Archive | December 2011

Advent – Week Four


We find ourselves at the cusp of Christmas day. The anticipation of the season will culminate and we will enjoy time with family, gift-giving and the celebration of Christ’s birth.

The awareness of the enormity of this moment in history has become more and more significant to me over the past few years. I was blessed to attend Chris Tomlin (Praise and Worship artist) and Louie Giglio’s (Pastor, speaker) Christmas tour when Tomlin’s Christmas album was released. I knew what to expect out of a time with these two amazing men of God, but to incorporate the depth of the Christmas story into a worship event was beyond description for me. In the midst of what some would call a “worship concert”, Louie came out to speak. My view of the Christmas event was completely blown wide open and the reality of John 1 became tangible…

Everything was created through him;      
nothing—not one thing!—      
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,      
and the Life was Light to live by.   
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;      
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
John 1:3-5 msg

“It’s the greatest story ever told. Completely unforeseen, yet long awaited was the voice of God breaking through the darkness and four hundred years of silence with the cry of a baby. And not just any baby, the gift of God. God’s people, having waited generations for their Creator to reveal Himself, never would have imagined that rescue and redemption would come in the simple, vulnerable form of a child, a baby born under the radar and into the chaos…” *

The anticipation of God had gone on so long before Christ came into this world, so many had given up hope of a Messiah ever coming!  The darkness seemed to overwhelm the world to the point of no return….

but God shattered the darkness when Jesus Christ, the Messiah was born!

Arche – the beginning! The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14 msg)

“As we celebrate Christmas and the Word’s incarnation John reminds us that Christ has been around all along. It’s not as if He was uninvolved and then hears about us, only to arrive late. He’s been in on the story since moment-one, working His purposes even in a world that has made itself hostile to His voice. The Word speaks through the clanging noise of the fall of humanity and makes itself understood again.” **

Christmas Challenge:

Please, take a some time to ponder this astounding moment in the history of humanity –

Darkness. Isolation. Confusion.
SHATTERED!
Light. Love. Messiah. Christ-Child.
Redemption. Joy. Peace. Belonging.

After Louie Giglio spoke at the concert, we sang accapella, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.  It was the most intimate, beautiful moment I have ever experienced in that type of atmosphere, amongst hundreds of people.

Christ is come…for you. You have the opportunity to invite Him in to you life – the dark parts and the lighter parts. As you read through this song, pray for God to invade your every day and bring His joy, peace and love.

Come thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a Child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

May you have a blessed Christmas!

Written by: Kim Touchton

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* http://268store.com/store/product/734/The-Twelve-Words-Of-Christmas/

** Portion found in The Miraculous Journey by Marty A. Bullis, pg. 103

Advent – Week Three


My Soul Magnifies the Lord
words and music by Chris Tomlin, Daniel Carsen

Good news of great joy
For every woman, every man
This will be a sign to you
A baby born in Bethlehem

Come and worship, do not be afraid

A company of angels
Glory in the highest
And on the Earth peace among
Those on whom His favor rests

My soul, my soul magnifies the Lord
My soul magnifies the Lord
He has done great things for me
Great things for me

Unto you a child is born
Unto us a Son is giv’n
Let every heart prepare His throne
In every nation under Heav’n

Of His government
There will be no end
He’ll establish it with His righteousness
And He shall reign on David’s throne
And His name shall be from this day on
Wonderful, Counselor, Everlasting Father

As you read through Luke 1: 25-38, you get to eavesdrop on the conversation between Mary and the angel. It ends with angel saying,

“For no word from God will ever fail.”

And then Mary responds,

“I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me according to your word.”

These few words changed the entire world! In this short encounter with an angelic being, Mary changed from beaing fear-filled to confident in her calling! WOW! Think about the reality of such a moment!

Mary’s life is turned upsidedown by a few words, a belief that God’s word will never fail and the reality that she will be with child. ‘”God has a surprise for you!” is the angel’s word, as we read it in The Message. God is coming into Mary’s life, will grow inside her. She will be pregnant with God.’ * Pregnant with God!

And as we continue into Luke 1: 46-55, we read Mary’s confirming song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful of His servant.”

Such an amazing affirmation of God’s care and rule over Mary’s life!

Does your song to God sound like Mary’s? Have you recently been faced with a difficult reality? Have you been able to say to God, “may it be to me according to your word”? I think most of us can say those words would be hard to say honestly. If we take time to look and really examine Mary’s example of faith and trust in God, we can learn what it means to put our life in His hands – our whole being into His care.

