Matthew 6:22-23 The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.
In Matthew 6 Jesus is teaching His famous Sermon on the Mount. He gives very practical advice on how to give, pray, fast, and how to deal with anxiety. It is all very easy to understand and apply. But found in the middle of this portion of text are these two obscurely worded verses.
The phrases “good eye” and “bad eye” were a common figure of speech used in 1st century culture. It communicated how a person saw the world. If a person saw the world as a good place and trusted God was on the move and in control, they were said to have a good eye. Likewise, if a person saw and only lived for their own desires or only acknowledged the negativity in the world they were considered to have a bad eye. It is similar to our modern day figure of speech that someone sees the world through a glass half empty or half full.
God’s desire is for us to have a good eye. He wants us to be looking for His goodness in the world and to consider ways to join Him in His plan to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
The beginning of this teaching warns us not to collect treasures on earth where they can get broken, stolen or deteriorate, but rather give while on earth! The greek word that is used for the word good in the above passage is the same word we use for generous. If you believe that God is good and want to partner with Him then you would naturally be generous. Being kingdom minded means we use the things God has blessed us with to serve others. It will cost us. We should freely give time, resources, and forgiveness.
Let us pray for a good eye and set our focus on kingdom advancement.
“God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Luke 1:43-45 NLT
One of my favorite memories from when I was young has to be standing by my siblings and cousins in my grandparent’s living room reading the Christmas story on Christmas Day.
I have always thought so highly of Mary. How wonderful to be hand chosen. How blessed she must have felt to be picked to birth the son of Christ. The mother of the Lord of Lords, the King of Kings, and son to come into our world to save each and every one of us.
Wow. Just wow.
I still think highly of Mary to this day. Of course because she’s the mother of Jesus that gave birth on Christmas Eve many many years ago.
– but also because of her character. For who she was. She was ordinary. Just like all of us. She was one who looked in the mirror and didn’t see much more than just a servant girl, but the Lord saw so much more in her. Just like he does in each of us. Mary never once thought she was worthy enough. She found herself in awe of the fact that He took notice of “his lowly servant girl” to which she called herself. It shows her character. Maybe we can relate to her today.
“For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.”
Luke 1:48-49 NLT
She could have questioned God’s will for her life. She could have chosen to live in fear or disbelief. She could have chosen to run and hide. But she didn’t. She came to the realization that she was good enough, and He saw the capability to impact the world through her. God noticed her even when she felt “unnoticeable” and used her for his glory.
As we wrap up 2020 and head into 2021, what if we all strived to be less like the world and more like Mary? Simply believing the Lord is who He says He is, and trusting in His plan. Maybe you do not see much when looking into the mirror, but perhaps this “New Year” you can trust in the Lord and remind yourself that He sees all of your capabilities.
Perhaps next Christmas you can say, I strived to be more like Jesus this year. Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year.
When my children were small, there was such anticipation and excitement as Christmas drew near. The wonder of the season can be seen in the eyes of our children.
As they have grown older and seasons have changed, I find myself struggling to recapture the joy that Christmas used to bring.
I recall the fun of sitting on Santa’s lap, baking cookies, and reading Christmas stories. Of Santa’s elf, Doodle, who sometimes forgot to find a new hiding place. Of riding around to see all the beautifully decorated homes. I remember how fun it was on Christmas morning to see their eyes light up with excitement over all the gifts under the tree.
Sometimes when we reflect on the “good old days”, we start to believe that they were so much better than the days we are in right now. The struggles of 2020 have led many of us to think back to better times and wonder how we will be able to experience the joy of Christmas when all we want is for this crazy year to come to an end!
Has the wonder of the season really gone away?
Or have we just stopped looking for it?
When we search for joy in circumstances or within ourselves, we come up empty every time. True joy only comes when we look up and look around.
LOOK UP and praise God for good news of great joy! The birth of our Savior, Christ the Lord!
LOOK AROUND and thank God for all the blessings in our lives.
The joy of the season is not found in decorations, gifts, or gatherings. It can only be found in Jesus and the salvation we have through Him. If you are struggling getting into the spirit of the season this year, LOOK BACK. Not to Christmases past, but ALL the way back to the night everything changed. When Christ came into the world to save us from our sin.
