What does Jesus want for Christmas?

Every year I have the best of intentions to spend my Christmas wisely…. I tell myself to savor every moment, focus on what’s important, and remember the “reason for the season.”  Then before I know it, all good intentions aside, Christmas has come and gone in the blink of an eye.

With moving, adjusting, and getting new jobs… Christmas is approaching even more quickly this year- So I lay with my husband in bed last night and asked him, “What do you think Jesus would want from us during Christmas?”

After a few moments, we thought Jesus would want from us at Christmas-time, what He wants of us all the time.

What does Jesus Want for Christmas_

Service, Joyful Giving, Worship, Evangelism, and taking care of the widows and orphans are just a few things that came to mind. Surprisingly the “Commercial” Christmas can help us accomplish some of these goals.

Service & Joyful Giving

During the Christmas season there are a lot of extra ways to serve! Ringing the Christmas bell for Salvation Army, buying for Angel Tree, packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child. Find a way to serve that meets your passion, talents, and abilities!

Give! Give as big as you can! A lot of non-profits encourage end-of-the-year giving with matching opportunities.  Even if you can only give a little, what you can give can be doubled! ‘Tis the season after all!

Worship

Christmas is the only season where Christian music is accepted and played everywhere! Have you ever thought of that? Christmas carols are often represented among the “Holiday Playlists” at stores like Target, Walmart, and the mall.

Then churches everywhere work hard to make worship services extra special, to bring God our best in worship.

We can also take worship out on the streets with us by carrying the tradition of Caroling door to door!

Evangelism & Discipleship

Sharing the gospel just gets easier with Christmas around! Why are you so joyful when everyone else is a scrooge? Why do you love Christmas so much? How are you celebrating this year? What is your favorite Christmas tradition? All of these questions can give you an opportunity to share!

Share that God, creator of the universe, humbled himself to become a baby… to live as His creation, live as a human, to die for our sins and give us eternal life.

Remember that huge humbug over the red Starbucks cups? A friend of mine made it an opportunity to share the gospel! She shared how the Red cup was like the blood of Jesus and the white represented the purity of His cleansing power. She has a great blog that you can check out here.

Widows & Orphans

Jesus mentions the orphans and the widows all of the time in the gospels, asking us to take care of them. We may not have the ability to adopt, but there are plenty of ways to help. You can make donations towards adoption agencies and programs; cook, babysit, or give to families full of adopted children; give towards personal funds for families planning to adopt.

 

What do you think Jesus wants from you during the Christmas season? How do you give a gift back to Him?

For more ways to keep God in the center check out : One Gift You Should Not Forget To Give and Sparkle Box Progress Report

Does Your Heart have to be in it first to be Considered God-Honoring?

I see my friends, my colleagues, and, in hindsight, I see myself miss out on awesome opportunities all of the time.  God opens doors wide open for us, and we walk past it.  Meanwhile, our hearts are empty and we desire a closer relationship with God.

The reason we miss these doors are numerous.  We can hear ourselves often say, “I didn’t want to do it, because my heart wasn’t in it.”  -or- “I would feel like a fake, it wouldn’t be genuine.”

These excuses could be used for a wide variety of things : Not wanting to sing hymns, or refusing contemporary worship; Not signing up for a service project or praying for an individual; Not sharing the gospel with a stranger; Not forgiving a trespasser; Not going to Church or Sunday School.  Because, “I’m not feeling it, it wouldn’t be genuine.”

In our culture, we give our hearts too much control of our actions.  This often leads us to more heart-ache, which is probably what we are trying to avoid.  We need to lead with our minds, and let our hearts follow.

What if we did our Spouse’s chores when we didn’t feel like it?  What if we chose joy when it would be easier to wallow in our sadness?  What if we offered forgiveness before a grudge set in?  What if we sang praise to God even if we didn’t “feel” the music?

I can hear those excuses surfacing back up again in me already… But that’s not genuine, that’s fake, I need to be real.  Yes, we do.  But we also need to understand that the heart makes some bad decisions.  I can attest to that! My heart has chosen some lousy relationships to follow, and has led me to insecurity and bitterness in the past.  This has taught me that the heart is a much better follower than it is a leader.

You can choose, and your heart will follow.  Soon your heart and mind will work in tandem, spurring each other on towards the goal.  When I let my mind lead, in time my heart will catch up and swell at the enormity of God’s grace.  It will overflow at the opportunity that was seized.  Then my heart begins to crave more.  More good decisions, More love, More service, More grace, More God…. MORE GOD.

Let’s be a little more like Isaiah:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’

And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’

Isaiah 6:8

Have you ever done something when your heart wasn’t in it?  What did you learn?  Did your mind lead your heart closer to God?

Declare : Ephesians Worship

Last Friday night, my husband was a part of Declare.  Declare is a worship gathering put on by the Miami Valley Worship Community.  You can listen to the music here.  Several churches are represented, as each team is comprised of various leaders, denominations, and cities. It is an awesome gathering as many come to worship the One.

tapworship

This particular night was focused on Ephesians.  Both bands did a fantastic job leading us in worship.  It reminded me a lot of the worship services at the Christian Bookseller Association Conferences that I was able to attend growing up.  The similarities would be the modern songs, cream of the crop musicians, and most importantly a strong Christ-Focus instead of a denomination focus… God’s presence was real, the worship was moving, and it was easy to lose myself that night.  I wasn’t even distracted by my own sexy husband playing drums (as I often am), but I was wrapped up in God’s presence.

This is what the night looked like:

OPENING TEAM
This Is Amazing Grace (Wickham, Bb)
Eph 1:3-4 – praise
Behold Our God (Sovereign Grace, C)
Nothing But the Blood (Redman, B)
Eph 1:5-10 – redemption through the blood of Christ
In Tenderness (Citizens, A)
Eph 2:1-10 – made alive in Christ
Raised To Life (Elevation, B)
In Christ Alone (Passion, Eb)
Eph 2:19-22 – Christ the cornerstone
Cornerstone (Hillsong, C)
Eph 3:14-21 – BREAK
CLOSING TEAM
Cannons (Wickham, A)
Forever (Kari Jobe, Ab)
Eph 4:1-6 – unity through one Lord
To Be Like You (Hillsong, C)
Set A Fire (Will Regan, C) – w/ Eph 5:19-20
Eph 5:8-14 – imitate God, living as an offering
The Stand (Hillsong, G)
Eph 6:10-12 – benediction, declare the Gospel boldly
This I Believe (Hillsong, C)
It Is Well With My Soul (D)
New Doxology (Gateway, G)

Christmas Eve Service 2014

“In the beginning – that is where this story begins.  After all the beginning is the most appropriate place for a story to start.  It is much more exciting than any “Once upon a time” could ever be.  And it is even more creative than “a galaxy far far away.” 
This story is a tale of expectation, expectation of great promises and wonderful outcomes.  It is a story of patience in the most unlikely circumstances.  This story is characterized by hope, wrapped in love, expressed through joy, all coming together to bring about a result of peace.  It is a story unlike any other and, more importantly, it is our story.”

That was the opening narration from “Expectation: A Moment in Time”, the Christmas Eve drama that Tappy wrote for his position as Worship Arts Pastor at Troy Church of the Nazarene.  He spent many weeks studying different authors’ work and studying different portions of Scripture and spent several days in his office planning out the details and bringing the characters to life.  His biggest influences for the script were Ann Voskamp’s “Unwrapping The Greatest Gift,” and Max Lucado’s “In The Manger”.

The drama was told from the perspective of a woman reading a version of the Christmas story to her daughter in their living room.  As she worked through the story the characters came to life and the audience’s attention was drawn from the “living room” stage to the main platform in the Worship Center.  The drama was also mixed with familiar carols and each family was asked to bring forth a candle and light it as a representation of their family and the true light that Christ brings into the world.
The storyline was crafted around the expectation of the Advent season and each character personified an element of the candles from the four weeks leading up to the birth of Christ.

HOPE: The first biblical character was Abraham.  He shared about the Hope that God gave to him and his wife through the promise of a child.  The promise was exemplified with the visual of stars and the vastness of the cosmos. (Gen. 15:5)

LOVE: Next the story led to the prophet Isaiah who was called to share the ultimate plan of love to those who would not fully understand the meaning until its fulfillment several hundred years later. (Isaiah 9:6)

JOY:  We were then led into the Gospel accounts as we heard from Elizabeth, wife of Zachariah and cousin to Mary, and what happened to her husband in the temple and the importance of listening to The Lord and being grateful for all that He has given. (Luke 1:13)

PEACE: Finally we heard from a Shepherd, a witness of the manger and the true presence of Majesty.  He shared the importance of Christ’s coming for both the elite and the ordinary. (Luke 2:14)…Tap played the role of the Shepherd, as well as sang and played piano for the service.

In one moment, for that is all it takes to change the world, God broke into humanity and brought Hope to the hopeless, Love to the broken, Joy to weary, and Peace to the restless.  One moment, that is all it took to change the lives of these characters, and that is all it took to grasp the attention of those present.

Sparkle Box Progress Report

This year we started a new tradition- to fill a Sparkle Box full of presents to Christ for His birthday (you can read about it here).  On Saturday, we sat down and read a few scraps of paper of the things we did for “the least of these” this month.  It was great to focus on Christ, and know that not all the presents were for ourselves.  However, my hope is that this one tradition grows each year.  For our first year, I’ll admit, we weren’t perfect.  We often forgot about our goal to give a gift to Christ.  We ran out of time or money to do some things that we would have loved to do, and should have done.  Part of me feels bad, because I know that these are cheap excuses that our awesome God doesn’t deserve.  I am humbled by His perfection, His patience, and His unyielding love and time for all.

What gives me hope is that we don’t have to give back to God just in December… This was just a beginning to a wonderful tradition, full of worthy intentions.  And, just like my mom starts shopping for Christmas on December 26th and goes until the following December 25th, I think we will try to fill our Sparkle Box in the same way.

If you need ideas to fill your sparkle box, I found this great blog called The Shine Project.  Check out her entry on 51 Holiday Service Projects and get started with your Sparkle Box now.

How have you done with your Sparkle box? Do you have any great ideas and ways to fill it?