• Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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  • December 2011
    M T W T F S S
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When I Love You So Little

From the writings of Thomas Reade:

Adorable Jesus! I acknowledge my vileness, my worthlessness, my ingratitude. With shame and confusion of face I look up unto you, O bleeding Lamb, for having slighted your goodness, and your loving kindness towards me.

Take away this earthliness from my mind; this coldness from my heart; this insensibility to the things of God. Preserve me from a secret alienation of heart; from a growing lukewarmness.

You are the Rock of Ages, the everlasting Strength. Endue me with power from on high to overcome all my indwelling corruptions, which, like a thick cloud, intervene between my soul and you, the Sun of Righteousness; and thus prevent the rays of your consolation from gladdening my heart, and making me to abound in the fruits of righteousness.

To whom can I look, to whom can I go, but unto You, O Friend of sinners. Lord, at your sweet call, I come for pardon, peace, and holiness.

Lord! I am sorely grieved, that I love you so little; that my affections move so slowly towards you.

Stir up my languid desires. Inflame my cold affections. Set my whole soul on fire with holy love.

How painful, that I should be so little affected by the agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion, of my suffering Redeemer.

Why is not my soul all on fire, when I think of your love? Why is it not melted into tears, when I think of my dying Savior?

Am I harder than the rock in Horeb? Am I colder than the northern ice?

Lord! smite my rocky heart with the rod of your loving kindness; dissolve my frozen affections, by the melting beams of your grace.

O! blessed Jesus! I praise you for such infinite love, such abounding grace to the chief of sinners! (Christian Meditations)

Charles Spurgeon On The New Year

Charles H. Spurgeon by Ron Adair

Has 2011 been a disappointment to you? Perhaps there are great things awaiting you with the arrival of the New Year, 2012. There is no doubt in my mind that God has plans to use you and me. Therefore, pray for His blessings and that you might know His Ways. Charles Spurgeon continues on this topic:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5 ESV)

How pleased we are with that which is new! Our children’s eyes sparkle when we talk of giving them a toy or a book which is called new; for our short-lived human nature loves that which has lately come, and is therefore like our own fleeting selves. In this respect, we are all children, for we eagerly demand the news of the day, and are all too apt to rush after the “many inventions” of the hour. The Athenians, who spent their time in telling and hearing some new thing, were by no means singular persons: novelty still fascinates the crowd. As the world’s poet says—

“All with one consent praise new-born gawds.”

I should not wonder, therefore, if the mere words of my text should sound like a pleasant song in your ears; but I am thankful that their deeper meaning is even more joyful. The newness which Jesus brings is bright, clear, heavenly, enduring. We are at this moment specially ready for a new year. The most of men have grown weary with the old cry of depression of trade and hard times; we are glad to escape from what has been to many a twelve-months of great trial. The last year had become wheezy, croaking, and decrepit, in its old age; and we lay it asleep with a psalm of judgment and mercy. We hope that this newborn year will not be worse than its predecessor, and we pray that it may be a great deal better. At any rate, it is new, and we are encouraged to couple with it the idea of happiness, as we say one to another, “I wish you a happy New Year.”

“Ring out the old, ring in the new; 

Ring, happy bells, across the snow;

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

We ought not, as men in Christ Jesus, to be carried away by a childish love of novelty, for we worship a God who is ever the same, and of whose years there is no end. In some matters “the old is better.” There are certain things which are already so truly new, that to change them for anything else would be to lose old gold for new dross. The old, old gospel is the newest thing in the world; in its very essence it is forever good news. . . .

Yet, as I have already said, there has been so much evil about ourselves and our old nature, so much sin about our life and the old past, so much mischief about our surroundings and the old temptations, that we are not distressed by the belief that old things are passing away. Hope springs up at the first sound of such words as these from the lips of our risen and reigning Lord: “Behold, I make all things new.” It is fit that things so outworn and defiled should be laid aside, and better things fill their places. . . .

