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When the wise men come to Jesus, they bring three gifts: Gold, which is the gift for royalty, a gift for a king. Incense, which was for divinity, a gift you give a God. And myrrh, which is a funeral gift, a gift used for burial. Their gifts show amazing insight.
At first hearing, you might think these gifts were a lucky coincidence. They’re not. God set up the events of Christmas in such a way that you would know that He was carefully orchestrating each element of it, years in advance. Nine months before Christmas, God sent an angel to tell Joseph and Mary about the birth of His Son. Christmas night, God sent angels to communicate with shepherds about the birth of His Son. Hundreds of years before Christmas, God sent a holy man – Daniel – to the eastern peoples to prepare their highest caste, their wise men, (court advisors to the king) to respond to the birth of His Son. God communicated to the wise men that the Messiah would be king and God, and that He would come to die. Through a combination of Daniel’s leadership, Hebrew Scripture, and the tailor-made revelation of a star, these wise men knew as much or more about the nature of the Messiah as the Jewish people.
Joe La Rue
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EINSTEIN AND EMMY
When Einstein fled Nazi Germany, he came to America and bought an old two-story house within walking distance of Princeton University. There he entertained some of the most distinguished people of his day and discussed with them issues as far ranging as physics to human rights.
But Einstein had another frequent visitor. She was not, in the world’s eyes, an important person like his other guests. She was a ten-year-old girl named Emmy. Emmy heard that a very kind man who knew a lot about mathematics had moved into her neighborhood. Since she was having trouble with her fifth-grade arithmetic, she decided to visit the man down the block and see if he would help her with her problems. Einstein was very willing and explained everything to her so that she could understand it. He also told her she was welcome to come anytime she needed help.
A few weeks later, one of the neighbors told Emmy’s mother that Emmy was often seen entering the house of the world-famous physicist. Horrified, she told her daughter that Einstein was a very important man, whose time was very valuable, and he couldn’t be bothered with the problems of a little schoolgirl. And then she rushed over to Einstein’s house, and when Einstein answered the door, she started trying to blurt out an apology for her daughter’s intrusion – for being such a bother. But Einstein cut her off. He said, “She has not been bothering me! When a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! Please don’t stop Emmy from coming to me with her school problems. She is welcome in this house anytime.”
(Peter Kennedy, Copyright 2000, Devotional E-Mail, “It Is His Joy” (located at http://www.geocities.com/palmercog/joydevo.html) (last visited April 22, 2008)).
And that’s how it is with God! From it’s very opening pages, all the way to the end of the book, the Bible is a story about how God has pursued us with an unchanging and unquenchable and UNDESERVED love, because he wants us to come to his house! And we do that in this life through prayer! It’s an amazing privilege.
Sermon Central Staff
NO RUNS, NO HITS, NO ERRORS
In one little Midwestern town, Miss Jones had the distinction of being the oldest resident in town. So when she died, the editor of the local paper wanted to print a little article remembering this dear old lady, except he couldn't think of anything to say when he sat down to write the article. Miss Jones had never done anything terribly wrong. She had never spent a night in jail or had ever been drunk. On the other hand, she had never done anything significant.
With this still on his mind, the editor went down to the local café, and there, ran into the local funeral director. He too was having the same trouble. He wanted to put something on Miss Jones' tombstone besides "Miss Nancy Jones, born such-and-such a date and died such-and-such a date," but he couldn't think of anything to write either.
The editor decided to go back to his office and assign the job of writing up a small article for both the paper and the tombstone to the first reporter he saw. When he got to the office, he ran into the sports editor, who got the assignment. So somewhere in some little community in the Midwest there is a tombstone which reads:
Here lie the bones of Nancy Jones,
For her life held no terrors.
She lived an old maid. She died an old maid.
No hits, no runs, no errors. (C. C. Mitchell, Let's Live!)
I'm afraid to say, "That's the way many Christians live their lives." They've never done anything terribly wrong, but they never accomplish anything significant for the Lord.
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Take a Risk, 5/25/2012)
One of America’s greatest poets is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The year 1860 found Longfellow happy in his life, enjoying a widening recognition, and elated over the election of Abraham Lincoln which he believed signaled the triumph of freedom and redemption for the nation.
The following year the Civil War began. On July 9, 1861 Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window sealing locks of her daughter’s hair, using hot sealing wax. Suddenly her dress caught fire and engulfed her with flames. Her husband, sleeping in the next room, was awaked by her screams. As he desperately tried to put out the fire and save his wife, he was severely burned on his face and hands.
