Encouragement 12-21-04


December 21, 2004
Encouragement for Today

How to Have a Joy-Filled Christmas - Part 2
Mary Southerland - Director of Development, Speaker, Author

Key verse

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is  your spiritual act of worship."  Romans 12:1 (NIV)


Birthday parties are a lot of fun!  Imagine with me a birthday party thrown in your honor. The house is decorated, the food is prepared, the festive music is playing and the guests arrive, arms filled with gifts, laughing with expectation and joy of the celebration ahead.  The time comes to open gifts.  Each person is seated as the brightly wrapped gifts are exchanged. Everyone receives a gift, everyone but you.  I know, it is a ridiculous scenario. Yet, every year, thousands celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ by giving gifts to everyone in their lives but Him.  What gifts does He want from us?  What gifts are fit for the King?  To answer that question, let's go back to that first Christmas to see what gifts Jesus received that first Christmas night. 
Jesus received the gift of trust, found in the life of Mary, a young teenage girl who was engaged to Joseph.  An angel appeared to Mary, telling her that she would bear a son called Jesus.  She could not possibly have understood what the angel was saying, but she knew the One who sent him, and that was enough.  Trust is a gift fit for a king. 

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6

Jesus received the gift of obedience, found in the life of Joseph who was betrothed to Mary.  In Jesus' day, a betrothal was legally binding.  During the engagement, Mary became pregnant - and Joseph was not the father.  His first reaction was to quietly divorce her but an angel delivered a message from God, "Keep her but do not sleep with her!"  Joseph's response could have been many things, but the response he chose was obedience. 

"If you love me, you will obey what I command."  John 14:15 

Obedience is the choice to do what God wants us to do; not just an outward motion but an inner attitude.  Father and son were on a mission - to find an ice cream cone.  Scrambling into the front seat, the little boy stood beside his father, jumping up and down and yelling, "Ice cream!  Ice cream!  Ice cream!"  Before starting the car, the dad sat his son down and told him to buckle his seatbelt.  The little boy stared at his father in rebellious silence. The determined father stared right back and finally said, "Son, we are not going anywhere until you sit down and buckle your seatbelt."  Admitting defeat, the little boy sat down and buckled his seat belt, but through gritted teeth announced, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm still standing up on the inside."  Obedience is an inside job, a heart issue and is a gift fit for the king!

Jesus received the gift of praise, found in the life of the shepherds to whom the angels announced the good news of Jesus' birth.  After seeing baby Jesus, they went on their own way praising God!  Praise is a continual choice that we make again and again, until it becomes a habit. Don't allow anyone or any circumstance to steal your joy or keep you from praising God!  Praise keeps us kneeling before the manger and is a gift fit for the King.

Psalm 50:6 "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."

Jesus received the gift of sacrifice, found in the lives of the wise men that came, bringing costly gifts.

The wise men understood that worship always involves sacrifice.  They brought gold, a precious metal, incense, a rare and costly product used in worship, and myrrh, an extravagant perfume like the one Mary used to wash the feet of Jesus. 

"And I was a constant example to you in helping the poor; for I remembered the words of the Lord Jesus, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"  Acts 20:35

Sacrifice goes beyond what is required or expected.  The best gift, the most precious gift should go to the One whose birthday we celebrate.  This year, give a sacrificial gift in His name, a gift like trust, obedience, praise and sacrifice.  In other words, the best Christmas gift we can give Jesus Christ is ourselves.  The children's song says it beautifully:

"I'm gonna wrap up myself for Christmas
And tie me with a big red bow.
That's what I'm giving to Jesus.
It's a present He'll like I know."

To have a Christ-Centered Christmas we must receive the gift of Jesus and then give ourselves to Him. 

My prayer for today

Happy birthday, Jesus!  I celebrate your birth and your life.  Thank you for coming to earth as a baby, bringing life and hope to us all.  I surrender to you.  May each day be a celebration of Who you are in my life. In your name, I pray.  Amen. 

Application steps:

Have you ever given yourself to Jesus Christ?  If not, right now, turn your life over to Him, knowing that He will transform it into more than you could ever dream.  In your journal, record today's date and the step of obedience you just took.  Then celebrate by baking a birthday cake for Jesus.  Invite your family and friends, neighbors and strangers to join you in honoring the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Reflection point:

What gifts have you given in past years, thinking they were gifts to God when, in reality, they were tokens of a broken life? 

What gifts have you received from Him this year?  What have you done with them?

What will you give Him this year? 

Power verses:

"Give and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  Luke 6:38 (NIV)

"Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."  Luke 14:33 (NIV)

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."  Acts 20:35 (NIV)

Additional Resources

Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa Terkeurst

How to Live a Life of Victory by Mary Southerland

Message of the Month Club (see the Proverbs 31 web site)

Originally published Tuesday, 21 December 2004.