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Funny

“Fruitcake“ Video
3:14

“Fruitcake“ Video

Anyone for a fruitcake?

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Buzz and Blanche
7:39

Buzz and Blanche

Blanche is talking, but is Buzz listening?

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Classic Videos
9:15

Classic Videos

Outtakes of the Christmas Couples

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The “Twelve Days of Christmas” with Dwayne and Peanut
9:42

The “Twelve Days of Christmas” with Dwayne and Peanut

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Dan and Jan have a Bedazzled Christmas!
9:00

Dan and Jan have a Bedazzled Christmas!

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Gus and Gladys are Back Again!
8:27

Gus and Gladys are Back Again!

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Dwayne and Peanut
12:22

Dwayne and Peanut

Are you a little bit country? So are Dwayne and Peanut!

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Classic Gus and Gladys “Gotta Get a Gift”
2:59

Classic Gus and Gladys “Gotta Get a Gift”

Gus and Gladys—go shopping

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Buzz and Blanche
12:54

Buzz and Blanche

Two of our favorite people: Buzz and Blanche

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Dan and Jan “Christmas Chaos”
11:49

Dan and Jan “Christmas Chaos”

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You don’t want to miss—Phil and Phyllis!
10:09

You don’t want to miss—Phil and Phyllis!

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Story–telling by Dennis Swanberg
2:56

Story–telling by Dennis Swanberg

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Sky and Meadow
7:53

Sky and Meadow

Sky and Meadow at Christmastime

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Classic Couples
5:41

Classic Couples

Christmas Bloopers from the hilarious Couples from SOS Estates

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Music

“Here We Come A Caroling”
2:16

“Here We Come A Caroling”

Big Band Music of Christmas from New York City

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“Go Tell It on the Mountain”
2:25

“Go Tell It on the Mountain”

Michael Sanchez

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“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
3:24

“Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Michael Sanchez

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“Joy”
2:54

“Joy”

Michael Sanchez

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Carol Medley
3:35

Carol Medley

SMCC Choir and Orchestra with children sing carols

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“Mary Did you Know”
4:21

“Mary Did you Know”

The Gaither Vocal Band

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“One Small Child”
4:27

“One Small Child”

Voices of Lee

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Trivia

Christmas Word Scramble

Christmas Word Scramble

Unscramble this Christmas list

  1. SAMTSIHRC RTEE ____________________ ____________________
  2. SENILT ____________________
  3. GAERDBERNIG ____________________
  4. CEOOISK ____________________
  5. NGGOEG ____________________
  6. ASSWILA ____________________
  7. MECAL ____________________
  8. STIGHL ____________________
  9. AKEOWNSFL ____________________
  10. GNAESL ____________________
  11. NAMRGE ____________________
  12. PHEERDSSH ____________________
  13. SEWI MNE ____________________ ____________________
  14. CRUIKAEFT ____________________
  15. YNAVITIT ____________________
  16. KCOSTNSIG ____________________
  17. TENRONAMS ____________________
  18. DESLNAC ____________________
  19. LEHTBEMEH ____________________
  20. RACIGNLO ____________________

Answers: 1) Christmas Tree; 2) tinsel; 3) gingerbread; 4) cookies; 5) eggnog; 6) wassail; 7) camel; 8) lights; 9) snowflake; 10) angels; 11) manger; 12) shepherds; 13) wise men; 14) fruitcake; 15) nativity; 16) stockings; 17) ornaments; 18) candles; 19) Bethlehem; 20) caroling

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Ten Books to Read This Christmas for Children

Ten Books to Read This Christmas for Children

Recommended fun books to read with your children

Every year when the first inklings of cool weather arrive, the same thought emerges: This year we’re going to slow down and enjoy Christmas! Right? Then without warning, the turkey leftovers are a memory, decorations are unearthed from the attic, and a huge stack of unaddressed Christmas cards cause you great distress. A flurry of activities follows, and suddenly it’s a new year. Is there a better way? This season make a pledge to slow down your holiday with one or more of these ten terrific read–aloud Christmas books. You won’t be disappointed.

The Birthday of a King by Bob Hartman
Victor Books, 1993
Don’t miss this beautifully illustrated, interactive retelling of Jesus’ birth for children. It is one in a series of excellent Bible stories retold for early elementary–aged children. While hard to find in print, this is an excellent retelling of Christ’s birth for younger children.

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
Copyright 1895
This poetic short story tells of another wise man who follows the Star in search of the infant Savior but gets sidetracked along the way as he stops to help others in need. It draws a masterful connection from Christmas to Easter.

The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin (Author) and Jessie Gillespie (Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Books, 1997
Original publishing date: 1888
This eighty–page classic Christmas story of a child born to a family on Christmas day is a sweet and touching tale. Its sentimental writing style will broaden your children’s literary appreciation. Recommended for ages nine to twelve.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson, 2011
Joshua is a lamb with a crippled leg. He always feels left out when the other lambs run and he cannot. But God has a very special plan for Joshua’s life, as He does for all who feel alone. Recommended for ages four to eight.

What Nick and Holly Found in Grandpa’s Attic by Melody Carlson (Author) and Jose Miralles (Illustrator)
Multnomah Publishers, 1998
Objects found in an attic will help your children discover the true meaning of Christmas. Recommended for ages four to seven, this story invites children of all ages to be part of the story and help them embrace the true meaning and spirit of the season in their own hearts.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (Writer) and P. J. Lynch (Illustrator)
Candlewick, 2015 (Anniversary edition)
The kindness of a widow and her son bring the joy of living back to a talented woodcarver with the nickname “Mr. Gloomy.” It will inspire your children to express the kind of compassion that can transform the life of a Scroogelike recluse. Recommended for ages six to nine.

One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham (Author) and Richard Jesse Watson (Illustrator)
Thomas Nelson, 2012 (reprint edition)
Don’t miss this story of a boy named Zeb who, caught in a blizzard, is forced to seek shelter in a cabin inhabited by an old woman. In a magnificent blend of a contemporary setting with the history of God’s redeeming love, Ruth Graham created a wonderful and unique version of the Christmas story. Recommended for ages four to seven.

Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent, by Arnold Ytreeide
Copyright 1997
Set in 4 B.C., young Jotham, a shepherd boy, gets separated from his family and embarks on a dangerous adventure that leads him to Bethlehem and the birth of Christ. Everyone will love this cliffhanger–style Advent story. Tabitha’s Travels and Bartholomew’s Passage complete the trilogy. Recommended for upper elementary students.

The Last Straw by Paula Palangi McDonald (Author), Carol Pettit Harding (Illustrator)
Covenant Communications Inc., 2007
Introduce your children to the beauty of giving through the tale of a mother who employs an old custom to regenerate the spirit of Christmas in her family. You may have difficulty obtaining a copy of this book, but it is also found in Joe Wheeler’s compilation, Christmas in My Heart, which contains a total of sixteen memorable Christmas short stories.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Harper & Row Publishers, 1972
Everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas when the six Herdman children, the “absolutely worst kids in the history of the world” participate in a Christmas pageant at church. Funny, well–written, and enjoyable for all ages, this story is available as a chapter book or a picture book.

Reading meaningful Christmas stories to your kids will enrich your celebration and draw your family closer together.

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Christmas Name That Tune Matching Game

Christmas Name That Tune Matching Game

Do you know your Christmas songs?

Songs Answers
1. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! _______________
2. O Little Town of Bethlehem _______________
3. Silent Night _______________
4. O Holy Night _______________
5. We Three Kings _______________
6. Hark! the Herald Angels Sing _______________
7. Joy to the World _______________
8. Angels We Have Heard on High _______________
9. Rudolph the Red–Nosed Reindeer _______________
10. O Come, All Ye Faithful _______________
11. The First Noel _______________
12. Here Comes Santa Claus _______________
13. White Christmas _______________
14. Christmas Don’t Be Late _______________
15. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear _______________
16. O Christmas Tree _______________
17. Silver Bells _______________
18. Away in a Manger _______________
19. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas _______________
20. What Child Is This? _______________
21. Bonus: We Wish You a Merry Christmas _______________

Clues

  1. Sung by The Chipmunks.
  2. Lyrics include “The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.”
  3. Befell During Transparent Dead of Night.
  4. Second verse begins “For Christ is born of Mary.”
  5. Exuberance directed toward the planet.
  6. Cherubim from aloft.
  7. Quadruped with crimson proboscis.
  8. Second verse begins with “Sing choirs of angels.”
  9. Lyrics include: “On cold winter’s night that was so deep.”
  10. Austrian Franz Gruber wrote this hymn—“Stille Nacht.”
  11. Verse “Led by the light of faith serenely beaming.”
  12. Judy Garland performed and premiered this song in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis.
  13. This 1865 song was set to the English folk song "Greensleeves"
  14. Second verse begins with “Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain.”
  15. Begins with “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style, in the air there's a feeling of Christmas.”
  16. German carol, “O Tannenbaum,” written in 1824.
  17. The tradition detailed in this song was for English carolers to sing outside the homes of wealthy people, who would then provide them food and drink.
  18. Second verse begins with “Christ by highest heav’n adored.”
  19. Happy song for children and written and performed by Gene Autry.
  20. The best–selling Christmas song of all time.
  21. The second verse begins with “The cattle are lowing.”

Answer Key:

  1. B
  2. D
  3. J
  4. K
  5. N
  6. R
  7. E
  8. F
  9. G
  10. H
  11. I
  12. S
  13. T
  14. A
  15. C
  16. P
  17. O
  18. U
  19. L
  20. M
  21. Q
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Christmas Trivia Quiz

Christmas Trivia Quiz

Questions

  1. How do you say “Merry Christmas” in Spanish?
  2. Name the two reindeer whose names begin with the letter “C.”
  3. What was Brenda Lee doing around the Christmas tree?
  4. Who kept time with “The Little Drummer Boy”?
  5. Who is the author of A Christmas Carol?
  6. What carol contains the line “O tidings of comfort and joy”?
  7. What song was originally titled “One Horse Open Sleigh”?
  8. What color is the Grinch?
  9. Whose eyes are made of coal?
  10. In the Charlie Brown Christmas, who plays the dusty innkeeper in the Christmas play?
  11. Bonus: What much maligned Christmas edible is known for its long shelf life?

Answers

  1. Feliz Navidad
  2. Comet, Cupid
  3. “Rocking”
  4. Ox and Lamb
  5. Charles Dickens
  6. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
  7. “Jingle Bells”
  8. Green
  9. Frosty the Snowman
  10. Pigpen
  11. Fruitcake
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The Necessity of Jesus

The Necessity of Jesus

And [Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son… and laid Him in a manger.
Luke 2:7

“Daddy, I can’t find Jesus!” yelled seven–year–old Johnny. His family was busy with the annual ritual of setting up their life–size manger scene in the front yard. “What do you mean?” smiled his father who was fastening Joseph to a supporting pole. “The baby Jesus,” Johnny replied with a frustrated frown. “I mean, if we can’t find Jesus, there’s no need to put up the manger scene at all.”

No one would consider putting up a manger scene with an empty manger. But isn’t it strange that we can go through the season that celebrates that manger scene without remembering to include Jesus? It’s easy for us to be influenced by our culture, to get more absorbed in the season than the Reason—to have a Martha–like Christmas instead of a Mary–like one. Remember the story? When Jesus visited the sisters’ home, Martha was too busy with arrangements to spend time with the Lord, whereas Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.” What kind of Christmas season are you having? If your Christmas season were set out on the lawn, would onlookers be able to find Jesus in it?

To paraphrase Johnny, “If we can’t find Jesus in our Christmas, there’s no need to put up the decorations at all.”

That is where my life is complete, sitting at His feet.
Steven Carey

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Music

“Spirit of the Season”
2:30

“Spirit of the Season”

Celebrate the season with voices and instruments

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“Hallelujah Chorus”
3:39

“Hallelujah Chorus”

The Silent Monks

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“Carol of the Bells”
2:15

“Carol of the Bells”

Voices of Lee

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“Changed by a Baby Boy”
4:30

“Changed by a Baby Boy”

The Gaither Vocal Band

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“Joy to the World”
2:54

“Joy to the World”

Pacific Brass Quintet

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Dreaming of a “White Christmas”?
3:24

Dreaming of a “White Christmas”?

The Collingsworth Family

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“Christmas Day”
3:54

“Christmas Day”

Michael Sanchez

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“Reaching”
2:48

“Reaching”

The Gaither Vocal Band

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“Silent Night”
3:48

“Silent Night”

Christopher Lesson

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“Little Drummer Boy”
3:38

“Little Drummer Boy”

Voices of Lee

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“Mary Did You Know?”
3:19

“Mary Did You Know?”

Michael Sanchez

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“Christmas Angels”
3:38

“Christmas Angels”

Children sing and celebrate Christ’s birth

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“Glorious Impossible”
4:24

“Glorious Impossible”

The Gaither Vocal Band

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Reading

Part 1 – “A Christmas Carol”

Part 1 – “A Christmas Carol”

From Bah Humbug to Blessings

Have you ever read Charles Dickens’ great holiday classic, A Christmas Carol? It’s been adapted countless times, so it’s as familiar to many people as Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.

But, as someone once said, a classic is a book much loved yet seldom read. A Christmas Carol is among the shortest and easiest of Dickens’ novels, and it’s available in cheap paperback versions or on the Internet. It’s worth reading.

It was written in the fall of 1843. Charles Dickens, 31, was already a far–famed author, having written blockbuster novels like Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. But his most recent attempt, Martin Chuzzlewit, flopped; and Dickens was having to support his wife, four children, a greedy set of siblings, and two financially irresponsible parents.

Drawing on his own past experiences and his lifelong knowledge of the underbelly of London society, Dickens wrote this timeless story of a tightwad named Ebenezer Scrooge who experienced a change of heart on Christmas Eve. The theme of Dickens’ story is “change.” People can change, and Christmas can change them.

Let me remind you of the story.

Cold–hearted, penny–pinching, dark–spirited Ebenezer Scrooge, the surviving partner of the London firm of Scrooge and Marley, was working at his desk on Christmas Eve. His clerk Bob Cratchit shivered in the next room, for Scrooge wouldn’t even purchase coal enough to warm the offices.

Oh! But he was a tight–fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint…, secret and self–contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed noise, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice… He carried his own low temperature always about with him.

