Main Article – The Christmas Season

By: Dustin Nance

It is the Christmas Season! A season for many that is filled with Christmas trees, gifts, wonderful smells coming from the kitchen, family and fun. One that is marked by family traditions, it’s my favorite time of year! My parents have always made Christmas a big celebration. Lights on the house, a big Christmas tree and some great food. However, something I have come to appreciate as a parent, is they never let us forget what the true meaning of Christmas was. They made traditions that helped us connect the fun and family time to the sacrifice God made for us.

One of my favorites was decoration day! It would start with all of us getting everything down from the attic. Then we would get a tree, set it up and put all the lights on it. Then my father and I would do all the decorations outside while my mom and sisters set up all the decorations inside and made all of our favorite finger foods and sweets. Once we finished our tasks we would help each other get everything done except decorating the tree. Then we cleaned up and got dressed in nice clothes. My mom would set out the nice china and we would sit in the living room close to the tree and talk about the year, things we were thankful for and the meaning of Christmas. Then we would get food and decorate the tree together. I look back with such fond memories about the time we spent together as a family.

My parents have always kept the true meaning of Christmas at the center of all that this season brings with it. Another tradition that they did and we continue to do as a family is on Christmas morning, before we open presents, we eat breakfast together and then we all go in the living room and my father reads about the birth of Christ. Then we’ll pass out gifts and watch as we take turns opening gifts, sharing the joy of giving with each other. With eight adults and nine grandchildren full of excitement, our time together can be far from perfect, but we enjoy the chaos together!

Wherever you are this Christmas season, take time to recognize the gift God gave all humanity. The gift of His Son, the best gift we can ever receive. He sent Jesus as the atoning sacrifice. Be sure to slow down and take time to read the Christmas story and reflect on the impact of God’s great gift in your life and on the world.

Have a Merry Christmas and New Year!

Luke 2:1-20  –  The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

December – TF Highlight

Name: Christie Ganpat

Age: 31

Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Teen Challenge Center: Graduated Davie Teen Challenge 2016/ Works at Lakeland Teen Challenge since 11/2017

Brief Testimony: I was raised by divorced parents and believed that my mom never loved me and walked out on me. I spent a good part of my life searching for love in all the wrong places and from all the wrong things. When I was truly at rock bottom I walked through the doors of Teen Challenge and found love in the right place and that was the unconditional love of God. I’ve never looked back and I know that God is with me wherever I go and that His love never fails!

What do you enjoy most about your role? I enjoy being part of the journey. I feel honored that God chose me to help others become the leader God has called them to be.

Why do you feel that leadership and training are valuable? Leadership and training are important because we should always be in a place of learning and growth. Without those things we would never improve and we would never reach our full potential.

December – ELP Highlight

Name:  Debbie Provost

Age: Forever Young with Sparkle!

Hometown:  Phoenix, AZ

Teen Challenge Center:  LGA

Brief Testimony:  When I was younger, I grew up in the church as my parents were Sunday School teachers; but as time passed and I grew up, rebellion, alcohol & drugs; and the negative influencers took over my life and I fell away from the church and God.  After years of chasing the wrong things, hitting rock bottom in a very dark place in mental, physical and emotional pain; I cried out and demanded God show up and take all the pain away. My cry was actually for Him to end it all; but instead, He gave me a new beginning.  I learned that He had never left me, and that He had always been there trying to get my attention back. He met me in the darkest time of my life and His presence was so strong; I began chasing after Jesus again and I don’t plan on stopping.

What is the vision and calling that God has given you?  God has given me the ability to be a good listener and hear what others have to say when they feel no one else is listening.  He has also given me the inspiration to speak His words into their lives so they see God first in everything they do.

How has the ELP Program impacted you?  It encourages me to want to be challenged, after all when we are challenged, we are able to grow and learn.