Alright, it is time for us to start looking at Christmas as we’ve done with Halloween to see what God would have for us this season. Before we jump in to specifics for Christmas, let’s review some of the groundwork…
As we’ve talked about before, one of the major battles in pursuing Jesus is in continually working to believe the Gospel. We don’t want to merely know the Gospel. We want to believe it, and believing means doing. Why? Because faith works. We’re not justified by works, but faith (belief) always demonstrates itself in action. Okay, let’s not belabor the point (I’m sure we’ll return to it again later).
Just for a refresher, what is it that we believe?
We believe that God is at work in the world, that he is the God of mission, and we want to join him on this mission. From our reading of the Bible as both good theologians and good readers of story, we know that the point of God’s story is the restoration of all things through the Spirit-filled person and work of Jesus and that this restoration continues presently powered by the work of the Spirit (yes, I know; that was quite a mouthful).
So, how do we join with God through the power of the Spirit in this restorative work?
In much the same way that Adam and Eve were commissioned to be fruitful and multiply that the whole earth would be filled with the image of God, so we have been commissioned by Jesus to “Go…and make disciples of the nations” (notice disciple-making starts before conversion). The restoration of God is set to happen as the world is reconciled back to God and humanity returns to faithfully bearing the image of God in all our various contexts and lives. Put simply, engaging in God mission of restoring all things means discipling people like Jesus discipled people (in all of life).
As we move on to the specifics I want to hear from you: what can we be doing to proactively join with God in making disciples of the nations this Christmas season? More to come tomorrow…

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2009

Christmas eve last year, we were literally putting together IKEA furniture until one or two am–what a different Christmas its been this year!

Instead of the paint cans and drop cloths of yesteryear, this year has afforded us much more Christmasy goodness.  We have a Christmas tree, stockings (made by Kate–and they look incredible!) and a well-populated circle of now-opened presents filling our living room.

Now I’ll grant you, we’ve only had two of them, but this has been our best Christmas in Holland yet!  A huge thank you to all those near and far who have supported us through the last year, who have prayed and sent presents to us!
Kerstboom
Stocking Stuffers
Second Christmas!
The Aftermath

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I love Christmas.  Probably not as much as my wife loves Christmas, but I still love it.  There’s the family time, the food, the presents, the relaxation (or familiar holiday craziness) and all mixing together in one great big closing highlight as we take time to look back on the year and look forward to the burgeoning new year.

Today as I continue to read The Open Secret by Lesslie Newbigin I was reminded of that thing which, above all, makes Christmas so special:

The Bible does not tell stories which illustrate something true apart from the story.  The Bible tells a story which is the story, the story of which our human life is a part.  It is not that stories are part of human life, but that human life is part of a story.  It is not that there are stories which illustrate “how things are”; it is that we do not begin to understand how things are unless we understand how they were and how they will be.  (Newbigin, The Open Secret 92)

It’s not just the story, or “the reason for the season”.  It’s that we live in the story that God tells, and that his telling of how things were and how they are going to be has enabled us to live meaningfully in the present (how things are).

Christmas is special, because in the coming of God in the form of a baby over 2000 years ago my world was changed.  And every year around December 25th I remember with others that enormous leap in the story that in the Bible’s terms (Ac. 2:17; Heb. 1:2; Jas. 5:3; I Pe. 1:2 and many others), has catapulted us in to the last days as God’s restoration has already begun in Christ!

Merry Christmas indeed!

(BTW – the main impetus for this post is a conversation I had last week with a guy in our church who has stopped reading his Bible because it just isn’t relevant for him anymore.  This post is one of the reasons I cannot imagine living without a daily study of the story God says encompasses us all)

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Christmas Movie Marathon

December 18, 2009

With less than a week left until Christmas and being married to a Christmas enthusiast, we have entered that final sprint where all the traditional favorite movies must be watched before the 25th.

Thus far having begun on Thanksgiving (I can’t even remember when the Christmas music began! Lol!), here are the titles we’ve already watched (or conquered, depending on your perspective):

  • You’ve Got Mail (I know its not only Christmasy–that just demonstrates the nature of our plight)
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • Miracle on 34th Street (the original version)
  • Muppet Christmas Carol

Still to come?

  • White Christmas
  • The Grinch (both versions)
  • Home Alone 1 and 2
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Charlie Brown Christmas
  • The Santa Clause

Wow.  That list is a lot longer than I was thinking it would be, however there are a number of movies I’m thankful (and praying) we will not be watching:

  • Jingle All the Way
  • The Santa Clause 2 and 3
  • Home Alone 3

Any more we should add to our list?

Christmas Decorations

December 8, 2009

As the Christmas decor slowly takes over our home (and the movies, our computers), I found my nomination for best email forward of the year.  Thanks Ron!

The good news is that I truly outdid myself this year with my special outdoor Christmas decoration. The bad news is that I had to take my special display down after two days. Many people came screaming up to my door, which led to great stories, but two things led to my taking my decoration down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents, proven when they almost wrecked their own car as they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder and almost killed herself putting it up against my house. She didn’t realize the figure wasn’t real until she climbed to the top of the ladder (she wasn’t happy about that discovery). By the way, she was only one of many people who attempted to climb the ladder to ‘help.’

My yard couldn’t take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up onto my lawn.

Oh well, so much for originality and creativity.  MERRY Christmas and a fun New Year

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Christmas is Upon Us

December 6, 2009

Christmas is upon us, and the good people over at the Onion are prodding American materialism in their wonderfully sarcastic tone in the article “New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable“.

“The new device is an improvement over the old device, making it more attractive for purchase by all Americans,” said Thomas Wakefield, a spokesperson for the large conglomerate that manufactures the new device. “The old device is no longer sufficient. Consumers should no longer have any use or longing for the old device” (New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable)

As we kick off our Advent calendar, let me prescribe some contrasting perspective to the Onion.  I enjoyed reading Ryan Topper’s post on Christmas from last year again today as well as this quote from Bruce Metzger’s book Consuming Jesus:

“[The powers Jesus came to free us from] come in many forms, including…the American enterprise and its demands for individual self-fulfillment and consumer preference.  Jesus confronts and conquers the powers and the laws by which they wield power: he refuses to play by their rules and masters them rather than being mastered by them.  These fallen powers have lost their enslaving grip on people because of the new world order that Jesus has inaugurated in his death and resurrection” (Metzger, 70).

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