A Season to Praise God

by Carole Brown

During this holiday season, when so much of our attention is on the commercialism of the day, let us direct our attention to the real reason we celebrate this time of the year. Let us follow our Lord’s example in word, action and deed by praising our God. Here are a few thoughts, and I’m sure you can add to this list. 

 

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  • With our voices. Sing aloud to our God. Show him we love him by letting the adoration we feel pour from the very depths of our souls. Shout aloud our praises.

 

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  • With our actions.Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” By doing so with a heart full of love for God, we show him our sincerity and love for him. Labor for the church. Witness. Be kind. Turn the other cheek. Pray without ceasing. Do good to those who hurt us. Hard? Yes, but not for God, and if he does indeed live inside us, then we are strong through him. Amen.

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  • For victory! Praise him this year, this season for what he has brought us through in 2016. Praise him that we have yet another opportunity to enjoy this month, to share with others the blessings he’s given us, the lessons we’ve learned, the battles we’ve fought and won, and to rejoice in all that. “Yea, we are more than conquerors!”

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  • For Christianity. Praise God for sending his only begotten Son to earth to be a Savior for mankind. Who else could love humans but a Supreme Being so fully, so deeply, so extensively but the God of heaven?  “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten so, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.

 

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  • For a future. Bleak days may be before us, but we have an assurance. We have a hope, an eternal home awaiting for us. We have a captain who is strong and wise and experienced and knowledgeable. What awaits for us in 2017, and even further down the years, whether good or bad, sad or happy, we know without a doubt that God is able and will provide the strength we need to see us through. As the old song goes, “We’re just passing through.” and scripture says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you…

Many wonderful seasons of praise wished for you today. Merry Christmas!

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10 of My Favorite Christmas Things

Funny christmas companyby Tamera Lynn Kraft

I love Christmas. I love everything about it. It is my favorite time of the year, always has been. My family claims I remind them of Elf in the movie at this time of year. Embarrassingly, I see the resemblance. Here are 10 of my favorite Christmas things.

Christmas MoviesFavorite Christmas Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life

No contest here. I love old movies, WW2 era, sappy Christmas movies, and Jimmy Stewart. Put them all together, and you have this movie.

Stack of books and other presents in basket. Christmas decoratioFavorite Christmas Novel: The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I love Dickens, and I believe this is one of his best novels. The novel is so much better than all the movies.

Favorite Christmas Decoration: Christmas Putz

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I used to consider my Santa collection my favorite, but when I started studying about the Moravians and how they include Nativities in their Christmas Villages, I started putting together a putz. I’m pretty happy with the way it’s turning out.

christmas-tree-2015Favorite Christmas Tree: Artificial lifelike Green with colored lights.

I love the real trees, but they play havoc on my allergies. So I settle for green trees that look like the real thing. I like the brightly colored lights more than the white lights.

Favorite Children’s Christmas Pageant: Santa Bowed at Christmas

I did this pageant with the children in my church when my daughter was about 11 years old. She played one of the starring roles. The play is a very special story about a department store Santa accepting Jesus in his heart and finding the real meaning of Christmas. What made it even more special was it was the year my husband got saved – and he played Santa in the play. When Santa bowed at the manger, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Favorite Christmas Video: Social Media Christmas

Bring a lump to my throat every year. See for yourself.

Favorite Christmas Gift: A book of course.

Favorite Traditional Christmas Carol: O Holy Night

It changes every year.

Favorite Modern Christmas Rendition: Transiberian Orchestra’s Carol of the Bells

Favorite Christmas Scripture: Isaiah 9:2-3, 6-7

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

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A Season for Fun

by Carole Brown

There are numerous reasons for holidays, but one of the reasons is for fun! Enjoy life, appreciate what you have or that things could be worse, and praise God. Here are a few ideas for a season of fun:

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  • Cut your own tree or decorate it. Make it an adventure. Whether you do this by yourself or have children, have fun decorating. I always believe in decorating the tree for children, but whether you choose the more elegant look of white lights, shimmering big bulbs and lots of ribbon or go with a more traditional look of old, cherished ornaments and/or handmade ornaments, enjoy this activity.

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  • Take time for relaxing moments or quiet reading sessions, hot chocolate or tea (or coffee) a delicious dessert in front of fireplace (if you have the privilege of one). Sit down and challenge your family to a favorite game. Relate fond memories with your children and other family members. 

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  • Take a mini vacation. Go see the light displays on neighborhood houses or light shows in parks, city businesses, and small towns. Go to the zoo and wander around. Many of them have light shows to enjoy while seeing the animals. Take walks in the park. Go ice skating, sled riding or horse drawn sleigh riding covered with a thick blanket and snow flakes on your nose. Walk in the woods. Go to a mall and check out the decorations they have in the main center. Go to neighborhood concerts and Christmas pageants.

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  • Go shopping together. Hold on, and I’ll explain what I mean. If you have mini-items to purchase, or your children have their own money to spend, and you shop at the discount stores, then help them make lists, go with them and encourage/advise them on their choices. Relax, and don’t stress out! Sometimes their thoughts are far different (and above) an adults. Help them make the right choices but don’t allow this time to turn into a battle. Children learn by mistakes. Their smiles and pride at gifts purchased is well worth another bottle of “unloved” cologne they might have chosen. 🙂

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  • Worship together. If children are old enough to behave, then allow them to attend with you. Show them your enthusiasm for the older favorite Christmas hymns; allow them to sing and praise God (encourage and guide them gently) with the congregation. Attend other church functions such as Christmas programs and plays, and suppers. Let them help with dinners for the more unfortunate. Consider sponsorships to worthy causes to help the less fortunate. Re-read the old, old story of Jesus’ birth together and help them understand the real reason we celebrate this time of the year.  

 

I’ve mentioned several items that can be done with your children or grandchildren, but I also understand that many do not have this blessing. Consider adopting (in actions) a child and sharing what you can with them–moneywise or timewise.  Many schools have grandparenting programs. I’ve seen the results when the children love that little bit of extra attention. Teach Sunday School classes. Offer to help teachers host parties. Volunteer at various groups. 

 

Most of all, enjoy the season. Don’t let anything rob you of the peace, love and joy. 

Merry Christmas!

Top 10 Classic Christmas Stories of All Time

Stack of books and other presents in basket. Christmas decoratioby Tamera Lynn Kraft

After all the decorations are put up and the cookies are baked and the presents are wrapped than to sit down with a classic Christmas story that you remember from your childhood Christmases. Here are my top 10 favorite classic Christmas stories of all time.

10. Christmas Day In the Morning by Pearl S. Buck: A classic tale about how showing love to the people closet to us is the most important Christmas gift we could ever give. You can read it online at this link.

9. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg: This newer classic tells a story about a boy learning the importance of belief. Every year, hundreds of children are taking train rides across the country because of this story. A couple of years ago, I took the same train ride with my grandchildren. The first thing they did when the got home was too hand their bells on the Christmas tree.

8. The Little Match Stick Girl by Hans Christian Anderson: This is such a sad tear jerker about a poor little girl who gets to have the Christmas of her dreams. I remember the first time I read it as a young girl. The story stuck with me. To this day, I believe I am more charitable to those who have nothing partly because of this story. Don’t read it unless you have tissues handy.

7. The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke: The wise man who didn’t make it to birth of Christ in time finds out why Jesus really came to Earth. I remember reading this in Junior High School and how it brought alive the Christmas story in my heart.

6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: Before the movie with Jim Carey and before the cartoon we watched every Christmas season, there was this great story book written by Dr. Seuss. “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” Who could ever forget this line from this classic story?

5. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry: The best Christmas romance ever written. It shows how we sacrifice for the ones we love. I remember thinking when I first read this as a young girl that if I found a romance like this, I had found true love. Now that I’m an adult who has been married for many years, I’d have to say that I have found true love like this.

4. Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore: This original story about Santa Claus was a poem originally called A Visit from Saint Nicholas. It was originally printed in 1823 and has served to establish our modern version of Santa Claus. It also is the first time the eight reindeer were actually named. I doubt those same 8 reindeer are still living, but maybe their descendants were named similarly. Since Rudolf didn’t appear until a story book was written about him in 1939, obviously this happened before Rudolf saved the day.

3. The Tale of Three Trees by Author Unknown: This folklore story tells about three trees who served a great purpose. The first tree wanted to hold the greatest treasure in the world. The second tree wanted to be a strong ship for mighty kings. The third tree wanted to be the tallest tree in the forest. Each tree thought it’s wish didn’t come true, but in reality, each tree ended up fulfilling its purpose in a way it never imagined. Angela Hunt wrote a novel based on this story.

2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: This story of repentance set at Christmas times is the best Christmas story other than the real story in the Bible. Scrooge is a mean stingy old man who is visited by three spirits where he learns the true meaning of Christmas. This story has been made into many movie adaptations, but the original novel is far better than any of them because it shows Scrooge’s redemption from the first visit. By the time the ghost of Christmas future visits, Scrooge is a changed man.

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1. The Nativity Story:  This is the story of Christmas. Without Christ being born in Bethlehem, this would be a very dark world.

(Luke 2:1-21)

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

So 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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

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

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

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.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

A Season to Remember

by Carole Brown

It’s such a pleasure and privilege to remember the past–the good times that encourage us we can move one, keep on, be better, endure again, and make it. Here’s a few thoughts that might give you a smile and urge you to remember your past Christmas good times.

 

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  • The children’s faces. Their smiles, eyes and expressions of wonder.

 

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  • The trees–the good and ugly–the Charlie Brown ones and the big city, breath-taking, eye-popping gorgeous ones.

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  • The meals–simple soups, luscious deserts and finger foods. The lavishly delicious dinners with people being proper and elegant.

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  • The quiet times of devotion, cuddling our children and babies, reading and exchanging of thoughts and ideas.

May you have a special memory to enjoy or share with family and friends.

My 10 Favorite Christmas Carol Movies

Christmas movies and holiday classic cinema and TV flicks with a red clapperboard and a Santa Clause hat white fur trim as an entertainment symbol of the winter film industry cinematic releases on a white background.

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is my favorite Christmas novel. Although no movie adaptation has ever done it justice, here are my top 10 favorite Christmas Carol Movies.

10. Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Released 1983 (animated)

Starring Allen Young, Wayne Allwine

In this Mickey Mouse animation, they keep the essence of the story but add a little more when Scrooge is cast into Hell by the 3rd ghost.

9. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Released 1992

Starring Micheal Caine

This isn’t exactly Dickens, but it is a fun retelling using Muppets as the characters.

8. Ms. Scrooge

Released 1997

Starring Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson make a great female Scrooge in this twist on the old story.

7. 12 Days of Christmas Eve

Released 2004

Starring Steven Weber and Molly Shannon

This adaption is sort of A Christmas Carol meet Groundhog Day. It’s a funny retelling that works.

6. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

Released 1962 (animated)

Starring Mr. Magoo

What’s not to like about Magoo as Scrooge. This is one of my favorites.

5. A Christmas Carol

Released 1951

Starring Alistar Sims

The is the best old classic movie of the story.

4. An American Christmas Carol

Released 1979

Starring Henry Winkler

Winkler plays Scrooge in a very un-Fonzy way and is believable in the part. This Christmas Carol set in the Depression era is one of the best in changing the setting yet keeping the essence of the story.

3. Disney’s A Christmas Carol 3D

Released 2009

Starring Jim Carey

This animated retelling of A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite. Jim Carey does a great job of showing a repentant Scrooge.

2. A Christmas Carol

Released 1984

Starring George C. Scott

George C. Scott’s portrayal of Edenezer Scrooge is the best. He is a perfect Scrooge both before and after the transformation.

1. A Christmas Carol

Released 1999

Starring Patrick Stewart

This is the adaptation that is closet to the actual story. There are few differences. That is the reason this is my favorite. Patrick Stewart also does an excellent job as Scrooge. Only George C. Scott did a better job.

A Season to Read!

by Carole Brown

Voltaire once said, “Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls.”

December is here, and Christmas is part and priority of this month. What a beautiful month to share a few favorite stories and poems with readers. Here are five for your enjoyment:

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1.  Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore Clark. Fun, lighthearted poem that thrills the hearts of both adults and children.

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2.  The Three Kings by Henry Wadsworth Longsfellow. An entertaining story of the Three Wisemen. What a gifted poet Longsfellow was!

 

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3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss  Who else? The children’s poet with imaginative characters, rhyme and trisyllabic meter. What child doesn’t delight in his books?

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4.  Away in a Manger–unknown, but attributed to Martin Luther, German reformer. Sweet, sweet children’s hymn that is sung world wide. 

 

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5.  ‘Jest Before Christmas by Eugene Field.  This is such a fun, old-fashion poem that I’ve always enjoyed reading. Whether modern boys or those from by-gone, this child’s reasoning give me plenty of smiles, along with fond thoughts of how they look upon life. 

Stop for a bit and take a breather. Hum a hymn or tap your feet with the rhythm of the beats. Read one or more to a child. Play with a child. Kick up your heels. Dream for awhile. Ponder life and the meaning of Christmas. Rejoice in your faith. Enjoy the month. Reflect on your blessings. Give praise. Hope in the impossible. Keep the peace. Love all. 

And wishing you a very Merry Christmas.