Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’


At my church this year for advent, I wanted to address something that worries me, that, on the surface, sounds like it shouldn’t. I sometimes worry that we know the Christmas story too well. I know, right? You might be thinking, “Cry me a river, pastor. You think people might know a text too well.” Not exactly. What concerns me is that people know the story so well that they take it for granted, and cease to be blown away by how amazing the story actually is. I mean, this is the incarnation, God becomes a man and comes to earth, born a baby, to experience all of life as we do, set a perfect example, prepare the way for us to receive eternal life, teach us all that the Lord wants us to know and dying to secure the way to God for all who will believe. It’s a beautiful, nearly scandalous story that I never want to see people miss because they think they know it. So how to present this powerful story in a way that makes people really take it to heart? Well I got creative.

I started reading through the text, selected four people intimately involved in the story and really studied all that the Scripture says about them. This led to a series I called “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” In the series I looked at four “men” (one of them was an angel, hence the quotes) and told the story as best I could, from their perspective as if I were them, dramatically. It was one of the most commented upon series I have ever done, but aside from that, it blessed me. I had to really delve into the story. I had to dig deep and I had to really put myself in their shoes, because I was going to quite literally put myself in their shoes. I had to think things like, “How would they have experienced this moment?” and “Would he really say that?” It was one of the most rewarding study experiences I have ever had.

The other thing was, I had no desire and felt no leading for costumes, but his would I get the people to forget it was me and imagine the person in question was speaking to them. I ended up doing what I do best, i.e., making art. I did a portrait of each of the people I was portraying and put them in the front of the sanctuary. Rather than speed painting these “live” since advent series’ tend to be very full, I took my time and painted them in my studio. This also ended up being a blessing, because I could really push myself artistically. I had a great time with this series, but that’s not why I share this. I share it to encourage you to take the familiar passages and find a different way to present them—a way that will be faithful to the text and yet creative enough to get people to see something they already know with fresh eyes. I believe God gave us our creative gifts for this very reason. How can you help people to really see God’s truth?

Here are the portraits. They are Gabriel, a shepherd (who I named Itzhak), John the Baptist (because if you’re going to talk about preparing the way for Jesus, he can’t be left out) and finally Joseph.

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This is a brilliant presentation from a brilliant artist that pretty much nails the meaning of Christmas.

This guy is one of the best.


lightndarknessI wrote this for an advent reading for Christmas Eve at my church and thought it might be good to share here. If you’re from my church, you might want skip this one.

Imagine this room was totally dark. You couldn’t see a thing, but then someone lit a match, a candle, even a small spark. It might be small but in total darkness it’s the only then you would see and it would completely draw your attention. That’s the power of light. It makes darkness disappear. Even a tiny light overcomes the darkness.

Think about our world. Now imagine it in total darkness. In some ways it’s not terribly hard. War and terror and disease and pain and a whole bunch of other things that could make our lives and our world feel very dark. There are times when we might be tempted to look at God and ask “How could you let this happen?” What we need to remember is this is not the world as God intended. As a matter of fact the first words of God recorded in Scripture are “Let there be light.”

Having said this on the first day, He didn’t make our sources of light, the sun the moon and stars until the fourth day. Before that, He was the light. He is the light. 1 John 1:5 reminds us, “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”

The darkness in the world is the result not of God’s will, but of the fall of man. If the world is dark, It’s our fault. Still God’s desire for us is not that we would walk in darkness, but that we would live in the light of His love, not just in this world, but forever, and so He set a plan in place to make it so. Isaiah 9 foretold it. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. 700 years before the birth of Christ, God proclaimed it, the light is coming. 2,000 years after that first Christmas night, the light is here. Can you see it? Can you see Him?

Jesus came to be so many things, Lord, Savior, King, Teacher, Perfect Example and yes Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. He is all those things and many more, but one of the big ones is found in John 8: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” He came to be our light, to light our path through this life to eternity. No believer can deny that and yet we might ask “If that is the case, why is our world so dark.” Then you might read John 9:5 “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

So does that mean Jesus is no longer with us? No, remember the angel told us He would be Immanuel, God with us.” And He is with us. And maybe, just maybe that’s why in the Sermon on the mount, He pointed to us, His followers and said “You are the light of the world. “ The light has come and He gave His life and He lives in us, and we are called to shine with His light. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light and that light still shines. The question for us is will we shine? He is the light. Let Him shine through you!


People do a lot of talking about the real meaning of Christmas and I wonder how many people actually get it, so I made this really simple chart. Christmas is really important. It’s the celebration of the incarnation of Jesus but the reason for the birth is the cross, Jesus came to lay down his life for you and me and of course the reason for the cross is the resurrection. Jesus rose again and because He did, if we place our faith in Him, we get to rise too.
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Share it on your social media when you get it. Let’s get the whole world Running A.M.O.K.!
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I decided I needed a little something more for a Christmas program at church and I thought back to a script I wrote in 2001. At the time I was a church youth leader. Much is made of the fact that Mary the mother of Jesus was probably quite young, a teen, not much different than many of the students I was working with. Before long a strange idea hit me. If Mary and Joseph were in my youth group and told me the story of Mary being with child what would have my reaction been. What came out of that thought was one of the favorite things I have ever written. I really wanted to use it, but there was a problem. The computer I wrote that piece on has long since been recycled and I changed web hosting providers. There was a good chance the piece was lost forever, but I thought to Google it. Fortunately it came up, unfortunately it came up on a paid content site, having been uploaded by someone else. Someone else is profiting from my content.

What was my reaction? Well I thought about lodging a copyright complaint with the service, but that didn’t feel right in this case. I’d rather have it out there helping people than lost forever which it might have been. In the long run, I decided to just be grateful that people are still seeing it, and secondly, I decided to post it here for free. If this sounds like something that might bless you or your group. please feel free to use it. I call it Mary and Joe’s Counseling Session. I pray it blesses you. Click here to download your copy.


I love the Christmas season. I love everything about it but the weather that sometimes comes with it here in PA, and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, the holidays are almost here. There is one other pressure though. As a pastor I am painfully aware of how often the people in my care have heard this most blessed Christmas story. I want to make sure that I bring this unchanging story to them in a way that is fresh and interesting. I could fret over this, but instead I choose to see it as a creative challenge. You should too.

What are you doing to creatively express the greatest story every told? Are there opportunities for you to do something in your church to enhance the celebration? Is there something you mighty do to hep people see the story with “fresh eyes?” I there a way to express it to someone who is not as familiar or a way to take the story to the streets of your community?

For our church, this year my wife started my wheels turning. She was working on something for decorating the area around our advent wreath and she decided to create a sign based on the lyrics of a classic Christmas carol, (I won’t tell you which one, since my church folks read this blog and I want them to be surprised.) As I looked up the carol in the hymnal to defamiliarize myself with the lyrics, I saw that there are four verses each with a unique theme surrounding the story. As providence would have it there are also four Sundays in Advent. Suddenly I was inspired and the theme began to take shape. That was my inspiration, what’s yours? Share it in the comments below.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you’re doing.