February 22, 2018

Away in a Manger

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If you were to ask me what my favorite Christmas carol/song would be, my first instinct would be to say “Away in a Manger”, by Mahalia Jackson.  (THAT version – it MUST be Mahalia!)  When I was in middle school my family moved to Nashville from Ohio, where we had literally lived around the corner from my grandparents.  Each year at Christmas break we would travel back to Ohio to spend two weeks with my grandparents and extended family.  I loved those times, we had too many people in too small of a house, but it was always a time of laughter, movies, cards, a TON of food and music – LOTS of music. One particular compilation album my grandparents owned included “Away in a Manger” by Mahalia Jackson.  I had never heard anyone sing like her!  What I didn’t realize then was that she had been an incredible gospel singer – and when she sang about Jesus, sisters, you were having worship! She sang “Away in a Manger” like she was singing in the presence of God.  Even at a young age, that song affected me at such a spiritual and emotional level that it still brings me to tears and worship – every time I hear it.

Fast forward to me as a college student, and the compilation album has been lost.  This track of Mahalia’s is nowhere to be found. No record, no tape (this shows you how old I am…), no CD of hers had it available, and I couldn’t find it on iTunes. I searched for this song for YEARS, sisters, no exaggeration.  Then one year, my closest friend at the time gave me a Christmas gift. “It’s not much,” she said, “but it was all I could get for you.”  I opened it to find….. a CD with the Christmas music of Mahalia Jackson and Nat King Cole – with “Away in a Manger” included.  SHE FOUND IT!! It was the one thing that mattered the most to me and she presented it to me in her true humble fashion. The best gift I had ever been given.  Well, by a person….

The best gift I have ever been given is the gift of Jesus.  And He, in turn, gives the best gifts!  James 1:17 says; “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit when we receive Christ as our Lord (Acts 2:38).  Romans 12:6-8 tells us that we are all given gifts in order to strengthen the body of Christ.   We are also given grace (thank You, Lord!): “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Perhaps you are like me. You have searched for years for the thing that would make you happy, but have never found it.  It is Jesus. Just like that song ushered (and still ushers) me into the Presence of God.  That Savior, born away in a manger, brings us boldly into the Presence of a God that loves you and wants to shower you with gifts – gifts that no one (but He!) could ever give you. Won’t you receive His gifts today?

I LOVE THIS SONG!!!  I hope you enjoy it, too. When she sings: “I love thee, Lord Jesus! I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray,” it brings me to tears every time.  “I DO love You, Lord Jesus. Thank you for loving me!  Stay close.”

 

Merry Christmas!  May God bless you abundantly with His good and perfect gifts!

Away in a Manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down hHs sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes; I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me I pray; bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to heaven to live with Thee there.

Blessed Blessing

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May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine upon us,
that Your ways may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Psalms 67:1-2

Everyone loves to be blessed.  People don’t typically wander around praying curses for themselves.  We, as Christians, have a Father who loves to bless. (Take a look at the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.)  Yes, our God is all about blessing His children!

Why?  He loves us.

Why else?  So we can bless others.

Ephesians 4:33 tells us that God forgave us, so we can forgive others.

And in John 13:34 we read that God loves us, so we can love others.

Romans 12: 6-8 speaks about the gift(s) we were given and how they should be used, “…if, it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach…” We don’t use our gift(s) for ourselves, but for others!

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us,
that our ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
Psalms 67:1-2

When God blesses us, others see and can come to know Him; just like He promised Judah and Israel,

As you have been an object of cursing among the nations,
O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing.
Do not be afraid, but let your hand be strong,
Zechariah 8:13

And, of course, our Jesus leads by example.

…For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich,
yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich,
2 Corinthians 8:9

So… what’s the “catch?” Deuteronomy 28:1-14 explains how obeying the Lord leads to blessings. In order to be obedient you must know His Word.  And to know His Word and apply it as intended you need to have a RELATIONSHIP with him.

So, what’s the “catch?” You are. God gets to have you in relationship with Him and that is what He has always wanted.

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Abba, thank You for blessing me.  Thank You for providing rewards for my obedience and discipline for my disobedience.  You have shown very clearly in Your Word the consequences of both.  Help me to be forever obedient that I may constantly reap the benefits of obedience and help me to keep my hands open to others, as I share what you have given me.  Help me to remember that my obedience doesn’t affect myself alone but those around me, as well.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.