Advent 2013

Twenty-seventh Day of Advent, December 27, 2013

Don’t Save it All for Christmas

Performed by Avalon

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Christmas season is drawing to a close, and as I write this last post for Advent 2013, I’m reflecting on what makes the holidays so special. The gifts? The decorations? The food? Nah, they’ll all be forgotten in a short time…well with the exception of the food, perhaps, as we resolve to lose the weight we inevitably gained over the weeks between Thanksgiving and January 1st.

Maybe the family gatherings and social functions make Christmas time rise above all the other events during the year. But the preparation of these occasions often sends our stress levels over the edge.

No, there has to be an element to the yuletide that goes beyond or adds to all the gifts, decorations, food, and activities.

It’s the pecks on the cheeks, the warm embraces, the friendly smiles that make the holidays special. We go out of our way to express love to one another. When we do, we are closer to God than any other moment of our lives, according to First John 4:16, “…God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” That’s why God sent His Son in the first place, to draw us to Himself and to show us how to love one another.

The best part of Christmas is the love doesn’t have to fade away like other Christmas memories. We can extend it throughout the year. This morning I read a New Year’s challenge to resolve to pursue love.

The article mentioned the significance of the word pursue, which is a strong action verb. It means to focus intently on an object with the purpose of taking it for yourself; to aim at; to capture. It’s not a by-chance or a meager attempt. It’s a deliberate, determined, aggressive force driving you to action that will not let you rest until you have achieved the goal.

This is the highest command of our Lord, Jesus Christ, love one another. Let us pursue love as Christ loved us—wholeheartedly, unfailingly, sacrificially.

How about you? Are you ready to make the most significant New Year’s resolution with me?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Read the article I mentioned here.

 

 

 

Twenty-sixth Day of Advent, December 26, 2013

A Baby Changes Everything

Youth Drama Performances

 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV)

Nothing changes a life like the addition of a new life. Babies change our sleeping habits, our diets, and our social life. Babies even change our perspective on our surroundings.

As we age, we take more and more for granted. We miss the wonder of creation. But babies, as they discover their environment, slow us down and reintroduce us to cows, grass, and clouds. They reinvent our language with their perception of the meaning and their pronunciations of our words.

They redefine love, forgiveness, and acceptance.

All babies change lives. However, only one baby changed the course of the world. Sure, others caused wars, found cures for diseases, and devised inventions that eased our work loads. But wars continue, diseases persist, and bigger and better inventions lie just around the corner.

Only one Man takes away the sins of the world and offers reconciliation with Almighty God. Only Jesus guarantees rest for the weary soul, peace in a troubled world, and abundant joy where sorrow abounds.

How about you? Has a Baby changed your life?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Twenty-fifth Day of Advent, December 25, 2013

I Celebrate the Day

Performed by Relient K

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:5 and 10 NIV)

As much as our methods of celebrating Christmas vary, so do our reasons for celebrating. Many observe the day because of family traditions. They enjoy exchanging gifts, family get-togethers, and parties. To some, it’s an excuse to take time off work and go on long vacations. (I’m amazed at how many people in the United States don’t want to say “Christmas” or have anything to do with Jesus, but take advantage of time off work. If the opportunity to work arises, they’re the first ones to decline. Just a rabbit trail, but it puzzles me.) Still others commemorate the day because of the money they make.

Many musicians record beautiful Christmas songs for that very reason. And people can say what they want about Christian rock. I don’t appreciate some of it either…contribute that to my age if you like. But I think there should be a distinction between Christian and non-Christian. That said. Not all Christian rock is “bad.” The song I Celebrate the Day has the message of Christmas. This type of music may or may not be to your liking, but the composer proclaims his reason for celebrating. The last line says it all. It’s worthy of a listen.

How about you? Why do you celebrate the day?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Twenty-fourth Day of Advent, December 24, 2013

Silent Night

Music video by André Rieu

 

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (John 1:4-5, 3:19)

Communities all over the world exhibit wondrous displays of lights during the Christmas season. People travel for miles to view the spectacular, colorful, often animated presentations. Even our small community has a Christmas decoration competition each year.

Have you ever thought about what the lights represent? The stars…The Star that shone for Jesus and led the Magi to His birth place in Bethlehem comes to mind. Or perhaps the bright light the shepherds saw just before the angel appear to announce Jesus’ advent is the image being portrayed.  Or the multitude of angels as they joined the first in a splendid array of dazzling light and song.

Still, there’s another light mentioned in the Bible at the time of Jesus’ birth…more subtle, yet more brilliant in its full magnitude than all the other lights combined.

This light came in the form of an infant destined to become the Light of world.

It’s amazing how far people travel to see the great displays of manmade lights. And how far they’ll go to avoid experiencing the true Light of the world—Jesus Christ.

