Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Happenings

This week has been so busy and full. We had activities of some kind nearly every night. Christmas Eve and Day were simply wonderful! I made Italian "gravy" with meatballs for our Christmas Eve dinner with Mom, unfortunately the girls were so tired they all had to eat before I could make it home from the services at church.

Claire and Charlotte were so excited they couldn't go to sleep. In spite of my stern warning not to even think about waking me up before 7:30, we were all up and in the den to see what Santa brought by 5:45, that's AM! It was a great morning, Cyd's parents joined us shortly after 7AM, so that we could enjoy a nice breakfast together as the girls played with their new things. We eventually got dressed and went to Cyd's parents, with a slight detour to Aunt Tori's (where my family was gathering for Christmas) to see them for a little bit. The girls and I then headed back to Cyd's parents for dinner and Christmas with her side of the family.

Saturday the girls got to test out the new Barbie Jeep, which they love!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Services

I love Christmas Eve services! I really enjoy the candlelight and communion (somber, reflective type services) but it seems to me that perhaps that first Christmas night was more like the Family Service we have at FBC Statesboro. There are children all over so it's not quiet, it's not somber, yet it holds a great measure of reflective potential if one will open his/her eyes. Don't you just know that Joseph and Mary looked at each other and at Jesus and thought what in the world do we do? How do we raise him? How do we provide for him? How are we gonna make this work? All the while, the Father was observing this and probably mumbled, "Let me worry about that." And so it is each time a baby is born or a loved one passes, at least to me...the Father is saying, "Let me worry about this, you just trust me."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite Christmas Ornaments

I said earlier this month that I would be doing a few lists that are so prevalent this time of year. Cyd and I love decorating for Christmas each year, we always have. I think part of the reason is because our parents all love to decorate. We have so many wonderful things to pull out at Christmas time like our village. It's a hodge podge of various villages some nicer than others but the best part is they were all gifts from family, so we didn't have to buy any of them. Christmas trees themselves are always interesting around our house. We always use ones that other people have outgrown or discarded. For years we used ones from The Victoria Shoppe that were left over from decorating jobs. Okay, I'll try to give my top five ornaments, some of them will actually be groups rather than individual ornaments.

1. Macon Ornaments: We have a just a few of these but they are of Mercer University and the Woodruff House. Mercer is important because that is were Cyd and I went to college. The Woodruff House is important because that's were I proposed.
2. Homemade ornaments from the girls (and from our childhoods).
3. Savannah Ornaments. We have several ornaments of historic landmarks in Savannah that we love to have on our trees.
4. My Homer Simpson ornament. I actually got Charlotte to say "D'Oh!" yesterday.
5. Teacups for our teacup tree. Several of these I bought for Cyd along the way. It reminds me of going to antique and junk stores to find unique teacups all those years ago.

What's your favorite ornament?

The Real Meaning of Christmas

Charlie Brown specials are always a blast to watch. As our girls have gotten older we have tried to start watching the shows with them. Usually they start to get sleepy and can't make it through the whole thing, but it sure is fun to relive some childhood memories while making new ones. In this clip, Charlie Brown is frustrated with what Christmas has become in one fashion or another and cries out, "Does anyone know the real meaning of Christmas?" Linus steps up and recites from Luke 2. How incredible that each year millions of people who watch this Christmas show don't just see stockings, trees, and snow...they are confronted with the reason for the season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Slave of Christ

Michael Card, the gifted singer/songwriter who has shaped Christian music for the past 3 decades has offered his reflections and insight into being a slave of Christ in a new book by IVP. You can check out more information about Michael Card's writing and recording projects at The book draws on a fascination with American slavery and the horrors it entailed while examining the life of slaves in New Testament times. The best part of the book is the focus on what it means to truly be a slave to Christ. Being a slave to anything or anyone else is about bondage and oppression but being a slave to Christ is "A Better Freedom". If you have an interest in African-American history or in the subject of slavery you might find this book an engaging read for the light that it sheds on those topics, but also for the way it illustrates how only as slaves to Christ can we ever experience true freedom.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Neil Diamond and the Holidays

I have always loved Adam Sandler's version, but this one is pretty funny too.

