Christmas Presents

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Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the Word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown. Mark 4:20


Oh, it’s so easy to love Christmas, isn’t it? We wait all year and then the magic begins to weave its way into our minds and hearts. We shop for just the right gift for all the people on our list, and we rejoice when we find that perfect item. And we gleefully anticipate what others will choose for us. Maybe we still even make a list so we won’t get stuck with something we don’t care for or won’t use. And the food at Christmas is like no other time of the year. We make special dishes and baked goods and candies, nibbling as we go. The music carries us to a vision of happy families and joyous reunions. The sights, sounds, and smells of the season captivate our senses and leave us almost speechless.


Do they really? Or have we become so accustomed to Christmas being a “big deal” that we just accept what the world says and go along with it? Sometimes all the world can offer us is a false idea of what will make us happy. We say we love to give and get gifts, but are we ready to accept the best Gift of all into our hearts and our lives? The gift of Christ’s love, grace and redemption is not like a fancy sweater that will eventually wear out or go out of style. It’s not a food gift that we eat and then it’s gone. And it’s not a monetary gift that we spend on some frivolous item. Christ’s gift to us is alive and it lives within us for the rest of this life and throughout eternity. He gives us living water so that we will never thirst again (John 7:38). Through Him we receive bread unlike any we can bake, the bread of His own body given freely so that we might live forgiven (John 6:35). He asks us to be “good soil” that His Word might take root in us and grow and produce more love and grace and forgiveness (Mark 4:20). Let’s rejoice this Christmas over the most wonderful gift of all-time: Christ Himself.


Praise You, Lord! You are our Christmas gift. Amen


Pope Thumbs Up

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They took palm branches and went out to meet Him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” John 12:13


Pope Francis visited the United States in September, 2015. His humble manner was apparent from the moment he stepped off “Shepherd One” to be met by President and Mrs. Obama. The Obamas’ unprecedented personal greeting of the pontiff was a sign of the high respect afforded him during his visit to this powerful and well-to-do nation during a time of economic, social, and political turmoil. The New York Times described the visit as a “security circus,” but Francis seemed oblivious to all the fuss. He exited the plane carrying his own valise, reported to contain a razor, a breviary (prayer book), an appointment book and a book to read. When he wasn’t riding in his open-air, Fiat-Chrysler-made Jeep Wrangler “Popemobile,” he was ferried around in an ordinary Italian-built Fiat featuring the custom license plate “SCV 1,” the initials for Status Civitatis Vaticanae, Latin for Vatican City State. The Pope insisted on foregoing the bullet-proof glass bubble atop the Jeep, so that he could be closer to the people. No small task for the security guards entrusted with his safety.


While Pope Francis wanted his visit to be about the people, other players were busy putting the trip together. ABC News reported that the pontiff brought about thirty people with him, including Vatican clergy and press. Although the pope speaks relatively good English, Monsignor Mark Miles served as interpreter for him when the message got tricky. Also accompanying him were seventy-six accredited journalists from all over the world. Pope Francis stayed at the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, better known as the “Vatican Embassy,” nice accommodations but not as opulent as one might imagine.


Pope Francis is perhaps the best-loved leader of the Catholic Church in modern times. To his credit, he sincerely tries to keep things simple, honest and straightforward. The accompanying show of magnificence is in stark contrast to the way the Christ lived and moved and conducted Himself while in this world. I am quite sure this humble pope has considered how different his life style is than the Man Whom he represents.


Lord Jesus, thank You for wise and humble religious leaders. Amen