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STEEL AND CONCRETE, December 2001 "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:18)

December 2001

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"The Twelve Days of Christmas"

Midi file courtesy of Robert S. Duran

by Bro. Gregory Wamsley

This entire newsletter is devoted to Christ and the Christian faith. It's sad that too many people (including some believers) designate only half a page to Christ somewhere in the newsletter that is their life. I've heard them say that mere church attendance and good works is enough. The truth of the matter is that Christianity cannot be applied to only one part of our life. The Bible tells us that our relationship with our Savior must cover our total spiritual life experience.

Guys in here often speak of having a "Bad Christmas." Being separated from loved ones and being unable to attend family gatherings could make one feel that Christmas will be bad, but is it? I feel there's no such thing as a bad Christmas. How can the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the whole world be bad? I too am incarcerated, but I focus on the reason for the event that I celebrate instead of just celebrating the event.

I wish all people would focus on the real reason for the season. Some believe that it's only a time for trimming trees and decorating their houses, but they often find that other things get trimmed as well, like their family budget. These people may not count their blessings, but may they make their blessings count. Even in here, I hear talk of the "Christmas Spirit." The world sees it as commercialism and there are songs dealing with feelings of the season. I see it as a time to evaluate our lives and to see how we equate to Christ. Most of all, we should spend our lives as servants of God to enrich the lives of others. I often fall short in this matter. If Christ is kept #1 in our life, then we won't be confused and caught up in all the physical aspects of the celebration of Christmas. Just because unbelievers abuse the true reason for the season doesn't mean we shouldn't celebrate this holiday. Regardless of the world and all they are wrapped up in, I celebrate Christ's birth, keeping Him central in my life.

When Christ, God the Son, was born, God the Father opened His heart to the world. This season, people who are all wrapped up in the cares of this world will be obsessed by the manger scene. They will gather around and look upon it, missing the reason for Jesus' birth. They will have no intention of ever gathering at or kneeling at the cross. To have one without the other makes Christ's divine purpose void in their lives. Brother Ryan Marrison said it best: "The manger is the first act of redemption, which reached its climax at the death and glorious resurrection of our Lord. " I agree with him. The focus should be on the cross and not only on the crib.

Christ's birth gave life to a Savior, but His death gives eternal life to all who believe. We must see the crib wrapped in the shadow of the cross. It's essential to God's eternal plan. Christians see Christmas as a time to commemorate God's greatest gift to mankind, His Son, Jesus Christ. Believers continue His love act with their obedience and service to God.

Would you have a birthday party for a little child without the child being present? I don't think so, but when people celebrate Christmas and go through all the festivities without thinking about Jesus Christ, that's exactly what they're doing! When I was a child, Christmas mostly meant toys! I'd get up early and run down to the Christmas tree and tear into the gift-wrapping of my presents. I didn't think of it then, but today as a Christian, that pretty wrapping paper lends a profound perspective on the real meaning of Christmas. The little bundle in the manger may have been an attractive little package to look upon, but the sinful humanity Jesus was wrapped in wasn't that pretty to God the Father. Later in His life, Jesus switched His wrapping again on the cross. Christ took upon himself our ugly wrappings, the sin of the whole world. In return, He wrapped all who believe in Him with his precious blood and righteousness. God now looks down from heaven into the manger that is this world and views a truly beautiful package, all believers wrapped in Christ Jesus. Like the pretty paper wrapping of my youth that was sacrificed to give me my Christmas gift, Christ's life was sacrificed to gift-wrap us in salvation and eternal life, the precious gift from God! As Christmas comes and goes, I wonder if people will ask themselves, "How am I Wrapped?"

If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, in prayer plead the Gospel truth that you cannot save yourself and you must confess to Him that you are a sinner and are in need of a Savior. Accept him into your heart as Savior and Lord. Christ commands that one must repent from their sins. Read his word (the Bible) and learn of the NEW BIRTH you'll be given in Christ Jesus. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. . ." (Acts 16:31).

Rev. Ben Murray, Director

A = AS

Three out of four ex-offenders return to jail. After release, troubles easily arise if one reverts back to old friends and past ways. A life of prayer, worship, and Bible study thwarts backsliding (refusal to listen to God) or returning to prison. Ex-offenders can stay out of prison. Often, society asks the question, "How?" First and foremost, one has to want to change. Through the Spirit, one must surrender and become responsive to God's Word. The surrendered heart gives rise to learning and practicing the Gospel. The Christ-centered transformation will prevent a return to incarceration.

Upon release, ex-offenders will need certain basic needs to be met in order to succeed:

1. A place to call home.
2. A job and means to get to it.
3. A Bible-believing, Christ-centered Church to help establish them.
4. A Mentor or support system for them to turn to in times of need.

Anyone who would like to assist this local ministry with their skills, talents, and or finances should contact the director above. R.O.A.D. is a Christian organization supported by many different Christians and Christian churches. R.O.A.D. does not promote the joining of any specific church nor does it represent any denomination.

As the season of giving approaches, please keep your pastor and ministries in mind. Remember all the ministries that assisted you and made your year a more blessed one. It truly has been a blessing to me to work for the Lord under the headings of all three ministries. May it be our Lord's will to bless you and then to do so as only He can.

author unknown

Good morning:

I am God and today I will be handling all of your problems. Please remember that I do not need your help.

If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, DO NOT attempt to resolve it. Kindly put it in the SFJTD box (something for Jesus to do). It will be addressed in MY time, not yours.

Once the matter is placed in the box, do not hold onto it or attempt to remove it. Holding on or removal will delay the resolution of your problem. If it is a situation that you think you are capable of handling, please consult me in prayer to be sure that it is the proper resolution. Because I do not sleep, nor do I slumber, there is no need for you to lose any sleep. Rest my child. If you need to contact me, I am only a prayer away. As with all good things, please pass this on.

Love, God

by Brother Gregory Wamsley

Christmas time is almost here ~
Will it be different because of all the fear?

As I reflect on past days in this place,
All I can say is "Thank God for His grace."

It's my prayer that we all find dignity
As we die to self for the sake of Deity.

Some, this year, will focus on the things they don't have or didn't get ~
I'll focus on the first Christmas gift, Jesus Christ ~ He hasn't failed me yet.

No other gift in here or under your tree can guarantee,
Only that gift from God can give you salvation for eternity.

God's perfect gift for a sinful world wasn't wrapped in pretty paper nor placed under a tree;
It was wrapped in the sin of the world, hung on the tree and died to save you and me.

This year, like those in the past, I'll have no Christmas tree.
God's given me His gift through His Son, though priceless, it's free.

I won't be allowed to hang any Christmas tinsel, not even a single Christmas light.
But that's O.K., because in my spirit, God's light shines bright.

I truly believe God doesn't care how much we know until He knows how much we care.
Always go to Him with your cares because He's always there.

by Brother Henry Doherty

It must have been a peaceful night with a bright star overhead -
The babe lay in a manger as there was no infant bed.
Angels sang a heavenly hymn, *the breeze was cold that night -
*The cattle lowed most softly in the bright star's glowing light.
*The mother held her newborn child and pulled its wrappings tight -
The heavens were with glory-filled, and hovered over the night.
*Trumpets sounded over the land to announce the holy birth -
*For just a time it was so calm, with blessed peace on earth.
*The mother sang a lullaby, a cradle song of old -
God gave his perfect gift more valuable than gold!
It must have been a lovely night designed from up above -
When a little child savior was born to give redemption, peace and love.

*These thoughts have no scriptural basis.
Following is the Biblical account as recorded in the book of Luke:

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."

So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

(Luke 2:1-20)

"What Christmas Means to Me"
by Grace E Easley

Christmas is a time for loving,
For holding in our hearts
All the magic and the wonder
That this blessed day imparts.

It's a time for letting bygones
Be just that, and nothing more.
Time for looking back and weighing
All we have been working for.

Christmas is a time for giving
Something more than store bought goods,
Time for spending peaceful moments,
Walking through the quiet woods.

'Tis a time for growing closer
While we have the time to spend,
Cherishing the precious moments
With a relative or friend.

Christmas is a time for sharing
Hope and joy and sorrow
Giving what is ours today
But may not be tomorrow

'Tis time for recollection
For the sands of time run fast,
Do not squander golden moments
Do not grieve for what is past.

There's a bright star in the heavens
Over a small cattle stall
And a baby in a manger
who has come to save us all.

And with love beyond all telling,
As he reaches out for me
This hushed and holy moment is
What Christmas means to me!

by Michael Hodgin

author unknown
"I'm sorry you don't like my Christmas gift," the aunt said to her nephew, "But I did ask you if you preferred large checks or small checks." The nephew replied, "I know, but I didn't think you meant on neck ties!"

author unknown
A little girl was helping her mother unpack the Christmas Nativity scene and set it up. As she carefully unwrapped each piece and set up, she announced, "Here's Mary, Joseph, and the three Shepherds." When she got to the baby Jesus, she said, "And here's baby Jesus in his car seat."

author unknown
While helping her mother prepare for Christmas, a little girl asked about the meaning of the holiday. The mother told her that Christmas was the time of year when we celebrated the birthday of Jesus, God's only Son. The little girl asked why Jesus doesn't get presents since it's His birthday. The mother explained the tradition of gift-giving as a way of showing love for one another and the matter was dropped at that.

The night before Christmas, the little girl brought a gift-wrapped present out of her room and placed it under the Christmas tree. "What's in the box?" the mother asked. The little girl replied, "It's a gift for Jesus. I'm leaving it under the tree so he can open it tonight while I'm asleep."

The mother did not want her daughter to wake and find her gift now opened and cause her disappointment, so after the girl fell asleep, she opened the gift. The mother was surprised to find nothing in the box.

The next morning the little girl got up and ran down to the tree to see if Jesus had been there and opened her gift. Looking at the opened box, she yelled to her mom, "Jesus opened my gift!" The confused mother leaned over to her daughter and asked, "What did you give Him?" The little girl explained, "I figure Jesus has just about everything He needs, and I can't give Him much because I'm just a little girl. I though hard and I figured out something He didn't have. I gave him my heart, and in the box I put my love."

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