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Archive for November, 2017

From the Manger to the Cross: A Short Easter Drama

An Easter drama given through the eyes of those closest to Jesus. Characters include Peter, John the Baptist, John, James, Mary Magdalene and Mary. 

Peter: Hello. I’m Peter. I’m sure that you have all heard about the twelve disciples that Jesus chose to follow Him. I guess I have the reputation for being the spokesman for the group, so I am the one who gets to welcome you tonight. We are grateful that you have come …and I believe that you will be blessed by being here. Perhaps we should just go back for a moment and recall the great moment of Jesus’ birth (music begins). Mary. Joseph. Bethlehem. The Shepherds. The Angels. The birth of a King!

Song: O Come all ye faithful

Peter: Come, let us adore Him? Christ the Lord! Yes, Jesus…our Lord and Savior…the King of kings and Lord of lords…was born. But most of the world paid little attention to the event. He grew up in Nazareth in a carpenter’s shop…(sees John off to side). Oh, there’s John—the one we call John the Baptist. (Calls and motions to him) John, come over here and share with the people what you know about Jesus?

John the Baptist: Shalom, Peter. I always like to talk about Jesus. I was preaching in the wilderness of Judea asking the people to repent for I knew that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand. I was baptizing those who repented in the Jordan River; and I told them by the Spirit of God that there would be One come after me who would baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire. One day as I was baptizing—standing there in the Jordan River—I looked up and saw Jesus coming toward me. As He walked His face was shining, and then He spoke. He asked ME to baptize HIM in the water. I said, “No, Jesus, please, no! I need to be baptized of you, and you come to me?” But He insisted telling me that it was necessary to fulfill all righteousness. Oh, Peter, as soon as Jesus went under the water and came up again the heavens opened up, and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove and stopped on Him and said in a voice that we could all hear: This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. At that moment God instructed me to tell the people assembled at the Jordan River that this Jesus was God’s Son—the Lamb of God that takes away their sins. It was soon after that I found myself in prison for preaching to Herod that he needed to repent for taking his brother’s wife. (John walks away.)

Peter: (To the audience) While John was still in prison, Jesus began His ministry and started to call together some disciples. I was fishing in the sea of Galilee with my brother, Andrew, the day Jesus walked by. All He said was Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men; and do you know what we did? We immediately left our nets and followed Him! Andrew and I walked with Jesus on down the seashore where He saw James and John mending their nets, and He called to them, “James and John, follow me!”   (James and John come up and greet Peter with a slap on the shoulder while he is talking.)

James: I surely remember that day. It was beautiful, sunny, and warm. We saw Jesus coming with Peter and Andrew. When He spoke, it was with such love that we couldn’t resist the invitation, and to think that a Rabbi such as He would want us for disciples was overwhelming. We were excited to leave all and follow Him.

John: We went with Jesus all around Galilee, listening as He was teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people. How quickly His fame went throughout land. They brought to Him many sick people and those possessed with devils, and He healed them! When they were hungry He fed them. It was marvelous to see!

James: When He opened His mouth and taught it was with indisputable authority.

Peter: Yes, and I remember that He nicknamed you boys “the sons of thunder!”

James: You would have to remember that! It’s true. By the time He finished, Jesus had called together a group of twelve—John and me, you and your brother Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Thaddaeus, James of Alphaeus, Simon and Judas. Most people don’t realize how young the twelve of us were—we were just teenagers. You, Peter, were probably the oldest when Jesus called us to follow Him.

Peter: Those three years were packed with activity—watching Jesus as He moved among the people with such compassion and love.

James: Then the night we ate the last supper in the Upper Room: Jesus broke the bread and shared it with us. He blessed the wine and drank it with us. None of us could comprehend what was about to happen. He said that one of us would betray Him. I guess we all wondered how anyone could possibly betray Him after all the good He had done. We all asked Him, “Lord is it I?”

John: Except Judas!

Peter: Now as we look back we can see that Jesus was trying to prepare us all along for what was about to take place: His death, burial, and resurrection. But it was beyond our understanding.

John: How well I remember the Garden of Gethsemane—He asked us to stay awake and pray with Him but we all went to sleep. Three times He came back to check on us. It must have been painful for Him to know that we didn’t realize He was about to die.

Peter: The things that followed happened so quickly. ..the arrest. ..the trial before Pilate…

John: They put that purple robe on Him, and place that prickly crown of thorns on His head… and mocked Him. (head down)

James: And they spit on Him. .and got down on their knees and pretended to be worshipping Him..mocking… (head down)

Peter: Then they took off the robe and led Him to Golgotha. (head down)

Song: My Tribute (Lights reflect Peter, James and John kneeling at cross throughout the song. Lights out at end of song. All three leave stage. Mary Magdalene enters)

Mary Magdalene: I was in the crowd that followed Him up that hill to Golgotha. As He carried His cross, I saw the blood run down His face, yet I saw the glory shine forth from Him. I watched them nail Him to the cross and lift it toward the sky. I stood there at the cross and felt so all alone. Why was I here? Why was He there? I recalled how He intervened and saved my life! I saw Him heal Blind Bartimaeus and make the lame man walk. I saw the love in His eyes when He freed the demon possessed man. Oh, how He loved the children and held them in His arms and talked to them. As I gazed at the cross remembering the great miracles He did, the sun went down and it became very dark. I felt the earth tremble under my feet and heard shouts from the temple as the veil was torn in two. I heard Him cry with a loud voice: “It is finished. Father into Your hands I commend my spirit.” I watched as Joseph of Arimathea begged Pilate to let him take His body, and having obtained permission, he took Jesus’ dead body from the cross. I saw Nicodemus join him as they anointed His body with spices, wrapped Him in grave clothes, and laid him in a tomb. I followed and watched from afar off. Was it true? Was He really gone? (She kneels at the cross during the verse of next song, then walks off stage)

Song: The Old Rugged Cross

Mary: (coming up center aisle with Mary Magdalene) Hurry up! Let’s take these spices and go to the tomb so we can anoint the body of Jesus. The sun is just rising. If we hurry we can get there just at daybreak.

Mary Magdalene: (as they walk toward the tomb) Do you think the soldiers will roll away the stone for us? It is very big! (They approach the tomb) Mary! Look! The stone is already rolled away. (She looks in and begins to weep).

Angel: Why are you weeping?

Mary Magdalene: Because they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid him. (Keeps head in shawl, weeping)

Angel: Don’t be afraid. If you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, He is not here. He is risen! See! The place where they laid Him is empty. Go quickly now, and tell His disciples and Peter that Jesus is going into Galilee. You will see Him there.

Mary & Mary Magdalene: (Peer into tomb, then exclaim…) He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive! (Hugging each other and jumping up and down) Let’s Go!  (Run out of room shouting… He’s alive… He’s alive)

Song: Easter Song 

Mary & Mary Magdalene: (Coming up aisle from back of room and telling everyone, He’s Alive… He’s Alive! We’ve seen Him!

Mary Magdalene: Peter! Peter! Peter! (Calling to him as she sees him sitting on the side with James and John looking sad and whispering to one another)

Peter: Yeah. What is it?

Mary: James! John! Peter!

James, John, Peter: Yeah, ok. What happened now? Did you find out who moved the stone?

Mary Magdalene: He’s alive. We’ve just seen Jesus! He’s alive!

Mary: (Shakes Peter) We’ve just seen Him. He’s alive!

Peter: He’s alive? He’s alive? (He shakes James and yells in his face) He’s Alive! (Then he shakes John, and they are all shaking each other, jumping up and down and proclaiming loudly…) He’s Alive! (They begin the chant, “He’s Alive!” and go throughout the congregation telling everyone. He’s Alive! He’s Alive!)

Song:  He’s Alive, or He Lives

Peter: (To the congregation) Oh my friends!  Weep not! Jesus is Alive! He appeared unto us many times during the next forty days before He ascended into heaven. He told us to wait in Jerusalem and He would send the Holy Spirit to baptize us and give us the power and authority to do greater works than He did!

Mary Magdalene: And we all did as he said—one hundred twenty of us waited in Jerusalem and prayed, believing and expecting to receive His promise.

James: And on the day of Pentecost as we were sitting in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit fell upon us like tongues of fire—as it falls upon us even today, and we receive that power to be a witness for Him.

John: It seemed that all of Jerusalem came out to see what happened in the Upper Room that day, and Peter, you preached, man, did you preach! telling them the whole story of God’s plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Mary:  Three thousand people became followers of Jesus Christ that day.

Peter:  And thousands upon thousands more have joined the Gospel team over the years since that time. Thanks to God, one day that same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us and we will be resurrected to live eternally with Jesus in our Father’s House.

