Scriptures of Christmas - Gifts of Worship

by Sally Matheny

Dear Friends, you are in for a treat. My sweet friend, Nan Jones, is guest blogging for me today.
God first brought Nan into my life as the welcome wagon at my first writers’ conference. She didn’t even serve on the staff! She is just that genuine kind of person that pulls you in with her warm smile and compassionate heart. Within minutes of learning I was a nervous, greenhorn writer, Nan was already jotting down helpful websites for me and telling me of people I needed to meet while at the conference. During one short weekend, we developed a lasting friendship.
I love Nan's writing because, like her, it radiates her love for Christ.
May you find a blessing as you read. And I pray each of you experience joy and peace as you focus on God’s most precious and perfect gift of Jesus Christ.

by Nan Jones

The camels plodded along the stony trail. With every step, dust from the dry and thirsty land blurred the edges of their hooves. The night sky, vast and translucent, held the veil between heaven and earth. Stars, like sequins, glimmered. A silence wrapped the Magi in a holy hush - a knowing, a pondering of the faithfulness of their God.
Steady they went; the star in the east their compass. Its brilliant light-beams cascaded over the earth beckoning these men of wisdom and insight and worship to seek the Newborn King. Saddlebags draped over jewel-toned blankets, bulged with gifts fit for the long awaited Christ Child. Gifts befitting royalty. Gifts of worship.

From the crest of the hill overlooking the valley below, the Magi searched the heavens. And there it was! The sign! The cascading light-beams from the brilliant star touched the earth, pointing to the Messiah. Shouts of joy rang across the land as the men proclaimed their journey's end. Hearts raced with anticipation. Spirits leaped within from the overpowering Presence of God.

The men of wisdom bolted towards the Light, dismounted, and doubled over in awe. Tears streamed. Smiles beamed. And their knees fell hard against the earth as they bowed in worship before their King.

One by one the Magi unwrapped their gifts for Jesus. 
One by one the gifts reflected God's perfect plan.

Gold. The royalty of Jesus. A gift befitting the King of kings.

Frankincense. The priestly role of Jesus. The sweet aroma drifting from the altar of incense in the Tabernacle where prayer flowed to the Father. Resin harvested by stripping the bark from the tree in a process called striping. The resin flows from the wounds, hardens, and is deemed the tears of the tree.

Myrrh. The anointing oil for Jesus' death. Resin from a small, thorny tree. The tree is beaten repeatedly to cause the resin to bleed out. Myrrh was used to embalm the dead.

Like Mary, I ponder these things of God. I find myself awestruck at the intricacies of His plan of salvation - the complexities of design and purpose.  I wonder at the sweet aroma created by the prayers of the righteous before the Lord and the fact that the Magi must have realized the significance of their gift being harvested by stripes and tears. I am in awe that myrrh was chosen as the third gift - myrrh, whose very source is laden with thorns and must be beaten to release the fragrant liquid.

I think on Jesus and His touch upon my life.


"Lord, I cry out to You; 

Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. 

Let my prayer be set before You as incense, 

the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." 

~ Psalm 141:2

As I seek the Christ Child this Christmas, dust from my dry and thirsty land blurs each step. But, I seek Him still. His Word is a lamp unto my feet, a brilliant light cascading from heaven pointing directly to Him. I cry out to Him, my prayers a sweet aroma, pleasing and acceptable to the Lord because He loves me. 

And because He loves me, I will worship Him.

I will worship and adore Him because He is the Lord.

Nan Jones
Nan Jones is an author/speaker who uses the words of her heart to assist fellow Christians in discovering the Presence of God in their darkest hour. Her devotional blog, Morning Glory, has become a place of community for Christians to find encouragement in God’s Word and comfort in His Presence.
Nan’s devotions have produced a far-reaching impact across the nation and globe due to her online presence. She has been published in three anthologies: Ultimate Christian Living, Diamonds in the Light: Exceptional Women Showcasing Their Gifts, and God's Word for God's People: 2013 Daily Devotional. She has also been published in the online inspirational sites Christian Devotions, and Inspire a Fire, and has been featured as a guest blogger on several sites.
She is thrilled to announce her debut book, "The Perils of a Pastor's Wife" which is slated to be released in early 2015 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.
When Nan is not writing, she enjoys leading prayer retreats, bible studies or sharing God’s love as keynote speaker for special events. She is becoming known by her brand: "Even so, I walk in the Presence of the Lord."
You many visit Nan at her website or her blog, Morning Glory. For personal communication you may email Nan at nan@jubilantlight.com.


