmas, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Give Him the gift that He wants—your heart, your soul, your life.

About the Author

Billy Graham was the most significant Christian figure of the 20th century.

The Rushmore Report – The 20 Most Popular Christmas Songs of All Time

What are the most popular Christmas songs of all time? Christmas carols capture the spirit of the holidays and tap into a nostalgia that crosses multiple generations. The Ranker Group ventured into the realm of popular Christmas music with a nationwide poll. They asked one question of 10,200 Americans – What is your favorite Christmas song ever? Here is the list of the 20 most popular.

1. White Christmas
2. Silent Night
3. Santa Clause Is Coming to Town
4. Winter Wonderland
5. Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer
6. O Holy Night
7. Joy to the World
8. Last Christmas
9. Little Drummer Boy
10. Jingle Bell Rock
11. Frosty the Snowman
12. Jingle Bells
13. Here Comes Santa Claus
14. A Holly Jolly Christmas
15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
16. Santa Baby
17. Baby It’s Cold Outside
18. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
19. Do They Know It’s Christmas?
20. I’ll Be Home for Christmas

The Rushmore Report – The Commercialization of Christmas

Every year around October, I begin preparing myself for the onslaught. The increase in number of emails I receive from businesses, the increase in mail, the increase in money slipping away from my bank account. I’m guessing that I throw away twice as much mail and send two to three times as many emails to the trash before opening in the October to December rush than the rest of the year.

And I don’t really blame the people and businesses sending all of this stuff to me. As the Director of Communications for international non-profit LiveBeyond, I fully realize that this is the time of year when nonprofits like ours meet budgets, businesses meet quotas, and people reach out to each other in ways like never before. It’s a time of sharing and community and…meeting the bottom line.

On days like today, I like to think back to when I was living in Haiti, working in Thomazeau for LiveBeyond. Sure, I still got emails, but my everyday life wasn’t so crowded with advertisements and marketing ploys. Christmas time was just…well Christmas time – a time of year when people made a point to get together. I got to help distribute stockings with toys to local children, hand out gifts to the LiveBeyond Haitian staff, and laugh gleefully at the Haitian v. American Christmas song competitions (The Haitians always won, by the way).

Christmas isn’t so over commercialized in Haiti. In a country where most of the people live on less than a couple bucks a day, who can afford to buy mountains of presents for each other? No new email or billboard was going to encourage one of my friends to make an impulse buy of this year’s big present. So, few companies even bother advertising there.

The holiday in Haiti always gets me thinking about the true reason for our celebration. Mary gave birth in conditions similar to how the women give birth in Haiti. Jesus spent his life in a level of poverty that wasn’t far from what I see in the villages in Haiti. But the Lord chose to use circumstances like these to bring us the absolute Joy of the world! And the advertisements for Jesus’ birth were positively heavenly.

This Christmas season, I encourage you to remember why we are celebrating. Jesus came to this earth to save us all and to show us the true joy we can experience when we are in a loving relationship with the Lord. He spread that to us. Now it’s our job to spread it to the rest of the world. If that means purchasing special gifts or making donations to your favorite nonprofits in honor of our loved ones or buying items on a list for a child in need, then we should absolutely do it. Because that means that one more person is being reached by the Light of the world.

May the Lord bless you this holiday season.

About the Author

Devin Vanderpool is the Director of Communications for LiveBeyond, a non-profit humanitarian organization dedicated to providing clean water, medical care, adequate nutrition and the hope of Christ to the poorest of the poor in Thomazeau, Haiti.

Birthdays

Today – December 12 – is a big day for birthdays! This is especially true for the entertainment industry, and for those who are, let’s say, among the older among us.

Born on December 12, 1893 – Edward G. Robinson

Born on December 12, 1900 – Sammy Davis

Born on December 12, 1915 – Frank Sinatra

That’s not a bad roster of births. But there’s another big day coming, just over a week away. We call it Christmas. On that day, December 25, we celebrate the birth of our Lord. And Jesus has something very different from the men mentioned above. Let me explain.

Died in 1973 – Edward G. Robinson

Died in 1988 – Sammy Davis

Died in 1998 – Frank Sinatra

See the difference? While Robinson, Davis, and Sinatra are no longer with us, Christ is. The one who was raised on the third day is with us today. So as you play your old Frank Sinatra Christmas album, rejoice that, while ol’ blue eyes is no longer with us, the One he is singing about is.

The Rushmore Report – Ten Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

The number one way to keep Jesus Christ in your Christmas celebrations is to have him present in your daily life. If you’re not sure what it means to become a believer in Christ, check out this article on “How to Become a Christian.”

If you’ve already accepted Jesus as your Savior and made him the center of your life, keeping Christ in Christmas is more about the way you live your life than the things you say—such as “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.”

Keeping Christ in Christmas means daily revealing the character, love and spirit of Christ that dwells in you, by allowing these traits to shine through your actions. Here are simple ways to keep Christ the central focus of your life this Christmas season.

1) Give God one very special gift just from you to him.

2) Set aside a special time to read the Christmas story in Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20.