3rd Sunday of Advent

Yesterday we lit the candle of hope on the advent wreath…hope is perhaps the greatest thing a believer can have. Our hope to escape the punishment we deserve for our sins, rest solely on the sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus Christ, our savior who didn’t want us to die apart from God, but came in the form of a tiny, helpless baby to eventually conquer sin, death, hell, and the grave. That is the reason for the hope in us this Christmas season!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

I'm usually not one of those Christians who waves the battle flag for issues like abortion, the biblical definition of marriage, etc., not because I don't believe in those just seems that too often Evangelical Christians are too busy waving those banners rather than the banner of Jesus. It's a fine line to be sure, but it seems to me that the more important thing for me to do is to tell them about Jesus and how he can change their life rather than championing causes or fighting over morality, which cannot be legislated I might add, as hard as some Christians try to do that. In reality what the world needs is a group of believers who are so consumed with God that it radiates out of their lives and instead of defending our issues we can live subversively to impact culture and people for the sake of the Gospel!

HOWEVER, as I read through the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience, I found the language, the tone, and the issues it addressed almost exactly what I would have said and written. It is worthy document for Christians of all persuasions to sign and support because it unifies us as the Body of Christ, the Church universal, to boldly stand for the cause of the widow, the orphan, the forgotten, and the down-trodden of our society...there seems to be several of each category in America...sadly the church has either been too loud in condemning culture to rescue the widows and orphans or too focused on gospel presentations and altar calls to make much of a difference for anyone or anything, especially God. The Manhattan Declaration is call for believers to put faith into action, I'm prayerful that it will happen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Choosing to Love

Romans 11:33-36 (New Living Translation)

33 Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

34 For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
Who knows enough to give him advice?[a]
35 And who has given him so much
that he needs to pay it back?[b]

36 For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

Calvin Miller in his devotional book, The Christ of Christmas writes the following:
We basically have two choices to make in dealing with the mysteries of God. We can wrestle with Him or we can rest in Him. We can continue searching the unsearchable or relax in the reality. What exists at the end of all our searching will be a God who knows absolutely everything...and chooses to love us anyway.

The mystery of God is not that he is distant and far off, it is that in spite of our sin and failure he has loved us with an everlasting love! A love that knows no boundaries, a relentless love, a pursuing love, God's love!

Top Christmas Songs

I have seen lots of lists in the blogosphere the last few weeks so I intend to indulge in compiling a few of my own over the next few weeks. Here's a few of my favorite Christmas Songs. Some are classics and others not so classic but all of them bring to mind the spirit of Christmas and the celebration of the Savior.

1. "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" I like just about any version because the theology of the song is so rich, but one of my favorite is on The Gift: A Weathervane Christmas Sampler

2. "Go Tell it on the Mountain" Something about this song just resonates with my soul, I love to sing it in church at Christmas time. My favorite CD version is Garth Brooks.

3. "On to Bethlehem" An original song by Bill Mallonee, did you really think I would do a post about music and not include something by him?

4. "White Christmas" Bing Crosby's version of course!

5. "A Christmas Song" Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds

6. "Santa Baby" Not sure who actually sings this but it's on a Starbucks sampler from a few years girls love to sing it in the car. They even did a performance last night at the youth worker party!

7. "Baby It's Cold Outside" James Taylor and Natalie Cole Again one that my girls love to sing.

There are many others I could list but these few are the ones that get played and sung over and over again in my head, house, and office.