How about you? Are you standing in awe of an animated presentation of Christmas lights? Or are you focused on the Light of the world?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Twenty-third Day of Advent, December 23, 2013

A Thousand Candles

Vocalists: Ten Tenors

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4 NIV)

If the adage, united we stand divided we fall, applies to any group of people, it applies to Christians. We are spiritually one body in Christ. When we separate ourselves from the body, we open ourselves up for attack from the enemy. We need one another. It’s that simple.

  1. Encouraging other Christians helps us stand firm on the teachings of the Bible
  2. Comforting those around us strengthens our faith
  3. Showing tenderness and compassion enables us to receive the same when we are in need

We can only give what we have received. But it’s in the giving that we find unity in Christ. Sharing our trials and victories shows God’s mercy and exemplifies His character. Knowing others have been through similar circumstances and have come out victorious helps us to persevere with hope.

Notice: none of the elements of Christian unity begin by focusing on self. Yet we reap benefits through nurturing others. Thus, Paul cautions us to do nothing out of selfish ambition…don’t reach out to help someone with the intention of personal gain, to honor self, or to show superior strength or knowledge.

A young girl in our church recently organized a fund-raising campaign to help a fellow employee who had been ill and unable to work. The disabled employee worried about Christmas presents for her grandchildren. The young girl raised enough money to purchase gifts for each of her friend’s grandchildren. Who received the most from the gesture? To hear the young girl tell the story, she did. But she extended the love of Christ to her friend with a humble heart. She was actually surprised at the blessing she received through the kindness she had shown.

The campaign worked because the fellow employees were like-minded and united in the spirit of giving.

How about you? How can you show the unity of Christ to those around you?

See you in a twinkling

Brenda K. Hendricks

Twenty-second Day of Advent, December 22, 2013

We Three Kings

 Performed by Dante Bucci on the Hang Drum

 

 But when they [the Magi] returned to their own land, they didn’t go through Jerusalem to report to Herod, for God had warned them in a dream to go home another way. (Matthew 2:12 TLB)

As astrologers, the Magi from the Fareast followed a star they perceived to shine for a newborn king. They had studied Jewish scriptures and knew of the teachings of a king who would come to lead the Israelites out of bondage. The Magi’s lack of understanding of prophecy lead them to the palace in Jerusalem. Where else would they find the heir to the throne?

They weren’t the only ones to misinterpret Scripture. King Herod, along with all of Jerusalem, was disturbed to hear the news of a new king’s birth. Yet, Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him” (Matthew 2:8).

The Magi followed the start to Bethlehem and worshipped Jesus, now residing with His parents in a house—not in a stable as our traditional nativities portray. After they paid homage to the King of kings, they had planned to do as Herod had requested. But God warned them in a dream to go home a different way. The Magi were in deed wise men and obeyed God rather man.

God still warns us of upcoming disasters. The problem is we often ignore His voice. Or we fear man rather than God. We avoid conflict at all cost, even at the expense of grieving the Holy Spirit.

In a nutshell, we lack what the Magi had plenty of—discernment.

The church in general seems to tolerate everything and stands for nothing just like the Israelites as stated in Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (21:25 KJV). We have given up on setting standards and enforcing God’s statutes. As a result our children neither know right from wrong nor do they know how to distinguish God’s voice from their own or from the enemies.

We can change the course of the undiscerning church. We can stand for what’s right. We can refuse to lose God’s statutes in the name of tolerance. We can give Jesus the only thing He has ever asked from us—obedience.

How about you? What are you giving Jesus for His birthday this year?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Twenty-first Day of Advent, December 21, 2013

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Published on Dec 15, 2013

Video copyright Youtube User ID bobf72450.

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent… (Revelation 3:3 NIV)

The beautiful organ music in today’s video brought back so many Christmas memories for me. In our Tiny-town, USA, we have two churches and three denominations, all worshiping the same God separately and holding on to different traditions. But the late-night, Christmas Eve service drew our community together. We packed away our differences and worshipped God and Jesus with song and word. I especially remember the choir, made up of people from all denominations. Their songs were lavished with harmony and praise to the King of kings and were accompanied by one of the oldest usable pipe-organs in the country. Beautiful, rich, welcoming notes flowed from those pipes…still do.

However, not all my Christmas memories are so precious and heart-warming. There have been fights, ending in the emergency room…the weight of surgery scheduled for New Year’s Day…and the news of cancer. Rejection, depression, and loss all have snuffed out some of the lights on my “Christmas tree.”

Yet, Christmas still shines bright in my heart as I cling to the happier memories…caroling and hot chocolate and homemade cookies at the church afterward (yes, another community Christmas event), the wonder of presents under the tree Christmas morning, Daddy reading the news of Jesus’ birth recorded in Luke chapter two, our daughters’ laughter when we made them search for their last gifts, and the excitement in the eyes of our grandchildren as they now solve the clues that lead to their last gifts.

