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Keeping Christ In Christmas

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Scripture:

Why Is is so Hard to keep Christ in Christmas

·         Business & distractions

·         Commercialism

·         Secularism

·         Pluralism of our society

·         Atheism

 

5 Ladies Who Decided to Put Christ Back In Christmas

Published:Thursday, November 20, 2008

CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS - Judi Hanna - Joanne Brown - Pat See and Linda Bennet - in front of the billboard on Mahoning Ave. in Youngstown.

By Linda M. Linonis

Five friends focus on spreading the message of Merry Christmas.

NILES — Friendship, faith and fortitude shared by five women add up to a powerful force.

The friends, all Christians, think it’s important to send a simple but potent message with the wish of Merry Christmas. The concept is meaningful during this season but the women hope it stays in people’s hearts year-round.

The Merry Christmas Billboard Ladies — Joanne Brown of Poland, Linda Bennett of Niles, Judi Hanna of Boardman, Laurie Kramer of Youngstown and Pat See of Canfield — are making a return engagement — just like Christmas.

They’re back in a bigger way than their initial foray last year in spreading the message of Merry Christmas. Their grass-roots effort has gained momentum mostly by word of mouth.

Last Christmas season the women raised $2,800 and paid for four billboards with the messages: “I miss hearing you say Merry Christmas” and “Why have you stopped saying Merry Christmas?” Both were signed, “Jesus.”

In 2008, the billboard ladies started with $1,600 in donations. In 2007 and 2008, the group collected just under $6,000 for billboards. The funds enabled them to pay for seven billboards this year with the messages: “I miss hearing you say Merry Christmas” and “It’s OK to say Merry Christmas.” Again, both signed “Jesus.”

Location and size determines the cost of billboards, which are red with white lettering. The messages are displayed from around Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Brown explained that President Ulysses S. Grant signed a congressional bill June 28, 1870, to make Dec. 25, which the bill noted was “commonly known as Christmas Day,” an official holiday. Brown pointed out this act of Congress didn’t make Dec. 25 a “happy holiday” and clearly identifies it as Christmas.

The women said the idea for the billboards evolved after each one had heard and seen one too many “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Bennett said Brown wondered aloud “what an individual could do” and the women came up with the idea to use billboards to spread their message.

“Holiday isn’t interchangeable with Christmas,” Brown said. “It’s Christmas tree, Christmas cookies, Christmas carols.”

Bennett pointed out that it’s rather ironic that there are “Christmas in July” events and advertisements, not “holiday in July.” The actual Christmas competes with happy holidays, she said.

More to the point, she noted, is a Christ-centered Christmas. “If Christ were here ... what would we say to him?” she wondered. “We would wish him happy birthday by saying Merry Christmas.”

Hanna pointed out the billboards and their messages are to “feed those poor in spirit.” She noted that “people want the day off, want the gifts” but are missing the reason for the season — the birth of Jesus.

“It’s not a secular holiday," Bennett added. “... as Christians we have a calling to follow God’s example ... he gave us his son. We need to take the Gospel message and help those less fortunate.”

The women said they don’t believe contributions for billboards take away from charitable donations. “We’ve gotten beautiful letters from people saying they were inspired by the messages,” See said, noting that these contributors often mention they were inspired to help the less fortunate. “The billboards remind people what Christmas is really about ... the gifts are secondary,” she said.

The women themselves marveled at the fact that the billboards have been funded mostly by small donations. Hanna said one person gave $1.50, which was what she could afford. “People donate because they support the message,” said See.

Last year, some 170 contributors — individuals and groups — donated toward the billboard cause. This year, a group of sixth- through eighth-graders who are members of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at South Range Middle School in Greenford donated $150. “They had a candy sale and wanted the money to go to the billboard campaign,” said Janice Stephenson, a parent and volunteer with FCA.

“FCA focuses on helping the community and empowering students to serve Christ,” Stephenson said. “The students thought the billboard idea was good.”

