To Marvel and Mend This Christmas

And this will be the sign. You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12). 

The sign had been fulfilled. The angel’s words were true.

And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child (Luke 2:16).

And the shepherds’ desire to see this sign was no Sunday stroll in the park. I can just imagine them running as fast as they could, sweating, hearts racing, maybe even stumbling through the fields because it was night.

I can imagine their hearts pumping through their chests as they reach their destination and look Mary and Joseph and Jesus in the eye for the first time. I doubt many words were uttered on their part but just sheer amazement. And this amazement could only lead them to make known what they had just seen.

The glory of God had just come down from heaven- a shining light in the midst of evil and darkness. Love had come down to save them and set them free from their sins. God had chosen them, lowly shepherds, to be the first to see this humble King lying in a manger.

They couldn’t help but spread the news that Peace was here. They shared the news to everyone and it spread far and wide.

And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (Luke 2:18).

But not only that, all the hearers of this good news marveled too.

And it’s this word “marvel” that jumps out at me today. It’s a word that I can’t skip over when I’m reading Luke’s account of Christ’s words and works.

Do I marvel at the gift of God sending his son Jesus down to this earth to save us? Has this good news so impacted my life that others see it and believe it as well?

Have I taken the time in these days leading up to Christmas to sit, reflect, be still and marvel at the mighty, mysterious works of God?

Because truthfully, I know there is a marveling that needs to be done in my own heart that has yet to happen. And there is a mending of brokenness needing to be done too. Both of which require God’s hand to awaken and heal.

And then I am reminded again of why Jesus came…

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

I want to see Jesus for who He is. To know him more. To put him first. To share his love to everyone he puts in my path. But I have to understand that this can’t be accomplished in my own strength. It has to be his mighty work through me for his glory.

Like the shepherds, when we see Jesus for who he really is, we are changed forever. Light pierces through our darkness. Our lives are radically different. And we can’t help but desire to see that change in other people too.

Lessons on Receiving

Every Christmas growing up, my parents gave the best gifts. They were thoughtful, fun, and just what my sister and I asked for. Giving gifts was one of their top love languages and still is today. So naturally, giving gifts became one of my love languages.

But considering our present circumstances mentioned a few posts ago, I’ve had no choice but to pause and step back when it comes to gift giving. It’s been difficult, humbling, and stretching especially since I find so much joy from it in this season.

the tree

This time last year, I would have had most of my gifts purchased and my Christmas cards sent out. But this Christmas, my cards will probably make in just in time for the 25th and the majority of our gifts will probably be purchased last minute. In the meantime, I’m making/creating more of our gifts this year so we don’t have to go into any debt.

God has also provided for me and my family in unexpected ways this week:

A couple in our church who knew about Jeremiah’s job slipped us a check because they felt God leading them to do so.

  • Another man in our church gave us cash to use for groceries.

My friend Katie helped design our Christmas card and the print-outs will be very inexpensive and still adorable!

  • Between my sister and my parents’ constant generosity to us, Christmas is pretty much already taken care of.
  • Many of my friends here in seminary have randomly asked if I needed the exact thing I was already thinking of. And they gave what they had.
  • We got a beautiful 7-ft. pre-lit Christmas tree for free because the man selling it wanted to help us in our situation.

Coming up on six years of marriage, I don’t think we have ever experienced God’s provision in such a tangible way. We’ve always heard stories of people receiving checks out of the blue. But I thought you had to be super spiritual for that and I honestly didn’t think that would ever happen to us because well, we’d rather give anyway!

But surely there is a time to receive too. I’m learning valuable lessons when it comes to stewardship, budgeting, and putting my security in Christ instead of finances or wealth. I want to give more than I ever have before and be sensitive to those in need. I believe these lessons will be stamped on my life forever.

I definitely have my days of doubting God because I just want to know now what He is doing. I’ve struggled with anger and impatience and wondering if God hears us.

But when I’m able to articulate what’s going on and write it down, I can better see that God really is doing something and sometimes it is His perfect will for us to be on the receiving end and to learn humility.

Yesterday Jeremiah told me, “I think this is going to be a really special Christmas that we’ll always remember.”

I pondered his words for a while and came to the conclusion that I think he is right because somehow, God just has a way of redeeming really tough situations. He always comes through for us, even if it’s right down to the wire.

So the challenge still stands: Will I trust him to provide for us, even when I can’t see what’s ahead? Will I be faithful to God because He is good? 

Why in the world did Jesus come for me?

Do you find it crazy how in the middle of such a joyous season of celebrating the birth of our Savior, so much pain and brokenness still exists all around us? I mean why can’t Christmas just make it all better?

A friend I grew up with just lost his mom, one of our ministry partner’s at work is in the hospital waiting on results from a brain tumor and is currently in rehab, people all over the nation have lost jobs, and a lot of families this Christmas won’t have any presents under their tree. Many people are wondering if all hope has been lost.

Can light even exist in such a dark, evil, messed up world?


But only because God intervened for us. In his great love and mercy, He sent his son into the world as The light. He came as a baby in the most humble means to save us because we’re a desperate people.

People in need of a divine Rescuer.

A Redeemer.

