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Darryn Zewalk / Blog

Moment Of Grace by David C. McCasland (Christmas Inspiration#1)

Moment Of Grace by David C. McCasland (Christmas Inspiration#1)

Every year, I enjoy listening to the BBC’s worldwide live radio broadcast of the Christmas Eve service from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge, England. This Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols combines Scripture readings, prayers, and choral music in a moving service of worship. One year, I was struck by the announcer’s description of the congregation leaving the magnificent chapel, saying they were “stepping out of this moment of grace and back into the real world.”

Wasn’t it that way on the first Christmas? The shepherds heard an angel announce the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11), followed by a “multitude of the heavenly host praising God” (vv.13-14). After they found Mary, Joseph, and the Baby in Bethlehem, the shepherds couldn’t help telling others about this Child (v.17). “The shepherds went back to work, glorifying and praising God for everything that they had heard and seen, which had happened just as they had been told” (v.20 Phillips).

They had been changed by their “moment of grace.” As they stepped back into their real world, they carried the good news about Jesus in their hearts and voices.

May we too take God’s grace into the real world this Christmas and every day of the new year.

May the grace that we encounter At this time of Christmas cheer Not be true just in this season But remain throughout the year. —Sper Take the joy of Christmas with you every day.

Plowshare Christmas by Dennis Fisher (Christmas Inspirational #2)

Plowshare Christmas by Dennis Fisher (Christmas Inspirational #2)

In his book Christmas 1945, Matthew Litt tells about the first peacetime Christmas celebration in the US after World War II. The New York Daily Newsalerted readers to expect a fleet of warships in New York Harbor: “Christmas Day will find a mighty armada, consisting of 4 battleships, 6 carriers, 7 cruisers, and 24 destroyers.” But instead of waging war, the military ships hosted 1,000 needy children.

The children’s measurements had been taken previously so that perfectly fitted navy-blue coats and woolen caps would be gift-wrapped and awaiting them aboard the ships. These vessels of war had been transformed into carriers of compassion.

The prophet Isaiah predicted a future day of Christ’s reign of peace on this earth: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (2:4). Christmastime serves as a reminder that the Prince of Peace will ultimately bring a time of global calm and compassion.

As we celebrate the first coming of the Prince of Peace and wait for His second coming, we are reminded of our privilege to serve as His “carriers of compassion.”

Lord, You have come and brought peace, and I long to share Your compassion everywhere I go. Thank You that this world will know ultimate peace when You return. Amen. True peace comes from the Prince of Peace.

No Answers by Ann Cetas (Christmas Inspiration #3)

No Answers by Ann Cetas (Christmas Inspiration #3)

Just before Christmas 2003, Lydia came home from work to the sight of flames shooting out of her house. She was devastated by more than the loss of her home—seven of her family members died in the flames. When news about the tragedy spread that morning, a deacon from her church rushed to comfort her. She had some deep questions for him, but he had no answers.

Lydia could relate to Job’s story. He lost all 10 of his children (Job 1:18-19), yet he continued to worship God (v.21). Then his health was affected, and his wife urged him to curse God and die (2:9). Job’s friends thought they had the answer—he must have sinned and deserved his troubles.

Job complained bitterly to the Lord and pleaded for an explanation and relief, but God didn’t give him any answers. He didn’t even tell him about Satan’s request to test him (1:6-12; 2:1-6). Instead, He reminded Job that He was the all-wise God and that Job was not. Job was humbled, and he repented for having questioned God’s authority (42:1-6).

This side of heaven, we may not find answers for our desperate questions of “Why did this happen?” and “Why me?” But we can rest in the truth that God is in control and that He loves us.

Though darker, rougher, grows the way And cares press harder day by day, With patience in His love I'll rest, And whisper that He knoweth best. —Pentecost

God does not have to answer our questions, but He will always keep His promises.

"Joy" by Julie Ackerman Link (Christmas Inspirational #4)

"Joy" by Julie Ackerman Link (Christmas Inspiration #4)

After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, joy was lost. God expelled them from their garden home to prevent something worse from happening. If they had eaten from the tree of life after eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would have lived forever in their misery.

