Most Wonderful Time of the Year: A Countodown to Christmas

Most Wonderful Time of the Year: A Countodown to Christmas

by Ace Collins

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Overview

For Christians worldwide, the month of December is filled with joy and wonder as we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth. There is no other time of the year that can compare to the Christmas season for both the young and young at heart.



From December to New Year’s Eve, reawaken the wonder, joy, and magic that is Christmas with daily scripture and inspirational readings of stories behind popular Christmas traditions, carols and movies. Enjoy a wealth of fun activities to help make the most of the season, including heartwarming holiday recipes and homemade gift ideas.



With this soon-to-be-cherished holiday devotional, best-selling author Ace Collins will capture your imagination and help to make each day of December more memorable and meaningful to you, and those you love, by shining a light on the real spirit of the season.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501822605
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 08/24/2016
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 683,003
Product dimensions: 10.60(w) x 14.40(h) x 5.30(d)

About the Author

Ace Collins defines himself as a storyteller. He has authored more than sixty books that have sold more than 2.5 million copies. His catalog includes novels, biographies, children’s works as well as books on history, culture and faith. He has also been the featured speaker at the National Archives Distinguished Lecture Series, hosted a network television special and does college basketball play-by-play. Ace lives in Arkansas. Learn more about him by visiting AceCollins.com.

Read an Excerpt

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

A Countdown to Christmas


By Ace Collins

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2016 Ace Collins
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5018-2261-2



CHAPTER 1

December 1

It Is a Wonderful Life

The angel said, "Don't be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you — wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David's city. He is Christ the Lord."

LUKE 2:10-11

For millions, Christmas is not Christmas until they view the 1946 Frank Capra film It's A Wonderful Life. In this Hollywood classic, George Bailey sees what the world would have been like had he not been born. When faced with what might have been, George discovers that the world would have been a far darker place with-out him.

A thousand years ago, advent was a time of personal introspection. One element of the tradition centered on how different the world would be if there had been no Jesus. As we begin embracing this new Christmas season, perhaps, to put things into the proper perspective, we first need to visualize a world where Christ was never born.

For starters there would be no cards, no lights, no decorations, no "Silent Night" or "White Christmas," no shopping, no gifts, and no family gatherings. December 25th would be just another day on the calendar, and the wonder and joy of this season would be something we would never experience. Yet that is just the beginning.

Your salvation would not be anchored on grace but on the law. The church where you attended as a child, the place where you were saved, the building where you now gather with family would have never been constructed. The relationships you built in church would also be lost. There would be no church bells, no "Amazing Grace," and no chance for redemption. The billions who have been touched through the gifts and missions of the church would have never felt the love of Christ. The compassion born of faith would be completely unknown.

Without Christ there would have been no Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther, Lottie Moon, or Billy Graham. The purpose for their great work would have not been there to motivate or inspire them.

It is easy to get overwhelmed with the demands of the season and fall into the trap of dreading the holidays. Fighting the crowds at the mall, decorating the house, wrapping the gifts, and meeting all the holiday obligations is never easy, but consider the alternative. If there were no reason for Christmas then, just like Bedford Falls without the influence of George Bailey, our world would be a much darker and depressing place. Christmas celebrates not just the birth of Christ but how Jesus changed the world and changed each of us. That dramatic change is one we should embrace on the day we kick off this month of joy as well as on each day of our lives! Yes — because of the wonderful life Jesus has given to this world and to each of us — there is a reason to celebrate! Because of Christ, there is not only a Christmas but also hope, light, and joy on each day of the year!


* * *

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Irish-born James Montgomery was one of the leading voices for Irish independence. As the publisher of the Sheffield Iris, his fiery words landed him in prison several times. On December 24, 1816, Montgomery turned from revolution to inspiration and penned "Angels from the Realms of Glory." Set to music by an Englishman, Montgomery's poem would become one of the first Christmas songs ever sung in an Anglican church. In the end, the revolution the Irish Catholic writer started did not free Ireland, but it did open the Church of England to using Christmas music in worship services.


