December 13: Christmas Light – “Joseph’s Lullaby”

 

I remember when my son was an infant, spending time on a recliner with my boy resting on my chest.  As I held his tiny body, I remember spending time praying for him:  his life, his health, his future impact on the world, his future spouse, etc.  Most parents can relate to these moments.  Infants seem simultaneously fragile and invincible; fragile in their physical condition yet invincible in their seemingly unlimited potential.  Because of this reality we pray for their today, while hoping for their tomorrow.

In today’s song, Mercy Me’s “Joseph’s Lullaby,” they poetically wonder how Joseph might have felt as he reclined with Jesus on his chest in those infant years.  Certainly Joseph knew Jesus was a “special child” — conversations with angels and immaculate conceptions tend to fill in those blanks for you (see Matthew 1:18-25).  However, Joseph did not understand everything.  After all, Jesus did not have a halo for a hat.  He did not glow with glory.  As the prophet Isaiah 53:2-3 predicted, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.”

And so, as Jesus cried that first night from experiencing the cold of this real world, or the hunger pains of an empty stomach, Joseph probably prayed for his son like so many of us have prayed for our children:  praying for protection around their fragile bodies, and praying for the power of their future potential.  

We don’t know for sure what Joseph prayed for his son . . . but the words of this song don’t seem far-fetched to me: simply the thoughts of a loving earthly father talking to our loving Heavenly Father about their child.  

Inspired by this picture, take some time today to pray for someone you love.  Pray that God would protect them physically and (through them) bless others spiritually in this life.

Joseph’s Lullaby

Go to sleep my Son

This manger for your bed

You have a long road before You

Rest Your little head

Can You feel the weight of Your glory?

Do You understand the price?

Or does the Father guard Your heart for now

So You can sleep tonight?

Go to sleep my Son

Go and chase Your dreams

This world can wait for one more moment

Go and sleep in peace

I believe the glory of Heaven

Is lying in my arms tonight

But Lord, I ask that He for just this moment

Simply be my child

Go to sleep my Son

Baby, close Your eyes

Soon enough You’ll save the day

But for now, dear Child of mine

Oh my Jesus, Sleep tight

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

Christmas Light (part 3) Sermon Preview

Have you ever felt stuck?  I have.  Several times:

  • I once was stuck in an elevator in a dormitory in Volgograd, Russia.  No cell phone, no one there who spoke English (except me . . . and I did not speak any Russian).  I had no idea how I was going to get out of there.
  • I once was stuck in traffic in Dallas . . . actually I have been stuck in traffic MANY times, but this time was particularly notable because it made my 25 minute commute a 3 hour stay on I-30 . . . and I had to go to the bathroom before I got in the car.  I was so uncomfortable to be stuck there.
  • I once was stuck on a rooftop of a house in Grand Prairie.  I was washing windows, and climbed up, but could not reach the fence top to hop down off the roof.  I was scared to move!

Many of us have similar silly stories of times we were stuck.  The fact that I am writing this blog post means that I got out of that elevator, off of the highway, and down from that roof!  But there are other times of being stuck that we all share as well . . . and they are not so silly.

  • Sometimes we feel stuck in an addiction to a destructive behavior.  We don’t know if we can quit!
  • Sometimes we feel chained to a misdeed from our past.  A mistake from years ago (we feel) is branded on our chest, and we don’t know if we can get it off.
  • Sometimes we feel locked in a holding cell awaiting eternal judgment . . . after all the wages of sin is death (and I’ve sinned a lot).

Sometimes we just feel stuck!

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a way to get “unstuck” from these more serious situations.  Far more than just making us uncomfortable, confused, or scared, there are things that oppress and depress us.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if Someone were able to unchain us from these sins?  Wouldn’t it be  awesome if some how, some way, Someone would/could turn on the light so we could see straight and leave the dungeon of our despair?