Life outside the garden was not easy. Adam and Eve had to work hard for their food. The reality of death was everywhere, and animals preyed on one another. Even worse, the couple’s firstborn son murdered his younger brother. What could be worse? Sin had pierced their lives, and the couple could not stop joy from draining out.

But God had a plan to restore joy. Joy was lost in the Garden when death came, but joy returned through birth—the birth of God’s own Son. “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). Jesus grew up to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead. But this was just a taste of things to come. God entered our world, experienced our sorrow, and conquered death, giving us hope that He will keep His promise to end pain, and eliminate sorrow and death (John 11:25-26; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rev. 21:4). No wonder Christmas is the season of joy!

Have you felt the joy of the shepherds, Who were first to behold the sight Of that holy Child of Mary, On that wonderful Christmas night? —Brill The joy of Christmas is Jesus.

Glad To Get Home! (Christmas Inspirational #5)

Glad To Get Home! (Christmas Inspirational #5)

In wintertime, a condition known as a “whiteout” sometimes occurs along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The air becomes so filled with powdery snow that you can’t see more than a few feet ahead. You feel totally helpless, especially if you’re driving, and that’s what we were doing on a bitterly cold December day.

Our family had been invited to my sister’s house for Christmas dinner. As we headed west toward Lake Michigan, the weather became treacherous, but we made it to our destination. Later, however, as we were driving home after dark, the situation grew even worse. The expressway was covered with ice, traffic slowed to a crawl, and several cars were in the ditch. Then all at once we were enveloped by a brief whiteout. Believe me, it was frightening. After a slow, tedious journey, we finally reached Grand Rapids and pulled into our driveway. I think every member of the family said, “I’m sure glad to get home!”

I wonder if we’ll have a similar feeling when we enter heaven. The dangerous “whiteouts” of our earthly journey will be over. The temptations, stresses, and failures will all be in the past. Best of all, we’ll be safe with our Savior.

Yes, we’ll be so glad to get home!

When we all get to heaven, What a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, We'll sing and shout the victory. —Hewitt

Heaven for the Christian is best spelled H-O-M-E.

Hiding In Plain Sight by Mart De Haan (Christmas Inspirational #6)

Hiding In Plain Sight by Mart De Haan (Christmas Inspirational #6)

A Baltimore congregation found the answer to their financial troubles on the wall of their church. And it had been “hiding” there for more than 25 years! Someone finally recognized a piece of art hanging in the chapel—it was a valuable woodblock print by Albrecht Dürer, dated 1493. The work shows the angel telling Mary she would give birth to God’s Son.

Some members just could not believe they had been unaware of the value of the old masterpiece, saying in effect, “If it were real, why would it be here?”

What about us? Are we overlooking the value of the event depicted on that woodblock print?

Jesus isn’t hiding. The truth that God came to earth in human form is plainly announced in His Word. It is reflected in our art and in our hymnbooks. But the significance of Christ’s birth is still neglected. We get so wrapped up in activities and programs that we miss the immeasurable worth of knowing who that Baby was.

What’s missing is our worship. Think about the meaning of His birth. Jesus is God! He came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21) and give us eternal life (John 3:14-18).

This Christmas, join with the wisemen and shepherds and give praise to Jesus—God who became Man.

He left His Father's throne above, So free, so infinite His grace! Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam's helpless race. —Wesley

Christ's birth brought the infinite God to finite man.

Death Destroyed! by David C. McCasland (Christmas Inspiration #7)

Death Destroyed! by David C. McCasland (Christmas Inspiration #7)

Medical researchers are working tirelessly to find a cure for cancer, a clue to the mystery of Alzheimer’s, and ways to conquer a host of other debilitating diseases. But what if you awoke to headlines saying DEATH DESTROYED! Would you believe it? Could you believe it?

The New Testament proclaims that for the believer in Christ, deathhas been destroyed—reduced to inactivity—rendered incapable of doing what it once did. “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. 15:54).

