While We Were Still Sinners

While We Were Still Sinners

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time to reflect today with a guest post by Brett Parks, the founder and president of Second Shot Ministry. Brett travels around the nation speaking to schools, businesses, and churches about hope, faith, and how he overcame a 99.999% mortality rate.

Christmas’ Gift To Us: Cleanliness

December 24, 2015: Cold gusts of wind races down the empty streets as I sit within the warm confines of my home, basking in holiday cheer.  In the background, Bing sings the old familiar tune of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” the way only Mr. Crosby can sing it.

Its Christmas Eve and my wife and I just finished setting up a plastic red “Radio Flyer” wagon (for the third time).  Sitting on our couch, staring at our Christmas tree, illuminating the living room like a beacon of hope, I can’t help but think about the true meaning of Christmas.  

Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners…” kept playing over in my head and I pondered my “need for Jesus”.

In a nutshell, this world was made perfect as we were made perfect.  Then, a guy named Adam and a girl named Eve sinned against our God (or our creator).  

Because of that, it knocked this world and human kind into chaos, opening our eyes to good and evil. God (our Creator) told us from the moment Adam and Eve chose to sin, that He was going to send someone to be the ultimate sacrifice so that, those who recognized their need for Him, would become clean and be able to enter Heaven.

That someone was Jesus of Nazareth.  He was our creator’s son who was sent to earth for one reason: to become that ultimate sacrifice.  

Jesus lived a perfect life and took on the sin of everyone that had sinned in the past, sinned in the present and would sin in the future, and placed it on Himself; as he was nailed to a cross and died (fulfilling many prophecies that were recorded hundreds of years earlier).

This is what Christians mean when they say that we all have the “need for Jesus”.

As a Christian, I understand the “need for Jesus”.  I’ve experienced my share of pain and heartache to the very brink of death, only to be comforted by my “need for Jesus”.  

But this verse in the bible, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Gives me so much encouragement.  

We are all train wrecks, are we not?  Some more than others, but, train wrecks nevertheless.

We are, by very nature, selfish creatures.  From the moment we are conceived, we take.  It’s called survival, really, and we could explain it away as such in hopes to justify our actions.  But this isn’t what God wants us to do.  

He wants us to go against everything that feels natural to us and do what is right in his eyes: live according to his principals. (Click to Tweet!)  

This is why it’s so important to recognize our “need for Jesus”, because in order to truly live the way our Creator wants us to live and become clean the way he wants us to be, we have to understand our “need for Jesus”.

But here’s the amazing thing about our creator:  He didn’t wait until we got our act together to send Jesus to die for our sins.  

God didn’t look down from the sky with his arms crossed and his face contorted in disappointment and chastise us about how he wouldn’t move a finger until we stopped sinning, and let me tell you something, I am so glad he didn’t.  If he did, we would still be waiting for a savior and we’d never get to experience true salvation: true cleanliness.  Honestly, we’d still be sacrificing animals on alters.

But we have a God that loves us so much, that he sent his son (Jesus) to die on the cross, for our sins, allowing us a second shot at life. (Click to Tweet!)

He allowed us a second shot at being clean.  

We know this, because of what Paul said in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The “Christ” in this verse is Jesus and the “sinners” in this verse are we.  We is you; it’s me, it’s all of us.  

From the worst of the worst to the kindest and the most selfless, we are all sinners.  That’s why Christians express the “need for Jesus”.  

It would be great if we could just keep on living forever and not have to worry about the next stage in our life.  But, unfortunately, the expression is true: “Death and Taxes” are the two things that cannot be avoided.  Your lifeline will end.  You will cease to exist in this world.  What happens after you pass on is what we need to be thinking about at this moment in our lives.

On Christmas day, a little boy was born in an environment that would make even the toughest stomachs turn.  On that Christmas day, the world as was known, was changed forever.  

