Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Way in a Manger

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Pix-N-Pens!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Every year, commercialism takes over the holidays. We asked some of our authors to share with us, "How do you keep Christ in Christmas at your house?" 

Keeping Christ in Christmas takes different forms every year. This year we've all taken a part in our church's musical, Two From Galilee. This is a huge, free outreach to our community to share the love of Christ who came to shine His Light on our dark world. But I have to tell you that keeping Christ in Christmas for me is really a case of making sure He's part of my life all the time. When I have a habit of inviting Him into my daily days, I don't really have to think about offering Him a special invitation for Christmas.  ~ Marji Laine [editor's note: Two from Galilee was recorded and can currently be viewed on Marji's church's website.]

We keep Christ in Christmas with a Jesus gift box under the tree. Each year, we put inside the box, written in a journal, those gifts we offer to Jesus. For instance, one member of the family wrote, "be more generous," or "increase my giving", etc. Before we write the new year's gifts, we reflect on the gifts or promises from the previous year. Then we say a prayer asking for strength and grace to fulfill the written promise that our heart desires. After this "ritual" we open presents from each other.

We also go through a box called "What Does God Want For Christmas?" We role-play the characters of Christmas in scenes from the Christmas story and a piece of the nativity is set in place. For instance, I dress as Mary and my hubby acts as Gabriel and announces that I will be with child ... Then Gabriel is set in the nativity. The next day, Mary recites her words of obedience and a Mary figurine is set in the nativity. The role play is over on day 7 when we open a small gift box with a mirror in it. Guess what God wants for Christmas? You! The kids never get tired of this game. I also have pics of the kids dressed up I can send you. 

Jesus birthday cake is another one we do with chocolate cake to represent our sin, white frosting to show Jesus makes us white as snow, red candles to symbolize the blood. The round cake shows his love never ends, etc. 

We also sing carols. It's a full busy day. But, you know as much as we try to make it about Christ, I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the battle with materialism. I told my hubby I'm about ready to get radical with Christmas! ~ Theresa Anderson

There is one tradition my family has for years and years. My father started when my siblings and I were little, and then when I married and had children of my own my husband continued that tradition.

All kids are excited on Christmas morning and can’t wait to dig into the gifts. The rule at my house growing up and the rule at our house with our children growing up was that the kids can get up early and get into the stockings but not touch the presents. Once everyone is awake, we all gather in the living room and read the Christmas story from the Bible before any present is touched. This is one way we have been able to put Christ first and to remind our children the true meaning of the holiday.

Now that my oldest daughter is planning on getting married in the spring, I have to wonder if a new generation of my family will be beginning soon. I pray that all of my children and their future spouses will continue reading the Christmas story from the Bible each Christmas morning so that they can teach their own children the true meaning of Christmas and keep Christ as the center.  ~ Ruth O’Neil

When Tracy asked us this question, my mind drifted automatically to the nativity scenes I display at Christmas. In the past, two main scenes decorate our house amidst the many snowmen I collect. This year I’m also adding a third. Let me tell you about them and what they mean to me.

First is my silver-plated set given to me by my mother and step-dad. It’s an elegant rendition of that first Christmas, each piece handcrafted and detailed. It reminds me of all that is beautiful during this season. From decorations, to selfless acts to large choirs singing songs of adoration, at Christmas time, beauty is on display.

My second set came from a local department store during a sale after Christmas. This ceramic set is more down-to-earth, a closer portrayal of the reality of a stable, hay and animals that surrounded the Savior’s birth. This set reminds me of the reality of life, the hurry, the bad mixed amongst the good during a season full of people with faults and failures, people a lot like me.

I received my third set this year, a gift from my brother and his wife for my fiftieth birthday. Handcrafted in Talkeetna, Alaska, near where they live, this set has two spruce trees and an igloo. Some might think it odd knowing Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but I see symbolism in it as well. Jesus came to earth to save us all from the Eskimo in Alaska to the Aborigines in Australia to the Native Americans in the western United States.

So as I decorate for Christmas and watch my granddaughters carry around baby Jesus and ask me questions about these different renditions of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus, once again Jesus is lifted up in the Hallmark household. ~ Jennifer Hallmark

All of us at Pix-N-Pens and Write Integrity Press wish all of you
Merry Christmas!

May Jesus always be the center of your holidays - 
and your every day.