Design a site like this with
Get started

The People Who Walked in Darkness Have Seen a Great Light – Jesus preferred over Santa

December 25, 2022 | Menagerie

IS 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing,
as they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
and the rod of their taskmaster
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for flames.

For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

GospelLK 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Most Americans Would Rather Celebrate Christmas With Jesus Than Santa, Survey Says

By Jim Hoft December 25, 2022

According to a recent survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports, the majority of Americans continue to believe that Jesus Christ, and not Santa Claus, is the true meaning of Christmas.

“Americans may be looking forward to a visit from the jolly fellow in the red suit, but most say Christmas is still about the baby born in Bethlehem,” according to Rasmussen Reports.

According to a recent phone and online poll survey, 57% of American adults agree that Jesus Christ should be the focus of Christmas rather than Santa Claus. Only 22% believed  Santa Claus should be the focus, while 20% were undecided.

Rasmussen Reports said “the survey of 1,000 American Adults was conducted on December 8 and 11, 2022 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research.”

Breitbart reported:

The overwhelming majority of every political affiliation celebrate Christmas in their family, including 97 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats, and 86 percent of unaffiliated. However, Republicans (73 percent) are far more likely than Democrats (47 percent) and unaffiliated voters (40 percent) to view Christmas as a primarily religious holiday.

“Republicans (74 percent) are also more likely than Democrats (51 percent) or the unaffiliated (50 percent) to say Christmas should be more about Jesus than Santa,” according to the poll report.

Older Americans are also more likely to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday than younger Americans. Less than half (48 percent) think Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Sixty-one percent of Americans between the ages of 40-64 and 71 percent of those 65 and older believe the holiday is more about Jesus than Santa.

By sex, women (62 percent) are more likely than men (53 percent) to believe that Christmas is more about Jesus. Married Americans are also more likely than unmarried Americans to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

AUDIO A Bah Humbug God?

By Rev Bill Woods

Have you stopped to consider what an awesome story the real Christmas story is telling us how God worked out all the details so Jesus could be born at the right time in the right place under the right circumstances.

God used pagan rulers and pagan governments to fulfill His prophecies.

Talk about moving Heaven and Earth to accomplish His Will!

Let’s look again at the miraculous account Luke gave us: 

Luke 2:1-20–At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.  And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

When you think about it, you can’t find anything more exciting than that!  God, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe, decided to become entwined in man’s need of a Savior.

When people find that Savior their lives are changed completely.

Today, I want to talk about a bitter old man whose life was changed because of Christmas.

Charles Dicken’s, A Christmas Carol, is my favorite secular Christmas story.

I enjoy old Scrooge stomping through Christmas shouting, “Bah, Humbug!”

There’s a grain elevator between Hermiston and Boardman, Oregon that every year puts a lighted sign on top of their huge grain bin that says, “Bah, Humbug!”

Scrooge is selfish, mean, uncaring, stingy — completely unfair to his employee, poor Bob Cratchet.

I enjoy how Scrooge changed after his rough night……….the story doesn’t indicate that Scrooge found Salvation, but something very similar happened.

I got to thinking, what if God were like Ebenezer Scrooge? — stomping through the Heavens withholding His Blessings from us?

What if every time we asked for something He’d answer, “Bah Humbug!”

Don’t worry!  HE DOESN’T!

In fact, God is so into Christmas He sent Jesus to rescue us from sin and give us Eternal Life.

What a wonderful Christmas Gift God has given us! — a gift to satisfy every longing for now and throughout Eternity.

I heard about two boys who stayed overnight at their Grandma’s house.

They said their bedtime prayers — the youngest one prayed at the top of his voice: “I PRAY FOR A THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE TRAIN SET! I PRAY FOR AN


His brother whispered: “Why are you shouting? God isn’t deaf.”

Little brother said “NO, BUT GRANDMA IS!!!”

We have traditions that make Christmas seem more like Christmas! — To me it included snow and cold dreary weather.

It was so unique when we moved to Phoenix the 1st time and tried to celebrate  Christmas in the malls and sunshine.

Our first Christmas dinner was on our patio with the temperature near 80!  I even went swimming that Christmas day!                                                                                       

For me Christmas lacks something without Scrooge.

Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean intimidating old man who lived to make money.

He had no patience for religion or sentimentality — especially Christmas!

One Christmas Eve Ebenezer got a terrifying wake-up call.

His dead business partner, Jacob Marley, visited him.

Marley had been a miser just like Scrooge — he’d been condemned to roam the earth, tormented by values he neglected in life — condemned to drag long chains he’d forged in life.

He warned Scrooge to avoid the same fate.

This was Scrooge’s last opportunity to turn from his selfish, greedy ways.

To turn from his materialistic, money-making business, and make humanity his business.

Marley warned Scrooge he would be visited by 3 ghosts that night — the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.  This was Scrooge’s 2nd chance.

The real Christmas story is about God giving humanity a 2nd chance after Adam and Eve blew the 1st chance.

Let’s explore the ghosts of our Christmas’ Past, Present and Future – to rediscover the God of 2nd chances.

The ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge back through time to confront him with the pain and agony of his Christmases gone by.

Scrooge saw a schoolroom – a little boy sat alone by the fire, His only companion was the book he was reading.

Scrooge remembered his rejection because his father blamed him for his mother’s death while giving him birth.

Scrooge remembered all the Christmases when other children went home — he was left alone.

He remembered his loneliness and pain — he’d longed for friends and love and acceptance by his family.

The spirit whisked him to see his former fiancée, Belle, a woman he’d loved, but who became a poor 2nd to his passion for wealth. – ‘A golden idol displaces me,’ she complained to him from the past.

As they traveled from Christmas to Christmas, Scrooge was faced with his broken relationships, rejection, and loneliness.

Most of us have Christmases we’d rather forget.

1000’s of people are like Scrooge finding it hard to celebrate Christmas because of failed relationships in their past.

Because of painful memories, broken families, broken friendships, too much pain and loss, too much rejection.

Yet Christmas is a time of hope and joy — a time of reconciliation.

There’s a Christmas past that echoes through the pages of history whose timeless message haunts every Christmas present.

If we travel back to revisit that 1st Christmas, 2000 years ago, and gaze at Jesus lying in a manger — our Christmas fears and disappointments would vanish — we’d find hope.
The night Jesus was born, an angel announced to shepherds a Savior had been born.

Good news for “all people”, young, old, rich, poor — Jews and Gentiles — You and Me.

God took on flesh and stepped into history to save us from the consequences of sin.

His birth can wipe our past clean — our pain, sorrows, rejection, broken relationships, hurts are wrapped in His love for us — John 3:16

That’s the promise of Christmas past.

That’s the hope from the God of 2nd chances.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Its obvious Scrooge was a product of his history — his Christmases gone by.

