Prayer is Christmas

Christmas is the celebration of the incarnation. Jesus became a man and came to dwell on the earth as Emmanuel – “God with us.” In his book, “A Praying Life” Paul E. Miller says,

“Prayer is a moment of incarnation – God with us.” ~ Paul E. Miller

So here’s the breakdown:

Christmas = Incarnation
Prayer = Incarnation
Prayer is Christmas.

I love this idea!! We can have a little bit of Christmas…Wait…No, ALL of God means ALL of Christmas…We can have Christmas every day of the year as we spend time with God in prayer!!

rePost: 50 Things to do for Christmas

I posted this last year, but thought it was worth reposting:


Inspired by my friend Heather Zempel who posted a similar list, I decided to create my own list of things everyone should experience sometime in their lives during the Christmas season. I have already experienced some of these, but some are things I hope to experience.

The Best Christmas Movie ever made!

50 Things to do during Christmas:

1. Watch “A Christmas Story” 5 times in a row on TBS.

2. Sit in Santa’s lap for a picture. It still counts if you cry your way through it.

3. Adopt a child (or 2 or 3) from the “Angel Tree” at church, buy gifts for him/her, and deliver them.

4. Cut down your own Christmas tree.

5. Decorate a Christmas tree with ornaments that have memories attached to them. Never waste your time making the tree look pretty or having matching ornaments.

6. Let your kids eat the strands of popcorn/fruit loops that you decorated the tree with.

7. Cut and decorate Christmas cookies with colored icing, sprinkles, red hots, etc. (Or just eat the ones your Aunt makes.)

8. Build a fire in the fireplace (yes, even if it’s 80 degrees outside) and read the Christmas story as a family.

9. Let the kids unwrap one gift on Christmas Eve, but make sure they get that same gift every year so there’s still no surprise.

10. Be intentional about spending some time reflecting on Emmanuel (God with Us) – Jesus.

Miranda, Kasen, and I - 2007

11. Participate in a live nativity.

12. Spend at least 100 hours placing exactly 6 colored stars on tree cookies made of green tasteless dough which you will sell to the nearest Christmas Tree Farm to make $$ for Christmas gifts. (This was for you, Laurie.)

13. Go Christmas caroling.

14. Be surprised when someone kisses you under the mistletoe.

15. Attend a candlelight service with your family.

16. Incur some kind of injury Christmas afternoon as you play with your new toy. (“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.”)

17. Give a memory to someone. Experience something together.

18. Unwrap “the ball” with your family. (It’s a tape ball with small gifts wrapped inside. The ball gets passed around a circle and you get to keep what you unwrap. You keep unwrapping until the next person rolls a 6 with a pair of dice.)

19. Leave cookies out for Santa.

20. Eat cookies left for Santa.

That's me with the beard.

21. Dress up as Santa Claus so that a child believes at least one more year.

22. Instead of buying gifts, give $$ to your favorite charity.

23. Go to the trouble (in spite of the traffic) to take the kids to see some spectacular Christmas lights.

24. Go on a hayride.

25. Sustain an injury and get frustrated as you ignore the instructions and attempt to assemble the things Santa left your kids.

26. Take family pictures.

27. Re-gift. Or use gift cards to buy gifts for others.

28. Watch the eyes of someone you love as they open a special gift.

My dad playing football with my cousins and I.

29. Play football in the yard with the whole family on Christmas afternoon.

30. Put pumpkin pie on your shoe, pretend you came in from outside, and then when someone notices the “poop,” wipe it off with your finger and eat it. (My brother’s idea – and it was hilarious! My grandma is the one who noticed.)

31. Use an advent calendar where you get to do something (Ex: eat a chocolate, hang an ornament, etc.) each day leading up to Christmas.

32. Arrange for your children to play “Jesus” in some sort of local Christmas production. Bonus if you are Mary and Joseph.

Andrew Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God CD

33. See Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb” Christmas production (or at least listen to the recording each year.)

34. Display a nativity scene in your house and teach your children about the characters. (Last night, my 2-yr-old son Kasen, took “baby Jesus” to bed with him.)

35. Wake up way too early as your kids anticipation gets the best of them.

36. Secretly open a gift, seal it back up, and then act surprised on Christmas morning.

nativity story37. Watch the “Nativity Story” movie.

38. Use baby powder to leave footprints from the fireplace to the place where Santa left the gifts. (But make sure you make the footprints go back too – my parents missed that last part.)

