Why Jesus became human

 nativity, Jesus, love, lightThis is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

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.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. ~ Matthew 1:18-24

This historical description of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth have been recorded in the Christian Bible for anyone to read. But the WHY of Christmas is a much more panoramic story. It starts with the beginning of time itself. Time, along with this fantastic universe were brought into being for us. That’s right—us. And the Lord God Creator said it was good.

In the early days of our livelihood, life was idyllic, if not busy. God had set our ancestors with the task of naming the animals; a.k.a.- imbuing them with their core characteristics. Busy, busy. Then there was that first garden to plant, till, and harvest. More busy. Forget about clothes. Who had the time anyway!

We did, however, find the time to cross the one line God had drawn in the sand—Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The rest is history.

Why did Jesus become human? To become one of us. To suffer the punishment we deserved for crossing the line with God. And in so doing we can be reinstated in a relationship with our Creator.

Why is it this way? I don’t know. Make something up. Most people don’t even believe this much. So we’ve turned the celebration of Jesus’ birth into a cultural economic bonanza for marketing and consumerism. Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas celebrations. I love giving gifts. [Ok, I love receiving them too.]

So I will celebrate in the Christmas spirit right alongside the rest of our culture! But I will also celebrate a more quiet one (or maybe not so quiet), remembering the great gift that God the Creator gave us, Jesus Christ: the way back to Him.

Merry Christmas!
  Gary  &  Starr

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Christmas Future Past

chrstmas future pastChristmastime changes as we grow up. My childhood Christmas’ were filled with model cars, trains, wooden airplanes, & cookies! My mom could make the bestest Christmas cookies ever!

As I approached my teens took on the shapes of bikes, guests around the dinner table, and spending Christmas day with friends of my parents, or relatives who were terrified of children. They were the days when I felt like an afterthought.

My College days remedied that as I would spend much of Christmas at home, but not with my parents. Rather, with my own friends. As I look back, this was quite selfish and insensitive of me.

Marrying Starr was probably the best gift God ever gave me. We built a home together and then celebrated Christmas after Christmas in lavish insanity! They were wonderful days of cutting down our own tree (which we still do), hiding presents at neighbor’s homes, and, of course, baking more cookies. I would never have imagined that my wife could outbake my mother; but she did.

Now, our children are growing their own Christmas traditions with families of their own. They “visit” us at Christmas. It feels weird. We who shared so much together as a family are divided between Christmas Past, and Christmas Future. Letting go is hard to do. Starr and I miss our traditions and our times together. But all of us go through this, don’t we.

So now we are turning the page to a new saga of Christmases in our lives. New times shared, multiple Christmases, blending and separating new & old traditions, celebrating together sometimes; mostly, with all our children somewhere else on the map. Back to just us again…, but different.

So as you celebrate this Christmas season, enjoy the memories of the past. But keep your pen on the paper to write new customs to celebrate Christmas in the future. God gave us this time of year so we could shift gears from the everyday routine of living, to be with family, families, friends, past & future, and to thank God for giving us a baby who would change the world forever.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

  Gary

My Apologies to Howard Schultz & STARBUCKS Baristas

starbucks, coffee, christmas, christian, gary, davisDear Howard Schultz (CEO), & Starbucks Baristas everywhere,

By now most of you have heard of the RANTFever that is sweeping our land over your attempt to de-Christianize Christmas on your bright RED holiday cups. I truly am sorry for all this hubbub. It’s just wrong.  “Christians are being persecuted,” some Christians cry! One man, Paul Matthew Turner, on returning from India to the US, remarked somewhat incredulously over all the fuss over the Starbucks stuff. I’ll just quote one of his less vitriol reactions here— “what a shallow, disgusting, and completely moronic portrayal of “faith” this is!” You can read more here—https://www.facebook.com/MPTAuthor?fref=ts

Josh Feuerstein, a Christian protagonist (read Idiot), offers us a more inappropriate response in his simple RANT on his Facebook page—https://www.facebook.com/joshua.feuerstein.5/videos/689569711145714/ Really, watch it to see what NOT to do! And read the first link as well.

What amazes me is that anyone is so surprised in 21st Century America that Starbucks is not overtly “Christian” on its holiday coffee cups! Why should they be? Since when have we been a Christian nation, or Starbucks a Christian business?!? One ABC news commentator (whom I have a secret crush on so will not reveal her name) actually said, “If you want the Starbucks cup to be more Christmasy draw a snowman on it.”

