“One of the greatest accomplishments in this world would be that of lifting human hearts. Blessed are they who are kind and considerate of the feelings of other people.” — Richard L. Evans
The 1st Christmas
Merry Christmas from The Howe’s.
Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?
Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.
See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.
Words: Traditional French carol (Les Anges dans Nos Campagnes); translated from French to English by James Chadwick in Crown of Jesus, 1862.
It’s Christmas time – and you know, this time of year our minds are focused so much on the gifts we need to ‘buy’ for the ones we love. Well, in light of that may I share something that happened not too long ago?
I came home from work after a busy day. And I went upstairs and dropped my stuff – and then I noticed on my pillow a note, and it was written on that kind of paper, that unique kind of paper, that told me it came from my youngest daughter. I opened it up, and sure enough, it was a note from Shaina.
It said, “Dear Daddy, I miss you. I’m having fun here at school … Can I go to Santa’s secret shop. You’re gone too much. You are the best daddy in the whole world. Love, Shaina.”
Oh – oh, you talk about a payday – I loved it! I called her to me, knelt down on her level, and thanked her for the wonderful note. When I told her I loved her too, she threw her arms around my neck and just hugged me tight. It was a wonderful and a tender moment.
Now, a few days later I was with a group of teenagers.
We were chatting casually when, out of genuine curiosity, I asked them, “If you could have anything for Christmas and money was not a consideration, what would it be?”
Well, I have to confess here my shallowness. I expected them to start rambling off all these expensive toys that they would like to have. And to be honest, a few of them did mention some toys they’d like to have. But many, if not most of them, wanted such things as – their families home for the holidays; they wanted to spend time with their families and share experiences with their loved ones. I was surprised by that; I was impressed by that.
One young woman’s answer stood out in particular. She’s a quiet pretty young woman.
In response to the question, she said, “Well, I’d want some money for Christmas, and then I’d want a letter from my dad.”
Well, the ‘money’ answer I expected, but the ‘letter from dad’ – I was taken back by that, and I asked her why she would want that. I mean, I figured of all things that a teenager would want least from her parents, a sentimental letter would be that last thing.
Well, she explained that her father, at least once a year, writes her a letter in which he opens his heart, and tells her that he loves her. The letters have become a cherished tradition for her. In them, Dad bears his testimony of faith in the Lord, shares the experiences of his own life, and gives her guidance, and tells her what he expects from her.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“You mean to tell me, of all the things you could have, you would most want a letter from your dad?”
“Yes,” she said, and she meant it!
You know something? Maybe our loved ones really don’t want the gifts that come out of stores this year as much as they want the gifts that come out of the heart – the gifts of memories.
Now, as a related thought, it was recently explained to me what ‘W W J D’ meant. I had never heard that before. It means ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ Well, may I suggest something new for Christmas this year? How about ‘W.W.J.G.’? – ‘What Would Jesus Give?
A very Merry Christmas to you.
A special thanks to Glenn Rawson for sharing this great story with us.
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Centuries ago the nation of Israel turned and watched as Moses stretched forth his hand and the walls of the Red Sea collapsed and returned to their strength. In awe Israel saw the mighty hosts of Pharaoh’s army overthrown in the sea, never again to oppress them. Now, with the subsequent restoration of God’s holy law through Moses, and their miraculous deliverance by Joshua into the Promised Land, Israel was once more a nation of free people, free in body, free in conscience, and free in nationality. Is it any wonder that Israel was so filled with joy and gratitude that they lifted their voices in song, thanking and praising God with all the power of their delivered souls?
Ever after that and for the centuries that followed, feasts and celebrations were established among the Hebrews, times of remembrance where they would be grateful and remember how that by the power of God He had made them a peculiar people and nation.
However, in time Israel did come to forget. Not only did they forget the God who had delivered them, but they forgot and mocked the covenants and responsibilities they had assumed as His chosen people. Eventually they were scattered, destroyed, and oppressed once more.
Now my dear friends, it has been said that history repeats itself. Our season of feasting and celebration is upon us this week; it’s Thanksgiving. What a blessed people we are! By the power of God we are a prosperous and a free people. Praise be to God for the kindness of His Fatherhood, for the prayers He has answered, and for the privileges He has given us. May we rejoice now in our time. We are the greatest, wealthiest people ever in the history of this earth. Ought we not to thank the God who gave it? Oh, I hope our riches never come to canker our soul.
Further, thank God for the gift of His son; we have a free conscience. Thank God for the miracle of forgiveness and the power of redemption and resurrection. We are free. No tyrant can oppress our soul or destroy our peace unless we let him. Praise be to God for the assurance and presence of a Savior Who is always there, Who will not rest in His atoning endeavors until all of us have become celestial beings.
Thank God for truth, pure unadulterated ‘diamond truth’ that allows us to see and understand, and be anchored in place in a world that has become like a roaring blender of opinions and ideas. We are so blessed!
And thank God for America and her liberty. By the power of God and His guardian angels we are a free nation. There is so much more that is worth rejoicing of in America than is worth complaining of. Look around. I see this world we live in and I wonder: My children have never known starvation, many do; my children have never understood slavery and oppression, it’s [they are] foreign to them. They have never known the fear of tyrants, nor the despair of hopelessness and bondage. And yet there are people all over the earth who suffer so much. Why – why are we such a blessed people when so many suffer so much? I cannot help but think that America has the same responsibility as ancient Israel, to lift up the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. Oh, Heavenly Father, thank Thee for all of Thy bounty.
My dear friends, this Thanksgiving it is my prayer that our gratitude will overflow unto tears of humility and songs of rejoicing for the goodness of God. Oh to grace, how great a debtor; daily I’m constrained to be. Let thy goodness as a fetter bind my wandering heart to thee; prone to wander Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.
The other day something occurred to me that entirely changed my perspective on Christmas. It started with something a young friend of mine said. He said, “Christmas should mean everything the Savior means.” Now that’s a simple statement, but it has a profound meaning.
And then it occurred to me: If prayer is the hour of the day each day when we remember the Savior, and our church meetings is the hour of our weekly remembrance, well, then Christmas is the season of our yearly remembrance. Christmas is like a sacramental season in which we remember the Savior, and His love and sacrifice. So in that spirit, may I share this story?
As a young man, Jeff came from a childhood of affluence. For him, Christmas meant thousands of dollars worth of presents under the tree for the family. He loved to see Christmas’s like the one that he remembers where each child had fifteen presents under the tree.
Then, his life was turned upside down! When he was twelve, his parents divorced, and during that time, life became a struggle for survival. After three years, his mother remarried a man whose wealth was great, but – but not in money – in faith and love. Added to Jeff and his four siblings were eight of Jack’s children. Mom’s budget for their first Christmas was $130.00 – $10.00 for each of thirteen children.
Well, that was an adjustment. Jeff was angry. That was unreal only $10 worth of gifts? Ha, this was not a real Christmas!
And then, something happened again. On Christmas Eve, all the family loaded up in an old used bus to go caroling. One of their stops that night was a place called Paradise Ranch. As Jeff and his family were a model of having not, the Raymond’s were a model of having – private golf course, three private lakes with private fishing and boating. They had much. It was indeed a paradise!
Well, Jeff and his family’s joyous caroling interrupted the Raymond’s Christmas party. And so the Raymond’s and their guests came outside on the deck, and listened to the family’s caroling. But you know, no one can listen very long to a Christmas carol without joining in. Soon they were all singing. And then it wasn’t long before something as holy as Christmas itself descended upon that little gathering. Mrs. Raymond began to cry, and soon each of them was in tears.
As Jeff and his family began to sing “Silent Night, Holy Night,” Mrs. Raymond reached up and took down a very expensive wreath, and she hung it around Jeff’s neck.
A change came over that young man at that point that has lasted from that day to this. Christmas was no longer the price of the gifts. It was the spirit of love and giving. There was a dawn of redeeming grace within him.
Now, today, many years later, and [with] travels all over the world, Jeff and his family still have and still cherish that wreath. It has become a symbol of the love, and the sacrifice and the sharing that is Christmas.
May it be so with you, Merry Christmas!
Adapted from an experience by Jeffery Clark Bettinger. Compiled Glenn Rawson
November the 21st, 1621, Plymouth, New England: The pilgrims sat down to feast with 90 of their Indian brethren. Governor William Bradford offered the following prayer:
“Lord God, Thy hand has watchfully brought us to this land and given us friendship with the natives that live herein. We do give solemn thanks and praises to thy name.”
You know, that these stalwart souls were of a mind to offer such thanks is the story I want to tell you this Thanksgiving.
The pilgrims began as separatists from the Church of England. They wanted freedom to worship as they chose. And because of that, they were branded as traitors by the crown and persecuted, sometimes even unto death. And then, moved by the Spirit of God, they set their eyes on the newly discovered land of America. On September 6, 1620 the Mayflower set out with 102 passengers crammed in every inch of space. Consider it: Those pilgrims left all, and they would never return.
Well, the voyage was difficult, fraught with much suffering, sickness, and even death. As the season advanced, the North Atlantic weather grew colder. Food and water became scarce, and it seemed as though that journey would never end. Finally, after 66 days land was sighted at dawn on November the 19th. They dropped to their knees and thanked God.
One of them wrote though, “We now had no friends to welcome us, nor inns to entertain or refresh our weather-beaten bodies – no houses, or much less, towns to seek help.” And then she added, “And it was freezing cold weather.” But they were grateful. Why?
On Christmas day, 1620, they began construction on a common storehouse. But without homes and adequate food, they could never get warm. They weakened and became ill. When they finished the storehouse, it became a hospital.
Disease took its toll on them, and as many as two or three settlers died every day. At one time, there were only 6 healthy people out of more than a hundred who could care for the sick. This was called by them ever after “The Starving Time.” Only 51 pilgrims survived that first winter out of 102. Scarcely a family was not hit. Still, after all that, they gathered every day twice daily and offered prayers of thanks.
And you know, when the Mayflower returned to England in the spring, it is a testimony of the value of freedom to note that not one pilgrim went with her in spite of it all.
And then the Indians – they had feared them. But when the Indians finally came, they came friendly and with a desire to help, which if you consider how the Indians had already been treated by the whites, it was a miracle that they were friendly. The kindness of those early Native Americans saved those pilgrims.
Through the summer the pilgrims worked, and hard with little comfort. And when fall came, their harvest was plentiful; they wanted for nothing.
And so filled with the spirit of gratitude, Governor Bradford proclaimed a feast, and then added, “We will extend an invitation to our Indian friends to join us in the feasting.”
And on the day of the feast, Massasoit arrived with 90 Indians. For three days they prayed, sang, feasted, played, and bonded as brethren in the family of God.
Now my friends, why [was there] a feast of Thanksgiving? What did they have to grateful for? Well, they had a greater faith in God, they had freedom, and now they had food, shelter, and friends. And when you think about it, what else matters?
Their gratitude for simple things changed the lives of millions all the way to your table. Happy Thanksgiving.