Gifts of Christmas – Immanuel

Photo by egil sjøholt from Pexels

And so, it has come – Christmas Eve! Wherever you are in the world and whatever you may be experiencing, on this eve we celebrate all the Gifts of Christmas because of a God who loved us so much that He took on human flesh and was born as a baby in a manger in a barn to show us who He is. He also came to experience what we experience and show us a way amid the challenges on the earth that faced Him and continue to face humankind to this present hour.

If you have followed this Christmas series that began December first, you know that we have looked at some of the gifts we may not think of first when the Christmas season of Advent comes. We routinely think of joy, peace, hope, and love and the story of the shepherds who were stunned when angels filled the night sky to announce the Christ had been born. We see the nativity scenes here and there or on our own mantels and recall the characters depicted there and of course the wise men that came later as they followed the star in the heavens. The story is rich with memories for many of us, but I sensed the Lord would have us look a bit deeper and consider the story behind that story in the series.

If you missed any of the Gifts of Christmas, you could go back and consider them when there is a quiet moment, and the Lord allows you to come closer to Him. We look at 10 gifts prior to this one today – sacrifice, anticipation, promise, wonder, assurance, rest, good news, light, revelation, and truth.

That, of course, is just a small sample of the gifts that came because Christ came and to choose Immanuel today may be obvious, but it reminds us that God is with us. No matter what we are facing at this moment, not matter what disappointment, what challenge, or what loss, He came to show us He is with us. No matter how dark the world or grim the headlines, He has not abandoned us. If we listen and stop long enough, we can sense Him in so many ways and places even in a pandemic, in the midst of tragedies of all kinds.

Some may see that as small comfort during hard painful times, but maybe they do not yet know the depth of God’s love or how He wanted us to be reunited with Him after the mistake in the Garden. Christmas was the beginning of that, and Easter sealed it for those who would believe. But He was not and is not finished yet because He promised before He ascended into heaven that He would come back again and take us with Him and there we would not experience pain or sorrow, hunger, or loneliness.

I hope something I was led to write has brought you a fresh glimpse of the God who came.

May God bless you and meet you this day and night and when you awaken on Christmas morning, may you find Him as the center of your heart.

From my heart to yours, Merry Christmas!

Photo by Pam Ecrement

Gifts of Christmas – Truth

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels


It should be pretty straightforward, right? But it never has been, and it seems to be even harder to clarify in the era we are living than ever before. Add to that the way some now speak of “my” truth, or “your” truth and it is little wonder we might be left wondering where truth lays.

Look backward over time and recorded history, it appears the issue of difficulty with truth has plagued humankind always. What happened? When did it begin to be such an issue?

If we look back far enough to the original story of human beings recorded in the Bible, we discover there did not seem to be an issue we can discern until the serpent suggested to Adam and Eve that God had been untruthful to them when He told them there was one tree in the Garden of Eden they were not to eat or touch. In his cunning deceptiveness, he planted doubt in God in the minds and hearts of Adam and Eve. So, they were seduced into doing what they had been forbidden to do.

When they were caught in the act by God, they struggled to tell the truth and instead gave a version that did not include personal responsibility on the part of either one of these two people. But even before the confrontation with God, they hid. Some part of them knew the truth they made the wrong choice.

Perhaps that is where the shift in the DNA of human persons shifted. We could be quick to shun personal responsibility and lie about something we did or at the very least, alter the exact truth of what we did. We tried to use the lie to hide so whoever discovered us would not think poorly of us. The DNA seemed to have duped us into believing we could be successful at denying personal responsibility and make a lie believable.

Story after story in the book of Genesis in the Bible we see the pattern of lying and hiding repeat itself. The deceitfulness is abundant everywhere even though the stories point to the folly and the consequences of it all. We could name the many characters from Jacob lying to his dad and pretending to be Esau to receive the blessing of Isaac to David lying about why he brought Bathsheba’s husband home from the war after sleeping with her. And it didn’t stop in the Old Testament accounts.

As lies multiplied and the world became more corrupt, hope faded for many and the linchpin we didn’t recognize at the outset was that we struggled with doubting God from way back at the beginning. So, we kept lying and hiding because we didn’t believe He would love us or truly forgive us for choices we made not just once but many times over. And the lying habit clings to us to the present day when we make a wrong choice.

But God always loved those He created and had a plan for a way back to Him, a way to know the truth about Him, and a way to stop hiding when we made those wrong choices. He knew He needed to show us who He was in a way we could comprehend, see, touch, and feel.

And that’s where Christmas entered the story, and we see another gift of Christmas – truth.

God wanted us to know and see the real truth and put to death the lie we had been told about Him, who He was, and what He was like.

Photo by Gamze Nur from Pexels

Walk through a trendy furniture story and as you enjoy meandering through the settings of various pieces of furniture, you will see lots of little extra touches to make it appear as it could in your own home. Sometimes it might be a basket of lemons on a shelf or table. They look lovely and your experience tells you that they are not real, but what would the proof be?

You would need to touch, smell, and open them to see if they tasted like a lemon tastes to prove they were either real lemons or an excellent fake. That’s how you could be sure of the truth of what it was you were looking at on the shelf in the basket or in the bowl.

Likewise, God wanted to show who He really was, is, and always will be so He put on human flesh and arrived on Christmas Eve as a baby born to a poor couple who only had a manger to lay Him in.

Now to believe that God could or would do such a thing seemed almost impossible to fathom even though prophets had foretold it would be so for many centuries before this happened. But as God (Jesus) grew into manhood and began to live and walk among all the people of the day, it became evident this was no ordinary man by anyone’s definition.

Even the disciples whom Jesus chose to be his closest companions and pass on the truth of Him had to grapple with what they saw, heard, touched, and felt where Jesus was concerned. A great example is recorded by John when Thomas was wrestling with one of the sermons about not being troubled that is recorded in John 14. Jesus was trying to comfort the disciples with the truth and in response to Thomas, what did He say?

“Jesus explained, “I am the Way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. No one comes next to the Father except through union with me. To know me is to know my Father too.”

John 14:6 (TPT)

Do you see? If we come to really know Him, not just about Him, we will know the truth of who He is, how He loves, and how much He desires us to be in union with Him as before that first wrong choice in the Garden of Eden. We would be human and still prone to that old carnal habit, but with Him in our lives and heart we could more easily own the truth of our poor choices and discover grace, forgiveness and the love that is everlasting.

Better than any gift you find wrapped beneath your tree – Gifts of Christmas – Truth! And just like all the other gifts I have been writing about in this series, it’s a gift you can receive and enjoy now – no need to wait until Christmas to discover all this gift offers.

We don’t know what the road or path ahead may have for any one of us, but if we open the gifts (all He gives us when we believe) He will be with us on that journey, and we will never be alone again, never need to hide again, and never doubt his love for us again.

Photo by Rob Blair

Gifts of Christmas – Revelation

In the beginning when God created humankind, we walked with Him in the Garden. We were made in his image and yet were not like Him. We were (and are) finite and He was (and is) infinite. He offered us everything He had made and allowed us the opportunity to name all the animals and yet the one thing He asked of us, we could not honor and in an instant everything changed. We were separated from Him in ways we could not fully fathom even though God was still there. If we had not really “gotten” Him before that day with the serpent, we really were unclear now.

We tried to sort it out, tried to be better, but we always failed. Even when God met Moses on the mountaintop and gave Him “the law” and how to live, we could not do it. Those first 10 became many others about how to do just about everything and ways to make atonement for when we sinned. Priests tried to hold us accountable, but they were human and fallible and often failed us. How could we ever sort it out?

As we multipiled over the earth, those of us believed to be God’s special chosen people from the seed of Abraham interacted with others who did not know Him even a little bit. These peoples had rulers over them they could see and appeal to who they called kings. Since we couldn’t see God, we asked for a king also and that first king, Saul, turned out to be a big disappointment. When David took over, he was a “man after God’s own heart,” and yet despite all he did well and his love of God, he couldn’t make a way for us to get reconnected with God either.

Photo by Alex Smith from Pexels

We were lost. We tried a lot of things like creating gods out of wood, stone, and precious metals and made up rituals to worship them. But that didn’t work. The harder we tried to reconnect what we once had with God, the farther we got from Him. Sometimes we gave up entirely and stopped looking. Some even cursed Him and said that He didn’t exist and the idea of God loving us was totally absurd.

And then a man came along who heard from God and was called a prophet. His name was Isaiah, and he wrote many things about what were to happen, some in his own time and some things that were not to happen for centuries. He wrote something unlike what we could have imagined would happen that would make it possible to finally know what God was like and would reveal himself to us in ways that had never occurred previously. In the seventh chapter of his long book that became a major part of the Bible we have today, he began to tell us.

“The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold—the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will name him God Among Us.”

Isaiah 7:14 (TPT)

Still, we wondered what that could mean or how could that possibly happen. But the words were passed down generation after generation and Isaiah’s many words continued to give us clues and were ultimately written down on scrolls that were preserved and protected and then in 1947, by an accident of a shepherd boy throwing a rock into a cave, we found the scrolls. Great scholars authenticated them and read them again and again in wonder.

“For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace

    there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

    and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

    with justice and righteousness

    from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

    will accomplish this.”

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

Another prophet, Micah, told us where this child would be born and in the hard times humankind knew and even though they continued to fail, the hope of this prophesied miracle remained in the hearts of those who believed.

We (all these centuries later) often miss this about the season we call Christmas. This coming was one of the great Gifts of Christmas – Revelation. God wanted us to know Him and reconnect with Him as we never had. So, He did the one thing He believed we would finally “get.” He became one of us. God put on flesh so we could see what He was like.

Photo by Ryutaro Tsukata from Pexels

Jesus was God in human flesh with fingers and toes, wants and needs, emotions and ideas, words and song. And many then (and now) still missed this glorious thing. They hoped for a king like the earthly kings they knew. How could a helpless infant be sent by God and still be God. How could that be?

What a mystery!

God is so beyond us and yet through this miracle of his choice to take on flesh, we now have a way to reconnect with Him. We can see if we choose to do so that his love and care for us is beyond what we could have known before this decision.

Isaiah clarified that for us as well, late in the book that would be named after him in the Bible:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

God loves us so much that He didn’t want us to miss Him. He wanted us to know Him, and He wanted to know what it meant to be human and so we had and have the season of Advent to honor that coming foretold by Isaiah. When we read the accounts of his birth and life in the gospels in the New Testament of the Bible, we must not forget that He came to reveal who He was to us. If we only see the story in a single dimension, we miss the grander story.

The Gifts of Christmas – Revelation! We are more often reminded of that during this season when we celebrate Advent and at Easter when we celebrate his resurrection, but He wants to reveal himself to us every day, any day, not just on these days when our attention is drawn to this gift. He also wants us to remember that the story, his story doesn’t end there.

Isaiah reminds us (again) to look beyond the manger and the cross to another Advent, a time when He come on the earth again (in a different form than the first time).

The wolf will live with the lamb,
    the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
    and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
    their young will lie down together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
    and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.

Isaiah 11:6-10 (NIV)

Our pastor reminded us in a recent message that if Isaiah was so much on target with pointing us to the Advent we celebrate now, should we not be anticipating the way he points to the second Advent yet to come.

Revelation – what a great gift of Christmas we can open at this very moment!

Photo by Jill Wellington from Pexels

Gifts of Christmas – Light

Photo by Max Goodrich from Pexels

Have you ever noticed that we seem to come into the world with a tendency to not like the dark? It isn’t uncommon for children to sometimes fear the dark and want a small light in their rooms at night for a period of time. Most will outgrow that and enjoy being outdoors at night catching fireflies or watching for shooting stars in the inky black sky. Some will revel in playing tag or other things in the dark and enjoy the night sounds that accompany darkness. Those born in the country will have a very different experience with darkness than those in the city or the suburbs where it can be difficult to view the night sky without light.

Darkness makes it hard for us to find our way (whether in our house or outside) or to see any possible danger that is hidden. That alone can cause many to feel less safe when it is dark. Those who have visited caves beneath the earth’s surface gain an even greater appreciation for light when the tour guide turns off the light he is using to guide you through the passages. You quickly discover that total darkness has a feel to it that seems eerie and especially so when you can hold your hand in front of your face and not be able to see it at all.

In the beginning there was only darkness and Genesis tells us when light was birthed:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

Genesis 1:1-5 (ESV)

Photo by Joonas kääriäinen from Pexels

Science tells us that fire was man’s first attempt to find a way to not only keep warm but also light his way in the darkness. When that happened will vary from article to article, but it was rudimentary at best as a way to provide warmth. protection, and a way to see in the shadowy darkness.

It would be a long time until mankind would discover a way to provide light by candles, lanterns, and ultimately the incandescent light most of us grew up taking for granted.

Light bulbs and lighting of all kinds developed after men like Thomas Edison and others around the world found a way to make lighting the night easier for us all and that opened the way for even more inventions and ways to allow us to live and move about more freely.

But did we forget that there were other types of darkness and a source greater than what man could create?

John, the disciple of Jesus, makes it plain to us in this passage:

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

1 John 1:5 (NIV)

Despite the reality that God is light and therefore nothing was hidden in or about Him, it seemed that from the beginning mankind had a hard time sorting out who God was and what He was like despite all He sought to show his creatures in a myriad of ways. The choices of his creation set in place a separation that made it even harder since mankind no longer connected with Him in the same way.

God wanted mankind to once again truly know Him as He is and was and ever will be, so He sent his only son, Jesus, in human form into the world so we could see, hear, touch, and understand Him. Little wonder that light would be a significant part of his arrival on earth.

