Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Churh...at Home!

Christmas Church at Home
December 25, 2011

We at KCC hope that you and your family are having a great Christmas celebration! Wherever you are, if Jesus is in your heart by faith, you can have ‘church’—especially as you are able to join with other family members and friends.

We wanted to put something together for your reflection, enjoyment, and participation which might help you to remember the True reason to celebrate today, and to give Him your worship as you do so.

Let us encourage you: If you have access to a computer, check out the links. Take the time to discuss the questions. Take turns reading the passages out loud…in this way, we believe you will find yourself moved, reflecting on God’s love for you, thankful and humbled before Him.

May God bless you and your family.

Merry, blessed Christmas!

Pastor Dave and the KCC Staff

To begin, check this out:
(copy and paste links in separate browser):

(youtube: Linus Christmas monologue)

Discuss your answers to these questions:

Do you have a ‘best friend?’ Who is it?

Has your best friend ever been nice to you when other people weren’t?

Have you ever had someone stick with you when other people turned their backs on you?

Have you ever had tough circumstances in life, when a close friend was a welcome relief?

Have you ever been the one to stay by a friends’ side through difficult circumstances?

What is the value of a friend who is “WITH” you—in every way?

Read these accounts of Jesus’ birth:
(Suggestion: Take turns reading each paragraph.)

(Matthew 1:18-24)
“18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancĂ©, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
20 As he considered this, an 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. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
(“Jesus” means “The Lord saves”.)
22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
23 “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.’”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.”


How hard do you think it was for Joseph to believe the Angel and marry Mary?

What was his response to God’s message to him?

(Luke 1:26-38)
“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.”

Watch this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezwp10egu-c

(The Nativity Story, part 5/10, the clip begins at the 1:13 and goes to the 6:30 mark.)


Why would it have been difficult for Mary to follow this call?

What was her response?

What name were they supposed to give Him? What did it mean?

In the passage from Matthew, the angel said (or implied) that this child would be the actual Son of God.
(See Matthew 1:20, 23 and Luke 1:32, 34)

According to the Scripture, what does “Immanuel” mean?
(See Matthew 1:23)
Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOQRtYYERGo (Amy Grant: Breath of Heaven w/Footage from The Nativity Story)
Jesus’ birth—and the miraculous way it happened—meant that He was literally the “Son of God”. He was partly ‘God’, partly ‘human’ (because Mary, his mother, was human).
He was—in a very real sense—“God in the flesh”. (As one writer referred to Him: “God with skin and bones”.)

That meant that God was—while Jesus was alive, at least, “God With Us.”


How would it help you to know that Jesus—as a human—could relate to some of the struggles that you go through?

Would it help you to know that Jesus understands your difficult days, your hurts, and even your temptations? How?

Colossians 1:15 says that “Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God.”

Hebrews 4:15 says that He “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same [trials and temptations] we do, yet he did not sin.”

So…if Jesus was “God in the flesh”, or “God with us”…and if He still IS with us and is still “saving His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), how can that help you?

If all true, how does that change the way you think of Christmas?

(youtube: The Nativity Story - "Come and Worship" Bebo Norman)

Finally, sing this song together
(or listen to it at the link below, or on a cd of your own.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNL8yHomU2s&feature=related (Youtube: Amy Grant Little Town)

O Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
Watch this and sing along!
(Joy to the World, Chris Tomlin, Joy-Unspeakable Joy)

Finally, close in prayer, thanking God for sending Jesus to be “God with Us”, and ask Him to remind us always that He IS with us—always!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Best Gift EVER!

What was the best Christmas Gift YOU ever got?

For me it had to be the GI Joe Headquarters-- complete with searchlight and morse-code station; or maybe the GI Joe Training Tower, with the 'zip line" and another search light.

There were some REALLY good gifts I got when I was a kid.

Now, our kids (like most) are asking for more 'technology-driven' games, etc.

What will be their 'best-ever gifts'?

I'm realizing, as I've gotten (ahem!) older...that the gifts that I thought were the best really weren't. In fact, I got rid of them a few years later. Some were broken, others just unused.

The gifts that have stuck with me?


I am thankful for both of my parents, my wonderful wife and kids, my siblings, and my friends--some of YOU!

These relationships--with the love, commitment and faithfulness they have, are the things that really matter.

Come to think of it, the Most Important Relationship I have--that with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ--is the most long-term, committed, faithful relationship I could hope for!

Newsflash: Christmas is 10 days away!

As the Christmas season winds down, I'm SURE there will be frenzy! I'm SURE we'll be doing some last minute shopping, baking, etc.

I'm pretty sure it'll be hectic at times.

But I'm equally sure that the best gift I hope for this year is to be near those I love, to spend real time with them, to enjoy them, and to direct each other to the God who loves us.

I hope and pray that we don't lose that focus within the next 10 days...and that you and your family and friends embrace and appreciate the 'gift' that you are to one another!

