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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Message

Merchandiser front page
Our Community Paper makes a strong witness for Christ and the true reason for the season. The entire front cover this year is a tender scene of Christ's birth in the stable along with
1 John 5:11

"Savior, Christ, Lord"

to this message on your audio player.

"A Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).  "In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord" (1 Peter 3:15).

Candlelight service Our family is preparing today for what we expect to be a spiritually meaningful Christmas Eve as we will gather with our church family for a Candlelight Communion service. Many of our readers have special plans this evening and on Christmas Day that will generally include a family gathering, a Christmas eve service, a special dinner or something out of the ordinary which marks this special Christmas eve. Young parents will be up late tonight wrapping gifts, inserting batteries into toys, stuffing stockings, putting together swing sets or other such things; many happy surprises for their youngsters to discover early on Christmas morning.

Tomorrow we will be joining Jesse and Anna Ruth Lapp and their six children for a Christmas meal in their Amish farmhouse. That should be different!

Over the years most believers have blended the traditions of the commercialized Christmas with the traditions of the Christian church which usually means we take on way more than we can handle. Then we have difficulty prioritizing the activities which truly reflects the true meaning of Christmas over that which others expect of us or expectations we put on ourselves during the Christmas celebration. There is always way too much "stuff" to do or too many obligations to fulfill. Because of this clamoring for our attention we must very purposefully choose to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and the significance of His birth on earth and in our lives. As a contemporary chorus states, "It's all about You, Jesus."

Try to imagine the Scripture text today being proclaimed not in the midst of impressive banquets, parties, fancy clothes, shopping, baking, traveling, packages, decorations, and all the other "fluff" of the season. Instead, sit back and imagine it to be a glorious message on an otherwise ordinary night. Today's first text is proclaimed after 400 years of prophetical silence. It is the very heart of the Christmas message: "A Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord." This brief but glorious, resounding message of the angel to the shepherds uses three titles to identify the infant born in Bethlehem:

Luke 2:111) "A Savior has been born to you." Prior to the birth of Jesus an angel assured Joseph concerning the mysterious events that were to accompany Mary's pregnancy and unborn child, "He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). What a gift our Savior is! This was the fulfillment of a prophecy made by Isaiah some 700 years earlier, "Behold, the virgin shall be with Child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name, Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us."

2) "He is Christ." Christ is the Greek word for Messiah. What these shepherds heard from the angel was the fulfillment of a long-awaited promise - their Messiah had come! Is it any wonder that they said to one another following this glorious announcement, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."

3) "The Lord." Even at His birth He is the Lord which means, "Master, Supreme Potentate". The tiny baby in the manger's Lordship extends not only over the universe that He created and now sustains, but over all those He redeems. Musically this is expressed in a line in the great Christmas hymn, "Christ, the everlasting Lord."

The Biblical call to faith includes a submission to His Lordship. Sadly many times the contemporary call to faith either ignores or downplays His Lordship. But Peter directed the early followers of Christ to, "set apart Christ as Lord" in their hearts and we must do the same.

This Christmas, let's resoundingly rejoice as we contemplate, acknowledge, and celebrate the birth of our Savior, Christ and Lord. When we do so it is only natural to eagerly submit our whole life to Him as our Lord.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, the angels' announcement to the shepherds is the same announcement heralded in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls who choose to accept Christ as their Lord, "A Savior has been born to you." We set Him apart in our hearts from the common, ordinary things of life, for He is the Master of not only the universe, but He chooses to reign in our lives. We're so grateful for His completed mission on earth where He was rocked in a holy cradle, ridiculed on a hostile cross and restored to His Heavenly throne. "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!" dwell in our hearts we pray.  Amen.

Porch of an Amish school 12/23/15
Yesterday afternoon we were among three other "English" (the term Amish use to refer to non-Amish) who attended a children's Christmas program at an Amish one room schoolhouse that has nearly 30 children, grades 1-8. This was our third time to attend the Children's school program and it is certainly not your "normal" school or church event, but more a reflection of the past when children were required to memorize poems, passages, skits, plays, and songs.

I, Brooksyne, still recall our Christmas concerts in my Elementary School where we memorized all the verses of "O Come All Ye Faithful", "Joy to the World", "We Three Kings" and other such sacred carols.

The Amish children's program was 90 minutes with 9 poems, seven lengthy songs and medleys, and seven plays, besides some other punchline type narratives. All spoken in English, but with their Pennsylvania Dutch accent, there is much we miss if the children speak quickly. According to Amish customs taking photos of the children's faces would not be protocol. But we thought we'd share some of the vibrant singing so we recorded some audio using the video function on our phones.

The first part of the video is singing by the children, discreetly recorded by Ester along with some exterior photos Stephen took as we approached and entered the school. Thankfully hats are removed which helps the many guests with viewing the short children on the platform. We were crowded in like sardines sitting on benches, even squeezed into the children's small desks - for the really slender, even two were seated at one desk (obviously that didn't include the three of us).

The second portion of the video was Stephen's attempt to record some audio by turning on the video as he placed the phone in his shirt pocket. However upon review he realized the camera lens was actually sticking out of his pocket and he unintentionally recorded some video as well! (However it's OK since no one can be identified as the view was from behind.) This very brief video gives viewers some sense of the interior of the small school and how jam packed we were. We really wish we could have shown you more since so many of our readers live in non-Amish communities and express continued interest in these folks and their old-fashioned ways! We will see our Amish "grandchildren" tomorrow and they will be delighted to hear their voices recorded.

Here's the short video (just over 1 minute) that will give you some sense of our experience yesterday!

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

"At The Feet Of Jesus"  Video  Another song from our musical Sunday night. Brooksyne said this was perhaps the choir's favorite. Neville (below left) is featured on the drums. Admittedly the timing was off a little toward the end due to some technical issues where the music was too soft for the choir to hear (using a sound track requires precise timing). But it was a joyous worship song nevertheless. 

"O Come All Ye Faithful"  Video  Casting Crowns

"How Many Kings"  Video  Downhere

Today, our friend David Penley posts a tremendous article titled "Home for Christmas – A Couple’s Bible Study"  Read here.  Think about his words, "Being at home for Christmas has become a major part of the holiday’s tradition. I’ve never heard anyone say: 'I want to be home for President’s Day.'"

Yesterday we shared a powerful video about a lesson from the eight note musical scale called the
"The Christmas Scale"  Video  Here are two other interesting videos by the same publisher

"A Social Media Christmas"  Video  Igniter Media  This video is an artistic take on how the story of the nativity might have read had a social network existed at the time of Jesus's birth. Follow this historical period as it unfolds as a digital narrative. This vignette is great for highlighting the truths and circumstances of our Savior's birth in a fresh, unique way.

"We Are Here"  Video 
Igniter Media  This video reminds us that amidst the usual holiday traditions and madness, to slow down and reflect upon the wonderful gift of Christ's birth!

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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