“Christmas: Celebrate the Humble King” (Robert)

Image result for christmas humble king

Merry Christmas, TD!

On this Christmas Day, Robert shares an article he wrote for a local paper.  It’s an appropriate read for this special day.  Thanks, Robert!

Christmas: Celebrate the Humble King by Robert Chan

Last year in our home we celebrated our first Christmas together as a family of three. Our baby daughter had just turned four months old. She couldn’t do much except let out gas and look adorable, and yet her presence during that special season opened our eyes in a fresh way to the wonder of Christmas.

It wasn’t because the piece of real estate underneath our Christmas tree was much more crowded than usual; and, no, it wasn’t because our daughter received the most gifts out of anyone in our family. (She received toys and clothes that she probably won’t be able to wear or really enjoy until after this year’s Christmas celebration.) The fresh wonder came as we held in our arms a living reminder of the heart of this holy day. Beyond the lights, trees, songs, and scents—even beyond the shepherds, angels, and animals—the heart of Christmas was laid in a feeding trough two thousand years ago as a baby boy in Bethlehem.

Now this wasn’t what many expected when they were waiting for the fulfillment of God’s Word from the prophet Isaiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV) With those credentials, shouldn’t this king be born in the palace of the greatest existing empire? Instead, he was born in a feeding trough in a very small town of Israel, which in turn was a conquered nation under the rule of the Roman Empire. The all-powerful God did not send His Son to overwhelm the world with might and glory; instead He sent his Son in the weakest form of humanity: a baby. My wife and I could only catch our breath in wonder when we fed our daughter so that she would not starve, changed her so that she would not rot, and carefully bathed her so that she would not drown.  She was totally dependent on us; and it floored us to think of why someone who is used to having everyone dependent on him would willingly place himself in such a position.

The Bible tells us why God humbled himself to such a point: Jesus became human like us in order to stand in our place before God. We all have sinned against our Maker and no amount of sacrifice or penance we can make on our own would overrule the rightful justice we deserve. And so Jesus “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8) He took no shortcuts in living the life we could never live—from birth to death, Jesus lived in perfect obedience and with perfect love for God the Father. He used his human eyes to see needy; he used his feet to move toward the hurting; he used his hands to lift the lowly; and he used his lips to praise his Lord.

But his body was not formed only to do good in our place; it was also formed to be broken for our evil. “When Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.” (Hebrews 10:5) Jesus himself would be the perfect sacrifice. The hands that God the Father fashioned in the womb of Mary were made to be pierced. God made that heart knowing that it would stop beating for the salvation of many. He breathed air into those lungs so that they would one day collapse under the weight of Jesus’ body hanging on the cross. He wove that skin knowing it would be wrapped in grave cloths only to burst out from them in the triumphant defeat of death. Truly, “God so loved the world that He gave His Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This Christmas, take time to marvel at this humble King and the costly peace bought by the sacrifice of the Prince of Peace

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“Christ as One Shrouded in Mystery” (Judy)

Image result for christ shrouded in mystery

Hey TD!

Heading into Christmas, here’s a piece Judy has written for us to think upon as we fight to keep Christ in Christmas.  Thanks Judy!

Christ as One Shrouded in Mystery by Judy Wu

It is needless to describe how the Christ has been taken out of Christmas in this nation. What was once a sacred time where folk would count down in Advent to celebrate the coming of the Lord into humanity has been turned into explosions of lollipop red, glittery sparkles, and blasted commercialism in every direction. “Happy holidays” becomes more commonly proclaimed than “Merry Christmas.” But if Christ is not at the center of the holiday, then what is?

