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Cultural Commentary

Christmas Eve

The Journey to Bethlehem by Joseph BrickeyWe hope you have been enjoying this year's Looking Forward to Christmas. As you may know, my wife, Janet writes the Advent devotional guide each year. She also blogs twice weekly at www.janetdenison.com.

Instead of the typical Cultural Commentary, we would like to share her Christmas devotionals to help prepare you to celebrate the birth of our King, who became one of us so that we might be one with him. Our ministry wishes you a blessed Christmas season, filled with his joy and peace.

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Looking forward to Christmas

Come Ye to Bethlehem by Simon DeweyWe hope you have been enjoying this year's Looking Forward to Christmas. As you may know, my wife, Janet writes the Advent devotional guide each year. She also blogs twice weekly at www.janetdenison.com.

Instead of the typical Cultural Commentary, we would like to share her Christmas devotionals to help prepare you to celebrate the birth of our King, who became one of us so that we might be one with him. Our ministry wishes you a blessed Christmas season, filled with his joy and peace.

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'Peace Toys for War Toys' exchange

Caron Vinson, 4, picks out a police play set at the LJVM Coliseum annex Friday, December 21, 2012 as part of the Peace Toys for War Toys exchange program (Credit: Winston-Salem Journal/Lauren Carroll)Two decades ago, Kermit Bruce Piggott was shot by a friend during an argument.  His brother Ben decided that he would channel his anger and grief into something positive.  Believing that violent video games and toy guns exacerbate aggression, he began rounding up "peace toys" to give to children at Christmas.  His toy exchange swaps basketballs, footballs, dolls, educational videos, bikes and computers for "war toys."  Ben says that as many as a thousand children may be involved this year.

Today we'll close our Advent series by focusing on "peace." Most of us think of peace as the absence of war or conflict.  We have physical peace when there is no pain in our bodies.  We have relational peace when there is no conflict with others.  We have emotional peace where there is no turmoil in our minds or hearts.  We have political and military peace when there is no war with other nations or within our nation.

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'Layaway Santas' sweeping the country

Greg Parady smiles as he pays off 76 strangers layaways at a central Florida Wal-Mart on Saturday, December 7th, 2013 (Credit: Cindy Nazzaro)Greg Parady was at his local Wal-Mart, when he overheard a woman saying she didn't know if she could pay for her layaway this year and might have to cancel her order.  He paid her bill, then spent $21,000 to help others in the same situation.

Wal-Mart has tracked more than a thousand similar instances this holiday season.  Kmart says strangers have paid more than $1.5 million in layaway contracts for other people across recent years.  Toys "R" Us recorded 794 "layaway Santa" visits last year.  An Oklahoma City woman recently paid 10 to 20 accounts at her local Wal-Mart.  An anonymous giver in Maine spent $2,000 to pay strangers' bills at a local store.

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Amazing video by children with cancer

Jimmy V inspired everyone with his 1993 ESPYS speech, including these patients from Duke Children's Hospital (Credit: ESPN)Jim Valvano was the head coach of North Carolina State's basketball team.  A few weeks before he lost his life to cancer, he gave one of the most stirring speeches I've ever heard.  To raise money for his charity, The V Foundation for Cancer Research, some children who are patients at Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center have recreated his speech.  Watching their video may be the most inspiring minute you'll spend today.

During this week of Advent meditations, we are focusing today on joy.  Would you like real joy today?  Where should you go to find it?

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