For all those who weren’t able to attend a Christmas Eve service this year, here is a live stream from our church, Hope Family. My husband and I play the song, Mary Did You Know at 37:18 time. God bless you all, I pray you had a great Christmas with family and friends. 🙂
The temperatures in Bethlehem during the winter can be quite chilly. Sometimes it even snows in the highlands. Was Jesus born in December? If He was, it could very easily have been raining and in the forties on the night of His birth.
The stable Jesus was born in most likely looked like this or similar. This is the remains of a stable in Chorazin. The animals were housed in the back and the food/supplies kept in the front. Other “stables” would have looked more like caves than actual structures. Definitely not a comfortable/roomy place to give birth.
Lastly, the manger. A dirty pit for hay or water that Jesus was placed in so that He was at least off the ground and away from animal feces and dirt.
This is the real Nativity scene, no angel choir or glowing faces. Mary was probably exhausted and uncomfortable (this was her first birth, as a virgin no less), and Joseph was a very stressed first-time dad. He probably had to coach his wife through the labor on top of having to bare the misunderstanding from his family and the feeling of not being “cut out” for this. As a husband, it’s his duty to protect and provide, and yet Mary had to give birth in a stable, this beautiful moment was Joseph’s hardest trial.
Mary was very young, and also bore the weight of undeserved shame from those who didn’t believe her story. She had to travel away from her home, severely pregnant, on the back of a donkey. She had to face the fear of giving birth to God’s Son in a stable when a clean, warm inn was only yards away. She probably felt pretty unqualified for this job too, and yet, after the suffering and pain, there lies baby Jesus, God amongst man. And then come the wise men and shepherds bearing gifts for the King.
They were a pick-me-up from God, showing Joseph and Mary that He was well pleased with them. It was like He was telling Joseph, “do not fear, I am provider,” and showing Mary, “daughter, you answered my call and that is what qualifies you to raise my Son.”
That is the real Nativity scene.
“Peace on earth, and Goodwill to man.”
Is it just me or does it seem like around Christmas time there is a lot of strife? We lose loved ones, drama is stirred up amidst families, depression sets in like a cold winter chill. Maybe you feel guilty because you can’t afford to buy presents for your children, or you are lonely because the loved ones you used to share Christmas with have passed away, or have left the nest. We all can recite the phrase above “Peace on earth,” and yet we don’t feel it in our hearts. And why is that so? I believe it’s time we take back Christmas!
That’s the answer, satan has taken yet another blessing and gift from God, a celebration in fact, and has sought to destroy it by any means necessary. He tried to rewrite it’s meaning, to cover up its core purpose by diverting our gaze from Jesus to Santa. From thanking God for the greatest gift toward the excitement of opening our own. He turned people’s gaze away from the bright star in the sky toward Christmas lights, from looking upon a cross to admiring a decorated tree.
And I’m not saying that those things are all bad. Even the Christmas tree with its pagan start doesn’t have to symbolize the same meaning today. If you go even farther back in time, who created the Evergreen tree to begin with? God. And Christmas lights can symbolize the light of the world among mankind, and Santa Clause is based on a real person, Saint Nicholas who gave everything he had to help the poor.
The only thing truly evil going on at Christmas is satan’s schemes to separate man from God’s goodwill and peace. I see it happening now, all around me people are dying and getting sick, my friends and family are going through tough situations financially and in their relationships with one another. It’s a hard time to be peaceful! And yet, if we could all just pause, and reflect upon the face of baby Jesus, what it truly meant for Him to come down from heaven and be born amongst us, in a cold and dirty manger…I truly believe that it’s in the Thanksgiving that we not only discover peace but find it.
We are a culture that reacts to situations, rather than relies on God. We let our circumstances determine our joy and steal our peace, in this way we are like the tossing of the sea. If we only relied on God, who never changes, and His overflowing love, we would only know how to react joyfully and respond with hope instead of hopelessness.