Aside from the ridiculousness of our ignorance comes another form of absurdity in its recognition. Frederick Buechner describes the Incarnation as “a kind of vast joke whereby the creator of the ends of the earth comes among us in diapers… Until we too have taken the idea of the God-man seriously enough to be scandalized by it, we have not taken it as seriously as it demands to be taken.” It is almost blasphemous to proclaim so boldly that the Lord of the infinite galaxies chose to lay in a foul-smelling, rank animal habitat in order to give a new definition to humanity. And yet we set up euphemus nativity scenes with a placidly smiling Jesus, a Jesus with a perfectly spherical halo around his head, a clean and glowing Jesus, when in reality, his birth was a literal physical manifestation of being born into a world terribly tarnished by sin. As Frederica Mathewes-Green writes “We grew up with the Jesus story, until we outgrew it.1

There is much mystery in the Incarnation, and the more knowledge acquired about Jesus and the drawing close of the relationship does not detract from the enigma, but rather adds to it. How could someone so great choose to be so small? How could someone so far above the confines of space and time want to reside in me? As we understand more about the vastness of God, the more mysterious the Incarnation becomes. And mystery is heaven’s soft whisper that this is not all that there is.

Let us never outgrow the Jesus story. It is our natural inclination to be familiar and therefore, lord over our surroundings. But with something so absurd yet beautiful, it is impossible to truly grow accustomed with it. Like a diamond, it reflects new colors at every turning of the facets. It is only until we reach the source of heaven’s beckonings that we will ever understand. But until then, may our numbness of the birth of baby Jesus be turned into mystery with our every drawing close to Him.

1 At the Corner of East and Now, Frederica Mathewes-Green

Christmas at the Care Centers!

Hey TD!
In preparation for our Voiceless for the Voiceless (V4V) campaign to provide significant help and ministry to orphaned children with disabilities in Show Hope’s care centers in China, I want to share with you an email TD received today that made me smile!  Each picture tells a story … His story.  Thanks for your faithful support in sponsoring these children each month.  – Arthur
Here’s the email:
Thank you for joining us as a Show Hope Care Center sponsor! You are helping to provide life-giving care to children like Aurora, Suzy, and Dondeena.
CARE_CENTER_LATEST_CENTER_UPDATE_PIC

This time of year, our Care Centers in China are full of so much Christmas cheer! We started the season off with caroling, and the kids loved all the singing, dancing, and guitar playing! The children at Maria’s Big House of Hope have also enjoyed making reindeer and Christmas tree crafts, and the kids in Zhengzhou have enjoyed dressing up in Santa hats and taking festive photos as they play with tinsel.

We are so grateful for your generosity over this past year, and for all of the precious children who received such amazing care as a result. The impact you have on their lives is immense, and we cannot thank you enough for your faithful support. May God’s richest blessings rest on you today and always.

Merry Christmas!

Show Hope

All I Want For Christmas …

Show Hope

Hey TD,

If I had to choose a “verse of the year” for me, it’s a no-brainer.  Hands down it’s James 1:27:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

This Christmas season has been a daily deluge of that for me and my family as we work through the extremely extensive adoption process.  Being buried in paperwork can sometimes obscure the vision of what it is we’re trying to do.

Perhaps that’s why I found myself tearing up in my car when I listened to “All I Want For Christmas” by 5-time Grammy Award winner, Steven Curtis Chapman, a couple of weeks ago.  It was a great reminder of why God gave His church the James 1:27 command and who it is we are to be helping in His Name.

I hope you’ll listen to the lyrics and begin praying for the orphaned children with special needs in China that we’ll be seeking to help during the upcoming Voiceless for the Voiceless (V4V) campaign that TD will be engaging in, in the near future.  Enjoy! – Arthur

 

A Way in a Manger

the manger

Hi TD,

Let’s be honest. In the midst of this busy and commercialized season, we can easily lose sight of the true meaning and weight of Christmas. Perhaps we know the Christmas story so well that it has grown somewhat stale to us, or we think that the miraculous birth of Jesus has very little to do with our present life and troubles. After all, the event happened thousands of years ago in a land far, far away.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I hope that reading this blog post by Vaneetha Rendall Risner can help us come to the Christmas story in Scripture with fresh eyes and enlarge our hearts to adore the Child born King who meets us in our trials and troubles today.

Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a freelance writer and regular contributor to DesiringGod.org, who is well acquainted with suffering, having experienced 21 surgeries by age 13, multiple miscarriages, the death of a child, unwanted divorce, just to name a few. The pain and disappointment she writes about in this particular post is about her diagnosis with post-polio syndrome, which involves increasing pain, weakness, and limitations in her body.