The 2nd spirit — the Ghost of Christmas Present showed Scrooge what his life was like now.

He saw the home of his employee, Bob Cratchit – where despite poverty the home was filled with joy, compassion, and love.

As the Cratchits sit down to their humble Christmas dinner, Bob Cratchit toasts his greedy, selfish, miserly boss – the one responsible for his poverty.

Scrooge asks who the little crippled boy was — Tiny Tim………

Scrooge was shown the home of his nephew – the only one with any affection for Scrooge, even though his affection was totally unwarranted.

For years this nephew had invited Scrooge to share Christmas with him and his wife.  For years Scrooge rejected his invitation — still the nephew invited.

The Ghost of Christmas Present revealed what Scrooge had become.

His calloused heart — how he ignored poverty and needs of those around him.

His disregard and disdain for humanity.

He tried to justify himself by the money he’d earned and his “success,” but in things that really mattered he was nothing he had nothing.

The Ghost of Christmas Present showed him even though he’s utterly hard-headed, bitter, and twisted, seemingly beyond redemption, others still loved him and hadn’t given up on him.

That’s the promise of Christmas Present. Every Christmas we’re reminded no matter how bad, selfish, greedy, rebellious, or how we reject Him… God loves us and never gives up on us.

Christmas is supposed to be a time of love, joy, peace, and goodwill—Scrooge was so self-centered and bitter he’d completely lost sight of that.

We often fall into that same trap, neglecting what’s important, and seeing money and what money can buy – as the answer to our problems.

If we’re not careful the Scrooge-spirit can highjack our Christmas; turning our celebration into materialism and totally missing God’s purpose.

Christmas is exactly what it says – a holy celebration of Christ.

Christmas stopped being about Christ a long time ago.

Now it’s self-indulgence, extravagance, materialism, and money — about Me and Mine!”    

One of the big phrases used in advertising is, “You deserve it.”

The Real Christmas story’s just the opposite.

Christmas is about Christ, who left His riches and Glory, to be born in a stable, laid in a manger, and wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Jesus didn’t come to be served but to serve.

That’s the certainty of Christmas Present.

The final spirit came, the Ghost of Christmas Future — he had no face and didn’t speak.

He merely took Scrooge back to the Cratchit Family now worn down by their struggle against poverty, and now without Tiny Tim, who had died for lack of proper medical care.

Then the spirit took Scrooge to the house of a man who’d died in his sleep.

Scrooge kept asking, “Who is it?”

A maid and a cleaner were dividing his belongings before the undertaker arrived.

Two men in the street were discussing whether to hold a funeral service since no one would bother to come.

Again, Scrooge asked, “Who is this man?’

The spirit led him to a grave — the headstone read, ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’.

It’s a chilling reminder no one lives forever — life is brief.

1 Chronicles 29:15 We are here for only a moment, visitors, and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.

Suddenly Scrooge understood he had to change — it was now or never.

He’d been a penny pinching, mean, hateful, self-centered old miser. No one wanted anything to do with him — his own family hated him.

All he had worked for would be stolen, even the curtains from his bed.

No one would attend his funeral — no one even cared he had died.                                                                      

He would die miserable and alone — his life would count for nothing.

Maybe you relate — but the promise of Christmas past and the certainty of Christmas present means your Christmas future isn’t written yet.

Jesus can transform you and make you a new creation; He can take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

The best news of Christmas is we can learn from the past and change our present, so we’ll have a better future.

What happened in your past doesn’t need to defeat you because God came as a baby to give you a better future.

To Scrooge the ghost of Christmas Future was the most frightening.

We fear the future because we’re frightened of the unknown.

When we remember that 1st Christmas when God was born as a Baby, we can look forward to the most wonderful Christmas in the future. When Christ will come again.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

One day Christ will take His people home — that’s the hope of Christmas future.

At the heart of ‘A Christmas Carol’ lies Scrooge’s transformation.   

Through his encounter with Christmas past present and future, Scrooge changed from a selfish, greedy, bitter old man, to a grateful, generous compassionate man.

He was confronted by the reality of who he was and where he was headed — he responded by repenting and changing his ways, and his destiny — sounds like a conversion to me.

Jesus invites you to do the same. He is waiting to forgive your sins and make you part of His Family anticipating the wonders we can’t even imagine waiting for us in Heaven.

What better time than Christmas to receive Christ’s forgiveness, to renew your faith, and rebuild your friendships?

There’s a Scrooge-side in all of us that needs repentance.

The good news of Christmas is we can forget the past, change the now, and build a better future — It’s not too late: to change.

Philippians 3:13-14 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  

Whatever has happened in your past, you can have a better future.

Scrooge seized the opportunity to make his life count.

I doubt the Ghosts of Christmas will visit you, but you’ll be visited by God’s Holy Spirit – this Christmas and every Christmas – because God never stops reaching out to you.

The Holy Spirit points to the only path for a 2nd chance — a new life.

Jesus isn’t just one of many paths to Heaven — He’s the only path!  He’s ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’.

Invite Him into your life.  He’s invited you to accept His Salvation! — He’s not Scrooge! 

He will meet your needs!  He will never say, “BAH HUMBUG!”


There is Still Power in the Blood

Don't believe in the Devil? 

That's exactly where Satin wants you. He and his demonic hosts are working hard to deceive you because he knows his time is running out and he will soon be cast into the bottomless pit. One pastor told me to leave Satin alone because "If we leave him alone will leave us alone." That's dumb because he doesn't intend to leave you or your family alone. You must learn how to stand against him. 

In this book you will find how:

-Demons enter in the first place.

-How to be set free from demonic bondage.

-How to stay free.

-Pit falls Satin hopes you will fall into so he can destroy you and your family.

-How to have a close walk with Jesus Christ and enjoy victory in your life. 


VIDEO T’was a Month Before Christmas 2020 – Dallas Christmas Spectacular


a month before Christmas,


all through the town,


wore masks,


covered their frown.


frown had begun


back in the Spring,


a global pandemic

Changed everything.


called it Corona,


unlike the beer,


didn’t bring good times,


didn’t bring cheer.


and deadly,


virus spread fast,


a wildfire that starts


fueled by gas.


were grounded,


was banned.


were closed


air, sea and land.


the world entered lockdown


flatten the curve,


economy halted,


folks lost their verve.


March to July


rode the first wave,


stayed home,


tried to behave.


summer emerged


lockdown was lifted.


away from caution,


folks drifted.


it’s November


cases are spiking,


two has arrived,


to our disliking.


workers, Doctors

and nurses,


to save people,


riding in hearses.


virus is awful,




isn’t a cure.


is no vaccine.


true that this year


had sadness a plenty,


never forget


year 2020.


just ‘round the corner –


holiday season,


why be merry?


there even one reason?


decorate the house


put up the tree,


no one will see it,


but me.


outside my window


snow gently falls,


I think to myself,


deck the halls!