All:  Hallelujah! Amen!

Song:  The Blood will Never Lose its Power

Note: Costumes can be very simple wrap-around togas and sandals or bare feet. Props include a large cross (or silhouette of cross projected on wall), and a stone wall to represent the tomb (made of cardboard or a projected silhouette). Musicians may be soloists, ensembles, choirs, or the congregation. The musical selections given here may be substituted with other appropriate songs. Be creative in the presentation. For example, during Peter’s opening narration, you could have the nativity scene assemble as he speaks their names.

(c) East of Bethlehem, C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, Chapter 17. 2003.

Mere Men in the Christmas Story

Are you not mere men?  (1 Corinthians 3:3-4, NAS)

Many mystify, canonize, enthrone, revere and worship the people we’ve come to know as the characters in the Nativity. Two thousand years after the birth of Christ, these people are perceived as poignant personalities, having always been well-known and respected, and somehow just a bit more divine than human. Otherwise why would Dr. Luke and Tax Collector Matthew have told their story. Surely the events described in the above scripture narrative were featured on the front page of the non-existent Bethlehem Morning News.

Of course none of these is true. Both Matthew and Luke were intimately acquainted with Jesus’ family and wrote the accounts based on what Mary told them as confirmed by the Holy Spirit. There were a precious few people in their lives who really knew the miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth. The so-called Nativity characters were mere people who “heard the Word of the Lord” and did it!  Such depictions of the birth of Christ were first introduced by Saint Francis around the year 1223 AD.

Many of you no doubt have vivid childhood memories of specific activities that took place at Christmas time. One of my earliest and fondest memories was assembling the nativity in the stall and placing Baby Jesus in the manger. I was intrigued with the china figurines. My mother treasured them, yet she entrusted them to my little hands and allowed me to place them wherever I wished on the table.

So it is with God. He created a “baby shower” of eternal dimensions the night His Son was born. He treasured His Son, yet He gave Him to us and gave us freedom to choose where to place Him in our lives. Jesus was DIVINE. All the other people that figure into this Christmas story—no matter how significant they may appear to be—were mere people. However, because of their desire to live godly and because of their obedience to hear and act on the voice of the Lord, they became giants in the Kingdom of God. Did they know it? No. They faced the daily joys and difficulties and complexities of life just as we do.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these mere people.

MARY & JOSEPH (Matthew 1:18)

Mary was espoused (engaged) to Joseph. What we know is that Mary “found favor with God” and Joseph was a “righteous man”. Nothing else mattered. We are told absolutely nothing about the circumstances surrounding the engagement of this couple or about their parents and family life.

“Espousal among the Hebrews was something more than what a mere marriage engagement is with us. It was considered the beginning of marriage, was as legally binding as marriage itself, and could not be broken off except by a bill of divorce. Hence we find that Joseph is called the “husband” of Mary (vs. 19).  The betrothal was usually determined by the parents or brothers of the parties and the engagement was made between a friend or legal representative of the bridegroom and the father of the bride.

The espousals were made very early in life, though marriage did not take place before the bride was twelve years old. Even when the age was suitable, the marriage was not consummated for some time after the betrothal. At least a year, or sometimes more, elapsed between the betrothal and the marriage of a maiden, to give time for preparing her outfit. In case of a widow, marriage might take place thirty days after espousal. The betrothal was usually accompanied by a feast in the house of the bride.

The engagement, to be binding, must be either by written contract, or by the reception of presents by the bride from the bridegroom. When Abraham’s servant received the consent of Rebekah’s father and brother to make her the wife of his master’s son, he presented to the maiden valuable gifts. The reception of these made the contract binding. The bride remained at her father’s house until the time of marriage, when the bridegroom came after her. Meanwhile communication between her and the bridegroom was kept up by means of the friend of the bridegroom.

The friend of the bridegroom was the person selected by the bridegroom to conduct the marriage negotiations on his part. It was he who carried messages between the bridegroom and the bride during the time of the betrothal. When, on the occasion of the marriage, they were brought to see each other in a private room or under a canopy provided for the purpose, the friend of the bridegroom stood outside, eager to catch the first words of delight which came from the bridegroom’s lips, expressive of the satisfaction he experienced on conversing with his betrothed.

This position John the Baptist claims for himself figuratively. He is not the Christ, but bears a relation to him similar to that borne by the Para nymph to the bridegroom. He makes the arrangements for bringing Christ, the bridegroom, to the Church, His bride. He waits with reverence and respect to hear words of joy coming from the lips of Christ because he has found a waiting and a willing Church. As the services of the Para nymph only occupied a short time, so the Baptist’s mission would soon be over: He must increase, but I must decrease (Jn 3:30).” (Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 330).

These simple people, Mary and Joseph, each “heard” the message from the Lord and “acted” on it. They were mere people through whom God was able to accomplish His purpose.

SHEPHERDS (Luke 2:8-20)

There have been many books written about shepherds because they figure so prominently in the Bible. David was watching his father’s sheep on this very same hillside in Judea the day Samuel came to anoint him as King over Israel. It is no surprise, then, that God chose to give the first birth announcement of the arrival of His Son to the shepherds on that hillside. Jesus loved the analogy of shepherd and sheep. He said, “I am the Good Shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

“The Eastern shepherds give names to their sheep, as we do to dogs and horses. Every sheep recognizes his own name, and comes when called. Travelers have noticed the wonderful readiness with which the sheep of a large flock will recognize the shepherd’s voice. Though several flocks are mingled they speedily separate at the command of the shepherd, while the word of a stranger would have no effect on them.

Porter thus describes a scene he witnessed among the hills of Bashan: ‘The shepherds led their flocks forth from the gates of the city. They were in full view, and we watched them and listened to them with no little interest. Thousands of sheep and goats were there, grouped in dense, confused masses. The shepherds stood together until all came out. Then they separated, each shepherd taking a different path, and uttering as he advanced a shrill, peculiar call. The sheep heard them. At first the masses swayed and moved as if shaken by some internal convulsion; then points struck out in the direction taken by the shepherds; these became longer and longer until the confused masses were resolved into long, living streams, flowing after their leaders’ [Giant Cities of Bashan, p. 45) (Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 428-429).

The shepherds on the Judean hillside reflected the character of the sheep when they “heard” the message from the Lord and “acted” on it. They were mere people through whom God was able to accomplish His purpose.

WISE MEN (Matthew 2:1)

Today we know that these “wise men” were wise because they sought out the Savior. The idea that they were kings and three in number is mere imagination and unsusceptible of proof. The Bible does not say how many there were. We know there were at least two because it says “men” not “man”. There may have been one hundred or more because they often traveled in groups. “These wise men, or, more properly, Magi, belonged to a numerous and influential order of men. We find in the Old Testament several references to the Magi.

In Daniel’s time the Magi were very prominent in Babylon. As the Magi were men of learning, devoting special attention to astronomy and the natural sciences, it happened that after the lapse of years, men who became celebrated for learning were called Magi. The Magi who came to visit the infant Savior were no doubt of the better class…They were evidently skilled in astronomical knowledge, and were earnest seekers after the newborn king. Where they came from is a disputed question. Various writers have suggested that they were Babylonians, Arabians, Persians, Bactrians, Parthians, or even Brahmins from India. Matthew says they were from “the East” which was a geographical term of very elastic meaning.” (Manners and Customs of the Bible, p. 330-331).

Wherever they came from, it took them months–perhaps more than a year–to follow the star –the sign they had been given – to where the newborn Jesus lay. Matthew 2:11 tells us they came into the “house”–which likely means Mary and Joseph had already escaped to Egypt. The fact is these men “heard” the message from the Lord and “acted” on it. They were mere people through whom God was able to accomplish His purpose.


When we say Christmas Story, we’re really talking about the account of Christ’s birth. It is relevant every day of the year—not just in the December season. The persons that figure prominently in the story of Jesus were mere people who seem great to us because of the biblical and historical accounts the have followed them. Allow them to remind you each day that if you’re faithful and obedient to the Lord you will be GREAT in the Kingdom. That’s your reward though you may not realize it until you hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord!” Our goal and aspiration is to be faithful and obedient—not to be great. “Great” is a by-product of having obeyed.

Many people we read about in history did not become famous or textbook worthy until after their death. In the same way, the people who played such a major role in the birth of Jesus Christ were not esteemed, famous, or popular because their peers did not know or comprehend the eternal impact of the action of these mere people. God takes insignificant people—teenagers like Mary, single men like Joseph, outdoorsmen like the Shepherds, and educated men like the Wise Men—and makes them significant. He takes mere people, pours in His Spirit and makes them tributaries through which the River of Life can flow from His throne to others bringing deliverance, life, hope, and salvation.

