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How Many Santas?  

Before you pack away the last of the lights and ornaments…

Question: How many lawn decorations does it take to celebrate Christmas?

A few blocks away lives a family that graduated from the more-is-better school of Christmas decor.  With the kind assistance of my wife, we tallied the plethora of plastic persons adorning their lawn.  We counted:

  • 13 Frosty the Snowman characters
  • 17 carolers
  • 40 candy canes
  • 39 toy Soldiers
  • 11 giant lollipops
  • 3 giant candles
  • 7 angels
  • 3 camels
  • 5 sheep

These were all large-scale plastic pieces.  Wonder where they store them all.

Question: How many Santas does it take to celebrate Christmas?

On Main Street, two towns away is a yard committed to Saint Nick—in a big way.  Imagine a lawn lit up by large plastic Santas—the old school kind--many of them four-feet tall.  Not the blowup models of today that shrink down into a tiny storage space.  These are the big guys popular in the 60s and 70s. 

Now imagine having 86 of those large Santas glowing. Yep, 86.  We confirmed it with the homeowner, who confirmed she had more that were not set up. 

If lights are your thing—how many do you really need? I read about a family in LaGrangeville, New York, that set up more than 600,000 lights on their lawn.  More than half a million!

Question: How many Saviors does it take to celebrate Christmas?

One.

That’s Jesus.

Is He your Savior?  He can be. 

What better way to start the new year!

 

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.

 —Acts 4:12

 
Who is Jesus?  

The baby.

The one in the manger.

Just who was He?

When He was born, opinions ranged from “the son of a nobody from a nothing town” to “the Son of God come from heaven.”  After a three-and-a-half-year public ministry that included feeding the 5000, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and raising the dead back to life—opinions changed little.  To many, Jesus was still nothing more than the son of a nobody from a nothing town.

Two thousand years later, it’s still the same. We just can’t seem to agree on who Jesus is. 

Recently, some friends posted on Facebook their adventures with a pair of smart speakers.  One speaker sits on a kitchen counter, while the other resides in their home office. 

Alexa in the kitchen was asked, “Who is God?”

Alexa sidestepped the issue by saying, "Everyone has different views on religion.” 

Then Alexa was asked the question, "Who is Jesus?"  The kitchen speaker replied, "Many people have different views on religion."  But the office speaker answered by playing the hymn "O Victory in Jesus."  Apparently, even smart speakers made by the same company don’t quite agree about Jesus, either!

I couldn't resist joining the digital discussion, so I asked my smartphone, "Siri, Is Jesus God?"

Siri made no audible reply but listed links to three different articles.  Two of the articles clearly support the idea that Jesus is God.  The third link was a transcription of a National Public Radio interview titled, “If Jesus never called himself God, how did he become one?”

That got my tinsel in a tangle.  Jesus did, indeed, claim to be God!  He did not “become” God.  Isaiah 9:6 boldly states of Jesus, “Unto us a child is born.  Unto us a son is given...His name shall be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, the prince of peace.”

Notice that the child—the baby Jesus, whose birth is foretold—is called "mighty God" and "everlasting father."

THAT is who Jesus is. 

 
Star Wars Mission  

Star Wars. 

Whether you love the iconic movie series or never saw a single film, stay with me.  See, there’s a life lesson or two in a Star Wars video game that has captured the attention of eight-year-old Caleb. I saw him playing the game with his dad. 

On the planet Tatooine, his dangerous mission was to destroy an elite enemy platoon. Using his controller, Caleb could maneuver wherever he wanted.  But wander too far, and the screen flashed, "Return to Objective."

As I watched Caleb exploring underground tunnels, one of his virtual commanding officers cried out, "We need you in the battle!"  But there was one other screen warning that gave me pause: "Firing a weapon makes you show up on enemy scanners."  Makes sense.

Watching lightsabers clash and flash and listening to the rumble of thermal detonators, reminded me that Christians certainly are in a spiritual battle.  But since "we wrestle not with flesh and blood," it's easy to get distracted.  Maybe, like me, you need the reminder, “Return to objective.”  But just what is our objective?

Jesus gave it to us in Matthew 28, "Go and make disciples."  Making disciples begins with lost people. So sharing Jesus with people who don't know Him—that is our objective.

But let’s not be pollyannish. We can and should expect a fight. Like the game warned, “Firing a weapon makes you show up on enemy scanners.”  But don’t let that stop you. 

There are rescues that must be made.

Are you on mission?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Footsteps  

It was the first walk in the first snow of the season. With the wet white stuff falling, I couldn't resist a hike around the one-mile paved track that arcs around a neighborhood park. The mesmerizing flakes tumbled onto turf not quite chilled enough to sustain much accumulation.  All the more reason to hurry up, get out, and enjoy.

A glance at the slushy stuff gave evidence that early as it was, I was not the first to start racking up a daily quota of 10-thousand steps.

After a few minutes, I subconsciously began studying the impressions in the snow left by fellow travelers. It was easy to distinguish which steps belonged to men and which belonged to women. 

You could tell which of the walkers felt regular shoes were okay versus those who decided it was time to put on heavy boots. The difference in tread was significant.

You could tell which people walked and which jogged. The joggers left a telltale skidding of their heels across the snow's surface.

You could even tell which pets were allowed to roam off-leash.  Their footprints were far from their owners'!

And of course, you could tell which direction people were walking.  On one leg of the path, there were five sets of footprints, including mine.  Four of us were walking in the same direction.  Only one person was going the other way.

Consider: not a single person walking that morning began their journey by deciding, "Gee, I think I'll leave some footprints."  But leave footprints they did.  Footprints revealing a surprising amount of information.

Like us.

We are all leaving footprints.  Our daily choices, words, and actions leave footprints—small and large.  What do ours say about us?

The question is not will you and I leave footprints for others who come behind us.  The question is, what do our footprints say about us, our character, and our walk with Christ?

 

The naive believes everything,

But the sensible man considers his steps.

-- Proverbs 14:15

 

 

 
Unlikely Folks  

“Went to a funeral this weekend,” I told my friend Jack, who walked in fiddling with the brown beret he’d just removed.

“Sad business, funerals,” he offered gently—uncharacteristic for Jack.  Like a Jack I’d never known.

"Being a graveside service, the preacher had to keep things short," I reported.

“Good for him.  When it’s forty and windy, nobody wants windy preachers” (Jack was back).

“Saw something that made me wonder a bit, though."

"What's that?" inquired Jack.

"After the service, the pastor offered the crowd a copy of the Gospel of John in an easy-reading translation."

"Good for him.  But why the wonder?" Jack asked.  "That's the kind of thing we should be doing at funerals.”

“Two of the takers were what I’d consider—well— unlikely.”

“Meaning?”

"Last people on the planet I'd expect to take a gospel home with them.  One was a lesbian, and the other was a guy who’s been in and out of prison.”

There was a gleam in Jack’s eye as he countered, “I seem to recall a guy in the Bible running around imprisoning Christians.  Happy to see them killed, really.  Not what I’d call a likely convert.  But he ended up writing most of the New Testament. Then there was that drunken slave ship captain back in the 1700s—language that peeled paint off a wall.  The guy ultimately gave us the song, Amazing Grace. And who would have believed the ruthless ‘hatchet man’ for president Richard Nixon would end up born again?  The way I see it, God has a long history with unlikely people—they're some of His favorites."

With that, Jack plopped the beret back on his head, nodded slightly, and with a twinkle in his eye, let himself out the door.

Got any “unlikely” folks in your life?

 
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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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Jon Gauger Media 2016