Check out this blog on the value of keeping church services on Christmas day. Submitted by Pastor Tolivar.
Check out this blog on the value of keeping church services on Christmas day. Submitted by Pastor Tolivar.
Song can be an amazing way to worship during the holidays. Some Christmas songs we have heard so many times we don’t even realize how profound the lyrics are. Try giving a few of these a listen. They may draw your mind and heart to the Lord in a new way this season.
Thanks to Katelyn DiGioia, Mark Yang, Martin Davis, and Hannah Scheidt for contributing to this list.
1.) Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson
This isn’t just one song, but one of my (Hannah’s) favorite Christmas albums is Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson. Over the course of the album it tells the story of Christ’s coming, starting in Genesis and ending with His birth. It beautifully illustrates how all of creation was longing for a savior, and how Christ’s birth met that need. It’s a great album to listen to with the whole family. (I’ve noticed kids tend to really like it too.)
2.) “Little Drummer Boy” (A familiar song but the lyrics are underrated)
3.) “Winter Snow Song” by Audrey Assad with Chris Tomlin
4.) “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Mandy Ihrig; A unique take on a classic
5.) Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas Album (for people who don’t think they like Christmas music).
By The Deacons
WATCH THIS VIDEO (It’s Short!):
Take 2 minutes and watch this video from Bob Lupton (author of Toxic Charity) & Marvin Cannon (former Executive Director of FCS Ministries)
We are called to care for others, give generously, and pursue satisfying the needs of the poor. But what does that look like practically? If you’re like us, we can sometimes “give,” just so we can check the box. Yet, in so doing, we miss the opportunity to do this WELL.
As discussed in this video, our “giving to the poor” can sometimes end up insulting the recipient or robbing them of their dignity. So when you give, take the time to put yourself in their shoes and think how you would want to be served.
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Prov 11:25)
Here are some ideas and opportunities to REFRESH others over the next month:
“We have three children: Kristen, Erica and Matthew, all adults now. When they were young we used to pick names out of a hat with all our names in it a few days before Christmas dinner. We would then pick out a bible verse that we thought was appropriate for that person. We wrote them out and put them under their placemat at the table, and they couldn’t read it until they sat down to dinner. Our kids seemed to really enjoy selecting the verse, and of course we were all interested what verse the other family member selected for us. Pretty sure this was my wife’s idea as a way to help encourage one another and lean meaningful bible lessons while enjoying the many blessings of Christmas.”
“One of our favorite Christmas traditions with the boys is telling the Christmas story to them each night in December. Noel Piper wrote a fantastic story that builds upon itself each night, and it makes my heart so happy to hear them telling the story because they’ve heard it so many times over the month!”
“As a preteen, I would help my mother in the kitchen during the day on Christmas Eve by prepping various dishes, including chopping onions, celery, and green peppers for her legendary dressing (stuffing). I loved the smell of these vegetables, however the challenge for me would be to use enough fresh lemon to scrub my hands so I would not smell like an onion medley when singing in the youth choir later that evening at Midnight Mass!”
“One tradition we have is to read through our Christmas Advent calendar and devotional book and sing christmas carols together. We try and do it at least a few nights a week at dinner. Also we started going caroling to our neighbors and friends houses a few years ago when the kids got bigger. The kids really love it!!”
“I grew up going to Catholic Mass every Christmas morning and Jonathan and I have continued this tradition with my family, either going Christmas Eve or morning to worship. I didn’t realize until recently that not everyone goes to church on Christmas day! I’m excited that this year Christmas is on a Sunday and that we’ll get to worship together at St. Paul’s.”
“If you are like my family, you grew up having special family traditions. Some of the traditions in my family growing up included making gingerbread houses (and no kits here! My mom made all the pieces of the house!!), attending our church’s candlelight Christmas Eve service and reading the Christmas story before bed on Christmas Eve. It was what the Bell family did every year!
When we got married and Pat and I began a family of our own, I was intent on starting family traditions. Due to the importance in my home growing up, I wanted my children to have those special things as well for my family during the Christmas season. One of those traditions, which started early, was a family outing with our good friends and neighbors, the Gordons, for to visit Santa and have dinner together. We had kids the same age and this was something we valued each year. It was so much fun. In the last two years, I’m sad to say that this tradition has not happened. As kids grow up and life gets busier this time of year with school work, school concerts and just life, this event has just been hard to make happen. I have lamented this until Pat reminded me that this was a wonderful tradition for many years but traditions can change. Now we look for ways to come together with the Gordons in a less busy time of year!
But some traditions will never change in our household. I want to make it ever present in the minds and hearts of my kids why we are celebrating Christmas. We are celebrating and waiting on the coming Savior! Having Advent readings and devotions leading up to Christmas have been a treasure for our family and something my children have come to expect each year. These few minutes we come together to read, reflect and pray can often be chaotic with kids fighting or running around; however, we push through and trust that seeds are being planted and one day they will take this family tradition into their own families.”
By Ashley Brittingham
the week of flying paper and rolls of tape.
hidden presents surfacing from cupboard depths–
falling deeper and deeper into
the tumult of traditions.
the giving effort
more like an exhausting marathon
of colors and things.
standing in pews singing carols–
hymns i grew up with
the words fall from my mouth effortlessly
the meaning lost–stunted
amid the jumble of traditions and mindless repetition.
the reason for this time is close
but surrounded by already full
hearts and minds.
it lays listlessly by our swollen organs.
the purpose of the celebration:
a birth of one whom angels announced.
lights dressing the trees
angels sitting magnificently from up top
garlands and boughs adoring hearth and rail
numerous lists and to-dos and shopping–
these hardly seem relative
to a story upon which we base
the fury and arranged decor.
but what about our “joyous strains” (1)
and our “jubilee” (1)?
how are we to
“come and adore on bended knee/Christ the Lord the newborn king” (2)?
the “incarnate deity” (2)?
to give thanks for “sinners reconciled” (1)?
coming together for a common theme:
praising the “Lord descending”(3) this season
and worshiping the Lord or Lords–
By Troy Thomas
I’m one of those people that love the warm, even hot, weather of Spring and Summer. One of life’s greatly under-appreciated pleasures is feeling the sun on my face for the first time each spring after a long, cold Winter. There is something infinitely exciting about the promise of Spring that excites the soul. Yet, in God’s economy, there is also an equal importance in Fall —and ultimately the dead of Winter.
Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NKJ
A time for every purpose under heaven:
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted…
Each Fall, as I think about the seasonal death that we see all around us, I am reminded of the teachings of Christ.
John 12:24-25 NKJ
Even though Fall and Winter are not my favorite seasons, I have learned to enjoy them as a metaphor for eternal life. I am again drawn to the paradoxical words of Christ.
If I die to myself, only then will I truly experience life. If I give away my life, only then will I gain life that cannot be taken away.
Paul echoes the teaching of Christ in I Corinthians 15:35-36 NKJ
Finally, as I wonder about this death and life paradox, I realize that each rebirth is granted from God Himself. Just as dead leaves do not choose life, they are granted life from the Giver of Life.
John 15:16 NKJ
By Kate Seat
On September 19, 2015, a dear colleague of mine passed away in a hiking accident. He was 23, newlywed, talented, and big-hearted. He’d just begun his second year of teaching high school English at the school where we both worked. Last year I wrote some thoughts to share with our students. Here they are, emended.
Everyone hurts at different speeds. In John’s Gospel, Mary and Martha had a brother, Lazarus, who died. Famously, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, but a subtler part of the story astounds me even more than the resurrection. It’s the intimate way Jesus meets the two sisters in their grief. He doesn’t come to them with one-size-fits-all platitudes: he tailors his compassion to each woman.
When Martha hears Jesus is coming, she immediately goes out of the house to meet him and basically says, Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. BUT I know you are in control, and I know everything will be okay on the day of the resurrection. Martha needs hope and a game plan and assurance of good things to come.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” – John 11:25-27
Martha responds to death with hope, and Jesus gives her an even bigger, more attainable hope than the one she first had.
Mary, though, sits in the house when she hears Jesus is near. She doesn’t come out until Martha tells her that Jesus is asking for her. So already, we can see a difference. Martha runs to Jesus, but Mary has to be drawn out. When she does go to Jesus, she just falls at Jesus’ feet, crying, saying “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She’s not singing hymns or quoting Jeremiah 29:11 – she’s not ready for that. She’s just grieving. And I get that. I’m totally a Mary. There’s no way I’d spend my energy cleaning when I could be listening to Jesus, and I would not be ready for positive thinking four days after my brother’s death. Last week, I had to leave any conversation where the “Marthas” were talking, where anyone said anything along the lines of “everything happens for reason” or “God has a plan, His ways are not our ways”. When I was alone, I didn’t listen to praise songs – I listened to Aretha Franklin’s blues recordings, because I needed to feel sad. And it’s okay that I felt like that.
It’s tempting for the Martha types to tell the Marys to pull it together, and then it’s tempting for the Mary types to lash out against the Marthas. But Jesus greets Mary as perfectly as he greeted Martha. When she falls at his feet crying, Jesus doesn’t say anything to Mary. The Scripture says when he saw her weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. Another translation says he was indignant in his spirit, instead of deeply moved. The verb in the Latin text means he growled. And then Jesus wept.
I am so grateful for this Jesus. The Jesus who’s mad about death. The Jesus who understands that everything is not okay. The Jesus who enters my pain before he redeems it.
Tolivar came across this post on the topic of shame. Would love to hear your thoughts on it St. Paul’s.
Also, be sure to mark your calendars for Dr. Curt Thomson’s lecture at St. Paul’s on October 6th at 8pm.
By Sue Jones
When I decided to move to Atlanta about 4 months ago, I was a little nervous because although I have several family members here, I didn’t have any friends, and knew I would need some. I didn’t want to be totally dependent on my family.
My first Sunday in town I decided to look for a new church online. I love Tim Keller’s sermons and books so wanted to try a PCA church. Well, St. Paul’s was the first one I saw that was relatively close to where I’d be living, so Sunday morning I drove there.
I arrived early, and saw a young woman sitting in a pew by herself. I went over and sat one seat away from her. She immediately leaned over and said, “Hi! I’m Lynette, come sit by me.” Her name took me by surprise because I have a life-long friend named Lynette, and haven’t ever known another. We laughed about that, and started talking about my move to Atlanta. Lynette asked where I was going to be living and when I told her North Decatur, she said, “Oh, that’s where I live!” She then asked if I had a townhouse or a house, and I told her that I would be living in an apartment complex. Again she said, “Oh, I live in an apartment too.” Of course, she asked which apartment complex, and when I told her, she immediately started tearing up and said, “Oh my, that’s where I live, and I’ve been praying for a Christian friend to move into my complex!”
She then asked me to go to lunch and I looked up and said, “Okay God, I get it. This is where you want me to be!”
Other things almost as amazing have happened since I moved here, and my nervousness about adjusting to life in the big city is gone. St. Paul’s has welcomed me with open arms, and I already feel like it’s home. Thank you, Jesus, and thank you, St. Paul’s!
Thank you, God, for taking me right where I needed to be at just the right time!
By Rebecca Duff
There are so many ways and methods in which to pray, but sometimes we can get in a rut. Do you ever find yourself getting a little tired of praying the ‘grocery list’ of needs?
Sometimes our hearts need a spiritual injection to add depth and richness to our prayers. One way to do this, is to turn a Psalm into a prayer. There is no situation or human emotion that hasn’t been experienced somewhere in the Psalms. You can immerse yourself in the Psalms, and turn them into rich prayers. The Psalms also lend themselves to teach our hearts how to pray in accordance with God’s character and will.
Do you realize that Jesus would have actually sung and prayed the Psalms through his entire life?
As you consider a particular psalm, imagine how he would have thought about it, knowing who he was and what he came to do.
Here are four easy ways to pray a Psalm:
I challenge you to include a Psalm into your prayer life once a week to start, see what riches it will unlock when you learn to pray the Psalms.