Heavenly Father,
On the last day of 1999, when most people thought the world might end when it turned midnight and started a new century, my family filled a time capsule. It was actually a large empty popcorn tin. My husband and I and four of our children from ages 9-14 filled out a questionnaire and placed a memento in that capsule that we all agreed to open in twenty years. We actually opened it on Christmas day this year since that was when we were all together at the same timer. What a fun and enlightening experience we had opening that time capsule for the first time in two decades.

The questions we each answered 20 years ago included: “What I think will happen in the next hundred years, What I hope to accomplish in the next 10 years, My greatest prayer for my family and friends, Note to my future children or spouse…” It was remarkable to see these letters written by children and read by the same people as adults! What a joy to see how many things had come true (except maybe the prediction of playing Major League Baseball and having a dream room with his three brothers still in the same room sharing bunkbeds!) It was like we all slipped back in time!

Memories are a powerful thing. They become a part of us and help make us who we are. It is good to look back at memories (even the painful ones at times) because we can see how far we’ve come and how love lives forever. Yet we are not created to live in the past. You made us to live fully in the right now- with an eye always on our final goal—our finish line—our eternal Home with You!

Father, as another year changes on the calendar, I thank You that I can see You have always been with me—through every moment of my life—that You have a Home waiting for me that goes far beyond what I can ever imagine where there will be no more time constraints…Most of all, I thank You that I know You are with me now and are always will be. I can rest in that assurance. I can count on You to not change or leave. Let this old year end and a new year begin- I LOVE living with You right now in this moment and forevermore through Jesus Christ!!

 

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“For he says, ‘In this time of My favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Corinthians 6:2

“You are my hiding place (my time capsule); You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 

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Prayer Prompt-
Father, Give me eternal life through Jesus to live with You right now and forever…

Dear Friends,

Christmas can be very painful for those who are grieving the death of a loved one, but have you ever thought that Jesus was born to bring hope to those who are low in spirit, the broken-hearted; those who think they just can’t go on? This deep gut-wrenching, life-shattering, paralyzing loss in your life is one of the few critical points in your life when you fully realize your great need. How can you go on? How can you possibly ever celebrate again? How can you find any hope or joy or purpose for living without the one you love so much? The answer lies in that quiet, lowly stable where the Son of God was born, mostly unnoticed by a hopeless dark world. It is possible to find all that you need as you kneel before that manger this Christmas-even in the midst of your grief….

 

Kneel in the Darkness

Most likely, there have been few such times of darkness in your life as when someone you love suddenly left this life. Perhaps it was your child who you must somehow learn to live without. Whether they were a baby, a teen or an adult child—you grieve all the future Christmas and other life celebrations you will miss sharing with them. Perhaps it was your spouse that you hoped to grow old with and you are filled with Christmas and other past memories. Maybe it was a parent, fiancé, sibling or friend. It could have been a violent or a peaceful death—expected or unexpected, but you were not ready (even if you knew it was coming!) Now your world has been shaken. Everything seems unstable, fearful and dark. I respectfully and gently suggest you kneel in the darkness as the Light of the World was born for you long ago in that unnoticed stable.

 

Solemn Stillness in a Crazy World

Your world seems chaotic, out-of-control and void of the love you depended on, that you were counting on. This is the most critical time in your life to kneel in the lonely stillness. You need this baby Jesus who was born to be King of your heart. Nothing will be right until you do. He is the only One who can heal your heart, who will walk faithfully with you through the Valley of the shadow of Death. No one else can understand you like He does. No one else will stay with You when everyone else leaves. No one else can give you peace and joy in the midst of your grief.

 

Drop to Your Knees

Grief will knock you off your feet; punch the life right out of you. While you are there flat on the ground, make a choice to kneel before Jesus, the baby who was God-in-the-flesh; the one who lived as one of us yet without sin to willingly offer Himself as a holy eternal sacrifice for our sin. Jesus is the only one who could overcome death (the penalty for our sin) and make a way for us to live with Him in holiness forever and ever. If Christmas seems different this year because of your great loss, kneel quietly before Baby Jesus in a manger who gave everything to become your king! He will never leave you, and will be with you as you learn to live in even greater joy with the Son of God—the very One your loved one knelt before as they left their earthly body. We each have a reason to celebrate Jesus at Christmas time–especially when you stand in grief at the crossroads of heaven and earth.