During this Holiday Season, do I expect my Volvo mechanic to stamp my bill with a manger-scene— in red & green? Do I expect my doctor to wish me Merry Christmas; he’s Jewish. (He did anyway. Go figure.) Nor do I expect St. Nick to slide down my chimney. He’d get his butt fried.

I do expect people, at this time of year, to be more joyful, loving, suicidal (I do counseling.), sacrificial, and considerate. I even expect (some) drivers to let me to cut into their lane when I use my turn-signal. It’s just “the Season.”

For Christians everywhere, genuine Christians, not the whatever-they-are Christians, take this Season of the year to honor your neighbors. DO NOT give them a fruit-cake. Don’t be one either. Invite them for Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, a New Year’s party! Learn to make Wassail together. DRINK Wassail together (hic). Share your family’s celebrations together.

So, dearest Howard Schultz & Starbucks Baristas, THANK YOU for your Red Cups this Season! They’re bright & cheery! I need that. Honestly, I need your coffee just as much. Especially the Gram Latte’s! They’re great! Thank you very much for them.

And, not to be offensive in any way, Merry Christmas to all of you at Starbucks! You’re doing a great job of encouraging a lot of people at this time of year. Particularly me.

…and a Happy New Year, too,

  Gary

Uncovering Christians at Christmas

Dr, Gary, Davis, Christmas, Christian, Clueless, faith            It is becoming more and more difficult find real Christians. We have been supplanted by the massive dismissal of genuine Christian and Biblical beliefs. Replaced, seemingly, by a preference for anything else. But this begs a question—  Why do we need to identify the genuine Christians in culture?

I’m not sure that we do need to identify other Christians in our culture. BUT…, genuine Christians should standout, in some positive way, more than our normal citizens. Some of the things my wife and I have done over the years are—

1.      Gathered our agnostic & atheists friends to join us in neighborhood caroling. Then we gather back at our home for good cookies, wassail, & hot cider,

2.      Distribute our excellent Christmas cookies to friends, of course, but also to the local businesses with whom we do business. If they are in retail, nothing beats a delivered pizza or salad.

3.      Sweeping off the snow & scraping the ice off cars of fellow employees at the end of the day.

4.      Shovel neighbors’ driveways. (note. This is not possible in southern Cal or Florida.)

5.      Providing child care, free of charge, for couples that need to escape for a while.

6.      Take $100, break it into $20s, and give it to random people. No reason.

7.      Give someone the gift of a creative teenager who can help wrap their Christmas gifts. (OK, we haven’t actually done this one yet, but we will. Promise!)

8.      Give hand-warmers to everyone!

9.      Distribute fine bottles of wine randomly; decoratively wrapped.

10.  Or eggnog.

Now, please note. Are any of these ideas especially Christian? No, not really. But we have found that these simple acts of Christmas kindness give rise to the question, “Who are these people?” A simple act that opens a window for a relationship of faith & trust.

So what do you do that is particularly Christian at Christmas?

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Christmas Eves Past

Christmas Eves Past

My earliest memory of Christmas Eve is when I was nine years old. We visited a small Methodist church in the Maryland countryside. Snow blanketed the fields and roads outside, warm bodies and overcoats squished tight together in the pews inside. The sanctuary heat was cranking. My parents squeezed us into the fourth row from the back, on the left; it was tight.

The Christmas Eve meditation wasn’t all that appealing to this nine year old. But following the message, each child in the congregation was called forward, by name, to receive a Christmas gift. But I was an unknown visitor; who was I? No one knew I was even there.

Imagine my surprise when the guy upfront called my name “Is there a Gary Davis here?” I made my way forward wondering how anyone here knew my name, let alone could have bought me a gift. I returned to my seat and opened my gift; it was something I had actually wanted. WOW!

That was the first time God truly grabbed my attention.

We’ve had many Christmas Eves since then. Like the one where I could hear my dad struggling to assemble my first bike ($@&*%!); or the lavish late night dinners at Miller Brothers’ or Haussner’s Restaurant in Baltimore. They are wonderful memories.

