HCC Informer & Sunday Service Information

Good Morning HCC!

Coming to you this morning with several pieces of information regarding the life and ministry of Hopkins Community Church.

Drive-In Church: Sunday 5/3/2020

Join us for Drive-in Church at 10 AM tomorrow! We will open Scripture to Philippians 2:1-11 in a sermon entitled “In Your Relationships with One Another…”
 
You can join us in person (in your car) at HCC, tuning your radio to 97.3 FM.
 
You can join us live on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE-yIUv3Mc6wTTledxAKIww
This will be the new home for live streaming HCC worship services and events.  Please subscribe to the channel!
We continue to test some new software, trying to improve your experience and our abilities.  There may be an increased delay (up to approx. 30 seconds) between the video online and the audio in your vehicle.  If you are watching from your vehicle, we recommend muting the audio on your mobile device and listening to the radio.
 
You can also join us live on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/HopkinsCommunityReformedChurch
 
Attached you will find a printable worship sheet as well. Please remember that we cannot provide them at the time of the service.
 
Please remember to remain in your vehicles for the service as we continue to comply with the current standards of the Federal Government’s social distancing guidelines.
 
There will be a place to drop off donations as Tithes/Offerings as well as your offer on the way in and on the way out. Our In-Gathering this week is for the Hopkins food Pantry. The following is a list of suggested items:
Jam Tomato soup Cereal Canned vegetables Canned fruit Tuna fish Macaroni and cheese Bar soap

Communion

Though this Sunday is the first Sunday of the month, which typically would mean that we celebrate Communion together, this week we will not be doing so. Pastor Jon and the consistory encourage you to do this at home with your families at Lunch tomorrow. We truly believe that you do not need the “right words” but rather, the “right heart” for it. Matthew 26:26-28, John 6:53-58, and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 are good passages to read as you do this together with your family.

Discipleship Opportunity:

Beginning this week on Thursday evening, from 8:00 PM – 9:15 PM we will be hosting an event called “EXPECTANCY: learning to grow, pray, and operate in the power of the Holy Spirit“. This meeting will take place via ZOOM, led by Pastor Jim Harrison, and will be an opportunity to grow in your knowledge, understanding, and ultimately the application of what it means to live our lives in a closer relationship with the Holy Spirit. The group will be using the book “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan, resuming a study that they began in early March before the Lockdown. Though the group had met twice, they are still in the first chapter and anyone is welcome to join up as the first session will help catch everyone up and get everyone on the same page.
 
Book and workbooks are available at the church and you can get in touch with Pastor Jon to schedule a pick-up. If you are interested in being a part of this, please email Inform.HCC@gmail.com or call Pastor Jon and let us know and we will get you the ZOOM call information.

Covid-19:

At this time, we are going to continue worshiping on Sundays via the Drive-in Style of worship through May 24. We will also be extending the suspension of In-Person activities in the church through this time. The consistory will meet on May 18 to discuss the future and consider possibilities for “opening up” once again. Please be in prayer for wisdom and discernment on this matter as we balance our desire for normalcy with that of keeping people safe. A survey will be going out to the congregation and those who have attended Drive-In church these past 3-4 weeks about thoughts and feelings regarding current and future possibilities.

Needs:

Finally, we want to once again encourage you that if you find yourself in need, or know of someone who is in need, we would like to connect with you (or them) and help.  HCC has both physical and financial resources to help those in need and want to do so in this time.  Please contact a consistory member or Pastor Jon to talk about this.
 

ELDERS

Dick Boverhof (District 4: M-R)

bov@h-binc.com

 

Sally Burgess (District 3: I-L)

sjburg@att.net

 

Lee DeZeeuw (District 2: F-H)

leedezeeuw@yahoo.com

 

Dan Kisner (District 1: A-E)

kisner192@charter.net

 

Bob Larr (District 5: S-Z)

269.793.7452

 

DEACONS

Troy Clement (District 2: F-H)

monstertrucktroy@yahoo.com

 

Joel Eding (District 3: I-L)

joel@edingbrothers.com

 

Rich Huizinga (District 4: M-R)

r.huizinga@att.net

 

Jennifer Kerber (District 5: S-Z)

kerberjen@gmail.com

 

Lupe Martinez (District 1: A-E)

lupemartinez18@sbcglobal.net

 

Eric Porter (District 3: I-L)

rcprtr@gmail.com

 
Have a blessed weekend!


Sunday, April 26 Worship Service Information

Join us for Drive-in Church at 10 AM tomorrow! Pastor Jim will be preaching about “How to pray in times of crisis”
 
You can join us in person (in your car) at HCC, tuning your radio to 97.3 FM.
 
You can join us live on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCE-yIUv3Mc6wTTledxAKIww
This will be the new home for live streaming HCC worship services and events.  Please subscribe to the channel!
We are currently testing some new software, trying to improve your experience and our abilities.  There may be an increased delay (up to approx. 30 seconds) between the video online and the audio in your vehicle.  If you are watching from your vehicle, we recommend muting the audio on your mobile device and listening to the radio.
 
You can also join us live on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/HopkinsCommunityReformedChurch
 
You will find a printable worship sheet as well using the following link. Please remember that we cannot provide them at the time of the service.
 
Please remember to remain in your vehicles for the service as we continue to comply with the current standards of the Federal Government’s social distancing guidelines.
 
In the event of rain, we will move forward as planned. Unfortunately, Pastor Jon will just have to preach from under the canopy instead of raised up.
 
There will be a place to drop off donations as Tithes/Offerings as well as your offer on the way in and on the way out. Feel free to ask any of the parking crew if you have any questions as to where you can bring these things. The Donation information for this Sunday can be found in a post by Terri Maule, copied below:
 
Every week so far we have been having an in-gathering for the Hopkins food pantry.  This week we will be gathering items for the Kent Country Homeless shelter.  Terri Maule is working with the shelter and with clients that have tested negative for Covid-19.  If you could help us by bringing items in bags that are labeled so that we can more easily sort and transport donations, that would be great!  The following is the facebook post from Terri with a request list:
 
I am working (along with many Kent County Health Department staff) at a homeless shelter for Covid-19 people who aren’t sick enough for the hospital but cannot go back into the normal shelter because they are positive. The health department along with many others have done a great job of supporting these people through their recovery time. Due to a large amount of testing in this population this week we are expecting to be completely full in the next few days. We have had wonderful donations from our community partners to provide drinks, snacks, comfy clothes, etc. but I wondered if any of my fb friends would like a chance to help out as we anticipate a few weeks of being very busy (and going through a lot of supplies). I am going to list below some of the things that we go through the quickest or that we have a hard time getting. Think about all of these (mostly guys) people who are working through fevers, withdrawals, chronic health aches and pains and having comfort foods and comfort items just makes them so much more likely to stay happily with us. When they stay with us until they are considered not contagious anymore this is good for everyone. I work about every other day for the next 2 weeks so I would be happy to take gently used clothing donations or unopened, individual snacks in when I work.
  • Men’s L, XL, XXL or larger sweatshirts (the guys are so cold while the staff is sweating in all their gear)
  • Men’s XL or larger long sleeve or short sleeve t-shirts
  • Comfy pants like sweats or PJ bottoms or even long underwear
  • Men’s M or L underwear (maybe you happen to have an unopened package that was the wrong size or something)
  • Men’s gently used tennis shoes in sizes 9-12 (many of the guys are wearing worn out shoes)
  • Twin size comforters or warm blankets
  • microwave popcorn or other microwavable snacks (they love warm food)
  • clementines or bananas (not everyone has equal amounts of teeth for eating hard fruits)
  • candy (chocolate especially as they love sweets)
  • pop tarts
  • hot chocolate packets
  • cans of coke or pepsi (we go through coke like nobody’s business when we have it)
  • bottles of gatorade
  • other snack things you can think of (we don’t need chips or crackers as we have lots of those). We do have some ability to refrigerate a small amount of things.


HCC Informer 4/10/2020 (With Easter service Info)

Hello HCC!

We are coming to you today with relevant information about the life of Hopkins Community Church in this continued Covid-19 lockdown.

