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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Scene along Skyline Drive in Virginia
A peaceful scene along the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This route, along with the Blue Ridge Parkway, runs along the Appalachian ridge and is beautiful and far less travelled than I-81 in the valley.  It's among our favorite drives. But of course these parkways are way, way slower to travel than the interstate!

"Little Crippled Lambs"

Please note: Yesterday I wanted to share two videos from our Christmas musical Sunday evening. But I had considerable difficulty uploading them to YouTube. I thought they would eventually work and provided links but they never uploaded and I had to cancel. Thus the links to the two songs in yesterday's email will not work. Sorry to those who tried. (Once I send the email to the list it can't be modified, although I can correct the other sites) Last night I managed to properly upload them to another service (Vimeo) and verified that these links do work! We post them below and welcome our readers to check them out. "O Holy Night" will surely put you in the Christmas mood, if you aren't already.

to this message on your audio player.

"On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'" (Mark 2:17). "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).

When I served local churches in a pastoral role Brooksyne would always prepare a story for the children during the Christmas Eve service. Since we started in ministry at a very young age, (Brooksyne was only 20 years old in our first country church), there are "kids" who heard her read who are now in their mid-forties who can still recall her reading these stories. It's a blessing that we have stayed connected to many of them.

The Crippled Lamb
Several times she read a book by Max Lucado on Christmas Eve called "The Crippled Lamb." And this became a favorite of Ester's as Brooksyne read it to her numerous times. She is a very expressive reader and we are sure there just may be some people reading this devotional who may recall her telling this story with all the little children sitting on the platform around her as she shared from a rocking chair. We would have the lights down low and many candles lit all through the sanctuary. My, how I enjoy Christmas Eve services!

"The Crippled Lamb" - Essence of the story: Joshua, the featured lamb, is crippled so the other animals leave him behind in the stable while they go out to find fresh grass to graze. His tears of disappointment and loneliness turn to joy, however, when he realizes that because of his difference, he is present when Jesus is born! From the classic art to the surprise ending, this tender story helps all children see that God has a very special place for them, including those whose lives are different than the norm.

The story reminds us that God has a special plan for each life in spite of whatever circumstance may "cripple" us. We may base the designation "crippled" on certain standards of what we perceive as normal and particularly apply it in a physical sense, but there is far more application. Some certainly have a lot more overcoming than others and there are many who bear a heavy load that I can only imagine.

As we consider the joy of this season our hearts go out to so many who are dealing with sadness for a variety of reasons. But in reality we are all sick and in need of the "Great Physician", the only One who can successfully heal all our soul's diseases.

Let us rejoice in the truth of the birth of God's Son, Jesus Christ, who came to seek and to save that which was lost. We are all crippled lambs, and regardless of whatever may "cripple" us or to what extent, God will redeem those who turn to Him and rely on His guidance, wisdom, and strength.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, without the shed blood of Your Son, Jesus, we are weighed down by the shackles of sin. It spreads as a disease from our hearts to our minds separating us from our Creator and making us a bond slave to Satan. Thank You for sending Jesus, who by His intense love and sacrificial death, freed us from the sin that ensnared us. He turned our mourning into dancing as He lifted our condemnation replacing it with eternal hope. Thank You for the Christ of Christmas who shines His light for all to see and offers everlasting freedom to all held captive by sin.  Amen.

Special Year-end appeal:

DonateWe want to thank all who have financially supported our ministry this past year. We realize there are many fine ministries and causes requesting support at this time but if the Lord would lead you we surely need and appreciate the financial support from our readers and listeners. We typically see a spike in giving at the end of the year for which we are most thankful. Our ministry labor is comprised of half our time to Daily Encouragement and the other half to our chaplaincy ministry to companies for which we receive a fee (of course this percentage of time varies week by week). Each of these ministries essentially is the same as a part-time job (20+ hours weekly) for each of us. Our goal for many years is that each phase would provide half of our ministry expenses and income. If you would like to make a donation to our ministry see here for more information or donate directly online through my chaplain account here. Thank you!

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Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

The first two videos below were taken at our church's Christmas musical Sunday evening. Ester's friend Stephen Meck did a great job as videographer using the iPhone 6s Plus.

"You Follow"  Video  Mount Pleasant Choir on Dec. 20, 2015
This was the song that prompted yesterday's message. We had a full house that night and the audio picked up some children's noise but that's the real world! Hopefully you will get the excellent message from this song including these words..."you follow with Yes! and Amen! with a heart that surrenders again and again." You'll enjoy the tie-in with "I Surrender All".

"O Holy Night"  Video  Mount Pleasant Choir and Congregation Dec. 20, 2015
After the musical was over Stephen Meck, who had videographed the "Breath of Heaven" musical, handed my camera back to me as Brooksyne led the choir and congregation in "O Holy Night". The voices of the choir and congregation blended beautifully. I was sitting at the front and didn't think to record till the final verse that begins, "Truly He taught us to love one another". This is the type of church singing I especially enjoy and I believe it will bless you.

"Gentle Shepherd"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band

"I Lay My Sins on Jesus"  Video  Lem LeRoy adaptation of an old hymn by Horatius Bonar
This is not necessarily a Christmas song but I came across it searching for music related to today's message.

The Story Of Christmas  Videos  These brief videos from Bible.com tell the Christmas Story.

Finally today:
Smokehouses for Seltzer's Lebanon Bologna
The other day we drove down an alley in Palmyra PA past the smokehouses for Seltzer's Lebanon Bologna. They had an exhaust vent that blew the smoke right into our van and it continues to emit that smoky, sweet aroma!

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.

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"  Video  Outstanding presentation with background story and touching photos (Artist not identified), but appears to be produced by a local church. This would be a powerful video to use in a Christmas Eve service.

"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 over the 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.   This year we dedicate this to my Aunt Mary, who happens to me my last surviving aunt or Uncle on either side. Her husband, my Uncle Don, passed away early this year.

Christmas Knowledge Test

We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down on this archived message)

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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 make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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