Nevertheless, even during the times that sweet memories seem so far away, the memory of Jesus’ miraculous birth is the one I hold most dear. The wonderment of angels singing, a virgin giving birth, a faithful husband accepting the responsibility of the woman and child, shepherds worshipping, Magi seeking—all contribute to the festivities and blend memories with hope.

How about you? What are your fondest Christmas memories? How are you making joyful Christmas memories with those in your community?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Twentieth Day of Advent, December 20, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Kid’s Music video from the Kiddie Viddie series

Song #7 from “Christmas Joy”

…Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (1Kings 19:11-12 NIV)

If you want to get someone’s attention, whisper. A soft voice works better than trying to talk above the noise. People pause to listen…in most cases. This method works well with crying toddlers. When you whisper in their ears, they have to stifle the sobs to understand what you’re telling them. They perceive you are trying to communicate a secret and want to hear you.

As our children grow, our technique has to be altered somewhat. However, we have a tendency to try to match their volume. Raising our voices at screaming teens only increases the decibel levels to unbearable. Keep in mind, a whisper still holds the same magic. We just need to get their attention. Clanging pans together…with their heads in between…comes to mind. But there are probably consequences for that maneuver we won’t want to face.

Stepping out of the argument is probably the best solution. Stand firm and quiet. That’ll get their attention. Then calmly, but authoritatively, ground them for life…no, set the rules and carry them out, assuring them of your love all the while.

In this chaotic world populated with riotous people, God deals with us in much the same way. He sends wind, earthquake, and fire to get our attention. And when we finally quiet ourselves before Him, He speaks in a gentle whisper, expressing His love for us.

God orchestrated this very principle in the birth of His Son. In the stillness of the night, Jesus came silently into this noisy world. Angels caught the attention of the shepherds that night with a loud proclamation and joyous singing. In turn, the shepherds went to Bethlehem and saw God’s “Whisper”…His Word incarnate.

How about you? What does it take for God to get your attention?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Nineteenth Day of Advent, December 19, 2013

The First Noel

Vocalists: Josh Groban & Faith Hill

Video Produced by: Bob Silvestri

 

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5 NIV)

One of the amazing facts about Jesus’ birth is to whom God chose to announce His coming. The first on the list were shepherds. They smelled like their sheep. They had bad reputations for not complying with Jewish laws, namely keeping the Sabbath. They had to tend their sheep even on holy days. By this time, the Pharisees had made strict laws including how many steps were permissible to be taken on the Sabbath…laws that were nearly impossible to keep. Thereby, the shepherds were considered Israel’s lowlife. Not fit to be in the presence of the respectable people of the day.

Yet, God chose the shepherds. They never asked to be included in Jesus’ story. They sure didn’t ask to be frightened almost to death by the appearance of angels. They did not seek God. He met them were they were—in their fields, watching their sheep, telling “colorful” jokes, using course language, stretching the truth. Right there—where they were. And God’s visitation changed their lives forever.

The shepherds saw and heard angels. They witnessed the Christ child lying in a manager. They went back worshipping and praising God—something some of them may have never done before. And they told everyone who would listen about their experience.

But why shepherds if not to show us that God will meet us where we are? Even when we’re not looking for Him, He has His eye on us and His heart set for us. He has a plan to include us in His story. All we have to do is watch, wait, and go—welcome His salvation plan and tell others about our experience.

How about you? How has God met you where you are?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Eighteenth Day of Advent, December 18, 2013

We are the Reason

Performed by AG Hand Mime Team

Music by Avalon

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 NIV)

As I thought about doing the Advent blog this year, I decided to base each post on a Christmas song. I included contemporary, traditional, soloists, instrumental, dancers, hand mimes, adults, children, professional, and novice. Each night before bed, I prayed that God would awaken me with a song and a message for the day, which He has done graciously.

This morning, I woke with the song We are the Reason on my mind. Before starting my post, I opened my email. The first message I saw: Jesus is the Reason for the Season. I took that as confirmation for what I am to write today. The two statements go hand-in-hand.

Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas. It’s His birthday, right? We want to honor Him by remembering the miracles surrounding His birth. Drawing our attention back to that historical event reminds us of who He is, where He came from, and why He came.

Why He came…aw, the reason for the season. He came to give hope to a dying people. He came to offer abundant joy. He came to replace chaos with peace, to mend the brokenhearted, to uplift the downtrodden. He came to give sight to the blind, to heal the sick, and to restore hearing to the deaf. He came to carry our burdens and to take away our sins. He came to offer reconciliation between God the Father and us. Ultimately, we are the reason He came.

We give gifts to celebrate His advent. He gave His life and celebrates our new birth with the angels. Luke recorded Jesus’ statement: “…I [Jesus] tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (15:10 KJV). We think we know how to celebrate. But the most eloquent earthly celebration imaginable would look like a child’s tea party in comparison to the celebration that goes on in heaven when Jesus and the angels rejoice over a repentant sinner.

