O Holy Night (Advent #2)

This week at our home church we sang “O Holy Night”, which may seem out of the ordinary since it’s a song typically sung on Christmas Eve. But the message of the song is something we can carry throughout all of this Advent season, isn’t it?

We’re always looking for a way to have a “holly jolly Christmas” when it is, in fact, a holy Christmas.

Is it holy when we get frustrated when another shopper takes our parking space? Or when you flip out when the item you’re looking for is out of stock?

While most of the time we may be running around like a headless chicken, checking off items on our shopping list, going from point A to point B to point C, etc., “O Holy Night” reminds us that we need to stop and give glory to the King. How are you spending your time leading up to Christmas?

Who knows? You could be having a great Christmas season. Or maybe you’re feeling nervous, concerned, or distressed. But consider this: we get to take part in something incredible together; looking forward to an event that is indeed a holy moment… the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Luke 2:8-11 says:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

What great news! We hope this truth brings you peace as you continue this second week of Advent. Christmas Eve may still be weeks away but that doesn’t make this song any less meaningful to us. Let’s keep preparing the way for Emmanuel, God with us, as we continue to shift our view of these popular Christmas carols.

Reflection Song: Here Today

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O Come All Ye Faithful (Advent #1)

Right before the Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping craze, I saw stores starting to sell Advent Calendars (these are charts with numbered flaps, revealing a special message, picture, or prize as you count down to Christmas). And every year, without fail, I debate whether I should buy the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar. But this year, before I could even decide, it had already sold out online and in stores. Wow!

On this first week of Advent, we wanted to ask… How do you prepare yourself for Christmas? For many, it means getting your shopping done. Others might go all out with their lawn decorations. But the word “advent” is defined as the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. What are we counting down to?

To Christians, Advent is the coming of Christ. We’re preparing the way and getting ready to adore our Savior whose birth we celebrate on December 25. That’s the whole “reason for the season”! I hope you’re anticipating this celebratory moment as this special day approaches. In Luke 2:15-16, the shepherds were anxious for Jesus’ birth! They couldn’t wait to come and see, to greet Him, to honor and adore Him.

So for Week 1 of Advent, feel free to begin enjoying the festivities and jolly celebrations (after all, tonight is the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting) but don’t let that eclipse what this season is to our faith. Let’s be joyful and expectant this Advent Season:

Make a way for Jesus! O come, let us adore Christ the Lord!

We hope these short weekly excerpts will help you see these Christmas “carols” in a new light as we count down to Christmas together!

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.Psalm 95:6-7

Reflection Song: You Are Greater

Easter Faithfulness

Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

Today we rejoice and celebrate for our Lord Jesus is risen from the dead and is victorious over sin & over death. He has overcome the grave and just as He lives, we live – lives that are lived for Him. Just as God reminds us of His faithfulness on this day, we too live lives that are faithful to Him. For because of the cross where Jesus died for our sins, we are made new, made alive to God, and dead to sin.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Happy Easter, everyone!

Reflection Song: He Has Overcome


Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 (Palm Sunday) | Good Friday | Easter

Goodness (A Good Friday Blog)

Why is it called Good Friday if Jesus suffered and was crucified?

“Good” in this sense can also mean “Holy”, which is why you may also hear it as “Holy Friday”. And goodness in Greek, agathosune, can be defined as an uprightness of heart and life (for the benefit of others). So when we think of today and all that happens, we see that Jesus lived a life and died a death that shows this kind of holiness in action.

We could not have Easter without Good Friday (because death is needed before resurrection) and, likewise, we could not have Good Friday without Easter (because His story doesn’t end with tragedy). So when we take a step back and look at this day as a whole, we see the significance and necessity – that Jesus, with the love of God, was sent to the earth in order to take our sins to the cross, suffer, and die. We could take James 1:17 quite literally when it says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” Jesus Christ was the perfect gift and the perfect sign of love.

All the way to His death, Jesus was humble and obedient. He exemplified this holiness, this goodness, this agathosune, for all to see. He was selfless. And as we prepare ourselves to be the same, especially today, we look to the cross where Jesus died for our sins. In fact, 1 John 2:2 says that as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world!

So even though Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday) is right around the corner, let’s pause for a moment today to contemplate the cross. Jesus, the perfecter of faith, endured the cross and scorned its shame (Hebrews 12:2). It’s a suffering and death we deserve but He bears it all for us, even descending into hell before raising up from the dead.

What an amazing sacrifice made for us today! It always amazes me when I think about the meaningfulness and symbolism of this day. And even though it would be easy to see today in terms of tragedy, suffering, death, and all-around horribleness, we know that leading up to Resurrection Sunday it really is a Good Friday.

Reflection Song: Here I Stand


Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 (Palm Sunday) | Good Friday | Easter

Lent, Week 6: Gentleness & Kindness (A Palm Sunday Blog)

In some translations of the Bible, gentleness & kindness are almost interchangeable. Today we celebrate this gentleness/kindness as Jesus, our King, enters Jerusalem humbly and gently on a donkey. As Palm Sunday, many of us might imagine the crowds, the masses, the shouts of “Hosanna!” (Matthew 21:9), and a mess of palm branches on the road. But this time we want to invite you to think of the calm & quiet nature in which Jesus arrived this Holy Week.

Gentleness and kindness could mean “meekness”, but not “weakness”. Jesus was a perfect example of this as He obeyed and submitted to the Father, yet carrying out an eternal plan. While many on this day expected a militant ruler, warrior, or conqueror, our Savior came in riding on a lowly colt! Zechariah 9:9 prophesied, “See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

On one hand, gentleness is humility, grace, obedience… and kindness is an uprightness, a caring, a kindness of heart. We aim for these two as we strive to be like Jesus, who displayed gentleness & kindness in His life and death. It is this gentleness and kindness that God showed as He offered salvation to us – the same characteristic that is at work within us through the Holy Spirit… that we would offer up our own lives as well, especially during this Lent season, as we think about the life and death of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.

Jesus has come today! As we embark on Holy Week, let’s think about the selfless sacrifice Jesus made for our salvation. He surrenders Himself to the Father’s will with gentleness (humility, grace, obedience) and kindness (uprightness, caring, gentleness) just as we should. For those who have given things up for Lent, how is that going? Do we allow the Spirit to guide us as we surrender ourselves so that all that we do is done with a spirit of gentleness & kindness?

In this final stretch, continue to be an example of Christ as He continues to be your guide in all things. May His gentleness and kindness carry over to you today.

Reflection Song: Prepare The Way


Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 (Palm Sunday) | Good Friday | Easter

Lent, Week 2: Patience

Whether you’ve given something up for Lent, like chocolate, or you’ve added a new spiritual practice, like praying more, we all need patience. The Hebrew word for patience means to wait for, to look for, to hope, to expect… So in this second week of Lent, it’s the perfect discipline to look at as we seek and wait for the Lord.

Consider Psalm 37:7 which says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…” What we love about this Lenten season is that as we give up or take up things for 40 days, it isn’t just the act of giving/taking them up but the patience behind them as we think about the Lord and wait patiently for Him. And in these days leading up to Easter, it isn’t an apathetic waiting but an expectant waiting – an active waiting.

But we all know that it isn’t easy. Many times, we’ll be tempted to give up and lose our cool. Hebrews 12:1 says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance (or patience, or endurance) the race marked out for us…

Do we run a race calmly and nonchalantly? No. The kind of patience we need in our walks is an active and dynamic patience as we face difficulties, endure trials & temptations, and trust in God’s promise and timing. It’s already been 8 days since we started and I’m sure many of us are having a tough time but instead of letting impatience and restlessness overcome us, let’s try resting in God’s perfect timing and strengthen our patience. Continue to be in His Word so that when you feel lost or anxious, you will have a better idea of the course of action needed to actively wait for Him and endure.

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. –Romans 2:7

Reflection Song: Christ Is


Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 (Palm Sunday) | Good Friday | Easter

Lent, Week 1: Dirty Foreheads (An Ash Wednesday Blog)

“…for dust you are and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:9

…a verse that we often hear on this day to remind us that we came from dust and will return to dust. Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and the day where we mark our foreheads with the ashes from burnt palms from last year’s Palm Sunday. It also marks the beginning of the 40 days of fasting many of us tackle each year – from junk food, to shopping, to the internet, to games… we usually fast something to imitate Jesus in the desert.

And though Ash Wednesday isn’t specifically mentioned in the Bible, we follow this tradition to reflect and prepare for Easter. You may or may not be attending a church service for it but as you think about the countless number of dirty foreheads going around the world today, consider the significance and meaning of it. In the shape of a cross, some may leave it on for a moment, and some may even leave it on all day as a public profession of faith.

And soon (about 40 days), we’ll contemplate the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for us. Let today be a reminder of that as you see the foreheads around you. We were once dirty but made clean because of Jesus, continually being made more like Him. And during this Lenten journey we will post weekly thoughts like last year so that we can prepare the way of the Lord together for Easter.

“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

Reflection Song: Nothing But The Blood


Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 (Palm Sunday) | Good Friday | Easter

Perfect Love (A Valentine’s Day Blog)

The other day at our church small group, a few of us were talking about the unfortunate lack of communication these days and how that’s impacted our signs of affection. It’s gotten to the point where we aren’t sure what “I like you” means anymore because some feel the need to differentiate “I like you” with “I like like you”! That’s some real emphasis there!

With Valentine’s Day so imminent, those who have a date may be getting ready for whatever’s planned – but those who don’t may be wondering “does he/she like like me?”, much like the classic “he loves me / he loves me not” flower petal plucking…

But I think it’s great that Valentine’s Day lands on a Saturday this year because the following day is Sunday, the day we gather together to worship the One who truly loves us. And in case you aren’t sure how much God loves you, let’s take a look at the very famous verse, John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

You see, God showed His love for us on the cross with His one and only Son, Jesus Christ. There’s no doubt about it after reading that verse that it’s because of God’s perfect love. And in case you need that extra emphasis or clarification, take a closer look: “For God so loved the world…” – that’s like saying, “For God loved loved the world”! That’s quite some love! It’s the same perfect love that casts out fear and insecurity (1 John 4:18)… the perfect love that helps heal & cure… perfect love that we are made aware of and get to experience every day.

So whether you’ve got plans or you’ve got plans to stay at home, God so loves you… in fact, God is love and His perfect love is unconditional, unmatched, and unmeasurable.

Reflection Song: One Thing Remains

Week 4 of Advent

I don’t know about you, but our Christmas Sunday was filled with Christmas worship songs, new and old. It was a wonderful time of glorifying and loving our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we draw nearer to Christmas in this last week of Advent, let us focus on the love and presence of the Savior. His arrival is that much closer today – and since Week 1 of Advent, what have we done to prepare the way?

We’re very much looking forward to the birth of Jesus! As you may already know, Jesus is called Immanuel/Emmanuel (God with us, Matthew 1:23). In what ways are you allowing God to be with you this Christmas season, and how will you open up new avenues in your life for Him to be more present in 2015?

In this world, doors of opportunity are constantly opening and closing but remember that His love is unfailing and true. Presents are great and a fun way to show “holiday cheer” but while these presents that come & go, God’s presence is always with us. We pray that you have a great Christmas this year with your family & friends, remembering the significance of Jesus’ birth, and have a happy new year as well!

Reflection Song: Here I Stand

Week 3 of Advent

What do you think of when you hear the word “joy”? Perhaps this Christmas present reveal from 1998. Or this cartoon.

But to me, the word “joy” almost instantly triggers a few Christmas songs: Joy To The World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (“tidings of comfort and joy”), and Angels We Have Heard On High (“joyous strains”). So what is joy and how is it different from happiness?

I believe the difference can be summed up by the N64 kid above. Whereas your average child may have been happy to receive an N64 console, this particular child was filled with much joy! Joy by definition is a feeling of great or extreme happiness. And if happiness is a reflexive emotion, then I’d like to think that joy is our choice to take the next step and have a happiness that much greater. The birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Christmas justifies this kind of joy – we then make a choice to be joyful and, in response, we rejoice (to feel or show great joy)!

So when we hear “tidings of comfort and joy”, it’s the news of comfort, peace, and joy in the birth of Jesus. Our reaction and reflex then is made up of “joyous strains”, joyful songs of praise!

We may be glad to receive certain presents this year and that feeling may even last a while. But nothing gives everlasting joy like Jesus Christ – the whole reason for this time of year! In this third week of Advent, think about how Jesus brings you joy and in what way you can rejoice in His birth in these final 10 days.

Reflection Song: Only You