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Archive for December, 2009

I hope everyone had a great weekend, My wife and my family and I went to see Mannheim Steamroller. They played classic Christmas carols it was really nice.  Went to Church and then watched some football and made the drive home from Oregon to Washington.  Great weekend.  Today and tomorrow and we will have concluded our Christmas story. Lets stop messin about and get right into it.

Matthew 2: 9-11

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east[e]went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

To recap the wisemen traveled for months maybe even years to present these gifts and to worship the king.  What was so important about the gifts.  Have you ever wondered where did gift giving come from within Christmas? If we go back to the first Christmas story when God sent Jesus to earth, we recall that Jesus was given three gifts by the three wise men or Magi, which serve as the inspiration for all our Christmas gift giving today.

The wisemen presented three gifts of profound prophecy illustrating Jesus’ offices of King, Priest, and Savior.

Why Gold? God carries obvious significance. It’s precious and worthy across all cultures and times. There is not one culture or region that does not recognize the value of gold.  It’s a gift fit for royalty. It says to the Christ child, You will be a King.

Frankincense- The name for this resin likely comes from incense of Franks since it was reintroduced to Europe by Frankish Crusaders. Although it is better known as frankincense” to westerners the resin is also known as olibanum, which is derived from the Arabic al-lub (“the milk”) a reference to the milky sap tapped from the Boswellia tree. Frankincense has been touted for its medicinal and soothing properties. Herbalists say it is calming, restorative, gently clarifying, and meditative. Frankincense oil is thought to have stimulating, toning, and warming properties. The ancient world used it for treating depression. (thanks wikipedia)  We recognize the word incense in its name. Ancient people burned frankincense, believing it to carry their prayers to heaven. Often times in churches incense is burned as representation of our prayers being heard, In this case Frankincense was offered to illustrate His role as our Priest.  It is said in scripture Jesus will be at the right hand of God judging the living and the dead.

Myrrh- This is perhaps the oddest of Gifts. It is a resin produced by a small, tough, scraggly tree that grows in semi-desert regions of North Africa and the Red Sea. Myrrh is an Arabic word for bitter, and it is considered a wound healer because of its strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Calling it mo yao, the Chinese used it for centuries to treat wounds, bruises and bleeding and to relieve painful swelling.

The Egyptians made it famous in Biblical times, having acquired myrrh about the fifteenth century B.C. from Africa where cammiphora trees were abundant. (Once again thanks wikipedia) It was used in incense, perfumes and holy ointments and also medicinally as recorded in the Ebers Papyrus. But its most notable use to them was that of an embalming material, used in Egyptian mummies.  Ok the incredible amazing account.  Jesus was given Myrrh, essentially its a burial spice. Its prophetic telling that he was sent into the world to die for it.  What a gift all three represented what he would become.  KING, PRIEST, AND SAVIOR.   Now thats a gift.

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Quiet Arrival

By: Shannon Hanson

Good afternoon everyone!  Only eight days til Christmas!  If you’re like us, the next week is going to be filled with the joyful pandemonium of traveling, baking, last minute shopping, and wrapping.  So, to throw a little moment of peace into the mix, watch the video below:

How true are those lyrics!  Jesus could have come into the earth with a bang; in fact, that’s what most people were expecting.  But, as Chad has been mentioning in his day by day account of the Christmas story, one of the most miraculous things about the birth of our Savior wasn’t the glamour of the event, but rather the subtlety that seems so unfit for a king.  Jesus’ arrival was quiet and humble, much like a gentle snowfall.  If God had wanted to, He could have made the birth of his Son like a hurricane, as the song mentions.  He could have appeared in the sky and shouted for all to hear that his Son had arrived.  But instead, he took a subtle approach.  He simply placed a star in the sky, inviting those with faith to go meet their King. 

Now, God didn’t just choose the subtle approach for the birth of Christ.  Often, He works in our lives in such a quiet way that, if we ignore His blessings, we can miss them all together.  Yesterday evening when Chad was on his way home from work, a drunk driver barreled through a red light and nearly t-boned him.  Because Chad was turning left, it was truly through the grace of God that he happened to glance to the right and slammed on the brakes just in time.  (The driver, who had two children in the car, was caught.)  Now, many people could say that it was just luck or fate or a coincidence.  But those are like the people who figured that the star over Bethlehem was just a big star.  You can discredit God, but it doesn’t mean He isn’t at work behind the scenes.  Rather than showing off His power, He allows us to recognize it on our own.  He has given us the gift to discover Him on our own.

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I want to apologize for not being on top of the blog this week. I am just tired and have been so busy with everything else that I haven’t had a chance. I know I know, it a poor excuse, but that’s the one I am giving.  I figured that would be more believable than the classic “my dog ate it”.

