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I read recently about how Japan celebrates Christmas, which has become a major event over there. They put up decorations, exchange presents, send cards, sing yuletide songs, decorate trees, serve special seasonal treats and make a big fuss over St Nick, Rudolph and Frosty. Their Santa is sometimes dressed like a Samurai. It is very important for single adults to have a date for a romantic dinner on Christmas Eve. And for reasons that can't be determined, a big Christmas tradition is attending a concert of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
The one thing the Japanese do not do at Christmas is honor Christ. That's because Japan is nearly 99% Shinto and Buddhist. A missionary to Japan was asked if Christmas was Santa's birthday. Only 1/2 of 1 percent of Japan's population is Christian. So where do you think they got this commercial version of Christmas? From our North American practices. They are attracted to the glitter and romance of the American version of Christmas, and have adopted nearly everything except the spiritual significance of the season.
From Darryl Klassen's Sermon "Word Play"
I AM ONE OF THEM
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend:
"Itís a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy, which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians--and I am one of them."
The Bohemian reformer John Hus was a man who believed the Scriptures to be the infallible and supreme authority in all matters. He died at the stake for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Husís last words were, "What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood."
(From a sermon by Jason Jones "So You Call Yourself a Pastor" 2/25/2009)
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When Gabriel Hurles turned six a couple of years ago (January 2009), he was so focused on eating his birthday cake, that he hardly noticed the giant package in the corner of the room. When another child pointed out the large gift, Gabriel ran over and began to tear off the wrapping. It wasnít a bicycle or any of the other items a six-year-old would want. It was his dad, Army Specialist Casey Hurles, home on leave from the war in Iraq. Gabriel and his father had been apart for seven months, so when Casey learned his leave would coincide with his sonís birthday, he hatched a plan to offer one whale of a surprise. (Boys wrapped birthday gift is dad back from Iraq, Associated Press and YahooNews.com, 1-30-09)
In essence, thatís what God did for us that first Christmas. He offered us one whale of a surprise. He wrapped Himself up in the form of a tiny baby and gave us Himself.
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, The Fatherís Gift, 12/16/2010)
CONSIDER AGAIN CHRISTMAS
When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today.
When Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today.
It is a long time since 1832, longer still from 353, longer still from that dark night brightened by a special star in which Jesus the king was born. Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us yet another opportunity to pause, and in the midst of all the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surround Christmas today, ...
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THE MORE PRECIOUS GIFT
It is not easy always for people to understand the significance of a gift, or the sacrifices that went behind it.
Two students shared a room in college. After returning from the Christmas' winter break, Andrew asked his roommate what presents he has received for Christmas.
Tom, coming from a well-to-do family, was excited and began to tell him about the new clothes, the best-selling books, the popular running shoes and all the other items on the list of precious gifts given me by family and friends. Andrew was somewhat impressed, pleased at his friend had so many gifts. "So, Andrew, what did you get for Christmas?" Tom asked.
Expecting to hear his wonderful list of presents, Andrew was quiet for a moment and then said softly, holding up but one small item, an alarm clock that probably cost less than $5 at the thrift shop.
"That's nice," Tom answered, feeling almost embarrassed to have asked. He wasn't expecting this, and felt glad that he hand not received such a present, seemingly so small and insignificant.
As roommates often do during late nights of studies, Tom would sometimes tease Andrew by pretending to throw that clock into the air and then catch it right before it hit the ground, and sometimes faking a drop of his precious clock. But Andrew never thought this game was funny, because his clock meant much more to him than Tom ever understood.
Over the years in college, as Andrew moved from room to room and roommate to roommate, he always had that same inexpensive alarm clock stored closely beside his bed.
You see, back home in West Virginia, Andrew's family was far from wealthy and the only present his parents could afford to give him for Christmas was that simple, unimpressive clock. What seemed like garage sale material for some families was a family treasure for Andrew.
