The Christmas Story and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph-Red-Nosed-Reindeer-007This Sunday we are using Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as our jumping off portion of our sermon. I’m very excited about it, because this is one movie I watch every year. I have watched this movie ever year of my life that I can remember. It helps that this movie is almost double my age…but it’s still good!

But here is what the movie really gets to really well. It gets to the fact that so many of us don’t feel like we fit in with the world. That the expectations that are placed on us, are ones we can never live up to.

And many of us feel this reality all the more at Christmas.

And that’s what I want to talk about on Sunday, the feeling of not fitting in. The feeling of being a bit of a misfit. The feeling of not being included, and what Christmas has to say about that.

Because the truth is this: if Christmas is about anything, it certainly is about welcoming.

So that’s where we are going. But before we get there, why not grab some popcorn and watch a great Christmas movie – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and a Bumble that bounces.

Advent and “A Christmas Story”

movieposterThis Sunday we looked at the movie A Christmas Story to give us a fresh perspective on the Christmas story. And we watched this clip of little Ralphie so deeply hoping for a Red-Rider BB Gun.

The point of the clip on Sunday was that in our day and age – we don’t hope like Ralphie does. We are so generally worried about “living in reality” that we reing in hope. We don’t place our hopes on getting this one thing.

But that’s not what we see actually in the life of Mary. She is given an amazing promise of God, something that seems not just unlikely but impossible. But Mary doesn’t let doubt in, she doesn’t temper her hope with “realism”, she doesn’t lower her expectations, but let’s her hope in God run wild. Listen to what she says in Luke 1:46-55:

Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary hopes completely in God. She lets her hope in a merciful and strong God run wild. She doesn’t temper her hope with realism, or pragmatism. She hopes against all odds, that God has moved and is working within her.

And I think this is something we need to learn at Christmas especially. We need to learn to hope because Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming and with him everything changes. So we need to learn to hope, we need to let our hope run wild. That was the main point of Sunday. To let our hope in Jesus run wild.

And like Ralphie so deeply desiring a BB Gun, I asked everone one question: What is it you really want for Christmas? What are you really hoping for? And we’re not talking about gifts or deep desires. Is it for a marriage or body to be healed? To finally find a spouse, or purpose? To have a child, or a have a relationship healed? What is it you really want for Christmas?

Because I think that Christmas is a time to let our hope out, to share with God what we need and place our trust in him. That’s what Mary does, and I think that’s what we should do as well. And if there is ever a time to hope, I believe it is now.

So why not today answer that question: what are you hoping for this Christmas? Why not share with Jesus and trust in him to act. Because I know we often think about, “what happens if I get let down?” Well I think Christmas is about asking, what if God shows up and comes through. Because that’s what he did way back when, when he entered the world. And I think he can do it today.

So what are you hoping for?


Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to learn to hope.

Teaching Points:

  • Advent is a time where we wait and prepare for Jesus.
  • We don’t hope all that much anymore.
  • We don’t get our hopes up, because it is easier, but not necessarily better.
  • We need to learn to hope recklessly.
  • As Christians we can truly hope.
  • What do you really want this year for Christmas?
  • The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it has established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild. G.K. Chesterton
  • I believe in Hope, capital H, because I believe in Jesus.
  • Hope is the act of taking the next step. Karl Barth

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? Would you say you’re someone who hopes – or keeps your hopes realistic? How come? What are you hoping for this year? Who are you hoping with that can support you as you watch and wait for God to move? What reasons do you have to hope in God? How has he been faithful to you in the past? How might he be faithful to you this advent?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Spend sometime talking with your kids about hope. If they write down what gifts they are hoping for, why not have them make another list. “Things I’m hoping for, or things we can pray for”. Have them make a list of things and then pray over those things, and bring those things to Jesus.

Challenge for the Week: Let your hope run wild.

Christmas at the Movies

This Sunday we are starting a brand new series called, “Christmas at the Movies”. We are looking at some of the traditional Christmas stories, and themes and using movies to help us gain a fresh perspective on a changeless story.

