The Hope That Christmas Offers

Matthew 1:18-25  This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement[a] quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus,[b] for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Imagine if you can what it would be like to be a guest in somebodies home but never feeling at home. Grateful to have a place to stay but quietly hoping to one day be in your own home. You have been given freedom to make yourself at home yet you still never feel 100% free. Have you ever been there?

It makes me think of Jim and Tami Webb who confidently and graciously responded to God’s call to sell their house and follow God to New Jersey. They gave up the comfort of a house they had raised their children in and for years now they have been living with another family they had only really known for a few months.

They made it work but they wondered when they could finally have a place here that they could call home. They moved out of one house that was shared with another family to a house that was owned by another. They couldn’t truly settle in because there was no promise they could be there long term and then sure enough they were given a few months to get out.

Hope came in a strange way but at least there was hope. They received a gift from an unexpected source and found a house that they could move in. Now finally after a year they were able to unpack the boxes that they packed in Florida. They were able to finally find a home they could call their own.

The name Jesus was chosen by God for his Son, it was a common name of that day but its meaning was very special. Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Joshua. It means “Yahweh is Salvation.” The Lord is salvation was the name given for centuries to little Jewish boys similar to how we today name boys John or Mike.

It reflects the hope of these Jewish parents for one day experiencing God’s salvation. For centuries the Jewish people had been “houseguest” and they were never truly free. Centuries of oppression under a succession of world powers was their only experience. So God’s choice of such a common name when He could have chosen anything helps us see a glimpse into the heart of God.

Jesus came for all of us. He came in a way that identified with the “average Joe.” I read this quote and I think it sums up perfectly as we consider these thoughts today:

“He came in love to become one of us, so that we might be drawn to Him and become one of His.”

So find Hope today in knowing that He came!


Instead of services on Sunday morning watch for us on Grace Falls Facebook for a Live Christmas Day devotion from Pastor Buff McNickle. We pray that it encourages you and that you and your family will have a blessed Christmas

Unsung Heroes


By Taylor Lightsey

Ziegler Elementary School is comprised of five to six hundred students from kindergarten to eighth grade. More than a building for learning, this school is a haven for many of its students. Locked down from the outside this concrete building with no air conditioning (a foreign concept to this Floridian) is nestled in the middle of a low-income, high-crime profiled neighborhood in northern Philadelphia. Parallel-parked cars crowd the roads and each tiny town house sits but a few feet away from its neighbor. Many of the students at Ziegler walk to school through this same concrete jungle in which they wouldn't dare play basketball in for fear of the violence that has enveloped this little neighborhood.

The biggest challenge these children face growing up is being overcome by a worldview that limits them to dropping out before completing high school and naturally sliding into the same impoverished lifestyle led by the previous generation.

Where I come from, you ask a small child what they want to be when they grow up and expect a bright eyed response of becoming a ballerina, an astronaut, and at least one dreamer who claims that they will surely be a pirate.

On our first day at Ziegler, as we asked this same question we quickly realized that to ask them to dream was foreign, unfathomable. Most of the children's spirit to dream has long ago been disheartened as they grow up witnessing divorce, domestic violence, abandonment, adoption, drugs, gang violence, murder, etc.

Dreaming is not the only rare commodity around Ziegler Elementary. For the vast majority, also unfamiliar to these children are organized sports, problem resolution, and school spirit—really… spirit in general. This community is in a drought; void of the fruit of the spirit and the living water that is the gospel.

Our goal as a team of 6-8 was to throw these 550 students the first spirit week Ziegler had ever seen. On paper it sounds impossible, but serving a God who can't be summed up in simple text, we were blessed beyond our means. Especially with such a small team, I knew God would have to do something drastic here. He would have to be the one to move in the hearts of these kids to let them be spirit filled. We could have had all the supplies and ideas in the world, but God would ultimately have to do the heart work.

Going in, being firmly grounded on a plan of action— that rug was quickly ripped out from under us and that is when I believe the Holy Spirit took over. Through the medium of stickers, coloring sheets, silly dances, competitive games, candy giveaways, a school painting project, and organized sports, we brought the students daily virtuous lessons of Hope, Individuality, Self Control, and Friendship.

The same kids who are daily serenaded with violence rather than resolution and raising your voice rather than reasoning, were so quick to respond to our questions of what it means to have hope and to be a friend.


The same kids whose view of love has been severely fractured by their environment were quick to light up as they saw us walking down the hall, learn our names, and race to wrap their arms around our waists for a quick embrace between classes.

Our goal was to give the kids 5 days to take ownership, to reclaim their right to dream beyond what society expects of them; to give them back a hope that, where they come from, does not have to dictate who they will become because that is not where their identity lies.

Society says anonymous; God says priceless. Society says they've already failed so why bother; God says that Christ came so we have life and have it abundantly.

These kids are hungry; hungry for more than their school certified free meals that most of them depend on, they are hungry for the love of Christ. I was privileged to be the hands and feet to represent this love to them last week and challenged to pray for the unsung heroes that have dedicated their life's work to influencing the beautiful little souls that walk the halls of Ziegler Elementary School.