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“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

    my chosen one in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,

    and he will bring justice to the nations.

2 He will not shout or cry out,

    or raise his voice in the streets.

3 A bruised reed he will not break,

    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

4     he will not falter or be discouraged

till he establishes justice on earth.

    In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

-Isaiah 35:1-4

Day Sixteen

December 18

If Mary had a prepared speech, she never gave it. The Spirit of God literally takes over the meeting and her older cousin breaks out in a celebration that confirms the news Mary has yet to spill. I’m reminded of the old commercial, “How do you spell relief?”

Mary may have spelled it: “E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H!” for the young traveler is suddenly energized! She responds with a song, now famously known as the Magnificat (Latin for “My soul magnifies the Lord”). It’s found it Luke 2:46–55.  Mary opens with these lines, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (verses 46–47). Interestingly, her words are remarkably similar to those of Hannah, a young mother in the Old Testament. Their circumstances were similar; they both sang of a child, but Hannah’s song was in grateful response to God answering her request for a child, while Mary was chosen to bear the Holy Child. Still, in using Hannah’s words, Mary demonstrates that she has hidden God’s words in her heart. Let’s follow her example!

16) Have you ever tried memorizing Scripture? I can’t recommend it heartily enough. Hiding Scripture in my heart has transformed my life. In these two verses in Luke, Mary expresses her delight to know God as her Lord and Savior. Find and record a Scripture you want to memorize. Write it down, and commit to rehearsing it until it is yours! 

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/

Christmas: Just in Time!  

This devotional was written by Jim Liebelt

 

But when the right time came, God sent his son, born of a woman, subject to the Law. - Galatians 4:4 (NLT)

 

Most of us have our traditions when it comes to Christmas gift opening. Some families open their gifts on Christmas Eve. Some families open their gifts on Christmas morning. Some spread out their gift opening over several days to extend the enjoyment. Regardless of when you open your Christmas presents, you likely feel that you have the “right moment”.

 

It’s fascinating to me that God’s gift to us, the birth of His son Jesus; when God became human, was just at the right moment. Not a moment too early; not a moment to late. “But when the right time came,” the Scripture reveals.

 

Thankfully, we have the certainty of Scriptures, that Jesus did come; that He lived among us; that He died for our sins; that He conquered death and rose again. We have the benefit of those Christ-followers who have gone before us, passing down to us the assurance of Jesus’ life and ministry among us. We share in the legacy of what God has done in human history and continues to do in during our time. We are a part of His ongoing story in the world.

 

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

              (from O come, O come, Emmanuel)

 

We celebrate Christmas as the time to remember and give thanks for Jesus, who came “just in time!”

 

GOING DEEPER:

1. If Jesus had not come when He did, but was born during our time, do you think you would recognize Him? Why or why not?

 

2. What part have other people had in helping you to connect (and/or keep you connected) to Jesus?

 

3. Thank one of these people this week.

 

FAMILY TIME:

Use the above content to engage your family in a discussion about Jesus birth as being “just in time.” Then together, plan a family “just in time” project. Think of people in your world (relatives, friends, neighbors) who have specific needs. Discuss these and decide on one person whose need you believe you can meet. Then, devise a plan for your family to meet that need. For example, there might be an elderly neighbor who can’t do fall clean up on their yard. Your family can set a date and go over to the home and do some leaf raking. When you meet the need, be sure to tell the person that you are helping out as a way to celebrate Jesus, whose birth was “just in time.”

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/

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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