I have two Christmas stories for you today.
The first one you already know, but I like it. So you get to read it again.
And the second one you don't know. And it's special. It's dear to my heart. So you get to hear that one too.
The Real Christmas Story:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
For with God nothing shall be impossible.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Such a beautiful, amazing, miraculous story.
I try to put myself there and imagine it like it was, and I can do it... until I get to Christ as a newborn baby. I tend to see Him on a white horse, His vesture dipped in blood.
Lord of Lord and King of Kings.
And then my imagination is like, wigged out.
God is a Giver.
Giving is His love language.
He gave His Son for us, and each day He gives more and more of Himself so that we can live full.
People talk about giving being the spirit of Christmas, and they're right on. Because God gave and without that giving, Christmas wouldn't be here.
And He only asks for one thing in return for all His wonderful giving... My son, give me thine heart.
So now for the second story.
This story is all about God's giving spirit. This story is, in my opinion, what God's love is all about.
I have a super duper, dear to my heart girlfriend. I asked her if I could write this story and she said sure, but I'm still going to change her name just 'cause... I don't want her to be embarrassed.
I'm going to call her Bob. I just like the name Bob. Sometimes I call myself Bob. For fun.
Bob was such a quiet, meek, incredibly shy, sweet teenager. And at about age 19, she met the man of her dreams and married him the next year. Over the next few years, they had five kids.
It was the perfect life. Happy, lots of kids to love on, starting homeschooling, cooking dinner, breaking up squabbles... it was a family.
Then one day, the man of Bob's dreams came home and said, Goodbye. I've decided I want something different.
That kind of thing has this way of breaking you.
But Bob got a full time job, and started going back to school, and put the kids in public school, and rented a little house, and found a beater car, and tried making ends meet, and life goes on.
And my heart broke watching her.
And Bob started thinking all men were untrustworthy, and maybe she should just give up on happiness, and who could blame her? And almost two years went by.
But Bob's mom told me she prayed the whole time, Show her how much You care. Show her how much You love her. Take care of her.
I visited with Bob not too long ago, and she said she felt like she was floundering around, and I could see the guard being let down a little. And when we got done with our visit, I thought maybe my heart would burn straight thru with all the ache Bob was holding inside. I hate seeing her struggle. I love her.
So I prayed harder than I ever have that God would really, really show Bob what He can do. I prayed for Him to step in and make her struggles less. Because no matter how hard I try, I can't do for her what He can.
Maybe a week later, I got a text from Bob that she had been offered a new job by some church friends.
Full time. Better pay. And best of all, the hours worked around the kid's school schedule. They wouldn't have to be home alone so much anymore.
And God said, Watch Me do My thing, little girl.
Then the same friends bought new tires for her beater car. And did a little shopping for her and the kids too.
And a couple weeks ago the kid's school called and said they had money for her to buy Christmas presents for the kids.
Then Bob took her kids to the school Christmas program, and her youngest girl ran around the room and told everyone how the school had given them money.
Bob was mortified and considered throwing her girl in the trash can.
But she didn't. She went to Walmart instead. And while she was there, a little girl ran up to her and said, I go to school with your kids and my mom is going to buy all of your kids brand new Northface coats for Christmas!
Bob was mortified again. This little girl's daddy had been killed in a train accident not too long before, but here this family was... giving to Bob.
That little girl and her mom came by the house later and the mom cried when she said this had all been her little girl's idea and it blessed her heart to give to Bob's family.
And right after that, Bob sent me this text:
sometimes i wonder why God is so good to me.
And then she sent me this picture with the words, blessed beyond measure:
And God said to me, Wipe your tears. Ease the ache. I'm the Great Giver. When I take care, no one wants. When I comfort, hearts unclench and heal.
Maybe this story doesn't mean much to you. You don't know Bob.
But I know her and I know what she's been thru, and when I see God reaching down and taking her shattered pieces and gluing them back together with His love... I'm a happy, emotional mess.
These are little things. A job, tires, a little money, a new coat.
But really they're not so little. They're big because God shines thru them. Because God knows how to get under a great big ol' pile of hurt, and make Himself real.
Bob's story has made this Christmas different for me. It made me stop and think. It made me stop and give thanks. It made me say to Him, This is one of the reasons I love You so.
God is a Giver.
And what better time of the year for Him to give so much than this?