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On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of the One who told us, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” But on holidays like this that emphasize parties and socializing, many people feel lonely or abandoned. This year, even people who normally get invitations may be feeling lonely and isolated. They may not realize how many people really do care about them. Let this story from Linda in North Carolina be a reminder:

"Several years ago, we had a family up the hill who were having a very rough time. They had broken glass in their windows, no heat and no prospects for a nice Christmas.

We got neighbors together and one day when they were gone, the men went up and put in new glass, bought heaters and warmed up their trailer and went to get them a Christmas tree. The ladies and kids made ornaments, went to stores and got donations of toys and clothing, food and electric blankets. We all met at the trailer, cooked, decorated, put up the tree, wrapped packages, and made beds with the new blankets then went to our home to wait for them to return.

A while later, the family came running down the hill in the snow and flew into our house, trying to tell us through tears what someone had done. The mother couldn't believe that so many people cared about them. She didn't realize it, but being able to do that for them made Christmas very special for all of us.”

Thank you, Linda, for that perfect story to remind us that the gifts that give us the most satisfaction aren’t those we get, but the ones we give to others.

Coming home this Christmas

December 26, 2021

Sadly, this Christmas Eve, many families are unable to gather from far and near, as they usually do. But this story perfectly illustrates how only something as extreme as a pandemic can keep us apart from the ones we love at this blessed time of year.

A listener named Phyllis wrote that it was Christmas Eve, 1942. A young woman was waiting, pregnant and alone, for her husband of 4 months, who'd been drafted into the Army and was training to be a pilot somewhere in the Arizona desert. He had written to her that he couldn't get leave, so they would not be together on their first Christmas as husband and wife. Refusing to let herself get discouraged, she kept a light on in the window as she wrapped a few gifts.

Meanwhile, he was way off in Arizona, quietly reading letters from her, when his sergeant came into the barracks and asked what he was doing there on Christmas Eve. When he heard about the soldier’s pregnant wife, the sarge gave him permission to go home. But that was just the first obstacle down.

The young private grabbed a few belongings and raced to find any way to get back to California. But there were no more trains or buses that night. So he walked to the nearest highway and stuck out his thumb.

Somehow, he hitchhiked 450 miles home. His last ride dropped him off several miles from the cottage where his pregnant wife was. He walked the last few miles in pitch darkness, assuming that at that late hour, his wife would have long since gone to bed. But as he neared the little house, he saw the light shining in the bedroom window.

When he opened the door, he found his darling, still awake and thrilled to be in his arms again. She'd waited up for him, never giving up hope that her dearest would find some way to be home for Christmas. Phyllis wrote, "This true story was told to me by my dad before he passed away in 2000. The young couple were my parents…And I was the baby they were expecting."

I'm glad that Phyllis’ parents' faith in the power of love to overcome all obstacles was passed down to her, and I thank her for passing their family’s cherished story on to us.

Christmas is a time for prayers and miracles, and one often follows the other. Rosalin from Virginia shared a story that proves God sometimes shows a very personal interest in us, if we’ll just ask Him into our lives. She wrote:

"Years ago, when our children were younger, we ran into hard times. It was a Wednesday morning, and Christmas was on Saturday. We had no money for Christmas gifts and no savings in the bank. My husband was home without work as a carpenter. He suggested we join hands and pray, which we did.

Three hours later, friends of ours called from New York to tell us that they'd received a large Christmas bonus from work, and God put our family on their hearts. They told us they'd sent us $350 through Western Union...not knowing of our situation. We picked up the check and went Christmas shopping. It was a GREAT lesson my children will NEVER forget!"

Thank you, Rosalin. That's a great story that none of us will ever forget!

This time of year, one of the many great holiday songs we always hear is the late, great Glen Campbell’s “Christmas Is For Children.” That sentiment was also on the minds of many of my radio listeners whose most treasured memories of Christmas were tied to childhood – either their kids’ childhoods or their own

Some were of the “Kids Say The Darnedest Things” variety. For instance, Joe from Georgia recalled when his son was 7, their church had a pancake breakfast with a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake for the kids, and the Lord’s Supper for adults during the Christmas Eve service. His son tugged his sleeve and asked, “Dad, why am I allowed to eat the Lord’s Breakfast but not His supper?”

An eternal theological question, my son!

There's something about the excitement of Christmas that makes children even more hilariously discombobulated. Cleve from New Mexico wrote, "At our house, we always opened our presents on Christmas morning. I remember the first year my daughters were really, really, really looking forward to Christmas. On Christmas Eve morning, they jumped out of bed, ran into the kitchen, and hollered, 'Today's the night we get up in the morning!!'"