39. Count the number of Jesus figurines you can find at grandma’s house.

40. Ask your grandma/grandpa about how they remember spending Christmas as kids.

41. Eat monkey bread.

42. Enjoy a “White Christmas” and do some sledding, have a snowball fight, or build a snowman.

1996 - My dad's last Christmas Ski Trip

43. Take the family skiing in Colorado over the Christmas break.

44. Take the family to an old barn and read the Christmas story there among the animals and smells.

45. Bluebell Peppermint Ice Cream – it’s only made during the holidays.

46. Search the sky for Santa’s sleigh.

47. Get stranded due to icy/closed roads in some random west Texas town on the way to a ski trip. End up having to sleep with the animals ’cause there is “no room at the inn.” (It was Quanah, TX and the people of First Baptist Church were very gracious with their gym. They even let traveling pets sleep there.) Here’s a post about this experience: No Room at the Inn

48. Drive all over the country trying to see all your relatives and in-laws on Christmas Day.

49. Snack on Homemade Chex Mix and Peppermint Bark.

50. Celebrate Emmanuel!!! (Jesus = Emmanuel = “God with Us”)

Things not to do:

1. Get so busy trying to do the things on this list that you forget #50.

Our Wonderful Life

Sometimes saying, “I’ll pray for you.” just isn’t enough. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Our friends have lived out this passage and I want to tell you about it:

We had an incredible experience last night!! A bunch of friends (both old and new) surprised us and showed up at our door Christmas caroling. It was Nov 20th. We gathered the family to hear them and when they finished singing, they explained that they knew our year had been tough (with my unemployment) and wanted to come “be the church” to us. They handed Miranda a gift bag and then (like the movie) one by one filed by and dropped $$$/gifts in. We were all in tears. In addition, we received tons of cards and beautifully written notes from people who were unable to come as well as financial gifts both large and small. Some of the small ones are incredibly touching too – from students and people who really don’t have much to give.

Their presence, encouragement, love, and gifts could not have come at a better time. Although God has carried us through this past year, we have had discussions lately about how we’d make it through the next few months. We’re learning to trust Him more and these incredible friends were the faces of God’s provision for us last night. I can’t describe how much of a blessing they really are. My friend Josh said that God could have just given us the $$, but instead, out of His goodness, He decided to bring His people together so we’d receive both $$ and encouragement. God knew what we needed. He is an incredible provider!! He is good!! And we are blessed!!! It’s truly a Wonderful Life!!! I am grateful, humbled, honored, and probably most importantly: I know the LORD and His character better because my friends and family have represented Him so well to us.

I’d also like to say a great big “THANK YOU!!” to everyone who played a role:

Those who came.
Those who sent messages or $$ or both.
Those who organized and planned.
Those who were sneaky and lied to us so it’d all work out.
Those who got the word out.
Those who drove such long distances to be with us.
Those who prayed.
Those who cooked.

We are especially grateful to God for bringing these people into our lives, for providing us with $$ and encouragement, and for motivating them to “be the church” to us.

Here are the videos and pics:

Feast of Tabernacles

I’ve been studying up on the Feast of Tabernacles lately ’cause I was leading a small group through John 7 and into chapter 8. It’s good stuff. You don’t really realize how dramatic Jesus was unless you understand the cultural practices of the Feast of Tabernacles. Let me explain:

The Feast of Tabernacles was a holiday which celebrated the time when God provided for the Israelites during their time in the desert. For the holiday they were required to travel to Jerusalem which meant that they weren’t going to sleep in their normal comfortable accommodations. The festival is also called the Feast of Booths ’cause they were required to build tents like the ones their ancestors would have used in the desert. This festival coincided with the end of the harvest and so it was truly a celebration. Not only were they celebrating the way God provided for them in the desert, but also how He provided for them that year. It is likely that tents were set up all over the countryside just outside of town during this festival.

Some even believe this may have been why there was no room at the inn for Jesus’ birth. The same word we translate “tabernacle” is also the word used for “stable.” It is also likely that Jesus’ birth happened during the time this festival took place (Fall: Oct-Nov) because there were shepherds in the fields just outside of Jerusalem. Based upon their normal travels from field to field throughout the year, they would not have been there very often, but certainly were during that time.

