Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Future of Christmas

It's nearly impossible to miss Christmas. Which is interesting to think about now as we are starting to take down ornaments off the tree, and taking down our lights outside that took me forever to put up!! But think back to Thanksgiving-Christmas was already everywhere!!
Radio stations play non-stop carols, people put blow up snowmen in their yard, your weekly newspaper triples in size with all the Christmas sales going on and yes, people seem just a little bit happier.
But way, way back there was a time where most people around the world missed Christmas. They flat out missed Christmas. They didn't celebrate anything. And yes, I'm talking about the first Christmas. The Christmas Day where God came to be one of us. That starry night as shepherds and wisemen huddled most likely in the back of some cave to marvel at the sight of God in the form of a baby. But even with the utmost importance of Christ's birth-people missed it.
Even with the prophecies surrounding the Messiah explaining a virgin's birth and even the destination, people seemed distracted-even the highly religious. It was a spiritually dark time in Israel. People were more worried about pleasing an oppressive Roman government than pleasing God in waiting for the Messiah. I can't help but compare that time in history to our culture today.
We've obsessed ourselves so much with pleasing a government and pleasing others (hoping to be pleased by others) that God has been shoved to the backseat.
I think this is where things need to change. This dilemma that we face brought about a thought in my mind and I've given it the title-The Future of Christmas.
No, it's not in danger of simply going away or moving to December 26th. It made me think about why we celebrate Christmas and what we need to start emphasizing. I believe the Future of Christmas is that we need to complete the Message of Christmas. Jesus was not just born, He lived, He died, He rose, and He is coming again. Yes celebrate Christ's birth, yes-read the birth story to your kids, yes-spend time with friends and family, yes-go ahead and buy each other weird gifts. All well and good, but let's start to realize that Jesus didn't stay a baby, He didn't stay in the manger. He had work to do.

We need to be watching and working until our Lord comes again. We should be using the days and years of our lives to serve the Lord-and to look for every opportunity to tell people about Jesus. The Future of Christmas for the church must mean we start taking advantage of opportunities.
So yes, Christmas has come and gone for this year, but the coming of Christ is happening again. We won’t remember the gifts we received on Thursday.
People may have missed the first Christmas, but we don’t want to miss His return.
The Future of Christmas? It’s simple. Don’t just be ready for December 25, be ready for Christ himself. 


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Christmas

Mary Did You Know? You will now be humming that song for the next week and it's all my fault! Usually around this time of year I always ponder just how much Mary and Joseph knew about Jesus. Yes, the angels came and told them some specifics:
But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. Luke 1:30-33
But any Dad who has ever witnessed the birth of a child nows that once that kid is born, you forget everything!! Where you parked the car, what name you picked out, what day it is, etc. Everything is wrapped around holding a child!! I'm guessing in that moment the angel encounters went out the window, possibly even forgetting what was foretold about the Messiah's life in the book of Isaiah-'He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter...'
All of that was forgotten in this moment-everything was about holding baby Jesus in their arms! And in that moment, for that time, I think it was right that they celebrated this birth. It was right that for that moment Mary and Joseph couldn't have cared less about shepherds, wise men, animals, being in a cave. It was time for these new parents to hold their new baby. But as we know moments come and go.

So what should our mindset be for this Christmas? The birth has come and gone. There are those who believe they have found the cave where the Christ was born. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But there sure aren't any shepherds there. It's filled with tourists. 
I believe celebrating this Christmas means we look at the total story. Why? Because we have it!! Yes our Messiah was born. The savior of the world! But we must team up that celebration with the understanding of why He came. He did not come to win baby picture contests! He came to grow as a man, to teach us how to live, to die on a cross for the penalty not of his sin but mine. And then to rise from death to show me that this life is not the end, but eternity awaits. Death has lost it's grip on me. 

So for this Christmas...I will celebrate. The birth, the life, the death, the resurrection of my savior-Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What's in a Name?

