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In a recent interview I shared with Dr. Alex McFarland, Director for Christian Worldview and Apologetics at North Greenville University, we discussed five facts about Christmas. A close look at these five truths reveal Christmas originated with Jesus, but is necessary for each of our lives.

Jesus came to live among us, to transform us, and to transform others through us.

1. The Need for Christmas

Why did Jesus leave the luxury of heaven to live among those he created? In short, we needed it. The Genesis account of Adam and Eve reveals humanity has fallen since beginning, leaving the need for a rescuer who can forgive us and make us right with God.

Jesus offers this connection with God through his own life. During his teaching years, Jesus communicated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).

Christmas is needed because we are needy. Jesus is the gift that perfectly meets our need for restored relationship with our creator.

2. The Promise of Christmas

Christmas also exists because God promised to send the Messiah. This chosen one was alluded to in Genesis 3:15 where God notes the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent. In other words, one of Eve’s male descendants would defeat Satan (represented through the serpent).

God also promised to “establish the throne of His kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13). The coming one would not be a temporary leader or king, but would lead an eternal kingdom. Only Jesus has fulfilled this prediction.

Further, the prophet Isaiah predicted the coming one would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). This specially-born child would be call Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” The birth of Jesus supernaturally and perfectly fit this prediction.

3. The Details of Christmas

Many of the details in the Christmas accounts of Matthew and Luke show the amazing level of detail involved in coming of Jesus. For example, Matthew 2:19-23 speak of Jesus as being called a Nazarene because he was raised in Nazareth.

No specific Old Testament prediction said these exact words, but the concept prophetically connects with the concept of Nazareth as “the branch.” This includes Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, and Zechariah 3:8 where the coming one would also be the servant.

Jesus also fulfilled the detail regarding the Messiah of “dwelling” or living in Galilee. Isaiah 9:1-2, written hundreds of years earlier, notes that those in Galilee will see a great light.

Keep in mind, Isaiah was written about 700 years prior to the earthly life of Jesus. Yet his words show the great care God took in preparing for his coming through a variety of predictions revealed to the Jewish people and others who would read these words.

4. The Observance of Christmas

It is true the exact date of the birth of Jesus remains uncertain. Some have noted Emperor Constantine connecting Christmas with the observance of Saturnalia, but some Christians observed December 25 as the birth of Christ prior to this time.

However, the important focus of Christmas is not the date, but the “Advent” or coming of the Messiah. John 1:14 notes, “And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

5. The Relevancy of Christmas

The hectic nature of the holidays can easily lead some people to believe Christmas is no longer important. Skeptics suggest Christmas is “fake news.” Yet Christmas remains vitally important for each of us. Acts 4:12 notes, “There is no other name under heaven by which you must be saved.”

If we can only know God through Jesus, then the coming of Jesus marks a critical time in history and in our personal lives. Without Jesus, we lack the opportunity to know and grow with our creator. Yet with Jesus, we can know the one who made us and live confident of our future with him.

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Dr. Dillon Burroughs is one of America’s top communicators on today’s Christian issues. He serves as senior writer of The John Ankerberg Show and is author or coauthor of nearly 40 books. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He lives with his wife and three children in Tennessee.

The U.S. House of Representatives took a unified, bipartisan stand yesterday by unanimously voting in favor of the Stopping  Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) Act. This legislation triples the federal penalty for female genital mutilation (FGM) from five to 15 years in prison.

Further, the effort encourages states to implement reporting requirements for suspected FGM cases. The bill arose from Rep. Dave Trott (Mi.) who experienced this crime in his own state involving a doctor prosecuted for allegedly mutilating 7-year-old girls.

Attorney Elizabeth Yore, international child advocate and head of the EndFGMToday movement, applauded the effort.

“End FGM Today is thankful to Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan for sponsoring and fighting for the bill,” said Yore, who also served as general counsel for both the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “Evident in the bipartisan effort is the fact that protecting little girls from the horrors of FGM is a universal issue. The House has recognized that FGM is an exponentially growing threat in the U.S., and we urge the remaining states that have not enacted their own anti-FGM laws to do so quickly. We also look forward to swift passage in the Senate and the public urging that mandated reporters use the FGM FBI Hotline to help prosecute perpetrators of this terrible crime that leave physical and emotional scars for a lifetime.”

While this legislation marks a major step forward in the fight against FGM in America, the battle is far from over. How can people of faith help stop the horrific crime of FGM in their communities and state?

Although this hideous practice has been outlawed under federal law since 1996, only about half the states in the country are enacting their own laws. At least 59 countries around the world outlaw FGM.

Currently, several states have begun initiatives to introduce legislation against FGM. The Facebook page Americans Against Mutilation of Girls provides a social hub to discover more about the latest news and ways to help.

At least three steps can be applied in each of our lives today.

  1. Awareness: Joining the above Facebook group can help in this area.
  2. Advocate: Spread the news about this issue. Contact your Congressman or Senator to see where they stand in this area.
  3. Act: If you see something suspicious, report it to the FGM FBI Hotline.

