“The Heart of Christmas”

•December 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment

ImageWhat is the heart of Christmas?  What is the central heart-beat of this busy holiday? It seems like everyone is trying to get our attention with all the lights, displays, commercials, ads, cards, banners, and bribes of deep discounts. 

You’ve heard it said, “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  But How can we do it with so much going on? At times it seems that Christ is being crowded out.  How far do we go to Keep Christ the center of Christmas?  

    • Do we throw away our trees
    • Return our gifts
    • Shred the wrapping paper
    • pour out the eggnog
    • Toss the Christmas cookies
    • Store away the Christmas ordainments
    • Lynch Santa
    • Roast the Reindeer
    • Slash the stockings
    • Trash the tinsel
    • Pop all the lights
    • Drop the decorations
    • Sell our Christmas movies
    • Cancel time away with family
    • Burn our Christmas sweaters?   (Ok, so maybe burning Christmas sweaters is actually a good idea.)

In our over commercialized culture, what can we do to Keep Christ in Christmas?  It almost seems that Christmas is being stolen from the Christians.  Everything is Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas from the retail stores that want to be politically correct.  So much that some Christian groups want to keep score.  They have made a “Naughty and Nice” list of retail stores that used politically correct terms such as winter wonder land, Santa, and holiday instead of Christmas.  This site challenges Christians to boycott these stores.  Some Christians have waged war, with their campaign banners, shirts and buttons proclaiming, “Keep Christ in Christmas.”  The Holidays wars have begun and it seems that every year, Christ gets squeezed out of this holiday even by those who are fighting to keep Him in it.

      So what is our response to this mayhem?  How do we and should we celebrate the Holiday that celebrates the birth of King, Jesus?  Should we boycott all Holiday celebrations without a manger?  Should we boycott all stores that don’t mention Christmas?  Do we lock ourselves in a church and spend that time in monk style dedication to Christ?  Do we lock up our chimney’s to keep a plump jolly man from entering?  Should we boycott the Holiday all together?

That’s been done before:  In Boston, A Puritan settled city – From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings.

I think for us to understand how to keep Christ in Christmas, we must travel back in time… Back before Santa Claus, Christmas lights, and Shopping Malls.  We’ll make several stops in different times and location.  First let’s travel to a sleepy little town called Bethlehem about 2000 years ago.  Let’s look the reaction of those involved in the Nativity, maybe we’ll get a hint of how we are to react to the Heart of Christmas.

Luke 2:8-19 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

I love Luke’s version of the birth of Christ.  Matthew’s gospel tells us the story of the Kings (wisemen) from the east following a star.  Where Luke tells of a heavenly announcement from the angels to a group of shepherds… The Average Joe blue collar workers about the birth of a King.  The wisemen brought gifts and returned home secretly, but the shepherds had a different role in Jesus birth.  They brought nothing that we know of then left and told everyone.  I believe their role was to tell everyone.   God chose the most un-ideal messenger to announce the birth of His son, the King.  But they were exactly who God wanted there. 

Because it was announced by an angel, God could have invited anyone.  He choose to invite the most common folk in the world… shepherds.  It shows that Christ not only came for the Kings, but He also came for the common man.  In fact, It was the common man whom they had in mind when Christmas was created… Yes, I said created.

Christmas as we know wasn’t celebrated on Jesus’ first birthday.  In fact the first Christmas wasn’t celebrated until the 4th Century.  Up to that point, the church only celebrated Easter.  The Church leadership decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus as well.  The big question was “When?” 

They had a good biblical and historical time line for Easter, but we don’t have any clue when Jesus was actually born.  Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.  In Rome, a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated.  This was an adaptation of the Winter Solstice Celebration.  Winter Solstice was Celebrated hundreds of years prior to the birth of Christ.  Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down.   For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun. 

December 25 was chosen and was First called the Feast of the Nativity.  The custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to ScandinaviaBy holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.  By the Middle ages, Christianity had replaced paganism.  But many of the characteristics of their festivals remained.  Christmas was a day that started with a church service and then ended with a drunken Mardi Gras style party.  This style of celebration continued throughout the middle ages in Europe and into the newly discovered America.  They celebrated this way at Jamestown in 1607 with Eggnogg (Which was mostly rum).  But the Pilgrims, did not celebrate Christmas (as they were puritans… the same group who later banned Christmas in the 1600′s in Boston).

After the American revolution in 1700′s, English traditions fell out favor with Americans and so did Christmas.  In fact congress would regularly meet on December 25th.  Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.  Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia.  Christmas as we know it, has only been celebrated for less than 150 years. 

Christmas was celebrated first by the common man (the shepherds) and then instituted as a holiday during a time that would get the common man (the pagans) involved.  Maybe Pope Julius had a great idea by placing the Celebration of the birth of Christ on December 25th… for he was successful in that Christmas is the most widely celebrated holiday in the whole world. 

After the common man’s reaction to the birth of Christ, in the story of Luke, we have a mother’s Reaction.  Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Pondered – the original meaning of this word is “weighed.”   She kept them; she “weighed” them in her mind, giving to each circumstance its just importance, or compared them in her mind, with what had been said to herself by the angel, and also by her husband, as well as what was said by Elisabeth at the time she made her a visit.  Weighing out everything regarding her new born child.  We all do this as new parents.  We ponder what our child will be like and we go ahead and give him/her characteristics.  Mary said nothing of them to others and therefore left things, till time should make a discovery of them in a proper way, and in the best season.

At that time, no human on Earth loved that little baby boy who was Christ the king more than His mother Mary.   And all she did was ponder?  And why would Luke include this information?  Luke is so technical in his writing.  He wasn’t an emotional writer as some of the other gospel writers.  In fact this word Ponder, only occurs here in the entire New Testament.  The Shepherds told everyone, The Wisemen told no one, and Mary Pondered.  So why can’t we ponder Christ in our hearts.

Maybe Christmas is getting over commercialized.  Maybe the common man is taking over the holiday as it was intended.  But I am glad to share the day we celebrate our savior’s birth with them… Christ didn’t just come for the king and the Christians, Christ came for the common man and those who yet to believe and will never believe. Today, I want to challenge you as a pastor that we can have the heart of Christmas if we ponder Him in our hearts.  It’s that heart that really matters.   God desires our hearts more than our actions

So celebrate, deck the halls, sing songs, be merry and jolly. Drink lots of eggnog without rum and give away too many gifts.  If Jesus were walking on this earth his track record would show that He would attend a Christmas Party before he would step foot in one of our candle light services.  A party is where the common man would be.

So don’t alienate yourself from Christmas.  Keep Christ in Christmas by not pulling yourself out of it.  For if Christ is in our hearts then He is in all of our celebrations.  For if all Christians abandon the holiday, then He will cease to exist in our merry making.  Christmas is about family, friends, generosity, love, joy and peace.    That sounds a lot like Jesus to me.   

Amazing Sunday!!!

•May 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

What an Amazing Sunday we had.  People are still talking about it today.  The worship was outstanding as usual.  We baptized 2 people and 1 more gave their heart to God after service.  The testimonies shared before baptism were both beautiful stories of God’s love and grace.  From sexual abuse to witchcraft, God’s love broke every chain.  ImageImageImage

Rules Rule!!

•April 24, 2013 • Leave a Comment

ImageThis morning I read Psalm 119.   It’s the longest chapter in the bible with 176 verses.  Today I finished Psalm 136 (the chapter I am supposed to be on for the 50 day fuel challenge to read through Psalms.  Because it was so long, I skipped Psalm 119 a couple days ago and I went back and read it today.  It really spoke to me today.

As I sit reading verse after verse of the Psalmist go on and on about how much he loves the Law, the statutes, the commandments of God.  He starts to sound like a love sick teenage boy who is head over heals with the new girl in school.  

I was quickly challenged… Do I love God’s Law, Commandments, his statutes, HIS RULES???  

I have always understood them (not always, but for the most part).  I have appreciated them (even though I haven’t always followed them).  But LOVE them???  Like doodle them in your notebook and write poetry about them kind of love.  

The older I get the more I do love them.  Maybe I don’t write songs about them, but I love what they do in my life.  They keep me safe and protected.  It protects the ones I love the most.  It holds together my reputation.  It makes me a better man.  It makes me a better pastor to the people at http://www.lynchburgcog.org.   The me that is apart from God’s law is not a me that I like.  I am selfish, greedy, full of bitterness, spiteful, unfaithful, dishonest, and lazy.  

God’s law keeps me… so I keep them.  

Therefore I love the law.

Psalm 119:47-48 

for I delight in your commands
    because I love them.
I reach out for your commands, which I love,
    that I may meditate on your decrees.

 

Ground Breaking Service

•March 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The Lynchburg Church of God will be entering into its first building project since 1981.  To celebrate, the congregation met outside for a groundbreaking service led by Pastor Mike Kirby and Bishop David Hagee on March 3, 2013.  The church will be building a children’s ministry wing that will connect to the original building.  This project also includes a remodel of the outside of the entire facility with a new metal roof, additional 40 paved parking spaces, new sidewalks, landscaping, lobby renovation, and knocking down walls in the sanctuary to add 80 additional seats.

Please pray for us as we go forward with this project for the glory of God.

