My wife and I love reading and re-reading our hundreds of beautiful Christmas cards. This one grabbed my attention immediately. It has all the elements of a warm Christmas greeting – a photo of a beautiful baby boy, the words MERRY CHRISTMAS, and the word JOY even had a lovely Christmas wreath, with Lights, for the letter ‘O.’

But it was the unique message that made me smile. Little Evan’s smile is contagious. And his eyes are just dancing with JOY. In addition to wishing everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS, along with his Dad, Chris and his Mom, Holly, it’s as if he just can’t wait to tell us some wonderful news.    

And then the wonderful news on his little shirt smacked me right in the heart. Evan is going to be a Big Brother! What an absolutely and genuinely creative way to make a Christmas birth announcement.

Of course, there’ll have to be a Reveal Party later where everyone will learn the name of Evan’s little sister or little brother. And all the people invited would bring gifts. That’s the modern way of building suspense for the big day. And what you wanna wager that the Reveal Announcement will be equally as creative as the birth announcement?

The joy of Evan’s Christmas birth announcement is only surpassed by another one made 2017 years ago by an angel named Gabriel, a messenger sent from Heaven to a young teenage girl named Mary in a little town called Nazareth. And His announcement was stunning! 

According to the shocked Mary, she was going to have a baby Boy. And His name was already chosen. No reveal party necessary. His name would be JESUS and He would be great.  In fact, He’s the reason for our season of celebration. Wise men also brought Him gifts. But all He really wants is to live in our hearts. 

Here’s a challenge and a promise. First the challenge. Take Evan’s JOY and multiply it by a million. Then every day till next Christmas, read the rest of Gabriel’s Christmas Birth Announcement in Luke 1:31-33. 

What’s the Promise? You’ll have tons of JOY FOR THE JOURNEY. 


Editor’s Note: If the Lord leads you, through prayer, to help spread JOY FOR THE JOURNEY to our joy-less world, please consider being either a Founding Partner or a Sustaining Partner (or both). Make your check payable to Freeman Martin, write the word ‘JOY’ on the memo line, and mail to Freeman Martin, 310 Andrew Pickens Dr., Seneca, SC 29678.

FOUNDING PARTNER: Best one-time gift: $1,000 ____, $750 ____, $500 ____, or other ____ is enclosed.

SUSTAINING PARTNER: Best monthly gift: $100 ____, $75 ____, $50 ____, or other ____ is enclosed. 






I love nativity scenes. Just gazing at one in the early hours of Christmas morning, before all the sights and sounds and smells of the day begin clamoring for one’s attention, can be so peaceful and serene.

A farm boy’s memory springs alive like a seven-year old waking up on Christmas Day. You can almost smell the hay that’s spread as a blanket for the Baby Jesus. With His outstretched arms, He is the focal point of the manger scene.

The angel and the star overhead point the way. And Mary and Joseph don’t look the least bit frustrated that there was no room for them in the inn.

And then there are the animals. After all, it IS a stable. And according to that favorite Christmas carol, Away In A Manger, the cattle are lowing. But it’s another animal that not often gets much attention. Sometimes not even a second glance. It’s the Christmas donkey.

I’ll admit – donkeys as such are not much to look at. Sometimes stubborn and stinky. And there never has been a derby won by a donkey. But take a look at your manger scene. He just sits over there by the side, chewing on a piece of hay. His job is done and he’s happy not to be in the spotlight.

His job, you ask? All the donkey did was deliver the Savior of the world to this little town of Bethlehem. No brown trucks. No jolly ol’ man with bag of gifts and a sleigh. No, the greatest Christmas present ever given was delivered by a donkey. With the pregnant Mary on its back for the long and dangerous 70-mile trip to the cattle stall, God used a donkey to deliver Jesus to His appointed destination. All part of God’s plan to deliver you and me.

Maestro, strike up the choir and orchestra. Church, let’s sing all four verses of Joy To The World! The Lord is Come.