I gather the ribbon,


garland and bows,


I play those old carols,


happiness grows.


ain’t cancelled


neither is hope.


we lean on each other,


know we can cope.


Shawna Hickling, Calgary, AB,



19, 2020

Dallas Christmas Spectacular December 2020

VIDEO  We Need Christmas Now More Than Ever

December 3, 2022 by Sundance

For his weekly monologue UK pundit Neil Oliver discusses the insufferable misery of those who try to cancel Christmas.  Mr Oliver shares the importance of the meaning of Christmas in an eloquent and powerful manner.

The message is uplifting and needed, especially at such an uncertain time for so many around the world. We must never forget our Christian roots and how deeply humanity is connected to its history. YOU are the light he speaks of in the final sentence.  WATCH:

[Transcript] – For the second year in a row, the Christmas trees are going up early round my way. More and more households that would, in the world of before, have waited until the second or third week in December before decking the halls … have already gone the whole nine yards with the trees and twinkly lights. We are doing likewise in our house. I won’t lie … I love it. Every bit of it.

I love Christmas … always have and always will. In every conceivable way, Christmas is light in a time of darkness and for many of us, that light has never been more welcome and so can’t come soon enough.

Especially since the festival is once again under attack by the joyless division. In line with what has become a tradition of the season in benighted Britain, yet another bunch of interfering, patronizing preachers of the witless cant of “diversity and inclusivity” have decided it’s their turn to take a pop at Christmas.

Bristol-based Watch This Space – describing themselves as an Inclusion Consultancy … Heaven help us all … have scored some free publicity by calling on organisations to “rethink Christmas” on account of how all those of other faiths feel left out in December. I really don’t think those of other faiths feel left out at all. I am certain the vast majority of those of other faiths are perfectly fine with Christians enjoying Christmas … the same way I have no issue whatever with Diwali and Eid and the rest of the religious festivals that genuinely matter to those of faith … and that it is only those that could … and deliberately would … start a fight in an empty room that want to persuade everyone that Christmas is EX-clusive and only bad news.

For generations every school in Britain has put on a nativity play. The youngest among us are invited to play the parts of Mary and Joseph … the angel … the shepherds, the three wise men. In every school hall is recreated a scene from a village in the Middle East. The people being enacted by children are people of the Middle East. How inclusive and diverse, you might say.

It’s always Christianity that the nouveau bullies target – in the same that all bullies have always done – which is to say “single out the one that won’t hit you back.” The tolerance of Christianity and Christians has been a red rag to a bull – and for years it has been open season on Christmas on the utterly spurious grounds that someone somewhere might be offended by cards, carols and Santa Claus.

But hey – it’s only Jesus – worshipped by two and a half billion Christians as divine, the Son of God – so take up the slings and arrows and do your worst.

That latest call to cancel Christmas came hard on the heels of heresy – spiteful, childish mewling by a junior research fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge university about Jesus having, and I quote, “a trans body”. The sticky-palmed adolescent piffle was then backed up by the Dean of the college, so ensuring more headlines at the expense of followers of the world’s largest religion.

All of this latest mischief-making is just more of the same – which is to say the determination of the empowered elite systematically to remove every last foundation stone of Western civilisation … while simultaneously showing us … reminding us … who they think is boss. Having excited themselves by stripping away, under the egregious wrong of lockdown, so much of what it has meant to be human and alive in this part of the world, the usual suspects are determined to keep going until the job is done. Christianity, and the family, are still standing, and so the attacks must continue.

Lockdown was about draining the joy out of life, every last bit. It was about keeping people apart and alone. It was a relentless campaign of fear by authority figures who felt no fear themselves – because they knew there was nothing TO fear – and so broke all their own rules. Now it’s about bidding farewell to the very stuff of life – warmth in winter, nourishing food. Stop driving to save the world. Stop flying to save the world. How long before they come for the twinkly lights and crackers as well? The powers that be are about nothing less than making life dull and flat for we proles.

The truth is that none of this is to be taken lightly, far less ignored. The relentless erosion of Christmas, and Christianity itself, is essential for those whose mission it is to unmake Britain, and the west. It is nothing less than the deliberate snuffing out of the light of the world.

That anyone would ever seek to silence those who want to celebrate Christmas is beyond sinister in my eyes – because the story at the heart of Christmas is also the story at the heart of humanity and the best of human nature.

It is a simple story about a family – indeed the making of a family by the birth of a baby.

It is about a baby born into the most humble of circumstances, in a barn for animals, dependent upon the kindness of strangers.

Why would anyone of good and honest heart want to take issue with the simplicity of the family, and all that the family has meant and continues to mean? Except of course that the family is the ultimate obstacle for those intent on resetting the world – away from the human and in favour of the machine. Again, and again those who have it in mind to establish centralized, top-down control of populations have targeted the family as the final stumbling block in their path. Always, however, the family has prevailed, because the desire for family life is innately human.

The way things have been in the west for two thousand years is a direct and undeniable consequence of the overarching influence of Christianity. Our ethics, our morality, the laws by which we live, commitment to the sanctity of the individual … all are founded upon the Christianity of our forebears.

In more recent centuries deluded and dangerous people believed they had the wit and the power to set aside Christian ethics and morality and to replace them with their own ideologies. I invite you to consider the worst horrors of the 20th century and notice how well those experiments went. 150 million dead and counting.

What is being inflicted on us now is the death of a thousand cuts. One thing after another reminding us of who and what we are … where we came from … and why … is being debased, devalued, rewritten or erased by others who think they know better. Our heritage, our history, our culture, our society, our communities, our identities as men and women, as sovereign individuals … all of it is being undone, taken away, memory holed. This is deliberate and must be resisted at all costs.

Friedrich Nietzsche was among the most articulate to lament the death of God in the west:

God is dead and we have killed him – he wrote – who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

And there’s the rub, prophesied by a philosopher 140 years ago … the coming of those idealogues of today – who talk of hacking humans, growing babies outside the body of the woman, of mixing humans with technology – who really do believe the time has come for them to assume the power of gods.

Worst of all of the anti-human behavior is the turning upon children, the exploitation of those most vulnerable and deserving of our protection. I don’t mean to imply this behavior is anything new – rather, it is simply more blatant and shameless. We catch glimpses of the danger – most recently in the ad campaign by fashion house Balenciaga that set tiny children in sexual contexts – and we dismiss such threats at our ultimate peril. From drag queen story time to questionable sex education in classrooms, the normalization of the sexualization of children is well under way. For those in search of a hill to die on, might not the defence of the innocence of children be the one?

