The Real Story of that First Christmas Eve

The Real Story of the First Christmas Eve

Please allow me to begin this story by sharing that over the many centuries, since the beginning of what we now celebrate as Christmas, our societies have painted a much different picture of the Christmas story. We have gotten sidetracked from the real story.

In each of our homes, a simple manger scene might be tucked away on a shelf or tabletop somewhere, symbolically placed without any real fanfare or notice. It has become just another ornament or decoration in our home already filled with lights, candles, bows, and assorted Christmas ornamentation. There is far more interest upon the gaily wrapped gifts under the tree, and we wonder, “What is under the tree for me?” Our attention turns to preparing and sharing scrumptious candy, cookies, and cakes with family and friends gathering while that Christmas manger depicts the real story and magic of Christmas.

Is it wrong to think about all the other wonderful treats and gifts and ornamentation that now identify with Christmas? Is it wrong to sing Jingle Bells and Grandma Got Run Over By the Reindeer on Christmas Eve? Is it wrong to talk about Santa Claus, the North Pole, and Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer? Is it wrong to watch the myriad of Christmas stories Hollywood has created that we seem to enjoy each Christmas season? No, all are a by-product of how Christmas has become shaped by our modern society.

However, for some of us, we embrace our heritage and the family traditions passed down to us as our way to celebrate the “Spirit of Christmas.” Though there are more and more outside influences competing to shape the Christmas traditions our children and grandchildren are allowing into their homes, we faithfully pass on the heritage and traditions as they grow up and raise their our family.

Just maybe, if we stop and pull aside all the shiny trimmings and colorful decorations, and mute more of the commercialized messages of Christmas, we might avoid missing out on the true meaning and joy of Christmas. But, if we allow ourselves to fall prey to all the glitz, glitter, and glamour, the real reason for the season might fade totally away; we might as well follow suit with the rest of the world and stop calling it CHRISTmas, as many in the world would prefer we do.

Why does the world want to avoid the real reason for CHRISTmas? Is it because if they join us in celebrating Christmas (the CHRIST MASS, as it originally was called), they will hear the true message and the story represented by the manger scene resting on a shelf somewhere? The celebration of Jesus’s birth is so we may acknowledge God’s love. In the confusing, chaotic and combative time we live in today,  there has never been a greater time for the world to grasp ahold of the real meaning of Christmas.

That very first Christmas Eve, though the term we now embrace as Christmas would not be known for decades, was a genuine, historical event involving real people; its story passed from generation to generation and recorded over the centuries so it could endure the test of time and become the anchor of our faith that God’s love was, is, and forever will remain available to us.

The Bible records that the Apostle Paul saw the Christ child event as significant because it reflected God’s deliberate act to demonstrate His love for us by introducing Himself through what would become the life and legacy of Jesus, born into this world just as we too are born into this world. In writing to the early churches, decades after the birth, Paul wrote the WHAT and WHY of that first Christmas Eve.

WHAT: But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Galatians 4:4-5 The Message

The timing of Jesus’ birth was not arbitrary. It was established by key events and came directed by the providential hand of God for His good purposes.

WHY: Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of an intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave (a nobody), but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:6-7 The Message

The why is much more important! Until this point in history, the people of God had lost contact with the personal God who led His them from slavery in Egypt and delivered them to a better place, a better life. Like many of us today, they had taken God’s goodness and love for granted and alienated themselves from God for over 500 years. In fact, many suffered exile and were driven into foreign lands – a reminder of what being a slave, a nobody felt like again. Even those who continued to live in the lands we know as Israel today, and those scattered throughout the known world at that time, faced Roman rule, no longer able to experience a “King” of their own to lead them from the oppression they endured. But, many clung to God’s promises of a Messiah, a Deliverer, to rescue them once again. They yearned for the relationship and inheritance they once trusted in because they were God’s children. Each day they prayed and hoped that “today would be that day” – and then it happened. God answered their prayers, and that first Christmas Eve unfolded into history.

About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiance, who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. Luke 2:1-7 The Message

This brief passage and a couple of equally short passages in the Gospel accounts of the Bible reveal the story. Today, we hear those timeless words at church and in the embedded lyrics of Christmas songs and carols, such as Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World, etc. Though many churches still perform manger recreations, how you personally respond to the story matters.

How about you and your family, will take the time to share and reflect upon the story and message of that first Christmas Eve? Will you allow that manger scene in your home to be treasured above all the other Christmas decorations and symbols of today’s Christmas season?

Also, rather than read the cute but created story about “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to your (grand)children, maybe this year read them the real, God-inspired true story about “The Night that Brought Christmas into the World! Below is how Hershel Hobbs wrote about that special night, recorded in his Illustrated Life of Jesus.

