All posts tagged: Christmas

What a Difference Love Can Make

First Church was a stately, old church located in downtown Central City. She had a rich heritage along with the other churches clustered around Church Circle. And she, along with the other downtown churches, had her share of people who were always dropping by because they needed something. The “regulars” came by just like clockwork. Louie was always drunk; I mean eyes-matted-together-slobbering drunk. His still being alive was a miracle in itself. Hank was one of the most colorful people to come through our doors. I looked forward to passing by him on the sidewalk because he always cussed me out—to music. He cussed everybody out to music. He had one of those contraptions around his neck that would hold a harmonica, and he walked up and down the streets playing the harmonica and his guitar—until he saw you. The harmonica would come out of his mouth and out would come some of the most vile language you ever heard—all set to music. He could shred. Hank had come from Nashville. He had begun to …

Remembering Christmas in the New Year

I love Christmas! It is an incredible time of year. Normally I’m not allowed to bring the outside in, but every year Karen is so excited to go with our girls and cut down a tree and decorate it with them. We bring out decorations that have been boxed up for 11 months and spread them all over our house. We bake special treats, sing seasonal songs, and get together with family. I enjoy giving things to others and seeing how it makes them happy. Watching my girls open presents and get excited about simple things like socks and doll clothes makes it all the more fun. A couple of years ago, Reese, my oldest daughter, received toys for a doll from a grandparent when we saw them before Christmas Day, the day she was getting the doll. I don’t think she put two and two together, but if she had, she would have been able to see what was coming. This is Christmas for us. It’s like a gift you get on Christmas Eve …

Who is This King Called Jesus?

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days. – Micah 5:2 The long awaited ruler from Bethlehem mentioned in Micah is Jesus of Nazareth. He was born in Bethlehem and the angel testified, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). As you know, this Jesus was a different kind of King. But still, how could the angel say Jesus’ kingdom would never end, when we know Jesus died? If you go to Israel today, you won’t see Jesus sitting on any throne. If we look at the Gospel of John, John does not include an account of the birth of Jesus. However, we see John the Baptist give a stunning proclamation when he sees Jesus: Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – John …

A Quiet Night for Grace to Arrive

During the heavy snow in December 2017, I was at work. To say the shift was busy would be an understatement. Of course, with all the snow on the ground, traveling was much slower than normal. Luckily, there were very few people on the road. Most folks had heeded the warnings to just stay home, often with no power. Once we would get as far as the fire engine could go, we would leave it behind and continue on foot to our destination. Without the chaos of people milling around, without the lights emanating from every house, and even without the noise of our truck in the background, our trip to our destination was always so serene. The only sound was us talking, the wind blowing the tree branches, and the snow crunching under our feet. The only lights were from our flashlights, transformers arcing off as the power company worked feverishly to restore power, and the glow coming up from the blanket of white. My favorite modern Christmas song is “Winter Snow” by Audrey …

Are You Allowing Christmas to be Personal?

In the life group Bailey and I are in, there is a couple who just had a baby. Over the past nine months we have experienced the excitement of their announcing they were pregnant, the gender reveal (in true mermaid fashion if you know Kyndel), the baby growing, baby showers, and finally the arrival of Miss Noël! Leading up to her birth, we talked a lot about her, how life would be different for their family and what we as a life group would do to support the new parents. Then, Noël was born. Everything we talked about was now in the hands of her parents. Noël was now real, not just an idea, but a person we could hold, touch, and embrace. I believe the same holds true when we experience Jesus. At some point in our lives, we  heard about Jesus, whether it was in church, small group, a casual conversation, a court room, a movie… We talked about this Jesus, but we didn’t really experience Him until we entered into a personal …

The Truth Will Set You Free

My family’s favorite holiday is Christmas. We enjoy the giving and receiving of gifts, but for us, it is much more than that. We love the experience: the music, movies, food, cooking, hot chocolate… Out of all these things, music has the greatest impact. We even have an unwritten rule about Christmas music: between January 1 and July 1, no one is to play more than a few Christmas songs in a row. After July 1, it is fair game. By Halloween, more often than not, Christmas music is in full swing. My boys have developed their own taste in Christmas music. One of their favorite songs is “Christmas with a capital C” by Go Fish with comedian Brad Stein. Stein talks about how we have watered down the Christmas season to avoid offending people. Listening to this song each year makes me think about the way we as people try to weaken truth. We try to make truth a concept that can be taken piecemeal. Take the phrase absolute truth. Isn’t it a redundant …

The Good Shepherd In Your Darkest Hours

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields near by, guarding their flocks of sheep. – Luke 2:8 I’ve been thinking about these shepherds lately and finding myself identifying with them. I picture them awake and alert, in the dark of night, guarding. Why are they awake and doing this when the rest of the world sleeps? Because they understood what lurked in the dark. They understood predators exist and danger is much closer then the sheep realize. Make no mistake, the reality of what the shepherd was is much different than what is portrayed in stained glass. They were rough, vigilant, capable of violence, and realists. To them, Christmas Eve was just another dark night.   I worked night shift as a police officer for a little over nine years straight, 6:00 PM – 6:00 AM.  The night shift has a way of sharpening you, for a variety of reasons. But there is also something about that “late” night hour; the period of time way after midnight and well before dawn.  It seems to …

What Do You Do With This Worldly Tradition?

As a kid, I spent every Christmas Eve looking out my window wondering if I would see Santa. My mom would try to make me go to sleep, but I would secretly stay awake trying to see or hear Santa come into our home where he would leave our presents. It was the same story every year… I would fall asleep and then wake up in the middle of the night, sneak out of my room and go into the living room to see all of the presents. My confusion of how Santa got into my house without me noticing was quickly eradicated by my fascination with all the presents under the tree. It truly was a kid’s dream. I got several amazing presents, things I wished and hoped for and even asked Santa for when we went to the shopping mall. But there was something missing in my life during all of those years – a relationship with Jesus Christ. My family did an excellent job reminding me about Santa and how he was …

Gaining Perspective on What Matters Most

During the Christmas Season, we read a lot about Jesus’s birth. I love the birth story in Luke 2! But there is another birth story we find in Luke 1, that is of John the Baptist. John’s birth finally happened after Elizabeth and Zechariah had probably given up hope of ever having children as they were both pretty old. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. – Luke 1:58 There was much rejoicing and celebrating for the arrival of this new baby.  Everyone couldn’t wait to know what they would name it.  But when Elizabeth said, “His name is John!” everyone was shocked (Luke 1:60).  How could that be his name? He should be named after his father.  It’s interesting how their friends and relatives “knew” what was best for them.  I don’t think anyone meant any discontent by the suggestion, but they didn’t know the whole story. We see back in verse 13, an angel had told Zechariah he was to name his child John. So …

Waiting with Great Anticipation For The Savior

Can you remember the anticipation and excitement you felt as a child waiting for Christmas? You saw Christmas lights popping up around town, you heard parents whispering about gifts to come, and you counted down the days until Christmas morning would finally arrive. This nervous anticipation caused you to be on your best behavior as you yearned for Christmas day. Before the birth of Jesus, mankind was waiting for the Messiah or promised anointed one to come and save them from their sins. Prophecies were written 200 to 1000 years before Jesus was born and the people anxiously anticipated His arrival. They knew prophecies such as Isaiah 7:14, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Because of Micah 5:2, they knew the Christ would come from Bethlehem; “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of …