Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Story

Luke 2:1-20 (New International Version)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,"Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Where's the line to see Jesus?

Check out this new Christmas song and video.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Carol

There are a lot of wonderful Christmas carols and songs, but my favorite is "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I continue to pray for peace and good will!

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sharing the Good News at Christmas

I have always loved the celebration of Christmas. I grew up in a large family and my parents made it a very special time for our family. There were many special activities at school and at church. We drew names and purchased gifts for each other. We worked hard at surprising each other. The gifts were not usually very expensive, but they were special anyway.

Our family loved Charles Dicken's famous tale, A Christmas Carol. I have continued the tradition with my family. I am something of a Dicken's fanatic. The story reminds me that through the ages men and women much like Scrooge have been changed by a new awareness of the meaning of Christ's coming. When I was a boy we had an old album that was a recording of a radio broadcast of the Dicken's story. We literally wore out the album. A number of years ago my brother found a new release of the old recording on CD and gave us each a copy. I have listened to the tale many times since I received it. It is incredible how it brings to my mind Christmas experiences from my childhood.

Christmas is that kind of experience for God's people. The celebration is a reminder of the incredible significance of his coming—his Advent. It is an event that helps us to recall what God has done for us. It is a celebration of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God. John's prologue says, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us!" We could never have found our way to Him, so He came to us. The most important gifts we ever give are the gifts that carry something of ourselves in the gift. God gave us Himself, in the person of His Son. It was this gift that changed everything. In Him is light and life.

I hope you will remember during this Christmas season, with all its activity, to offer a special gift to someone. Share with someone the message of His birth. Maybe their heart is cold or their life is empty like Scrooge. Share with someone who needs a Savior the good tidings of great joy. That is why we celebrate Christmas.

I also want to thank the Baptists of Missouri for keeping Christmas all year long. Your commitment to missions and evangelism demonstrates your belief that the coming of Christ has changed everything. Thank you for your gifts to our mission efforts. We invite you make a gift to our World Missions Offering to help share the message of his coming with people around the world. It is my prayer you will sense God's presence in a special way as you celebrate his birth. May God grant you opportunities to announce his coming to someone who does not know him, and may he bless you as you continue to serve him in the New Year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Local ABC Station to Air Documentary

I just received word today from John Baker, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, that ABC, KMIZ-17 will be airing the documentary "Different Books, Common Word" on Sunday, January 3, at 3:00 P.M. This is an excellent documentary and addresses the ways in which people of differing faiths can have constructive dialogue and positive relationships.

I wrote about the documentary and provided some background links in my November 5th post. I am very grateful to Gene Steinberg, station manager at KMIZ, for agreeing to air the documentary, and for his willingness to give it an excellent time slot for viewing.

“Different Books,Common Word” is created by EthicsDaily.com, a Baptist Christian ethics organization out of Nashville, TN. The documentary focuses mostly on Baptist/Muslim dialogue, but the principles presented can be applied widely.

Please plan to promote this film at your church in your bulletins, newsletters, etc., to help secure viewership for this excellent and inspiring show. For more information you click here.

Christmas Mission Gifts

I wrote the following article for our e-message newsletter:

I love Christmas. I mean, I really love Christmas. I love the season and the decorations. I love the classic Christmas movies and short stories. I love the Christmas cookies and candies. I love the fellowship with friends and family. I love the music and worship services during Advent. Most of all I love the story of Christmas. Christmas is a love story. It is the greatest of all love stories. It is the story of a loving and long-suffering God who never gives up on his creation. The scripture says at just the right time he sent his son to redeem them. The story makes it clear that God never gives up on his mission.

Christmas is a great time for us to promote World Missions. Missions allows us to join in sharing the Good News with people around the World. It is the Good News first announced to shepherds by the angels. Our World Missions Offering goes to support the work of the Baptist World Alliance. The Baptist World Alliance is a fellowship of 214 Baptist unions and conventions comprising a membership of 36 million baptized believers in a community of 105 million around the world. The BWA unites Baptists worldwide, leads in evangelism, responds to people in need and defends human rights. Neville Callam is the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.

Each year at this time Baptists across our state give to mission causes. We are committed to faithfully channeling those gifts as we are instructed by local congregations. Therefore we send gifts for World Missions to several mission organizations. If you are looking for a place for your mission gifts we invite you to channel them through our convention.

I was visiting with a pastor recently who shared that one Baptist laymen in his church suggested they use “plan C.” He said what is “plan C?” The man said the Missouri Baptist Convention has provided plan A and plan B depending on your desire to support the litigation against our institutions. He said I recommend we use “plan C” and send our mission gifts to the Baptist General Convention of Missouri where we can be confident none of it will go to fund litigation.

I liked his idea. Mission dollars should not be spent on litigation. They should be used to share the greatest love story of all time. They should be used to introduce men, women, boys and girls to our Savior. What better way to celebrate Christmas than to give to missions. We invite you to help us share the message of Christ around the world. I hope you will include World Mission causes on your Christmas gift list.