I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free! Psalm 119:32, NIV1984

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Story of Christmas

There's something about the sweetness of young children's voices . . . and when those voices are speaking the very Word of God, something in me melts every time.



So for Christmas this year, from our family to yours - and with the gracious consent of the amazingly talented Jim Brickman - we offer this retelling of the coming of the King, the One whose birth we celebrate this day.

video

For unto us a child is born
And unto us a Son is given
And the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6


Cobb Kids quoting the Christmas Story from memory, December 2007
Music:  Joy to the World, The Gift, Jim Brickman
We Three Kings, Peace, Jim Brickman

Recorded by G. Revis in the Cobb Home, December 2007

Photo by TCobb.  Cradle to the Cross Wreath crafted by Caleb Voskamp.





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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hope




Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
Oh, my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:5-8, NLT



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Friday, December 14, 2012

Eight Nights, Eight Lights... The Story of Hanukkah and Christmas

What would you say if I told you that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah?


What would you think if you discovered that the only biblical reference to Hanukkah appears in the New Testament?



How would you respond if I told you that Hanukkah is not just a Jewish holiday, that without Hanukkah, there would be no Christmas?







It's true!

You see, during the years we commonly refer to as the "400 years of silence," the time during which we have no record of God giving His people any word through His prophets, the people of Israel came under the oppression of the Greco-Syrian Empire.  By 168 A.D., Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the ruthlessly cruel Syrian ruler, had destroyed Jerusalem in a flash of relentless anger and had completely desecrated the Temple of the Lord.  He then set out to annihilate the Jews, declaring that all Jews who would not embrace the culture and religious practices of Hellenism (pagan Greek religion and culture) must be put to death.  Faithful Jews fled to the hills to live in caves, but many were hunted down and viciously murdered by the savage Syrian armies.  Jewish history records the stories of devout Jews who, though brutally tortured and facing certain death, refused to turn from the Lord or dishonor His Name.

In the midst of this relentless persecution and oppression, one family among the Jewish people rose up to lead the people of Israel back to reclaim, restore, and rededicate the Temple of the Lord.  Led by the son known as Judah Maccabee ("the Hammer"), these sons of the priest, Mattathias, and those with them, eventually defeated the Syrian armies and reclaimed the Temple.  On Kislev 25, 165 B.C. (December of that year), the Maccabees rededicated the altar in the Temple of the Lord.

Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud, says that only one day's worth of pure oil remained in the Temple but that the menorah burned for eight days.  Jewish people, today, remember and celebrate that miracle by lighting eight lights for eight nights on their Hanukkiyahs (the nine-branch menorahs that hold one candle for each of the eight nights, plus one shammash (servant) candle which is used to light the others.)

So why does it matter to us?  What's the connection?

If Antiochus Ephiphanes and his soldiers had succeeded in annihilating the Jews, there would have been no Jewish baby born to be Messiah.

The reclaiming, restoring, and rededication of the Temple by those fiercely loyal Jews prepared the way for a certain young Jewish girl and her husband to take their baby boy to the Temple and place Him in the arms of Simeon, who proclaimed,

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of all people
a light for revelation to the Gentiles 
and for glory to your people, Israel.
Luke 2:29-32, NIV 1984

And the Gospel of John records that when that baby boy grew up...

"Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, 
the Feast of Dedication.  
He was in the Temple, walking through the section
 known as Solomon's Colonnade."  
John 10:22-23, NLT

So why celebrate Hanukkah?
Because Jesus did!

Why light eight lights during these eight nights?
Because it's not just a Jewish holiday!

It's a celebration of the faithfulness of our amazing God to preserve, against all odds, the people He had set apart for Himself, those through whom He had promised to send a Savior who would be the light of the world.

So light the candles!  And worship the Lord!  Celebrate!  Tell the whole world the great things our God has done!

Because in so doing, we remember how the Lord preserved His people and prepared the way for the coming King.







The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2, NIV 1984


The Word gave life to everything that was created,
And His life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
And the darkness can never extinguish it!
John 1:4-5, NLT

*****


If you would like to know more about the Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, and how God used the events celebrated during this holiday to prepare the way of the Lord, I highly recommend the following resources:

The Feasts of the Lord, by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal
The following articles by Dr. Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries
   "No Hanukkah, No Christmas"
   "Hanukkah and Christmas, Bridging the Great Divide"



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Friday, December 7, 2012

The Sweeter Gift


In the misty, grey cold of Christmas morning, I held her filthy hands and looked her in the eyes.

"God has not forgotten you," I whispered.

Salty tears ran down her wind-chapped cheeks and her lips trembled across teeth that hadn't been brushed in . . . months?

"Could we sing Amazing Grace," she asked?

"Of course!" I smiled.

I knelt beside her, there on the frozen concrete, and we sang off-key . . .

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind but now I see.
( - John Newton)

It was just a moment on Christmas morning a year ago.  

But it's the moment I remember most from last Christmas.

For years now, my parents, my husband and children, my brother and sister, their families, and I have spent Christmas morning on the streets of our city, handing out clean socks, warm blankets, hot biscuits, and paper cups of steaming coffee.  I struggle to remember the gifts we've opened and the meals we've eaten those Christmases past; but I remember the men, the women, the children we've visited on the streets . . .





...The two guys who asked my children what they had found under the tree that Christmas morning . . . the one who said he remembered getting a bike for Christmas when he was a boy . . . the way he smiled, his face tender with the memory.

...The man who pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket...showed my dad the last of the savings that he had pulled out of the bank before moving to the streets with his wife.

...The lady who told my children and their cousins about her grandchildren near their ages . . . and how she said, "I'll probably see you next year.  I'll be here."

