Perspective For Holiday Blues

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Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Most people are of the opinion that depression is very prominent in during the Christmas season.  However, a recent study that I read tells a different story.  It stated, “Contrary to popular belief, December actually has the fewest suicide attempts of any month of the year. The facts, while seemingly encouraging, may be more complicated, however.  While it’s true that suicide attempts tend to drop off just before and during the holidays, there is a significant uptick in suicide rates following Christmas—a 40 percent uptick, according to one large Danish study. Christmas itself seems to have a protective effect with regard to certain types of psychopathology, say researchers, but there is a significant rebound effect immediately following the holiday” (http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays).  Perhaps depression is a problem, whether it is before, during, or after the holidays because we are focused on the wrong things?  We all have, it seems, an idealized notion of how the Christmas season should go.  This became an issue for me this year.  On Christmas Eve I began to think about what Christmas was like as a child.  Most of my memories focused on my family and the things that we did together in the celebration of Christmas.  My thoughts went back to attending Midnight services at church and then coming home Mom would make breakfast for everyone.  Then we would all go to bed and wake up in the morning and open presents, followed by a huge Christmas dinner.  Pondering these memories I came to the realization that those days are gone forever.  The reason for this is that both my parents, and now two of my siblings have passed away.  The more I pondered these memories the more depressed I became.  However, on Christmas morning I woke up to the smells of an amazing Christmas dinner that Tina had been up working on for hours. Shortly afterward we opened presents and ate an amazing meal together.  It was then that the Lord helped me to realize that I am not less blessed today then I was then, it’s just that my blessings have changed.  God has replaced my immediate family with a wonderful wife, two amazing children, good friends, and an awesome church family.  How could I ask for any more?  Our circumstances may change, but are reason to be thankful never does!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

For Always

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Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them (Luke 2:6-7, NLT).

In 1994 two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on Biblical principles) in the public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments, and a large orphanage.

It was nearing the holiday season for the orphans to hear for the first time the traditional Christmas story. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where Jesus was born and placed in the manger.

Throughout the story, the children, according to one of the Americans, “sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.”

As a follow-up activity to the story, each child was given three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manager. Each child was also given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins which the children tore into strips the paper and carefully laid them in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel from a thrown away nightgown were used for the baby’s blanket. From pieces of tan felt a doll-like baby was made.

As they made their way around the room to observe the children this is what one of the Americans noted, “All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project.

As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see, not one but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger.”

The observer goes on to note that Misha very accurately recalled the story that had been told until he came to the part where Mary put Jesus in the manger. “Then Misha,” it is noted, “started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no momma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay.

Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. 

So I asked Jesus, “If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?” And Jesus told me, “If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me. So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him – for always.”

As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon or abuse him, someone who would stay with him – FOR ALWAYS!” Merry Christmas!

In Christ,

Pastor Mark

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

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Greetings In The Name of the Lord:

Luke 1:69 (NLT)

He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David,

 In preparation for my current sermon series, Christmas Songs of the Bible, I have been thinking a lot about some of my favorite Christmas songs.  My unquestioned favorite is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, is an English traditional Christmas carol. The melody is in the minor mode.  It was published by William B. Sandys in 1833, although the author is unknown. Like so many early Christmas songs, the carol was written as a direct reaction to the church music of the 15th century. However, in the earliest known publication of the carol, on a c. 1760 broadsheet, it is described as a “new Christmas carol”,[2]suggesting its origin is actually in the mid-18th century. It appeared again among “new carols for Christmas” in another 18th century source, a chapbook believed to be printed between 1780 and 1800.[3]  It is referred to in Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol, 1843: “…at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Rest_You_Merry,_Gentlemen).  In my opinion, the words to this song not only describe the true meaning of Christmas, but they also represent the Good News in its truest and simplest form.  The song begins with, “God rest you merry Gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay; Remember Christ our Savior, Was born on Christmas-day; To save us all from Satan’s power, When we had gone astray.”  The true meaning of Christmas is that Jesus came to save us from our sins, a feat we could not accomplish on our own.  We can take solace in the fact that Jesus sacrificed all to come to earth and die in our place.  The Good News is that Jesus has done all the work and all we have to do is receive it!  This my friends brings tidings of comfort and joy.

In Christ,

Pastor Mark