Archive for the ‘Christmas Thoughts’ Category

How do you put Christ at the CENTER of Christmas? How do you keep Jesus the REASON for the season?

We love to decorate our house for Christmas. Inside & out, it’s completely transformed. Sometimes I swear we need a PODS storage unit just to hold all of our Christmas stuff.

  • Inside = snowmen, garland with lights, trees, animated fiber-optic Christmas village, etc.
  • Outside = Entire yard covered in lights. Featuress Icicle motion lights, Twinkle lights on trees, inflatables, Snowflakes, Candy Canes, etc. We even have Santa pulling reindeer skiers on a lake of lights, It is an all-LED display that we spend a couple weeks on.

Our display is so crazy, we even had to add extra outlets just to make sure we had enough ‘juice’ to power our yard. It just may be one of the FEW SITES VISIBLE from OUTER SPACE.

Well, a couple years ago, a storm came through town and the rain tripped all the breakers except one.

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Sometimes, God has a way of reminding us of what’s most important. In the light of the illuminated Nativity, we made two observations:

  1. We couldn’t believe how BRIGHT it was when NOTHING ELSE was lit.
  2. We couldn’t believe how much it STOOD OUT when we removed all the CLUTTER.

Now, we actually rig up our lights differently. Today, each dimmer is timed to turn off so that eventually, each night, only the nativity is lit two hours longer than the rest.

One of my favorite verses of the Christmas story, is when the angel appeared to Joseph and said:

Matthew 1:21 (NIV) 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.”

This is a simple reminder not only that Jesus came into the world, but that he gave his life for our sins. That is the reason for the season.

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JOY

Posted: January 1, 2016 in Christmas Thoughts

What brings you JOY this season? I think that’s a good question for us to consider, especially in light of the Christmas season.

In 2015, I had the privilege of spending my Thanksgiving leading Christ’s Church of the Valley’s mission trip to Costa Rica. For me it was a great reminder that life’s pleasure has nothing to do with possessions. There were several highlights of our trip, but here was the stovetop where most of our meals were cooked. The propane was pretty expensive, so they used it sparingly and cooked many of our meals over an open flame.

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I also met a little boy named Jefferson. He blew out his only pair of shoes playing soccer with us, but he made sure to keep the shoelace because he knew his mother could put it to good use.

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Yet despite what they lacked in some of the comforts and conveniences that we enjoy here in our country, I never heard any complaining. In fact, they were some of the happiest people I’ve met.

What is it that brings you JOY? I was reminded of a passage from the very first Christmas…

Luke 2:8-11 (NIV) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

I don’t want us to miss the words from the angel in vs. 10 = “GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY.” It’s not hard to look around and see plenty of BAD NEWS.

  • Look around at what happened this year in San Bernadino (mass shooting).
  • Look around and compare what you have (or what you don’t have) in relation to others.
  • Look around your table and notice someone who’ll be missing from your holiday celebration. My dad passed away Nov. 20th, so my family and I are wrestling with this even as I type these words.

Today, I think we need a constant reminder…of the GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY the angel talked about.

Jesus has been born to US!  He is our SAVIOR. His PRESENCE gives us PEACE. His PROMISE gives us CONFIDENCE. His sacrifice gave us ETERNAL LIFE. His FORGIVENESS gives us FREEDOM (from guilt, shame, fear).

He really IS the GOOD NEWS. He really does bring JOY.

It’s my hope this year that you’ll experience the JOY of knowing Jesus.

One of my favorite Christmas films of all time is “A Christmas Story”. You know the one I’m talking about, with Ralphie & his Red Rider BB Gun. Apparently, I’m not alone. According to the web, it has been ranked as the 3rd most-watched Christmas film of all-time, and has been seen by millions of people around the world.

This past week, I learned that a man in Cleveland bought the house the movie was filmed in, and had it completely restored to it’s original appearance in the film. He also turned it into a museum, complete with several props used in the movie. But that’s not all…each year, a person can  bid on a 2 night stay in the house on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

Package (4 people) included:

  • Two night stay in the Christmas Story House
  • Bunny suits for your entire group
  • Secret Santa Decoder pens
  • A keepsake leglamp delivered in it’s trademark FRAGILE crate.
  • And a picture of you holding the Red Rider BB gun prop used in the film.

Interesting, huh? What was most interesting to me was that this year, the winning bid closed out at $8,700!!–and that did NOT include the airfare to/from Cleveland.

Some people will literally go to great lengths to insert themselves into the Christmas Story.

But God went to great lengths to insert himself into OUR STORY.

Over 1000 years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold:

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (which means “GOD WITH US”)

God would fulfill his long-held promise to live with us when Jesus was born.  But Jesus was born with a PURPOSE…

John 3:16,17 (NIV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son. That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send his son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

This season, we remember not only HOW he came, but WHY he came. That is the real story of Christmas.

The film that everyone is talking about this weekend is the new STAR WARS movie: “The Force Awakens.” The hype around this movie has been unprecedented. I’m sure you’ve noticed this in your Christmas shopping—there’s seemingly a STAR WARS everything! From toilet paper to toothpaste, it’s an all-out marketing blitz. On facebook, many of our self respecting adult friends probably have their profile pics featuring a costume or a lightsaber. Even the AZ Dept. of Transportation has joined the hype through their creative signs posted all over the Valley.  The movie has easily eclipsed the biggest opening weekend of any movie in history, topping $100million dollars in the US alone.

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Yet over 2000 years ago, the most significant event in human history took place without hardly any fanfare.

In fact, the prophet Isaiah foretold…

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 

The Bible tells us that on that night Jesus was born, the town of Bethlehem was packed with people. Because of the census, the town swelled with 5x it’s normal population. The streets were crowded with people hustling about. While just outside the city, in a quiet manger–Jesus, the Savior of the world was born.

Isaiah 53:5,6 (NIV) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Yet on that night in Bethlehem, no one realized that an event with ETERNAL IMPLICATIONS was taking place. No one stopped. No one paid attention. They were AROUND this great story of God unfolding at their doorstep, but they were caught UNAWARE. They missed Christmas.

I wonder sometimes if we don’t suffer the same tendency. Amidst our the hustling about, if we’re not careful, we’ll MISS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT in human history.

Our hope is that through Christmas, we will AWAKEN to God’s redemptive story being played out through his son Jesus Christ.  May we become AWARE of the love and forgiveness we experience through his sacrifice for us on the cross. And may the hope offered through Jesus allow us to COME ALIVE in the way that we live, serve, and give.