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14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us . . . (John 1).

7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7)  and he [Joseph] called his name JESUS (Matt 1:25).

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:8ff)

1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

4In him was life; and the life was the light of men.5And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. 9That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

. . . and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Merry Christmas, and may God bless us everyone!

 

 

 

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Nobody can tell the story better than the Author. Here is the original. I’m  giving it to you in two parts: the Preparation and the Birth, and I’m using the King James Version in celebration of its 400th anniversary.

 Let me encourage you not to keep this to yourself. Read it to someone, share it with someone–it wasn’t meant to be kept a secret!

The Preparation

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise:

26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible.

 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:18ff)

. . . his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

20But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23Behold, 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.

24Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife . . . .(Matthew 1:18ff)

39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. (Luke 1:39ff)

 1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (Luke 2:1ff)

To be continued . . .

 

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Yes, I do know that most church calendars called last Sunday the 4th Advent Sunday, but as I thought about this, I decided to count Christmas Sunday this year as the fourth. I hope you don’t mind, and it won’t make any difference to your children—I hope!

Fourth Advent

Story and Text:  The Birth of Jesus—and the Announcement to the Shepherds! (Luke 2:1-7;  8-20)

Big Idea:              Jesus was really born. This is not a fairy tale!  His birth changed the whole world!

                It’s really hard to separate fact and fiction as a child. I just had a conversation with one mother who worried about whether pretending about Santa Claus might bleed over into her children thinking she was “pretending” about Jesus.  I don’t really share her fear, but I do appreciate her sensitivity to the problem that many adults have of truly believing that Jesus was/is real!

Activities:

  1.  Go to the maternity ward of a local hospital during hours when newborns can be viewed. Try to pick out the one that looks like Baby Jesus. Of course, it would be a boy, not a girl. Would he be dark-skinned, pink, big, small, hair or hairless? It’s just a game, but Jesus did look just like one of these babies.  If you can’t go to the hospital, then look at pictures of newborns on the computer.
  2. There was no room at the hotels. So where would you stay if you traveled to a new city and could not stay at a hotel?  With a relative? But what if you knew no one?  The only place you were offered was . . . . someone’s barn, or their garage . . . .or a basement . What if your house was the last hotel that Mary and Joseph came to and all the beds and couches were taken. Where would you put them?  You might want to go out to the garage and look for a place to make a bed.  No lights, just a candle.
  3. What do shepherds do at night while the sheep are sleeping? Some of them sleep while others watch the sheep!  Turn out all of the lights in your kid’s room and let them watch the sheep. SUDDENLY a bright light appears! LOUD MUSIC starts with angels singing!  Do you get the picture?  Can you recreate that moment? No wonder the angels had to tell them not to be afraid!
  4. Where would you look for Baby Jesus if the angels told you to go to Bethlehem to find him? (Could draw a maze!) The hospital?  The church building? What clues did the angels give the shepherds?  What if someone rang your doorbell in the middle of the night, looking for a new baby, what would you think?  Where would they look at your house?  Would they ever think to look in the garage??
  5. After the shepherds left they couldn’t stop talking about what had happened to them and the baby they had seen!  Why didn’t they keep it a secret—just for themselves??  Is this the same reason we keep talking about Jesus?
  6. What would be different in the world if Jesus had never been born?  If you have watched It’s A Wonderful Life with your kids, then you can refer to what Bedford Falls would have been if George Bailey had never been born. But even without the movie, you can talk about this and see what the kids come up with.

I do hope these small ideas have helped stimulate your own creativity in talking with your children about the birth of Jesus.  I know you realize that your young kids are taking in everything you do and say, so the biggest activity of all in preparing your kids is to show them that Jesus means everything to you! The moments they hear you talking about Jesus, or doing for others in Jesus’ name, or remembering to thank God for Jesus when you pray instead of just asking for things . . . when they observe that you really love Jesus, even when they don’t fully understand what all of this means, they are being given the best gifts you have to give them, all you really want for them to learn from you!

