50 Things to do at Christmas (revised for 2018)

Everyone should experience these 50 things 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. “A Christmas Story” marathon.

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. Sleep way more than you should.

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. Here’s something I wrote about Him. Consistently Emmanuel

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. Watch the greatest Christmas movie ever made: Die Hard

20. Leave cookies out for Santa. 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. Obtain 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 played football with us every year at Grandma’s house.

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

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.

“Behold the Lamb of God” 2018

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

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

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

36. Display a nativity scene in your house and teach your children about the characters. (One year, my 3-yr-old son Kasen, told the Christmas story with our nativity. http://stevecorn.com/2010/12/kasen-tells-the-christmas-story/ )


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.

My dad skied with leukemia! December 1996

43. Take the family skiing 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, peppermint bark, and peanut clusters.

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.

rePost – Wise Men

wise-men1Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12) still seek Him.

Here’s some interesting stuff I’ve learned about them:

Three distinctive actions of the Wise Men: (From an old message by Greg Matte.)

1. They left home to worship Jesus.

Willing to get out of their comfort zones and travel long distances. (Matthew 2:1) The journey from Persia to Jerusalem would have been very dangerous and preparations might have taken quite a while after the first appearance of the star.

2. They focused on eternal heavenly things rather than temporary earthly things.

Gave gifts to Jesus which reflected deeper meaning (Matthew 2:11) and hinted at Jesus’ yet-to-be-revealed identity.

Gold represented royalty.

Frankincense represented the priesthood. (Smoke represented prayers rising to God.)

Myrrh represented death. (Myrrh was used for embalming.)

3. They listened to God and God alone.

They ignored the wishes of Herod and obeyed those of God which were given to them in a dream. (Matthew 2:12)

Misconceptions:

1. There were 3 Wise Men

We read in Matthew 2:11 that there were 3 different types of gifts, however, that does not mean there were only 3 Wise Men. Most scholars believe there was a much larger group of them.

2. The Wise Men were there the night Jesus was born.

Considering the fact that Herod wanted to kill all Jewish children ages 2 and under, (Matthew 2:16) it is likely that they arrived at a much later date. The Scriptures are also clear that they arrived at a house (Matthew 2:11) rather than the “manger” scene which occurred the night of his birth.

3. The Wise Men were Kings from the East.

They were not Kings, but astronomers. They were most likely from Persia. The three types of gifts described were all in abundant supply in Persia and would have been highly valuable in both cultures.

Other Interesting Facts:

The Wise Men had probably known about the coming Messiah through studies of the prophecies of Daniel. Jewish legends even say that Daniel himself (as an official in the Persian government) founded the order of the Magi and had instructed them to be watching for the Messiah. (Guzik Commentary)

In Matthew 2:2 the Wise Men seem to believe that the Jewish leaders would have been well aware of the Messiah’s birth and would be excited too. They’re about to discover otherwise. Some believe they must have been aware of Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 which describes a “star” which will “come out of Jacob.”

Matthew 2:3 says that Herod and all of Jerusalem was disturbed to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. Herod was not the rightful king and so he had a clear reason for being worried. There are, however, two possibilities for the people’s concern: 1) They knew Herod was going to freak out. or 2) The group of Wise Men was large enough and distinguished enough to scare them a bit.

Herod asks the Jewish scholars where the Christ would be born. Their answer “Bethlehem,” comes from Micah 5:2 quoted in Matthew 2:6.

It is probable that Joseph and his family lived off of the gold gifts which were given to Jesus while they were in Egypt.

Matthew 2:9 says the star “went ahead” of them. This is most likely a supernatural event and cannot be explained by any alignment of planets or the like.

It must have been an interesting site as this large group of dignified foreigners bowed down to a young child. (Matthew 2:11)

3 Different Responses to Jesus in this passage: Today, Jesus gets the same reactions.

1. Herod hated him and wanted to kill him.

2. The chief priests and scribes were indifferent to Jesus. They didn’t bother to do anything different once they heard about him.

3. The Wise Men looked for him and made great sacrifices to be with Him.

Summary and Prayer:

I hope this has been helpful to you all.

Prayer: Lord, Help me to be willing to move out of my comfort zones. Help me choose to follow You – one step at a time. Like the star that “went ahead” of the Wise Men, lead me. Give me the courage to continue this journey focused on You, Give me wisdom to discern Your still small voice among all those which shout at me constantly and give me courage to follow like the Wise Men. Lord, even if it means looking strange or not fitting in, let me trust You. Like these wise men, allow me to lead others (mostly my own family) to recognize Jesus as well. Let me respond appropriately to Jesus. Let me worship with my life and lead me to the specific ways you’d like that expressed with my time, my money, my relationships, and my passions. (Or should I say, Your time, Your money, Your relationships, and Your passions?) Anyway, I love being Your kid. Thanks for making that possible through the blood of Your own son, Jesus. Without Him, without You, I am hopeless. You are all. AMEN.

Kasen Tells the Christmas Story

I told the story tonight before we sent the kids to bed and Kasen wanted me to tell it again. When I explained that it was bedtime, he began telling the story again himself. I caught the second half of it on video here.

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.

Wise Men

wise-men1I’ve been studying the Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12) for a teaching I’m doing a little later. Thought I’d post a few interesting things I’ve learned.

Three distinctive actions of the Wise Men: (From an old message by Greg Matte.)

1. They left home to worship Jesus.

Willing to get out of their comfort zones and travel long distances. (Matthew 2:1) The journey from Persia to Jerusalem would have been very dangerous and preparations might have taken quite a while after the first appearance of the star.

2. They focused on eternal heavenly things rather than temporary earthly things.

Gave gifts to Jesus which reflected deeper meaning (Matthew 2:11) and hinted at Jesus’ yet-to-be-revealed identity.

Gold represented royalty.

Frankincense represented the priesthood. (Smoke represented prayers rising to God.)

Myrrh represented death. (Myrrh was used for embalming.)

3. They listened to God and God alone.

They ignored the wishes of Herod and obeyed those of God which were given to them in a dream. (Matthew 2:12)

Misconceptions:

1. There were 3 Wise Men

We read in Matthew 2:11 that there were 3 different types of gifts, however, that does not mean there were only 3 Wise Men. Most scholars believe there was a much larger group of them.

2. The Wise Men were there the night Jesus was born.

Considering the fact that Herod wanted to kill all Jewish children ages 2 and under, (Matthew 2:16) it is likely that they arrived at a much later date. The Scriptures are also clear that they arrived at a house (Matthew 2:11) rather than the “manger” scene which occurred the night of his birth.

3. The Wise Men were Kings from the East.

They were not Kings, but astronomers. They were most likely from Persia. The three types of gifts described were all in abundant supply in Persia and would have been highly valuable in both cultures.

Other Interesting Facts:

The Wise Men had probably known about the coming Messiah through studies of the prophecies of Daniel. Jewish legends even say that Daniel himself (as an official in the Persian government) founded the order of the Magi and had instructed them to be watching for the Messiah. (Guzik Commentary)

In Matthew 2:2 the Wise Men seem to believe that the Jewish leaders would have been well aware of the Messiah’s birth and would be excited too. They’re about to discover otherwise. Some believe they must have been aware of Balaam’s prophecy in Numbers 24:17 which describes a “star” which will “come out of Jacob.”

Matthew 2:3 says that Herod and all of Jerusalem was disturbed to hear the news of Jesus’ birth. Herod was not the rightful king and so he had a clear reason for being worried. There are, however, two possibilities for the people’s concern: 1) They knew Herod was going to freak out. or 2) The group of Wise Men was large enough and distinguished enough to scare them a bit.

Herod asks the Jewish scholars where the Christ would be born. Their answer “Bethlehem,” comes from Micah 5:2 quoted in Matthew 2:6.

It is probable that Joseph and his family lived off of the gold gifts which were given to Jesus while they were in Egypt.

Matthew 2:9 says the star “went ahead” of them. This is most likely a supernatural event and cannot be explained by any alignment of planets or the like.

It must have been an interesting site as this large group of dignified foreigners bowed down to a young child. (Matthew 2:11)

3 Different Responses to Jesus in this passage: Today, Jesus gets the same reactions.

1. Herod hated him and wanted to kill him.

2. The chief priests and scribes were indifferent to Jesus. They didn’t bother to do anything different once they heard about him.

3. The Wise Men looked for him and made great sacrifices to be with Him.

Summary and Prayer:

I hope this has been helpful to you all.

Prayer: Lord, You seem to be taking me out of my comfort zones these days. I will choose to follow You – one step at a time. Like the star that “went ahead” of the Wise Men, lead me. Give me the courage to continue this journey without looking back. I know there will be sacrifices and I am willing. (Although I must admit I’m fearful of what You might ask me to give up.) Give me wisdom to discern Your still small voice among all those which shout at me constantly and give me courage to follow like the Wise Men. Lord, even if it means looking strange or not fitting, let me trust You. Let me respond appropriately to Jesus. Let me worship with my life and lead me to the specific ways you’d like that expressed with my time, my money, my relationships, and my passions. (Or should I say, Your time, Your money, Your relationships, and Your passions?) Anyway, I love being Your kid. Thanks for making that possible through the blood of Your own son, Jesus. Without Him, without You, I am hopeless. You are all. AMEN.

The Nativity Story

Nativitystory2 We went to see the movie the other day and I thought it was great! I don’t think the High School guys who went with us enjoyed it too much, but it followed the Biblical account pretty well. Mary and Joseph were portrayed as a couple who didn’t know each other very well, and he was definitely older than she by quite a bit. This is very likely considering the customs of the Jewish people in those days. Her visit with Elizabeth and the shame that went along with her pregnancy was  also shown well. The town of Nazareth was also shown pretty accurately. The houses were made of stone which would have been true for them and Joseph is shown in one scene cutting rocks. We have typically thought of him as a carpenter but the actual greek word “tekton” means “a worker who builds.” In those days since building were made of stones – that more than likely would have referred to a stone mason. The scene where Joseph asks for Mary’s hand in marriage was good too – he spoke of going back home to prepare a place for her as would have been their custom. I just discovered one thing wrong in the movie last night in my hermeneutics class. Mary and Joseph probably would not have been traveling to Bethlehem alone ’cause Nazareth was a “branch” city of David. This meant that there were probably lots of folks from Nazareth who had to go to Bethlehem for the census – not to mention Joseph’s family – parents, brothers, sisters, etc.

Nativitystory_1 I really enjoyed the shepherds and the kings too. The shepherds fields really looked like the fields that I was able to see in Israel – not fields like we think of here in the US – but much more rocky. I also was intersted in how the shepherds were shown as old men. I had always thought of them as young boys, because it was the lowliest of jobs and because of the way I imagined David growing out of it. Anyway, those young boys certainly grew up – I had just never really thought of it quite like that. As far as the kings go, more than likely they weren’t there that night, but the whole idea of the three stars/planets aligning together during that time is accurate according to astronomers today. The scriptural account (Matthew 2:11) says that the wise men came to a house so it probably was later. It could have been as much as 2 years later ’cause Herod wanted the children 2 yrs and under killed. The way the kings described their gifts – Gold for a king, Frankincense for a priest, and Myrhh for sacrifice was pretty cool too.

The Bible as Literature

Dr Loken taught us last night about how to read the Bible as literature. It also seems to me that this is one of his favorite subjects. His dissertation involved these very same concepts as they applied to the Book of Nehemiah. His focus tonight was on the narrative form which makes up most of the Bible.

The basic idea seems to be about analyzing the 5 elements of narrative literature (setting, characters, plot,  point of view, style) in order to gain more understanding of the author’s intended meaning. The five rules that he laid out for us are:

1. Investigate every detail of setting that the author includes.
2. Analyze each character and determine how he contributes to the message of the story.
3. Be aware of how scenes work together to form the plot.
4. Determine what the narrator is trying to communicate to the reader.
5. Explore whether or not the structure of the story offers any clues to the author’s intended meaning.

He also gave us a few examples of how these types of questions can lead to a better interpretation and understanding of the Scriptures. Here are a few that I wrote down:

1. Setting – By investigating the setting of the Nativity story, you discover that Nazareth was a “branch” city of Bethlehem. The name “Nazareth” actually means “branch” and it was named this because there had been many people of the line of David who left Bethlehem and settled there. This also means that when Joseph left for Bethlehem with Mary, he probably had many relatives including his parents, his brothers, sisters, and lots of other folks who traveled with them to Bethlehem. In reading the Biblical text, we only see Mary and Joseph mentioned, but the original readers would have already known and understood that Nazareth was full of people in the line of David who would have been traveling with them. Also, in studying the setting, we see that Bethlehem is at most a 3-day trip from Nazareth. Sometimes we have thought of it as a longer more difficult journey – not to make light of Mary being on a donkey for 3 days.

2. Setting – The Philistines were  a constant threat to Israel because they lived in the plains near the Mediterranean Sea and knew how to smelt iron. They had iron chariots which Israel could never defeat down in the plains where they lived, but the Philistines could never really take Israel either cause those same iron chariots didn’t do so well in the foothills of the mountains where the Israelites lived. Once Israel learned how to smelt iron (under Saul) they wipe out the Philistines and you never really hear about them again in the Scriptures.

3. Character and Setting – Why was Abraham so quick to be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac? This has to do with setting – he had cone from the land of Ur where it was very common practice to sacrifice children to their god. We look at those verses and are shocked at Abraham’s willingness, but in that culture, it was normal. In some strange way, it didn’t take much faith for him to be willing to sacrifice his son ’cause everyone was doing that. If you’ll notice in Hebrews, (This is the character part) Abraham isn’t commended for having faith enough to sacrifice his son, he is commended for the faith he exercised in believing God’s original promise to make of him a great nation through his son Isaac. In the Genesis account Abraham fully believes God’s promise believes that if God made that promise and wanted him to kill his son, then He must be planning on raising him from the dead too. This was an original thought. No one had ever risen from the dead! Abraham is commended for faith that God would raise his son from the dead in order to fulfill the promise that He had made to him! Cool stuff!

4. Structure/Style – Look at 1 Samuel 24-26. (24 and 26 are almost identical – so what’s in the middle of them must be important – 25 is a little strange until you figure out the symbolism in it.)

Anyway, it was a good class last night.

Lord, thank you for these classes. Thank you for you Word. Thank you for this supernatural hunger that you’ve given me for it all lately. Thank you for the ability to attend – for providing the money and the time for me to come. You are amazing and I can only stand in awe of You! You’ve certainly given me more than I deserve – I deserve nothing but death, but this life you’ve given me is incredible! Thank you for my beautiful bride and her support, and for our families, our friends, and our church. I am overwhelmed by all You’ve done, but even more so by who You are. All that You have done flows out of who You are – it’s just an expression of Your character. You are more than I can imagine and I love You! AMEN.