December 2021

Gabriel Speaks to Mary

Luke 1:26-45, 2:1-20 (New Living Translation)

26 Six months after Elizabeth knew she was to become a mother, Gabriel was sent from God to Nazareth. Nazareth was a town in the country of Galilee. 27 He went to a woman who had never had a man. Her name was Mary. She was promised in marriage to a man named Joseph. Joseph was of the family of David. 28 The angel came to her and said, “You are honored very much. You are a favored woman. The Lord is with you. You are chosen from among many women.”

29 When she saw the angel, she was troubled at his words. She thought about what had been said. 30 The angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. 31 See! You are to become a mother and have a Son. You are to give Him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the place where His early father David sat. 33 He will be King over the family of Jacob forever and His nation will have no end.”

34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen? I have never had a man.” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you. The power of the Most High will cover you. The holy Child you give birth to will be called the Son of God.

36 “See, your cousin Elizabeth, as old as she is, is going to give birth to a child. She was not able to have children before, but now she is in her sixth month. 37 For God can do all things.” 38 Then Mary said, “I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel went away from her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At once Mary went from there to a town in the hill country of Judea. 40 She went to the house of Zacharias to see Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary speak, the baby moved in her body. At the same time Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 Elizabeth spoke in a loud voice, “You are honored among women! Your Child is honored! 43 Why has this happened to me? Why has the mother of my Lord come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your voice, the baby in my body moved for joy. 45 You are happy because you believed. Everything will happen as the Lord told you it would happen.”

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus sent out word that the name of every person in the Roman nation must be written in the books of the nation. This first writing took place while Quirinius was ruler of Syria.

So all the people went to their own cities to have their names written in the books of the nation. Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in the country of Galilee to the town of Bethlehem. It was known as the city of David. He went there because he was from the family of David. Joseph went to have his and Mary’s names written in the books of the nation. Mary was his promised wife and soon to become a mother.

While they were there in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to give birth to her baby. Her first son was born. She put cloth around Him and laid Him in a place where cattle are fed. There was no room for them in the place where people stay for the night.

The Shepherds Learn of the Birth of Jesus

In the same country there were shepherds in the fields. They were watching their flocks of sheep at night. The angel of the Lord came to them. The shining-greatness of the Lord shone around them. They were very much afraid. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. See! I bring you good news of great joy which is for all people. 11 Today, One Who saves from the punishment of sin has been born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. 12 There will be something special for you to see. This is the way you will know Him. You will find the Baby with cloth around Him, lying in a place where cattle are fed.”

13 At once many angels from heaven were seen, along with the angel, giving thanks to God. They were saying, 14 “Greatness and honor to our God in the highest heaven and peace on earth among men who please Him.”

The Shepherds Go to Bethlehem

15 The angels went from the shepherds back to heaven. The shepherds said to each other, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see what has happened. The Lord has told us about this.” 16 They went fast and found Mary and Joseph. They found the Baby lying in a place where cattle are fed. 17 When they saw the Child, they told what the angel said about Him. 18 All who heard it were surprised at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary hid all these words in her heart. She thought about them much. 20 The shepherds went back full of joy. They thanked God for all they had heard and seen. It happened as the angel had told them.

CHRISTMAS at the GAS STATION  
A christmas-story by Rev. David L. Griffith

The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn’t been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was just another day to him. He didn’t hate Christmas, just couldn’t find a reason to celebrate. He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.
 
Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up.

 
“Thank you, but I don’t mean to intrude,” said the stranger. “I see you’re busy, I’ll just go.” “Not without something hot in your belly.” George said.
 
He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger.
 
“It ain’t much, but it’s hot and tasty, “Stew …  made it myself. When you’re done, there’s coffee and it’s fresh.”
 
Just at that moment he heard the “ding” of the driveway bell. “Excuse me, be right back,” George said. There in the driveway was an old ’53 Chevy.  Steam was rolling out of the front. The driver was panicked.
“Mister can you help me!” said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. “My wife is with child and my car is broken.”
 
George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead. “You ain’t going in this thing,” George said as he turned away.
 
“But Mister, please help …” The door of the office closed behind George as he went inside. He went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building,
opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting. “Here, take my truck,” he said. “She ain’t the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good.”
 
George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. He turned and walked back inside the office. “Glad I gave ’em the truck, their tires were shot too. That ‘oltruck has brand new
………” George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it. “Well, at least he got something in his belly,” George thought.
 
George went back outside to see if the old Chevy wou ld start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do.
Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered that the block hadn’t cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. “Well, shoot, I can fix this,” he said to himself. So he put a new one on.
 
“Those tires ain’t gonna get ’em through the winter either.” He took the snow treads off of his wife’s old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn’t going to drive the car anyway.
 
As he was working, he heard shots being fired.  He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground.  Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, “Please help me.”
 
George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention. “Pressure to stop the bleeding,” he thought. The uniform company had
been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound. “Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin’,” he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.
 
“Something for pain,” George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. “These ought to work.” He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. “You hang in there,I’m going to get you an
ambulance.”
 
The phone was dead. “Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your car.” He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two wayradio.
 
He went back in to find the policeman sitting up.  “Thanks,” said the officer. “You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area.”
 
George sat down beside him, “I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain’t gonnaleave you.” George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. “Looks worse than what it is.  Bullet passed right
through ‘ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain.”
 
George got up and poured a cup of coffee. “How do you take it?” he asked. “None for me,” said the officer. “Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city. Too bad I ain’t got no donuts.” The officer laughed and winced at
the same time.
 
The front door of the office flew open.  In burst a young man with a gun. “Give me all your cash!  Do it now!” the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.
 
“That’s the guy that shot me!” exclaimed the officer.
 
“Son, why are you doing this?” asked George,  “You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt.”
 
The young man was confused. “Shut up old man, or I’ll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!”
 
The cop was reaching for his gun. “Put that thing away,” George said to the cop, “we got one too many in here now.”
 
He turned his attention to the young man. “Son, it’s Christmas Eve.  If you need money, well then, here. It ain’t much but it’s all I got. Now put that pee shooter away.”
 
George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time.  The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry.  “I’m not very good at this am I?  All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son,” he went on. “I’ve lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week …”
 
George handed the gun to the cop.  Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then.  The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can.”
 
He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. “Sometimes we do stupid things.” George handed the young man a cup of coffee. “Bein’ stupid is one of the things that makes us
human.  Comin’ in here with a gun ain’t the answer.  Now sit there and get warm and we’ll sort this thing out.”
 
The young man had stopped crying.  He looked over to the cop. “Sorry I shot you. It just went off.  I’m sorry officer.”
 
“Shut up and drink your coffee.” the cop said.
 
George could hear the sounds of sirens outside.  A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn.
 
“Chuck! You ok?” one of the cops asked the wounded officer.
 
“Not bad for a guy who took a bullet.  How did you find me?”
 
“GPS locator in the car.  Best thing since sliced bread.  Who did this?” the other cop asked as he approached the young man.
 Chuck answered him, “I don’t know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran.”
 
George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.
 
“That guy work here?,” the wounded cop continued.  “Yep,” George said, “just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job.”
 
The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, “Why?”
 
Chuck just said, “Merry Christmas boy … and you too, George, and thanks for everything.”
 
“Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems.”
 
George went into the back room and came out with a box.  He pulled out a ring box. “Here you go, something for the little woman. I don’t think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day.”
 
The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. “I can’t take this,” said the young man. “It means something to you.”
 
“And now it means something to you,” replied George. “I got my memories.
 
That’s all I need.”
 
George reached into the box again. An airplane, a car and a truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell.  “Here’s something for that little man of yours.”
 
The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.
 
“And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that too,”
George said, “Now git home to your family.”
 
The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. “I’ll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good.”
 
“Nope. I’m closed Christmas day,” George said.  “See ya the day after.”
 
George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. “Where’d you come from? I thought you left?”
 
“I have been here. I have always been here,” said the stranger. “You say you don’t celebrate Christmas. Why?”
 
“Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn’t see what all the bother was. Puttin’ up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin’
cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn’t the same by myself and besides I was gettin’ a little chubby.”
 
The stranger put his hand on George’s shoulder.  “But you do celebrate the holiday, George.  You gave me f ood and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry.  The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor. The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists.  The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself. “That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man.”
 
George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. “And how do you know all this?” asked the old man.
 
“Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again.”
 
The stranger moved toward the door. “If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned.”
 
George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe.  A golden light began to fill the room.
 
“You see, George … it’s My birthday. Merry Christmas.”
 
George fell to his knees and replied, “Happy Birthday, Lord.”
 

A BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS STORY


About a week before Christmas the family bought a new nativity scene. When they unpacked itthey found 2 figures of the Baby Jesus. “Someone must have packed this wrong,” the mother said, counting out the figures. “We have one Joseph, one Mary, three wise men, three shepherds, two lambs, a donkey, a cow, an angel and two babies. Oh, dear! I suppose some set down at the store is missing a Baby Jesus because we have 2.”

“You two run back down to the store and tell the manager that we have an extra Jesus. Tell him to put a sign on the remaining boxes saying that if a set is missing a Baby Jesus, call 7126. Put on your warm coats, it’s freezing cold out there.” 

The manager of the store copied down mother’s message and the next time they were in the store they saw the cardboard sign that read, “If you’re missing Baby Jesus, call 7126.” All week long they waited for someone to call. Surely, they thought, someone was missing that important figurine. Each time the phone rang mother would say, “I’ll bet that’s about Jesus,” but it never was.

Father tried to explain there are thousands of these scattered over the country and the figurine could be missing from a set in Florida or Texas or California. Those packing mistakes happen all the time. He suggested just put the extra Jesus back in the box and forget about it.

“Put Baby Jesus back in the box! What a terrible thing to do,” said the children. “Surely someone will call,” mother said. “We’ll just keep the two of them together in the manger until someone calls.”

When no call had come by 5:00 on Christmas Eve, mother insisted that father “just run down to the store” to see if there were any sets left. “You can see them right through the window, over on the counter,” she said. “If they are all gone, I’ll know someone is bound to call tonight.”

“Run down to the store?” father thundered. “It’s 15 below zero out there!”

“Oh, Daddy, we’ll go with you,” Tommy and Mary began to put on their coats. Father gave a long sigh and headed for the front closet. “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” he muttered. Tommy and Mary ran ahead as father reluctantly walked out in the cold. Mary got to the store first and pressed her nose up to the store window. “They’re all gone, Daddy,” she shouted. “Every set must be sold.” 

“Hooray,” Tommy said. “The mystery will now be solved tonight!”

Father heard the news still a half block away and immediately turned on his heel and headed back home. When they got back into the house they noticed that mother was gone and so was the extra Baby Jesus figurine. “Someone must have called and she went out to deliver the figurine,” my father reasoned, pulling off his boots. “You kids get ready for bed while I wrap mother’s present.” 

Then the phone rang. Father yelled “answer the phone and tell ’em we found a home for Jesus.” But it was mother calling with instructions for us to come to 205 Chestnut Street immediately, and bring three blankets, a box of cookies and some milk. “Now what has she gotten us into?” my father groaned as we bundled up again. “205 Chestnut. Why that’s across town. Wrap that milk up good in the blankets or it will turn to ice before we get there. Why can’t we all just get on with Christmas? It’s probably 20 below out there now. And the wind is picking up. Of all the crazy things to do on a night like this.”

When they got to the house at 205 Chestnut Street it was the darkest one on the block. Only one tiny light burned in the living room and, the moment we set foot on the porch steps, my mother opened the door and shouted, “They’re here, Oh thank God you got here, Ray! You kids take those blankets into the living room and wrap up the little ones on the couch. I’ll take the milk and cookies.” 

“Would you mind telling me what is going on, Ethel?” my father asked. “We have just walked through below zero weather with the wind in our faces all the way.” 

“Never mind all that now,” my mother interrupted. “There isn’t any heat in this house and this young mother is so upset she doesn’t know what to do. Her husband walked out on her and those poor little children will have a very bleak Christmas, so don’t you complain. I told her you could fix that oil furnace in a jiffy.” 

My mother strode off to the kitchen to warm the milk while my brother and I wrapped up the five little children who were huddled together on the couch. The children’s mother explained to my father that her husband had  run off, taking bedding, clothing, and almost every piece of furniture, but she had been doing all right until the furnace broke down. 

“I been doin’ washin’ and ironin’ for people and cleanin’ the five and dime,” she said. “I saw your number every day there, on those boxes on the counter. When the furnace went out, that number kept going’ through my mind. 7162 7162. Said on the box that if a person was missin’ Jesus, they should call you. That’s how I knew you were good Christian people, willin’ to help folks. I figured that maybe you would help me, too. So I stopped at the grocery store tonight and I called your misses. I’m not missin’ Jesus, mister, because I sure love the Lord. But I am missin’ heat. I have no money to fix that furnace.” 

“Okay, Okay,” said father. “You’ve come to the right place. Now let’s see. You’ve got a little oil burner over there in the dining room. Shouldn’t be too hard to fix. Probably just a clogged flue. I’ll look it over, see what it needs.” 

Mother came into the living room carrying a plate of cookies and warm milk. As she set the cups down on the coffee table, I noticed the figure of Baby Jesus lying in the center of the table. It was the only sign of Christmas in the house. The children stared wide-eyed with wonder at the plate of cookies my mother set before them. 

Father finally got the oil burner working but said, “You need more oil. I’ll make a few calls tonight and get some oil. Yes sir, you came to the right place”, father grinned.  

On the way home father did not complain about the cold weather and had barely set foot inside the door when he was on the phone. “Ed, hey, how are ya, Ed?”

“Yes, Merry Christmas to you, too. Say Ed, we have kind of an unusual situation here. I know you’ve got that pick-up truck. Do you still have some oil in that barrel on your truck? You do?” 

By this time the rest of the family were pulling clothes out of their closets and toys off of their shelves. It was long after their bedtime when they were wrapping gifts. The pickup came. On it were chairs, three lamps, blankets and gifts. Even though it was 30 below, father let them ride along in the back of the truck. No one ever did call about the missing figure in the nativity set, but as I grow older I realize that it wasn’t a packing mistake at all.

Jesus saves, that’s what He does.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in the dark street shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God, the King
And peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous Gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
Oh, come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Immanuel!