Guess what?  There is a “Someone” who can illumine and unlock our lives.  He is Jesus Christ, and this work of His was described 700 years before His birth in Isaiah 42:1-7 in what is called a “Servant Song.”  Right after Jesus was born, an old man named Simeon sang this “Servant Song” as one of the first “Christmas Carols” ever sung over Jesus (see Luke 2:29-32).  This Sunday at Wildwood, we will look at this song and celebrate the freedom it points to.  See you Sunday . . . and invite your friends to worship with us at 9:45 or 11:00.  Let’s get “unstuck” from our sin and free to follow the Savior!

December 12: Christmas Light – “Away in a Manger”

 

A “manger” is an animal’s feeding trough.  After Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph placed Him in one such trough.  This reality is sung about in the song “Away in a Manger.”  This fact is so commonplace to us since the Christmas story is so familiar.  However, have you ever stopped to wonder exactly WHY God had Jesus placed in manger that first Christmas day?

While certainly the repurposed manger helped symbolize the humility of Jesus, Luke 2:12 gives us the specific reason for the trough. “And this will be a sign for you, you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in the manger.” These words (spoken by the Angels to the shepherds, inviting them to visit Jesus after His birth) indicate that the manger crib was the sign to let the shepherds know which baby Jesus was.  In others words, there were other babies in Bethlehem that night, but only one was wrapped in cloth and lying in an animal’s feeding trough.  That One was Jesus.

Since every Jewish mom would wrap their child in cloths, it was the manger that highlighted Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.  The Angels basically used the manger as a spotlight.  The shepherds would go house to house until they found the baby in the feeding trough.  When they found THAT child, they would worship Him.

I think it is important to reflect on the BED Jesus lay in being the distinguishing factor as to His identity.  This lets us know that He otherwise LOOKED like a normal child.  He was not glowing in holiness . . . He looked normal.  He was not talking in perfect language . . . He sounded like a normal baby (meaning He probably was crying, despite  what the lyrics of the Christmas Carol might suggest).  Everything about Jesus looked normal, so the Angels could not identify Jesus to the shepherds through His physical appearance.  So they described the bed He lay in.

Friends, this simple point helps remind us that the Son of God really did become the Son of Man.  Jesus really did become fully human, identifying down to all the sights and sounds of “normal.”  This reminds us that, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)” Jesus knows what it means to live a normal human life.  He lived a “normal” human life in every way . . . except that He did not sin.  Therefore, He can help us and forgive us as we deal with the sin in our own life as well!  

As you sing “Away in a Manger” this Christmas season, be reminded that Jesus’ bed (not His body) revealed His uniqueness that first Christmas night.  He knows normal, and so He can help normal people – like you and me.

Away in a Manger

Away in a manger

No crib for a bed 

The little Lord Jesus 

Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the sky 

Looked down where He lay 

The little Lord Jesus 

Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing 

The Baby awakes 

The little Lord Jesus 

No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus 

Look down from the sky 

And stay by my cradle 

Till morning is nigh

Be near me, Lord Jesus

I ask Thee to stay 

Close by me forever 

And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children 

In Thy tender care 

And fate us for heaven 

To live with Thee there

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

Episode 21: This is Wildwood! Following Jesus into Worship at Christmas Time

Episode 21: This is Wildwood! Following Jesus into Worship at Christmas Time
Follow Into Worship

 
 
00:00 / 00:15:38
 
1X
 
I am solo on the podcast today . . . talking about taking advantage of the cultural celebration of Christmas to invite friends and family to worship with us!

At Wildwood, we talk about following Jesus into worship.  At Christmas, there are many opportunities to follow Jesus into worship as a church family . . . but also unique opportunities to invite those in our extended networks to worship with us.  Today on the podcast I share a few thoughts about how Jesus did this . . . and how we can take advantage of the cultural fascination with Christmas to invite others to worship with us this time of year.

 

To find out more info about Wildwood’s Christmas schedule, click here.

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

 

December 11: Christmas Light – “What Child is This?”

