What's on Display? - A Repost

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This time of year, with the Christmas holiday rapidly approaching, you'll find it difficult to find a store that isn't displaying their many wares.  Blinking lights, the latest gadgets, trendy clothing--all clamoring for our attention.  One display draws our eyes toward chocolate delights of every shape and size.  (I have to be very careful to avoid such displays, for my willpower isn't what it used to be.)  Another tempts us to sample the sweet fragrances of the many perfumes and body sprays.  And, of course, most stores have displays of the variety of Christmas decorations that are guaranteed to brighten our homes for the holidays.

Years ago, when I worked retail, I was always in charge of putting together the displays.  My manager was quick to recognize my creative skills, so when it was time to create a display, he pulled me from the registers and put me to work.  I loved it!  I was allowed to use anything in the store.  In fact, the more merchandise I used, the more effective the display would be.  I have fond (and somewhat comical) memories of building life-size scarecrows, ridiculous-looking snowmen, and Christmas displays that were the envy of many other stores.  My goal, no matter the display, was the same--make a statement!  The intention of creating such a display was to cause people to stop and pay attention, to pause in their hurried shopping and take notice of something out of the ordinary.

As I reminisced about the many displays I had created over the years (both in retail and in my nine years as a teacher), I realized that I have neglected the most important display of all--my life.  I am a Christian, which means "Christ-like".  I am a walking advertisement for the love, mercy and grace of God.  But I can't help but wonder, what do I have on display?  When people pass me, do they stop and pay attention?  In this hurried world, do they notice something out of the ordinary?  Is there something about my life that makes the world pause and stare in amazement?  Not because of me or anything I have done, but because there's something about me they just can't figure out.  Because there's an unnatural joy radiating from my smile.  Because there's unconditional love portrayed by my words, actions and attitudes.  Because there's a power that tugs at their hearts every time they are near me.

It's nice to have a display of Christmas lights or funky ornaments, but how much more important is it to have a daily display of the attributes and attitude of God?  Just as my manager entrusted me with the vital task of creating a crowd-stopping display, my Lord has given me the same instructions.  My goal with this display is the same as the ones I created years ago--to make a statement.  And that statement is this:  "I am not what I once was.  I've been redeemed and set right in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.  I am His child, and He loves me with an unconditional love.  He leads me and guides me, protects me and provides for me.  He's my closest Friend and my shelter from all harm.  Life in Him is full of joy and peace, and there's nothing like it in all the world.  Jesus is the name of my Friend and Savior.  Would you like to meet Him?"

Whether we're aware or not, something is always on display in our lives.  The question is, what are we showing the world?

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
— Acts 4:13

I just wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. This will be my last devotion until after the holidays. Lord willing, I’ll be back at the end of next week with some new devotions. In the meantime. enjoy this time with family and friends as we celebrate the reason for the season.

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Why This Way? - A Repost

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Christmas time always leaves me pondering the question, “Why did you do it that way, God?”  We understand that Jesus came so that He could die for our sins, but just because He was destined to die a horrible death, did that mean He also had to live a stressful life?  Think about it.  If you knew you were sending your son to die the most gruesome death imaginable, wouldn’t you have made certain that His life up to that point was glorious?

If I were God, I think I would have allowed Jesus to be born in a palace.  He would have been loved and revered by all.  For the entirety of His life, He would want for nothing.  He would have riches, fame, friends. . . anything and everything His heart could desire.  Life would be good and easy.  After all, even that would be a step down from the splendor of Heaven.  It was the very least Jesus deserved.  He was coming to die, so surely it wouldn’t have hurt anything to allow Him to live in comfort until that time, right?

Actually, it would have ruined everything.  If Jesus had been born to royalty, how would the common man ever understand Him?  If He had grown up with the wealthy and privileged, how could He ever relate to the poor and discontented?  His humble birth and upbringing were gifts to us so that we would forever know that Jesus has been in our shoes.  He’s walked the road of disappointment and grief.  He’s carried the load of sorrows and frustration.  He knows what it’s like to be tired, hungry, disliked, mocked, disbelieved and much more.  Whatever we face in this life, Jesus can comfort us and say, “I understand, child.  I’ve been there.”