Well, they were right: it was!

Dolores from Texas recalled that during the Depression, her parents gave her and her sister Betsy Wetsy dolls, and made a little suitcase and a whole wardrobe for them. Dolores said it was the “best Christmas ever!” The girls were so excited, they didn’t even realize until years later that those were actually their old dolls, all cleaned up. The moral: To a child, a gift doesn’t have to be new…just new to THEM.

Claudine from North Dakota shared this:

“When my kids were little, the church was getting together some toys, gifts and food items for a poor family who had just moved to our area at Christmas time. While looking in the pantry to see what we might have extras of, I asked my children what they would like to give. My daughter - then six years old - went to her room and brought down her Barbie doll complete with Barbie outfits, that she loved to play with. It was her only one. When I said, ‘Oh, honey, you don't have to give your favorite doll’, she said to me, ‘Mommy, if you just give what you don't want, it's not really giving, is it?’”

When you “give till it hurts,” as some people put it, it can actually feel pretty good. Thank you, Claudine, for reminding us that sometimes, parents can learn from children.

BettyJean from California had a favorite childhood Christmas memory that reminds us not to look a gift horse in the mouth. She wrote:

"I was born in 1928 in a small town in Montana. My mother died in 1929... (and) we were very poor...One Christmas my friend, Rex, whose parents had a restaurant in town, gave me a beautifully wrapped present. I was SOOOO EXCITED! Christmas Eve, my brother and I unwrapped our two presents. My brother watched me unwrap mine: a box of candy. And I can still hear him, 70 years later...yelling out, "DAAAAAD! THERE'S A PIECE GONE!!!!!"

I guess that proves little boys haven't really changed much in all these years!

Of course, Christmas is also a time when many of us former children experience the sadness of memories of parents who are no longer with us. I received many stories from people who were rocked by a flood of emotions at something as simple as coming across an old family decoration that their dad made, or the smell of a favorite family dish that mama used to cook. You never know what unlikely things might trigger overwhelming emotions.

For example, Linda from Texas recalled that her grandfather’s last Christmas gift to her dad just before he died was a shirt. He never wore that shirt. But he kept it hanging in his closet for the rest of his life, carefully preserved as a reminder of his dad.

Ellen from Oregon would understand that feeling. Her mother died of a brain tumor that had scrambled her thinking and sometimes made her a little exasperating. Just before Christmas, she made a big production of being driven to the post office to buy Christmas ornament postage stamps. She debated at great length before settling on the design, which she insisted on calling the “Jingle Bell stamps.” The postal clerk put three sheets of stamps in an onionskin envelope for her. Her mom proudly took them home, wrote “Christmas stamps” on the envelope, and displayed them on the windowsill for all to see. It seemed a little silly to Ellen at the time.

One month later, as she and her sisters were cleaning out their late mother’s house, Ellen came across her mom’s beloved Jingle Bells stamps in the onionskin envelope with her handwriting on it. She wrote, “I took them into the bathroom and cried.” She took the envelope with the remaining stamps home with her. Long afterward, when her husband needed a stamp, she opened the stamp drawer, saw them again, and cried again.

She began calling them the “Jingle Bell stamps,” too. There are only three stamps left, and there always will be. Ellen said she could never use them. She wrote:

“It’s almost as if when those stamps are gone, one more thread will be cut…But somehow I know I will never give up that little onion skin envelope. Whenever I buy stamps, it will always be in sheets, and I will always tuck them into that little onion skin envelope.”

Thank you for sharing that, Ellen. And please know that you are not alone. Many of us treasure things that might seem silly to others, but they hold value beyond gold to us. There’s no reason to be embarrassed about having a reminder of your mom in the stamp drawer. But it’s even better to know that we’ll always have memories of our loved ones who’ve left us tucked safely away in our hearts.

The greatest gift

December 24, 2021

One of the hardest jobs a parent faces is answering all those questions kids ask that sometimes force us to think about things that hadn’t occurred to us as adults. Mary from Ohio wrote:

“Our 6-year-old grandson, Isaiah, who was adopted from Guatemala, posed this question to his parents: ‘Was Baby Jesus adopted?’ Wow! The answer is so deep, and leads to so many other Biblical references to adoption. Joseph wasn't Jesus' father - God was, but Joseph raised him here on Earth. When we accept Jesus, we're adopted into His Heavenly Family, so we're all brothers and sisters. When we become a member of Jesus' family, we're also adopted into the Family of His chosen people, the Jews. So...it seems to me, not only was Jesus adopted, He was the author of Adoption. From the mouths of babes.”