Later, my wife Starr and I created Christmas Eve miracles and magic for our family. Many persist to this day, filled with light, graciousness, and blessing to all. But we would always hang onto a few moments of silence for just us, and the Christ Child. But it all started, for me, in that little country church when I was nine.

Throughout my life God has captured my attention in many ways. I have never become used to it. It is always unexpected and amazing. To this day I am still surprised by God for the everyday provisions He drops in my lap, let alone for the miraculous and the magical.

What have your Christmas Eves held for you? Mine have not all been so memorable; some have been terrible, truly terrible. Maybe yours have been like that too; but not all. Some have been truly wonderful.

This Christmas Eve, be open to God grabbing your attention, surprising you. It may be something you need to.

Merry Christmas,

Gary

Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and goodwill toward all men

The Judean hills surrounding Bethlehem grew cold at night. The gentle breeze of the day turned into a bone-chilling breeze that penetrated the clothing of those night-watch shepherds guarding their sheep. And it was dark, darker than any dark we might imagine in our night sky today, with all the ambient light rising from our cities and towns. [The Bedouin of the Negev know the darkest nights.]

Imagine those shepherds being startled by a blindingly bright being in their midst, first proclaiming, “Do not be afraid!” The shepherds’ extreme fear only mildly tempered by “For behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people!” (Breathe! Breathe!) “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Now try to imagine this event happening in this early 21st century. In developed nations the shepherds would first “dial” #911; first their blood alcohol levels would be tested; then they would be sent to counseling for delusional behavior. They most assuredly lose their jobs; unless, of course, they lived within the great expanse of the Arab world. For God, and Christ, is appearing to groups and individuals there, in these days, on a regular basis. There can be but one explanation.

What if…, what if, that sole the angel were joined by a flock of angels, equally blindingly bright and magnificent, suspended in the cold night air, singing.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRsBfBvYEBk ]

In any era, even with special FX, this would be astonishing! Most likely you would be somewhat motivated to check out the angels’ admonition and head to Bethlehem. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling rags, lying in a manger.”

This Christmas season, with all the last minute preparations and shopping to be finished, take a moment to be captivated by a simple, newborn baby, surrounded by horses, cattle, chickens, and whatnot, with sheep-smelling shepherds, all crowded into a small stable. For it is there you will find the Lord God of the Universe, lying on hay, in the comfort of a wooden feeding trough.

May you know the Peace of Christ and the Glory of His incarnation throughout this Christmas Season. And you don’t even have to go to Bethlehem to find Him.

Merry Christmas,

Gary

How to Give

http://www.giftideasformen.com

In the spirit of this approaching Christmas season (Hanukkah was over the evening of December 5th) it might be a good time to be reminded of some of the principles of giving. Keep in mind that giving should be meaningful, both for the giver and the receiver. Never give out of rote: give because it is right and good.  Ergo—

How to Give—a Seven Point Primer

  1. Give because it is right. No matter what your definition of right is, giving cannot be construed as anything else. It is not a bribe, a peace-offering, or a one-upmanship on the receiver. It must simply be simply right, nothing else.
  2. Give within your means—with some wee bit of sacrifice. It may never be noticed by the other person. That does not matter. It will secretly mean much much more to you.
  3. Give in terms of the other person’s wants and needs, NOT in terms of what you would like to give them. When my wife and I were first married I would always give her clothing; she could have cared less. Didn’t even take the blouse or scarf out of the box. Then I noticed she loved to read: so I gave her books. Guess what? She hugged & kissed me and vanished for three days reading the new book. I learned to give in terms of what she wanted.
  4. Plan for giving. Always try to squirrel away cash-in-a-stash for later giving. It’s freeing! Giving up 2 cups of coffee a week could free up $20 a month. Get the picture?
  5. Get into the practice of giving. Christmas won’t be such a big thing if you already give to others regularly.
  6. Give graciously. Not lavishly, unless if seems appropriate to you. There is little in this life that expresses genuine love like sacrificial graciousness.
  7. Accept ALL gifts with thankfulness and humility. The one giving them has sacrificed for you. Especially be thankful for hand-made gifts, no matter the quality. They are the most precious of all.

Above all, be thankful that you have the means to give anything at all. Not all people on this planet have the resources to give very much. So, if you are one who does, please do not hold back. And always remember the poor in your giving. God does. Please.

Merry Christmas,

Gary