Friday, December 24, 2010

My Gift to You … a Personal Translation of the Christmas Story

Isaiah 9:6 (or 9:5 in the Hebrew)

(translated by Dr. James V. Garrett)

For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us and it will come to pass that the government [will be] upon His shoulders and He will be called Counselor of wonder, mighty God, eternal Father, the Prince of peace.

Matthew 1:18- 2:12

So [is] of the birth of Jesus Christ: Mary, his mother was agreed to be married to Joseph, but before they came together (in marital relationship), she was found to be holding in her womb [a child] by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph, her husband-to-be, being just and not wishing to disgrace her, desired secretly to send away her.

And while he was thinking about this, behold, an angel of Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid to take along Mary your wife-to-be, for in her [That] which is being caused to be born is from the Holy Spirit. And she will give birth to a Son and you will call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

Now Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod. And behold, magi (wise men and astrologers) from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying, “Where is the One being born [as] the King of the Jews. We saw His star near the east and we came to worship Him.”

[Upon] hearing [this] King Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the high priests and scribes of the people, he enquired [of them] where the Christ [was] to be born.

And they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophets:

“And you Bethlehem, land of Judea, by no means are you smallest of the rulers of Judah, for from you will go forth One characterized by leading My people, Israel, Who will tend [them] like a shepherd.”

Then Herod quietly (or privately) called the magi. He found out from them the time the star appeared. Then, as he sent them into Bethlehem, he said, “While traveling, search with care for the child. And when you might find [Him], inform me [so] that I also might come to worship Him.”

Then, after hearing the king, they proceeded and, behold! the star that they saw in the east proceeded them until it came and was positioned over [the place] where the Child was. And beholding the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great gladness.

Then, coming into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother. Next, falling to their knees, they worshipped Him. And [upon] opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. Then, being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went away to their country by means of another route.

Luke 2:1-20

And it happened in those days [that] there came an order from Caesar Augustus for all the Roman Empire to be registered. This registration first took place while Quirinius was ruling the Syrians. And every citizen went to be registered, each into his own city

And Joseph came up from the Galilee, from the city of Nazareth in Judea, into the city of David which called Bethlehem, because he [was] from the house and ancestry of David. [He came] to enroll for himself, together with Mary the one both being engaged to him and pregnant.

And it happened while they were there that the days for her Child to be born were fulfilled. And she gave birth to her firstborn Son and she wrapped Him in baby clothes and placed Him in a feeding trough because there was not a place [for them] in the guest room.

And there were shepherds in the same region living out doors and keeping guard by night over their flock. And an angel of Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shined around them and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them,

“Do not fear! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all people. For today there is born to you in the city of David, a Savior Who is Christ the Lord and this is a sign to you: you will find a Baby being wrapped in baby clothes and lying in a feeding trough.”

And suddenly, it happened that a number of the host of heaven appeared with the angel praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace among men.”

And it happened as the angels departed into heaven, [that] the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go indeed to Bethlehem so that we might see this event that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they left in haste and found both Mary and Joseph, and [they found] the Baby lying in a feed trough. And after observing [Him], they made known [around them] concerning the matter that had been told them concerning this Child. And all, upon hearing [this], marveled concerning the proclamation that had come through the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things and considered them in her heart.

Then, the shepherds returned honoring and praising God because of all the things they heard and saw, just as it was said to them.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Blessings from the Garrett Family to Yours

Christmas Israel 4

We hope this letter finds you celebrating this joyous Christmas season. 2010 has been another year of excitement, learning, and growth for us and we want to bring you an update on a little of what has taken place in our lives during this past year.

Cheri was ordained this past year as a recognized Minister of the Gospel. Her ministry has been strong as she has led Children’s ministry here at our church in the south suburbs of Chicago. She has also ministered faithfully in Bogota and Medellin, Colombia as well as in Bethlehem, Israel this past year. Through her teaching and leadership, her area of ministries in the church is growing stronger on a consistent basis. Keeping our ever growing family connected and encouraged and motivated is one of Cheri’s greatest passions.