– Kathy

A WAY IN A MANGER

I chipped a friend’s china plate as I struggled to put it on the counter. My arms are failing and I can’t quite gauge what I can and cannot do. I wanted to help clean up, to make things easier, but instead I made things worse.

I spiraled downward after that, regretting going to her house in the first place. When I surrendered my life to Christ, I felt He was going to use me. But I expected to serve out of my strengths. Not my weaknesses.  It’s hard to serve when you feel inadequate.

In the midst of my disappointments, I started reading the Christmas story, trying to imagine how Mary felt.

For Mary, carrying the Son of God was costly. No one would have believed she was a virgin. Her premarital pregnancy was scandalous, bringing disgrace to everyone affected. Yet God had called her to this. He had entrusted her with carrying His precious Son who would reign over the house of Jacob forever.

Mary had been given an incredible honor. So she might have expected something notable to happen before Jesus’s birth. Earthly kings had fanfare associated with them. How much more the Son of God?

So Mary may have felt disheartened as she trudged, in the last stages of pregnancy, to Bethlehem, about eighty miles away.  With no one to help her but Joseph, her betrothed.  The Bible does not mention her even having the donkey we like to imagine her riding.

Where was Joseph’s family? They must have gone to Bethlehem for the census too, but they don’t appear to have accompanied the young couple. Were Mary and Joseph not welcome with the rest of his family? All we are told was that the couple went together with nowhere to sleep but a stable.

And as she was delivering Jesus, did Mary wonder why God had not intervened? Scripture does not record that this birth was anything other than ordinary. Messy, bloody, the way all babies are born. And then wrapped in swaddling cloths according to the custom.

And where to lay him? In such a familial society, surely most women would be surrounded by relatives, eager to rock a newborn baby. But Mary and Joseph were alone and exhausted. So where in a draughty stable of beasts do you lay your newborn infant?

They chose a manger. A crude feeding trough for animals. It was the best they could do under the circumstances.

I wonder what Mary thought as she placed Jesus in a manger. Was she hesitant to put him there? Did it feel safe? Did she and Joseph have to shoo the animals away as they came to the manger in search of food? Did seeing the manger highlight for her the desperation of her situation?As she watched her sleeping baby, did she wonder if this was really what God had planned?

And then the shepherds came. They told the young couple all that had happened. Angels proclaimed his birth and sang of God’s glory.

It must have thrilled Mary to hear the shepherds account. Though she and Joseph had been alone at his birth, heaven had been rejoicing. And the heavenly host had sent the shepherds to come and worship Jesus, confirmation that her sleeping baby was indeed the Son of God.

And how did the shepherds find them? How did they know it was the Savior?

The manger. The shepherds knew it was the Christ-child because of the manger. That was their sign from God. The angels had said, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

There might have been other babies born in Bethlehem that night. And they may have been wrapped in swaddling cloths. But no other child would have been laid in a manger.

This manger, this messy, dirty, smelly feeding trough, was the sign that God used to show the shepherds where the Savior lay.

Signs in the Bible were significant. Gideon’s sign was the wet fleece and dry ground and vice versa. Hezekiah’s sign was the shadow that went backward. And Ahaz’s sign was that a virgin would conceive. All of these were miraculous. Extraordinary. And unnatural.

And so as Mary put Jesus into the manger, it must have felt unnatural for her as well. No one would expect to find a baby in a manger. Let alone the Son of God. It was as remarkable as the other signs.

When the shepherds told Mary of their “sign,” it must have been an amazing confirmation for her. One that she treasured. The manger had been God-ordained all along.She hadn’t escaped God’s notice.

Perhaps Mary needed a sign just as much as the shepherds. To know that she was in God’s will. That God was still with her. That she was being used by God.

We all need that sign. We want confirmation. In our natural world, we think confirmation of our decisions is that things go well. They fall into place. They get tied up with a bow.

But what if the confirmation in the kingdom of God is that things get increasingly hard? The opposite of what we wanted? More humbling than we ever expected?

What if the confirmation is that God is with us in our desolate places? What if the confirmation is the manger? 