Jesus, the Christ child, was introduced to a world of sin: a world of need.  He would grow up blameless and die an innocent man.  But, in His death, there was life for all of mankind: past, present and future.

I have a “need for Jesus”; you have a “need for Jesus”.  This was the Creator’s purpose all along.  It wasn’t an easy decision for Him, but one He made out of love for us.       

So enjoy this holiday season.  Enjoy the winter wonderland/Santa Clause atmosphere.  Enjoy Bing Crosby and Michael Bublee’s Christmas album, but never forget the reason for the season: the gift that our Creator gave us, and our “need for Jesus”.  Merry Christmas!

———

Find inspiration about God’s goodness in Brett’s story, when he was shot in the abdomen while breaking up a robbery, spent 20 days in a coma, and woke to find he lost a kidney, a third of his colon, and the lower part of his right leg. Read more about Brett’s life-changing experience in his ebook, Miracle Man: A Bullet That Ignited a Purpose-Filled Life today.

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Four Ebooks to Help You Focus on Jesus This Christmas

Christmas Sale

Christmas is coming! And it is a time to celebrate, to gather together, to reflect, and to rest in God’s perfect plan.

Prepare for Christmas with discounted ebooks and a special Christmas ebook bundle, which all focus on the mystery and the love that only Christmas brings.

Through December 24—reflect on God’s love with these four ebooks all included in Vyrso’s Christmas sale.

 

Touching Wonder: Recapturing the Awe of Christmas by John Blase

Regular Price: $12.99

Sale Price: $1.99

This bold retelling of Luke 1–2, based on Eugene Peterson’s Message translation, reads like a novel and invites readers to experience the Nativity with fresh wonder. John Blase adds his own storytelling voice to Eugene Peterson’s Message translation, exploring the familiar events from multiple first-person viewpoints.

Seeker of Stars: A Novel by Susan Fish

Regular Price: $4.99

Sale Price: $0.99

Dive into a fascinating story by Susan Fish. A story about a young boy, Melchior, who is fascinated by stars, but has rigid obligations to apprentice with his rug-making father. Then one-day his life is radically changed, he is propelled onto a new path full of danger and glory in pursuit of a special star.

A Robertson Family Christmas by Kay Robertson, Korie Robertson, and Travis Thrasher

Regular Price: $19.99

Sale Price: $1.99

Discover a heartwarming and hilarious story on the meaning of Christmas and what it’s like to spend it with the Robertsons of Duck Commander. Learn the joy and the pain the Robertson family experienced when they held a nationwide contest to open their doors to a needy child and give them the opportunity to spend Christmas with them.

A Victorian Christmas by Catherine Palmer

Regular Price: $12.99

Sale Price: $0.99

Read a beautiful patchwork of four novellas about love and joy at Christmastime by best selling author Catherine Palmer. These four novellas were previously published in four anthologies—A Victorian Christmas Quilt, A Victorian Christmas Tea, A Victorian Christmas Cottage, and A Victorian Christmas Keepsake. Return to a time when life was uncomplicated, faith was sincere and love was a gift to be cherished forever.

Prepare for Christmas with these ebooks and find more when you check out the Christmas sale!

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More than You Ever Wished For . . .

More than you wished for..

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Spend time reflecting with an excerpt from Mornings with Jesus 2016: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul, published by Zondervan

Discover today’s devotional, written specifically for the Advent season by author Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20–21 (NIV)

Recently we watched an old video of a Christmas that took place nine years ago.

Our boys were so small and sweet. Our oldest son, Jack, will be fourteen this year.

He couldn’t take his eyes off his five-year-old self. In the video, he was so excited about each present he opened he could barely contain himself. He was especially thrilled with an art kit he had received. He looked straight into the camera and said, “Hey! I think I wished for that!” I heard myself, off camera, laugh and say, “You did wish for that, Jack! How fun that you got it!”

More often than not, we don’t expect the things we wish for. We are not sure they will come to pass. We are incredibly surprised when the things we wish for come true, just like Jack was when he got the art kit he wanted so much.