* * *

    Angels from the realms of glory,
    wing your flight o'er all the earth;
    Ye who sang creation's story
    now proclaim Messiah's birth:
    Come and worship, come and worship,
    worship Christ, the newborn King.

    Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
    watching o'er your flocks by night,
    God with us is now residing;
    yonder shines the infant light:
    Come and worship, come and worship,
    worship Christ, the newborn King.

    Sages, leave your contemplations,
    brighter visions beam afar;
    Seek the great Desire of nations;
    ye have seen his natal star:
    Come and worship, come and worship,
    worship Christ, the newborn King.

    Saints, before the altar bending,
    watching long in hope and fear;
    Suddenly the Lord, descending,
    in his temple shall appear:
    Come and worship, come and worship,
    worship Christ, the newborn King.


Pamper the One You Love!

If you are looking for a practical gift this holiday season, why don't you make a recipe ring using all of the amazing recipes in this book, or maybe some of your family's favorites?


Recipe Ring

4 x 6 blank note or recipe cards
colored paper
printer, pen, or marker
laminator
hole punch
metal binder ring
new wooden spatula (with a hole in end of handle)

Begin by writing your favorite recipes on pretty recipe cards or by printing them out on plain paper with the margins small enough to fit on the 4 x 6 card. Once printed, cut them out and glue them to the colored paper. (You could use different colors for different sections.) Then, glue the colored paper to the note card. Organize the recipes by sections (entrées, sides, desserts, beverages, and so on). If possible, laminate the cards to protect them from wear and tear. Using a hole punch, punch a hole in the cards and add them to the ring. Attach the ring of recipe cards to the hole in the end of the spatula. Wrap and give as a lovely gift!

CHAPTER 2

December 2

Cherishing the Past


When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go right now to Bethlehem and see what's happened. Let's confirm what the Lord has revealed to us." They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

LUKE 2:15-20


Luke writes about Mary concentrating on the aspects of the first Christmas and imprinting those moments deeply into her mind. This intimate gospel record proves the mother of Jesus treasured and understood the full importance of each visitor, word, and gift. These memories likely offered her great joy and comfort as the years passed.

In 1937 Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin penned an Academy Award–winning song, "Thanks for the Memory," that premiered in a motion picture that is now all but forgotten and was introduced by a man never really considered a vocalist. This song became an American classic and the theme song for comedian Bob Hope. The warm memories Hope created through decades of entertaining men and women in uniform would come to make this number special for millions who had never seen the movie The Big Broadcast of 1938. And because Hope's tours usually happened during the holiday season, many still associate "Thanks for the Memory" with Christmas.

Each December offers a return of cherished traditions and songs as well as the renewal of greetings between friends and family. In that way, Christmas is a time machine where a lyric, a photo, an ornament, or a card can bring into sharp focus a special moment from our past.

What are the personal memories you are thankful for? What are the treasured elements of past holidays that warm your heart? As the Christmas music returns, it is once more time to hear the voices from yesterday, feel the love of those who were part of Christmas past, and celebrate with the joy and wonder of times when those memories were made.

As you begin your celebration of this season, take time to embrace recollections of your past holidays and once more bask in the joys of Christmas past. If you push yourself deep enough into your memories of parents, grandparents, friends, school plays, or church pageants, you might suddenly feel the innocent wonder of the season that made your childhood Christmases come alive.

Christmas has always been about giving, so once you are immersed in holiday memories, call someone who shared one of those special moments with you. By doing so you are spreading the joy of holidays past and setting the mood to build a wonderful foundation for this new Christmas season. Yes, it is time to be thankful for the memories.


* * *

Hark! The Heard Angels Sing

When writing the lyrics to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," Charles Wesley embraced an Old English term that correctly quoted the biblical narrative of Jesus's birth found in Luke 2:13-14. In the carol's original form, the title was "Hark! How All the Welkin Rings." Welkin is defined as when the vault of heaven makes a loud noise. When the music publisher changed welkin to angels, Wesley was livid because he felt the song was no longer biblically correct. Today, thanks to George Whitefield's edits, most have forgotten about the role of the welkin.

* * *

    Hark! the herald angels sing,
    "Glory to the newborn King;
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinners reconciled!"
    Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
    join the triumph of the skies;
    With th'angelic hosts proclaim,
    "Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
    Hark! the herald angels sing,
    "Glory to the newborn King."

