From our students along the Rio Coco in Nicaragua.
There are 1697 this year!
What do You mean when you say Merry Christmas?
This morning I asked our men’s group this question:
“What if a guy from Mars came to Earth and observed the Christmas holiday in the United States. What would he conclude is the purpose of this celebration?”
Many about the circle responded that materialism, drinking, and eating were what this holiday season focuses on. Then my friend Melih spoke up. “I am that man from Mars. When I emigrated from Turkey when I was in college, I had no idea what Christmas was, but after a few years of parties, and people giving me gifts, I concluded that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a continuous holiday focused on having a good time and buying things for friends and family. I knew nothing about Jesus and his coming to Earth.”
What is it that we are celebrating this season? Do we say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”?
When I was a child, we had no confusion what Christmas was about. The majority of Americans were Christians, who considered the Bible to be the basis of our moral and legal code. We understood that our nation had been founded by men and women who had a viable relationship with the Creator, or “Providence” as He was often called, and who understood and subscribed to His ways.
American is not that place anymore. Many have moved away from a Christian world view, and the morality of the Bible has been set aside in favor of following our own desires. Crosses that the last generation erected to honor God and His place in our culture are being taken down. Truth has been supplanted by Tolerance as our highest value. Prayers are more often not allowed in the public forum.
Are we happy with what we see in our world? How are the fruits of a secular worldview tasting? Yet Christmas remains a Federal holiday, and it is the biggest celebration of the year on our calendar.
This morning we watched a video talk given by the head of a theology school who suggested to us that Jesus was not trying to promote himself when on Earth, but more a lifestyle of peace, service, and love. He suggested that we Christians should become good listeners, and be sensitive to the other religions that now fill our cities. Our lives should reflect our Christian beliefs, and we should be careful not to offend others during this holiday season.
While I agreed with much of what the priest had to say, one of our guys pointed out that Jesus did come to Earth to proclaim Himself as the King; Our Savior; The Lord of the Universe. Here’s what Jesus told his disciples the night before his crucifixion.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you will know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!” John 14:6-7
Jesus’ mission to Earth had an aspect of promoting an awareness of his identity as our Lord. His other purpose was more personal for each of us. Jesus came to take care of the issue of sin that has separated mankind from God. As he told the priests and rabbis at the temple in Jerusalem;
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” John 10:14-18
Why is Jesus the Good shepherd who is going to lay down His life for His sheep? He tells us in his conversation with the Sanhedrin member Nicodemus:
And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:14-17
Jesus came to make things right with God and open the door to eternal life for anyone who would receive Him! What a gift from God. A free gift! Because of the great love that God has for all mankind, He wants the whole world to know that He is welcoming them with open arms. In fact, this is the message that He has given all of us to share with others.
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
What are you really saying when you say “Merry Christmas”?
I was at Home Depot a few nights ago, and when the cashier handed me my receipt, he said: “Merry Christmas. May the Lord bless you.”
I responded: “I too celebrate Christmas. May you have Merry Christmas too.”
I realized that this man celebrated Christmas for the same reason that I did. We both acknowledged our need for a Savior, and recognize the great privilege that God has given us by inviting us to become members of His family and spend eternity with Him. Christmas is a celebration of this great gift, and we both are very aware and thankful for it.
Today I spoke to a lady in California who supplied us with some parts for our coffee storage bins. She called to make sure that we were happy with the order. At the end of our conversation she said “Have a Merry Christmas!” I asked “Do you celebrate this holiday?” to which she responded “Yes! Our culture has some severe problems. We need Jesus! Thanks for asking. God bless you!”
She’s right. Even if that person we are with does not realize it, we all need God in our lives. He has told us to share our lives and our experiences with God with the people He places around us. We are the ones who will give the invitation to spend eternity with Him!
May Jesus, the reason for the season, fill your life, guide you, heal every hurt, and meet every need. May you indeed dwell in His presence and as a result have a
Have a Very Merry Christmas! Michael
Merry Christmas From our teachers in Nicaragua. We have 53 working with us this year.
Merry Christmas from our Project Ezra Leadership Team
Nutie, Tom, Rodolio, Onofre, Augusto,Carlos, Danilo, Laura, & Michael
Merry Christmas from the staff at the Rio Coco Cafes in Vero Beach and Utila Honduras!
Since bringing my dad back to Florida from Hawaii with me, I have had some of my most meaningful moments in my life. I think when people get older their true essence and character begins to come forth without much filter.
When I was back in college, I remember distinctly thinking, “Hey , I might want to work with older people…Geriatrics.” I got to work with the handicapped and now I am so thankful that we advocated for the rights of those in wheelchairs and other causes which make life easier for those that are physically challenged. My father is now physically challenged.
My dad has always been a can do kind of guy…building things, planting fruits, vegetables, landscaping, laying tile, plumbing, fixing cars, reading and investing and keeping track of life. Now he doesn’t care if he shaves or not and brushing his teeth is sometimes optional now (this never happened before) Tasks do not move him to action.
What moves my dad to action is only the important elements of life…the people he loves and cares about. He dislikes frivolity and nonsense, but he gets an obvious charge from people who take time to be with him and take the time to have eye to eye and heart to heart talks. Our moments have been sweet. My whole schedule is adaptive to him and his needs because he is so limited physically we do not feel it wise to leave him by himself. Its difficult for him to get up and down by himself so we physically help him which I think its good for his morale….to be touched by all of us physically moving him, massaging his feet or back. I told him that he reminded me of a “toddler” and that I thought I wanted to have a fifth boy child a long time ago and now I have my wish…he thought that was funny because he feels often like a helpless toddler not able to fully do anything by himself anymore. So we constantly thank God for all that he can and does do and the fact that he has his full faculties and still a great deal of wisdom and listening skills. It is a sweet precious time and he is a man worthy of our moments to help him and hang with him. He always comments on how blessed he is to have all of his children caring for him as we do. My children are involved with his care as well and we have our team mates at the café who also call him g pa. He is well loved.
He just got out of the hospital and we got a scare because he had a hard time breathing, but everything checked out fine and he is seemingly stronger and we believe just needs to get a little more water off through his dialysis treatment.
Please pray with us for daddy’s healing. We just found out one of our good friends who was diagnosed with stage four melanoma cancer who the doctors said they could do nothing for…got cleared and healed completely and there is medical proof that it is gone and no longer there.
We are experiencing little victories all along the way which we are thankful for but tonight dad told me perhaps God is waiting for him to ask …pray with us. Laura
Merry Christmas from The Bagby Family
Thank you for your many years of friendship and partnership in this project that has really had an impact on many corners of our world.
Mikaela, Michael, Laura, Moselle, Arielle, & Lukas
I’m so blessed to be working with these, who have become very able in their professions at the Rio Coco Cafe. They are touching many through the course of every week.