On The Journey, Judy Bowman

“From the Manger to the Cross”

We love the manger scene at Christmas, don’t we? Ever since St. Francis of Assisi made the first one in 1223, Christians of all sorts have loved seeing the tender scene of the stable at Bethlehem. Tiny Nativity sets on our coffee tables. Carved wooden family heirlooms under our Christmas trees. Large realistic statuary in front of the altar of our church. We love the sight of all the animals gathered into the stable around the manger. We see the shepherds there, running in from their flocks to worship the newborn baby. The angels who proclaimed His birth hover nearby, trumpets in hand, trailing banners that read, “Gloria In Excelsis Deo.” The sweet old man leaning on his staff must be St. Joseph. A misreading of Scripture sometimes places the three wise men in the Nativity scene too, though it was probably at least a couple of years later that they made their appearance. Every manger scene features the Blessed Virgin Mary looking down lovingly at her newborn son. Even the most spartan Christian denominations trot out a Nativity scene at Christmas. No one could object to these warm and fuzzy images. And then, there’s the baby—tiny and perfect and cooing up at His mother and foster father. Just looking at Him gives us a warm glow, a feeling that all is right with the world once more. We look at this idyllic scene and smile.

And yet to view His birth as only a kind of Disney cartoon filled with little lambs and singing cherubs is at least a misunderstanding and maybe even a heresy. This is not just the miracle of another birth to another poor couple in desperate circumstances. This is the Creator God Whose birth is cleaving creation in two. By being born as a baby, He is dividing time itself. We measure time as either before or after the Incarnation. This cooing infant has all the power and knowledge of the great “I AM” in Him from the moment of His conception. Fully human and fully divine, this newborn is the Word made flesh. Look closely at Him and you’ll see much more than just a babe in swaddling clothes.

Nestled in His mother’s lap in the stable, does He also imagine the last time she’ll hold Him, as He is taken down from the Cross? Looking around Him there in the manger, does He notice the donkey patiently chewing some hay nearby and does he see that other one that He’ll ride into Jerusalem for that last Passover? Does His borrowed stable remind Him of the borrowed tomb yet-to-be? Does He wonder why so many want to see Him in the crib, but so few will want to walk with Him to Golgotha? Crowds come to pray at His birth, but He knows that in Gethsemane, He’ll pray alone. The stable filled with love and homage will one day be a lonely hill, rocky and barren and full of suffering. Does the baby know this? Surely. And yet He chooses to come to us anyway. He comes to be one of us so that we can know how to be more like Him. He comes because He knows we have nowhere else to go and no one else who can save us. He comes because it is His Father’s will and He and the Father are One. He comes out of love because He IS Love. The baby in the manger is already sacrificing Himself for you and for me. The star shining so brightly overhead throws a shadow on His face, the shadow of a Cross. We can never truly know the joy of that Bethlehem night unless we also embrace with Him that long afternoon on Good Friday. Our beloved manger scenes at Christmas hold the promise of Easter morning within them, if we only choose to make the journey with our Savior. It begins here in Bethlehem as we kneel by the baby. Mary’s little lamb is already the Lamb of God “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).

Glenda Smiley, Pleasant Valley Baptist Church

It’s December and this Friday evening, Pleasant Valley Baptist will have a float in the Ringgold Christmas parade, December 6th, beginning at 6 pm. We are excited and thrilled to be taking part in this event. It is our desire to present the gospel and that God will be honored and glorified. Pray some will be touched and reminded that Christ is the reason for this season.

December 15th, PVBC will have local guitar artist, Wesley Crider, present his Christmas music during the morning service. This is and has been a very meaningful time of focusing our hearts on the meaning and joy of Christmas. Christmas dinner will follow with food and fellowship. After dinner, all are invited to join us in visiting area shut-ins with caroling and brief message of encouragement. Services will begin at 10:30AM with no evening service.

December 22nd, PVBC choir will present a special music program. There will be traditional and special music presented along with scripture readings bringing glory to God. Make plans to be with us and join in this season of celebration of the Savior’s birth.

Pleasant Valley was honored to have missionary Josh Ewing and his family with us in the evening service. The Ewings are church planting missionaries to the country of Indonesia. Mr. Ewing brought a wonderful message from Genesis 12 concerning the story of Abraham. God called Abraham out from his country that God might bless him and he be a blessing to the world. God had a plan. Jesus would come, and did come to die, because God loves the world and that the world through Him might be saved. Jesus came to die for you. There are no works of righteousness anyone can do to be worthy to go to heaven. Heaven is only by the plan of God accepted by faith through the grace of God. God’s grace, His love and the shed blood of Christ! God knows who will be saved, but He loves the whole world and desires all might be saved!

Pray with us for those with physical needs, Diane Hullender, Jewel Mitchell, Carolyn Denton, Lula Petty, Denise Pitts, Claudette Armstrong, Warren McAllister, and many others of whom the Lord knows their name and their need. Many extended family members are in need of prayer and ask for them to remembered in your prayers knowing God knows. Pray for Pastor Flood and his family, for the church and ministries including missionaries, Sunday school, youth, nursing homes and homeless, orphans. Pray for our country/leaders, congress, Israel/America. Pray God’s will be done in impeachment inquiry. Pray for PVBC to grow and spread the gospel in this community. Pray for souls to be saved and for God to send revival.

Services are live streamed on Facebook. Service times are Sunday School 10AM, Worship 11AM, Evening 6PM with prayer at 5:45PM. Wednesday Bible Study and Youth Kid’s Zone meet at 7PM. Call for transportation 706 537-3633.

Come visit us at Pleasant Valley Baptist. Be a part of our family should God so lead and help us reach this area for Christ. You are always welcome!

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