Thanks to the Christmas donkey. 







There are twins everywhere these days. Have you seen them? Not babies anymore, these twins are all grown up. And they’re so easy to recognize…it’s written all over their faces like an ice cream cone on a 7-year old boy’s face in July. You can see it in their eyes and you can hear it in the tone of their voices. And they all have one thing in common – they’re wound as tight as a spool of Mother’s sewing thread. 

I can tell you their names, too. They even sound alike. And in every set of two, the names are identical. Two peas in a pod. Wanna meet them? Just walk on any street. Stand on any corner. Shop in any store. Wait in any checkout line. Or even wait for a car backing out of a parking space that you want. I promise you – you’re gonna meet some twins. They might make some hand gestures you haven’t seen before. Or even mutter some words you won’t hear in Sunday School.

Pull up the digital note screen on your smart phone. Or if you’re old school, get a pen and pad and write down these names. On second thought, no need to record them. You’ll meet them so many times, you won’t be able to erase their names from your hard drive. Are you ready? Please let me introduce you to Hurry and Worry. 

I see that grin. You’ve met them already. You just didn’t know their names. But you know them by their actions. Hurry just can’t stand the thought that you might be in front of him. So he’ll test the volume of his car’s horn if you make him wait while you let somebody in line. Now he’s going to be 10 seconds late. You should have known.

And Worry, his identical partner, is pulling her hair out by the roots, afraid that the last great bargain will disappear from the shelf before she weaves and ducks and runs her cart over small children to get it. “Who knows,” as one such twin was heard to say, “I know they’re open 24 hours, but if they run out, they might close early.” 

Hurry could be a nice guy. If he could only convince Worry to take a chill pill.  Take those shepherds, for example. After Hurry convinced Worry that they didn’t have to be afraid of the bright Light that lit up the field one night where they were keeping watch over their flock, they got their camels in high gear and took off lickety-split in the right direction. And they went with haste, Luke 2:16. No waiting till they had a day off from watching the sheep… no lolly-gagging around…no loafing…no goofing off.

And they found Mary and Joseph and the “Good News of a Great Joy.” 

And guess what? No need to worry. There’s enough to go around for everybody … an endless supply for all people (Luke 2:10). 

How’s that for a little joy for your journey today!





It must have been a busy day at the sign shop. On a mission from the missus, I’m standing in front of a mountain of wrapping paper. Every kind, every color, every design ever made. Floor to ceiling. Could only be stacked that high with a tow motor.

And then there’s the hand-written sign stuck with scotch tape at back-breaking level. And by the way, there’s a dump truck load of that tape on the next aisle in a box big enough for a family of four to get lost if they were to fall into it.

But back to the sign, as if one would need a sign to state the obvious, one misplaced keystroke made a world of difference. It’s obvious that the busy-ness of the holiday shopping business prevented any proofreading. But the proof was in the reading, if you’ll pardon the pun.

WARPPING PAPER! What kind of gifts would be wrapped in this kind of paper? The human mind is an amazing organ. And for some of us, it’s occasionally described in the same manner – warped! But it was as if the misspelled sign was placed there, in that particular place for this particular person to see.

To take a mental trip backwards to another place. Another person. Another gift. Another kind of wrapping. An angel of the Lord woke up some shepherds working the graveyard shift and gave them a sign. A sign that’s been talked about for over 2,000 years. A sign that spoke of the greatest Gift the world has ever known or will ever know.

And how that Gift would be wrapped. In swaddling cloths. First word out of your mind – ‘What are swaddling cloths?’ This could possibly be from the oft-described warped mind of an old writer working the graveyard shift – but my first word is L-O-V-E. 

The Giver of that first and greatest Gift wrapped His Present to us in something that could easily be understood by a bunch of old guys camped out in a field at night watching over their flock. No slick wrapping paper with snowflakes. Or Frosty the snowman. Just LOVE. 

What are you wrapping your gifts in this CHRIST-mas? Here’s your sign.