For more about this movement, you can also visit EndFGMToday.com.

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Dr. Dillon Burroughs is one of America’s top communicators on today’s Christian issues. He serves as senior writer of The John Ankerberg Show and is author or coauthor of nearly 40 books. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He lives with his wife and three children in Tennessee.

Image result for manger imageMany Americans are aware of Advent, but are unfamiliar with what it is and means. The word means “arrival” or “appearing” and celebrates the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. While this tradition may not sound that exciting to some, for followers of Jesus, Advent marks the beginning of Christ’s adventure on earth.

Adventure? How can Jesus coming to our world be described as an adventure? At least four ways apply.

1. Jesus Fulfilled Numerous Prophecies

People continue to be fascinated by predictions of the future. In the case of Jesus, his coming fulfilled numerous predictions made in the Hebrew Bible hundreds of years in advance. Jesus was…

  • born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
  • in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • forced to flee to Egypt (Hosea 11:1)

In addition, angels had revealed the birth to both Mary and Joseph, while the aged Nicodemus recognized Jesus as the awaited Savior of the world (Luke 2:29-32).

2. Jesus Came as the Underdog

People love a good underdog story. In the case of Jesus, his parents couldn’t find a suitable inn while traveling to Jerusalem. Instead of a proper room, Jesus was born among animals and placed in a feeding trough called a manger.

The coming Messiah rested among the animals while the surrounding world lived mostly unaware God had arrived on earth.

3. Jesus Arrived Under Supernatural Circumstances

In addition to his virgin birth, two other supernatural signs accompanied his birth. First, shepherds experienced an angelic encounter on the night of his birth. They both announced Jesus’ coming and told the shepherds where to find the baby.

When they found him, “they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17). Those who worked among the lambs were the first to announce the coming of the Lamb of God.

Second, wise men from the east were led to Jesus by a special star. Scholars still debate the origin of this star, but the events surrounding this activity should be considered supernatural regardless of the explanation of how the magi found their way to Jesus.

4. Jesus Entered Our World to Revolutionize It

The baby Jesus did not enter our world only to live with us but to change our lives. Many spiritual leaders have come and gone, leaving an impact of some sort. Yet Jesus divided time in two, altered the history of humanity, and has led to the largest spiritual movement in our world.

Though many claim to believe in Jesus today, those who truly follow him are those who likewise revolutionize the world. Jesus followers are not content to watch the problems of this world and do nothing. Instead, we identify ways to get involved, create change, and show the love of Jesus everywhere we can.

If Jesus can leave heaven to transform our lives, the least we can do is give up our meager dreams and ambitions to impact the lives of others.

When we do, hope continues to enter our world.

When we share Christ’s love, his story continues to offer a better life for the hurting.

When we live his teachings, the change we long to see slowly takes shape.

We may not fix all of this world’s problems, but we serve a Savior who can.

This is the adventure of Advent.

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Maybe you’re like me. Someone asks what you want for Christmas and you think, “Well, I already really have everything I really need.” We end up choosing gift cards, coffee mugs, T-shirts, and other socially acceptable selections for the convenience of friends and family.

But there is one thing we agree on that everyone needs–compassion. Compassion is usually defined as sympathy or concern for the needs of others. What if instead of choosing a wish list we chose a compassion list?

What if you and I and every person reading these words chose to do something specific to help another person–starting today? From holding the door for a stranger at a store to helping with the bills of a single mom in need of assistance, there are plenty of places to begin.

So here’s my challenge. Today is December 1. Counting today, there are 25 days to the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the one known as the perfect example of compassion. Let’s choose to do something each day to reflect his love to those we see today.

If you do, you might not change the world, but you’ll change the world for one person.

Don’t know where to begin? Here are seven examples to get you started in showing compassion to others:

  1. Write and encouraging note or card: It’s Christmas! This is the best time of the year to send a card. Take an extra moment to write a personal word to someone you love to let them know  how special they are to you.
  2. Make a call: Many of us text constantly, yet rarely talk on the phone to our loved ones far away. Surprise that special someone with an extended conversation that emphasizes how important the other person is to you.
  3. Volunteer for the holidays: There are plenty of places to help this Christmas season. On you own or with a few friends, choose a way to get involved and make a difference.
  4. Give a hug (when appropriate): This one can be awkward in certain contexts, but a genuine, caring hug between family members or friends can communicate compassion in ways words cannot express.
  5. Choose a cause: Do you have a cause you care deeply about? If not, consider where you can give back. You don’t have to start a nonprofit or launch a petition (though this would be great). Instead, consider where you can invest some of your spare time to change lives.
  6. Share a meal: Many friends say, “We should get together soon,” and months or years pass and nothing happens. Choose one friend. Contact. Schedule a meal or coffee. See what happens.
  7. Smile: Yes, smile. It seems so simple, yet staying positive during life’s difficult moments can bring hope to those who are frustrated and hurting.

Where will you show compassion today?