3 Words that Capture the Sacredness of Christmas

A manger rests in the middle of a musty barn. A beam of moonlight shines through the window as I strain to see. I don’t smell a scented candle in the night. No, the stench of barn animals, hay, work and sweat overwhelm me. The people around are not wearing bright, matching pajamas with their initials on it. Their clothes are made of sackcloth and ropes.baby-jesus-2 Worn out sandals adorn their feet. And the candles aren’t fancy, they are functional.

A tiny fist thrashes up into the moonlight as dust swirls against the darkness of the barn. Could it be? Could it be the savior?

The woman looks down at the baby with such love and almost awe. What is she thinking? She tenderly picks Him up and holds him close. He looks up at her with such peace. There is something about Him.

When I think about what it must have looked like when Jesus was born, I don’t think about shiny or sparkly things. I don’t see bows, candles or ribbon. I don’t see red or green.

I see a baby. I see a savior. I see the hope of the world kicking about in a manger.

Today, the scene is not quite so ethereal. The exquisitely divine nature of this miraculous event can be so easily missed.

Three simple words can help you focus on the sacredness of Christmas.

1) Advent

Advent in Latin means arrival. It consists of four Sundays starting with the Sunday closest to November 30th. This year it began this past Sunday, November 27th.

It is believed that Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany. Advent begins the new Christian year with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide.

Did you know that the twelve days of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts until early to mid January?

And Thanksgiving is the perfect springboard for the season of Advent. What better way is there to prepare our hearts and minds for the arrival of our Savior than focusing on thankfulness?

2) Epiphany

Epiphany means appearance, manifestation, or revelation. It is the 12th day of Christmas and the official end to the Christmas season. It is also known as Three Kings Day because the wise-menWestern world associates it with the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus.

The feast at Epiphany celebrates the appearance and manifestation of God among us. The idea of God in human form through Jesus Christ is breath taking. How can it be?

Unfortunately, most of us have heard the virgin birth story all our lives, and it no longer thrills us. However, I pray that God will restore awe and reverence in His people this Christmas season.

If we focus on the appearance of Christ and what the manifestation of God in human form means, we can experience His power and presence this Christmas.

3) Immanuel

Immanuel means God with us.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14

Seven hundred years before Christ lived on earth, the prophet Isaiah first used the word Immanuel when he predicted that Jesus would be born of a virgin and dwell among the people.

If I think about who God is and who we are, it blows my mind. How could HE be with us? God and man are diametrically opposed to each other in so many ways. And sometimes I wonder how He can even stand us.

God with us.

There is such power in these three little words. Knowing that God wants to be with us can change everything. It gives us our worth. It gives us peace knowing He will always be there. And it gives us assurance of our future.


To the follower of Christ, Christmas is all about anticipation and preparation for the coming of our King.

How do we let these concepts dominate in our hearts and minds this Christmas season?

Close your eyes.

Imagine the black stain of sin in your life. In your mind, picture the darkness of humanity. As a species, we have lied, slandered, lusted, murdered, raped, abused, molested, tortured, and perverted everything God has made. Think about a world where everyone is out for themselves.

Imagine being cold and alone, so cold it hurts. And there is nowhere to go to ease your discomfort, and nobody to help you.

Now imagine seeing light off in the distance moving toward you. It takes over the darkness a little bit at a time. You feel warmth as the light grows nearer. This warmth eases the pain of the cold and comforts your soul. The pain turns to pleasure and the cold to warmth.

You start to see a face and the form of a man. You are no longer alone, there is an extraordinary presence with you. Pain, discomfort, fear, loneliness, and despair melt away. You are left with a peace unlike any you have never known.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

Bask in that for a while.

We have to be intentional about setting our minds on the things above (Colossians 3:2). That is how we keep our minds free from distractions during the Christmas season. If we meditate on Advent, Epiphany, and the concept of God being with us, we will truly have something to celebrate.

5 Reasons why Christians should learn apologetics

Several months ago, when my Sunday school class learned that we were going to study apologetics, there was an audible groan in the room. Most people were less than enthusiastic.

I just don’t understand it. Maybe I am a nerd, but I am excited about apologetics!

Can apologetics be boring? Sure. But so can anything else. Literature, politics, science, current events, even music or movies can be boring. Heck, this blog post is probably boring!

Often, it isn’t the subject that’s boring, it’s the delivery.

I’m not a big fan of history. However, I have watched some fascinating documentaries. And, lo and behold, I learn something! Also, historical movies that are true stories are some of my favorites. 

So, when it comes to apologetics, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater!


Why do you believe in God? Why are you a Christian? How would you answer these questions if you were asked? Most of us would be stumped.

What if someone called you closed minded for believing that Christianity was true and all other religions were false? The exclusivity of Christianity is its greatest criticism today. How would you defend a faith that claims there is only one truth?

The majority of us would have difficulty addressing these subjects.

As followers of Christ, most of us tend to have an experiential and emotional relationship with God. We feel Him. He is in us.

However, feelings tend to be hard to articulate, and, they are less than convincing to an outsider. Answering skeptics questions based on feelings or an experience might not always be effective.


There are 5 reasons why Christians should study apologetics

1.  We are told to do so in scripture

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.  1 Peter 3:15

2. To defend Christianity & spread the Gospel

It is crucial for us to respond to attacks on our faith. We must be able to answer the skeptic’s questions. We must have a defense.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.   2 Corinthians 10:5

The Great Commission commands us to go out and make disciples. But, what kind of witnesses will we be if we look like bumbling idiots when we are challenged?! Who would want to join a religion full of dummies?

We must explore fundamental questions.

  • What evidence is there that God exists?
  • What evidence is there that God created the universe?
  • How do you explain evolution or the big bang?
  • How can one address the problem of suffering?

Emotional and relational people may be won over by loving relationships with people they trust. However, most likely, intellectuals will need to hear arguments for the existence of God, Creation or the resurrection of Christ.

Arguments such as . . . . 

  • The Cosmological Argument
  • The Fine Tuning Argument
  • The Moral Argument
  • The Contingency Argument

And we must always remember to present arguments with gentleness and respect.

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.   Colossians 4:5-6

3. To have a strong foundation

Between 50 & 75% of young people raised in a Christian family leave the church after they leave their home. There is an abundance of research on this topic. The numbers may vary slightly from one study to the next. But they all come to the same conclusion. We are losing our kids.

The daunting reality is that a majority of youth group graduates lose their faith when they leave home. Why? Our kids aren’t developing a personal faith in Jesus Christ. They don’t leave home with a firm foundation.

Many of them don’t know why they believe in God or Jesus Christ.

We all need to know why we believe what we believe. That is our foundation. And, kids need to know why they believe, apart from their parents.

(there may be a book coming . . . . )

4. To love God with our minds

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind  Luke 10:27

Are you using your whole heart, soul, strength and mind to love God? I ask myself this question frequently. I know that I often fall short.

Loving God with all our minds means keeping our mind sharp. It means discovering all that God has for us. It means meditating on scripture, not just reading it. It means spending time pondering the things of God.

He gave us minds so we could love Him through our intellect. After all, all knowledge comes from God.

Here are some stimulating topics that may peak your curiousity.

  • What does the Second Law of Thermodynamics have to do with the existence of God?
  • How do Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the expansion of the universe, and the red shift point to a Creator?
  • Why does the existence of God explain intentional states of consiousness in the world?
  • What are some of the fundamental constants and quantities of the universe that seem to have been carefully dialed by a Creator to an astonishingly precise value that falls within an exceedingly narrow, life permitting range? (reasonablefaith.org)

Discovery is a gift that can enrich our faith, and cause us to fall more deeply in love with Elohim, the Creator God.

5. To see more of God’s character; to know Him more

While on the treadmill in the morning, I listen to William Lane Craig’s Sunday school class called Defenders. In the first class, he said that they would be exploring the attributes of God. I thought to myself, that sounds kind of elementary!

I know that God is good, gentle, merciful, compassionate, just, powerful, full of grace, and loving. He is the Mighty God, Prince of Peace, and Wonderful Counselor. I am aware of His omniscience, omnipotence, and that He is omnipresent.

However, I had never thought about His eternity, His aseity (self existence), His foreknowledge or middle knowledge (hypothetical knowledge), fore ordination, and immutability (changelessness), to name a few. The philosophical study of God is fascinating!

Have you heard of the Euthyphro dilemma? I hadn’t until recently. It basically asks the question, ‘Is something good because God wills it? Or, does God will something because it is good?’ Crazy stuff!

There is so much to learn about our God. We could spend a lifetime and only scratch the surface of the complex and multifaceted nature of God.


So, I challenge you as I challenge myself to think about and write down answers to the following questions.

Why do you believe in God?
Why are you a Christian?
Why is your faith important in your life?
What exactly do you believe?
What evidence is there for the existence of God?
What evidence is there for the resurrection of Christ?


The following are great resources for the study of apologetics:

I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist, Frank Turek & Norman Geisler
Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, William Lane Craig

 

Holy Spirit you are welcome here; Enjoying the presence of God

God and I have a good thing going. Our times together are amazing. There is nothing like someone as small and insignificant as I am being in the presence of the almighty God. It’s crazy!

In His presence, I have nothing to worry about. I can be totally vulnerable and naked with Him and still be completely loved and accepted. With God there is nothing to fear, nothing I have to hide, nothing to make me feel like I don’t belong, and nothing but His perfect peace.

There is nothing greater in this life than having a personal relationship with the almighty God. I talk with Him throughout the day. I spend time on my knees in worship and reverence to Him, and I have fallen in love with His Word.

He walks with me and He talks with me. He tells me I am His own.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!   1 John 3:1

He teaches me daily through prayer and scripture and the words He gives me to write.

My soul hungers and thirsts for more of Him. I can’t get enough. He is so beautiful and Jesus Walks On Waterthere is nothing like Him. I can’t explain how strong the longing is when I am not able to slow down and enjoy a quiet space with my Heavenly Father.

I have recently realized that my desire for Him has surpassed my desire for just about anything else in this life.

I long to be with Him more than romance, more than sexual ecstasy or a breathtaking vista. Time with Him is more precious than a good book on a crisp fall day, laughing with friends, the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, or a hot bath on a cold day. It is more precious than a great victory or achievement. It is more valuable than silver or gold.

I want to be alone with Him more than any earthly possession. Nothing compares to Him. When I think about what He did for me, nothing else matters.

“the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”  Matthew 13:45-46  

I have even found myself sitting in church wishing that I could be at home alone with Him in His Word. Nowhere else in my life do I experience the joy, peace and divine power within me like when I am communing with The Almighty. Sometimes I wish that I could stay there, just He and I, forever.

Splendor and majesty are [found] in His presence;
Strength and joy are [found] in His place (sanctuary).   1 Chronicles 16:27 (AMP)

A friend of mine recently attended a conference in which the theme was ‘spacious places’. They were talking about ‘spacious places’ not in terms of a ‘where’, but in terms of a ‘who.’ In other words, God is our spacious place. What a beautiful picture of God’s perfect peace. He is like a breath of fresh air filling our lungs.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.  Psalm 18:19

I don’t know if you experience euphoria and peace in your relationship with God or not. I don’t know if you long for Him more than anything else in this world. It’s okay if you don’t. We all have our own spiritual journeys. I haven’t always been where I am now with God.

The great thing is, everyone can have this awesome personal and intimate relationship with God. You can experience God in a more profound way if you so desire. I guarantee it! You can rest in his arms and enjoy His spacious places. You can be completely you. You are His beloved.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:13

Imagine a relationship with God so amazing that you get butterflies in your stomach when you are in His presence. Picture a worship experience so intense that you can physically feel Him move in you. Imagine being on your knees as God rains down healing, and the redemptive power of Jesus Christ over you.

Do we believe that our relationship with God can be so exciting and fulfilling and intimate that we desire Him more than we desire our husbands or wives, girlfriends or boyfriends, or even our children? 

“in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing . . . . . if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

God is so good. Everything that He has planned for you is good. And He delights in you greatly! He longs to be sought after, experienced and encountered in a powerful way, and to have an intimate relationship with each one of us.

The amazing love, grace and acceptance that He offers is worth more than anything we can find on this earth. And, He gives it freely.

O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him  Psalm 34:8

God is easy, because of His amazing grace.

People, on the other hand, are not. I often think that I would be the perfect Christian if it weren’t for other people.

Things are so good in God’s presence. It is a perfect space, and I never want to leave. But when you add other human beings to the mix, things get messy.

I know that I am to love and serve others. I am not resisting that. Those are not the people that I am talking about necessarily.

I am talking about the people that are more involved in our lives. Those that disappoint us, judge us, make demands on us, don’t understand us, or have wronged us. I am talking about people who bring out the hurts, jealousy, and discouragement in us.

Some people bring out the worst in us.

I am much more blameless and upright before God in isolation. Isn’t it enough to deal with my own sin and brokenness? But to pile on the sin and brokenness of everyone else sometimes seems overwhelming.

 . . . . . yet, not my will but Yours be done   Luke 22:42

The whole point of this life is ‘people’. I can’t get around it. I can’t go over or under it. I can’t look past it. I can’t please God without loving and caring for the people He has put in my life. He has made that very clear in scripture. But, I admit, that sometimes I really wish that I could.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”   Mark 12:31

I ask for forgiveness in this area of my life all the time. I know this attitude toward other people is not pleasing to God. He wants me to love and serve others generously and joyfully. But, He is so gracious. He is the God of second chances . . . and third . . . . and fourth!

It all comes down to this, sometimes we have to do the hard stuff. The stuff that we don’t want to do. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. We have to accept all of God’s words, or none of them.

But, that is ok with me. I am eternally in His debt. The joy and worth that I get from Him is beyond words; beyond explanation. My cup overflows, and I don’t deserve any of it. Praise be to God, for He is good!

You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.   Psalm 16:11