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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.

‘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: Seven Ways to Have Your Best Christmas

Christmas is just ten days away. I’m sure you have many family traditions, including food, festivities, and fun. But this can be your best Christmas ever. Let me suggest seven ways.

1. Visit someone who lives alone.

In our years as pastor and pastor’s wife in three churches, one of our greatest Christmas blessings came from visiting shut-ins on Christmas Day. Nothing is quite like it. When you walk in the house or nursing home room, the smile on the other side of the door is priceless. This Christmas, visit someone who has no one. It will be their greatest gift of the year.

2. Attend a Christmas Eve Service.

When I lived in Gainesville, Texas, we did our Christmas Eve Service on December 23. So I had Christmas Eve off. Generally, I attended three different services on Christmas Eve, always including First Methodist Church and First Presbyterian Church. Make a Christmas Eve Service a part of your family tradition.

3. Read the Christmas Story.

Just before opening gifts as a family, this is a great way to keep the focus on Jesus rather than the gifts. It takes just a few minutes. By reading Luke 1:5-56 and 2:1-20, this will take you and your family back to the real reason for Christmas – the birth of the Christ child.

4. Go Christmas caroling.

Do this as a group, with your Sunday School class, Bible Study group, or team from work. Sing at a nursing home, from room to room. Sing in a neighborhood or apartment complex. Bring the children along. This will bring joy to you and those who hear you sing.

5. Give a gift to your church staff.

For each minister, give a gift card. Whether it is $5 or $50, it will bless those who bless you every Sunday. As a former pastor, I assure you this will make a difference. It says, “We love you and appreciate all you do” at just the right time. Your church staff hears too much criticism and receives too little encouragement. You can make a difference they will not forget.

6. Send a few cards to people you haven’t talked to in awhile.

Written messages mean so much, because we receive them so seldom. In this day of social media, do what we did in the olden days – write a personal message on real paper. Seal it in a real envelope and slap on a real stamp. Make your message personal. Pick ten people. This will take about an hour but bless them for weeks.

7. Start something new.

Find a new community Christmas event to attend. Go to a different church program or presentation. Go see Christmas lights in a different neighborhood. Mix things up. Do something new.

The Rushmore Report: Trump Says Eight Words You Need to Hear

In just over a month since he was elected, President-elect Donald Trump has said plenty of things that have brought panic to liberals, while inspiring long-absent optimism in millions of others. Many of us are still pinching ourselves that our nation has stemmed the tide of political correctness. Well, ’tis the season for good cheer, and the eight words President-elect Trump just said will definitely have you cheering.

At a rally in Michigan, Trump heralded what he called the return of the ubiquity of the phrase “Merry Christmas” during the festive occasion.

These are the eight words Trump said that thrill millions of Christian Americans: “We’re going to start saying Merry Christmas again.”

Noting that department stores have adopted “Happy Holidays” in place of the traditional Christian greeting, Trump has agreed with Bill O’Reilly’s assessment that the progressive movement has waged a “war” on Christmas. And it’s hard to dispute that fact.

“Christmas” itself has been sanitized out of the season, as political correctness has run amok. It’s a joy to know that we now have a leader heading back into the White House who will lead us in being proud of our roots and traditions – even as we move forward in a positive way – rather than ashamed or persecuted for them.

About the Author

Michelle Jesse is Associate Editor for AllenBWest.com and a Christian author and activist.

The Rushmore Report: The Problem with Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs

Sometimes I learn a lot from conversations I was never intended to hear. This happened once as I was stopping by my local community bookstore. It’s a small, quiet store, so it was impossible to not eavesdrop as I heard a young man tell his friend how much he hated Christmas. To be honest, the more he talked, the more I understood his point. What he hated was not Christmas itself. What he hated was the music.

This guy started by lampooning one pop singer’s Christmas album, and I found myself smiling in agreement on how awful it is. But then he went on to say that he hated Christmas music across the board. That’s when I started to feel as though I might be in the presence of the Grinch. But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.

“Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,” he said. “It’s like reading a book with no conflict.”

Now he had my attention.

I’m sure this man had thought this for a long time, but maybe he felt freer to say it because we were only hours out from hearing the horrifying news of a massacre of innocent children in Connecticut. For him, the tranquil lyrics of our Christmas songs couldn’t encompass such terror. I think he has a point.

Some of the blame is on our sentimentalized Christmas of the American civil religion. Simeon the prophet never wished anyone a “holly-jolly Christmas” or envisioned anything about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But what about our songs, the songs of the church? We ought to make sure that what we sing measures up with the, as this fellow would put it, “narrative tension” of the Christmas story.

The first Christmas carol, after all, was a war hymn. Mary of Nazareth sings of God’s defeat of his enemies, about how in Christ he had demonstrated his power and “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Luke 1:52). There are some villains in mind there. Simeon’s song, likewise, speaks of the “fall and rising of many in Israel” and of a sword that would pierce the heart of Mary herself. Even the “light of the Gentiles” he speaks about is in the context of warfare. After all, the light, the Bible tells us, overcomes the darkness (John 1:5), and frees us from the grip of the devil (2 Corinthians 4).

Far too often, though, our corporate worship ignores this spiritual warfare. Our worship songs are typically celebrative, in both lyrical content and musical expression. In the last generation, a mournful song about crucifixion was pepped up with a jingly-sounding chorus, “It was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day!” Even those ubiquitous contemporary worship songs that come straight out of the Psalms tend to focus on psalms of ascent or psalms of joyful exuberance, not psalms of lament.

By not speaking where the Bible speaks, to the full range of human emotion – including loneliness, guilt, desolation, anger, fear, desperation – we only leave our people there, wondering why they just can’t be “Christian” enough to smile or why they, like Charlie Brown, still feel unhappy when they stand to sing “Joy to the World.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the kingdom, we receive comfort in a very different way than we’re taught to in American culture. We receive comfort not from faking cheerfulness or trying to drown out the throbbing of our souls with holly jolly sentimentality. We are comforted when we see our sin, our brokenness, our desperate circumstances, and we grieve and cry out for deliverance.

In a time when we seem to learn of a new tragedy each day, the unbearable lightness of Christmas seems absurd to the watching world. But, even in the best of times, we all know that we live in a groaning universe, a world of divorce courts and cancer cells and concentration camps. Just as we sing with joy about the coming of the Promised One, we ought also to sing with groaning that he is not back yet (Romans 8:23), sometimes with groanings too deep for lyrics.

We have a rich and complicated and often appropriately dark Christmas hymnody. We can sing of blessings flowing “far as the curse is found,” of the one who came to “free us all from Satan’s power.” Let’s sing that, every now and then, where we can be overheard.

About the Author

Russell Moore is the President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and is a prolific writer and author of several books.

The Rushmore Report: Southwest Plane Diverts After Baby Born Mid-flight

A Southwest Airlines flight headed from Philadelphia to Orlando diverted to South Carolina after a baby was born mid-flight. Southwest Flight 556 left Philadelphia just before 3 p.m. Sunday. But, after a woman went into labor, the plane diverted to Charleston. The birth of the baby was an inconvenient blessing – and a reminder of another baby born over 2,000 years ago – the greatest inconvenient blessing of all.

“Medical personnel assisted with the delivery,” Southwest spokeswoman Melissa Ford said in a statement to Today in the Sky. “Emergency medical technicians met the flight upon landing and transported the parents and baby to an area hospital.”

The flight’s remaining 132 passengers stayed on board and Flight 556 took off from Charleston about 70 minutes after landing. Flight 556 made it to Orlando at 6:34 p.m. – about an hour behind schedule.

One passenger tweeted on the flight from onboard, sharing a short, six-second video in which a baby could be heard crying at the front of the plane. “The flight crew did a great job,” said the tweeting passenger.

The birth of the Southwest baby disrupted the lives of 132 passengers and countless others whose flight plans were altered by the late arrival in Orlando. But no baby was as disruptive as Jesus. In his birth, he disrupted world religions, the rich and famous, and the spiritually elite.

Jesus didn’t come the way the Messiah was expected by most to come. To them, he was born to the wrong parents, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and in the wrong setting. He was the unexpected Messiah – the world was caught off guard.

During this Christmas Season, baby Jesus is still the Great Disruptor. He wants to disrupt your lifestyle, habits, plans, routine, relationships, and eternity.

The Great Disruptor has been born. That is settled history. The only question that remains is: Has he been born in you?