Here's a few verses from "On To Bethlehem" by Bill Mallonee
Quiet, introspective, meaning of life stuff, but isn't Christmas a great time for us to do that sort of thing.

and i'd like to say i'm faithful
to the task at hand
speaking gospel to a handful
and others with their list of demands

it's cold this year and i'm late on my dues
it's cold in here ah but that's nothing new
my heart's electric with your love again
so it's on to bethlehem

you might surmise that i ran there
but i really only crept
lead me to the place where love runs wild
and then it dogs your every step

you know how fickle my heart is
prone to wonder my Lord
yeah we talk but it's at arms length
always got one eye on the door

God wraps Himself up in human skin
for those who want to touch
and God let them drive the nails in
for those of us who know way too much

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Quality Time

It's only December 6th and life is already hectic for the holidays. This weekend I was in our Christmas Celebration which took me away from my girls. Yesterday was cousin Jackson's one year party, which the girls went to and I had to miss because of the Christmas program. When life is crazy, especially at Christmas time, it's great to get to spend some quality time with Cyd and the girls. Snippets here and there like a conversation with Cyd, those are rare when you have a 4 year old and a 20 month old. Or getting up before the crack of dawn because Claire has been asking to get up for an hour. Little moments seem to make big memories these days.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Pictures

Thanksgiving is always a big event in our family, on both sides. These are just a few pictures from Thursday in the "country". The house and other structures in the background of the pictures are where my grandmother grew up. It's always a busy, full day, but each year is filled with wonderful memories! This year I thought for sure that there wouldn't be anyone new, so then I would know everyone, but I think there were three new faces and names. Of course if you ask most of us, we just consider anyone new a "cousin."

Hope your Thanksgiving was as great as ours!

Empty Saviors and the True Savior

Here's an excerpt from my sermon this past Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent.

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Jeremiah gives Israel a glimpse of the hope
that awaits them. The hope that could possibly come at any moment. The promise of a descendant from David’s lineage who would rescue them, who would save them, who would be their messiah. The problem was that many of the Israelites interpreted God sending the messiah as something that would be political-that the messiah would be a great conqueror and military leader. They longed to be released from the clutches of Rome who occupied the Mediterranean world and the Ancient Near East.

They anticipated the arrival of the Messiah
they way I anticipate getting that 1st slice of warm pound cake my wife bakes when I’m good. They had listened to the prophets for so long that they waited and rehearsed every year the coming of the promised one. The coming of the one who will do what is just and right and who will save them. You see everything that had happened before and it would all happen again…
…God had acted for Israel before…and he would act for them again.
…God had rescued his people before…and he would save them again.
History would repeat itself. Israel’s story, God’s story would repeat itself. But in the mean time they took matters into their own hands and put their hope and trust in empty saviors!

How often do we do that? How often do we
pin our hope to job security, financial security, education, wealth, status, relationships. We’ve all done it before and we will probably all do it again but what God wants is for us to turn to him and look to him alone as our savior, specifically the baby born so many years ago in a lowly manger filled with smelly animals, crude conditions and rude sounds. Because after all what happened that night had happened before and would happen again, a baby(wrinkled, red, crying) makes it’s way into the world, nothing new or special, nothing different than how other babies come into the world. And yet it was completely different than any other birth, for that little baby boy was “Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father” as the Nicene Creed states. Finally the promise of the prophets has been fulfilled.

We don’t have an empty savior, a political
messiah, an empty promise of redemption, a story that has no plot and no meaning. Paul writes in Colossians 1:19-20. We have a savior and a story that we need to tell people about this Christmas! The cross is our hope, it is what the prophets looked forward to-because it is the cross that God used to reconcile the world to himself, to bring hope, peace, and love. The same is true when we take the Lord’s Supper or Communion. We find in the elements of juice and bread symbols that point us to the body and blood of our Lord the way Christmas trees point us to presents, lights, and decorations. In gathering for Communion we join our lives together, we join our hearts and minds together, we acknowledge that we not only need God but we need each other to make it each day, to live out our faith so that we too can point others to the Messiah. So that we can find our place in the story of Life, the only story truly worth repeating.

Communion is a leveling act for the body of
Christ. We all come as broken sinners to the table to find healing, wholeness, peace, and of course grace. Communion is not about a bunch of hocus pocus or about something magical it is a symbol that points us to the grand story of redemption of renewal. As we receive the cup and the bread this morning may we be ever mindful of the baby whose body was broken for you and for me, the baby whom we are preparing to celebrate his arrival. Just like the Advent season and all the rituals and traditions that we do in our families and will continue to do we gather this morning in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to experience something that we have all experienced before and we will all experience again. May we be forever changed this morning.