First, I want to share with you that we have gotten continued support from our local officials and assurances that our Easter Drive-in service falls under the exemption of religious gatherings in the Governor’s executive orders. We will gather for “Drive-In” Easter celebration at 10 AM on Sunday, April 12. Here is the Facebook Event link that you can share on your social media pages: https://www.facebook.com/events/233289897789789

The following is a lot of important information for this service that you should keep in mind:

Easter Worship Service will begin at 10 AM. (Important to note the time change)

We will be opening God’s Word to John 20 in a message entitled: “That you may believe…”

The service will be broadcast over FM radio for your cars. Tune your radio dial to 97.3 FM.
 

The service will be livestreamed in two places.

This will be available for those who choose not to drive to church, who feel they need to stay home, or for those who have gathered but may not be able to see. If you use this at the event, we suggest muting the media volume on your mobile device and using the radio for your volume. You can find the livestream destinations using the following links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HopkinsCommunityReformedChurch

Youtube: https://youtu.be/kVLp8A8BeqY

 

You can find a printable song sheet by using the following link (songsheets will not be provided at the event): https://www.hopkinscommunitychurch.net/easter-lyrics-application/

Please follow the directions of the parking crew. Parking may be tight. We have tested the radio reception distance and can ensure reception from 20th street to CD’s, and to the past the top of the first hill on 21st as well. We will confirm before Sunday whether the Middle/High School parking lots are also viable radio reception locations. (Thanks again to the Veenstra Family for loaning us your equipment!)

Bring your own coffee/snacksOffering buckets will be available upon the exit of the parking lot.A location for non-perishable food donations will be available upon the exit of the parking lot. Donation suggestions include:

  • Tuna fish
  • Hamburger/Tuna helper
  • Jelly
  • Cereal
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned vegetables
  • Crackers
  • Bar soap
  • Toilet Paper

We must insist that:

  • People remain in their vehicles. This is vital for the event to work and keep everyone safe.
  • No bathrooms will be available. The church building will be locked.
  • No access to the church building will be available.
  • No church refreshments will be provided (let’s be honest, you make your own coffee better anyway)
  • Respect Social Distancing guidelines

We are looking forward to seeing each of you on Sunday!



HCC Update: 4/1/2020

Good Afternoon HCC!

We wanted to get in touch with you regarding some updates to our current situation and HCC’s response to it.
 
First, I am writing to inform you that, in keeping with governmental recommendations, we will continue the suspension of all “in-person” ministry activities through the end of April.  This includes our worship services on April 5, 9, 19, and 26.  This also impacts all rentals and other planned ministry activities as well with one exception: EASTER.

I am pleased to announce to you today that we will hold an EASTER service at church on Sunday, April 12.

The service will be at 10 AM and will be held as a “Drive-Up” worship service!!  This will be an opportunity to gather together as the community of faith and worship together from our cars!!  You don’t even have to get out of your pajamas if you don’t want to!  Pastor Jon has spoken with the Allegan County Sherrif’s office as well as State Rep. Mary Whiteford and has been assured that this is within the “exemption for religious gatherings” and that adhering to social distancing recommendations would allow for us to do this.  So, here are the facts:
  • Easter Sunday worship service: 10 AM in the Hopkins Community Church parking lot
  • Worship will be held in a “drive-up” or “drive-in” style
  • Music and preaching will be broadcast via FM radio as well as on Facebook and/or Youtube live online (more specifics to come)
    • Special Thank-you to the Veenstra Family for allowing us to use their FM radio transmitter from their annual light show
  • You will be asked to remain in your vehicles.
  • The church building will not be open to the public (this includes restrooms).
  • We will not have coffee or refreshments.
  • There will be no bulletins.  A printable songsheet will be made available earlier in the week.
  • Offering buckets will be available as you enter and exit the parking lot.
I am excited to see all of you, even if it has to be through a car window.  Stay tuned, there will be much more to come on this as we coordinate something that we’ve never done before!

A couple of other quick things:

Dorothy Paffhouse’s 99th birthday is April 4th! Let’s shower her with cards and well-wishes as going to see her is not an option right now. Her address is: Dorothy Paffhouse 620 Ely Street Room 14, Allegan, MI 49010
 
During Holy Week (April 5 – 11), I want to invite and encourage you to join together in prayer for ourselves, for our families, for our community, country, and the world as we journey through this COVID-19 crisis.  Each day, we will post a meditation as well as some guided prayer material to help you as individuals and families pray through this time.
 
On Thursday evening, during what would be our normal Maundy Thursday service, Pastor Jon will post a brief meditation that also includes a guided communion and prayer time.  Have bread and juice/wine on hand for this so that you can participate together in it!

Finally, I just want to, again, post here the ways in which you can stay in contact with us here at HCC:

Prayer Requests: Please email prayer requests to sandystearns@chartermi.net or to inform.hcc@gmail.com and we will be sure that they are circulated.
 
We continue to pray for you, that the Lord would continue to show His favor to you and through us as we continue on this Coronavirus experience.  May God continue to reveal to us how He is calling us to be His hands and feet during this difficult time.


HCC Informer: 3/19/2020

Good Morning HCC!

Even though our in-person ministry gatherings have been suspended until April 11, we are committed to continuing communication and updates throughout this time!  With that in mind, here is the regular Thursday update for this week from HCC.
 
Our message this week comes from Romans chapter 8:19-30 and is called “What Hope is There?”  It will be released early Sunday morning in a similar format to last week.
 

First,

I want direct your attention to a new song that was just released by one of my favorite Christian artists and Hymn writers, Keith and Kristyn Getty: “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death.”  It is such a timely song for our situation today and it is written based on the first question and answer of the Heidelberg catechism.
 

Second,

I want to remind everyone of our communication tools. Sermons will be posted in many of these places as well as continual updates from HCC.
 
Communication:
We will be stepping up our efforts to be in communication with you.  This will largely be through an online format.  If you know individuals within the congregation who do not use this, please help us by spreading the word.  Some of our main communication avenues are:
HCC Informer: subscribe by emailing Inform.HCC@Google.com
REMIND Text messaging: subscribe by texting “@hopkinscom” to 81010
Facebook Page: Like us at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/HopkinsCommunityReformedChurch
Facebook Group: Request to join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/306932216002349/
 
Prayer Requests:
Please email prayer requests to sandystearns@chartermi.net or to inform.hcc@gmail.com and we will be sure that they are circulated.
 

Needs:

If you find yourself in need of anything, please reach out to Pastor Jon via phone or email (jonathonvanderwall@gmail.com) or a consistory member and you will get a call-back either from him or someone from the consistory.
 
Also, I want to remind you that the consistory will begin calling those who are a part of the church over the next couple of days to talk about communication, needs, and the best ways for us to keep in touch!  I hope these moments of connection will be fruitful and meaningful for each of you!
 

Third,

I want to address the topic of giving one more time.  There is a new page on our website specifically designated toward giving information.  https://www.hopkinscommunitychurch.net/giving/
On this page you will find information about a new online giving option called “Tithe.ly”.  This, for the first time, allows for people to give through online or electronic means, or through an app and will be very helpful in the coming days and weeks as we continue to be physically apart from each other.  The app is available for all smartphone users.  When you download it, it will automatically search for the nearest church that uses it so many of you will likely see Hopkins United Methodist Church first.  You’ll have to search for “Hopkins Community Church” to get the right place.  It’s super easy and user friendly.
 

Finally,

Remember that church has not been “canceled.”  In this time, now more than ever, the world will be looking for hope and for help.  Where “hard ground” once was, we may find loosened and tilled soil.  I encourage you to continue to be in prayer, that the Holy Spirit would reveal to you the places that He is working and directing you to work as together we act as the Body of Christ here in the Hopkins community.
 
The Lord is with us!  He will never leave us or forsake us!  He will fight for us and He has sealed us as His sons and daughters for redemption, salvation, and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!


HCC Informer: COVID-19 Update (3/17/2020)

Good Tuesday morning Hopkins Community Church,

Yesterday evening, March 16, the consistory met together in our normal monthly meeting. Of the several topics we discussed, our continued response to the current Coronavirus situation that we are facing as a community. The consistory decided that we will continue to follow the Michigan Health Department and Governmental directives regarding gatherings. Therefore, as of now, all ministry activities regarding face-to-face meetings and gatherings are suspended through April 11. This includes all worship gatherings, youth events, rentals, and anything else at this time. We are hopeful that we will not have to suspend our Easter service on April 12, however, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the guidelines given.

 

In light of this, here are a couple of things that you can expect to see in the coming days:

1. We are working to activate an additional online giving platform. This will open up the ability to give through phone/internet. More information will be coming on this. However, with this in mind, giving in this way also costs the church money per transaction and the consistory would like to ask the congregation that, if you are still able to give, we would ask that you do so via ACH auto-withdrawal (form attached), mail (checks only), or in-person drop-off. We will notify the church via Facebook regarding the office hours of the church on a day to day basis.

2. The consistory will be calling all of the members of the church to ensure that we have the best methods of communication marked for all individuals and families. We want to ensure that we are staying in touch with you in the best way possible during this time. We recognize that not everyone uses online methods of communication and for those that don’t, we want to find other ways to be in touch with you.

3. Pastor Jon and Pastor Jim, along with Evan, are moving forward with more online sermons and worship “services.” Pastor Jon is very thankful for the positive feedback received with this past week’s sermon. Though we cannot meet, we are still bound together in Christ and will still continue to move forward as a church to be the church here in Hopkins.

4. We are continuing to talk about the ways that we can best help the Hopkins community in this time. As organizations get rolling with their different means of helping out (school delivering food, the food pantry, etc.) we are holding off taking any immediate action, waiting to see where there may be holes that we can fill as a church. We have been and will continue to be in communication with several of the organizations and businesses in Hopkins to help us discern where we can make the greatest impact. The consistory, in response to the challenge Pastor Jon issued in His message regarding Tithing, on March 1, has set aside the appropriate amount in a “community impact” fund that we will begin to use in the coming days and weeks to meet the needs of those in the community.

One thing we have committed to moving forward on is our statement of faith.

I have attached the working draft of it. We continue to seek feedback on this document as we work together as a church to better define what we believe. I encourage you to take some time to read, think, and pray over this process.

Finally, for now, we ask and encourage you to pray. Pray for yourselves, for the community, for our leaders, and for the world. We are experiencing unprecedented, uncharted waters here. Things are happening very fast and it is easy to let the hype and the fear creep in. We continue to trust God and continue to move forward in faith. Stay tuned, more to come from us here at HCC. In the meantime, remember that the Lord is King, He rules and reigns. Let us continue to fix our eyes on Him always.



HCC Informer: COVID-19 response (3/14/2020)

Good Afternoon Hopkins Community Church,

This morning, the consistory met to discuss the current situation surrounding the Coronavirus known as COVID-19 and what our response should be for this week.  We had a very productive and helpful discussion that ultimately led us, quite clearly, to the decision that HCC will be suspending all in-person and face-to-face large group meetings for the coming week.  This includes our worship service, Discipleship Hour, Youth Groups, GEMS, Cadets, and a postponement of the Mission Trip Fundraiser Auction this Saturday.

What this means:

As a church, we are called to minister to and care for the people within our church family as well as the community that we are a part of.  Sometimes this means ministry programming, meetings, Sunday worship, etc.  In the current situation, the consistory feels that this means protecting people by following the guidelines and advice of the Government and health organizations (Romans 13:1).  In doing so, we aren’t just protecting ourselves, we are also helping to protect all those we interact with and the people they interact with and so on.  We do not make this decision out of fear or in any form of panic, but out of prudence and care for those around us (Proverbs 27:12).
 
Tomorrow’s message from Philippians 4:6-7 called “The Calm Assurance” will be available online tomorrow morning.  Due to the nature of our licensing, we are not able to offer any sort of live-streaming music from our praise team.  Links will be available on the youtube video for suggested possible worship songs.  We encourage you to worship with your family tomorrow, at your own pace, using the provided content or seek your own alternative for the day.  There will also be a time of guided prayer for you to consider as we turn our faces toward God in this difficult and unprecedented time.  I’d even encourage you to consider taking communion with your family (more on that in the message).
 
The consistory will still meet on Monday evening, as scheduled, to discuss further options both for the organization and in how we can respond as a church to aid the community at this time.

What this does not mean:

This suspension of activities does not mean that we are “canceling church.”  You are the church.  We are the church.  God does not change.  Our calling has not changed.  You cannot cancel people.  And so you are encouraged to begin brainstorming ways that you and your family can represent Jesus to the people around you at this time.  The consistory will talk more about our corporate response to this and how we can minister to this community on Monday as well.  We would welcome any thoughts or suggestions!
 
I would, also, personally challenge you to not let this moment detur any of the challenges that you have received from the Holy Spirit in the past couple of weeks.  Francis Chan writes in his book The Forgotten God that, essentially, sometimes we need to be made uncomfortable so that we have more need of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to work in us.  I have no doubt that even the staunchest among us are a bit uncomfortable at this moment.  Lean into it!  See what the Spirit brings up!

Some other details for you:

Small Groups: As you often meet outside the norms of church life, we encourage you to use your best judgment regarding this.  Obviously we are not going to try and dictate what you do in your own homes.  We encourage you to meet in the spirit of love for one another and with each other’s best interests in mind.
 
Financial Giving:  There are a couple of options here.  First, you can use the old “snail mail” and send your tithes and offerings to the church (please do not send cash).  Second, you could sign up for ACH auto-withdrawals using the attached form (fill it out with a check and take a picture of it and email us here – we will need the original though so save it please).  We are working on the possibility of opening up another avenue for financial giving as well.  As always, we encourage you to give in the spirit of generosity, joy, trust, and worship of God our provider and sustainer.
 
Communication:  We will be stepping up our efforts to be in communication with you.  This will largely be through an online format.  If you know individuals within the congregation who do not use this, please help us by spreading the word.  Some of our main communication avenues are:
HCC Informer: subscribe by emailing Inform.HCC@Google.com
REMIND Text messaging: subscribe by texting “@hopkinscom” to 81010
Facebook Page: Like us at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/HopkinsCommunityReformedChurch
Facebook Group: Request to join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/306932216002349/
 
Prayer Requests: Please email prayer requests to sandystearns@chartermi.net or to inform.hcc@gmail.com and we will be sure that they are circulated.
 
Needs: If you find yourself in need of anything, please reach out to Pastor Jon via phone or email (jonathonvanderwall@gmail.com) or a consistory member and you will get a call-back either from him or someone from the consistory.
We close this message with the following Scripture from Ephesians 6:10-20,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for [us], that whenever [we] speak [or whatever we do], words [and actions] may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that [we] may declare it fearlessly, as [we] should.

 

May the Lord Bless you and keep you,

May the Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you,

May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace, now and always,

Amen.



Take Christ Out of Christmas!

Reading

Read John 17

Meditation

I have heard, particularly in the circles that I find myself in, a phrase that is consistently spoken during the holiday season: “Don’t take Christ out of Christmas!”  Largely this has been a response to what is seen as a movement toward ‘politically correct’ speech that acknowledges that there are other holidays, even holy days, that people celebrate.  There are a number of celebrations that take place across different religions, ethnicities, and cultures.  No attempt will be made to list them all for fear of missing one.  Each, however, is important to the people group that celebrates it.
 
The fight to not remove Christ from Christmas is important, to an extent.  Certainly, Christ-followers believe that the Incarnation is more than just a special birth.  We believe that the coming of Jesus heralds God’s great work of making salvation possible for us.  Jesus, Himself, says that He is the only way to the Father.  Christians should, by that standard, uphold the importance of this event we celebrate on December 25.
 
That said, I also think that we should take Christ out of Christmas.  I do not mean we should celebrate a holiday only called “mas”, which is arguably more appropriate a name for a holiday fraught with materialism and consumerism.  What I am advocating for in, in fact, Christians making a concerted effort to have Christ in their everyday lives.  We should be fighting just as hard for Christ at Christmas as we should for Christ on December 26 or May 8.  Our Savior deserves the primary place in our everyday lives.

 Action

So how do we do this?  I’m sure there are many ways that we could make this a reality for our lives.  One way I suggest, for this upcoming year, is committing to a Bible reading plan.  God’s Word for us is His revelation of Himself to humanity.  So, for us to keep (or place) God at the center of our lives, we need to be in His Word.
 
The following link is to a year-long reading place.  It follows the story of Scripture in a Chronological way.
 
 
This link is an invitation.  It is a space to read together through this journey and to talk about what we are hearing.  There is no pressure to make it through in the designated time, no shame for missing a day.  This is simply an opportunity to read together, to talk together, and to take Christ out of Christmas and keep Him with us each and every day.
 
Will you join me?


Advent Day 25: Incarnation

Reading

 Meditation

At the risk of being over-repetitive, the Incarnation of the Word is one of the top three events that creation has ever experience.  Though I wouldn’t dare rank them, as the other two would be the death of Jesus and His resurrection, I would argue that these other two wouldn’t have happened without His birth.  The events we celebrate at Christmas set all of Jesus’s life in motion.  They pave the way for Salvation to be won for humanity.
 
While we often celebrate the fact that Jesus has “come to us,” we must also be wary of such language.  The angels announce to the shepherds, “unto you is born this day…”  We, when hearing this, and in our celebrations must be careful.  Contemporary Christianity has pushed a sort of individualized religion, one that puts the emphasis solely on ourselves.  This can be quite dangerous.
 
When we think about the reality of God becoming flesh, we must not uncouple it with the mission of God either.  Certainly, we can say with confidence that Jesus came for “us.”  We must, however, never forget that Jesus came for “them” as well.  This is the reality of the Incarnation.
 
As the Word of God “puts on flesh,” He doesn’t just come to those who “have it all together.”  He comes precisely because no human does.  We are sometimes tempted to differentiate ourselves as those who have “the true meaning of Christmas.”  Those who don’t believe, or perhaps aren’t like us, are forgotten.
 
Yet this is the exact opposite message of the Incarnation.  God had every right to keep His distance from humanity.  Instead, though, He jumps right in.  He becomes like us in every way, the writer of Hebrews says.  What would happen if we took on that same outward-focused love?  Like Paul, who “became all things to all people, in order to win some for Christ,” would we be willing to go out from “us” to “them” in the name of our Incarnate, loving, Savior?
 
Maybe that is what Christmas is really all about.

 Prayer

Almighty and Everlasting God,
No human language possesses an adequate expression of thanks for what You have done for us.
The true meaning of Your Incarnation is truly beyond our comprehension.
Yet, even in the magnitude of this event, we recognize You becoming one of us.
You took on our flesh and our life, and eventually our sin on the cross.
Even while we were still Your enemies, You came for us.
Help us to remember this true meaning of Christmas,
and to see those around us, those who we may tend to avoid,
with Your loving eyes and Your heart of mercy.
May we always seek to bring the message of Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior,
to all those within the spheres of our lives,
and those outside of those spheres as well.
Amen.


Advent Day 24: Born to Reign

Reading

 Meditation

On Christmas Eve, my family would often find ourselves reflecting on the Luke 2 narrative of Jesus’ birth, whether at church or as we celebrated with our family.  It was a good moment for us to meditate on the events that we celebrate every Christmas.
 
It is, however, this passage in Isaiah, as well as other prophecies throughout the Old Testament that help to paint the bigger picture of the significance of the Incarnation of Jesus.  God didn’t come to earth to set up some manner of earthly Kingdom.  He didn’t come just to throw off an oppressive government or dispose of some tyrannical leader.  Jesus didn’t follow the pattern that was set down in many of the mythological stories of demi-gods and the like.
 
Rather, Jesus came to restore the justice and righteousness that was originally created in and for this world.  Instead of riding in on a white horse, armed for war, Jesus arrives as a helpless infant.  His goal, unlike the human rulers of the world, was to serve.  His mission was accomplished through his sacrifice.
 
The names that Isaiah gives this Messiah ironically contrast our human expectations.  The Mighty God humbled Himself to become human.  The Everlasting Father became mortal, subject to death by those He created.
 
Though He brought peace to the world, He was despised and rejected.  Yet despite all of this, His greatness is unparalleled and unmatched.  He meets all of our needs, the provider of all things in heaven and on earth.  And He will continue to as well, for all eternity.
 
As you think, reflect, and remember Christ’s birth this year, think beyond the manger in the stable.  The true picture of Christmas is world-changing.  From this point, nothing would ever be the same because salvation has come.

 Prayer

Jesus Christ, Wonderful Counselor,
We thank You for coming into the world for us.
You are the great King, the whole earth bows before you.
As we meditate on Your birth this Christmas,
help us to see the greater picture of all You have done and continue to do in our lives.
We worship You, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Our voices join with the angels singing “glory to God in the highest.”
Continue to establish Your Kingdom, Your Righteousness, and Your Peace in us,
each and every day of our lives.
Amen.