Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How Not To Be A Grinch- Part 3

This past Sunday in Sunday School, the teachers treated the students to breakfast and it was an amazing lineup of food.  Since the Wednesday night series had been tied in with the Grinch, we showed it while the students ate and hung out together.  Then I taught the Sunday School lesson by wrapping up this series.  

After the Grinch hears that Christmas did not end he says "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more".  We know that the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as He came to earth to live among us and rescue us from our sin.  In church we talk about this each and every year, but if we are honest we don't always get it.  Many times we are so caught up in the busyness and the presents that we do not see Jesus.  

I asked the students if they had ever received a present at Christmas that they were disappointed in.  Some students were brave enough to share and I shared an embarrassing story about myself.  Several years ago my wife bought me a nice pair of Timberland boots.  They were very nice, but I'm just not the boot wearing guy.  And so in this moment I became that jerk who was unappreciative.  I don't really remember what all was said (I've tried to block it out of my memory), but I showed my disappointment.  I had become more concerned with the "presents" than the "presence of God" that we celebrate during Christmas.  Matthew 1:23 tells us that His name will be Immanuel which means "God with us".  We hear this often, but need to let it sink in.  Our sin has separated us from God, the sin that began in the Garden with Adam and Eve.  Now Jesus, who is God in the flesh, came to earth and lived a perfect life, died on the cross and arose from death in order to make a way for us to have fellowship with God again.  At this moment in the manger for the first time in many years, God was now with us on earth.  He is here for us to have a relationship with if we will accept Him.  But Jesus was not only "God with us" for his 33 years on earth.  He is forever with us and echoes this promise in Matthew 28:20 telling us that He is with us forever.  What a promise for us to hold on to!

The presence of God is a huge deal.  The question to ask is whether or not it is a big deal to you?  Are you more concerned with "Presents" or the "Presence of God" this Christmas?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

WNW Christmas Party 2011

So last night was our last Wednesday Night Worship of the year and so we had our youth Christmas party.  We began the night with a competitive Bible scavenger hunt where students had to answer questions by finding the scripture reference.  All of the questions were related to the birth of Jesus, but some were details that aren't thought of much, like "Who was the step-grandfather of Jesus?", who by the way was named Jacob and we know nothing about.  After that we sang a few songs.  The first was Happy Birthday to Lauren who turned 16.  Of course we never sing it normal but have Mitchell do his version.  I don't even know how to begin to explain it.  Then next I convinced Belinda to join me in singing a funny duet of a parody of "Baby It's Cold Outside".  Instead of the original creepy version where the guy is trying to get the girl to stay, this version was like I had been kicked out in the cold because I got her a terrible Christmas gift- a toilet brush.  I can't take credit for writing it though- Andy Gullahorn and Jill Phillips do this version which you can watch here.  We then had a contest for the best tacky Christmas sweater/outfit.  This is always fun because the students make their sweaters and they always turn out great.  Hunter won this year with a sweater covered in tinsel and presents.  Then we had our gag gift exchange.  We drew numbers and went in order selecting gifts.  Some of the gag gifts were:  set of fake stick-on mustaches, framed lyrics to "Christmas Shoes" song with "WORST SONG EVER" written across it (that was my gift), a tie that played Christmas music, Pepto Bismol, a country cd, a box of corn muffin mix, and many others.  My face hurt from laughing during this time.  Then before ending the night with cookies and snacks, some students had a gag gift for me- a huge box.  When I opened it, there was another box, and another box, and another- all wrapped and taped together with duct tape.  So after what seemed like 20 minutes I get to the center which was a Casting Crowns CD (inside joke here) signed by some of the students.  We had a great time of fellowship and a great way to end the year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How Not To Be A Grinch- Part 2

As we continued our "How Not To Be A Grinch" series this week we considered the topic that "Nothing Can Stop Christmas".  We dove right in after a worship set that included:  Here Is Our King, Come and Worship, Silent Night, O Come Let Us Adore Him, and Angels We Have Heard On High.  I showed a clip from toward the end of the movie where the Grinch had made it to the top of the mountain with all the Christmas stuff he stole from the Who's and was waiting to hear their reaction.  What he heard was not what he expected as the Who's joined together in unity and sang and celebrated Christmas anyway. No matter what great efforts the Grinch went to, he was unable to stop Christmas.

We opened our Bibles to Isaiah 9:6 and read one of just many prophecies in the Bible that point to the birth of Jesus.  In fact there are almost 2500 prophecies in the Bible which nearly 2000 have come true so far.  A good reason to believe that all will come true in due time!  With the knowledge that Jesus was coming to save us from our sins, it should not be a surprise that Satan tried his best efforts to stop the birth of Jesus from occurring and ending Christmas altogether.  