The Christmas story is fundamentally about hope. For human beings there can be no greater gift or reason for hope than the birth of a child. There can be no greater imperative than the urge to protect that child, all children … against all threats.

During lockdown, rules were put in place to keep families apart, to separate children from grandparents. They are still pushing their jabs on children. Attempts were even made at that time to cancel Christmas – not that me and mine paid them a blind bit of notice. Faith leaders not worthy of the name complied with diktats that closed churches and so denied needful people access to the comfort and sustenance of holy places when they were most wanted.

I keep mentioning the thousands of people who have written to me during the past two, getting on for three years. In the run up to last Christmas, the emotion of it all was almost overwhelming. My family and I received piles of Christmas cards from families across Britain and around the world. Messages of love, solidarity and determination from people who might otherwise have been strangers to us, but who needed to share Christmas and so shared it with us, the joy of the Christmas message in what might otherwise have been an unremittingly dark time.

Over and over, we were reassured by all those – the majority of the senders in fact – who, like us, had identified a fight between good and evil … between light and dark. We were left in no doubt, by letter after letter, and card after card that the medicine that kept those people well – in every way that really mattered – was their faith in something bigger than themselves, something transcendent.

The central message of Christianity is so simple it can be summed up in a single line:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son … so that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Has there ever been a more hopeful message? Believe … or don’t believe … but the Christmas story is undeniably a message of hope and family and love, and about the arrival in the darkness of a bright and warming light. It is worth remembering that the light is always there, even if it is out of sight.

I think about the words that, according to the legend at least, were scratched into the wall of a basement by someone hiding from tyranny during World War II. I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I do not feel it. I believe in God, even when he is silent.

In the northern latitudes people have sought light in the darkness of winter since a time beyond the reach of memory. Millennia before the coming of Christianity there were fires kindled and lamps kept lit in defiance of the dark and cold. Always the promise, held in human hearts, that with patience and fortitude they would see the return of the sun.

This year the dark and the cold are being deliberately intensified by the stated objectives of our so-called leaders. We are told we must have less light, less warmth. We are told these are among the prices we must pay … to win a war … to save the planet … Now is the time to kindle lights and keep them lit.

Forty years before the birth of Christ, the pagan Roman poet Virgil wrote lines about the birth of a boy, a Saviour, who would grow up to be divine and save the world. Virgil has been seen by some as a prophet predicting the birth of Jesus. He was sensing the rising of the son from beyond the horizon. Virgil’s poem, written around 38 BC, is a message of hope, of the inevitable and imminent coming of light into a darkened world.

Here’s the thing: we need Christmas, and the hope and joy of Christmas, more now than ever.

Light whatever lights you can – even the glow of a single candle can be seen for miles.


AUDIO The Dummies Who Missed Christmas!

By Rev Bill Woods

Hebrews 9:27-28 — And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.


Such a wonderful event was too much for Heaven to hold back!

An Angel choir broke through the mystic, intervening veil and burst into joyous caroling.

What Praise those shepherds must’ve heard!  There’s never been such a concert before or since.

Think how it must’ve sounded echoing through sky and valley, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

BUT HISTORY’S MOST WONDERFUL EVENT PASSED ALMOST UNNOTICED!  The multitudes slept through that wonderful night.

There are 4 things to notice about this wonderful event:






Only a few people even knew it was Christmas — 12 or 15 at the most!  The rest of the people slept through that wonderful night.

It’s easy to get so set in our routines that we miss wonderful things around us.

When we lived in Grand Coulee it was the dam.

When we lived in the Columbia Gorge it was Multnomah Falls and all the other falls and spectacular views.

In Seattle it was the Space Needle, MT. Rainier, and the Puget Sound.

Fletcher Spruce told about his visit to Bethlehem.  To him it was a moment never to be forgotten while to the men who lived there it was nothing special.

There were several thousand in Bethlehem and hundreds of thousands in Palestine.

Only a few shepherds, a few wise men, and 2 old prayed-up saints knew anything out of the ordinary was happening.


They should’ve been watching for Him.

The Jews had the books of Moses and the writings of the prophets. They’d been taught to respect and study these writing since they were children.  They were to teach them to their children.

Genesis told about man’s fall into sin and God’s Promise to send a Messiah to bruise the serpent’s head.

They knew the Promise given to Abraham — “In thee and in thy seed shall all nations of the earth be blessed.”

They had the record of Jacob’s special blessing given to his son Judah. —                       

Genesis 49:10 —The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.

Isaiah had written — Isaiah 7:14 — All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

He lived in a dark day, but could see beyond that and wrote

Isaiah 9:6 — For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

The Prophet, Micah, named the very town where the Messiah would be born —

Micah 5:2– But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.

Daniel gave the time of the Messiah’s coming.

Daniel 9:25– Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times.

Even if there was some uncertainty of the exact date, the time was so near that the Jews should’ve been on the alert. — 483 years.

We know they had access to that information because they looked it up for Herod.


How were they so blind that they didn’t recognize Jesus, their Messiah?

The Scribes and Pharisees missed Him because they’d substituted legalism for spirituality, and ceremonialism for vital experience.  They were self-righteous and complacent and didn’t feel a need of a Savior……


The Innkeeper missed Him because of material interests……Millions today are missing Christmas for the same reason.

Wicked old Herod said he was interested in finding Jesus (tell story).

Herod didn’t find Him because of selfishness and insincerity.

What made the difference between those who found and those who didn’t find the Savior?

Simeon and Anna found Baby Jesus because they were looking for Him.

Faith is the key if we are to find Christ — FAITH IN GOD!

If we’re to find the true meaning of Christmas we must get beyond the $ Billions commercialized, tension-filled holiday season that the average non-Christian celebrates.

The shepherds found Jesus because of their simplicity and humility.

God loves simplicity and sincerity.  God hates sophistication and pretense.

Door to the Nativity is so low that everyone has to bow to get in.

The Wise Men found Jesus because they were willing to seek Him.

Mary found Christmas by an unquestioning submission to God’s Will and Purpose.

It’s God’s Greatest Gift to men that made Christmas — God expressing His Love and forgiveness to all who will accept it!

God revealed His fathomless Love through a Person, His Son.

Lady at Home Depot saying “Without Christ, what are they celebrating?”

The true spirit of Christmas is a spirit of unselfish giving — Jesus gave His all!

Too often our giving is calculated on what we can get back………….


With all the Bible warnings of Christ’s first coming, most people missed it.

Scripture warns Jesus is coming again.  The signs are all around us! 


There are 578 references to Christ’s 2nd Coming in the Bible.  260 in the Old Testament and 218 in the New Testament.

Christ’s return is mentioned 50 times in the Epistles.  1 out of every 23 verses in the Bible mentions His return.

