This is Christmas by jianglifang


									            Advent 2010

Devotional for use in your Home
              Written by
Pastor Jim Winters, New Creation Church

                                 Week 1 – Mystery

A mystery is defined as something that is unexplained…a puzzle or a problem that
needs to be solved…a secret or a riddle. There are many mysteries in life and many
more when you look more detailed at nature. At times I almost laugh at the
misconceptions and misinterpretations science discovers and calls, “Fact” about nature.
In many instances, it is only a short while before they reinvent or rediscover something
many naturalists knew years before – like the most recent discovery that crows
communicate. Scientists have spent hundreds of thousands of research dollars to
conclude that crows can tell each other that a person is good and friendly or bad and
dangerous. My grandfather knew this 80 to 100 years ago!

There are a lot of mysteries in nature. Many that probably will not be discovered and
shared among all of us. But there are a few that can be and will be. I think the thing to
remember is that when it comes to God in nature, God does not intend to be secret. He
wants us to discover Him. What often seems to be a mystery to us is really His attempt
to gain our attention in order to discover and know Him more.

Day 1, Monday, November 29

The Mystery of Animal Tracks

Scripture: Proverbs 16: 9 “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD
determines his steps.”

I’ve been fascinated by animal tracks as long as I can remember. I’ve watched them
and studied them from a very young age. Maybe it was the influence of those early
black and white westerns where the Indian tracker dismounted from his horse, looked at
the ground and declared the exact time to the minute, how many had gone that way, the
color of their clothing, their complete names including their middle initial, their hair and
eye color and what person was the leader ALL BY A QUICK GLANCE AT THE
TRACKS! How did he do that? It is a mystery.

So as a young boy, when I crawled under the house, I looked into the dust and learned
the difference between a rat track and a mouse track. I saw the difference between a
hopping bird and a stepping bird. In the snow, I followed tracks that went up a tree and
discovered a squirrel. And I learned rather quickly that a running rabbit places it’s big
back legs in front of its little fore legs. The “V” of a rabbits tracks point the opposite of
where he is heading.
I’m convinced I would not have been easily fooled by a broom handle poked in the snow
in order to make reindeer tracks on the front lawn. I was more of a woodsman than that.
My parents knew they’d never get away with it with me around so they never tried. Real
woodsmen know reindeer do not have peg legs.

Tracks and tracking can usually become quite a mystery. I’ve read tracks that have told
some pretty strange stories.

When I hear the story of that first Christmas, I’ve sometimes wondered about tracks.

Partially because of what the flight involved, but also because Mary, Joseph and young
Jesus, (according to Matthew, chapter 2), were being followed, maybe even tracked.

How difficult would it be to read their tracks?

Across rugged, broken, rocky ground.

Would the donkey have a limp?

Could you see signs of a split or damaged hoof?

What about Joseph’s sandals? Did they have a distinguishable pattern? Maybe even
some blood from worn out, blistered and tired feet?

Could you read in the dust of the road where Joseph stumbled and fell?

David says in Psalm 85, verse 13 that for the person who knows the Lord,

“Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.”

Activity: Find some soft soil (or snow) and step in it.

What do your tracks say about you?

What mystery does your path leave for others to discover?

Pray: Thank you, God for the tracks, the sign that those who have gone before me have

Thank you that you have provided a path, a clear trail to follow in your Word that leads
to the Christ child, born in a stable and laid in a manger.

Day 2, November 30

The Mystery of Baby Birds

Scripture: Luke 2: 7 “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in
cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

I have to confess, I have a real obsession with birds! As a young boy climbing trees, I
often discovered nests of baby birds. Of course, they all needed rescued by me, so at
times I would burst into the kitchen declaring to my ever-gracious mother that I had
another bird to save. She’d fix up a shoe box and mix up some food and milk of some
sort for me to feed my little starvelings with an eye dropper. Invariably this ended with
little bird graves in the back yard marked with twigs tied in the shape of a cross. What
can I say? I was more of an adventurer and a rescuer than I was a veterinarian.

There was a time when I started the adventure of catching birds or fledglings just to see
if I could. When they first learn to fly is a great time for this challenge. I’d wind up letting
them go among diving, screeching parents swooping down at my head demanding their
child’s freedom.

