Month: December 2011

Christmas is Fake

John 1:1-14 1     In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

Christmas is fake. There’s the fake smiles. When you walk into a store, you might be greeted by a smiling employee. Do you think that person was actually happy to see you? There’s fake gifts. Well, maybe the gifts themselves aren’t fake, but they don’t come from loving generosity.  How about the fake relationships? Do any of your family members put up with one another just because “it’s Christmas”? Let’s face it: Christmas is fake. (more…)

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What Good is a Baby?

Luke 2:6-7 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

 

What good is a baby?

 

Have you ever felt alone at Christmas? Maybe you really were alone. No one to celebrate with. At least, no one who wanted to celebrate with you. Maybe you were surrounded by family. Or friends. Or at least other people. But no one to talk to. Not really. Not the way you needed. And now it’s Christmas again. Are you alone? And if you’re not alone tonight… what about a week from now? Two? Do you struggle with being alone? It’s Christmas! We’re supposed to be happy! Look! A baby! But how does a baby born on Christmas help me when I am alone? (more…)

Unbeliever

“That’s the last of them,” Greg pronounced as the palette slid past him and into the store. “I suppose I should sign the paperwork so you can get home for Christmas, huh?”

John shrugged. “I’d like to get home. Really don’t care about Christmas.”

“I thought you had kids.” Greg marked a few boxes on the computer pad and initialed lines A, D, and F.

“Sure I do. Love ‘em.” John accepted the pad back, initialing lines B, E, and G before handing it over for his signature.

“How can you have kids but not Christmas? Isn’t that abuse?” The manager signed and sent himself a copy of the form before handing the pad back a final time. (more…)

Marvel at the Miracle of Nazareth

Luke 1:26-38 

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 34“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be calledthe Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37For nothing is impossible with God.”

 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (more…)

I’m too busy to be happy at Christmas.

2 Sam 7:8-16

 

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”

How much have you taken on?

  1. What have you accomplished?
  2. What will you accomplish?

 

Christmas is just one week away! What’s left on your to-do list? Have you gotten all the presents? Every card signed and in the mail? Everyone invited? Are the decorations up? Every light lit and every wreath hung? It’s exhausting, isn’t it? All the stuff we’re supposed to do to get ready for a holiday that proclaims, “Peace on earth!” It’s enough to take the joy out of the season. I’m so busy wondering how I’m going to fit people around the table I can’t fit in time for Christmas wonder! It’s Christmas! But I don’t have the time to be happy. I’m too busy! How much have you taken on? What have you already accomplished? What will you accomplish? (more…)

Don’t Get Involved

Friday, about seventy-five women appeared in the church. I ignored them. They set up shop in the basement and started talking about Jesus. I had nothing to do with it. They filled the kitchen with good food. I chose to not partake. These women were a mix of members, prospects, and friends. Many of these women know me as their pastor. I hardly spoke a word to any of them on Friday.

And it was a good thing.

Friday our church held their traditional “Elegant Advent.” It’s an evening where women gather together, share a meal, and speak to one another about the meaning of Christmas. There’s an official program of readings and carols. I understand the women have a lot of fun in it.

And they don’t need me!

The leader did ask me to come and give a brief opening devotion. Two minutes of my time and nothing more. I was thrilled! How awesome it is when Christians speak to others about the love of their Savior. They don’t need me for every little thing! Instead I went home and took care of my children so my wife could participate. The women took care of it.

To be fair, I did look over the program ahead of time. I wasn’t afraid of anything, but if something is being taught in the congregation entrusted to me, it’s my duty to make sure it lines up with Scripture. I’m happy to report: I needed do nothing concerning doctrine.

So, yes. As pastor, it was for the best I not get involved. This may sound weird, but I hope more things like this happen. I hope the congregation takes charge and speaks Jesus to others. They don’t need me for that!

Inconceivable!

Matthew 1:18-25

 

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

Inconceivable!

 

The pirates have kidnapped Buttercup, who’s supposed to marry the prince! As they race along in their fast boat, they see someone has given chase. And he’s catching up! And the Vizzini, the one in charge of the pirates, shouts, “Inconceivable!” Yet, it was happening. When he saw that what he thought was inconceivable was true, Vizzini had to act. (more…)

Why doesn’t Jesus keep his promise?

Is this what you want for Christmas?

Malachi 4:1-6 4   “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty.

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

 

He’s making a list – checking it twice! Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town! And he’s going to bring presents. And he’s going to give presents to people who deserve it!

But you know what? Jesus is even better than that. He promises to give us everything we ask for! “And I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (John 14:13)

But there’s a problem here. How many people do you know get everything ask for?  How many of you have everything you want? What’s on your list this Christmas season?  Maybe some DVD’s or Blurays? Season tickets? A family meal with the whole family and no fights? How likely are you to actually get the whole list? You’re more likely to get a lame gift than what you’re actually after.

So, how does that work? God promises to give us everything we ask… but he doesn’t actually give it? What gives?

In fact, how many times does God give the opposite of what we ask? How many of you have prayed to have enough to pay the bills? How many of you still have money problems? How many of us want a good, happy family but end up in arguments and fights and broken homes? God tells us to ask him for anything and he’ll give it… but that’s not what happens! (more…)

Chaos, Christmas, Connections

Yesterday I got flour on my suit. It was well worth it.

Nine teens of the church gathered together to bake cookies. A woman of the congregation provided lunch, my family and hers provided baking materials, and we cranked some Christmas music. For a few hours after church had ended they took over the church kitchen and baked a large amount of cookies. A large amount was also eaten.

It was fun just being there. For the most part we stood back and let the teens do their thing. They helped one another, asked for help from us — let it be known, seventh grade boys don’t know to put flour down before spreading dough for the cookie cutters — and generally had a fun time. At the end, even after everyone got on a sugar high from copious amounts of devoured goodies, we had ten nice plates to hand out.

And then we left. (more…)

A Ruined Life

All it took for God to save the world was to ruin one life.

Luke 1:26-38

 

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

(more…)