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Monday, December 28, 2015

Amish farm on foggy day 12/25/15
Farm scene in Lancaster County, PA

"This Thing"

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"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told" (Luke 2:15-20).

Our family custom on Christmas morning is to first go down to our family room where our stockings are hung on the mantel with care near our coal stove including stockings for our two dogs who get doggie treats. We then go up to our living room where our gifts are under the Christmas tree.

But before opening our gifts I read the Christmas story and we pray together, thanking God for the greatest gift as we seek to balance a spiritual perspective with the materialism that overwhelms the season. I read from Luke 2 and as I read the text I especially noted the phrase describing the shepherd's decision to go to Bethlehem, "Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." The two words
"this thing" stick out to me.

iPhone Most of our gifts are things, usually something of a materialistic nature. This year our biggest gifts (in expense) are late model smart phones we gave to each other, although it wasn't a surprise! We were slow to join the smart phone age and for the last couple of years have been using old iPhones Brooksyne's sister gave us. It's exciting to explore the new capabilities in the new phones including the amazing camera. In fact my recent renewed interest in video is related to this. Today we post a video we made of our Christmas Day visit with our Amish friends.

But any gift we receive regardless of its expense on this side does not even begin to compare with the greatest gift, which our daily text describes as "this thing".

Luke 2:15 These two bland, non-descriptive words in the text intrigue me: "This thing" designates the first human title of Christmas and the very first Christmas gift. I suppose after their encounter with the angel and then the angelic chorus the shepherds were at a loss for words and had trouble processing the magnitude of what they had just heard and were about to see. The shepherds, surely in a state of wonderment and perplexity, call the blessed event that would impact every generation afterwards for all eternity, "this thing". Thus the very first human designation for Christmas is "this thing"! *

Birth of Christ The shepherds were blessed to receive this unexpected announcement from extraordinary beings, yet they could not fully picture in their minds just what to expect or the right words to describe this historic event. God did not require statesmen to be out in the field with the shepherds and they could not eloquently describe this incredible moment in history.

Today let us thank God for "this thing" which the shepherds went to see. The holy Son of God came as a baby, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. That's the redeeming message on which we must focus and it is the greatest thing! Some are hesitant to witness to others about Christ for fear that their message might not be delivered as eloquently as a studied preacher or gifted speaker. Yes, the words we speak are important but the lives we live may have more meaning when we share of Christ's redeeming work in the hearts of His people.

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, we're so thankful for Jesus whose infant birth took place in a smelly stable and whose bed was a feeding trough padded with stubbly straw and hay. It was certainly not a welcome setting for the infant born King but we can now see the stable as a composite of this unwelcoming world toward King Jesus. We're so glad that He was willing to come to earth though He would be rejected by the vast majority from every generation. Yet we gratefully number among the many who receive Him as our personal Savior. We thank You that He came to deliver us from our fears and release us from our sins. Through Your own eternal Spirit rule in our hearts today and raise us to Your glorious throne on Your appointed day. In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

"This thing" These are the two words most versions use in this text. Here a list of all versions in Bible Gateway for Luke 2:15

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Amish home Christmas dinner table
Our Christmas Day in an Amish farmhouse. We managed to get 10 around the table (the baby played off to the side). Much of our delicious food was grown right on the farm in addition to the dishes Brooksyne contributed. Notice the candelabra over the table. Last year Brooksyne purchased this candelabra to hang below our umbrella that extends over our picnic table. When Anna Ruth mentioned that she would just love to have a light over her table where she could burn candles (since electricity is not an option) we had the perfect solution so the children gave it to her as a Mother's Day gift last year). She continues to be excited about her dining room lighting and told us to be sure to get it in the photo which we did.

Ester showing children their photos and videos on her phone
The children just love it when Ester takes their photos and video, particularly with special effects such as slow motion video.

Reading "The Little Crippled Lamb" to children
Ester and Brooksyne teamed up to read "The Crippled Lamb" to the children who heard it for the first time. Ester read the story while Brooksyne (barely visible in photo) showed the photos in her copy of the book while also providing various voices for the characters. A very nice discussion followed which included the children and adults regarding the lesson Lucado teaches through Joshua, the crippled lamb who was "different".

Cart ride with children 12/25/15
I got a brief ride on a cart pulled by their miniature horse.

There's no place like home
The older daughter gave this stencil to her mother for Christmas which they placed over the entryway as you leave the house.

This Amish family lives in Lancaster County PA. We are sensitive regarding close-up, identifiable still facial photos of the children due to privacy concerns as well as some religious beliefs the some Amish have regarding facial photos.

We befriended Jesse and Anna Ruth in 2003 shortly after they married and became our neighbors. Although they are no longer our neighbors we have maintained our friendship and see them regularly. They now have six children. Jesse is a dairy farmer.

Video of Amish Christmas visit (12/25/15)
Here's a video of our Christmas Day visit with our Amish friends which features photos, videos and the children singing a song from their school musical. Although I have tried making videos for years and periodically placed up a video on YouTube I am enjoying our new phone's video recording capabilities as well as working with hi-definition via Vimeo.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"The Greatest Thing"  Video  Mark Pendergrass  This song was copyrighted in 1977 and for many years was a popular chorus we sang in our churches. It came to mind when I considered today's message.

"Angels We Have Heard On High"  Video  Harvest Bible Chapel  This is the song from which we posted one of the verses at the end of our 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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