Christmas

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#AfterChristmas#Letdown

Tuesday, December 21st, 2021

The last Sunday of 2021. I know some who said, “I can’t wait until 2020 is over.” Now those same people are saying, “I can’t wait until 2022 is here. Surely it will be better.” Well…I certainly don’t have a crystal ball to predict any of what is to come so I will refrain from making any predictions.

Except one.

2022 will be different from 2021. It is a new year filled with all new challenges. 

Every new year which begins holds promises of something better for all of us. We like the idea of turning over a new leaf and starting with a clean slate. But to get to the new year we have to fight through what I will call the Christmas letdown.  You know what that is: the high then the low. A veritable roller coaster of emotions.

But the new year is not without its hopes and dreams. My sermon this Sunday is one in which I uncover for you what I believe is the dream of every individual: that we all just get along. Well, you know that isn’t going to happen so let’s go to Plan B. What will it take to even begin to think that might happen?  Two qualities (IMHO):

Unity

Humility

The foundation for the sermon is from Philippians 2: 1-11.  I hope you will join me this Sunday either in person or via live stream.  We will be having only one service this week at 10:00 so you can watch it live then or catch it later. I do pray that 2022 will be a good year for you to find a deeper walk with Jesus.

This is also the last of my theme for 2021: Life on the Edge. I will unveil my theme for 2022 next week with an all new graphic.  Be looking for it. I’m also posting this early due to Christmas being on Saturday and I suspect most of us will lay aside our computers for a day or two.  🙂

#Singing!

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

I posted this on my other blog, Living in the Shadow, and since it is not well read by a lot of people, I thought I would share it here.

I have always been a music person. Ever since I can remember (that might be a day or two) 🙂  I have always been a person who listens to music. I used to tell my folks I could study with music playing. Not true.  I have to admit that when I am studying or reading it has to be quiet or at least with background music I cannot know the lyrics to, i.e. classical.

Christmas is a time for songs, for singing. One of the best parts of this season is the songs-both old and new.  It doesn’t get much better than O Holy Night or Joy to the World.  The angels sang. Children sing. Adults sing. Young folks sing. Old folks sing. We can’t stop singing.

Chris Tomlin has written a (non-Christmas) song with the lyrics: “How can I stop from singing Your praise? How can I ever say enough, how amazing is Your love/How can I keep from shouting Your name. I know I am loved by the king and it makes my heart want to sing.”

This will be a different type of devotion today. I want to share some of my songs with you-those which have been meaningful to me this Christmas season. I hope it will give you something to sing. So here are a few of my favorite “new” Christmas songs. Enjoy.

https://youtu.be/5Vwu-t7QRaE

https://youtu.be/mt_xfOutfSQ

https://youtu.be/182xcb3GyOg

https://youtu.be/qmNDI4f8Wrw

If you want the lyrics (except for the last song which has them), hit CC and the lyrics will come on the screen. Enjoy the songs! May they lift your heart to heaven and put a spring in your step and a song in your heart today…and tomorrow…and the next day…(you get my drift).

#UnexpectedNews#Surprise!

Friday, December 10th, 2021

I’m guessing we have all been the recipients of unexpected news.  Good and bad. If there was anyone who had to be surprised by unexpected news it would have to be the shepherds.

In his book, The Christmas We Didn’t Expect, David Mathis wrote the following:

“It may have been the greatest choral presentation in the history of the world. One nameless angel had the honor of singing the lead, with a veritable angelic multitude behind him. But no tickets were sold, and the show was not announced ahead of time. The audience was simply a flock of unresponsive sheep and a lowly band of unsuspecting shepherds. But it was too good to keep quiet about. Word got out, and ‘all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.’ The Gospel of Luke records the story for us to wonder at too.”

The shepherds are part and parcel of every Christmas celebration. But they are much more than children in a play dressed up in bathrobes. You know how that works. You find someone to play Mary and Joseph and look around for a baby Jesus-real or a doll. The rest of the children want to be in the play so you dress them up in bathrobes, tie a towel around their head and they become a great multitude.

Of course, the real shepherds’ involvement was more than that. My sermon this week is about the shepherds and the Unexpected News they received. Join me if you would like.

{NOTE: I apologize for failing to post last weekend. Jo and I went to Ohio from Thursday through Sunday. Pastor Ryan preached for me. I’m eager to be back with the people I love}.

#UnexpectedBirth

Friday, November 26th, 2021

So it begins. The slow trudge toward the end of 2021. Actually, I have heard several say they will be glad 2021 will soon be over, and that 2022 has to be better!  I don’t know about that but I am trying to prepare myself for the month of December and Christmas.

For a good part of our 48 years of marriage I have largely been a dunce. That comes as no surprise to some, but I’m not talking mentally. It comes to the use of my hands, i.e. remodeling experiences. I was never afforded the experience as a young boy growing up to watch and learn so the use of my hands with tools is minimal. That isn’t saying I can’t do some things but if I have put forth any effort it has turned out second rate at best. That is why I like to watch shows like Fixer Upper. Big time dreamer I am. 🙂

When it comes to surprises some of the best things in life are surprises.  To know what one is getting for their birthday or Christmas is kind of a balloon deflator (yes I know that is not a word).  The best surprises are those which take us totally by surprise and are no where near what we thought. Could there be any greater surprise than the birth of Jesus? Even though it was foretold, very few knew or were expecting it.  That is my theme for the month of December: Expect the Unexpected.  This Sunday I have entitled my sermon THE UNEXPECTED BIRTH.  The Scripture is from Luke 1:26-35 and 46-55 and I’ll be looking at what came before His birth and what came after.

Please join us as we begin our celebration of Christmas. You can do that in person or online. If you can do neither, then please pray for us. 

#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.