Dear Ladies: I prepared this devotion a few years ago. Feel free to use it.

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is here again… of Christmas. Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and friends, snow in the yard, and memories of the music on the radios and in the stores that we hear…but will it really seem like Christmas for everyone.

For some people this year will be a time of sorrow because they might have lost someone who was very dear to them. For others, this will be a miserable time because they don’t have money to buy gifts for their family. Yet for others, it will be a gloomy time for many sons and daughters who are serving in the military in a far-away place and wishing they were home.

If people only think that Christmas is gifts, lights, cards, snow, and memories, they will be sadly disillusioned and disappointed if they don’t experience those things.

Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Hundreds of years after Isaiah died, his prophecy was fulfilled through Mary and Joseph. Can you imagine Matthew’s excitement when he wrote, Matthew 1:22-23 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

The people who lived during Isaiah’s time and Matthew’s time experienced many of the same things we are experiencing today…political upheaval, natural disasters, and failed leadership. There are preachers and godly Christians still trying to tell people about a Messiah who will give them peace, but just like people who lived during the Old Testament and New Testament periods, people today rebel and don’t want God telling them what to do. Malachi 3:12-16

But the prophets faithfully proclaimed God’s words. Those who listened and believed were encouraged. They knew that no matter how bad things got, God had a plan. In the prophecies, they saw God’s sovereignty and His faithfulness. They understood that one day God would send a child to save them from their sins.

As we read the Bible today, it’s like we’re standing on the top of a mountain looking down at the past and the future of God’s people. We are able to see God’s plan unfolding right before our eyes.

1. Wars and rumors of wars. (Matthew 24:6,7) Many countries are building up massive arsenals of conventional and nuclear weapons. In addition to potential nuclear war, we have war we face every day with terrorists.

2. Famines, Pestilence, Earthquakes (Matthew 24:7,8) And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. Food supplies are low in many countries because of floods and droughts. Infectious diseases are spreading faster around the globe than ever before. Earthquakes are increasing everywhere.

3. Deceivers who claim to follow Jesus…” Mt. 24:4,5 At the end of the Church Age, many people will be teaching things that are not consistent with the Bible and will deceive many. Churches are falling away from sound Biblical teachings. The goal of most churches today is to increase church attendance. This is put ahead of the authority of the Bible. The Emerging Church has become so pervasive that most of them tolerate abortion (murder), fornication (premarital sex, adultery, and homosexuality) and almost any other violation of God’s law

4. People of Israel return to their land…Amos 9:13-15 The LORD tells His people … I will bring my people back to My land from other nations…they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards…they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them. (Ezekiel 37:21,22)

During the last 130 years Jews from 108 nations have migrated to the land of Israel. Israel has successfully defended itself against numerous Arab attacks. It has turned a desert into an agricultural success, and its technology industry exports cutting edge innovations. Today, Israel’s population is over 7 million. In 2018, it will celebrate its 70th anniversary…many of her Arab neighbors hate Israel and want to “wipe it her the map”.

5. Increased wickedness and love of pleasure. (Matthew 24:12) Today people are living primarily for themselves and their own happiness. The idea of denying themselves, taking up their crosses daily and following Jesus (Luke 9:23) is a foreign concept. What TV and movies show as “normal” has affected our values. Couples live together outside marriage. This leads to unwanted pregnancies and blood sacrifice (murder) of millions of innocent, helpless children by abortion.

6. Strong delusion…God will send a strong delusion and people will believe lies. (2 Th. 2:11)

The primary focus of the deception is through the media (the Prince of the Power of the Air) Deceptive ideas promoted on TV and movies keep people from believing the Gospel. The media lulls many people into a false sense of right and wrong.

7. One world government… Daniel 2:40. God will send a strong delusion. Most religions expect a savior or a man who will bring world peace, justice, and unity. Muslims are waiting for the Mahdi or the 12th Imam. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated that his mandate is to pave the way for the coming of this Islamic messiah. Buddhists are waiting for the Buddha of compassion, Maitreya, or a world teacher and unifier, the 5th and coming Buddha of the present era. Hindus are waiting for their completer and savior, Kalki, the name of Vishnu in his tenth and last avatar. According to the Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions, “The tenth and last avatar has not yet appeared.

But what will happen? A false prophet will emerge to assist the world ruler and claim to be their savior. (Revelation 13:11-15)

8. Technology will control the world… Revelation 13:16-18) Today, think how you react when you lose your debit or credit cards…you panic! People will be convinced that it will be much safer to receive an implantable RFID chip or some form of high tech tattoo on the right hand or forehead than carry around cards or cash.

Because we see these things happening, we know God’s truth, and we understand His plan for the future, we should make this season even more special. Here are a few ideas to make this season more special.

• Avoid making this season commercial, expensive, hectic, pressured, impersonal, and materialistic.

• Spend time making memories with your families. It is sad that today many old traditions have been replaced with moneymaking events. Years ago it was more important to play games and sing with their families than to take them to sporting events or shopping trips to decorated malls.

• Don’t think you have to make Christmas an elaborate and expensive production. The world wants you to think that if you spend more and do more, you will get more satisfaction.

A survey was taken by talking with children, parents, and child specialists and the survey revealed that children really three basic things for Christmas:

1. Relaxed and loving time with the family. The greatest need of all children at Christmas–just like at any time of the year–is the assurance that they are very much wanted and loved by their parents.
2. Balanced attitude toward gifts. Watch any child plow through a huge stack of gifts on Christmas morning, and then look he will look around the room…it this all? He acts as if he has lost his best friend. Why? Because all his focus has been on getting gifts.
3. An evenly paced holiday season. Today, the commercial interests pack up their special decorations and holiday music on December 26 because there is no more chance to sell. One mother found her daughter crying in the closet on Christmas Day–just after her daughter had opened all the gifts that she had requested. The mother asked her daughter, “What’s the matter?” Her little girl replied, “If this is all there is to Christmas, why did I have to wait so long?”

Here are a few ideas to help make your Christmas more relaxed and evenly-paced.

Hold off doing important family traditions until a week or so before Christmas. Dec 10: Do not get your Christmas music out until Dec. 10.
Dec 15: Put a wreath on your front door
Dec 20: Put up your tree
Dec 25: Save your favorite traditions for this day

Strong family traditions are important because they give children the opportunity to do something they enjoy year after year. Believe it or not, they give children great comfort and security. When everything is their lives seem disrupted by the holiday season–school is out, their parents are extra-busy, and everyday routines are not the same…children enjoy having well-defined traditions to hold on to. Traditions let them know exactly how the season will unfold and bring back memories of past Christmases. Here are a few ideas.

FAMILY TRADITIONS
1. First one out of bed puts on the Christmas music
2. Prepare the same holiday food your family really enjoys
3. Display your Christmas cards
4. Make your Christmas gifts
5. Play games, sing carols by candlelight, pray together, and just have fun!
6. Make a recording of each year activities. Have a child sing, play a song on the piano, or read a verse or quote a poem. Play recording back the next year.
7. Divide Christmas gifts by givers instead of receivers. One at a time each giver gets to take a gift to its receiver. This custom keeps the focus on giving instead of receiving.
8. Read Luke’s accounts of the Christmas story.
9. Request the name of a person in a nursing home without family or adopt a needy family.
10. On Jan 1 place your basket of Christmas cards on the table. Before or after each meal, a family member draws out a card and offers a prayer for that person or family. You could even drop a note to the family saying, “Thank you for your Christmas card. We read it today, March 6, and we prayed for you.
11. Be a witness to others by inviting adult friends and children’s friends to your home to share a December evening of dinner or dessert. Plan songs, games, and read Scripture. (To give others an example of Christ’s love and the atmosphere of love in your home)
12. Cut your own tree.
14. Hang Joy stockings during the month of December. Each family member puts his thoughts, prayers, and love notes in the “joy stockings”. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, pull the notes out and read them.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the wonder and beauty of Christ’s birth, I commit myself to the following:
1. To find people who are less fortunate than my immediate family and give to those who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways that presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

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