Continuing on where we last left off; the angels had just appeared to the shepherds, and they told them about the birth of the Messiah.

Today’s Scripture – Matthew 2:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.”

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

Notice here that it says that after Jesus was born, the wisemen were sent out to search for Him.  They followed the star.  Scripture never gives us a clear understanding of how far they traveled or how long it took them.  But I don’t think they arrived to see baby Jesus on the night he was born as it is so depicted in pictures and nativity scenes.  Odds are that they arrived anywhere from six to nine months later.

When it comes to Christmas and thinking once again about the today’s story, you have to admire the wisemen’s dedication.  They didn’t know how long or far they were traveling, they just followed the star.  Their perseverance astonishes me, their dedication baffles me, and their faith strengthens me.  This Christmas and New Year, may we chase after our Messiah; our Jesus, Lord, and Savior, with the same dedication, perseverance and faith as the wisemen did.  They didn’t ask questions; they simply followed the star, having faith that it would lead them to the Messiah.

Please share your thoughts and comments.

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Love.

By: Shannon Hanson

Happy Monday everyone!  Chad had a busy Monday at work today, so he asked me to write the blog today.  Don’t worry, he will continue with the Christmas story tomorrow.

If you’re like me, Christmas, which should be one of the most joyous and wonderful times of the year, can quickly transform into a busy blur of stress.  After just spending twenty minutes fighting my way out of the Costco parking lot, which was preceded by another twenty minutes waiting in line to pick up some photos, I just about lost it when I got stuck behind the kindergarten school bus.  Not only did it stop at every block, but the kids were super slow and the parents had to escort the kids off the bus.  At this point I started to practice my deep breathing, and then this song came on the radio:

What an awesome reminder of what this season is really about.  Love.  It’s not about shopping, snowmen, or even church Christmas pageants.    It’s just about love.  God loved us so much that he sent his Son, who also loved us so much, to save us.  Christmas provides us with the perfect opportunity to share the love of God (even if it means letting a trapped car pull in to line in front of you in the Costco parking lot).

I received this email from a family member last week, and I think it ties in well with the idea of sharing love at Christmas:

This was written by a Metro Denver Hospice Physician:

I was driving home from a meeting this evening about 5, stuck in traffic on Colorado Blvd., and the car started to choke and splutter and die – I barely managed to coast , cursing, into a gas station, glad only that I would not be blocking traffic and would have a somewhat warm spot to wait for the tow truck. It wouldn’t even turn over. Before I could make the call, I saw a woman walking out of the quickie mart building, and it looked like she slipped on some ice and fell into a gas pump, so I got out to see if she was okay.

 

When I got there, it looked more like she had been overcome by sobs than that she had fallen; she was a young woman who looked really haggard with dark circles under her eyes. She dropped something as I helped her up, and I picked it up to give it to her. It was a nickel.

 

At that moment, everything came into focus for me: the crying woman, the ancient Suburban crammed full of stuff with 3 kids in the back (1 in a car seat), and the gas pump reading $4.95.

 

I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help, and she just kept saying ‘I don’t want my kids to see me crying! ,’ so we stood on the other side of the pump from her car. She said she was driving to California and that things were very hard for her right now. So I asked, ‘And you were praying?’ That made her back away from me a little, but I assured her I was not a crazy person and said, ‘He heard you, and He sent me.’

 

I took out my card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her car completely, and while it was fueling, walked to the next door McDonald’s and bought two big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee. She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and we stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little.

 

She told me her name, and that she lived in Kansas City. Her boyfriend left two months ago and she had not been able to make ends meet. She knew she wouldn’t have money to pay rent Jan. 1, and finally, in desperation, had called her parents, with whom she had not spoken in about 5 years. They lived in California and said she could come live with them and try to get on her feet there.

 

So she packed up everything she owned in the car. She told the kids they were going to California for Christmas, but not that they were going to live there.

I gave her my gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety on the road. As I was walking over to my car, she said, ‘So, are you like an angel or something?’

 

This definitely made me cry. I said, ‘Well, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people.’

 

It was so incredible to be a part of someone else’s miracle. And of course, you guessed it, when I got in my car it started right away and got me home with no problem. I’ll put it in the shop tomorrow to check, but I suspect the mechanic won’t find anything wrong.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

How has someone shared the love of God with you this season?  Please share your thoughts and comments.

