Category Archives: Christmas
One of the most significant and unsung verses in the Christmas Story and maybe in the New Testament is Luke 1:11.
An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.Luke 1:11 Christian Standard Bible
This is the moment that God broke through after 400 years of silence, after allowing the rampaging and devastation and defeat of His chosen people, and after allowing Judaism to become a ritualistic shell of itself. God broke through. God spoke. God set in course the events that would bring salvation to all the world in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The before and after of this verse goes like this: An aging Priest named Zechariah got the opportunity of a lifetime to offer incense in the Temple’s sanctuary. He and his wife Elizabeth, who was never able to have children, and now was well along in years, made arrangements to fulfill this obligation. As he offered incense, God reached down and spoke. Unexpected events, unexpected people involved, unexpected announcement that Elizabeth would have a baby. That baby would become the way-preparer for the Messiah, John the Baptist.
This is the moment where God initiated the keeping of His Promises and Securing the Hope of all who believe. This is the moment that those caught up in this story saw their Hope Restored. What does Restored Hope look like? For Zechariah and Elizabeth and that group of ordinaries that surrounded them on this day, it looked like this:
The Pathway to Hope Again:
1. Recognition that God’s Word is still true. The prophecy of the coming Messiah and the Way-Preparer IS TRUE! And in the coming days, 100’s of other prophecies would be fulfilled in the coming of Christ. For Zechariah, this was no longer just stale religious ritual, but a dynamic voice, capable of restoring hope and bringing change.
2. Recognition that God can still use even me. The sun was seemingly setting on Zechariah’s life and ministry, but God broke through and gave he and Elizabeth a place of prominence in the Gospel story. God is never finished. He gets the last word on our significance.
3. Recognition that God can still accomplish the impossible. Elizabeth’s barren womb and old age, would be no obstacle to God’s will and God’s promise being kept. Neither will any obstacle that we face in life and leadership. Nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37) will be a core belief of the hope-filled believers.
Maybe this Christmas, you find yourself with lost hope or deferred hope (Proverbs 29:13). Ask God to breakthrough again with these three truths. You can Hope Again. His Word is True. He’s not finished with you. He’s still doing the impossible. Hope Again. Believe Again.
Father, restore our hope through demonstrating the truth of Your Word. Show us that we are your instruments until the day we die. Open our eyes to see the possibilities of your power and your promise.
Join Bridge Church, Sunday’s at 10am at Hollywood Theater in Covington to discover more great truths from the story of Christmas.
The Christmas story says a lot about the nature of true worship. We can say that God sent Christ into the world so that we could have unfettered opportunity to worship Him. However, worship is misunderstood today as a place and time (“the Worship Service starts at…”) or an experience or element of a gathering (“the worship was great today”). We find a great definition of true worship in Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-55.
Worship is humble surrender born out of knowledge of God.
Mary’s worship demonstrated three things:
1. Humility – “It’s not about me.”
Real Worship starts with the reality that life is about HIS value, and then wonder that I can be accepted, cared for, given to, by such an incredible God. Mary says, “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant” Luke 1:46-47. Mary demonstrates for us that the proper attitude in worship and in life is, “It’s not about me. It’s about Him.” And “who me? I get to be part of this?”
2. Surrender – “Lord, my life is Yours.”
Mary was a true worshiper because her heart was surrendered. In Luke 1:38 she said, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to Your Word.” In Luke 1:48, she again calls herself “His Servant.” The word here is literally bond-slave denoting one that has intentionally surrendered themselves to be in servitude to another. To surrender is to make your whole self available to God for whatever He desires. It’s to say to God, “Your way is best. I’m listening. I’m ready to respond with yes.” The opposite of surrender is to resist, to fight, to struggle, to run away, to make our way best and essentially ourselves god, which is idolatry. Mary’s worshiped with a heart that was without resistance.
3. Knowledge of God – “He has done great things for me, and holy is His name” Luke 1:49.
In this song, Mary shows us that she knows God’s word, has a deep understanding of God’s purposes, she knows His work in history, and that she’s internalized His promises to be for her and all that have led her to worship Him.
What has God done for you? How has God worked in your life? You can’t worship what you don’t know. Humility and surrender will open your life to know and experience God, which will lead you to a life of worshiping Him.
So, is life all about you? is there resistance in your heart when it comes to the will of God? can you point to God’s work in your life? If not, during this Christmas season, humble yourself, surrender your heart and will, and get to know His story. Worship Him.
Here’s a few simple Holiday outreach projects that any church, small group, family, or individual can afford. I can testify that these make a big impact with a small investment of time & money.
1. Gift cards for ICU Waiting Rooms. At any given time in your community there are people reeling from traumatic events or devastating illness. Their families can be found in waiting rooms at your local hospital. Pick up a handful of Gift Cards to the closest restaurants & coffee shops, drop by & give them out with a “Praying for You” card from your church. Offer to pray for anyone you get to talk with. Simple act of kindness can breathe life into someone that is overwhelmed with bad news. If no one is there, give them to the nurses desk & they’ll pass them out for you. These nurses could also use prayer & encouragement. Call ahead & find out when visiting times are so that you know when people are in the waiting rooms. $100 for 5-10 gift cards.
2. Care packages for the Homeless. If you live in a metro area or near the interstate, you probably get an invitation to serve the homeless everyday at area red lights. “Should I give them money?” is a constant question. Few of us carry cash anymore. Doing nothing is not desirous for most believers. How about make up some simple care packages with some goodies that that can be passed out the window of a car? Keep 3-5 in your car at all times. $10 per bag.
3. Christmas Decor for Nursing Home Residents. Go to your local nursing home & ask for a list of residents with no local family. The reality for these residents is often few visits if any, few seasonal decorations for their walls, few convenient items like warm socks or lotion. Offer to pray for them. Find out what they want or need & plan a return visit. Spend some time listening to their story. $25 for a few Christmas decorations & simple cards colored by kids.
4. Fruit baskets for Elderly shut-ins. Local shut-ins are lonely. They often feel trapped. They often have simple to-do’s around their home that can be taken care of in less than an hour. Making up fruit baskets to deliver to them gives you a reason to encourage them with a visit & find out other needs that your faith community can take care of on their behalf. $25 for a bowl or basket & fruit & other goodies to go int them.
5. Weatherization for Local Widows. In every community there are widows & widowers that can no longer take care of simple things like wrapping their pipes or preparing their home for winter. A great project for the men’s group could be spend one Saturday per year wrapping pipes. $100 worth of weatherization supplies.
6. Holiday Treats for Local Teachers Lounges. We often hear laments about churches not being able to “get into the schools.” Most of the time, we’re trying to get in on our terms instead of thinking of ways to be a blessing. We found one way that is enthusiastically accepted 100% of the time at our local schools: stuffing snack baskets full of goodies for teacher’s lounges at the beginning of the school year, holidays, & end of school. Christmas is a great time for this. Shoot for the week that school is getting out. There’s probably a party going on! $100 per Teacher’s lounge.
What other similar outreach ideas have you or your church done at Christmas?
- Every ICU Patient family got a gift card & a prayer.
- Every homeless person got a care packet.
- Every Nursing Home resident had Christmas decorations.
- Every shut-in got a fruit basket.
- Every widow had her pipes wrapped for winter.
- Every Teacher’s lounge had holiday treats & a note of encouragement from your church.
Grateful for another year of growth & grace. Hudson (9), Lane, Kate (3), Heather, & Jackson (13)
Picture taken by Amber Veuleman. Location: Madisonville Lighthouse, Madisonville, LA. And you can’t tell, but swells were pretty high that day, so we’re kind of holding on for dear life. Lol!
Wondering what to get the church planter friend or loved one in your life for Christmas, etc.? It was actually a great year for books for church planter types. Lots of great books to choose from. Here’s five recent books that I think will make most church planters smile this Christmas or just because.
>> Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt. See some of my thoughts about the book HERE.
>> Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send by J.D. Greear. Great book on creating a culture of sending. Lots of how to’s. Must read for any missions or church planting enthusiast.
>> 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation by Clint Emerson. Do I have to explain why he’d love this?
>> The Great Fire: One American’s Mission to Rescue Victims of the 20th Century’s First Genocide by Lou Urenek. This would be a great movie, were it not for today’s political correctness. Inspiring story!
>> Staying is the New Going: Choosing to Love Where God Places You by Alan Briggs. Fellow church planter Alan Briggs helps all of us with a strong case for being on mission locally.
And if you wait too late you can’t go wrong with coffee shop or bookstore gift cards for church planters. :)
I keep an up to date, best stack of books for church planting HERE.
Here’s some verses we’ll be sharing around our table on Christmas Eve:
- 1 Timothy 1:15 – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”
- 1 John 3:5 – “Jesus came to take away our sins…”
- Luke 7:34 – “The Son of Man came eating and drinking… a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
- Luke 19:10 – “the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
- Matthew 20:28 – “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
This Christmas, celebrate the fact that God was willing to enter the world to take on the messiness of our sin that we might know Him & experience His presence.
“The Word became flesh & moved into the neighborhood.”
John 1:14 MSG
This time of year I love seeing the different ways churches reach out to their communities & the world. Christmas shoe boxes, Angel Tree’s, gifts to local at-risk kids, Christmas festivals & Block Parties, Special Christmas Musicals & Worship Gatherings, Christmas offerings for missions, etc., etc. But seeing new churches do these things really helps drive home the truth of the incarnation in my heart. The Incarnation is the truth that God became flesh & blood & dwelt among us in the person of Jesus Christ, in order to meet our deepest need in a way that had never been possible. When a new church begins to reach out in a community, we can realistically think about the day in the not too distant past, when that service or ministry was NOT available to those people. The word of God has “moved into the neighborhood”
to bring the truth & be the hands & feet of Jesus. That’s why I tend to get goose bumps when someone says, “If it hadn’t been for Hope Church or Bridge Church (two church plants that I’ve been a part of), I don’t know where I’d be…” Because I can remember when there was no Hope Church or Bridge Church. And I can remember times when I almost gave up because of hard soil & my own discouragement. But through his grace we were blessed to be a part of bringing Jesus & being Jesus in these neighborhoods.
Grateful for those who are incarnation-ally engaging this Christmas season.
This truth can also apply to individual Christians in your neighborhood, workplace, or extended family. How can you bring Jesus & be Jesus to those around you who need light this Christmas?
And what people group in your community does not have an active witness to the light of Christmas this year? How could church planting bring the gospel to new neighborhoods around your church & through your church?