Month: December 2019

“Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

When you think about the way our culture celebrates the birth of a royal infant, who will do little more in life than fill a figurative or symbolic role, it makes the circumstances of the birth of Jesus seem even more stark to us. The paparazzi cover our magazines and web pages with pictures of the expectant princess-Mom, and we get giggly over the possibility of the name of the baby.

And yet, when you think about it, no baby’s birth in human history still has the power to snarl traffic in New York City, Washington DC, Tokyo, San Paulo in Brazil and London as does the birth of Jesus. While the world of His day on earth slept through His advent to us, it is wide awake today; even those who claim no belief in Jesus whatsoever. We cannot ignore the matchless name of Jesus.

But it just reminds us again that God loves to show up in small things; in the things ignored or despised by people; in the marginalized people; in the downtrodden. And He loves to do great things in places nobody has really thought about… places like Bethlehem. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah said, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” And at Christmas we remember that the greatest came from the least of people and the smallest of places.

“Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

“And you, Bethlehem, Ephratha, though you are least among the people of Judah, from you will come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2

Merry Christmas 2019

“When the time was right, God sent forth His Son….”
(Galatians 4:4)

Christmas Day is here. The waiting. The anticipation. The preparation. The season of Advent we have been through the past weeks is a period designed for waiting. Not our favorite thing to do, I’ll grant you. But as the people of Israel awaited the first advent (coming) of a Messiah Who would deliver those who were “walking in darkness…” so the church now awaits the second Advent of our Savior.

Christmas is, according to one author, a “delightful disruption” of our ordinary life.
Certainly that is true. We are disrupted by trips to the mall, battles in traffic, visits from relatives, and extra meals to prepare. There are work disruptions, and unless you work in retail, December is one of the least productive months of the year for many corporations (well, unless you’re Amazon)!

Obviously this “disruption” did not begin with us. The first Christmas was anything but quiet. It brought anxiety, fear, and unanticipated problems of travel and lodging for Joseph and Mary. Hardly the “Silent Night” we sometimes sing about!

A few years back, we were visiting in Istanbul Turkey and meeting with some missionaries who serve there, and some Iranian pastors who were literally smuggled out of their country to meet with us. One evening as we headed back to a very comfortable hotel, we walked past a family of four…Dad, Mom, and two small children, sleeping while propped up and leaning against the hotel wall and covered with a thin blanket.

They were refugees from Syria. The dogs and cats of Istanbul were treated more humanely than these people. When we saw their plight, several of us went in to the hotel and emptied our store of traveling food and some clothing to give the family.

I can’t help but think about Mary and Joseph appearing the same way to the people of Bethlehem. Without relatives to house them, they were forced to seek lodging from the sole travelers inn, which had no room available to house them. They were forced to seek refuge and a modicum of privacy in a stable meant for animals. It was there our Savior entered the world.
“How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.” Christmas began as a “holy disruption” of a young couple’s life, and a total disruption of their life plan. I think the pattern of disruption is still followed today.

Your Christmas this year may be disrupted by relatives who are coming or by those who can’t. We are disrupted by socials, shopping, and more shopping. The inconvenience of this “delightful disruption” may not seem “delightful” to you. But in reality, it was God’s plan all along that every person’s “ordinary” existence be disrupted by His Son.

I hope the distractions and disruptions of these days does not turn to frustration for you. It can. But please don’t miss the reminder in Christmas that God came to ‘delightfully disrupt” every human life.

Have you allowed Him to disrupt yours?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Do not despise the day of small beginnings.

When you think about the way our culture celebrates the birth of a royal infant, who will do little more in life than fill a figurative or symbolic role, it makes the circumstances of the birth of Jesus seem even more stark to us. The paparazzi cover our magazines and web pages with pictures of the expectant princess-Mom, and we get giggly over the possibility of the name of the baby.

And yet, when you think about it, no baby’s birth in human history still has the power to snarl traffic in New York City, Washington DC, Tokyo, San Paulo in Brazil and London as does the birth of Jesus. While the world of His day on earth slept through His advent to us, it is wide awake today; even those who claim no belief in Jesus whatsoever. We cannot ignore the matchless name of Jesus.

But it just reminds us again that God loves to show up in small things; in the things ignored or despised by people; in the marginalized people; in the downtrodden. And He loves to do great things in places nobody has really thought about… places like Bethlehem. The Old Testament prophet Zechariah said, “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.” And at Christmas we remember that the greatest came from the least of people and the smallest of places.

“Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”


“And you, Bethlehem, Ephratha, though you are least among the people of Judah, from you will come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2

Veiled in Flesh Appearing

Alistair Begg wrote about pro-golf caddy Andrew Martinez. Caddies play an important, though largely unseen role in the world of golf. As a person, Martinez is a great family man, and a great golfer in his own right. He is also a phenomenal backgammon player. He is sought after for his advice to the professional golfers on the tour.

But when it’s time for the game to begin, Andrew disappears into a dressing room and emerges in overalls that designate him as the man to carries the clubs. A servant. Nothing of who Andrew is as a person ceases to exist; he simply now occupies a different role.

When Jesus came to earth, He also “put on” flesh. “Veiled in flesh the godhead see, Hail th’ incarnate Deity, born as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.”

But the flesh that Jesus donned was not a temporary “coverall.” He was made like us. And yet, He never ceased being the essence of Who He was in eternity past.

It’s a mystery. And yet, Jesus the “God-man” emptied Himself, and “put on” flesh and still today dwells in that same flesh-blood-and-bone body that walked the dusty streets of Nazareth and Galilee. It’s a mystery that will take an eternity to understand and to celebrate.

But we can begin the celebration here and now.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas and Family

Christmas is a word, in our culture at least, that is synonymous with family. You will find very few Christmas carols sung this time of year that don’t deal with getting with family around the Christmas tree, seeing family together for a meal, enjoying the festivities of Christmas together, coming home after being gone a long time, etc. etc.

You know what I’m talking about: The subject of EVERY Hallmark movie ever made!

But family can also be stressful at Christmas. The celebrations can push us into close proximity with family members that may be estranged. Every family has a crazy uncle or aunt who always manage to say just the WRONG thing to make everything more tense and awkward.

And Christmas can… and does… push families apart sometimes. The business and distractions of the holidays, meals to shop and prepare for, decorations to untangle, parties to attend, one more gift we have to buy. And family can take the brunt of that stress, pressing us almost to the breaking point.

The Christmas season, at least from a Christian perspective, is a time to wait… not rush. Advent allows us to treasure time together, waiting again for the coming of the Savior. Stress does not have to rule your home this Christmas. Break the family cycle; be an outlier. Refuse to allow it!
We want to make a resource available to you to help you use Christmas for its original intent: to draw your family together. To intentionally focus on the significance of Christ’s coming. To rejoice in Emmanuel’s birth. The resource is available as you leave today in the Pavilion and online at our website. It is a resource that will help bring back the meaning of Christmas to each member of your family. The devotional book titled, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” has contributions made by several members of our staff team. You’ll want to have your own copy and maybe share one with others!

Let’s come back to the stillness of the manger again this year. There, rather than the stress and business we will find joy and peace that will truly bless your family and home this year!

Merry Christmas!

Waiting for Jesus

Many hundreds of years before Jesus was born, a prophet in the Old Testament named Micah made an amazing prediction. He wrote what we just read. This prophecy predicted the exact place where the Messiah (Jesus) would be born. It was not a large city. In fact, Micah told us Bethlehem was the SMALLEST of all the families and tribes of Israel.

One of the things we may not always understand is that, while we singsongs about this place where Christ came to Earth as a baby, it was not a nice place. It was a place where shepherds would come to town for a night to take a break from keeping sheep in the fields. It was not a large village, since it only had one inn, which was already filled with travelers who came to be counted for the Roman government.

In fact, the only place left where Mary and Joseph could stay while she gave birth to the baby Jesus was a cattle shed behind the inn. There, in a place where animals would stay and be fed, Jesus came into the world to be our Savior.

Sometimes we sing or hear the song at Christmas, which says, Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head. Jesus was rejected from the first moments of His life. He was forced to sleep with animals on His first night on the Earth. No room was found for Him with the people He had come to save.

So, as we look at our nativity scenes and particularly at the manger, let’s remember that Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin did not begin when He went to the cross. It began when He cried His first breath on the Earth, and inhaled the smell of cattle and sheep. The Father sent His Son to this place, to show us that no one was too unimportant or too sinful for God to love.

He was born in “the little town of Bethlehem,” just as the prophet Micah said. Knowing the place of His birth “from ancient days,” Jesus came anyway because of His love for us a

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