Christmas

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Finding The First Christmas

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the joy of the season, the magic of the season, the decorations, the trees, the family, and the gifts of the season will come to a high point for most families. There will be food, reunions, music, and presents. Afterward, children will ride new bikes, play new video games, and text their friends to report on their Christmas loot. By the time January rolls around, those same children will have forgotten many of the gifts, but they will return to school and complete essays and reports on how Christmas vacation was spent. Most will start off those reports with, “I got this or that for Christmas,” or perhaps, “We had ham, and cake and grandma came.” With all that will happen in the next couple of days, it is sometimes easy, even for Christians, to forget that at the center of all the celebrations is a small baby and the worship and praise bestowed upon that baby for his birth into the world. The first Christmas was very different than the ones we celebrate today.  There was no Santa Clause, no gift giving among friends, no cakes, pudding, and family visiting.  There were no bright lights and snowmen.  There was initially only a baby in the manager.  There was wise men, or magi, in the east who had studied the stars and knew that a new king was being born, but they would not arrive until sometime after the birth.  The fact is, on that wonderful night that we now celebrate as Christmas, there were no gifts.   It was a much different kind of Christmas for those who ended up celebrating. 

Mary and Joseph and a few others knew the significance of the birth. They knew that God was sending his only son into the world. But the fact remains that few others knew about what was going to happen.

Imagine being one of the angels in Heaven for just a moment. You know that God himself is about to enter the world he has created. You know that after hundreds of years of messages carried, enlightenment given to the inspired words that would predict Jesus’ arrival that at this very moment Jesus was in fact being born. Those angels must have been bursting with the desire to spread the news. If angels sit in Heaven, or have a starting point, they must have all been on the edge of their seats or right on the mark waiting for the word to go. Can you imagine them leaning forward, pushing against the line like runners waiting for the starting gun to go? In Heaven, the celebration was in full swing. They knew what was happening and they had waited for it, perhaps even rehearsed and prepared, or maybe they just knew what they would do. Whatever the case, they wanted to praise God, celebrate Jesus, and share with the world their love and devotion to the new king. Finally, at long last, maybe it was the moment that Jesus first drew his breath, the word was given from above and the angels were told…”Go”. The angels then raced into the world and told the first people they found about Jesus. They found shepherds in a field. These shepherds were hard at work, dirty, tired, poor, and working to get by when all at once the worshiping of the angels started. The angels had arrived, and they were ready to get the party started. They were not bringing trees or pudding, no Santa in a red suit. No, these angels were worshiping God, praising his son, announcing the arrival and celebrating. So powerful was the moment, that the shepherds dropped everything they were doing and rushed to see the new king.

When the shepherds arrived and saw Jesus, they worshiped
him, they glorified him, and they celebrated him.  Afterwards, those same shepherds went out and
told everyone they knew about the new king. 
They continued to worship him and celebrate him and to spread the world
just as the angels had done. 

Sometime later, between Jesus’ birth and about two years of age, the magi would finally arrive.  At first, they would seek Jesus as a king in Jerusalem, but then eventually they would arrive at Joseph and Mary’s home.  Most likely the home was a poor or modest home and certainly not one where a king would be found, but nonetheless, they would worship.  They would recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, the King and they would worship him as God.  The story tells us that they also presented gifts before heading home a different route to ensure Jesus’ safety. 

That first Christmas was very different from the one we
celebrate today.   While the politically
correct will attempt to take Christ out of Christmas, the fact is they can
never do it.  Christmas is not about the
wrapped presents under a tree, it’s not about a man in a red suit, it’s not
about candy, and cakes, and pudding, no Christmas is much more.  Christmas is about the one Savior of the
world.  Christmas is about the worship
and celebration of Jesus Christ and his arrival in this world.  The event would affect millions of people,
promote thousands of books, and the news would spread around the world.  It all started with angels wanting to
worship, shepherds coming just as they were to worship, and even the rich
bowing down to worship the king.  
Arguably the entire story took place over a year or two, but it had been
prepared for since the beginning of time. 

So, during your Christmas celebrations on the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, enjoy the day.  Spend time with loved ones, remember Christmas of the past, eat, give gifts and celebrate.  It’s a wonderful time of the year and you should enjoy it.  But maybe, at some point you can take a break from those modern celebrations and step back to the first Christmas for a moment, and in that moment,  you can worship and celebrate the baby in the manager coming into this world as the first gift for our salvation. Continue Reading →

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Help Create a Happier Holiday Season for Children in Foster Care

Texarkana, USA – December is a month full of fun
holiday celebrations and traditions for loved ones to enjoy together. However,
there are many children in the foster care system across northeast Texas and
southwest Arkansas who do not have the same opportunities to experience a
joyful holiday season. Due to circumstances that are no fault of their own, these
children have been removed from their homes and placed in the child welfare system,
many times far from everyone they know and love. This holiday season, CASA for
Children urges you to be mindful of all the children who are spending the
holidays in foster care, waiting to be reunited with their families or adopted. “December is meant to be a festive time to spend with
your family,” said Brandy Eldridge, executive director of CASA for Children. Continue Reading →