At the age of 29 William Dix was living in Glasgow, Scotland working as an insurance salesman.  He contracted a serious illness that left him in bed, and also (eventually) depressed.  For the promising young hymn writer, it looked like his illness would limit his ministry.  But, the Lord is not restricted by our limitations.  In our weakness, the strength of the Lord is often most clearly seen. 

It was from this bed of despair that William Dix wrote the hymn “What Child is This?”  The song is a simple Q&A style, where the verses ask questions that the chorus answers.  

  • Question:  “What child is this that lay to rest in Mary’s lap sleeping?”  
  • Answer:  “This, this is Christ the King!”  

In Matthew 16:13-20 Jesus asks His disciples who they thought He was.  Dix’s song points Jesus’ words forward to us.  During the Christmas season we see depictions of Baby Jesus everywhere.  As we see these depictions of Jesus, may we ask ourselves the question of the song, “What child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”  Some may say that Jesus is a prophet or a religious leader.  But who do you say that Jesus is?  Is He just those things, or something more?

May we come to know (as Peter did in Matthew 16) that Jesus is the Christ (Savior), the Son of the Living God.  And because He is a living God, He offers us a living hope, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).”

From a place of personal frailty, Dix reminded us of the power of God in Christ.  The Child that lay sleeping on Mary’s lap offers hope and life to all who come to know His true identity and trust in Him.  Who do you say this child is?

What Child Is This?

What Child is this Who, laid to rest

On Mary’s lap is sleeping?

Whom angels greet with anthems sweet

While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing

Haste, haste, to bring Him laud

The Babe, the Son of Mary

Why lies He in such mean estate

Where ox and lamb are feeding?

Good Christian, fear, for sinners here

The silent Word is pleading

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through

The cross be borne for me, for you

Hail, hail the Word made flesh

The Babe, the Son of Mary

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh

Come peasant, king to own Him

The King of kings salvation brings

Let loving hearts enthrone Him

Raise, raise a song on high

The virgin sings her lullaby

Joy, joy for Christ is born

The Babe, the Son of Mary

 

 

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

December 10: Christmas Light – “Labor of Love”

 

Real life is messy, isn’t it?  Things don’t always go as planned.  Failures in our performance cause us to doubt ourselves.  When things don’t work out as we would like, we doubt God.  Our years are filled with some highs, many lows, and lots of “average.”

Into this real, messy world . . . Jesus came.

All too often, our picture of the night when Jesus was born is not real enough.  Because we are so familiar with the story, and because this story is often depicted for us with pristine porcelain figurines, we incorrectly assume Jesus was born without any “mess.”  Because of the song Mary sings in Luke 1, we imagine her as magnificent . . . fearless and understanding all things.  But the reality was probably much messier than that.  Yes, Mary was visited by an angel to inform her that she would bear a child, and yes, that child was conceived in an immaculate way (the highs); but after that conception (at first) her fiancé wanted to leave her and she left her hometown to “lay low” at her cousin Elizabeth’s house – most likely to escape the whispers of ridicule in her own backyard (the lows).  Additionally, though, she endured 9 months of pregnancy . . . 9 months of wondering, “did I hear that angel correctly?” . . . 9 months of “average.” 

In Matthew 1, Joseph is called “noble.”  Because of that, we may think Joseph was a rock for Mary throughout the process . . . but we know the reality was messier than that.  That “rock” wanted to “roll” out of their betrothal initially not knowing what was going on.  How could Joseph have fully grasped that the One who was in his fiancé’s womb was the maker of the moon?

We live in a messy life.  A life with doubt, disease, and dispair.  Jesus willingly and joyfully entered into it.  Not a cleaned up “porcelain doll” type life, but REAL LIFE . . . messy life.  

Today’s Christmas song reminds us of the “straw around the stable.” Andrew Peterson’s “Labor of Love” artistically articulates a picture of that first Christmas night that has not been airbrushed.  As you listen to its words, connect the dots to your reality.  

