Today, some people are trying to remove any public mention of Christ at Christmas, while others seem bent on secularizing it completely. So let’s look at the meaning of some of the Christmas symbols. The small holly berries are thought to have originally reminded Christians of the drops of Christ’s blood caused by the crown of thorns He wore on Calvary. The evergreen trees speak of the promise of never-ending life resulting from His resurrection. The Celtic cross has a circle surrounding the intersection of the vertical and horizontal axis of the cross. Some believe it originated with St. Patrick, who, upon seeing a round symbol of the moon goddess, drew a Christian cross over it—changing a Druid symbol into a new symbol for Irish Christianity. In the same way that St. Patrick adopted a pagan circle and gave it a new meaning, so other Christians adopted the evergreen wreath and gave it a new meaning. When early Christians changed the Roman winter celebration of the solstice, the “rebirth” of the sun (December 21), to a celebration of the birth of the Son of righteousness, the evergreen wreath was adopted. Instead of simply being a garland, the round Christmas wreath now speaks of the never-ending unity and fellowship we have with God through Christ. So when you hang a wreath on your door or over your fireplace this Christmas, remind yourself that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39 NKJV).
Christmas symbols - December 24
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of Hi
December 24, 2019 • Bob Gass
This year, get out of your rut! - December 31
“The Lord spake unto me, saying, ‘Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.’” • December 31, 2019 • Bob Gass
A biologist experimented with what he called “processional caterpillars.” He lined up caterpillars on the rim of a pot that held a plant so that the lead caterpillar was head-to-tail with the last caterpillar, with no break in the parade. The tiny creatures walked around the rim of the pot for a full week before they died of exhaustion and starvation. Not once did any of them break out of line and venture over to the plant to eat. Food was only inches away, but their follow-the-crowd instinct was stronger than the drive to eat and survive. The same thing happened to an entire generation of Israelites. They walked in circles in the wilderness for forty years, even though they were only eleven miles from the Promised Land. If you’re in a rut today, ask yourself these three questions: (1) Is this rut of my own making? You choose a rut because it’s comfortable and requires no risk. And getting out of it requires courage and a willingness to make tough choices you follow through on. (2) Who am I following? You adopt certain patterns because someone has taught them to you directly or by example. Instead of mindlessly following the crowd, seek God’s will for your life and commit yourself to doing it. (3) Where am I going? The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). If you want to get out of the rut you’re in today, ask God to give you a vision for your life—He will! And when He does, pour yourself into it.
Taking responsibility and risks (3) - December 30
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV • December 30, 2019 • Bob Gass
Guess which big company felt like “choking on its own candies” after it elected not to feature one of its products in the 1982 blockbuster film E.T.? If you said M&M’s, you’d be right! How did it happen? Turns out the Mars candy bar company executives decided nothing could be gained from allowing their M&M’s candies to be used in what some of them considered “a silly movie.” Consequently, the little boy Elliott wound up luring the loveable alien E.T. with Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces. That one scene drew millions of customers worldwide into candy stores in quest of Reese’s Pieces! Thanks to this movie mega-hit, Hershey’s sales shot up 65 percent! It’s interesting that the Mars executives who said “No” probably lived in big houses, drove big cars, and earned big salaries. Yep, doubt and fear stalk the rich as well as the poor; you’ll find nay-sayers at the top and bottom of the corporate ladder. Recall these words from the famous poem by John Greenleaf Whittier: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’” Think of all the times opportunity knocked and nobody answered. Are you standing before a door of opportunity today? Are you afraid to walk through it? Don’t be. God is with you. His Word says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” When God gives you a gift, He gives you the grace and grit to use it. So step out in faith, “commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3 NLT).
Taking responsibility and risks (2) - December 29
“Well done, good and faithful servant!” Matthew 25:23 NIV • December 29, 2019 • Bob Gass
In 1975, a low-level Hewlett-Packard engineer called Steve Wozniak, whom nobody had ever heard of, shared a dream with his pal, Steve Jobs. It was about building an easy-to-use personal computer to sell to the masses around the world. The pair worked around the clock to create their compact PC. But when they offered it to Hewlett-Packard, one of the world’s great companies, the powers-that-be failed to see its incredible potential and gave it the thumbs down. So Wozniak and Jobs went off on their own and founded a little company called Apple Computers—and revolutionized the computer industry! There’s no shortage of people who will tell you, “It can’t be done” or “It won’t work.” There’s a name for those people: dream killers—and if you listen to them, you’ll give up before you even begin. Behind every major accomplishment you’ll find ordinary people with dreams who are willing to take responsibility and risks. They are the people who enjoy the rewards! Jesus wrapped up one of His parables with these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” In spite of your failures, your struggles, and your limitations, if you’re willing to disregard the naysayers, step out in faith, and use the gifts God has given you, He will see to it that you succeed.