New and Improved Christmas? By Jo Russell

The lights, the colors, and the look of Christmas have a whole new complexion, faster, more stream-lined and wrinkle free!

A clinic’s marquis urged shoppers to stop in during lunch and “Get your Botox treatment for the holidays!” Add it to the to-do list!

Sally pondered, “But what would Santa and Mrs. Claus be without crows’ feet around their eyes and pink-cheeked grins?”

Her to-do list continued. For her time-squeezed preparations around parties and work, Sally opted for the instant Christmas tree.

“Just push the button on the trunk and it opens like an umbrella!” the sales associate had demonstrated. “Some of this pine scented spray will make your house smell like Christmas!” She bought two cans.

This year, she added a second umbrella tree. Sally wowed the family with an even faster set-up by bringing last year’s fully-decorated tree in from the garage while her husband was making coffee. When she pulled off the sheet, Shazamm! Instant Christmas!

“What a time management marvel, Sally!” He smiled as he kissed her.

Christmas catalogs that arrived the three weeks before Christmas rivaled the size of all the Los Angeles telephone books. She kept it simple. Sally finished her gift shopping in 10 seconds flat at the gift card display. “Just wait for the thank-you notes to come in!” one TV commercial quipped.  She’d do just that.

The couple bundled up the kids and rushed to the crowded airport only to scowl away and nose out another driver for the last parking place.

“Grandma will be here! Look I see her plane!” Billy cried with joy. “Hurry!”

“Hurry seems to be the buzzword of the season,” Sally murmured. “Maybe we’ll have time to slow down on Christmas Day.”  Or would they?  Christmas preparation hardly left time to think—or celebrate.

For today’s new and improved Christmas seems to be a to-do list longer than a child’s wish list for Santa. With Botox, decorations, gifts and travel getting more hype and media exposure than Jesus, it takes a deliberate effort to keep Christ in Christmas.

Preparation for the first Christmas was long, slow, and difficult.  A seemingly ordinary couple was making their way by foot and donkey about 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

“Roughing it” would be a good way to describe their days and nights of travel and rest. Not even  air mattresses, sleeping bags, or a North Face tent were available to make sleeping on the ground more bearable.  Fortunately, getting rained on wasn’t much of a possibility in the desert.

The trip came about because of a government directive – a census.  But it also was God’s plan. [But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Micah 5:2]

The savior of the world would be born in Bethlehem – the city of David–miles ahead across in the desert. But Joseph was concerned with the rugged conditions for his espoused wife, Mary. She was in her the last weeks before giving birth.

Christ – the savior of the world – has come. Let the celebration continue – with shouts of Hallelujah echoing in the Heavens! Let the glory of God drown out the cry for Botox treatments in time for Christmas. Unlike Botox, the effect of Christ in our lives lasts forever.

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from, her speaking engagements and website, Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]




No Reservations Needed for God’s Soul Food By Jo Russell

Stepping into the lobby of the steakhouse recommended on Trip Advisor, honeymooners Paul and Carol squeezed hands and smiled at each other.

“The highlight of our trip!” Carol crooned.  “Paul, you really outdid yourself researching these restaurants!”

But they soon found out something more in city restaurants was required besides money and being hungry.

“Do you have reservations?” the hostess asked as she scanned the restaurant’s appointment book.

“No,” Paul responded, “We didn’t think we needed them. You see, in our town, when we go into a restaurant, they understand we’re there to eat, not to wait.”

“Without reservations, you’ll have to wait two hours – maybe not even then. Wait out there.” Then she pointed to the bench outside where the rain dampened the sidewalk and flowers in window boxes.

So Paul and Carol went humming in the rain to three other downtown restaurants. But all had the same story. No reservations meant no food.

Was the difference because they had a chef—not a short order cook?

Searching for something between “howdy or highbrow,” Paul and Carol, now very hungry, had to make a choice.

It had to feel like home. In Paul and Carol’s community, the waitress just smiled, “Howdy! What’ll you have? Welcome back! Would you like to hear our specials for today?”

The mountaintop cafes printed their prices on the menu. No surprises there.

None greeted customers with, “I’m Roger, and I’ll be your server tonight. And here is our wine list. I would recommend…” Besides his classy uniform, Roger would be outfitted with a battery-operated pepper grinder for sprinkling the diners’ salads.

So searching the city, at number five eatery, Paul and Carol hit pay dirt and didn’t have to have reservations! They found the perfect compromise: a restaurant with linen tablecloths and a waitress who greeted them, “Hello! I’m so glad you came here tonight. Would you like to hear the specials? – and Hey! Congratulations, newlyweds!”

Aaaah! It felt like home.

Food is a necessity of life, but a temporary comfort. We eat. We munch. We eat out – and have to pay the bill. We have to eat again—clear the table and wash the dishes.

And many places send away the hungry – like Paul and Carol – if they don’t have reservations.

Consider these words from the Good Book, the Bible: “Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. ….

Listen, listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.”  [Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV]

But what God offers is spiritual “soul food” that is “the richest of fare.” And it doesn’t have prices on the menu – not because it’s expensive, but because it is free. It is the food for the longing in the soul – for a connection to God and the avenue to life with Him after death.

How do you find it?

