Today we started a series of Christmas devotionals from the seasonal Our Daily Bread publication, “Celebrating Jesus.”

Joe’s devotional is from Lisa Samra, called ‘A Down Under Christmas…’

I love seeing pictures of our Australian friends celebrating Christmas. Not because they have more creative decorations or a fancier tree, but because they’re usually celebrating at the beach! It’s easy for people who live in the Northern Hemisphere to forget that countries in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Christmas during their summer months. It’s just not what I expect to see at Christmas.

Sunny Christmas celebrations also point me to the reality that so much about the first Christmas was unexpected. At Jesus’ birth, men from countries east of Israel saw a star and recognized it as a sign that the promised future ruler of Israel had been born (MICAH 5:2).

So these highly educated scholars left their homes and, after arriving in Israel, went to the place they expected to find a new king: the palace. But Jesus wasn’t there. Realizing their mistake, they continued to be directed by the star until they reached a humble home in Bethlehem. It was there that they found Jesus (MATTHEW 2:10-11).

Regardless of whether we celebrate in the sun or snow, at Christmas we remember the birth of a baby who grew up to teach us about God and offer to all the most amazing of gifts, a relationship with Him. Like the wise men, when we search for Him and accept this gift, we find hope and joy beyond all our expectations.

Jonathon’s is from Winn Collier, called ‘A Table for All…’

The upcoming holiday looked grim for Scott. He figured he’d simply be warming up a frozen dinner and watching some football alone. Dreading the isolation, Scott decided to put an ad in the paper, inviting other lonely people to dinner. No less than twelve people showed up! That was 1985, and every year since, Scott has placed a similar ad, welcoming as many as 100 people and now meeting in a local church building. Homeless neighbors, those who’ve lost their family, strangers who can’t travel home-Scott sets a table big enough for all kinds of people.

Isaiah describes God’s intention to welcome every wayward straggler, all who are downtrodden or forgotten. He’s a “refuge to the poor… [a] refuge to the needy in distress.” (25:4). With God, those who are desperate for friendship or forgiveness or hope can find their hearts’ desires. One day “the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat” (v. 6). God widely extends the invitation, welcoming everyone to join Him for a feast-friends gathered around the table of grace.

This is God’s heart for us, and what He promises to do. We may bear the weight of loneliness or despair; but in Jesus, God welcomes us. And if we’ll simply come, each of us will find our seat at a table with room for all.

Name the top two disadvantages of owning a pet:
1- cleaning up after them (66 votes)
2- walking them (10)

Congratulations to Erika from Marengo, who solved this two-week stumper and wins two $5 gift cards to Everlasting Cup!

Thanks for listening!
– Joe and Jonathon