But what is even better than getting what we wish for is when our hopes and dreams are surpassed and we receive more than we ever thought possible.

As Christ followers, we get far more than we ever asked or hoped or wished or dreamed for. (Click to Tweet!)

When we asked Jesus to save us from our sins, He didn’t stop there.

He is an over-the-top gift-giver.

He didn’t just save us, He offered us forgiveness, mercy, restoration, grace, healing, freedom, hope, joy, peace, a new way of thinking, a new way of living, a clean heart, and the list goes on . . . and on . . . and on. He does more in us and for us than we could ever begin to wish for.

FAITH STEP: Thank Jesus for five different ways that He has exceeded your expectations in your life.

———

Interested in getting encouragement like this daily in 2016? Get Zondervan’s Mornings with Jesus 2016: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul today!

 

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How Long, Lord?

How Long, Lord?

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time today to reflect with a guest post by Sally Lloyd Jones, a New York Times bestselling children’s book writer.

“How long, Lord, must I call for help,
  

but you do not listen?
 

Or cry out to you, . . .

but you do not save?”—Habakkuk 1:2

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil…”—Habakkuk 1:13

Fighting, suffering, sickness, tears—all the things God hates most—are everywhere in our world. And in our own hearts, too.

God is so holy and pure, the Bible tells us, that he cannot even look on evil. And yet God can look on us. And love us.

How is that possible?

Because of the kind of God we have. Most people think they know what the Bible is all about. And it’s not good.

Most people think it’s about a vengeful God who is constantly punishing people. Who has a set of rules you’re supposed to follow so he will love you. Or a bunch of heroes you’re supposed to be like.

As a child I knew I wasn’t brave like David, or like Daniel. And I knew I wasn’t good all the time. So I thought God must not be pleased with me. He couldn’t love me. I wasn’t doing it right. He was like a big judge in the sky looking down at me.

But that is not the God of the Bible.

We don’t have a God who turns away from us. We have a God who draws near to us. (Click to Tweet!)

Who calls himself our Father, and us his children.

A God who can’t stop loving us—who moves heaven and earth to be close to us!

Because God doesn’t just look down at the mess we’ve made. He comes down. Not as a judge to punish us—but as Rescuer to save us.

Advent celebrates God’s Great Rescue!

Now, if you were mounting a Rescue Operation—who would you send? A fierce warrior? A strong king with armies? A politician?

Do you know who God sends?

He sends a baby.

He sends a baby to rescue the world.

The Mighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, makes himself small and comes down as a baby.

Advent celebrates the coming of the one who came to destroy evil—whose whole reason for coming was to die. (Click to Tweet!)

The baby born in the manger is born to die.

The eyes that were too pure to even look on evil would take the evil of the whole world upon himself, into himself—become the thing God could not look on. The thing God has to turn his eyes away from.

We have a God who listens to us and saves us—because Jesus becomes the punishment. He takes the evil on and into himself, and destroys it by dying.

It is Jesus who calls for help—and no one listens.

It is Jesus who cries out—and no ones saves him.

So that now we, his children, need never again wonder how long.

“How long, Lord, must I call for help,
  but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, . . . but you do not save?”

How long? No longer!

Call for help and no answer? Never!

Cry out and not be saved? No! Not ever!

Prayer

Thank you that you are a God who sees us.

Thank you that you are a God who listens to us.

Thank you that you are a God who saves us.

Thank you that you are a God who draws near to us.

Thank you that you are God who didn’t just look down

You came down.

Thank you that though you cannot look on evil,

you can look on us—because of Jesus.

Thank you!

———

Get Sally Lloyd Jones’ Christmas ebook, Song of the Stars. Don’t miss her other popular titles such as The Story of God’s Love for You and The Jesus StorybookLearn more about Sally at sallylloyd-jones.com

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The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us

In the Begining

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Reflect today with an excerpt from Jefferson Bethke’s new ebook It’s Not What You Think, published by Thomas Nelson, an ebook that presents God’s truths from the Old and the New Testaments as the challenging and compelling story that it is—a grand narrative with God at the center. 