3) Set up a Nativity scene in your home.

4) Plan a project of good will this Christmas.

5) Take a group Christmas caroling in a nursing home or a children’s hospital.

6) Give a surprise gift of service to each member of your family.

7) Set aside a time of family devotions on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

8) Attend a Christmas church service together with your family.
If you are alone this Christmas or don’t have family living near you, invite a friend or a neighbor to join you.

9) Send Christmas cards that convey a spiritual message.

10) Write a Christmas letter to a missionary.

About the Author

Mary Fairchild is a Christian writer, editor, and full-time minister. She writes on Christian issues for an organization called ThoughtCo.

The Rushmore Report: Why Did Lady Give Away $10,000 to Church Members?

An anonymous donor whose giving lifted her out of depression earlier this year shared her joy of giving with her brothers and sisters at Severna Park United Methodist Church in Maryland just before Christmas, when she gave them $10,000 worth of $100 bills. Her generosity was completely unexpected. But it is what came next that was the most stunning part of the story.

Church members who accepted the donor’s gift did so on one condition. They had to agree to do one good deed for members of the local Severna Park community, such as purchasing socks for a cancer patient, gifts for homeless children, or just helping cash-strapped strangers, the church’s pastor, Rev. Ron Foster, told The Washington Post.

“Listen to where the Holy Spirit is leading you,” he told his congregation before entrusting 100 of his congregants with a $100 bill. “Listen to the need that’s around you, that you find in the community. You may be in the right place at the right time to help somebody, because you now have this in your hand.”

The donor, who requested that her name not be published, said she wanted to share the gift of giving because of what giving did for her when she became depressed over the death of a friend this past summer. Another friend gave her a gift that lifted her spirits when she shared it with others; she felt led by God to do the same for 100 fellow church members.

She said she learned of other churches which had done similar giving acts and approached Foster about making it happen at Saverna Park. Once they worked out the logistics they decided that they would give $100 to every member who wanted to participate in the giving spree on the first Sunday of Advent.

“People have been so thoughtful. The money has just multiplied and blossomed and gone out,” Foster said of the results. “There’s been so much joy and excitement just spilling over.”

One congregant wrote on the church’s blog page, “What was the coolest thing to me was how I was on ‘high alert’ all week, looking for people or opportunities to help. That was a great lesson. I think we should always be in that mode, always on the lookout for who God may place in our path, and for things He calls us to do. I am going to strive to be in that spirit more and more, to have eyes to see people’s needs more routinely, and to help in any way I can.”

About the Author

Leonardo Blair writes for The Christian Post.

Follow the Star

Today is the most special day of the year. I’m sure you have your family traditions, without which Christmas would not be Christmas: big family breakfast, opening the stockings, reading the Christmas Story, and opening your presents. Then you save the best for last, as you gather the family around the tree to read this daily column. No Christmas would be complete without it.

So let’s talk about tradition. When I was a child, mom made bacon-wrapped scallops for Christmas Day. (What says Christmas like scallops?) Then we would open our stuff. Dad would put our toys together, and we’d play the rest of the day. I’ll never forget the Christmas when my brother and I played tennis all afternoon, with our new Wilson T-2000 aluminum rackets.

Let me suggest another tradition. Pray. That’s it. Pray. Take just ten minutes sometime today, and pray. Tell God you are grateful for the gift of his son. Pray. Rejoice in the blessings you enjoy. Pray. Confess your sins. Pray. Commit your heart, your life, yourself to the Christmas Child. Pray.

Merry Christmas!

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).

The Rushmore Report: Billy Graham’s Christmas Message – From 1966

In an article first published in Guidepost in 1966, famed evangelist Billy Graham wrote about three symbols that represent the true meaning of the Christmas season. His words are still worth sharing – over 50 years later. As you and your family prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior in just four days, you might consider going over these powerful thoughts together.

The first symbol is the cradle. Cradled in Bethlehem that night were the hopes and dreams of a dying world. Graham wrote, “Those chubby little hands that clasped the straw in his manger crib were soon to open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, and still the troubled seas. That cooing voice was soon to teach men of the Way and to raise the dead. Those tiny feet were to take Him to the sick and needy and were to be pierced on Calvary’s cross.” Graham described the cradle as the link that bound a lost world to a loving God.

The second symbol is the cross. Approaching the cross, Jesus essentially said, “To this end I was born, and for this cause I came into the world.” To Christians the joy of Christmas is not limited to His birth. It was His death and resurrection that gave meaning to his birth. It is in the cross that the world can find a solution to its pressing problems.

Third, there is the crown. Jesus was crowned with a crown of thorns and enthroned on a cruel cross, yet His assassins did something unwittingly. They placed a superscription over His cross in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which read, “This is the king.”

Graham concluded, “Yes, Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, and He is coming back some day. He will come not as a babe in Bethlehem’s manger. The next time He comes it will be in a blaze of glory and He will be crowned Lord of all.”

Cradle – cross – crown. Let them speak to you. Let the power of Him who came to us at Christmas grip you, and He will surely change your life.