Make Room! (Pastor Dave) December 27

Jesus has come, we’ve celebrated, and now…what?

 

Well, that depends

IF you believe that Jesus was ‘the Christ Child’ and part of a beautiful story, but that is all, then…nothing! Put the manger scene away for another year. See you in 11 months.

But, IF you believe (as I do) that Jesus the baby in the story was really Emmanuel–God With Us, then you know that He grew, He lived the perfect life, He represented the Father to everyone, He taught with the ultimate words of Truth, He willingly gave His life to pay for our sin, and He was raised to Eternal Life, Then… GREAT stuff is ahead!

IF you believe that, then you know that He offers you that same Eternal Life, by faith in Him.

He said: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not die, but have everlasting life; for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world–through Him–could be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

Paul wrote that “It is by Grace that you have been saved, through Faith–and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not a result of your good works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

By Grace alone, through Faith alone, In Christ alone!

Now we can have LIFE!

Life as a promise for eternity, and Full Life in the here-and-now. All of it comes through our ongoing relationship to Jesus.

He’s the Gift that keeps on giving–literally!

 

It’s like a couple of the more famous Christmas carols say: “Let every heart prepare Him room…”, and “mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die; born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth…” 

 

Today, YOU can reach out and receive that life…and Christmas can continue!

Consider and Discuss: 

Have YOU, personally, ‘received your King’, and ‘prepared Him room’ in your heart?

If not, what’s stopping you?

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Happy Day-After-Christmas (Pastor Dave) December 26

The day after Christmas.

When I was little, it was just about the most depressing day of the year!

After all the excitement, the presents, the Christmas Carols, the parties, the cookies, the movies and all the traditions, now…it’s over.

Thud. Period. The end.

 

The thing is, IF Christmas was only about these things, then that would be all there is–and that really IS depressing!

But, alas, that’s not it.

Christmas is about much more.

Christmas is about Christ Jesus, and Jesus (as you know) did not stay a ‘baby in a manger’. Rather, He “grew in wisdom, and stature, and favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52) and, once He began His public ministry, He taught all who would listen about the heart of God, and how to please Him, love Him, worship Him, and follow His will. Jesus, you probably know, would go on to fulfill His ultimate calling–the ‘Main Reason’ He came to earth at Christmastime–to ‘give His life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:28), then conquered death and the grave! He is still alive!

 

The Light of the world is still here!

For those of us who have placed our faith in Him, acknowledged Him for who He is (Savior and Lord), and surrendered their lives to Him, He is the Source of meaning, direction, hope, power, love, security…the list could go on!

Now THOSE are gifts that ‘keep on giving’, and THAT is reason to celebrate.

 

So “Happy Day-After-Christmas, and Merry rest-of-the-year. Even when Christmas is over, the Light of the World is still here!”

Listen to the song by Matthew West:

Now Consider and Discuss:

Do you get ‘depressed’ because Christmas is over?

Do you, personally understand the ‘gifts’ that Jesus gives?

How do those gifts help you make it through ‘the Day-After-Christmas’, and the rest of the year?

Celebrate! Jesus is Born! (Pastor Dave) December 25

Merry Christmas!

As you celebrate today, listen to this song and sing along!

 

What a day that must have been–to realize that the Savior of the World was born as a baby!

Even more: The King of the Universe had become human, and was  born into one of the most plain, un-special, un-kingly circumstances possible!

As Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God…” (Philippians 2:6-8)

He came with one purpose: To Die in Our Place–thereby making peace with God possible, forgiveness of our sins, and offering us New Life!

That is love…that is commitment…that is sacrifice!

…and that deserves our thanks, our worship, our praise–our All-Out Celebration!

Jesus’ birth means LIFE for us!

“…I have come that they might have LIFE, and life to the full!” (John 10:10)

LIFE in the here-and-now, and LIFE in eternity!

Today, this Christmas, CELEBRATE JESUS!

Consider and Discuss: In what ways have YOU experienced “LIFE” in Jesus?

Thank Him–with your family–today!

Watch this video and worship Him!

