Dr. Candace Murdock of Rome Georgia had just had a miscarriage.The night after she returned from the hospital she stayed awake, restless and upset. This baby had not been her first; but, like all children, it was irreplaceable, and she grieved deeply at its loss.“Suddenly a scene appeared right in front of me,” she says.“It was as if I was looking at a movie screen.” Candace blinked, but the vision remained.
It was a sunny green meadow.In its midst there were dogs playing and chasing each other, moving toward the right side.“The dogs seemed somehow familiar,” she says. “I suddenly realized that they were our family pets, dogs from my childhood!”Watching intently, Candace then saw her father running into the center of the scene, the dogs leaping joyfully about him. Her father had died seven years ago. He had raised, and always loved, dogs.
Then Candace realized that her father was not alone.He was gripping the hand of a small blond child.They were looking toward the right.Candace’s father seemed to be pointing at something, as if he were explaining it - and both were smiling.Candace’s other children were blondes, and instantly she knew this child was the baby she’d just lost.Obviously her father was welcoming the child into heaven, and would be there to guide and love him, just as he had always done on earth.God had allowed her to witness it all so she would be consoled.
“I cannot explain how much comfort this vision gave me,” Candace says.“I had never experienced anything like it, nor would I have pictured heaven in this way, but I was NOT hallucinating, or on any medication.To know that my child, my father and his beloved dogs were all together was the best answer to prayer that I could have asked for.God does care.”
20But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us." 24When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
~ Matthew 1:20-25 (New International Version)
“Meet the Gilliams”
In Thomas Meloncon’s play, Christmas with Great Aunt, we’re introduced to the Gilliam family.Cecil (Dad), Casey (Mom), Cecil Jr. and Dana have taken a trip to Bethlehem, Texas on their way to Los Angeles for Christmas. There seems to be some confusion as to the true meaning of Christmas.
Casey has returned to Great Aunt’s in search of the missing link; something to take away the loneliness and perhaps regret she feels.Cecil, on the other hand, thinks that the trip to Los Angeles will show just how much he loves his family and the fruit of his hard labor to “provide” for their lifestyle will be evident.(They arrived with their Mercedes filled to the brim with gifts for Great Aunt and their own gifts awaiting opening at their final destination) He is so proud of Dana who is going to attend a prestigious Ivy League college soon.Cecil Jr. marches to the beat of a different drummer, much to the consternation of his father, who continues to express his displeasure.Each family member has a heavy heart and pain that manifests itself in different ways.
Everything is different in Bethlehem.Despite the fact the church burned down, Great Aunt and the members are still joyous and are preparing for their play depicting Christ’s birth.The food Great Aunt prepares (possum stew and hot water cornbread) isn’t anything like that which the Gilliam’s normally eat.And, imagine, a house with one bathroom and the kids have to sleep on palettes on the floor and their cell phones don’t work either.There is no luxury hotel nearby and Cecil isn’t feeling it.He is very reluctant to make the adjustment as everything is about appearances and how hard he works to bring home the bacon; always reminding everyone how much things cost.He’s a very proud man….his successes have blinded him and he’s out of touch with each member of his family, and rest assured, out of touch with himself.Each member of the family is searching for their own truth.
I won’t give away the entire story here, but I can safely say that many of us have been caught up in much the same way during the Christmas season.The emphasis on material trappings and keeping up appearances is not what the birth of Jesus signifies.As Great Aunt would remind us, we need to choose life through Jesus.In the dark recesses of our minds and hearts, HE is the light of the world and directs our paths if only we would invite him in.
GospeLines Prayer:Father, we come to You with humble and heavy hearts knowing that we have lost track of the importance of the ultimate gift You have given us, the gift of salvation.We are most assuredly undeserving.
The love You have shown us through the gift of Your son, trumps all of the things we often think are important.We thank You for Your love and for the love of our families and those Angels You have brought along our path.
While we acknowledge that neatly wrapped packages, decorated trees, holiday music and lit-up houses conjure up great imagery, nothing surpasses the beautiful story of our Savior’s birth.
Thank You Father, for Your bountiful blessings.
In His Love,
≈ Devotional for Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Christians will read these words anew in churches all over the world at Christmas Eve services this year:
“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” Luke 2:9
Shepherds were in the fields doing what shepherds do… taking care of their sheep and talking among themselves about everything and nothing.One minute they were enjoying another peaceful night, eyelids half shut, and the next they were engulfed with a brilliant light as bright as the noonday sun.Imagine the chaotic scramble to defend themselves and their flock from what they presumed was an alien intruder looking to do them harm.