It is also notable to recognize a couple of other specific practices:
1.) On the last day of the festival the priests would pour water over the altar and the people would celebrate how God provided water for them in the desert. John 7 describes this very same scene on the last day of the festival as the very time that Jesus calls himself the “living water.” This would have been highly dramatic under these circumstances. While the people celebrate God’s provision in the past, Jesus stands before them as if to say, “I’m the new living water. I’m God’s provision. You should be celebrating me.”

2.) Huge lampstands were set up for the Feast of Tabernacles which required a ladder to light. The idea was that these lights could be seen throughout the city of Jerusalem. In John 8:12, Jesus refers to Himself as the “Light of the World” with these lampstands as a backdrop. As an answer to the priests questions about whether or not a prophet could come from Galilee (John 7:52), He recalls Isaiah 9

Isaiah 9:1-2
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-

Isa 9:2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death [1]
a light has dawned.

God makes it clear in this passage that a prophet will come from Galilee and even more importantly, he will come “for” Galilee. When Jesus calls Himself, “Light of the World” this seems to be His intention. There we see it all again – Drama.

Jesus is not just a guy who spouts words. He is not just a preacher. He is a master at the dramatic. He’s great at capturing attention and causing people to think. It’s no wonder that the Pharisees were so threatened by Him. He doesn’t miss any “teachable moment.” He takes advantage of every opportunity and even uses object lessons to reveal Himself to the people. Jesus could take any regular moment and turn it around so that it reflected something about His own character. And since He is the Creator of everything, it makes sense that this was possible – the Creator is always revealed in His creation.

Anyway, these were just some thoughts today.

Footprints in the Snow

I had a little fatherhood metaphor moment over the holidays. Remember the old “Footprints in the Sand” poem? (You know the one where the guy can’t figure out why God left him when things got tough and God said, “That’s when I was carrying you.”) I was walking with my son, Kasen through the snow and he decided that it’s wasn’t much fun so he stopped and cried holding up his hands for daddy to pick him up. I did. Anyway, I went back and filmed the footprints a few minutes later. I wonder how many times, God has picked me up? I suspect that He’s probably carrying me right now as I struggle through this time with no job. Anyway, here’s the video:

Kasen and Daddy Footprints in the Snow from Steve Corn on Vimeo.

Like the “footprints in the sand” poem. You can see that Kasen and I walked together for a while and then he decided he wanted Daddy to carry him.

Christmas Videos

Here are a few of our Christmas Videos:

Kesleigh Unwrapping Gifts from Steve Corn on Vimeo.

I hardly ever have any videos of Kesleigh so I posted this one first.

Tyler Tackles a Snowman from Steve Corn on Vimeo.

While we were in Tulsa for Christmas my nephews and niece built a great snowman. Tyler destroyed it in one big tackle.

Kasen Bullies his Cousins from Steve Corn on Vimeo.

Kasen’s cousins were very good with him. They played lots of games and entertained him well. In this game, the boys played along really well. Made Kasen feel like such a big boy too.

Ethan’s Snow Angel from Steve Corn on Vimeo.

Tulsa received over 10 inches of snow right before we arrive. Here’s Ethan making a great snow angel.

Ice Sliding from Steve Corn on Vimeo.

My niece and nephews playing on the ice. Glad no one cracked open a head.

Wishlist

In the end the only thing I really need for Christmas is what God has already given – Himself – Emmanuel, and that’s why we celebrate in the first place. But I’ve gotta say that a job would be a really nice Christmas gift this year too. Anyway, here’s a link to my Amazon Wishlist, for all you folks (Mom) who really want to get me something. iTunes or bookstore gift cards are always good too.

50 Things to do @ Christmas

Inspired by my friend Heather Zempel who posted a similar list, I decided to create my own list of things everyone should experience sometime in their lives during the Christmas season. I have already experienced some of these, but some are things I hope to experience.

50 Things to do during Christmas:

1. Watch “A Christmas Story” 5 times in a row on TBS.

2. Sit in Santa’s lap for a picture. It still counts if you cry your way through it.

3. Adopt a child (or 2 or 3) from the “Angel Tree” at church and buy gifts for him/her.

4. Cut down your own Christmas tree.

5. Decorate a Christmas tree with ornaments that have memories attached to them. Never waste your time making the tree look pretty or having matching ornaments.

6. Let your kids eat the strands of popcorn/fruit loops that you decorated the tree with.

7. Cut and decorate Christmas cookies with colored icing, sprinkles, red hots, etc. (Or just eat the ones your Aunt makes.)