[After the destruction of the temple] until the last sentence of the Old Testament, the Israelites are left wondering, when will God return to dwell with them?

He promised he’d come back and be with his people.

His very presence in their midst.

Can you imagine the hundreds of years of longing, aching, and praying for this to happen? With every year that passed, the expectation that God would do a new thing, a big thing, a monumental thing got larger and larger.

And then it happens. Just not the way they expected.

The Gospel of John, while the Jewish people are still waiting for the glory of Yahweh to return to his temple, says the first three words are

In the beginning. . . . .

Any faithful Jew would have immediately recognized the book’s introduction as the same introduction to Genesis—the book of beginnings and creation, when God sealed the earth with his presence. John is invoking the Genesis language to get his readers ready for a new story about another beginning, or a new beginning, in the same way you’d know what I was invoking if I might start a speech with, “I have a dream, that one day.”

Skip down a few verses from that first verse and we see one of our most famous Christmas verses. In the beginning there is this “Word” being, John says. And this Word being is somehow like God, with God, and is God. You’ve probably quoted John 1:14 right before sipping on hot chocolate and turning on Kenny G’s Christmas album; it’s a classic advent verse:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

But the Greek word translated as “dwelt” in that verse is eske­nosen, which can literally mean “to fix a tent.”

John is saying loud and clear that Jesus himself is pitching his tent (that is, his holy tabernacle) among us. His body is now the place where heaven and earth crash together. The temple system has reached its fulfillment and was always a signpost pointing to the great temple Jesus. The glory of God has returned to his temple, and it looks like a Jewish rabbi in Judea. How strange is that?

So John, in just a few verses, is purposely saying things to draw strong echoes.

Jesus is the new genesis, the beginning of a new creation; and God himself is pitching his tent with usto be with his people. (Click to Tweet!)

What if we believed that?

Growing up I believed that Jesus was very far away. That he was standing up in heaven with his arms crossed waiting for me to get it right. Or even if he did show me grace, I imagined it with rolling eyes saying, “Ugh, not the same mistake for the twenty thousandth time.”

But John’s words say otherwise. God really does want to dwell with me. He really wants to pitch his tent in my life. And when I continually fall, he says, “Hey, I’m in this for the long haul.”

———

Bethke is the author of New York Times bestseller, Jesus > Religion. Bethke’s message connects at a heart level with an audience ranging from atheists to nationally-recognized religious leaders.

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The Gift of Small Moments: A Perfect Plan

Gift of Small Moments

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. You’ll hear from a variety of authors with original posts and featured excerpts from Christmas-focused ebooks.

Spend time reflecting with an excerpt from Daily Guideposts 2016: A Spirit-Lifting Devotional, published by Zondervan. This annual devotional gives you 365 days of inspiration to help you grow in your faith—discover a devotional today that was written specifically for the Advent season by author Bill Giovannetti.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”—Jeremiah 23:5 (ESV)

An eager crew unloaded a trailer full of Christmas trees and decorations. The annual ritual of decorating our church had begun. The biggest boxes contained about ten trees of different sizes. Each box was labeled: Tree 1, box 1 of 3; Tree 1, box 2 of 3; and so on. But we hit a snag.

There were at least two trees labeled Tree 1, and neither was complete. Other labels were wrong too. Some made no sense. Whoever had put away the trees the previous year hadn’t labeled them correctly.

What should have been a simple task collapsed into a complex riddle. One volunteer said it felt like “sorting jumbled pieces from multiple puzzles without a box top.”

I was frustrated. I believed we’d let down our volunteers.