The good news of the gospel produces great joy in our lives! It’s God’s gift to us that we get to keep long past Christmas.
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. Luke 2:10-11 ESV
We all know, far too well, that 2020 has been a hard year. We’ve experienced the fear and instability of a global pandemic, lost loved ones to a confusing virus that we still don’t fully understand, struggled with the political division in our nation, shifted our plans and reprioritized our lives, and come face-to-face with the fragility of life that our hearts do not know how to handle. It almost feels like too much to list, much less experience.
And throughout all of this, we’re still experiencing the daily struggles of normal life: hectic schedules, family commitments, hard decisions, weddings, births, divorces, deaths, job
transitions, and moving. And yet, while the virus has pressed the pause button on so many activities and gatherings that are closest to our hearts, life has still been zooming ahead. As surreal as it seems to still have the daily mundane tasks to attend to while the world deals with such a large scale crisis, this is how living has been in the long months of 2020.
All of this has been turning in my head as the holiday season has approached. At times I’ve felt guilty for not feeling my usual amount of joy and wonder, and other times I’ve felt so incredibly thankful to be here to see the lights go up and the trees come out. All of the emotions I’ve felt swirled particularly intensely when I heard “O Holy Night” for the first time this season:
“O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
If there has ever been a year in my lifetime when the world felt weary, it has been this year. If we’ve ever been reminded of our need for a new and glorious morning, for a new sun to rise, it’s been this year. But the miracle of this season that cannot be dulled by the difficulties in this year is that He came. Jesus Christ knew our need for hope, and so He came. Veiled in flesh, “the King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; in all our trials born to be our friend.” Jesus has never shied away from our struggle or our despair.
The Bible shows Him not only coming to us in the form of a baby, but to people in need over and over. He comes to Peter’s mother-in-law on her sickbed, to the crippled beggar on his mat in Jerusalem, and to Jarius’s sick daughter. There are so many examples of Jesus getting right into the middle of the messes made in people’s lives, from the miracle of His birth to the small moments He shared with individuals.
Ultimately, we celebrate Christmas to honor His coming, and His choice to be with us and die for us. But the incredible news is that He is coming again, to set all things right, and to remake the Earth as it was intended to be. In a year like this, when the very patterns and intricacies of our lives seem to remind us that all is not well, this is the hope that we have: that God hears, and sees; that Christ came, and will come again; that we are not alone.
We were in need of hope, of a Savior, of God, long before 2020. He came then, and He comes now, and He will come again.
The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
In this translation of Luke 1:28, the angel Gabriel announces some very exciting news to a young, poor girl from Nazareth. Mary not only hears that God favors her, but will also hear that she is chosen to carry the long-awaited Messiah. God had been silent for over 400 years, and now she is the first recipient of the news that she is to be mother of the God Most High.
Can. You. Imagine?
I love everything about the Christmas story. I love to study it, to teach it, and to ponder on it. There is so much to unpack in this story of Jesus’ humble entrance into our dark world. No matterhow many times I’ve read it, reviewed it, or studied it, God always allows me to walk away with another “ah-ha” moment. I’m so thankful he loves me enough to speak to my heart in ways I can understand!
The Bible clearly tells us that Mary was highly favored. However, it doesn’t tell us exactly why. Yes, Mary was hand-chosen to be the mother of Jesus, but Mary was also just a normal, everyday, common girl. She was human and sinful, even at her early age. Therefore, Mary couldn’t have done anything to deserve God’s favor. He favored Mary, because HE CHOSE TO…not because she deserved it. It had nothing to do with Mary, but EVERYTHING to do with HIM. She was highly favored and received this unmerited favor as a Grace-gift.
Ponder on that for a moment.
A Grace-gift: He wasn’t just blessing Mary with a child, but wasdelivering her through her son.
A Grace-gift: God wasn’t only thinking of Mary, but was thinking of each of us.
We, too, are the recipients of that Grace-gift. A gift of unmerited favor, given by God, through a precious little baby. A baby that was born in a dirty manger, wrapped in dirty clothes, having his first visitors being dirty shepherds. A Grace-gift that would grow and become our sin payment…payment in full for our eternal salvation.