Fanny died the next day. Longfellow’s severe burns would not even allow him to attend Fanny’s funeral. His white beard, which so identified with him, was one of the results of the tragedy – the burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible. In his diary for Christmas day 1861 he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”
In 1862 the toll of war dead began to mount and in his diary for that year Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.”
In 1863 his son who had run away to join the Union army was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.
But on Christmas Day 1864 – at age 57 – Longfellow sat down to try to capture, if possible, the joy of the season. He began:
I heard the bells on Christmas day.
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
As he came to the third stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, good will to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But...
A SPECIAL OCCASION
If you are waiting for a special house guest or a special occasion to use something you cherish in your house, consider the following following article by Ann Wells that appeared several years ago in the Los Angeles Times:
My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. "This," he said, "is not a slip. This is lingerie."
He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.
"Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, guess this is the occasion."
He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician.
His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."
I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death.
I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister's family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn't seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special.
I'm still thinking about his words, and they've changed my life. I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings.
Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savor, not endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them. I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event--such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom. I wear my good blazer to the market if I feel like it. I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my party-going friends.
"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now. I'm not sure what my sister would have done had she known that she wouldn't be here for the tomorrow we all take for granted. I think she would have called family members and a few close friends. She might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think she would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, her favorite food. I'm guessing--I'll never know.
It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew that my hours were limited, angry because I put off seeing good friends whom I was going to get in touch with--someday. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write--one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and daughter often enough how much I truly love them.
I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that the day is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is ...a gift from God.
Life is a precious gift from God, and he wants us to get the most out of it. Jesus came to give us life "to the full and abundantly" (John 10:10). In other words, he came so that we would live our lives abundantly-full of purpose, meaning, and joy.
What are you waiting for? If it's a special occasion or a "someday,"--- keep in mind that it may never come.
John Bisagno former Pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church tells the story of his coming there to candidate for the position of pastor many years ago. He said that as he entered the auditorium it was dimly lit, with just a few people huddled together. They were singing some old slow funeral type song that was depressing.
Later that day he took a walk in downtown Houston and came upon a jewelry store. It was some sort of grand opening and there were bright lights and a greeter at the door to welcome you in with a smile. Inside there was a celebration going on. There were refreshments and people having a good time talking and laughing with each other. They welcomed him and offered him some punch. He said that after attending both the church and the jewelry store, if the jewelry store had offered an invitation, he would have joined the jewelry store!
3 Buddies were discussing death and one asked the group: What would you like people to say about you at your funeral?
"He was a great humanitarian, who cared about his community."
"He was a great husband and father, who was an example for many to follow."
"Look, he’s moving!!"
Dr. W. A Criswell, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas, said on one occasion on an airplane flight he found himself seated beside a well-known theologian. He desperately wanted to start a conversation and they did get to talk. The man told Dr. Criswell about how he had recently lost his little boy through death. Dr. Criswell listened as he told his story: He said he had come home from school with a fever and we thought it was just one of those childhood things, but it was a very virulent form of meningitis. The doctor said we cannot save your little boy. He’ll die.
And so this seminary professor, loving his son as he did, sat by the bedside to watch this death vigil. It was the middle of the day and the little boy whose strength was going from him and whose vision and brain was getting clouded said, "Daddy, it’s getting dark isn’t it?" The professor said to his son, "Yes son it is getting dark, very dark." Of course it was very dark for him. He said, "Daddy, I guess it’s time for me to go to sleep isn’t it?"
He said, "Yes, son, it’s time for you to go to sleep."
The professor said the little fellow had a way of fixing his pillow just so, and putting his head on his hands when he slept and he fixed his pillow like that and laid his head on his hands and sai...
MATTHEW HENRY SAID, “When Christ died He left a will in which He gave His soul to His Father, His body to Joseph of Arimathea, His clothes to the soldiers, and His mother to John. But to His disciples, who had left all to follow Him, He left not silver or gold, but something far better—His PEACE!
A few years ago I conducted a funeral for a dedicated Christian man. His wife approached me and said, “He’s the lucky one—I wish I was going to heaven today. Why couldn’t it have been me?” We don’t usually envy people who’ve died, unless we know where they’re going, and where we’re going. On his deathbed, a minister told his son, “Don’t worry about me. I’m feeling somewhat better today. But should I slip away while you’re gone, you’ll know where to find me.” Christians never say good-bye for the last time.