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Miracle at an Arkansas Welcome Center

LITTLE ROCK – Nearly a million people a year stop at one of Arkansas’ 13 welcome centers. The staffs answer a lot of questions about our state and work hard to see that our visitors feel welcome. Travelers often share personal stories with members of the staff. Once in a while, employees hear a story that reminds them that their work brightens someone’s day.  
Sheila Ward, manager of the Blytheville Welcome Center, recently learned that her staff had redeemed Christmas for one of the center’s visitors. Continue Reading →

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Texarkana Farmers’ Market to host 4th Annual Christmas Market

TEXARKANA, TX- The Texarkana, Texas Farmers’ Market will host its Fourth Annual Christmas Market from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 4 in downtown Texarkana. The market will be held in conjunction with Main Street Texarkana’s Christmas Parade. The Christmas Market, located at 305 Texas Boulevard, will feature local vendors from the Ark-La-Tex region. Highlights of the Market will include homemade jams and jellies, artisan crafts, baked goods from Bee the Blessing Bakery, Christmas trees from the Texarkana Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm, and more. Limited vendor space is available. Continue Reading →

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Nixon for Christmas

 

On books, Winston Churchill wrote “Let them be your friends; let them, at any rate, be your acquaintances.” And so it came to pass on the 25th of December, 2004, that I was introduced, at least in book form, to my good friend, the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. Age 24, and already a Veteran on three foreign wars, I had recently returned home from a 12 month tour of Iraq. By year’s end, I had found myself in what is most often the real quagmire for many returning warriors, the soul crushing awkwardness of civilian life. Christmas 2004, was devoid of any joy. Having buried my two closest friends within 18 months of each other, I had not only lost my strongest allies, I had also lost my business partners. Continue Reading →

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Santa is Real!

It’s hard to believe that within the next few hours Santa Clause will begin to make his rounds. He’ll start off with the countries in the dark first and work his way around the world. He will end his flight path somewhere in the islands around Hawaii. It is a magical time of the year when children of all ages wonder about the reality of Santa. Well friends, it is my honor to tell you that he is real. Santa, as most know, began his first trips to give gifts to the poor and needy. He tried to do this in private and so grew the secret nature of his work. Nicholas, as he was known, was a very rich man, but in the true nature of the one he adored, Jesus Christ, Nicholas chose to give all his wealth away. During his life, he gave away everything he owned as “Santa” to others. His gifts became the ultimate way to honor the birth of Jesus! Nicholas would end up a poor man with more riches than anyone can imagine! Today, Santa continues to live on! He lives in each parent, in each mother, and in each person who donates or gives without seeking reward. In just a few short hours, his spirit will start the journey around the world. Each mom and dad knows that Santa will call on them soon to make his spirit known. So powerful is the spirit of Santa, that even NORAD (http://www.noradsanta.org/) and Google (http://www. Google.com) will track him tonight. That is right! The United States Air Force will track Santa and so will one of the most powerful search engines on the Internet! To this day I can still remember the first time I caught a glimpse of Santa at work. I am certain it was him, and not one of his many helpers! As a small child, I woke up during the night of Christmas Eve. I carefully moved through the hallways of our home and into the living room. In the soft light that occupies the dark I could make out presents around the tree and some on the floor in the room. I wanted to run and check each one! I wanted to throw on the light and wake everyone up and announce “Santa has been here!” But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him! He was sitting in a chair across the room. In the dark I could just make out his round figure sitting there watching me. Naturally, I panicked and ran back to my room, jumped in bed, and pulled the covers over my head. I was certain that Santa would take away all the presents since I saw him. The next morning, I was happy to learn that Santa had left the presents. I was also surprised to learn that Santa was very smart! Right there in the chair where I had seen him sitting last night, he had placed a large stuffed animal for my younger sister. I knew he had put it there to fool me into believing that I had seen the animal and not Santa. Continue Reading →

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For Some, It is Not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

The holidays are often a time to rejoice, but some do not share the joyful feelings of the season. The shorter days of winter can bring a gloomy mood and the hype of the holidays can set unrealistic expectations, especially for youngsters. Children may feel sad or anxious around December for many reasons, including added stress from splitting time between divorced parents, coping with the recent loss of a loved one, or issues surrounding school. Adults need to be attentive to signs displayed by children. It is also important for grown-ups to be cognizant of how their own stressful actions might impact youngsters. To help kids cope with this sadness, Dr. Elizabeth McCauley, interim director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department at Seattle Children’s Hospital, has offered advice on ways to lessen holiday stress. Continue Reading →

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