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One of the most famous Christmas stories in the English language is “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It tells of a man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who was very stingy with his money, and who hated Christmas. But in the story he is visited by three “spirits” in a dream: the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, who reveal to him how mean and stingy he has been toward other people. Following the dreams he promises to live differently. The book closes by saying that afterwards “it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well.”

How do you celebrate Christmas? What is Christmas really all about?
Our scripture passages reveal the true origin and meaning of Christmas.

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#9a Fun facts about sheep

  • Sheep are totally defenseless. They require protection from every predator.
  • A sheep can’t get up without help if they fall on their back. If left on its back too long, it will eventually die.
  • A lamb identifies her mother by her bleat.  Sheep can also recognize the voice of their shepherd and it comforts them.
  • Still waters are very important for sheep. If they step into a rushing stream, their wool will become to heavy and they will be carried away in the current. They cannot save themselves.
  • Sheep can easily wander away from the flock. They nibble, nibble with their heads down and never look where they are going until they slowly have lost their way.
  • In a fenced area where the sheep sleep, the shepherd lies down in the opening and acts as the door. In this way he prevents thieves or predators from entering and stealing or assaulting the sheep.

Sheep and shepherds are mentioned 247 times in the Bible.

 

It is very hard for human beings to predict the future. Many have tried and failed miserably.

“A rocket will never be able to leave the earth’s atmosphere.”
The New York Times, 1936

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”
Ken Olson, president of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977.

“The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.”
President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903

Even with sophisticated technology and analytics, we cannot accurately predict the weather, the stock market or even election results! Why? Because our knowledge and understanding is limited.

The Bible says this about God:

For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning.  Isaiah 46:9b-10

The one true God says that one way we can identify Him is that He knows what will happen in the end, from the very beginning. Unlike men, who are limited, God can indeed predict the future. Thus one of best evidences for the truth of Christianity is the prophecies which were made concerning the Messiah, written hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, but which were subsequently fulfilled in His life.

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#11 Life Sketch of Jesus

During our first meetings, we introduced ourselves by sharing our life sketch, an introduction of what we wanted to know about each other.  Today we will talk about what Jesus wants us to know about him.  Each of these statements from the Bible tells us an important truth about what Jesus said about himself.

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#12 Bread of Life

bread photoBread is served around the world in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and flavors. Every culture uses bread as a base for some of their most popular dishes like pizza or dumplings!  For sandwiches, plain white bread has taken a back seat to more interesting kinds of breads like rye, sourdough or pumpernickel.  Italian words like ciabatta and focaccia can be found on menus alongside French words like brioche and baguette. There are a lot of different kinds of bread!
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#13 Light of the World

light photoThrough an enormous amount of study and elaborate experiments, Thomas Edison successfully invented a practical and inexpensive light bulb and demonstrated it on December 31, 1879, at his laboratory in New Jersey – a Herculean achievement that had challenged scientists for over 50 years.  Edison’s first light bulb burned for approximately two hours. After the patent was granted, he and his team discovered a carbonized bamboo filament that would last 1200 hours.  When asked about his previous failures, he said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
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#14 The Good Shepherd

Sheep are rather helpless creatures.  A shepherd would protect his flock night and day. Particularly at night, a good shepherd would gather the sheep into a pen, a cave or an area with natural stone walls. Without a gate, the shepherd would often sleep or sit in the opening to guard his sheep and not allow a thief or predator to enter.  The good shepherd in this case served as a gate.

It is interesting that Jesus did not craft language about his power or his wisdom. Instead he chose words that describe a relationship of love and care.  Jesus chose to call himself the gate and the good shepherd.  Continue Reading »

#15 Absolute truth

Math photo

Photo by AJC1

With certainty, we all teach our children that 2 + 2 = 4.  No matter what language we speak, math and the laws of nature are the same.  Every culture has used mathematics because it is not random or unpredictable; it is universal. The Pythagorean theorem a^2 + b^2 = c^2 is based on the fact that if you know the length of two sides of a right triangle, you can calculate the length of the third side ~ always, every time.  Math in China developed quite independently leading to one of the greatest feats in human history, the Great Wall of China.  Grand projects during the Qin dynasty (221-207 B.C.) used advanced mathematics to calculate volume, area and proportion. In modern times, Einstein’s theory of relativity E=mc^2 is based on the fact that the speed of light is constant ~ it doesn’t change even if it is in a vacuum.  Physics is possible because the laws of mathematics are constant and absolutely true.

With such certainty in the physical realm, it makes you wonder if there can be certainty in other areas of our life, like the existence of God or His love.  Is it constant? Does it change? Is it universal?

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#16 The True Vine

grape vines photo

Grapes are a wonderful fruit. They can be made into jam, jelly, preserves, raisins, juice, vinegar, wine or even eaten raw. They have been shown to have health benefits regarding cancer, the heart, blood pressure, digestion, allergies, diabetes and the eye. Grapes are grown in varying climates around the world. The top grape producing countries are China, Italy, USA, France, Spain, Chile, India and Argentina. In 2016 the top producing provinces in China were Xinjiang (2.7 million tons), Hebei (1.7), Shandong (1.1), Yunnan (1.0), Zhejiang (0.8), Liaoning (0.7), Henan (0.7), Shaanxi (0.7), Jiangsu (0.6) and Guangxi (0.5).

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What would you say are the three most important words in any language?  Many people might say “I love you”, because those three words show how much we care for someone ~ how much they mean to us.  An entire chapter of the Bible, First Corinthians 13 is called the love chapter and it ends with these words, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” So love is definitely important!
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