You are the star that guides them, you are the announcement of His birth, you are the messenger that God has chosen who blesses your children with the Good News that the Savior has come into the world and dwelt among us!

Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.

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I just have to break into the Christmas blogs to tell you about the movie we saw last night! An attorney friend of ours recommended Hugo  to us, so we used two of the grandkids as an excuse to go see it. Without a doubt, Hugo was one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in a long time!

Hugo is about an orphan boy trying to understand life after his father dies.  But it is also about an old man (Ben Kingsley) trying to understand life after his creative work disappears.  So, you see, it is not just another sappy story about little orphan Annie, nor is it On Golden Pond. And I didn’t even mention the subplots involving the policeman and the flower lady or the dachshund owners or the protective wife or the academic,  or  . . . . just so many interesting characters.

Martin Scorsese directed this film that Johnny Depp produced. What does that tell you?? Just that two of the most talented people in the film business invested their talent and money into a relatively small film. Why would they have done that?

What the trailers and the synopses don’t tell you is that this little film is also a tribute to the earliest days of cinema.  The more you know about cinema at the turn of the 20th century, the more you will enjoy the film.  Just a hint:  if you don’t know much and would like to read a little before watching the movie, read the Wikipedia article on Georges Melies.

The photography is beautiful.  Be sure and notice the artistry in the train station scenes. The recurring images of clocks and trains are not only interwoven into the storyline, but they too are allusions and homages to early films.

Our grandkids liked the part about the automaton best! The magic and illusion of cinema is at its best in this film.  And the young hero’s conclusion that there are no extra parts in machines, i.e., that each part has an essential purpose was easy conversation on the way home. God didn’t make extra people with no purpose! Everyone has a purpose and things to do: “for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

It may not be a Christmas movie, but there is a message of hope and peace that you will savor! This movie was so good that you can borrow some of our grandkids if you need an excuse to go!

 

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O Little Town of Bethlehem

It’s early Sunday morning—the third Advent Sunday—so you are just in time to start preparing your kids for Christmas if you haven’t started yet.  And if you have been following our plan, then you are ready for the final week before Christmas. Either way, it’s a beautiful Sunday morning and you have lots of opportunity left to prepare your kids for celebrating Jesus in Christmas!

If you were not aware of them, go back and look at the previous suggestions and you may find some that work for you this week.  You may also find some good music to introduce to the kids this week.  Look in the right sidebar called Categories under Advent 2011.  You may also find some good texts and ideas from last year’s Advent series as well.

Story and Text:  Luke 2:1-6

Big Idea:              Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, not knowing much—but obediently.

Such a short text for such a wonderful story.  The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is 90 miles by car today, which is just an hour and a half, but by donkey (maybe) when you are nine months pregnant, it is longer and harder.  And they probably did not go straight through Samaria because good Jews did not do that. They crossed the Jordan to the east and went down the east side of the Jordan until they had bypassed Samaria and came to Judea. Then they crossed the Jordan again and would have gone by Jericho and near Jerusalem on their way to Bethlehem.

I’m sure it took them at least a week to travel—which is perfect for preparing your children!

Activities

  • Find or make a map of Israel and trace their journey each day until you arrive on Christmas Eve.  Trace about 20 miles each day and you will see where they were.  Look on a historical map of Israel so that you can identify the historical sites that Mary and Joseph would have passed, especially the Jordan River and Mount Nebo. They would have been able to see many other mountains, valleys, and places where Old Testament events happened. That’s a good research project for older kids—and parents as well!
  • Find a picture of a woman who is nine months pregnant and talk about how hard it is to walk. You might even put a pillow or something under your child’s shirt and let them see how hard it is to walk and bend, etc.
  • What things would they have needed to take on their journey?  Food and water! It would be like a picnic to eat as they traveled. Maybe you could do a picnic—indoor if you are not in southern California!
  • Where did they sleep as they traveled?  Maybe outside, but maybe at stranger’s house. Maybe your kids could sleep in a different room in sleeping bags on the floor as if it were a guest house along the way.
  • What do you think Joseph and Mary talked about as they traveled?  Make a list of things and talk about them with your kids.  Do you think they talked about what the angel told Mary?  Or what Joseph saw in his dream from God?  Do you think they talked about the Messiah and what they had always been taught he would be like.  Do you remember what you and your spouse talked about before your first child was born?