After four years, both Tom and Andrew graduated from college. They happened to meet 13 years later. Tom says he cannot remember a single present he received for Christmas that year in college. And you know something? He said, "For the rest of my life, I will never forget Andrew's gift - the simple, inexpensive alarm clock. While the presents I received were more elegant, more expensive and certainly more numerous, that one single present from Andrew's parents was definitely more precious."
(From a sermon by Christian Cheong, His Birthday Wish, 1/9/2011)
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THE HUMILITY OF QUEEN ELIZABETH
At a reception honoring musician Sir Robert Mayer on his 100th birthday, elderly British socialite Lady Diana Cooper fell into conversation with a friendly woman who seemed to know her well. Lady Diana's failing eyesight prevented her from recognizing her fellow guest, until she peered more closely at the magnificent diamonds and realized she was talking to Queen Elizabeth! Overcome with embarrassment, Lady Diana curtsied and stammered, "Ma'am, oh, ma'am, I'm sorry ma'am. I didn't recognize you without your crown!"
"It was so much Sir Robert's evening," the queen replied, "that I decided to leave it behind."
(Today in the Word, April 3, 1992. From a sermon by Rick Boyne, Christ, Our Example: Humility, 8/8/2011)
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COVETOUSNESS AND THE EMPEROR'S NEW GROVE
In Disney's thirty-ninth animated film, "The Emperor's New Groove," self-proclaimed "King of the World" Kuzco (COOS-coh), who had an evil female advisor named Yzma (EEZ-muh), made plans to demolish an entire village to build a new water park. At the highest point of the village he planned on building his new summer home, Kuzcotopia. This was all to be done as a birthday present to himself on his eighteenth birthday.
The plot of ground on which Kuzcotopia was to be built belonged to a lowly llama herder named Pacha. Pacha and his family had lived on that hill for many years, and Pacha had no desire to sell his land; that's when Kuzco informed Pacha that his intention was not to pay for it but to simply take it for his own. Pacha was supposed to view it as a charitable contribution to the Emperor. Pacha denied Kuzco the land, and Kuzco envied it with a passion.
This sounds like a story straight out of the Bible; a story where a king, along with his evil female advisor, desired a new plot of ground. The piece of real estate desired by the king in our passage of Scripture for today was a vineyard or a "grove" of grapes; therefore, I have entitled our message "The Emperor's New Grove." This sermon will address the topic of the slippery slope of envy, or the downward spiral of coveting. If you have ever seen the Disney cartoon, then you will be surprised to discover just how similar the story sounds to our Bible passage.
This morning we looked at the downward spiral of coveting, and we learned that desire leads to coveting, and coveting leads to sin, and that there is a price to pay for sin. Most importantly we learned that the penalty for sin can be forgiven through our faith in Jesus Christ and acceptance of Him as our Lord and Savior who laid down His life for us.
In "The Emperor's New Groove," Kuzco's hard heart was eventually softened and his life was changed, and that's when he got his new groove on. You too can have a new groove and see your life changed if you will accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
(From a sermon by Damian Phillips, The Emperor's New Grove, 8/13/2012)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
You have a rich, spiritual history that continues to influence us today.
* My County, ĎTis of Thee was written by a Baptist minister, Samuel Francis Smith.
* The Pledge of Allegience was written in 1892 by a Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy.
* The words ďIn God We TrustĒ are traced to the efforts of Rev. W.R. Watkinson.
* Rev. John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister was a signer of the Declaration of...
FRIEND OF THE SON
Rick Warren talks about Ron Dunn, a friend of his, who took his young son to a carnival one time for his birthday. His son had picked six boys to go with him, so Ron bought a roll of tickets. Every line he'd come up to, he'd pull off seven tickets and give them to all the kids. When they got to the Ferris wheel, all of a sudden there was an eighth little kid with his hand out.
Ron said, "Who are you?"
The kid said, "I'm Johnny."
Ron said, "Who are you, Johnny?"
Johnny said, "I'm your son's new friend. And he said you would give me a ticket."
Ron asks, "Do you think I gave him one? Absolut...