A Labor of Love

To the woman he said, "I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.  Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."  To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat from it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  Genesis 3:16-17

My job requires me to do pre-employment physical examinations for local employers (pre-placement exams if you know about the Americans with Disabilities Act).  A while back I was looking over an applicant's exam form when my eye caught his occupation – "laborer".  It caused me to pause and think - you know, truth be known, we are all laborers.  Whether we clean septic tanks, oversee multibillion dollar organizations, or chase protons around the Hadron Collider in Switzerland, "through painful toil, we eat food from the ground."

Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, was a laborer.  He made furniture for the people of Nazareth.  For at least 15 years Jesus labored as a furniture maker himself, before setting out as an itinerant rabbi.  Jesus' first disciples were also laborers.  Most of them were fisherman, drawing their livelihoods, not from the cursed ground, but from the Sea of Galilee.

Because of Eve, childbirth also generally follows a course of painful labor.  The process of natural human childbirth is hard work, and not without its share of discomfort.  Most moms, however, quickly forget the pain and hard work (at least within a few years).

Even dying can require labor.  I've had the opportunity to be present at the deaths of several patients and family members.  The final hours of the natural dying process with the changes in respiration and circulation often represent the final labor of the dying person.  This is no more evident than in the crucifixion death of Jesus, where His body labored to end the pain.

So, labor is always with us – at birth, during life, and often at death.  We are indeed all laborers.  Advent, however, is when we celebrate the labor of a teenage girl in a stable in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  We thank you Mary for your labor of love.

May the peace of that Baby in a manger, the fruit of Mary's labor, be with you this Christmas.  Rest from your own labor.  Celebrate Emmanuel!

Rick Lee

God Has Heard Your Prayers

"God Has Heard Your Prayers"

During Zechariah’s angelic visitation (Luke 1:13), Gabriel’s words were a bold proclamation of the heart and faithfulness of God. “God has heard your prayer.” I tried to imagine what I would feel like if I heard those words from a heavenly ambassador. Did Zechariah initially hear the 5 word sentence brought to him from the heart of God? I don’t know. I don’t know if he wondered, “What prayer, which prayer…?” The Scripture shares that as the angel specified the prayer God was answering, Zechariah became incredulous. This man of God who had persevered through years of disappointment could not believe this astounding message from the throne of God. Here, all these years later, in the most unlikely place, at an impossible time- since the couple was past child bearing- God said, “I have heard your prayers”.

God reminded me of that truth for me as well, “I have heard your prayers” and repeated the angel’s other words, “Nothing is impossible to God!” (Luke 1:37). Prayers prayed years ago- secret, desperate appeals and intercession have been heard. Regardless of specific verification or evidence …despite time, distance or circumstance, God does not forget the desires of our heart entrusted to Him during prayer. Jesus promised us in John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

During that Advent season, years ago, Holy Spirit gave me a personal anointed message about God’s faithfulness not only to hear, but to act on my prayers. Our God, our creator and sustainer, ministers not only love, but hope in the Advent season-and hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). Each year, as I reread the Luke passage, my spirit smiles at the memory of my lesson. The verses also remind me to come to my Savior in boldness and with trust, “God has heard your prayers, Peggy.”

May God’s words to Zechariah about our prayers- truly become your words of hope.

Submitted by Peggy Phelan

A Delightful Inheritance

A Delightful Inheritance

Lord, you have assigned me my portion cup;
You have made my life secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me
In pleasant places;
Surely I have a delightful inheritance.

My heart is glad, and my soul rejoices…
In your presence there is fullness of joy
Psalm 16:5-6, 9,11

These words are written on a card, tucked in my dresser mirror frame. Though I see them several times a day, I don’t always read them, but they are a beautiful expression of the gift of life God has given me.

The greatest gift He has given is His Son, whose birth we are celebrating,. We celebrate His birth because we also celebrate another time, when He died and rose from the tomb for us so that we may have eternal life with Him.

Because of the baby Jesus and His grace, all can have the life expressed in these verses.

Submitted by Kendrick Nuttall

Why Do We Have a Christmas Tree?


Because—”God so loved the world that he grave his only begotten Son” - the first Christmas Gift we ever had was hung on a tree—the cross of Calvary (I Peter 2:24), that “whosoever believeth on him might not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

And what of the decorations and ornaments on the tree? The star at the apex of the tree points back to the “Star of Bethlehem” which heralded the birth of the Son of God upon earth and which led the Wisemen to the house where the young child lay. (Matthew 2:1-10).

The holly with its berries of red speaks of His blood shed for us. All the rivers of blood, from the first sacrificial blood in Genesis 3, and the first martyr’s blood in Genesis 4, could not atone for sin—only the blood of Christ. (I John 1:7).

The white decorations speak of His purity and sinlessness. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

The blue speaks of His heavenly origin (John 16:28; Psalm 45:8).

The green speaks of everlasting life (John 3:36). It can also represent growing things, which brought into the spiritual realm, would represent our growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord through His Word.

The gold speaks of His absolute deity. “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

The purple speaks of His roytalty (Matthew 2:2; also I peter 2:9). So, as you sit this Christmas season in the warm glow of the Christmas tree in your home, think on these things.

-From More Food For The Body For The Soul
Copyright 1948 by The Moody Bible


Barrington Bunny


By Martin Bell from the book The Way Of The Wolf

Once upon a time in a large forest there lived a very furry bunny. He had one lop ear, a tiny black nose, and unusually shiny eyes. His name was Barrington. Barrington was not really a very handsome bunny. He was brown and speckled and his ears didn’t stand up right. But he could hop, and he was, as I have said, very furry.

In a way, winter is fun for bunnies. After all, it gives them an opportunity to hop in the snow and then turn around to see where they have hopped. So, in a way, winter was fun for Barrington. But in another way winter made Barrington sad. For, you see, winter marked the time where all of the animal families got together in their cozy homes to celebrate Christmas. He could hop, and he was very furry. But as far as Barrington knew, he was the only bunny in the forest.

When Christmas Eve finally came, Barrington did not feel like going home all by himself. So he decided he would hop for awhile in the clearing at the center of the forest. Hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. Barrington made tracks in the fresh snow. Hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. Then he cocked his head and looked back at the wonderful designs he had made.

“Bunnies,” he thought to himself, “can hop. And they are very warm, too, because of how furry they are.” (But Barrington didn’t really know whether or not this was true of all bunnies, since he had never met another bunny.)

When it got too dark to see the tracks he was making, Barrington made up his mind to go home. On his way, however, he passed a large oak tree. High in the branches there was a great deal of excited chattering going on. Barrington looked up. It was a squirrel family! What a marvelous time they seemed to be having.

“Hello, up there,” called Barrington.

“Hello, down there,” came the reply.

“Having a Christmas party?” asked Barrington.

“Oh, yes!” answered the squirrels. “It’s Christmas Eve. Everybody is having a Christmas party!”

“May I come to your party?” said Barrington softly.

“Are you a squirrel?”


“What are you, then?”

“A bunny.”

“A bunny?”


“Well, how can you come to the party if you’re a bunny? Bunnies can’t climb trees.”

“That’s true,” said Barrington thoughtfully. “But I can hop and I’m very furry and warm.”

“We’re sorry,” called the squirrels. “We don’t know anything about hopping and being furry, but we do know that in order to come to our house you have to be able to climb trees.”

“Oh, well,” said Barrington. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” chattered the squirrels.

And the unfortunate bunny hopped off toward his tiny house. It was beginning to snow when Barrington reached the river. Near the river bank was a wonderfully constructed house of sticks and mud. Inside there was singing. “It’s the beavers,” thought Barrington. “Maybe they will let me come to their party.” And so he knocked on the door.

“Who’s out there?” called a voice.

“Barrington Bunny,” he replied.

There was a long pause and then a shiny beaver head broke the water. “Hello, Barrington,” said the beaver.

“May I come to your Christmas party?” asked Barrington.

The beaver thought for awhile and then he said, “I suppose so. Do you know how to swim?”

“No,” said Barrington, “but I can hop and I am very furry and warm.”

“Sorry,” said the beaver. “I don’t know anything about hopping and being furry, but I do know that in order to come to our house you have to be able to swim.”

“Oh, well,” Barrington muttered, his eyes filling with tears. “I suppose that’s true. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” called the beaver. And he disappeared beneath the surface of the water.

Even as furry as he was, Barrington was starting to get cold. And the snow was falling so hard that his tiny, bunny eyes could scarcely see what was ahead of him.
He was almost home, however, when he heard the excited squeaking of field mice beneath the ground.

“It’s a party,” thought Barrington. And suddenly he blurted out through his tears, “Hello, field mice. This is Barrington Bunny. May I come to your party?” But the wind was howling so loudly and Barrington was sobbing so much that no one heard him, and when there was no response at all, Barrington just sat down in the snow and began to cry with all his might. “Bunnies,” he thought, aren’t any good to anyone. What good is it to be furry and to be able to hop if you don’t have any family on Christmas Eve?” Barrington cried and cried. When he stopped crying he began to bite on his bunny’s foot, but he did not move from where he was sitting in the snow.

Suddenly, Barrington was aware he was not alone. He looked up and strained his shiny eyes to see who was there. To his surprise he saw a great silver wolf. The wolf was large and strong and his eyes flashed fire. He was the most beautiful animal Barrington had ever seen. For a long time the silver wolf didn’t say anything at all. He just stood there and looked at Barrington with those terrible eyes. Then slowly and deliberately the wolf spoke.

“Barrington,” he asked in a gentle voice, “why are you sitting in the snow?”

“Because it’s Christmas Eve,” said Barrington, “and I don’t have any family, and bunnies aren’t any good to anyone.”

“Bunnies are, too, good,” said the wolf. “Bunnies can hop and they are very warm.”

“What good is that?” Barrington sniffed.

“It is very good indeed,” the wolf went on, “because it is a gift that bunnies are given, a free gift with no strings attached. And every gift that is given to anyone is given for a reason. Someday you will see why it is good to hop and to be warm and furry.”

“But it’s Christmas,” moaned Barrington, “and I’m all alone. I don’t have any family at all.”

“Of course you do,” replied the great silver wolf. “All of the animals in the forest are your family,” and then the wolf disappeared. He simply wasn’t there. Barrington had only blinked his eyes, and when he looked the wolf was gone.

“All of the animals in the forest are my family,” thought Barrington. “It’s good to be a bunny. Bunnies can hop. That’s a gift.” And then he said it again. “A gift. A free gift.”

On in the night Barrington worked. First he found the best stick he could. (And that was difficult because of the snow.) Then hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. To beaver’s house. He left the stick just outside the door. With a note on it that read: “Here is a good stick for your house. It is a gift. A free gift. No strings attached. Signed, a member of your family.”

“It is a good thing that I can hop, he thought, “because the snow is very deep.” Then Barrington dug and dug. Soon he had gathered together enough dead leaves and grass to make the squirrels’ nest warmer. Hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. He laid the grass and leaves just under the large oak tree and attached this message: “A gift. A free gift. From a member of your family.”

It was late when Barrington finally started home. And what made things worse was that he knew a blizzard was beginning. Hop. Hop. Hippity-hop. Soon poor Barrington was lost. The wind howled furiously, and it was very, very cold. “It certainly is cold,” he said out loud. “It’s a good thing I’m so furry. But if I don’t find my way home pretty soon I might freeze!”

Squeak. Squeak. . . .and then he saw it, a baby field mouse lost in the snow. And the little mouse was crying.

“Hello, little mouse,” Barrington called. “Don’t cry. I’ll be right there.” Hippity-hop, and Barrington was beside the tiny mouse.

“I’m lost,” sobbed the little fellow. “I’ll never find my way home, and I know I’m going to freeze.”

“You won’t freeze,” said Barrington. “I’m a bunny and bunnies are very furry and warm. You stay right where you are and I’ll cover you up.” Barrington lay on top of the little mouse and hugged him tight. The tiny fellow felt himself surrounded by warm fur. He cried for awhile but soon, snug and warm, he fell asleep.

Barrington had only two thoughts that long, cold night. First he thought, “It’s good to be a bunny. Bunnies are very furry and warm.” And then, when he felt the heart of the tiny mouse beating regularly, he thought, “All the animals in the forest are my family.”

Next morning, the field mice found their little boy, asleep in the snow, warm and snug beneath the furry carcass of a dead bunny. Their relief and excitement was so great that they didn’t even think to question where the bunny had come from, and as for the beavers and the squirrels, they still wonder which member of their family left the little gift for them that Christmas Eve.

After the field mice had left, Barrington’s frozen body simply lay in the snow. There was no sound except that of the howling wind. And no one anywhere in the forest noticed the great silver wolf who came to stand beside that brown, lop-eared carcass.
But the wolf did come.
And he stood there.
Without moving or saying a word.
All Christmas Day.
Until it was night.
And then he disappeared into the forest.

Submitted by Pete Phelan

Jesus was born so you could live. Merry Christmas!

On the Inside,