First, seek God. Next, listen to Him. Ask that He forgive any of your mistakes, deliberate selfish choices, bad attitudes or actions, or wrongdoing. He forgives you. You are like a new person. After that, ask to receive His gift of salvation. Soul food.  Follow up with the key to spiritual growth: pray and read His word, the Bible.

Served daily each day of your life, God’s food will feel like home – wherever you live.

No reservations are required for His Soul Food!

[Jo Russell is a Christian speaker, author of articles, anthology contributions, and award-winning Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women. available from, her speaking engagements and website, Enjoy chuckles and speeches, tips and excerpts in website options and weekly blog.]



When to Celebrate the Savior? Anytime! By Jo Russell

Some say that Jesus wasn’t really born in December, so while parties and celebrations unfold all over the world, celebrating in mid-winter could be what my family would call an “un-birthday party!”

For example, during a boring weekend at the isolated hardship teaching post where I had lived with my school-aged sons, three of us were left by ourselves in the tiny settlement. Nearly everyone else had taken off for town for the weekend. A dust storm was sandpapering us to grit, making the boys and I feel rough and on edge. I wasn’t surprised when my twins suggested, “Mom, how ‘bout you bake a cake and we’ll have an un-birthday party?!”

Now that was something we could do anytime at the drop of a party hat! The boys dragged out a packed tub filled with all the supplies and fun. Just an hour later, we were wearing party hats, shaking noisemakers, singing loudly, and eating cake on birthday plates. We played games inside and laughed much. We celebrated life!

When it comes to Jesus’ birthday celebration, many enjoy the party. Except for Evelyn. She’s a Christian acquaintance who eliminated the holiday entirely from her life, her husband’s and her family’s. No crèche. No cards out or in. No Christmas letters coming or going. No gifts accepted. Even a bowl of pinecones in the house with a ribbon is forbidden. Stems of mistletoe? Absolutely not! What about a sticker that reads, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”? Nope, not that either.

It isn’t that she doesn’t believe in Jesus, the Savior of the world.

“Jesus wasn’t born in December, and it was a pagan holiday that just got converted to a Christian one. It’s not accurate. I OBJECT!” Evelyn finished.

Theologians suggest the shepherds would not have moved the sheep to the hills unless it was hot in the valley, just like in the southern U.S. across California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Consider also how scantily baby Jesus was dressed. So it was probably spring. From my years in the southern U.S. states, spring with moderate temperatures lasts about three days, and then it rises gradually into chili-roasting temperatures. Southern Arizona residents claim there are only two seasons, “summer and hell.”

But does it really matter what time of year Jesus was born?

To Evelyn it did. She kept right on objecting for about an hour. She would sprinkle the conversation with the question, “Don’t you agree?”

No, I couldn’t. She had been spending much of her time at her church trying to get others to cancel Christmas as well. I even heard she’d circulated a petition. Last I heard, no one had signed it–not even her husband.

I interrupted, “So when do you celebrate the birth of the Savior of the world?”

“We don’t.”

“No other time of the year, either?”


I thought back to the silly family un-birthday parties with my sons. We didn’t need a date or a season to celebrate, we just did.

So can you in celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world! Anytime is good! Christmas is good, too! In Isaiah 9:6, the prophet’s words, later used in Handel’s Messiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulder, and his name will be called, ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…” [KJV]

Now Jesus’s coming and value is worth a party, un-birthday or not!

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, available from her website, For more chuckles and to hear a speech, enjoy excerpts of her book and tips, check her entire website options and weekly blog.]

Behtlehem Herald Sheriff”s Report for Dec. 25 by Jo Russell

The Bethlehem Herald Sheriff’s Report: The following incidents were reported by the Bethlehem Sheriff’s Department hotline:

December 24: Fifty-five residents continue to complain that for months now, an unusually bright blazing star is still keeping them awake at night. “We’re afraid the sky is falling in,” Citizen Isaac stated. After the first reports, BSD contacted scientists at the University of Jerusalem and Babylon College, who continue to investigate further. Scientists have no explanation to date.

December 25: Owners of the Circle S Ranch complained that in the early morning hours, their employees all fled from watching the flocks in the hills, leaving hundreds of sheep unattended.

At 2:00 a.m., Shepherd Caleb was apprehended by a Bethlehem Sheriff’s Deputy after numerous townspeople reported him for disturbing the peace: singing, jumping, and weaving in and out of the alleys shouting, “The King of Heaven is born today!” Regarding abandoning the sheep, Caleb told the deputy, “We left the hills after angels filled the sky and told us that Christ the Lord is born and he is in a manger.” Behind the All Seasons Inn in the stable, the shepherds located a baby in a manger, with Mary and Joseph, visitors from Nazareth. The deputy rendered an alcohol sobriety test, which Caleb passed.

The 23-year old was cited and released to his employer. As Caleb left the police station at 3:00 a.m., he yelled again, “The King of Heaven is born today!”

Although this account is fictionalized, it is time to share the good news with your family this Christmas day. Read Luke 1 and 2 in the Bible. Then throughout the year, remember Jesus, King of Heaven and earth. A Savior has been born to all of us!

[Jo Russell is a Christian teacher, speaker, author of many articles, contributor to several anthologies, and Which Button Do You Push to Get God to Come Out? A Humorous Devotional for Women, Intermedia Publishing, 2011. For more chuckles, keep checking her weekly blog on]