Photo by Sami Anas from Pexels

A blaze of light in the night sky over the shepherds tending their flocks would precede the angels telling the shepherds that this Son of God had been born. And it was a star that would guide the wise men to where the child was.

Many passages in scripture speak of Jesus being light. John again gives this straightforward description in his gospel:

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NIV)

But earlier in his writing he gives us even more to grasp and know about Him and the hope He brought.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”

John 1:4-9 (NIV)

And so it was that one of the central Gifts of Christmas was and is light!

Those who believed in Him and still choose to believe in Him and follow Him live in the promise that Peter writes about:

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

He calls us to walk in the light from Him and allow his light through his Holy Spirit in us to be light today in the darkness of life on this earth as his representatives. No matter who you are or how little you may believe you have to offer, Jesus would remind you of the amount of light that even a small candle can give to show someone the way.

And light will fill eternity as Jesus spoke to John in Revelation:

“The city has no need for the sun or moon to shine, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”

Revelation 21:23 (TPT)

That light that entered the world on that dark night in Bethlehem that we celebrate as Christmas doesn’t need to wait to light our way or give us hope until the calendar says Christmas Day is here. The Christmas Gift of light is a gift to enjoy now if you believe and when you do believe, Jesus asks us to share that light with others who are lost in the darkness and the troubles of this world.

One of the greatest Gifts of Christmas – light!

Gifts of Christmas – Good News

Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

In this season we can all have wishes for so many good things and yet everywhere we turn the news of the day seems to be the exact opposite. The worldwide pandemic lingers on after two years and information about it keeps changing and leaving us uncertain. That uncertainty paralyzes some of us fearing to leave our homes very often while others throw caution to the wind, and no one knows who will succumb to this clever enemy or even why. But the “bad news” doesn’t stop there.

Just as you want to go shopping online or in the stores, we discover there are fewer items available due to the pandemic, supply chain issues, not enough employees and more. Additionally, inflation is causing every part of life to be more expensive, and we watch the gas prices soar and the grocery store search to keep their shelves stocked with what we usually would buy.

Natural disasters tear through the land and sea leaving destruction in their wake and hopes get dashed as people die, homes and businesses are destroyed, and things people worked hard to have are torn from their hands. Nations are at odds with one another in one place or another as they have been for centuries.

Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels

These are some of the things affecting nearly everyone, but that isn’t the end of the news that savages our hearts. Some are facing a new diagnosis with uncertain prognosis, others are facing their first Christmas without one that is dear to them, and some others are fighting for their lives in hospital beds.

If we can summon up the possibility of dreaming, it would be nice to be in a nice hotel somewhere ordering room service without a thought to the cost or a concern for anything at all.

Malaise and weariness can haunt our steps as we try to make this a good Christmas season despite all these things and more.

We seem to think this is unusual for so many things to be so difficult (so “bad”), but that is where we are mistaken. Over and over again this season has come during dark, difficult, and seemingly hopeless times century after century.

So how could Good News be one of the Gifts of Christmas?

On the night Christ was born the world was a dark, dangerous, and difficult place for people in that time. And when the angels came to announce to the poor lowly shepherds that He had been born and where to find Him, Luke tells us they said this:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

Luke 2:8-11 (NIV)

Good news? What had changed because a baby (the Christ) was born and lying in a manger in a stable in Bethlehem? Were the circumstances of the shepherds or Mary and Joseph different now? Had their economic provision improved, their status in the community advanced, or were they now free from the tax burden and tyranny of the Roman government of Caesar? No!

The Good News was that Immanuel, God with us, was now present to make Himself known to us and to know what it was like to be the humankind He had created back in the Garden. He came to tell us over and over again that this life was not the end and that life with Him in his Kingdom was what He was offering for any and all who would accept Him and believe.

 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

John 3:36 (ESV)

The Good News was that He loved us enough to show us unmistakably that He cared by laying aside his glory and leaving the perfection of heaven to be born in human form to a poor couple in an animal feeding trough in a barn. The Good News was that He was born to die to become the perfect sacrifice (something all those sacrifices people needed to bring to the Temple could not totally be) for all our weaknesses, failures, and rejection of Him so we could be saved and rejoined to Him by the Holy Spirit not only now but later in eternity.

And that Good News all these years later is still true. The pandemic cannot destroy it, uncertain economies cannot crush it, and death cannot rob us of it if we believe and accept it.

The headlines of the day and the circumstances of our daily lives may not offer us Good News, but that is not where we should expect to find it.

The Good News, the Gospel, is still there for us and nothing can diminish it.

Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels