Happy Advent

Happy Advent!

Many of us are getting ready for Christmas, decorating, shopping, baking, mailing out cards and gifts. Christmas has come to have a variety of meanings. To some it’s a special day to get together with family and friends, to some it’s a stressful time bringing up memories of bad relationships, to some it’s one of the loneliest times of the year, for others it’s a great opportunity to throw a party.

Old Family Christmas Photo

Some think of Santa and the magical times of childhood wonder. To others Santa’s a great way to make children behave. I actually heard a store clerk the other day telling a small toddler that had been crying that Santa didn’t like bad boys, didn’t bring gifts to them. And then we have the ever-popular elf on a shelf, always watching to make sure you’re behaving so Santa will know.

Some spend the holidays searching for the ‘perfect’ gift for their loved ones, for their family and for friends. Some enjoy the crowds, the music, the festivities, the holiday cheer that abounds all around. While others bemoan the lines, the crowds, the spending, the avarice and greed.

But to some of us, Christmas is more…

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~ Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

To some of us Christmas is so much more…

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to celebrate certain feast as times of remembrance of the things He had done for them. To a Christian, Christmas is one of those times to remember.

During the Christmas season, during Advent, we remember God’s promises, we remember the prophecies found in the Old Testament telling of the coming Messiah, the coming Savior. We remember Mary and Joseph; we remember Bethlehem and the Baby born there in the manger; we remember the Angels proclaiming to the Shepherds the good news, the birth of our Savior.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” ~ Luke 2:10 & 11

May Christmas be so much more to you!

Daily scripture reading for Advent

Immanuel, God with Us

Christmas is the time the world sets aside to honor and celebrate the birth of Immanuel, Jesus Christ.  Sometimes He gets forgotten in the hustle and bustle of life, sometimes He is rejected and mocked, sometimes He is ostracized and persecuted but He is always, always, there for us, offering us the true gift of Christmas – the gift of life.

Who is Jesus and why do we celebrate His birth?

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” which means, God with us. Matthew 1:23

Think about it, Immanuel, God with us…

For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.” 

At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus, Immanuel, God becoming man, to walk among us.

For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.  As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.  …  I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy.  I will feed them with judgment. Ezekiel 34:11-12; 16

What does it mean to you? Immanuel, God with us…

Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands. Isaiah 49:13-16a

Immanuel, God with us, crucified, dead and buried, but on the third day….

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, His disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29

And yet believe… Immanuel, God with us…

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7

Immanuel, God with Us…

Advent Week 4 – Angels

Angels were sent to announce the birth of Jesus…

This past week my husband received an announcement – his boss phoned with the message he had been dreading would come.  The company decided to change directions and would no longer need him or his two friends.  All 3 of them received the news, and it was crushing, but they had been expecting it – the signs were there and they read them right.

I try to move on, as if all is ok, but a part of me wants to panic and be afraid of what tomorrow will bring, a part of me wants to cry and wants stability.  So many stressors… so many losses… so much pain and hurt… my mom – lung cancer, my mother-in-law – lung cancer, my brother-in-law – lung cancer and now my stepmom, who is really not step, – lung cancer.  Sometimes I can’t handle it and just want to break down, sometimes I cry, but you know what’s odd? Sometimes I sing and dance, sometimes I skip and laugh, sometimes I just have to throw my hands up in the air and praise God.  Sometimes the praise comes with tears, sometimes with a joy that I can’t even explain.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV

Advent Week 4 is about Angels – God’s messengers.  They didn’t come with bad news; they came with good news – the Gospel.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Luke 2:8-14 ESV

Think about how amazing that must have been!  I think I get a glimpse of that in praise.  Sometimes, when I’m praising God, it’s like I can hear the Angels singing, rejoicing, praising God right alongside of me.  That might sound weird, but at times, it’s more real to me than the struggles I’m going through, it’s more real to me than anything around me and at those times, I know everything will be OK.

You know, God promised it will… He promises that all things work for good for those who love Him and I do, I do love Him and I believe that He loves me.  I know that for a little while we suffer…

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9 ESV

But I know the One who allows me to cast all my anxieties on Him, the One who loves me and gives me peace that I do not understand, the One that holds my life, my future, my eternity in His hand.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV

When I first became a Christian, I would reach over and hold the hand of Jesus, He was there, just as real as anyone in flesh and blood, but much more trustworthy.  There was a time I worried that He’d let go of me – I knew I would let go of Him, but you know, He showed me He would never, never let go of my hand and He hasn’t. 

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the here and now and forget our battle is with the Spiritual forces, and forget there is a realm beyond what we see, but Angels have come, they have proclaimed the great news, they have revealed truth to us, they have revealed the Gospel to us.  And you know what, God came and walked among us, Jesus was born, Shepherds did hear the Angels and rejoiced and we, even though we do not see Him as those who walked with Him do, we know Him and know He loves us.

As for me I wouldn’t trade that for anything and am so very thankful for the gift of Hope that God gave me so many years ago that has sustained me through many ups and downs.

Today may seem unsure, but I know my future is secure and I know why I celebrate Christmas!

Tami

Luke 2:10-11 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Advent Week 3 – Shepherd

The Lord is my Shepherd…

There is such depth in this week’s Advent theme – Shepherd, Sheep, the Lamb of God – it’s hard to know where to begin.  My mind flows with thoughts and images – there is so much in the Bible about Shepherds and sheep and it is all so exciting and overwhelming.

Imagine, God, the Creator of All we know, telling us that He will come down and walk among us as a shepherd walks among His sheep, that He will lead us and guide us…

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul;

He restores my soul…

At Christmas we celebrate Jesus’ birth, but why?

We don’t celebrate because a baby was born in a manger – We celebrate because God chose to become man and walk among us – Immanuel – God with us.

“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.” Ezek 34:11-12

We don’t celebrate because a great prophet and teacher was born – We celebrate because the Messiah, the Savior has come, fulfilling prophecy.

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:2-3 ESV

We don’t celebrate because a man decided to die on a cross – We celebrate because the Sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ was slain for our sins paying the penalty that we owed.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV

I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:11

We don’t celebrate a man buried in a grave – We celebrate the fact that the grave could not hold Him.

But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. Acts 2:24

We don’t celebrate an empty hope, built on false premises – We celebrate the Resurrected Savior.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 ESV

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.” Rev. 7:16-17

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  John 1:29 ESV 

The Lord is my Shepherd… And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23

The Lord is My Shepherd

Advent Week 2 – Bethlehem

Bethlehem

Father God, as I learn more and more about You, as I see the truth of Your Word, as I study history and see all You did to bring about the birth of Your Son, I stand amazed and can only cry out Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.   You have given us Your Word to teach us who You are.  In John 1 we read that Jesus is The Word become flesh.  In Ezekiel 34 we read that You planned to come and walk among Your sheep, healing the broken, recovering the lost.  In Revelations we read how You, our Great Shepherd, have become the lamb slain for our sins.  What a mighty and wonderful God we serve.

Advent Week 2 Bethlehem Nehemiah 8:10 & 12

Lord Jesus, My King eternal, this is the second week of Advent when we remember Your birth place, Bethlehem.  You revealed many details concerning the where and why of Jesus’ life long before His birth.  The Prophet Micah tells us:  But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.  His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”  Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child.  Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel.  And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God.  And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth.  And this One will be our peace. Micah 5:2-5a.

Bethlehem was the city You chose, the City of David, a city whose name means ‘house of bread.’  You, who are our Bread of Life, were born in the city whose name represented, in part, what Your birth would mean to us.  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

You Lord, our Creator, revealed yourself to us through the prophets and through Your Word, that we might know You.   Then You came to earth, born of a Virgin, (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:26-38) born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 2:1-7); You came to the outcast, the sick, the lonely (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 5:31-32), and made us family (Romans 8:15), healing our wounds, and loving us with Your great mercy.

Now, we, Your children can live in peace, with joy beyond understanding even though we live in a fallen world with much pain and suffering.  Because of You, because You came and were born in Bethlehem, because You chose to come and walk among us, because You chose to die for our sins, because You love us, we are free.  Thank You My Lord and Savior. Amen.

From my Archives

I Believe

I believe in Jesus Christ…

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

The Old Testament of the Bible tells us the story of God and His creation.  Written over hundreds of years and by several authors, the Old Testament tells us a cohesive story about the God who created us, about the deception of Satan that brought about the fall of mankind, about sin and darkness, about death and despair.  But it doesn’t leave us there – it tells us of God’s love for us, His plan to redeem us, to save us, His plan to restore all things through His love and light bringing us life and hope.

Today is the first day of Advent.  Advent is a time to prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas, to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and Jesus was God’s plan.  Throughout the Old Testament, God speaks to us through His prophets, revealing His plans so that when the time was right, we would see the truth and know that God Himself has walked among us.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ~ John 1:1 ESV

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven,

For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness ~ Ezekiel 34:11-16 ESV

and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man;

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel ~ Isaiah 7:14 ESV

Immanuel – God with us…

and the Word was God ….  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~ John 1:14 ESV

NICENE CREED

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the prophets.

I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

Daily Scripture Readings for Advent

The Gift of Memories

This Christmas give the gift of Memories.

“I wish I had realized that family history is a perishable commodity. It disappears with time, as memories fade, and as loved ones pass on. I wish I had known that the most important aspect of family history is preserving a record of the present for the future.” ~ Guy Black

“…what the next generation will value most is not what we owned, but the evidence of who we were and the tales of how we lived. In the end, it’s the family stories that are worth the storage.” ~ Ellen Goodman

It may be a bit early for Christmas, but some gifts take time and planning.

This Christmas let New Leaf Designs help you to share your family stories.  New Leaf Designs’ Photo Books and Memory Books are a great way to capture and share the memories that you want to pass along to future generations.

Send us your photos, stories, family recipes, scanned documents… and we will put them together into an ePub3 book which you can gift to as many people as you like.

A picture is said to speak a thousand words, but ePub3 Memory Books allow you to easily add in ‘the words’ that bring life and meaning to your photos.

Example Memory Book

ePub3 books can be read on iPads, iPhones, Kobo Readers and through desktop apps such as Chrome’s Readium.

Memory Books can also come in pdf and swf versions.  The PDF version does not show any animations.

ePub3 Memory Books PDF Version

ePub3 Memory Book Flash Version

Email Tami for more details – tami@newleafdesigns.biz

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