The characters - a young, pregnant Jewish girl and her new husband. The setting - a dingy stable. The scene - the smell of animals permeates the air as the Savior of the world is born and placed in a manger. When the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of the Messiah, no one expected His arrival to be like this. God often uses the unlikely to fulfill His purposes. (Text by Presidential Prayer Team. Painting by Wanda Locke of Stone Mountain, GA)
Nativity Scene -- Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Krueger's Christmas"
A Hallelujah Christmas Original lyrics performed by Cloverton; Tune by Leonard Cohen
Full 26-minute movie - one of Jimmy Stewart's final films
O Holy Night Home Free Vocal Band
Why Would He Do It?
"But He thought it not robbery to be equal with God ... "
That verse long seemed strange and incomprehensible to me. Only in recent years (and newer translations) has it come to make sense.
One thing that helped was a Christmas movie of a single-parent preacher who came with his daughter to a new pastorate at a church in downtown Washington, DC. There were whisperings from the first, and many misunderstandings about where his priorities were placed. Then everything came to a head when, as an act of compassion, he ended up spending Christmas Eve night sleeping on the street, sharing the cardboard box that was home to a homeless man.
Think of all the splendor you can imagine: of the most elaborate settings of the richest folks you've seen in the movies; of the fanciest houses you've ever seen - even places like Biltmore House. All of that, and much, much more pale into insignificance (like that cardboard box) in comparison with what Jesus had (and has) surrounding Him in Heaven. And why shouldn't He have it? He dreamed it all up. He created it. It is the fruit of His imagination and of His labor. So of course it is His. He has every right to it.
And yet He was willing to set it all aside - all the glory, all the majesty, all the splendor - to come to Earth. He traded all of glory for beds of straw and threadbare blankets. The prophets said that the train of His robe filled the Temple, yet He left it behind to live as a poor man with only one nice garment to His name. He is Master of everything, yet He identified with the poorest servant. And in the end this one, the Judge of the universe took on Himself the penalty for our rebellion, so that we could go free if we accepted His pardon.
Why? Why on Earth - no - Why in Heaven's name would He do it?
Because He loves us. "Greater love hath no man, but that he should lay down his life for a friend." He cares more deeply for us than we can possibly imagine. For you. For me.
Praise God for his indescribable gift. Merry Christmas.
I don't know that this year has been especially eventful, but life does happen. In the process of these and various other things that have taken our attention thru the year, it's easy to let the clutter bury the important stuff. We're all gearing up for the Christmas season with parties, mission projects, rehearsals & special programs, extra shopping, etc.. My attitude often gets buried under all these details and I end up wondering if I'm ever going to get in tune with the real reason for it all.
I don't guess it was really any different 2000 years ago. Thanks to governmental nonsense, Mary & Joseph had to make a rough trip at a time when all common sense demanded that she stay at home with help nearby. The innkeeper, already covered up with more people than he could handle, suddenly found a pregnant woman (in LABOR!) on his hands. The shepherds probably were shorthanded and possibly short of sleep themselves as they managed those flocks out on the hills at night, because some of their co-workers had probably had to make their own trips to distant towns for this census. And nobody was happy with the taxes involved, most of which went into somebody's pocket or to politians (foreign, no less) who were more concerned with keeping them in line than in taking care of community needs.
Yet in the middle of all that, when a baby's first wail pierced the night, the sense of awe was overpowering. It didn't matter that their day -- their whole week -- had been bone-weary rough. It didn't matter that their housing consisted of a smelly stall in a drafty stable. Mary and Joseph found themselves holding her firstborn and -- as hard as it was to comprehend -- the SON of GOD! The wonder -- the awe -- was beyond understanding.
And out on the hills, the short-handed days and the short-of-sleep nights were blown into oblivion when that angel appeared. Then the one became an army! Talking about MESSIAH! And not just Messiah, but the LORD -- GOD himself! Here, in Bethlehem! Weariness, and even the sheep, were forgotten. The years of synagogue lessons and Temple sacrifices and hair-splitting laws had worn them down and left them jaded, but in an instant heaven had reminded these shepherds what it was really all about. They HAD to see this Baby!