I don’t know about you, but when I read that verse, my heart sings and my soul weeps with joy and wonderment. When I fell on my knees before Jesus, He rose with His angels and danced. When I confessed my sins and asked for forgiveness, Jesus sang and His angels played their instruments. When I cried, He laughed with joy for a sinner had returned to Him. He, then, lifted me up and turned my mourning to dancing. He took my tattered garments and clothed me in His righteousness. He turned my broken life into a picture of praise for His glory.

His life, His death, His resurrection were given for me and for you. Jesus is the Reason for the Season…but We are the Reason He Came!

How about you? How do you feel knowing Jesus and His angels celebrated your “new birthday?”

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Seventeenth Day of Advent, December 17, 2013

One King

Performed by Trinity Church Redlands, CA

Music by Point of Grace

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem… . On 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, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1, 11 NIV)

We’re all acquainted with the gifts of the Magi. But do we know where they come from, what they’re used for, and what they symbolize?

Frankincense derives from a milky white resin extracted from species of the genus Boswellia, which thrive in arid, cool areas of the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India.

Myrrh is a reddish resin that comes from species of the genus Commiphora, which are native to northeast Africa and the adjacent areas of the Arabian Peninsula.

Uses:

  1. During biblical times, daily bathing was not an option. Therefore, people basked in the sweet smoke from the resins of both Frankincense and myrrh to cover body odor.
  2. In religious ceremonies and burials, Egyptians used both frankincense and myrrh to prepare animals for sacrifices and human bodies for burial. Hebrews and Christians, a like, have incorporated these incenses into their ceremonies.
  3. As medicines, Frankincense and myrrh have been used for treatment of wounds, hemlock poisoning, leprosy, worms, snakebites, diarrhea, plague, scurvy and even baldness.

Often burned, Frankincense symbolized prayer rising to the heavens like smoke. Myrrh, often used for burials, symbolized death. A mixture of wine and myrrh was offered to Jesus during his crucifixion.

 For more detailed information visit How Stuff Works at http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/botany/question283.htm

 Gold, Frankincense, and myrrh were expensive, yet common gifts presented to kings in Jesus’ day. The Magi honored the Christ child and reverenced Him as the prophesied King of Israel.

Although these were typical gifts given to kings, they hold powerful symbolism for Jesus.

  1. The fragrance of Frankincense and myrrh covered body odor—Jesus’ blood covers the stench of our sin.
  2.  The oil from myrrh was used to prepare human bodies for burial—Jesus’ sacrifice prepares our souls for eternal life.
  3. Frankincense and myrrh were valued for their healing powers—With Jesus’ stripes, we are healed.

Even the Magi symbolize Jesus came for all people. From the lowly shepherds to the highest recognized authorities, from the unschooled to the best educated, from poorest, sickliest, weakest to the wealthiest, healthiest, strongest, Jesus came to save us all.

How about you? Have you welcomed the Christ child with honor and reverence?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Sixteenth Day of Advent, December 16, 2013

Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming

Performed by Tradition Choir

And Mary said: “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. (Luke 2:46-49 NIV)

Mary had plans to live a peaceable life as the wife of a simple Jewish carpenter. It was a perfect plan, a typical plan for a young Jewish girl, a realistic plan to satisfy her and her fiancé’s earthly needs. The courtship had begun. The dowry had been met. The arrangements for the wedding feast were in the works. What a joyous time for the bride-to-be.

Then the most unexpected, unimaginable phenomenon happened. An angel appeared to her, announcing God’s plans…plans that redirected Mary’s path big time. God had chosen her to become the mother of His Son. Mary knew the punishment for a pregnant unwed woman. It could have cost her live but most assuredly her fiancé. She’d be considered a disgrace and most likely be excommunicated from her clan. Yet she praised God for His favor and the honor He had bestowed upon her. She believed His promise and held onto the faith that He would work out the details concerning her provisions. In short, Mary trusted God.

Sometimes God redirects our paths too. He sends unexpected situations our way then says, “Fear not. I’m in control. I’ll take care of every detail. Trust Me.”

It’s not always easy to trust God when our entire world has been turned upside down. But if we do, we’ll find, as Mary did, God works all things out for the good for those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

How about you? How has God redirected you path?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Fifteenth Day of Advent, December 15, 2013

 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Performed by Biancardi Music

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)

If you want to take in the beauty of freshly fallen snow, do it quickly. It doesn’t last but a few hours in today’s fast paced world. Snowplows reposition the white covering off the roads. In doing so, hidden dirt surfaces, marring the face of the wintry blanket.