In that same moment, I felt God’s gentle nudge: Think of what it took to set up Christ’s birth. The painstakingly detailed prophecies. The astonishingly clear promises. The growing profile of this coming Savior painted by Old Testament sages over a span of two thousand years. Every piece was in its place. Every detail arranged perfectly.

The providence of God never shone more brightly than on the day the Savior was born. (Click to Tweet!)

Tiny Bethlehem. The humble manger. Caesar’s census. The virgin shall conceive. The birth of Christ was no afterthought. It was the outworking of a grace-filled plan from the ages of eternity past.

We might have jumbled Christmas, I thought, but God doesn’t. And He didn’t jumble the details of my life either. Not even the frustrations. Or the sorrows. God’s saving plan rises above it all.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for the meticulously coordinated, ages-long countdown to that first Christmas Day. May I abide every day in the certainty of Your perfect plan.

———

Interested in finding daily inspiration in 2016? Get Zondervan’s Daily Guideposts 2016: A Spirit-Lifting Devotional today!

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10 Christmas Service Ideas

Christmas Art

Christmas is coming, get ready with free Christmas slides from Proclaim!

In fact, most churches host a special Christmas service in one way or another.

If you find yourself doing the same thing every year, here are 10 ideas to make your Christmas service more special:

1. iBand – Get the worship team together and learn to play a song or a couple of songs using mobile phones or tablets.

2. Christmas-ify the stage – Decorate the stage with trees, paper snowflakes, or a nativity scene. Don’t forget to wrap the mic stands with Christmas lights!

3. Christmas play – Put on a Christmas play for the community. Encourage adults and children to act.

4. Use Christmas themed slides for songs and sermon – Here’s a free pack of Christmas slides you can use.

5. Show a Christmas mini-movie – Get a Holiday themed mini-movie and show it before the Christmas message.

6. Candlelight service – Finish the service by singing Silent Night and have everyone light a candle and lift it up. Dim the lights and sing the last verse acapella.

7. Open service with a Christmas medley – Get the worship team to do a mashup of their favorite Christmas songs as a performance piece before service starts.

8. End service with a gift exchange – Give everyone in the congregation a gift; pen, fridge magnet, keychain, etc. Then have everyone exchange gifts at the end. Make sure to include information for your next service to encourage people to come back.

9. Read the Christmas story – People get inspired by stories and narrative. Start service by reading the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke.

10. Go acoustic – Instead of a full band worship set, get the acoustic instruments out and sing familiar Christmas carols. Use fun instruments like, tambourines, shakers, or a box drum for the rhythm section.

What did I miss? Share your unique Christmas ideas below!

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God With Us, Always

God With Us

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time to reflect today with a guest post by Deidra Riggs, an influential blogger at her own blog, JumpingTandem, as well as DaySpring’s (in)courage and TheHighCalling.org, for which she is managing editor.

On Sundays, I make my way to a little church on a downtown corner.

Well, the church itself isn’t little. Back in the 1960s, long before I lived here, our downtown community was bustling with workers and commerce and servicemen and their families. The church on the corner was bustling too, back then. But, the army base eventually shut down, a mall was built in the suburbs, and the people and churches moved away from the city.

Back then, the people who met in the church on the corner watched as their numbers dwindled. They said farewell to friends whose families had been re-assigned to army bases in different parts of the country. Slowly, the downtown church, designed to seat thousands on a Sunday morning, found its membership dwarfed to a couple hundred people each week.

Watching the changes in the community, and the changes in the pews, the congregation began to wonder if God would have them do something different.

Should they move to the suburbs? Should they look for a smaller building? Should they throw in the towel?

Maintaining a building built for thousands was becoming increasingly difficult with the passage of time and the ever-dwindling numbers on the membership roster. And so, the congregation and the pastor asked God for direction. Over time, they came to believe God wanted them to stay right where they were, ministering on that particular downtown corner to that particular community.

And so, they stayed.

Over the years since that decision, things have changed in that little downtown church.

