Ultimate Christmas Countdown – Thursday, December 7, 2017

18 Days Until Christmas!

(Note: This is also Pearl Harbor Day. Some programming in honor of that day is also included.)

SCC-JoySong: “Do You Hear What I Hear?” by Steven Curtis Chapman
Christmas Album:
“Vince Gill: A Christmas Collection” by Vince Gill
Christmas DVD: “The Bishop’s Wife”
Netflix Movie: “Pete’s Christmas”
Amazon Prime Movie: “Christmas in Wonderland”
Feeln Movie: “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas”
On TV:

• “Christmas at Holly Lodge,” 6 p.m., Hallmark
• “Christmas in the City,” 6 p.m., Lifetime
• “Elf,” 6:50 p.m., FreeForm
• “College Football Awards” (from Atlanta, 7 p.m., ESPN
• “With Love, Christmas,” 8 p.m., Hallmark
• “A Christmas Story 2,” 8 p.m., 10 p.m., CMT
• “Toy Story,” 9 p.m., FreeForm
• “The Christmas Train,” 10 p.m., Hallmark
• “My Christmas Prince,” 10:01 p.m., Liftime
Recipe: The Best Bread Pudding

Quick Thought for Christmas 

Read

Acts 5:27-32

God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
Acts 5:31

Reflect

The right hand has always meant something special, not only in scripture but throughout history. In the Middle East, even apart from Israel, we know that the right side of the throne signified strength and power. In Genesis, when Jacob placed his right hand on Manasseh, and his left on Ephraim, he followed that by saying that Manasseh would be greater and more powerful than his brother. In medieval times, knights would show their right hand to prove that they weren’t armed and that they could be trusted. Today, that has been passed down into our handshakes, and in modern military salutes.

After Jesus died and rose from the dead, we read in Acts that God “exalted” him – basically, raising him to the position of greatest authority – and proved it by placing Jesus at his right hand. Being at the right hand of God allowed Jesus then, and allows him to this day, to give both repentance and forgiveness of sins. This means that Jesus was the means to salvation because repentance – turning from your sins – is necessary before those sins can be truly forgiven.

The amazing thing is that Jesus started out at the right hand of God. He had His place at God’s side from the beginning of time. But when the time came, He gave up that place in order to walk as a man, die the death of a man and be buried in a man’s tomb. Living a sinless life and dying a horrible death, He earned that seat at God’s right hand back, simply by being perfect – something none of us could do. And being there with that sinless track record, He now has even more power and authority to grant us entry into God’s presence.

If you haven’t already done it, the best Christmas gift you can gift yourself is to accept Jesus’ sacrifice into your heart so that you can one day walk the path that Jesus paved for us. Please don’t let another Christmas go by without fully understanding all of the things He sacrificed for us, and without owning them personally.

Reflection copyright © 2017 by Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Ultimate Christmas Countdown – Wednesday, December 6, 2017

19 Days Until Christmas!

jingle all the waySong: “Good King Wenceslas,” by Bing Crosby
Christmas Album: “Home for Christmas,” by Susan Boyle
Christmas DVD: “Jingle All the Way”
Netflix Movie: “Noel”
Amazon Prime Movie: “Jack Frost”
Feeln Movie: “A Christmas Carol: The Musical”
On TV:
• “The Christmas Train,” 6 p.m., Hallmark
• “The Polar Express,” 6:45 p.m., FreeForm
• “Christmas Incorporated,” 8 p.m., Hallmark
• “Elf,” 8:50 p.m., FreeForm
• “Christmas Land,” 10 p.m., Hallmark
Recipe: Sweet Potato Souffle

Quick Thought for Christmas 

Read

John 1:1-18

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Reflect
How long do you think Jesus has existed? Did His story start in the manger? Did it start when the angel gave Mary the good news nine months before that?

The Bible actually tells us that Jesus has been with God the Father since the very beginning. Follow this train of thought:

• “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) So God’s Word has always been there, but what is that Word?
• “He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:2) So this Word isn’t a what, but a who? Who is this Word?
• “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) This Word is Jesus! He’s been there with God the entire time!

Knowing that Jesus has been around since “in the beginning,” it makes you wonder how long He’s known about the sacrifice He would have to make. Once again, the answer is, “the beginning.” God, being the loving, all-knowing Creator He is, has always known the choices we would make as frail, sinful humans. So He has always known that He would have to make a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

And that choice, that option, has always been Jesus.

Since the beginning of time, Jesus has known that He’d have to give up perfection in Heaven in order to live a few decades in poverty on Earth, followed by a brutal death on the cross. His sacrifice, life and death has always been the plan. For Jesus, Christmas wasn’t a holiday – it was his eternal destiny.

