The Night Before Christmas A more spiritual version of the famous Christmas story by: Sister St. Thomas, B.N.D. de N
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the town,
Joseph was searching, walking up roads and down;
Mary was waiting, so meek and so mild,
While Joseph was seeking a place for the Child.
The children were nestled, each snug in their beds,
The grown-ups wouldn't bother, there's no room they said;
When even the innkeeper sent them away,
Joseph was wondering, where they would stay.
He thought of the caves in the side of the hills,
Lets go there said Mary, it's silent and still;
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Made pathways of light for their tired feet to go.
And there in a cave, in a cradle of hay,
Our Savior was born on that first Christmas Day!
The Father was watching in heaven above,
He sent for His angels, His couriers of love.
More rapid than eagles God's bright angels came;
Rejoicing and eager as each heard his name;
Come Power, Come Cherubs, Come Virtues, Come Raphael,
Come Thrones and Dominions, come Michael and Gabriel.
Now fly to the Earth, where My poor people live,
Announce the glad tiding My Son comes to give;
The Shepherds were watching their flocks on this night,
And saw in the heavens and unearthly light.
The Angels assured them, they'd nothing to fear,
It's Christmas they said, the Savior is here!
They hastened to find Him, and stood at the door,
Till Mary invited them in to adore.
He was swaddled in bands from His head to His feet,
Never did the Shepherds see a baby so sweet!
He spoke not a word, but the shepherds all knew,
He was telling them secrets and blessing them too.
Then softly they left Him, The Babe in the hay,
And rejoiced with great joy on that first Christmas Day;
Mary heard them exclaim as they walked up the hill,
Glory to God in the Highest, Peace to men of good will!
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Thought of the Day
We’ve already covered a lot of the gifts that God has given us, but in today’s reading Jesus asks something of us. We are called to go to tell other people about those gifts we’ve been given. Jesus calls us to spread the Word of God, to share the story of Jesus with the world. He calls us to baptize others and teach them about God and His love for us. If we take the good we’ve been given seriously, we have to take this call from God seriously as well. This Great Commission is given to us all, from the shortest to the tallest person. We all can share God’s Word in the world.
1. What are some ways we can share God’s story with the world?
2. Who are some people that you could tell about God?
3. Why should we tell others about God’s Word?
You’ve called us to a big task, but we know that we can do it with your help. Give us the words to help spread your story across the world. Help us live as examples of your Word in the world. AMEN.
-borrowed from a email forward, shared because it was a beautiful message, author unknown.
Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience.
I had cut back on nonessential obligations - extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending..
Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old.
For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school"s Winter Pageant.
I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production, unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his
Teacher, she assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation.
All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats.
As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song.
Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as "Christmas," I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer.
So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.
Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads.
Those in the front row- center stage - held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song.
As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love."
The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down - totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W".
The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, as she stood tall, proudly holding her "W".
Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together.
A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen.
In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.
For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:
"C H R I S T W A S L O V E"
And, I believe, He still is.
Amazed in His presence....humbled by His love.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
Thought of the Day
There are times when we think we know more than everyone else. We even think we know better than God sometimes. Sometimes when we are sure that we are right and everyone else is wrong, and we can’t imagine why anyone disagrees with us. This thinking can be dangerous. Before Paul (then known as Saul) knew Jesus and believed in him, he was one of the people searching for Christians to kill them because he believed that he was right. He was so sure of it that he was willing to kill to prove it. But we know that he was wrong, and Jesus did too. But instead of punishing Paul, Jesus appeared to him and showed him the right way. Jesus forgave Paul and Paul became one of the biggest spreaders of Christianity ever.
1. It is important to remember sometimes we can be wrong even though we think we are right. Can you think of a time when that happened?
2. Jesus gave Paul another chance. What should we do when we know that someone else is doing something wrong?
3. It is nice to know that it is never too late to change your way and follow God. Name a time when you were going to do something wrong but didn’t instead.
Thank you for second chances. Thank you for helping to change our minds to what is right. Please continue to guide us and keep us on the correct path. AMEN.
The snow has hit MN with a fury this week. It is really winter now, and I think it is a shock to most of us since November was so mild. But the return of winter emphasizes that Advent is here and Christmas is coming. Whenever we get a snow storm in December I am also mindful of the level of humanity that Jesus was willing to take on.
Imagine what it truly must have been like to be born in a stable.