...The four-year-old boy with his mom, bundled up in blankets but so, so cold . . . and how I cried all the way home, laid awake nights praying for him.

I don't know all the reasons they're living on the streets.  Job loss.  Broken homes.  Mental illness.  Broken dreams.

I don't know how to fix all the broken lives, broken hearts, broken hopes on those streets.





But I know this . . .

Jesus said, "For I was hungry . . ."

And I know this . . . sweeter than any package we could open is this gift of seeing the ones we too often look right past.
  

Can you imagine . . . to Him?

During this season of Advent, I want to slow down instead of scurrying past.

In the midst of the celebration, I want to take time to really see.

My friends, Dave and Jess, say it better than I could say it.  
(And they don't sing off-key!

Watch:




But when the Son of Man comes in His glory,
and all the angels with Him,
then He will sit upon His glorious throne...
Then the King will say to those on His right,
"Come you who are blessed by my Father,
inherit the Kingdom prepared for you 
from the creation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you fed me.
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.
I was naked, and you gave me clothing.
I was sick, and you cared for me.
I was in prison, and you visited me."
Then these righteous ones will reply,
"Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?
Or thirsty and give you something to drink?
Or a stranger and show you hospitality? 
Or naked and give you clothing?
When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?
And the King will say, "I tell you the truth,
when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,
you were doing it to me!"
Matthew 25:31, 34-46, NLT



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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lists and Links and a Free Christmas Bucket List Printable

Last year, inspired by some of the bucket lists I saw online, I made a bucket list for fall. My kids enjoyed that bucket list so much that they asked for a Christmas bucket list also.  


A simple list with some important reminders.  A festive list with a few fun ideas.  A place to write down the names, the dates, and the places.  A bit of inspiration to slow down in the rush of the season . . . to make sweet memories . . . to mark the moments.




I've updated the Christmas Bucket List for 2012.  If you'd like to download and print a copy, click here.



If you're not familiar with the Jesse Tree Readings for Advent, (mentioned in the bucket list, above) the stories from Scripture that trace the lineage of Jesus, the root of Jesse, you can find a beautiful rendering of these stories over at Ann Voskamp's place, A Holy Experience.  Ann has made the Jesse Tree Journey devotional available for free, with the full Bible text for each reading included and beautiful, full-color as well as black & white illustrations to cut out and use as you mark the days of Advent. This is my favorite way to count the days of Advent!  Click here to find Ann's Jesse Tree Journey devotional.

And as we mark the moments in preparation for Christmas, I'm continuing to count His endless gifts and grace . . .

#1579  kids and husband hanging lights on the house
#1580  Christmas music playing while we work
#1581  white lights and a red bow on the reindeer out front
#1582  a festive wreath on the door
#1583  nutcrackers on the mantle
#1584  red plaid bows on the candlesticks
#1585  coming home to the house all lit in Christmas lights
#1586  small town Saturday night
#1587  bar-b-que for dinner
#1588  live band playing country music
#1589  French toast for breakfast
#1590  Jupiter blazing next to the full moon in the night sky
#1591  cranberry orange tea with honey
#1592  homemade apple bread
#1593  10 little fingers & 10 little toes...new little one in the family
#1594  impromptu dinner with Gram, Grandad & Granny
#1595  troubleshooting...figuring it out
#1596  leafy greens with feta, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds
#1597  listening to the Lifeway Women cd 
#1598  skimming through books at the Christian bookstore
#1599  morning fog hanging low in the field
#1600  getting the squirrel out the door
#1601  the laughter that followed the frantic frenzy of a squirrel in the house
#1602  boy-child jumping up and down, so excited to find ice cream in the freezer


And give thanks for everything
to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:20, NLT






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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When Things Get Squirrely

There are red plaid bows on the candlesticks and the Crowder Christmas mix is playing on Pandora while we work.




Little toy mice peek from the toes of the stockings that hang from the mantle, and a half-dozen nutcrackers stand at attention nearby.





But in case you thought we had it all together here...
In case pretty words and peaceful pictures have led you to believe that all is pretty and peaceful, that things are always perfect beneath this roof...

You should know that there are a couple of contentious kids in the mix... one fussing that the other keeps singing out loud, making it hard to focus on calculating simple interest and discerning between transitive and intransitive verbs.

There's a frantic scramble to complete a project, fill out some required forms, and get to a meeting on time...

And as we're walking out the door...

There's a squirrel.

Yep! A live one!  A little brown squirrel who runs right in my front door as we are walking out, chased in by one proudly predatory little fur-ball.

Under the desk, tucked between a bag of Christmas wrapping paper and the little stool that holds the printer, the squirrel refuses to come out.

And a squirrel in the house on a school day can just turn everything on its end!

So we turn the farm table over on its side, and together with a couple of boxes, we make a barrier between it and the back door.  We open the door and begin to stomp and holler and carry on.  And that poor squirrel looks like someone has lit a fire under his little clawed feet.  He scrambles out of his hiding place, up the side of the box and back down.  And out the door he goes, like someone is firing a shotgun behind him all the way.

And the cat?  This pretty princess?



Like a heat-seeking missile, she shoots straight after him across the lawn.



Some days, things just don't go the way we've planned.  There's a diversion from the pretty posts we've planned because... well, some days, things just get a little squirrely.

But in the midst of the mess, there's the miracle... the giggles, the laughter, the coming together of all the fussy kids toward one end . . . Even if it is the end of a farm table that's been turned on its side to corral a wayward squirrel!




He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Eccelesiastes 3:11, NIV 1984

(even squirrels in the house on a school day)

linking up today with Emily over at Chatting at the Sky, for
 Tuesdays Unwrapped



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