Merry Christmas from Me

merry-christmasMerry Christmas

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!

Luke 2: 8-14 (NKJV)

Merry Christmas, Divas. I so, so hope that you’ve enjoyed the Christmas guest blogger series A Very Diva Christmas. I loved putting it together! Thank you so much to everyone who contributed this year!

These scriptures are my favorite of the Christmas story, as I’m sure they are for many of you. I have them pretty much memorized, and that’s probably thanks to A Charlie Brown Christmas. 

This year was very much a year of transition for our family (what with the international move) and I am especially searching for peace in the upcoming New Year. I think many are looking for peace in 2017 after the events of 2016.

I wanted to feature these scriptures so that we can remember to keep our hearts on Jesus, and finding that peace that only He can give us.

This is the last post of 2016. Devotional Diva will be taking a short break, and returning in early January.

Merry (or Mary!) Christmas and Happy NEW YEAR!

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Has Anyone Seen Jesus

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Has Anyone Seen Jesus?

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Terasha Burrell, wrapping up A Very Diva Christmas! Besides a short post from myself this coming Thursday, that’ll be it! Terasha was not the last person to submit her post, but after reading it I knew it had to be the last guest post in our Christmas series. It’s a wonderful call-to-action to remember who the season is about, and how to share Him with others.]

His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

Luke 2: 41-49

 

Deck the halls with brown paper packages tied up with string. Dream of a white Christmas with chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Hark the herald angels sing these are a few of my favorite things. Here comes Santa Claus, but wait…where is Jesus? Has anyone seen Jesus?

I thought He was with me when I left church and headed to the mall to find a new dress for the holiday party. Honey, is Jesus with you? No, I went to help hang the rest of the Christmas lights at mom’s. Oh man, I think we got so busy and left Jesus back there. This sounds so silly, right? This holiday season, I want us to pause just long enough to remember where we left Jesus before we allowed the lists, parties, lights, traditions, cookies for Santa, and presents take the place of being in the presence of Jesus.

In Luke 2: 41-49, Joseph and Mary unknowingly left Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem after they had finished commemorating the Feast of the Passover. After going about their journey, they realized He was not with the crowd they were traveling with. They returned to Jerusalem to find Him three days later in the exact place they had mistakenly, or so they thought, left Him.

When questioned why He did not follow the crowd, Jesus answered: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” I am not a mama, but mine would have backhanded me for that response. Nonetheless, His response serves a much greater purpose as a reminder for us today as we rush into the season of holiday cheer.

There are people who don’t know why we celebrate. There are people who need to know the real reason for this season. God put us here to be His hands and feet to go out to all the nations and spread the Gospel. Our children need to know that the presence of God is greater than the gifts under the tree. We must be about our Father’s business. This is a time where we get to stop and celebrate the birth of the most unique person in history. The birth of Jesus was the joining of God with humanity, and it was the very beginning of us being saved from our sins (Matthew 1:21). Translation: The greatest gift EVER! We must be about our Father’s business. Jesus was 12 years old when He came to this understanding, and I believe we can too.

Consider this…by grace we have been adopted. We are children of God and joint heirs with Jesus. Should we not be about our Father’s business too? Have you stopped to think about the deeper meaning of Christmas? We cannot follow the crowd and forget about Jesus. There is nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas and the special traditions that we have with our families, but as you look away from your lists, let’s get back to the Word of God and remember where we are supposed to be in this season.

I want to encourage you to make it a priority to show the love of Christ not by the dollar amount of your gift but by offering someone the gift of eternal life by introducing them to Jesus.

Take time with your family and friends to pray for each other and pray for the world. If you are serving somewhere this season, don’t miss the opportunity to share what you have learned so that someone might come to know Him.

More importantly, take that personal time for yourself and just sit in the presence of God to keep your heart in tune with His reason for this season. As you move about this holiday season, ask yourself: Is what I am doing glorifying Jesus? Make all that you do reflect the glory of the Most High and this Christmas will surely be a very special Christmas.

terasha-burrellCoffee, Jesus, and writing run my life. I am currently falling in love with the traffic in Atlanta, GA, but sweet home Alabama is where I was raised. I write because it is my scapegoat. I write so that others may see the relentless, restoring, and redeeming power of God. I am not ashamed to bear my scars because my scars are proof that God heals. Follow her at: www.scaronmyforehead.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terashaburrell/ Instagram @terashawrites

 

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A Mary Little Christmas

A Mary Little Christmas

A Mary Little Christmas

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Carla Gasser, past Diva Christmas series guest blogger, and the latest installment of the A Very Diva Christmas guest blogger series! All of these devotionals are inspired by the Christmas story — here’s Carla’s take on how to “Have Yourself a Mary Little Christmas…”]

A few years ago I wrote an Advent devotional entitled “Have Yourself a Mary Little Christmas.” I was convicted regarding my role in making Christmas “merry” for my family and wanted to go back to the first Christmas and see where maybe I was getting things wrong. ” I took a look at the very first Christmas and the wife and mother who was at the center of it…Mary. By her quiet and humble example, she taught me so much about how to prepare for the Christmas season.

Let me say a few things about Mary before we begin. She was a woman of faith, courage, humility, praise, and prayer. She was a wife, a mother, and a disciple of Christ.

She was just a young teenager in an unimportant town in the hills of Galilee. She came from a poor but honorable family. She was engaged but not yet married to a man named Joseph. She was in love but a virgin. She knew the Scriptures and believed in God. She was waiting for the promised Messiah just like all the Jewish people, but for 400 years God had been silent on the subject.

The Scriptures call her “highly favored” and “blessed”… and indeed she was!

However, it is important to note that she was favored not because of who she was or what she possessed but because God chose her. Mary was totally perplexed, stunned, and confused by the angel’s announcement. She did not ask or seek this role in God’s plans. God simply stepped into her life and brought her into His service…just like He can and does with all of us. Her asset was her faithfulness and willingness to do whatever God asked.

She was confused, afraid, alone, tired, overwhelmed, and need of a Savior

(I don’t know about you…but I can relate on many levels), but she also did 3 important things that were crucial to getting her heart, mind, and soul ready to embrace the greatest gift the world has ever known.

1) She PREPARED

In Luke 1: 38 Mary responds to the angel’s announcement:

“I am the Lord’s servant…May your word to me be fulfilled…”

Mary was willing to set aside her plans for God’s plans. God asked Mary to change her hopes, her plans and her dreams…and not without a cost to her.

Are we willing to the same? Can we set aside of hopes, dreams and expectations of what Christmas should be? Are we willing to allow God to break into our lives and do the impossible as he did for Mary?

2) She PRAISED

Continuing on in the story in Luke’s gospel, Mary greets her cousin, Elizabeth, and breaks into a song of praise and thanksgiving:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful or the humble estate of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is his name. ” Luke 1:46-49

Mary realized that Christmas was not about her but all about Him. She chose to take the focus off of herself and put it where it belonged…on the birth of Jesus. She accepted her role in God’s plan with humility and gratitude.

Are we willing to focus on what really matters this Christmas? Can we pare things down to the simple gift of Jesus and let go of the things that distract us (even if they are good things)?

3) She PONDERED

As Mary gives birth to Jesus in a lowly stable with only Joseph to help her, the shepherds arrive after seeing angles in the night sky. Mary is quiet and reflective.

Luke 2:19 reads: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.“

Mary took the time to be quiet and still. Jesus came as the angel foretold and as God had promised. Mary got of the way, allowed God to use her, and made room for her Lord and Savior, Jesus. She was reflective and thoughtful as she pondered this amazing thing that God had done for her and all of mankind.

Are we willing to be still and ponder? Do we realize that the only gift we really need this Christmas is the gift of Jesus? Have we accepted that gift by inviting Christ into our ordinary, messy, everyday lives?

So let’s learn from Mary and prepare, praise and ponder as we try to “Have Ourselves as Mary Little Christmas” this year.

Please visit my website and subscribe to receive your FREE E-BOOK Advent Devotional, “Have Yourself A Mary Little Christmas” which includes weekly Bible reading, questions, activities, and a list of resources to help you prepare your heart, mind, and soul for Christmas.

Grace, peace and joy to each of you.

 

carla-gasser When not teaching, writing, or speaking, Carla is most herself as a wife and mom living in Hudson, Ohio with her four very active children (who take their job of keeping her humble and grounded very seriously!) and her husband of over 26 years. She believes in the power of story and writes and speaks about the messy, ordinary, and unexpected ways her life and her faith intersect. Her purpose is to help others seek God at the place of connection, serve their families and others on the path and connection, and support each as they strive to become people of connection. She is a work in progress, seeking fellow travelers on the journey. Everyone who subscribes to her blog via email will receive her free e-book on CONNECTION, so visit AT THE CROSSROADS: www.carlagasser.com to learn more about and connect with Carla Gasser today!

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A Heart in Waiting 

a-heart-in-waiting

A Heart in Waiting

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Constance Darby and the next installment in A Very Diva Christmas. I hope you are enjoying our annual Christmas guest post series! Thank you so much to Constance for this Christmas devotional — it is very much her story, exactly what Devotional Diva is all about!]

Luke 2: 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

I remember sitting in the Lawless Chapel of Dillard University, twelve years ago, as an incoming freshman. The chapel was filled with 17, 18 and maybe even 19 year olds all eager to embark on a new academic journey. I vividly remember the lady on the platform saying, “Look to your left, look to right, one of these people will not be here at graduation.”

So like all of the students I looked to the left and I looked to the right, and something told me, “You won’t be here at graduation.” I’m not sure where that thought came from, but I kept it in my heart. All throughout my freshman year, as I excelled in my academics, I remembered that thought from that day in August sitting in the chapel. I never shared this with anyone, not my close friend and roommate, nor my parents. I just thought about it often.

When I began the following school year at Sam Houston State University, I remembered that which had been placed in my heart.

After I graduated from college, I began preparing for the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. The exam was quite difficult for me and I struggled to pass it. I was sitting in church one Sunday, and the title of the Pastor’s sermon was “Four Days late but Always on Time”. He preached from the story about Lazarus being raised from the dead, four days later.

As I sat there listening to the sermon, something told me, “It will take you four years to pass the exam”. That was a very long time and to be honest a little disheartening. However, as I continued taking the test, with unsuccessful results, I kept that thought in my heart; four years. When I took the Auditing exam, four years later, I remembered what was in my heart. That turned out to be my last exam, I was now a CPA.

I can only imagine how Mary felt as she held the brand new baby that was promised to be the Savior of the world. Not only did she conceive a baby without knowing a man, now that Jesus was here, what would this journey behold? Luke 2: 19 says, “But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” I’m sure she thought about them when Jesus was missing in Jerusalem. Or maybe she thought on these things when he began performing miracles, turning water into wine and raising the dead. I’m quite certain she thought about these things when her son was being crucified, and I’m sure when he was resurrected. All of these things were in her heart. But what are these things? They’re the promises of God.

Every now and then, God places a promise in the heart of His children. It could be the promise of a decision that will be made some time in the future, like me transferring college institutions. It could possibly be a promise of the end of a long-awaited journey, like when I finally passed the CPA exam.

2 Corinthians 1: 20 says, “The Promises of God are Yes and Amen” (paraphrased). When God places a promise in your heart, hold it close, and think about it often. He will fulfill His promise to you and it will be for your good. There are some other promises that He’s spoken to me, and they’re close to my heart. I think about them during good times, and in difficult times. I hold them close to me, because I know what God promised He will perform.

constance-darbyConstance Darby has a passion for empowering others in both the Spiritual and Business sectors. This passion has allowed her to become a successful Brand Ambassador for her own health and wellness business. Constance Darby resides in Humble, TX where she attends Grace Church of Humble and is a Lead Teacher in the Women’s Leadership Development Class. Feel free to connect with her at TheJourneysofFaith.com.

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A Blessing in the Burdens

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A Blessing in the Burdens

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Winslow E. Dixon and the second post in A Very Diva Christmas. I tried to make all of the posts flow well in the series. Since Alisha Ritchie’s opening guest post dealt with Mary’s response to her pregnancy, I thought Winslow’s take on how Joseph also dealt with the news would be a good follow-up.]

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest 

Luke 1:30-32(KJV)

At Christmas time, we are reminded of the miraculous conception of the Lord Jesus Christ. But have we ever stopped to imagine what Mary experienced in order to become the mother of our Savior?

When an unwed woman becomes pregnant, is typically a source of controversy. Mary’s pregnancy was no different. She was a young, Jewish woman who was newly engaged to her beloved Joseph. In Jewish tradition, intimacy before marriage is strictly forbidden. When the angel of the Lord told Mary she would conceive a child by the Holy Ghost, panic must have struck her mind. Even though she was pure, people surely assumed she had been inappropriate in her behavior. Mary faced judgement and rejection during her pregnancy.

Telling Joseph she was carrying a child must have been an anxiety producing event for her. Her entire future depended on whether he believed her or not. If Joseph believed Mary had been unfaithful to him, he could have ended their engagement and had her put to death.

Throughout her pregnancy, her faith was tested immensely. The angel of the Lord told Mary she found favor in God’s eyes, but surely she felt burdened by the weight of the task she carried. The fear of losing her fiancé, the judgement of others and the physical strain of carrying a child must have been overwhelming. Despite the obstacles, Mary trusted God’s plan for her life. Her burden turned into a blessing not only for her, but for the entire world.

Joseph’s faith was tested as well. He must have felt betrayed when he first discovered Mary was pregnant. The idea of an immaculate conception was surely hard to comprehend. When the angel came to Joseph in the dream, he chose to believe the message. He trusted that God was working in his and Mary’s life. He obeyed God and hid Mary away to protect her.

Matthew 1:19 (KJV) “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.”

Joseph not only had faith in God, but his actions were obedient. He stepped into the role of a godly leader and shielded Mary from harm.

In our lives, sometimes we are faced with burdens that God can use for a greater purpose. Times of burdens can lead us to times of blessings.

Romans 8:28 (KJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

This verse teaches that the Lord can turn negative events into positive outcomes. A beautiful example of faith is exemplified in Mary’s life. We may have to face dark times, but God always has a purpose for our lives. It is our task to trust Him despite our circumstances.

 

winslow-e-dixonWinslow E Dixon began writing when tragedy struck her young life. Her health failed and she was diagnosed with a debilitating, painful and life threatening disorder, Addison’s disease. In an ironic twist of fate, her former career in geriatrics prepared her to live the life of an elderly person. Although she could no longer care for her beloved elderly, she decided to create a new purpose. Writing became her outlet to the world. Her desire is to inspire others with her writing and encourage those who suffer. She lives her life with new purpose, to be a light in this dark world. She recently published a devotional journal challenge entitled, Arsenal of Arrows which is available through Amazon, Kindle E-book and Barnes and Noble.

 

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Joyous Response

A Very Diva Christmas 2016

A Very Diva Christmas 2016

Joyous Response

[Editor’s Note: A Very Diva Christmas is here! This is a guest post by Alisha Ritchie, who we are welcoming back to kick off the series! As you recall, (or not if you are new…welcome!) this is the 3rd annual Christmas series at Devotional Diva. All of the posts will be focused on the Christmas story, specifically Luke 1 or 2. This guest post devotional series will span three weeks, and I truly hope it can inspire you this Christmas season. I am so thrilled with all of the submissions and writers that helped me put this together. Thank you! Also, all of the photos that will be featured in this series were taken at local Italian Christmas lights displays! Merry Christmas, everyone. Enjoy.]

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.’”

Luke 1:46-47 ESV

I stood in the bathroom, perched over the sink countertop, intently staring at the little white applicator.  My pulse quickened and my palms grew sweaty as I waited for the answer I’d been agonizing over for the past few days.

Could I possibly be pregnant? Was this really happening?

Did the nausea I’d been experiencing have meaning to it? Now, all my questions lingered in this moment, as my fate hung on the appearance of two little pink lines.

I stood there for three minutes, my mind buzzing with all the possibilities of what this pregnancy could mean, and they suddenly appeared on the applicator.

Two pink lines. Two pink lines that would change my world and heart forever.

I was pregnant!  A baby! My husband and I were going to have a baby! We had officially started our little family and I was overcome by hormones and emotions.

Tears of joy streamed down my face as I gave thanks to God for the blessing I beheld inside me.  Even now, fifteen years later, it’s hard to fully describe the happiness I felt that morning.  All I knew is that good things were about to happen and I was glad that God was with me on the journey.

I soon began thinking of how to tell my husband and family members the good news of our upcoming bundle of joy.  I really didn’t know if I could contain my excitement until after my pregnancy had been confirmed by the doctor.  I had wonderful news and I just had to share it with those I loved most.

No doubt, so many years ago, a young girl named Mary had some of those same emotions I felt.  The virgin had learned of her miraculous pregnancy through the incredible visit of an angel.  I cannot begin to even fathom the wonder, awe, and pure joy that she felt upon receiving that news.  And of course, she wanted to share it with her family.

She traveled to Judea to visit her cousin and was greeted with a warm response, as Elizabeth already knew she was carrying the child of the Lord. Mary didn’t respond to Elizabeth with panic or anxious questions of why was this happening to me? Or how can this even be possible?  She responded in complete submission with joy and praise to God for what He was doing in her.  Surely Mary’s delight caused her to speak those words to Elizabeth saying,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior (Luke 1:46-47 NIV).”

The mother-to-be rejoiced, exulting God for not only the child in her womb but also for what He meant to the world.  He would be a Savior for all of mankind, One who would bring joy in the days to come and for all of eternity.

As we prepare our hearts for the Christmas season, let’s not forget the true joy that Jesus brings to each of us.  Soon you will decorate trees and hang lights.  You will shop till you drop and spend late nights wrapping gifts.  You will attend holiday parties and eat lots of yummy goodies.  But in all the splendor and busyness of Christmas, don’t let your joy, immense jubilation and delight, be dulled this year.  Remember Mary’s response thousands of years ago.  Praise God for the Joy God gave us so many Christmases ago, that still lives in our hearts today.

Is there someone in your life who needs to hear about the hope that Jesus Christ brings into your life?  Be inspired to share the best gift you can give them this season, an opportunity for a personal relationship with God.

“Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your Son and Mary’s willingness to be a part of Your plan.  Help me remember to praise You, igniting joy within my soul this season, shining brightly so that others may be pointed to You.  Guide me in honoring You in all I say and do, on Christmas and always.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

alisha-ritchieAlisha Ritchie writes from North Carolina where she enjoys spending time with her husband, Brandon, of almost twenty years, and two busy but wonderful teenagers, Zack and Abby.  She is a Physical Therapy Assistant by profession but in recent years has also become a multi-published author of devotions and inspirational stories to inspire others in their walk with God. Alisha’s stories and devotions have appeared in numerous publications, and you can follow her on her new blog www.seekhimdaily.wordpress.comfor details about the release of her upcoming devotional book in January 2017 or on her Snuggle Sessions with God Facebook page.

 

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