There are indications suggesting Christ’s return to restore Israel and establish His millennial reign may be in the very near future.

These are:  Israel’s return to the Land God Promised to Them. 

THIS IS A MODERN MIRACLE! They were dispersed for over 1900 years.  In fact, Israel didn’t even exist as a nation.  They’re back in their own country today!  (I want to explore more details of this miracle in later podcasts.)

Jesus warned the generation that saw Israel restored as a nation would not pass away until all things be fulfilled.

Matthew 24:34-35 — Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Lawlessness is abounding.  Crime is on the increase! 

Matthew 24:12-14 — And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Apostasy will be well entrenched.  Our churches are full of false teachers and false preaching.  People no longer fear God! 

A Religious appetite for an Ecumenical One World Church is consuming many Religious Leaders.

Pope Francis is working to establish a One World Religion!  He met with Religious Leaders to make Chrislam (Christianity and Islam)the official World Religion!

He called the World Religion Leaders to meet with him on Mt. Sinai (November 13-18, 2022) to write the New Ten Commandments based on Climate Change.

Pope Francis and the Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb of al-Azhar have established the “Abraham House” in Abu Dhabi, which consists of a mosque, church, and synagogue as headquarters for the One World Religion.

Old-line denominations have lost their way and are endorsing the LGBTQIA+ life style and Gay Marriage. 

Some of these compromising denominations are: Presbyterian (USA), United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Society of Friends (Quaker), Unitarian Universalist Association of Churches, Reformed Jewish Movement.

World-wide famine is predicted to soon engulf the world.

Many prophecies concerning the Great Tribulation are rapidly falling into place at a breakneck speed today!

The Bible predicts violent earthquakes, horrific storms, wars, and rumors of wars. These prophecies are happening continually.

The Great Reset is coming that will change the entire world economy into a digital currency of some sort so the Antichrist can control buying and selling.  We are told that by 2030, we will own nothing and be happy!

The Euphrates River is drying up to allow the Kings of the East to march on Jerusalem. 

People are hearing what they identify as the four angels chained under the Euphrates.

The 3rd Temple will be built shortly.  The materials have been gathered.

The Red Heifer has been found which will be sacrificed in connection to the Temple.

Christians are being severely persecuted in much of the world.

These are just a few of the signs signaling the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

All these things are taking place and much more. 

This is the first time in history that this world take over is possible!

While it is true, that many awful things are happening today….they don’t compare to the awful things that will happen during the Great Tribulation.

Matthew 24:21 — For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again.

Let me encourage you that if you are a genuine Christian serving Jesus, you won’t have to face the horrors of the Tribulation at its worst.  Jesus is going to take His Bride, the Church to THE MARRIAGE FEAST OF THE LAMB.

God has always protected His people when His Judgment is poured on the earth!

God rescued Noah and his family during the flood.

He sent angels to rescue Lot’s family in Sodom and Gomorrah.

He will rescue His people this time too.  Judgment isn’t for His beloved Christians it is for those who have rejected His Love and continued in sin.

The key is not to grow careless and risk being caught unprepared.

God has provided plenty of warning in His Word to help us be ready for His return!

Revelation 1:7– Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him— even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen!

Revelation 22:12-13: “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Peter speaks of His coming and warns about scoffers.

2 Peter 3:3 — Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires.

James 5:8 — You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

Paul says — 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 — And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

1 Corinthians 15:51-53 — But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed!  It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.

Jesus came the First time over 2000 years ago just like God said He would.

Most people missed it.

God said He’s coming a 2nd time — most people will miss that one too.

Twas the Night Before Jesus Came                                                  

‘Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house
Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care
In hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed,
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was The matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray
I knew in a moment this must be The Day!

The light of His face made me cover my head
It was Jesus! Returning just like He had said.
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His Hand
Was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;
When He said “It’s not here” My head hung in shame!

The people whose names had been written with love
He gathered to take to His Father above.
With those who were ready He rose without a sound
While all the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late;
I had waited too long and this sealed my fate.
I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight;
Oh, if only I had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;
The coming of Jesus is drawing near.
There’s only one life and when comes the last call
We’ll find that the Bible was true after ALL!

Only those who are watching will know it happened and go to be with Him.




There is Still Power in the Blood

Don't believe in the Devil? 

That's exactly where Satin wants you. He and his demonic hosts are working hard to deceive you because he knows his time is running out and he will soon be cast into the bottomless pit. One pastor told me to leave Satin alone because "If we leave him alone will leave us alone." That's dumb because he doesn't intend to leave you or your family alone. You must learn how to stand against him. 

In this book you will find how:

-Demons enter in the first place.

-How to be set free from demonic bondage.

-How to stay free.

-Pit falls Satin hopes you will fall into so he can destroy you and your family.

-How to have a close walk with Jesus Christ and enjoy victory in your life. 


For Nothing Will Be Impossible with God

DECEMBER 21, 2016 By Nivine Richie

He and his wife prayed that God would grant them a baby. Months turned into years, which turned into decades. Each year that went by, more of the same. No pregnancy. No baby. Just the quiet lives of two people growing old together. Eventually, they accepted that they would never experience the joy of holding a newborn child or hear the laughter of their grandchildren. Time had passed them by. God had not delivered

Imagine Zechariah’s shock when the angel announced the coming birth of his son.

And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. (Luke 1:11-13)

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth had prayed for a baby, and now the prayer was answered.

More Impossible News

Unlike her cousin Elizabeth, Mary had not asked for a baby. She wasn’t even married. A young woman in Nazareth, engaged to Joseph—for her, babies would come with time, most likely. First the wedding, then the baby.

Imagine her shock when she got a similar announcement:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31)

Both Zechariah and Mary were confronted by an angel. Both heard the impossible news that a son was to be born. Zechariah and Mary were both troubled at the announcement, but the angel reassured them that their sons would be great and bring joy to many. They heard a similar announcement from the angel, but their reactions were not the same.

Two Different Responses

Although both Zechariah and Mary questioned the news they received, God heard different responses. One was the response of unbelief. The other, a response of faith.

And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:18-20)

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35)

Zechariah questioned how God could perform something that was entirely contrary to the physical evidence. He was old. His wife was old. In light of the angel’s announcement, how could he “know this” and believe in the face of the facts?

Mary, on the other hand, didn’t ask how she could trust the message. Instead, she simply asked how God would accomplish this amazing feat given that she was still a virgin. Hers was a question rooted in faith.

Our Impossible Circumstances

In our lives, we face circumstances that look impossible. A broken marriage after years of trying to make it work. A lost child that you’ve prayed for without ceasing. A rising mountain of bills and a shrinking or empty bank account. All the physical evidence may suggest that no solution is forthcoming. The hurts are too deep, the loss too great, the debt too high. Maybe, like Zechariah, you’re convinced that time has passed you by.

While we can’t see the hearts of Mary or Zechariah, God knew that Zechariah’s question told of his unbelief, and God answered the question accordingly. God also knew that Mary’s question was a question of faith. She recognized God’s will, and asked how God was going to bring it to pass—a legitimate question.

Mary trusted God with her future. The coming Messiah was the answer to a long awaited promise of salvation and deliverance, and though she didn’t know exactly how God would accomplish the birth of her baby, she trusted that would do what he said he’d do.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:37-38)

The Reason We Trust

The same Messiah brings us the promise of salvation today. We don’t know how God can accomplish his will in and around us, but we know that nothing will be impossible with God. We can trust the Messiah to save us from the penalty of our sin by his death on the cross. We can trust him to save us from the power of sin as he intercedes for us with the Father. And one day he’ll save us from the very presence of sin when he takes us to home [1]. Like Mary, we can trust God with our future and respond, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

So which response will you choose? Will it be Zechariah’s response, as you point to physical evidence and ask how you can be expected to believe God, given the facts? Or will you choose Mary’s response, and simply ask how God will accomplish his will?

This Christmas, let’s choose the faith of Mary, for nothing will be impossible with God.

[1] Chafer, Lewis Sperry, 1917, Salvation, The Bible Institute Colportage Association. Photo Credit: Lightstock]

AUDIO Christmas Future

Friday's Featured Sermon: "Christmas Future"

by Cameron Buettel December 20, 2021

This post was first published during December 2016. –ed.

Christmas signifies Christ’s entry into humanity. It’s wonderful to ponder the birth scene in Bethlehem and marvel at the fact that God tabernacled among men (John 1:14). But we need to remember that was His first coming. The obscure and humble surroundings that accompanied His earthly arrival will one day be overshadowed by His second glorious coming.

In his sermon “Christmas Future,” John MacArthur says that “the first coming of Christ was a veiled coming.” Consequently, he argues that if we are to really understand the identity of the baby in the manger then we need to gaze on His unveiled majesty as displayed in the book of Revelation. “‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ.’ That’s what the book is. It is the unveiling . . . of the Son of God. So this is Christmas future, not the view so common as His first coming, but the full view of an unveiled Christ.”

John begins the message by setting forth a powerful juxtaposition between Christ’s first and second comings:

The first time He came, a star marked His arrival. The next time He comes, all the stars of heaven will fall, and the whole of heaven will collapse. The first time He came, wise men and shepherds brought Him gifts. The next time He comes, He will bring the gifts: the rewards for His people. The first time He came, there was no room for Him in a small inn. The next time He comes, His glory will fill the entire earth. The first time He came, just a few attended His arrival. The next time He comes, every eye will see Him.  The first time He came as a helpless baby. The second time, He comes as the sovereign king and judge over all.

From there, Pastor John proceeds to deliver a powerful apocalyptic encounter with the glorified Christ. Moving sequentially through the entire book of Revelation, he points out the many titles and offices that belong exclusively to our Lord. At times I found it overwhelming to try and contemplate just some of the truths lifted from Scripture’s final book.

“Christmas Future” is a sermon that provides the listener with a much needed lens—a lens for viewing the Christmas story in its proper perspective. It pulls back the veil of God made flesh to reveal His full and glorious identity as the Creator and Judge of the universe. May our conversations this Christmas be informed and energized by that reality. 

Click here to listen to “Christmas Future.”

VIDEO ‘The Nutcracker’ and the Dream of Christmas

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - DECEMBER 21: Artists perform during the rehearsal of The Nutcracker by the Czech National Ballet amid the coronavirus pandemic on December 21, 2020 in Prague, Czech Republic. As the government restrictions disallow spectators into the theaters Czech National Ballet will live stream traditional Christmas carol The …
Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

PAUL BOIS 24 Dec 2021

Of all the folk tales, pageants, legends, and fables to accompany the Christmas season, few have achieved the level of immortality of The Nutcracker, from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s short story to its reimagining in Tchaikovsky’s ballet. 

Like Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, we can recall The Nutcracker as if by rote: a curious girl on Christmas Eve, an enchanted Nutcracker who springs to life and battles the evil Mouse King, a whimsical land of marzipan castles and Christmas forests. We know the tale, but have we ever asked why we know it? For that, we must venture into its origins.

When Prussian author E.T.A. Hoffmann conceived The Nutcracker and the Mouse King in 1816, he envisioned his tale as a counterpoint to the prevailing Enlightenment dogma that insisted upon rationalism and reason over imagination. A product of German romanticism, Hoffmann “believed strongly that the imagination was being attacked by the rise of rationalism,” according to University of Minnesota professor Jack Zipes, and therefore dedicated himself to “another way of looking at the world, and to reclaiming nature, reclaiming innocence, reclaiming an authentic way of living.”

In the simplest summation, German Romantics were nostalgists, most of whom respected the Medieval foundations upon which Western civilization was built. Rather than divorce themselves from the past — as the Robespierrean French so violently demonstrated — the Romantics harnessed the past as a wellspring for inspiration to better unify an increasingly atomized culture in a post-Reformation society. They insisted on tales of courtly love, the triumph of Humanität (true humanity), the validation of passion, and the prevailing of virtue over vice.

To the Romantics, art could not be probed for deconstruction, it could not be commodified, it could not be “put on the rack and tortured for her secrets,” as the Renaissance philosopher Francis Bacon would have it. The Romantics saw art as a leisurely affair, a divinely-inspired process wherein God channels the artist as a vessel for unspoken Truths. From the Romantics, the West received some of its most treasured works of post-Enlightenment art: the Grimm fairy tale anthologies, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, and Caspar David Friedrich’s iconic Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog.

That Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker would survive over 200 years of history, including two World Wars and the rise of Communism, to become synonymous with Christmas, speaks to its unique power as a romantic work of fantasy. Most cultural critics and historians would be quick to credit Tchaikovsky’s majestic suite for this brush with immortality, and while that remains undisputed, it must not be forgotten that Hoffmann’s tale spawned a legacy of such power it captured the imagination of not one but two artistic titans: French author Alexandre Dumas and Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Nearly three decades after its publication, Dumas recrafted Hoffmann’s tale in his own image – The Tale of the Nutcracker (1844) – retaining Hoffmann’s basic plot with only a few minor differences. Tchaikovsky would later use Dumas’ recreation as the basis for his ballet’s libretto, stripping the story down into what amounts to little more than a young girl’s dream. Undoubtedly, without Tchaikovsky’s music, Hoffmann’s tale of wonder would be little more than a curiosity for German literary scholars rather than the cultural powerhouse as we understand it today. Strange as it may seem, Hoffmann would probably relish the knowledge of music becoming the fount from which his work received eternal life. For in his famous review of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Hoffmann declared that music “reveals an unknown kingdom to mankind: a world that has nothing in common with the outward, material world that surrounds it, and in which we leave behind all predetermined conceptual feelings in order to give ourselves up to the inexpressible.”