People have a tendency to mar God’s perfect gift of grace too. He offers salvation through Jesus Christ…no strings attached. He has done everything necessary. All we have to do is receive it. Yet, we put stipulations on what is free as though we could somehow earn salvation through works. We push God’s grace around, repositioning it to suit ourselves. In doing so, sin abounds, and we find little peace within or without.

Our sinful nature has marred God’s gift of grace and has polluted the perfect world He created. Nevertheless, He prevails and continues to offer His gift. He forgives us of our sins and helps us keep our spiritual garments white as snow if we stay close to Him.

How about you? Has anyone given you a gift and expected payment for it?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Fourteenth Day of Advent, December 14, 2013

Mary Did You Know?

Vocalist Cee Lo Green

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18 NIV)

In my opinion, nothing looks cleaner or more refreshing than a fresh blanket of snow. It covers the dead grass, adds crispness to bear tree limbs, and brightens the landscape.

What better metaphor to describe the redemption of a soul. Jesus’ blood, when claimed by sinners, covers our lifeless deeds, adds beauty to our barren dispositions, and brightens our outlooks on life. Jesus washes our sin-soiled souls, preparing us to meet God the Father. He, then, looks at us and sees nothing but Jesus’ righteousness covering us.

The bright white of a cleansed soul comes from nothing but the blood of Jesus. The ugliness and cruelty of Jesus’ crucifixion mirrors the seriousness of our human condition without Christ. His suffering on the cross made our salvation possible.

Did Mary know as she held the dear Christ child in her arms that He was headed for such a brutal death? We can only speculate. God, in His infinite wisdom, spares us the details of our lives or the lives of our loved ones. We couldn’t handle knowing the hardships we’ll face in advance. Mary was human. How would’ve knowing Jesus’ demise that far in advance affected her? Yet, I believe as Jesus grew, God prepared Mary for His death. She may not have perceived exactly what was going to happen, but God gave her insight and grace to face it through her faith in Him.

How about you? When disaster happens, how has God prepared  you for it?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Thirteenth Day of Advent, December 13, 2013

Be Born in Me

A scene from the movie The Nativity Story

Vocalist: Francesca Battistelli

Video compiled by Christian Strauss

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:3-4 NIV)

Two thousand years have passed since Jesus and Nicodemus had this conversation, yet skeptics still ask, “How can someone be born again?” To the world, the concept sounds ridiculous. They look at spiritual matters with human eyes and miss the meaning entirely.

When we discover the truth about Jesus and ask Him into our hearts, He deposits His spirit within us. We see the world from His viewpoint. We think differently about our activities. We crave new “food”…spiritual food found in the Bible, in church, and in godly people. The pleasures of this world grow vaguely dim as we focus on God’s kingdom. Paul describes the process as putting off the old man and putting on the new. Isaiah 61:10 reminds us:  I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. In essence, we are changed inside from the sinful natural state to the cleansed spiritual state capable of fellowship with the Most High God.

These changes take time, but we should see some changes nonetheless. If we experience no transformation…if we continue living for the pleasures of this world without guilt, we may be deceiving ourselves.

Christmas is a good time to take inventory and to ask the dear Christ to enter in and to be born in us afresh.

How about you? What changes are taking place in you as evidence of your rebirth?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Twelfth Day of Advent, December 12, 2013

Joy to the World

Pianist Saksits

“…He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:16b NIV)

Christmas is a time of reflection…a time to look back and see all that God has done for us. He has provided rain for crops so we have food. He has provided jobs, shelter, family, and friends. He has provided the very air we breathe. Even if you lack some or most of these things, God can fill your heart with joy.

Recently, I’ve read testimonies from people who have plenty of sorrow. They have lost their jobs, their homes, and their families. They suffer from cancer. They are paraplegic or quadriplegic, blind, deaf. Yet they are happier and have accomplished more than most who have both health and wealth. What enables the misfortunate to sing God’s praises and capable of achieving their goals? They forget about what they don’t have and concentrate on what they do have. They don’t consider themselves misfortunate. They see themselves as blessed by God. They have taken inventory of what they have and found that, even with all they lack, they have all they need. What a powerful lesson for all of us to learn.

It doesn’t matter what we don’t receive for Christmas or any other day of the year. What matters is what we do with what we have received. We can whine because we didn’t get what we think we deserve. Or we can be grateful for what is placed in our hands and use it for God’s glory. When we choose the latter, joy abounds in our world… unspeakable, unshakable, impenetrable joy.

How about you? What are you doing with what you have?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Eleventh Day of Advent, December 11, 2013

Angels We Have Heard on High

Vocalist: Andy Williams

Video produced by: NANCYFLORESSANTOS

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13 KJV)

Have you heard the latest news? I heard on channel 16… . I heard it on the radio, face book, twitter… . The politicians have decided… . A woman was stabbed in… . A fire destroyed… . A bombing in… .