Today, think about the journey Jesus took from the throne room to the manger. Thank Him for being willing to take that journey. And think about what it means to you, and what you can do in response to what He’s done for you.

Reflection copyright © 2017 by Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Ultimate Christmas Countdown: Tuesday, December 5, 2017

20 Days Until Christmas!

Four ChristmasesSong:
“Deck the Halls” by Mannheim Steamroller
Christmas Album:
“Heavenly Christmas” by Jackie Evancho
Christmas DVD: “Four Christmases”
Netflix Movie: “Marry Me for Christmas”
Amazon Prime Movie: “Christmas Bunny”
Feeln Movie: “Another Christmas Kiss”
On TV:
• “Crown for Christmas,” 6 p.m., Hallmark
• “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” 6:45 p.m., FreeForm
• “Christmas Under Wraps,” 8 p.m., Hallmark
• “The Polar Express,” 8:55 p.m., FreeForm
• “Enchanted Christmas,” 10 p.m., Hallmark
Recipe: Green Bean Casserole

Quick Thought for Christmas 

Read

Philippians 2:1-10

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth…
Philippians 2:8-10

Reflect
Who is the richest most powerful person that comes to your mind? These days, it might be Bill Gates or Donald Trump. Let’s go with Bill. (He is the richest man in the world, and he’s a lot less recognizable than the Donald…)

There are times when I’d like $80. Put a capital B on the end of that and you have Bill Gates. Yes, he’s worth close to $80 billion. The man wants for nothing. He lives in a 66,000-foot mansion called Xanadu 2.0 that has an underwater music system and artwork that changes on the wall at the touch of a button. He’s on top of the world, and will be for the rest of his life.

Now, imagine that Bill Gates decides to do away with all of that. One day he simply disappears, leaving a note that he is going away to live a simpler life. He uses some of his money to give himself a new face and invite a new persona. Several months later, this new man appears – Tom Smith. He has a job making just enough to make ends meet. He eats junk food. He drives an old used car.

Who would do that? I doubt Bill Gates would, and I wouldn’t either.

But that’s what Jesus did. He gave up the greatest riches ever known, even Heaven itself, to come and live among us. And it wasn’t just a social experiment. He did it so that at the end of a perfect life, He could give that life up so that we would have a way to spend eternity with Him. His sacrifices – both on Heaven and on Earth – are our ticket to Heaven.

When you look at the manger this Christmas, take a look both back and forward. Look at where that baby’s journey started and ended. It started at the right hand of God in Heaven. And it ended nailed to a rough-hewn cross. Those are some sacrifices worth taking to heart, and definitely worth thanking God for.

Reflection copyright © 2017 by Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Your favorite Christmas movies in 4 minutes!

A few years ago I put together a Christmas movie montage for the Christmas Eve service at our church. It’s become part of my Christmas tradition each year since then to watch that video at the outset of the Christmas season. I hope that it can become part of yours as well. Please feel free to share it with anyone you feel needs to get into the spirit of the season.

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Ultimate Christmas Countdown: Monday, December 4, 2017

21 Days Until Christmas!

Song:
“The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” By Nat King Cole
Christmas Album:
“Elvis’ Christmas Album” by Elvis Presley
Christmas DVD:
“Arthur Christmas”
Netflix Movie: 
“A Christmas Prince”
Amazon Prime Movie:
“Christmas Angel”
Feeln Movie: 
“Gift of the Magi”
On TV:
• “While You Were Sleeping,” 6:15 p.m., Showtime
• “Elf,” 6:40 p.m., FreeForm
• “National Christmas Tree Lighting,” 7 p.m., Hallmark
• “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” 8 p.m., ABC
• “Miss Christmas,” 8 p.m., Hallmark
• “The Holiday,” 8 p.m., Lifetime
• Monday Night Football, Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
• “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” 8:50 p.m., Freeform
• “A Rose for Christmas,” 10 p.m., Hallmark
Recipe: Christmas Bread Wreath

Quick Thought for Christmas 

Read

Luke 1:13-17

“And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.
Luke 1:16-17

Reflect
Just as God wants to prepare us to celebrate this Christmas, He was also preparing the hearts of His people for the coming of his Son more than 2,000 years ago.

The scripture above is from the account of Zechariah, who was the father of John the Baptist. Before the birth of Christ, John’s birth was also something of a miracle. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah were considered much too old to have a child, but here was Elizabeth, most definitely pregnant. Of course, Zechariah found it hard to believe that he was going to be a Dad, even when an angel came to announce it to him.

But as a sign that the pregnancy was real, and that the child was going to be very special, God made Zechariah unable to speak until after John was born. And before the angel left, he let the father-to-be know just how vital his son was in preparing people for the Messiah: “…he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah…”

The Jews of the day might not have been as devout as they should have been, but they still greatly revered Elijah. And now an angel was saying that Zechariah’s son was going to be born to elderly parents, and would minister like Elijah did. That must have seemed impossible!

