Entries tagged with “Christmas”.


larval baby jesus
Image by Dane Larsen via Flickr

On a past weekend (12/18-12/21), we went to church 2x’s.  Yes I am bit on the overachieving side, but not usually when it comes to listening to sermons while sitting in the pew (or other uncomfortable chair).  Friday night was our usual Seward Church gathering and on Sunday we went to Church at the Crossing in Indianapolis, which is where my wonderful wife went to church growing up. Last Monday I shared the message from Seward Church, so today is the one from The Crossing.

Steve Rennick shared the Christmas story for us, starting with Luke 2:1-20. Luke gives a special emphasis to the shepherds and the angels in the Christmas Story.  The shepherds were minding their own business in the field when out of no where came a ton of shiny angels (vs 8-14) where they were told that they shouldn’t be afraid of the angels.  The angels delievered the good news and the shepherds immediately travelled into Bethleham trying to find this baby Jesus upon their arrival they worshipped Him.

Knowing that Christmas is incomplete, the next stop is Matthew 2:1-12. The baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem which fulfills the prophesy in Micah 5:2. Steve pointed out that the entirety of Luke’s Christmas story, all 20 verses of it, fits into 1/2 a verse in Matthew 2:1 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod.”  We traditionally think of their being 3 Magi and 3 shepherds, but there is no Biblical truth to this matter.  We get the number 3 because of the three gifts that were brought, but in reality it could have been hundreds of Magi.  Another Christmas misconception or at least a nativity misconception is that the Magi and the shepherds visited the manger at the same time.  In reality the Magi came at a later date and met the family of Jesus at a home (vs 11).  The three gifts gold, frankincense, and myrrh were ultimately used to fund the family’s “exile” in Egypt. Some of these thoughts are new and insightful to me.

A third perspective on the Christmas story come from John 1:1-5, 9-14. If you are familiar with the John story, you know it is a very different perspective on the coming of Jesus.  Steve called it a more theological or upper perspective.  It could be the God view of the story.  It tells it straight up with no sugar – Jesus, the Good News, has come into a dark world to shine light and bring peace.

The final and shortest part of the Christmas story is from Mark 1:1. It offers no information other than that Jesus represents the beginning of many good works!

What is the point of sharing the Christmas Story? It is important to realize the truth of the story (much like looking at the darkside) but it is also important to realize that Jesus represented, as Mark says, the beginning of the good news and many good works. We know that Jesus performed many great works during his 33 years on Earth.  Steve was sharing the story to offer us a challenge.  Jesus could easily fill many libraries full of books on his 33 years (John 20:30-31, 21:25), yet Steve implied that Jesus is still working and acting today – through us.  He asked several times what John 22 might look like if it were written about us…

We are a part of the Gospel story – not the canonized version – but the ongoing story of good news and salvation.  Can we obey God’s desires and serve Him?  Steve challenged us to ask ourselves this question as we prepare for 2009:

God, what do you want to do through me, what do you want to do to me, and  what do you want to do in my life?

He suggested we dream big and set no limits, just wait, pray, and see where God takes you.  It is an interesting connection, using the Christmas story to challenge us for the beginning of 2009. I have trouble recalling it and tying it all together but you can listen to it here (sometime soon).

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It seems almost sacrilege to even mention that Christmas might have a darkside.  What could be bad about a holiday that celebrates the birth of the Savior? Or giving and getting gifts?

Some of the modern day darkness is easy to point out – the fact that it takes until February or March for the average American to pay off their Christmas-related debt or the fact that the commercialization of Christmas has made it the most important time of year for retail stores.  Yes this is some of the darkness, but that is only the tip of the iceberg.

On Friday night Tim discussed with us the dark beginnings of what we have come to know as Christmas.  The key Scripture is pretty blunt, Matthew 2:16-18 says it all – Herod slaughtered all the male children under 2 years old. But the pain and suffering started before that.

The suffering started when God spoke and told both Mary & Elizabeth their “good news” about their forthcoming children. The news strained Mary & Joseph’s relationship – Joseph knew he wasn’t the father, “Mary is there something you are hiding?” The broader family and community were hurt by this scandal of a pre-marital pregnancy.  The trip to Bethlehem (which was necessary to fulfill prophecy) was painful on the very pregnant Mary and not so easy on Joseph either.  Actually the census was painful on everyone in the country.  Then you have Zecharia’s disbelief and his ensuing muteness. All of this is capped off by Herod’s evilness and desire to kill the so called King by slaughtering thousands of innocent babies.

Yes the pain and suffering surrounding the birth of Christ is immense. Tim also pointed out that if you look through the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1, you not only see kings, but you see a rag tag group of hurt people. Victims of slavery, rape, war, and much more.  One good (?) aspect of all the suffering is that ultimately no one was spared. Every socio-economic group, every age group, and every gender was adversity affected by pain and suffering.

So why all the pain and suffering? Because God is a narcissist and like to see us suffer? Not so much and actually quite the opposite. The Gospel is a real story of good news which can help redeem our own pain and suffering. Our cultural focus is all about the hope, joy, peace on earth, and goodwill to men, but this is way outside the reality for most of us. Our holiday season is fraught with painful memories, family tensions, financial struggles, etc. It is reassuring to realize that from the beginning Jesus knew and understood suffering.

God’s plans is to suffer with us throughout our lives. But not the kind of dejected suffering where you see no hope. God understands our pain and wants to be a part of it. He wants us to connect with the heartache and not disconnect from it. He doesn’t want us to cover it over with alcohol or spending sprees. Nor does He want us to jump head first into painful and dangerous situations. Ultimately when we pull away from our suffering we are pulling away from God and the grace and peace He can offer us through Christ.

Finally, God suffered for us, bringing redemption into our lives. Redemption is amazing and unbelievable. God wants to turn our ratty lives into something awesome and indescribable. The Christmas story is one of hope because we know the rest of Christ’s story. We know that He suffered, died, was buried, and ultimately rose again – defeating Satan and providing a way for us to find eternal life.

We know that suffering will end eventually, but it is also part of the experience and we need to learn to try and embrace it and praise God through it.

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Tim ended the evening with John Piper reading his book The Innkeeper which is a great story about the suffering of the innkeeper and his meeting with the adult Jesus.

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German painting, 1457

Image via Wikipedia

We are in the season of Advent or the season of waiting for our Savior Jesus Christ to be born.  Or as it has become known the Christmas Shopping Season.

For the past several years groups have been spending a lot of time and energy advocating around Christmas time.  Some like Focus on the Family do campaigns encouraging you to boycott stores that don’t advertise Christmas – using generic words like holiday. They’ve actually taken it to the extreme this year setting up a rating system using terms like Christmas-friendly, Christmas-negligent, and Christmas-offensive.

Other groups have been less concerned with the terminology used but more with the idea of getting back to the meaning behind Christmas and focusing less on the materialism side.  One group this year is called Advent Conspiracy. Which is trying to encourage people to give the gift of presence this year.  Their campaign has four tenants –

  1. Worship Fully
  2. Spend Less
  3. Give More
  4. Love All

What do you think? Christmas has always been a special time of seeing friends and family and celebrating the birth of Jesus. But as I’ve gotten older it has been harder and harder to come up with gift ideas for myself and for my family.  It seems that I buy myself the vast majority of things as I need them or the things I’d like to get are unrealistic – a new laptop, a suit, etc – for any one person to buy. I’ve told my mom for years that she didn’t have to get me anything special, a gift card would be fine.  Unfortunately, her primary love language is giving gifts – so she has to give gifts!

I really enjoyed this video from Advent Conspiracy.

It is crazy how much money gets spent each year, how much debt is incurred, all in the name of our Savior.  He would not be pleased with this.  Do you remember that He was born in a barn? Yes, next to the animals.  He is not honored by our extravagant gift giving. He is honored by the love that we share with those around us.  He is not honored by lots of decoratively colored boxes under a dead tree.  He is honored when we are willing to sacrifice our lives for others, like He did on top of a dead tree.

Just some things to ponder this Christmas…

HT Carol’s Place

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This is really good and can help keep the “Spirit of Christmas” alive even after the season is over!

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We made the rounds this Christmas season getting to see almost all of our families.  When we move, we’ll scratch a few more family members off the list! It was kinda crazy and chaotic, but that’s how my family rolls!

Saturday morning we headed to Cincinnati to  see one of Christy’s Uncles, the went to my sister’s powerlifting meet in Springfield.  There we also celebrated my Dad’s birthday and Christmas with his family and his brother’s family.

We left Dad’s on Monday morning to visit my Mom’s family in Frankfort.  We spent Christmas Eve with one of my Aunt’s and her family.

Christmas morning we awoke to presents under the tree and lots of glee.  We had our traditional lunch with the Crosier family before heading back to Indianapolis for dinner with Christy’s parents and sister, and more presents!

After leaving Saturday around 8 we got back to our humble abode around 11 and opened the remaining presents under our tree!  What a celebration and great time to see our families.

It is kind of amazing how one birthday has so many celebrations!

You can see even more pictures here.

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From Team Cross,

We would like to wish you a blessed and Merry Christmas from our family to yours. We hope it is filled with lots of joy.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas
Image from Stock.xchng
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We don’t celebrate a traditional advent at The Bridge.  In the last three years that I’ve attended (and its existed) this has made for a different holiday season than I’m used to.  This week Chris’s message was excellent and Bono even paid a short visit!

I must say it was a little interesting using Jonah as the basis for the Christmas story, but it tied in very nicely. The main point of the message was that we should love people rather than judging or condemning them.

Jonah didn’t like the Ninevites and knew deep down that if he presented the message of salvation to them that they would probably be saved.  This happened in Jonah 3:10 “… He [God] had compassion…” Jonah’s plea in Jonah 4:2 is almost funny but sad,  Jonah was so angry about God’s compassion for the heathen! “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”

God does not want His people walking around the earth holding His love inside their hearts or in some niche group and condemning everyone else.  Look what happened to Jonah when he tried.  Matthew 5:43 commands us to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us.  That definitely isn’t an easy task and it should be done in a healthy and Spirit-filled way.

Finally from Hosea 6:6 we learn what God wants from us:

I want you to show love,
not offer sacrifices.
I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.

Rather than focusing our energy and time on hatred and condemnation, God calls us to be a people of mercy and compassion. (excerpted from this week’s discussion guide)

Application

Chris made a point at the beginning to say that we are often more charitable this time of year, than during the other 11 months.  He clarified that God wants us to live with love 24/7 all year long.

Make a list of people or situations that you need to let go of and focus more on loving those people instead of harboring ill feelings or judgement. Pray for God to help you to do this.

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