Christmas

...now browsing by category

 

#CCReflections

Monday, December 28th, 2020

I posted this on my other blog. I thought I would post it here also.

Christmas reflections:

Friday-After a positive Covid test for me, Jo and Tami and some positive tests for the staff and friends of each of us, this is a really strange Christmas. It was going to be anyway because Janna and Braden were not going to be here. But even Tami can’t come over. This devotion may be a little longer than normal due to my observations but also because it will cover 3 days of observations.

Every year it seems we hear certain refrains from spiritual leaders, i.e. pastors.

  • Slow down. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have said that. “Pull away from the hustle and bustle and slow down,” I’ll say. Well, this has certainly been one of the by-products of covid isolation.
  • Stay home. No problem. And when I have said this in the past it was not a covid-ordered government mandate. We travel a lot visiting family and friends all over the place. We aren’t allowed to go out of the house so staying home is the norm. If we had gone to Ohio today we would have been snowed in. They got a ton of snow! White Christmas indeed! So we stay home and maybe watch some Christmas movies. {Note: we didn’t. Neither one of us felt like it}
  • Refocus. Honestly, how can you not? Gifts will be opened rather quickly instead of one at a time like we normally do going around the room. So when that is all done we get to focus on the real gift.

Saturday– This will forever be remembered in history as CC- Covid Christmas. Yesterday was strange. We Facetimed Tami as we opened gifts-she in her apartment and us here. We would have welcomed her here but MCCSC (her school corporation) monitors her during covid. So it was safer. Later Janna Facetimed us with Braden so we could see what he got. Everything was “Air this and Air that.” I guess I don’t see the fascination with giving a retired basketball player, whose stuff is made in China, all that money…but that’s me. All in all yesterday was an uneventful day. Lazy. Watched a little TV then head back to my “cave” to fall asleep. Other than the no taste and no smell issues, and a few others, the biggest by-product is the desire to sleep. I have slept more in the last week than I have in the last year. I remember Pastor Greg Laurie saying that was his biggest issue (wish I could say that). Some of that is boredom since I can’t concentrate on reading. I’m going to try to study today since I preach virtually tomorrow. Praying for extra grace today as I prepare for tomorrow.

Sunday– I’m writing this after the fact.  Sunday seemed to go off okay without a hitch. We were immensely blessed by the anonymous gift that allowed us to purchase the upgraded equipment. All in all though, I thought it went well. I chose to sit instead of standing. I’m not sure my stamina would have been there to stand the whole time and preach and remember.

Sunday afternoon was tough. I was weary but when I tried to eat some soup it didn’t stay in my stomach very long. But you don’t want here that saga. 🙂 It was a lazy day as they have all become. One family was really kind and brought some soup and crackers, a couple of baked potatoes, and some other items. Friday one family blessed us with Ensure and Pedialyte for me, some veggies  and soup and crackers. Saturday one family blessed Jo with some Zero and Diet Coke. I’m not sure about the other two on staff but I certainly can’t complain how we have been taken care of. Plus the texts and emails have been nice. Oh yeah…one family brought us a Christmas meal on Christmas evening after their family Christmas. Not that we could eat it or taste it. 🙂

Jo and I called it a day at 8:00. Yep 8:00. Seems to be about the norm these days. I’d like to believe I am on the mend. It has been a week since my test but well over that since I started showing symptoms. I should have been more honest and aware and introspective with myself. Gone to be tested sooner. Not gone to Ohio. Funeral? But hindsight is 20/20 and there is nothing I can change. It seems strange the way it has hit us all about the same time and in the same way. Others also have got it-part of our friends group-so there is a common denominator there somewhere. But who wants to try to figure that out. Not me. It is what it is.

I’ll close by saying I’m looking forward to putting this behind me and moving forward.

#StarIsBorn!

Friday, December 18th, 2020

It all comes down to red carpet night. Stars, wannabe-stars, and people who hang on all make their way onto the red carpet and inside for the grand production. So many flashbulbs go off you gotta wonder why they don’t have seizures or get flash burns. The “who’s who” of fandom is there. Some come solo. Some come with their significant other. All dressed to the “nines” in clothing that cost more than I make in a couple of months. Ridiculous fawning over people and celebrities, enough to make you want to gag, goes on all night. But to be sure…this is the night all the hard work is rewarded.

We have seen that as we have made out way through the Christmas story.  The supporting cast (the ladies in Jesus’ genealogy and Zechariah and Elizabeth).  The Unknowns (shepherds and wise men who appear and never to be heard from again). The co-stars (Joseph and Mary).  And now the culmination.  The STAR of the whole production  has made his appearance. Everything has led up to this point. All the OT prophecies and the prophets who wrote them. Isaiah. Micah. 

Then we get to John 1. I will be spending the bulk of my time. Two statements will stand out Sunday.

Christmas was not a beginning but a becoming. Christmas wasn’t His start, but His commission. He was not created; He came. The Christmas We Didn’t Expect by David Mathis (p.24)

“We are not being told merely that Jesus Christ has eternal life or even that He gives it. This verse in I John 1:2 is saying He is eternal life, salvation itself.”

I’m looking forward to Sunday and preaching about the STAR. Join me if you would like.

#12Days#LessonstoLearn

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

Saturday night as Jo and I were sitting in the living room she asked me if I had heard the story of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I told her I had but couldn’t tell her exactly what they meant. She then read it to me. I had her send it to me via text so I could retype it here for you.

The song was written by Catholics in England as a song to teach their children about the Christian faith.  “True love” refers to God. “Me” refers to every Christian.  The other symbols mean the following:

  • 1 Partridge in a pear tree= Jesus Christ
  • 2 Turtle Doves= the Old and New Testaments
  • 3 French Hens= Faith, Hope and Love or the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
  • 4 Calling Birds= the Four Gospels
  • 5 Golden Rings= first 5 books of the OT
  • 6 Geese-A-Laying= the 6 days of creation
  • 7 Swans-A-Swimming= the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (I cor. 12:8-10)
  • 8 Maids-A-Milking= the 8 Beatitudes
  • 9 Ladies Dancing= the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)
  • 10 Lords-A-Leaping= the 10 Commandments
  • 11 Pipers Pipers= Eleven Apostles, not Judas
  • 12 Drummers Drumming= The Twelve points of Doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

So there you have it.  Brings a whole new meaning to a seemingly fun and mundane and nonsensical song.  Now you can teach it to others!!

#UnsungHero#SecondViolin

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Have you ever heard the expression, “Close but no cigar?” Or some of you are old enough to remember Maxwell Smart from the TV show Get Smart. One of his favorite expressions was “I only missed it by that much” while holding his fingers up to indicate how close.  Or I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Almost doesn’t count except in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

There are actors and actresses who ply their trade for years and never hit it big. They always seem to wind up second fiddle.  Many of them go year after year playing second or bit parts while working another job to keep food in their stomach. Sometimes they hit it big (think Harrison Ford) and some never get the big time.  Some will always play the “one-who-never-made-it.”  Of course there are always those who think they are worth far more than they are and when a sequel comes up they say, “Bill me top dog or I’ll decline.” A lot of actors overestimated their value and lost out on their future. Hmmm that happened to one of my favorite trilogies.

Anyway, the Christmas story is coming down to the nitty-gritty. We talked about the supporting cast (Jesus’ genealogy) and Zechariah and Elizabeth. Last week I talked about the Unknowns (shepherds and wise men) who showed up, did their part and then were never to be heard from again.  This week is about the Co-Stars, whom I’m pretty sure you will come to realize are Joseph and Mary. I’m calling Joseph the Unsung Hero and Mary is the Second Violin (not to Joseph but to her Son).

There are some tremendous lessons both co-stars teach us and I believe if we can learn them it would change our world (our influence) and ultimately the world.  Two actors, both co-stars, but both vital to the outcome of the play. Join me if you would like.  At least, please pray for us. That just might be the best of all!

#Thoughts#Faith

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

I had one of those mornings during my Quiet Time where I had several random thoughts and ideas as I read and underlined. On my other blog, Living in the Shadow, I am going to share some of those thoughts on Friday morning. But today on this blog I want to share two random thoughts I had as I read.

The first is from 40 Days of Faith by Paul David Tripp.  It is a compilation of 40 devotional thoughts from his wildly popular New Morning Mercies which I cannot recommend highly enough. I used it several years ago for 2 or 3 years. I even had a daily blog of lessons from it. Anyway, on Day 38 of Faith he was writing about Abraham’s ordeal about sacrificing Isaac. He opened with this thought:

Faith is living in light of what God has said, resting in what he has done, and entrusting the future to his care.

I’m pretty sure most of my readers know the story of Abraham’s trek to Mount Moriah where he was to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.  At the last moment God intervened and provided a ram. He most certainly was testing Abraham’s willingness to trust Him. Tripp wrote these words: “We know that grace had visited and transformed the heart of this man, or he would not have been able to react as he did.”  A paragraph later he wrote this (and this is priceless):

Abraham wasn’t relying on what he could see or understand. No, he was at rest because he acted on the firm platform of God’s commands, as well as his presence, promises, faithfulness, and power.

Abraham’s faith in the God He came to know and trust; the God he saw do a phenomenal miracle with the birth of Isaac; the God who loved and sustained him through all his humanity, i.e. sin, is the faith that led him to totally trust God with this offering of Isaac. I like what Hebrews 11 says: “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead.”  NOW THAT IS FAITH!

And one last word from my reading:

Christmas is a testament to God’s grace, not my deservedness.

Some editing of that last statement was made by me to make it more personal. It is from The Christmas We Didn’t Expect by David Mathis (p.70).

I hope these random thoughts help you in your daily walk today.

#Unknowns#SimpleMen#WiseMen

Friday, December 4th, 2020

The title gives it away. There should be no question who my sermon will be about in my A Grand Production series. 🙂

Life is full of surprises as we all know. Christmas morning is full of surprises.  When I was growing, when I still believed in SC,  Christmas morning in the Grandi household was one big huge surprise. We went to bed with nothing except lights in the windows. No tree.  No gifts. No train. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. But when we woke up life was full of wonder and surprises. Our living room had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland.  A well-lit tree. Gifts under the tree. A running train (my dad’s pride and joy). Even up to the day she died mom had pictures which showed our surprise as we hit the top of the steps and then came down to see what wasn’t there when we went to bed. I now know-or should I say I no longer wonder-how mom and dad stayed up all day. Oh yeah…coffee.  Lots of it. I know they had to have stayed up late at night, maybe most of the night putting everything together to make a magical surprise.

I don’t imagine there could be anyone more surprised than the shepherds when the angel and the host of angels visited them on the hillside with an announcement which shook their world. And to see how the wise men followed the star which took them from their home in the east to Bethlehem by way of Herod’s court is the stuff of legends. Come to think of it both of them are the stuff of legends even though we know nothing more about them than what we are told in Luke and Matthew.

I am afraid we have sometimes lost our wonder. Like the young man in Polar Express,  we go through a crisis of belief and settle too easily for the mundane. Excitement awaits us if we follow Jesus.

I’d appreciate your prayers if you are able and would love to have you join us via live stream.

#SupportingCast#Messy

Friday, November 27th, 2020

One of the hardest times for me to preach is Christmas. I know that sounds weird. But it is true. It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas. I love it! What makes it so hard to preach at Christmas is most people know the story so well they could probably do a better job than me. 🙂  So the hard job for me is to find a new way to tell an old story. By new way I obviously don’t mean denying it or the truth of it or the virgin birth or the Incarnation.  The questions are:

How do I make it come alive?

How do I make it appealing and not boring?

How do I tell this timeless story and bring old truths to life?

I’m not sure how I succeed in those but I do try. This year I am calling my series A Grand Production.  I plan to look at it through the idea of a play with the different actors and actresses in their roles. My sermon this Sunday is on the Supporting Cast.  I’m breaking it down into the Messy People and the “Go-Before” people. Do you know who they are? Hint: the first group is found in Matthew 1 and the others are found in Luke 1.  You should be able to figure them out.

If you are unable to come to OVCF don’t forget we live stream at 9:00 and 10:45. I’d love to have you join us. If you can’t would you at least pray for me/us? Thanks.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post25

Wednesday, December 25th, 2019

This will be my last #ChristmasChallenge post for this year. I thank each of you who have taken the time to drop by and read and even comment. Thanks for giving up some of your precious time to come to my world and spend a little time with me.

So…what could I do as the final post? That haunted me yesterday as I pondered it. I decided to do what we all need to do. Remember that old commercial when the telephone companies (when they still had phone books) would say, “Let your fingers do the walking?” Well…I’m going to allow the Scriptures to do the talking.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:6

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.’ “ Mt.1:21-23

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.’ “ Luke 2:10-14

May the truth of Scripture fill your heart with that which God has promised: LOVE. JOY. PEACE. HOPE.

Thanks to Ed and Diane, my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post 24

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019

Several years ago I listened to Country Music. Let me restate that: over 20 years ago I listened to CM. No more. But one singer I did like also did a Christmas Album: Collin Raye. As I read a Christmas devotional this morning the writer mentioned the story of Christmas Eve 1914 when the guns fell silent on the battlefield. The story is told in various ways and lengths but the basic fact is this: for a few short hours guns were silent and men in battle laid aside their common hatred for the other and spent time together. Personally, knowing me, I would have had a really tough time picking up my weapon and firing it at someone I just spent time with.

Anyway, Collin Raye did a song on his Christmas album called It Could Happen Again. With the help of Johnny Cash’s narration, the song’s message stands strong: if it could happen then it could happen again. Please take a moment to listen to the song.

May you know the PEACE that the song speaks of but more than that, may you know the true PEACE Jesus gives.

Join my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post23

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

I read the following quote:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ  brings us to God.

Growing up you really only think of Christmas-besides the whole Santa Claus and gift thing-as the occasion to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We like the story of the baby in the manger. It fits our “meek and mild” picture of Jesus. It fits our Away in a Manger and Silent Night theme.

But as C.S.Lewis says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I just finished reading again), “There is deeper magic here.” What is seen on the surface is just that: the surface. There is so much more to see and learn. There is so much more at work than just the birth; there is also the vision of the cross. Without doubt Jesus came with the specter of the cross in His sights. Phil.2 even tells us that. Jesus reminded His disciples over and over that the Son of Man must suffer and die.  The cross of Christ is always there. It is through the cross, and the cross only, that we find our way to God. It is only through the blood of Jesus that salvation is found.

But it is through the birth of Jesus as a baby, as God made flesh, that it all begins.  The quote again:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ brings us to God.

“Father, thank you for that truth. May this Christmas season take on extra meaning because it is more than a baby in a manger. It is also that baby on a cross giving Himself up for us.”

Please check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!