Luke 2:12 – and this shall be a sign unto you. You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.






You won’t find it at the top of this year’s Most Wanted Gift List. You didn’t see a lot of bally-hoo on the boob tube that caused normal-thinking adults to throw common sense out the window and go stand in line for hours in the wee hours of a cold winter Friday morning. And then trample little children and slow-moving seniors like the famous running of the bulls when they finally opened the doors.

No, it’s not the latest electronic gadget with a gazillion gigabytes of memory. And I don’t believe you can use it to send a message, or see each other’s face while you’re talking to somebody on the other side of the world. 

But there it was. In the produce department at the grocery store. All neatly wrapped in a nice basket. Tied up with a pretty bow. Under a bright florescent light. No lines. No limit. Help yourself. A gift guaranteed to turn on a mega-watt smile. Sorta like the heart smile you get when you gaze at a beautiful manger scene.

Beyond these delicious apples and oranges and grapes and bananas, though, I remembered the story of a man who once gave away a different kind of basket. His was filled with rotten fruit. Apples of anger. Tangerines of terror. Oranges of outrageous behavior. Dispensing beatings like bunches of bananas.

Until one day when a bright Light turned his basket upside down. In fact, the Light was so bright, it blinded him for three days. Plenty of time to think about the rotten fruit in his basket.

After that day on that dusty dirt road, he began to give out baskets filled with a different kind of fruit. His name was even changed. As a new man in more than just his name, Paul vowed never again to burden folks with rotten fruit; just to bless them with the sweet tasting Fruit of the Spirit:  

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Now, there’s a message that CAN be sent around the world. Without the help of the internet. One fruit basket at a time.







True to his orthopedic training, the good doc explained it in easily understood terms, “you’re having some pain when you bend your knee because that little cushion called cartilage between the bones in your knee joint is almost gone. And because of your age (I knew that was coming) the wear and tear that your knees have taken over the years, that little cushion on the inside is gone. And you need a cushion on the outside to get on your knees, right?

You know, knees are funny-looking things. They take all that abuse…bending, squatting, sitting, standing, jumping…and I’d be willing to bet that you’ve never said, ‘Oh, I’m so thankful for my knees.’

But just let one of ’em start giving you trouble. Like that sound of milk-over-cereal – snap, crackle, pop – when you do manage to take a knee. That’s when you come up with brilliant thoughts like – ‘OK, what else can I do while I’m down here?’ 

In my extensive (?) research on knees, I think I’ve stumbled across something … the cause of stiff knees. With much respect to doc’s medical training and skill, there’s another explanation. Stiff knees are caused by stiff necks.

Now that’s probably not going to be accepted for publication in any journal of medical discoveries that you’ll ever read.

Spiritually speaking, though, when we become stiff-necked (mule-headed stubborn), we have trouble bending our knees (bowing to anything or anybody). That’s not a wild idea after a sleepless night.

Actually, it came from studying a little figurine that’s one of two year-round Christmas ‘decorations’ (the other one is the little drummer boy) at our house. 

So before you schedule that total knee replacement surgery, let’s all try a little therapy on our stiff necks. In that little figurine, there are some eye-opening and heart warming  revelations.

First, Santa is OLD! And he’s enjoyed a few too many cookies and fruit cakes. But he had no trouble at all getting down on both knees beside the manger of Baby Jesus.

And speaking of eyes, look at Santa’s eyes – wide open in amazement and awe. And hands clasped in reverence and respect. Something tells me he wasn’t the least bit worried about knee pain or calling his elves to help him get back up. 

Another thing – I don’t see that big ol’ bag of presents for all good little boys and girls slung over Santa’s back. I’m thinking he knows his sack of stuff can’t hold a candle to the One true gift – the greatest Gift the world has ever known – that his eyes are gazing on right there in front of him. 

Also, can you see the look of joy on the face of baby Jesus?  We all love giving gifts that make people happy but nothing we could ever give can compare with John 3:16, the Gift of Love that brought Jesus to the manger.

