Category Archives: Christmas

He Will Bring Us Goodness

God is good. His very nature is good. Therefore every action of God is good. This week we celebrate God’s desire to bring goodness as echoed in the carol, Do You Hear What I Hear?

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

Theologians define God’s goodness as his benevolence to his creation and his kindness exhibited toward all he has made

God expresses his goodness toward the people who know him and the people who don’t know him. He is good to all.

How is God good to us before we know him?

He created us with free will. He wanted love and so he was willing to take the risk that we might reject him.  He sustained us even when we were far from him. He gave us the beauty of creation to enjoy. He gave us friends and family. He gave us each gifts, talents, and creativity. He heard the prayers our loved ones prayed on our behalf.

The ultimate sign of God’s goodness to us before we knew him is Christmas. God so loved the world and everyone in it that he sent his son. If you ever want to know if God is good – look in the manger and then look to the cross.

How is God good to us after we know him?

He gives us everlasting life the moment we believe – eternal life in heaven and his abundant life here on earth.  He gives us immediate access to him through prayer. He works all things out for our good.  He gives us the Holy Spirit and the Word of God so we can become the best possible version of ourselves here on this earth.

How do we respond to God’s goodness?

For those who don’t know him yet he invites us to experience his goodness.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8 NLT

Those of us who know him offer our thanks.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34 NLT

God is good. His goodness is generously poured out on all humanity.

God and Sinners Reconciled

In this holiday season we are finding the true meaning of Christmas in our favorite carols. This week we take a look at Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king”
Peace on earth, and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

Christmas is all about the reconciliation of God and man. That is why Jesus came. And it’s all summed up in one verse of scripture.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 NKJV

Lets take a look at each phrase in this beautiful passage

She will bring forth a Son –The Christmas story is so familiar that sometimes we don’t really feel the impact of each detail. Don’t let the thought of the virgin birth slip by you. In this one facet of the story, so many important things are communicated. The virgin birth:

  • Proves Jesus’ divine origin
  • Expresses God’s desire to draw near and become part of the human race
  • Fulfill prophecy
  • Demonstrates that man cannot save himself
  • Allows Jesus to live the incarnation as fully God and fully human
  • Reveals that reconciliation was all God’s initiative

You shall call his name Jesus – The name Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua. Both are literally translated Jehovah saves. Jesus’ name reveals God’s heart of compassion for his creation.

For He will save His people from their sins – The message of Christmas is that Jesus became a man so that sinners could be reconciled to God. He saves us from our past sins, our present sins and any future sins. The core of Christmas is that you can change!

Jesus’ humble virgin birth, his obedient life, his substitutionary death and his powerful resurrection take care of all our past sins and save us from future sins by transforming our lives. Change is possible because of Jesus. That is something to sing about!

6 Ways to Worship at Christmas

The word Christmas originates with to words Christ Mass. The very name of the season points to our gathering to worship, the mass of Christ. Christmas is all about the worship of Jesus.

We can learn more about ways to worship Jesus from the story of the wisemen who sought him out that very first Christmas. Read the story from Matthew 2:1-12 and pay attention to the six phrases in bold.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Cultivate a Sincere Desire – Worship seldom happens spontaneously without effort. You have to plan for it. You have to want it like the wise men who most likely traveled over a thousand miles for 30 days.

Live with Expectancy – There is something about expectancy – about faith – that leads to worship. The wisemen expected to find “the One.” They fully anticipated that they would find him. If you expect to find Jesus, he will show up!

Choose to Express Joy – The three wisemen were overjoyed. They greatly rejoiced with exceeding joy. They didn’t just feel joy, they expressed it. Worship is about expressing joy for every good thing God has done.

Humble Yourself – The feel on their knees to worship Jesus. They bowed down. Worship is about humbling yourself in the presence of someone so much greater than you.

Purpose to Give – Worship is also giving. The wisemen presented gifts to Jesus. What do you give to the one who created everything? Give him the only gift that matters – yourself.

Say Yes – After worship the wisemen were warned not to go back to Herod. They returned by another route. Worship changes the direction of your life. You enter God’s presence one way and returned changed. Say yes to the changes!

 

Lay Your Burden Down

Every week, my mother walked from our home to a church in nearby town. She carried my baby sister while my three older siblings trailed behind her.  People stopped to offer her a ride but she refused. She not only carried my sister, she carried the burden of performance. She felt like she had to prove her devotion to God.

One day, her cousin looked her in the eye and said, “You don’t have to earn God’s love. He already loves you. “

My mom found freedom when she laid down her burdens.

Now, we love babies at Shoreline.  We love children. But we know some of us are walking into this new year carrying the wrong little bundle. We are carrying performance, worry, fear, pride, rejection and shame.

Could it be you?

Do you feel tired and worn out trying to manage the pain of the past? Are your arms burning, trembling under the weight of the load you carry?

This is a fresh new year!  It’s time to lay your burden down!

Jesus came to bring freedom.

 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Lay down the burdens of 2014. Lay down the burdens of your past. Don’t carry them into 2015.

Hear God saying this to you today, “Give me your burden, your pain, your worry, your disappointment. Cast all your care on me.”

 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. I Peter 5:6-7

You are God’s child. His son. His daughter. He cares deeply for you. Like a loving Father he waits to scoop you up in his strong arms.

Don’t carry your burdensome bundles. Let the baby born in a manger carry you.

Come As You Are

Christmas is for outcasts, for people on the margins of life, for people just like you and me.

The very first folks invited to celebrate the birth of our Savior were shepherds on the hills in the outskirts of town. Here’s the truth about shepherds, it was not a noble profession. Shepherds were unclean. They were not welcome to worship in the temple. When the angel welcomed them to the manger, he welcomed the lowest of low. (Luke 2:8-20)  There is no one too humble, no one unworthy of God’s gift of love to the world.

Next on the scene were three wise men, philosophers, astronomers, highly educated men with resources to travel. They came a great distance to see the baby foretold in the heavens by one glorious star. Their presence at the lowly manger proves that no one is too great, no one has arrived, no one is above their need for rescue. (Matt 2:1-12)

For great and small, good news has come.

For simple and wise, God is with us.

We are all invited, all called to the manger to worship the Infant-King.

And to each one of us, Jesus says, “Come As You Are.”

 

God With Us

The simplicity of Christmas has become lost in pomp and circumstance.  The thrill of Black Friday and Cyber Monday – gone too quickly as we check our lists and count our savings.

We have parties to attend, trips to plan and family to visit  – sometimes much to our chagrin. The tree is filled with packages wrapped in beautiful bows and fancy ribbons with the hope that the gifts express our love adequately.

Under the tree hidden beneath all the gifts we find a surprisingly human element in the Christmas story. The nativity scene symbolizes hope for humanity and a promise of God with us.

Born in scandal on this Christmas Eve, look what Matthew 1:23 has to say about Jesus,

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us.” A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger, “God with us.”

Christmas teaches us God is humble and he desires to be with us regardless of where we are.  Christmas reveals a miracle – a virgin who gave birth, an impossibility except with God. I

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

Are you facing an unbearable situation? Do you have the Christmas blues and nothing is cheery and bright?  Are you grieving the loss of a loved one? Do you have more month left at the end of your money? Are you struggling with an addiction? Does your body need a healing?

Christmas proclaims God is with us and he wants to work a miracle in our lives today. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). This Christmas build in a pause and explore the infamous love of God who gave us the greatest gift of all, his presence.

 

 

Finding Joy at Christmas

Long ago on that very first Christmas Day, an angel declared a special birth announcement from the sky above Bethlehem.

 “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; Luke 2:10

The manger birth of this small boy was a gift of great joy!

And joy bubbles up at every turn in the Christmas story. Zechariah was told he would have joy and gladness, and that many would rejoice at the birth of his son, John. (Luke 1:14) That same son did a happy dance while still in utero. (Luke 1:44) Mary rejoiced in God her Savior. (Luke 1:47)

Isn’t joy the most enjoyable emotion? Joy echoes in rounds of belly laughter. It makes your cheeks ache in the most delightful way. Joy is hard to contain which is both good and bad. Life happens and joy seeps out of our containers. The bubbling well runs dry. We take ourselves, our lives and everything in it all too seriously.

When Christmas comes around, we catch a glimpse of this great joy in the reckless anticipation of a child. We see joy on faces in family photos. Lights twinkle joy in a rainbow of color. Our hearts long to feel the joy of the season soaking up and quenching our deepest thirst.

We may try to slake our thirst in pleasure, in parties, in presents.

But joy is an inside job.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44

We will never find joy at Christmas unless we first find it in Jesus.

Through Jesus, we find the joy in everything – work, play, rest, family, friends and Christmas.

Joy isn’t found only in presents, it’s found in presence.

David the poet, king put it this way, “In your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11)

Matthew the tax-collector, cheat turned kingdom follower tells us that’s what Christmas is all about,

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel, which means God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)