 

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying. ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’” Luke 2:10-14

Heavenly Father,
I received a message from someone who was sad. Because of their current situation they could give no Christmas gifts this year as they had delighted to do in the past. Though my heart goes out to them, I know from experience that these are the times we learn our relationships are what is most important. Then this morning, as I sat alone in Your presence, I realized how very impoverished I am without You, Lord. You give me life, breath, people to love, shelter, comfort…everything I have and need is from You. I am absolutely destitute without You. I wouldn’t even exist if not for You. You lavish love gifts upon me continually…and sadly, I take most of them for granted. What can I possibly give to You who owns everything? Yet there is something…

 

Father, it was Your idea to create us with our own free will. We have a choice to accept the fact that You reign above all…that You created us…that we have sinned against You through our rebellion, neglect, disbelief, denial, disrespect…that we need You…that we are not complete without You…that we cannot have the close loving relationship with You–that You created us to have without Your help…that we cannot earn Your love…that we cannot even breathe without Your assistance…that we cannot get clean enough or holy enough to come into Your presence without Your cleansing mercy from the blood of Jesus…Oh Lord, I am so poor in spirit. There is only one thing that You do not have which I can give. I’m the only one who can give it. I’m the only one who has it, and You gave me that, as well—my will.

 

So here I am once more, holding my feeble will before You. I don’t know why You would want such an ugly obstinate thing. It has led me down wrong paths, hurt me and others, blinded my eyes to You and my life with You… Yet this awful will of mine—the only thing I truly have to give You—like everything else transforms into something incredibly beautiful when it is freely given to You. My will becomes Your will! I am able to come freely without any shame into Your presence and bask in Your glory! My eyes are opened to the vast riches You bestow upon me! My heart is overcome with love that goes way beyond my own capacity. I have overflowing joy no matter what my circumstances are. I am finally at peace because I am one with You and You with me! My will surrenders to Your will. I am only able to do this because of Jesus Christ, who gave up His own will and chose to die on the cross for my sin, so I can live now and forevermore with You! I am no longer poor but rich indeed! All because of my relationship with You through Jesus Christ! Here is my will freely given to You, Lord!

 

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Jesus said in Mark 8:34-37: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

 

Jesus giving up His will in Gethsemane before the cross: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39

 

Jesus told us we should pray like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done…” Matthew 6:9-10

 

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Your Prayer Prompt-
Father, I’m sorry I have been so stubborn…here is my will…

Most Holy Father,
Almost twenty-seven years ago, my first husband died in my arms and was later “brought back.” That was a year before he passed and didn’t come back—when he finally went to his eternal home with You! This young man who was a gifted writer of songs, poems, and novels was at a loss for words when it came to describing heaven where he got a sneak preview. I was so hungry to know every detail—and all he could say was, “I never knew God gave so much when he gave His Son!”

I have pondered those words in my heart all these years and have asked You to show me something new about Your Son Jesus every Christmas and Easter season since. It seems there is no end to who He is…
JESUS is Your Son and yet He is in You and You are in Him! He does nothing without You. (John 10:30)
JESUS was with You in the beginning before all things were created. He brought life. (John 1:1-5)
JESUS was declared victor over sin by You from the beginning! (Genesis 3:15)
JESUS was hoped for all through the history of the Old Testament and the world. (Psalm 2:6-7)
JESUS came in Your fullness to be born as one of us in the humblest way to a simple peasant girl. (Luke 1:26-38)
JESUS came to bring peace between You and all who accept Him. (Luke 2:14)
JESUS was in spiritual warfare all his life (from Herod killing hundreds of baby boys- to leaders declaring him guilty and placing Him on a cross. (Matthew 2:13-18, 27:45-54)
JESUS willingly died on the Cross for us. (John 18:4-9; Matthew 26:50-54)
JESUS paid the price of our sin and overcame death because we cannot. (John 3:16-18)
JESUS died so we could live! (John 17:1-5)
JESUS lives in us when we are willing to die to ourselves. (John 17:25)
JESUS never leaves us alone. (Matthew 28:20)
JESUS prays for us now at Your right-hand, God, with the authority You have given Him! (Romans 8:34)
JESUS helps us personally overcome when we make Him our King! (John 16:33)
JESUS is always making us new along with our situations. (Revelation 21:5)
JESUS is preparing a new home for us and will come bring us there. (John 14:1-4)
JESUS is what life is all about! (John 14:6-7)

JESUS:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
(Philippians 2:6-11)

Most Holy Father,

Can I dare say that I have identified with Mary many times in my life? Some may think that’s outrageous for me to say, but I know You know my heart, Lord…and I think that may be something that pleases You. In fact, maybe we all should expect Jesus like Mary did…

Mary was an ordinary peasant girl (like me) just going about her daily life when You sent the angel Gabriel to tell her she would give birth to Your Son. At first, she was frightened (as I can understand—fearing something in the spiritual realm as seen). Though Mary knew it seemed impossible to conceive a baby (let alone Your Son), she accepted the news and had faith it would happen because You sent Your word.

Very quickly, before telling anyone, before it even seemed real—she hurried to visit her cousin Elizabeth who lived in another town. The angel told Mary that Elizabeth was also going to have a baby very soon though they had no contact. When Mary greeted her cousin, the baby inside Elizabeth (John the Baptist who was to prepare the way for the Lord) leaped for joy (recognizing even in the womb that his Lord was there!) This is how I feel when You affirm a promise to me when I see no evidence yet! I certainly identify with Mary’s rejoicing praise in You. Do my little-fumbling-words-yet-heartfelt-praises stand for eternity as well?

Mary had to face many hardships from her own people- the initial abandonment from her Joseph, friends and family’s gossip and judgement, (yet You sent Joseph back to help her and he most certainly did), the long dangerous journey to Bethlehem, no place open to go through the labor of birth, the humbleness of giving birth to the Son of the Most High in the very lowest of places.

Father, I know what it is like to do what is utterly impossible for me to do on my own —to have Your Son be born in me, for my whole life to be changed from whatever little insignificant plans I might have had—to know the intimate blessing of His Spirit alive and moving in me—to know the pain yet immensely greater joy of carrying Jesus and sharing Your Son with anyone who is ready and willing to accept Your Son. Father, may we all be willing to be like Mary, and let Jesus grow and be glorified in our lives. In fact, let us go through this day expecting Jesus and watching Him move and live!

 

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“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’
The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’
‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.”

 

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Your Prayer Prompt-
Lord God, I am ready and willing to have Jesus born in me and carry him to the world…

Heavenly Father,
One of my favorite things is to tell of the wonderful ways I see You at work! Yesterday morning, I was teaching a very small preschool Sunday School Class (two rambunctious boys!) K was already in class feeling sorry for himself because there were no friends there. L came in late, making that loud gasping sound that results from sucking up huge sobs- which Is very unusual for this normally happy little boy. He sat at the table when K immediately began trying to comfort his little friend. L didn’t want a hug, or a smile or any other sweet attempts made by K. With all his heart, K wanted to help his friend not be so sad. I told him there are times we cannot do anything to help someone else- it has to come from God helping them…and they need to be willing to receive it. So I suggested we pray for God to help L with his sadness and to have joy. K asked what joy is to which I responded: a deep happiness that God places in our hearts when we are close to Him.

 

We proceeded with the lesson on the angel Gabriel telling Mary she was to give birth to a son who would be called Jesus. At first Mary was afraid, then surrendered to God, trusting He would do this. Later, Mary sang a song of great JOY because she realized how close the Lord was and how blessed she was! We then created paper angels with glittery halos and handprint wings to take home. Suddenly L jumped up from his seat and began dancing around the room with a huge smile on his face. He stopped in his tracks, looked surprised and announced, “I’m not sad anymore!” K and I looked at each other, and this wise little K said, “God answered our prayer! L has joy!”

 

Father, how can we ever thank You enough for bringing JOY to our world, which can often be dark and sad? How can we ever praise You enough for sending Jesus to draw us to a close relationship with You? Lord, we often want to help someone else overcome their sadness, stress, problems, deep hurts…but You are the only one who can bring true joy. Lord, help me stay close to You so I can pray for those who need Your Son Jesus Christ. Help me stay focused on life in You so I can be Jesus to others. Joy to the world! Let us all make room for him so our hearts can be transformed from a dark inn crowded with the world to a simple stable that shines out with the King of kings and Lord of lords. Joy to the world! The Lord still comes!

 

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“The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. ” Luke 1:27-32 (Gabriel’s message to Mary)

 

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:41-45 (cousin Elizabeth’s and her unborn baby John’s reaction to visit from Mary expecting Jesus)

 

Mary breaks out in joyful song in Luke 1:46-50
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”

 

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Your Prayer Prompt-
Heavenly Father, turn my sadness to joy as I thank You for Jesus…