In faraway Rome, Augustus Caesar ruled his vast empire with an iron hand. True to Roman fashion he was primarily concerned that his subjects should keep the peace and pay their taxes. In 8 B.C. he had inaugurated a periodical census every fourteen years in order to enroll his people for taxation. According to Tacitus (Roman Historian) even the regna, the independent kingdoms under the Roman Empire, were included in this census.

Probably two years later this census was carried out in Palestine. Herod, the vassal king, would not think of disobeying Augustus. Yet, knowing the Jew’s aversion to paying taxes to Rome, he delayed it as long as he dared. Even then he sought to placate the Jews by adhering to their customs in dealing with them along tribal lines. So when the order for enrollment was finally given, it called for every Jew to be enrolled at the place where the tribal register was kept.

Thus Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, for they were descendants of David and members of the tribe of Judah. Though they were peasants (poor, everyday common folks), royal blood flowed in their veins. By this time Mary was great with child (in her final days of pregnancy) and this journey of approximately 100 miles worked a great hardship on her.  Nevertheless, Caesar’s decree must be obeyed.

However, she and Joseph moved under a greater word (inspiration) than that of the Roman emperor, for God had said that His Son, the Messiah, should be born in Bethlehem. Augustus knew nothing of this prophecy and cared less. But unknowingly he was an instrument in God’s hands, as his decree like an invisible cord drew the virgin mother toward her destiny.

After several days of travel, late in the afternoon, these weary travelers climbed the last rocky, steep ascent leading into Bethlehem. The streets were crowded with hundreds of other men and women bent on the same mission. Clouds of dust boiled up from the stirring of the hundreds of feet of men and animals. A bedlam of noise characteristic of such a scene filled the ears of the weary couple from Nazareth as laboriously they made their way to the village inn. But it was already filled to overflowing.

So because there was no lodging to be had, Joseph bedded his wife down in the area provided for the animals. Here Mary “gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a manger (animal feed trough)” Luke 2:7.

Thus the Son of God was born – not in a king’s palace or in a home of the wealthy or mighty, but to a peasant mother whose delivery room was a stable. No physician stood by to assist. Only the gnarled hands of a village carpenter came to her aid, but they were hands made tender by a conquering love and a devotion to God. As the newborn babe slept through the night, He was under the watchful eyes of His mother and Joseph, but most of all He was secure under the never-failing gaze of His Heavenly Father.

The next morning, Bethlehem roused from her sleep. It was business as usual as the bazaars rang with the noise of commerce. The enrollment was finished, and the crowds moved out to return to their homes. Caesar’s bidding had been done, and the village of David returned to normal. Only a few simple folks knew that on that night in the little village there had transpired the greatest event in the history of the world.

…Jesus’ birth was largely unnoticed by the world. Outside of the Bible, no ancient historian took note of the event. They were so bent on the recording the affairs of men and nations that they failed to recognize God’s history within history, whereby in the person of His Son He entered into the arena of time to answer the universal cry of men’s hearts. But it did not occur without recognition by those whose hearts were prepared to receive it.

Heaven itself rejoiced over the glorious event. For the angelic hosts burst asunder the barrier of invisibility to proclaim the Savior’s birth and to sing the Christian anthem dedicated to His praise. For their audience, they had a handful of lowly shepherds, the simple folk who counted for little in the tides of history whichever beat upon the shores of time. But their hearts were firmly fixed in God’s promises upon which they meditated in the quiet hours of the night. In Bethlehem’s fields where Ruth had gleaned in the fields of Boaz, later to become his bride and the Moabite ancestress of the Savior; where David had tended his sheep, all the while contemplating God’s glory and on Him who was to be born; there the shepherds first heard the glad tidings that unto them had been born a Savior, Christ the Lord.

The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem to find it as the angels had said. They found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. God in a cradle! Upon hearing from the shepherds about the heavenly declaration, Mary placed the event alongside the message of Gabriel, pondering them in her heart. And she knew that God had fulfilled His promise. The shepherds returned to their work, carrying back into their mundane sphere the memory of an experience which would forever cast an aura of glory about them and about all others who in humble trust some to Him who fills the universe with His presence, yet who for a little while was contained in a baby’s impromptu cradle – a manger!

Merry Christmas,

Coach

Hope you’ll visit my TMBrownAuthor.com page and discover “Christmas in Shiloh” attempts to exemplify a grandfather’s love for sharing Christmas with his grandchildren.