I loved to hold the birds in my hands. I’ve caught baby Robin, Blue jay, Killdeer, Ruffed
Grouse, Pheasant, Turkey, and Sparrow Hawk all of which I quickly released back into
the wild.

After Kay and I got married, I thought I should do something to pay restitution for all of
the damage I had caused to the bird world as a boy. I decided to raise baby pheasant to
release back into the wild.

I ordered 150 or so pheasant, built a beautiful tight meshed pen to protect against
predation and placed my pheasants in their new home.

I was very proud of my construction. I had heat lamps, feeders, waterers and the cage
wire so tight you could play a tune on it.

Wild birds are wild. So as my little friends began to feather out, their desire to be free
increased. I would go out to feed them and they would all flutter and fly in a cloud to the
top of the pen like you would expect of wild birds.

One day I went out to feed my birds when I noticed several of the little buggers were
lying on the floor of the pen not moving. I picked up their cold little bodies and went to
the new grave yard. This really upset me.

I wondered about disease or stress due to confinement.
I wondered about weasels or rats…something small enough to fit through the wire

And I wondered about feed and water.

I had a real mystery I could not figure out.

All I knew is that every day I went out to the pen and every day there were more
unmoving little birds on the pen floor.

At the going rate I would have none to release back into the wild.

I decided to release them early and have a few make it rather than have them all meet
their fate in confinement.

It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered the solution to my mystery of the

I was visiting a farm where an elderly gentleman raised pheasant for their feathers for
fly fisherman.

He had Ring Necked Pheasant, Silver Pheasant and Golden Pheasant.

My understanding is that a silver pheasant’s complete hackle, in good condition, is
worth over 100 dollars.

I asked him if I could see his pens. He took me out to the shabbiest, baggy mess of bird
pens I have ever seen in my life.

When I asked him about maybe fixing up his pens a little, he looked at me shocked and
said, “If I were to tighten the pen wire, when the birds panic and flush, they would fly to
the top of the pen and break their necks. I’d find them on the pen floor in the morning.”

My mystery was finally solved... Loose wire, live birds.

Think: Have you ever wondered why Jesus came the way He did?

To an unwed mother? To a shamed step-dad? Born in a barn with animals around?
Wrapped in rags?

It doesn’t sound much like the birth of a King does it?

Where did we get the idea that brand new, grade A, latest and greatest model is always
the best?
Why is it if you give a child a brand new boxed-from-the-store toy they play with it for a
few minutes, but if you give them an old worn out pot, pan and spoon they play with
them for hours?

Maybe our perspective is off.

The saggy baggy bird cage saved their lives.

So here’s the challenge: This Christmas, in one of the gifts you are giving, find
something NOT new to give as a gift. Then wrap it up and give it as a “Special” gift with
a story. Share the story, share the real value of the gift.

Pray: Jesus, thank you that you came for everyone. Not wrapped in the purple silk of
the royal family, but as someone anyone could appreciate. Thank you for coming to a
saggy baggy family in a saggy baggy manger. You saved my life! Amen.

Day 3, December 1

The Mystery of Mushrooms

Scripture: Hebrew 11:1 “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what
we do not see.”

The great Northwest, in particular, Oregon is the mushroom capitol of the world.

Thanks to a wonderful lady in my church and her wonderful daughter, I now have in my
possession a rather large book on the exhaustive study of mushrooms from the
Northwest. Only one problem…by its own admission, it’s not exhaustive.

There are so many different kinds of mushrooms here that they are not all discovered.

Some are still out there waiting to be named with your name! (in Latin of course)

Mushroom identification can be difficult. It can also be deadly. There are 3 species that
can kill you. Others just make you wish you were dead. Others are said to give a real
out-of-body experience. (And we wonder why all of those 60s hippies moved to the

You can use some things to help identify mushrooms: spore patterns, fin patterns, a
veil, a stump, stem brittleness, color, size, shape, smell and texture. They all are helpful
and yet some of the identification books under, “Edibility” still say, “Unknown, ask the
Just the other day someone texted me a picture he took of a giant puffball weighing 49

The largest mushroom I’ve ever found was a 24” tall, 30” diameter King Bolete (No, I did
not have a camera and it was too far gone to transport. Bummer!).