The Welcome… Pastor Dave December 24

The Welcome…the feeling that you get when you arrive home after a long trip.

That warm ‘good to be home’ feel when you arrive for a holiday visit.

The ability you have to make another person feel valued—you are glad they’ve arrived!

That warm smile, the hug, the ‘Welcome Mat’ which says “We are glad you’re here!”

 

‘Welcome’ communicates a lot.

It communicates love, excitement, warmth, optimism, togetherness.

We only offer a ‘welcome’ to those we love, or those we are genuinely glad to see.

 

Today is December 24, Christmas Eve.

Many people are probably going to be Welcomed Home tonight, and lots of great memories will be made. Warm fires, Christmas trees, gifts will be exchanged and carols will be sung.

Think of the first ‘Welcome’ of Christmas though…

Mary and Joseph welcomed Jesus, the Promised One, into this world. They were perplexed, nervous, overwhelmed…but they welcomed Him with all the love they had. They welcomed Him—with all the uncertainly, and made room for Him in their lives.

The Shepherds came to welcome Him also. They heard about this amazing baby, this Savior baby, this King wrapped in swaddling clothes, and they had to come and worship Him. In so doing, they welcomed Him into this world.

Simple people, simple-but-genuine welcome.

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.”

(Luke 2:8-16)

 

Consider and Discuss:

How can we ‘Welcome’ Jesus into our lives—today and every day?

 

Assignment:

Tonight, before you go to bed, spend some time in prayer thanking Him for the way He sent Jesus in to this world, and meditating on the Welcome He received. Ask God to help you to Welcome Him more.

THIS is Christmas! (Pastor Dave) December 23

Well, here it is–Christmas week!

A couple of days from now, it’ll all be over.

I hope that you have your shopping done so you can enjoy your time with family, go to church, spend some time worshiping Jesus–the reason for the celebration!

What is ‘Christmas’ after all?

Tradition? Family? Presents? Songs and Movies?

It has become all those things–many of which are wonderful.

However, ultimately Christmas means the ‘Feast of Christ’, and it celebrates the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ, into our world. God coming to earth, God in the flesh–Emmanuel.

How is it that our ‘celebrations’ of Jesus have become so much about other people–or ourselves?

Can you imagine having someone throw you a birthday party, all the guests showing up and everyone bringing everyone else gifts and cards, singing to everyone else? Even if you would have been ‘fine’ with no party at all, a party in your honor in which you aren’t really ‘celebrated’ or even thought about would feel like an insult!

Yet, that must be how Jesus feels sometimes at Christmastime.

Christmas is, after all, about Christ!

Matthew 1 tells the story beginning  in v. 18, when it says  This is how Jesus the Messiah was born…”. In Luke chs. 1 and 2, Luke writes all about it. He knew that the birth of Christ, and all the circumstances around it, was very important for us to know. Luke investigated all the truth about Jesus, and that’s how he wrote such a thorough and detailed account.

ACTIVITY:

THIS Christmas, plan ahead! Make sure that you take some time with your family to read the Christmas story in Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1. Consider some meaningful way you can celebrate the birth of Jesus together.

Watch the following video:

A Gift for All (Tim Johnson) December 22

Luke 2:15-18

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Lets go to bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which The Lord has told us about.” They hurried t the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and hat the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.

Like many other people, my favorite Christmas tradition, especially as a child, was to open the gifts that my parents had bought all of us. It always seemed like a great multitude of toys as far as the eye could see; all at my worthy disposal. I very often felt kingly while opening the boxes to discover various Lego sets, Nerf guns, and much more. The gifts would always excite me so much that I could not wait to open the next box. But I had to, because my parents are the type of parents that would want to “savor the moment,” forcing us to take turns to open our gifts. You have no idea how long it takes for your five siblings to open their gifts. It felt like forever.

Soon after the Christmas season was over, the toys and socks became very familiar, and I’d forget that I got these things for Christmas anyways. Gifts are great, but all they really are is things that eventually take up space after being used about twenty times.