When our dreams and plans are falling apart, and our life feels humble and obscure when we were hoping for something prettier, maybe we are exactly where God wants us to be. Where He can use us most.

So as I mourn my weakness and disappointments, I remember the manger. My suffering is not glamorous. No one’s suffering is. It’s messy and painful and humbling. And yet God is glorified in it.

The manger highlights the way God uses our deepest pain, our humiliation, the things we wish were different, the despised and the lowly, to bring Him the greatest glory. God’s kingdom is upside down. The last shall be first, the weak shall be strong, and the foolish shall shame the wise.

And God incarnate will be laid in a manger.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!

Vaneetha Rendall Risner

 

Where God Was Homeless

Merry Christmas, TD!

I read this “Slice of Infinity” (RZIM’s daily readings) by Ravi and was nearly as convicted as he was, as I could see myself reacting the exact same way he did.  Perhaps you could too.  May this reading remind you of how to live not only on Christmas, but year round. – Arthur

Where God Was Homeless by Ravi Zacharias

Some years ago, we were spending Christmas in the home of my wife’s parents. It was not a happy day in the household. Much had gone wrong during the preceding weeks, and a weight of sadness hung over the home. Yet, in the midst of all that, my mother-in-law kept her routine habit of asking people who would likely have no place to go at Christmas to share Christmas dinner with us.

That year she invited a man who was, by everyone’s estimate, somewhat of an odd person, quite eccentric in his demeanor. Not much was known about him at the church except that he came regularly, sat alone, and left without much conversation. He obviously lived alone and was quite a sorry-looking, solitary figure. He was our Christmas guest.

Because of other happenings in the house (including one daughter being taken to the hospital for the birth of her first child), everything was in confusion. All of our emotions were on edge. It fell upon me, in turn, to entertain this gentleman. I must confess that I did not appreciate it. Owing to a heavy life of travel year-round, I have jealously guarded my Christmases as time to be with my family. This was not going to be such a privilege, and I was not happy. As I sat in the living room, entertaining him while others were busy, I thought to myself, “This is going to go down as one of the most miserable Christmases of my life.”

But somehow we got through the evening. He evidently loved the meal, the fire crackling in the background, the snow outside, the Christmas carols playing, and a rather weighty theological discussion in which he and I were engaged—at his instigation, I might add. He was a very well-read man and, as I found out, loved to grapple with heavy theological themes. I do too, but frankly, not during an evening that has been set aside to enjoy life’s quiet moments.

At the end of the night when he bade us all good-bye, he reached out and took the hand of each of us, one by one, and said, “Thank you for the best Christmas of my life. I will never forget it.” He walked out into the dark, snowy night, back into his solitary existence.

My heart sank in self-indictment at those tender words of his. I had to draw on every nerve in my being to keep from breaking down with tears. Just a few short years later, relatively young, and therefore to our surprise, he passed away. I have relived that Christmas many times in my memory. That year God taught me a lesson. A home can reflect and distribute the love of Christ.

The first time I walked through the noisy streets of Bethlehem and endured its smells, I gained a whole new sense of the difference between our Christmas carols, glamorizing the sweetness of the “little town of Bethlehem,” and the harsh reality of God becoming flesh and making a home among us. G.K. Chesterton captures the wonder of such a thought:

A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where he was homeless
Are you and I at home:
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.(1)

Jesus’s earthly address changes our own. Christ comes this Christmas, and shows us what it means to live.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

(1) G.K. Chesterton, “The House of Christmas,” from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1985), 304-5.