There’s genuine peace in confiding in someone who truly “gets” us.  We understand when someone is sympathizing with us and when they’re empathizing.  There’s a light of recognition when someone shares our cares and concerns, and if nothing else, we’re comforted by the fact that we’re not the only ones going through that particular trial.  Our situation is not unique to us.

Christmas time brings about a lot of joy, but it also has a tendency to bring about sadness.  Grief over a loved one who won’t be joining in the fun this season.  Sorrow over another year that has come and gone without bringing about the changes for which we’ve been praying.  Sadness for things that are beyond our control.  But I would like to remind you that Jesus knows what you’re going through.  He’s been there, and He can see you through your difficult situations.  In fact, it was important enough to Him that He bypassed a privileged existence just so that we could hear the words, “Yes, child, I know what you mean.  I’ve been there too.”  If He loves us enough to experience it along with us, then we know He loves us enough to help us make it through.  Hang in there, and as you celebrate this season, remember that He came, why He came and how He came.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
— Luke 2:7
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Do You Smell That?

Y’all are not going to believe this. It’s less than a week until Christmas, right? I still don’t have my tree up. I finally got my Christmas cards out today. But the worst thing of all is I threw my back out yesterday while doing my daily exercise. (I knew exercise was bad for me!!!) Anyway, I’m pretty much bed-ridden until my back decides to act nicely. Fun times! But, I’m not complaining. I’m really not. I know God has a purpose, so I’ll do what I can and trust Him for the rest. In the meantime, I may have to dig into some older posts to share with you. How about a nice Christmas devotion for today?

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We finally got our tree, and it’s a beauty!  The best part of all is that, for the first time in several years, we were able to find a Carolina Sapphire.  Now, if you’ve never seen one, you’re missing out.  They’re gorgeous with a silvery-blue tint and tiny little buds that look like decorations.  Words just can’t describe to you how lovely these trees are nor can they convey how heavenly they smell.  Around my house, we sing, “It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas” because the Sapphire carries with it the pleasing aroma of nature.  Seriously, the smell puts the nicest cedar to shame.  We love it!

On the day I was decorating the tree, I kept taking deep breaths, sucking in that magnificent scent, but in the midst of it all, a thought struck me.  Suddenly, I was reminded of another fragrant tree, though this tree did not carry an aroma of its own.  No, the smell wafting from it was due to the figure hanging upon it.  Yes, the scent was coming from Jesus, and despite the wretchedness of His appearance and the despair of His body, the smell was not at all unpleasant.  It was the spicy scent of spikenard that clung to His body after Mary anointed Him with the oil at their last meeting.  Though some time had passed, the aroma lingered as did the memories of Mary’s precious gift.

I can imagine Jesus struggling to take a breath, fighting the pain as the nails tore through His hands and feet.  But as He pushes His body upward, just enough to gasp for a breath of air, He smells the spikenard and smiles.  Somebody believed Him.  Someone loved Him.  Someone thought enough of Him to lavish Him with an expensive spice that cost an entire year’s wages.  Someone cared.  What a comfort that must have been to Him when even His Father turned away in disgust at the horrible sin that was laid upon our Savior.

I realize that the Christmas season is about the birth of Christ, not His death, but if you think about it, the season is really about both. After all, Christ was born to die.  His purpose for coming to this world and taking human form was so that He could pay the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  That being the case, at Christmas, I like to celebrate the fact that Jesus was born, but I also love to reflect upon the reason that He was born.  He came for me.  He came for you.  He came that all mankind might know Him and dwell with Him for all eternity if they only accept Him.  He is the way, the truth and the life.

So, I guess you could say that on Christmas day, God made a way in a manger.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
— John 3:16