A Restorer.

He knew how evil our hearts would be towards him, yet he still came to save us from that sin so that we would be in relationship with Him- back to the way we were created to be.

This is the real story of Christmas…

Even when it seems so hazy and is difficult to accept at times, it’s still the truth.

This truth means that whatever insurmountable thing I’m facing, I can trust in God. I can trust that even though this world is not as it should be, he’s in the process of redeeming it and making it new and right. He’s in the process of making me new so that I can be a minister of  reconciliation to a world who so desperately needs Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them….We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Cor. 5:17-20

One day, Jesus is coming back and all our tears, pain, and sorrow will be wiped away.

And that is our great hope this Christmas that we can share with others.

5 Ways to Fight Consumerism this Christmas

Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possessions (Wikipedia). Consumerism reigns like a proud King in America. He’s captured hearts. Chained families to debt. Caused divorce. And has crept into churches.

But that’s not all. Consumerism is mainly an issue of the heart— the flesh’s desire for more, and a failure to trust in God to provide all things.

Here are five practical ways I’m trying to fight consumerism this Christmas:

1.) Remember former debt. It wasn’t a fun experience a few years ago paying off around $700.00 of credit card debt from Christmas time. (Thanks to Dave Ramsey, we cut our credit cards up so they no longer tempt us).

2.) Pray for a spirit-led shopping experience. Before I went out the other day I prayed that God would help me decide what I needed to get vs. what I wanted to get for other people. I  believe that prayer and being led by the Spirit helps keep me from over-spending.

3.) Accumulate experiences, not possessions (thanks Mark Batterson). I’ve tried to put relationships and time together with those closest to me in my life above accumulating stuff and things that don’t last.

4.) Be in authentic community. I’ve surrounded myself with friends who will ask me the hard questions. And they know our budget. While they don’t ask about this all the time, I know I have to be ready if they do.

5.) Give to those you know who are in need and love on them. This Christmas, we’ll be giving away some of the resources God’s given to us to certain family members who are struggling. Sometimes I think I’m only doing “good” if I give to a charity or other organization, but if a family member is in need- he or she really is who takes precedence.

Above all, the gospel is what transforms our hearts and keeps us from being led away by the desire for more. I’m thankful that as I daily surrender to the Spirit’s control, I can be victorious in the constant battle where consumerism tries to be King.

Have you thought of a plan of attack for fighting consumerism in the upcoming days?

Rethinking Bethlehem & Redemption

bethlehemOne of the most amazing things about my job is being able to hear and reflect upon solid teaching from our video shoots before I write. I’ve been writing the discussion guides for our Bluefish TV 2009 Small Group Kit that releases soon. Some of our teachers/pastors in the kit include Erwin McManus, Todd Phillips, Mark Batterson, David Nasser, and more. Right now, I’m working on the Christmas small group series called “A Savior is Born: Experience the Wonder of the First Christmas” with Pete Briscoe- the Senior Pastor at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship.

Let me tell you… this series is beautifully taught. Pete’s teaching has helped me to better reflect on why God chose certain details in bringing his son into the world. For instance, Shepherds. They were the poorest of the poor in that time. Considered ceremonial unclean. Not allowed to worship in the temples because they worked with animals (who were unclean). So why did God choose to bring the good news that a Savior was born to them first? He could have chosen the chief priests or the elders. Well, God always exalts the humble and they were watching for Him.

Bethlehem? The town wasn’t anything special. But it was great in the eyes of God. A manger? No newborn infant at that time would have been placed in a feeding trough. Why wasn’t he born in a palace? Why didn’t he come in apparent glory like many expected? 

And Mary? She was a simple human touched by divine power. People try to exalt her today above God but what made her extraordinary was the Spirit coming upon her. His grace and favor was on her, but not because of anything amazing she did. He chose her to bring His glory.

I’m so perplexed that God came into the world as a humble servant- for me. For us. He chose lowly Bethlehem and took upon a criminal’s death on a horrific cross to save me from my sin and to heal my brokenness. Why did he do it? Because of His relentless love, grace, and redemption for all mankind. There’s no condemnation here. There’s no pomp and circumstance. 

If that doesn’t cause me to sing, I don’t think anything else will.

From Cradle to Cross

erebus-cross1.jpg  Santa Claus. Reindeer. Christmas trees with lights. New-fallen snow. Crackling fires. Presents. Malls. Traffic. Children’s smiles. Parties. Boxes of chocolate. Fruit baskets. Advent calendars. Comforting lattes and cocoas. Friends. Family. Memories. Letters. Christmas has a way of warming my heart every year. Truly, there is no season quite like Christmas.

And in the midst of all these gifts from God, too often I forget the real meaning of the season. When I truly allow time to reflect in those moments of stillness, what astounds me the most is that God became flesh and made His dwelling on earth. He was born in a manger of all places. He came to the earth in the ultimate form of humility. He grew in wisdom and stature as a man. He experienced much of what we do; pain, happiness, hunger, and yet he had no stain of sin. He died a gruesome death on the cross to redeem this fallen world and restore what had been lost.

We celebrate the cradle and the cross this Christmas. Above all, we celebrate Love.

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