When Fred, Ebenezer’s good–hearted nephew, came by to wish his uncle a Merry Christmas, the old miser could only reply “Bah! Humbug.”

“Christmas a humbug, Uncle?” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily, “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

That night Scrooge made his way to his cold and dark quarters, ill at ease and on the verge of “seeing things.” Huddling near his stingy fire, his mood grew darker. Suddenly he heard otherworldly noises, the cellar door flew open, and the image of his late partner, Jacob Marley, stood before his face, dragging a long set of chains.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied Marley. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”

Marley announced that Scrooge would receive three visitants; and after he left, a trembling Ebenezer fell into troubled sleep. Presently he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past. This apparition took Scrooge on an introspective tour of his past. Guided by this spirit, Scrooge, the son of a neglectful father, saw himself as he was on earlier Christmases, including one in which his girlfriend, Belle, had broken their engagement. Scrooge, Belle claimed, loved money more than he loved her. Ebenezer burst into tears under the weight of his regrets.

No sooner was he back in bed than a second image appeared, the Ghost of Christmas Present. This time Scrooge was treated to an eerie Christmastide tour of London. He saw merry crowds thronging the streets, churches packed with worshipers, and homes filled with holiday happiness. Finally he paid a visit to Bob Cratchit’s dwelling. Scrooge was especially moved by the plight of the youngest Cratchit son, a crippled little boy named Tim, and he listened to the conversation around the table:

“And how did little Tim behave [at church]?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.

“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

Despite himself, Scrooge’s heart went out to the little lame boy.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney–corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

Once again, Scrooge, confused and contemplative, was guided back to his own bed. But the night wasn’t over, for a third image soon appeared—the Ghost of Christmas Future. This spirit led Scrooge through a mysterious set of scenes, each relating to someone’s death. Scrooge overheard the talk on the street.

“I only know he’s dead.”

“When did he die?” inquired another.

“Last night I believe.”

“Why, what was the matter with him?” asked a third, taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff–box. “I thought he’d never die.”

“God knows,” said the first, with a yawn.

“What has he done with his money?”

It wasn’t until Ebenezer saw his own name on the tombstone that he realized that he himself was the obituary. That was more than he could take, and he began to shout, “No, Spirit! Oh, no, no, no!”

“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope…? Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”

The kind hand trembled.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

Awakening from his nightmares, Scrooge rushed into the street, eager to share his newfound Christmas spirit. He sent a giant turkey to Bob Cratchit’s house and showed up for Christmas dinner at Fred’s. He became as good a man as London knew and a second father for Tiny Tim. He was a changed soul.

That’s the story, and there’s a lot of truth to it. We’re all miserable sinners who forge our own chains in life, but the message of Christmas has the power to transform us. Because of Christmas, we can be giving, caring, decent souls. We should contemplate the past, present, and future—and live accordingly. We shouldn’t give up on others, even as Fred never gave up on his uncle. We must never underestimate the potential of changed lives, especially during the holiday season.

There is, however, a fatal flaw in A Christmas Carol.

The person of Jesus Christ is strangely absent. Dickens himself attended the Church of England, but his beliefs were Unitarian. He believed in a benevolent God and felt the Bible contained good maxims. But he had no creed and didn’t profess evangelical beliefs. Somehow, like our modern holiday celebrations, he managed to capture the mood of Christmas while forgetting the manger.

Ebenezer Scrooge had a change of heart—but not by Christ. He was transformed from a miserable miser into a warm, kind–hearted philanthropist by the power of imagination alone. It was the Christmas spirit, not the Holy Spirit that got hold of him.

As we think about Dickens’ tale, it’s a good time to remember that as wonderful as it is, it’s no match for the Gospel. A Christmas Carol warms the heart, but only Christ can change the soul. It isn’t just realization we need, but redemption. Not just sentiment, but a Savior.

This world simply cannot spell CHRISTmas without Christ, though it keeps trying.

Jesus alone can change our lives this Christmas. He alone can bless us every one!

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Part 2 – “The Christ of Christmas Past”

Part 2 – “The Christ of Christmas Past”

A Child is Born

“Spirit!” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “remove me from this place.”

“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!”

“Remove me!” Scrooge exclaimed, “I cannot bear it!”

He turned, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.

“Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”

That dramatic scene from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol comes when Scrooge is returned to his bed after a tour of Christmases from his past. He cannot bear the sorrow, loneliness, pain, and heartache to which the Ghost of Christmas Past has reintroduced him. As a selfish, old miser, alone in his old age, he had almost succeeded in forgetting his former years—until his Christmas Eve tour reopened painful old wounds.

He recalled the loneliness and bitterness of his youthful years at a boarding school, left alone at Christmas when his friends went home to spend the holiday with their families. He then saw old Fezziwig, the kindly businessman with whom he had apprenticed as a clerk. On Christmas Eve, Fezziwig turned the shop into a party place to celebrate and feast, dispensing gifts and cheer to all his employees—something Scrooge had never done for Bob Cratchit, his employee. He heard Fezziwig’s employees heaping praise upon their master and was amazed at one man’s ability to dispense such happiness to others.

He then saw the tears and the broken heart of the young lady over whom he chose a career in the solitary pursuit of money. And then he saw that lovely girl, now in her matronly years, happily married with a loving husband and a tumultuous household of happy children celebrating in their Christmas–filled home—and realized that, except for his selfish choice years earlier, he might have been the head of that happy home.

That last scene was more than Scrooge could stand. It was then that he cried out to his spirit–guide, “Remove me from this place… remove me! I cannot bear it!”

The Burden of the Past

What was it that Scrooge could not bear? It was the same thing you and I cannot bear apart from the grace of God: the memory and reality of our own sins and failures. Scrooge was a man who knew no grace, no love, no generosity, no service to others. His entire life revolved around his own hurts, his own self–pity, his own withdrawal into himself in an attempt to hide from his pain. Scrooge is me, and Scrooge is you, apart from Christ!

Scrooge, of course, lived only in the imagination of his creator, Charles Dickens. But the character he became on the pages of A Christmas Carol is the character we all are in our own sinful, human nature. And while Dickens wove a kind of humanistic redemptive thread into the fabric of his classic tale—Scrooge repents of his self–centeredness and becomes a reformed man—something more than repentance motivated by guilt is needed in the real world.

Yes, Scrooge began to do good works—and that is commendable. But no amount of good works can erase the guilt and stain of failure and sin from our past. For that, something completely supernatural is needed: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Scrooge’s good works could never have diluted his crimson red sins to the pure white of snow or wool—not even to a dark shade of pink.

The Ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge on a tour that showed him why he needed to change—and change he did, to a degree. We need the same kind of revelatory experience to understand our need for change—to see that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But we also need to see that we cannot erase our spotted past by ourselves. We need to be shown our need for a Savior.

Our Guide to the Past, Present, and Future

Like Scrooge, we have a guide to show us the way—but our Guide is not an imaginary spirit. We have the very real Spirit of the Living God whose specific ministry in the world is to reveal to us our need for a Savior: “And when He [the Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).

If you are a Christian, dear friend, think back to what you realized about your life that led to your salvation. Only you and the Spirit know the sadness, the shame, the worry, the embarrassment you likely felt over sins committed. Even if you became a Christian as a child, you knew there were things you had done that were wrong—a stolen toy, an unkind word, a disobedient act. Then multiply those by number and by degree if you became a Christian as an adult. It was the Spirit of God bringing those impressions to your mind, showing you that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

While Dickens didn’t explain salvation and forgiveness to us in his Christmas story, God clearly explains it in His. At Bethlehem, more than two thousand years ago, a Savior was born who came into the world not to reform us, but to regenerate us; not to make us better, but to make us new; and not to shame us, but to save and sanctify us. The Bible’s Christmas story is what separates Christianity from every other religion in the world. It is the story of God doing for man what man could never do for himself: remove the burden of past, present, and future sins.

The Real Christmas Story

Think about the difference between Scrooge’s Christmas experience and that of the one who embraces the Bible’s Christmas story.

  1. The problem. Scrooge’s problem after his Christmas Eve midnight tour was the same as before: the burden of sin. The Christian’s problem of sin has been taken away and nailed to the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:14). The Christian’s only remaining “problem” is learning to live in freedom and gratitude for what Christ has done.
  2. The person. After coming face–to–face with his failures, Scrooge was still Scrooge. A sinner with a better attitude is still the same old sinner. When the Christian faces his failures and finds forgiveness in Christ, he becomes a new person. He is born again—“a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
  3. The provision. For Scrooge’s sins, there was no provision except a reminder. While the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, He then leads us to Christ, giving us the gift of faith that we might receive the grace of God. Then, by that grace, we are able to walk in the new works that replace the old (Ephesians 2:8–10).
  4. The prospects. Scrooge’s prospects for the future were not bright. He was destined to live out the rest of his life on the treadmill of overcoming bad works with good. But the Christian knows he can never do enough good works to achieve holiness in the sight of God or peace in this life. His prospects are centered in Christ: “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1).

So which Christmas story do you think holds the most promise for those brought face–to–face with failure and sin? While Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will remain a classic and while it admirably points out the difference between selfishness and service, its Ghost of Christmas Past could not take Scrooge where he needed to go. Only the Holy Spirit of Christmas Today can lead the sinner to Christ.

This Christmas, if you identify with Scrooge—if you are trying to make amends for your own failings and shortcomings—why not yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit instead? Embrace the Babe of Bethlehem who came to give you a gift you can never earn for yourself: the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

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Part 3 – “The Christ of Christmas Present”

Part 3 – “The Christ of Christmas Present”

Wonderful Counselor!

It was Christmas Eve, and Ebenezer Scrooge was huddled in his cold room, dressed in gown and slippers, eating a miserable supper of gruel over a low fire. Around his fireplace were Dutch tiles picturing scenes from the Bible, but his soul was too darkened to see them. He was unaware of the Christmas celebrations taking place in homes and churches just a short radius from his flat.

Few people are as miserly as Ebenezer Scrooge, but many are as miserable during the holidays. They desperately need the Christ of Christmas Present. The very things that make the holidays pleasant to some make it painful for others. Psychologists tell us that the onset of the holidays is a major trigger for clinical depression in numbers of people.

Perhaps you’re spending the holidays alone this year, and the memories of previous years are leaving you empty and sad. Perhaps your loved ones are far from home, perhaps overseas in harm’s way—or maybe you’re the one unable to be home this year.

Perhaps you’ve lost a dear one recently, and the empty chair at the table is almost more than you can bear.

Some people suffer pangs of depression because they don’t have money to buy gifts. For others, the shortened days lead to depression. Less sunlight. Less outdoors. Less exercise.

If you’re dreading Christmas this year, I have one word for you—Immanuel!

This is one of our Lord’s nativity names. In Matthew 1:23, the angel said to Joseph, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’”

While we often need human friends and counselors to help us through the holidays, we also need the Wonderful Counselor who abides with us day and night. We need the Comforter who never leaves us or forsakes us. If you’re struggling with the blues this season, I recommend a hearty session with the Wonderful Counselor. Psalm 16:7–9 says, “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.”

How can we experience the counseling ministry of Immanuel, our ever–present Savior? How can we tap into His encouragement this Christmas?

Verbalize

First, verbalize your feelings to Him. It helps to pick up the phone and share our moods and emotions with a trusted friend or family member. There’s an old saying that “thoughts disentangle passing o’er the lip.” But sometimes we ventilate our feelings to a human friend when we should first tell our Lord all about it. His is the ever–available ear. His is the ever–understanding heart. He is the ever–sympathizing Savior. In prayer we consciously draw near to Him and enter His presence in a special way.

Beware, however, of falling into prayers of self–pity. We can do more harm than good when we unabatedly keep saying, “Lord, you know how lonely I am, how pitiful I am, how hard this is, how sad I feel. I’m so isolated. Woe is me, and alas!” While it’s important to pray honestly, it’s also important to offer a prayer of faith. “Lord, I feel discouraged today, but I’m here to claim one of Your promises. With Your help, I’ll stand on Your Word.”

Scrutinize

That leads to my second suggestion: Scrutinize the Scriptures. If Jesus Christ is our Wonderful Counselor, how does He dispense His counsel to us? One way is through His Word. Psalm 119:24 says, “Your testimonies also are my . . . counselors.”

Samuel Logan Brengle, a Salvation Army giant of a former day, wrote, “A portion of the Bible ought to be read carefully and prayerfully and lovingly every day. Just as a fire needs fresh fuel, and the body needs new supplies of food every day, so the soul that would be strong and holy needs something fresh from the Bible each day.”

Perhaps you should spend this Christmas pouring over the Gospel accounts of the birth of the Lord Jesus. Ask God to show you something new there, some truth you’ve never seen before. Sometimes the greatest lessons come from the most familiar Scriptures while the Holy Spirit helps us read them as though we’re seeing them again for the first time.

Memorize

When God gives you a verse to sustain you through the holidays, memorize it. Let it seep into your conscious and subconscious thoughts. Meditate on it as you go to sleep at night; and when Satan whispers discouraging thoughts in your ear, repel them with the power of memorized Scripture. As God’s Word soaks into our heart, it heals our mind and renews our thoughts. As our mind is healed, our emotions become healthier, too. That’s the power of the Word of God!

Itemize

Next, itemize your blessings. Create a Christmas gratitude list, and add to it every day. You might want to keep it in your Bible or post it on your refrigerator. An Irish proverb says:

Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.

It takes self–discipline to do that. We need the Spirit’s help, for this involves choosing a positive attitude when our emotions are going negative. But because God is with us—Immanuel!—we can do it.

Visualize

Next, visualize the presence of the Lord Jesus in your house, room, or apartment. See Him sitting at the table with you or standing near as you begin or end the day. Remember that the Gospel of Matthew begins by telling us that His name is Immanuel, which means God with us. And it ends with the words: “‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:20).

Improvise

Finally, make a determined decision to be Christ’s ambassador this Christmas season, whatever your circumstances. Do something for Him. Tackle some little project for Jesus.

In his biography of Bob Pierce, Franklin Graham tells about a visit Pierce made to the Korean island of Kojedo. This was a prison island, but Dr. Pierce found hundreds of men rising before dawn each day in the bitter cold for prayers and hymns. When he asked how these services had gotten started, he was introduced to a humble little man known simply as Pastor Im.

