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How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.

-Isaiah 52:7-9

Day Fifteen

December 17

Can you put yourself in Mary’s shoes as she lands on Elizabeth’s doorstep? This young girl is aware that life, as she had expected it to unfold, is over. Scholars suggest that it’s likely Mary hasn’t told anyone of her pregnancy at this point—not her parents, nor her peers, and not the man she planned to marry. By this time, yours truly here would be bursting to talk to another woman. How to broach the conversation, though, would’ve been consuming my every thought on the trip to Judea. I wonder if Mary had planned to back into the news a bit more slowly. Perhaps she had rehearsed how she would repeat out loud what sounded so audacious even in her own head,

“Cousin Elizabeth, I’m expecting a child, and it’s God’s.” No, that doesn’t sound right.

Maybe, “So, Liz, I’m going to be the Mother of God.”

And then. . .Elizabeth opens the door and there’s her protruding belly. If anyone will believe what Mary’s about to say, it will be the senior citizen rocking brand-new stretch marks.

 

15) I can almost feel Mary’s angst before Elizabeth opened the door— and her relief when she first saw Elizabeth’s tummy. God certainly communicates with us through His Spirit and the pages of His Word. And yet, in our twenty-first-century world, most anything goes—other than saying we’ve “heard from God.” It’s why our conversations with other believers yield fresh tinder for our fires. Journal about a time when you felt God was clearly speaking to you, and share it with a friend. If nothing comes to mind, compose a prayer asking for ears to hear Him and eyes to see Him. His very name is “Word of God.” He’s always speaking. We just need to listen.       

Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is a Jesus loving, humor-gathering author, speaker, and radio host known as The Belle of All Things Southern. Shellie believes "The whole world stops for a story." She lives in Louisiana and stacks her stories up at All Things Southern.com

More of Shellie Rushing Tomlinson: http://www.allthingssouthern.com/

The Gift Unwrapped 

by Ron Moore 

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. - Hebrews 1:1-3

A great teacher uses different methods to drive home the point. That's what God did in the Old Testament. He put forth His message in a variety of ways. Sometimes He used visions, dreams, and supernatural interventions. Other times He wrote the Law on tablets of stone and delivered it to the people through His servant Moses. Then there were times when God spoke through the prophets, sending warning and encouragement. While the delivery systems varied, the point was clear: God desired to speak to man. In the New Testament, the Word became flesh.

Jesus became the human mouthpiece of God. He clearly revealed the person of God and vividly explained the promises of God. Jesus not only explained how a person could know God; He made that relationship possible by His voluntary, sacrificial death on the cross. Then Jesus was raised to life to show God's power over death itself. Now He has "sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."

Think of it this way. The Old Testament believers held a package. It was wrapped with the law and sacrificial system. They knew the Gift was inside and they placed their faith in the promised Gift. On this side of the cross, the Gift is unwrapped and the Person of Jesus is revealed. We see Jesus--the "radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being." And every day we thank God for the work of His Son!

Dear Father, thank You for revealing Yourself in Jesus. Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to earth and loving us all the way to the cross. May we respond with a life of thanksgiving and worship. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Devotions.org, a division of Back to Bible has a daily source of devotions to keep you in touch with God and His word, written by some of today's top authors and Bible teachers. Browse the variety of resources completely on their website. 

More of Devotions.Org: http://www.backtothebible.org/devotions

Christmas: When Your Heart Grows Three Sizes -   

This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt

 

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. —Ezekiel 36:26

 

In Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas tale, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Grinch suffers from having a small heart. The source of his heart problem is his lack of understanding the meaning of Christmas. As the story goes, the Grinch tries to put a stop to Christmas, but in the end, he comes to understand what Christmas is all about and his heart grows three sizes! This heart change makes a big difference in his life.

 

I’m not sure what Dr. Seuss’ intentions were when he wrote the story back in 1957, but it certainly comes across as a Christian parable to me that parallels the change that takes place in a person’s life when he or she comes to understand the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Jesus, God’s Son, who was born to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). When the light of the Good News of Jesus dawns upon the heart of a person, God replaces the old heart of stone, with a new, fleshy heart – and a new person emerges. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

“Welcome Christmas – While we stand – Heart to heart – And hand in hand.”* It might just make all the difference in the world.

 

O Holy Child of Bethlehem,

Descend to us, we pray;

Cast out our sin and enter in;

Be born in us today!

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell;

O come to us, abide with us,

Our Lord Emmanuel!

              (from O Little Town of Bethlehem)

 

We celebrate Christmas because of the power Jesus brought to change our hearts.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Give an example of a time when you changed your mind about something.

 

2. How did the words or action of others influence your change of heart?

 

3. Towards the end of the story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, what happened that caused the Grinch to change his mind about Christmas?

 

4. How has understanding the true meaning of Christmas made a difference in your life?

 

FAMILY TIME:

Gather your family together and watch the classic half-hour Christmas cartoon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Then, using the content above, lead your family in a discussion about how Jesus has the power to change our hearts.

 

*How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Copyright © 1957, Dr. Seuss.

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

Catching a Case of Happy -  

This devotional was written by Kelly McFadden

 

For the despondent, every day brings trouble; But for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.—Proverbs 15:15 (NLT)

 

Recently a 20-year study* was published reporting that emotions can be passed along much like a case of the flu. Meaning: If you know someone who is happy—especially if it is a mutual friendship—you are more likely to be a happy person. In fact, not only you, but others you know will benefit because of this happy person in your life. A part of the study’s conclusion was simply that a person’s well-being is not only dependent on his or her own behaviors and emotions, but also as a direct result of one’s social network.

 

We often do not have control of what happens to us, but we do have control of our attitude and how we respond. As the proverb says, for those who approach everyday hopeless, they will surely find a day of trouble. The opposite holds true as well. For those who go about their day focused on the good with a heart of gratitude, they will surely find happiness in each day.

 

So how do you get a happy heart? First, it matters with whom you surround yourself. Are you in relationship with joyful followers of Christ? Or do you constantly surround yourself with naysayers? Make sure you have people in your life who have happy hearts and encourage the same in you.

 

However, if you really want some guidance in having a happy heart in the midst of adversity, follow Paul’s example when he was in prison. He left a formula for the way to a happy heart in Philippians 4:8. He encouraged the people of Philippi to fill their minds and hearts with what is true, right and noble and think on godly and good things. It does not matter what we are faced with, joy will find its way into your soul when you focus on godly things.

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. Think about your overall attitude in life. In what ways have you helped yourself towards a happy heart and in what ways have you kept yourself from experiencing a happy heart?

 

2. Perhaps you are involved in unhealthy relationships or unhealthy thoughts. What areas in your life might need to have some changes made?

 

FURTHER READING:

Proverbs 14:30; Philippians 4:8

 

*Time Magazine, December 22, 2008.

This devotional originally appeared in “HomeWord with Jim Burns” on Crosswalk’s Family Devotional section. For more information about HomeWord with Jim Burns devotionals, please visit us online.

More of HomeWord with Jim Burns: http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/homeword/

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