Category: Christmas

This Sunday, Christmas Eve and Elders Meetings

 What is FBC Inside?

FBC Inside is a weekly or bi-weekly video series that I (Stephen) have started to record. The goal of these videos are to give you some inside information (that’s not typically to be covered on a Sunday morning) about what is going on in the life of the church.

Please feel free to use the form below to share information on what you would like to know more about and I will try to address what you guys send over.

Love Stephen & Nicole

What would you like to know more about?

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Country Christmas, Christmas Caroling and Biblical Decision Making

 What is FBC Inside?

FBC Inside is a weekly or bi-weekly video series that I (Stephen) have started to record. The goal of these videos are to give you some inside information (that’s not typically to be covered on a Sunday morning) about what is going on in the life of the church.

Please feel free to use the form below to share information on what you would like to know more about and I will try to address what you guys send over.

Love Stephen & Nicole

What would you like to know more about?

[contact-form-7 id=”20513″ title=”FBC Insider”]

Christmas decorating, Country Christmas and online giving

 What is FBC Inside?

FBC Inside is a weekly or bi-weekly video series that I (Stephen) have started to record. The goal of these videos are to give you some inside information (that’s not typically to be covered on a Sunday morning) about what is going on in the life of the church.

Please feel free to use the form below to share information on what you would like to know more about and I will try to address what you guys send over.

Love Stephen & Nicole

What would you like to know more about?

[contact-form-7 id=”20513″ title=”FBC Insider”]

5 THINGS WE CAN LEARN FROM OUR CHILDREN AT CHRISTMAS

There’s a reason Jesus tells us to come to him like children. Trust is at the heart of how children experience Christmas. Here are five ways we can learn this from our children.

One Christmas, quite a few years ago, my then 3-year-old daughter was into staging plays about the nativity. “I be Mary, mama, you be Jofess,” she would instruct, and off we would go through the house on a wintry morning on our own journey to Bethlehem.

One day, wanting to gauge her understanding of the whole story, I asked, “But where’s Jesus?” Seemingly surprised that I didn’t know, she pointed to a spot right next to me and stated confidently in her tiny voice, “He’s right there!”

And I had a moment. It was as if I suddenly realized he had been travelling around the house with us all along. It was so palpable, I had a sudden urge to turn to the space beside me and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there!” The presence of Jesus standing next to me felt very real that day, through my daughter’s believing eyes.

With the trusting confidence of beloved children we learn to surrender ourselves to a loving Father and believe that what he says is true and good.

Jesus wants us to learn from kids

There’s a reason Jesus tells us to come to him like children. In their simple faith, kids have not yet learned to doubt the truth. Become like children, humble yourselves, and you will inherit the kingdom, Jesus tells the disciples (Matt. 18:1–4). Bring the children to me, says Jesus, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as them, and I want to pray for them (Matt. 19:13–15).

We too can learn to trust him, even though we do not see him. “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8–9).

There’s a reason Jesus tells us to come to him like children.

With the trusting confidence of beloved children we learn to surrender ourselves to a loving Father and believe that what he says is true and good, that he is for us, and as Emmanuel, he is God with us. We are not alone.

Though we cannot see him standing next to us, we trust in his presence and in the knowledge that he will not leave us. Trust is at the heart of how children experience Christmas. Here are five ways we can learn this from our children.

1. Expectant anticipation is good

As I talked with my teenage son, I learned what was meaningful to him about our Advent celebrations when he was a little guy. He told me the time we took to prepare slowly over days of lighting candles and reading stories allowed him to enjoy anticipating Christmas. He never doubted that Christmas would come, because every preparation we made indicated that it was, indeed, on its way.

When it did come, we took the time to open gifts slowly, savoring each one and allowing others their turn to increase the enjoyment of everyone. As we teach our kids to wait to open the presents they see under the tree, we learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

2. We can trust our Father

Things are not always as they seem. As parents, we have perspective our children don’t, because we see the big picture. They become anxious when an activity is over, when the treats are gone, or when it’s time to go home from the party. Many a meltdown is the result of their limited knowledge.

We know that the desires of their hearts will be met again, many times, and we are confident in our ability to provide it again for their delight. There is so much more to be seen that they do not see.

As we teach our kids to wait to open the presents they see under the tree, we learn to walk by faith and not by sight.

Romans 8:24–25 says, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Likewise, we can trust that what God says will come to pass, and anticipate the perfect working of his will with patience.

We are often the instruments that cultivate this good fruit of the Spirit in the lives of our children. Don’t freak out! Like a loving parent, God is faithful to reassure us that he will also meet our needs and desires in the best possible way.

3. It’s good to desire good gifts

Now that they’re older, I have to ask my kids for their Christmas lists every year. When they were little they needed no prompting and proclaimed their desires with confidence.

I’ve saved some of those carefully printed lists from the days of asking for doll accessories, computer games, cars, and candy. Who doesn’t want to see their children’s eyes grow wide as they finally get to unwrap what you’ve been up to for their good?

God’s generosity is overwhelming, unexpected, undeserved, and simply to be enjoyed and trusted as an outpouring of abundant love.

Our desire to give good gifts to our children, simply for the pleasure of watching their joyful response, is one of the ways we image God. Jesus said, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9–11).

Did you know that your generous Father delights in hearing you ask, and longs to fulfill the desires he has given you? (Psalm 37:4)

4. You can never have too much of a good thing

This may seem counterintuitive, and no one knows it better than a kid at Christmas, even if they have a tummy ache. However, applied as a spiritual principle, it’s true. God’s resources are unlimited and never-ending. It’s not a promise of material wealth, but of everything we truly need.

Our desire to give good gifts to our children, simply for the pleasure of watching their joyful response, is one of the ways we image God.

Ephesians 1:3 tells us that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. How do we convey this generosity to our kids? One of our favorite family traditions in recent years is a trip to downtown Seattle to see the Christmas sights, do some shopping, and watch a movie. The first year, unable to decide which movie to see, we decided to see both. It was great fun to see the shock on our kids’ faces when Dad agreed to underwrite not one but two movies on the same evening! Now we look forward to repeating the experience yearly.

Similarly, there are times when God’s generosity is overwhelming, unexpected, undeserved, and simply to be enjoyed and trusted as an outpouring of abundant love.

5. Celebration is life-giving

Kids love a good party. A healthy child’s desire for celebration reminds us that we need to take time to recognize our benefits. There is much about life on this earth that is commonplace and oriented around laborious effort, but we can easily lose our joy if we focus only on toil. Any parent who has tried to convince their child to complete their chores in a timely way knows this is true.

We build moments of celebration into our lives to nurture a sense of wonder and create opportunity for gratitude. Christmastime gives us the best reason of all for celebration—God’s lavish gift of Jesus, born to live and die to save us, is the reason that we celebrate by giving gifts to each other.

We rejoice in knowing that the one whose birth we honor is here: God with us, always, until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). The assurance of his constant presence affirms our trust even when (especially when!) we don’t remember he’s right there, next to us.

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6 Ways to Handle Stress this Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching, I’m sure a lot of people (me included) can feel that pull of stress and exhaustion.

It is like sitting at the top of a stress slide, scooting forward inch by inch. We know what is coming, and we might already be worried about how we will land in the bark chips at the bottom. While Christmas may always be busy, here are a few simple things to think about that have helped me control some of the stress.

1. Traditions are tools

Traditions are tools that we use to make culture, to make memories, and to make childhoods. Traditions are not a base that we have to tag or we can’t count the run. Failure to make the gingerbread house does not make your Christmas a sham, for example.

If we were craftsmen, we would not mark our success by how many of our tools we touched. Instead, we’d look at the product. The point of gingerbread houses, cookies, homemade stockings, Christmas pajamas, hot chocolate, presents, shopping, caroling, lights, and every joyful tradition you can think of is joy. If you are failing to get that result, that’s a heart issue that using more tools will not help.

Joy is not something that you can manufacture through traditions—it is something you can shape with traditions.

But the joy itself cannot come from festive moments, new gifts, or tasty treats. The joy can only come from our salvation and our hearts resting in that. After that, joy is expressed in our physical world through our traditions, through what means we have at hand.

If your Christmas is not joyful, get things right with God. The joy of our salvation is the substance of celebrating. Traditions are simply a human response to great joy. Love your traditions because of why we have them, but never love them apart from our deepest joy in Jesus.

2. Know when to not let go

You can reduce stress tremendously by tightening up on the normal things rather than loosening up.

Tighten up your standards on yourself first, and then your children. Do not use the holidays to have a self-indulgent spiritual slump. When you feel rushed, it is easy to give yourself leeway that you shouldn’t.

Baking a lot of cookies is not an excuse to snap at your children. “Needing” to run errands is not an excuse to ignore your small child’s temper tantrum and just buckle them up napless and mad to go peeling off to the mall. Do not get into a cycle of bribing with treats instead of blessing with them. This is a time to follow through. Be clear, be calm, and be consistent. This will not decrease your workload, but it will sweeten it considerably! It is also a great gift to your children, helping them to celebrate such a precious time from a place of security and peace.

3. Size it up or sit it out

If you are finding it impossible to do the things that you think you need to do while maintaining joy in your home, you need to lower the standard. Years ago, we went to a wedding where one of the bridesmaids no longer fit into her dress and wore it down the aisle unzipped in the back. That’s not what you want to be.

Fancy traditions, fun shopping expeditions, huge parties, or insanely perfect gift-buying are all beautiful things to do, but not if you no longer are able to fit them into your family’s life. There comes a time to either size it up or sit it out. Be reasonable about what you can accomplish, and do what you can joyfully.

4. Prepare your children for disappointment

Anticipating opening presents is such a fun thing for kids, that it’s easy to forget that Christmas is full of temptations too. It is a good idea to talk to your kids about what to expect. With our kids, my husband and I talk about envy and thankfulness. We talk about people less fortunate and people more fortunate. We try to have our children be aware that Christmas morning is hugely joyful, and that we all need to discipline our hearts and stay in grateful fellowship.

We have used the illustration of running with our kids: Look in front of you, look at the way you are running, and be thankful. Whenever you start to look at what other people are getting, or what other people are doing, you are likely to run into something, and it will probably be a big envy tree.

This certainly applies to grown-ups too. Do not spend a lot of time or energy examining the motives of celebrations of others. Christmas celebrations are a response to our salvation. Look at your own feet and at your own work. The fact that people out there are just talking about Santa, holidays, and Xmas, and being all greedy and ugly and commercial about it really doesn’t matter. The power of a joyful, thankful, God-honoring celebration is not changed because some people do not know God and are trying to mimic it. Psalm 37:1 sums this up nicely: “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!”

Do not spend your time getting wound up over the sins of others. Do not tie yourself into knots over unbelieving family members or friends who are doing things wrong. Take responsibility for yourself, and leave their hearts to God.

5. Get your head in the game

With so much happening all the time, it is easy to slip into a pattern of virtual life. When we view our phones and computers as relaxation, we can start turning to them when we feel stressed. Live in your home with your family. Don’t spend all your time looking at other people’s ideas—have some of your own!

Try leaving your phone on the counter all day and skip Facebook. Spend your downtime actually down and not hopping all over the virtual world. You are needed in the real world, so be there.

6. It’s all about Jesus

And lastly, the best way of all to keep from getting grumpy and wound up and stressed out about Christmas is to remember what we are doing in the first place.

We are celebrating that God dwelled among us, that he sent his Son to redeem us. This is not a big burden; this is about the absence of a burden. We are not obligated to party. The excitement, the joy, the laughter, the lights, the food, and the presents: this is all part of the glory of having been forgiven. We are free to do this, and we are free to do this with light hearts. Because, “To us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Isa. 9:6).

That child wasn’t just born to be a neat story from a long time ago—he was born so that the world might be born anew in him.

This is not just the birthday of our Savior, but one big collective birthday celebration for all who have been born in him. Don’t let a little anxiety or a big to-do list separate you from the joy of that salvation.

It isn’t that we shouldn’t be stressed because Christmas doesn’t really matter anyways; our stress is simply pointless. Christmas is so much bigger than our little efforts to mark it. It is so far beyond us, that we should take comfort in knowing that our celebrations—our paper plates of cookies, our singing of glorious carols, our joyful gifting to others—can only scratch the surface of a joy that is so big, so vibrant, and so deep that it changed the world.

The love of the Father for his perfect Son is so great that we have been caught up in it. Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, indeed.

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