Christmas is a promise, a time to celebrate that promise. It is a gift that never decays, a gift you will never get tired of, a gift that is immeasurably greater than any gift you have ever received. It comes with no strings attached, given freely whether you have been naughty or nice, it’s yours to open, and it’s all you will ever need.
~The Prince of Peace~
“Here’s to the new year. May she be a darn sight better than the old one and may we all be home before she’s over.”
-Colonel Sherman T. Potter (M*A*S*H)
I’m an oldie at heart. Every day after school I would come home and watch M*A*S*H, “High” school that is. My mom later went on to tell me that my grandpa had loved that show, he died when I was too young to remember him, I can imagine he loved to have a good time though. There’s just something about an old show like this one, you just come to love and better understand not only the characters with their struggles, laughs, and tears, but life also.
As Christmas approaches, and a new year is zooming to meet us I can’t help thinking about this quote above. It was said after the celebration, after the laughing and cheering, in a moment of pure somber realization of what everyone had gone through that year, and the end of Colonel Potter’s speech doesn’t leave you in that place, but brings you around to a never-dying hope that maybe, just maybe, this year will be different.
“…may we all be home before she’s over.”
Usually, each year I celebrate and clap with the rest as the ball drops. A crowd of about 50 gather in our downtown and shiver together as the cold wind stings our upturned faces. I stand beside my church family, and I kiss my husband just as the applause erupts along with the sound of fireworks and air horns.
This year, I may just pause and allow myself this somber moment of reflection. On those we have lost, of the pain we endured, and the battles we have won. And then despite each new year’s struggles and pain, I will reach out toward that small glimmer of hope and snatch hold of it. Just because this year was full of strife and heartache, doesn’t mean that next year will be the same. Maybe, just maybe this year will be a year of peace, life, and blessings! Maybe this year we will deal satan a deadly blow, instead of the other way around.
I don’t know the future, but I do know that we can speak positive declarations over our futures, and expect to see good things happen! That maybe we can bring something within reach tomorrow that is momentarily out of reach today. With God all things are possible and His Will is always good.
Though we change as each year passes, we must never let God’s truth be twisted within us. The truth remains absolute regardless of how we transform or of what circumstances we find ourselves in. This is how we ground ourselves, how we grow our roots, and how we mature as Christians. No matter what occurs in 2019, my ultimate desire is to finish it a better Christian, a better friend of God. If my roots have grown deeper, if I have brought glory to God, then each year will be worth celebrating.
To those who have had a rough year, my prayers go out to you. I know of many right now who have lost mothers, sons, wives, and best friends. I can’t imagine what Christmas is like for those who are mourning. My heart goes out to them and I know that God is close to the brokenhearted. If I am speaking to you, if you are on this list, I just encourage you to surround yourself with family and friends at this time. Satan wants you to feel alone, and when you are alone you are vulnerable to his attacks. Please don’t allow this to happen, let people cry with you, laugh with you, comfort you, and simply be with you. We are all stronger together.
God bless you all and Merry Christmas.
After many failed attempts at trying to write a novel throughout the years, I truly believe God has now given me a story to write. And after over 16000 words so far, this story is taking form better than I could imagine.
The theme: Star Trek
My dream is to someday write a Christain novel or create a story entirely my own. However, as a beginning author who watches and reads A LOT of Star Trek, writing a story about a universe I already know, with characters that are already developed and unique, is a great place to start.
There is much left to write and many criteria I must follow in order for my novel to be approved and published by Pocket Books. Until then, here is a little introduction to the storyline:
Captain James T. Kirk and his crew are assigned a mission by Starfleet to find and capture Starfleet’s chief weapon’s designer, Brent Holster who went MIA during an investigation into an attack on a planetoid outpost just outside the Beta Quadrant. It isn’t long before Brent is discovered on a rather musical planet called Gerathia. An away team, led by Captian Kirk, ends in disaster as First Officer Spock and Brent are kidnapped by an unknown reptilian species during beam up.