This is the time of the year where names matter.
We have joined the army of families that like to put together a mass mailer Christmas Card. Usually it contains a picture of my super cute family in the woods, or in the middle of snow. Or maybe even a picture with Santa but sadly this was the first year that Carlee wanted to have nothing to do with him. Maybe it was because we stood in line for over an hour to see a man in a red suit. I love being a dad.
My crafty wife takes these pictures and puts them together in a cute collage and then we send them out to family and friends that we aren't able to see often. To do that we need names (and addresses). Because I know how much they love getting Christmas cards. We tape ours all over our kitchen cabinets. And if you know me-I love clutter!! (That's called sarcasm.)
But names matter. My name matters because it represents who I am. Your name matters because it represents who you are. This time of year, every single person on the face of the planet is faced with one name-Jesus. Even today when Christ is being torn out of Christmas-we are faced with the name of Jesus. And yes I am that guy that when you say Happy Holidays-I will yell Merry Christmas back at you.
When you look at Isaiah 9:6 you see 5 titles for Jesus that I believe can be 5 gifts for you this year.
His Name is: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Wonderful-Because Jesus is wonderful he takes away the dullness of your life. Is your life dull? Are you bored? Look at the name of Jesus.
Counselor-Jesus will take care of the decisions of your life! You still need to make them, but He will guide you in which way to go. Do you have any decisions to make right now? Look at the name of Jesus.
Mighty God-This will take care of the demands of your life. Have you felt powerless lately? Have you felt that there is too much weight on your shoulders? His power-not yours-is what you need. Look at the name of Jesus.
Everlasting Father-Jesus will take care of your future. Have you ever stressed about your future? Do you spend more time worrying about tomorrow than realizing the blessings of today? Do you want assurance? Jesus wants to assure you that he has you in his hands. Look at the name of Jesus.
Prince of Peace-Jesus wants to take care of the disturbances of your life. Is your life filled with friction, hardship and difficulty? No? Ummm-try answering again. We all have it! How about peace that surpasses all human understanding? Look at the name of Jesus.

Names are important. Jesus' name is the most important. In your time of need say the name of Jesus.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Season of Stress

What have we done with Christmas?
Most likely as you're reading this you are in the middle of about 10 emails, texts and phone calls trying to figure out how you will spend your days on Christmas and around Christmas. This is the time of year that we become abnormally stressed out!! Why?? Because our families are weird. Yes, your family is weird. My family is weird.
We watch tv and find these horrible commercials of a family waking up on Christmas morning, fire ablaze, mom and dad sipping on coffee, kids all smiles ripping paper off useless toys and they appear to have been in their pajamas all day. They continue to hug and kiss one another, sing a couple carols in perfect harmony, and then take a joyous walk in the snow. Yuck.
Sometimes we watch these Hallmark moments and wonder what is wrong with our families. Why can't we join around the dinner table and like all the food and tell jokes that people will actually laugh at...it's so funny...it almost brings us to tears.
If we are consumed with places to be, things to buy, people to see what are we really celebrating?

Sadly I believe we have turned the season of Christmas into a season of stress.

So what needs to be turned around? We need to realize that the greatest preparation for Christmas is already done!! It's not you with that great glazed ham recipe or finding the best gift for your uncle that you know will make him laugh so hard he pulls something!! No-the message, the gift, the reason for Christmas has ALREADY COME!! It didn't come early or late-it was right on time.
Jesus has come which means your Christmas plans are already made. The celebration has already been prepared.

Matthew 1:16, '...and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.'

If you go further back in this passage of Matthew you'll find liars, adulterers, prostitutes and even murderers. Jesus came from a family full of people who had made a mess of their lives, and yet the grace of God still worked through them. No matter the state of your family believe that God can work through them and you. Jesus came to die for you and for them. Why? Because we needed it. Because we have sinned and fallen short.
So if the green bean casserole doesn't turn out-don't worry.
If you can't find a gift for that teenage cousin-don't worry.
If you're late for dinner-don't worry.
If your kids make you crazy on Christmas morning-don't worry.

Your Christmas isn't ruined. Just know the Message of Christmas is about the Messiah that has already come-Jesus Christ.