Of course, John was born just as predicted, and Zechariah finally got a chance to speak again. When he did, he had some very important words to share in the form of a prophecy about John and his cousin, Jesus. You can read that here.

Even better than John’s birth was his ministry. He did, indeed, prepare the way for Jesus to minister in Israel. And the earliest of Jesus’ followers were men who had first heard about God’s plan from John. Their hearts had been prepared for the message of Christ by the strong words of John the Baptist.

In just a few weeks, we will celebrate the coming of Jesus once again on Christmas Day. In this pre-Christmas season of Advent, it’s so important to prepare our hearts for that day. It’s so much more than a time to celebrate Santa or gifts or great food. It’s a time to remember that Jesus came to make a way for us to spend eternity with Him and with God the Father. If you haven’t started already, spend a few minutes today in prayer that the Lord will keep you less focused on the noise and clamor of the season, and more focused on Jesus, the real reason we celebrate.

Reflection copyright © 2017 by Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Ultimate Christmas Countdown: Sunday, December 3, 2017

22 Days Until Christmas!

Song: “Who Would Imagine a King,” by Whitney Houston (from “The Preacher’s Wife”)
Christmas Album:
“Adore,” by Chris Tomlin
Christmas DVD: “The Shop Around the Corner”
Netflix Movie: “A Christmas Kiss II”
Amazon Prime Movie: Lawrence Welk Christmas Shows
Feeln Movie: “Off Season”
On TV:
• “Christmas With the Kranks,” 6 p.m., FX
• “With Love, Christmas,” 6 p.m., Hallmark
• “Wrapped Up in Christmas,” 6 p.m., Lifetime
• “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 6:05 p.m., Freeform
• “Christmas Under the Stars,” 7 p.m., BYUTV
• “The Santa Clause 2,” 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., FX
• “Christmas at Hallmark Lodge,” 8 p.m.,” Hallmark
• “A Christmas Prince,” 8 p.m., Lifetime
• Sunday Night Football: Philadelphia at Seattle, 8:20 p.m., NBC
• “The Santa Clause,” 8:45 p.m., Freeform
• “Dear Santa,” 10:15 p.m., Lifetime
• “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” 10:45 p.m., Freeform
Recipe: Cocoa Thumbprints

Quick Thought for Christmas 

Read

John 3:16-21

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

Reflect
Most of us think about gifts in terms of things that come in boxes covered with shiny wrapping paper and finished with a bow. But sometimes, the best gifts aren’t things you can buy in a store. They’re things that you can’t value with a dollar amount, and they’re given sacrificially from the heart.

Often, those gifts will be the perfect thing given at the perfect time. No other gift will do at that moment, because that gift is the one thing that “saves the day.” Here’s a story that should give you an idea of exactly what I’m talking about.

Imagine a bridge that crossed a wide river. This was an old style of bridge, not like the ones near my home in Jacksonville, Fla. Those bridges were built high so that ships could pass underneath them without being raised. No, this bridge turned from the center sideways so that boats could pass on either side of it. The only time that ever changed was when a train was coming. Then, the switchman would pull his switch, and the bridge would turn into place. If he didn’t do his job, the train would hurtle off the tracks and into the river.

One day, as he waited for the last train of the day to come, the switchman saw its lights in the distance, and he did his job. But as he pulled the switch, he saw that, though the bridge turned as it was supposed to, it didn’t lock into position. That was just as bad as if the bridge hadn’t turned, because the unlocked bridge would jump under the weight of the train, and the train would jump the tracks into the river anyway. Every life on the train depended on what he did next.

Without a second thought, the switchman jumped into action and ran across the bridge to the other side of the river. There, he found the manual switch that he could pull and hold as the train crossed. The catch was that he had to stay in place the entire time, putting all of his weight onto the lever to hold the switch in place.

Just then, the man heard the sound of his son’s voice. The boy had decided to look for his father. Because he didn’t find him where he usually was on the other side of the bridge, he was now crossing the bridge, calling out as he walked. “Daddy, where are you?” he cried. The switchman was horrified. He so desperately wanted to run and pick up his son and carry him to safety. But if he did, the life of every person on the train would be lost. The roar of the train was so close that the boy couldn’t hear his father calling to him to run to safety. So all the poor switchman could do was hold on to the lever tightly, crying as the train rushed over the bridge, crushing his son instantly as it passed.

The passengers on that train might never have known about the gift they were given that day by the switchman. He had sacrificed his son’s life so that all of them could live. And his gift – holding that lever in spite of what he was losing – was the only remedy for the tragic fate that awaited them if he hadn’t done that.

Each of us has a situation that faces us. Our sinful imperfections keep us separated from a perfect God. But with ultimate love, He gave us the only gift that could bridge that gap – the life of His Son as a substitute. As a loving Father, He undoubtedly felt unbelievable pain when Jesus’ life was claimed on the cross. But in the long run, the sacrifice is worth it when even one person accepts that sacrifice in their heart and proclaims Jesus as their Lord.

Please don’t wander through this Christmas season aimlessly, focusing merely on shiny packages and pretty bows. Make sure you focus on the biggest gift of all – God’s love, expressed through the sacrifice of His Son. The festivities of the season will be even more rich and meaningful when you’re best friends with the One whose birthday we’re preparing to celebrate!

Reflection 7copyright © 2017 by Doug DeBolt.

Allegory adapted from “To Sacrifice a Son” by Dennis Hensley

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Ultimate Christmas Countdown: Saturday, December 2, 2017

23 Days Until Christmas!

Were-No-AngelsSong: “Go Tell It on the Mountain” by Needtobreathe
Christmas Album:
“Christmas Treasures” by Various Artists
Christmas DVD: “We’re No Angels”
Netflix Movie: “A Christmas Kiss”
Amazon Prime Movie: “7th Heaven: Here Comes Santa Claus”
Feeln Movie: “Rodeo and Juliet”
On TV:
• AAC Football Championship, noon, ABC
• MAC Football Championship, noon, ESPN
• C-USA Football Championship, noon, ESPN2
• Big 12 Football Championship, 12:30 p.m., FOX
• SEC Football Championship, 4 p.m., CBS
• “Switched for Christmas,” 6 p.m., Lifetime
• “A Very Merry Toy Store,” 6 p.m. Lifetime
• “Elf,” 7 p.m., Freeform
• ACC Football Championship, 8 p.m., ABC
• Big Ten Football Championship, 8 p.m., FOX
• “A Madea Christmas,” 8 p.m., BET
• “Good Luck Charlie – It’s Christmas!” 8 p.m., Disney
• “Christmas in Evergreen,” 8 p.m., Hallmark
• “Four Christmases and a Wedding,” 8 p.m., Lifetime
• “Tiny Christmas,” 8 p.m., Nickleodeon
• “Office Christmas Party,” 9 p.m., Showtime
• “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 9:10 p.m., Freeform
• “The Sweetest Christmas,” 10 p.m., Hallmark
• “The Ugly Christmas Sweater,” 10 p.m., Lifetime
• “The Sweetest Christmas,” 10:15 p.m., Lifetime
Recipe: Day-After Turkey Soup

Quick Thought for Christmas 

Read

James 1:2-18

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17

Reflect
It’s Christmas morning. After waiting for more than an hour for everyone to wake up, you finally have the family sipping coffee and egg nog and gathered around the tree for the annual Christmas present explosion. Like most people, you have carefully scouted the tree for presents with your name on them, and you know exactly where they are. Better yet, you know which ones have a solid chance of being presents with the best stuff inside. You know, the ones that were either on your list, or that exceed your list’s expectations.

This year, your family decided to go without wish lists. That seemed risky to you, but your Mom and Dad said they wanted to figure out what you wanted without you telling them in any way. If you’d been able to tell them, you would have revealed this list:

  • An Xbox with the latest “Call of Duty”
  • A new sound system that includes a powerful subwoofer
  • A giant pillow that looks and smells like a chocolate chip cookie
  • A new iPhone
  • Cash, preferably in $10s and $20s

Any of those would have been great. All of them would have been unbelievable. And as you begin to open the presents, the first box you tear through has the iPhone. Yes! They were paying attention. Then, the cookie pillow. How did they know? Then the sound system. OK, this is getting spooky. Next, the big box in the corner. There’s no way, but it’s was true! An Xbox, with a bunch of games, including “Call of Duty.”

This Christmas was perfect already, but your Dad then walks up and says, “Son, I love you so much, and I just want the very best for you.” With that, he puts an envelope in your hand. You open it to see a stack of $100 bills.

OK, so if that happens to you, you might have the most amazing parents in the world. Not only are they super generous, but they also are incredibly perceptive to know exactly what you want. That seems impossible, right?

But that’s exactly what our Heavenly Father is like. No, He’s not there to give us every item on our wish list. But He absolutely knows what’s best for us, and He provides for us every day. When was the last time you had to go look for air? Or water? And most of us never have to want for food or clothes or most anything that we really need or want. He’s the most steady and stable thing you’re ever going to find, and He really does care about you.

As you continue toward Christmas, take a deep breath and thank God for the air in your lungs. Go get a glass of water and thank Him for sustaining your life for another day. And when you sit down for your next meal, definitely start by giving thanks for the food you’re about to eat. Thank Him for the little things, and for the big things, and His love is the biggest thing of all.

Reflection copyright © 2017 by Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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