What was once a church where everyone looked a lot alike, slowly became a church where people from different countries and cultures, races and ethnicities gathered to meet throughout the week.

Four different congregations grew beneath the roof of that little downtown church on the corner and, these days, on Sunday mornings, multiple languages can be heard in the hallways as the different congregations share space and learn the meaning of grace.

It hasn’t been an easy journey. Figuring out how to live together, without stepping on toes and ruffling feathers has been a challenge of faith and love. But, every third Sunday, members from all of the congregations worship together in the sanctuary and then gather in Fellowship Hall to eat and strengthen fledgling friendships.

It’s still a small church. We still struggle to meet the budget, and our building is desperately in need of a major overhaul—from the mechanicals to the orange carpet in the sanctuary. But, for the most part, we’ve stopped worrying about the numbers. Because what God is doing in this little downtown church is nothing short of miraculous.

And so, on Sundays, I make my way to a little church on a downtown corner. I sit near the back, in the English-speaking service, behind Martha and Betty, and not too far from Brandon and Janet and Calvin. Across the aisle from me sit Ruth and Alan and Ethel. And, on a good day, Zach is there, too. Mark and Brooke make their way down the aisle, their young daughter, Maliah in arms. Soon Monique and Casey will arrive, with baby Serena in her baby carrier. Slowly, the people make their way to this little church on the downtown corner.

Our church isn’t one of the fancy ones.

We don’t have a groovy stage or a slick order of worship. Most Sundays, someone chimes in from the congregation with something like, “Hey, are you going to have an offering today?” or “There’s no potluck this weekend. It’s next week.”

Sometimes, in the winter, the boiler fails and keeps us wrapped in our coats through the service and sometimes, in the summer, the air conditioner breaks, leading us to open up the doors wide and hold our arms so that our elbows don’t touch our bodies while we fan ourselves with our printed bulletins. Often, those of us in the congregation cringe politely as the guys in the sound booth try to eliminate the squealing feedback from one of the singers’ microphones.

But, we gather here on Sundays because we’ve learned that what the bible says is true: Where two or more are gathered together, expectantly anticipating God’s presence, God is right there with us. (Click to Tweet!)

He doesn’t “show up.”

He is always there.

Always, here.

The question is, can we see him?

At first glance, it might be difficult to recognize him. We might get distracted by the empty seats, or the squealing feedback from the microphones up front.

But, look closely, and you will see him, right here in our midst.

He is with us in the hallways and the sanctuary and the fellowship hall.

He breaks bread with us and speaks to us in the language we know best.

He is from Haiti and Burma, China and Sudan, and he is from Michigan and Nebraska and California, and wherever you are from.

He wears three-piece suits or a longyi or a pair of Wranglers over cowboy boots.

And, he has taught us to anticipate his arrival; to expect his presence with us. He is Emmanuel, even on a downtown corner, and he invites us to worship him, to adore him, to find our rest and our hope in him. (Click to Tweet!)

———

Get Diedra’s ebook Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are today! Not only is she an accomplished blogger, but she had also been a speaker for TEDx and organized her own women’s retreat, hosting speakers like Lisa-Jo Baker, Holley Gerth, and many more, learn more about her at DeirdraRiggs.com.

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Prepare for Christmas with Discounted Christmas Devotionals and Ebooks

Christmas Sale

The Christmas countdown has begun, and there’s less than three weeks left to get the best Christmas resources on sale on Vyrso!

Find true hope as you look back to Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ultimately his promise to return. Prepare for Christmas this season with discounted ebooks, plus an exclusive Christmas bundle available through December 24—all included in Vyrso’s Christmas sale.

Get Vyrso’s Christmas Bundle, loaded with 13 ebooks all about Christmas, for $13.00—that’s $1 per ebook!

Included in the Christmas Bundle:

This Christmas God Wants You to Know. . . by Shanna D Gregor

This beautifully designed devotional will delight and encourage you in your daily faith walk, giving you just the encouragement and inspiration you need during the busy holiday rush.