As critic Robert Kilborn so eloquently noted, “Hoffmann’s novella captures a stranger and darker world than the Alexandre Dumas, père, adaption from which the ballet is derived. What in the story is a very real transformation and liberation, in the ballet becomes a lighthearted dream. But the music carries the message intact.”

With that, we must ask ourselves: what stood at the heart of Hoffmann’s work that spawned this ongoing saga of fascination that still resonates, even to today? I suspect it stems from the marriage of Hoffmann’s fiercely defiant romanticism with the season of Christmas, creating an ethos radiating within its metaphysical DNA that captivates our subconscious.

For what is Christmas if not Western civilization’s last vestige of collective leisure — the one season in which we set aside all notions of structure and utility to partake in the anticipation and celebration of Christ’s birth, and as with all celebrations, there are pageants to be attended, gifts to be offered, games to be played, tales to be told, songs to be sung, and fellowships to be nurtured. A parade of useless engagements, quantifiable only by their economic proficiency. We string up lights, not for their luminosity, but so the darkness will be luminous. We display decorations, not for their distinction, but so our homes will be distinct. We indulge in feasts, not for their nourishment, but so our hearts will be nourished. Tradition reigns over trend, Truth over fact, quality over quantity.

Original 1853 Woodcut Illustration

Consider, for example, how this reflects in the arc of Hoffmann’s protagonist, Marie Stahlbahm (Clara as she is known in the ballet). On Christmas Eve, her father entrusts to her a Nutcracker after she expresses her fondness for it. “Since, dear Marie, you love Friend Nutcracker so much, you must shield and shelter him,” he tells her. 

Marie takes this to heart, treating the Nutcracker with tender care, cracking in him only the “smallest nuts” for fear of breaking his fragile jaw. For reasons unexplained, she feels an affinity for the Nutcracker, seeing within him a hidden value beyond her understanding. Her brother, Fritz, on the other hand, sees the Nutcracker as merely a tool, a functionary to be wielded for his own amusement, shoving the “biggest and hardest” nuts into the toy’s mouth until his “whole lower jaw turned loose and wobbly.”

“Oh, my poor dear Nutcracker!” Marie cries out in seeing her defective friend.

Now notice what Hoffmann has Fritz say in response: “He’s a stupid, simple-minded guy! He wants to be a Nutcracker, but he has no decent teeth. He probably doesn’t understand his own work. Hand him over, Marie! He has to chew up nuts for me, even if he loses his remaining teeth – even his entire jaw in the bargain.”

Original 1853 Woodcut Illustration

Marie represents the Romantic while Fritz represents the utilitarian, a materialist with no care or insight for anything’s intrinsic value. He is the factory owner who works his employees to the bone, the general who marches his soldiers into a massacre, the king who taxes his peasants into poverty.

These two worldviews, ever-present in Hoffmann’s mind, clash throughout the story as Marie struggles to realize that the Nutcracker may indeed be alive. She sees him perform wondrous deeds, commanding an army and waging war against the seven-headed Mouse King. She learns of his woeful origins; his ugly appearance a curse from a broken promise. She absconds to his magical kingdom of sprawling treats and Christmas forests. Were these actual experiences or merely a fever dream? She wrestles in this conundrum, her family questioning her sanity at every turn, pleading she see the Nutcracker for his inanimate simplicity. She resists, and only when she chooses to love the Nutcracker for his intrinsic worth does she come to know the truth of his existence and win her eternal reward as queen of his magical kingdom.

Hoffmann closes his story with a telling line: “Marie supposedly is still queen of a land you can see sparkling Christmas Forests everywhere as well as translucent Marzipan Castles — in short, the most splendid and most wondrous things, if only you have the right eyes to see them with.”

Original 1853 Woodcut Illustration

Like a true Romantic, Hoffmann invites us to see the world through Marie’s eyes, discovering a hidden world of meaning beyond facades and machinations, a world filled with the “most splendid and most wondrous things.” 

We struggle with this every Christmas, experiencing the season in two realities: the physical, living reality of our worldly existence and the fanciful, majestic reality of our imagination — a decadent, uncorrupted dreamworld of light, wonder, and warmth, untouched by the banality of time. We envision a Christmas marked by precious moments and miraculous happenings only to experience a Christmas firmly grounded in the practical demands of daily living. For every candy cane and silver lane that glows, we get icy roads, depleted bank accounts, crowded parking lots, and year-end fiscal deadlines. We dream of Christmas, living in its promise, anticipating what it brings, yearning to experience it all again while wondering if we ever experienced it all.

Only when we choose to believe in the dream’s reality does Christmas truly come alive.

What does ‘faith in God’ really mean this Christmas?

Exclusive: Craige McMillan asks if pandemic changes are part of the Lord’s ‘final act’

By Craige McMillan December 24, 2021

Lots of pastors will read the Christmas story in church this Sunday. Some of them will come up with pretty little placebos for our time of pandemics, lockdowns and government-imposed emergencies. But Christmas, above all, is a story of faith in God for something far larger than what we can see in front of us. This kind of seeing requires eyes of faith.

Perhaps you are like me and have heard the expression “faith in God” your whole life. But what does that actually mean? Does it mean that we believe God exists? So do the demons. Does it mean that we believe that Jesus came to the earth and died in our place, to pay a debt we could not pay, and in so doing restored our relationship with God (our Father) and gave us eternal life? Does it mean that Jesus’ death and resurrection restored all that humanity had before the Fall in the Garden of Eden? Or is Jesus just a nice idea that sells presents every year (even if they will be delivered late this year)?

Here’s an interesting Christmas story for our moment in time from the book of Matthew. It’s not the one you will hear this Sunday. But here it is, anyway:

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27 NIV)

The disciples in that fishing boat had a certain amount of faith, because they believed that if they could wake up Jesus, he could fix their problem. He did fix their problem, but not before he rebuked them for their lack of faith. But why?

There is a furious storm going on in the earth this Christmas. There will be a multitude of prayers offered in our churches this Sunday, asking Jesus to calm the storm going on in the earth right now. We’d like everything to be the way it was, before the storm started. Our lives may not have been perfect, but they were predictable. Our government seemed to function, even if we didn’t always like what it did. But the pandemic of fear has changed all that. Do you ever hear God asking, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

Is it or is it not a valid question? Predictability is not something God cares much about. If you have foreknowledge (knowledge of the future) as God does, why would you need predictability?

