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A Surfing Story–For the New Year


I was face down on a surfboard about half a mile off the beach at Waikiki. I had always wanted to try to ride the Hawaiian surf, but out here among these giant green swells I suddenly didn’t feel very adventuresome.
“This is far enough,” said the brown-skinned beach boy who had accompanied me on his own board.  “Now turn and face the beach. When a wave lifts your board, paddle hard. Then stand up.”
Stand up? “Tell me,” I croaked, trying to keep the panic out of my voice, “what’s the main thing to remember?”
“The main thing?” he repeated with a smile. “Don’t look back!”
The next wave lifted the board. Ahead of me a great chasm seemed to open in the sea. The board tilted down and plunged deep into an emerald precipice that seemed almost vertical. I tried…

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Alone at Christmas


I’d been trying not to think about Christmas, dreading the day, hoping against hope that some angel would come into my life and make everything okay. I even tried pretending that it was just a normal day, nothing special, in hopes that would make the loneliness go away. But I couldn’t avoid it.–Christmas was all around me, and I was alone. No one to talk to, no one to laugh with, and no one to wish me a happy Christmas. With each minute that passed I was getting more depressed–and that’s what I had dreaded the most.
To cheer myself up, I searched for happy memories to occupy my mind. One that popped up was about my Sunday school teacher. He was an easygoing, friendly man who’d spent a lot of time with us kids, and had a knack for making things fun and happy. He…

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Coping with Christmas


Old Ebenezer Scrooge, during his pre-dream days, would have been proud of me that Christmas season. I’d started sprinkling “bah, humbugs” around just two short weeks after Thanksgiving.
Weakened by a recent bout of flu, I was physically and mentally exhausted. For the first time in my life, the Christmas season wasn’t proving to be a time of spiritual uplift.
Oh, I’d seen the looks my children had exchanged each time I snapped about Christmas-cookie messes, or tried to hurry clumsy little hands as they wrapped presents. My husband began retreating each time I lamented the high cost of gifts and how commercial Christmas had become, and it wasn’t long until even the dog was avoiding my sharp tongue.
And each morning, determined that this day would be better, I’d vow to be more patient. But by late evening, I was usually complaining about, or to…

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Most Noble Contessina…

In the year 1513, on Christmas Eve, a churchman known as Friar Giovanni wrote a letter to the Contessina Allagia degli Aldobrandeschi who lived in Florence, Italy. This letter has been remembered and quoted often since.


A Christmas Greeting
Most noble Contessina, I salute you. Believe me your most devoted servant.
Contessina, forgive an old man’s babble. But I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.

There is nothing I can give you which you have not got;
but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No Heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take Heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.

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Why Christmas?


There was once a man who didn’t believe in God, and he didn’t hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays, like Christmas. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments.
One snowy Christmas Eve, his wife was taking their children to a Christmas Eve service in the farm community in which they lived. She asked him to come, but he refused.
“That story is nonsense!” he said. “Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That’s ridiculous!” So she and the children left, and he stayed home.
A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the…

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A King Is Born

The Birth of Jesus of Nazareth


When the baby Jesus was born in Israel 2,000 years ago, various signs confirmed that He was very special. First of all, an angel came to His mother-to-be, telling her that she would conceive even though she was a virgin. The angel explained that this child would be the Messiah, the long-awaited ruler and savior of His people.
Another angel announced His birth to a group of shepherds outside Bethlehem, where He was born. A man named Simeon had been told by God that he would not die before he saw the savior of his people, and when he saw the baby Jesus, God told Simeon this was the One he had been waiting to see. In lands to the east, wise men learned of Jesus’ arrival on Earth through the appearance of a magnificent, unusual star.
Although Jesus’ birth…

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For Unto Us a Child Is Born, Unto Us a Son Is Given (Isaiah 9:6)


The baby Jesus. Now is the moment. We place the Christ Child inside the nativity scene, making it complete. With this act we acknowledge in our hearts the deepest mystery of all. God has come! In a tiny child God arrives among us, making life complete … meeting our deepest need.
There seems little else to discover about the baby on the straw. Still, I close my eyes and journey back to Bethlehem. …
Dawn glows on the horizon, sending shards of pink light across the sky. Inside the stable Joseph packs a few belongings on the back of a donkey. Mary tends the Baby, struggling to wrap the pieces of swaddling around his squirming arms and legs.
 “My, what a wiggler You are,” she says, finally spinning the little cocoon around Him. Now…

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What Christmas Is All About

By Patricia Houck Sprinkle


On a beautiful December Saturday, we piled our boys and a friend into our car and headed for a small park on the Chattahoochee River (in the southern United States). While the three boys ran along the riverbank, Bob and I set out for a stroll on the beach but found broken bottles, discarded cans and tossed hamburger bags everywhere. The beach’s beauty had perished beneath litter.
Idly we began to pick up cans to recycle. When the boys saw what we were doing they came to help, and with all those workers, we picked up paper, too. Soon we cleaned a wide stretch of the beach.
God so loved you and me that He sent Someone to “clean us up.” That’s what Christmas is all about.
Beneath the litter of our broken lives, discarded friendships, and forgotten promises, God still…

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A Time for Remembering

By Reamer Kline


One summer my family gave work to a wandering man even though we suspected he had a problem with alcohol. In the fall he left us, but at Christmas a greeting arrived from hundreds of miles away–no personal message, just a signature. Then in the spring he came to see us.
“I’ve stopped drinking,” he said. “I’m going to a permanent job.” When we thanked him for his Christmas card, he told us that it was the only card he had sent. “I wanted it to say `thank you,’ not for the work, but for the respect you gave me. It helped me to begin a new life.”
Then there was the lady in the hospital. She carried the card a friend of ours sent her in a little drawstring bag and during the entire Christmas season she would stop people and say,

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My Christmas Discovery

By Norman Vincent Peale


Some of my most impressionable years were spent in Cincinnati. I still remember the huge Christmas tree in Fountain Square–the gleaming decorations, the streets ringing with the sound of carols. Up on East Liberty Street where we lived, my mother always had a Christmas tree with real candles on it, magical candles which, combined with the fir tree, gave off a forest aroma, unique and unforgettable.
One Christmas Eve when I was 12, I was out with my minister father doing some late Christmas shopping. He had me loaded down with packages and I was tired and cross. I was thinking how good it would be to get home when a beggar–a bleary-eyed, unshaven, dirty old man–came up to me, touched my arm with a hand like a claw, and asked for money. He was so repulsive that instinctively I recoiled.
Softly my…

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