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Christmas Story – Day 6

Sorry to leave you hanging yesterday; I had to take care of things and then by the time I was finished, it was date night, and I wasn’t going to make my beautiful wife wait around while I blogged.  We had a great dinner date, and then at the restaurant, we saw a giving tree where you could pick a family to shop for.  My wife and I decided to be spontaneous, so we picked a tag, ran across the parking lot to Wal-Mart, and had a great time picking out gifts for a family in need.  If you’re looking for a fun date or family outing, I highly recommend finding a giving tree program to shop for!  But anyway, here we are today picking up where we have left off.

Today’s Scripture: Luke 2:13-14

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Now, just take a minute and imagine with me what it would be like if you were one of these shepherds. They were occupied with their ordinary tasks of the day, just hanging out in the flied with their sheep. There was nothing to suggest that this night was to be different from any other night.

Yet the extraordinary happened; in the midst of the night an angel announced, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord.”

Then came a fitting climax to this announcement. There appeared a multitude of angles praising God.  This is a small point, but just think about how awesome it is that the excitement of the birth of Jesus caused “Angels to sing in unison for the shepherds to hear.”  Talk about a concert that would have been amazing to be at!  For those of us who trust Christ as our Savior, we can look forward to, one day, singing with those very same angels.  Now that’s music to my ears!

Thoughts and comments?

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Christmas Story – Day 5

Good morning all!  Welcome back from a cold winter wonderland weekend.  My wife and I enjoyed frolicking in the snow and making gingerbread houses and drinking eggnog.  As if, who does that?  First, there is no snow in Seattle, and second, gingerbread houses?  Come on, the game was on!  But don’t count me for a complete jerk now. I took my wife to Figgy Pudding, a caroling contest, on Friday.   All in all, it was a great weekend, minus the fact that the Titans and the Vikings lost on Sunday.  But let’s change gears and jump back into the Christmas story.

Today’s Scripture: Luke 2: 8-12

“8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Okay, for those of you who missed last week’s story, a brief recap: an angel appears to a girl (Mary) and says she is going to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit and in her womb she will carry the Messiah.  Mary has to break the news to her fiancé, Joseph, and he plans on breaking off their relationship.  However, an angel appears to Joseph and tells him not to.  They travel to Bethlehem for tax purposes.  There is no room for them at the inn, so in a cold, dirty stable, Jesus is born into the world.

Now we’ll jump to today’s scripture.  Shepherds were at the opposite end of the social strata from King Herod and all the influential people of the day. They lived in the fields with their animals. They weren’t respected.  They smelled like their animals, and they may have been considered as low as fishermen, who were total social outcasts (but also happened to be Jesus’ disciples).  They had no power or prestige. Yet, God’s angel came to them and said, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ, the Lord.” Unto shepherds a Savior was born. The message was proclaimed to Shepherds.  Did God make a mistake?  Did he really want to proclaim his message to a bunch of shepherds first?

The fact that God first made the announcement to shepherds helps us to understand the real meaning of Christmas. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,” and He chose to announce the news to shepherds before anyone else.  This simple act represents that the Lord came for all – the outcasts, the broken, the weak, the lost, misguided, lonely, widowed, heartless, helpless – He came to save us all, and He wanted the shepherds to know first.

Thoughts and comments?

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Christmas Story – Day 4

After today’s story, we won’t be picking up the Christmas story again till Monday. This weekend, my wife and I are going to this thing called “Figgy Pudding” in downtown Seattle.  I think it’s like caroling or something; for those who have heard me sing, let’s hope I am not caroling!  I wish everyone a safe and fun weekend.

Luke 2: 1-7

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

For those who don’t quite grasp what is taking place in these verses above, here is a recap:

Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph, being of the line of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary. Essentially, the Roman Census (registration) was taken to aid military support or tax collection. The Jews were not required to serve in the Roman army; however, they could not avoid paying their taxes.

Now, the most amazing part of these verses isn’t even that Jesus was born from a virgin. You see, it was prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2) Up until the decree about the census was put out, one might have questioned how this could truly be that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem when his parents didn’t even live there.  But, by the decree of Augustus, Jesus was born in the exact town that was prophesied for his birth. Even though his parents DID NOT LIVE THERE. How cool is that!  Unknowingly, the emperor Augustus aided in the prophecy of Jesus’ birth coming true.

The next part of the story places emphasis on how Jesus came into the world.  More than likely, because of all the people going back to their towns, Bethlehem was overcrowded. The inn was full, and because Joseph was essentially a nobody, just a carpenter, he carried no weight in reserving a room. All of that was about to change; Joseph would be the father of the Messiah (or stepfather, I guess you could call it). God did not provide a luxurious room for the birth of Christ to take place; but brought his son into the world in humble surroundings. Jesus was born to humble parents in the back bowel of where the animals stayed, and laid in a feeding trough.  Think about it:  Jesus came from the gutter to save us of the gutter. Best rags to riches stories ever told.

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