Can you think what Mary must have felt like, riding a donkey, 9 months pregnant, for miles and miles during winter?
Can you imagine the frustration of Joseph when inn after inn turned them away? The panic that set in as Mary declared that it was time to have the baby?
Can you imagine the gratitude of one innkeeper sharing a corner of space in the barn?
Can you smell the smells of the animals, the hay and the manure?
Can you know the pain that Mary endured to give birth to her son in a stable?
Can you imagine the cold? the worry? the joy?
It is snowing outside now and it helps me leave this 21 century and imagine what it truly must have been like on that Christmas night. This isn't a birth in a warm room with an epidural and a fetal monitor. This is messy and immensely human. And God choose THAT to enter the world. Jesus didn't come as a pampered prince, he came among the animals.
But his humble beginnings didn't diminish who he was and is. Even the stars and the heavens announced his birth.
Take a moment tonight and gaze out into the darkness and the cold and imagine the reality of the Christmas story.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Thought of the Day
In this passage, we are given a glimpse of how the early church lived. They had witnessed the Word of God firsthand in Jesus and Pentecost. It brought them together as a people. They lived together and shared with one another. (Imagine living with the whole church!) They learned together and ate together. Though all Christians cannot live in the same house, we can use God’s word and the disciples as an example for us. We should treat all Christians as our family and work with them to improve the world.
1. What are some of the important things that the passage tells us the disciples did together?
2. How can we help make our church like the early church?
3. Extra credit: Invite another church family over for dinner to talk about what you’ve learned.
Help make our church more like the early church. Help us to recognize the family that our church can be. Lead us in making the church faithful to your Word. AMEN.
Sometimes it seems like Advent gets the short end of the stick when it comes to church seasons. There are great Advent hymns that sing about the process of waiting and hoping for Christ, but we want Christmas songs! We want our Silent Nights and our Hark the Herald Angels. And who can blame us really? These songs are filled with joy and love and faith for us. Christmas is a time to slow down and truly celebrate with those around us that God loved us so much to send his son.
The problem of course is that to slow down for Christmas means that Advent speeds up to a near frantic pace. There is shopping, cooking and cleaning to do, not to mention all the holiday parties, concerts and family activities to do. It is no wonder that by the time we reach the Christmas season we are just tired.
It may be that there is no avoiding the hustle and bustle, but try to find a family activity that can center you during the season and remind you about the wonderful thing that we wait for in Advent - the birth of Jesus Christ.
Here are some ways to remember Advent as a family:
Consider investing in a family advent wreath and light it each night at dinner. One candle is lit for each week of Advent. So by Advent 4 all candles are lit.
Use an advent calendar to mark down the days until Christmas. Everyday a box can be opened or an ornament can be hung in celebration of being one day closer to Jesus' birth.
If you don't have an advent calendar one can be made easily by making a paper chain and ripping off one link each day.
When shopping consider getting a gift for Toys for Tots or donating to a local food shelf like VEAP to remind yourself that giving is a greater joy than recieving.
Read the a portion of the Christmas story each day or use or Taking Faith Home inserts for daily Advent readings.
Place a new piece of a Nativity out each day counting down for Christmas. Remember to save the baby Jesus for last! If you don't have many pieces for your nativity consider having your children make sheep or other animals to have one to add each day.
What Advent Traditions help you slow down as a family before Christmas?
Thank you to all who participated in this year's Operation Christmas Child mission project. As you can see we had a wonderful turnout. St. Luke's donated 226 boxes! The children around the world will love the gifts that you shared with them! Thank you St. Luke's!
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
Thought of the Day
God’s Word is the key, as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news of God that we can bring to people who don’t know about Him. The Bible is how we learn about God and Jesus. It is their Word on earth. God saves us through our faith in Jesus, and it is in God’s Word that we learn about Jesus. And His Word can bring faith to those who listen to it. It is through the Word that we can understand the grace we’ve been given.
1. What is your favorite story in the Bible?
2. What can that story tell you about God and Jesus?
3. How does that story strengthen your faith?
Your Word guides us to you. In your word, we learn of our salvation and our faith is strengthened. Thank you for giving us the gospel to remind us of your gifts of grace and love. AMEN.
I have served as the Director of Children's Ministry at St.Luke's Lutheran Church in Bloomington, MN for five years. I have a masters in theology and love working with children. I am married with one son and two cats.