“…Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel…” (Isaiah 7:14)

“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus’…” (Luke 1:30-31)

And in just a few words, so begins the story of eternity’s unique and most important birth, the birth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Messiah, Savior!

The leading lady of the story is a young girl named Mary. We don’t know a lot about her; she was from the Jewish tribe of Judah and could trace her heritage back to King David. Her age? Most scholars estimate between 14 and 18 years of age. I personally believe she was about 16 according to the marriage custom of the day.

We know she was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. She was sexually pure and by reading the story in Luke, she was an exceptionally Godly young woman.

One could surmise that she learned the Torah and the Prophets, probably from Godly parents. And there was something in her character and being that God found outstanding and so she, among all the young virgins of the day, “found favor” with God and was selected to be the mother of our Savior.

After being shocked at the appearing of an angel (as any of us would also be), and blown away by the pronouncement of the upcoming birth, her response is what I think gave God the impetus to select her. There is no shadow of doubt about God; she quickly and willingly gave herself humbly to His desire: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

The process began as the Holy Spirit hovered over her, the same way He hovered over nothingness during creation, and the Savior was conceived -- 100 percent God, 100 percent man. Growing inside her as a holy embryo, His formation and birth was “normal”. And in that stable, Mary cradled God, the man, in her arms.

Of the next 30 years, we know little of Mary or of Jesus. At eight days of age, she took Him to the temple and there Simeon told her, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also”, a dire prediction of His death.

Christ was raised to be a carpenter. His parents maintained their Jewish traditions and Jesus and his siblings lived, what was undoubtedly, a fairly normal life in the village of Nazareth.

But then things changed when the time came for Him to accept His ministry on earth. And Mary heard the stories of her Son, followed and ministered to Him as she could, and then witnessed His death, burial and resurrection. All of the prophecies had come true. And the work of salvation, that same work that saves you and me, saved Mary as she declared her Son to be her Savior.

What happened to her we don’t know. Perhaps she returned to Nazareth, perhaps she lived with one of her other children until her death; the Bible is mute on the subject. But without question, the words of John the Baptist’s mother Elizabeth ring true this Christmas as they did 2,000 years ago: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:42.

“Mary did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water? Mary did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered will soon deliver you.

“Mary did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary did you know that your Baby Boy will calm a storm with His hand? Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little Baby, you kiss the face of God!

“The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again! The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the Lamb!

“Mary did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation? Mary did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations? Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? That sleeping child you’re holding in the great I AM!” (Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene)

Christmas Giving…Of Yourself

The Salvation Army requests your prayers and your help during the upcoming holiday season. Individuals, churches, civic groups and businesses may help with donations of food, toys and money to meet the needs of the needy of our area.

Don’t neglect the Angel Tree program, Adopt-a-Family program, Teen Angel Tree, Senior Angels and the Red Kettles. Phone (843) 488-2769 or go to www.tsahorry.org.

Christmas on Christian Radio

I still have cable television. My telephone is a flip phone that I use mostly as a telephone (and I still have a landline that works during a power outage and doesn’t need recharging). And I still listen to radio, especially in the car. (One day when a “foreign government” is able to destroy all our modern technology, you’ll be flocking to me for information, news and entertainment!)

That being said, I love Christmas on the radio. A local Christian radio station (the Good News Network out of Augusta) has a whole month of Christmas programing scheduled. From drama (Adventures in Odyssey Christmas Marathon, Adventures in the Snow, A Christmas Carol) to music for any ear: Buddy Greene’s Christmas Special, Candlelight Carols from Moody Bible Institute, The Messiah and so on.

The programming is on now and depending on where you are around the Grand Strand you can usually pick up one of their stations: FM 91.7, 96.7 and/or 105.3. Visit www.gnnradio.org.

Community Christmas Dinners

The 30th annual Community Christmas Day Dinner will be held Dec. 25 from noon-2 p.m. in St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, 3301 U.S. 17 Bypass. Samaritan’s Feet will provide free shoes for ages preschool to high school.

Dinner will also be served in Belin Memorial United Methodist Church, 4182 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet from noon-3 p.m.

Meals are free for everyone! Meal delivery is available if you call (843) 781-1326 by Dec. 23.

Help spread the word! We expect at least 7,500 meals to be served. The event is made possible in part by a grant from the Chapin Foundation.

Conway, Loris, Aynor and Western Horry

■ The monthly First Friday Evening of Prayer will be held Friday at 7 p.m. in Bethany Bible Chapel, 1668 Four Mile Road. All Christians are encouraged to come out for a time of prayer for our world, our nation, our churches, our schools, our homes and each other! Phone (843) 369-7729.

■ Conway Christian School, 1200 Medlen Parkway, invites you to its annual Christmas programs. Tonight at 7 p.m. the program of elementary students, grades 3 through 6. Then Friday morning at 8 a.m. the K4-Second grade will present their program. Come and enjoy the celebration of the Christ of Christmas with these students. Phone (843) 365-2005.

■ First United Methodist Church, 1001 Fifth Ave., announces these Christmas Events:

Candlelight Advent Concerts on Sundays at 4 p.m. in the Hut Chapel: Dec. 9: Long Bay Symphony String Trio; Dec. 16: Long Bay Symphony Brass Quintet. All concerts are free.

Also, on Dec. 16 at 10:30 a.m. The Glory of Christmas presented by the Chancel Choir and Wesley Treble Choir with members of the Long Bay Symphony.