The story then jumps between two perspectives, that of Captian Kirk, and Mr. Spock, who each face their own obstacles in not only returning Brent to Starfleet Headquarters safely but also in preventing a war with the Gorn, who had forced Brent to build/design weapons out of elements only found in the Beta Quadrant.
The Gorn. A species once shrouded in mystery makes their second appearance in Captian Kirk’s reality, bringing up memories and stirring up questions of Universal Morality. Can a war truly be stopped in time? Is there any hope at reversing the damage that has been done? Will Captian Kirk again have to enter that dreaded arena and face the unknown where mercy may not be an option…this time.
To all the authors out there, I would love to hear how your publishing experience went and what steps were involved in the publishing process.
Thank you all, I will continue to keep you posted!
By Rachel Sullivan
I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God, I’m not done waiting
You can see my promise
Even in the winter
Cause You’re the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead, you sent a child…
-Written December 2, 2017
“The only antidote to fear is faith.”
Fear. It strikes your body like an electric shock, rooting you to the floor. Your heart jumps in your chest, your mind comprehends only the present moment, with no hope for the future.
How many times have I felt this fear?…strange as it may seem fear has different faces but its purpose is one, and one alone. To make you bow to another king, the king of this world. When we succumb to fear we put our faith in him.
Fear says, “I believe in the enemy,” Faith says, “I believe in God.”
You can’t serve two masters, and it has taken me many years to recognize what fear really is. It is a lie. A powerless entity that can only create the illusion of power, like how a bug in the light of a flashlight casts a huge shadow on the wall. I can believe in the shadow or I can, through the eyes of faith, find the small creature that it is and crush it underfoot.
What about the times when our fears became reality? Well, I’ve discovered that it is those who fear that receive what they fear the most. Those who have faith, receive peace and hope, life is seen through a wider lens. One that understands the brevity of life and also it’s great purpose and promised destination. Through this lens, suffering becomes a choice instead of a guarantee.
I’m not saying that life is always peachy for those who walk in faith, but if we truly lived like Christ, we would experience pain without truly suffering. It is like when a loved one dies who believed in Jesus, we experience pain at their loss, and yet we do not suffer for them because we have faith in where they are and that we will join them someday.
It takes practice, it takes spiritual growth to replace the lens of fear with faith. It takes believing that God is good all the time, no matter what we understand or experience in the moment. This assurance is the very foundation of Faith, without it, you can never trust in God’s Word, His Character, His promises, or His love. Would you put your faith in an enemy? a stranger? Never! and so God must become a friend and father to you. Only then can faith begin to form.
As a child, I ran to God like I ran to my parents whenever I was afraid. The only difference was that my parents could wrap their arms around me and turn on the lights, while God seemed like a silent and distant spectator. In fear, I no longer felt His presence, His peace and protection were drowned out by my emotions. And I was inexperienced in hearing and discerning His voice amidst the sea of others.
Now, I realize that He was more present than my sleeping parents, those late nights when monsters invaded my room, He was speaking over me, wrapping me in His love and lighting my world with His peace. While my parents slept and even when I woke them, they could hardly understand what I was feeling or experiencing in those dark nightmares, they didn’t know demons tormented me, longing to rob me of my identity.
Through the lens of faith, my entire past suddenly looks different, clarity replaces the times of uncertainty and fog. The lies of the devil unfold and I see the goodness of God waging war over my life. Taking back what power I relinquished to the devil. Awakening my destiny in Him.
Do I still have moments of fear? Yes, but I recognize them as a part of my dead self that must be cut away. They are now just obstacles for my growing faith to overcome, lies that I must strike down the moment they surface. You can feel fear, just never let fear control you. Never end with fear, always defeat it with the truth. When I am afraid, I read God’s Word and remind my Spirit who has the victory in this. Exercise your faith like a muscle and it will grow and in doing this, your fears will become weak.
I get it, I understand. Fear is difficult, it is the war within ourselves that is the hardest to defeat. Thank God, Jesus already defeated it! We just need to start living in that victory today.
Do you struggle with fear?
How do you overcome it?