    Christ, by highest heaven adored,
    Christ, the everlasting Lord;
    Late in time behold him come,
    offspring of a virgin's womb.
    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
    hail th'incarnate Deity,
    Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
    Jesus, our Emmanuel.
    Hark! the herald angels sing,
    "Glory to the newborn King."

    Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
    Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all he brings,
    risen with healing in his wings.
    Mild he lays his glory by,
    born that we no more may die,
    Born to raise us from the earth,
    born to give us second birth.
    Hark! the herald angels sing,
    "Glory to the newborn King."

* * *

Feed the One You Love!

These delicious buttery shortbread cookies have just the slightest bit of orange zest, a small amount of finely chopped pecans, and delicious holiday sugar plum jam. Your entire family will love them! They are perfect for any Christmas brunch, dessert, cookie exchange, or homemade gift.

Sugar Plum Shortbread Christmas Cookies

2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated whole nutmeg
¼ cup finely chopped toasted pecans
6 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ Tbsp. freshly grated orange zest
1 cup salted butter, cut into small bits
Stonewall Kitchen Sugar Plum Jam, strained
granulated sugar (for sprinkling)
sparkling white sugar (for sprinkling)

Arrange the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, pecans, sugar, and orange zest. Using a pastry blender, or heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle attachment on low speed, add the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling together. The dough will still be very crumbly. Knead until smooth. Form into a ball and then flatten slightly. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough until it is a half-inch thick. Using 1½- to 3-inch size cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. Place on prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 18-22 minutes (18-20 minutes for small cookies or 20-22 minutes for large cookies) or until the bottoms start to brown and the centers are set. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on baking sheets for 2 minutes. Using a metal cookie spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely before icing them with jam and sprinkling them with sugars.

Makes 16-18 shortbread cookies

CHAPTER 3

December 3

When Christmas Is Near

In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. Since Joseph belonged to David's house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David's city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.

LUKE 2:1-4

Why do we know about Jesus's birth? Why are we aware that Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem? Why, some twenty centuries later, can we read the writings of Paul, Timothy, and James? It is because those who witnessed the events took the time to write down what they saw and heard.

In 1959, Jesse Hollis and Clyde Otis took their thoughts of Christmas and placed them into a song. With its scenes of snowy nights, evergreens, caroling choirs, and anxious children, "This Time of the Year When Christmas Is Near" captures the holidays in Norman Rockwell detail. In its simply stated but profound lyrics, it notes what those in a holiday rush often miss but should treasure. In that way it brings Christmas into sharp focus.

As a college student Shelby Seabaugh wrote short notes about things she saw that inspired, moved, or blessed her. After recording those observations she dropped them into a box to save. The energetic, optimistic, and outgoing coed died tragically when she was twenty. When retrieving Shelby's personal belongings from her dorm room, her parents found the box filled with her "blessings." These hundreds of notes gave them a deeper insight into their daughter's faith and compassion, motivating them to look out into the world and note the joy and wonder that most miss and almost no one records.

On a daily basis you need to pause and take note of moments that lift your spirits and touch your heart, and then write those observations down. When you find yourself overcome with obligations and deadlines and you feel as though you are drowning in stress, you can look back at what you've written and be reminded of the blessings that are all around you during this time of the year. Suddenly life is once more in perspective because there is no better stress reliever than counting blessings.

Shelby did something else that you might want to incorporate into this holiday season. When she noted people unselfishly doing something for others or using their talents to bless those around them, she wrote thank-you notes and anonymously sent them as a way to encourage those givers to keep giving and serving.

Around you right now are friends and neighbors who are giving their time, energy, and talents to lift others. Whether they realize it or not, they are modeling Christ through these selfless actions. As a way of honoring those who recorded the life of Jesus, why not take a few moments this holiday season to write down what you've observed and share that good news with those who have inspired you? Your written words will likely remain with them for much longer than just the Christmas season; in fact, they might just last a lifetime. Such is the power of the written word.