Finally, and if you don’t remember anything else you’ve read here, don’t miss this! The arms of baby Jesus, even in the lowly manger, are outstretched. And 33 years later, His mighty arms were still outstretched as He hung on that old rugged cross.

He came to earth in a simple wooden cow-feeding trough. Covered in swaddling clothes. He left the earth on an ugly wooden cross. Covered in His own blood. It’s been 2017 years and still His arms are outstretched. That thought alone should be enough to bring us to our knees.

Someday, maybe soon, everybody in the world left standing, even those with stiff necks, will take a knee.     




Some internet messages are easily recognizable as pure scams. And without being judgmental, can I just say the scumbags that send them. But this one seemed for real. After all, it was from my son. I know he would not be involved in a shady internet scam. He had a real need. He was trying to help a buddy. I was so proud of him.

“One of the guys I work with,” he said, “wants to surprise his wife by making Thanksgiving dinner for her.” Such a noble young man! He explained further, “I’m trying to help but we’re clueless.” “Sure, son, what can I do to help,” I quickly typed on the world wide web.

His reply was immediate. “How many minutes does it take to microwave a 25-lb turkey?” With flying fingers,  I logged on to that source of world wide information that has answers to any question you could ever ask. Rule of thumb, said Mr. Google, 10 minutes per pound, but only for a 10-12 pound bird. And then you’d need a microwave-safe bag, spices, basting brush, meat thermometer, etc., etc., etc. And even with all that, microwave is not the recommended way of cooking a turkey. And besides, if that bird isn’t completely thawed, your kitchen will orbit the earth like the Hubble telescope. 

Dad’s recommendation to his very helpful and thoughtful son – get a deep fryer and a gallon of peanut oil. “But Dad,” came his impassioned reply, “he needs it fast because his wife will be home in about an hour!”

Recommendation #2: Go to the jewelry store right now, buy her some bling-bling, and take her out to her favorite expensive restaurant. And pray they have turkey and dressing and all the trimmings on the menu. Trust me, he’ll come out way ahead financially when compared to the possible costs of a new kitchen and other related medical bills.

With his “Thanks, Dad,” I was confident that I had done my fatherly duty. Only days later did I learn that he and all his other buddies at work were ROFL. I think that’s for rolling on the floor laughing! How horrible! Just another scam. Upwardly mobile young adults playing tricks on their unsuspecting and loving old senior citizen parents! Oh, did I mention – our newly revised last will and testament should be ready in a few days. 

And speaking of prayer – sometimes I think we put our prayers in the microwave and expect God to answer them in a minute and thirty seconds. Remember OLD Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke? When the angel Gabriel told him that his wife was going to have a baby he was dumbfounded. How can this be, he said? We’ve prayed and prayed and prayed for many years when we COULD have had a baby. But now we’re old and CAN’T have one. But our prayers were never answered, so we just gave up and quit praying.

Can’t you just hear Gabriel saying, “God has heard your prayers and He just wants to be sure y’all can handle a BIG BLESSING.” In His timing, everything is right. But sometimes it takes a little longer for Him to check out our maturity in the faith. In other words, we may be like that 25-pound turkey. It’s just not microwave safe; it’ll take a bit longer time to see if we’re ‘done.’ And God can’t be rushed.

Prayers always work, sometimes pray-ers don’t.   





It’s here folks. You can already see it and feel it. Just walk into that big box store and you’ll see it, too. That is, if you make it inside the store. First, you have to avoid the run away shopping carts that play bumper cars with your front door.

Then you try to find a good parking space in the ten acre parking lot. And hold the hands of your small children as you approach the traffic jam around the three or four handicapped spaces.

But you run the obstacle course and make it to the front of the store. There you see people going in through the Exit door. And coming out through the Enter door. Why do they have those doors marked, anyway? Nobody pays attention.