The Pursuit of Wisdom

The Pursuit of Wisdom
The pursuit of Wisdom is a most worthy and desirable journey. These facts remain true about the pursuit of it.
 
There will always be those wiser than ourselves. Conversely, this should become true too, others will see us as wise to them.
 
Wisdom is the application of goodness, righteousness, and justice, ergo godliness, in all choices of life.
 
Wisdom can never be fully reached in one’s lifetime, but its pursuit remains a worthy destination. The further one travels acquiring and understanding it, one’s relationship with God grows.
 
Wisdom defines one’s spiritual maturity.
 
Sadly, each of us recognizes wisdom residing in others long before we recognize it in ourselves.
 
I believe before one can truly attain wisdom one must grasp the dichotomies in the possible consequences for choices we make in life: Goodness against evil. Righteousness opposed to wickedness. Justice in contrast to injustice.
 
Yes, my younger friends, the pursuit of wisdom is a most worthy goal in life, and as you likely have recognized some degree of wisdom in others, others will look up to you as you look to your far wiser friends.
 
Wisdom should be a cherished destination in one’s life; the pursuit reveals God. The further you progress along the way of wisdom fading regrets will lose their grasp; any notions of retreat dissipate; all reserve left behind.
 
Again, no one attains wisdom, but the pursuit makes you wiser. Embrace the quest it takes you for the rest of your life.
 
Coach
After many years studying God’s Word, I wrote my Shiloh novels about a time-lost South Georgia town with colorful, realistic characters dealing with choices and consequences in life, and the response of others to our choices. I pray my grandchildren will eventually grasp the lessons that reside in the stories and become wiser as a result, and hopefully long before I discovered the value of wisdom in one’s life.
If you choose to read any of my inspirational Southern mysteries, please let me know what lessons you found within the twists and turns between the covers of each story.
Southern Fiction with a message.

Light Never Forgets the Dark Days

Ecclesiastes 11 7Light Never Forgets the Dark Days

Light is sweet, and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun. For if a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, since they will be many. All that comes is futile. Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sights of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment. Remove sorrow from your heart and put away pain from your flesh, because youth and the prime of life are fleeting. Eccl 11:7-10 (HCSB)

Darkness by definition is the absence of light. Absolute darkness leaves no reference points to stumble around. In total darkness, only fear exists. Fear reigns because we do not know what the next step will bring. Future hope as a destination does not exist to focus our eyes.

In our darkest days there is only desolation and desperation. Yet, even in the darkest days, God provides us with sufficient light to find our way. His love is so great that even when we cower in the darkness, he seeks to draw us toward his gift of light. However, as the passage reveals, our fears of the light reveal the state of our lives. Light reveals truth. Though truth sets us free, it also reveals the shortcomings of our life.

Light is relative. In God’s presence there is absolute light; no darkness exists. In God’s presence man risks entering the “shekinah” glory of God – God’s light of truth.It not only reveals but also cleanses away what is not pure. Man must be exposed to God’s radiant light to purify him, dispelling all remnants of darkness. However, our memory of those dark days draws us closer to the light!

Hope, faith and love thrive in the light, whereas fear, desolation, and desperation rooted in darkness are cast away. From isolation and separation we discover fellowship and lordship. In pure light, we focus upon the “good” and discover the “truth.” Both are a gift of God as we leave behind the dark days, and pursue the light.

One final thought, once we value light, we become light to those left in the darkness. It is for this purpose God drawed us out of the darkness. His radiant light is meant to be shared, never hoarded as if given exclusively. It is a gift to share and is inexhaustible sharing with others.

Coach

Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

My Shiloh stories contain these themes in both Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return.

For Southern Fiction with a message, may I suggest.

Why Shiloh for my Story’s Setting?

 

New Author Page www.TMBrownAuthor.com

In Sanctuary, my premier Southern mystery, readers are introduced to the quaint, time-lost South Georgia town of Shiloh. The story begins as Theo and his wife Liddy desire to relocate and retire back to their country roots, after investing four decades of their lives in the shadows of Atlanta. According to the story, it is Liddy who discovers an advertisement for a quaint Craftsman home that convinced her Shiloh would be a perfect fit for them.

But, it’s what readers sense early on as they arrive in Shiloh that draws them into the story? First of all, Shiloh’s reputation paints a serene picture about this time-lost town, but like its namesake from biblical lore, reputation and present reality are subject to the whims and shortcomings of men.