Mary was afraid . . . at times so are we.  

Joseph did not understand . . . at times neither do we.  

Yet, into Bethlehem (and into our backyard) Jesus has come to clean up our mess, dissuade our doubts, and free us from our fears.  Knowing who He is and what He came to do, let us (like Mary) labor to really love Him while we live in this real world.

 

Labor of Love

It was not a silent night

There was blood on the ground

You could hear a woman cry

In the alleyways that night

On the streets of David’s town

And the stable was not clean

And the cobblestones were cold

And little Mary full of grace

With the tears upon her face

Had no mother’s hand to hold

It was a labor of pain

It was a cold sky above

But for the girl on the ground in the dark

With every beat of her beautiful heart

It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side

Callused hands and weary eyes

There were no midwives to be found

On the streets of David’s town

In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed

Shafts of moonlight on his face

For the baby in her womb

He was the maker of the moon

He was the author of the faith

That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain

It was a cold sky above

But for the girl on the ground in the dark

With every beat of her beautiful heart

It was a labor of love

For little Mary full of grace

With the tears upon her face

It was a labor of love

It was not a silent night

On the streets of David’s town

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

December 9: Christmas Light – “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

In 1868, Episcopalian Pastor Phillip Brooks needed a song for the kids to sing at a Christmas service at his church.  Not satisfied with any other songs he had heard, Brooks decided to write a song himself.  Inspired by a Christmas Eve service Brooks had attended in Bethlehem during a Holy Land trip three years prior, Brooks sat down and wrote the song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”  Not only did the children in his church sing this song in their Christmas program, but millions more continue to sing the song today, some 150 years later.  Think about that for a moment.  This Philadelphia Pastor has a top hit that has lasted 15 decades!  Knowing that best sellers in the iTunes music store top the charts for only about 15 days and even the best of our contemporary praise and worship songs might only persist for about 15 years, Brooks song is amazingly durable.  What is it about this song that has allowed it to endure?

I think the message of this hymn is very powerful.  I have always been struck by the phrase at the end of the first verse, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”  The idea that Jesus Christ comforts our deepest fears and provides for us our greatest hope is an amazingly powerful message!  As I ponder the significance of this phrase, I am reminded of 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  Our deepest fear is death.  Our greatest hope is eternal life in fellowship with our Creator, the salvation of our souls.  Truly, in Christ the hopes and fears of all the years are met.

As you sing this hymn this year may you be reminded of the comfort and hope Jesus Christ provides to you and me.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary

And gathered all above

While mortals sleep, the angels keep

Their watch of wondering love

O morning stars together

Proclaim the holy birth

And praises sing to God the King

And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is given!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of His heaven.

No ear may his His coming,

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him still,

The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us, we pray

Cast out our sin and enter in

Be born to us today

We hear the Christmas angels

The great glad tidings tell

O come to us, abide with us

Our Lord Emmanuel

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist:

Christmas Light (part 2) Sermon Audio

On Sunday, December 8, 2019 at Wildwood Community Church in Norman, Oklahoma, I preached a sermon based on John 1:1-14. This message was part 2 of the “Christmas Light” series.  Below is the audio from the message to listen to, download, or share.

 

To listen offline, click the link to download:

Christmas Light #2 12.8.19

 

 

To listen online, use the media player below:

 

 

To watch a video of the entire worship service:

 

 

Christmas Light (part 2) Sermon Questions

On Sunday, December 8, 2019 at Wildwood Community Church, I preached a sermon based on John 1:1-14.  This message was part 2 in the “Christmas Light” sermon series.  Below are a set of questions related to the message for personal reflection or group discussion.