Music

If O Little Town of Bethlehem is not part of your Christmas repertoire, let me encourage you to add it. It’s a little harder to sing, but has beautiful words.

-Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is a beautiful piece of classical music for Christmas. A Bach composition with words added later. You will find beautiful instrumental versions—especially the one by George Winston, but also sung by many artists, including Josh Groban, Sarah Brightman, and The Beach Boys.

Watch on Thursday for the last Advent preparations before Christmas Day!

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Where are the Christmas movies?  They are just gone!  I’m not quite sure why the big adventure movies like to release at Christmas time, like Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Harry Potter in the past and this year – WOW—look at all the releases of adventure/action movies:

Dec 9     –              Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Dec. 16 –              Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows &  Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Dec. 21    –              The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo &   The Adventures of Tintin

Dec. 25     –            Warhorse  &  The Darkest Hour

No Christmas in sight! A couple of family-oriented movies are being released like We Bought A Zoo with Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked , but no big Christmas movies like Polar Express or Elf.

Of course, it’s a great time to release films because kids are out of school and everyone wants to do special fun things together, like go to the movies!  Lots of tickets to sell.

So maybe Christmas themes are too heavy with family values to be interesting! Or maybe Hallmark Channel has the corner on cheesy Christmas films and has spoiled the market. Or maybe no one is writing good Christmas stories, so Hollywood has no new material.

I think someone ought to take Anne Rice’s book Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and turn it into a movie. It certainly could include the nativity narrative although the book begins during the childhood of Jesus in Egypt, but there are many references to the mystery in his family about why they fled to Egypt. No one wants to tell the young boy about all the babies who were killed because of him. . . .  I won’t tell too much, but I do recommend both of her Christ the Lord books to you!

We saw Mission Impossible last night at the IMAX theater. As opposed to some of the earlier MI movies, this one is fun! Lots more humor and comic relief. In fact, it sometimes borders on slapstick, so don’t go into it expecting that Dark Knight experience.  I also suggest seeing it at an IMAX if you can. Especially the outdoor shots of Budapest and Dubai are breath-taking and the shot downward from the Dubai skyscraper will have you holding on to your seat to keep from falling off!!

In spite of market forces, before Christmas Day, Sherrylee and I will watch It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol¸ and maybe Miracle On 34th Street.   I’ll tell you why later!

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A couple of years ago, I did a special Christmas CD for the grandchildren with quite a variety of music.  It was quite a hit, so I thought I’d share it with you! Our grandchildren range from one-year old to twelve, so I tried to make it a mix that the whole family would enjoy.

The Playlist is actually posted on ITunes, but I think all of this music is readily available from almost any source.  OK, here’s the mix.

  • For Unto Us A Child Is Born from “The Messiah” performed by Vienna Boys Choir
  • Carol of the Bells ( Straight No Chaser)
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (The Andrew Sisters with Bing Crosby)
  • Little St. Nick (The Beach Boys)
  • Mary’s Little Boy Child (John Denver)
  • Children, Go Where I Send Thee ( Mary Chapin Carpenter)
  • Go Tell It On The Mountain (James Taylor)
  • The 12 Days of Christmas (Straight No Chaser)
  • The Little Drummer Boy (Harry Simeone Chorale)
  • Mary, Did You Know (The Von Trapp Children)
  • Come Darkness, Come Light (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
  • Here Comes Santa Claus (The Andrew Sisters)
  • Candlelight Carol (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
  • Hallelujah, It’s Christmas (Roger Whitaker)
  • Sweet, Little Jesus Boy (Straight No Chaser)
  • Darcy the Dragon (Roger Whitaker)
  • Still, Still, Still (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
  • I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ For Christmas (Christmas All Stars)
  • Pat-A-Pan (David Archuleta)
  • O Holy Night (Andy Williams)
  • Highland Cathedral (Amy Grant album)

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