Like the Shiloh of old, Sanctuary reveals that the once proud Shiloh had lost its luster and position as the county seat decades earlier. Alexandria, like Jerusalem in biblical lore, surpassed Shiloh as the center of power and influence, leaving the proud people in Shiloh with their beautiful, antebellum courthouse on the town square a victim of progress. According to the story, Alexandria blossomed during the post-WWII boom and expansion in Georgia, while Shiloh stagnated and struggled, like many real-life small towns in South Georgia. Shiloh’s conciliation came in the preserving of its beloved courthouse as it received a facelift and became reconfigured into the town’s city hall. However, the facelift and remodeling of their sesquicentenary courthouse left the edifice’s skeleton of 19th Century hewn timbers and ornate woodwork intact. Decades later, their beloved historical courthouse would be razed to the ground and steal away the life of a town hero, who rescued others from the growing inferno.

Biblical Shiloh became the first seat of governance once Joshua and the nation of Israel completed their conquest of the Promised Land. The ark of the covenant and tabernacle that had traveled for forty years found a seemingly permanent resting place in Shiloh. Israel’s priests and judges (leaders) established Shiloh as the central seat in the Promised Land until Israel felt unsettled about the way Israel was governed, and desired to be like the other nations. Not long after Israel turned to the rule of king’s, rather than priests acting on God’s behalf, Shiloh fell victim to King David’s selection of Jerusalem as his site for his palace and the building of the new temple. A rival army burned and ransacked Shiloh not long before David ascended the throne as the second king of Israel. However, he turned his back on Shiloh and chose Jerusalem for his palace.

All that remains of biblical Shiloh in modern Israel.

The name Shiloh to this day still paints a different picture than the historical reality which its namesakes have experienced. One of the bloodiest and decisive battles fought during the Civil War became known as the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee.

Darley’s Painting of the Battle of Shiloh, 1862

Even the Hebrew origin of the name Shiloh means “place of peace,” but as history revealed, “peace” requires the cooperation of men to live up to the expectation of maintaining peace in their community. Sanctuary and its sequel play on the dichotomy of Shiloh’s reputation and the reality of its present state as Theo and Liddy soon discover upon their arrival to Shiloh that there’s a rift in the tranquility of the community.

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Hope you will read more here and then head over to T. M. Brown, Facebook Author page

I’d love to connect with you and offer the latest on my book tour schedule and insight into this Southern author.

Take it from this Southern boy, you won’t want to lay Sanctuary down… Click the image to go my new AUTHOR PAGE at TMBrownAuthor.com

Please leave any comments or questions you may have about Sanctuary or about me. Also, feel free to ask other questions concerning the upcoming sequel, Testament, An Unexpected Return, coming out March 29, 2018.

All good fiction is deeply planted and nourished in the soil of truth and reality. The settings and characters in our novels do not spring up ex-nihilo (out of nothingness). Good novels blur the lines between what is fact and fiction allowing the reader to enjoy the totality of the story as though it is real. Nothing brings a smile quicker than to be asked, “Where is Shiloh, I want to go there.”

T. M. Brown, Southern Author

 

Sneak Peek #2: Sanctuary

Shiloh’s Original Stately Courthouse replaced by a more modern City Hall building.

 

Enjoy this short sneak-peek into Sanctuary’s story, then click on the video links on the side panel to learn even more.

After [enjoying our first meal in Shiloh], we decided to stretch our legs and venture into the center of town. On the town square, Liddy found a bench next to the walkway and admired the unique architecture of Shiloh Baptist Church across the street. My interest fell upon the bronze statue we saw earlier.

 

Grand Shiloh Baptist Church

Spotlights highlighted the young man’s chiseled face. He wore a collared polo shirt with a “SHS” monogram above a fleur-de-lis over his heart. A coach’s whistle hung from his neck, and a Bible rested in one hand while the other pointed upward. The life-like detail monopolized my attention until my eyes drifted to the plaque at the base:

JESSIE MASTERSON, BELOVED COACH AND TEACHER, SACRIFICED HIS LIFE SAVING THE LIVES OF TWO OTHERS THE NIGHT THE ORIGINAL COURTHOUSE BURNED DOWN, DECEMBER 8, 2010.

I stood with my arms crossed while my instincts conjured the possible story behind those two dozen words.

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“Southern Writers Magazine “Must Read” in their May/June 2017 issue.

 

 

 

 

 

  • HOW CAN YOU GET YOUR COPY OF SANCTUARY?

To order your own copy, go to Amazon

Also stop by TM Brown author page on Facebook for his latest reviews and schedule of book events.

I also encourage you to support your local independent bookstore. They will gladly order your copy of Sanctuary, if they don’t already have it on their shelf.

“Christmas in Shiloh” with Santa and the full moon is a promottional image.