What Will You Give Jesus? Day 12

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me … A CHILD BORN TO SET THE WORLD FREE!!  On this twelfth and final day of our gift giving to Jesus, we have a poetic extravaganza to give to Jesus – four original poems crafted for Jesus’ heart and our blessing!  Thanks Eunice, Josh, Sam, and Abigail!  Enjoy and Merry Christmas, TD! – Arthur

Christmas Prose

by Eunice Im

Christmas is a season full of longing and expectation. For instance, the Christmas lights and other pleasant decorations induce a romantic feeling in air, which put us in ‘the mood.’ We look forward to time off from school and work, for Christmas morning when we get to open presents, and for that one time during the year when the radio plays Christmas music all day long (okay, some of us enjoy the music). With all the child-like anticipation building up, this season can turn the grumpiest of Scrooges into kind and generous men; it can also remind us of deeper hungers yet to be fulfilled. Gift exchanges may promote kindness and appreciation, but also stir within us a desire for this kindness to last throughout the year. The extra family gatherings warm our hearts, but also remind us of lost loved ones and relationships that need mending. Isn’t it funny how heightened expectations can and often does lead to a deeper sense of expectation? That’s probably the reason why this season is painful for so many – it’s a reminder of all the things yet to be fulfilled. Before we prematurely call Christmas a hoax, a fake, a huge trick, let’s remember Christmas in its true essence. On that historic night, many years ago, God met with us, not in a deceitful way (like the many advertisements that promise slimmer bodies and happier times but do not deliver on their promises), but He truly, humbly, genuinely met with us. He promised from ages past through prophets like Isaiah, and He came through. This Christmas, let’s celebrate how He began the process of fulfilling all those deeper longings for reconciliation, true kindness and eternal life. Let’s celebrate…and wait for He is not done yet.

 

Christmas Poem

by Joshua Hsu

The splendor and the grandeur that must have been there when the Son was born.

Well actually, I don’t remember that in the Bible mentioned on that Christmas morn.

He was born in a stable,

Humble to the lowest state.

He was the King of Kings

And yet he didn’t even grow up on an Emperor’s rich estate.

He came to die for sins that He never made

God loved us so, that He was sacrificed for condemned man that shouldn’t be saved

He bridged the gap, which was impossible for us to cross

As he hung there bleeding for us on the Cross

Amazing Grace, that’s what the Christmas story is.

In history, it’s His story of salvation and the love He gives

Don’t get me wrong, its not about us, Its all about Him

He is a jealous God, pointing us constantly to Him

He is the answer, but yet we don’t have the power to see

And maybe thats why it is so hard for us to believe

A revelation

I get it

Now I finally see

The Christmas story is the story of the loved sinners now redeemed.

On Christmas Day

 by Samantha Chen

On Christmas the sun shines bright

A single glint shines on a little girl’s eyes

She quickly awakens to the light,

Because Christmas day has finally come

She rushes fast down as if in flight

To find all the presents under the tree

But one particularly caught her sight

A single box wrapped in a bow

She quickly opens the box as if in rage,

Only to find a leather book inside

A single book with thousands of pages

Was what she least expect on Christmas day

Running up to her parent’s bed

She shows them her leather book

“It’s a gift for you,” They said

“And in it a greater gift lies”

“This book tells of a God who created,

Protected, and loved us a lot.

But because of the sin we committed

We were doom to a road to death”

“However because God love us so

He planned a gift that would given be to us

A gift we did not deserve but now we can hold

Was born on Christmas night”

“He was God’s only son named Jesus

And He lived a perfect sinless life

He performed miracles and healed weaknesses

And showed His Father’s love to many others”

“But that’s not only why God sent Him

He sent Him to us so that we may live

He sent Him to die for our sins,

Even though He lived a sinless life”

“This is the greatest gift given to us,

By a Great and Loving God”

With this they leave to clean up her paper mess

As the girl looks and wonders about the book

She eyes the book in a different way

As if it is a treasure to uphold

Because on this special day

She saw what Christmas was really about

The Twelve Days of Christmas

 by Abigail Suen

On the first day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the second day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the third day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the fourth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the fifth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the sixth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the seventh day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the eighth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the ninth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Nine home visitations,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the tenth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Ten Nativity plays,

Nine home visitations,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Eleven church services,

Ten Nativity plays,

Nine home visitations,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,

We gave to Jesus,

Twelve pious prayers,

Eleven church services,

Ten Nativity plays,

Nine home visitations,

Eight gospel tracks for neighbors,

Seven gifts for needy children,

Six meals for the poor,

Five green wreaths,

Four lovely cards,

Three cheerful carols,

Two offerings,

And our hearts, strength, minds, and souls.