Finding Joy in the Midst of a Mess
- All families are dysfunctional at some point
- Jesus’ first act is to bring joy
- Happiness is dependent on what is going on around us; joy is dependent on what is happening within us
- Jesus brings in others to share in the joy
- Pray and invite Jesus to show up
- Giving joy spreads
- Show up so someone else receives joy
- Prayers coupled with action is always better
- Joy is on its way, and we can find it and be part of it
Living Out Christmas
Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. I’m not going to lie – we get our decorations up pretty early and leave them up pretty late. The truth is, I just love this time of year. Some aren’t as into it, but I am.
I bring this up for a very specific reason…This time of the year is a great time to actually show God’s love in real, practical and tangible ways that don’t come off as weird. You can actually reach out to your family, friends and neighbours in real ways without it seeming odd.
1. You can invite neighbours over for a Christmas party
2. You can make cookies and drop them off
3. You can give small and meaningful gifts to co-workers
4. You can actually invite people to a Christmas Eve service
These are all simple and pretty straightforward things to do, and I mention them because I believe that Christmas is a time of action. The reason we gather together as Christians at Christmas is because God acted. The reason we give gifts to one another is because God acted. The reason we have hope in this season is because God acted.
Again, I bring this all up to remind you of something pretty simple… If God acted on His love for the world, so should we.
So, what might it look like to love those in your world? What might it look like to tangibly remind people that they matter? What might be a way you could surprise someone with an example of their value? The message of Christmas is that God surprised us with His actions, giving us something we weren’t expecting. What might that look like in your life?
I know we all live in different contexts and places, but one thing each of us can do is to show love in those different contexts and places.
So, invite people over for a party, drop by cookies, share a gift, write a note, do something. Remember, we are here today becauseGod did something, so let’s follow His lead this Christmas.
Christmas at the Movies: Charlie Brown and Gathering and Gratefulness
On Sunday we began by watching a clip of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. This is where Linus tells Charlie brown what Christmas is about. And I think for every Christian there isn’t a real disagreement that Christmas is about Jesus. But how this plays out in our lives there is a lot of diversity, and I think some wasted energy.
So on Sunday I wanted to clearly explain what I think Christmas being about Jesus means. And to do this we thought about what the actual first Christmas was like.
Most likely the first Christmas was full of some anxiety, some stress, mess, and transcendent joy. This is because every birth I’ve been at part of it had some anxiety, stress, mess, and transcendent joy. As a Dad I was quite terrified by everything with the birth of our first son, and this is at a hospital with loads of medical professionals. I couldn’t imagine what Joseph must have been feeling, and the stress to not harm the Son of God as a baby.
But what I’ve also known is that amidst the worry, stress, and excitement there comes a moment of transcendent joy when you hold the newborn baby in your arms. And what has happened in every instance after this, in our world, is that family and friends come over, bring food, and gifts and we celebrate the gift of new life.
And as I was reading the Christmas story, something new hit me. I always thought of how the shepherds and Magi showing up are displays of God’s glory and power. Now though, I see them maybe more of displays of the humanity that God tenderly cares for.
Mary and Joseph were alone without anyone to share the birth with, and God sends shepherds to rejoice with, and Magi to worship and give gifts. And it struck me: the very first thing Jesus did was gather people together to express gratefulness and gratitude at the gift of life.
Before Jesus did any healings, miracles, teaching, or dying and rising again – his very first act is to bring people together to celebrate and be grateful. Because of Jesus’ birth Mary, Joseph, Magi, and Shepherds are drawn together to celebrate and be grateful for the gift of life in their hands.
This is what happened on the very first Christmas, and I think it needs to ground what we believe Christmas is about. Christmas is about gathering together to be grateful for the gifts of life God has given us. When we say Christmas is about Jesus, that’s true. But I wish we would understand how part of what the truth is, is to actually do is to cause us to gather with family and friends with grateful hearts and celebration.
Christmas, if it is about anything, is certainly not about boycotting, arguing, or debating. Christmas is about gathering and celebrating. Christmas is about sharing in the gift of life that is given to us. Christmas is about gathering and being grateful.