Though there is no real difference between [New Year’s Day] and any other day, yet in our mind and thought it is a marked period, which we regard as one of the milestones set up on the highway of our life. It is only in imagination that there is any close of one year and beginning of another; and yet it has most fitly all the force of a great fact. When men “cross the line,” they find no visible mark: the sea bears no trace of an equatorial belt; and yet mariners know whereabouts they are, and they take notice thereof, so that a man can hardly cross the line for the first time without remembering it to the day of his death. We are crossing the line now. We have sailed into the year of grace 1885; therefore, let us keep a feast unto the Lord. If Jesus has not made us new already, let the new year cause us to think about the great and needful change of conversion; and if our Lord has begun to make us new, and we have somewhat entered into the new world wherein dwelleth righteousness, let us be persuaded by the season to press forward into the center of his new creation, that we may feel to the full all the power of his grace. (Sermon No. 1816)

Facing A New Year

A. W. Tozer

From the desk of A.W. Tozer:

I do not advise that we end the year on a somber note. The march, not the dirge, has ever been the music of Christianity. If we are good students in the school of life, there is much that the years have to teach us. But the Christian is more than a student, more than a philosopher. He is a believer, and the object of his faith makes the difference, the mighty difference. Of all persons the Christian should be best prepared for whatever the New Year brings. He has dealt with life at its source. In Christ he has disposed of a thousand enemies that other men must face alone and unprepared. He can face his tomorrow cheerful and unafraid because yesterday he turned his feet into the ways of peace and today he lives in God. The man who has made God his dwelling place will always have a safe habitation. (The Warfare of the Spirit)

The Universal Need

Christians understand that human nature is in the grip of sin. We learn in the Bible that “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” (Romans. 8:7). Man is a sinner who must be born again. We are all plagued with guilt which can only be removed by salvation. Claude Duval Cole explains why:

In the light of eternity salvation is the only need. In comparison all other needs fade into insignificance. All other needs are temporal; salvation is for eternity. All other blessings are for a season; salvation is an everlasting blessing. It is called everlasting life. The opposite of everlasting life is everlasting punishment in the lake of fire, called the second death.

Salvation covers every eternal need. It covers the housing problem, for in the Father’s house are many mansions. It covers the food problem, for Christ is the bread of life of which one may eat and never hunger. It covers the employment problem, for the saved will serve God day and night in His temple. It covers the social problem, for the saved of all the earth will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God–all language and cultural barriers will vanish. It covers the health problem, for in the new heavens and the new earth there will be no more pain, for the former things are passed away. Moreover, God Himself shall dwell with His people, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Salvation is a universal need, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Every normal person has a guilt complex. A New York preacher once announced as his subject, “How to Get Rid of Guilty Feelings.” He told the audience he would pause while all who were free of guilty feelings might leave the building. To his surprise nobody left. He said he would not have been surprised if it had been a small town congregation where everybody would be known to each other, but in New York where all were more or less strangers to one another, he had not expected all of them to acknowledge they were sinners. But that New York congregation were true to their feelings in this matter-every one of them had a guilt complex. This, in itself, is proof of the existence of God. Conscience testifies loudly to the fact that there is a God with whom we have to do.

The story of religion is made up of the efforts men make to get rid of guilty feeling. This is the explanation of what is called “conscience money;” the thief is trying to get rid of his guilty feelings by returning what he had stolen. This is why the Romanist goes to confessional; he is wanting to get something off his conscience. This is the explanation of Communism; the Communist rids himself of a guilty feeling, if and when he can persuade himself to believe there is no God to Whom he must give an account. The very fact that the atheist raves against the idea of God indicates that his own conscience gives him trouble on the question. This accounts for all heathen religions; people are striving to get rid of guilty feelings. It explains the faith of God’s elect; they are trusting Christ for acceptance with God and freedom from condemnation. (Definitions of Doctrine)

True Christians Prize Christ

Thomas Watson

In the words of Thomas Watson:

We cannot prize Christ at too high a rate. We may prize other things above their value. That is our sin. We commonly overrate the creature; we think there is more in it than there is; therefore God withers our gourd, because we over-prize it.

But we cannot raise our esteem of Christ high enough. He is beyond all value! There is no ruby or diamond, but the jeweler can set a fair price on it. But Christ’s worth can never be fully known. No seraphim can set a due value on Him. His riches are unsearchable! Ephesians 3:8. Christ is more precious than heaven!

True Christians prize Christ, as most precious. He is their chief treasure and delight. This reason why millions perish, is because they do not prize Christ.

The ungodly choose things of no value, before Christ! “You blind fools!” Matthew 23:17. If a person chooses an apple before a priceless diamond—he is judged to be a fool. How many such idiots are there, who choose the gaudy, empty things of this life—before the Prince of Glory! (“The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil”)

Hope For Sick Hearts

[H]aving the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. . . . (Ephesians 1:18 ESV)

[R]emember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12 ESV)

The verses above speak of future grace. How often do we tend to forget about the blessings of grace we have received and instead live in hopelessness as if there were no God? Dare we to say that the God of grace, Who has given us past victories, now fails in strength to meet our current problems and future circumstances? Many people have experienced troubles in recent years which have eaten away the hope of their expectations. During the last two years my family has experienced more unexpected troubles than I would care to name. I understand very well this proverb of Solomon’s: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 ESV) So maybe you consider this past year a dud, but what about 2012?

The New Year is a good time to redirect our thoughts toward the future. The beginning of a new year is a time to prepare our hearts for all that God will do in our lives during the coming year. In Luke, chapter three, John the Baptist told the people to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah. A Savior had been born who represented the rebirth of hope to all who would call on His name. John the Baptist was the messenger sent by God to prepare the hearts of the people. He helped the people to see the condition of their hearts and their need for a Savior, because without Christ we are imprisoned by our sins.

John’s preaching was not at all about lifting the people’s self-esteem. Instead, John forced them to look at their own sinfulness. His message would not be welcome today in most churches. “He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” (Luke 3:7 ESV) By stripping away the defensive shield of self-righteousness, John showed them the true condition of their hearts. What defensive shields do you use to protect you from knowing the sin your heart?

John taught that the Christ was coming. Those who prepared the way would have their hope restored. John the Baptist describes the coming savior in these terms: “John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’” (Luke 3:16-17 ESV)

John’s ministry was also one of repentance: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:4-5 ESV)

We, too, should prepare our hearts for a wonderful rebirth of hope that will enable us to begin this New Year with a sense of passion and enthusiasm. Now is the time to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts and minds that we may be assured: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19-20 ESV) When Jesus becomes our only hope, we will have placed our hope in very secure hands. Let me close by offering this quotation from William Gurnall: “Hope fills the afflicted soul with such inward joy and consolation, that it can laugh while tears are in the eye, sigh and sing all in a breath; it is called ‘the rejoicing of hope’.” Prepare the way!

Aliens In Today’s Western World

Dinesh D'Souza

Quoting Dinesh D’Souza:

The effort by secularists to teach our children hostility to religion, and specifically to Christianity, is especially strange considering that Western civilization was built by Christianity. Don’t take my word for it. This, from the world’s leading social theorist, Jurgen Habermas:

Christianity and nothing else is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Time of Transitions

The problem is not that our young people know too much about Christianity, but that they know too little. In America we do not have the problem of the Muslim madrassas, where only the Koran is studied. Rather, we live in a religiously illiterate society in which the Bible is rarely taught. Consequently many people in America and the West cannot name five of the Ten Commandments or recognize Genesis as the first book of the Bible. There’s no point in even asking about the meaning of the Trinity. One in ten Americans apparently believes that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Ignorance of this kind has made many Westerners aliens in their own civilization, as they no longer know the literature, history, and philosophy that made the West the civilization it is today. (“Adrift”)

Washington And The Hand of Providence


George Washington

George Washington wrote this in a letter to Thomas Nelson August 20, 1778:

The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.

Living Godly Lives In This Present Age

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-15, ESV)

Our culture is enamored by pleasure and the stress free life. If we are unhappy, we simply want to get rid of whatever is the source. “After all,” we tell ourselves, “God doesn’t want me to be unhappy!” I have actually heard these words from men and women walking out on their husband, or wife and children. I often wonder if it is stress or responsibility they are running out on. Our society wants the “good life” without responsibilities.

Some people come to Christ because they think He will prevent problems from coming into their lives. They believe that God will always keep them healthy and prosperous. This assumption is biblically unsound. When the next crisis comes into their lives they think: “I’m a Christian now. This should not be happening to me!” Their incorrect thinking then causes them to drop out of church where they might have learned the Word of God correctly.

Most people who are really successful in their profession, family life or ministry have endurance. They are self-disciplined when they face trials and tribulations. They have confidence that when they walk through fire and flood – God is with them. They will go to God in prayer and ask for wisdom concerning the obstacles they face. (James 1:5) “Wisdom” is the right use of knowledge. In the case of a Christian, it is the spiritual perception given by God.

The providence of God has designed every circumstance that comes into your life. You may know the general truths of life in Christ, but the truth of God’s providential care is one of the most comforting to the believer. It requires, however, that you put on humility (You are not the most special person in the universe!), face your problems, cast off self-sufficiency, and ask God for the wisdom to deal appropriately with your situation.

No where in the Bible does it say that the Christian will always live in health, wealth and good times. The providential trials that face us, however, are designed to make us grow in maturity to become more like Christ. Our lives may be stressful, but we are not alone. Jesus reminds us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

The New Year Begins

In the words of George Hodges:

The year begins; and all its pages are as blank… Let us begin it with high resolution; then let us take all its limitations, all its hindrances, its disappointments, its narrow and common-place conditions, and meet them as the Master did in Nazareth, with patience, with obedience, putting ourselves in cheerful subjection, serving our apprenticeship. Who knows what opportunity may come to us this year? Let us live in a great spirit, and then we shall be ready for a great occasion.

Growth In The Grace And Knowledge Of God

There are many people who think that if they attend church occasionally, read the Bible and declare they believe it from the first book to the last, that they are surely growing in Christian grace. Yet, we must be careful here because even demons have knowledge of these things and certainly are not growing in Christ. We all need a deeper knowledge of God which is granted by the Holy Spirit. To obtain this requires much prayer. We need to understand that our spiritual growth will not rise above our submission to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God are both necessary for our growth as Christians.

The better we know God, the more we will understand our own natures. A great problem is revealed by the Bible concerning our lives and the problem is us. John the Baptist said on one occasion: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 ESV) Does this not give us a clue to the primary object of our prayers? To truly grow in Christian Grace, our prayers should be filled with petitions that our focus on ourselves, our needs, our way, and our wants should decrease because we desire the increase of Christ in us. With this growth in Christian Sanctification also comes an awareness of the depth of our sins with an increasing desire to be fully repentant.

Repentance is agreeing with God’s view of our rebellion and sin. There should be godly sorrow. We do not see much godly sorrow in our present time. We should be conscious that the Bible teaches us that the closer we draw near to God, the more aware of our own sinfulness we should be. We should remember Isaiah, who when speaking to the Lord in the temple said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5 ESV)

Any person in Scripture, who draws nearer to God, becomes more aware of their own sinfulness. Without repentance, we will never appreciate what Jesus Christ has done for us. We will be constantly tempted to believe that somehow we are worthy of God’s grace. If we earnestly desire to be nearer to God, we must be ready to face the secret evils in our hearts. Therefore, James writes: “’God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:6-10 ESV)

John Calvin believed that human beings could not know God or themselves without God’s gracious revelation of Himself in the Bible. Therefore, it is very difficult to be proud when our capacity to know is limited and dependent on God. This simple fact should inspire us all to humility.

Thoughts On Time And The New Year

From the desk of Steven B. Cloud:

Though even thinking on the subject of time may prove discomforting, it is not a bad idea—especially at the beginning of a new year.

As we look into 2012, we look at a block of time. We see 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds. And all is a gift from God. We have done nothing to deserve it, earn it, or purchased it. Like the air we breathe, time comes to us as a part of life. . . .

Another important thing about time is that you cannot stop it. There is no way to slow it down, turn it off, or adjust it. Time marches on.

And you cannot bring back time. Once it is gone, it is gone. Yesterday is lost forever. If yesterday is lost, tomorrow is uncertain. We may look ahead at a full year’s block of time, but we really have no guarantee that we will experience any of it.

Obviously, time is one of our most precious possessions. We can waste it. We can worry over it. We can spend it on ourselves. Or, as good stewards, we can invest it in the Kingdom of God.

The New Year is full of time. As the seconds tick away, will you be tossing time out the window, or will you make every minute count? (Pulpit Helps, Vol. 14, # 2)

When Righteous Acts Are Filthy

Many flatter themselves that their works are essential to the cause of Christ. However, until such a time when we have learned to serve God according to His Word, our own works are filthy in the sight of God. John Calvin explains below why this is so:

Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him: being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:15-16)

Therefore, all the rules and laws they can make shall be nothing but vanity: for God dislikes whatsoever they do; yea, He utterly abhors it. Although men may torment themselves with ceremonies and outward performances, yet all these things are vain until they become upright in heart: for in this the true service of God commences. So long then as we are faithless, we are filthy before God. These things ought to be evident to us; but hypocrisy is so rooted within us that we are apt to neglect them. It will readily be confessed that we cannot please God by serving Him until our hearts be rid of wickedness.

