Snow came early to my friends Ursula and Hans Peter at their home in Schafhausen (northern Switzerland). The combination of the green rosebush, the pink rose, and the white snow is an image for this Christmas Season. The verse from Isaiah 1:18 tells the real reason for the Chrismas Story-
Reconcillation with God through the life and death of Jesus Christ.
What’s Happening This Month
December is finals exam time for our students in Nicaragua. Our team is very busy with grading the exams and computing final grades for each of our 1326 students. It is a cool time on the Rio Coco, and families are harvesting rice and preparing for the Christmas celebration. You who sponsor one of our “Rio Coco Kids”: Thanks you for your faithfulness this 2014 school year!
At the Rio Coco Café we are taking opportunity this Christmas season to celebrate the “Reason For The Season”. The Saturday Morning Symposium is focusing on “The Real Christmas Story” and we are having many conversations with our European, Middle Eastern, and American Friends about why we celebrate Christmas. It’s a great opportunity for us all to share true relational Christianity!
Christmas Is All Around Us! by Michael Bagby
It is the time for celebrating the most important event that ever occurred in this world: Our Creator made a personal appearance to his Creation, disguised as a human being. We call this celebration “Christmas”.
But often we hear “Happy Holidays!”
Doesn’t it seem like our culture has taken Christmas and turned it into a materialistic celebration void of true meaning? The cultural battle between secularists and the followers of Jesus is most often noticed in these last weeks of the year. I saw a clip on the news of the leader of a national atheist organization who was protesting his feeling of “alienation” during the Christmas holidays, and encouraging his fellow atheists to not let the Christians make them feel like they had nothing to do with the Christmas celebration.
Think about that one for a moment! “Happy Holidays”
Yet even if the secularists attempt to hijack this most sacred Christian celebration, there is adequate evidence in our Christmas season that give a hearty witness that Jesus is indeed the reason for this season. This confirmation is so obvious that it should give us ample opportunity to witness to our secular friends the deep significance of this celebration. Just consider these four symbols of Christmas in our modern culture:
1) The Christmas Tree. In 595 Pope Gregory sent a Benedictine monk named Augustine to England to bring Christianity to the British tribes. They decided that part of their strategy would be to take pagan holiday celebrations and attach a Christian significance to them to help them remember the message of the Gospel. Augustine and later missionaries to northern Europe chose a pagan celebration of the winter solstice (December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere) as a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. One of the principle symbols of the winter celebration was the evergreen tree, which never loses its leaves. It became the symbol of “Everlasting Life”.
When you see a Christmas Tree this month, think: “Jesus came to bring us everlasting eternal life”.
2) Holly. The holly leaf is prickly. Its berries are red. Christians have traditionally used holly to remember Jesus’ Crown of Thorns and the drops of blood spilled on Calvary for our forgiveness of sins.
So when you see Holly, think: “Jesus died on the Cross so that our sins could be forgiven.”
3) The Nativity Scene. It’s the birth of The Baby in a crowded cave home in Bethlehem in the part of the cave where the sheep and goats lived. The Baby is laid to sleep in a feeding trough (manger). The Nativity Scene reminds us God came to Earth as a frail, helpless Human Being who had to rely on his mother and father to survive. It’s The Incarnation! God coming to be among us in a suit of flesh, growing up in near poverty, working a hard manual labor job, paying taxes, being politically oppressed by the Romans, personally insulted, and persecuted by the religious authorities.
When you see a Nativity Scene, think: “Jesus was all man and all God. He understands what it means to be me.”
4) Santa Claus. Our fat man in the red suit with the white hair and beard is actually the modern representation of a fourth Century Christian Bishop named Nicholas from Patara, Asia Minor, who was known for his gift giving. Nicholas’ wealthy parents died while he was a child, and he used his inheritance to help many people in his city, especially the poor. Nicholas realized what a great gift God had given him through the life and sacrifice of Jesus- Eternal Life. He was only following Jesus’ example of giving it all to those who had great needs.
Whenever you see the fat man in red this season, think: “Jesus came to give me the greatest gift- Eternal Life with God”.