So join us each Sunday as we look at these movies over the next five weeks:

  • A Christmas Story
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
  • National Lampoons Christmas Story
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • It’s a Wonderful Life

I know your favorite movie might not be there but hopefully one of them is, and hopefully we see you this Sunday!

Christmas Movies

“Jesus Didn’t Ring the Doorbell”

1546071_10153722534615643_359237485_nEarlier this week at breakfast Hudson was sitting at our counter and we were talking. He looked so very sad and he said to me, “Daddy, Jesus didn’t come”. I asked him what he meant.

He said this, “Daddy, Jesus didn’t come and ring the doorbell. He didn’t come for his birthday. He missed his birthday.”

He had been thinking about this because his birthday is coming up, and he’s been talking about it all the time (he wants an Angry Birds, Cars, and Tree-Rex themed party). And I guess from all this thinking he was actually watching and waiting for Jesus to show up on Christmas day.

I sat down and talked to him about how Jesus was here over Christmas and how he is here with us now. I tried to explain to him how Jesus is a part of our lives. And he just kept coming back to – “But Daddy, I want him to ring the doorbell and come in”.

And to be honest I was a little stuck. How do you help a 3 year old become aware of God’s presence all around? How do you help him enter into the awe and wonder of encountering Jesus? How do you explain to them that Jesus is real, and present but probably won’t ring the doorbell for his birthday?

And if I’m honest with you – I don’t have a lot of great answers. I tried talking some things through but they all fell flat. I guess that’s the joy of parenting, you get to figure it out as you go, and I’m sure I’ll get another shot at explaining it.

So if you’ve maybe walked through with your kids, nieces, or grandchildren I’d love your thoughts. How do you help children experience and develop an awareness of the presence of God? I think that’s an important question to ask, think about, and try to figure out because I want Hudson to grow up knowing the full presence of God in all he does.

So I’m still working that out, and I have a lot of ways to grow as a parent. But one thing made me extremely happy even while I struggle to explain and try to help Hudson encounter Jesus. And it’s this: he was waiting and looking for Jesus and that’s a great start.

Advent Reflection: Worshipping Jesus during Christmas

1371540_95553958On Sunday we looked at one last response to Jesus. We’ve already looked at how we wait for Jesus’ arrival, we are to respond with willingness when he shows up, and yesterday we saw how we are to respond with worship.

We looked at the story of the wisemen or the magi. In it they do something remarkable. They actually fall at Jesus’ feet and worship him when they find him. This is quite amazing because these are professional men, these are wealthy men, these are probably powerful men. And their response to a little boy in a hovel of a town, in the shadow of Herod’s third largest temple, fall on their face in adoration.

This is the response that we are to have towards Jesus Christ when we enter into his presence. We are to adore him. The magi do not fall at the feet of Jesus because of what he has done for them. They do not fall at his feet out of gratitude, because Jesus hasn’t done anything for them at all. They fall at his feet because of who he is. And this is a central part of worship. We need to worship Jesus not just for the good things he does for us, but we need to worship him for who he is.

Because he is King.

Because he is Good.

Because he is the Messiah.

Because he is God.

So we landed on one question from this story. When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like the wisemen did? When was the last time you entered into Jesus’ presence, fell at his feet and really worshipped him?

I think this is an important question because Christmas is to be about Jesus. And if we want to put Jesus at the centre it means to focus on him and worship him. I know when I asked that question, that for me, it’s been too long since I’ve just worshipped Jesus.

So we left with this challenge for this week: Christmas will soon be here, so find time to worship Jesus fully this week. Carve out time to worship him. For you that might be painting, walking, praying, singing, dancing, sitting silently, writing or whatever else. The point isn’t how you worship Jesus, but an invitation to actually do it. So Christmas is here in a few days so why not take up that challenge. If we truly want to bring Christ back into Christmas I think it begins with bringing him back in our lives with a focus on worshipping and adoring him. Because he does deserve it.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to worship Jesus fully

Take Aways…

  • Advent should be a season of worship
  • They “Fell down before him and worshipped him”
  • To be prostrate is to be in a position of submission
  • The magi fall at Jesus’ feet out of adoration
  • Adoration differs from other forms of worship such as supplication (asking for things), confession of sins, and offering thanks, inasmuch as it consists in devout recognition of God’s transcendent excellence – Catholic Encylcopedia
  • We need to worship Jesus fully
  • Our response to Jesus in this season, needs to be to worship him fully.
  • When was the last time you came into Jesus’ presence and fell at his feet like the Wisemen?

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

Think through this advent season and simply reflect on where your focus has been. Has it been on Jesus or other things? How can you shift your focus to Jesus this week? When was the last time you worshipped Jesus like the wisemen? How might you worship Jesus fully this week? What activities or practices draw you closer to him? Set aside some time this week to spend with Jesus.

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about the real reason about Christmas – how it’s about Jesus. Talk to them that its about worshipping him. Ask them how they might want to do that. Maybe they want to dance, maybe they want to give some of their toys to others, maybe they want to draw a picture and talk with Jesus. Whatever it may be why not actually do it with them.

Challenge for this Week Worship: Jesus fully this week

“Daddy Snow It Must Be Christmas”

1457457_10153541584360643_258669238_nHudson has no filter whatsoever. I doubt many three year olds do. I’d love to tell you some examples…but I think most of them are better left out of print…

The point though is that you have no doubt what he is thinking. And he has an ability to just change your perspective on so many things.

Earlier last week with the first kind of snowfall, as I was getting ready to shovel the snow, grumbling about the cold, and not loving the early morning – I was taking Hudson to daycare.

And as soon as he steps on the porch, he starts yelling and dancing instantly. “Daddy it’s here, it’s here, snow is here. Daddy, look ,snow, and that means it’s Christmas…Yeah!!!!” And he started running around, making tracks, jumping up and down and yelling “yeah it’s Christmas.”  I saw quite a few families who were walking their kids to school, look at Hudson, smile, and laugh.

And it dawned on me that I was missing something. I was missing some of the joy, anticipation, and excitement about Christmas. I was missing out because I wasn’t entering in.

So of course we ran around in the snow, and I started rediscovering the joy of this season.

So my question for you is this: have you lost any of the joy and anticipation of the season?

Because Christmas is a great season, there is so much to celebrate, and there is joy to be found. Don’t let the familiarity with Christmas rob you of its wonder.

Because Hudson taught me, and I think any of my neighbors outside, that there is something coming worth getting excited about.

Preparing for Jesus’ Yes

1430243_28387738On Sunday we looked at two Christmas stories. These two stories are very similar, both people receive amazing promises, have an encounter with an angel, and have some amazing desires met. The difference between the two stories is in the responses of the two people.

The first, Zechariah is promised to receive a special child from the Angel Gabriel. This is an amazing thing, and something he has been hoping for. But because his heart isn’t ready, he is unable to fully receive the promise. His response to Gabriel is “how will I know this will happen?”. He essentially asks, what more proof will there be that this promise will actually come to be? And Gabriel turns to him and essentially simply states, “The fact you are talking to an angel of God should be enough proof”. The point is that for Zechariah his initial response was a bit of reluctance, of hesitancy, of doubt.

The very next story though shows a bit of a different response. The angel Gabriel shows up to Mary and gives her a very similar promise. That she too would bear a son but that this son would be the Messiah. What an amazing promise! Her response though is very different from Zechariah’s, she says, “I am willing to accept whatever God wants”. Her response is willingness.

So we ended asking the question if God were to show up today – what would be your response to him? Would it be reluctance or acceptance? Would it be doubt or willingness?

I think this is an  important question to ask because I believe we’d like to be like Mary – responding with acceptance and willingness. The trouble is the longer we wait for God’s promises the more difficult it is to respond with Mary. We start to base our hopes on our expectations, rather than on God’s ability to do the impossible. We start to base our hopes on our reality, rather than God’s.

So we ended with this challenge on Sunday. Let’s prepare our hearts for God’s arrival. Jesus is coming; that’s what Advent is all about. So let’s prepare our hearts so that when he comes we can respond like Mary, with willingness and acceptance.

The only way to prepare our hearts to be able to be like Mary, I think, is to simply get closer to God. The closer we are to God the more likely we can respond rightly to God. So this week focus on getting closer to Jesus. Spend time with him in prayer, in conversation, in closeness and let that start to prepare your heart for his arrival. Advent is a time of preparation, so let’s prepare for Jesus because one thing is sure. He is coming, so let’s be ready.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea We need to have willing hearts

Take Aways…

  • Advent a time of waiting but also preparing.
  • We couch our expectations in our version of reality
  • Zechariah has based his life on what he thought is possible
  • We can be so unprepared in our hearts and minds, that we don’t even believe the promise and struggle to receive it.
  • In Zechariah’s response there is reluctance, in Mary’s there is willingness
  • What would be your response -willingness, or doubt?
  • We need to prepare our hearts to accept the impossible.
  • We need to have willing hearts.
  • Get close to God

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

What have you been waiting for? Would you say you are ready to receive it? What might be your response today to Jesus’ arrival in your life? How can you get closer to Jesus this week? What will you do this week?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: This week simply watch your kids. Give them something exciting, something great, and watch how easily they receive it. Kids have a natural way of receiving good things without questioning it. Why not learn from them this week.

Challenge for this Week: Get close to Jesus.

Preparing For Christmas and More Importantly – Christ

1409165_39019246This Sunday we are looking at another Advent theme. We are looking at preparing. The truth is for anything big in our lives we start to prepare. People prepare for weddings for months, the prepare for Christmas for weeks, and prepare for days for birthdays.

The point is that the larger the event is the more we prepare. We think about it, we plan for it, we make adjustments for it.

The question then is how are you preparing for Jesus’ coming?

Because this is a major event. This is a life changing reality. This is what Christmas is all about. So how are you personally preparing your life? And not just preparing your home with decorations and gifts. How are you preparing your spirit and soul for his coming this year?

This is what we are going to be talking about Sunday but I don’t think we need to wait till Sunday to start preparing. Why not take sometime this weekend to prepare your heart for Jesus’ coming. Spend some time with him, talk with him, focus on him. Prepare your house and heart for him, and not just all the friends and family you will be having in.

Because the promise of Advent is that Christ comes. So let’s be ready for his arrival.

The Power of the Christmas Story

Merry Christmas!

Take a moment if you can and maybe read the story here. I truly believe that stories can change people. They can redirect attention, give grace, and become a moment of meaning. So simply read the Christmas story to your family, friends, or on your own. But read it and be reminded of why we have Christmas, and maybe even be changed through it:

Mary, a virgin, was living in Galilee of Nazareth and was engaged to be married to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter. A1408232_74466547n angel visited her and explained to her that she would conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. She would carry and give birth to this child and she would name him Jesus.

At first Mary was afraid and troubled by the angel’s words. Being a virgin, Mary questioned the angel, “How will this be?” The angel explained that the child would be God’s own Son and, therefore, “nothing is impossible with God.” Humbled and in awe, Mary believed the angel of the Lord and rejoiced in God her Savior.

Mary must have reflected with awe on the words found in Isaiah 7:14 foretelling this event, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

While Mary was still engaged to Joseph, she miraculously became pregnant through the Holy Spirit, as foretold to her by the angel. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he had every right to feel disgraced and ashamed. He knew that the child was not his own, and Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness  would shape his community’s opinion of him and her. So Joseph decided to quietly break off the engagement seeking to spare Mary as much shame as possible. Joseph was a righteous man and sought to act with grace even in difficulty.

But God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream to confirm Mary’s miraculous story and reassure him that his marriage to her was God’s will. The angel explained God’s amazing plan that the child within Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit. That the child was the Messiah, and was to be named Jesus meaning God with us. When Joseph woke from his dream, he willingly obeyed God and took Mary home to be his wife, in spite of the public humiliation he would face.

Joseph too must have wondered in awe as he remembered the words found in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

At that time, Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken, and every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph, being of the line of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus. The Inn was full so she gave birth to Jesus in a manager, on their own, on the outskirts of town. She wrapped the baby in cloths and placed him in a manger.

Out in the fields, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds who were tending their flocks of sheep by night. The angel announced that the Savior had been born in the town of David. Suddenly a great host of heavenly beings appeared with the angels and began singing praises to God. As the angelic beings departed, the shepherds decided to travel to Bethlehem and see the Christ-child.

There they found Mary, Joseph and the baby, in the stable. They praised God for the miracle of the birth of the Messiah. They went on their way still praising and glorifying God. But Mary kept quiet, treasuring their words and pondering them in her heart.

After Jesus’ birth, Herod was king of Judea. At this time wise men from the east saw a star, they came in search, knowing the star signified the birth of the king of the Jews. The wise men came to the Jewish rulers in Jerusalem and asked where the Christ was to be born. The rulers explained, “In Bethlehem in Judea,” referring to Micah 5:2. Herod secretly met with the Magi and asked them to report back after they had found the child. Herod told the Magi that he too wanted to go and worship the babe. But secretly Herod was plotting to kill the child.

So the wise men continued to follow the star in search of the new born king and found Jesus with his mother in Bethlehem. They bowed and worshipped him, offering treasures of gold, incense, and myrrh. When they left, they did not return to Herod. They had been warned in a dream of his plot to destroy the child.

This is the story of Christmas. Merry Christmas, enjoy the day, and Jesus’ presence!!

Chasing Stars to Jesus

On Sunday we looked at an odd story of Magi, stargazing, and finding Jesus. What we saw in Matthew 2 is a beautiful story of sacrifice, searching, and stargazing. We see Magi who have been diligently searching the Scriptures because they knew of the prophecy about the birth of the Messiah. We see them willing to sacrifice and travel over 700 miles to Jerusalem to welcome and worship the new king. We see them suffer through heartbreak and difficulty as they finally reach their destination to discover there is no king in Jerusalem. And worse than that, it seems like Israel as a nation isn’t even looking. Doubt and dejection becomes a temptation. But they press on, they keep following the star, wondering and hoping that it will lead them to the one they have set out months and months ago to find. And finally after miles and miles of travel, after cold nights, endless sacrifices, threats, and rough journeys they arrive to find Jesus. They find him. And I think this is a beautiful story about how to find Jesus.

I love this story because amidst all the heartbreak, set-backs, and sacrifices they get to meet with God. Even though at times they were looking for Jesus in the wrong places, and maybe not in the right way, God still guides them to him. What matters to Jesus is the heart that is searching for him and these magi have a heart that demonstrates sacrifice, perseverance, and audacious hope. I love this because this story reminds me to never give up searching for Jesus.

Maybe you know what it is like to search for God and feel disappointed. Maybe you know what it is like to give up and leave behind your context to find this King,only to become confused and unsure. Maybe you know what it is to search but still haven’t found Jesus.

Well, I think this story teaches us something profound: don’t give up. Keep going. Keep believing. Even if doubt tempts you to give up, hold onto hope that Jesus could be over the next hill. Because the magi hold onto to hope in face of difficult circumstances, and eventually they go over the next hill and discover Jesus. And so what I want to leave with you today is this…Jesus could be just over the hill…so if you are searching, don’t give up

Because the God that you’re searching for…is searching for you too…

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Your heart matters most in finding God

Take Aways…

  • What matters most in a gift is the motive and meaning behind it
  • What matters most to God isn’t looking for him in the right way, or the right place. What matters is the heart that is looking for him
  • Is your heart ready and willing to follow, sacrifice, and celebrate to find Jesus
  • Don’t ever, don’t ever, don’t ever give up searching for Jesus.
  • Focus on getting your heart right and never give up looking for the God who wants to be found

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you in the sermon? What was new? What was different? When have you been given a gift with a “great motive”? What was the best gift you’ve ever received? Think about your motives. Are you searching for God? Are you willing to sacrifice for him? How might you sacrifice to find him this Christmas?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take time to talk with your kids about what matters in giving and receiving. Tell them that the heart behind it is what matters most. Talk to them about Jesus and how that’s what matters most with him too.

Challenge for this Week

Examine your heart your searching for Jesus with, and ask what you might need to sacrifice to find Jesus…