Maybe we’re at the point in human history where God wants things to be different, but we want them to be the way they always were. What if God actually wants everything to be different? What if we are between acts in the play and He is rearranging the stage? What if God is not satisfied with our nebulous “faith in God,” but he wants men and women who follow Him closely enough to hear him express his hopes and dreams for the world and for humanity? What if our “faith in God” is actually obscuring what God is doing right now?

Maybe faith in God goes deeper than simply believing that He is (exists). Maybe faith in God means hearing his voice and listening for what He wants us to do. Does God actually speak to us? Is prayer a two-way conversation, or do we present our petitions and then rush out of His presence? Do we dare to stay in His presence, confident that Jesus’ death and resurrection those 33 years after his birth changed everything?

As the Apostle Peter (more eloquently) observed, time is not the same for God as it is for us. The Bible makes clear that we are all eternal, and also that we face very different eternities, based on our reaction to the plumb-line of Jesus Christ that was dropped in Nazareth some 2,000 years ago.

Maybe God is tired of being bought off by our check in the collection plate every Sunday. Maybe He is even now rearranging the furniture for the final act, and he wants those who are able to hear him to become part of the final act for humanity. Remember, no matter how far you go with God, there’s always more. We will never understand him, but he never asked for our understanding. He asks for our love. Merry Christmas.

Armageddon Story, Vol. 4, Earth’s Final Kingdom. Violet says, “Hi!” Does she know you?

Come in from the cold

Exclusive: Patrice Lewis invites unbelievers to get to know the Christmas feast’s Honored Guest

By Patrice Lewis December 24, 2021

There is a passage from a book called “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping” by Judith Levine. Disgusted with what she sees as a consumer culture in New York City, this progressive author and her “partner” embarked on a year-long project to buy nothing but necessities. I find it an interesting (if cynical) read.

But one particular passage always leaps out at me. While taking a late-evening walk on Christmas Eve to visit some friends, the author (an atheist) and her partner spontaneously slip into the back of a small church during the candlelit service. To her surprise, Ms. Levine finds herself weeping. “[P]erhaps I weep in envy of faith,” she writes. “The comfort of knowing anything without skepticism. An atheist never really comes in from the cold.”

The aching pathos of those words haunted me from the first time I read them. They are a naked glimpse into an atheist’s soul. She’s right, of course. An atheist never really does come in from the cold. This realization seems especially poignant at Christmas when so many people are rejoicing.

The Bible references celebrations all the time. Jesus’ first recorded miracle took place at a celebration (the wedding at Cana). But in all cases Scripture makes it clear these celebrations have a point, a purpose. And the purpose in each of these celebrations is to honor a guest, whether it’s a king or a bridegroom or a foreign diplomat or a passing visitor or a Messiah in a manger.

A feast without a guest of honor is meaningless, like a wedding without a bridegroom. It’s merely an exercise in gluttony and excess. Overindulgence is kind of fun, to be sure, but don’t mistake “fun” with “meaningful,” because they’re not the same thing.

Christmas, of course, celebrates the ultimate Guest of Honor. Everything we do – sing carols, give gifts, smile at strangers, donate to charity, decorate our homes, build gingerbread houses, see “The Nutcracker,” sing Handel’s “Messiah” as a flash mob in a mall – all these things consciously or unconsciously celebrate the birth of a very special baby, the ultimate Honored Guest.

When unbelievers feel a keen ache from their lack of belief – as is written in the passage above – it’s because they’ve caught a glimpse of that Honored Guest but know they won’t meet him. Or more precisely, they refuse to meet him. They deny He exists. They cannot or will not take the opportunity to say hello, and in doing so they miss out on unbelievable richness and joy.

They also miss out on the biggest gifts of all: forgiveness, grace, salvation and eternal life. These are the ultimate gifts that keep on giving. Nothing purchased from the mall can ever equal them in value.

It’s an interesting development to watch those who don’t like the Honored Guest do everything in their power to make sure others won’t ever catch a glimpse of Him either. They’re grudgingly willing to permit a celebration (“winter parties”), but they insist on making it a party without a point (a wedding without a groom? a book without a plot? a song without a melody? a birthday party without a birthday?). They simply cannot swallow the idea that most people celebrate for a reason. We instinctively recognize there should be an honored guest at a party. We understand that a celebration without a point is, well, pointless.

Atheists can fill their lives with material goods. They can fill their lives with love for their spouse and kids. They can fill their lives with good works and charity. But there will always be an emptiness inside them, that classic God-shaped hole in their heart, whether or not they’re willing to admit it. And the thing is, it’s so easy to fill that hole.

But unbelievers resist. They stay out in the cold, pressing their noses against the windowpane and seeing inside a room filled with warmth and light and joy. Even though entrance is free and their presence would be warmly welcomed, they prefer to stay outside and ridicule those who choose to go in and enjoy the party.

The key point so many unbelievers miss is that faith seldom comes in a blinding road-to-Damascus flash. Rather, it takes time and practice. I would never hand you a violin and shove you unprepared in front of an audience at Carnegie Hall – the experience would traumatize you and make you hate violins and fear performances.

But years of steady practice would overcome that fear and hatred. Practice allows you to squeak and screech and make mistakes and get discouraged in private. But you’ll improve. You may never perform at Carnegie Hall, but you might share the joy of your violin music with family and friends.

For most people, a belief and faith in God also takes time and practice. A lot of atheists were, sometime in their past, shoved onto the stage at Carnegie Hall unprepared (so to speak). The experience traumatized them. They learned to hate God and loathe religion.

As a result, many never practice believing. They never attend church. They never read the Bible. They never talk to anyone whose gentle guidance might help them ease that fear and loathing and discover the joy of faith. It’s not hard to accept faith as a little child at first. Children don’t comprehend their gifts, they just accept them. Comprehension – faith – comes later.

And so, unbelievers stay out in the cold, hating God and rejecting His gifts. Since the magnitude of those gifts cannot be grasped, understood, or appreciated until they’re accepted, unbelievers continue to scorn them as unnecessary. They tell people who have already accepted those gifts that they’re weak, ignorant and wrong. Some even take those gifts and spit on them before throwing them away.

And that’s sad, achingly sad … because the gifts available at the celebration are fabulous. They’re greater than us, greater than everything. They’re also available to everyone, regardless of whether someone accepts them or not.

Thankfully, unbelievers are welcome to join the party anytime. They’re welcome to help themselves to the gifts anytime. They’re welcome to meet the Honored Guest anytime. There are a lot of freebies out there, available for the taking. Anytime.

So for anyone who hasn’t yet come in out of the cold, for Pete’s sake open the door and come inside! There are gifts aplenty. I think you’ll find that party is a whole lot more fun when it has a purpose – and when you get to know that Honored Guest.

I wish you all, believers and unbelievers alike, a blessed and gift-filled Christmas. Come and join the celebration. Come in from the cold.

%d bloggers like this: