Pause and think about it!

Posts tagged ‘gifts’

The Hanging of the Greens (A Program)

Hanging of the Greens

A TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION

Scriptures, Carols, Symbols

 

PRELUDE

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

PRAYER

PURPOSE EXPRESSED IN SONG

O Come All Ye Faithful; Joy to the World

 

PART  1

THE CHRISTMAS STORY

IN SCRIPTURE AND SONG

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

 

PART 2

THE CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION

IN CUSTOMS AND CAROLS

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?

 

PART 3

THE CHRISTMAS BLESSING

IN GIVING AND RECEIVING

 

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

 

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.

 

MINCE MEAT PIES

         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 (yvonnekarl@gmail.com).

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.” 

Gold

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

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

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 amazon.com, alibris.com, and abebooks.com.

One Size Does NOT Fit All!

If we really want to help someone grow, we will have to help them in a way that fits their wiring. Our great model for this is God himself, for he always knows just what each person needs.

He had Abraham take a walk, Elijah take a nap, Joshua take a lap, and Adam take the rap. He gave Moses a forty-year time out, he gave David a harp and a dance, and he gave Paul a pen and a scroll. He wrestled with Jacob, argued with Job, whispered to Elijah, warned Cain, and comforted Hagar. He gave Aaron an altar, Miriam a song, Gideon a fleece, Peter a name, and Elisha a mantle. Jesus was stern with the rich young ruler, tender with the woman caught in adultery, patient with the disciples, blistering with the scribes, gentle with the children, and gracious with the thief on the cross.

God never grows two people the same way. God is a hand-crafter, not a mass-producer. And now it is your turn.

God has existed from eternity but he wants to do a new thing with you. The problem many people face when it comes to spiritual growth is that they listen to someone they think of as the expert—maybe even the pastor of their church—talk about what he does, and think that is what they are supposed to do. When it doesn’t work for them—because they are a different person!—they feel guilty and inadequate. They often give up. But spiritual growth is handcrafted, not mass-produced. God does not do “one-size-fits-all.

(The above comment was penned by Pastor John Ortberg and copied as quoted in the book You Lost Me, by David Kinnaman, p216-217.)

P.S. from Yvonne:

Yes, contrary to the popular clothing label, God does not do “one-size-fits-all. For some it may fit, but for others it will surely be too snug or too loose. In Proverbs 22:6, we are exhorted to Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. A study of the Hebrew word picture here indicates that each child is born with different gifts and talents and it is the responsibility of parents to discern such and provide opportunities for their development. Some children have a natural flair for art, or music, or science, or math, or dancing, or athletics—or maybe a combination of gifts and talents. Parents are equally responsible to equip their children with scriptural wisdom (Deut. 6).

 

Posted 24 September 2012

Tag Cloud