With all of the science, all of the information and all of the knowledge, mushrooms are in
many ways still a mystery. I guess that’s some of what fascinates me about them.

When I first began to look at the Christmas story, I had more questions than I had
answers. How could this happen, how did that happen? What about dreams versus
visions? How did the Magi know ? What about that star? What’s a heavenly host? Much
of the Christmas story is a mystery to me. Even after all these years of looking at it, I still
have unanswered questions.

Think: Just because I don’t know all there is to know about mushrooms, that does not
mean they do not exist or aren’t real. And just because I do not have all of the mystery
about that first Christmas figured out does not mean Jesus isn’t real. There is simply too
much evidence to the contrary.

When it comes to the mystery of mushrooms, we’re told to “Just ask the Russians.”

When it some to the mystery of Jesus and His birth, maybe we should write, “I don’t
know, go and ask God.”

Here’s what you need to do: Go find a mushroom.

Pick it, look at it.

Turn it over and see if it has fins, or sponge under the cap.

Do the fins connect at the stem? Or do they go down the stem? Or do the go up to the
cap and not connect to the stem?

Break the stem.

Is it stringy? Or brittle like chalk?

Now give it a toss and go wash your hands good.

Pray: Lord, thank you that I do not have to have all of the answers to believe. That’s
why I have faith.

I take your Word, by faith. I take Your Son, by faith.

Thank you for sending Jesus the way you did, for me. Amen.
Day 4, December 2

The Mystery of the Unseen

Scripture: Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some
people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Our great state has the most incredible diversity of lesser known animals I’ve ever

Not only do we have rare and varying color phases in the black bear ranging all the way
to light cinnamon, we also have very elusive animals like cougar and Bobcat.

What many don’t know is that we also have such things as Pine Martins and Fischer.

You cannot talk to me very long about sightings of rare or odd animal species without
hearing about my encounter with a spotted skunk. It was one of the most fascinating
things I have ever seen. A skunk that looked like a Dalmatian!

This subject always makes me think about what we are not seeing that is out there.

I met a naturalist who said for many years in his research to the more remote areas of
Oregon, he often set traps made of duct tape and a cotton ball with Chanel N°5 sprayed
on it.

Apparently that particular perfume is very attractive to wildlife. He said he later retrieves
the duct tape that various animals have rubbed on and then inspects the hairs they
leave behind. In this way, he can determine what has been in the area without
disrupting the life of the animals. It seems to work quite well for him.

What a mystery! What animal species are out there? Just think, it would probably take
an entire roll of duct tape wrapped around a tree to collect the hairs off the body of Big
Foot. I wonder if he likes Chanel N°5? (I’m kidding)

On a much more serious note, wouldn’t you have liked to see the sky lit up with the
heavenly host declaring the glory of God at Jesus’ birth? Contrary to modern television
shows, I’ve never seen an angel, that I know of…and I’ve never heard one speak.

The shepherds in the Luke account were scared out of their senses.

What angelic beings look like is truly a mystery. But we know they are there. God’s
Word says they are there. It also says they have a purpose for which they were created.
Just like we have a purpose…to glorify the One who made us. When l think of the
mystery of the unseen, I find it really quite comforting. Knowing there are things going
on, things I do not understand and things that I have not seen leaves me trusting God
more and more.

Think: Go outside in the night sky and see what you see. Familiar stars? Patterns or
constellations? Airplanes or satellites? Try to see beyond all of them. Look for depth.

And thank God for what you cannot see.

Pray: Lord, thank you that it is you, not me, that is in control of my world. You set the
stars, you number the days and you control the unseen. For those things that are out
there that I do not see, I thank you that I do not have to have all the answers or know all
there is. That is for you, not me. So I thank you for what it is that you know...and what
you control.


Day 5, December 3

The Mystery of Those Who Go Before Us

Scripture: Luke 2:15 “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the
shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has
happened, which the Lord has told us about."

Much of the adventure of the great outdoors is the mystery of those who have gone
before us. I realize it is not so much a nature theme as one might first suspect but it
definitely shows an impact on our natural world around us.

