A Year of Smiles – Day 350: The SMILES of Christmas

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Christmas SMILE #16 (Reason to SMILE #350): THE NATIVITY

A blanket of white velvet covered the earth as snow gently drifted in the brisk night sky. Houses, adorned with twinkling lights and shiny bows, were aglow with a brightness exceeded only by the umbrella of shimmering stars overhead. The lullaby of carolers took wing on the gentle breezes of winter, filling the air with a song accompanied by the jingle of bells, the whistle of winds and …

… the shrill of a screaming choir angel being chased around the classroom by a shepherd carrying what seemed to be Joseph’s mustache and beard while a clean-shaven Joseph was following closely behind.

Leaping from her chair (and back into reality), Mrs. Jennings scrambled to rescue the angel in distress only to be stopped short by a whining wise man as he tugged at his collar and struggled to keep his crown atop his head.  Switching gears from rescue heroine to seamstress, Mrs. Jennings attempted alterations on the magi’s royal robe which she found to be wet along the hem line. Examining a little further, Mrs. Jennings, now detective, found a trail of water leading all the way to the stable where Mary sat whimpering as she held baby Jesus by one arm over a puddle of water on the floor. Swabbing the stable floor, Mrs. Jennings longed for the peaceful winter night of her earlier daydream but reassured herself that practice for the first grade Christmas pageant couldn’t get any worse.

Then it happened. A loud crash echoed through the classroom and the little town of Bethlehem was at last silent. Mrs. Jennings slowly turned to find a choir angel, a shepherd and a clean-shaven Joseph with heads held low and a pile of broken ceramics at their feet. The teacher’s heart sank as she realized that the reckless trio had broken her grandmother’s nativity set, now a precious heirloom. Mrs. Jennings approached the rubble and her students shuffled to take their seats. As she picked up the pieces, she quietly began to speak.

“When I was a little girl, my family and I would spend Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house. I loved Christmas Eve at Grandma’s. She always baked Christmas cookies and played Christmas music. We had a wonderful time but my favorite part of Christmas Eve was the time just before opening our presents. Grandma would gather everyone around this nativity set. She only displayed the stable stall filled with all the animals and the empty manger until Christmas Eve. As we gathered around, Grandma would tell us the story of Jesus’ birth and display the other pieces of the nativity set as she went along. Like these pieces,” Mrs. Jennings said as she held up a damaged Joseph and Mary.

“Joseph and Mary traveled a very long way to get to Bethlehem and when they arrived, there was no room for them in the inn. The innkeeper led Mary and Joseph to the stable stall because he knew Mary needed a warm place to stay. You see, Mary was going to have a baby.” Mrs. Jennings carefully placed Mary and Joseph in the stable and picked up one of the shepherds.

“That same night shepherds were in the fields watching their sheep and an angel of the Lord appeared to them.” Mrs. Jennings searched for the angel amidst the broken pieces. “The angel told the shepherds that a baby was born in Bethlehem and this baby was the Savior. The shepherds quickly left their sheep and found the Baby Jesus exactly where the angel had said – wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.” Mrs. Jennings placed the Baby Jesus in the manger and continued, “The shepherds worshipped the Baby Jesus because he was no ordinary baby. Jesus was and is the Son of God. Just as the angels proclaimed, Jesus is our Savior. He came to forgive us for our wrongdoing, and misbehavior,” added Mrs. Jennings slyly. “God wants us to someday live forever with Him in heaven but because of our sin, we can’t enter heaven. So God sent his only Son as a baby to grow up in our world and to show us His love by dying to pay the punishment for our sins and rising from the grave to give us hope. Jesus is God’s gift to us and all we have to do to receive this gift is believe.”

Mrs. Jennings smiled as she remembered her grandmother’s ending to the Christmas Eve story, “As Grandma placed the complete Nativity Set on the fireplace mantel, she would always say, ‘One day, I’m going to celebrate Christmas in Heaven, are you?’ ”

With this question, Mrs. Jennings looked up from the priceless Nativity Set to see a precious miracle. As she was telling of the Savior’s birth, her students had made their way to their places in the stable stall.  The choir of angels began to sing the soft lullaby of “Away in a Manger”. Shepherds knelt quietly in the presence of their Savior as wise men gathered with gifts in the background. Joseph, with full beard and mustache, stood proudly by Mary who lovingly wrapped the Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.

The snow gently fell outside the first grade classroom window as the sweet serenade of little voices filled the air. Mrs. Jennings smiled through her tears and quietly thanked God for the long winter nights of Christmas pageant practice.


One day, I’m going to celebrate Christmas in Heaven and the SMILES will never cease. What about you? God has given you a precious gift. All you have to do to receive this gift is believe. Won’t you accept His gift today? I’d so love to see your SMILING faces at our heavenly Christmas celebration one day!