8. Build a fire in the fireplace (yes, even if it’s 80 degrees outside) and read the Christmas story as a family.

9. Let the kids unwrap one gift on Christmas Eve, but make sure they get that same gift every year so there’s still no surprise.

10. Be intentional about spending some time reflecting on Emmanuel (God with Us) – Jesus.

2007 – Kasen, Miranda, and I

11. Participate in a live nativity.

12. Spend at least 100 hours placing exactly 6 colored stars on tree cookies made of green tasteless dough which you will sell to the nearest Christmas Tree Farm to make $$ for Christmas gifts. (This was for you, Laurie.)

13. Go Christmas caroling.

14. Be surprised when someone kisses you under the mistletoe.

15. Attend a candlelight service with your family.

16. Incur some kind of injury Christmas afternoon as you play with your new toy. (“You’ll shoot your eye out kid.”)

17. Give a memory to someone. Experience something together.

18. Unwrap “the ball” with your family. (It’s a tape ball with small gifts wrapped inside. The ball gets passed around a circle and you get to keep what you unwrap. You keep unwrapping until the next person rolls a 6 with a pair of dice.)

19. Leave cookies out for Santa.

20. Eat cookies left for Santa.

That’s me in the beard.

21. Dress up as Santa Claus so that a child believes at least one more year.

22. Instead of buying gifts, give $$ to your favorite charity.

23. Go to the trouble (in spite of the traffic) to take the kids to see some spectacular Christmas lights.

24. Go on a hayride.

25. Sustain an injury and get frustrated as you ignore the instructions and attempt to assemble the things Santa left your kids.

26. Take family pictures.

27. Re-gift. Or use gift cards to buy gifts for others.

28. Watch the eyes of someone you love as they open a special gift.

1973 – My dad, brother Roger, and cousin Chuck

29. Play football in the yard with the whole family Christmas afternoon.

30. Put pumpkin pie on your shoe, pretend you came in from outside, and then when someone notices the “poop,” wipe it off with your finger and eat it. (My brother’s idea – and it was hilarious! My grandma is the one who noticed.)

31. Use an advent calendar where you get to do something (Ex: eat a chocolate, hang an ornament, etc.) each day leading up to Christmas.

32. Display a nativity scene in your house and teach your children about the characters. (Last night, my 2-yr-old son Kasen, took “baby Jesus” to bed with him.)

33. See Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb” Christmas production (or at least listen to the recording each year.)

34. Arrange for your children to play “Jesus” in some sort of local Christmas production. Bonus if you are Mary and Joseph.

35. Wake up way too early as your kids anticipation gets the best of them.

36. Secretly open a gift, seal it back up, and then act surprised on Christmas morning.

37. Watch the “Nativity Story” movie.

38. Use baby powder to leave footprints from the fireplace to the place where Santa left the gifts. (But make sure you make the footprints go back too – my parents missed that last part.)

39. Count the number of Jesus figurines you can find at grandma’s house.

40. Ask your grandma/grandpa about how they remember spending Christmas as kids.

41. Eat monkey bread.

42. Enjoy a “White Christmas” and do some sledding, have a snowball fight, or build a snowman.

1996 – Dad’s last Ski Trip

43. Take the family skiing in Colorado over the Christmas break.

44. Take the family to an old barn and read the Christmas story there among the animals and smells.

45. Bluebell Peppermint Ice Cream – it’s only made during the holidays.

46. Search the sky for Santa’s sleigh.

47. Get stranded due to icy/closed roads in some random west Texas town on the way to a ski trip. End up having to sleep with the animals ’cause there is “no room at the inn.” (It was Quanah, TX and the people of First Baptist Church were very gracious with their gym. They even let traveling pets sleep there.)

48. Drive all over the country trying to see all your relatives and in-laws on Christmas Day.

49. Snack on Chex Mix and Peppermint Bark.

50. Celebrate Emmanuel!!! (Jesus = Emmanuel = “God with Us”)

Things not to do:

1. Get so busy trying to do the things on this list that you forget #50.

Shepherds

shepherd-edit
A shepherd pic I took from our bus when I was in Israel.