Pastor Im had served the Lord in North Korea before being arrested by the Communists. When U.S. and U.N. forces crossed the 38th parallel and took the city of Pyongyang, Pastor Im was released and rushed homeward to his family. Unfortunately, he was mistaken by American forces for a Communist and captured again. Not knowing a word of English, he was thrown into prison on Kojedo Island.

At first, Pastor Im was desolate, and he could almost hear Satan whispering, “Where is your God? Why does He let you be so mistreated?”

But Pastor Im soon overcame self–pity, and he prayed, “Dear Lord Jesus, if You have let all this heartache come to me and my family, it must be because You have something for me to do. What can I do for You here on this prison island?”

It was the Christmas season, so Pastor Im gathered some other prisoners to sing carols. Standing on a wooden box, he led the men in singing about the Savior’s birth. Such gatherings were forbidden in the camp, and the American soldiers threatened to break up the gathering.

But the soldiers, serving far from home that Christmas, knew the tunes even if they didn’t recognize the Korean words: “Silent night, holy night; all is calm, all is bright.” While keeping their guns trained on the group, the soldiers let them continue singing, one carol after another. More and more prisoners joined the group until five hundred Korean POWs were standing in the cold, singing of our Lord’s birth.

From this beginning came a remarkable ministry, as Pastor Im won hundreds of prisoners to Christ. He held Bible studies in the camp, and over six thousand men finished the six–month course of daily study and graduated. All in all, at least six hundred of the prisoners went on to become preachers of the Gospel—all because of one man who didn’t give in to the Christmas blues.1

Our Lord Jesus is the Christ of Christmas Present, and He wants to deliver you from the Christmas blues, too. Claim His wonderful counsel and enjoy His comforting presence whatever your circumstances this Christmas.

1Franklin Graham and Jeanette Lockerbie, Bob Pierce: This One Thing I Do (Waco: Word Book Publishers, 1983), 121–125.

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Part 4 – “The Christ of Christmas Future”

Part 4 – “The Christ of Christmas Future”

The Prince of Peace

As if old Scrooge’s Christmas Eve night had not been exhausting enough, there is yet a third apparition that confronts him: the Ghost of Christmas Future.

This final specter was the most troubling of all—clothed completely in dense, black robes and communicating only by the pointing of a boney hand. Not a good sign for old Scrooge, if this gruesome figure was a portent of things to come.

The spirit led Scrooge past groups of men who were standing in the street discussing the death of an acquaintance. Some gave it no more mention than the weather, while others commented on how there’d likely be no one at the funeral. Scrooge was then led to a salvage shop where his maid was selling goods she had stolen from the house of a deceased person before the departed had even been removed from his bed! Scrooge even saw the dead man, though he was too fearful to pull back the sheet to see who it was: He lay in the dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a child, to say that he was kind to me in this or that, and for the memory of one kind word I will be kind to him. A cat was tearing at the door, and there was a sound of gnawing rats beneath the hearth-stone. What they wanted in the room of death, and why they were so restless and disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to think.

Scrooge asked to be shown someone who must have felt some emotion at the passing of this person. Was there no one who was sorry to see him go? So he was shown a poor couple who were relieved at the man’s death since they were in debt to him.

To whom will our debt be transferred? asked the wife.

I don’t know, replied her husband. But before that time we shall be ready with the money; and even though we were not, it would be a bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a creditor in his successor. We may sleep tonight with light hearts, Caroline!

Relief and light hearts! As Scrooge pondered who this poor soul might be, dismissed, despised, and disregarded by all, he was taken into a graveyard where the pointing finger of the spirit identified a gravestone with the following inscription: Ebenezer Scrooge.

“Good Spirit,” Scrooge pled: “…Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life! …I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

The Dark Side of Christmas

For all of the happiness and good cheer going on around Ebenezer Scrooge, his Christmas was dark and disturbed. He caught a glimpse of his life through the eyes of others, and he caught a glimpse of his future. He realized that he was not valued by anyone for any reason, and he feared not being able to make things right before the day of his death.

As the popular Christmas song says, Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” But for many people, it isn’t. Scrooge had created his own misery and loneliness at Christmas—he reaped what he had sown. But for many people, Christmas is not a time of “peace on earth”—through no fault of their own.

Think of those this Christmas who have recently lost a loved one. And then there are those who may be experiencing difficulties and estrangement within their marriage or family. It is not easy to open presents and share laughter and hugs with someone from whom you feel emotionally separated.

What about financial pressures, or being unemployed—caught between the rock of going into debt to buy presents and the hard place of not wanting to disappoint children on Christmas morning. And some are far from home, separated from loved ones by great distances that are not always easy to bridge at Christmas.

While there can be a dark side of Christmas, think of how the darkness of a cold Bethlehem night was dispelled two thousand years ago by the light and glory of innumerable heavenly hosts proclaiming “Peace on Earth!” Though the darkness of sin still envelops our earth, it does not have to envelop the human heart at Christmas or any other time of the year. The Prince of Peace has come to provide what Ebenezer Scrooge could not find: peace in the present and a glorious hope for the future.

The Bright Side of Christmas

Nobody spoke more plainly about the glory of the coming Messiah than did the prophet Isaiah: “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Prince of Peace? Who in Israel would have believed that anyone could bring peace to that troubled nation? Israel was the national equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge—scared, introspective, cowering in the face of invaders, feeling hopeless about the future. Israel was teetering on the edge of destruction as her sins caused her to fall under the judgment of God. And yet Isaiah said, “Your King is coming, and He is the Prince of Peace.”

Prince of Peace? Who in our world today believes that anyone can bring peace to the dark and troubled heart of humanity? We walk today on the thinnest line of existence the world has ever known. Terrorists commit unspeakable acts of brutality against innocent civilians—and post films of their atrocities on the Internet. Nations continue to develop their expertise in nuclear proficiency—ostensibly for peaceful purposes, but who can be sure? World leaders sitting on the Security Council of the United Nations cannot agree on strategies for peace. Yet Isaiah said, “The government will one day be upon the shoulders of the Prince of Peace, and of His government and peace there will be no end.”

Prince of Peace? In the darkest night of our soul, who among us has not wondered if peace is meant for everyone but ourselves? We know the Lord … we know our Bibles … we know what God has done in the past… we sing “Silent night, holy night… sleep in heavenly peace” at church. But then Christmas comes, and we long to experience the peace we believe in. We want our family to be at peace; we want our world to be at peace; we want our friends and loved ones to be at peace. And we wonder why we have to struggle to find it. Yet Isaiah said, “A Prince of Peace is coming with peace enough for the whole world and for you.”

We have to remember at Christmas, and every day, that there is a difference between personal peace and world peace. Jesus didn’t cast a cloak of peace over the world when He came, and we do not live in a world of peace today. But we will. As surely as Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus would come, born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), was fulfilled, so will his prophecy of the Prince of Peace be fulfilled. The day is coming when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:9). The days of world peace are coming.

But the day of personal peace is here now! Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives…. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). That is the peace Scrooge lacked, but it is the peace we can have by faith in Jesus Christ.

If you lack personal peace this Christmas season, you don’t have to do what Scrooge did to find it. Of course, it’s good to be kind and generous to others, but that is not the path to peace. The path of peace is the path that leads to the Prince of Peace. Just as room had to be made for Jesus in a stable at the first Christmas, so you may have to make room anew—or perhaps for the very first time—in your heart for Him this Christmas. May His peace be your peace this Christmas season—and all the year long.

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Christmas Recipes for your Guests

Christmas Recipes for your Guests

Treat your guests to treats!

Easy Oatmeal Cookies for Kids to Make

Preheat oven to 350°F

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups oats
  • Dash of salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Mik the butter and brown sugar together, add the vanilla, and then the dry ingredients and mix well.

Take portions about the size of one tablespoon and roll into a ball. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press down lightly with a fork. Bake 8–10 minutes.

These easy–to–make cookies are delicious with milk, tea, or coffee!

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Can be made overnight and baked in the morning, or served as an evening dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette of French bread or loaf of brioche bread, cubed
  • 2 cups half–and–half or milk
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 cup of pumpkin, puree
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Streusel:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup cold butter, diced
  • ½ cup flour
  • ⅓ cup pecans
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

Spray a 9” x 13” pan with cooking spray. Place the diced bread in the pan; set aside.

Cream the remaining ingredients together and pour over the bread; cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Streusel: Combine brown sugar, butter, flour, pecans and pumpkin spice in a small bowl. Mix into small pieces and sprinkle over the bread mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45–55 minutes until thoroughly cooked. Let cool before serving. Suggested toppings include whipped cream, syrup, butter, or powdered sugar.

Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups shredded carrots (do not pack in cups)
  • 1 ½ cups oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the carrots, oil, sugar, and eggs. Then add the remaining ingredients. Spray a jelly–roll pan with non–stick cooking spray with flour. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Cool. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Frosting:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Beat all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy. Frost cake. Refrigerate before and after serving.

Serves 15

*If cooking in a 9” x 13” pan, cook for 35 minutes or until done. Cool and then frost.

Turkey or Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked, chopped (leftover?) turkey or 2-12 oz. cans of white chicken meat
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 green onion—finely chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon curry
  • ⅛ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients above together. Season to taste.

When ready to serve, add nuts and the grapes* (or their substitute). Serve on rolls or croissants.

½ cup pecans or roasted sliced almonds (optional)

*½ cup quartered red grapes or ½ cup chopped apples or ½ cup dried cranberries

Easy Crunch Bars

Make this simple treat for guests or give as a Christmas gift.

Ingredients

  • 35 Saltine Crackers or 32 Club Crackers
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup semi–sweet, milk, or dark chocolate (choose your favorite) chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place crackers in a foil–lined 15” x 10” x 1” jelly roll pan.

In a saucepan, cook butter and sugar on medium high heat until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is blended. Bring to a boil; boil for three minutes without stirring. Spread over the crackers.

Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Immediately sprinkle with chopped chocolate; let stand 5 minutes or until chocolate is soft, then spread evenly; sprinkle with nuts. Cool. Break into pieces.

Store in a decorative tin—ready to give as a gift or to share with your guests.

Chocolate Tart with Cookie Crust

Sugar Cookie Crust

(This is the perfect base for pies, fruit pizzas, and dessert bars. If you have difficulty making traditional pie crust—this crust is the answer.)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla until just combined.

Gradually add flour, baking powder, and salt.

Press into a greased dish and bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Note: You can use any cake, pie, tart or pizza dish for this crust. Just press to ¼” to ⅓” thick and use any remaining dough for cookies.

Let crust cool.

Easy Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

(This pudding can be served without the crust as a simple dessert by itself.)

Directions

Mix dry ingredients together. Place in a saucepan and gradually stir in two cups of milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. After it cools, add ½ teaspoon of vanilla and pour into the cooled crust. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve this delicious chocolate dessert with dollops of whipped cream.

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Part 5 – “Tiny Tim”

Part 5 – “Tiny Tim”

God Bless Us Everyone!

Perhaps you’ll see Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on television this Christmas. Along with It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, Dickens’ time–tested tale is one of the most–watched Christmas feel–good movies—“feel–good” because of how it ends.

You’ve read about the self–centered Ebenezer Scrooge—a bitter, grouchy, stingy, introvert who took pleasure in nothing except the pursuit of money. He squeezed everything possible out of his lone employee, the humble Bob Cratchit, father of a crippled son, Tim. Cratchit worked all day as a bookkeeper for Scrooge, barely able to dot his i ’s and cross his t ’s in the winter because Scrooge would only allow enough coal in the grate to keep them from literally freezing. That was Scrooge at the beginning of the story.

But through his midnight encounters on Christmas Eve with the ghosts of his former partner, Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, Ebenezer Scrooge was a different man. Witness the change in the old miser when Bob Cratchit showed up for work on the day after Christmas:

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal–scuttle before you dot another ‘i,’ Bob Cratchit.”

And it wasn’t just at his office that Scrooge changed.

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

That’s why A Christmas Carol is a feel–good movie in this world’s eyes—because Ebenezer Scrooge learned to laugh instead of scowl. Who could argue with that conclusion? Not I—the Word of God says that “a merry heart does good” (Proverbs 17:22).

But at the risk of being labeled a Scrooge myself, I want to tell you that there is an even better reason to be merry at Christmastime than getting a new lease on laughter. There is a reason that brings not just laughter but genuine joy, and not just joy at Christmas but joy from one Christmas to the next. And that reason is bound up in the reason for Christmas itself—the coming into the world of a babe who became the Savior of the world and the model for all humanity.

The Reason for the Season in 1 Timothy

You might not have turned to the little book of 1 Timothy to have your Christmas devotions, but you could have. A little verse tucked away there is one you should know—it summarizes in thirty–five words the “mystery of godliness” that we celebrate each Christmas (3:16):

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.

In this short verse are the most profound reasons for a Scrooge–like heart to become a heart overflowing with love and joy.

  • The mystery of godliness. Could anything be more mysterious than the God of the universe coming to earth as a baby, born to a humble Jewish couple? Could anything be more mysterious than the total transformation of a human life by placing faith in that Baby who grew up to die on the cross as a sacrifice for the sin of the world?
  • God was manifested in the flesh. Christmas is about one thing: God was born in the flesh and walked on the earth for 33 years as a human being. That fact alone is enough to send shockwaves of joy throughout the heart of humanity.
  • Justified by the Spirit. We know that Jesus was the Christ because “God anointed [Him] with the Holy Spirit and with power, [and He] went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). Hearts that truly have reason to celebrate are those who have been set free by God incarnate, born in a stable in Bethlehem.
  • Seen by angels. The same angels who announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the field are those who announced His resurrection (Matthew 28:6)—and were with Him at all points in between. Their attendance to Jesus’ mission is confirmed by their attendance to our successful participation in that mission as well (Hebrews 1:14).
  • Preached among the Gentiles. Most Christians in the world today are Gentiles—non–Jews. How much joy would we have if we were still “without Christ… aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12)? The first Christmas party was a Jewish event to which we Gentiles have been invited by the grace of God (Romans 11:16–18).
  • Believed on in the world. We do not celebrate Christmas alone because Christ’s mission to redeem a Bride for Himself is being fulfilled. We share the joy of the Incarnation of Christ at Christmas with multitudes of others who have believed on Him.
  • Received up in glory. Jesus was born in humility but “received up in glory” to heaven after His resurrection, from whence He will come again in glory to bring “peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)

God Has Blessed Us, Every One!

