Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You're Invited to a Celebration-Don't Miss It!

By Van Walton

Did you know that long before the foundations of the earth were laid, God wrote an invitation, one He personally sent to you and me thousands of years ago? Sounds incredible doesn’t it, but our God who sees a day as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day (2 Peter 3:8) made preparations for a series of celebrations and then invited all who would come.


God’s Invitation: (Exodus 12:1-13)” The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb…’ ” (NIV)

The Event: Passover celebrates escape from slavery in Egypt, marking the point in history when the displaced Jewish nation would begin its return to the Promised Land. God provided an escape for the Hebrew slaves. He said, “I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13b) NIV

Its Significance: Passover commemorates our own liberation. God sent His perfect Lamb who shed His blood on the cross that we would be saved from evil wrongdoing. Once a believer in Christ accepts His offer of salvation, the journey toward heaven begins. Today we walk, like the Hebrews did, in a wilderness. One day, like the Children of Israel, every follower of Christ will step “across the river” and enter into paradise, a perfect promised land.

Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He is The Way to freedom and eternal life!

Feast of Weeks or Pentecost

God’s Invitation: 'From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:15-16) NIV

The Event: In the middle of the summer as harvesting begins God’s children pause to thank Him for the gifts of provision, creation, and the law given on Mt. Sinai.

Its Significance: Jesus taught his disciples that He offers new life by fulfilling the law, not changing it. He spoke of the impossibility of keeping all the commandments and explained that a person who put their faith in Him and His shed blood for the forgiveness of sins would not be bound by the law.

Jesus fills the lives of believers with His Holy Spirit giving us direct access to the Father. “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49) NIV

Feast of Trumpets

God’s Invitation: “On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.” (Leviticus 16:24) NIV

The Event: Trumpets sound announcing the fall harvest, inviting everyone to the temple.

Its Significance: Jesus will announce His return to earth with the trumpet sound. (1 Thessalonians 4:16) All those who believe in Him are invited to join Him in heaven.

Jesus personally invites us to live with him in heaven.

The Day of Atonement

God’s Invitation: “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you- because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins.” (Leviticus 16: 29-30) NIV

The Event: The day following the Feast of Trumpets is the most solemn day of the year for the Hebrew nation. This is a Holy Day set aside for repentance and forgiveness of sins. During this day the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies within the temple and intercedes for the sins committed during the past year. Because God could not be approached directly, the high priest would make atonement for himself and the repentant people of the nation. (Leviticus l6).

Its Significance: When Jesus died, the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple ripped. This significant event opened the way for personal communion with God, the Father. Today anyone who seeks God will find Him through Jesus who constantly intercedes for our sins.

Jesus is the "new and living way." (Hebrews 7-10) He is our high priest. (Hebrews 7-10)

Feast of Tabernacles

God’s Invitation: “For seven days you must celebrate this festival to honor the Lord your God… This festival will be a time of great joy for all. This festival will be a time of great joy for all!” (Deuteronomy 16:15) NLT

The Event: While the escaped Hebrew slaves wandered in the wilderness, they lived in tents that they took down every time they moved and set up when it came time to camp. In the midst of their camps the priests set up a large tent – the tabernacle. The tabernacle traveled with the pilgrims. It was their place of worship, the place where God resided and could be approached by the priests who interceded for the sins of the people. Tabernacle means to live among. So one could say, “He tabernacled with us. He lived with us.”

Its Significance: The final series of Holy Days included a time when the entire nation would set up booths, tents or huts. For a week entire families camped out in temporary structures as a reminder that God provided for them when they wandered in the wilderness and He lived with them in the tabernacle they carried through the desert. Can you imagine the fun – the giant street party that took place and continues to happen today – when families move outside to celebrate the harvest and thank God for His provisions during the past year!

Jesus is our shelter. He is our refuge. Before He left His disciples, he promised to prepare a permanent dwelling place for His followers so we could live in eternity with the Father. (John 14:2-3)


One of the happiest days on the Hebrew calendar is the feast of Purim. Honoring victory over the Persians, Purim is observed some time during the month of March.
The heroine of the story is Esther, a beautiful Jewish commoner turned queen. During the time that she lived in the king’s harem, a hateful advisor to the king, plotted to annihilate the Jewish nation that resided in Persia. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, got wind of the horrendous plan and designed a way to save his fellow countryman. His scheme would not have succeeded without Esther because she had direct access to the king. The story, contained in the book of Esther in the Bible, is full of intrigue and drama culminating in victory for the foreigners.

