Tag Archives: christmas

Why telling the Nativity Story could get you killed

19 Dec

Nativity SceneThe Nativity.

A familiar story.

Very familiar. Too familiar?

When we think about the Nativity story, about the birth of Jesus, we often play music in our heads to the tune of Silent Night, Holy Night. Where all is calm, and all is bright. Or perhaps for you the song is Away in a Manger where Jesus is not crying, but peaceful and warm and everything is well with the earth. And there are angels, shepherds and wise men, and animals, and they’re happy, smiling and well-behaved.

We used to do a Live Nativity at our church, and we had all the parts you can see in the photo above.  We had the sheep that escaped, trotting across our parking lot, spraying pellets to waylay those trying to catch him, like a 007 supercar.  We had the kids in angel, shepherd and wise men costumes, usually taking shifts because it was cold.  It was always a lot of fun.

But was it anything like that? First of all, myth-busters, you can X out the wise men. They came later on. As we continue our study of the Gospel of Luke, arguably the most famous Nativity account (Luke 2:1-20), we find he doesn’t even record the visit of the Magi. We do read about it in Matthew 2:1-12, where Matthew describes the place the Magi met Jesus, not a stable or cave, but a house, probably a temporary place Joseph and Mary stayed for a short while right after the birth.

We think we are familiar with the Nativity Story, but as with so much in life, familiarity can actually led to distance.  This Sunday at Faith Church, for the 4th Week of Advent, we’ll tell the story of the Nativity, but it might sound very different.  In fact, it really is the kind of story that could put your life in danger.

What we’ll hear is not only Luke’s courageous story, but we’ll also learn about the amazing upside-down nature of Kingdom of God.  (“Are you not talking about the birth of Jesus, then?”)  We sure are talking about the birth of Jesus!  That cute little baby in the manger.  Yup, it was a story, the telling of which could get you killed.  Take a look for yourself at Luke 2:1-20 and see what you think.  Don’t see anything out of the ordinary in those verses?  Nothing that could get you killed?  Join us Sunday at Faith Church, 9:30am…at your own risk!

What was the Annunciation really like? – Luke 1:26-45

11 Dec

annunciationThis past Sunday, Phil introduced us to the writings of Walter Wangerin.

As we continued our study through Luke, Phil chose stories that retold the events of Luke 1:26-45, often called The Annunciation.  The angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will be the mother of the Christ child.  Wangerin encourages us through his writings to inhabit the story in a new way.

We had a good sermon discussion afterwards, as we wrestled with what the birth of Jesus means for humanity.  God became flesh.  It is an astounding thought.  Why would God do this?  As you hear Wangerin’s perspective, you’ll be challenged to think about the Christmas story very differently.  But I hope you’ll see that as a good thing!  We need to have our perspective challenged from time to time.

Love All? Really? It’s impossible.

20 Dec

Seems impossible, doesn’t it?

Love all?  The scope is too wide.  Wouldn’t it be more realistic to scale the sample down a bit, or a lot?  Maybe it would be more acceptable to say “Love your family, your friends?”

Then there is the issue of how freaking difficult it is to love some people.  You could probably think of a few people in your life.  Who comes to mind when you think of the word “difficult”?  When we think of those people, we don’t want to love them, and we don’t feel we need to.  Or if we have a sense that we should love them, we can justify not doing so because they are so difficult.

The needy person, the long-talker, the negative person, the complainer, the arrogant one, the know-it-all. 

The person who always raises their hand to answer every question.  (I didn’t plan on writing this many examples…I’m on a roll now, so as you can tell, I have some complaining going on inside me!)

These are difficult people to love!  We would rather not spend time with them.  We would rather avoid them. 

And yet Christmas is about an amazing act of love to a people that were not lovely. 

Loving the unlovely.  Is this not what the birth of Christ is all about?  The Bible describes it this way: “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  Praise God that he did not turn his nose up at unlovely people.  Praise him that he lovingly gave himself to reach out to his people who needed his love. 

Christmas is a time for worshipping God because he loved the unlovely.  It is also a reminder to us to do the same. 

Who are the unlovely in your life?  What will it take to love them?Image

Give More…coupons?

17 Dec

This past Sunday the theme was Give More, and AC suggests that, instead of giving presents, we should give presence.  Give the gift of spending time building relationships with people.  This idea flows from the example of our Lord who gave us the gift of himself.  In John 1 we learn that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  In Philippians 2:5-11 we read, similarly, that Jesus emptied himself, being made in human likeness.  He gave us the gift of his presence!  One of his names is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.”  We talked about how to give the gift of presence.