OK – What are shepherds? Well, they’re the guys who watched the sheep. Many times in ancient Jewish culture they were young boys, but sometimes older guys did it too. They were responsible for moving the sheep from one field to the next so they could get plenty to eat and safe water to drink. They also protected the sheep from predators and would leave the group in order to search for a lost sheep. The sheep knew the shepherd’s voice. With a few shepherds and their sheep all intermingled, the shepherd could call his sheep and only those who were his would follow. Shepherds led a humble life – probably a bit of a lonely life too out in the fields with nothing but sheep (and God) to talk to all day. This sets the scene for what we’re about to read. A group of shepherds were out in a field near Bethlehem one night when according the Message paraphrase of Luke 2:8-20:

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[a]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Now consider this: These particular shepherds are famous. Think about it: Shepherds were humble nobodys and social outcasts in their own culture, but here we are talking about them 2000 years later. What did they do that made them different?

1. They listened to God. (vs 15)

When the angel appeared that night in the field, there were lots of voices competing for their attention: 1) The voice of Doubt saying “You must be hallucinating. It was something you ate.” 2) The voice of Duty “You can’t go into Bethlehem. You’re responsible for these sheep.” 3) The voice of Laziness “You’re tired. It’s been a long day. Just stay here and rest.”

2. They ran to Jesus. (vs 16)

Once they decided they were going to listen to God, they had a sense of urgency. They didn’t waste time. They allowed their own Godly curiosity to dictate their pace. (When I’ve preached this message, I use the scene from “When Harry Met Sally” where Harry runs to the Christmas Party to talk to Sally. At one point he uses the line ” When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” I think that quote is appropriate for the shepherds too.)

3. They told everyone about Jesus. (vs 17-18)

When they had seen Jesus, they didn’t keep it to themselves. News spread quickly ’cause they were so excited. Matthew 12:34 says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The shepherds couldn’t contain themselves. Much like the news of a woman’s engagement. Sometimes she doesn’t even get to tell everyone, ’cause the news spreads so fast that people hear before she can get to them. Also, Remember, the angel had told them that this news was for “all people,” and so they were just doing their part.

4. They worshiped Jesus. (vs 20)

The shepherds worshiped with their mouths, but also with their lives as they told others and spread the news of Jesus.

I don’t know if it’s important to have people talking about us 2000 years later, but these shepherds stand out among all the other shepherds of the world because they reacted to Jesus in these ways. How would our lives be different if we did too? Would we stand out from the rest of the world if we truly listened to God, felt an urgency to be with Him, told others about Him, and worshiped Him? I think so and I pray that my life will reflect the attitudes and actions of these shepherd nobodys.

Other interesting Stuff:

It is very possible that these Bethlehem shepherds were watching over the temple flock – taking care of the sacrificial lambs. I think it’s cool that some of the first to see the true Lamb of God were the humble folks who took care of the sacrificial lambs from the temple.

Note that when angels appear, they aren’t greeted as if they are cute little flying cupids. They are feared. The first thing out of an angel’s mouth is almost always, “Do not be afraid.”

The fact that God chose to send the angel to the shepherds spoke volumes. Shepherds were regarded as unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in courts (Morris), and so God chose to use them in spite of that reputation. Notice in verse 18 that when the people heard what they had to say, they were amazed. I think it’s interesting that they believed these unreliable shepherds enough to be amazed!

Notice the angelic glory in comparison the the humble Jesus who created the angels.

In ancient Jewish culture, when a boy was born, local musicians congregated at his home to greet him with music. (Daily Study Bible) Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angelic choir had to take the place of the local musicians.

The swaddling clothes was normal, but if the angel hadn’t told them to look for Jesus in a manger (feeding trough) they would never have believed it. Calvin said, “This was a revolting sight, and was sufficient of itself to produce an aversion to Christ. For what could be more improbable than to believe that he was the King of the whole people, who was deemed unworthy to be ranked with the lowest of the multitude?”

Check out what Calvin says about the shepherds “glorifying and praising God” in verse 20. “If the cradle of Christ had such an effect upon them, as to make them rise from the stable and the manger to heaven, how much more powerful ought the death and resurrection of Christ to be in raising us to God?”

Most scholars agree that the time of Jesus’ birth was probably not Dec 25th. In his commentary, Adam Clarke suggests a fall time frame due to the fact that the sheep were in the fields at night.

Misconceptions:

Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
shepherds-field-with-shepherd
Shepherds fields in Israel are much more rocky than Most Americans imagine. Notice the shepherd and sheep in this pic.
A Manger was a stone feeding trough for animals, rather than the wood/hay centerpiece in most Nativity scenes.
A Manger was a stone feeding trough for animals, rather than the wood/hay centerpiece in most Nativity scenes.