Saturday, December 25, 2010

Joy to the World! (Bonus video w/Third Day)

He has come!

Joy to the World--the LORD has come!

Jesus came on that night, and He's changed the world ever since.

"Let Earth receive her King".

He continues to change those who are open to Him.

"Let every heart prepare Him room..."

Will you?

What is the BEST way to celebrate Jesus' birth?

By opening our hearts to Him.

May your Christmas--and your life--be blessed with "Joy" today!

Blessed Christmas,


Friday, December 24, 2010

O Come, O Come Immanuel

The hope of Israel is the hope of the World!

It was promised centuries before, from the prophet Isaiah, and fulfilled in Jesus' birth!

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)

We believe that HE has come--Immanuel: God with us.

Our God is with us! If we turn our lives to Him in faith and obedience, He WILL save us. He WILL deliver us!

As you wind your Christmas eve down, take a few minutes to watch this beautiful depiction of this wonderful song, by Selah.

Blessed Christmas!


Mary's experience (Bonus video: Amy Grant: Breath of Heaven)

What would it have been like to be Mary?

Teenager. Committed to marry a good man (Joseph), but now carrying the Son of God, by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit!

She would sacrifice reputation, annonymity, the 'traditional' way of marriage and family she had looked forward to...she would be alone, in many ways...yet she was willing.

When the angel came to her and told her what was going on, what was her response?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her." (Luke 1:38)

Pretty incredible! The maturity, the spiritual strength, the willingness to follow--despite personal sacrifice...pretty incredible!

Yet, after she said 'yes', for the next 9 months, realizing that the Son of God was growing in her...and on that 1st Christmas night, giving birth to Him...her Lord, her Savior, her GOD--that must have been overwhelming and surreal!

Mary fades from most public writings after that..showing up occasionally, but she had done her main role. She had given birth to the Savior of the World! Now she would raise him with Joseph, and then let Him go.

All the while, she would 'treasured up' what happened and "pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19)

My head swims when I try to imagine what it would have been like to be present on that most amazing night in history...but when I consider what it would have been like to be Mary or Joseph...overwhelming!

May I someday grow up in my faith to respond to God like she did: Despite every cost you're asking me to pay, God: 'I am the Lord's servant'.

This Christmas, don't lose the realness of it. Take a moment to consider Mary's story...then watch this video.

Blessed Christmas,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Angels We Have Heard.. (Bonus: Third Day in concert!)

In the midst of the madness, I find myself almost fighting to get back to the simplicity of the Christmas narrative, found in the gospels.

The simplicity of God's love, which compelled Him to send His son.

The simplicity of Mary and Joseph's profound faith...and their willingness to say 'yes' to God, despite great personal sacrifice.

The simplicity of the manger--no headlines, no world leaders to welcome Him...just a smelly, lonely manger and animals to welcome the Son of God to this world.

The simplicity of the shepherds...outcasts, loners, nothing special...

YET, the angels appeared to THEM!

"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 that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

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

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.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." (Luke 2:8-18)

Angels announced the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of shepherds.

Simple. Un-fancy. Profound.

"Gloria in Excelsis Deo"--"Glory to God in the Highest", and Peace to His people on earth.

Christmas--the birth of the baby...the entrance of God's Son, was to bring God glory and Peace to those who would believe--the shepherds first, but others too--leading all the way up to US!

This Christmas, clear out the clutter. Take some time to get back to the simple message of Jesus' birth.

Listen, sing along, and respond, as Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds did--respond in FAITH!

Blessed Christmas,


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Baby Changes EVERYTHING!

The Baby Jesus...the Christ Child. We love this story.

It's nice that this baby was born, cattle were lowing, sheep were keeping Him warm...but the reality behind it was much more than a story, and THIS baby changed EVERYTHING--whether we're aware of it or not!

THIS baby was Lord of Creation, yet He became part of creation.
THIS baby was King of the world, yet He became subject to his parents.
THIS baby was Sovereign God, yet He subjected Himself to our limitations.


Because by THIS baby's life--and death--He would open up forgiveness to us. He would offer us new life--eternal life, and life 'to the full', here and now.

THIS baby changed EVERYTHING that day.

Have you let Him change YOU?

Blessed Christmas,



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cutting through the clutter

We talk about it every year...How we want to "Remember the real reason for the season", and how we want to "Keep Christ in Christmas".

Yet, I don't know about you, but I can honestly say that, for me, it's still a challenge.

It almost seems like everything in our culture conspires against that very thing. Our festivities, our expectations, our 'obligations'.

Yesterday, I was able to go shopping with my favorite person of all (my lovely wife), and then to go out shopping with our kids last night. While we got lots done, I can't honestly say we kept 'the Christmas spirit' while doing so.

I know I'm not alone in this.

Many of us struggle in this way.

Maybe it's unreasonable expectations...

I remember the "Norman Rockwell" book my dad had when I was growing always seemed like the people in the pictures were either having fun, being silly, or laughing. Some of the 'serious' pictures were serene, beautiful, peaceful.

Yeah..that sometimes doesn't jibe with my reality.

Don't get me wrong--we have genuinely good times, we enjoy each other, and have good memories--but my point is that, even in a family who makes it a point of emphasis to "Keep the real meaning of Christmas", it's easy to lose's easy for the values, pressures, and cares of this world to push their way in and for the love, peace, grace, and beauty of Jesus coming into this world gets pushed out.

Even if for a brief time.

So, what are we to do about it?

Keep re-focusing. Keep being gracious...keep forgiving...keep loving.

Ask God to forgive you for missing it, forgive each other for losing it, and center yourself again around the reality of Jesus.

Maybe it means less emphasis (again) on gifts and traditions, more emphasis on worship, prayer, and the Word of God. Not entirely surprising, not really anything 'new'...but important to keep in mind, anyway.

Blessed Christmas,


Friday, December 17, 2010

Magical Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve...I look forward to it. Always have.

When I was a kid, Christmas Eve meant excitement, anticipation, cookies and milk for Santa, hanging the stockings...and trying to get to sleep!

There was always that 'deeper magic', though--that sense that, when I looked up and saw a really bright star in the sky, it might have been something like they saw on the night Jesus was born. This was the deeper mystery...and it touched my heart in a deeper place.

Today, Christmas Eve is still special...but for different reasons. There are new traditions--new pajamas, KCC's Christmas Eve service, Lori's special recipe cocoa and cookies. The 'deeper magic' is even more real, though--cuz now I understand it!

" angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife...And Joseph named him Jesus.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,and we have come to worship him.” (Matthew 1:21--2:2)

The mystery and magic of that night make Christmas Eve very special. Sometimes children know it's magical, but they don't yet know why. My hope and prayer is that, in the same way that their hearts are 'strangely stirred' on Christmas the same way that mine was as a kid, their hearts will want to know more--about the REAL source of the 'magic'.

This Christmastime, may all of our responses be like those of the magi--we have come to worship Him!

Blessed Christmas,


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where Are You, Christmas?

If you've seen "The Grinch", you know this gets in your head, and just stays there!

I love this song--partly because it's Faith Hill (who is great), but partly because this song touches a place in my heart that longs for a simpler time...a time in which Christmas was 'magical'.

Why is it that we can 'miss' Christmas so easily--that the tug of consumerism and chaos seems to sidetrack us so quickly that, despite our best intentions, Christmas comes and goes and we realize that we've 'missed it' again.

More accurately, we've missed "HIM" again.

Christmas is, of course, the day we celebrate Jesus' birth. His Incarnation. God becoming flesh--Emmanuel, "God With Us".

"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:22-23)

The song asks the question, "Where are you Christmas? Why can't I find you?"...and I think I know the answer! We 'can't find' Christmas because we're looking in the wrong place.

The Grinch realizes this too--when he says (very well done by Jim Carrey, I might add) "Maybe Christmas doesn't...come from a store! Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

When he realizes this, his heart changes...and ours can too!

This Christmas, spend more time contemplating the love of God, which caused Him to send Jesus to Earth. Spend less time worrying about what to buy whom, and what you'll get from whom, and more time worshipping at the manger!

Jesus--the Savior, the Messiah--came into the world to show the love and grace of God in every way possible. THAT is "Christmas", and THAT is where we will "find" it.

May He be real in YOUR life today.

Blessed Christmas,


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Joy to the World!

Joy to the World!

Few songs capture the celebration of the Messiah's birth like this classic carol.

This song almost can't contain itself!

The writer (Isaac Watts) was a young man--a teenager--who just could not get over the fact that Jesus--the Savior--had come into the world, and now 'reigns' over the universe, and over our hearts.

Why "Joy"?

...because, as the Angels said, He had come to bring

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

HOW does He bring peace to us?

By paying the penalty for our sin, thus enabling the Father to forgive us, wipe our slate clean, and start working on us from within, conforming us more and more to His image, His will.

This represents Freedom! It represents Liberation!

No longer would mankind be a slave to sin. Now, because 'the Savior Reigns', we can know true holiness and righteousness. Now we have the power--through our relationship with Jesus Christ--to overcome sin! Now we have the opportunity to live our lives the way they were meant to be lived--in God's will!

"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death." (Romans 8:1-2)

You are free!

Through Christ, you can live that new life!

Joy to the World!

Blessed Christmas,


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Preparations--It's a WONDERFUL Life!

Ah, Christmas!

It's no secret: I LOVE this season!

The movies, the decorations, the songs...SO cool!

The most important thing, of course, is the story of Jesus' birth! Those who were able to attend "The Baby Changes Everything", KCC's Christmas program last weekend, know this...and we'll certainly talk about it over the next couple of weeks!

One of the movies I wanted to start these "Christmas Preparations" with was "It's a Wonderful Life", however. Not on overtly "Christian" movie (in fact, the theology is pretty rediculous), but it's a movie worth noting anyway...because it is too easy to forget the truth of the movie's title in this season of 'plenty'.

We are so surrounded with the message which says, in essence, that "If you love someone, you'll buy them lots of stuff", that it can positively depress those of us who can't buy much--or anything! If we're not careful, the 'spirit of this world', can blind us to the truth: That the value of a man's life lies in his relationship with those outside of himself--God, his family, and his friends.

Not only that, but this movie reminds us that it is in loving others--investing ourselves in them--that we make real 'investments' that will last. With every selfless act, we're putting a 'deposit' in the bank of humanity and relationships--and that's a good thing!

This movie also reminds us that the people who are TRULY 'rich' in this world are not those who have 'stuff', but those who have friends!

So, this Christmas season, don't get sucked into the "buy more stuff" mindset...instead rededicate yourself to investing in your relationships!

In this way, you--and those around you--will be blessed!

"Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

Blessed Christmas,