Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Jesus is born. That’s a pretty important thing. Here’s a video that’s more eloquent than I am!

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Gifts for Me

Christmas Card

She is alone much of the time. As I visit her, she tells me, “I haven’t left my room in over a month.” I know this woman fairly well. She may be in a nursing home, but she’s hardly sedate. She’s active with the other residents, playing games, solving puzzles, and sharing Jesus.

Normally.

Just about every time I visit, she’ll say, “Pastor, my neighbor doesn’t believe in God. How can that be? How can I tell him about Jesus?”

Her heart yearns for her Savior and yearns to share him, too.

But now she’s sick. It’s a new medication that’s simply not cooperating well. Hopefully it’ll be solved soon. In the meantime, she hasn’t left her room.

She hasn’t been to church in years. Her family stuck her in a nursing home far away. It was cheaper. But it’s so far away she physically can’t handle the drive to church anymore. It’s so far away pretty much no one visits her. It’s about an hour away by interstate.

And she longs to be with the congregation again. She misses the family of believers. (more…)

Why Christmas Matters

macro shot photography of christmas stockings ornament on a christmas tree

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

He is risen!” I greeted the congregation.

They blinked at each other. They glanced nervously at the Christmas tree. They observed the chairs nicely lined up for the kids to sit in for the Christmas program. The Advent candles were lit. “…He is risen indeed?” they asked back. There was a nervous chuckle.

Some of you are a little confused!” I smile.

Cause you’re not supposed to say that now!” one of the members in the front row answers. More laughter now. (more…)

Not About

A Great Light

Christmas worship should be epic.

Wednesday I watched a concert livestreamed. The main artist was Andrew Peterson, singing his Behold the Lamb of God album. I highly recommend it. During the first half of the concert, he debuted a new song. It’ll be on the album Resurrection Letters Vol. 1 coming out at Easter. I wish I could link you to the song. It is… powerful. It asks some very difficult questions:

Do you feel the world is broken?”

We do.”

Do you feel the shadows deepen?”

We do.”

But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from shining through?”

We do.”

Do you wish you could see it all made new?”

We do.”

Those are the opening lines of this incredible song. And as Andrew leaned into the song, speaking about how Jesus answers these longings, how he is worthy of praise and glory and honor… he begins to weep.

He is responding to my Jesus. (more…)

It’s Not Enough

Immanuel

The Prince took off his crown. He set the gleaming band on the table and regarded it. The symbol of all his power. The symbol of who he was: The Prince, the sovereign of the Kingdom. It was time to walk away. There was a price to save his people, and he would pay it.

It was not enough.

He had to become less.

His gaze swept the throne room. The center of his power, where all his glory resided, where he proclaimed judgments and justice and condemnation as his righteousness saw fit. Here his subjects came to give him honor. Here his enemies shook in fear.

He nodded and stepped away, leaving the throne, setting its power aside.

It was not enough.

He had to become less.

The Prince stepped into his home. Here was all his comfort. Here was anything he might desire. Yes, to rescue his people, he would give this up, too. His riches shone around him. No, if he were to stand as their substitute, if he were to ransom them, he must become poor. He took off his robes. His rings. His sandals. Beggar’s clothes wrapped his shoulders.

It was not enough.

He had to become less.

Powerless. Without glory. No honor. No comfort. Poor.

Still, he became less.

He gave up the ability to stand. He fell to his knees, unable to support himself any longer. His head fell to the side, his neck unable to hold it up any longer. He felt thirst and could not raise a cup to his lips. He gave up the power to even ask for a drink. He cried out.

The Prince needed someone to pick him up.

It was finally enough. He had become less. He had set aside so much. And now, at last, now he was able to begin his greatest quest, his greatest desire, his greatest payment.

He became one of us.

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

What Gospel Predominance?

Only the Gospel converts. Only the good news that Jesus loves sinners, of whom I am the worst – only that good news creates faith and strengthens faith. And on a night like Christmas Eve when we have more visitors and occasional members, that message must right forth. That doesn’t mean the Law shouldn’t be preached – we need to hear why the Gospel is so amazing, after all – but the Gospel must take center stage.

And really, isn’t that the center of Christmas? That baby is God! Here he is, stepped into his own creation, to this dirty, broken place, to be broken in our place. This Child will be stricken, smitten and afflicted. We will esteem him not. And yet, by his wounds are we healed!

So tell me this: For a preacher who revels in the Gospel, who marvels at the love of God for a broken sinner like me, why is it that my drafts for sermons on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are so law-heavy?

I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. (more…)

Today.

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

(Galatians 4:4-5)

Now.

The time had fully come. God had waited for just the right moment to send his Son into the world. He had a very specific mission for his Son: to buy back those who had rebelled against him. To buy back those who had chosen shame and fear and guilt over joy.

To buy back us.

God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the same law we’re under. He played by our rules to win us back.

He has taken away your guilt. That baby in Bethlehem grew up. He was on a mission from the moment not just of his birth but his conception. He was thinking of you. He was born to give you the joy he earned.

Your guilt is gone. Your shame has been removed. Your need no longer fear.

God has restored your joy.

But if Jesus came back… if he was born, if he died to take away all these terrible things, if he came back to restore joy… why is there still so much pain? Why do you still hurt?

Because he’s not done yet.

Not yet.

He will return. You will see him coming on the clouds. You will see him, the Child born in Bethlehem, the Child who rules forever… you will see him. He will come, and he will make all things new. He has taken away your guilt… and he will return to take you. And on that day the joy that is already yours will be made greater.

But not yet.

Soon.

Already your guilt is gone.

Already your shame is gone.

Already your fear is gone.

Soon your greatest joy will be restored to you.

Soon.

But not yet.

Now, Part 2

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

(Luke 2:8-20)

(more…)

Now.

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 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.

(Luke 2:1-7)

Now.

The time is now.

God has arranged the entire world for this. He’s put Caesar Augustus in power in Rome. He’s arranged the timing of the census so that Mary and Joseph travel together to Bethlehem, so the Child will be born there.

He has spent millennia, so excited about the one who would crush the serpent’s head, sharing more and more about the Child, the one who would restore Joy…

And tonight. Now. That child is here. A baby named Jesus. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, a child who will take the weight of our guilt and our shame and our fear and instead give us joy. Real joy.

The baby is here. The wait is over.

Not Yet, Part 3

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.

(Luke 1:26-38)

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