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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Amish buggy traffic jam Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
We shared yesterday that we had our first snow of the season this last weekend and how we got behind some Amish horse and buggy traffic returning from church. Here's another photo we took as we waited our turn to pass them on the winding, country road.

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"He (Simeon) was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him" (Luke 2:25). "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4,5).

Coffee makerBrooksyne and I both enjoy fresh-brewed coffee, especially when we first get up in the morning. It's kind of an unwritten rule in our household, "The first one up makes the coffee." Then we busy ourselves for a few minutes until the pot is ready. One of the "wake-up" sounds in the early morning is the gurgling of coffee brewing when it's just about ready. It's also one of the more pleasant aromas that cheerfully awakens one's senses in the early morning when you're torn between starting your day and wishing you had a few more minutes to sleep. Even though it brews pretty fast I often use the "pause and serve" feature which allows you take an early cup even while it's still brewing!
The "pause and serve" feature of a coffee pot is designed for those who are impatient by nature.  We live in an instant age where many have a hard time waiting.  In fact one of the dominant characteristics of our age is impatience. Waiting can cause much stress and anxiety. Not all that long ago when ordering by mail it took 6 to 8 weeks for items to arrive.  Now we can receive an item the same day or next day after we order if we're willing to pay extra for the shipping. We can even track it's progress as it is shipped.

But today we want to examine one of the longest waiting periods of history where modern invention and the latest technology could not speed up the process nor provide the solution for humankind's deepest need.  It was not a material item but it was a spiritual deliverance intended not only for that generation but also for all generations that followed.

God had first promised the Messiah after Adam and Eve's transgression in the garden (Genesis 3:15).  Over the next several millenniums there was a growing number of Messianic prophecies that the Jewish people were given.  At the time of Christ's birth two elderly Jewish people are mentioned in Luke who had longed for the Messiah's coming.  Simeon had been "waiting for the consolation of Israel", and Anna "spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."  I wonder if their conversations were filled with anticipation and hope, similar to our conversations today, when we speak of Christ's second coming.

The apostle Paul does not refer to the Christmas story as recorded in Matthew and Luke. But in the second daily text the Apostle Paul is reflecting on the events of Christ's incarnation (birth).  His intriguing phrase, "when the fullness of the time came" describes that wonderful moment in space and time when God acted on our behalf in sending His Son to redeem a lost and very needy people.  The long wait was finally over.  The faith of devout people like Simeon and Anna and others like them were no longer conversations filled with the hopes of future fulfillment but it was now reality. 

And God still keeps His promises, for "God keeps every promise He makes" (Proverbs 30:5). He always will. We have the perspective of looking back and seeing the fulfillment of the greatest of God's promises.  This occurred after a long wait and in the fullness of time.  "When we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Galatians 4:3-5)

We come to a better understanding of this verse when we recognize that it's the fullness of God's time, not our own timing.  All of us are waiting for God's promises to be fulfilled in our lives.  The wait is very trying.  Many are living with an ongoing burden for spiritually wayward family members, others have a long-standing physical ailment in their lives or in someone they love. I consider several friends who wait for that job opening. Many of our dear brothers and sisters in Christ live in very oppressive conditions invisible to our view. Surely their wait is ongoing and severe. Each of us wait for that next great cosmic event when Jesus again keeps His last word to us when He declared, "Yes, I am coming soon" (Revelation 22:20).

God has fulfilled the biggest promise.  Let us wait with faith and assurance that "in His time" He will also take care of the varied and ever-changing needs we all deal with, for our God is faithful!

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, thank You for meeting our greatest need in the person of Jesus who was born when the time had fully come; born of a virgin conceived by the Holy Spirit.  We are a redeemed people because You gave Your only begotten Son so that we would not perish but have eternal life.  Just as Simeon and Anna awaited the first coming of the Messiah, we await the second coming of Christ's return when we will be caught up in the air and will forevermore reign in the eternal heavens.  Keep us watchful and faithful until that day of promise is fulfilled.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

Today we are showing several 
Amish horse and buggy photos.  Since moving to Lancaster Country almost nine years ago we have had many opportunities to befriend and learn about the Amish and other old order cultures. An interesting aspect related to today's message on waiting is their self-imposed restraints that slow the pace of life down, although they, like all of us, still deal with waiting and impatience!  The other night I sat at a dinner table with Elvin and Mary, who are in an old order Mennonite group that still travels by horse and buggy. It was interesting hearing their perspective about matters that touch all of us.

Amish buggy in snow Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Brooksyne took this photo with the beautiful country background. The buggy has no heat of course and they rely on heavy coats, packed bodies and blankets for warmth.

Getting in buggy Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Several years ago we took a horse and buggy ride with our Amish friends to the Longwood Manor assisted living center for a time of visiting the residents.  It's much harder fitting into the tight buggy than our large van and I really can't say that it was a very comfortable ride, but it was sure a neat experience!

Here's someone that videotaped a ride from inside a buggy on a winter day.

FYI: Here's a report about an Amish church service we attended last year, along with some photos.

Last week we wrote about the joy of the Lord being our strength. Ken Wish, a pastor friend from maine wrote: I was reminded about 2 months ago we had a new door installed at our church.  It is the one that most people use to enter our building and REALLY needed replacing. Once it got installed, the rubber seal at the bottom of the door was not broken and the door took a bit more effort to get open. In order to let people be aware of this I posted a sign on the door that reads:  "New door opens with difficulty.  Pull with the Joy of the Lord.  Nehemiah 8:10" 

I wrote back and told him that's a great way to get people into the Word!

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.)

"Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" Video
 This is a beautiful acapella version with a female lead accompanied by a choir.  My favorite line in the hymn is repeated which is a nice touch.

"By thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to Thy glorious throne!"

"What Child Is This?"  Video

"The Lord Has Been Kind"  Audio  This is another song from our musical "Hope Has Hands". It's a song written as though Anna and Simeon are singing it. 

"One Day"  Video  We both love this old hymn by J. Wibur Chapman. The tune is by Jeff Johnson and is different than we normally sing, but thankfully the powerful lyrics are not altered.  Although this is not specifically a Christmas song it begins that way.

Doris High has some nice photos of our first seasonal snow on her photo blog.

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?

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Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your parents?  
"The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents"

Looking for a very special Christmas gift for your children?
"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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