On and on it goes. People enjoy spreading news far and wide. Mention the latest headline, and you have opinions and conversation until the topic is beyond exhausted. Nothing flares passion like bad news. Let’s face it—we talk most about our passions, the things that get our dander up, the events that stir our inner souls. That’s why good news rarely moves past the scope of the announcement and why we seldom find positive stories on the front page of our newspapers. Good news simply does not rile our emotions the same way bad news does.

Unless the good news carries some negative aspect, it’s soon forgotten. Have you heard Joseph and Mary got married? Not much to say about that—congratulations, hope they have a good life. But add the comment…Yes. And I heard Mary’s pregnant and Joseph isn’t he the father. Now the conversation runs rampant.

Good news: Mary and Joseph had a baby boy. Congratulations, hope he has a good life. Add he was born in a stable. Mary laid him in a manger to sleep. Nearby shepherds claim to have seen angels the night he was born, and they went to see him. They actually worshipped him there on the spot. Yeah, that causes emotions to stir.

We still proclaim His birth. And emotions still rise to the occasion…some of us beam with great joy and expectation…others smolder with contempt and speculation. Nevertheless, the birth of Jesus is good news intended for all people.

How about you? Does the Jesus’ birth stir your passion enough to talk about it? What do you say?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Tenth Day of Advent, December 10, 2013

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Performed by The Cathedrals

Music Video by Bill and Gloria Gaither

 

[Jesus said] “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

From the beginning, God knew the importance for His creation to rest, especially His highest creation—humans. He realized, even before the fall of man, we’d have a tendency to push ourselves beyond the breaking point, to overwork, and overplay. He knew we’d become so involved in this life we’d forget Him. So He designated a day for rest. He then showed us by example the importance of rest…not that He became weary of His work or tired, or burdened. Nevertheless like a good Father, He rested on the seventh day to demonstrate to us the necessity of it.

Yet in our chaotic world, we find it difficult to rest. Bills and taxes threaten our livelihood. Diseases rob us of our health. Insane shootings and stabbings shake the very foundation of our sense of security. How do we rest is such a world? Even when we do lie down to rest, our minds refuse to shut down for worry of what tomorrow may bring.

Yes, it’s nearly impossible to rest in this troublesome world. But God, in His infinite wisdom, providees rest yet today through His Son. Jesus echoes the invitation, “Come to Me, all of you who need true rest from your concerns. I will carry your burdens and care for you. You need not lose sleep over your circumstances. I am here. I do not sleep. Take a rest.” He came to save us from our own sins. And after we receive His offer of salvation, He brings rest.

How about you? Are you in need of rest?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Ninth Day of Advent, December 9, 2013

What Child is This?

Vocalist: Martina McBride

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. (1 Corinthians 1:270-29 NIV)

Have you ever asked God why? Many people say we are not to ask why. But there are myriads instances and events that make us wonder. And God says we are to approach Him as a child. Children ask why…a lot.

One of the events that has made humanity pause and ponder throughout the course of history is why did God choose a stable and a manager for the birth of His Son the King of kings? Was it simply to confound and shame the wise of this world?

We can find the answer, at least in part, in Isaiah 53:2-3. Isaiah prophesied that the messiah would have no beauty or desirable traits that would draw a crowd. He would be despised and rejected, know sorrow, understand grief, and would not be respected.

Had Jesus been born in a palace, as we think He deserved to be, Isaiah’s prophesy would not have been fulfilled. Even the worst kings are revered. People pay them homage, not because of physical beauty, but because of their desire to earn the kings’ favor. Earthly kings know nothing of the suffering of the common people and show little compassion toward their subjects.

No, God had a higher purpose for His Son and chose the foolish, weak, lowly, and despised things of this world to prove His love for not just the wealthy and wise, but for all people. Because of His birth, Jesus could face His death with dignity and with compassion for the people He came to save.

How about you? Who do you say this child is?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Eighth Day of Advent, December 8, 2013

Joseph’s Song

Vocalist Scott Womer

 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 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 1:20-21 NIV)

Imagine how ill prepared Joseph must have felt when he  realized and accepted that he was going to become a father…not just a father, but the earthly father of the Son of God. Do you think he wished he’d spent more time reading the Scriptures? Maybe, he regretted not spending closer attention when he visited the synagogue. Perhaps while he cleaned up his carpenter’s shop, he cleaned up his language as well.

Becoming a parent is an awesome responsibility, and no one enters the realm of parenthood fully prepared. There are many surprises along the way…surprises, for which other areas of our lives have inadvertently paved the way.

Life is nothing but a series of preparatory phases. From birth, our systems must be prepared for solid food. We learn to crawl then walk. We make babbling sounds before words form. Attending schools enable us to support ourselves and hopefully, equip us for parenthood. Thus, the circle of life continues.

However, we also have an afterlife to consider and to prepare for. This physical life and all its phases plays an active role in preparing us for eternity. God uses all of our circumstances to teach us His ways and to woo us to Himself through His gift of Jesus Christ.

While we prepare our homes to celebrate His birth, let’s prepare our hearts to receive His love and sacrifice.

How about you? How are you preparing to present the Christ child to the world?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K.Hendricks

Seventh Day of Advent, December 7, 2013

Oh Holy Night

Vocalist: Josh Groban

Video clips from The Nativity Story

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior… (Micah 7:7 NIV)

As a child, I waited for Santa Claus like many children do today full of expectation and anxiety. My parents did not trump up Santa, but did sign our presents from the jolly old gent. I don’t even remember discovering the truth about him. He wasn’t the central figure of my Christmas or the fondest of my Christmas memories.

I remember Mother telling us where she “hid” our presents and that we were welcome to peek, “if we wanted to ruin our own Christmas.” I remember my father reading the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke then crying while he prayed for God to help him be a better father and husband. I remember the anxiety of waiting for my next present to open as Daddy handed out our gifts one-by-one in random order. But most of all, I remember the wonderment of Jesus’ birth—how magnificent it most have been to see a multitude of angels and hear them sing, to see the Christ child in Mary’s arms, and to witness the glow of His star.

Now, I see the chorus of Oh Holy Night as reality. The world lies in sin and error, pining for a hope they do not know, although it’s available to anyone who’ll believe. Instead of grasping the gift of Love, the world seek to convince us that our hope and happiness exists in the person of Santa Claus.

I’ve heard even Christians say, “Oh there’s nothing wrong with Santa Claus. He’s the spirit of Christmas and of giving.”

Really? I thought Jesus’ spirit revealed the essence of giving. Do we need more than His Spirit to teach us to love one and other and to give from our hearts?

If we’d spend a third of the money, time, and energy teaching the essence of giving through the example of Jesus that the world spends on trying to convince our children that Santa really exists, how many people would put their hope in Jesus?

I’m not denying the expectation and anxiety I experienced as a child waiting for Santa. But I am so glad I learned as a child to place my hope and trust in the Lord and to wait with wonderment, expectation, and anxiety for the return of my Savior.

How about you? How are to approaching the advent of Christ?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Sixth Day of Advent, December 6, 2013

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18 NIV)

Aw to hear the angels sing…if only we could! But alas, the world cries with economic decline, shacking the very core of our existence. Our personal struggles shout for attention. With all the turmoil surrounding us, it’s difficult to lie in solemn stillness, let alone listen for the song of the angels.

Nevertheless, God calls us to listen…to set ourselves apart from the world temporarily and listen. And as His sweet voice and perhaps, the angels’ song, fills our ears, we are to encourage others with the words Paul penned:  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NIV).

Eventually, the entire world will pause, look up in wonderment, and return the song, which now the angels sing.

Sh. Listen.

How about you? How can you encourage someone with Paul’s words to rest and to listen for angel songs?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Fifth Day of Advent, December 5, 2013

Angels From the Realms of Glory

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. (Psalm 100:2 NIV)

Again today, we hear the call to worship the Christ child. But how do we worship on a daily basis? I suppose, if we searched hard enough, we could find a different church for every day of the week. Do we have to attend church to worship? Can we or should we worship in our homes? What forms of worship honor God?

Maybe the definition of worship would help us understand what we are called to do. Then we can figure out how to do it.

Worship: a feeling of profound love and admiration; show devotion to (deity); regard with feelings of respect and reverence; consider hallowed, exalted or be in awe of.

Seeing the definition of worship helps me to understand what God is asking of me. In essence, He wants us to express our profound love and admiration for Him and for His Son in tangible ways. Church aides us in showing our respect and reverence for our Lord and Savior. The songs we sing, our behavior within the sanctuary, our tithes and offerings all show reverence and respect to the One we serve. That’s public worship. It’s important. However, God calls us to a life of worship.

How do we exalt the name of Jesus every day? We can’t live within the confines of the church. So how do we express our adoration for the King of kings at home, at work, at recreation? Do we have to play Christian music all day or at least hum our favorites? Obviously, that’s not practical. What is practice is our behavior by which we worship Jesus and lift Him up to the world.

But I think God is looking for more. He wants us to reach deep inside ourselves and offer Him our greatest and sincerest praise. With our souls and spirits, we worship Him.

Again there are many ways of doing this…singing, musical instruments, dancing, prayer, Bible study…sound like the same old? Not when we dig deep and allow our souls to participate. So many times we enter into a superficial state of worship. But God wants profound, deep worship.

For me, I enter that deep state of worshipping God through creativity…painting mostly.

How about you? How do you enter into worship?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Fourth Day of Advent, December 4, 2013

O Come All Ye Faithful

Performed by Chris Tomlin

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” (Luke 2:15 NIV)

O Come All Ye Faithful exemplifies the peace of God’s calling. Even in the triumphant herald of the angels, the shepherds experienced God’s peace. The excitement and exhilaration of witnessing the celestial beings mingled with ever lasting, unconditional love and brought a calmness to those involved like no one had ever known before.

We, too, can receive that calmness…God’s peace. He stretches out His hand and points the way to Jesus, but few capture it, especially during the Holiday season (between Thanksgiving and Christmas). The noise of the world drowns the rush of angels’ wings and God’s soothing call to come and worship. The lights on the Christmas tree dim our eyes, blinding us to the brilliance of Light of the world.

Hush. Let’s still our hearts, minds, and souls for just a moment. Let’s shut out the noise of the world. Let’s turn our heads toward heaven and gaze at the stars as the shepherds had done so long ago. Listen. Is that an angel’s voice? Look. Is that wonderment and joy? Hush. Is that God’s call to worship and honor Him?

How about you? How can  you make time to be still and listen?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Third Day of Advent, December 3, 2013

Little Drummer Boy

Performed by Pentatonix

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4 NIV)

Although not biblical, Little Drummer Boy holds biblical truth as it captures the heart of giving. Some may possess great wealth and thereby have the means to purchase extravagant gifts fit for an earthly king. But no one can give a gift fit for the King of kings. Nothing we possess is worthy.

Yet if we come with a humble heart and offer our best, Jesus not only accepts our offering, but He is pleased. He welcomes everyone who willing gives all they have to serve Him. As the drummer boy demonstrates, our gifts don’t have to be monetary. Jesus wants what we hold most dear, including our talents. He gave them to us. He desires for us the use them.

I’ve found when I give my talents back to the Lord, I receive the most pleasure from them. I can feel Him smile at me…me and my paintbrush. You see if I had been there, I would’ve asked, “Shall I paint for Him?”

How about you? What gift do you have fit to lay before the King?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Second Day of Advent, December 2, 2013

While You Were Sleeping

Performed by Casting Crowns

Video Created by D1g1tal1

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 NIV)

Much of life happens while we sleep. On the other side of the world, the sun shines. People go through their day, working, playing, laughing, and crying. Even on the same side of the hemisphere, many people work at night. I don’t know, but I’ve been told a city never sleeps. Activities continue around the clock. During the night, we celebrate, carouse, and do evil.

Yes, life goes on while we sleep. Ask any emergency room doctor or a nurse in a convalescent home. Accidents happen. Attackers shoot or stab their victims. Strokes and heart attacks strike. People die. Babies are born.

Even babies of royalty often enter the world at night and must wait for their subjects to awaken to be heralded.

Jesus came while the town of Bethlehem slept, during a time in which many of the Jews had become undiscerning and weary.

Paul cautioned the Thessalonians to remain alert and sober. His words resound through the centuries to us, the modern church. Many Christians have fallen into complacency. Many lack discernment. And the Holy Spirit shakes us and cries, “Awake! Awake! Your redemption draws nigh. Awake, little child of God. Prepare your hearts for the coming of your King.”

How about you? What’s been happening while you were sleeping? As you decorate in celebration of Jesus first advent, how are you preparing for His second coming?

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

First Day of Advent, December 1, 2013

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Performed by Thenba

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV)

 God planned for His Son’s birth from the beginning of time. He chose a small, insignificant town called Bethlehem for the birthplace. Not the place we’d choose or expect. If we’d plan the birth of the King of kings, we’d pick the capital city. But not the Father, He, more often than not, chooses the small, insignificant places, things, and people of this world to accomplish His most magnificent plans.

Paul reminded the Corinthians that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29

As we prepare for the messiah’s advent, let us consider small Bethlehem. Out of her came the Savior of the world. We, too, are but a speck on the earth. Nevertheless, God sees us and desires to use us, no matter how insignificant we think we are, to bring forth the grandest message the world has ever heard.

How about you? Will you permit the Son of God to come out of you this Advent Season? With whom can you share Jesus?

Facts about Bethlehem: The Jacob buried his beloved wife, Rachel, at Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). Ibzan, one of the judges of Israel, hailed from Bethlehem (Judges 12:8-10). Naomi was from Bethlehem and returned there with her daughter-in-law, Ruth from Moab, after their husbands died. King David also came from Bethlehem.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

1 Comment

One thought on “Advent 2013

  1. I have finally caught up & I’m so glad I took the time to do so!!! As always, you speak with words that penetrate straight to the soul. Thank you for tinking deeper than the superficial message of “it’s Jesus’ birthday”, and challenging me to prepare myself and others for the arrival of The King. I cannot even begin to tell you how closely your messages are to the thoughts, questions and reflections I have been pondering the past few weeks. It all flows perfectly with the mesage our pastor shared this morning. And as he spoke I humbly became aware that, contrary to what our human nature would lead us to perceive, God does not interact with/interrupt OUR plans…we are PART of HIS.

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