Christmas is all about the arrival of God on Earth, His Life explaining the things of God to us in a way we could understand, and then dying on the cross so that sins could be forgiven and we could have Eternity with God.
This is the Christmas Message! There is no other!
Merry Christmas! It’s Time To Celebrate! MB
Lamb Bleatings By Laura Bagby
Michael and I returned from Nicaragua after visiting with our leaders, teachers, children, missionary and Miskito friends. Truman and Mirna (Project Director of 30 years) have a slew of grandkids and relatives they are helping and raising or putting through school. For virtually all the years I have known them, they have cared for people along the way and given in a way that has inspired me.
When Michael first started working alongside of Truman during the refugee days, they really helped to keep my husband fed and cared for. It is difficult to fathom how we made it through those times and the years that followed into Project Ezra, Discipleship training center, recording studio for music , Bible teachings to be recorded & heard along the Coco River.
Our students and families still live in fourth world conditions…..no electricity, running water, toilets…they still grow their own rice and beans and work VERY hard just to survive.
Life is very different than what most could ever imagine. There is something so gratifying about being in the midst of simplicity and beauty of that nature. Helps with my perspective and attitudes I possess. (photo: Laura watches our friends in Sawa dry and bag up their meager rice harvest- much was destroyed by and untimely flood!)
As the years have gone by, I have realized that though my Miskito friends and I live in totally different cultures and worlds, we have more in common than I have with most that live in my own culture. I relate on many levels with my “Wangki” (Coco River) friends . We have endured similar health issues and challenging spiritual attacks over the years. My friend Mirna, Truman’s wife is having a horrible time with her feet that is turning black and is hurting from the inside out. We need prayers for her and her healing. Her other leg is showing the beginnings of the same thing. This has been going on for about 4 years.
Michael has had an infection on and off for the last two years and this too has been bothersome and perplexing to us.
My friend Sonya, Onofre’s wife (our Bible teacher) has been in a saddened state over the “accidental’ shooting of her son two years ago. It has been a hard season. Mirna, like me, just lost her mom. Berta was inspirational to me. The week or so prior to her passing she asked, Danilo, her grandson to please make her a casket. He did and that made her happy. I got to see her tomb in his yard when I got there as he told me the story. He said that the day she died she got up in the morning and walked around & visited people in the village of Sawa and then went home and “fell asleep”. She was sharp and “with it “ till the very end at age “about 104”. She was ready to go with Jesus!
There are times of weariness in the journey here. We human beings are always working through something or other especially if we are desiring the Lord to take over our lives more and more. He does, but that often involves pain and labor to birth new life in and through us.
My prayer has been to have greater freedom, intimacy and more depth of satisfaction in my relationships. Only the Master of relationship can teach us how to do that. He created relationship with us to show love and His glory. We do well to stick to, focus on, go to that Source of all intimacy. Every other person, place, circumstance, conflict, situation or thing can easily distract from the true reason of our being.
Celebrating Christ in me, my only hope of glory, is the reason for this season and every season of my life. I love Christmas because we get to celebrate the birth of the One that gives purpose to Life not only in my heart but also with many of those around me. We have felt a sense of gratification in seeing the gift of our relationship with our kids on the Rio Coco bearing fruit within the communities we work in. We are also gratified what God is doing within our own family where our children are growing in appreciation of their relationship with Christ.
Merry Christmas from The Bagby Family!
This is the month for giving, and many of you have been faithful givers this year. You have sponsored Miskito students on the Rio Coco, you have supported our Seek The Lamb missionary team, and you have contributed to the school project in Nicaragua. We thank you for that!
Please pray this month of December that:
1. God’s Message of the Christmas Season would be communicated through us all;
2. God will continue to provide for all the teachers and missionaries of Seek The Lamb;
3. God will give us complete health as we begin the new year.
We value your prayers! They make a difference!
Rio Coco Bean Coffee
This month we are roasting some delicious coffee at our Vero Beach Roastery. We can have it to your door in just a few days.
Thanks for spending time with us this month. We know that you have many choices where to spend your time.