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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Manger scene

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"Scorning The Cradle"
"God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are so that no man may boast before God" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).  "Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone', and 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'" (1 Peter 2:7,8).

Last night we went to an area seasonal attraction in Hershey, PA called "Hershey Sweet Lights", a drive-through with over 600 lighted displays and over 2,000,000 lights.  It was an amazing display and surely a lot of work went into setting it up.  We didn't expect it to be a spiritual experience and we didn't go specifically for that reason.

But the closest any display came to having a Christian meaning was one called "Celebrating Diversity", which included various religious symbols from the season including a rather obscured Mary and Joseph. Most notably there was not a traditional manger scene to be found and when we asked at the gate we were told there was none, although the man could give no explanation. I actauuly got the impression that others had asked the same question.

As nice as the displays were we left with a somewhat empty feeling and reminder of the increasing attempts to marginalize Christ and essentially a scorning of the cradle.  A survey was given to us which Brooksyne filled out last night upon our arrival home. She complimented their efforts, but expressed disappointment that they chose only to focus on the fantasies of Christmas rather than the real meaning of the Christmas story.
The two most recognizable and enduring symbols of the Christian faith are the cradle and the cross. The cross gets attacked all through the year, I suppose, because it tends to be an expression of faith to Christians during every season.
However the cradle and manger scene are used primarily during this time when we commemorate Christ's birth and thus seems to be the focus of the offended, although it actually gets more bizarre in some places with Christmas trees, along with green and red lights being banned, though neither have any Scriptural significance whatsoever. Even the greeting "Merry Christmas" is offensive to a small minority of people who like to make it a controversial and divisive subject.  While we're on the subject of being non offensive during this holiday season don't send a card with a Scripture or a reference to your faith lest someone be upset!
We've all heard and probably repeated for many years the phrase, "Keep Christ in Christmas" so actually this marginalization has been going on for a long time. As a child I remember this phrase being quoted often in countering all the commercialization of the season, but now it's much more than that.  It really does seem to be increasing, including the many ways that are just plain silly. Many have been making this observation. In fact I have read articles using the phrase "Christianophobia"  and "Christophobia" in regard to this subject.
Well, we shouldn't be surprised. The apostle Peter draws a contrast in the second daily text. For those of us who believe, Christ is precious.  But for those who are disobedient and do not believe, He is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense."

Thus, as disheartening as the current attacks on Christ are, they should not surprise us. But let those of us who love Him indeed continue to declare His unsurpassed greatness without shame this holy season and everyday of the year!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Jesus, as we reflect upon the spiritual meaning of the season our hearts are warmed and filled with profound gratitude for Your choosing to dwell among us.  You are the precious treasure of Bethlehem who has provided salvation for all who call upon Your name. We pray for those who do not know the Prince of Peace, who day after day walk in indifference or anger and hostility.  We recognize that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  We pray that troubled hearts would find reconciliation with You and experience the peaceful exchange You provide when unbelievers lay down their hostile weapons of warfare and embrace the sword of the Spirit which is Your Holy Word. We ask these requests in Your name which is above every other name, Jesus. Amen.

Note: Observant readers may note that we didn't comment on the first Scripture text in the message itself. This was a passage that came to my my mind last night as I was considering the topic.  It is really food for thought.

Additional note: I am so thankful for those who continue to publicly proclaim Christ. Several years ago "The Family Circus" had the children observing a manger scene and then the proclamation: "The real star of Bethlehem isn't in the sky. He's in the manger."
Our local community Merchandiser paper has a front page full display ad proclaiming the real meaning of Christmas. And thankfully there are many, many other instances of public witness for Christ.  I hope you see them in your own community and that you let your light shine that Christ may be glorified through your life.

An interesting article on Christophobia or this one.

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  Shannon Wexelburg.  A friend of ours created this Youtube. Much of the narrative is personalized from her own overcoming of life's difficulties and heartaches in recent years.  It will touch your heart as you listen and read!

Hershey Sweet Lights

Of course one of the main symbols of Christmas is Santa Claus. My friend Jeremy made an interesting observation at the mall as an Amish family lined up for the children to see Santa!
Amsih family lining up to see Santa at mall

Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)

Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season. As we find additional material that we believe will be a blessing we will add it to this list as well.

"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 and love the tune.

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

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

We 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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