Dinnertime Adventures

•February 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

I eat too fast.  Really fast.  Dinners at my house are like a sprint.  By the time we get the kids home around 6 from pre-school.  We rush around the kitchen putting dinner together as fast as we can.  The kids are starving and we to get them in the bath tub in 45 minutes or less to make bed time.  Kelli and I move around our kitchen like old synchronized swimmers going through a familiar routeen performed hundreds of times.  She unloads the dishwasher from the night before and I prepare the meal.  We swing back and forth, gracefully dodging each other and stepping over small children at our feet.  Ava, our almost 5 year old, vies for our attention by showing us her work from school and Colt, our 10 month old, unpacks the lower cabinets decorating the floor with pots, pans, cracker boxes, and packs of oatmeal.  Dinner hits the table in shifts.  We give Ava some of her food first, because she takes the longest.  She finds life too exciting to waste it by putting food in her mouth.  She would rather play, sing, or talk about…. nothing.  Colt is on deck, still decorating the floor.  More food is complete… enough to place Colt in his high chair and for him to immediately shove food in his mouth like he has been stuck in a cave for weeks after rationing a pack of crackers.  Now it’s the grown ups turn.  The table is set, the food is hot, we pray and then something happens.  One of the children need something, has to go the bathroom, or starts to cry.   My food has time too cool after multiple trips back and forth to the kitchen or other places.  When I do sit down, I find myself eating faster than Colt.  By this time we only have a few minutes remaining before bath time and Colt is a ticking time bomb in a high chair.  Because I want to enjoy my food while its hot, I don’t get a chance to savor the food I worked so hard to prepare.  It’s not always chaos.  There are moments when all is quiet and peaceful.  There are moments filled with laughter.  There are special moments that Ava randomly says something that warms my heart or Colt learns something new.  There are even moments that Kelli and I lock eyes with each other and her smile takes me back to simpler times.   Then Colt is DONE.  He lets us know by pushing the remaining pieces of food off his tray on to the floor and begins to protest.  He is ready for bath and the rush to bed begins.

I think we do this with life sometime.  Rushing to the next event, task, or project.  Never stopping to savor the moment.  We rush through this beautiful world sometimes without stopping to breath in the aroma of life or soak in the beautiful landscape God painted for us.  Stop.  Reflect.  Linger… Let God’s beauty be soaked in your Soul today.

Life is an Adventure!!!

•February 22, 2012 • Leave a Comment

 

Kelli and I went on a date last night.  Thanks to some great friends watching our children, we got a chance to have dinner as married adults and not as parents (AKA Referees, circus trainers, or peacemakers).  It was nice to sit down and have adult conversations with my wife.  Afterwards, we went to a movie.  I was inspired because the characters in the film were not inhibited by the cares of life.  They were carefree, daring, and full of adventure.  I was jealous.  I saw my very ordinary life with my busy routine compared to their adventurous lifestyle.  I told Kelli on the way home, “I want us to have more Adventures.”

This morning during my prayer time, I was going through my routine of reading and writing/praying through my prayer journal.  I wrote down these words.  God, I want Adventure in my life, my home, and my church.   I was quickly reminded of the Life List that I pray over everyday.

1. Honor God

2. Cherish Family

3. Value People

4. Produce more than I consume

5. Be a Life Learner

6. Make Life an Adventure.

This is the list I pray over everyday.  Somehow #6 can be quickly choked out by the cares and worries of life.   As I was praying this morning, I was writing adventures down.  But realities started to kick in… but  I have responsibilities; I have a long “to do” list today; I need more money to pay the bills; I have expectations I must meet; Gas is expensive, and the children need… everything.  I was quickly reminded of the sermon I preached on Sunday in my series called, “We were meant to live.”

We have been journeying through Philippians and have reached Philippians 4:6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  The words “Do Not” in the Greek litteraly mean to have a deficiency.  How amazing would it be to have a deficiency of Anxiety or worry.  I know what it’s like to have a deficiency of time, of money, of ideas, of patience… but not worry.  Paul gives us the insight of how we can have a  a deficiency of Anxiety or worry… the verse before says, “The Lord is Near”.  The word near in the Greek describes both space and time.  I have always read it as, “The lord is near, people get ready, Jesus is coming.”  Instead, God allowed me to see it as “God is close.”  I found comfort knowing God is near, close, and in control.

Today is going to be an adventure. I was mean to live for more than mindlessly knocking out a task list.  Today is going to be an adventure.  Hopefully Pictures of my adventure will come.

Laser Tag Growing in Popularity!!!

•November 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Who knew when I started my business 2 years ago that it would be this succesful.  www.lasertagsource.com rents and ships Laser Tag Equipment all over the United States.  I have shipped to over 55 cities in 20 different states, many of them I have shipped mulitiple times.  I started keeping track of the cities with pins on a map.  I have rented Laser Tag guns to youth groups, After prom parties, college groups, children’s birthday parties, bachalor parties, church community events, Country Club socials, middle school after school programs, Chick-fil-A events, Wildfire Weekend, and much more.  If you know of anyone who needs a little fun in their life, no matter where they are located, we ship the adventure to them.

 
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