Take some time to share some love with each other this Christmas!

Remember Jesus' own words: "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35)

Blessed Christmas,


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Song Devo: "Some Children See Him"--with video!

This song was sung wonderfully by Brian Drews and danced to beautifully by Rachel Johson in Kalamazoo Community Church's Christmas program, "Rediscover Christmas" last weekend. I am taking each song as an opportunity to reflect on the events of Christ's birth, and our response.

Christmas--the Birth of Jesus, the Christ.

This is one of the few events in history which unites the entire world!

There was probably no way that the people involved in the Christmas narrative found in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1 could have possibly known what significance that birth would have.

Granted, the angel had told Mary...
"You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.
He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.
And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”(Luke 1:30-33)

...and that same angel had told Joseph...
“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[which means "The Lord saves"], for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

...but there's just no way they could have ever imagined that in the year 2011, people all over the world would celebrate that baby's birth!

Yet...we do!
...and it unites those who love and follow Him all over the world.

True, most children 'see him' like they are (as the song says). Factually, of course, we know that He was Jewish, and therefore looked like a Jewish baby of the day.

Yet, the important thing (and the point of the song) is that we each see Him as Lord, and we'll see like we are, "but bright with heavenly grace, and filled with holy light".

So what is to be our response?

The song tells us ..."Oh, lay aside each earthly thing, and with thy heart as offering, Come worship Christ the infant King"!

THAT is our response!

No matter what we look like, no matter what part of the world we're in, our response to the events of Christmas is WORSHIP and SURRENDER!

What a beautiful gift to give Him--the Christ child--today.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Song Devo: "Christmas Time Is Here"--With cool video!

What a wonderful time of year this is!

It often seems as though people are more friendly at this time of year (ok, except for the WalMart pepper-sprayers!), and there's just a different kind of 'spirit' in the air.

Christmas Time is here!

In Kalamazoo Community Church's recent "Rediscover Christmas" program, one of the songs (sung beautifully by Amanda Laplace) was "Christmas Time is Here" by Bebo Norman. (NOT the Charlie Brown version!)

What does this song say? Essentially that we have the option--WE have the choice--to be one of those who spread Christmas Cheer! The song is essentially a wish for blessing for all--that we wish Peace to others, Hope for the Hopeless, and Laughter for those in tears. It's a commitment to "lay our weapons down" and let our "walls disappear". Then we will actually experience peace--because "Christmas Time is Here"!

This is a nice sentiment, but only a couple of things can really make it a reality:

First, the peace, hope, and laughter only come BECAUSE of Jesus, born that first Christmas--so draw close to Him!

Second, we will only experience these things as WE take responsibility to choose to be positive, encouraging and hopeful.

There are MANY negative people in this world--we can be one of them very easily, but we don't HAVE to be!

Instead, you and I can determine to be one of those who spread Christmas Cheer--sincerely expressing our hope and prayers for peace, hope, laughter and love for others at Christmastime.

There is a LOT of attention right now (as every year) about whether we say 'Happy Holidays' or "Merry Christmas". I certainly like the latter, rather than the former, but much more importantly is the REALITY that you and I can direct people to "The Prince Of Peace"--Jesus! When they come to know Him, a whole new world will be opened for them. That would be a great Christmas wish!

As the Scriptures say "He Himself is our peace..." (Ephesians 2:14)

So, do I wish you "Merry Christmas"? Sure!
Do I hope for your "Peace, hope, laughter", and so on? Absolutely!

But more importantly, I echo the words of the Apostle Paul:

"I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)

THAT is my Christmas wish for you...and for all of us!

Blessed Christmas,


Monday, December 5, 2011

O Come All Ye Faithful

The Music of Christmas--

Can be a POWERFUL aid in helping us to actually quiet our lives, focus our minds, and WORSHIP Christ,the Lord.

The song, O Come All Ye Faithful, is a call to do just that--to get up out of our seats, to pull ourselves away from the holiday madness, and to "Adore Him--Christ, the Lord"!

In fact, this song doesn't only call us--the "faithful", but also the "choirs of angels"...it's calling all of Creation to Worship Christ the Lord! It's a party! It's a celebration!

It reminds me that all of creation--mankind, angelic beings, plants, animals--all living things on the Earth--are presently subjected to the curse, because of sin. One day all of it will be delivered, and all living things will bow down to worship this "Christ, the Lord".

As we read in Romans 8:
"For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. (Romans 8:18-21)

What a celebration THAT will be!

Yet, in the meantime it is up to us!

Those of us who know "Christ the Lord" are called to greet Him, to welcome Him, and to worship Him.

"Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
word of the Father, now in flesh appearing:
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord."

At Christmastime, let's party!
...but let's party in worship of the One who came to Earth on that day!

O Come, let us adore Him!

Blessed Christmas,