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The Forgotten Man of Christmas

If you work for a large company, you will come across various characters, personalities and temperaments.  Meanwhile, if you are a regular visitor of social media sites, you can usually decipher those seeking attention from people who simply enjoy connecting with friends.  While there are numerous methods entrepreneurs can cash in on today, it’s okay to live a quiet life beyond the spot life.  Such is the case of one first century man.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by [the power of] the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her [promised] husband, being a just and righteous man and not wanting to expose her publicly to shame, planned to send her away and divorce her quietly, Matthew 1:18-19.

As a former junior high teacher, teenagers can be cruel.  Teens going through puberty can be down right nasty.  Imagine if your girl friend shows up to school pregnant and you didn’t have sex with her.  These were the thoughts racing through Joseph’s mind when his fiancée returns home from his aunt’s house several months pregnant.  Betrayed, confused and distraught, Joseph was on his way to break off his engagement quietly to avoid a messy divorce.  When an angel intervened, this forgotten man of Christmas had to wait until Jesus was born to consecrate his marriage.

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover Feast. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the Feast; 43 and as they were returning [to Nazareth], after spending the required number of days [at the Feast], the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. Now His parents did not know this, 44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and traveled a day’s journey; and [then] they began searching [anxiously] for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for Him [everywhere], Luke 2:41-45.

Joseph is one of those characters who quickly fades from the forefront, written out of a drama, movie or show after completing his mission.  There is only one mention of Joseph in the Bible following the events of Christmas, Jesus’ bar mitzvah, the event to celebrate a Jewish boy becoming a man.  This symbolic act enabled Jesus to become a man in God’s house.  Joseph likely died of natural causes, assumed to be dead and long gone, out of the picture, by the four gospel authors.  Then again, Joseph could have completed God’s will for his life following Jesus’ bar mitzvah.  Either way, Joseph is the forgotten man of Christmas, taking a back seat to Emmanuel, God with us in the form of baby Jesus..

by Jay Mankus

Tithes and Lives

According to the book of Genesis, the first family on earth felt compelled to make offerings to the Lord.  It’s unclear if God first communicated the concept of a tithe to Adam while living in the Garden of Eden or later on in life.  Nonetheless, sons of Adam, Cain and Abel began to practice what is referred to as first fruits.  As a farmer, Cain brought forth crops during the harvest.  Meanwhile, little brother Abel was a shepherd, not withholding any expense, presenting the Lord with some of his finest sheep.  These offerings often reveal who trusts God completely from those whom are still trying to control the steering wheel.

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord, Genesis 4:3.

Like buying Christmas gifts, some individuals have the means to purchase anything they want.  Meanwhile, the majority have to set spending limits to avoid going into debt.  This limitation can create animosity between family members or friends over the holidays.  If you expect a certain amount of gifts in your mind, any type of high expectations can lead to disappointment.  From God’s perspective, He is the Creator of life, a spiritual father to all.  Unfortunately, human nature breeds selfishness, causing many to forget about God the Father, like the wayward child in the parable of the prodigal son.

And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, Genesis 4:4.

The prophet Isaiah uses the term Emmanuel to refer to the coming Messiah, Jesus.  When translated into English, Emmanuel means God with us.  Perhaps, this inspired three Magi to each bring gifts from their lands.  One brought gold, another frankincense and the last myrrh.  If there is a lesson people can learn from these three wise men it’s that tithes and lives go together.  Giving tithes and transforming lives go hand in hand.  As Christmas Day approaches, may the Holy Spirit inspire you to give back to God through tithes and a rededicated life to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Developing An Attitude of Gratitude

As Christmas Day draws near yet again, it appears the Grinch Who Stole Christmas isn’t just a Dr. Suess classic.  Rather, a lack of thanksgiving is turning hearts once full of joy into Ebenezer Scrooge.  While 24 hours of Christmas music attempts to put people into the Christmas spirit, demons whispering Bah Humbug are drowning out carolers in the streets.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,  Ephesians 5:17-18.

I’m not sure the initial reason, but a song writer felt called to create a piece entitled the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Perhaps, modern times need a composition to prepare souls to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God with us.  If Thanksgiving Day is used properly, this celebration could kick start the 12 Days of Thanksgiving, enabling a spirit of thanks to be transformed into an attitude of gratitude.

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:19-20.

The apostle Paul provides a blue print for this evolution in a letter to the church at Ephesus.  The ungrateful tend to drown their sorrows in alcohol.  Meanwhile, the expense of gift giving can steal your joy for this special season.  To avoid this common fate, turn bitterness into praise by humming Christmas classics.  As this is practiced daily, perspectives slowly change from self-gratification toward a heart of service.  If you want to change for the better, start keeping a journal of reasons to be thankful.  When healthy practices become a habit, an attitude of gratitude will be established.

by Jay Mankus

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