God strove with the people of old time about the same doctrine; as we see especially in the second chapter of the prophet Haggai: where he asks the priests, if a man touch a holy thing, whether he shall be made holy or not, the priests answered, no. On the contrary, if an unclean man touch a thing, whether it shall become unclean or no, the priests answered and said, it shall be unclean: so is this nation, saith the Lord, and so are the works of their hands. Now let us notice what is contained in the figures and shadows of the law. If an unclean man had handled any thing, it became unclean, and therefore must be cleansed. Our Lord says, consider what you are: for you have nothing but uncleanness and filth; yet notwithstanding, you would content Me with your sacrifices, offerings, and such like things. But He says, as long as your minds are entangled with wicked lusts, as long as some of you are whoremongers, adulterers, blasphemers, and perjurers, as long as you are full of guile, cruelty, and spitefulness, your lives are utterly lawless, and full of all uncleanness; I cannot abide it, however so fair it may seem before men.

We see then that all the services we can perform, until we are truly reformed in our hearts, are but mockeries; and God condemns and rejects every whit of them. But who believeth these things to be so? When the wicked, who are taken in their wickedness, feel any remorse of conscience, they will endeavor by some means or other to [appease God] by performing some ceremonies: they think it sufficient to satisfy the minds of men, believing that God ought likewise to be satisfied therewith. This is a custom which has prevailed in all ages. . . .

God rebukes men for their hypocrisy, and for thinking that they may obtain His favor with trifles, but it was a continual strife which all the prophets had with the Jews. . . .

God [shows] us that the things which He Himself had commanded were filthy and unclean when they were observed and abused by hypocrites. Therefore, let us learn that when men serve God after their own fashion, they beguile and deceive themselves. (“The Word our Only Rule”)

Benjamin Franklin On Christmas

Quoting Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richards Almanac, 1743:

“How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.”

God Comes To Bethlehem

The first Christmas morning may be hard for us to imagine in our 21st century culture. It does deserve our attention, however, because it is a miraculous day. It is the day that God entered our world. Leonard J. Vander Zee approaches this event from the perspective of the Apostle John in the following excerpts from a Christmas sermon:

We don’t know what Mary did that morning in the cave-like stable at Bethlehem. Was she cold? Was she afraid? Did she weep with worries about what they were going to do, this homeless couple, so far from family? The bible tells us just one thing about Mary on that morning of that birth that changed the world. All that the Bible tells us is that “she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart”. . . .

This morning we read John’s version of the Christmas story, if you can call it that. It’s not much of a story. At first glance it seems more like a heavy theological treatise. But if you read it well, it sings along with the Christmas angels. It begins; well it begins in the beginning; in the vast reaches of eternity, where God is all that exists. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

Already John confronts us with the mystery that stands at the heart of the church’s doctrine and worship, the plurality of God, the community of divine persons that is before all things, the Trinity. The splendid loving isolation of this divine community was not enough. God created a creation that was an extension of the love that is God’s very being. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5)

But then, a few verses later, John moves us from the splendid far reaches of eternity to the soil of this planet, the flesh and bones of our mortal bodies. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”

At Bethlehem the Word, the logos, the origin and destiny of the whole creation came to us encased in our flesh. God comes to us as a baby. God comes into the world he created just the way we all come into the world. . . .

So we must truly say that God was born at Bethlehem. The Godhead crowned as Mary labored, and one of the divine persons was expelled into the cold night air of the stable. God was lifted lovingly by human hands, cleaned and wrapped in rags. God was laid at Mary’s breast to suck with hunger and contentment. God slept while angels sang to shepherds in the field. God joined the human race. . . .

This is the staggering uniqueness of the Christian faith. This is the good news. The word became flesh, God became human. . . .

As Mary pondered that morning, as she fondled her newborn baby, she could hardly imagine all this. But as we ponder the same event this Christmas morning so many centuries later, we begin to touch the fringes of the mystery. It’s the mystery of God’s love come down to us, the mystery of the Word made flesh. It all began on that cold night in a stable at Bethlehem. . . .

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