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    Christmas had come and gone once again. The family had all gathered together, eaten grandma's cinnamon rolls, laughed, talked, opened presents, eaten a large holiday dinner, watched football, napped, said their goodbyes and left.  Such a buildup for such a short time of pleasure.  Shopping had been going on for a couple months, plans made for who would bring which dish for the “Christmas feast,” decorating the house (inside and out), and wrapping presents.  But now, it was all over for another year.  The children were overwhelmed with all the toys which will most likely be broken, lost, or forgotten in four months.  Adults expressed their gratitude for gifts they honestly didn't need or like.  What is the meaning of all this???

    The tree and decorations were left in place for a few weeks, and then taken down and put in storage boxes in the attic for another year.  But then, a gift was noticed, sitting alone in the corner, unwrapped, untouched, actually with layers of dust collected on its surface.  Now you wouldn't think a group of excited, happy, anticipating people would leave a gift untouched…but there it was.  This gift wasn't only abandoned this year—it has been abandoned for people's lifetimes, for generations, for centuries!  

    Have you noticed how people judge the value of a gift?  For example, an item from an expensive jewelry store versus a T-shirt from Walmart?  It's assumed that if the giver paid more for the item, it must mean they cared more.  Also, people notice how a gift is wrapped—with beautiful wrapping paper, a ribbon and bow, or a brown paper bag.  Why wasn't the unopened gift sitting in the corner appealing to someone?  Did they assume it had no value?  Was the wrapping unattractive?

    Before Christmas, how many times are you asked, “What would you like for Christmas?”  When you're a child, the first thing you think of is a toy.  Teenagers would probably prefer an electronic device, while those older would prefer gift cards so they could spend them on any whim, or impulse, they might have.  As you get older, it becomes more difficult because you've had many things in your life, and you realize they're all very temporary.  There truly isn't much you need or want.  You also begin to realize it is the “intangible” things that count—the smile on a child's face; the love between two people, the firm handshake of an old friend, the beauty of nature, and music.  That is why it's common to hear older people respond to this question by saying: “world peace,” “unity,” “quiet,” “harmony,” etc.  These gifts are hard to find, especially in our day and age!   May I ask you that same question: “What would you like for Christmas?”

    Perhaps no one thought this unopened package was meant for them; but, if they had only taken the time to examine the tag, they would see it says: “TO – WHOSOEVER BELIEVES.”  Now, if it had just said “Whosoever,” it might have been opened, but that second word may have caused pause.  By “believing,” is there a requirement or commitment?  Many people prefer to make up their own “belief system” to be compatible with their current life style.

    Yes, there is a condition for receiving this gift.  And, yes, this is a gift of immeasurable value. 

    How much did this gift cost?  Well, the Giver suffered mocking, indignity, terrible torture and a terrible death to pay for this gift.  Have you ever seen a “gift” that cost that much?  He knew what the cost would be, and had the choice of withholding it, but He didn't.  Why?  Because He loved “Whosoever Would Receive It” much more than the suffering it would cost Him.

    So, I hope you're asking, what does this gift contain?  Well for starters: love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.  Could you use these characteristics in your life?  Also, “eternal life” or immortality—living with the Giver of this gift ~ Forever! 

    Oh, and He promised you would have “abundant life,” beginning with the opening of this gift!  He also promised He would return to personally take you with Him to a place He has been preparing for you—a place where there is no death, no sickness, no sorrow, no crime, no violence, no disappointment, no tears, no fear, no immorality, no sin, no lying, stealing, or hatred.  He promised to put His spirit within you, so that He would always be with you.  You can call on Him anytime, anywhere, and He is there!

    This gift is why there is a CHRISTmas.  The gift is Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who came to this earth two thousand plus years ago to deliver this gift.  He gave up His throne in Heaven to become a man, remained sinless Himself, but took the penalty for the sins of everyone who would believe in Him and accept His gift of salvation.  I'm sure you've heard these verses from the Bible, but perhaps now they might have more meaning for you.

 John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 6:23:  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

2 Corinthians 9:15:  “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

    I recently saw a news report that said people would spend some 40+ billion (billion with a b), dollars on Christmas gifts this year.  Unfortunately none of the gifts will satisfy.  In less than a year from now, we'll be doing the same thing over again.  I am telling you about one gift that DOES satisfy, not for just a lifetime, but forever!

1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.  Or unless you never believed it in the first place.  I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.”

Romans 10:9-11: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”

    If you haven't opened God's gift, please don't delay another minute!  Open your heart and receive His free gift of forgiveness and salvation.  It will give you a joy and peace that the world can't understand.  You will become a member of a large family of people who also believe and understand.  It will give you a desire to pass it on to others who have been too busy, or clinging to a life that is full of worldly things that will never satisfy the heart.

    I pray this will be the most blessed of any Christmas you've ever had.  The True meaning of Christmas changes a person's life and outlook.  It gives hope that nothing else offers, and it's there just waiting to be opened and received.

May God Bless you and keep you, and always walk with you.

Posted by Dan Hubbell with
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A “day-annual” of Thankful Living

I’m almost to the intersection of I-70 and 64, busily speaking an address into my phone for an appointment downtown in the city.  I’m driving with my thoughts fixed on the day ahead—trying to get to the city and back before the traffic hits!!  A large white passenger van catches my attention just up ahead.  Written on the back of the van boldly stating in all cap lettering “PRISONER TRANSPORT”  “KEEP BACK 500 FT.” Suddenly my mind races with thoughts of those inside that van.  Are they male or female?  Is this their first time in prison?  Is this their final ride in a vehicle, going to a place from which they may never return?  Can they see me as I pass?  Are they looking at the fall leaves for the last time?  What did they do to end up here?  Do they know Jesus?  What will happen to them tonight—their first night behind bars?  You know how the mind works  . . . on and on the questions and scenarios play out in the mind.  My heart aches. 

So, I begin to pray—asking God that there might be someone in the prison system who would point him or her to His Grace, that He would keep them safe, and that there might be hope in their hopeless circumstance.  Please don’t get me wrong—I’m certain sin, choices, and brokenness have landed them in this situation and under the rule of law, crime always carries a consequence as it should.  But . . . as long as there is breath, there is hope!  Maybe my heart is more sensitive to the forgotten ones these days.  My world knows nothing of theirs, and I am both thankful and ashamed.  

As I ponder Thanksgiving, I can’t help but think of Ella, our youngest daughter.  Last Christmas, we gave her a trampoline, the very item she had desired to receive for years!!  Finally, we caved and purchased the monstrosity!!  Finding a warm day in the middle of winter, we went to work piecing it together.  And, would you know that every day, EVERY DAY since that trampoline has been put together, Ella has used it to complete at least two somersaults!!  Every day—rain, snow, sunshine—it doesn’t matter, she has committed herself to completing two “landed” somersaults!!  She began calling it her “annual” until we corrected her by saying, “babe, annual means yearly.”  Now, she jokingly and affectionately calls it her “day-annual.”   These are the things that make a mother’s heart laugh with joy—to see a child in sweet activity and innocence, and to see her commit herself to a discipline, a “day-annual!”  It makes me think of Thanksgiving and how thankfulness must be a discipline or we may forget. 

And, my mind goes back to the prisoners, those whose lives are broken, living in a broken place, a broken system.  I think of the nameless, faceless people at the grocery store, I think of my own children, my nieces and nephews and how really when it gets right down to it—I don’t want anyone to spend an eternity alone without God, void of the GOODNESS of GOD.  And, I wonder where our hope is in this day and age?  I know the answer, it’s God’s WORD—full of hope for the criminal, full of hope for the broken, and full of hope for me. 


I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all Your marvelous works.

I will be glad and rejoice in You; (not my circumstances)

I will sing praise to Your name O Most High.

When my enemies turn back,

They shall fall and perish at Your presence.

For You have maintained my right and my cause;

You sat on the throne judging in righteousness.

You have rebuked the nations,

You have destroyed the wicked;

You have blotted out their name forever and ever.


O enemy, destructions are finished forever!

And you have destroyed cities;

Even their memory has perished.

But the LORD shall endure forever;

He has prepared His throne for judgment.

And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.


The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed,

A refuge in times of trouble.

And those who know Your name

Will put their trust in You;

For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.


Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion!

Declare His deeds among the people.

When He avenges blood, He remembers them;

He does not forget the cry of the humble.

Have mercy on me, O LORD!

Consider my trouble from those who hate me,

You who lift me up from the gates of death,

That I may tell of all Your praise.

In the gates of the daughter of Zion.

I will rejoice in Your salvation.


The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made;

In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught.

The LORD is known by the judgment He executes;

The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.


The wicked shall be turned into hell,

And all the nations that forget God.

For the needy shall not always be forgotten;

The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.


Arise O LORD,

Do not let man prevail;

Let the nations be judged in Your sight.

Put them in fear, O LORD,

That the nations may know themselves to be but men.  Psalm 9


Let’s have a “day-annual” of praise, a discipline of thankfulness, and remember that this life in all its brokenness is not without hope.  Praise God for salvation in Christ, refuge in circumstances, trust that God’s judgments are right, and remember we do not need to fear when we trust Him with this life.  We are not forsaken!  We are not forgotten!  We are remembered! 

He is always Just,

He is always Right,

He is always Present,

He is always Good. 

 A “day-annual” of praise will keep us humbly on our knees for the broken, the poor, the least, the person next to you begrudgingly waiting in the checkout line at Wal-mart.   Have a “day-annual” of constant communication with the ONE who can change the world in which we live.  This is what will change our lives and the lives of those around us. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1Thessalonians 5:16-18


Posted by Tracy Smith with

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