What a gift! Please unwrap your gift this Christmas. Yes, Mary was highly favored, AND so are you!
Pivot, change, pause, cancel! The different words we have had to say this year, for obvious reasons. No matter your age or profession, I am positive you have had to re-adjust and learn to do things in a new way in some area of your life. With Christmas as our final event of 2020, we are still faced with having to pivot and perhaps change things. This season, I am challenging myself and asking God to show me how to see Him and His birth in a new way.
First, no matter our circumstances, the coming of our king promised hope because we have a God who is sovereign, powerful and has authority over everything, as prophesized long before His birth.
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Second, as some of us have experienced loss, disappointment and fear this year, there is one truth that I have been reminded often from words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:8.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
I cannot think of anything more valuable than the peace of knowing I have Jesus Christ as my Savior and that no matter what, I have eternal salvation through Him. That is what it is all about it.
Without question, we have been forced to slow down, change perspective, and do things differently in 2020. What could happen if we threw out our thought patterns, traditions and mindset around Christmas with a daily reminder? The birth of Jesus brought us peace, grace and the offer of eternal salvation which is the most valuable gift we will ever receive. And that is what it is all about.
Sounds so simple doesn’t it? My daughter, Elle, just recently turned three, and the excitement of Santa Claus is REAL this year. Santa’s elf is perched high on our mantle and we even got to visit with the boss himself, Santa (despite the plexiglass window). With COVID you’d think Christmas magic would be in short supply, but not with our little! She is our Buddy the elf- constantly singing loud for all to hear!
Recently, Zak (my husband), was off work, so we took the opportunity to cross off a few things on our Christmas list. While shopping it seemed everyone’s anxiety was high- whether it was the mask-wearing, news of COVID numbers increasing, or just the “holidays” in general, everyone seemed to be on edge. Needless to say, when we finally got back home we were ready for bed.
After baths, nighttime routines, and putting Walker (our five month old) to bed, Zak and I got into bed with Elle. She was already snoozing hard. Zak and I looked at each other with a sigh of relief- “what a day” we thought. All of the sudden, as clear as anything I’ve ever heard, Elle started singing “Emmanuel, Emmanuel!”- one of her children’s program songs for church. Tears immediately came to both of our eyes. She was “dream singing”! With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the magic of Santa, and the stress of finding that perfect gift- God used this simple moment to bring us back to the true meaning of Christmas- the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God spoke to my heart from so simply and sweetly from the mouth of babes. The weight of the day seemed to melt away. Did you know “Emmanuel” translated means “God with us”? *Cue the chills*
I want to encourage you this Christmas season to remember the reason we celebrate and remember your WORTH. The song “O Holy Night” has the lyric “the soul felt it’s worth”, which has never stood out to me until just recently. God loved you so much that he bankrupt heaven to send a Savior to a lost and dying world. For YOU my friend.
Times have been dark this year, there is no doubt. It is said that on the night that Jesus was born, three stars met to create the star that lit the wise men’s’ path. Light was brought to the world. Did you know that December 21st this year we will be able to see this same star on the darkest day of the year? The Christmas star. How appropriate that in this moment in time during the Christmas season, God sends this beautiful reminder that Light has and will step in forever and ever. He makes all things new again. “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel”- Matthew 1:23
We wish you and your family the merriest Christmas, this year. May God bless you and keep you!
CHRISTMAS, a cozy time of year, where we get under a blanket, drink hot chocolate, watch Christmas movies, all while our Christmas lights are twinkling all around us.
We stay busy decorating Christmas trees, shopping for gifts, and celebrating with family. When I think of the true meaning of Christmas and what we are celebrating, I think of God sending us His Son, Jesus. He is the reason for the season, but sometimes all the distractions of the holiday tend to blur out Jesus, our Savior!
There are so many times I have dreaded Christmas because my mind goes straight to the shopping, the money that will be spent, and the weeks of busyness. I must stop and remind myself that Christmas is about Christ and God’s love for us!
I also think about how God chose a virgin, Mary, to carry His Son. Can you imagine what Mary must have thought? She was favored enough by God to be the mother of Jesus, her firstborn son, and He would be the Savior of the world.
“She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
Today is my firstborn son’s birthday. This leads me to think about and realize just how much of a sacrifice God made, but also Mary. God trusted Mary enough to handle her son’s purpose in this world. It is unimaginable to me to know that my son, who would be sinless and blameless, would be born to die for the sins of the world. I can tell you with all honesty that my faith would waiver at that moment, but Mary shows a true testament of her faith. She trusted her Lord with her Son. She had to watch him be ridiculed, hurt, beaten, and crucified and keep her faith that He was carrying out God’s purpose.
As a mom I want to try to control and protect my children in every circumstance they face. I want to keep them from hurt, pain, and having to deal with any obstacles that would come against them. But these are the moments that God uses to mold them and help them become who and what He wants them to be. That is where I need to remember the faith Mary had.
I can only teach them to seek the Lord with all their hearts and then have faith that God has their future in His hands. God loves our children more than we do and they belong to Him. He has placed them on this earth to fulfill His purpose for them. They will face adversity, hurt, pain, etc., but we can strive to have the faith Mary had, and God will handle the rest.
As a Christian since the age of 7, I have been blessed to experience many Christmases knowing the story of Jesus and how he came to this earth to be my Savior. I have done the “Hanging of the Green” and participated in candlelight services and Christmas pageants. And I have believed. But, it wasn’t until the Christmas of my 30th year on this earth that I truly and irrevocably understood the true “reason for the season.”
It was a Christmas like none I’d ever before experienced. As a new mom, I had a cranky 9-month old baby, crying like he did nearly every minute of every day. What I now know was severe inner ear issues were–at the time–evidence of my failing as a mom. As he dug into all of my christmas decorations with his food-sticky hands and shoved glitter-covered decorations into his mouth, I fought to put the tree up and adorn it with ornaments. I was frazzled, hair in a knot on top of my head, picking up and putting down a crying child, fighting the urge to cry. I wanted this Christmas to be the best of all for my son, but I couldn’t get it all done. What kind of mother couldn’t even get her Christmas tree up for her baby? I had seen all the fabulous Facebook pictures of fabulous moms and their fabulous Christmas decorations in their fabulous matching Christmas outfits. Surely, I wasn’t cut out for motherhood. It was hard. Too hard. The postpartum depression consumed me to the point I almost couldn’t breath. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t strong enough.
And that’s when it happened.
Hanging another glass ornament (Don’t worry…I’ve learned my lesson and long since abandoned the glass ornaments!), the background Christmas music filtered through my anxiety-ridden thoughts. “Mary, Did You Know?,” a song I was hearing for what must have been the millionth time, and yet it felt like the first time. I remember staring into the lighted tree as the words began to pour over me and tears began to fall.
And I began to understand.
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.
I turned my gaze to my messy baby, crawled over to him, and cried as I scooped him into my lap. And in that moment, my heart was Mary’s heart. For the first time, I truly understood the love and faith in her heart. And the fear she must have felt. She had been given the greatest gift and greatest responsibility of any person in this world–she would give birth to and raise the Messiah, the Savior. She would deliver a child who would deliver nations through his sacrifice——an earthly mother carrying the Son of God. God had entrusted her with his greatest gift. In Luke 2:19, after the shepherds went far and wide to spread the word of God’s promise made truth in the birth of Christ, we are given a small glimpse of Mary as a new mother. God’s Word tells us, “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” In another version of the same verse, it says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary pondered what it would mean to be a mother to Christ. She treasured it. And I imagine she worried like any mother would. She knew she would struggle. And that she would fail. Often. And yet, even with knowing how many hard days were coming and what sacrifices she would have to make, even in times when she wondered about her adequacy as a parent and as a human, she had faith that her Father’s promises would carry her through. Because she had the unconditional love of the Father. A Father who “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
As I sat clinging to my 9-month old, sticky-fingered baby in front of the Christmas tree that day, I saw the truth of Christmas. It wasn’t in the beautifully-decorated tree or the cute outfits or even in the candlelight services at church; it was in the heart of a mother. Like Mary, even with knowing how hard motherhood would be, how many sacrifices that would need to be made, how many tough days there were on the horizon, I had never known a love like I felt for my baby boy. The same love Mary had felt for her baby boy. But even more than the love of the mother, was the love of our Father who sent his Son to save us all.