■ Langston Baptist Church, 763 S.C. 905, announces the following and cordially invites you to each:

The Gift, presented by the Langston Drama Team with live indoor nativity; program will be held Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. Free admission, but if possible, please bring one canned food item to donate.

A Christmas event, Carols & Candlelight will be held on Dec. 23 at 6 p.m.

And don’t miss Evangelist Tyler Blue for one night, Jan. 12, 2019, from 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

■ On Sunday don’t miss Christmas at First Baptist Church, 603 Elm St. The 6 p.m. program features the entire music ministry of the church: Chancel Choir, Children’s Choir, Chancel Ringers (handbells), Praise Team and XYZ Choir (Senior Adults). Following the musical time, there will be fellowship and desserts!

■ Bethany Bible Chapel, 1668 Four Mile Road, will host local pastor and musician Doug Smith in concert Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited to a wonderful evening of Christmas and gospel music. For more information on Doug’s ministry go to www.dougsmithministries.com. Phone (843) 369-7729.

n Bethlehem Baptist Church, 5201 S.C. 905, invites you to its Live Nativity on Dec. 14 from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.

■ Salem United Methodist Church, 2376 S.C. 90, invites you to One Starry Night, a Bible-times Christmas event for the entire family. Walk through Bethlehem and celebrate the birth of Jesus. Food and other activities will be on hand, too. This will be held Dec. 15 from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

■ The Rock invites you to the following: Night of Worship, Conway Campus (1408 Mill Pond Road), Dec. 20 at 6:30. Then don’t miss The Big Wonder Roadshow: Conway Campus, Dec. 23 at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon, Dec. 24 at 4 p.m.; Coastal Campus, C3 Coffee Bar, 201 Graduate Road, Dec. 23 at 6 p.m.; Georgetown: Winyah Auditorium, 1200 Highmarket St. Dec. 22 at 6:30 p.m.; and Aynor High School, 201 Jordanville Road on Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m. Go to www.christmasattherock.org.

■ Grace Christian Fellowship, 1223 S.C. 57 N. in Little River, will host a 17-week inductive Bible study on the books of I and II Thessalonians. This Precept Upon Precept study will be held each Monday from Jan. 14-May 19, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. Please purchase your workbook in advance. Contact Precept Leader Debbie Kiefer at (828) 400-9536 or e-mail debbiekief77@yahoo.com.

■ St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 3449 S.C. 65, will be distributing food on the second and fourth Fridays of each month from 11 a.m. until all food has been distributed.

■ Loris First United Methodist Church, 3507 Broad St., has a Blessing Box located on the Broad Street side. This box contains nonperishable food items and individuals in need are encouraged to come to the box. Also, if you would like to donate items, place them in the box.

■ Dogwood Hill Baptist Church, 1040 Mt. Zion Road in Loris, has a food pantry on the third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m.-10 a.m.

Myrtle Beach/The Coast

■ The Carolina Master Chorale continues its 2018-19 Concert Season with Christmas and All That Jazz to be held Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. in Trinity Church, 3000 North Kings Hwy., and on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Trinity United Methodist Church, North MB (706 14th Ave. S). Phone (843) 444-5774 or go to CarolinaMasterChorale.com.

■ You are invited to Swingle Bells featuring the Festive Brass of Myrtle Beach. This concert will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Trinity United Methodist Church, 706 14th Ave. S NMB. Phone (843) 360-9446.

■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, has just opened its Thrift Store which will be open each week, Thursday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. You are encouraged to come out and browse and buy, and in so doing you’ll be supporting this community outreach. Phone (843) 236-1121.

■ Don’t miss the Christmas Bake Sale sponsored by the Ladies Philoptochos Society of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. This annual event is held Dec. 14-15 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Enjoy Greek pastries and bread; baklava, kourambiethes, almond crescents, koulourakis and more.

The Church is located at 3301 33rd Ave. North. Phone (843) 448-3773.

■ St. Nicholas Orthodox Church is having its annual Cookie Sale! Yum! Yum! The church is located at 404 N. Maple St. in Myrtle Beach and the sale day is Dec. 15 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

There will be a wide variety of cookies, and they are sold by the pound. You pick out what “fits your fancy” or “tingles your taste buds”. Phone (843) 283-2402.

■ The Church of the Resurrection, 8901 U.S. 17 Bypass in Surfside Beach, will host the monthly Faith Outreach Ministries free food distribution Dec. 15 from 10 a.m.-noon. The morning includes social services assistance, free lunch and children’s activities. Phone (843) 267-2952.

■ Temple Emanu-EL by the Sea, 65th Ave. North and N. Kings Hwy. invites you to Friday night service at 7:30 p.m. (Kosher Oneg), Shabbat Service at 10 a.m. (Kosher Kiddush). Also: Sunday and Hebrew School, 9:30 a.m.-noon. (Information? E-mail pks@sc.rr.com.

Current Second Nature Project: we are accepting canned goods and condiments to help both the Community Kitchen and Helping Hand. Place in the basket by the front door of the Rosen Center. All Mitzvoth greatly appreciated. Questions? Contact Karen Osborne at (843) 446-1060.

Temple Emanu-El Israel Tour with Rabbi Avi Perets will be held on March 21-April 1, 2019. Get information now.

■ Temple Shalom, 4023 Belle Terre Blvd., invites you to Shabbat services each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Phone (843) 903-6634 or go online to templeshalommyrtlebeach.net.

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