The Bible Promise Book by JoAnne Simmons

Where do you turn when you need God’s thoughts on the issues and emotions of life? The Bible Promise Book, with more 1,000 classic Bible Promise Book topics from obedience and forgiveness to anger and worry.

Helen Steiner Rice: A Collection of Christmas Poetry by Barbour Publishing

This refreshing gift book will encourage you to ponder the many reasons to celebrate Christmas—family, friends, blessings, and of course, the true reason for the season.

Bible Promises for Peace on Earth by Russell Wright

Is peace on earth really possible? With God, anything is possible! Here are hundreds of scriptures, categorized under peace-related themes, perfect for the Christmas season.

Silent Night: The Stories Behind 40 Beloved Christmas Carols by Barbour Publishing

Celebrate the Christmas season with this refreshing gift book featuring 40 beloved songs of the season. With its unique blend of history, tradition, and devotional insight, this book will refresh your Christmas experience year after year.

Family Christmas Treasury: A Collection of Classic Read-Aloud Stories by Barbour Publishing

The beloved tales of Christmas should be read aloud—and now they’re available in the perfect package in the Family Christmas Treasury. This collection of spirited holiday stories offers something for everyone, from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” to the Bible’s own accounts of Jesus’ birth.

Love Came Down at Christmas by MariLee Parrish

Inspired by the beloved nineteenth-century poem penned by Christina Rossetti, Love Came Down at Christmas is a thoughtful, heartfelt devotional focusing on the greatest gift ever given to the world, Jesus Christ.

It’s a Wonderful LIfe: A 31-Day Devotional Based on Favorite Christmas Classics by David McLaughlan

Here’s a fun, nostalgic, encouraging month’s worth of reading for the busy holiday season: It’s a Wonderful Life. This 31-day book includes brief readings based on Christmas classics—stories, books, movies, poems, and songs.

His Name Shall Be Called: Inspiration for the Christmas Season by Barbour Publishing

Based on the beloved words of the prophet Isaiah, His Name Shall Be Called is a brand-new devotional take on the many names of Jesus Christ that are found in scripture.

Christmas Prayers by Paul Miller

Beautiful, busy, blissful, and blessed—the Christmas season is all of that and more. Here are nearly 150 prayers for every aspect of your holiday!

I Believe: The Meaning of Christmas and the Baby Who Started It All by JoAnne Simmons

Christmas is a time for hope, for celebrations, for reflecting on the things that matter most, and for worshipping the baby who would become the Savior. I Believe: The Meaning of Christmas and the Baby Who Started it All is a simple devotional of faith-building topics that surround the Christmas season.

Prayers and Promises for Christmas by Jennifer Hahn

Prayers and Promises for Christmas is a powerful collection of more than 140 prayers, each based on a carefully selected Bible promise. Read and encounter just the hope and encouragement you need, while forming a deeper and more meaningful connection to your heavenly Father.

The Top 40 Traditions of Christmas by  David McLaughlan

Here are 40 great traditions of Christmas, presented in an easy-to-read “5 W’s” format—with the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of each custom. You’ll see exactly how these traditions made the top 40!

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Because They Watched: A Christmas Reflection

An Endless Christmas

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. You’ll hear from a variety of authors with original posts and featured excerpts from Christmas-focused ebooks.

Spend time reflecting with Cynthia Ruchti as she reflects on Luke 2:8. Cynthia takes the verse and breaks the meaning apart bit-by-bit.   

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Luke 2:8 KJV

This familiar line from the second chapter of Luke has shown up in every Christmas pageant, on Christmas cards, as the inspiration for Christmas ornaments, in homes that use it as an important centerpiece of their family celebrations, and in formal readings of the Christmas story from cathedrals to churches to chapels to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

In some ways, it’s served as a call to worship for my soul—calling me deeper into the story I know follows those well-rehearsed words.