Hiking with my wife deep in the forest just a couple of weeks ago, we followed an old
trail named with one of those very comforting names like, “Big bear Loop” or “Cougar
Kill Trail”. On my GPS map, I noticed a marked road about 1/8th of a mile from our trail. I
did the “Not so smart” thing and decided we should cut cross-country to catch the old

The road was full of mature trees that had grown up and filled in the road, but if you
looked very closely you could still see a road grade. I reasoned any road grade must
come out to the main mountain road, so I led and we followed the old road…to the
end…a dead end in the middle of the forest.

I deduced we had gone the wrong way so we turned around and walked in the other
direction to yet another dead end.

How did the road get there?
What was its purpose?

What ancient logging civilization had created this double dead end road?

You know what they say about a “Y” in the road? The tail points the way out. You learn
very quickly that there are no short cuts in the mountains. Unlike traveling in the
Midwest, no back woods road or trail I’ve ever been on in the mountains ever connected
up to any other way out…and I’ve been on hundreds of miles of these roads and trails.
The way out is to turn around and go out the way you came in. We did. That’s why I’m
writing this today.

I have hiked to some of the most off-the-path, far out places imaginable. Every single
time I think I am where no man has gone before I look down and usually discover some
sign - a beer can, a gum wrapper, an empty rifle shell - something that informs me
others have been there before.

Have you ever seen the spring board notches in those large ancient stumps? Someone
cut that tree down. We have a very large chain growing out of the center of a cedar tree
at our Aurora church campus. It is yet another mystery of someone who has gone
before us.

Christmas is all about those who have gone before you. Christmas is surrounded with
the mystery of traditions and customs, many of which we have lost the reasoning for
even doing. Perhaps your family has traditions or signs from those who have gone
before you?

Think: Take the time to read the Christmas story. You should read the story of Luke and
the story of Matthew at least once a week during this Advent season. Think of where
Joseph was taking Mary? Why? History is everything when it comes to the Christmas

Can you read any signs left by those who had gone before Joseph and Mary? Before
Jesus? Try and list 10 indicators that others had paved the way for Mary, Joseph and

Pray: God, I don’t even know everyone who has gone before me to make straight the
way for me to come to you. I thank you for their markers, their signs, their path that
guided me to you. Thank you that you allow me to pave the way for others to Jesus.

Day 6, December 4

The Mystery of Light

Scripture: Matthew 2:1&2 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time
of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one
who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to
worship him."

Lights in the world of the wilderness have always been a mystery to me. Throughout my
early teen years I spent most of my summer months chasing hounds who were chasing
raccoons across the corn fields and swamps of the Midwest. The warm summer night
air was filled with the sound of mosquitoes as we walked in the darkness. My uncle
forbid the use of a flashlight for anything other than the final locating of the treed ‘coon.

I remember, at the end of the hunt, after walking many miles how difficult it became to
locate the truck. It is very easy to become lost in a large cornfield. We would look for the
mercury vapor light of a nearby farm across the very confusing rolling hills of Clare

More often than I care to admit, we would chase a far off light across the field only to
discover with great disappointment that it was a slow moving firefly or “Lightening Bug”!

Lights can often be a mystery. I’ve seen the glow of foxfire. I’ve been to Brown County
in East Tennessee where National Geographic sent a crew to attempt to discover the
source of those mysterious Brown County Lights. I’ve seen a fireball of lightening dance
over our house, I’ve witnessed a small example of Aurora Borealis and more recently, I
witnessed the most spectacular shower of shooting stars lighting up the night sky over
Joseph Canyon. Lights in the darkness of the night sky can be spectacular as well as

There has been much research, study and speculation in the attempt to understand the
Star of Bethlehem. Aside from all of the science, it must have been quite the
phenomenon to draw Magi from the East. Scripture does not say, but I like to think even
the shepherds followed the star. A brilliant light, provided by God, to light the way to the
discovery of His One and Only Son, Jesus.

Think: Light has often been used to express spiritual illumination. What light has shown
you the way to Jesus? Isn’t is fascinating that Jesus Himself said in Matthew that we
should be Light? How are you being light to others? “Let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt.5:16)
Pray: Lord, thank you for sending light into my life. Thank you that I saw the way to
Jesus through your illuminated path. Thank you that I too can be light that shines the
way to Jesus for others. Amen

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