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Monday, December 7, 2009

Meadow View Road farm Lancaster County Pennsylvania
This weekend we had our first snow of the season and passed this beautiful farm scene on Meadow View Road on the way to our church service yesterday morning.

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"Hope Has Hands"

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

We enjoyed an evening with my niece, Gretchen and her husband Greg, on Friday.  They are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first baby due in January.  They already know that she's a girl and they've named her Grace.  They likely spend a great deal of time pondering what their little girl will look like, what her character traits might be, and how she will impact their lives.  Any expectant parent contemplates such thoughts over the nine months before the arrival of their little one.

Just thinking about baby Grace brings to mind the musical our choir is presenting this next weekend.  It's titled "Hope Has Hands" and presents the Christmas story through the eyes of Simeon and Anna. Their hope for deliverance was finally fulfilled in the person of Jesus, through His miraculous virgin birth – One who would bring hope, freedom, and salvation.

Though I've often considered the Christmas story through the viewpoint of Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds and other Christmas characters I've given less thought to Anna and Simeon – the way they might have viewed the incarnate birth of the Christ child. Over the next several days I expect to study these Bible characters and share some reflection through daily encouragement.

It's interesting to me how powerful phrases of well-known Christmas songs can tell the Gospel story in very few words. Consider the familiar stanza: "veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity, clothed as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel."  These five phrases from the second verse of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" very effectively summarizes scores of Bible verses written throughout the Scriptures.

John, the last living of the twelve disciples, wrote his gospel late in the first century.  He had been among Christ's closest disciples and friends.  He had heard the wonderful teachings and witnessed the great miracles. He had seen Christ die on the cross and had fellowship with the risen Lord.  He had been there when Christ ascended back to the Father.  And now for sixty years he had been obeying the great commission before putting his account down in writing for subsequent generations to read.

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."  This phrase sums up John's Christmas story.  Up to this point in his gospel John has not used the proper name "Jesus Christ" and does not do so until the seventeenth verse, after which he never again uses the phrase "the Word" in reference to Jesus.  That first Christmas the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  That's the heart of the Christmas story.

"And we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father." John was one of the extremely tiny fraction of the human race who saw His glory with his own eyes. He was among the population living at that time in the region where Jesus lived who had the opportunity to see Jesus. He was among the twelve disciples who were personally trained by Him. And he was among the inner circle of the three, along with Peter and James, who witnessed the Father's glory in special ways such as at the Transfiguration.

"Full of grace and truth."  The Greek word for "full" conveys "replete with and covered over".  A few verses later John personally testifies of this grace "And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16).  The NIV phrases it, "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another."

This season we join hundreds of millions of believers around the world reflecting on this wonderful truth over nineteen hundred years after John wrote his account.  We believe that the Word did become flesh.  As J.B. Phillips says, "The Christian faith is founded upon a well attested, sober fact of history; that quietly, but with deliberate purpose, God Himself has visited this little planet."  We remember and thank God for His glorious visit.  Praise God for His life-changing visit!  Join with me in reaffirming my decision to serve this great God who has indeed sent His Son, full of grace and truth.  

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Jesus, thank You for clothing Yourself in flesh and making Your home among Your own creation.  You are both God and Man, completely divine and completely human.  Rather than coming to us only through written precepts and the revelation of Your Word, You came to us through a Person's life, something we could tangibly see, physically grasp and personally identify with. You revealed the divine nature and perfect will of the Father through the Person of Jesus Christ. Grace flows through You in those whose lives are spiritually transformed and the lives of those who experience miracles and healings.  Thank You for emptying Yourself and taking the nature of a servant as You walked in truth and obedience, knowing that it would lead to death on the cross.  We praise You, Jesus, as You are exalted to the highest place.   We confess that You are Lord, to the glory of God the Father!  Amen.

Some more photos of our weekend experiences.

Plain People singing group 12/5/09
Saturday evening we attended a Christmas banquet at one of our companies and heard an inspiring musical presentation from a group of young people who belong to one of the conservative Mennonite groups in our area. They sang several Christmas songs acapella and the spiritual messages of the songs touched our hearts.

Winter scene, Mastersonville PA 12/6/09
This is the view yesterday morning from the front of our church.

Lawn Road, Lebanon County, PA 12/6/09
We drove over to Elizabethtown for lunch since we stayed at the church all day. We crossed a small ridge on Lawn Road and got a small sense of the tree-lined roads we were familiar with when we lived in northern PA
for many years.

Amish buggie in snow 12/6/09
On the way back to the church yesterday after lunch we followed a lot of Amish buggie traffic on E-town Road, at one point following four buggies in a minor, but pleasant traffic jam, as cars were backed up to pass! Brooksyne took this photo as one of the buggies turned onto Hereford Road.  The Amish were returning home from their church service which is held in one of their member's homes.

Final "Hope Has Hands" choir rehearsal 12/6/09
Sunday evening Brooksyne directed our combined Christmas choir for the final rehearsal of "Hope Has Hands". This weekend they will perform the musical at three locations.  They sounded great last night and I am so blessed to see people from all generations coming together to sing the praises of God.  Here's another song from the musical that many of you have heard that presents a powerful perspective.
"Mary Did You Know?"  Video

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem"  Video
  I chose this song because it's one of the songs in the musical, also sung by the Mennonite youth this last Saturday evening!  I don't recall ever hearing it before this year though I realize it's been sung for many years!

Resources for
Christmas Celebrations

It is our desire to share online resources that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. We will continue to post these resources through Christmas Day. As we find additional material that we believe will be a blessing we will add it to this list as well.

Christmas Memories  Here's a collection of Christmas memories sent in by daily encouragement readers several years ago, along with an opportunity to share your own story. 

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him"  

My First Christmas In Heaven  This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.  This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.  

Christmas Knowledge Test

have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).

re you Christmas shopping online?

Christianbook.comDaily Encouragement Net is an affiliate of Christianbook.com. Any orders placed to Christian Book Distributers using this link or any specific product link to a recommended resource in a daily encouragement message will help our Daily Encouragement ministry through a small commission on the sale. Thank you for considering using these links when purchasing online through CBD! Tip: If you are regular CBD customer consider bookmarking this link and using it whenever you shop.

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?  
Here's an idea!  "The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents"

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
Here's an idea!  "The Blessing"

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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