Christmas Challenge:

Pull out a journal or a few sheets of paper, write an entry in which you summarize the Christmas story without looking at the text. After your summary, focus more specfically on Mary. Try to imagine what it would have been like to face what Mary faced, made decision Mary made. Write down your thoughts. Lastly, read through Luke 1: 46-55. Challenge yourself to write down your version of Mary’s song.

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* Excerpt from A Miraculous Journey written by Marty A. Bullus.

Advent – Week Two


One of my favorite Christmas movies, musicals for that matter, is White Christmas! There is something sweet, charming and transcendent about it. Bing Crosby’s warm, sensitive voice; the banter between the main characters; the dancing and the schmaltzy scenes.  Soo good!

But truly, what makes it my favorite, is the scene when Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Bob (Bing Crosby) “just so happen” to want a late night snack at the same time. They talk and then he sings her a song to help her sleep…

When I’m worried and I can’t sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds

If you’re worried and you can’t sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings

Written by: Irvin Berlin

Everytime I hear this song, it helps me realize how blessed I am.  There are hard times, there are moments in your day when you might want to shut the door to the world and say, “I’m done.”  But…we must never forget how much God has blessed us in our lives!

Christmas Challenge:

Wake up tomorrow and once the fog has lifted a bit, begin to thank God for each thing, person and event that you encounter.

For example, walk to the bathroom for a warm shower, thank God for the roof over your head, the warm water, toiletries and towel you are able to use.  Start the coffee, thank God for the coffee beans and the electricity that provides the power.   Get into your car, thank God for the car, the gas to get you to work and the ability to even be driving the vehicle.  You are at work or maybe running errands, thank God for your co-workers, yes both the ones you like and the ones you do not, and the computer or iPhone that keeps you organized throughout the day.  You get the picture! You may even want to keep a running list.

When it is time to settle your mind and body in your bed, pull out your list or think back through all of the blessings you thanked God for throughout the day.  Even those moments when you were stuck in traffic, or you were cut in line at the store, those are moments you can thank God for…they guided you right to the moment you walked out of the store, saw a long-lost friend and were able to catch up.

Be mindful of what God has given you, and give praise and thanks right back to God who is so deserving of it. During this Christmas season it is so easy to get lost in the shuffle. Let this challenge bring you back to counting your blessings!

Be Blessed this Christmas Season!

Written by: Kim Touchton, Women’s Ministries Program Assistant

Advent – Week One


Christmas Bells
written by: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”*

During the Civil War, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was stricken with the loss of his wife, Fanny, and his son, Charles who chose to go to battle without his father’s permission. Charles was severely wounded a year after Fanny’s death.  It was a dark time in Henry’s life and during the first Christmas after Fanny’s death, Longfellow wrote,

“How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.” A year after the incident, he wrote, “I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.” Finally, on Christmas Day of 1864, he wrote the words of the poem, Christmas Bells. The re-election of Abraham Lincoln or the possible end of the terrible war may have been the occasion for the poem.**

A few years ago, the band Casting Crowns recorded the now popular Christmas carol, I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day, which is based on Longfellow’s poem. The lead singer of the band, Mark Hall, found the story behind the poem and was struck by the sadness and the hope portrayed in the poem. He knew they must record the song.

As you begin this Advent season, you may be dealing with tragedy – loss of family, struggles finding a job, illness…  Peace seems a futile dream, a concept that no longer can be grasped.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Luke 2: 8-15

We can find peace in the Messiah, Christ Jesus.  He came to this earth to be amongst us, to build relationships with each of us.  We can find the peace to move forward and the hope to take each step knowing there will be brighter days.

Christmas Challenge:

Take the time today to read through the Scripture passage in Luke. Imagine being in the shepherds’ place, being visited by God’s angel – His messenger of hope.  Journal the verses and your thoughts to bring yourself into the Christmas story.

Once you have meditated on this passage, listen to  I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day sung by Casting Crowns. Be Blessed this Christmas Season!


* Written during the American Civil war, the above poem can be found in:

  • Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. The Complete Poetical Works of Longfellow.Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1893.
  • Stevenson, Burton Egbert , ed. The Home Book of Verse for Young Folks. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915

** Quoted from http://www.whatsaiththescripture.com/Fellowship/Edit_I.Heard.the.Bells.html