In this passage of Luke, the angels had just finished telling the shepherds about Jesus being born close by, in Bethlehem. I can imagine that the way they felt was similar to a child on Christmas. Feelings of excitement spun around their heads as they moved towards the loud cries and commotion. But when they got to the manger, they were filled with awe. The lowest of people in a social sense being the first to lay their eyes on the greatest of men; the Son of God. If I were one of those shepherds, I’m not sure how I would have reacted. Knowing myself, I may have taken pride in this. I may have been selfish. But that’s not what the Bible says they did.

The shepherds went to everyone they knew and those who they didn’t and told them what they’d seen. Something about seeing Jesus made them feel compelled to share.

I love the quote in the movie The Nativity Story: Mary says, “He is for all men.” How true is this? The birth of Jesus Christ is a gift for all men that came to the world thousands of years ago. But that gift is still as much a gift today as it was then.

Consider and Discuss:

This Christmas, be like the shepherds, and share the love and gift that Jesus was to this world with someone else. Talk to your family about how you all can do this as a family this year, and then do it!

STICKY (Tony Colatruglio) December 20

Some of the traditions in our household are out of the ordinary. One of those is making s’mores with our children on the barbecue grill, especially in the winter. This involves putting the marshmallows onto long shish kabob skewers, and toasting them over the remains of the charcoal fire that I had used earlier to cook our dinner. Then we put the sticky toasted marshmallows on graham crackers along with chocolate and eat the s’mores.  Anna (age 7) likes to set her marshmallow on fire as soon as possible, causing it to burst into flames. After reaching just the right factor of crispiness, she will blow it out. I like to remind the kids, I hope when they are older this memory will “stick” – that this is something they will fondly remember doing with their dad.

 

Similarly, when we as believers share our faith with our children and others, we hope it will “stick.” We share our stories, aspire to grow our faith, and reach out to others. We hope they might one day pass it on like a legacy, to their children.

 

And yet, we know each person must come to faith on their own terms.   Salvation is not passed on like an earthly inheritance.   Some will embrace the faith at an early age, while for others it may take longer, even decades (just ask my mom).   Until then, we pray, and continue to live out our faith as best we can.  As the apostle Paul said, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1Cor 3:6).  So how do we make our faith count, or “stick?”
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, in answering this question it is helpful to look back at the scriptures that pointed to Jesus in the old testament.  Many of the Psalms are attributed to King David, a Jewish king who lived about a thousand years before Jesus.  You may recognize Psalm 22, because it begins with the phrase “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus is noted to have uttered this during his death on the cross (Matthew 27:46), and I have heard this referred to as Jesus being somehow separated from God (if that were possible), even for just one terrible moment, while he bore the weight of our sin.

 

Personally I think of this a little differently. The Jewish people in Jesus’ time were very familiar with the writings of the Old Testament. Many, especially the teachers and leaders, had the scriptures memorized word for word. I believe Jesus uttered these words “My God my God, why have you forsaken me” knowing that the people around him would know EXACTLY the passage of scripture he was referring to – Jesus was sharing something that would “stick” with the people who witnessed his death. This is a psalm of David, asking God to rescue him from his enemies.

 

More importantly, it is also a psalm containing prophesy, clearly foreshadowing of Jesus’ crucifixion. I don’t think this is a coincidence. But I think what is most remarkable, is that Psalm 22 ends by declaring: for he has done it – YES HE HAS !  What God did in the flesh, will “stick” forever – the ultimate and sufficient sacrifice, for all sin – and will be proclaimed to future generations.  This verse continues to be fulfilled, as we proclaim it to our families and friends today:

 

“Posterity will serve him;

future generations will be told about the Lord.

They will proclaim his righteousness

to a people yet unborn – for he has done it.” (Psalm 22:30-31)

 

So to answer the question, we make our faith “stick” by serving Him, and proclaiming what He has done.

 

 

 

Consider and discuss:

 

What holiday traditions or activities do you hope will “stick” with your family and/or friends?

Are there traditions you would rather not pass on to the next generation?

 

Read Psalm 22 and reflect, what “sticks” with you from this text?

How many prophesies from Psalm 22 can you find that were fulfilled in Jesus’s death (compare with Matthew 27 or the other Gospel accounts).