A lot of translations will tone this verse down and miss the sudden majesty of its true meaning.I like what Richard Ritenbaugh said:“And BOOM!An angel of the Lord stood before them!”Luke says the shepherds were terrified.Suppose this had happened to you?
While playing Santa at a local mall this season I see fear like that in two year old children every day.As they wait in line they show great bravado, waving and throwing kisses as they eagerly anticipate that first meeting with the old guy in red and white.But when they turn the corner and stand face to face with him, “BOOM!”The fear is unexpected but very real.Their parents tell me that Santa was all they had talked about for several days and they could hardly wait to visit with him.
Sudden terror has a way of making mice out of men, shattering common sense as well as our sense of mission.
But the shepherds overcame their fear when the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”(Luke 2:10-11)When the angel left them, they put away their slingshots and stones and spoke among themselves.“This isn’t something you see every day,” perhaps they thought aloud.So they hurried to find Mary and Joseph and the baby.
But it is what they did next that is stunning.
“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…”Luke 2:17-18
Shepherds were commonly despised by society for being ceremonially unclean.They had a reputation for being untrustworthy… a shepherd’s testimony could not be used in a court of law.YET GOD CHOSE THEM TO BE THE VERY FIRST WITNESSES TO THE BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR!
This past week I read in the newspaper that 70% of the population of the world is under some type of religious persecution, unable to worship God freely.In the United States, Christians are being shouted down by legislators who believe it is wrong to say “Merry Christmas” because it is offensive to some people.Children are counseled in our schools to avoid writing papers about their Christian experiences, and employers strictly enforce rules which allow freedom of expression by some religions but restrict Christians from celebrating their spiritual rights.
Maybe we do need something to go “BOOM” in the night to frighten us out of our complacency.It won’t be the religious leaders who will lead us back to the roots of our beliefs… no, it will be those shepherd-like common folk who, though despised by many, will find the courage to “spread the word concerning what had been told them about the child.”
Beloved, there is no better time than the Christmas Season to be restored to a courageous Christian lifestyle.Let us not be ashamed to say “Merry Christmas” and mean it.What a gift we celebrate!
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace
To men on whom his favor rests!
GospeLines Prayer:Father, may your Spirit burn a whole in my heart this Christmas season and make me passionate about my faith.Give me unusual courage to stand above my employer and political correctness to be unashamed of my Jesus.Yet, let the Breaking News of the message come forth as the Gospel of Peace and let your favor rest upon me for being obedient to Your Word.Amen and amen!
Christmas… The day most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus is almost here.Jesus… The greatest gift ever bestowed on mankind.Yet, the most beautiful words ever spoken to mankind were not spoken by Jesus, but by an angel sent from God.
“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:10-11)
Two thousand years later, just reading those words fills us with hope and joy as we try to conceive of a love so great.While we celebrate this magnificent gift, let’s try to grasp just how gracious, merciful and love-filled this gift truly is.
Since the day of creation, God has given us many wonderful things.
The Lord said, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28) - He gave us our homes.
The Lord said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). - He gave us our families
Then said the Lord of the vineyard, “What shall I do? I will send My beloved Son” (Luke 20:13). - He gave us His Son.
But, what has been given can be taken away.Job understood the possibility of loss when he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart.The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21)
Almost two thousand years before the angel proclaimed the coming of Jesus, God sent another angel; but, that time, it wasn’t to herald good news.That angel brought news of a different kind to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.What had been given was being taken away…
“The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that He has sent us to destroy it." (Genesis 19:12-13)
However, be of good cheer.Many in our world may have pitched their tent toward Sodom; and, much may be taken away as a result.But, the Lord is faithful.Even if all the things of this world are taken away, the most precious gift of all, the gift of love, the gift of Jesus will never be taken away.Jesus Himself promised that in Matthew 28:20 when He said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (end of time).”
Celebrate His birth; and, as you do, celebrate His faithfulness and His never-ending love.Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.Now that’s a reason to celebrate, now, on Christmas day and every day until He comes again.
Shalom to all and to all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year,
"Be made new in the attitude of your minds and have the same attitude, purpose and humble mind that was in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 2:4-7)