The women said they will continue the billboard project. They have spoken to church and civic groups about the effort. Their idea is spreading, as they’ve been contacted by a group in Albany, N.Y., that wants to use the concept.

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Keeping Christ in Christmas:

The number one way to keep Jesus Christ in your Christmas celebrations is to have him present in your daily life. If you haven’t given your life to Christ then why not do so today….

"If you've already accepted Jesus as your Savior and made him the center of your life, keeping Christ in Christmas is more about the way you live your life than the things you say—such as "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays."

Keeping Christ in Christmas means daily revealing the character, love and spirit of Christ that dwells in you, by allowing these traits to shine through your actions. Here are simple ways to keep Christ the central focus of your life this Christmas season.

1) Give God one very special gift just from you to him:

Let this gift be something personal that no one else needs to know about, and let it be a sacrifice. David said in 2 Samuel 24 that he would not offer a sacrifice to God that cost him nothing.

Maybe your gift to God will be to forgive someone you've needed to forgive for a long time. You may discover that you've given a gift back to yourself.

Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian who survived extreme brutality in a German concentration camp after rescuing many Jews from certain death during the Nazi Holocaust, was later able to say, "Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you."

Perhaps your gift will be to commit to spending time with God daily. Or maybe there is something God has asked you to give up, like last New Year's resolution. Make this your most important gift of the season.

2) Set aside a special time to read the Christmas story in Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20:

Consider reading the Christmas story with your family and discussing it.

 3) Set up a Nativity scene in your home:

If you don't have a Nativity, here are ideas to help you make your own Nativity scene:
 

4) Plan a project of Good Will this Christmas:

A few years ago we "adopted" a single mom. My friend was barely making ends meet and didn't have money to buy gifts for her small child. Together with my husband's family we bought gifts for both of them and replaced her broken down washing machine the week of Christmas. Do you have an elderly neighbor in need of home repairs or yard work? Find someone with a genuine need, involve your whole family and see how happy you can make someone this Christmas.

5) Take a group Christmas caroling in a nursing home or a children's hospital:

6) Give a surprise gift of service to each member of your family:

Jesus taught us to serve by washing the disciples feet. He also taught us that it is "more blessed to give than to receive." Acts 20:35 (NIV) The idea of giving an unexpected gift of service to members of your family is to demonstrate Christ-like love and service. You might consider giving a back rub to your spouse, running an errand for your brother, or cleaning out a closet for your mother. Make it personal and meaningful and watch the blessings multiply.

7) Set aside a time of family devotions on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning:

Before opening the gifts, take a few minutes to gather together as a family in prayer and devotions. Read a few Bible verses and discuss as a family the true meaning of Christmas.

Matthew 1:18-25  This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about

Luke 2:1-14 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken

Luke 2:15-20 The Visit of the Shepherds

Matthew 2:1-12 The Visit of the Magi

Luke 1:39-45 Mary’s visit to Elizabeth

Luke 1:46-55 Mary’s song

Isaiah 7:14 & Matt 1:23 Immanuel God with us

Isaiah 40:1-11 The Prophecy of the birth of Jesus

• Christmas Prayers and Poems
• The Christmas Story
• Christmas Devotionals

8) Attend a Christmas church service together with your family:

If you are alone this Christmas or don't have family living near you, invite a friend or a neighbor to join you.

9) Send Christmas cards that convey a spiritual message:

This is an easy way to share your faith at Christmas time. If you've already bought the reindeer cards—no problem! Just write a Bible verse and include a personal message with each card.

10) Write a Christmas letter to a missionary:

This idea is dear to my heart because I spent four years on the mission field. Receiving a letter always felt like opening a priceless gift on Christmas morning, no matter what day it was. Many missionaries are unable to travel home for the holidays, so it can be a very lonely time for them. Write a special Christmas letter to a missionary of your choice, thanking them for giving their life in service to the Lord. Trust me—it will mean more than you can imagine!

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