I like to dress up for Lutheran schools week. My goal each year for this week is to dress up as much as possible. I am all about “going big or going home”. My favorite part is watching peoples reactions when I walk in the building. I know I look like a nut. I know I should probably never go out in public like this but I do. I do it all because I love to draw attention to myself….(ok that sounds really narcissistic when you write it that way but keep reading so you don’t think too poorly of me.)
The reason I dress this way is so you notice me. I want you to notice me SO THAT I can share with you this guy who has made me nuts. This guy who made me dress up in costumes, dye my hair pink and go all out for Lutheran Schools weeks each year. I want you to know this Jesus guy who ruined my life SO THAT I can no longer miss opportunities to share with you Jesus. The one who loved me so much He gave Himself for me. He loved me. This awkward kid who was not the coolest kid in the world. A guy who was bald and 26 and has very little filter when talking with others. A guy who is trying to follow Jesus.
So tomorrow or the next day when you see me walking around its ok to stare. I don’t mind if you laugh. I don’t mind much of anything. I just hope you know I really am not doing these crazy things for me. I am doing them SO THAT you might know Jesus and the joy he gives me every day. So lets all think about ways we can share Jesus and the joy we have in Him.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NIV
It is the day after Christmas. All those things under the tree that seemed new just 24 hours ago are looking less so. Soon all those decorations around the house will need to be taken down. All the stuff put away and life going back to normal. Maybe even a little dull. Soon the kids will be bored with their toys and other things they got for Christmas. It will all lose the luster of being new.
The day after Christmas reminds me of my own faith walk. Often what seems new each day gets a little dull. It is so easy for me to forget the newness of the gospel. The beauty of its work in my life. It is so easy to look at our faith and miss the point. When we focus on how we feel or look at something it can so easily dull in our minds.
So what can we do. How do we make it seem new every day? Well the answers aren’t simple. They don’t have an easy answer. We don’t have some simple way to make everything seem new. The reality is our emotions have little to do with the faith we trust in. With the God we believe came near to us. Time can sometimes make us lose focus on this. We can get caught up in the emotion of this moment. Yet God has promised he is near. In our baptism he came and claimed us as His own. In the Lord supper we experience the Grace of God in the Body and blood. In Worship we hear about the one who shed his blood for us. This is what helps us be new every day.
So today as you begin looking at the rest of the year. The decorations and presents look a little dull remember the one who was the reason you celebrated. Remember the God of the universe coming down for us. Remember the work of Christ to be near so that he could die for you and me. It is so simple; it isn’t a new story to hear or a new gift. It is the gift we received long ago, the gift that changes everything for you and me. The Gift of the Son of God coming to be with us, to die for us, and to rise again.
When I was a kid I remember all sorts of catalogs of toys especially this time of year. We would often get the big toys r us book around Christmas and circle all the things we wanted to get. We were so excited when it came. We probably circled 200 items in the whole catalog. It probably would have been easier if we had just crossed off the things we didn’t want.
What I found most amazing was often when I got that one toy I so wanted for Christmas sometimes it didn’t work out the way I tought it would. Maybe it wasn’t as big as I had hoped or it didn’t look as shiny up close. We all have expectations and sometimes those expectations aren’t realized because they aren’t the right expectation.
This week as I was preparing for Chapel I was reading the text from Luke 2:1-7. It is the simple story of Jesus birth. What jumped out at me was this story is not something that people expected. At least most Jews didn’t expect it to go down this way. Here is some of the unexpected that maybe you just ran over on your way to finishing the text.
He was born in the city of David Bethlehem. First of all the city of David in the old testament would have been Jerusalem. His City was Jerusalem. To hear him being born in Bethlehem was shocking. This was a tiny little back woods town of maybe 200-300 people. This is crazy the king of kings born in such a place.
Or how about the wrapped in clothes a lying in a manger. Ok this takes some explaining. How come no castle? How come not a palace, and beautiful bed? Well he was placed in the feeding area for the animals in the small one room house. Such a humble beginning for the prince of peace.
Wow unexpected for the king of the universe yet it is how He came. It is how God fulfilled His promise. It is how God is working in the lives us his people. God will fulfill his promises. He fills them in unexpected ways but he always fulfills his promises.
Jesus makes two other promises at the end of his life. He promises to be with us to the ends of the age and He promises to come again. Does God being with us always make sense or always look the way we want it. Probably not. But we have a God who fulfills his promises yesterday today and always.
So I cant sing. I am actually maybe the worst singer ever. This past Sunday my wife commented to me that I should try not to sing out because I could scare the people around me. (this was in jest) Once when I was in college at chapel I sat between two choir members and they both asked if I could stop singing for one of the verses because I was so off key it was throwing them off. I am bad and I know it. On occasion at Church I leave my mic on and others know it, but I still sing. This blog post has nothing to do with others joking comments. I don’t think anyone of them was seriously asking me to not sing just having some playful banter.
I think everyone should sing in Church. I think everyone should be an active participant in the worship service. I sit in the front row of Church and often sit where I can see most of the men and women in my Church skipping the singing part. This by the way has nothing to do with contemporary or traditional worship services. Sure sometime the key for the song is unsingable or the hymn uses words no one understands or can sing. We may have many reasons people don’t sing but if you are not doing it because you are an awful singer please listen up.
The saddest reason I think people don’t sing is because they think they sound terrible. They are afraid to sing out because they don’t want to be embarrassed. Well let me tell you something I know as a youth guy. Your kids are watching. Your boys sitting in the pew are watching you mom and dad. They are watching you and thinking Dad thinks this Church thing is dumb, so we think it is dumb. Mom doesn’t sing so we can check out of this Church thing. Please, please, please sing. Mom, dad, grandpa, and grandma please sing. It is better for you to be involved worship, but most important it shows those young people around you that you care about this Jesus. I know you know and love Jesus. I really want you to show that to others by being involved. Sing loud and praise the Lord.
In college my favorite line a friend Rev. Dave Herald and I used to say. “If you have a good voice sing loud and praise God…If you have a horrible voice sing loud and get back at him!” Enjoy God’s gift of song, sing to the lord and receive his blessings through the worship services. Help lead by example to our young people that this Jesus who came and died for us is worth giving praise in response to his good gifts.
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95:1 ESV
So my family has never been really good at spending time in Gods word each night. Heck I haven’t ever been very good at doing personal devotions but I know it is my responsibility to be the leader of my household and passing on faith to my children. We as a family are not super consistent and fail to do it every day but try to be faithful. So why is advent any different…Well it isn’t but it is a great time for get you family involved in prayer and devotion.
During Advent you have some very real opportunities to get you family involved in family devotions. It can be a time for everyone to spend time together. We have used this time because their are so many opportunities to share your faith with your family. It is a time you can get gather together to share the good news of Jesus and his coming.
So why is advent such a good time…well first you have a plethora of different devotionals put out by a number of great organizations and groups. Pick one and go for it. It should be short and should be pointing you to Jesus and his coming. You have advent calendars with ….chocolate! This can help you think about the anticipation of Advent. You also have children who after thanksgiving your children are looking forward to the eager anticipation of Christmas presents… well that is not really helpful. Lastly and my personal favorite is the advent wreath. It is a time to remind us of the light and anticipation for the Coming of Jesus again. You can talk about the hope we have in Jesus. It is just a great way for families to involve children in the devotional moment. My children are now asking about how they can be involved in the devotions. They light and blow out the candles, say the prayers, read the devotions and preform the blessings.
This leads me to my last and final point. Get your children involved. A few weeks ago I lead a advent devotional program at Church for school families and shared with them ways to get the kids involved. I even gave them an outline I would like to share here. (I actually think this a variation on faith inkubators family five)
- Invocation in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit, (My 5 year old daughters favorite part is doing the sign of the cross over the whole family and then herself.)
- Highs and Lows for the day
- Bible reading (Kids take turns reading the short devotion or Bible verse)
- Prayers (sometime items from Highs and Lows, sometimes Lord’s prayer, apostles creed of 10 commandments)
- Blessing Anything would work but we use (The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all) Again the sign of the cross to remind us of the blessing of our baptism.
So with all that being said don’t think of this as a law moment. This isn’t about guilt or look at how well we do it. This is about spending time in the Word of God to help your family grow in faith. May Christ bless you this year as you eagerly await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.