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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Scooters along Amish school
Scooters beside Amish one room schoolhouse.
The Children arrived early, practiced their parts for the Christmas program,
and now the guests arrive.

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"God Sent His Son"

"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 4:4,5).

I have a friend who works for a large supermarket chain. She told me that the employees of her store were instructed not to greet customers with "Merry Christmas" but rather "Happy Holidays".  Now I have heard of this politically correct dispute for years but I can hardly imagine corporate energy being expended on such foolishness in micromanaging how one person greets another! She pointed out the inconsistency since they play Christmas music (including sacred songs) and sell Christmas cards, including religiously themed cards and other items.

Several years ago we were sharing in a nursing home when we approached the room of a Jewish woman. I whispered to Brooksyne, "She might not want to hear the Christmas carols."  Brooksyne asserted that she would be fine since she regularly attends the hymn sings that Brooksyne leads in.  We went in and sang a sacred carol and she sang right along!  As we left singing "We wish you a Merry Christmas" she expressed her heartfelt appreciation that we had stopped by!  I suppose the new pc (politically correct) message had not yet reached our Jewish friend.

Here in the United States (and probably in many other countries) public Christmas expressions are increasingly seen as insensitive and unacceptable.  This is a relatively recent development brought on by the sensitivity police and those easily offended.  The incessant efforts of godless groups like the ACLU persistently seek to remove any hint of Christ from the public square and this is most pointedly seen at Christmas.

However there are those who still boldly express their view of the season. Along the main street in our town we have a large auto dealership with a lighted sign which states "Christ Is Born." Our entire front page weekly merchandiser newspaper featured Luke 1:14: "And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at His birth" along with the sketching of the nativity scene just above their greeting:  "Merry Christmas".

Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe observes, "In this day when pluralism is interpreted by most people to mean 'agree with everybody about everything and don't make waves,' Christians need to remember that they are different and must test everything by the Word of God. There are many religions, but there is still 'no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'" (Acts 4:12). That name, the Name above all names, is Jesus.

Today let's remember the heart of Christmas:  "God sent His Son."  This is the vital truth and the greatest source of joy and encouragement.  Jesus Christ is the greatest and most sacrificial gift given to all humankind!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily Prayer: Jesus, You are life's greatest Treasure as You emptied Yourself of equality with God and chose to be made in human likeness taking on the very nature of a servant. Thank You for coming to us and meeting our most critical need, the need of salvation.  May we not be timid or embarrassed to openly voice Your presence in the public square even as great hosts of angels proclaimed Your earthly arrival in Bethlehem. Your salvation message brings hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak, and release for those help captive in the ravages of sin's wasteland.  You did not descend to earth in order to conquer or enslave, but to draw the hearts of humankind to Yourself through the incredible sacrificial love that poured forth from Your body on the cross of Calvary.  What personal wondrous love is this!  Amen.

Here's an interesting perspective from a Jewish man:  I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu. If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Reflections From Yesterday

Amish school in Lancaster County PA
Apparently Amish school Christmas programs were held in many one room schools yesterday throughout Lancaster County. We passed this school on the way to the school program we were invited to attend. I am not sure what the tour bus is there for. The one we attended was as full as any building I would ever care to be in with the children and their families so I can't see where they would put people on a tour bus!!! We, along with four other non-Amish (English) guests,  had been invited.

Our Classroom Visit:  The particular Amish school we visited, where two of the children are friends of ours, had an extensive 100 minute program - many recitations from children of all ages, plays, skits, and music.  It was a rainy day so it was nice to sit next to a window since they have no electricity.  The school house has plenty of windows and was jam packed with the children's desks and backless, hard benches for guests.   I would estimate that there were about 100 people gathered in this small one room schoolhouse along with many, many babies - all being passed around and cooed by loving mothers, aunts, grandmothers, etc.  

What impressed us most was the number of hymns the children sang, many of them with five or more verses, and the 25 or so children from grades 1-8 who knew all the words and sang them with such robust that it sounded like a 100 voice choir.  With the exception of very small children there was hardly a peep as all eyes and ears were fastened on the small center platform where the children recited, acted, and sang. There was no need for microphones as all the children of all ages projected beautifully (the teacher must really have drilled in the need for speaking up.)  If a baby would not cease fussing Mom took the infant outside and cradled him or her under the porch roof (how's that for a comfortable nursery!)  Also, you didn't see kids or adults getting up to go the bathroom since outdoor toilets are not a cozy hangout for most.)  We made sure we took care of matters before we arrived as I'm sure others did as well.

It was a delightful time as we viewed the order of the classroom and the discipline of teaching children to memorize.  Many of them had multiple speaking parts in long plays, besides their individual recitations and the many songs - it's a long lost discipline that was much more common two generations ago in our public school system.  See here for reflections of another visit to this same schoolhouse along with more photos.

Amish buggy
Ester rode to the school in the buggy with our friends as we followed close behind.

Sam SmuckerAfterward we had a warm visit with a new friend, Sam Smucker, along with two of his children. Sam grew up Amish and left that particular faith group as an adult.  Besides being a businessman for over 50 years, Sam has been a very active Gideon, placing Bibles in the hands of those who could find answers to life's greatest questions through the written Word. Sam is a recent widower after 61 years of marriage, but he is doing very well with the strength of the Holy Spirit and the loving support of his family.Hannah, his wife who passed away on Dec. 10th, had an inspiring message inscribed on the wall that read; "Everyday holds a possibility for a miracle."  Sam and his family assured us that Hannah not only believed that quote but lived by it.

Bill Hoke Memorial:  Late yesterday afternoon we attended the Memorial service for our friend Bill Hoke. He was one of my (Stephen's) first friends in Lancaster County whom I met in 2001 shortly after moving here. He was a great friend to many and a very caring brother in the Lord. I knew many at the sevice and most of them due to my association with Bill. He was a great connector.

We passed the headquarters for New Holland farm equipment
who apparently hired Santa as a frontload operator!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Immanuel"  Video  Charles Billingsley

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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.

"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).

Are 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. This Christmas many of our readers will be shopping for gifts that have spiritual and lasting value as well as a means of witness and encouraging others.

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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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