In Matthew 2:16 Herod began to kill all male children ages two and under.  If he had been successful in killing Jesus then it would have stopped our reason to celebrate Christmas.  However God did not allow it and warned Joseph in a dream to make the escape to Egypt.  Also in Matthew 1:19 when Joseph first found out that Mary was pregnant he intended to divorce her quietly.  Not only could Joseph have divorced Mary, but by law he could have had her stoned to death which would have also killed Jesus.  I am sure that Satan was speaking lies to Joseph and trying to lead him to follow through with ending her life.  However we see that this did not happen and God sent an angel to speak to Joseph in a dream.

Nothing could stop Jesus from being born and going on to die on the cross for our sins.  God's perfect plan will never be thwarted or stopped.  Satan will try his best to stop the will of God, but it will never happen.  Satan could not stop the birth of Jesus, the Grinch could not stop Christmas from happening, and nothing will stop Christmas from happening this year, unless Jesus returns first.  Christmas, which is the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ will take place this year.  The question though is whether or not you will be a part of it.  Of course you can sing the songs, decorate the tree, etc. but not experience the worship of Jesus.  Many people will miss the worship and celebration of the life of Jesus because of anger, bitterness, grudges, hard feelings, etc. between them and family, parents, friends, or even God.  So my question for the students and for you is this:  What do you need to lay down in order to have Christmas and celebrate the birth of Jesus?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Not To Be A Grinch- Part 1

This week at WNW we began a Christmas series called "How Not To Be A Grinch".  We began the night with a trivia game that asked the students questions based on the cartoon movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".  After that we did a worship set that included:  Song of Hope, Joy to the World, Offering, and How Many Kings.

I talked about how it seems that in the month of December there is a wide array of emotions that people experience.  Some are giddy and happy all the time during the Christmas season.  Others are sad because they miss family and friends that have passed on.  Others are greedy because they want everything.  Then there are those who I like to refer to as "grinchy".  I know that is a made up word but I believe it fits here.  Someone who is "grinchy" seems to be in a bad mood, and do not show care for those around them.  It could be because of situations in their own life, but for whatever reason they have a sour attitude.  We see this in one of the first scenes of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" as it talks about how the Grinch hates the Who's. It could have been because his shoes were too tight, or maybe because his head wasn't screwed on just right, but probably because his heart was 2 sizes too small.  The Grinch hated the Who's so much that he was willing to ruin their Christmas by taking it away from them and stealing all of their belongings.

So then we opened up our Bibles to Matthew 2:1-12 and read about the Magi, aka the Wise Men.  I talked about many of the truths in this passage that is often changed in our modern Christmas plays such as: we don't know how many Magi there were but there were at least 2, tradition tells us 3 but the Bible does not say for sure; also the Magi did not arrive while Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were still in the stable but it could have been as much as 2 years later based on the fact that they were now in a house, the word child was used, and that Herod had all boys ages 2 and under killed.  We know that when the Magi worshipped Jesus they presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Many traditions tell us that these gifts each had symbolic meanings, but this is probably not the case.  What we do not normally think about is that in the verses afterward Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were led to flee to Egypt and live for a period of time while Herod was killing all boys ages 2 and under.  The gifts that the Magi presented Jesus would have helped fund the trip to Egypt and help provide for them during this time.  So essentially we can say that the gifts that the Magi gave Jesus helped save His life.

So how does this and "grinchy" attitude all tie together to us today.  Well this was the official kick-off for our upcoming World Vision 30 Hour Famine.  January 27-28 we will fast for 30 hours to gain a small understanding of what hunger is like.  In the time leading to this we will be raising funds to go toward children in need.  Why do we do this?  Because every day at least 22,000 children die of preventable diseases such as hunger, pneumonia, etc.  This means a child dies every 8-12 seconds.  How is it is then that we say that one of the names of God is Jehova-Jireh which means "The Lord provides"?  Well the truth is, God has provided enough food and clean water for the entire world, but there is also injustice and sin that exists because of our sinful choices.  This means that is up to us to help the poor and less fortunate and provide for them.  Luke 12:33 is just one of many verses where Jesus  speaks on giving to the poor.  I watched a video on the story of Katie Davis the other day- you can watch the video and learn about her amazing story here.  In this video she states "Jesus doesn't ask that we care for the less fortunate- He demands it.  When calling ourselves Christ-followers, caring for orphans, the desolate, and the widow are not an option, it's a requirement".  

So here was my challenge for the students.  Just as the gifts the Magi gave Jesus helped save His life, I asked that the students would consider what they could give to save the life of a poor child.  I ask you to consider the same.  What might God be calling you to give up this Christmas season so you can give to the poor.  I challenged the students to consider sponsoring a child through World Vision or Compassion International because not only are these organizations helping physically save the lives of children in need, they are also presenting them the Gospel and leading them to Jesus.  So ask yourself what you can give, and also ask God to search your own heart to see if you have any "grinchy" attitudes or hate within you that will keep you from helping someone in need.