“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3
Christ’s commands are not burdensome, but a blessing. Man’s expectations can be an unbearable weight of unattainable actions. Like a backpack of bricks, the rigid control of proud leaders enslaves hearts. But joy and peace are the fruit of following hard after what Jesus wants. The yoke of Christ brings freedom, security and rest. Thus, the ultimate expression of love for God is obedience to God. Genuine love gladly obeys the Lord.
Furthermore, our love for the Lord matures as our love for His law grows in intensity and intimacy. How can we say we love God if we remain ignorant of His Word? Our precious Bible is a manual of how to love the Lord well. He defines what makes Him feel loved: reverent worship, joyful praise, humble prayers, forgiveness, generosity to the poor, caring for widows and orphans, proclaiming the gospel and training up the faithful.
“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Psalm 119:165
Is your love for God an expression of your obedience to God? Indeed, you will be tempted to try the world’s ways and wander away from the Almighty’s path of purity. Grace is the gravel God places under your shoes of faith so you won’t stumble on Satan’s slippery path of deception. Trust gives you traction to follow Jesus. Do what Christ expects and you can expect His energy to empower your actions. Obedience pays!
What command is Christ asking you to keep? Perhaps you need to forgive another as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you. A money matter may be haunting your happiness and it is time to write off the debt without writing off the debtor. Pray without ceasing, give without regrets, believe without doubting, love without conditions and forgive without expectations. Your obedience to God is an indicator of your love for God Thus, by grace, obey well. Freedom is the fruit of following Jesus. Your obedience helps others obey!
“If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15
Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the courage to follow the commands of Christ.
After nearly a decade of success as a band, Hawk Nelson has entered a new era: new lead singer, new label, new mission, new music. But as Jonathan Steingard assures us, you can expect the same up-tempo you’ve always gotten from the band… with a slightly deeper meaning.
Family Christian: Ok Jon, before we get into the really tough “Barbara Walters style” questions, I sent out a message online and a mutual friend of ours responded by asking the question “do you have any pet chickens?” Does that ring a bell?
Jonathan Steingard: The only thing I think that would be referencing is that our manager, Ryan, has six chickens and we did a photo shoot recently where we actually were holding some of the chickens. It was pretty random. (laughs) So no, I don’t have any pet chickens but Ryan does.
FC: Alright. Ok, second question is from Twitter today… “When will Hawk Mart re-open”?
Jonathan: Oh, that’s a good question. So Hawk Mart is how we branded our online store. We’ve been going through a bunch of changes as a band the last year or so, and I think somewhere during that time we took it down. It may go up as a re-branded thing at some point. I think the biggest trick with that is finding someone to run it. Not a very interesting answer, I know… (laughs) so, I don’t know exactly when that will be back up, but hopefully sometime in the new year.
FC: Ok, now on to the ‘fun’ questions. Did you join the band right when they signed with Tooth and Nail Records, or did you join a couple of years after they were running?
Jonathan: I joined just after they signed. They recorded [the first] record with Aaron Sprinkle in Seattle in 2004 and then I joined mid-2004, so I joined right around the time that record was coming out. So I wasn’t on the record, but I toured for it and I was involved with every record after that.
FC: As a band they were doing some stuff before they signed, so they’ve been together about 10 years, which is pretty remarkable.
Jonathan: Yeah! Definitely, and that’s one of the things we’ve talked about recently. We feel pretty blessed to have had that much time. It’s not lost on us that a lot of bands don’t get to be around for that period of time. So that’s kind of special to begin with and then now we feel like we have a new lease on life in this new season…
FC: I was reading something in your bio that Daniel Biro, your bassist said “This time around we’re going through all this emotional and physical change and God breathed some new songs that channeled all those feelings and doubts and emotions into the lyrics.” So Jason Dunn, the former lead singer, is on his own now. Two-part question… Why did he leave? And what changes can we expect from Hawk Nelson?
Jonathan: I’ll try not to give you the super long answer. Basically when you start a band that young (right out of high school), there’s not necessarily a plan in place, ya know? You’re making music, having fun and it’s a great adventure. And all of that stuff is true and good. But as things progressed and we were getting older, I think we started to feel like we were growing apart. It definitely felt like Dan and Justin (who drums for us now, he joined us in 2007), the 3 of us were on the same page and we always found ourselves kind of on a different page than Jay [Jason] a lot of times musically, business-wise, spiritually sometimes, just not always seeing things the same way. But a band is like a marriage and so we were always trying to find as much common ground as we could. I think, about a year and a half ago it kinda became apparent that it just wasn’t going to work anymore. He knew it and we all knew it, but we didn’t know what to do with that, so we’re like, “what does that mean, what do we do with it?” So Jason I think decided to take the initiative – because he really wasn’t very happy – I think he wasn’t really where he wanted to be, and so he took the initiative and told us he was going to move on and do his own solo thing. I think he just wanted something that was his, where he could have the freedom to have it be whatever he wanted it to be.
FC: Was it hard for you guys to accept?
Jonathan: Oh, it was really difficult! I mean, we had been together for almost a decade. On so many levels it was all we knew. So now it was just this big unknown, like well, “what now?” For the most part if you’ve been in a band for a decade and your singer leaves, you’re done. I mean, there can be life for a band beyond that, but it’s very difficult. So we were processing all of that stuff. We had a little time off last Christmas to process this and figure out, “do we still want to be a band, or do we move on to other things?” We really felt like the answer to that question when we prayed about it was that we still really wanted to be a band and the idea of moving forward without some of that tension internally – to all be on the same page – was really exciting. Like what’s possible if we all actually want the same thing? So once we decided to move on as a band, that just meant finding a singer. We were talking to three different guys, and I think any one of those guys would have done a good job and I think it would have been great, but it just didn’t feel like it was ‘it.’
Jonathan: (laughs) Yeah, he would have been a good one.
FC: Kidding, of course.
Jonathan: So yeah, we were just kind of in this weird spot where we really felt like this was what God wanted us to do, and we just didn’t know who it was going to be with. We were so caught up in the notion that we had to bring someone in that it didn’t occur to us that maybe we didn’t, until we were on tour with MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North, Lecrae and a few others on Rock and Worship Road Show this spring.
So Bart Millard [lead singer of MercyMe] had gotten a hold of a record I had done on my own 5 or 6 years ago. I had put out the record mostly because I started producing and I needed something to work on. I had really no aspirations to be a full-time artist on my own, I love being in a band. So he was playing it in his dressing room and he hauled me in there and he’s like “Why are you not the singer?” And I was like, “I just don’t think that’s my role, I’m more of a support role” and he was like “Dude, you don’t need to bring in a singer, you’re the guy.” I argued with him for awhile and eventually he kinda persuaded me to consider it. So I started talking to the guys about it and all the guys were like, “this is brilliant.” It was this idea of starting a band with guys you’re already in a band with. Because we’d already talked about how much unity we felt between the three of us and that idea that we didn’t have to bring another unknown into that was amazing. So we started doing rehearsals as a three piece kinda secretly backstage while on tour still. We’d find little dressing rooms that weren’t being used and we’d set up a little tiny recording rig and just go through songs as a three piece… and it didn’t feel weird! It felt totally natural, which was just bizarre to us. So that’s how we got to this lineup. And then we started writing for this record. I think everything that had been pent up just came out. A bunch of the songs are just really fun pop songs, there are a few rock songs on the record, but there are also a few really aching, heartfelt God-what-are-You-doing type songs. I actually wrote a song with Mike Donehey from Tenth Avenue North called “Through The Fire” that will be on the record. It’s one of those songs that basically says “God I know that You’re there and I know you love me, but I don’t see that right this second, and I want to.”
FC: So you touched on the songwriting process for this new record. How is that different than the previous process with Jason involved?