* * *

There's a Song in the Air

"There's a Song in the Air" was all but lost for three decades. Published as a poem in a book that sold few copies, Josiah Holland's inspired prose describing the birth of Jesus as a new song might have languished in obscurity if Karl Harrington had not been given the task of assembling a new Methodist Hymnal in 1904. On a hot summer day, decades after Holland had died, Harrington read the poem and composed music to finally compete this timeless carol.


* * *

    There's a song in the air!
    There's a star in the sky!
    There's a mother's deep prayer
    and a baby's low cry!
    And the star rains its fire
    while the beautiful sing,
    For the manger of Bethlehem
    cradles a King!

    There's a tumult of joy
    o'er the wonderful birth,
    For the virgin's sweet boy
    is the Lord of the earth.
    Ay! the star rains its fire
    while the beautiful sing,
    For the manger of Bethlehem
    cradles a King!

    In the light of that star
    lie the ages impearled;
    And that song from afar
    has swept over the world.
    Every hearth is aflame,
    and the beautiful sing
    In the homes of the nations
    that Jesus is King!

    We rejoice in the light,
    and we echo the song
    That comes down through the night
    from the heavenly throng.
    Ay! we shout to the lovely
    evangel they bring,
    And we greet in his cradle
    our Savior and King!

* * *

Pamper the One You Love!

With so much going on during the holiday season, who doesn't need a good foot soak? This recipe is meant specifically for your tootsies! As an added benefit, the Lime Mint Foot Scrub is known to relieve foot pain by boosting overall circulation.


Lime Mint Foot Scrub

2 cups Epsom salt
½ cup baking soda
zest of one lime
3-4 drops lime essential oil
3-4 drops peppermint essential oil
green food coloring (optional)
quart-size glass jar or bag

In a large bowl, combine the Epsom salt, baking soda, and the lime zest with a wooden spoon. After it is mixed thoroughly, add the lime and peppermint essential oils. If desired, add a drop or two of green food coloring. Place the mixture into a glass jar or bag and decorate with twine or ribbon.

CHAPTER 4

December 4

Putting Gifts into Perspective

When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

MATTHEW 2:9-11

One of the very oldest holiday traditions is the one many dislike the most — the giving of gifts. Trying to find just the right present for each person on your list can be mind-boggling. Therefore, before beginning the actual task of shopping, you need to get into the mode of thinking like a wise man. That requires looking into the hearts and minds of those early givers.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Ace Collins. Copyright © 2016 Ace Collins. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

"Foreword",
"1. It Is a Wonderful Life",
"2. Cherishing the Past",
"3. When Christmas Is Near",
"4. Putting Gifts into Perspective",
"5. Time to Empty the Trash",
"6. The Importance of Encouragement",
"7. Vision",
"8. Worry Is a Thief",
"9. The Sweetnbess of the Faith",
"10. The Least of These",
"11. TyingChristmas to Easter",
"12. A Burning Fire",
"13. The Power of the Written Word",
"14. If You're Happy, Then Show It",
"15. Amazing and Lasting Grace",
"16. The Blessings of Childlike Faith",
"17. Witnessing ... Words Optional",
"18. The Most Powerful Gifts",
"19. Becoming the Christmas Bell",
"20. Escaping Bondage",
"21. The Message in the Branches",
"22. X Marks the Spot",
"23. Opening Our Eyes to Joy",
"24. Home",
"25. Describing Jesus",
"26. Boxing It Up",
"27. Standing Up for Others",
"28. Extending the Spirit of Christmas",
"29. A Symbol of the Power of Faith",
"30. This Little Light",
"31. Living a Calling",