And finally, the innkeeper: What was he to think about all this? Was this couple just lost in the wonder of their first child? Had these shepherds gotten hold of a bad batch of wine? Did the innkeeper see just more of the senseless clutter of life? Or did God get hold of him too?
The innkeeper is me. The innkeeper is you. The world has made this season a time of chaos and worry, busy-ness and pain. But there's a miracle here, a holy awe, a heavenly Visitation. Will I take the time to find it? Will you?
May God get hold of each of us, and change us forever.
LYRICS I've heard about this baby boy Who's come to earth to bring us joy And I just want to sing this song to you. It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, The minor fall, the major lift. With every breath I'm singing Hallelujah! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
A couple came to Bethlehem Expecting child, they searched the inn To find a place for You were coming soon. There was no room for them to stay, So in a manger filled with hay God's only Son was born, oh Hallelujah! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
The shepherds left their flocks by night To see this baby wrapped in light; A host of angels led them all to You. It was just as the angels said: You'll find Him in a manger bed; Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
A star shown bright up in the eas; To Bethlehem, the wisemen three Came many miles and journeyed long for You And to the place at which You were. Their frankincense and gold and myrrh They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
I know You came to rescue me. This baby boy would grow to be A man and one day die for me and you. My sins would drive the nails in You. That rugged cross was my cross, too. Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah! Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
Best Christmas Ever
One of the things I always think about during the Christmas season is Vietnam. I went there in January 1971 and returned in December.
My experience was much different than that of many who were returning from Vietnam, and at the time I didn't realize HOW different it was.
I was scheduled to return to the states from Vietnam in the middle of December, 1971. After reporting to the 90th Replacement Center, the main activity I remember was watching the lists they kept posted of all our names (in departure order) and when the next few flights out were scheduled. I figured out from comparing the two that I should get on a flight that would get me home on Saturday or Sunday.
At one point, I remember thinking that it would be neat if I could get home on Friday, and surprise my father at school. (He taught at an elementary school about 8 miles from the Jacksonville, FL airport.) I didn't pray about it, but just thought it would be neat if I could. I knew it wouldn't happen, because I could read the lists well enough to know that I'd be leaving Bien Hoa on Friday, not arriving in Florida then.
But God had other plans. One day, when I looked at the lists, my name wasn't where it was supposed to be. It had jumped up the list a couple of hundred names higher, which meant that I would be leaving two flights earlier. One thing led to another, and my flight landed at the Jacksonville airport about 12:30 Friday afternoon.
Then I had a decision to make. The prudent thing would be to call my mother at her (Florida Baptist Convention) office in downtown Jacksonville. But I decided to hitchhike to my father's school instead. At first that didn't seem like a good idea, because I ended up walking at least the first half-mile, in uniform, carrying all my luggage (which weighed almost as much as I did), before a lady stopped to pick me up.
A mile later, I had another decision to make. My ride was heading south into Jacksonville (25 miles), and going pretty close to my mother's office. But I decided to stay with my original plan, and had her drop me off when she got on the interstate. God intervened again. No sooner had that lady driven off than someone else stopped to pick me up, and dropped me at the back bumper of my father's car.
After stowing my luggage in the car (in those days when you could leave one unlocked), I headed for the school office. The first thing I asked was what time school let out. They said "2:29", and my watch said it was 2:25. When I asked about my father, they went wild. My father had made this desk jockey a local hero. One of the ladies escorted me to my father's classroom, where he had his back to the door tending to the back end of a line of children heading out to catch the bus. When the kids saw me, the line stopped moving, which caused Daddy to turn around to see what was wrong. That's when he saw me, and he couldn't have been more surprised.
That MADE Christmas for both of us that year. And all because God decided to honor a "what-if" wish that wasn't even a prayer.