As we reported last year, we are now Pastors of Family Ministries at Christian Life Center in Tinley Park, IL. After Amber & Ed graciously opened their home to us for the first 7 months we lived here, God opened an awesome door for us to purchase a home in Mokena, IL (which we absolutely love.) God continues to teach us new things as we faithfully minister for Him.


Crystal, David, and Isaac continue to live in Maumee, OH. Crystal is teaching English at Monclova Christian School in Monclova, OH where she enjoys teaching and ministering to her students. Isaac continues to be a “Papa’s Boy” for sure. David has again been promoted at his job with Brush Wellman in Elmore, OH, and Isaac just continues to grow in stature, and in every other way. He is such a delight to the entire family with his little clownishness and loving spirit.

Amber, Ed, Aubrianna, Annaliese, Lillianna, and Eddie continue to live in Bolingbrook, IL. Amber is a neo-natal nurse at Edwards Hospital in Naperville, and Eddie is the Media Director at Christian Life Church in Tinley Park, IL. Aubrianna, our big five year old continues to be in love with swimming and dancing. She is also an excellent big sister. Annaliese continues to make her place in this world. She, too, loves to swim and dance and be a great, big sister. Lillianna continues to grow … and climb … and crawl into the shower/tub fully clothed; she is a delight to all of us. And finally, little Eddie arrived on Thanksgiving morning (2010) weighing in at 8 lbs. 15 ounces and once again, evening out the boy girl ratio of grandchildren at 4 boys and 4 girls.

Jamie, Crystal, Christian, Carson, and Chloe live in Ashland, OH where Jamie works with a consulting company and where he continues to participate on the worship team at his church. Their family is not so little anymore and our big six year old Christian leads the way with his loving, gentle, and inquisitive spirit. And he is doing great in Kindergarten by the way, Carson follows suit with a heartwarming smile and a tenderness, yet mischievousness that cannot be beat. Chloe continues to simply light up a room with her gorgeous smile. The younger two are also doing great in their local pre-school. Crystal is a stay-at-home mom raising her babies for Christ.

Jim continues to stay (too) busy in ministry. Serving as Pastor of Family Ministries at Christian Life Center in Tinley Park, IL, he is delighted to work alongside Cheri in ministry every day. He is also teaching Foundation of Bible Study (Hermeneutics) at Ashland Theological Seminary-Detroit as an Adjunct Professor. Both Jim’s & Cheri’s hearts’ calling is to teach pastors, and youth and children’s pastors/leaders in a seminary, university, and/or church level and in doing so, to impart knowledge, vision, and passion to reach this generation. They have been able to do that broadly this past year in Bogota, Medellin, Israel, and in the Chicago and Detroit areas.

Highlights this year were three great family vacations: one to Honolulu, Hawaii, one to the Outer Banks of NC (with Crystal and Isaac), and the other to San Juan, Puerto Rico. A highlight of all of these was waking up on our first day in Hawaii to the unfamiliar sounds of Tsunami warnings. And yes, we survived the Hawaiian Tsunami of 2010. We love to travel … and doing so together makes it even more special.

Our family has done well this year. We have gloried, and we have struggled, but God has brought us through all of these things with the intent of growing us in Him … to complete us. We are ever thankful that He who began a good work in us will complete it! It is our desire for you and your family to know His hand and grace and mercy in your life as He truly brings you through things … with the intent of growing you … and completing you so that you become everything He created you to be and you will live in the fullness of His destiny and purpose for you!

May God richly bless you this Christmas Season and in 2011! It promises to be a year of God’s destiny and purpose for us!

Jim & Cheri Garrett

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hanukkah or Christmas?


An interesting question.

A friend, colleague, and professor recently posed the question whether we as Christians should defend Christmas or not. His basis for discussion is that Jesus certainly does not need our defense and further, that most Christians who would defend Christmas probably would do so for the retail aspect. Hmmm. Interesting observation.


Personally, I think we SHOULD defend it … but simply for the reason of NOT giving up ground (as in a “slippery slope” where the enemy continues to take and take and take until there’s nothing left to take.)

You see, I really can’t defend Christmas as being the birth of Christ because all evidence points to the fact that it is NOT; instead it is a “carry-over” or loan from the ancient Romans and their Saturnalia Festivals … marked by all kinds of tomfoolery and reversals of social roles, in which even slaves and masters switched places.

Rome was notorious for assimilating various customs and holidays of conquered peoples with their (Rome’s) own customs and holidays.


In fact, Christmas has nothing to do with Christ other than sharing His name.

Hanukkah, on the other hand, is an eight-day celebration of God miraculously providing ceremonially pure oil when the Jews worked to restore and rededicate their temple after it was desecrated by Antiochus IV, King of Syria in the 2nd Century BC. According to Jewish religious writings, there was only enough consecrated oil to fuel the Menorrah flames in the Temple for one day. The oil, however, burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil. (This story is recorded also in 1 and 2 Maccabees in the Apocrypha … which by the way is good historical contextual reading.)


Jesus Himself observed the celebration of Hanukkah (or the Festival of Lights as it is also known as) in the Temple as recorded in John 10:22-39. There are also many who feel that Hanukkah makes the “time of conception” of Jesus within Mary’s womb. This would certainly coincide with similar thought that would place the actual birth of Jesus during the Festival of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus may have been born during the “Feast of Tabernacles?” (And the Word became flesh, and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NAS)


I am not ready to release Christmas to secularist/atheist who would dare to attempt to take one more thing from the Christian world.

Also, in 50 plus years, I have gotten familiar with my own personal traditions connected with Christmas (and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to give those up.)

But I did make my own feeble attempts to observe and respect Hanukkah this year. (And besides, 8 days of Gift giving/receiving beats that daylights out of one day of such.)

And I’m pretty convinced that Jesus was born sometime in our near Sukkot.


So I guess I’ll do it like this: I will celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah … and even though Christ wasn’t born on the day we celebrate as Christmas … and even though He really ISN’T the reason for the season, I will continue to honor Him, love Him, and share Him … on December 25 and every other day of the year.

Merry Christmas … and Happy Hanukkah!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Christmas Challenge

I want to challenge each of you reading this.

So often at Christmas we end up focusing on giving and receiving … so much so that we often forget Christ in the process.

So here’s my challenge.

What if we wrapped our giving … at least part of it … in giving outside of ourselves and our immediate families.

Our church has, in cooperation with several missionaries with who we have relationship, put together a catalog of needs and prices where you can give to a need somewhere around the world.

Honestly, its kind of hard to describe.

Here at the church, w actually have a physical catalog where we can choose the item(s) we want to give to these needs. But for you, we have also put this catalog online where you can choose and give online.

Will you check it out … and give outside yourself this Christmas season.

Here’s the link:


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Israel 2010- Final Thoughts (Maybe)


We’ve tried to put some time between our last posting from Israel; we wanted to think through the things we have seen, heard, touched, tasted, and experienced.

So what did we walk away with?Christmas Israel

I (j) had an experience that actually began in Bethlehem. There I saw that Palestinians could go back and forth into Jewish Israel with little difficulty BUT Jews were not allowed to enter Palestinian controlled areas. I was angry with the Palestinians, even though our guide there was a Palestinian Christian. But God has a wonderful way of speaking to my heart when I am walking in personal headiness and sin; He gently reminded me that He loves the Palestinians too … even having a plan for them. I was ashamed, humbled, and changed with this thought.

Israel 11162010  (3)

I also was touched by the devotion many people had to different relics of Christianity. We noticed in Cana how dedicated (superstitious) some were to an actual place (even though we know that it WAS NOT the actual building where the wedding of Cana had taken place); it was built much later. You can call this what you will but the best thing I can think of is simple blindness … We MUST maintain that our faith is in Jesus Christ and not in places or events.

Cana-site where Jesus turn water into wine5

I also fell more deeply in love with the Jewish people. I know that many of them have not yet put their trust in Jesus Christ as the Messiah but I am readily assured that the Church HAS NOT replaced them and is, in fact, to be used to jealously draw them into a proper relationship with God. Please understand, they too must come to the Father through Jesus the Son BUT, they are still God’s chosen people and He definitely has a plan for them. (And cool-ly, you and I get to be a part of that plan.)

Israel day 7_007

Did we experience an earth-shattering change? I don’t think so (but I am still chewing on it.) Instead, I think I (j) received a deepening of that which He was already working in me … but the jury is still out on that one.