Ebenezer Scrooge finally became a blessing instead of a blister in the lives of the Cratchit family, and thankfully so. But can you see how much more of a blessing there is in life than correcting one’s attitude toward others? A new birth… the presence of God’s Spirit… salvation… sanctification… eternal life—we have so much to be thankful for in Christ this Christmas season.

There is an analogy in A Christmas Carol that, while inadequate in the end, pictures at the physical level what Christmas provides for us at the spiritual level. Bob Cratchit’s son, Tim, was a crippled child who made his way about on crutches. All of life for him was a struggle, and Scrooge was overcome with guilt when he realized how he could have been helping the boy by providing a better income for his father. What happened to Tim in the end was not unlike what happened to Mephibosheth of old, the son of King David’s covenant friend, Jonathan. Mephibosheth was a crippled outcast who was invited to live in David’s palace when Jonathan died. Though he remained a cripple, he feasted at the king’s table and was promised provision for the rest of his life (2 Samuel 9).

Like Mephibosheth, tiny Tim Cratchit became the recipient of Scrooge’s blessings. And in a way that pales by example and comparison, we have become the recipient of God’s blessings in Christ, blessings we celebrate at Christmas.

The closing words of A Christmas Carol summarize the change in Scrooge, the blessings for Tim, and the ultimate source of every blessing for all who know Christ:

It was always said of [Scrooge], that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless us, every one!”

Have you learned to “keep Christmas well?” May it be truly said of us that we have—by celebrating the blessing of God that has come through the Christmas Christ Child.

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“How to Keep the Season Wonder–Filled”

“How to Keep the Season Wonder–Filled”

Keep the Wonder in Christmas

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship.

Recognize that tune? Does it remind you of Christmas? Put you in mind of the happiest time of the year?

No?

Well, did you know the composer who penned the great classic… well, the great television classic, “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island,” also wrote a popular Christmas song? He was George Wyle, born in New York City in 1916. In 1946, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked extensively on early radio and television programs like The Alan Young Show, The Dinah Shore Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, and The Andy Williams Show.

Wyle said, “America doesn’t want great music themes, just something it can remember,” and he gave us several songs to remember including “Gilligan’s Isle” and his popular toe–tapping song about the hap–happiest time of the year.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year; but remember—the word wonderful means full of wonder, which is exactly how we should feel when we consider the incredible entrance of God into human life in Bethlehem. After all, His very name is Wonderful, and the people of His day were amazed at every aspect of His life and ministry. Mark 9:15 says, “As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet Him” (NIV, emphasis added).

We should feel the same! Gypsy Smith, the old evangelist who sang and preached his way around the world, was once asked the secret of his vitality and vigor. He replied, “I have never lost the wonder.” G. K. Chesterton once said he had learned more about life by observing children in the nursery than he ever did by reflecting on the writings of philosophers. Jesus Himself suggested we be childlike—not childish in immaturity, but childlike in our sense of simple trust and wonder.

Fatigue Can Wipe out Our Wonder

One reason we’ve lost the wonder is that we’re too rushed to ponder the meaning of Christmas, and our fatigue overwhelms our sense of marvel. One woman said, “It’s not even Thanksgiving, and I’m already feeling Christmas fatigue. I see the lights and the decorations in store windows and think, ‘Oh, no, not again!’ Isn’t it possible just to skip it all?”

But notice these three little words in Isaiah 29:9, “Pause and wonder.”

We’ve got to find ways of pausing, of being still, or quieting our life and our heart. You might want to get out your calendar right now and make an appointment with yourself for two or three nights during the holidays in which you’ll accept no invitations, entertain no friends, and schedule no activities. You might even decide to “farm out the kids” one evening so you can be alone by the Christmas tree—just you and the Lord—reading Luke 2 and singing the great carols of Christmas as private solos to Him. I know it’s a radical idea!—but even Jesus needed to steal away by Himself from time to time.

And why not get to church early this Sunday? Too many people dash in after the first hymn or opening prayer; but what if you arrived early enough to sit quietly and prayerfully, to listen to the prelude, and to think through the carols you’ll be singing? Don’t you think it’d be good for your nerves?

And there’s one more thing. I know you’d like to find that perfect gift for everyone on your list; but maybe it’s better to give a twenty–dollar bill or a gift certificate—accompanied by a personal note of appreciation—if doing so will keep you from collapsing from fatigue. You can’t wonder if you’re weary, and it’s hard to be excited when you’re exhausted. This season, try our Lord’s advice: “Come… apart… and rest a while” (Mark 6:31, KJV).

Doubt Can Wipe out Our Wonder

Doubt and disbelief can also wipe out our wonder. One of the reasons the world has turned Christmas into a harried holiday instead of a hushed holy day is because of the skeptical secularism of our times.

Ravi Zacharias warns that when we reduce the universe to purely mechanistic or random terms, there inevitably follows an accompanying loss of childlike wonder; and that reduces all of life, for everything ultimately becomes chemical or molecular. That leads to a loss of gratitude, for there’s no one left to be grateful to. Thanksgiving Day becomes Turkey Day, and Christmas becomes a holiday rather than a holy day. This results in an avoidable slide into emptiness.

“I think particularly of our present generation,” says Zacharias, “which enjoys more sophisticated toys than ever before, yet each toy has a shorter thrill–span than the previous one.… When wonder ceases, boredom and emptiness begin to stalk existence.”1

There’s something very wise and wonderful about childlike faith. Missionary Rosalind Goforth told of a time in her younger days when she was walking with her aged father, a retired artist. It was early summer, and wild violets were in full bloom. “Father stopped and plucked a single violet,” said Rosalind. “He remained examining it for so long that I became impatient and said, ‘Father, dear, do come on.’ Gently he laid a restraining hand on mine as he said, almost in a tone of awe, ‘Child, just look at the exquisite beauty of this tiny flower—its color and delicate tracery! Oh, how wonderful it is!”

Then, as they started on, he exclaimed with deep feeling, as though speaking to himself, “What a wonderful artist God is!” It was a moment Rosalind never forgot, and it encouraged her to keep her own heart open to the beauties of God’s creation, to the incredible truths of His Word, and to the special days of His calendar.

How sad to miss the violets. How tragic to take God’s work for granted. How wrong to sit in church and yawn at the very truths for which our forefathers shed their blood and gave their lives.

Pride Can Wipe out Our Wonder

Self–centered pride can also dilute our feelings of awe toward our great Savior, and Christmas has become very materialistic and selfish for many people. But only by being Christ–centered can we be wonder–filled.

Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom told of an old monk who sang a carol every Christmas Eve for his brothers in the monastery and for visitors who would come from the village for the special service. His voice was rough, but he loved the Lord and sang from his heart. One year the director of the cloister said, “I’m sorry, Brother Don, we won’t need you this Christmas. We have a new monk with a beautiful voice.”

The new man did sing beautifully, and everyone was happy. But that night an angel came to the superior and said, “Why didn’t you have a Christmas Eve song?”

The superior was surprised. “We had a beautiful song,” he replied. “Didn’t you hear it?” The angel shook his head sadly. “It may have been inspiring to you, but we didn’t hear it in heaven.”

“You see,” Corrie explained, “the old monk with the raspy voice had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but the young monk was singing for his own benefit, not for that of the Lord.”2

Don’t think of what you’ll get out of Christmas this year. Think of others and think of Him! Share His love. When the shepherds received the angelic message that the Messiah had been born just a mile or so from where they were, they went with haste and found the Babe lying in a manger; and when they had seen Him, they spread the news. Luke 2:18 says: “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds” (NASB).

It’s still wonder–full news. This Christmas, don’t let fatigue, doubt, or pride steal the wonder from your heart. Take time to marvel at the miracle of the manger, to stand amazed in His presence, and to worship Him who alone makes it the most wonderful time of the year, the hap–hap–happiest season of all.

1Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994), 88.

2Adapted from Corrie ten Boom, In My Father’s House (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revel Company, 1976), 136–137

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“As With Gladness Men of Old”

“As With Gladness Men of Old”

A Christmas Devotional

The star…went before them.
Matthew 2:9

William Chatterton Dix, at age twenty–two, wrote two famous Christmas carols. Some historians think he wrote them on the same day, for both hymns were inspired by the same text. He was very ill at the time and confined to bed. As he pondered the story of the birth of Christ in Matthew 2:1–12, he began writing the carol, “As With Gladness Men of Old,”

As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.

It’s a prayer we can make our own this Christmas. Dix’s other famous carol is the pensive hymn that asks, “What Child is this who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?” The great answer: “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.” This season, may we be led to Christ as clearly and wonderfully as the wise men of old. May we “haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.”

The King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him.
William Dix

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If Christ Had Not Come

If Christ Had Not Come

The Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.
1 Timothy 1:1

Christmas isn’t just an optional holiday on the calendar, but a foundational event that undergirds all we are and believe. We can but shudder when we realize that if Christ had not come, our Bibles would be untrue, for the story of the Incarnation fills both the Old and New Testaments.

If Christ had not come, our God would be unknown, for Christ is the image of the invisible God, the Word made flesh. He is Immanuel—God with us.

If Christ had not come, our sins would be unforgiven. The chief purpose for Christ’s birth in Bethlehem was to save us from our sins. His very name—Jesus—means “Jehovah Saves!” John the Baptist called Him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

If Christ had not come, our prayers would be unanswered. Hebrews 4:15–16 says because we have a High Priest, namely Jesus, we can approach the throne of grace with boldness.

If Christ had not come, our hope would be unfounded. We’d have no future, no life, no heaven, and no eternity. No reunions with our loved ones. Nothing beyond the grave.

But now, we praise God! Christmas is real, and Jesus Christ is our hope of glory.

The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable.
Ralph W. Sockman

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Experience

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
3:41

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

For He Himself is our peace.
Ephesians 2:14

During the harshest days of the Civil War, the eighteen–year–old son of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ran away from home and joined the army. Shortly afterward, Henry received news that Charley had been wounded, shot through the back.

For weeks Henry sat by his son’s bedside, slowly nursing Charley back to health.

On Christmas Day, December 25, 1863, Henry gave vent to his feelings in a plaintive carol that can only be understood against the backdrop of war. The poet said he felt like dropping his head in despair, but then he heard the Christmas bells. Their triumphant pealing reminded him that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

Sunday school children in Boston first sang “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” during that year’s Christmas celebration.

How wonderful that such a song should emerge from the bloody clouds of the “War Between the States.” How wonderful that heaven’s Christmas bells—the pealing of God’s love through Jesus Christ—can bring peace to our hearts today.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day their old familiar carols play… of peace on earth, good will to men.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Christmas Humor

Christmas Humor

Christmas Mirth

“Thanks for the electric guitar you gave me for Christmas,” little Chris said to his uncle the first time he saw him after the holidays. “It’s the best present I ever got.”

“That’s great,” said his uncle. “Do you know how to play it?”

“Oh, I don’t play it,” the little fellow said. “My mom gives me a dollar a day not to play it during the day, and my dad gives me five dollars a week not to play it at night.”


What to Say About a Christmas Gift You Don’t Like:

  • Hey! There’s a gift!
  • Boy, if I had not recently shot up four sizes, that would’ve fit.
  • This is perfect for wearing around the basement.
  • To think—I got this the year I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.
  • I really don’t deserve this.

It was just a few days before Christmas. Two men who were neighbors decided to go sailing while their wives went Christmas shopping. While they were out in their sailboat, a storm blew up. The sea grew angry, and they had a hard time keeping the boat under control. As they maneuvered toward safe harbor, they hit a sandbar, and the boat grounded. They jumped over and tried to push with all their might, trying to get the boat afloat.

With his legs knee–deep in mud, the waves pounding him against the boat, the wind whipping his hair about wildly, and his heart pounding from the effort, one man said to the other (with a knowing grin on his face), “This sure beats Christmas shopping, doesn’t it?”


A woman returned home from a holiday shopping spree with her arms loaded with packages. Her husband met her at the door and said, “What did you buy? With prices as high as they are, I’ll bet you spent a fortune. I hate to think what happened to our nest egg.”

“I’ll tell you what happened to our nest egg,” his wife said defensively. “The old hen got tired of sitting on it.”


A couple heard the doorbell ring and went to open the door. Their neighbors explained their visit. “We’re saving postage by hand–delivering our Christmas cards this year and dropping in for a bit of lunch and a cup of coffee.”


A three–year–old once gave this reaction to her Christmas dinner: “I don’t like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate.”


Uses for Fruitcake:

  • Use as a doorstop
  • Use as a paper weight
  • Use as a boat anchor
  • Use as bricks in a fireplace
  • Put it in the back yard to feed the birds and squirrels
  • Use as a replacement for Duraflame log
  • Replace free weights when you work out

A four–year–old boy was asked to return thanks before Christmas dinner. The family members bowed their heads in expectation. He began his prayer, thanking God for all his friends, naming them one by one. Then he thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, Brother, Sister, Grandma, Grandpa, and all his aunts and uncles. Then he began to thank God for the food.

He gave thanks for the turkey, the dressing, the fruit salad, the cranberry sauce, the pies, the cakes, even the Cool Whip. Then he paused, and everyone waited… and waited. After a long silence, the young fellow looked up at his mother and asked, “If I thank God for the broccoli, won’t He know that I’m lying?”

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<em>Airship Genesis</em> Christmas Episode
18:45

Airship Genesis Christmas Episode

Airship Genesis Christmas Story!

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“We Three Kings”
3:19

“We Three Kings”

Living Nativity

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“You Shall Call His Name Jesus”
20:41

“You Shall Call His Name Jesus”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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“Why the Shepherds”
28:20

“Why the Shepherds”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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“God’s Gift of Love”
28:26

“God’s Gift of Love”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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“The Forgotten Man of Christmas”
33:23

“The Forgotten Man of Christmas”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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“Make The Season Bright”
28:29

“Make The Season Bright”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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Dan and Jan “Christmas Chaos”
11:49

Dan and Jan “Christmas Chaos”

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Christmas Trivia Quiz

Christmas Trivia Quiz

Questions

  1. How do you say “Merry Christmas” in Spanish?
  2. Name the two reindeer whose names begin with the letter “C.”
  3. What was Brenda Lee doing around the Christmas tree?
  4. Who kept time with “The Little Drummer Boy”?
  5. Who is the author of A Christmas Carol?
  6. What carol contains the line “O tidings of comfort and joy”?
  7. What song was originally titled “One Horse Open Sleigh”?
  8. What color is the Grinch?
  9. Whose eyes are made of coal?
  10. In the Charlie Brown Christmas, who plays the dusty innkeeper in the Christmas play?
  11. Bonus: What much maligned Christmas edible is known for its long shelf life?

Answers

  1. Feliz Navidad
  2. Comet, Cupid
  3. “Rocking”
  4. Ox and Lamb
  5. Charles Dickens
  6. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”
  7. “Jingle Bells”
  8. Green
  9. Frosty the Snowman
  10. Pigpen
  11. Fruitcake
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Dwayne and Peanut
12:22

Dwayne and Peanut

Are you a little bit country? So are Dwayne and Peanut!

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“Make The Season Bright”
28:29

“Make The Season Bright”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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Christmas Word Scramble

Christmas Word Scramble

Unscramble this Christmas list

  1. SAMTSIHRC RTEE ____________________ ____________________
  2. SENILT ____________________
  3. GAERDBERNIG ____________________
  4. CEOOISK ____________________
  5. NGGOEG ____________________
  6. ASSWILA ____________________
  7. MECAL ____________________
  8. STIGHL ____________________
  9. AKEOWNSFL ____________________
  10. GNAESL ____________________
  11. NAMRGE ____________________
  12. PHEERDSSH ____________________
  13. SEWI MNE ____________________ ____________________
  14. CRUIKAEFT ____________________
  15. YNAVITIT ____________________
  16. KCOSTNSIG ____________________
  17. TENRONAMS ____________________
  18. DESLNAC ____________________
  19. LEHTBEMEH ____________________
  20. RACIGNLO ____________________

Answers: 1) Christmas Tree; 2) tinsel; 3) gingerbread; 4) cookies; 5) eggnog; 6) wassail; 7) camel; 8) lights; 9) snowflake; 10) angels; 11) manger; 12) shepherds; 13) wise men; 14) fruitcake; 15) nativity; 16) stockings; 17) ornaments; 18) candles; 19) Bethlehem; 20) caroling

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Christmas Devotions
from Dr. David Jeremiah

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Ten Books to Read This Christmas for Children

Ten Books to Read This Christmas for Children

Recommended fun books to read with your children

Every year when the first inklings of cool weather arrive, the same thought emerges: This year we’re going to slow down and enjoy Christmas! Right? Then without warning, the turkey leftovers are a memory, decorations are unearthed from the attic, and a huge stack of unaddressed Christmas cards cause you great distress. A flurry of activities follows, and suddenly it’s a new year. Is there a better way? This season make a pledge to slow down your holiday with one or more of these ten terrific read–aloud Christmas books. You won’t be disappointed.

The Birthday of a King by Bob Hartman
Victor Books, 1993
Don’t miss this beautifully illustrated, interactive retelling of Jesus’ birth for children. It is one in a series of excellent Bible stories retold for early elementary–aged children. While hard to find in print, this is an excellent retelling of Christ’s birth for younger children.

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke
Copyright 1895
This poetic short story tells of another wise man who follows the Star in search of the infant Savior but gets sidetracked along the way as he stops to help others in need. It draws a masterful connection from Christmas to Easter.

The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin (Author) and Jessie Gillespie (Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Books, 1997
Original publishing date: 1888
This eighty–page classic Christmas story of a child born to a family on Christmas day is a sweet and touching tale. Its sentimental writing style will broaden your children’s literary appreciation. Recommended for ages nine to twelve.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson, 2011
Joshua is a lamb with a crippled leg. He always feels left out when the other lambs run and he cannot. But God has a very special plan for Joshua’s life, as He does for all who feel alone. Recommended for ages four to eight.

What Nick and Holly Found in Grandpa’s Attic by Melody Carlson (Author) and Jose Miralles (Illustrator)
Multnomah Publishers, 1998
Objects found in an attic will help your children discover the true meaning of Christmas. Recommended for ages four to seven, this story invites children of all ages to be part of the story and help them embrace the true meaning and spirit of the season in their own hearts.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (Writer) and P. J. Lynch (Illustrator)
Candlewick, 2015 (Anniversary edition)
The kindness of a widow and her son bring the joy of living back to a talented woodcarver with the nickname “Mr. Gloomy.” It will inspire your children to express the kind of compassion that can transform the life of a Scroogelike recluse. Recommended for ages six to nine.

One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham (Author) and Richard Jesse Watson (Illustrator)
Thomas Nelson, 2012 (reprint edition)
Don’t miss this story of a boy named Zeb who, caught in a blizzard, is forced to seek shelter in a cabin inhabited by an old woman. In a magnificent blend of a contemporary setting with the history of God’s redeeming love, Ruth Graham created a wonderful and unique version of the Christmas story. Recommended for ages four to seven.

Jotham’s Journey: A Storybook for Advent, by Arnold Ytreeide
Copyright 1997
Set in 4 B.C., young Jotham, a shepherd boy, gets separated from his family and embarks on a dangerous adventure that leads him to Bethlehem and the birth of Christ. Everyone will love this cliffhanger–style Advent story. Tabitha’s Travels and Bartholomew’s Passage complete the trilogy. Recommended for upper elementary students.

The Last Straw by Paula Palangi McDonald (Author), Carol Pettit Harding (Illustrator)
Covenant Communications Inc., 2007
Introduce your children to the beauty of giving through the tale of a mother who employs an old custom to regenerate the spirit of Christmas in her family. You may have difficulty obtaining a copy of this book, but it is also found in Joe Wheeler’s compilation, Christmas in My Heart, which contains a total of sixteen memorable Christmas short stories.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Harper & Row Publishers, 1972
Everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas when the six Herdman children, the “absolutely worst kids in the history of the world” participate in a Christmas pageant at church. Funny, well–written, and enjoyable for all ages, this story is available as a chapter book or a picture book.

Reading meaningful Christmas stories to your kids will enrich your celebration and draw your family closer together.

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Story–telling by Dennis Swanberg
2:56

Story–telling by Dennis Swanberg

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Christmas Name That Tune Matching Game

Christmas Name That Tune Matching Game

Do you know your Christmas songs?

Songs Answers
1. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! _______________
2. O Little Town of Bethlehem _______________
3. Silent Night _______________
4. O Holy Night _______________
5. We Three Kings _______________
6. Hark! the Herald Angels Sing _______________
7. Joy to the World _______________
8. Angels We Have Heard on High _______________
9. Rudolph the Red–Nosed Reindeer _______________
10. O Come, All Ye Faithful _______________
11. The First Noel _______________
12. Here Comes Santa Claus _______________
13. White Christmas _______________
14. Christmas Don’t Be Late _______________
15. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear _______________
16. O Christmas Tree _______________
17. Silver Bells _______________
18. Away in a Manger _______________
19. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas _______________
20. What Child Is This? _______________
21. Bonus: We Wish You a Merry Christmas _______________

Clues

  1. Sung by The Chipmunks.
  2. Lyrics include “The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.”
  3. Befell During Transparent Dead of Night.
  4. Second verse begins “For Christ is born of Mary.”
  5. Exuberance directed toward the planet.
  6. Cherubim from aloft.
  7. Quadruped with crimson proboscis.
  8. Second verse begins with “Sing choirs of angels.”
  9. Lyrics include: “On cold winter’s night that was so deep.”
  10. Austrian Franz Gruber wrote this hymn—“Stille Nacht.”
  11. Verse “Led by the light of faith serenely beaming.”
  12. Judy Garland performed and premiered this song in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis.
  13. This 1865 song was set to the English folk song "Greensleeves"
  14. Second verse begins with “Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain.”
  15. Begins with “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style, in the air there's a feeling of Christmas.”
  16. German carol, “O Tannenbaum,” written in 1824.
  17. The tradition detailed in this song was for English carolers to sing outside the homes of wealthy people, who would then provide them food and drink.
  18. Second verse begins with “Christ by highest heav’n adored.”
  19. Happy song for children and written and performed by Gene Autry.
  20. The best–selling Christmas song of all time.
  21. The second verse begins with “The cattle are lowing.”

Answer Key:

  1. B
  2. D
  3. J
  4. K
  5. N
  6. R
  7. E
  8. F
  9. G
  10. H
  11. I
  12. S
  13. T
  14. A
  15. C
  16. P
  17. O
  18. U
  19. L
  20. M
  21. Q
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“Hallelujah Chorus”
3:39

“Hallelujah Chorus”

The Silent Monks

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Part 2 – “The Christ of Christmas Past”

Part 2 – “The Christ of Christmas Past”

A Child is Born

“Spirit!” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “remove me from this place.”

“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!”

“Remove me!” Scrooge exclaimed, “I cannot bear it!”

He turned, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.

“Leave me! Take me back. Haunt me no longer!”

That dramatic scene from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol comes when Scrooge is returned to his bed after a tour of Christmases from his past. He cannot bear the sorrow, loneliness, pain, and heartache to which the Ghost of Christmas Past has reintroduced him. As a selfish, old miser, alone in his old age, he had almost succeeded in forgetting his former years—until his Christmas Eve tour reopened painful old wounds.

He recalled the loneliness and bitterness of his youthful years at a boarding school, left alone at Christmas when his friends went home to spend the holiday with their families. He then saw old Fezziwig, the kindly businessman with whom he had apprenticed as a clerk. On Christmas Eve, Fezziwig turned the shop into a party place to celebrate and feast, dispensing gifts and cheer to all his employees—something Scrooge had never done for Bob Cratchit, his employee. He heard Fezziwig’s employees heaping praise upon their master and was amazed at one man’s ability to dispense such happiness to others.

He then saw the tears and the broken heart of the young lady over whom he chose a career in the solitary pursuit of money. And then he saw that lovely girl, now in her matronly years, happily married with a loving husband and a tumultuous household of happy children celebrating in their Christmas–filled home—and realized that, except for his selfish choice years earlier, he might have been the head of that happy home.

That last scene was more than Scrooge could stand. It was then that he cried out to his spirit–guide, “Remove me from this place… remove me! I cannot bear it!”

The Burden of the Past

What was it that Scrooge could not bear? It was the same thing you and I cannot bear apart from the grace of God: the memory and reality of our own sins and failures. Scrooge was a man who knew no grace, no love, no generosity, no service to others. His entire life revolved around his own hurts, his own self–pity, his own withdrawal into himself in an attempt to hide from his pain. Scrooge is me, and Scrooge is you, apart from Christ!

Scrooge, of course, lived only in the imagination of his creator, Charles Dickens. But the character he became on the pages of A Christmas Carol is the character we all are in our own sinful, human nature. And while Dickens wove a kind of humanistic redemptive thread into the fabric of his classic tale—Scrooge repents of his self–centeredness and becomes a reformed man—something more than repentance motivated by guilt is needed in the real world.

Yes, Scrooge began to do good works—and that is commendable. But no amount of good works can erase the guilt and stain of failure and sin from our past. For that, something completely supernatural is needed: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Scrooge’s good works could never have diluted his crimson red sins to the pure white of snow or wool—not even to a dark shade of pink.

The Ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge on a tour that showed him why he needed to change—and change he did, to a degree. We need the same kind of revelatory experience to understand our need for change—to see that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But we also need to see that we cannot erase our spotted past by ourselves. We need to be shown our need for a Savior.

Our Guide to the Past, Present, and Future

Like Scrooge, we have a guide to show us the way—but our Guide is not an imaginary spirit. We have the very real Spirit of the Living God whose specific ministry in the world is to reveal to us our need for a Savior: “And when He [the Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).

If you are a Christian, dear friend, think back to what you realized about your life that led to your salvation. Only you and the Spirit know the sadness, the shame, the worry, the embarrassment you likely felt over sins committed. Even if you became a Christian as a child, you knew there were things you had done that were wrong—a stolen toy, an unkind word, a disobedient act. Then multiply those by number and by degree if you became a Christian as an adult. It was the Spirit of God bringing those impressions to your mind, showing you that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

While Dickens didn’t explain salvation and forgiveness to us in his Christmas story, God clearly explains it in His. At Bethlehem, more than two thousand years ago, a Savior was born who came into the world not to reform us, but to regenerate us; not to make us better, but to make us new; and not to shame us, but to save and sanctify us. The Bible’s Christmas story is what separates Christianity from every other religion in the world. It is the story of God doing for man what man could never do for himself: remove the burden of past, present, and future sins.

The Real Christmas Story

Think about the difference between Scrooge’s Christmas experience and that of the one who embraces the Bible’s Christmas story.

  1. The problem. Scrooge’s problem after his Christmas Eve midnight tour was the same as before: the burden of sin. The Christian’s problem of sin has been taken away and nailed to the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:14). The Christian’s only remaining “problem” is learning to live in freedom and gratitude for what Christ has done.
  2. The person. After coming face–to–face with his failures, Scrooge was still Scrooge. A sinner with a better attitude is still the same old sinner. When the Christian faces his failures and finds forgiveness in Christ, he becomes a new person. He is born again—“a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (John 3:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
  3. The provision. For Scrooge’s sins, there was no provision except a reminder. While the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, He then leads us to Christ, giving us the gift of faith that we might receive the grace of God. Then, by that grace, we are able to walk in the new works that replace the old (Ephesians 2:8–10).
  4. The prospects. Scrooge’s prospects for the future were not bright. He was destined to live out the rest of his life on the treadmill of overcoming bad works with good. But the Christian knows he can never do enough good works to achieve holiness in the sight of God or peace in this life. His prospects are centered in Christ: “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1).

So which Christmas story do you think holds the most promise for those brought face–to–face with failure and sin? While Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will remain a classic and while it admirably points out the difference between selfishness and service, its Ghost of Christmas Past could not take Scrooge where he needed to go. Only the Holy Spirit of Christmas Today can lead the sinner to Christ.

This Christmas, if you identify with Scrooge—if you are trying to make amends for your own failings and shortcomings—why not yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit instead? Embrace the Babe of Bethlehem who came to give you a gift you can never earn for yourself: the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

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Snowflake
“Do You Hear What I Hear?”
3:24

“Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Michael Sanchez

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Classic Videos
9:15

Classic Videos

Outtakes of the Christmas Couples

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You don’t want to miss—Phil and Phyllis!
10:09

You don’t want to miss—Phil and Phyllis!

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The Necessity of Jesus

The Necessity of Jesus

And [Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son… and laid Him in a manger.
Luke 2:7

“Daddy, I can’t find Jesus!” yelled seven–year–old Johnny. His family was busy with the annual ritual of setting up their life–size manger scene in the front yard. “What do you mean?” smiled his father who was fastening Joseph to a supporting pole. “The baby Jesus,” Johnny replied with a frustrated frown. “I mean, if we can’t find Jesus, there’s no need to put up the manger scene at all.”

No one would consider putting up a manger scene with an empty manger. But isn’t it strange that we can go through the season that celebrates that manger scene without remembering to include Jesus? It’s easy for us to be influenced by our culture, to get more absorbed in the season than the Reason—to have a Martha–like Christmas instead of a Mary–like one. Remember the story? When Jesus visited the sisters’ home, Martha was too busy with arrangements to spend time with the Lord, whereas Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word.” What kind of Christmas season are you having? If your Christmas season were set out on the lawn, would onlookers be able to find Jesus in it?

To paraphrase Johnny, “If we can’t find Jesus in our Christmas, there’s no need to put up the decorations at all.”

That is where my life is complete, sitting at His feet.
Steven Carey

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“Go Tell It on the Mountain”
2:25

“Go Tell It on the Mountain”

Michael Sanchez

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Snowflake
“God’s Gift of Love”
28:26

“God’s Gift of Love”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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“Carol of the Bells”
2:15

“Carol of the Bells”

Voices of Lee

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Dreaming of a “White Christmas”?
3:24

Dreaming of a “White Christmas”?

The Collingsworth Family

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“Mary Did you Know”
4:21

“Mary Did you Know”

The Gaither Vocal Band

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“One Small Child”
4:27

“One Small Child”

Voices of Lee

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Snowflake
Sky and Meadow
7:53

Sky and Meadow

Sky and Meadow at Christmastime

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“Here We Come A Caroling”
2:16

“Here We Come A Caroling”

Big Band Music of Christmas from New York City

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“Fruitcake“ Video
3:14

“Fruitcake“ Video

Anyone for a fruitcake?

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Part 1 – “A Christmas Carol”

Part 1 – “A Christmas Carol”

From Bah Humbug to Blessings

Have you ever read Charles Dickens’ great holiday classic, A Christmas Carol? It’s been adapted countless times, so it’s as familiar to many people as Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.

But, as someone once said, a classic is a book much loved yet seldom read. A Christmas Carol is among the shortest and easiest of Dickens’ novels, and it’s available in cheap paperback versions or on the Internet. It’s worth reading.

It was written in the fall of 1843. Charles Dickens, 31, was already a far–famed author, having written blockbuster novels like Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. But his most recent attempt, Martin Chuzzlewit, flopped; and Dickens was having to support his wife, four children, a greedy set of siblings, and two financially irresponsible parents.

Drawing on his own past experiences and his lifelong knowledge of the underbelly of London society, Dickens wrote this timeless story of a tightwad named Ebenezer Scrooge who experienced a change of heart on Christmas Eve. The theme of Dickens’ story is “change.” People can change, and Christmas can change them.

Let me remind you of the story.

Cold–hearted, penny–pinching, dark–spirited Ebenezer Scrooge, the surviving partner of the London firm of Scrooge and Marley, was working at his desk on Christmas Eve. His clerk Bob Cratchit shivered in the next room, for Scrooge wouldn’t even purchase coal enough to warm the offices.

Oh! But he was a tight–fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint…, secret and self–contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed noise, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice… He carried his own low temperature always about with him.

When Fred, Ebenezer’s good–hearted nephew, came by to wish his uncle a Merry Christmas, the old miser could only reply “Bah! Humbug.”

“Christmas a humbug, Uncle?” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily, “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

That night Scrooge made his way to his cold and dark quarters, ill at ease and on the verge of “seeing things.” Huddling near his stingy fire, his mood grew darker. Suddenly he heard otherworldly noises, the cellar door flew open, and the image of his late partner, Jacob Marley, stood before his face, dragging a long set of chains.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied Marley. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?”

Marley announced that Scrooge would receive three visitants; and after he left, a trembling Ebenezer fell into troubled sleep. Presently he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past. This apparition took Scrooge on an introspective tour of his past. Guided by this spirit, Scrooge, the son of a neglectful father, saw himself as he was on earlier Christmases, including one in which his girlfriend, Belle, had broken their engagement. Scrooge, Belle claimed, loved money more than he loved her. Ebenezer burst into tears under the weight of his regrets.

No sooner was he back in bed than a second image appeared, the Ghost of Christmas Present. This time Scrooge was treated to an eerie Christmastide tour of London. He saw merry crowds thronging the streets, churches packed with worshipers, and homes filled with holiday happiness. Finally he paid a visit to Bob Cratchit’s dwelling. Scrooge was especially moved by the plight of the youngest Cratchit son, a crippled little boy named Tim, and he listened to the conversation around the table:

“And how did little Tim behave [at church]?” asked Mrs. Cratchit.

“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”

Despite himself, Scrooge’s heart went out to the little lame boy.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney–corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

Once again, Scrooge, confused and contemplative, was guided back to his own bed. But the night wasn’t over, for a third image soon appeared—the Ghost of Christmas Future. This spirit led Scrooge through a mysterious set of scenes, each relating to someone’s death. Scrooge overheard the talk on the street.

“I only know he’s dead.”

“When did he die?” inquired another.

“Last night I believe.”

“Why, what was the matter with him?” asked a third, taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff–box. “I thought he’d never die.”

“God knows,” said the first, with a yawn.

“What has he done with his money?”

It wasn’t until Ebenezer saw his own name on the tombstone that he realized that he himself was the obituary. That was more than he could take, and he began to shout, “No, Spirit! Oh, no, no, no!”

“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope…? Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”

The kind hand trembled.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

Awakening from his nightmares, Scrooge rushed into the street, eager to share his newfound Christmas spirit. He sent a giant turkey to Bob Cratchit’s house and showed up for Christmas dinner at Fred’s. He became as good a man as London knew and a second father for Tiny Tim. He was a changed soul.

That’s the story, and there’s a lot of truth to it. We’re all miserable sinners who forge our own chains in life, but the message of Christmas has the power to transform us. Because of Christmas, we can be giving, caring, decent souls. We should contemplate the past, present, and future—and live accordingly. We shouldn’t give up on others, even as Fred never gave up on his uncle. We must never underestimate the potential of changed lives, especially during the holiday season.

There is, however, a fatal flaw in A Christmas Carol.

The person of Jesus Christ is strangely absent. Dickens himself attended the Church of England, but his beliefs were Unitarian. He believed in a benevolent God and felt the Bible contained good maxims. But he had no creed and didn’t profess evangelical beliefs. Somehow, like our modern holiday celebrations, he managed to capture the mood of Christmas while forgetting the manger.

Ebenezer Scrooge had a change of heart—but not by Christ. He was transformed from a miserable miser into a warm, kind–hearted philanthropist by the power of imagination alone. It was the Christmas spirit, not the Holy Spirit that got hold of him.

As we think about Dickens’ tale, it’s a good time to remember that as wonderful as it is, it’s no match for the Gospel. A Christmas Carol warms the heart, but only Christ can change the soul. It isn’t just realization we need, but redemption. Not just sentiment, but a Savior.

This world simply cannot spell CHRISTmas without Christ, though it keeps trying.

Jesus alone can change our lives this Christmas. He alone can bless us every one!

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“You Shall Call His Name Jesus”
20:41

“You Shall Call His Name Jesus”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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Snowflake
Buzz and Blanche
7:39

Buzz and Blanche

Blanche is talking, but is Buzz listening?

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Part 4 – “The Christ of Christmas Future”

Part 4 – “The Christ of Christmas Future”

The Prince of Peace

As if old Scrooge’s Christmas Eve night had not been exhausting enough, there is yet a third apparition that confronts him: the Ghost of Christmas Future.

This final specter was the most troubling of all—clothed completely in dense, black robes and communicating only by the pointing of a boney hand. Not a good sign for old Scrooge, if this gruesome figure was a portent of things to come.

The spirit led Scrooge past groups of men who were standing in the street discussing the death of an acquaintance. Some gave it no more mention than the weather, while others commented on how there’d likely be no one at the funeral. Scrooge was then led to a salvage shop where his maid was selling goods she had stolen from the house of a deceased person before the departed had even been removed from his bed! Scrooge even saw the dead man, though he was too fearful to pull back the sheet to see who it was: He lay in the dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a child, to say that he was kind to me in this or that, and for the memory of one kind word I will be kind to him. A cat was tearing at the door, and there was a sound of gnawing rats beneath the hearth-stone. What they wanted in the room of death, and why they were so restless and disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to think.

Scrooge asked to be shown someone who must have felt some emotion at the passing of this person. Was there no one who was sorry to see him go? So he was shown a poor couple who were relieved at the man’s death since they were in debt to him.

To whom will our debt be transferred? asked the wife.

I don’t know, replied her husband. But before that time we shall be ready with the money; and even though we were not, it would be a bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a creditor in his successor. We may sleep tonight with light hearts, Caroline!

Relief and light hearts! As Scrooge pondered who this poor soul might be, dismissed, despised, and disregarded by all, he was taken into a graveyard where the pointing finger of the spirit identified a gravestone with the following inscription: Ebenezer Scrooge.

“Good Spirit,” Scrooge pled: “…Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life! …I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

The Dark Side of Christmas

For all of the happiness and good cheer going on around Ebenezer Scrooge, his Christmas was dark and disturbed. He caught a glimpse of his life through the eyes of others, and he caught a glimpse of his future. He realized that he was not valued by anyone for any reason, and he feared not being able to make things right before the day of his death.

As the popular Christmas song says, Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” But for many people, it isn’t. Scrooge had created his own misery and loneliness at Christmas—he reaped what he had sown. But for many people, Christmas is not a time of “peace on earth”—through no fault of their own.

Think of those this Christmas who have recently lost a loved one. And then there are those who may be experiencing difficulties and estrangement within their marriage or family. It is not easy to open presents and share laughter and hugs with someone from whom you feel emotionally separated.

What about financial pressures, or being unemployed—caught between the rock of going into debt to buy presents and the hard place of not wanting to disappoint children on Christmas morning. And some are far from home, separated from loved ones by great distances that are not always easy to bridge at Christmas.

While there can be a dark side of Christmas, think of how the darkness of a cold Bethlehem night was dispelled two thousand years ago by the light and glory of innumerable heavenly hosts proclaiming “Peace on Earth!” Though the darkness of sin still envelops our earth, it does not have to envelop the human heart at Christmas or any other time of the year. The Prince of Peace has come to provide what Ebenezer Scrooge could not find: peace in the present and a glorious hope for the future.

The Bright Side of Christmas

Nobody spoke more plainly about the glory of the coming Messiah than did the prophet Isaiah: “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Prince of Peace? Who in Israel would have believed that anyone could bring peace to that troubled nation? Israel was the national equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge—scared, introspective, cowering in the face of invaders, feeling hopeless about the future. Israel was teetering on the edge of destruction as her sins caused her to fall under the judgment of God. And yet Isaiah said, “Your King is coming, and He is the Prince of Peace.”

Prince of Peace? Who in our world today believes that anyone can bring peace to the dark and troubled heart of humanity? We walk today on the thinnest line of existence the world has ever known. Terrorists commit unspeakable acts of brutality against innocent civilians—and post films of their atrocities on the Internet. Nations continue to develop their expertise in nuclear proficiency—ostensibly for peaceful purposes, but who can be sure? World leaders sitting on the Security Council of the United Nations cannot agree on strategies for peace. Yet Isaiah said, “The government will one day be upon the shoulders of the Prince of Peace, and of His government and peace there will be no end.”

Prince of Peace? In the darkest night of our soul, who among us has not wondered if peace is meant for everyone but ourselves? We know the Lord … we know our Bibles … we know what God has done in the past… we sing “Silent night, holy night… sleep in heavenly peace” at church. But then Christmas comes, and we long to experience the peace we believe in. We want our family to be at peace; we want our world to be at peace; we want our friends and loved ones to be at peace. And we wonder why we have to struggle to find it. Yet Isaiah said, “A Prince of Peace is coming with peace enough for the whole world and for you.”

We have to remember at Christmas, and every day, that there is a difference between personal peace and world peace. Jesus didn’t cast a cloak of peace over the world when He came, and we do not live in a world of peace today. But we will. As surely as Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus would come, born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), was fulfilled, so will his prophecy of the Prince of Peace be fulfilled. The day is coming when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:9). The days of world peace are coming.

But the day of personal peace is here now! Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives…. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). That is the peace Scrooge lacked, but it is the peace we can have by faith in Jesus Christ.

If you lack personal peace this Christmas season, you don’t have to do what Scrooge did to find it. Of course, it’s good to be kind and generous to others, but that is not the path to peace. The path of peace is the path that leads to the Prince of Peace. Just as room had to be made for Jesus in a stable at the first Christmas, so you may have to make room anew—or perhaps for the very first time—in your heart for Him this Christmas. May His peace be your peace this Christmas season—and all the year long.

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Carol Medley
3:35

Carol Medley

SMCC Choir and Orchestra with children sing carols

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“Reaching”
2:48

“Reaching”

The Gaither Vocal Band

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Part 3 – “The Christ of Christmas Present”

Part 3 – “The Christ of Christmas Present”

Wonderful Counselor!

It was Christmas Eve, and Ebenezer Scrooge was huddled in his cold room, dressed in gown and slippers, eating a miserable supper of gruel over a low fire. Around his fireplace were Dutch tiles picturing scenes from the Bible, but his soul was too darkened to see them. He was unaware of the Christmas celebrations taking place in homes and churches just a short radius from his flat.

Few people are as miserly as Ebenezer Scrooge, but many are as miserable during the holidays. They desperately need the Christ of Christmas Present. The very things that make the holidays pleasant to some make it painful for others. Psychologists tell us that the onset of the holidays is a major trigger for clinical depression in numbers of people.

Perhaps you’re spending the holidays alone this year, and the memories of previous years are leaving you empty and sad. Perhaps your loved ones are far from home, perhaps overseas in harm’s way—or maybe you’re the one unable to be home this year.

Perhaps you’ve lost a dear one recently, and the empty chair at the table is almost more than you can bear.

Some people suffer pangs of depression because they don’t have money to buy gifts. For others, the shortened days lead to depression. Less sunlight. Less outdoors. Less exercise.

If you’re dreading Christmas this year, I have one word for you—Immanuel!

This is one of our Lord’s nativity names. In Matthew 1:23, the angel said to Joseph, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’”

While we often need human friends and counselors to help us through the holidays, we also need the Wonderful Counselor who abides with us day and night. We need the Comforter who never leaves us or forsakes us. If you’re struggling with the blues this season, I recommend a hearty session with the Wonderful Counselor. Psalm 16:7–9 says, “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; my heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.”

How can we experience the counseling ministry of Immanuel, our ever–present Savior? How can we tap into His encouragement this Christmas?

Verbalize

First, verbalize your feelings to Him. It helps to pick up the phone and share our moods and emotions with a trusted friend or family member. There’s an old saying that “thoughts disentangle passing o’er the lip.” But sometimes we ventilate our feelings to a human friend when we should first tell our Lord all about it. His is the ever–available ear. His is the ever–understanding heart. He is the ever–sympathizing Savior. In prayer we consciously draw near to Him and enter His presence in a special way.

Beware, however, of falling into prayers of self–pity. We can do more harm than good when we unabatedly keep saying, “Lord, you know how lonely I am, how pitiful I am, how hard this is, how sad I feel. I’m so isolated. Woe is me, and alas!” While it’s important to pray honestly, it’s also important to offer a prayer of faith. “Lord, I feel discouraged today, but I’m here to claim one of Your promises. With Your help, I’ll stand on Your Word.”

Scrutinize

That leads to my second suggestion: Scrutinize the Scriptures. If Jesus Christ is our Wonderful Counselor, how does He dispense His counsel to us? One way is through His Word. Psalm 119:24 says, “Your testimonies also are my . . . counselors.”

Samuel Logan Brengle, a Salvation Army giant of a former day, wrote, “A portion of the Bible ought to be read carefully and prayerfully and lovingly every day. Just as a fire needs fresh fuel, and the body needs new supplies of food every day, so the soul that would be strong and holy needs something fresh from the Bible each day.”

Perhaps you should spend this Christmas pouring over the Gospel accounts of the birth of the Lord Jesus. Ask God to show you something new there, some truth you’ve never seen before. Sometimes the greatest lessons come from the most familiar Scriptures while the Holy Spirit helps us read them as though we’re seeing them again for the first time.

Memorize

When God gives you a verse to sustain you through the holidays, memorize it. Let it seep into your conscious and subconscious thoughts. Meditate on it as you go to sleep at night; and when Satan whispers discouraging thoughts in your ear, repel them with the power of memorized Scripture. As God’s Word soaks into our heart, it heals our mind and renews our thoughts. As our mind is healed, our emotions become healthier, too. That’s the power of the Word of God!

Itemize

Next, itemize your blessings. Create a Christmas gratitude list, and add to it every day. You might want to keep it in your Bible or post it on your refrigerator. An Irish proverb says:

Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.

It takes self–discipline to do that. We need the Spirit’s help, for this involves choosing a positive attitude when our emotions are going negative. But because God is with us—Immanuel!—we can do it.

Visualize

Next, visualize the presence of the Lord Jesus in your house, room, or apartment. See Him sitting at the table with you or standing near as you begin or end the day. Remember that the Gospel of Matthew begins by telling us that His name is Immanuel, which means God with us. And it ends with the words: “‘Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:20).

Improvise

Finally, make a determined decision to be Christ’s ambassador this Christmas season, whatever your circumstances. Do something for Him. Tackle some little project for Jesus.

In his biography of Bob Pierce, Franklin Graham tells about a visit Pierce made to the Korean island of Kojedo. This was a prison island, but Dr. Pierce found hundreds of men rising before dawn each day in the bitter cold for prayers and hymns. When he asked how these services had gotten started, he was introduced to a humble little man known simply as Pastor Im.

Pastor Im had served the Lord in North Korea before being arrested by the Communists. When U.S. and U.N. forces crossed the 38th parallel and took the city of Pyongyang, Pastor Im was released and rushed homeward to his family. Unfortunately, he was mistaken by American forces for a Communist and captured again. Not knowing a word of English, he was thrown into prison on Kojedo Island.

At first, Pastor Im was desolate, and he could almost hear Satan whispering, “Where is your God? Why does He let you be so mistreated?”

But Pastor Im soon overcame self–pity, and he prayed, “Dear Lord Jesus, if You have let all this heartache come to me and my family, it must be because You have something for me to do. What can I do for You here on this prison island?”

It was the Christmas season, so Pastor Im gathered some other prisoners to sing carols. Standing on a wooden box, he led the men in singing about the Savior’s birth. Such gatherings were forbidden in the camp, and the American soldiers threatened to break up the gathering.

But the soldiers, serving far from home that Christmas, knew the tunes even if they didn’t recognize the Korean words: “Silent night, holy night; all is calm, all is bright.” While keeping their guns trained on the group, the soldiers let them continue singing, one carol after another. More and more prisoners joined the group until five hundred Korean POWs were standing in the cold, singing of our Lord’s birth.

From this beginning came a remarkable ministry, as Pastor Im won hundreds of prisoners to Christ. He held Bible studies in the camp, and over six thousand men finished the six–month course of daily study and graduated. All in all, at least six hundred of the prisoners went on to become preachers of the Gospel—all because of one man who didn’t give in to the Christmas blues.1

Our Lord Jesus is the Christ of Christmas Present, and He wants to deliver you from the Christmas blues, too. Claim His wonderful counsel and enjoy His comforting presence whatever your circumstances this Christmas.

1Franklin Graham and Jeanette Lockerbie, Bob Pierce: This One Thing I Do (Waco: Word Book Publishers, 1983), 121–125.

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Snowflake
“Changed by a Baby Boy”
4:30

“Changed by a Baby Boy”

The Gaither Vocal Band

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<em>Airship Genesis</em> Christmas Episode
18:45

Airship Genesis Christmas Episode

Airship Genesis Christmas Story!

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“Little Drummer Boy”
3:38

“Little Drummer Boy”

Voices of Lee

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Part 5 – “Tiny Tim”

Part 5 – “Tiny Tim”

God Bless Us Everyone!

Perhaps you’ll see Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on television this Christmas. Along with It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, Dickens’ time–tested tale is one of the most–watched Christmas feel–good movies—“feel–good” because of how it ends.

You’ve read about the self–centered Ebenezer Scrooge—a bitter, grouchy, stingy, introvert who took pleasure in nothing except the pursuit of money. He squeezed everything possible out of his lone employee, the humble Bob Cratchit, father of a crippled son, Tim. Cratchit worked all day as a bookkeeper for Scrooge, barely able to dot his i ’s and cross his t ’s in the winter because Scrooge would only allow enough coal in the grate to keep them from literally freezing. That was Scrooge at the beginning of the story.

But through his midnight encounters on Christmas Eve with the ghosts of his former partner, Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, Ebenezer Scrooge was a different man. Witness the change in the old miser when Bob Cratchit showed up for work on the day after Christmas:

“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I'll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal–scuttle before you dot another ‘i,’ Bob Cratchit.”

And it wasn’t just at his office that Scrooge changed.

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

That’s why A Christmas Carol is a feel–good movie in this world’s eyes—because Ebenezer Scrooge learned to laugh instead of scowl. Who could argue with that conclusion? Not I—the Word of God says that “a merry heart does good” (Proverbs 17:22).

But at the risk of being labeled a Scrooge myself, I want to tell you that there is an even better reason to be merry at Christmastime than getting a new lease on laughter. There is a reason that brings not just laughter but genuine joy, and not just joy at Christmas but joy from one Christmas to the next. And that reason is bound up in the reason for Christmas itself—the coming into the world of a babe who became the Savior of the world and the model for all humanity.

The Reason for the Season in 1 Timothy

You might not have turned to the little book of 1 Timothy to have your Christmas devotions, but you could have. A little verse tucked away there is one you should know—it summarizes in thirty–five words the “mystery of godliness” that we celebrate each Christmas (3:16):

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.

In this short verse are the most profound reasons for a Scrooge–like heart to become a heart overflowing with love and joy.

  • The mystery of godliness. Could anything be more mysterious than the God of the universe coming to earth as a baby, born to a humble Jewish couple? Could anything be more mysterious than the total transformation of a human life by placing faith in that Baby who grew up to die on the cross as a sacrifice for the sin of the world?
  • God was manifested in the flesh. Christmas is about one thing: God was born in the flesh and walked on the earth for 33 years as a human being. That fact alone is enough to send shockwaves of joy throughout the heart of humanity.
  • Justified by the Spirit. We know that Jesus was the Christ because “God anointed [Him] with the Holy Spirit and with power, [and He] went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). Hearts that truly have reason to celebrate are those who have been set free by God incarnate, born in a stable in Bethlehem.
  • Seen by angels. The same angels who announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the field are those who announced His resurrection (Matthew 28:6)—and were with Him at all points in between. Their attendance to Jesus’ mission is confirmed by their attendance to our successful participation in that mission as well (Hebrews 1:14).
  • Preached among the Gentiles. Most Christians in the world today are Gentiles—non–Jews. How much joy would we have if we were still “without Christ… aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12)? The first Christmas party was a Jewish event to which we Gentiles have been invited by the grace of God (Romans 11:16–18).
  • Believed on in the world. We do not celebrate Christmas alone because Christ’s mission to redeem a Bride for Himself is being fulfilled. We share the joy of the Incarnation of Christ at Christmas with multitudes of others who have believed on Him.
  • Received up in glory. Jesus was born in humility but “received up in glory” to heaven after His resurrection, from whence He will come again in glory to bring “peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14)

God Has Blessed Us, Every One!

Ebenezer Scrooge finally became a blessing instead of a blister in the lives of the Cratchit family, and thankfully so. But can you see how much more of a blessing there is in life than correcting one’s attitude toward others? A new birth… the presence of God’s Spirit… salvation… sanctification… eternal life—we have so much to be thankful for in Christ this Christmas season.

There is an analogy in A Christmas Carol that, while inadequate in the end, pictures at the physical level what Christmas provides for us at the spiritual level. Bob Cratchit’s son, Tim, was a crippled child who made his way about on crutches. All of life for him was a struggle, and Scrooge was overcome with guilt when he realized how he could have been helping the boy by providing a better income for his father. What happened to Tim in the end was not unlike what happened to Mephibosheth of old, the son of King David’s covenant friend, Jonathan. Mephibosheth was a crippled outcast who was invited to live in David’s palace when Jonathan died. Though he remained a cripple, he feasted at the king’s table and was promised provision for the rest of his life (2 Samuel 9).

Like Mephibosheth, tiny Tim Cratchit became the recipient of Scrooge’s blessings. And in a way that pales by example and comparison, we have become the recipient of God’s blessings in Christ, blessings we celebrate at Christmas.

The closing words of A Christmas Carol summarize the change in Scrooge, the blessings for Tim, and the ultimate source of every blessing for all who know Christ:

It was always said of [Scrooge], that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless us, every one!”

Have you learned to “keep Christmas well?” May it be truly said of us that we have—by celebrating the blessing of God that has come through the Christmas Christ Child.

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The “Twelve Days of Christmas” with Dwayne and Peanut
9:42

The “Twelve Days of Christmas” with Dwayne and Peanut

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Snowflake
Gus and Gladys are Back Again!
8:27

Gus and Gladys are Back Again!

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“Why the Shepherds”
28:20

“Why the Shepherds”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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Classic Couples
5:41

Classic Couples

Christmas Bloopers from the hilarious Couples from SOS Estates

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Christmas Humor

Christmas Humor

Christmas Mirth

“Thanks for the electric guitar you gave me for Christmas,” little Chris said to his uncle the first time he saw him after the holidays. “It’s the best present I ever got.”

“That’s great,” said his uncle. “Do you know how to play it?”

“Oh, I don’t play it,” the little fellow said. “My mom gives me a dollar a day not to play it during the day, and my dad gives me five dollars a week not to play it at night.”


What to Say About a Christmas Gift You Don’t Like:

  • Hey! There’s a gift!
  • Boy, if I had not recently shot up four sizes, that would’ve fit.
  • This is perfect for wearing around the basement.
  • To think—I got this the year I vowed to give all my gifts to charity.
  • I really don’t deserve this.

It was just a few days before Christmas. Two men who were neighbors decided to go sailing while their wives went Christmas shopping. While they were out in their sailboat, a storm blew up. The sea grew angry, and they had a hard time keeping the boat under control. As they maneuvered toward safe harbor, they hit a sandbar, and the boat grounded. They jumped over and tried to push with all their might, trying to get the boat afloat.

With his legs knee–deep in mud, the waves pounding him against the boat, the wind whipping his hair about wildly, and his heart pounding from the effort, one man said to the other (with a knowing grin on his face), “This sure beats Christmas shopping, doesn’t it?”


A woman returned home from a holiday shopping spree with her arms loaded with packages. Her husband met her at the door and said, “What did you buy? With prices as high as they are, I’ll bet you spent a fortune. I hate to think what happened to our nest egg.”

“I’ll tell you what happened to our nest egg,” his wife said defensively. “The old hen got tired of sitting on it.”


A couple heard the doorbell ring and went to open the door. Their neighbors explained their visit. “We’re saving postage by hand–delivering our Christmas cards this year and dropping in for a bit of lunch and a cup of coffee.”


A three–year–old once gave this reaction to her Christmas dinner: “I don’t like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate.”


Uses for Fruitcake:

  • Use as a doorstop
  • Use as a paper weight
  • Use as a boat anchor
  • Use as bricks in a fireplace
  • Put it in the back yard to feed the birds and squirrels
  • Use as a replacement for Duraflame log
  • Replace free weights when you work out

A four–year–old boy was asked to return thanks before Christmas dinner. The family members bowed their heads in expectation. He began his prayer, thanking God for all his friends, naming them one by one. Then he thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, Brother, Sister, Grandma, Grandpa, and all his aunts and uncles. Then he began to thank God for the food.

