I was saying to my wife Jolene over the Christmas break that I just can’t go back to regular radio stations yet. I need some kind of Christmas music buffer before I let go of the holiday and get back into the regular rhythm of the year. Because when December 1st hits, I switch over to our local all-day Christmas radio station, and that’s what I listen to. I watch awful Christmas movies with ridiculous plots and acting. We eat sweet treats and relax on the couch more than normal. But once New Years hits, it’s just over. I gotta stop listening to Christmas music, stop watching the bad movies, and go back to the normal grit and grind of the year.
Or do I?
Before I was a Christian, this was certainly the case. Christmas was over, and it’d be this huge breakdown. As soon as we took the tree out of the house it was like, right…it’s over. I remember feeling so depressed in the early weeks of January, because all the joy, all the happiness, all the suspense was suddenly gone, until next Christmas.
Since becoming a Christian though, I can see that my attitude has changed. Sure, I still wish that the Christmas season persisted another month…or 11. I still wish that I didn’t feel the need for the Christmas buffer post new year. But the joy and happiness of Christmas, doesn’t leave me like it did when I was younger.
I was reminded afresh about the hope that we get in the baby Jesus. The hope that this act of God brings to me, my family, my church, and this world. And that message of hope is not just a Christmas message. We don’t just get Jesus for the month of December, then have the rest of the year to fend for ourselves. No, we get him for the other 11 months as well. Christmas is the arrival of that hope and joy, but afterwards, he’s here, he’s arrived. The hope we’d been waiting for is present. Granted, we’re 2000 years after that arrival. But we remind ourselves of the fact that Jesus is here – He doesn’t go away and come back each December. He is here, He has been here, and He will be here until the end of the age.
I hope you’ve had a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and it is my prayer that you carry the hope of Jesus with you throughout 2020.
Mike Sanders, Youth Director
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
These are the words I’ve been reflecting on for the last few weeks, as I’ve been preparing for our series in the book of James in Student Ministry. These are the words I’ve been trying to figure out how to teach to a group of students who I’m sure are all facing varying trials in school, relationships, and/or at home. “Count it a great joy…whenever you experience various trials.” On its own, this seems like really bad guidance. “Oh, that thing you’re struggling with? Get excited about it!”. You go around saying that to someone without any context, you may as well present them your jaw for a good ol’ punch.
But what we need to remember is that we are not facing these trials on our own. God doesn’t say to us, “Okay, now, go through this really hard thing, I’m gonna sit here and watch, make sure you survive!” No, as we know from the Great Commission, that we’ve been reciting together as a church, Jesus finishes his time on earth by saying, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. Jesus is with us.
When we’re going through that trial, he’s standing there with us. He’s encouraging us and speaking to us to persevere. He’s given us His word to use as a backbone for our defence. We see Jesus, when he was tempted in the desert, he doesn’t overcome the adversary alone. He uses scripture to stand firm. And we also need to. God is with us. When we’re going through trials, God, in His grace, is saying something like, “Okay, you’re going through this hard thing, but don’t fear, I’m with you, you can overcome this, with my help”.
Now, I don’t wanna cut Jolene’s grass, but Hillsong released an album this year that had a song called Another in the Fire. And I want to leave you with it. When you’re going through something difficult, whatever the circumstance, remember that you are not alone. As it says in the song, “Should I ever need reminding, how good you’ve been to me. I’ll count the joy come every battle, ‘cause I know that’s where you’ll be”
Mike Sanders, Youth Director
Have you ever heard the song Magic Power by the Canadian band Triumph? It's a great song, I'd recommend it. In this song, we hear this message about the magic power of music. About how it has this ability to change our mood, pick us up at the end of a long day. The second verse says:
She's had a rotten day, but she hopes the DJ is gonna play her favourite song. It makes her feel much better, brings her closer to her dreams. A little magic power makes it better than it seems.
Now, perhaps this song is elevating the power of music to heights that make music a small-g “god”. But it's also speaking a lot of truth about the power that music can have in our lives.
These last few weeks at Student Ministries we've been looking at the students' favourite songs. We've been taking a hard look at the lyrics, and asking the question: when we sing these songs, what is the message we're projecting to others? When I sing these lyrics, what am I saying about who I am, about who God is, and about the world we live in? Then once we've answered those three questions, we take a step back and look at the truth, and so far, the truth has presented a very contrasting worldview than that of these songs.
It's a practice that I am hoping to ingrain in the minds of our students, but I think it's a skill we could all use, because music is catchy, and it drives us. We could be out for a walk, and someone is cranking a tune from their garage or their car, or we see it in a movie or tv show. Then it's stuck in our brains, and we start to hum it or sing it to ourselves, then, we're the ones cranking it from our garage, or our cars as we drive. And on the surface, it seems harmless, you're just enjoying a song. There's a lot of really catchy songs out there that are just a blast to listen to. Songs that make us feel good, pick us up after a long day at work, or that are singing about something you're going through. But, a lot of our favourite songs, are painting a picture about who we are as individuals that is self-centered, or about a god that is so careless or powerless, or about our world that has no hope, and we really ought to be more careful before we put songs like that on repeat. Sure it's got a great beat, but these themes and ideas can trickle into our worldview if we aren't paying attention.
Now, maybe you're sitting there reading this and thinking “Geez Mike, way to be a bummer...”
Please understand that music is one of my favourite things that God has gifted us with. I have whole mix CD's that are filled with songs that are fun to drive to. There are songs that when they come on the radio I smile because I just love that song. I got a playlist on my phone that is just classic 70's and 80's rock songs that remind me of childhood, and my dad playing rock radio stations on long drives. There are songs that I get to the end of my workday and they're like a little reward on the drive home. Music is incredible, and I thank God every day that he's given us this beautiful gift of rhythm and beat. All I want to make sure we're doing, as a church, and as Christians, is to be wise about what we're consuming, and the subsequently sharing with others. Recognize that a lot of the secular music we enjoy, has this false idea about humanity, about this world, and about the God that we serve. And go into this music knowing the truth about those three things. Because, I'd argue that music does have power, and I urge us to be using that power to glorify God.
Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17)
Mike Sanders, Director of Youth
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