This year has been no less crammed full of activities and deadlines, responsibilities and expectations. But it’s also been a year of observation, of tuning my heart to look more closely at things I’ve rushed past.

So, as the calendar, the weather, and the playlists on radio stations tell me Christmas is approaching, I’m taking that single verse more slowly to savor what it says, to see what I might have missed as I hurried past it. Nineteen short, ordinary words with a lifetime of reflection embedded in their message.

And there were

The “and” tells us this is continuation of a story already in progress. It adds to the rest already laid out in the earlier verses of Luke 2—that Mary gave birth to God’s Son in Bethlehem, wrapped him in swaddling clothes (somehow an important enough detail to include), and laid him in a manger (also a divinely appointed detail). Then comes the and. Connected to the rest of the story. Not coincidental. Not serendipitous. Not oh, by the way. And.

In the same country

Nearby. The closeness matters. It matters to you and me. Are we standing close enough for the miraculous to be visible when it happens? Are we in the same vicinity, so when the incredible unfolds we can be part of the story? What does that change in our Christmas preparations?

Shepherds

Why not musicians, who could add flair to the celebration? Why not scholars, who could instantly confirm the fulfillment of ancient prophesies? Why not the wealthy, who could help get the word out more efficiently and pull together a spectacle of a feast, maybe even throw some influence around to get Mary and Joseph a room and a handcrafted cradle? Why shepherds?

Part of the answer may lie further into the story of Jesus. He—following the pattern of His Father—often chose the least likely candidate for any of the tasks He assigned. (Click to Tweet!) Fishermen, tax collectors, the unconfident, ostracized, berated, shamed, broken, ordinary… You and I qualify.

Abiding in the fields

The first century’s homeless. Shepherds. Nomadic by nature and occupation. Living off the land, just like their sheep. Abiding. Making a life out of what they were given.

Keeping watch over their flocks

Ah. Not just abiding. Doing something productive, but not in the way we tend to measure productivity. They weren’t making a name for themselves, making the news, or making a fuss. And this is the connector that made me lean in. The announcement of their Redeemer’s birth came to them as they were “keeping watch.” As they stayed observant. Alert. Attentive. God didn’t have to tap them on the shoulder, pull them away from a project, or interrupt their schedule. Because they were watching, they caught the first glimmers of God’s glory, the first faint flutter of angel’s wings.

By night

Against a black sky, an inky backdrop, God announced the arrival of His Son to the world. And those watching the sky, far from the star-dimming commotion of the city, were quick to notice the dramatic contrast. Light for our darkness. Stark difference. An in-your-face message that illuminated souls even more than it lit the night.

Years ago, as I faced a similar in-my-face message about my greatest Christmas need—attentiveness, alertness, observation—these lyrics emerged:

You turned the nomad shepherds

To a path that led them to

A musty, dusty stable

You led them straight to You

You called the myriad angels

From tending other things

You turned their hearts toward shepherd boys

And toward an infant King

You turned the donkey’s head

As he bore his burden rare

You turned the woman’s moans to joy

As they split the cold night air

You even turned the Star away

From its accustomed route

Its light bore right through stable roofs

And shouted, yet stood mute

You turned the path of wisest kings

To journey toward the light

You drew them with bright cords of love

That pierced the black of night

And I will turn my eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His sweet infant face

And the things of earth will grow dim, so dim

In the light of His glory and grace.*

I stood under a star-bedazzled sky last night. Quiet. Still. With arms thrown wide, I whispered, “Here I am. Waiting. Watching. This is where I’ll be—abiding—when You make Yourself known this Christmas.”

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Cynthia has written multiple ebook books on Vyrso, including Ragged HopeTattered and Mended, When the Morning Glory Blooms, and her newest release, An Endless Christmas.

*Poem written by Cynthia Ruchti, copywright 1999, revised 2015, (Helen H. Lemmel’s 1922 public domain lyrics incorporated in the last stanza)

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