1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Version
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure.
by Sharon Jaynes
Meditation: “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” – Luke 7:47
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
The Christmas Ten Commandments
1. Thou shalt give thy heart to Christ. Let Him be at the top of thy Christmas list.
2. Thou shalt prepare thy soul for Christmas. Spend not so much on gifts that thy soul is forgotten.
3. Thou shalt not let Santa Claus replace Christ, thus robbing the day of its spiritual reality.
4. Thou shalt not burden the shop girl, the mailman, and the merchant with complaints and demands.
5. Thou shalt give thyself with thy gift. This will increase its value a hundred fold, and he who receiveth it shall treasure it forever.
6. Thou shalt not value gifts received by their cost. Even the least expensive may signify love, and that is more priceless than silver and gold.
7. Thou shalt not neglect the needy. Share thy blessings with many who will go hungry and cold unless thou are generous.
8. Thou shalt not neglect thy church. Its services highlight the true meaning of the season.
9. Thou shalt be as a little child. Not until thou has become in spirit as a little one art thou ready to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
10. Thou shall not forget to share your joy, peace and faith with those around you.
– Author Unknown
Meditation: But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matthew 6:33
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
Each December I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations: extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending.
Yet I still found myself exhausted, unable to fully appreciate the precious family moments, and, of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he’d been memorizing songs for his school’s Winter Pageant. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production.
Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher who assured me there would be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise. So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early and found a seat in the cafeteria. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats.
As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.
Because the public school system had stopped referring to the holiday as “Christmas” I didn’t expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment: songs about reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes, and good cheer. So when my son’s class rose to sing “Christmas Love” I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.
Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, who were adorned in fuzzy mittens and red sweaters, with bright stocking caps on their heads. Those in the front row, center stage, held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing “C is for Christmas” a child would hold up the letter “C.” Then, “H is for Happy,” and on and on, until each child holding his portion had presented the complete message, “Christmas Love.”
The performance was going smoothly until suddenly we noticed her: a small, quiet girl in the front row holding the letter “M” upside down. She was unaware that reversed, her letter “M” appeared as a “W.”
The audience of first- through sixth-graders snickered at this little one’s mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, and she stood tall, proudly holding her “W.”
Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together.
A hush came over the audience, and eyes began to widen.
In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos there was a purpose for our festivities.
When the last letter was held high, the message read clear:
“CHRISTWAS LOVE” (“CHRIST WAS LOVE”)
And I believe He still is.
– Author Unknown
Meditation: Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. – John 15:13
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
In September 1960, I woke up one morning with six hungry babies and just 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged from three months to seven years; their sister was two. Their Dad had never been much more than a presence they feared. Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway they would scramble to hide under their beds.
He did manage to leave $15 a week to buy groceries. Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings, but no food either. If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana, at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it.
I scrubbed the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best homemade dress. I loaded them into the rusty old 51 Chevy and drove off to find a job. The seven of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in our small town. No luck.
The kids stayed, crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince whoever would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything. I had to have a job.
Still no luck.
The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town, was an old Root Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to a truck stop. It was called the Big Wheel. An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of the window from time to time at all those kids.
She needed someone on the graveyard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 cents an hour and I could start that night. I raced home and called the teenager down the street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with her to come and sleep on my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrangement to her, so we made a deal.
That night, when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers, we all thanked God for finding Mommy a job. And so I started at the Big Wheel.
When I got home in the mornings, I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home with one dollar of my tip money-fully half of what I averaged every night.
As the weeks went by, heating bills added another strain to my meager wage.
The tires on the old Chevy had the consistency of penny balloons and began to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning before I could go home. One bleak fall morning, I dragged myself to the car to go home and found four tires in the back seat.
There was no note, no nothing, just those beautiful brand new tires. Had angels taken up residence in Indiana? I wondered. I made a deal with the owner of the local service station. In exchange for his mounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it took me a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to do the tires. I was now working six nights instead of five and it still wasn’t enough.
Christmas was coming and I knew there would be no money for toys for the kids. I found a can of red paint and started repairing and painting some old toys. Then I hid them in the basement so there would be something for Santa to deliver on Christmas morning. Clothes were a worry too. I was sewing patches on top of patches on the boys’ pants and soon they would be too far gone to repair.
On Christmas Eve, the usual customers were drinking coffee in the Big Wheel. These were the truckers, Les, Frank, and Jim, and a state trooper named Joe. A few musicians were hanging around after a gig at the Legion and were dropping nickels in the pinball machine. The regulars all just sat around and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then left to get home before the sun came up.
When it was time for me to go home at seven o’clock on Christmas morning, I hurried to the car. I was hoping the kids wouldn’t wake up before I managed to get home and get the presents from the basement and place them under the tree. (We had cut down a small cedar tree by the side of the road down by the dump.) It was still dark and I couldn’t see much, but there appeared to be some dark shadows in the car, or was that just a trick of the night?
Something certainly looked different, but it was hard to tell what. When I reached the car I peered warily into one of the side windows. Then my jaw dropped in amazement. My old battered Chevy was filled full to the top with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly opened the driver’s side door, scrambled inside and kneeled in the front facing the back seat.
Reaching back, I pulled off the lid of the top box. Inside was a whole case of little blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box: It was full of shirts to go with the jeans. Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes: There were candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries.
There was an enormous ham for baking, and canned vegetables and potatoes. There was pudding and Jell-O and cookies, pie filling and flour. There was a whole bag of laundry supplies and cleaning items. And there were five toy trucks and one beautiful little doll.
As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on the most amazing Christmas Day of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude. And I will never forget the joy on the faces of my little ones that precious morning.
Yes, there were angels in Indiana that long-ago December. And they all hung out at the Big Wheel truck stop.
— Author Unknown
Meditation: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; – Philippians 4:6
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
My husband and I had been happily (most of the time) married five years but hadn’t been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if he would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with all my heart and raise it with the word as my guide. God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son.
The next year God blessed us with another son.
The following year, he blessed us with yet another son.
The year after that we were blessed with a daughter.
My husband thought we’d been blessed right into poverty. We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old. I learned not to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, “If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella.”
I began reading a few verses of the Bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start. God had blessed me with four children and I didn’t want to disappoint him.
I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks.
I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom, although it took me nearly two hours to catch all twenty-three.
When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humour rather than the mess.
In spite of changing over twenty-five thousand diapers, never eating a hot meal and never sleeping for more than thirty minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children.
While I couldn’t keep my promise to be a perfect mother – I didn’t even come close – I did keep my promise to raise them in the Word of God. I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to “wash up” Jesus, too.
Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his “last wife.”
My proudest moment came during the children’s Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine.
My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, “We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.” But he was nervous and said “The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes.”
My four-year-old “Mary” said, “That’s not ‘wrinkled clothes,’ silly. That’s dirty, rotten clothes.”
A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing. I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, “Mama-mama.” Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.
My other son stepped forward wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger and announced, “We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts of gold, common sense and fur.”
The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation. “I’ve never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one,” the pastor laughed, wiping tears from his eyes. “For the rest of my life, I’ll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense and fur.”
“My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing,” I said as I dug through my purse for an aspirin.
By Linda C. Stafford
Meditation: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
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The man had just filled his car with gas; he was cold, wet, and ready to head for home. He opened his car door and bent down to climb inside.
He glanced in the direction of the frail voice to find a well-dressed, elderly
lady attempting to get his attention.
He closed the car door and walked towards her. “Can I help you, ma’am?”
The older woman explained that the gas pump was not working properly, and asked if he knew what she was doing wrong.
“These are new pumps and very touchy-even for me. I’ve found the easiest thing to do is forget locking them while I fill; they keep shutting off for some reason.”
“Oh my! I can’t keep pressure on that handle until my tank is full. My hands don’t have much strength in them anymore.” She cast her blue eyes to the ground in frustration.
“I’d be honored to fill your tank for you!” The man’s Texas accent was gentle and he gave her a little wink. “By the way, I love your British accent.”
“Yes, a British accent in Texas. People always notice!” She smiled. “We just came to the States a few years ago. That’s my husband in the car.” She paused for a moment, “He has Alzheimer’s now.”
“I’m so very sorry for both of you.” After a slight lull the gentleman continued. “Why don’t you get back in the car while I do this; the snow is picking up and you’re going to get wet.”
She was a lovely woman with snowy-white hair; her attire was prim and proper as one would expect from a Brit. “I’d rather visit if you don’t mind. Our son is out of town for Christmas; he’s with his wife’s family this year and I’m feeling a bit blue.”
A knot formed in the Texan’s throat and he hoped to change the subject. “Just what are the two of you doing out in this weather? I hope your drive home is a short one. You know these Texas drivers aren’t the best when it comes to snow and sleet,” he teased.
“We’re on our way home from a Christmas party. The medical center has one each year for the Alzheimer patients. They are rather like children’s parties and they have Santa visit. Oftentimes patients will have moments they recall things from their past. Some sing along to Christmas carols when they haven’t carried on an actual conversation in quite a long while.”
“Did anyone recognize Santa today?”
“Oh, yes, my husband recognized Santa and tried to steal his hat! He even said, ‘Ho, ho, ho-Merry Christmas.’ His recollection was rather brief but it was the highlight of my day.” She grinned.
The gas pump clicked off, the woman swiped her credit card to make payment, and turned to thank the man who had been willing to help her. The two were saying their farewells when the squeal of brakes, a thud, and breaking glass at the intersection caught their attention.
“Oh, my!” The lady whimpered with a distressed expression. “It’s getting so slick. I’ve got to hurry and get home.”
“Ma’am, I’d be honored to follow you in case you have problems.”
She hesitated momentarily and then appeared relieved, “Oh, I’d be so grateful. I can’t thank you enough. And by the way, my name is Margaret.” She reached out to shake hands with her new friend.
“Margaret, I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Ray.” He patted her hand gently before they released their grasp. “You just drive slowly; I’ll be right behind you.”
When Margaret pulled into her garage Ray stopped curbside. “I just want to be sure you get inside safely,” he shouted.
Margaret waved and asked him to wait for a moment then nodded and spoke to her neighbor who was hanging Christmas lights. She guided John into the house, quickly reappeared in the garage, and motioned for Ray to pull into the driveway.
She thanked Ray again and soon mentioned this being the first Christmas she and her husband had ever spent alone. Ray, always a soft touch for older folks, was happy to listen. She spoke fondly of traditions her family adhered to when she was a child in England and revealed an interesting glimpse into her past plus a taste of her cherished memories from across the pond.
“You know mistletoe is very traditional in England. My first “real” kiss was under the mistletoe when I was a teenager. Oh, what memories I have.” For a split second, Margaret looked like a young girl again.
Several minutes passed before Margaret began to shiver and they were forced to say farewell.
Christmas morn found Margaret peeking out her front door just as the sun crested the horizon. She stepped outside, instantly clasped her hands like a small child, and peered up and down the street. With not a soul in sight she began to examine the items discovered on her porch each one dredged up memories of years gone by in Merry Old England.
Just above her head hung an arrangement of mistletoe adorned with elegant lace; she touched it gently. Bedecked with Victorian ornaments, a small, lighted Christmas tree sat in the corner-beneath it was a homemade mincemeat pie wrapped securely and tied with golden ribbon. The card attached said only, “From: Santa.” Hanging from the doorknob a brilliant red Santa Claus hat with tag, “To: John.”
Margaret called to John; he slowly made his way and stepped outside. Nothing on the porch sparked his interest until Margaret placed the Santa hat in his hands. After staring at it and stroking the velvety softness, he plopped it onto his head. It sat askew but John’s face beamed as his voice rang out across the neighborhood, “Ho, ho, ho! Ho, ho, ho!”
Parked several houses away, a Secret Texas Santa sniffed and wiped at a lone tear, a happy tear. “Merry Christmas and God Bless.” He smiled and turned towards home.
©2007 Kathleene S. Baker
Mediation: I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives – Ecclesiastes 3:12
You will succeed in Jesus Name!
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