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Most Wonderful Time of the Year: A Countodown to Christmas 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
debhgrty More than 1 year ago
Deb’s Dozen: Yuletide Brings Carols and Cookies and Cheer and Best Yet, Christ’s Birthday! I was given this book by Ace. No review of any kind was implied by the gift.
mymissdaisy More than 1 year ago
I could describe this book in one word. Delightful. It's mere 184 pages is packed with devotionals, activities and gift ideas that will make your Christmas new and special this year. You might possibly even begin some new traditions. There are 31 devotionals with a scripture, short story an activity suggestion and a recipe with each one. The recipes include: lots of cookie recipes, hot chocolate and Chai Tea recipes and there are some fabulous infused oils. Also included are some great gift recipes including bath salts and soaps. There are crafty gifts to make also. Each day also includes a Christmas song. My favorite devotional was #11 Tying Christmas to Easter. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is perfect for a gift for a young family. Christmas is a wonderful time to share your faith and this book is written in a way that believers and non believers will truly enjoy it. I received a complimentary copy from Litfuse.
SouthernGalLovestoRead More than 1 year ago
Ace Collins' The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a nice read for the Christmas season. It actually provides a countdown to Christmas (and beyond) with a reading for each day of the month of December. Each day's reading includes a verse (or a few verses) of scripture, some devotional thoughts, lyrics and background information from a song (mostly Christmas songs), and a recipe for a Christmas treat -- either for eating or pampering. The readings are fairly short and quick to read, a nice thought to start or finish the day without requiring a lot of time to be added to an already busy time. Some entries offer suggestions to help make your holiday season more enjoyable or meaningful, while others are generally uplifting for any time of year. The daily selections could easily be enjoyed alone or shared during family time. Thanks to Litfuse Publicity Group for providing a copy of this book. I am happy to share my own thoughts in this review.
Baranski1987 More than 1 year ago
The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Ace Collins. This book is full of wonderful scriptures, recipes and stories. A most wonderful way to start your Christmas season reading a section everyday. Makes a great gift. I received a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. 4 stars!
Debragg More than 1 year ago
It is getting to be that time of year again. I absolutely love to read from now to Christmas time, there are so many heartwarming wonderful stories. This is a book that has it all. Recipes, holiday traditions, beliefs and history lessons. There are daily readings to share or read alone. There are many new ideas. I was given this book by Litfuse Publicity Group for a review and these are my opinions. I give this book a 5/5. These are all my opinions.
lolly-pops More than 1 year ago
First, the disclaimer. "I was provided a free copy of this book. All opinions are my own." That done, I'm going to say that oh, yes, this is definitely going to be a cherished Christmas devotional. It includes songs, the stories behind the songs, actual devotions, scripture, stories of Christmas traditions, stories behind popular (classic) Christmas movies, crafts, recipes and a host of other fun activities. I opened this book and glanced in and started singing a favorite Christmas hymn from my youth that sadly is not in our church hymnal. Then my teen daughter took it and sang a lot of the songs. We looked through the activities and decided some we'd like to try - like the sugar plum short bread cookies. My Coastie son loves shortbread cookies -- and this would be a great gift for him and his station. If you are looking for a Christmas devotional plus plus, then you will want to pick up a copy of THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR. Truly great book and highly recommended. 5 +++ stars.
joyful334209 More than 1 year ago
Advent-aqueous - that is a cute way of saying it - this book is a very non-traditional advent devotional book and I loved it so very much. The author gives you a Scripture verse at first ( which is very traditional), then he writes a story that goes with the Scripture verse (also very traditional), then he writes a Christmas song that goes along with the Scripture and story (non-traditional and very special), then he writes a Christmas project for you to do step by step (non-traditional and it is adorable and very usable as gifts or to use at home) - I believe that you(and if you have a family, your family) will absolutely love love love this so much. I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
WildflowerMom More than 1 year ago
Do you love Christmas like I do, but have a hard time staying focused on what the celebration is all about? All the flurry of activity that comes with it can really elevate stress levels, making it hard to hang onto the joy of the season. This book is a perfect solution for this problem. It is a combination of inspiration, traditions, songs and practical applications to help keep the focus on Christ in the season, starting with December 1st and going all the way to New Year's. Each day's entry is short, making it an easy fit into a morning or evening routine. I loved reading the background of carols and traditions in Ace Collins' other books. The snippets of those books, plus the added Bible verses with a short application, delicious cookie recipes and craft ideas makes this a win-win, especially for busy moms looking for a few minutes to refresh and remember what is important. The devotions part is short and practical, not a heavy theological discussion, but something inspirational to think about. Recommend! 4.5 stars (An e-copy of the book was provided by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.)