Hanukah: Festival of Lights

This Jewish Holy Day, Hanukah, which means dedication and is associated with the rededication of the Holy Temple, is celebrated in remembrance of a miracle that took place during a very dark time in Hebrew history. During their occupation the Syrians entered the Holy Temple where the Jews worshiped, defiling the furnishings and contaminating the oil used for special rituals. All but one vial of oil had been made impure. How could they keep the eternal lamp burning without oil? A miracle occurred! The lamp burned for eight days on that one vial of oil. To show their gratitude to God, Hebrew families began a tradition in their homes of lighting small menorahs. Today Hanukah continues to be celebrated during the shortest and darkest of days, commemorating the miracle that kept the lamp in the temple glowing during a historical time of political and spiritual oppression.


Christmas is also celebrated during the darkest of seasons. We are reminded that Jesus is the light of the world. His light never burns out. He is The Way, The Truth and The Light.

Christmas, like Purim and Hanukah, is a holiday designed by mankind. No instructions in scripture give directions as to how Jesus’ birthday should be celebrated. Jesus does, however, instruct us to follow Him in a way that our lives would glorify God. So, as you celebrate Christmas, let each day be a Holy Day. May your life magnify God in the highest and bring peace on earth, good will to all. Why not take this moment to rededicate your life to God? Your body becomes His temple when you invite His Holy Spirit to live in your heart.

Van is the Director of Hispanic Ministries and a member of the P31 Speaker Team. She lives in Charlotte and spends part of each year in Missouri. She and her husband celebrate 36 years of marriage, rejoicing in the shared adventure of parenting their two grown sons, and anticipating their journey into the future. Van is the author of a children’s book “From the Pound to the Palace.” In her spare time, she writes and travels.


Top Ten Ways to Have a Stress-Free Christmas

By Marybeth Whalen

Marybeth is the author of a fantastic e-book entitled “A Recipe For Christmas Joy” ($9.95). This handy resource contains recipes, ideas, encouragement and thoughts on keeping Jesus at the center of your Christmas celebration. This book was designed to help you find that Christmas JOY your heart is longing for. Go to Marybeth’s website to purchase the e-book:

10. Find a Christmas cd that ministers to your soul and play it in your home. I especially like to do this towards the end of the day when I am making dinner! The soothing sounds and Christ-centered lyrics go a long way towards renewing my perspective.

9. Make memories by baking, crafting or engaging in other creative pursuits with your family. Carve out white space to make those memories happen. Remember that if you put just as much effort into the preparations and fun leading up to the day, it takes the stress off the day itself.

8. Prepare and stick to a budget ahead of time. Discuss purchases with your husband and have a team mentality in approaching Christmas. This isn’t a time for fudging on purchases or sneaking and using the credit card. If you don’t have the money to spend, then be honest with people—including your children. Pray that God would provide you economical ways to bless those you love and that He would supernaturally stretch your buying power this year.

7. Celebrate advent in some way. Go to for many ideas, or check out the many books of ideas that are out there. This helps everyone in the family to spiritually prepare for Christmas.

6. Be intentional about preparing ahead of time whenever possible. By being intentional about your Christmas and thinking things through, you can accomplish more with less stress. Sit down with your list before you run errands and map out a route to make your time more productive. Double recipes when you cook and use the extras as gifts. Maximize your time whenever possible.

5. Let go of control and embrace whatever the season brings. This Christmas isn’t going to be perfect. Illness, bad attitudes, and disappointment will creep in. Decide now how you are going to handle those things when they happen and allow yourself (and your Christmas) to fall short of your expectations.

4. Say no when you need to. Saying no may be just what your family needs—yet too often we say yes out of guilt. Decide with your family how much is too much and ask them to hold you accountable. Then banish the guilt with the knowledge that your priorities are in order!

3. Enlist your family’s support—especially in the areas that are not your strengths! Delegation is key. I have had my daughter address my Christmas cards for years. She enjoys doing it and I feel liberated!

2. Pray without ceasing. Keep up a running dialogue with your Heavenly Father all through the season. Bookend your day with prayer. Ask Him for whatever you need as the needs arise. Maybe it is an extra measure of forgiveness for that family member you have to see. Maybe it is more patience with your excited, hyper children. Maybe it is the time and energy to accomplish what is on your to-do list. Whatever it is, don’t forget to take it to Him.

1. Put the focus on Christ, not gifts. Make Jesus the center of your celebration, not an after thought. Begin with Him, then plan everything around Him. When you do this, it becomes easier to let go of the stress and “extras” and simply celebrate the gift of Him.

Marybeth Whalen has been married to Curt for 16 years. They are the parents of six children, ranging in age from toddler to teen. Marybeth is a speaker for Proverbs 31 Ministries and writes in her “spare” time. To learn more about Marybeth, go to


Looking for a way to reach out to your community during the Christmas season? Here’s a great idea from Renee Myers:

By Renee Myers

A few years ago I became irritated with all the people trying to take Christ out of Christmas. That’s when I became a self-proclaimed Candy Cane Crusader for Christ.

Armed with a purse full of candy canes often tagged with a poem about the candy cane and how it relates to Jesus Christ, I set out each day during December to distribute my goodies to as many people as I can. I give them to the people at registers and drive-up windows, people standing in lines, cranky children, and even to cranky adults. Every time I do I say a cheery, “Merry Christmas!” It’s always fun to see their faces soften into smiles. Children of all ages cheer up when receiving the unexpected treat. Teens seem to get the most excited.

My inspiration to do this began a few years ago when our pastor was appalled to learn that his daughter had been instructed not to say, “Merry Christmas” to customers at the department store where she worked. She was told it might offend some people. Then I started realizing that stores were selling holiday trees not Christmas trees, and the same was true for Christmas lights. Reports started circulating of more businesses instructing employees not to say, “Merry Christmas”. I found myself saddened by these changes and angered by the attempts of society to take Christ out of Christmas.

The very merchants who were enticing us to do our Christmas shopping by spending our Christmas money in their fine establishments were the same merchants trying to denounce the very reason for the season! I decided that something had to be done to keep Christ at the center of our annual celebration of Christmas, and that’s when I became a Candy Cane Crusader for Christ. Employees might not be able to say, “Merry Christmas” to me, but I can say it to them!

In addition to casting out candy canes to those I encounter, I also keep a stash of candy canes tagged with the candy cane poem in our newspaper box, too. Neighbors and those driving by to see our home’s Christmas lights are invited to take the candy canes when they come by. This helps each of us remember that all the lights, decorations, gift-giving and celebrations are in honor of the birth of our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Please join me in becoming a Candy Cane Crusader for Christ, too! All you have to do is prepare candy canes by tagging them with the poem about the candy cane. You can involve children by asking them to help with the tags. Pray over them before you go out each day, asking the Lord to bless those who will receive the candy canes. Then distribute them to as many people as you can throughout the month of December. As you do, be sure to say, “Merry Christmas!”

I order pre-printed tags with this poem from a popular greeting card supplier. You can also make your own tags with the following poem:

The Candy Cane

It’s just a little Christmas treat, but also did you know?
It represents our Savior born so long ago.
The shape is like a “J” to symbolize His name.
The white is for His life, holy without blame.
The stripe of red is for His blood so pure and freely given,
That we might spend eternity with our Lord in heaven!

Renee Myers is a wife, mother of two boys, She Speaks! Graduate, leader of Disciple Bible study, and is active in church women’s groups. You can read more of her work at

Other Christmas Outreach Ideas

If you have the gift of hospitality, or would like to cultivate that gift, consider hosting a get-together at your home.

-Christmas cookie baking party- have guests bring recipes and ingredients for their favorite cookies.

-Movie Night- Invite friends over to watch “The Nativity Story.”

-Gift Wrap Gathering- Have fun wrapping gifts together with friends and neighbors.

During this busy season, there are many people in our community who may feel forgotten. Consider reaching out to them with Christ’s love.

-Thank the people that work on the holidays in your community by bringing plates of food to your local fire station, police station or hospital.

-Bring flowers or small gifts to a nursing home in your area and/or sing Christmas carols for residents.