This good news is for everyone who will receive it—just as the angel told the shepherds when Jesus was born, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the end for death. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:56-57).

That is why we celebrate Christmas!

Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth. —Wesley The birth of Christ brought God to man; the cross of Christ brings man to God.

"Celebrate Winter" by Joe Stowell (Christmas Inspirational #8)

"Celebrate Winter" by Joe Stowell (Christmas Inspirational #8)

I love living where there are four seasons. But even though I love settling down with a good book by a crackling fire when it’s snowing, I must admit that my love for the seasons grows a little dim when the long gray days of winter drone on into February.

Yet regardless of the weather, there is always something special about winter: Christmas! Thankfully, long after the decorations are down, the reality of Christmas still lifts my spirits no matter what’s happening.

If it weren’t for the reality of Christ’s birth, not only would winter be dark and dreary, but our hearts would be bleak and have nothing to hope for. No hope for the freedom from guilt and judgment. No hope of His reassuring and strengthening presence through dark and difficult times. No hope for a future secured in heaven.

In the winter of a troubled life, the psalmist asked, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” The remedy was clear: “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance” (Ps. 42:5).

In C. S. Lewis’ tales of Narnia, Mr. Tumnus complains that in Narnia it is “always winter and never Christmas.” But for those of us who know the God who made the seasons, it is always Christmas in our hearts!

When our lives are heavy laden, Cold and bleak as winter long, Stir the embers in our hearts, Lord; Make Your flame burn bright and strong. —Kieda Let the reality of Christmas chase away the blahs of winter.

Praying And Waiting by Herbert Vander Lugt (Christmas Inspirational #9)

Praying And Waiting by Herbert Vander Lugt (Christmas Inspirational #9) A Christian couple was deeply distressed because their married son and his family had quit going to church and were giving God no place in their lives. As their friend, I advised them to continue showing love, to pray, and to avoid starting arguments. But at the family’s annual Christmas gathering, the father gave his son a lecture in the presence of the other siblings. The son and his family left in anger and broke off all contact with his parents. It’s hard to rely on prayer alone when you want something to happen right now. But that is what Nehemiah did. He was distraught by the news that the Israelites in Jerusalem were in grave danger (Nehemiah 1:3-4). He was a man with great leadership ability and in a favorable position to receive help from the king he served, so he was eager to help his people. But he knew that he could be executed for coming into the presence of a Persian king without being invited. Therefore, though he had asked God to give him the opportunity immediately, he trusted God enough to wait. Four months later, the king opened the door for him to make his request (2:1,4).

It’s not always easy to be patient, but God can be trusted. Wait patiently for Him.

Praying, resting, waiting, trusting— These are words that tell a story; As we wait for God to lead us, He responds, "Just seek My glory." —Hess

Delay is not denial—pray on!

"Where's The Baby Jesus?" by David C. Egner (Christmas Inspirational #10)

"Where's The Baby Jesus?" by David C. Egner (Christmas Inspirational #10) It seems to happen earlier each year. Stores put up Christmas decorations. Newspaper ads announce “the perfect Christmas gift.” Toy commercials punctuate television shows. Christmas music fills the air. Before you know it, there are banquets to attend, parties you can’t miss, gifts to wrap, family gatherings to plan, baking to be done, and a host of other activities that manage to crowd out the real meaning of Christmas.

Delores Van Belkum told me a story about her young grandson that drives home the point. His mother and father had used a simple manger scene to tell Justin about Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. They wanted him to know that the Child born in Bethlehem was someone very special. As the holiday approached, Justin went on a shopping trip with his mother and grandmother. One salesperson showed him a sparkling display of Santas, toys, and decorations. He was fascinated. But he spoke words that far surpassed his years when he looked up and said, “But where’s the baby Jesus?”

This Christmas, let’s keep foremost in our minds the reason for the celebration—the birth of God’s Son. Then, as people listen to our words and observe our activities, they won’t ask, “Where’s the baby Jesus?”

Invite Him in this Christmas, This Savior from above; The gift He seeks you need not wrap— He only wants your love. —Berg

Beware of keeping Christmas but losing Christ.