He gave thanks for the turkey, the dressing, the fruit salad, the cranberry sauce, the pies, the cakes, even the Cool Whip. Then he paused, and everyone waited… and waited. After a long silence, the young fellow looked up at his mother and asked, “If I thank God for the broccoli, won’t He know that I’m lying?”

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“Christmas Day”
3:54

“Christmas Day”

Michael Sanchez

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Snowflake
If Christ Had Not Come

If Christ Had Not Come

The Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.
1 Timothy 1:1

Christmas isn’t just an optional holiday on the calendar, but a foundational event that undergirds all we are and believe. We can but shudder when we realize that if Christ had not come, our Bibles would be untrue, for the story of the Incarnation fills both the Old and New Testaments.

If Christ had not come, our God would be unknown, for Christ is the image of the invisible God, the Word made flesh. He is Immanuel—God with us.

If Christ had not come, our sins would be unforgiven. The chief purpose for Christ’s birth in Bethlehem was to save us from our sins. His very name—Jesus—means “Jehovah Saves!” John the Baptist called Him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

If Christ had not come, our prayers would be unanswered. Hebrews 4:15–16 says because we have a High Priest, namely Jesus, we can approach the throne of grace with boldness.

If Christ had not come, our hope would be unfounded. We’d have no future, no life, no heaven, and no eternity. No reunions with our loved ones. Nothing beyond the grave.

But now, we praise God! Christmas is real, and Jesus Christ is our hope of glory.

The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable.
Ralph W. Sockman

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“Mary Did You Know?”
3:19

“Mary Did You Know?”

Michael Sanchez

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“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”
3:41

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

For He Himself is our peace.
Ephesians 2:14

During the harshest days of the Civil War, the eighteen–year–old son of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ran away from home and joined the army. Shortly afterward, Henry received news that Charley had been wounded, shot through the back.

For weeks Henry sat by his son’s bedside, slowly nursing Charley back to health.

On Christmas Day, December 25, 1863, Henry gave vent to his feelings in a plaintive carol that can only be understood against the backdrop of war. The poet said he felt like dropping his head in despair, but then he heard the Christmas bells. Their triumphant pealing reminded him that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.”

Sunday school children in Boston first sang “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” during that year’s Christmas celebration.

How wonderful that such a song should emerge from the bloody clouds of the “War Between the States.” How wonderful that heaven’s Christmas bells—the pealing of God’s love through Jesus Christ—can bring peace to our hearts today.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day their old familiar carols play… of peace on earth, good will to men.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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“Christmas Angels”
3:38

“Christmas Angels”

Children sing and celebrate Christ’s birth

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“We Three Kings”
3:19

“We Three Kings”

Living Nativity

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Snowflake
Buzz and Blanche
12:54

Buzz and Blanche

Two of our favorite people: Buzz and Blanche

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Classic Gus and Gladys “Gotta Get a Gift”
2:59

Classic Gus and Gladys “Gotta Get a Gift”

Gus and Gladys—go shopping

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“As With Gladness Men of Old”

“As With Gladness Men of Old”

A Christmas Devotional

The star…went before them.
Matthew 2:9

William Chatterton Dix, at age twenty–two, wrote two famous Christmas carols. Some historians think he wrote them on the same day, for both hymns were inspired by the same text. He was very ill at the time and confined to bed. As he pondered the story of the birth of Christ in Matthew 2:1–12, he began writing the carol, “As With Gladness Men of Old,”

As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold;
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright;
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.

It’s a prayer we can make our own this Christmas. Dix’s other famous carol is the pensive hymn that asks, “What Child is this who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?” The great answer: “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing.” This season, may we be led to Christ as clearly and wonderfully as the wise men of old. May we “haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.”

The King of kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him.
William Dix

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“Glorious Impossible”
4:24

“Glorious Impossible”

The Gaither Vocal Band

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Dan and Jan have a Bedazzled Christmas!
9:00

Dan and Jan have a Bedazzled Christmas!

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Snowflake
“Spirit of the Season”
2:30

“Spirit of the Season”

Celebrate the season with voices and instruments

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“How to Keep the Season Wonder–Filled”

“How to Keep the Season Wonder–Filled”

Keep the Wonder in Christmas

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship.

Recognize that tune? Does it remind you of Christmas? Put you in mind of the happiest time of the year?

No?

Well, did you know the composer who penned the great classic… well, the great television classic, “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island,” also wrote a popular Christmas song? He was George Wyle, born in New York City in 1916. In 1946, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked extensively on early radio and television programs like The Alan Young Show, The Dinah Shore Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, and The Andy Williams Show.

Wyle said, “America doesn’t want great music themes, just something it can remember,” and he gave us several songs to remember including “Gilligan’s Isle” and his popular toe–tapping song about the hap–happiest time of the year.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year; but remember—the word wonderful means full of wonder, which is exactly how we should feel when we consider the incredible entrance of God into human life in Bethlehem. After all, His very name is Wonderful, and the people of His day were amazed at every aspect of His life and ministry. Mark 9:15 says, “As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet Him” (NIV, emphasis added).

We should feel the same! Gypsy Smith, the old evangelist who sang and preached his way around the world, was once asked the secret of his vitality and vigor. He replied, “I have never lost the wonder.” G. K. Chesterton once said he had learned more about life by observing children in the nursery than he ever did by reflecting on the writings of philosophers. Jesus Himself suggested we be childlike—not childish in immaturity, but childlike in our sense of simple trust and wonder.

Fatigue Can Wipe out Our Wonder

One reason we’ve lost the wonder is that we’re too rushed to ponder the meaning of Christmas, and our fatigue overwhelms our sense of marvel. One woman said, “It’s not even Thanksgiving, and I’m already feeling Christmas fatigue. I see the lights and the decorations in store windows and think, ‘Oh, no, not again!’ Isn’t it possible just to skip it all?”

But notice these three little words in Isaiah 29:9, “Pause and wonder.”

We’ve got to find ways of pausing, of being still, or quieting our life and our heart. You might want to get out your calendar right now and make an appointment with yourself for two or three nights during the holidays in which you’ll accept no invitations, entertain no friends, and schedule no activities. You might even decide to “farm out the kids” one evening so you can be alone by the Christmas tree—just you and the Lord—reading Luke 2 and singing the great carols of Christmas as private solos to Him. I know it’s a radical idea!—but even Jesus needed to steal away by Himself from time to time.

And why not get to church early this Sunday? Too many people dash in after the first hymn or opening prayer; but what if you arrived early enough to sit quietly and prayerfully, to listen to the prelude, and to think through the carols you’ll be singing? Don’t you think it’d be good for your nerves?

And there’s one more thing. I know you’d like to find that perfect gift for everyone on your list; but maybe it’s better to give a twenty–dollar bill or a gift certificate—accompanied by a personal note of appreciation—if doing so will keep you from collapsing from fatigue. You can’t wonder if you’re weary, and it’s hard to be excited when you’re exhausted. This season, try our Lord’s advice: “Come… apart… and rest a while” (Mark 6:31, KJV).

Doubt Can Wipe out Our Wonder

Doubt and disbelief can also wipe out our wonder. One of the reasons the world has turned Christmas into a harried holiday instead of a hushed holy day is because of the skeptical secularism of our times.

Ravi Zacharias warns that when we reduce the universe to purely mechanistic or random terms, there inevitably follows an accompanying loss of childlike wonder; and that reduces all of life, for everything ultimately becomes chemical or molecular. That leads to a loss of gratitude, for there’s no one left to be grateful to. Thanksgiving Day becomes Turkey Day, and Christmas becomes a holiday rather than a holy day. This results in an avoidable slide into emptiness.

“I think particularly of our present generation,” says Zacharias, “which enjoys more sophisticated toys than ever before, yet each toy has a shorter thrill–span than the previous one.… When wonder ceases, boredom and emptiness begin to stalk existence.”1

There’s something very wise and wonderful about childlike faith. Missionary Rosalind Goforth told of a time in her younger days when she was walking with her aged father, a retired artist. It was early summer, and wild violets were in full bloom. “Father stopped and plucked a single violet,” said Rosalind. “He remained examining it for so long that I became impatient and said, ‘Father, dear, do come on.’ Gently he laid a restraining hand on mine as he said, almost in a tone of awe, ‘Child, just look at the exquisite beauty of this tiny flower—its color and delicate tracery! Oh, how wonderful it is!”

Then, as they started on, he exclaimed with deep feeling, as though speaking to himself, “What a wonderful artist God is!” It was a moment Rosalind never forgot, and it encouraged her to keep her own heart open to the beauties of God’s creation, to the incredible truths of His Word, and to the special days of His calendar.

How sad to miss the violets. How tragic to take God’s work for granted. How wrong to sit in church and yawn at the very truths for which our forefathers shed their blood and gave their lives.

Pride Can Wipe out Our Wonder

Self–centered pride can also dilute our feelings of awe toward our great Savior, and Christmas has become very materialistic and selfish for many people. But only by being Christ–centered can we be wonder–filled.

Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom told of an old monk who sang a carol every Christmas Eve for his brothers in the monastery and for visitors who would come from the village for the special service. His voice was rough, but he loved the Lord and sang from his heart. One year the director of the cloister said, “I’m sorry, Brother Don, we won’t need you this Christmas. We have a new monk with a beautiful voice.”

The new man did sing beautifully, and everyone was happy. But that night an angel came to the superior and said, “Why didn’t you have a Christmas Eve song?”

The superior was surprised. “We had a beautiful song,” he replied. “Didn’t you hear it?” The angel shook his head sadly. “It may have been inspiring to you, but we didn’t hear it in heaven.”

“You see,” Corrie explained, “the old monk with the raspy voice had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but the young monk was singing for his own benefit, not for that of the Lord.”2

Don’t think of what you’ll get out of Christmas this year. Think of others and think of Him! Share His love. When the shepherds received the angelic message that the Messiah had been born just a mile or so from where they were, they went with haste and found the Babe lying in a manger; and when they had seen Him, they spread the news. Luke 2:18 says: “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds” (NASB).

It’s still wonder–full news. This Christmas, don’t let fatigue, doubt, or pride steal the wonder from your heart. Take time to marvel at the miracle of the manger, to stand amazed in His presence, and to worship Him who alone makes it the most wonderful time of the year, the hap–hap–happiest season of all.

1Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994), 88.

2Adapted from Corrie ten Boom, In My Father’s House (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revel Company, 1976), 136–137

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“Silent Night”
3:48

“Silent Night”

Christopher Lesson

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“Joy”
2:54

“Joy”

Michael Sanchez

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“Joy to the World”
2:54

“Joy to the World”

Pacific Brass Quintet

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Snowflake
“The Forgotten Man of Christmas”
33:23

“The Forgotten Man of Christmas”

Dr. David Jeremiah

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Christmas Recipes for your Guests

Christmas Recipes for your Guests

Treat your guests to treats!

Easy Oatmeal Cookies for Kids to Make

Preheat oven to 350°F

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups oats
  • Dash of salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Mik the butter and brown sugar together, add the vanilla, and then the dry ingredients and mix well.

Take portions about the size of one tablespoon and roll into a ball. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press down lightly with a fork. Bake 8–10 minutes.

These easy–to–make cookies are delicious with milk, tea, or coffee!

Pumpkin French Toast Casserole

Can be made overnight and baked in the morning, or served as an evening dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 baguette of French bread or loaf of brioche bread, cubed
  • 2 cups half–and–half or milk
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 cup of pumpkin, puree
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Streusel:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup cold butter, diced
  • ½ cup flour
  • ⅓ cup pecans
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions:

Spray a 9” x 13” pan with cooking spray. Place the diced bread in the pan; set aside.

Cream the remaining ingredients together and pour over the bread; cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Streusel: Combine brown sugar, butter, flour, pecans and pumpkin spice in a small bowl. Mix into small pieces and sprinkle over the bread mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45–55 minutes until thoroughly cooked. Let cool before serving. Suggested toppings include whipped cream, syrup, butter, or powdered sugar.

Carrot Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups shredded carrots (do not pack in cups)
  • 1 ½ cups oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the carrots, oil, sugar, and eggs. Then add the remaining ingredients. Spray a jelly–roll pan with non–stick cooking spray with flour. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Cool. Frost with cream cheese frosting.

Frosting:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Beat all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy. Frost cake. Refrigerate before and after serving.

Serves 15

*If cooking in a 9” x 13” pan, cook for 35 minutes or until done. Cool and then frost.

Turkey or Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked, chopped (leftover?) turkey or 2-12 oz. cans of white chicken meat
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 green onion—finely chopped
  • ⅛ teaspoon curry
  • ⅛ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients above together. Season to taste.

When ready to serve, add nuts and the grapes* (or their substitute). Serve on rolls or croissants.

½ cup pecans or roasted sliced almonds (optional)

*½ cup quartered red grapes or ½ cup chopped apples or ½ cup dried cranberries

Easy Crunch Bars

Make this simple treat for guests or give as a Christmas gift.

Ingredients

  • 35 Saltine Crackers or 32 Club Crackers
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup semi–sweet, milk, or dark chocolate (choose your favorite) chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place crackers in a foil–lined 15” x 10” x 1” jelly roll pan.

In a saucepan, cook butter and sugar on medium high heat until the butter is completely melted and the mixture is blended. Bring to a boil; boil for three minutes without stirring. Spread over the crackers.

Bake 5 to 7 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Immediately sprinkle with chopped chocolate; let stand 5 minutes or until chocolate is soft, then spread evenly; sprinkle with nuts. Cool. Break into pieces.

Store in a decorative tin—ready to give as a gift or to share with your guests.

Chocolate Tart with Cookie Crust

Sugar Cookie Crust

(This is the perfect base for pies, fruit pizzas, and dessert bars. If you have difficulty making traditional pie crust—this crust is the answer.)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla until just combined.

Gradually add flour, baking powder, and salt.

Press into a greased dish and bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Note: You can use any cake, pie, tart or pizza dish for this crust. Just press to ¼” to ⅓” thick and use any remaining dough for cookies.

Let crust cool.

Easy Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

(This pudding can be served without the crust as a simple dessert by itself.)

Directions

Mix dry ingredients together. Place in a saucepan and gradually stir in two cups of milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. After it cools, add ½ teaspoon of vanilla and pour into the cooled crust. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve this delicious chocolate dessert with dollops of whipped cream.

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