We are reminded of the promise that God will "blot out" our transgressions by the following incident:

  John Maynard was in an old-time country schoolhouse. Most of the year he had drifted carelessly along, but in midwinter some kind words from his teacher roused him to take a new start, and he became distinctly a different boy, and made up for the earlier faults. At the closing of  examination he passed well, to the great joy of his father and mother, who were present. But the copy-books used through the year were all laid on the table for the visitors to look at; and John remembered that his copy-book, fair enough in its latter pages, had been a dreary mass of blots and bad work before. He watched his mother looking over those books, and his heart was sick. But she seemed, to his surprise, quite pleased with what she saw, and called his father to look with her; and afterward John found that his kind teacher had thoughtfully torn out all those bad, blotted leaves, and made his copy-book begin where he started to do better. (Text)- Franklin Noble, "Sermons in Illustration."

   Once D. L. Moody was talking to a man who sold soap which he claimed would do all kinds of remarkable things, including the removing of spots caused by grease. The man was, nevertheless, very perturbed, and at last he told Mr. Moody what his trouble was. "The soap accomplishes all that I assert; but the truth is that it also rots all the clothes which is washes. If I become a Christian, I shall have to give up my business, and I can not bring myself to do that." The evangelist used to say that it was only soap which stood between this man and a Christian life.

   Every ship has a cargo, or if no cargo it is seeking for cargo. Some cargoes are safe and some dangerous. In olden time they used to load grain in bulk, which was dangerous, for if the grain shifted in a storm it was apt to throw the ship on her beam ends. Cotton is a dangerous cargo, and many steamship lines advertise, "These ships carry no cotton." Some years ago, and evil-minded man tried to ship an infernal machine on one of the steamers of a transatlantic line. His intention was that the clockwork in the machine should go off while the ship was in mid-ocean, and blow her to pieces, Fortunately, the clockwork went off while the infernal machine was on the dock. It blew off the stern of the steamer and killed thirteen men. Surely that would have been a dangerous cargo to carry.

   Just so every man carries a cargo. By this I mean a cargo of opinions, passions, appetites, and these are sure to wreck any young man who carries them -- A. F. Schauffler, The Christian Herald.

   There is often great advantage in a position of obscurity from which to look out on the world. The lace-weaving of Nottingham founded a great industry in caves, as described below: 

   This great (lace) industry here began in this way: There is, or was, originally, a long, high bank of very soft sandstone on the north bank of the river Trent, pointing to the sun. In this soft sandstone the early Britons dug caves. They dug them deep and wide and wonderful in construction. It is said that even now the city of caves under the ground is almost as large as the broad and populous city on top of the ground. In case of invasion or conquest these cave - dwellers would retreat underground and defy pursuit. It is the boast of the people of Nottingham that their ancestors were never really conquered by any one. The weaving of laces came about here in this way: The half or wholly savage women sitting at the mouths of these caves and holding their threads against the sun with the darkness behind them could see the fine threads better, and so could do finer and better work than any other women in western Europe. And their immunity from conquest and consequent interruption in their peculiar industry fastened it here and kept it well forward.--Joaquin Miller, The Independent.

   Argand, the inventor of the famous lamp which bears his name, had been experimenting for some time in trying to increase the light given our be his lamp, but all to no purpose. On a table before him one night lay an oil-flask which had accidentally got the bottom broken off, leaving a long-necked, funnel-shaped tube. This Argand took up carelessly from the table and placed -- almost without thought, as he afterward related -- over the flame. A brilliant white light was the magical result. It is needless to add that the hint was not lost by the experimenter, who proceeded to put his discovery into practical use by "inventing" the common glass lamp-chimney. Hundreds of discoveries which have been heralded to the world as the acme of human genius have been the result of merest accident -- the auger, calico printing and vulcanization of rubber being among the number. -- St. Louis Republic.

  "Perseverance gives powers to weakness, and opens to poverty the world's wealth. It spreads fertility over the barren landscape, and bids the choicest flowers and fruits spring up and flourish in the desert abode of thorns and briars."--S. G. Goodrich.


by Rev. T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.

    What fools we all are to prefer the circumference to the centre. What a dreadful thing it would be if we should be suddenly ushered from this wintry world into the Maytime orchards of heaven, and if our pauperism of sin and sorrow should be suddenly broken up by a presentation of an emperor's castle surrounded by parks with springing fountains, and paths up and down which angels of God walk two and two.
    We are all like persons standing on the cold steps of the national picture gallery in London, under umbrella in the rain, afraid to go in amid the Turners and the Titians, and the Raphaels. I come to them and say: "Why don't you go inside the gallery?" "Oh," they say, "we don't know whether we can get in." I say: "Don't you see the door is open?" "Yes," they say, "but we have been so long on these cold steps, we are so attached to them we don't like to leave." "But," I say, "it is so much brighter and more beautiful in the gallery, you had better go in." "No," they say, "we know exactly how it is out here, but we don't know exactly how it is inside."
   So we stick to this world as though we preferred cold drizzle to warm habitation, discord to cantata, sack-cloth to royal purple - as though we preferred a piano with four or five of the keys out of tune to an instrument fully attuned - as though earth and heaven had exchanged apparel, and earth had taken on bridal array and heaven had gone into deep mourning, all its waters stagnant, all its harps broken, all chalices cracked at the dry wells, all the lawns sloping to the river ploughed with graves of dead angels under the furrow. Oh, I want to break up my own infatuation and I want to break up your infatuation with this world. I tell you, if we are ready, and if our work is done, the sooner we go the better, and if there are blessings in longevity I want you to know right well there are also blessings in an abbreviated earthly existence.

"The roughter the way, the shorter the stay;
The tempests that rise, shall gloriously
Hurry our souls to the skies."

   Christianity - is not a voice in the wilderness, but a life in the world. It is not an idea in the air but feet on the ground, going God's way. It is not an exotic to be kept under glass, but a hardy plant to bear twelve months of fruits in all kinds of weather. Fidelity to duty is its root and branch. Nothing we can say to the Lord, no calling Him by great or dear names, can take the place of the plain doing of His will. We may cry out about the beauty of eating bread with Him in His kingdom, but it is wasted breath and a rootless hope, unless we plow and plant in His kingdom here and now. To remember Him at His table and to forget Him at ours, is to have invested in bad securities. There is no substitute for plain, every-day goodness. - Babcock.


by Robert Bridges

A Frosty Christmas-eve ' when the stars were shining
Fared I forth alone ' where westward falls the hill
And from many a village ' in the water'd valley
Distant music reached me ' peals of bells a-ringing;
The constellated sounds ' ran sprinkling on earth's floor
As the dark vault above ' with stars was spangled o'er.

Then sped my thoughts to keep ' that first Christmas of all
When the shepherds watching ' by their folds ere the dawn
Heard music in the fields ' and marvelling could not tell
Whether it were angels ' or the bright stars singing.

Now blessed be the towers ' that crown England so fair
That stand up strong in prayer ' unto God for our souls:
Blessed be their founders ' (said I) and our country-folk
Who are ringing for Christ ' in the rattling ropes that race
Into the dark above ' and the mad romping din.

But to me heard afar ' it was heav'nly music
Angels' song comforting ' as the comfort of Christ
When he spake tenderly ' to his sorrowful flock:
The old words came to me ' by the riches of time
Mellow'd and transfigured ' as I stood on the hill
Hark'ning in the aspect ' of th' eternal silence.


   The things children most quickly note and in which they take most interest may indicate their bent of mind and help parents and instructors to shape their education along the lines of least resistance. R. H. Haweis says:

  "Long before I had ever touched a violin, I was fascinated with its appearance. In driving to town as a child-- when, standing up in the carriage, I could just look out of the window--certain fiddle-shops hung with mighty rows of violins and cellos attracted my attention. I had dreams of these large editions--these patriarchs of the violin, as they seemed to me. I compared them in my mind with the smaller tenors and violins. I dreamed about their brown, big, dusty bodies and affable good-natured-looking heads and grinning faces. These violin shops were the great points watched for on each journey up to London from Norwood, where I spent my early days."

  Parents can help shape the way culture and our future generations of children view Christmas. Because culture is a learned process, handed down from one family to the next, you can leave lasting impressions on others that count! Visit the Nativity links to see just "how" congregations are "reshaping" the culture of Christmas here in America. Your church can develop programs for people of the community that are both unique experiences and that introduce them to the story of Jesus birth.

Living Nativity Links:

   There was a little instrument used in war called a caltrop, named from a kind of thistle. It consisted of a small bar of iron, with several sharp points projecting from it one or two inches each way. If these instruments were thrown upon the ground at random, one of the points must necessarily be upward, and the horses that trod upon them were lamed and disabled at once. History tells that Darius caused caltrops to be scattered in the grass and along the roads, wherever the armies of Alexander would be likely to have approached his troops on the field of battle.
   It is no accident that our Lord and Saviour wears a crown of thorns similar to caltrops. This crown represents the relationship He is destined to have with mankind as his subjects. He is our King no matter what. He endures our evil, our cruelty, our pride, our ridicule. He does all of this to grow us up and give hope to a world that if left alone, would only breed death and destruction. He voluntarily takes our pain and punishment in order to save us from the same fate. 


by Phyllis McGinley.

Main Street is gay. Each lamppost glimmers,
Crowned with a blue, electric star.
The gift tree by our fountain shimmers, 

Superbly tall, if angular 
(Donated by the Men's Bazaar).

With garlands proper to the times
Our doors are wreathed, our lintels strewn.
From our two steeples sound the chimes,
Incessant, through the afternoon,
Only a little out of tune.

Breathless, with boxes hard to handle,
The grocery drivers come and go. 
Madam the Chairman lights a candle 
To introduce our club's tableau. 
The hopeful children pray for snow.

They cluster, mittened, in the park
To talk of morning, half affrighted,
And early comes the winter dark
And early are our windows lighted 
To beckon homeward the benighted.

The eggnog's lifted for libation,
Silent at last the postman's ring,
But on the plaza near the station 
The carolers are caroling.
"O Little Town!" the carolers sing.