When There’s Nothing to Blog About

by Sally Matheny
When There's Nothing to Blog About
I started blogging in April 2011. A whopping fifteen viewers read my first post. At first, I didn’t want to blog, but writer friends said it would improve my writing. I’ve maintained a schedule of posting every Monday and I am learning a great deal in the process.

     I know experienced bloggers write out their posts weeks in advance.  For some reason, I’ve just not been able to do that. Most of the time, I’m observing and pondering throughout the week and begin writing my post one or two days before it is posted.
     Some weeks a topic emerges and the words flow easily. However, most weeks it’s several hours of hard labor trying to birth something worthy of reading. And occasionally, there comes a time when I think there's nothing to blog about, which seems silly. Surely, there is something of interest to write about! The challenge is writing it in such a way that benefits my readers.
A Sleigh Full of Writing Ideas

     Take this week for example. Its two weeks before Christmas. Christmas! There should be a sleigh full of ideas, right? Well, I started a post on Christmas traditions- whether to treasure, toss, or tweak them. Eh. It was boring. But I plugged on thinking I could perk it up later.
     It never fails during these struggling times of writing that I am paged.
     “Mom, I’m a little concerned.”
     I look up from my laptop at my nine-year-old redhead. I am thinking he must have seen a news report about hurricane victims or overheard someone’s unfavorable health prognosis.
      “What are you concerned about honey?” 
The Concerns of a Child's Life

     With his little furrowed brow he looks at me and states, “I’m concerned that I only have one gift under the tree and other people have more.”

     I close my laptop and focus my attention on his blue-blue eyes and his green-green heart.  We talk awhile about why we have Christmas and how we are always fair in our gift giving. Finally, I make the point of how crazy-focused he gets on his gifts when he sees them under the tree. I purposely do not put his gifts out until Christmas morning because he will drive me insane with questions. Mainly, “Can I open just one today?”
     We come to a point of understanding and he goes off to play. I go upstairs to continue working on the blog post. I get sidetracked looking up statistics on re-gifting. Did you know 78% of Americans think re-gifting is okay? While I ponder how to tie that in to my blog post on traditions, my husband comes in and sits down beside me.
Clank. Scrape. Clank. Scrape.

Life's Sweet Interruptions
     Looking up to see him licking the chocolate ice cream from his spoon, I inform him I am trying to work. Immediately I regret the comment as he gets up to leave. I beg him to stay and chat while he eats his ice cream. He does and then I turn back to my writing after he leaves.

     I’ve ventured now into writing remarks about people intentionally buying and wearing ugly, Christmas sweaters. This article is not going where I wanted it to go. Arrgghh.
     “Mom!” My nineteen year old, home from college for the holidays, is screaming in frustration. I pretend not to hear her.
     “Mom! I NEED you!”
     Closing the laptop once again, I venture downstairs. “Calm down. What is it?”
     “The red velvet cake I baked for Dad’s office party has broken in two, and half of it is in the pan and the other half is here, and I’m too tired to bake another one and so, here you go. Do whatever you want with it because I’m done.”
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

     Her hair is pulled up into a messy bee-bop with strands dangling in front of her flushed face. It’s good to see her back home in the kitchen, even if she is spazzing out a little.
     “Calm down. Let me see if I can fix it.”
     “Good luck,” she spurts slumping off to her room. Bless. She hasn't caught up with her sleep since exams last week.
     The cake appears to be in several pieces on the plate and one large piece is still in the cake pan. All I need to do is loosen the large piece, apply it to the cake and ice it. No one will ever know.
     Easier said than done. The cake stubbornly clings to the pan. Now, the cake looks like someone smashed it with a piƱata pole. Even if I “glued” it back together with icing, it would look a mess.
Savoring Life's Moments
     Wondering if anyone has ever made a red velvet cake trifle, I start to laugh. The rest of the family gathered in the kitchen.  I told my husband his cake would arrive late. I’d bake another one the next day. The redhead ecstatically ate what was now deemed the family cake.  The daughter was relieved she could go to bed. And I knew what I was going to write about.
     Life happens—to all of us. We all have good days, crazy days, and not-so-good days. One thing I have learned by blogging, is my readers are most encouraged by things that happen in real life. One of my most popular posts is Best of Intentions Hit the Ceiling. Evidently, people like learning from my mistakes. I guess it beats learning firsthand from their own.

     God provides teachable moments in every breath we take. We can choose to keep our heads down and continue plugging away at what we’re doing—thinking we’ll figure out how to fix it later. Or we can turn our attention to what God brings before us: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

     Tune in to what God is teaching. Stress less. Laugh more. Trust.  Love.  Forgive.
     While I’m learning from my own good, bad, and ugly moments, I want to be a source of encouragement for others in their life journeys. As long as we're living, there will always be something to blog about--it is just a matter of learning how best to share it.
     Got to go. I’m being paged.

     In the meantime, why don't you share with us what you blog about?



Christmas Pointers Waiting for Christmas

Waiting for Christmas
Christmas is a fun time of year, especially for children. There is an abundance of merry activities: parades, special programs, baking and decorating. 
Adults are walking children down toy aisles and making wish lists. Pointing to different toys they ask, “What about this? Do you like this?”
There are alot of Christmas pointers waiting for Christmas.

As far back as my memory will take me, I remember my mother reading stories to us each night, in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The Christmas devotional stories came from a green, hardcover, Guideposts book. My sister and I loved those stories and they always seemed to draw our focus away from material things and towards Christ.

I recall my love for hearing the devotional readings prior to Christmas. But I must admit Christmas morning was a completely different matter.

The shiny bows and mysteriously shaped packages under the tree screamed for my attention. However, the gifts had to wait.  

First, we were not allowed to go to the living room until we woke Mama and Daddy up—which seemed to take forever.

Then, we could sit in front of the tree but not touch anything until Daddy got his coffee—, which seemed to take forever.

Next, we had to wait for Mama to put the sausage balls and cinnamon Danish rolls in the oven—, which seemed to take forever.

Finally, it was time for Mama to read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke 2. Many times my mind wandered away from the manger and over to the presents. Why could my excitement about the gifts not make those shepherds walk a little faster?  Let the wise men hurry and give their three gifts because I had already scanned my name more than that on tags under the tree.  

What? Time to pray? Alright! That meant presents were next!

We had another tradition. It wasn’t a free-for-all. We had to take turns opening gifts starting with the youngest, which was cool since that was I. I liked seeing what everyone else got, especially my sister, since she might share her toys with me. However, I always readied the next gift in my lap while everyone else opened their presents.

Shameful and sad, isn’t it? Alas, it was the mindset of a self-centered five year old. God bless my parents for hanging in there. I’m thankful they didn’t throw their hands up in discouragement and let us delve into a selfish frenzy.
As much as they enjoyed watching their children’s delight on Christmas morning, they had a deeper conviction. They knew something that I did not know until I was older—that the fulfillment in gifts is fleeting. Most of the toys would be discarded within a few years, some within a few months. Not one toy would last forever and even if it did, they knew the happiness it once brought would not. 

Christmas Pointers

The greatest gift they gave us was their consistent pointing to Jesus Christ.  All they could do was point the way. We had to make the choice.  

The angels told the shepherds the good news. However, the shepherds made the decision to go find the Messiah. The star pointed the way for the magi, but they had to choose to follow it.

Praise God, as I matured, my gaze gradually shifted from the gifts to the manger. God drew me to Him. He used my parents and others to point me in the right direction.

It is delightful giving gifts at Christmas, especially to children. In the midst of all the merriment, let's continue turning our focus on the best Gift.

My joy comes from God’s perfect gift, Jesus Christ.  It thrills my soul beyond measure to know Him.

How long will His love fulfill my life?


What about you? How do you point the way to Christ during the Christmas season?






The Best Christmas Tree Ever

Do You Want the Best Christmas Tree Ever?

     The first year of our marriage, we lived in a small apartment with a small, newlywed budget. Pinching pennies to buy our first house, our first Christmas tree was a $15.99 Blue Light Special from K-Mart. 

      We loved it and thought it was the best Christmas tree ever.

     It turned out to be a good thing the tree was only four feet tall. On December 23, we were surprised to learn we could move early into the house we were buying. 

     I would never have decorated our apartment for Christmas had I known we would be moving so soon! However, we didn’t have a lot of stuff, so packing up didn’t take too long. We packed vehicles and transported furniture and clothes to the new house about ten miles down the road. We had a family Christmas gathering to attend that night so everything seemed like a chaotic rush.