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A Year of Smiles – Day 216

Reason to SMILE #216: SECURITY

“Ma’am, how am I supposed to know that you weren’t actually trying to brake in to this house?” asked the police officer.

At least, that’s what I imagined he would ask after he arrived at my parents’ house finding me on the front porch while the security alarm wailed. You see, I had only gone to pick up my child who was probably two or three at the time. I knew my parents had taken him out for a while and they hadn’t made it back home. I also knew I would get to their house before they did and I would have to wait on them. I should have waited in the car. Instead, I decided to sit on their front porch.

As I made my way onto the porch, I noticed my parents’ cat looking out of a large picture window. So, I did what any normal person would do. I walked up to the window, bent down to get a closer look, said, “Hello, Cali,” and gently tapped the window at the vicinity of the cat’s face.

Do you know those signs at the pet store that say, “Do not tap glass”? That also applies to any window anywhere through which animals are staring at you from the other side. Just don’t do it. Ever.

As soon as I tapped the glass – and I mean, I barely touched it – the alarm began to blast. I froze. What was I going to do? My parents weren’t home, yet, and I couldn’t get into the house to turn the alarm off. All I could do was sit there listening to the alarm and imagining what I was going to tell the police when they pulled up in the yard.

Fortunately, my parents returned home shortly thereafter and the police were never dispatched. As my parents were unlocking the house, I began explaining how I set off the alarm. “I didn’t know what I was going to do if the police arrived. I didn’t know how I was going to prove my relationship to you and that I belonged here.”

“Karen,” my mom replied as she opened the front door and pointed in the house to the wall directly in front of us, “Your picture is right there as you walk in the door. That’s all the proof they’d need.”

You know, one day we are all going to stand before an even greater authority than our fine men and women in blue. We are all going to stand before our Creator and the question of our belonging in His eternal home is going to be posed. What are you going to do? Are you going to rattle off examples of your good deeds, your acts of charity, your adherence to the Ten Commandments? Are you certain that you will even have a place in Heaven one day?

The Bible tells us that the only way to an eternal home with our Heavenly Father is by faith in His Son Jesus Christ. (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9John 14:6) The Bible also tells us that once we make the decision to become a follower of Jesus by admitting we are sinners and in need of salvation from an eternal death, believing Jesus is the only Son of God and He paid the price for our sins through death on a cross and resurrection from the grave, and confessing our sins and committing our lives to Him, then we can know for sure that we have an eternal home in heaven that no one can question or take away. (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:35-39) And on the day you stand before the throne of God and your belonging is questioned, you won’t have to wonder what you will say. Your Savior will step forward, point to your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and say, “Yes. she’s mine. See right there. That’s her name!”

I know my eternity is secure. What a SMILE that brings to my soul! What about you? Are you sure of your eternal home?

A Year of Smiles – Day 201

Reason to SMILE #201 – BLESSINGS

The rhythmic beat of drums and the blues-y sound of a bass guitar filled the air as a room of kids chanted “Bless-ed, bless-ed, bless-ed, bless-ed, bless-ed.”  We were singing a song about the Beatitudes found in Matthew chapter 5.  It’s actually a rap and when I first heard the song, I thought, “Wow! What a cool way to learn the Beatitudes!” After six weeks of trying to teach the song to these kids, I have come to the conclusion that my group was not meant to rap – no matter how much I wanted them to! Oh, well.

The Beatitudes are excellent Bible verses to read and even memorize. These verses talk about blessings. And who doesn’t like blessings? We ask God for them all the time, don’t we? Lord, bless this food.  Lord, bless our home. Lord, bless this business venture.  Lord, bless me. We pronounce blessings on others, too. What do you say when you hear someone sneeze? God bless you. And how do you respond when you find out someone is sick or when someone has gotten hurt? Aw, bless his heart. Yes, we like blessings.  However, our idea of blessings is not really the Lord’s idea of blessings.

God doesn’t hand out blessings like Santa handing out toys. If you read Scripture carefully, you’ll find that the blessings and promises of God usually come with a proviso. Read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1 -12, for instance. Some of the blessings you will find in these verses of Scripture are comfort, mercy, seeing God, being called a child of God and the kingdom of Heaven. Those all sound great. I’ll take those blessings, please! It doesn’t quite work like that. Jesus tells us in these verses that these blessings belong to those who live and act a certain way, to those who are faithful followers of God. Take a look:

³Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It’s obvious from these verses that God doesn’t regard blessings as we do. God is more concerned with our lasting growth as a person than He is with our instant gratification. Again, He’s not Santa freely handing out candy canes at the mall or a genie in a bottle waiting to give you three wishes. There has to be some responsibility on our part. If we want to be blessed, we have to live the life worthy of blessings. And when we do, verse 12 tells us that even if we are insulted or persecuted for it, we can “Rejoice and be glad” a/k/a we can SMILE (KJV = KJ’s Version) for “great is your reward in heaven”!