Jonathan: Well, in the old Hawk, Jay was the main songwriter and so much of the personality of the band came from his personality, sort of goofy and quirky. Those who know him know he sometimes has a hard time being serious and that’s part of his charm. That sort of quirky thing he’s really great at. So a lot times when we sat down to write a record, the rest of us would kind of search for ways to go beyond that, and that was one of the things that was difficult. On this record there was so much going on in our lives. Sometimes I really feel like (for people that write) God uses those times to really do things that are redeeming. So when Jay left the band I moved into the role of the singer and the main songwriter. I’ve written a ton for this record. I actually did a count the other night and I’ve written fifty songs for this record. (laughs) Part of that was [because] for the first 20 or 30 songs we didn’t know what we were! We are rediscovering who we are as a band. Ya know, we’ve always been a really fun band and we still really love that. This record has tons of songs that are just a blast. But we were also sort of going through this really difficult time and God was shifting things in our lives and in our hearts that were heavy. I know that we’re not alone in that feeling. I don’t know why but I feel like the last 3 or 4 years with the recession… there’s been something about 2012. I have so many friends who are just going through massive life changes this year and I don’t know what God’s up to, but I feel like we can all identify with that. Times when the tables just turn in our lives and we go through stuff that we never saw coming. In those moments it’s like, God what are you doing!? But then you look back and go, wow God, You really had a plan and I just didn’t see it. So I think all of those feelings are pretty injected into this record for sure.
FC: So, would you say you guys are growing up?
Jonathan: I think we’ve been in the process of growing up for the last few years and this is a big part of it. I think this is a period of accelerated growth – we’re relearning some things, we’re learning things that we didn’t know before. Justin’s wife just had their first baby in May, the first Hawk Nelson baby, so that’s a new phase of life for us. Justin’s a dad and Dan and I are honorary uncles.
FC: So, would you say that Hawk is still a youth group band?
Jonathan: Definitely. We’ve been playing under the new line-up for about 20 or so shows, we’ve been mostly writing and recording this record, but we’ve been playing a few shows this year. Ya know, we’re still the band youth groups will book when they want to have fun night where they can let loose. Or if we’re playing conferences or festivals. We still are that band. The way I kinda look at it is the DNA of the band is still the same. [But] when the record comes out and people hear it, it definitely sounds different. Ya know, my voice is different than Jay’s and I think that a lot of the substance is a bit more grown up but I still think it’s something our audience will connect with. There are moments that are really fun that you can crank in your car and then there are moments that will hopefully connect in a way that we haven’t before.
FC: So, not only are you going through a lot of transition as a band, you’re also on a new label. How has the transition from Tooth and Nail to Fair Trade Services been for you guys? They’re local to where guys live as opposed to in Seattle where Tooth and Nail are located. Do you find yourselves interacting with them more?
Jonathan: Definitely. It wasn’t a bad parting of ways with Tooth and Nail at all. We had a five record deal and we fulfilled that record on our last album. It was honestly just when Jay decided to leave and we decided to move forward with the sort of newversion of Hawk Nelson, it was just a natural turning point to have a clean slate in a few different areas – and one of those was the label area. We always had a great relationship with Tooth and Nail, but we had sort of been getting to know some of the people at Fair Trade casually over the last little while and we really just love the way they operate. They’re all about people; they’re relational, thoughtful and very purposeful. They’re a small company, independent – just really smart and purposeful about what they do. They really believe in the power of music to influence lives for the better. It just has been a really productive relationship. I would say they are more involved in the process than we’ve experienced with a label before, but because of who they are I really enjoy that involvement honestly. The A&R guy, James, he and I are talking probably every other day or so. We’re just in constant communication about how the record’s progressing. I can’t say enough good things about them honestly.
FC: So besides the new record being available on April 2nd, what else are you guys most excited about this year?
Jonathan: We are just really excited [in general]. It feels kind of bizarre because we’re technically on our 6th album, but it feels like our first in a lot of ways. We kinda have that honeymoon phase thing going on right now. The three of us have always enjoyed hanging out – we’re not one of those bands that don’t like each other. We love hanging out – we’re best friends. We really genuinely are. We’re going to do a tour in the spring. We’re taking Hyland and The Wrecking so we’re excited about that, but honestly, I think we’re just really excited to get this music in people’s hands. We’ve been crafting it for almost a year now. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that we can’t wait to get out there. The record is called Made and that comes from the title track. It’s basically this idea that when something is fashioned intentionally instead of just sort of happening and everything about it is on purpose – it comes back to the way that God made us. If something is created with purpose, the only appropriate response to that is to live with that same amount of purpose. On a personal level that is true, and then also as a band, it’s really what we feel right now. More than ever we are really enjoying having a purpose behind what we do and I think the record will show that. We’re also reaching out to a few people that we haven’t worked with before to maybe do some cool things we haven’t done before. It’s not official yet (I don’t think), but we have been talking with Food for the Hungry about getting involved with them to help build infrastructure in a specific community, probably in Central America. The cool thing is that they work through a child sponsorship model, but that money doesn’t go directly to that child, it goes to the community [they live in], and Food for the Hungry has a 10-year plan to build up infrastructure so that the community is completely self-sustaining by the time they leave. It’s a pretty cool process and the idea that we could partner with them to help one specific community and maybe over the course of a year see the funding go from start to finish is pretty cool.
Also, I told you the story of Bart encouraging me to step up and be the singer, so we asked him to sing on our first single. It’s called “Words” and we’re really excited about it. It was kind of a function of us wanting him to be a part of it because he was such a big part of really encouraging us to move in this direction and he’s been a huge part of our lives this year. It’s really a special thing for us.
FC: That’s great. We’ve heard the track and it’s awesome. So knowing your audience, when you’re up on stage, what are you hoping they see? What’s your goal as a band?
Jonathan: Mmm, that’s a good question. I feel like on any given night it might change in small ways but more than anything, man, I just want people to know that they are loved and that right where they are God has a plan for their lives. That even if it doesn’t look like it right this second, God is always working behind the scenes. And that they could just take a step forward in life joyfully and confidently knowing that God goes before and behind them. That purpose might look a little different each night, some nights the show is just an absolute party and those nights I wonder if maybe God uses those times to just give people a night to let loose and remember that life is full of joy. And other nights… There was a show recently where we did an encore acoustic song and we’re not a band that normally does worship music – we love to partner with other events that have that element in them, but it’s not usually what we do – but on this particular night, for whatever reason, I just felt super prompted that we were supposed to have a moment of worship and so we did that… and it was awesome. It was unplanned and we just sang through a couple of songs and it was a special moment for me, maybe because it was unplanned. We all grew up in youth group and I see a massive amount of value there, it’s such a crucial point in the lives of people that grow up in the church. There’s so much to figure out because not everyone’s church experiences are all that awesome, sometimes they’re scarring, so I love getting to know youth pastors and coming into churches and serving them in a unique way where we’re hopefully able to bring something new to what they do. I really think that youth groups are an area we feel pretty passionate about. We’ve always kinda connected with a younger audience and we haven’t always been good at growing with that audience. We’ve always sort of been that fun band that does that punk rock song or whatever, and while we still are that band, we are keen to really grow with our audience. A lot of songs on this record will connect on that level hopefully.
FC: So what do you guys do to get ready for a show?
Jonathan: (laughs) Well I’ve started warming up vocally which I didn’t used to do because now I’m the singer and I’m terrified of getting sick. When it didn’t used to be a big deal I was the guy that if I had the flu, would just put a bucket on the side of the stage and rock it… but now it matters. (laughs) So I have a few vocal exercises that I do. Justin does some rudimental exercises on a drum pad and Dan mostly just hangs out with people. (laughs) We do have a coffee road case and we told our road manager that it’s the most important road case in the whole lot, so he knows to keep it around so we can make coffee whenever we need to.
FC: Have you turned into a coffee snob?
Jonathan: I’m not a snob necessarily; I still do Starbucks and some of my friends who are coffee snobs feel more like that’s a corporate offense. Mostly it will be right before the show that we’ll connect with the youth pastor of the church we’re at or the promoter who may have brought us in. That’s a lot of times where the more personal connections and meeting people will be, right before the show.
FC: Well Jonathan, thank you so much for talking with us today. We’re just thrilled for you guys and know that good things are ahead. We hope you guys have a great
Dekalb High School Choir from Waterloo, IL performs Hawk Nelson's "The Show"
"Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old." Psalm 25:6 (NIV)
I sometimes struggle to see how God's Word applies to me and my life. Especially when I've been waiting a long time for some prayers to be answered. For hearts of loved ones to fully turn to Jesus. For manna to rain from heaven.
The funny thing about waiting is it can be all-consuming. It inhales my attention, chews my focus and swallows my thoughts, leaving me in a place of uncertainty and doubt. I forget God's power to fulfill my hopes for prayers answered. Its then, when I can't see how He's going to bring things to pass, I have to rely on His faithfulness in the past.
Remembering God's faithfulness in other's lives in Scripture, reminds us of His faithfulness in our own.