Do you ever feel like a “mere” human being? Simply ordinary? Totally insignificant? Are you being faithful to “hear” and “do” God’s will? They may never make a figurine of your body and place you on a table in remembrance of some event, but our Heavenly Father will make you a new person and place you at His Table as His honored guest. All heaven will rejoice—just like they did on the night of Jesus’ birth!


(c) East of Bethlehem, by C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, 2003, Chapter 6.

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What shall we do with Santa?


Some years ago Noah and Laura, two of my students, gave me a treasured Christmas gift: a ceramic Santa kneeling at the manger worshipping Jesus.

I am well aware that there are those who would like to eradicate the legend of Santa, but he does typify what every Christian should be like for He is described as being full of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, and faith. (cf. Gal.5)

The Santa custom actually began as a person named Nicholas who was born around the year 300 A.D. in what is now Turkey. He was a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. When his parents died and he inherited their wealth, he simply gave it away in the form of gifts—primarily to poor children. If the recipient discovered his identity, he would request that they tell no one. From this came the custom of gifts coming from an unnamed Santa. We should not lie to our children about who Santa is, but enjoy the custom while making certain we teach them that Christmas is all about God giving His Son Jesus to deliver us from our sin and bring us into His family.

St. Nicholas, the generous gift-giver, was a church leader throughout his life and known for his warm personality, his compassionate spirit, and boldness in preaching. In later generations his death on December sixth was celebrated by giving gifts. Christians were already celebrating the birth of Jesus on a Roman festival day December 25, and at some point along the way, the St. Nicholas remembrance became a part of the Christmas celebration with the exchange of gifts as a reminder of the greatest gift of all—Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we meet the Wise Men—kings from the East—who recognized Jesus as God’s gift to them and brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Likewise we acknowledge the gift that others are to us by giving something appropriate to them. It may be a gift of time, thanksgiving, a card, or something of substance. A gift is not given with the expectation of receiving a gift in return but rather in the spirit of having already received something. It is more blessed to give than to receive. St. Nicholas’ life reflected this attitude of heart. He is known as Jolly old St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, Papa Noel, Father Christmas, and various other names in different countries and languages.

It is difficult to find a person who looks happier than a “Santa” with his twinkling eyes and joyful laugh. It is difficult to find a person so eager and ready to give to others with no thought of getting something in return. It is difficult to find a person so willing to forgive and be gracious to the smallest of offenders. Yet, these are precisely the characteristics that we Christians are to have day after day; they are the fruit of the Holy Spirit. If people all ages are drawn to these characteristics in Santa, how much more are they drawn to spirit-filled Christians who are in circulation 365 days a year rather than just a few days around Christmas time.

During the Christmas season, each time we see his symbol, let’s remember the life of St. Nicholas who gave himself and his wealth and time to those around him as he served Jesus. Perhaps someone will look at you this Christmas and say, “Hi Santa, I see Jesus in you!” The Santa in our house should be filled with Ho-Ho-Ho laughter that does our heart good like medicine. Such joy comes from knowing Jesus and is kept in manifestation by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Thank the Lord for St. Nicholas who worshipped Jesus and whose unselfish life continues to point us to Jesus Christ—the Greatest Gift ever given. No matter how good anyone may appear to be, how perfect, how jovial, or how benevolent, only Jesus is the real source of these characteristics for He alone is the giver of the abundant life. Above all else, JESUS IS THE CENTER AND FOCUS OF CHRISTMAS. May all of our activities and celebrations point to HIM.

Merry Christmas!

Notes: On Christmas Eve when our children were small, we always read the biblical account of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke, but  I also read “The Night before Christmas” story to them and under the tree they would find gifts from “Santa.”


P.S. This is the first time I’ve had my picture taken with a Mall Santa, but it goes with the above story about how I relate to him. -December 2016




(c) Above article adapted and expanded from East of Bethlehem, Chapter 13, by C. Yvonne Karl. Brentwood Press, 2003.





The Hanging of the Greens (A Program)

Hanging of the Greens


Scriptures, Carols, Symbols



Selected Christmas Music      (Band, orchestra, choir, ensembles, or recorded music)



O Come All Ye Faithful; Joy to the World





Scripture: The Announcement by the Angels, Matthew 1:18-25

Carol: O Little Town of Bethlehem; Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Scripture: The Birth of Christ, Luke 2:1-7

Carol: O Holy Night; Emmanuel; Silent Night; Mary, did you know?

Scripture: The Shepherds, Luke 2:8-20

Carol: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

Scripture: The Wise Men, Matthew 2:1-12

Carol: We Three Kings

Scripture: The Dedication, Luke 2:22-30

Carol: Good Christian Men, Rejoice!

Scripture: The Good News, Romans 10:14-17

Carol: Go Tell It on the Mountain; Come to the Manger; His Name is Wonderful





The Christmas Wreath

Reader: The green color of the holly wreath is lovely but when you try to handle it to put it into an arrangement you find that lovely holly leaves are also very sharp and sometimes painful. The prickly leaves remind us of the Crown of Thorns which were placed upon Jesus’ head before His crucifixion. The red berries represent drops of blood pressed from His brow. As Christmas approaches you may know someone for whom the holidays will be painful—Jesus came to share that pain. In wearing the crown of thorns, He died on the cross to turn our sorrows into joy.

Carol: Master, Redeemer, Savior of the World; The Old Rugged Cross

The Christmas Angels

Reader: Angels, angels everywhere! An angel announced the conception to Mary and then related the event to Joseph. An angel announced the birth of Jesus from the heavens surrounded by an army of other angels. An angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to flee the murderous King Herod. An angel ministered to Jesus after His temptation. An angel was at the tomb after the resurrection telling the women, “He is not here; He is risen.” And the Apostle Paul tells us to not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

Carol:  Angels from the Realms of Glory; Angels We Have Heard on High

The Christmas Tree

Reader: Modern Christmas trees originated during the Renaissance of early modern Germany. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther, who is said to have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree. We use them as Christmas decorations to symbolize our Savior’s undying love for us. If we give them proper light and water, their leaves remain a healthy green—a sign of life. The Word of God describes God’s people as being like trees planted by the River with leaves that do not wither. As we look at our Christian brothers and sisters, we see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives—fruit that grows as a result of being planted by the River of Life. When we look at the Christmas tree this year, let’s remember the faithfulness of God to give us life everlasting.

Carol: O Christmas Tree

The Christmas Lights

Reader: The lights of Christmas represent Christ as the Light of the World. This life gives light to all mankind. His life is the Light that shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never put it out. The real Christmas experience for everyone is the turning on of the light within our heart. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Before we continue with Christmas preparations, let us ask ourselves whether the real Christmas Light has come to us; and if not, let us invite Christ into our hearts right now. (Turn tree lights on.)

Carols: It Came Upon the Midnight Clear; Jesus, the Light of the World

The Christmas Star

Reader: Through the dark of night, after centuries of anticipation, a unique star appeared in the sky and was seen by some highly educated men who rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. They believed it announced the birth of the coming king about whom they had studied. Although their journey was long, the star led the wise men to the house where they found the newborn King. The Bible is our star—it leads us straight to Jesus Christ. We must study it, meditate upon it, and follow it for direction in our lives and it will lead us to the King of kings!

Carol: Star of the East

The Christmas Tree Ornaments

Reader: One way to get the attention of those around us and direct them to the Word of God and to the faithfulness of God is for them to see the gifts of the Spirit at work in our lives:  Symbolic of these gifts, we place ornaments on the Christmas tree.

Carols: O Come all ye Faithful

The Christmas Poinsettias

Reader: In many countries around the world, the treasured poinsettia has become one of the traditional Christmas flowers. It blossoms in beauty and nearly sings as it unfolds. Most flowers seem to share happiness, but the red of the poinsettia at Christmas time seems to shout JOY. We can only have true joy if we have the source of joy planted in our heart—His Name is Jesus. (If desired, include the legend and history of the Poinsettia. See below.)

Carol:  All Hail King Jesus

The Yule (Christmas) Log

Reader: Throughout the Bible fire has served as a symbol of the presence of God: the flaming sword at the entrance to the Garden of Eden; the burning bush from which the Lord called Moses; the pillar of fire with which God led his people out of Egypt; the tongues of fire on believers on the day of Pentecost. Fire has always served God’s people as a reminder that we have God with us. To the Scandinavians Yule actually means “Christmas,” so we call this our Christmas log for it will burn to demonstrate the warmth of the soul who has accepted Christ into His heart.

Carol: Deck the Halls, v. 2: See the Blazing Yule Before Us…

The Christmas Cards

Reader: Christmas 1843 was an historic time in London. Sir Henry Cole was having an artist friend design a Christmas greeting to send to his friends. This came to be known as the first Christmas card. It was printed in black and white and colored in by hand. After about thirty years, Christmas cards came to be popular. They were first introduced to the United States just a little over one hundred years ago. This year as we address our Christmas cards, let’s pray over each one of them that they will bear witness of Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate on this day. Pray that ours won’t be just another card, but a card with a special message that will encourage, inspire, or even change the life of the person who receives it.

Carol: The First Noel

The Christmas Bells

Reader: Christmas Bells ring out joy and celebration. The Bible says that on the bells around the horses will be written, Holiness unto the Lord. Bells were also placed on the hem of the priest’s garment so he wouldn’t die going in and out of the Holy of Holies. This Christmas, every time we hear a bell ring, let’s remember that Jesus came to bring holiness into our lives—to set us apart as His children; and to save us from death—eternal separation from God. May our testimony be like a bell that rings out to call others to Jesus! (See Exodus 39:24-26; Exodus 28:35)

Carol: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day; Come on Ring those Bells

The Christmas Candles

Reader: People around the world place lights in the window at Christmas time and there are many touching stories about how a candle in the window has welcomed a wayward child back home. The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly. (Proverbs 20:27) God uses our spirit to be searchlight to expose our need for His gift of forgiveness. Once this gift becomes a part of our lives, every day is Christmas because every day Jesus is born in the hearts of people who see our light. Let’s continually allow the light of Christ to glow out through us.

Carol: Away in a Manger; What Child is This?






The Christmas Gifts

Reader: Gift-giving is first found in Genesis and then throughout the Old Testament. Men gave gifts to God from their fields and their flocks. Men gave jewelry of all kinds to the one they wished to marry. When the Queen of Sheba came to visit King Solomon, she brought him large quantities of gold, spices, and precious stones; in return he gave her whatever she desired. However, the greatest gift ever given was when God gave His Son, Jesus Christ, as the supreme sacrifice for our sins. The wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh—somewhat like shower gifts today—to help the young family get established and have what they needed to raise the Christ Child. When Jesus ascended back to heaven after His resurrection, He gave gifts to the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Then God sent us His Holy Spirit who comes laden with gifts for everyone. Gift giving continues to be a custom in many countries—especially during the Christmas season. All kinds of gifts are given from the most elaborate and expensive to the very simple but equally meaningful. As we give gifts to others, let us remember that the greatest gift is love.

Carols: The Gift Goes On; What Child is This? Mary’s Boy Child; Sweet Little Jesus Boy


Invitation to the Wassail Table

King Henry VII introduced the Wassail Bowl during the late 1400’s. It contains a mixture of hot spices and toasted apples. The word itself means “Be thou Well”. Often the Wassail Bowl is served with mince meat pies which were made in oblong shape to represent the manger. The spices were used to signify the frankincense and myrrh brought by the Wise Men. A golden candle on either side of the manger represented the gift of gold. As you come to the Wassail Table and share with each other remember Christ came to the world on Christmas Day that you might be well in spirit, soul, and body.


Closing Prayer

Song: Here We Come A-Wassailing

Fellowship around the Wassail Bowl



1 gal. fresh apple cider

1 cup brown sugar (packed)

1 6-oz can frozen lemon concentrate, thawed

1 6-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

1 T whole cloves

1 T whole allspice

1 t. nutmeg

cinnamon sticks

lemon slices

In large kettle combine cider, sugar, lemonade, orange juice. In piece of cheesecloth tie together cloves, allspice, nutmeg              and place in kettle with mixture.  Simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Remove cheesecloth bag of spices. Place in bowl,                          decorate  with cinnamon sticks and thin lemon slices. Serve warm. Makes about 16 servings.



         Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

4 apples peeled & sliced thin

½ cup bread flour

2 28-oz jars mince meat

½ cup brown sugar, packed

1 T ground cinnamon

4 T unsalted butter

½ cup chopped pecans

equivalent of 2, 9” pie shells—either homemade or frozen

To make manger pies, cut pie crusts  into oblong pieces and place in cornbread-type baking pans.


Combine sugar and cinnamon, butter and ½ the flour until crumbly.

Add pecans. Set aside.

Toss apples with remaining flour and arrange in pie shell.

Top with mincemeat.

Sprinkle crumble mixture over mincemeat.

Bake 10 minutes at 425; reduce oven to 350 degrees and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out          clean. Recipe makes about 16 mini pies in shape of a manger.


*You may copy, rearrange, and edit any or all of this celebration for use in your family, church, or small group. For permission to reprint this Celebration for publication, please contact the author by e-mail (

In order to encourage wide participation, it is suggested that you have different individuals read the various parts. Each reader should have a prop to illustrate the topic.

Suggestions for carols or songs are given for each category although many other titles are equally appropriate. You might want to sing only one verse of each song, (or only one song), to limit the time of the celebration. Consider having some of the songs sung by children’s choirs, solos, etc.

Total time for this program – 60-90 minutes depending on how many songs are sung.


© C. Yvonne Karl, East of Bethlehem, Chapter 16. Brentwood Press, 2004. Adapted, 2018. UBP.

Legend of the Poinsettia

A charming legend is told of Pepita, a poor Mexican girl who had no gift to present the Christ Child at Christmas Eve Services. As she walked slowly to the chapel, her heart was filled with sadness rather than joy. Not knowing what else to do, Pepita knelt by the roadside and gathered a handful of common weeds, fashioning them into a small bouquet. Looking at the scraggly bunch of weeds, she felt more saddened and embarrassed than ever by the humbleness of her offering. She fought back the tears as she entered the small village chapel and slowly knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red, and all who saw them were certain that they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes.

From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season. That night, the legend of the poinsettia was born. (There are variations of this legend, but all have the same ending.)

History of the Poinsettia

Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) was appointed as the first United States Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829) by President Madison. (Mr. Poinsett later founded the institution that we know today as the Smithsonian Institution). While visiting Mexico in 1828, he became enchanted by the brilliant red blooms he saw there and immediately sent some of the plants back to his plantations in South Carolina. They were grown in his hot houses there, and he began sending them to friends and other botanical gardens.

Around 1836, the name poinsettia was given to the plant honoring the man who first brought it to the United States. After his death in 1851, Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day. Since that time, the poinsettia has been known as the Christmas flower, now available in red, pink, and white.

*You can find this information on various internet sites.

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The Twelve Days of Christmas

Christians who are not part of liturgical church traditions have no understanding of the enormous importance of the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Contrary to modern belief, these are not the twelve days before Christmas, but in the Western Church are the twelve days from Christmas until the beginning of Epiphany, January 6 (the twelve days count from December 25 until January 5). The popular song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is a song of Christian instruction with hidden references to the basic teachings of the Faith.

During the period from 1558 to 1829 in England, Catholics were prohibited by law from practicing their faith publicly or privately. It was a crime to be a Catholic. Within this setting and background, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was composed as one of the “catechism songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. It was a mnemonic device—a memory aid—at a time when to be caught with anything in writing indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned but severely punished. Those outside the church saw it as a meaningless tune with meaningless lyrics.

The “true love” mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The “me” who receives the presents refers to every baptized believer who is part of the Christian Faith. Thus, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me” takes on new meaning. Each of the “days” represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn. Each of the other symbols is significant.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree
The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, the first day of Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge that feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the expression of Christ’s sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered you under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but you would not have it so…”

Two Turtle Doves
The two turtle doves are symbolic of the Old and New Testaments, which together bear witness to God’s self-revelation in history and His creation of a people to tell His to the world.

Three French Hens
The three French hens represent the Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love.

Four Calling Birds
The four calling birds represent the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which proclaim the Good News of God’s reconciliation of the world to Himself in Jesus Christ.

Five Golden Rings
The give golden rings are illustrating the five books of Moses, also called the five books of the Law, otherwise known as the first five books of the Old Testament or the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which give the history of humanity’s sinful failure and God’s response of grace in the creation of a people to be a light to the world.

Six Geese A-laying
The geese represent the six days of creation that establish God as Creator and Sustainer of the world.

Seven Swans A-swimming
The seven swans symbolize the gifts of the Holy Spirit:  prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion; Or, uniquely Catholic, the seven sacraments: General, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (gratitude, praise, communion), Reconciliation, Anointing of Sick, Holy Orders (Priest, Bishop, Cardinal…).

Eight Maids A-milking
The eight maids correspond to the Beatitudes: Blessed are (1) the poor in spirit, (2) those who mourn, (3) the meek, (4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, (5) the merciful, (6) the pure in heart, (7) the peacemakers, (8) those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

Nine Ladies Dancing
The nine ladies dancing reflect the joy one finds in bearing the Fruit of the Holy Spirit: (1) love, (2) joy, (3) peace, (4) patience, (5) kindness, (6) generosity, (7) faithfulness, (8) gentleness, and (9) self-control.

Ten Lords A-leaping
The ten lords symbolize the Ten Commandments: (1) You shall have no other gods before me; (2) Do not make an idol; (3) Do not take God’s name in vain; (4) Remember the Sabbath Day; (5) Honor your father and mother; (6) Do not murder; (7) Do not commit adultery; (8) Do not steal; (9) Do not bear false witness; (10) Do not covet.

Eleven Pipers Piping
The eleven pipers illustrate the Faithful Apostles: (1) Simon Peter, (2) Andrew, (3) James, (4) John, (5) Philip, (6) Bartholomew, (7) Matthew, (8) Thomas, (9) James bar Alphaeus, (10) Simon the Zealot, (11) Judas bar James. The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the Romans.

Twelve Drummers Drumming
The twelve drummers reflect the points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed: (1) I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. (2) I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. (3) He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. (4) He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into the grave. (5) On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. (6) He will come again to judge the living and the dead. (7) I believe in the Holy Spirit, (8) the holy catholic (universal) Church, (9) the communion of saints, (10) the forgiveness of sins, (11) the resurrection of the body, (12) and life everlasting.

Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words…you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates…lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

*Note: There are as many claims that this symbolism is factual as there are claims that it is myth. If you are interested in the “myth” history, read 


(c) East of Bethlehem, C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, 2003. Chapter 15.

This book is out of stock and out of print but is occasionally offered as a used book on,,, and others.


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Three Valuable Gifts

It was a special night in the little town of Bethlehem. A baby had been born in a stable—the only begotten Son of God. His birth was accompanied by a heavenly display of lights—far greater than any fourth of July extravaganza of fireworks we have ever seen. Luke tells us that a multitude of the heavenly host joined the angel in the heavens to announce His birth as the glory of God shined down around the shepherds on the Judean hillside. A host is already a multitude or army. We can only imagine how many as multitude of heavenly armies would be. The shepherds, we are told, hastened to Bethlehem to see this newborn king.

However, it was not this dramatic scene that caused the kings in the east to search out the Christ-child. It was a star. They saw this star and related it to the prophetic scripture they had heard. They began seeking the King—and they found Him. They rejoiced with exceeding great joy, fell down, worshipped Him and gave Him gifts. That’s quite a baby shower! The gifts they brought were products of their own country. (We give back to God the first-fruits of all He gives to us!) These kings, referred to as “wise men”, were fulfilling scripture: all they from Sheba shall come; and they shall bring fold and incense; and they shall show forth the praise of the Lord. This is no surprise as the Queen of Sheba who came to see Solomon brought gifts of much gold.

The Bible does not tell us how many wise men, or kings, came that day nor does it tell us their names. We do know they brought gifts of three different types: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Most commentaries say there is no significance to the gifts except that they were expensive and therefore reflect the character and socio-economic status of those who gave them. However, we can research their various uses and origin. Together, the three types of gifts represent the roles of Jesus the Messiah: His kingly office is represented by gold, His divinity by frankincense, and His manhood by myrrh. “They offered him incense as their God; gold as their king; and myrrh, as united to a human body, subject to suffering and death.” 


Just as the metal gold is unchangeable, so is God. When melted by fire, gold becomes liquid and flows. When we are tried by the fiery circumstances of life, the experience does not change our value or our substance. It simply causes the faith and love in our hearts to flow over into others, and causes our praise and worship to flow from our innermost being to the throne of God. In both the Old Testament tabernacle and the temple, gold was used plentifully, so we see that gold is associated with worship. We are told that in the heavenly city we will “walk on streets of gold.”

Gold was the usual offering presented to kings by their subjects or those wanting to pay respect. It seems that the metal we know as gold has always held extremely high value and used as a medium of exchange. All who have studied American History known of the “gold rush” period when people risked their lives to get to an area where they might be able to find gold. It is valuable because it is scarce and must be dug out of the ground. Several state capitols in our country sport gold overlays on the dome. In other countries, it is not uncommon today to see a palace with pure gold hardware and light fixtures, gold crown moldings around the ceilings as well as in other conspicuous places—all built by kings, queens, and other rulers centuries ago and still sparkling.

Gold is a precious metal and lasts indefinitely, thus it is the basis of currency. With enough of it, we can purchase nearly any object. God is the basis of all things—He is pure precious gold. He had seen to it that His son’s family would have the money they needed to establish their carpenter shop and raise His son. It was enough!


Frankincense was a valuable, all-purpose substance used in medicines and perfumes as well as worship. To obtain the Frankincense, a deep, longitudinal incision is made in the trunk of the tree and below it a narrow strip of bark five inches in length is peeled off. The milk-like juice which exudes is hardened by exposure to the air.

The gum and oil were used in soaps, cosmetics and perfumes as well as an astringent for the skin smoothing out wrinkles, first-aid for wounds and bites, a tonic for ulcers, genital infections, heavy periods, depression—even digestive problems. It was known to unplug the sinuses and soothe coughs, colds, and laryngitis and was very good for asthma sufferers as it would ease breathing.

Frankincense is highly fragrant when burned, and was, therefore, used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God. Aaron burned fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tended the lamps. He burned it again when he lit the lamps at twilight so incense would burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come.  This teaches us that our worship is to be pleasing to God. Remember, this sweet smelling resin comes as the result of the tree’s woundedness and pain. When we can worship God in the midst of our sorrow, our brokeness, and our pain, then it is a sweet smelling offering.


Myrrh is a resin that has an aromatic odor but a bitter taste; its name is derived from Hebrew murr or maror, meaning bitter. Myrrh is produced from a thorn-bush and was obtained from a tree in the same manner as frankincense. When it oozes from the wounded shrub, myrrh is a pale yellow color at first, but as it hardens, it changes to dark red or even black color. Ancient texts refer to its use as a medicine, antiseptic and preservative. Modern research has shown that it stimulates the production of white blood cells, boosts the immune system and is an excellent way to promote oral health. Even today, mouthwashes and toothpaste found in natural health stores often contain myrrh as an active ingredient. Mixed with other ingredients, it can be a potent topical antiseptic salve and has been found to fight gum disease, is recommended as a gargle in cases of mumps, and helps fight tooth decay.

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it. This would have taken the edge off His suffering, but obviously Jesus chose to allow His human side to be totally alert to the fact that He was dying as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He had already drunk of the bitter cup by surrendering to His Father’s will and agreeing to the suffering.

Myrrh was used for the purification of women, likely because of its pleasant scent, thus Esther had to apply it to her body for six months in preparing to meet the king. It was said to keep its fragrance for several hundred years when kept in an alabaster pot and may well have been the costly perfume poured on Jesus’ head and feet at Simon’s house. Also known to be used in preserving the body for burial, Jesus said to the people: For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. After His death, Joseph of Arimathea asked for permission to take Jesus’ body, and Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.

At the time of the birth of Jesus, myrrh was one of the most expensive substances that could be collected and its uses were many. No wonder it was one of the gifts the Magi brought to honor the Christ Child. The Holy Spirit is our myrrh—He purifies, takes away the pain, comforts and strengthens us, attracts us and draws us to the Father, and preserves us for eternal life.

Three Valuable Gifts

Together, the three types of gifts represent three roles of Jesus the Messiah: His kingly office is represented by gold, His divinity by frankincense, and His manhood by myrrh. They offered him incense as their God; gold as their king; and myrrh, as united to a human body, subject to suffering and death.

The greatest gift of all is eternal life given us by Jesus Christ through His death on the cross.


(c) East of Bethlehem, C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, 2003. Chapter 14.

This book is out of stock and out of print but is occasionally offered as a used book on,, and

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Christmas Fruit

Go ahead! Pick on me!

Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith. Scripture calls this the fruit of the Spirit and it grows as a result of work. It begins on the inside—where no one can see—and with careful attention and cultivation it begins to grow out where it can be seen, admired, plucked, and tasted. We must work out our own salvation. The work takes place in our heart—and then we have something to give—we have fruit for others to taste. CHRISTmas fruit!

Nearly every day we hear children or adults report that someone is “picking on” them. In the Song of Solomon we meet two people who are very much in love. The bride invites her beloved to come “pick on her.” Awake, O north wind, and come, O south! Blow upon my garden, That its spices may flow out. Let my beloved come to his garden and eat its pleasant fruits. She knew the north wind was chilly, biting, and penetrating, while the south wind was mild, gentle and pleasurable. Either wind, or both, would blow the fragrance out from the garden where others could smell it. She no longer needed to keep it all to herself, but was now willing to let the fruit be shared with others. When the Spirit blows, the fragrance flows!

Her prayer was for the winds to blow upon her garden, but then immediately she changes it to his garden. When we have been espoused to Jesus Christ, then we too acknowledge that everything is His. Our life, our very being, is His garden and therefore all of the fruit that our life produces is for His pleasure. After all, it is by His Spirit that the fruit grows. He plants the fruit. He waters it. He gives the increase. Nevertheless, He does not come into the garden uninvited.

God loves for us to invite Him into the garden of our life. You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.‘  He spends much time comforting us, instructing us, causing us to grow and mature and bear fruit, but He does not selfishly take all of the fruit; He shares it with others. He tells them: I have come to my garden, my sister, my spouse; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk. (To His Friends) Eat, O friends! Drink, yes, drink deeply, O beloved ones.

Once the trees have grown to maturity and produce fruit, they can reproduce over and over. We are trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord…that He might receive the compliments and thanks. If it seems that all of our fruit is being picked, we should not be alarmed. God knows we will grow more! God receives the first fruit, then He shares it with others.

When the Lord’s friends pick on us, instead of thanking the Lord for the privilege of feeding them, too often we complain. We need to change our attitude and remember it is not our fruit, but it is the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit is not grown just to look at, but to be picked and eaten. How is this possible?

If they

…pick on your love, love them!

…pick on your joy, cheer them up!

…pick on your peace, comfort them!

…pick on your patience, bear them!

…pick on your gentleness, stroke them!

…pick on your faith, encourage them!

…pick on your meekness, teach them!

…pick on your self-control, don’t get upset with them!

No one likes an apple tree just to look at. The fruit is good-looking when the mouth waters and the taste buds desire to sample it. So it is with our life and the fruit of the Spirit that grows in us. When others see it, their spirit begins to crave it. They want to taste what they see. Their ability to taste depends on biting the teeth into the fruit—through the skin. When we feel that people are getting under our skin, we need to stop and think: they are biting into our fruit. Will it be the sweet-tasting fruit that we have allowed the Spirit to grow? Or will it be a bitter work of the flesh?

Next time someone starts picking on us, we will know that our beloved, Jesus Christ, the King, has invited them to join Him in eating His fruit in His garden—our life, and we’ll respond by saying, “Go ahead! Come into the garden. Pick on me!”  We are delighted to share with others. This is the fruit of Christ in our life—our CHRISTmas fruit!


(c) East of Bethlehem, C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, 2003. Chapter 12.

This book is out of stock and out of print but is occasionally offered as a used book on,, and

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Our Lord’s Family Tree

Pharisees and Sadducees alike would surely have loudly disputed Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah if they could have found any flaw in His genealogy to prove He did not come from David. They argued, debated, accused, and crucified Him, but none ever said to Him: “There’s no way you could be the Messiah.” Why? Because genealogies were meticulously recorded and fully trustworthy and showed that Jesus did indeed come from the seed of Abraham, from the house of David as the prophecies had said the Messiah would come. Both Matthew and Luke gave genealogies for Jesus Christ tracing His lineage back to David.

However, it is mandatory to take this one step further. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. After saying Joseph is the son of Jacob, Matthew abruptly departs from this line of descendents to say that Mary gave birth to Jesus, and made it very clear that Joseph was not His father. Some historians point out that Matthew relates the genealogy of Joseph and Luke relates the genealogy of Mary, although he never mentions her by name. In Matthew, the genealogy comes forward from Abraham through David to Jesus while in Luke the genealogy goes backward from Jesus, through David and Abraham all the way back to God Himself.

The names of relatives among the Jews were arrived at in two ways: natural born children; and according to their law, when a man died childless his brother was obliged to take his wife, and the children from that marriage were attributed to the deceased brother. Hebrews never permitted women to enter into their genealogical tables, so whenever a family happened to end with a daughter, instead of naming her in the genealogy they inserted her husband, as the son of him, who was, in reality, his father-in-law. This is the case of Joseph, husband of  Mary, who naturally took her place in the genealogy: Jesus ( as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son  (son-in- law) of Heli. Scripture does not say begotten of Heli because He was not his natural son, but became his son by virtue of having married Mary. Luke uses son of where Matthew speaks of begat. Joseph, son of Jacob, and Mary, daughter of Heli, were of the same ancestral family both traced back to David.

It was promised to Abraham that Christ should descend from him,and to David that He should descend from him; therefore unless it can be proved that Jesus is a son of David and a son of Abraham, we cannot admit him to be the Messiah. Whether traced from Joseph or Mary we end up at the son of David and then the line is the same back from Abraham and all the way to God, the Father, the Creator. Through Joseph, Matthew takes us back to Solomon, son of David. Through Mary, Luke takes us back to Nathan, son of David. Thus Jesus, son of Mary, reunited in Himself all the blood, privileges, and rights of the whole family of David and can emphatically be called the Son of David—even for those who do not accept the virgin birth. As believers, we know that Joseph was simply chosen to be the guardian father of Jesus. He was not His natural father—it was the Holy Ghost that overshadowed Mary and caused her to be pregnant with God’s Son.

Contrary to Jewish tradition which never mentions woman in tracing genealogies, Matthew includes five women in the genealogy of Jesus. Tamar, whose nationality is not given, played the harlot and had a child by her father-in-law, Judah. Bathsheba, referred to as she who had been the wife of Uriah, was impregnated by David when he had an adulterous affair with her. Afterward he had her husband placed on the front lines of battle so he would be killed. Then David married Bathsheba, the widow. Their first son died, but later they had another son, Solomon, who became David’s successor as King.  Also named in Jesus’ ancestry table are Rahab, a Canaanitess who hid the spies in Jericho then later married one of them; and Ruth, a Moabitess, who was the grandmother of David. From studying Matthew’s choice of names to include in the ancestry of Jesus Christ, we find exemplified the words of the Apostle Paul: In Jesus Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek…male nor female. Our Lord and Savior identified with the sinners and outcasts and did not hesitate to have them included in His genealogy. Those who are strangers and foreigners are welcome. I cannot read the genealogy in Matthew without shouting, “Hallelujah! He included me!”

The Virgin Birth

After setting the record straight for the genealogy to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah (, the Anointed One, the Christ) would come out of David, Matthew takes great care to point out that He was born to Mary—he does not mention Joseph here. Note carefully the wording: And Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. “Of whom” as it appears in the Greek in this passage is feminine singular, indicating clearly that Jesus was born of Mary only and not of Mary and Joseph. Even in English we observe that the preposition “to”, “by”, or “of”, refers to the noun immediately preceding it. Jesus was born of her, not of them. It is one of the strongest evidences for Jesus’ virgin birth. Matthew goes on to relate that Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost…that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. He has set the stage, gotten the attention of the Jews with the genealogy, and now Matthew tells the whole story: Jesus was the Son of God! God begat Him!


The Name

The name Jesus is from the Greek for the Hebrew Jeshua or Joshua which means The Lord is salvation. Christ is from the Greek for the Hebrew Meshiah or Messiah, which means Anointed One. 

Prophet, Priest and King

No person ever born was the Son of God except Jesus Christ. In addition to that, among his direct ancestors were the most famous, most prominent kings, priests, and prophets. Though many kings are mentioned in his genealogy, David is the only one here called a King because with Him the covenant of royalty was made and to him the promise of the kingdom of the Messiah was given.

David, the most notorious of sovereigns, was king and prophet. Abraham, the great man of faith, was priest and prophet. However, no person operated in all three offices except Jesus Christ. He alone was prophet, priest, and king. He possessed and carried out these as only the incarnate Son of Almighty God could do.

The prophet’s purpose was to make known the will of God to men; Jesus was intimately and thoroughly acquainted with all the mysteries of the eternal world and He came to declare the Divine nature and its counsels to mankind: No man has seen God at any time…the only begotten …Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; He has declared him.

The priest’s purpose was to offer sacrifices to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. Jesus came as our high priest to Himself be our sacrifice—an atonement for the sins of the whole world.

The king’s purpose was to reign over, protect, and defend the people committed to his care. Jesus came as our King: Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Much of His teaching was about the Kingdom of God—not an earthly kingdom, but a spiritual one that is within each of us who have crossed that line of faith and become His followers.

Jesus carries out this three-fold office of prophet, priest in the heart and soul of His followers as well as in the world. Jesus as prophet teaches man the will of God, convicts him of sin, righteousness, and judgment; and shows the way of salvation. Jesus as priest appropriates the atonement to the guilty conscience. Jesus as King delivers the captive, opens the eyes of the blind, causes deaf ears to ear, puts words into the mouths of the dumb, heals the sick and lame, and reigns over the human soul.

The Anointing of Prophets, Priests and Kings 

Prophets, priests and kings among the Jews were anointed for their offices. Anointing with oil was ceremonial to consecrate a person to any important office whether religious or governmental. This custom was reflective of the feeling that the Holy Spirit gave the gifts of leadership. Since it was believed no man could foretell events unless inspired by the Spirit of God, the prophet was anointed to signify that God gave Him the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge. Since it was believed no man could offer an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of men, the priest was anointed to indicate he was chosen by God to carry out the sacrifices. Kings were inaugurated by anointing with oil since it was understood that no man could carry out the law and judge over the people unless God had chosen him for that task.

No man before or after Jesus Christ held the three offices; and no one ever had the title Messiah—the Christ—but Jesus Christ. He alone is King of kings and Lord of lords—the King who governs the universe and rules in the hearts of His followers; the prophet to instruct men in the way wherein they should go; and the great high priest to make atonement for their sins. The word Christ means the anointed one, and not Moses, Abraham, David, or any others had the title of Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, even though all had been anointed.

The Anointing in Us

Jesus told His disciples that His Father would send the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who would teach them, guide them in the truth, remind them of the things He had taught them, and show them of things to come. John explains that the Holy Ghost is the anointing and that He lives in the followers of Jesus Christ and they know all things. Since we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit, we have the gift of discerning the spirits—detecting truth from error. Therefore, since Jesus is the prophet, priest and king, and by His spirit He lives in us (that’s what the anointing is all about), He has made us priests, and kings, and given us the gift to prophesy (to edify, comfort and exhort the church), and to bring our own confessions and burdens and prayers directly to Him, and to rule over our emotions and choices we make. Why? Because He has adopted us and we are heirs to all that is His: as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.


(c) East of Bethlehem, C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, 2003. Chapter 11.

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Wonderful Peace

Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill to men. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.

This latter verse above was my father’s favorite. In his last months while he lay in the nursing home with one leg amputated due to diabetes and his mind clouded with Alzheimer’s disease, he could still quote the King James Version of this verse: Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man will see God. He had reached a point in his life when that which was deeply rooted in his spirit was all he knew. He did not know his wife of more than fifty years, nor his children, nor his friends, but if we started to quote a scripture verse, he could finish it. If we sang his favorite gospel songs, he could sing them along with us—remembering the words.

One day the aide took him to the activities center to attend a Christian service to be conducted by some believers from a local church. At one point during the service, they asked for testimonies and Dad volunteered. They brought the microphone to him and he “preached” for nearly thirty minutes. What he said was coherent and convincing—as if he had presence of mind. The aide reported how awesome the experience was—how even her tears were flowing and her body tingling as she listened. It is an act of the Spirit of God, for Dad’s spirit was reborn and that which would last eternally had already taken over his temporal faculties. He didn’t know the people closest to him but he knew Jesus! The peace of God which passes understanding was keeping His heart and mind in Christ Jesus.  His roommate, on the other hand, was in the same condition with Alzheimer’s disease, only he was not born again. He would become angry and curse loud and long. The peace my dad experienced never picked up on the angry spirit. Instead, he would continue to rejoice in the Lord with his, “Amen! Praise the Lord!”  He had been diligent during his cognizant days not to let any root of bitterness spring up, and that same peace was keeping him in the days prior to moving on to his eternal home.

Before the writer of Hebrews challenges the people to pursue peace, he exhorts them to strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. These words are addressed to persons worn out with persecution, sickness, affliction, simple fatigue and stress which result from a barrage of everyday problems and difficulties. The writer paints a picture of these people as totally discouraged with their hands hanging down and their knees shaking and wobbling. We’ve all be in that situation at one time or another.

Earlier in the same chapter, the writer gives us biographical clips of those wonderful heroes of faith and exhorts us to remember them as examples. They have gone before us and now are a great cloud of witnesses. They had to endure discrimination, misfortune, and hardships. Many of them never realized their dreams and goals yet they didn’t give up pursuing them right up until the time of their departure from earth. As we anticipate our eternal reward, we should remember their testimonies. Most likely, if we could but hear into the heavenly sphere they would be saying things like: “Let the story of our lives be a witness to you that you may endure to the end!” “It will be worth it all when you get home!” “Do not be weary in well-doing for soon you will reap if you don’t give up!” “Don’t become weary and faint in your minds!”

It’s true that following God’s instructions often brings harassment, but press on! Remember what Jesus said to Peter: Satan desires to have you that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith not fail..and when your trial is over and you have the victory, strengthen your brethren.

Yes, what we’re going through at this time may seem grievous to us as it did to them, but we don’t allow it to cause us to miss what God has in store for us. The author of Hebrews exhorts the Jewish Christians and us to encourage ourselves with the testimonies of those precious saints who have gone on, and to be assured that we have a hope beyond the grave.

In this passage of Scripture from the letter to the Hebrews, we are commanded to do four things: Lift up our hands and knees; Make straight paths for our feet and for the lame; Follow peace and holiness; and Look diligently so we won’t be defiled.

Lift up your hands and knees

If we follow the Bible reference list for “lift up”, we will see that the Psalmist continually reminds himself, us, and all the saints of God, to lift up our hands, heads, and our countenance. In so doing, our attention is directed away from the mundane to Jesus, our Savior and Helper, our eternal King. The Apostle Paul writes to Pastor Timothy: I want men everywhere to pray lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting..  In the very act of lifting up the hands, something happens inside us. We cease being bitter, unforgiving, angry and easily offended. We accept God’s will for our lives and acknowledge that we can’t possibly understand His thoughts or His ways. We live in harmony with ourselves and with God.

The statement, lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, is not a mistake. Yes, we can also lift up our feeble knees. The word used for lift up means to rebuild and/or restore. It is literally like the rebuilding or restoration of a fallen structure. That’s why Paul can also say lift up…the knees. How can you lift up feeble knees? They must be restored. Revigorated. Strengthened. Then, and only then, can we continue to walk in obedience to the Lord rather than standing still, or worse yet, fainting in the way.

Make straight paths for your feet and for the lame.

We know the way; Jesus is The Way. We know the path. He has left the directions in His Word. We dare not turn, nor even look to the left or the right. The way is straight and narrow…few there be that find it, but we can be among the few. It’s important because the lame are following us—those who cannot walk alone and need someone to lean on until they get strong enough to walk alone. They need to see us standing straight, tall, not bowing to the pressures, not having weak knees and limp hands. If those who are hurting are to be healed and get turned around to go in the right direction, we must first be certain we are walking straight: make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

Follow peace and holiness

The Psalmist says: No one can ascend unto the hill (throne) of our Lord unless he has clean hands and a pure heart. No wrath, no bitterness—just faith and peace. We must pursue peace and let it rule our heartWe cannot let the circumstances steal our peace. No matter what all men are like, we cannot become fretful. This peace is not referring to a relationship between people, but a state of time as in the expression, a time of peace. Originally, it meant an interlude in an everlasting state of war. Isn’t that exactly what we are involved in—an everlasting state of war—especially in our minds and in our culture? In the midst of this daily war, we experience a peace inside in our minds and emotions that lets us know we are in the Kingdom of Peace, where Jesus is King.

In the Old Testament, the word peace is used mostly to mean well-being and prosperity. The Shalom (peace) greeting is not a wish, but a gift—which is either received or rejected. Our modern day equivalent, “God bless you,” is the greatest gift we can give someone. In the New Testament, however, the word peace (eirene) refers to salvation—the power which protects us. This peace is neither agreement with others nor the absence of disagreement, rather it is the knowledge that one’s sins are forgiven and their ticket is purchased and secured for heaven.


Peace on earth, Goodwill to men?

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the Shepherds on the hillside in Judea, we heard the words peace on earth, goodwill to men. How we have misconstrued this message! It did not mean that with the coming of Jesus there would now be absence of war on the earth. No! The message of peace was that Salvation has come; the Kingdom of peace. Peace—a feeling of rest from the guilt of sin. Peace—a state of reconciliation with God. Peace—a salvation of the whole man for eternity.

We think today the same way the people did on Palm Sunday when they cried Hosanna as Jesus was passing by. “Help us!” they were crying out. They wanted peace from the bondage imposed on them by the Roman government. They did not understand that the King of kings could bestow on them a peace that would carry them through any and all battles of life. He did not come to give a temporary peace—a utopia in which there would be no suffering, no need to work, no disagreements or arguments, no conflicts. He came to give a peace with God—a peace that would allow us to sleep at night with a clear conscience. That was the peace on earth—or in earth, because it would be the Kingdom of peace in our hearts where He would be King of our lives.

However, it does us no good to pray or sing, “Let there be peace on earth” for Jesus said there will always be wars and rumors of wars. He said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  The Sword that He gives us is His Word—the Sword of the Lord. If we fight all of our battles with the Word of God, we will have peace that lasts eternally. Jesus knew we would be rejected, reviled, and worn out, so He gave us the tools, the formula, the prescription, and the roadmap for peace.

Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul says, If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Paul knew, as we know all too well, that it is impossible to be at peace with some people. No matter how hard you try, they keep stirring up conflict. In essence, he says, “Do what you can, then if your attempts at peace fail, you will realize it isn’t your fault.” This is not, however, a license to do nothing about it! Nor can we let circumstances, pressures, afflictions, diseases, and difficulties, steal our peace. Follow peace—salvation. Hang on to it. Go where it leads. When we follow God’s instructions, it may be grievous at the time, but before long we’ll begin to recognize the peaceable fruit of righteousness—rewards by which we are made happy and at rest with our obedience.

Not only are we to follow peace, but also we are commanded to follow Holiness without which no man shall see God. Holiness is separation; being set apart. It means we aren’t like others who try to get revenge. Instead we follow God’s peace plan and do good to them who despitefully use us. Our God will come with recompense. Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will repay. Let’s not be led astray by false doctrines, but live a life of purity and detachment from the things in the world that have no eternal value

In the opening scripture, the author is writing to Hebrews who understand Hebrew. In Hebrew to see God meant to enjoy Him, and without holiness of heart and life this is impossible. None of us can be fit for heaven if we don’t come to a place on earth where we enjoy the heavenly lifestyle!

Look diligently so as not to be defiled

The writer commands us to look diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble us and thereby many be defiled. We must take this command personally and watch out that no bitterness gets into our heart because of what we have to go through. If bitterness takes root, it will choke out the word in our life and we’ll no longer reside in the Kingdom of Peace.

We can’t be paranoid, but we should be constantly on guard. We must watch and pray. Watch out for people who are falling from grace—people who are sliding away, people who are getting cold or getting out in left-field with false doctrine. If we’re not watchful, they might become a root of bitterness (poison) springing up in our midst to trouble us and before we know we get dragged into their bitterness. It’s contagious. We have to learn to avoid people who have this disease. Just like one patch of weeds in the garden can take over the whole crop if not totally removed, these roots of bitterness can cause a whole group of people to go astray.

The Hebrews called every species of poison a bitter. Here, it is used metaphorically for a bad man or a man holding unsound doctrines and endeavoring to spread them in the Church. They will trouble you—alluding to the effects of poison taken into the body. What happens to us when we eat something that is rotten, poison, tainted? Our whole system is disturbed. Sometimes the consequences of poison taken into the stomach are so severe that we experience violent vomiting, gastrointestinal problems, and perhaps even fatal changes in the blood system. The blood itself—representing life—becomes bad. Most likely, this is what the author is referring to when he says, thereby become defiled, corrupted, or contaminated. Bad example and false teaching have corrupted thousands, and are still making desolation in the world and in the Church.

Citizenship in Peaceville belongs to those individuals who receive God’s grace and His favor.


(c) East of Bethlehem, C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, 2003. Chapter 9.

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Bright Morning Star

The abyss between light and dark is growing wider every day. We’ve watched this happen over the past few decades as shaking took place around both the secular and church worlds. Men and women of position did not permit the Word of God to be a lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path. They walked in partial light. With the pathway still obscured, they stumbled and fell. Ah, but take heart! The Bright and Morning Star shines to give direction. When heeded, there will be no stumbling. There may be thorns and rocks in our pathway in the form of persecution and tribulation, but in the heart there will be no doom or gloom. Jesus said, I have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.

The Bright and Morning Star indicates a new day is about to dawn with new opportunities and clear direction visible to all. Jesus is that star! He will continue to shine brightly in the days to come. His Church will triumph in every battle, win over every obstacle, and disintegrate every weapon formed against Her. She will outshine every counterfeit, every bad report, and every evildoer. Jesus said He will build His Church. The Church of Jesus Christ is not defeated; she is alive and well, although in some geographical locations around the world her light may still be underground.

We thank God for the shaking. We are brave. We are disciplined persons. Those who judge themselves need not be judged. We discipline ourselves so we won’t have to receive imposed discipline. We’ll be strong to conquer in Jehovah’s strength. We are bold. Those who know their God are those who do great exploits. New discoveries, righteous feats, recovery of those things relinquished or stolen—all come to those who choose to follow Jesus. His disciples know that Light shines brighter in total darkness.

Shine like stars

Something wonderful happened on a dark night in Bethlehem. Jesus, the Son of God arrived! His star, bright and beautiful, was shining in a steady burst of light. There was something different about this star. The wise men, taking note of it, did some research. They determined it to be the star of the newborn king of the Jews whose prophesied birth was anticipated by many. In the midst of their excitement, the magi embarked on a journey to Bethlehem to meet and worship the Messiah. Bethlehem, meaning “house of bread”, was the place where they would find King Jesus and get fulfillment for their lives.

The Star of the Show

Those who become popular or famous in a certain setting are referred to as the “star.” Why? Because they stand out from the others. We are familiar with the expressions: Basketball star. Hockey star. Movie star. They’ve made it. They’re topping the pop charts! One question: What are they going to wear? Every pop star needs an image and a knockout wardrobe to match.

We often refer to a person who stands out in a performance as being the star of the show, All the characters are needed to make the show complete, but this one person just outshines the others. The audience, impressed with the character, leaves the event talking about this outstanding person. So it was with the star of Bethlehem when Jesus was born; it outshined all the other stars in the heavens. Everyone familiar with sky-watching would notice its glow.

We Shine like Stars

We, too, shine like stars. We may be a star in the dark life of someone near us. Although we may not like dark places, our light always shines more brightly there. Perhaps that’s why the Lord has placed us where we are—to bring light. As Christians we are to shine like lights in the universe. Wherever we live and work, we must be a light-bearer—a star others want to follow and when they do, it will lead them to Jesus. The starlight of Jesus in us should shine brighter than anything or anyone else around.

Parent Stars

Some of the brightest stars in our lives are parents. Parents who love Jesus and seek to be godly in all their ways light the way for their children to do the same. As they see their parents in situation after situation asking, “What would Jesus do?” children follow that star. Where will it lead? To Bethlehem—the house of bread. Here they can worship the King and find direction for their lives.

Teachers are stars

School teachers, Sunday School teachers, Bible teachers. Whatever they teach, if they love Jesus they are also stars in the lives of their students. Those who follow their teaching by precept and example will soon arrive in Bethlehem where they can worship King Jesus and set their lives on the right course.

Friends are stars

As friends who love Jesus, we will be a light by esteeming others more highly than ourselves. We will not demand our own way, but will exercise discernment with regard to good and evil. Our lips will not speak evil; our eyes will not look on evil; our ears will not listen to evil; and our mind will not think on evil things. We will think on things that are lovely, of a good report, pure, and honest. In so doing, we will be a bright shining star in the life of our friends who will see our good behavior and give glory to God.

Shine on!

Currently, there’s a promotion on to get people to buy a star for someone they love. They get to name the star and it becomes their very own. What a media rip off! Millions of stars exist in the galaxy. They are not for sale! Neither is the free gift of Light that Jesus offers to all who will accept it.

Whatever the season, let’s allow our star to shine. Jesus has put us here to shine forth His Word so that others may see it and follow the light to find Him. If Jesus has been born in our heart, we can be a friend’s Bethlehem—the place where they can find King Jesus. We can feed them the Word and lead them to worship Jesus and follow Him.

When we think of the people who have been stars in our life—helping to give us direction and encouragement at difficult times, let’s remember them with a thankful heart.

Jesus is the brightest star and always will outshine all the others, but we must be His stars shining in the universe as we lift up His Name, His Word, and point others to Him.

In a supernatural way, the glory of that Holy Night invades homes all over the world during the Christmas season. Customs and traditions have particular significance in bringing people together. Many books have been written on the subject of making memories—intentionally planning activities that the family will remember. In all of our planning, we must be sure that Jesus is the center. Without Him, there would be no Christmas. Without Him, all memories are merely temporal. Without Him, we live in darkness. No wonder the songwriter penned the passionate words: Oh Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining; it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

(c) East of Bethlehem, C. Yvonne Karl, Brentwood Press, 2003. Chapter 8.

This book is out of stock and out of print but is occasionally offered as a used book on,, and

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