 

Sermon Questions:

  1. Pray
  2. Read John 1:1-14
  3. Do you normally think of “Life” and “Light” when you think of Jesus?  Why or why not?
  4. What are some examples you can think of in our daily lives where people are “running the wrong direction” to find life and light?
  5. Certainly we CAN live our lives any way we want . . . but there is only one way of living that we were MADE FOR . . . and this is the life Jesus calls us to as we follow Him.  Have you experienced any “breaking” in your own life as you tried to life a life without obedience to Jesus and His Word?
  6. The Light of Jesus illuminates our way.  What is your plan to have YOUR path lit by Jesus (through the Scripture and the Spirit) in the new year ahead?
  7. When you think of your life right now, is it characterized by “receiving” Jesus or “rejecting” Jesus as the Lord of your life?  How do you want your life to be characterized in the year ahead?
  8. You can receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior right now, and experience the benefits and blessings of being a child of God.  Are you trusting in Him today to be your rescuer of sin and judgment?
  9. What is one particular application you took away from this message?

 

To access these questions in pdf format, click here.

December 8: Christmas Light – “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Every year on my son’s birthday, we find special ways to celebrate his life.  One of the common things we will do is have a birthday party.  When we have a party, one of the critical questions to answer is “who will we invite to the party?”  Some years, the guest list has consisted of only family.  Other years, we have invited only a couple of friends.  Still other years, we invited all the boys on a team or in his class. 

Whatever the determined guest list, the next step is to invite those guests to attend – so an email, phone call, or post card heads in the direction of friends and family.  Those who receive the invite then have a choice, will they attend?  Are they able?

I was thinking about this dynamic as I look over the lyrics of one of my most beloved Christmas Carols, “O Come All Ye Faithful.”  This song recounts the birth day of Jesus Christ.  At His birth, a “party” broke out near the manger.  Of course Mary and Joseph were there, but soon others began to make their way to the gathering.  God the Father went out of His way to invite two very different (and unlikely) groups to attend the party – shepherds and Magi (see Luke 2:8-20, and Matthew 2:1-12).  The shepherds represented common Jewish people – a class of citizens that would normally NEVER have been invited to a religious ceremony or royal birth.  The Magi were Gentiles from a faraway land who would have had no expectation of inclusion in the plans of the God of Israel.  Yet, at Jesus’ birth day party, God sends an angelic invite to the shepherds and a starry message to the Magi inviting them to come.

When these invites come, the shepherds and Magi have a choice.  Will they attend?  Are they able?  Both groups move toward the manger.  Both groups decide that they cannot miss the opportunity to be included in this special moment.  As a result, both are incredibly blessed.  They were not able on their own, but by God’s grace, they find their stories find meaning in Christ.

Now, I want you to think about your own life for a moment.  By virtue of you reading this devotional, knowing these songs, reading the Christmas story, you have received an invitation from your Heavenly Father.  An invite to come to Jesus and find your hope in Him.  

This invitation from God is not based on our performance but on His grace.  It is sinful people like you and me, like the shepherds and wise men, who get the invite to come to Jesus and find our hope and forgiveness and life in Him.  God desires that we open this invitation by faith and trust in Jesus as the Son of God who takes away the penalty of our sins through His death on the cross.  Have you placed your faith in Jesus?  If not, hear the words of today’s song as an invite from God to come and adore Him and place your faith in Jesus.

O Come All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful

Joyful and triumphant

O come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem

Come and behold Him

Born the king of angels

 

Oh come let us adore Him

Oh come let us adore Him

Oh come let us adore Him

 Christ the Lord

Sing, Choirs of angels

Sing in exultation

Sing all ye citizens of heaven above!

Glory to God

Glory in the highest

 

Oh come let us adore Him

Oh come let us adore Him

Oh come let us adore Him

Christ the Lord

 

Yea, Lord we greet thee

Born this happy morning

Jesus to Thee be all glory given

Word of the Father

Now in flesh appearing

 

Oh come let us adore Him

Oh come let us adore Him

Oh come let us adore Him

Christ the Lord

 

 

 

To access all 31 days of the “Christmas Light” Devotional, click here.

To access the “Christmas Light” Playlist: