This past Sunday, in light of the CT tragedy, I preached from Matthew 2 and Revelation 12 on, "Christmas is War." I'm indebted to one of my favorite seminary professors, Dr. Russell Moore, for his influence on my life on the issue of Christ as conqueror over Satan. I was also greatly helped by D.A. Carson's insights on Revelation 12 from his book, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. I hope this message emboldens your faith in our victorious King who has come to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
Are you looking for a simple devotional to do with your family in the weeks leading up to Christmas? Barbara Reaoch's Why Christmas? is a helpful devotional to point your kids to Jesus with colorful illustrations and good discussion questions. I just started reading it with my 3 kids (ages 10, 8, and 4) and all of them really like it. The devotional also comes with Christmas carols that correspond with each of the stories. It's a fun way to end the night before tucking them into bed!
I also recommend Why Easter? by the same author.
I'm excited about Why Easter? a new resource that helps children understand and celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child's Heart, gives his endorsement:
Since most Evangelicals do not follow the church calendar, Easter often catches us unprepared. Barbara Reaoch comes to our aid with a four-week series of devotions for parents and children that will increase our joy at Easter. These devotionals are well-crafted, theologically sound, and doable. They could be used year after year as a wonderful family tradition.
You can click here to download a sample of the first 3 lessons.
Advent is a time of expectation and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth. I encourage you to set aside some time with your family to focus on Jesus in these weeks leading up to Christmas. Here are some ideas: Christ the King Presbyterian Church has developed two Advent devotionals you can download here and here.
The Resurgence also has an excellent series of posts onLearning to Advent together.
Justin Taylor points to a new Advent Narrative Book that looks really good.
Tony Kummer highlights some Advent Lessons for Kids that teach through the nativity.
One thing we do in our home is sing Christmas songs together (I can still manage to play a few on the guitar!) and talk about the words to these songs. I’ve found that some of them are rich in theology (i.e. Joy to the World). Whatever you do, make it simple and fun for your kids!
Over at ministry-to-children.com, you can check out a children’s bible lesson I wrote awhile back based on J.C. Ryle’s sermon for children called, No More Crying. This sermon and other addresses to children can be found in the book, The Two Bears, (Grace and Truth Books, 2004). The lesson is shaped around “3 places” which kids (and parents) will easily remember:
As people enter our doors this Easter Sunday, will they see us as real people worshiping a real Savior? Will they enter a community of grace? Tim Chester, in his excellent book, You Can Change, lists some great questions to discern if your church is a community of grace, and thus attractive to broken, needy sinners.
- Are people open about their sin or is there a culture of pretending?
- Is community life messy or sanitized?
- Are broken people attracted to your community?
- Is conflict out in the open or is it suppressed?
- Are forgiveness and reconciliation actively pursued?
- Do you constantly return to the cross in your conversation, prayers and praise?
I like these videos of the Easter Story (taken from this website) that walk through the Book of Mark:
- Jesus on the Cross (Mark 15:22-32)
- The Death of Jesus (Mark 15:33-39)
- Jesus is Alive (Mark 16:1-7)
During these weeks of Lent, I'm reading through Nancy Guthrie’s book, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter. Here are some of her opening words:
Too many years I’ve found that I have rushed from Palm Sunday into Easter morning, from palm branches to the empty tomb, without giving my mind and my heart over to thoughtful contemplation of the cross. If you can relate to my lament, then I hope you will join me as we turn our gaze toward the cross through the pages of this book.
You can read online for free Guthrie’s preface, as well as Martin Luther’s “True Contemplation of the Cross” and John Piper’s “He Set His Face to Go to Jerusalem.”
Guest Post by Cam Potts Matt Chandler offers some challenging thoughts on why Christ came to earth:
I saw this statistic today and thought it was worthy to share: Top Five Times People Are Open To Considering Matters Of Faith…
* #5 – After the birth of a baby (28%) * #4 – After a natural disaster (34%) * #3 – After a major national crisis i.e. 9/11 (38%) * #2 – During the Easter season (38%) * #1 – During the Christmas season (47%)
Who will you personally invite into your church and into your home this Christmas?
My wife got me hooked on these. Perfect blend of coffee, caramel, and chocolate, with a nutty, salty flavor. It's not on the menu (the salted caramel hot chocolate is). But try one this holiday season!
“Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son. Oh, the wonder of Christmas.”
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
(HT: A Voice Crying Out)
Mark Driscoll with some thought-provoking words on the truth about Santa at the Washington Post. Here's a snippet:
As the parents of five children, Grace and I have taken the third position to redeem Santa. We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories.
We do not, however, demonize Santa. Dressing up, having fun, and using the imagination God gave can be an act of holy worship and is something that, frankly, a lot of adults need to learn from children.
What we are concerned about, though, is lying to our children. We teach them that they can always trust us because we will tell them the truth and not lie to them. Conversely, we ask that they be honest with us and never lie. Since we also teach our children that Jesus is a real person who did perform real miracles, our fear is that if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters.
My friend, Scott Holman, gives a good warning for us to not overshadow and marginalize the incarnation by running too quickly to the Cross:
My gut tells me that some would rather pass over the baby at Bethlehem for the glories of the cross. It's easier to preach and easier to explain through propositional arguments. Generally, one would rather stand meditating on the sight of the cross than meditating on God as a baby in a feed trough.
But there is something about God coming to us as a vulnerable, needy baby that reformed people especially need to think on. The God of glory needs us to change his diapers. He is as inviting and approachable as any baby we encounter. What do we do with that?