So that was the main point on Sunday; Christmas is about gathering and begin grateful. And then we closed with actually practicing this. We gathered for a Christmas meal and shared things we were grateful for. And I think that’s a good practice to do this Christmas.
Big Idea: Christmas is a time to gather and be grateful.
- Christmas is about Jesus.
- What is central to Christmas?
- We have a sanitized picture of the birth of Jesus
- God sends people to celebrate and appreciate the new birth
- Jesus’ birth directly caused people to gather, be grateful, and celebrate
- Jesus gathered together diverse people, to appreciate the gifts given to them
- The story isn’t just about what happened back then but what should happen today.
- We should gather friends and family together, and practice being grateful for the gifts God has given us.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What was funny? What can you be grateful for this Christmas? How has God given you life, strength, hope, or something tangible in the past year? Who can you share your gratefulness with?
Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families
Today it’s simple – ask your kids what they are most grateful for in life. But beforehand help them to learn the right example by sharing what you appreciate and are grateful for about them.
Challenge for the Week: Gather with people and be grateful
The Meaning of Christmas
On Sunday we are looking at what the meaning of Christmas is. And while I think at first glance that seems pretty clear – it’s about Jesus. I’m not so sure we know how that actually applies to what we live, and what we do.
Lots of Christians around Christmas debate how the meaning of Christmas is Jesus. For some this means fighting consumerism, for others it means being able to say “Merry Christmas”, not “Happy Holidays”, or there are lots of other debates going on.
So while every Christian would agree, that Christmas is about Jesus, what that practically and actually means is quite different depending on what Christian you talk with.
So that’s what I want to clear up on Sunday. I want to clear up what Christmas being about Jesus really means practically for our lives. What we should positively be doing if that statement is true. And it’s something simple, it’s something practical, and like the best simple and practical things – it’s absolutely transformational.
A Difficult Christmas
On Sunday we are opening up a bit of a difficult topic. We are actually going to talk about grief. I know not a normal “Christmas” topic. But here is the truth, Christmas can be really difficult for some people. And Christmas is also about hospitality, and welcoming others.
So on Sunday I want to talk about how to welcome, include, and gather those who are hurting. A few weeks ago I talked about fully entering into the joy of Christmas. On Sunday I want to take the flip-side and look at welcoming those who are struggling. And to do this I want to watch one of my favorite movies. Well not the whole thing, but a significant portion of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
So that’s where we are going on Sunday, but before we get there, why not spend sometime thinking if there are those who are hurting who you can reach out to this Christmas. Because one of the biggest things we will learn from the movie, is the power of noticing a need.
Christmas at the Movies: Home Alone and Hilarity
GUEST POST: Pastoral Intern Carter Whyte
This week we began our “Christmas at the Movies” series – using classic Christmas movies to help shed new light on Jesus’ coming to earth. The enjoyable viewing of Home Alone served two purposes for this first message in the series: it taught us about our forgetfulness, and it forced us to put the message into action by having fun.
Just like Kevin’s parents forgot him at home when they went away for Christmas, oftentimes Christians forget something very important when we enter this holiday season: Joy!
We read in Luke 2 that when an angel announced Jesus’ birth to nearby shepherds, the angel proclaimed, “I bring you good news that will be great joy to all people.”
How often do we celebrate because of Jesus?
Sometimes Christians become fun-suckers, boring, and somber. We may try to rationalize these attitudes by saying that being serious and focused are important because we have a mission to complete and our days are numbered. But think: If the good news is supposed to bring joy into our lives, can we possibly spread the message of this good news without bringing joy along?
We know that joy is good! Laughter refreshes us! Doing fun things relieves us of the worries we have been carrying around! None of us want to go to work every day when there is absolutely nothing pleasurable about it.
There is a time for sorrow, and mourning, and self-reflection. But there is also a time for joy, and shouting, and self-expression! And Christmas is that kind of time!
Christian maturity should lead to more joy, as a result of a deeper connection with the Spirit that produces joy, and the Jesus that brings joy to the world! So let’s be mature this Christmas and let our lives be filled with joy because of Jesus.
- With still a few weeks until Christmas, why not consider adding in some extra celebrations with your family and the people around you?
- Invite people from work over to have a fondue dinner!
- Do something new and exciting with your spouse!
- Add something new to a traditional Christmas dinner – invite your family into a sing-along, or invite somebody new along! (Or write a poem!)
- Join in with your kids when they are silly, or build a gingerbread house with them this Sunday for the competition in Plattsville!
Don’t forget to have joy and spread joy to others this Christmas!
Big Idea: Don’t forget to bring joy with you this Christmas.
- Sometimes it’s easy to forget the most important things
- “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people”
- God is about Joy, and the instigator of Joy
- You don’t win points by being more conservative than God
- Don’t forget to have fun this Christmas.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What was funny? When have you forgotten something important? What brings you joy at Christmas? How can you spread joy? How can you have fun? What can you do today to bring joy to your family?
Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families
Ask your kids what is most fun thing to do at Christmas. Then go do it.
Challenge for the Week: To go have fun!
Christmas at the Movies
So on Sunday we are opening up a new series for Advent – Christmas at the Movies Round 2! We did this last year and people really liked it so we are going for it again. I’m going to be trying to tie in all sorts of movies to help reveal the truth about Christmas.
Sometimes Christmas becomes so familiar that we forget the key things about it. So join with us as we look at some classic movies to learn some new things about joy, about Elf, about gathering together, and learning to be grateful. Hope you can join us!
Why I Love an Old Fashioned Christmas
On Sunday we shared a lot about the traditions surrounding Christmas. Or if the word tradition bothers you – think instead of rhythms that surround Christmas. Because traditions are funny things, they are rooted in the past, but they actually preserve the future. That’s what they do.
Traditions are things that grow, that hold faith and family together. And without them family and faith can slip away or fade away.
This is something that I’m beginning to realize more and more. That traditions create memories, they are containers that hold meaning, and draw family together and pass along faith.
So on Sunday I shared some of the traditions that are part of my family.
Watching National Lampoons every year
- Decorating the tree
- Going to Christmas Eve services
- Praying before gifts
- Reading the Christmas story
- And many more
The point is that the traditions – or rhythms – ground my family and my faith. They ensure that I remember that something important is happening and someone important is coming.
So we closed Sunday with giving a simple challenge: what is one tradition you want to start this year, and one tradition you want to keep and really invest in.
And I know in one sense all this talk about tradition makes me old fashioned. But that’s okay, because what really matters to me isn’t being cool and new. What really matters is my family growing closer, being pointed towards Jesus, and having memories that last, linger, and shape them.
Big Idea: Creating and keeping traditions matter.
- The stories are the point
- That traditions are often the cradle and the keeper of faith.
- Creating and keeping traditions matter
- Traditions hold family and faith together
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What was funny? What are some of the traditions your family kept growing up? What are some of your favourite memories? Why do you think traditions might be important? What are some traditions you keep in your family? What are some you might want to start? How can tradition help to pass along faith, and hold family together?
Discussion Questions for Young Families
Talk to your kids about some of your favourite traditions. Then ask them, “What traditions should we have around Christmas?” Why not invite them into the discussion and take up their ideas. Sundaes on Christmas Eve? Why not. Wake up before the sun on Christmas day? Sure. Talk to them and develop some traditions.
Challenge for the Week: What traditions do you want to start, and keep?
Traditions, Turkey, and Tree’s
This Sunday is our annual Christmas meal at the church. So if you’re in the area and want some turkey, come on by and join us.
But this is one of the things that I love most about Christmas. I love how there are traditions that we do every year. That there are reminders that Christmas is coming, that there are markers that point to Jesus, that there are memories that go back decades.
For me, one of the memories I have is watching the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas each and every year. It was my dad’s favourite movie, and every year we’d watch it together.
But what about you? What makes Christmas – Christmas for you?
Because traditions matter, memories matter, and markers matter.
So that’s what we are going to be talking a little bit about on Sunday before we eat lots of turkey. But before we get there, why not think through what traditions matter to you. Because the funny thing about traditions is they root us in the past, but point us forward to the future. And that’s what we’ll explore on Sunday.