So at sermon roundtable, one of our people had the brilliant idea of creating a coupon exchange where we give gifts like “1 hour of babysitting” or “teach you to make a pie”, etc.  We handed our blank coupons, and asked people to write their gift and name on the coupon, then come forward and hang it on a Christmas tree.  When they hung a coupon, they could take a coupon.

Advent Conspiracy coupon

What give did you receive?  How can you give the gift of presence to your family and friends this Christmas?  Maybe you can give more coupons!

(One guy came up to me, as I was sitting in the front pew waiting for people to be done, singing along with the praise team, and he handed me a coupon.  It said “I will clean your toilet for four hours.”  It was signed by his wife, but in his hand-writing.  I chuckled immediately, looked up, and he was smiling while she was shaking her head.)

The Most Obnoxious Christmas Commercial of All Time

13 Dec

Before you read further, stop here and think to yourself: what is the most awful, obnoxious Christmas commercial you’ve ever seen?  Maybe write it down.  Maybe comment in the comment section below.  Take a few moments and get some options in mind.

The commercials I am referring to have become a staple of Christmas television for the last ten years.  One author calls them the most obnoxious of all time.  Here’s an example from 2011 (2013’s version is not much better):

Did you guess Lexus?

As we continue our study of The Advent Conspiracy, this Sunday we will talk about giving more.  So we’re going to learn how to give our loved ones luxury cars for Christmas!

Or maybe not. Is there another way to Give More?

Whenever pastors start talking about giving more, people get nervous.  They get “sick” and have to stay home from worship that Sunday.  Let me tell you from the other side of the pulpit (which I never use anymore), that pastors hate preaching about giving.  How can we convey biblical teaching so that it doesn’t come off as self-serving?  It is awkward all around.

Perhaps we can look at it differently.  In the Advent Conspiracy, we have already talked about how the focus of Christmas is to worship God, and so we worship him by spending less, in order that we might be able to give more.  If we spend less, though, won’t we have less to give?  Come find out!

How to turn Christmas upside-down

29 Nov

2013-12 Advent ConspiracyThis Advent we are going to turn Christmas upside-down!  Will you join us?

By now we hope you’ve heard a bit about The Advent Conspiracy, but have you picked up your copy of the book yet?  Advent begins on December 1st, so there is still time. The Advent Conspiracy is a very easy-to-read practical book that will help you think about Christmas in a whole new way.  An upside-down way.

I was driving by Rockvale Square outlets in the beginning of November, and I noticed all their Christmas decorations were out already.  Then I passed The American Music Theater, and they were advertising showings of their Christmas Show that were happening later that day.  After I got over my surprise that these businesses were in full-Christmas mode before Thanksgiving, I realized I shouldn’t be surprised.  It has been a trend for years now.  Christmas is a wonderful thing, and we can be supportive when people and businesses make a big deal about it.

And yet we all know that businesses are advertising Christmas earlier and earlier each year, not because they are committed to the Good News of peace on earth through Christ, but for an entirely different reason altogether.  They want to make money!  And they want you and me to spend our money at their businesses.  They would be just thrilled if we actually spend more money than we have to spend.

So goes the story of how Christmas got turned upside-down.

Now, by us taking Christmas, as we see it today, and turning it upside-down again, we are actually making it right-side-up.  But when we do that, when we return Christmas to that state it is supposed to be in, it will look upside-down to the rest of society.  That is, however, as it should be, with Jesus’ birth and the Kingdom of God as the focus.

Are you ready to turn Christmas upside-down?  Get the book.  Visit the website.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to show up in a mighty in your life and in your family’s life.  We are going to have great opportunities for you to participate in: Now that the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes are on their way, will you begin filling Christmas stockings for Joe Toy in Philly?  Then how about joining us for this year’s Christmas Stocking Drop on December 7th?  We’ll drive to Philly and work alongside Joe, sharing the Gospel as we hand out our stockings to kids he works with in inner-city Philly.  Maybe you’ll consider helping a CV family celebrate Christmas through CVCCS Adopt-a-Family program?  See the Community Happenings bulletin board for more details.  Will you join us on December 15th as we sing carols to homebound members of Faith Church?  Or perhaps you help CVCCS with their Christmas food box giveaway on the 21st?  There are so many ways you and your family can participate in the Advent Conspiracy, turning Christmas upside-down!