As I write this blog post it is now less than one week until Christmas. How does it sneak up so quickly? Are you organized and ready? I often wonder why we put so much pressure on ourselves to have things all done and put together just perfect. How there seems to be so many events and activities on the calendar at once with not enough time to get to everything. I know that I’m even guilty of this when planning Christmas ideas for our Children’s Ministry. I’m always looking for something fresh, some new ideas that have the ‘wow factor’. There were even a few articles I read about how to be more effective in ministry planning during the season. Some suggestions were: decorating your space, (check), having some Christmas lights in the classrooms, (check I have a tree with lights), have different snacks (check, our kids love crackers and cheese), well planned crafts (check, I love being crafty), and using perhaps a variety of games and activity stations, (check, I usually have lots planned).
While these ideas are all helpful and effective, I was reminded that the Christmas story, with its events and characters, is enough on its own. It doesn’t need anything extra or flashy. Even though it may be the same story every year- Jesus born in a stable manger, a Saviour for the world; this is the ‘wow factor’!!
Last week our younger Sunday school children learned about one of my favourite parts of the Christmas story. It’s when the shepherds are in the field and suddenly an angel appears to them. We used a nativity set and some picture scenes to re-tell the story. The image of some simple shepherds working out in a field when suddenly an angel is before them and then a host of angels- is incredible. They were so full of joy and excitement that they hurried off to find the baby. These shepherds were part of an amazing story, part of a plan. God sent us a special gift that is for everyone.
As we get ready for Christmas day, let’s pause and reflect on God’s perfect plan and the hope a tiny king would bring.
Glory to the Newborn King!
Tanya Chant, Family & Children's Ministry
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.”
Every year at our WEC conference, we do something called “Snapshots”. Each person at the conference gets one minute during the week to share a word or image that captures how God has been working in their lives in the past year. And each year, I’ve struggled to find just the right word or picture that adequately conveys how God has been working in me.
This year, though, will be different. Because for these last few months there’s a word that has been buzzing around my head, popping up in scripture and songs, calling me to attention each time I come across it. One word that points to something more.
The word itself means nothing unless it has an object to point to. And yet it builds anticipation; a knowledge that whatever comes next is going to be important. That whatever comes next cannot be skimmed over or ignored, it demands to be noticed.
"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus." (Luke 1:31)
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)
"Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners." (Matthew 26:45)
We marvel at Mary’s obedience as an angel tells her she will give birth to a Saviour.
We rejoice in the light that Jesus brings to a world that has wandered so far away from the heart of God.
We grieve at the cost of our redemption, that the son of God would offer his life to save our hopelessly broken ones.
But (behold!) Jesus HAS brought hope!
Our Saviour has taken what sin had distorted, and he makes it holy.
He makes us whole.
This Christmas season, let’s take time to behold what our God has done, and what he continues to do to the glory of our Saviour, Jesus Christ!
Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”
- Isaiah 12:2
On any given day I will throw out a half dozen fliers for companies I don’t frequent, and answer at least one phone call from someone who needs my valued opinion in a survey that will take “less than 30 seconds”. And then there’s the spam emails, promising one thing but delivering another...
Case in point: earlier this week the staff received an email from Pastor Aaron Groat with the subject PEACE. Naturally, we assumed it was our Pastor and friend sending information about the upcoming Peace week of Advent. Nope. Just some scammer who had spoofed Aaron’s name and was trying to steal from us. (Note: Pastor Aaron will never email you to ask you to buy iTunes cards, Google Play cards, or anything else!)
On the surface, I was promised peace, and I almost fell for it… but I didn’t. And do you know why? Because I checked the source. You see, clicking the sender’s name revealed that another email address was hidden below the surface. The author of that kind of peace was a liar and could not be trusted.
Man, it’s almost like there’s a theological lesson in there somewhere.
There are many things that promise peace at Christmas time. Spend time with family. Watch some cheesy Hallmark movies. Travel. Enjoy some Christmas parties. Light the tree. Hit the slopes. Relax at the spa. Have Sunday brunch with friends. Shop early, shop online, wrap it up and then you’re done.
I’ll bet that if you watched enough commercials, you’d think that peace was guaranteed if you follow those few easy steps. These things by themselves are wonderful diversions, but you can’t manufacture peace.
But you can receive it.
You see, Ephesians 2:14 says that Christ himself is our peace. He’s the source. He’s ‘it’. Jesus is the one who broke down the dividing wall of hostility between us and God and reconciled us to Him forever through his shed blood on the cross. He’s the giver and we are the receiver.
What Jesus did brought us peace on two levels: The temporal and the eternal. The now and the forever. The peace you receive when your sins are forgiven is now, and the peace you enjoy knowing your life is hidden in God is eternal. It comes when we stop living for ourselves, and we begin living for God.
Peace is the result of our surrender and the root of our relationship.
This Christmas I pray you won’t fall for a surface promise of peace, but instead you’ll look to the Author of peace himself. Receive Christ and His gift of peace, for now, and for all eternity.
“Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace"
PS One time I did reply to a scammer, and had a whole day of fun sending them a barrage of nonsensical emails. I don't recommend it, but it was a fun way to spend a Saturday! But nothing compares to the Infamous Red Toaster Email found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSoXEtFPTfI
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