Thank you, Mary. I have a feeling that as that special little boy has grown up, he’s given your family a lot to think about and a lot to be thankful for. And here’s a story that highlights another aspect of adoption, from the other point of view:

Tia from Kansas wrote that Christmas was always the hardest time of year to face, until she discovered a very personal connection to the true meaning of Christmas:

"When I was 16, I was alone and scared on Christmas -- having a baby that I decided to give up for adoption. For years afterward, I didn't like Christmas and never did much during the season. But the Lord changed my heart, showing me that I gave a beautiful gift to some family, my only son, just like He did. I've enjoyed and celebrated Christmas ever since."

Thank you, Tia. I know your son's adoptive parents would thank you a million times over, if they could, for the greatest Christmas gift they ever received. I’m sure Mary from Ohio would agree.

Prayer Tree - December 24

December 24, 2021

HEALTH & HEALING

"For Doug who just had a liver transplant"

"I had robotic surgery the end of Sept.for a prolapsed bladder. Due to a lack of proper communication, my son & daughter are not speaking. She feels her brother was "bossy" telling her I needed a ride to the hospital & he felt she was just being nasty. She feels her brother (he lives in my house) doesn't do anything & I am caught in the middle...so much that I will not be spending Christmas with either one of them. BTW - the surgery was not as successful as I had hoped & now I am dealing with severe osteoporosis. Thank you."

"My niece is expecting her fourth child. She had some rH issues with her third, but medical providers told her to go ahead with another. She found out she is now pre-diabetic. She has experienced serious bleeding issues over the past few weeks, including losing what they think was a twin. She is now 15 weeks and has just tested positive for covid. They more than anything want her to make it to 20 weeks, because then there are interventions should the rH issues become more serious. Please pray for her and the child's health - but also that she and her husband would be drawn closer to God through these circumstances, this journey. Thank you and God bless you!"

"My husband was run over by a log truck carrying the mail. The only part left of the car is where he sat. It tore the roof off the car. Pray his neck and head heals. He’s in major pain from that wreck. It knocked him out and he still is unclear of whAt happened."

"Prayer for healing from the effects of J&J vaccine nine months ago."

"Pray for my daughters friend Katie. Young women of 35. She’s battling lymphadema, a complication from Cerebral Palsy since birth. And also for a lower leg ulcer to heal. Thank you."

"My sons and I need prayer for healing..ty"

"Pray that my daughter and her husband open their eyes to what is real and that they wake up and heal their relationships with family."

"My 51 yr old son is in jail for molesting a young girl. As it's not his first offence, he has a federal charge against him. God gave me the gift of TRUST, to believe that He is in charge of John and all that he'll be going through. He needs to repent and see his sin for what it is. Hopefully, time will come that he'll be able to repent to the two girls, and help them heal from his lusting, inherited from his father. Thanks! He said at age 7, that he was called to preach. Hopefully, this will all be a part of his testimony someday!"

"Dan C. who is going through challenging health issues."

"Daughter has abandoned all family members"

"Please pray for my brother, Michael who has stage 5 prostate cancer. The cancer has spread to his bones. Please pray for his salvation. Thank you. Margie T."

"Please pray for my 18 year daughter Katie to be healed from her multiple chronic medical conditions. Thank you and may God bless you!"

"For a churchmember, Jeff who has Esophogial cancer and is very weak, that he may strengthen and recover."

"Please pray for heal8ng and restoration of the Peter Boddie family and for our prodigals to come back to the Lord (Jeremiah 31:16-17)."

"Requesting prayer for my son Luke who needs God back in his life. He is an alcoholic, with 2 beautiful daughters and another baby on the way."

"Please pray for our medical workers, doctors, nurses, support staff, police, fire and first responders! They have been so overwhelmed by the loss of life during this pandemic. They are responding tirelessly to the needs of their communities at great risk to their and their families personal safety! They’re tired and worn out but not defeated! Let them know we are thankful to the Lord for their service and are lifting them up in prayer! A plate of goodies probably wouldn’t hurt either!"

"Michael Kline has Alzheimer’s"

"My dog (fur baby) Cora Belle has terminal bladder cancer. Please pray that I have the strength to let her go with dignity when her time is up."

"I'm requesting prayers for my estranged son, Joel. That he will be saved and stop preventing us from seeing our granddaughters. We would like for him to one day want to be part of our family again."

"About two or three weeks after I had my second covid shot my gastroparesis flared up. I was manageable with medication up until I got the second shot. I developed severe insomnia which I had never had in my life. I got to the point where I couldn’t eat anything. I began having pain across upper abdomen to the point where I would cry. My G.I. doctor referred me to a surgeon at you UAMS In Little Rock . He performed what is called a G poem where they slice one side of the pylorus so that the food will move more easily from your stomach to your small intestines It did not work. I went back to UAMS and they had to put a peg tube into my stomach that didn’t work. whatever I ate just sat in my stomach and went nowhere. Two days later they put a short extension tube into my small intestines and sent me home. I go back to the hospital on January 18 to have J tube put in. Please pray for me and the doctors who are going to perform the surgery. By his will and his stripes I am healed."

"Pray for a dear friend, Janice Kobey, that has been diagnosed with colon cancer. God's Will Be Done. Amen"

"My oldest daughter Debbie has stage 4 ovarian cancer, cannot keep food down, so she's starving to death and very weak. She's elected not to have chemo, but is using alternative therapies. My step-daughter Pam has stage 4 colon cancer, and is in terrible pain. Her legs hurt so badly she's practically bed-ridden. Her husband is afraid to leave her, so his construction income suffers. Her chemo costs thousands, and their situation is very precarious. Thank you for your concern and prayers!"

"MY SISTER LENA WAS PUT ON HOSPICE CARE A FEW DAYS AGO"

"My special needs son Danny. He’s battling covid in the hospital."

"My Nephew is fighting cancer ... his fight is long & hard ... he is 32 years old with a wife and 2 small children ... he has had 2 brain surgery's, kemo and other treatments ... he is a faithful man and fights very hard ... please pray for."

"Pray for Bud Atkins. He has been having mental problems."

"Thank you to everyone that is praying for Pastor Kenny W ... he has been in the hospital since November 25 dealing with Covid and Pneumonia ... he is improving and may get out of the hospital soon. Prayers work! God is Good!"

"Please pray for my husband Nelson. He had a stroke on November 28 that left his left side paralyzed. He went into rehab therapy but contracted Covid and an UTI. Please pray for strength and healing as he is back in rehab but very tired and weak. Thank you"

"Please help my friend, Susan who’s facing her third bout of cancer. She’s such a sweet dear person and always has a positive attitude. I can’t pray enough for her so please join me."

IN MEMORIAM

"Dottie B. who passed away this week."

"In memoriam for Grandpa, Dad, Joe, Aunt Peggy and Jeannie. Xoxo."

The story of Christmas is, at its heart, the story of the world’s joy at the birth of a baby. So it’s no wonder many people develop a deeper appreciation of Christmas after having children of their own.

Rod and Amy from North Carolina recalled that over 25 years ago, they were filling out paperwork to adopt a child from Korea. They wrote:

“Our then-3-year-old prayed every night that her baby would be home for Christmas, and she told everyone who asked that she was getting a little sister for Christmas. When Christmas came and went and we still hadn't heard from the adoption agency, we feared our little one's faith in a God who hears our prayers would be weakened.

But then, in February, we got the long-awaited call telling us about a gorgeous little girl named Joo Bin. Imagine our amazement, joy, and awe when we heard her birthday was…December 24. We had NO DOUBT she was ours!”

Thank you, Rod and Amy. And I’m sure you’ve never had a doubt in all the years since. Now, here’s another story about a baby that proves the best Christmas gifts come in small packages.

Mary B. Walsh of the nostalgic and inspiring “Dear Baby Boomer” blog (I highly recommend you check it out at http://dearbabyboomer.blogspot.com) shared this special memory of another child who appeared at Christmas. It was 1956, and Mary was five years old. Six glittering stockings were hung on the mantle. The kids circled the piano and sang as Dad played “Joy to the World” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Mary wrote:

“Snow was falling silently, draping our familiar world in soft flannel...It would be a white Christmas for sure! A muffled voice broke through the darkness. The playing stopped as we stood motionless, hoping to hear it once again.

‘It's a BOY! We have a BOY!‘

Dad threw open the window and a gust of chilly winter air swept in the joyous news. Our neighbor leaned out the window, waving her arms ecstatically, heralding the birth of her great grandson. Jimmy John would be a welcome addition to the family of three daughters! Waiting hot chocolate topped off the excitement before heading up to bed.

As I lay awake, gazing out at the full winter moon. I pondered the words we had sung... ‘Joy to the world...The Lord is come...Let earth receive her King...’ An only son had been born tonight, bringing joy which could not be contained. They wanted to share it with the world...Kind of like the angels so long ago. God's only son, born on a night such as this...Yet more than just a babe He was...

I thought back a year, remembering my oldest brother pointing out the silhouette of Santa's reindeer crossing in front of the moon out my window. I was sure I saw it too! How could I sleep? But this year was different. I closed my eyes and slept so peacefully... I was not looking for reindeer...for I had heard the angels sing!”

Thank you for sharing that beautifully written story, Mary. And I wonder if one more coincidence occurred to you? That the person who gave us this inspiring story of a precious child born on Christmas Day was named “Mary.”

Prayer Tree - December 23

December 23, 2021

HEALTH & HEALING

"Pray for my Chronic Sisnusites. Been to ENT Naturalpath, Chiropractor ect. I have been anointed and prayed for still God hasn't healed this. Family doctor said I would have to live with this, it is not fatal. I have had this for years but seems to be getting worst. SO Pray for Robert from Sundridge!"

"My friend Denise needs a kidney transplant. She’s O+ and her husband is. Now we find out that something in her body will reject his kidney. She just got a port put in she’s 57 years old. I pray she has a match for a kidney soon. She’s not doing well. Thank you all for your prayers ????????????"

"Please pray for healing for our sister Karen G. We are praying that her metastatic pancreatic cancer that has spread to lymph nodes and her bile duct will be healed. She also has severe liver disease that we are praying for complete healing of her liver. Thank you for your prayers"

"Annie for good health"

"please pray for my daughter and her husband that they will get their hearts desire, a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby by this time next year."

"Pray for healing from cancer for Mark, Toni and Debbie"

"Pray for healing for Vicki...esophagitis and allergies.. also arthritis. Thank you"

"My left eye was damaged by cancer (optic nerve).My retia was also damaged. The retia got repaired by an excellent eye surgeon but nothing short of a miracle will get it back to normal. I would appreciate prayer in this matter. thank you , thank you, H. Latt, USA., Ret."

"Linda Brown cancer, Porter Swords m, 10 yr old with brain tumor."

"Jerry McIntosh, in hospital on vent with Covid, great Christian man, and Terri Evick in hospital for 60 days with pancreatitis, wonderful Christian lady."

"Denise fell from a ladder. Her knee is in a lot pain" 

"Dennis is 71. He has pulmonary fibrosis which leaves scar tissue on his lungs. It creates labored breathing. "

"Our daughter Camille has been having major anxiety / panic attacks even though a doctor ran very exacting tests on her that showed her as absolutely healthy. Pray that she quits listening to Satan's lies, and that she is truly healthy."

"Please pray for my close friend Cindy she has lymphoma and is having a rough go of it. Stage one. "

"I am a Type 1 Diabetic and I am finding it difficult recently to manage my blood sugar levels mostly I am having problems with low blood sugar readings"

"Heart issues. Looks like aortic valve replacement."

"My sister-in-law started chemotherapy for cancer this week. Please pray for her. "

"I ask prayer for myself, I was saved 26 years ago and I doubted it, the joy is gone and I don’t know where I am with God."

"John Cashion for doors to open to be self sufficient as a entrepreneur "

"Please pray for healing for my young adult daughter who has been bedridden 3 years now. She needs an overhaul of her spine and pelvis nerves! This happened while she was graduating college and she is heartbroken. Jesus is the Great Physician! Heal her Dear Lord! We believe!"

"My dear friend of almost 50 years is in the hospital with 4 broken ribs and CoVid. She is the kindest and most understanding person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Plus, she is a devout Christian and I pray for her healing and eventual return to her home. Thank you!"

"Virginia , myself , am in desperate need for healing of my lungs ! I have experienced miracles in my life and need one now if it be Gods Holy Will! Amen"

"Help me, Jesus, not to be fearful that my cancer has come back. May my mammogram on December 27 be clear. I love you, O Lord, my strength, no matter what."

"Recently, a young, 22 yrs old, police officer, Tyler Moldovan, was shot 8 times responding to a call. He is in serious conditions and needs your, everyone’s, prayers."

"Please pray for my Dad and step-Mom as they battle the effects of aging. One has early stages of dementia and the other is battling post-Covid heart/lung ailments and crippling arthritis. In Jesus' name, thank you."

"Back in may my family cought the Covid (China) virus. Unfortunately, I being a medical very high risk individual who is a juvenile diabetic, dealing with high blood pressure, and kidney disease, had my organs temporarily faltering, was bleeding internally, and was on oxygen till July. With the prayers of so many true friends, and God's grace, I fully recovered! I simply wanted to take this opportunity to Thank my Lord and Savior, for staying by my side and answering all the prayers in my behalf! Thank You Jesus!"

IN MEMORIAM

"Richard Mulhare. 57 died after a 3 week coma. He leaves 3 children, the youngest a teenager. He was the epitome of a Christian. Such a great guy to know. "