By now your nerves are shot, your hair’s a mess, and you’re sweating like it’s the fourth of July. One more thing to frazzle your last nerve – no shopping carts. And the youngster whose job it is to bring in the strays with that automatic round up machine is taking a smoke break. Your stress meter is off the chart.

Hold on. Here comes the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. There it is…just sitting there as you pull out your shopping list. An innocent-looking little sign. A friendly reminder from store management that you only have 25 days until Christmas.

Now you’re in full panic mode. What if they run out of the latest craze in those digital doom-a-flatchies with twin electronic controls that Junior is screaming for in your good ear.

One innocent looking little sign silently screaming its message to your brain. Advertising to create urgency. Buy NOW and avoid the last minute rush!

Walking away, this thought occurs. I wonder what it would take to create the same urgency to find the greatest Gift the world has ever known. And it’s not up there on the top shelf where you can’t reach it unless you’re 6-foot-5. It’s wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

The best part? It’s absolutely FREE! There was a cost but it’s already been paid in full.

Do you really have 25 days left till Christmas? Not even the angels in Heaven know the answer to that question. So why not go ahead and make that the first thing to mark off your list. I promise you – the rest of your shopping will be stress free. 



A friend said one time that on his last visit to the eye doctor, he decided to play a trick on the doctor. When doc asked him to read something on the eye chart, he would say, “What eye chart?” And then the doc said, “The one on that wall right over there.” To which my friend would say, “What wall?”

And just before the doc called the office of Assistance For The Blind, he would say, “Just kidding, Doc!” I’ll admit, that’s not the way it usually goes on a routine annual eyesight check up. Usually doc will say, Read the bottom line. OK, try line 7. No problem, how about line 5. Can’t see that one? OK, starting at the bottom, just tell me the first line you CAN see. 

How about your hearing? Have you found yourself turning your head to hear with your ‘good ear’? Or asking, “What was that you said?” Maybe it’s time for some audio assistance. Or maybe you’ve visited your cardiologist so often that terms life A-Fib, stints, and by-pass (and I’m not talking about the road around town to dodge downtown traffic) have become household terms.    

The longer God allows us to walk His earth, the more frequently our fearfully and wonderfully-made physical bodies require regular visits with our family doctor. Excuse me, in the new age lingo, I’m supposed to say Primary Care Physician. 

However, there’s something that we haven’t seen even if our eyesight is 20-20; something that we have not heard even if we can hear a pin drop from 400 miles away; and something we can’t even imagine … something that’s never entered into any person’s heart and mind … something we don’t have the ‘foggiest idea’ about … something we don’t have a clue about … like how good that little round piece of dough with a hole in the middle tastes when the hot now light is on before we’ve ever tasted it.  

With that in mind, we can begin to wrap our mind around the idea of Heaven, although we’ll never fully understand what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9) until we see it for real.  

How’s your vision? Is it time for a visit to the Eye Doctor?



The red light on the phone in the hotel room blinked incessantly. But since we were just checking in, it couldn’t be for us. And in the business of checking in and settling in, the blinking red light captured no more of our attention. But through the night, though we were asleep, it constantly called for attention.

Seeing it still sending out its message when morning came, we sought an answer from the front desk. “No, Sir, you don’t have any messages. We don’t know why the light is still blinking. We think someone before you must have not answered their wake-up call. 

What would you do if you checked your Caller ID on your next incoming call and saw this message? Would it be a wake-up call? Would you hit the green Accept button immediately? Or would you just let it go to voice mail? Or maybe send one of those ‘too busy to talk right now’ or ‘can I call you later’ messages?

This scenario most likely won’t ever play out on your hand held device. But it very well could happen, and often does happen, if the ‘ears of our heart’ are listening for and accepting all calls from this Caller. Is He calling you right now? Our Savior stands with outstretched arms, constantly sending out this message, “Whosoever will may come.” (John 3:16)

Excuse me, your phone is ringing. Don’t you need to take that call?