Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Ginormous Christmas- Part 3

This week at Wednesday Night Worship was the last message in "A Ginormous Christmas" series and the last WNW of the year.  We opened the night by packing sack packs then playing a game of "Who Wants To Win Egg Nog."  We did a brief worship set that included "Angels We Have Heard On High" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel."  At the end of the night we sang "Offering" (Paul Baloche).

I began the message giving a brief review of the series and talking about how Jesus tends to become the background music of Christmas.  Often we discover a new song and love it so much that we listen to it until it become mundane to us.  Over time loses its popularity and ends up being a song that is played as background music in a store.  The same is true with Jesus for must of us.  We know that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas, but over time He takes a backseat in our lives to all the other Christmas traditions.

So wrapping up this series we looked at the third and final part of the "Code of Elves" from the movie "Elf" that says "The Best Way To Spread Christmas Cheer is Singing Loud For All to Hear."  For Buddy the elf this means singing Christmas songs all the time as loudly as possible with the expectations that it will bring a smile to their face.  We know the truth that it will eventually become annoying and will make you want to punch them in the face.  Ok not really, but you may consider it.  We cannot ignore the fact that people are in need of being ministered to at all times, but especially this time of year and we need to be available to make a difference in their lives.  

We read Luke 2:8-20 about the shepherds.  We read verses 8-12 the previous week.  We began focusing this week on verse 14 at what is probably one of the greatest worship concerts ever witnessed.  The angels were singing praises to God and making much of Him as He is of the greatest worth.  There are definitely some things we can learn from how the shepherds react to this huge thing they have just witnessed.  

First of all, we see that the shepherds were not so in awe of the angels that their focused remained on them.  They didn't stand there staring at the sky waiting for an encore.  They were excited about the news that had been shared with them.  The question we have to ask ourselves is "are we more infatuated with the presentation than the present itself?"  We have all witnessed a young child who opens a gift but is more interested in the torn wrapping paper than the gift itself.  As we get older we get distracted by popping the bubble wrap that was used inside the package we open.  We have to be careful to not be infatuated with Jesus only when He is wrapped attractively to us.  We look to worship Jesus + something else, whether it be great worship, great teaching, etc. when Jesus alone is all we should desire and want.

Secondly, we see in verse 20 that the shepherds left "praising God."  They praised God just as the angels did in verse 14.  The shepherds heard the message of Jesus' birth, they went and experienced Him, and then they left praising and glorifying God.  In other words they left spreading Christmas cheer.  We have to realize though, that we cannot spread something that is not real in us.  If we are looking to minister to others and evangelize the lost, we cannot do so unless it is real within us.  We cannot share the love of Jesus if we are not already experiencing Him daily.

I shared a quote that I read recently regarding this thought of Jesus being the background music of Christmas:  "My experience of constant exposure to all things Jesus isn't increasing my admiration or devotion for Him, it's diminishing it."  I understand the point that is being made here.  Just as I have said throughout this series, we become numb to the truth that Jesus is the real reason for this Christmas season.  However, can we be exposed to too much Jesus?  I do not believe so.  I do believe however, that we can, and often are exposed to too much Jesus that has an added presentation along with it.  I think, like I said earlier, we become more infatuated with the presentation than Jesus Himself, and then become numb to Him.  That is why the truth is still the same:  Jesus alone fulfills and satisfies.  We cannot add to Him or try to present Him in a more attractive way and expect to be fulfilled as He intends for us to be.

We closed the night with the similar challenge from previous messages in this series.  I challenged them to do a heart evaluation to see if they are attempting to spread something that is not real in them.  A great song will not do it for you.  A great sermon or increase in Bible knowledge will not do it for you either.  It is Jesus alone that must fulfill us so that we can then go out praising and glorifying God to spread true joy and cheer to others.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Ginormous Christmas- Part 2

This week we continued our Christmas series "A Ginormous Christmas" at Wednesday Night Worship.  We opened with a worship set that included "The King Is Coming" (Newsboys), "Silent Night", and "Away In A Manger".  I did a brief recap of the previous week's message and introduced the topic for this week looking at #2 in the "Code of Elves:  There's Room For Everyone On the Nice List".

Thinking about this through the eyes of the world, it is a list that is determined by whether your good outweighs your bad.  If you are deemed worthy of being on the nice list, then you get the presents.  With this way of thinking then we start to believe that the better we are, the more we earn.  This of course goes completely against salvation and the Bible.  We know of course that salvation is not works-based, but is only through the grace and mercy of Jesus and His sacrifice for us on the cross.  When thinking about the nice list as far as from a biblical perspective, we know that the Bible tells us about the "Book of Life" as referred to in Revelation 20:15 and other verses.  Again, this is not a list of those whose good outweighs their bad, but the book that lists the names of those who have come to salvation through Jesus Christ.

We read about the shepherds in Luke 2:8-12 and how the angel appeared to them with this message of good news.  This message of good news is that Jesus, the Messiah, had been born.  I think it is important to note that in verse 10 it says that this good news will be "for all the people."  This means that Jesus came for everyone!  This is incredible news!  This is why Christmas is a big deal.  It wouldn't be a ginormous deal if He only came for some.

So thinking about this, here was the challenge for the students.  First of all, if they have not received this gift of salvation then that is first priority.  However, if they have been saved then the challenge is the same as the previous week's:  to rejoice over this news and go deeper in their relationship with Jesus.  When we start to do this, then it becomes our desire to share this gift of salvation with others.  I told the story that my wife's favorite gift that I have ever got her at Christmas is a heated blanket.  Such a simple gift from me turned out to be one she really likes.  She does not just keep this gift for herself.  She is gracious enough to share this with me when I'm cold (our house is old and tends to always been cold in the winter).  The question we need to ask ourselves as Christians is whether or not we are bothered by the fact that people around us are lost without Jesus. I shared a clip from "Elf" where Buddy is about to go to New York to find his dad.  Santa is telling him some tips for the city and then tells him that his dad is actually on the "naughty list".  Buddy's reaction is a horrific "NOOOO" to this news.  While it's funny for us to watch this scene in a movie, do we react with such emotion to the fact that there are people next to us daily who are lost without Jesus?  While it is admirable that we do things this time of year for those in need such as provide presents, fruit baskets, etc., we have to ask ourselves if we are more concerned with people having a gift to open on Christmas than we are concerned with their salvation?  We closed with a time of prayer and reflection for the students to search their hearts and see if this is their desire.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Youth Band- Christmas Eve Sarajevo

This pas week at Wednesday Night Worship, the youth band played "Christmas Eve Sarajevo" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra during the countdown timer to begin the night.  I'm extremely proud of the hard work each student put in during their own personal time.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Ginormous Christmas- Part 1

This past week at Wednesday Night Worship we began a new series called "A Ginormous Christmas".  Each week we are looking at the Christmas movie "Elf" and the Christmas story in the Scriptures.  We opened the night with the youth band playing "Christmas Eve Sarajevo", "O Come All Ye Faithful", "How Many Kings" (Downhere), "O Holy Night/Hallelujah" (David Crowder Band).

I opened the message by talking about the word "ginormous" that Buddy the Elf uses to describe the toilets that he sees when he arrives in New York City.  Like Buddy, we all have seen or experienced something that at the time seemed really large to us.  Maybe it was a large building.  However, over time it tends to not seems to large and just becomes plain or regular to us.  This also happens to us when we think about Christmas.  If you have been exposed to church then you know that at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Even though we know that, it loses its meaning over time.  We do not see it as the ginormous deal that it really is.  Matthew 1:21 tells us that the birth of Jesus is a huge deal as Jesus came to "save His people from their sins."  This is a huge deal.  I challenged the students that though they know this, to let this sink in their hearts this year in a fresh way.

Each week we will look at what a ginormous deal this is as we look at each of the 3 parts of the "Code of Elves" that they study in the movie "Elf".  This first week we looked at the first part "Treat Everyday Like Christmas."  For Buddy the Elf this might mean that everyday you can sing Christmas songs, pick snowberries, make toys, and even eat a roll of cookie dough as fast as possible.  The world views this thought of treating everyday like Christmas as the opportunity to spend more money on unnecessary gifts.  But looking at this thought as a Christian brings different ideas.  We first might think that this would mean setting out everyday to accomplish more for God.  While that is admirable, I don't believe this is what God is calling us to do.  I believe He is calling us to a deeper relationship with Him.  We can see this by looking at the life of Mary and Joseph.

While we do not know much about their lives before this, I believe we are safe in making the assumption that this couple never set down trying to figure out what great thing they could do for God.  I doubt they ever set down and said "let's birth and raise the Messiah."  I believe instead they were wholeheartedly pursuing God and then He used them in this miraculous birth.  When we look at Joseph in Matthew 1:18-19 we see that it says he was a righteous man.  This means he had a right relationship with God.  He could have had Mary stoned by Jewish law, or divorced her publicly which would have been humiliating.  Instead, even though he was going to divorce her, he set out to do it with Mary's best interest because not only did he love her, but he was a righteous man seeking to do the right thing.  We also see that Mary lived a godly life in Luke 1:28-30 as the angel said she was "highly favored".  This does not mean she was superhuman or on another level above humans, but that she was righteous just like Joseph.  This is also obvious in her reaction in Luke 1:38 as she tells the angel she is a "bondslave of the Lord".  She was willing to do whatever God called her to do, even if it was scary and did not make sense at the time.

Our response should not to be wowed by the fact that they had the awesome opportunity of being the parents of Jesus.  Instead we should follow their example of character.  Too often we want to do great and marvelous things for God, but we want to do them at our own discretion and our own details.  We decide we want this great platform in order to make a difference for God.  But God is not calling us to do more for Him.  Instead, He is calling us to seek more of Him.  He is calling us to do deeper in our relationship with Him.  We are to treat everyday like Christmas, a celebration of the miraculous birth of the Christ who came to save us from our sins.  We are to seek more of Him daily.  Then when that happens, He will use us in a great way.  However, it will not look like anything we planned it out to.  This is not the life that Mary and Joseph would have ever planned out for themselves.  Then we realize that great platform we were seeking to make a huge difference for God is actually the platform we are standing on.

I closed by challenging the students to search their hearts and see if this is how they are treating Christmas.  Are they treating Christmas as this huge opportunity to worship the Savior and go deeper in their relationship with Him.  We began this year by looking at Jeremiah 29:13.  I challenged the students to really see if they are seeking Him with their whole heart.  After a few minutes of prayer time we closed by singing "Oceans" by Hillsong United.