“Christmas in Shiloh” is the backstory timeline in Sanctuary. In every small, time-lost town in the South Christmas is a magical time to look forward to.

With Sanctuary’s all-audience reviews, it’ll make the perfect holiday gift list for your book-loving friends, family, or co-workers.

Please leave or comment or question. I would enjoy hearing from you. More sneak-peek scenes coming in the coming weeks.

T. M. “Mike” Brown

Sneak-Peek #1: Sanctuary

Here’s the first of several “Sneak peeks” at Sanctuary. In this scene, Theo and Liddy have packed up and left the shadows of Atlanta in their rearview mirror. They in the midst of their drive south to their new home in Shiloh…

On the outskirts of Albany, Liddy stirred and wiped her eyes as the late afternoon sunlight glistened between the tree tops. She cleared her throat, lowered her sunglasses from the top of her head, and surveyed the passing scenery before she asked with a drawn-out sigh, “Where are we?” I pointed to a well-timed road sign. “Albany’s 30 more miles. Looks like we’ll arrive in Shiloh a little before six.”

Sunset over cotton fields

We soon turned onto the Flint River Highway, the homestretch leg of our journey. The amber glow grew darker as the sun disappeared below the distant treetops. Liddy bit her lower lip and clenched my hand. “Do you think we did right? I mean … buying this house and leaving Peachtree?”

My wink and affirming grin brought a smile to Liddy’s relieved lower lip. “You’re right,” she said. “But how well do you think we’ll fit in?” My smiling face bobbed up and down. “Trust me. A town like Shiloh won’t allow us to remain anonymous long.”

Liddy’s attention diverted to weathered barns and sheds with rusted tin roofs along the side of the road. “We must be getting close.”

 

Weary Farm Houses & Rustic Barns & Sheds 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Though a contemporary mystery, its colorful characters are timeless and reflect values and traditions governed by their reluctance toward change.

Come join Theo and Liddy Phillips as their story unfolds after they arrive in lil’ ol’ Shiloh expecting a peaceful retirement in a town much like they grew up in decades beforehand, only to discover Theo’s curiosity about a tragic event does not receive a warm and welcome response by everyone in their new rustic town.

Click the image below and visit Amazon to purchase your copy of Sanctuary. Available in paperback or Kindle editions.

The first in the Shiloh series of Southern Mysteries by T. M. Brown. (Testament, due out early 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or question.

God bless,

T. M. “Mike” Brown

Your Being Defines the Motives of Your Doing

We are Never Alone when We Walk Daily with the Master
We are Never Alone when We Walk Daily with the Master

Your Being Defines the Motives of Your Doing 

All the ways of a man seem right to him, but the Lord evaluates the motives. Doing what is righteous and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. The lamp that guides the wicked—haughty eyes and an arrogant heart —is sin. The plans of the diligent certainly lead to profit, but anyone who is reckless only becomes poor. Making a fortune through a lying tongue is a vanishing mist, a pursuit of death. The violence of the wicked sweeps them away because they refuse to act justly. A guilty man’s conduct is crooked, but the behavior of the innocent is upright. Prov 21:2-8 (HCSB)

In the final evaluation of all that matters about life, you will discover that “your being” ultimately defined “your doing.” Outwardly we may appear to have done a lot of right and good things, but in the end we inwardly realize that God looks to the heart of the matter. God is never impressed with our right and good acts as much as our attitudes and motives behind our acts.

God-is-never-impressed

Why we do what we do, whether “religiously” attending church, giving offerings sacrificially, volunteering to help the needy or being seen caring and serving in the community? Think about the real reasons behind why you invested your time, talent and treasures in these activities. Were your reasons always selfless or could there have been underlying selfish motives for investing in these activities? Could your motives have included guilt or pride? How important was it that you were seen as a good person for personal or professional reasons? Was some form of guilt driving you? Have you ever felt it necessary to appear better or above others? Certainly none of us would ever dream of being inspired by such motives, but we know others who may have been driven by such motives. However, let us be reminded God considers the attitude of the heart that inspires our outward actions – our being behind the doing!

God’s Word declares, if we have any guilt-ridden, haughty or arrogant motives God will know because he sees any “sin” that stirs within our heart. Therefore what many applaud as exemplary diligence is selfish recklessness in the eyes of God.

God simply desires that we do what we choose to do because we love God, desire to please God, and want to know God better. Likewise, we love others so much that we seek their fellowship. God is pleased when we reveal a generous heart without calculating the cost of the gift, whether our time, talent or treasures.

What are your motives of doing? Have you checked your being? If not, know that God will!

Coach

www.coachbrown.org

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB)