Tag Archives: Christmas

When the Holidays are Hard…Make Room

13 Dec

broken ornament

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

The Christmas holiday season represents generosity and beauty wrapped up in the very presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The hymns and carols we sing during this time of year focus on peace, joy, hope, comfort, and the incarnation and its glorious implication for humanity — the lyrics highlight the turning point in which God entered into our history cloaked in flesh; humbled (Philippians 2:8).

“God first enveloped Himself in mortal form and tabernacled among the sons of men!” — Charles Spurgeon.

We look back to that first expectant waiting and look ahead to His coming again. We long for…

Please click here to continue reading: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > When the Holidays are Hard…Make Room.

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Simple Gifts | Blessing in a Box

8 Nov

operation christmas

Bring Good News and great joy to boys and girls around the world!

A small shoebox can have a big impact. What goes into the box is fun, but what comes out of it is eternal. Be a part of changing children’s lives all over the world in Jesus’ Name through the power of a simple gift with Operation Christmas Child (OCC).

OCC brings joy and hope to children in desperate situations worldwide through simple, gift-filled shoe boxes. Samaritan’s Purse will deliver your gifts to hurting children while also telling them about God’s greatest gift – his Son, Jesus Christ…

Remaining post here: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Simple Gifts | Blessing in a Box.

Christmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden

25 Dec

burdenedChristmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden

Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”, but for many of you it’s the most painful. It’s that time of year when budgets break, when you’re reminded of how dysfunctional your family is, when you miss the people you love who have died or left.

For some of you, this is your first Christmas as a divorcee. Figuring out how to shuffle your children back and forth between you and your Ex on Christmas Day is a new pain for you. For others, you’re afraid it will be your last Christmas because of your recent diagnosis. Or, you’re afraid it will be your last Christmas with your mom because of her recent diagnosis. A lost job, a daughter who won’t even call on Christmas day, a son you haven’t talked to in three years, a father who can’t get sober, a sibling in rehab–Christmas reveals our deepest frustrations and fears, our most sincere sadness and suspicions, our brokenness and bitterness.

Christmas has a painful way of revealing why the first Christmas was so necessary.

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking; How we need to hear from God…

Christmas exposes our desperation but it also announces our Deliverer—the one who promises rest to the weary and heavy laden; the one who promises never to leave us or forsake us. For those who feel lonely and lost, anxious and abandoned, tired and tense—for those who are guilt-ridden and grieving—Christmas is for you. Especially for you!

The Incarnation of Jesus serves as a glorious reminder that God’s willingness to clean things up is infinitely bigger than our capacity to mess things up. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to confront our misery with his mercy, our confusion with his comfort, our guilt with his grace.

Christmas is the beachhead of God’s campaign against sin and sadness. It is the coming of light, life, and love into the occupied territory of darkness, death, and hate. Christmas is a war fought by a Peaceful Prince whose battle plan is to defeat death by dying, fear by forgiveness and slavery by salvation.

Christmas sets in motion the Divine pattern of God drawing near to us–not because we’ve done it right–but because we keep doing it wrong. Jesus came down to us because we are weak, not because we are strong.

Christmas highlights the inescapable fact that no matter how hard we try, we can’t do it. Apart from the Incarnation we are left to our own bankrupt resources. But at the same it shows us Jesus, who came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves and others!, find ourselves, and free ourselves. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done” and make it on our own. He came to set us free from the need to secure for ourselves the affection and approval we long for but cannot attain.

In short, Christmas is God’s answer to the slavery of self-salvation. From the cries of a baby lying in a manger, God shouts, “I’ve got this. I’ll take it from here.”

Fragile finger sent to heal us, Tender brow prepared for thorn; Tiny heart whose blood will save us, Unto us is born.

It is this crying baby that wipes away our tears as our Wonderful Counselor. It is this powerless child that conquers despair and dejection as our Mighty God. It is this needy newborn that is the source of everything we need and long for as our Everlasting Father. It is this helpless infant that restores okayness to our lives as our Prince of Peace.

As Everything, he became nothing so that you–as nothing–could have everything.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Reprinted from: Christmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden – Tullian Tchividjian.

Additional information: Five Truths About the Incarnation – Desiring God

Immanuel, “God With Us”

24 Dec

immanuel03

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” — Matthew 1:23 (NASB)

“‘Immanuel, God with us.’  It is hell’s terror.  Satan trembles at the sound of it. . . . Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. . . . ‘God with us’ is the laborer’s strength.  How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? . . . ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. . . .Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. . . . But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem.  Let him have a place in your hearts, give him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given. I finish by again saying, A happy Christmas to you all!” — C. H. Spurgeon

God entered into human history as Jesus Christ — Immanuel, God with us, when he was born in a stable. “…the Word that was with God and that was God (John 1:1) “…became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14). He lived a sinless life and on the cross was a life poured out; taking upon Himself our sins and giving us His righteousness (double imputation). After His resurrection and ascent to Heaven we are not alone,

“…new covenant believers enjoy God’s constant presence in [their] lives through the Holy Spirit…John Piper says, that the first distinguishing thing about being Christian different from those who are “in the flesh” is that we are an “inhabited” people. And Paul says it three ways in Romans 8:9-10:

  1. “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v. 9b);
  2. “you have the Spirit of Christ” (v. 9c);
  3. “Christ is in you” (v. 10a).

The different names here all are referring essentially to the same presence. The Spirit is equally the Spirit of God the Father and the Spirit of God the Son, Jesus Christ. Believers are in the presence of Christ all of the time…[as] the constant presence of God, the indwelling Spirit” (Marcia Lichte via It’s All About the Presence).

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” — Matthew 28:20 (b). Jesus was and is “God with us!”

References/Resources:

Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > It’s All About the Presence | Christ in You

Ray Ortlund

True Woman | Immanuel Changes Everything

A Prayer for More Christmas Hush, Less Christmas Rush

23 Dec
luke

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife. Proverbs 17:1

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.“ Luke 10:41-42

Dear Lord Jesus, it’s the eve of Christmas Eve—arguably, one of the most pressure-laden, detail-heavy, preparation-peaking, relationship-stressing, and traffic-snarly days of the year. We are so thankful that you are the Prince of Peace, and that you’ve come to make peace, in the chaos of our world and hearts.

As this day unfolds, grant us wisdom to discern the difference between the many Martha-like-details that really don’t matter; and the “one good thing” you commended in Mary. Jesus, be our treasure and pleasure; the focus of our gaze and the joy of our hearts; not just, the “reason-for-the-season”, but, the very center of our existence.

May your welcoming, kind, gracious heart be the most notable reality in our homes this Christmas. Bring your centering peace to bear in profound and sensate ways. Grant us copious amounts of your mercy for our prodigals; your grace for our brokenness; and your compassion, for one and all alike.

To the degree our traditions have become idols; our expectations have grown unrealistic, our busyness reveals our barrenness, and our gift giving is more about face saving, forgive us and free us, Jesus.

May the silent night of your birth bring its gentling presence in our homes. May the “good news of great joy,” the angel’s declared, trump any other storyline we would write for this week. May your peace, that passes all understanding, reign in our hearts like an irresistible force. May the hope of the Day when “all will be put right,” free us to wait patiently and love boldly in this day.

Lord Jesus, as you have come to serve us—from your manger to the cross, so may we find our greatest joy this week in serving one another. Free us from any need for anybody to be any different than they are. So very Amen we pray, in your tender and triumphant name.

Reprinted from: A Prayer for More Christmas Hush, Less Christmas Rush – Heavenward by Scotty Smith.

Additionally, click here to view a related post: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Harried, Hurried? | Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

Harried, Hurried? | Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

17 Dec

stress“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

“One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

If you find yourself harried, hurried, and just too busy to do the will of God during this Christmas season and your focus has shifted from Christ to the wordly pursuit of the perfect gift, meal, or travel experience…refocus. If all thoughts of serving have fled under the crushing stress of unrealistic expectation and the highlighted ideal has robbed you of your joy…realignPerfect holiday tableaus are erected months in advance in the hopes we will all be looking ahead willing to spend now for unattainable perfection in the future or looking to the past at less then ideal gatherings that missed the mark hoping for a second chance to recreate what failed. Blind yourself to these manufactured distractions…re entrench

“…your only hope for joy, and your only hope for peace, and your only hope for comfort, your only hope for love, and your only hope for strength in this life is found in the cross of Jesus Christ” ― David Platt

You cannot truly find your joy, peace, hope, love, strength, rest, or faith anywhere else but in the cross. Peter began his letter in 1 Peter 1:1-9 by addressing believers; reminding them they owe their salvation to God’s mercy and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is there on that tree fashioned of wood and nails we find God’s gift; a heart poured out. When weariness deflects your thoughts from the magnitude of the cross immerse yourself in the Word…drink it in and rediscover the hope and joy inexpressible found when you rest in the Lord.

“And what shall meet the deep unrest around thee,

But the calm peace of God that filled His Breast?

For still a living Voice calls to the weary,

From Him who said, “Come unto me and rest.””

― Freda Hanburry Allen

Additional resources for women: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Harried, Hurried? | Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

The following article explores the ways Jesus offers us a place to store our fears and rest in Him…

Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

For many, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas leave us grateful but gassed. In the name of holiday festivities, December means attending multiple Christmas parties, traveling to see family and friends, and standing in line to get the ever-elusive “perfect gift.”

As much joy as Christmas brings, if we aren’t careful, holiday cheer can sap our energy and steal our joy. It is a great irony that the season of light often feels heavy. What can we do to find rest in this annual merry-thon?

Five things you might do to cultivate spiritual rest.

1. Unplug. While there’s a place for Christmas specials and live nativities, doing something smaller, with less pomp and circumstance, may be exactly what you need to cultivate rest. Such a change might give you the margin you need to be still and know that he is God.

2. Say no to something old. If your schedule includes multiple family meals, Christmas parties, and gift exchanges, find one (or more) to which you can say no. We are finite creatures, and it is good for us to draw boundaries.

3. Say yes to something new. Sing Christmas carols in a nursing home. Serve meals at a local mission. Take groceries to a needy family in your church. Christ’s invitation to rest is not a call to complacency; it is a chance to work in his strength (Col. 1:29).

4. Feed on the Word. As much attention as we give to savory meats and holiday treats, we should give more attention to God’s Word. This might mean reading Advent scriptures or picking up a book on Christ’s birth. However it looks, spiritual rest always involves hearing the promises of the gospel.

5. Pray. With your family or with others, carve out time to praise God for the birth of Christ. Pray for the persecuted church and those who are suffering this Christmas. Pray for missionaries and for those who don’t yet know Christ.

Whatever you do this month, put Christ at the center. And whether you finish the month rested or restless, take comfort that ultimately his life, not ours, secures our Sabbath rest. In this month’s merry-thon, remember that Christ has come to be the good news of great joy for weary people.

Excerpted from David Schrock’s article Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

 

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