When the waters rise, you've waited long for rescue and you feel God's forgotten, remember... Genesis 8:1*: But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
When dust and debris threaten to replace passions, dreams and callings and you feel God's forgotten, remember... Genesis 9:15: I will remember my covenant between me and you.
When the pitter-patter of little feet is silent and you feel God's forgotten, remember... Genesis 30:22: Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.
When fear, worry, doubt and anxiety enslave and you feel God's forgotten, remember... Exodus 2:23a, 24a, 25b: During that long period...The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out...God heard their groaning and he remembered... and was concerned about them.
When you can't sleep and restlessness sets in, remember... Psalm 63:6-7: On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
When guilt consumes and you fear God will never forget your sins, remember... Isaiah 43:25: I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
When all hope is lost, remember... Luke 24:6a-7: He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you...'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'
When your marriage comes back from the brink of despair, remember... Deuteronomy 8:2: Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness.
When dreams come true and you're thriving in your calling, remember... 1 Chronicles 16:12a, 15: Remember the wonders he has done... He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations...
Recalling these accounts in Scripture helps me remember His goodness in my own life. When I can't see how He is moving on my behalf, I choose to remember that He promises to be just as present and faithful to me and you today as He was for others in the past.
When joy surrounds. When sorrow clobbers. When all's right in our world. When the bottom drops out. When we feel loved and cherished. When we feel abandoned and alone, let's remember... They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. (Psalm 78:35)
Dear Lord, Your love and Your grace never fail. Please help me remember this today and always. Thank You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Share God's faithfulness to those in need by supporting a child through World Vision.
Reflect and Respond:
Remember times God has been faithful to you. Recount those out loud today.
Focus on the everyday miracles that remind us of God's faithfulness like waking up and breathing.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou for ever will be
Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me. ~Thomas Chisolm
Psalm 143:5, "I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done." (NIV)
Jeremiah 31:34b, "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (ESV)
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).” Matthew 1:22-23
Wow! The Creator came to dwell with His creation. The all knowing One came to teach teachers and students limited by their lack of knowledge and understanding. The ever present One came to comfort hurting people stuck in their suffering. The all powerful One came to serve weak people, empowering them with His Spirit. The Almighty sent His only son Jesus into the world, fully God and fully man. Yes, the Word became flesh!
God is with us to face down our fears by faith. God is with us in our doubts. God is with us in our hurts, applying His healing balm of grace. God is with us in our transitions to grow our trust in Him. God is with us at work and at home. God is with us in our uncertainty. God is with us when we feel His presence and when we don't feel Him near. God is with us in our successes and in our failures. God is with us and for us for His glory!
"And surely I [Jesus] am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV)
God is with us in our modern technology and our antiquated activities. The Lord is with us in our big cities and our small towns. Jesus is with us when we feel joy, laughter and loss. Christ is with us to comfort us in our pain and encourage us to persevere for Him. He is with us in the ups and the downs. He is with us and He is in us to work through us!
Therefore, because Christ is with you, you can be confident of His wisdom and direction. Fools flounder for lack of faith, but you have the Faithful One as the facilitator of your circumstances. Immanuel entered the earth by birth and entered your heart by new birth. Your Savior Jesus has saved you from your sins and your Lord Jesus commands you to follow His ways and experience His life. He gave His life and came to life for your life!
“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
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for being with us on earth and for being my life.
"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 (NIV)
Thousands of years ago God gave us the gift of His one and only Son, born in a humble manger. Making room in our hearts for Jesus through prayer during this busy day is a gift we give to Him, and ourselves. Right now, let's quiet our racing thoughts and take a moment to enjoy the hush of Immanuel—God with us.
The Manger of My Heart
This Christmas, Lord, come to the manger of my heart.
Fill me with Your presence from the very start.
As I prepare for this Holy day and gifts to be given,
Remind me of the gift You gave when You sent Your Son from Heaven.
The first Christmas gift, it was the greatest gift ever.
You came as a baby born in a manger.
Wrapped like the gifts I find under my tree,
Waiting to be opened, to reveal Your love to me.
Restore to me the wonder that came with Jesus' birth,
when He left the riches of Heaven and wrapped Himself in rags of earth.
Immanuel, God with us, Your presence came that night.
And angels announced, "Into your darkness, God brings His Light."
"Do not be afraid," they said, to shepherds in the field.
Speak to my heart today, Lord, and help me to yield.
Make me like those shepherd boys, obedient to Your call.
Setting distractions and worries aside, to You I surrender them all.
Surround me with Your presence, Lord, I long to hear Your voice.
Clear my mind of countless concerns and all the holiday noise.
Slow me down this Christmas, let me not be in a rush.
In the midst of parties and planning, I want to feel Your hush.
This Christmas, Jesus, come to the manger of my heart.
Invade my soul like Bethlehem, bringing peace to every part.
Dwell within and around me, as I unwrap Your presence each day.
Keep me close to You, Lord. It's in Your wonderful Name I pray.
God's presence in our lives is a gift we can open not only today but every day of the year.
Dear Lord, I'm so thankful for the gift of Jesus, Immanuel, my God with me. Help me be still when I feel frazzled and remember You are God. I want to make room for You in the manger of my heart this Christmas and unwrap Your presence each day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
When you feel anxious, empty or stressed, pause and pray each word of today's Christmas prayer. Why not print it and share it with family today?
Psalm 91:1-2, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (NIV)
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” Luke 2:4-5
It was the night before Christmas and Jesus, who was from the line of David, was to be born in the city of David. He was coming, not as a King, but as a Savior to shepherd the souls of hurting humanity In God’s eyes His Son had always been and always would be. But to mankind the birth of Jesus was the defining moment in history (His story!). Calendars began to divide time: BC (before Christ) to AD (Anno Domini: in the year of our Lord).
In a similar way we define our conversion to Jesus as a new birth into His kingdom. The calendar of our soul is clearly categorized as before Christ and after Christ. The night before our new birth we were lost in our sins. But at the daybreak of our faith, we stepped into the light of forgiveness and were saved from our sins. Indeed, Jesus was born into the world to seek and to save the lost. He was born, so that we could be born again!
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10
Have you made room for your Lord Jesus at the inn of your soul or is He in the hay barn of your heart? The world’s activities are loud, busy and demanding. It’s easy to drift under their demands and forget the words of our Lord, “Follow Me.” Yes, once the excitement of your new found faith wears off the world can wear you down. So, be intentional as humble shepherds and wise men to search out your Savior. Give Him gifts of gratitude.
Like Joseph, be responsible in care of the mundane: be compliant to the government, know the condition of your family, identify their needs and give them security. Indeed, it’s out of your every day obedience to Christ’s commands that He births faith, hope and love. Your heavenly Father takes care of you, as you take care of His business. Christmas Eve is a celebration of Christ’s entrance on earth and the joy He brings to all who believe!
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 12:3
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Christ’s birth and for my new birth of faith.
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families ..." Psalm 68:5-6a (NIV 1984)
"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" The loudspeaker blared out the joyful lyrics of the familiar holiday song that snowy Christmas Eve afternoon.
Everywhere I glanced, people were searching for last-minute gift purchases, holiday baking ingredients or that one final string of twinkle lights that would make their Christmas downright Norman Rockwell perfect.
However, as I stood in line paying for the ingredients for my assigned Cheesy Potato casserole for our family gathering, a lump formed in my throat. Soon my lips quivered and hot tears fell onto my wind-chapped cheeks.
How can everyone be so happy? Why is the world going on as if nothing happened? My friend Julie died last night leaving behind a husband and eight children who need her. Doesn't anyone care?
I wanted to scream. And I wanted Christmas to be cancelled that year. There was no holiday cheer in me and I thought the rest of the world should follow suit and just 'humbug' the whole celebration.
Our family made it through that holiday. My young children, although sad about their friends' mother's death, perked up Christmas morning, eager to open their gifts. My husband and I carried on with our normal life and, over the next few months, tried to help lighten the load of our now widower friend.
Several in our circle of friends made meals on a weekly basis. A college girl offered to clean their home. One of Julie's sons joined our home school for kindergarten a few days each week. Although we still experienced great heartache knowing our friend wasn't coming back, lightening her husband's load and cheering the children made us feel as if we were fulfilling the mission God had for us.
Ever since that year, our family has become even more aware of the fact that for many, Christmas isn't the most wonderful time of the year. It is downright painful.
Loneliness looms. Depressions darken. Even suicides soar. While scores of us delight in the season, drinking the sights, sounds and smells, others are numb from pain and despise the season.
And so I'm reminded of what a sweet neighbor of mine once told me, "Christmas is an excuse for making someone's life better." She was so right! There are souls waiting to be encouraged and included at the holidays. If only we would cease our own sometimes self-focused hustle and bustle long enough to see!
After that sad season, we've made it our mission to reach out at the holidays more than we play the commercialized "gimmee game."
Christmas is not about getting. Its very essence is giving.
When our family has been intentional about being Jesus' hands and feet at the holidays, He has allowed us to brighten the lives of many. We sing Christmas carols to shut-ins, decorate homes and address Christmas cards for widows, shop for the needy, bake for the brokenhearted, and often include the lonely in our normal Christmas activities as if they were part of our family.
Because really, they are. Maybe it is your family God wants to set a lonely soul in this year.
Let's vow this Christmas to make someone's life better, richer in love, and fuller in the comforts of knowing they are noticed and cared for.
Dear Lord, at this time when You sent Christ to earth, may I too reach out to make someone's life richer, fuller and far less lonely. I want to be Your hands and feet. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Gather the family. Solicit responses to the following questions, "Who do you know that might be lonely at Christmas this year? Now, what creative way could we help to combat their loneliness and make them feel loved?"
List the action steps you will take to make these ideas a reality. Mark the calendar to ensure it happens.
Has there ever been a holiday season where you felt gloomy or alone? Did anyone do something to make you feel loved and included?
How can reaching out to the lonely be a reflection of God reaching down from heaven to us on that very first Christmas?
Matthew 25:40, "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'" (NIV)
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manager.” Luke 2:11-12
The focus of the first Christmas was Jesus. It was His day. There was no competition from commercialism seeking economic gain. The gifts were given to Him. God was the recipient of gratitude and generosity. He was glorified on this day of salvation for all who would come to believe in Jesus as God’s only Son. There was an appreciation for the Almighty’s descent into the decadence of humanity. There was no feuding from other faiths jockeying with each other for time in the Savior’s spotlight. On the contrary, there was a religious respect and humble worship from those who traveled great distances from their diverse origins of belief. On this day, Jesus unified sincere seekers of truth.
The first Christmas, however, was not without controversy. Politically, He was a lightning rod (some things never change). Government leaders felt threatened, as if a traitor had infiltrated their influence over the masses. Involuntary spies were sent to validate His presence. Once His birth had been verified, the powers-that-be went to work. Insecurity and fear drive people to commit irrational acts, and it was no different back then. So what started as a celestial coronation for the Prince of Peace ended with jealous leaders taking severe and deadly action. The Christ-child was driven from their pitiful, but powerful presence. They destroyed other God-fearing people in the process. The community was cast into chaos when Christ was removed from their culture.
We can learn from the first Christmas, to keep Christ central in worship and society. He is the wonder of our worship. He is the reason for our giving gifts. It is because we celebrate His birthday that we pause to pray, reflect, and plan to follow His will in a more robust and intentional manner. Our Master came to earth and made Himself like man. He took on the form of a servant, though He could have crowned Himself as King. He pointed us to the love and forgiveness of His heavenly Father. The Christ-child was born of a virgin. He was God who dwelt among us, but sometimes we forget Him, even on His birthday.
One reason we have failed to keep Christ in Christmas is that we have failed to keep Him in some of our churches. Why should the culture embrace the Christ of Christmas, when some of our churches have marginalized their Master? Let’s start by inviting the Almighty back into our churches with fresh and revitalized reverence in worship, evangelism, and discipleship. Let’s prayerfully and responsibly “lay hands” on leaders who fear God, hate sin, love people, and teach the Bible. Christmas is losing its luster for the Lord because Christians have forgotten to fear God.
His birth is only significant if His death and resurrection are significant. The Christ of Christmas becomes compelling when we, as followers, flock to Him in faithfulness and obedience. Let all who name the name of Jesus revisit Him in the awe and worship of that first Christmas. Let’s exclaim with enthusiasm, to a hurting world, that He has come to heal broken hearts and revive sick souls. We unapologetically celebrate His birthday with passion because God is with us. He is transforming us into the likeness of His Son. Let’s make this Christmas like the first Christmas. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with forgiveness, joy, hope, peace, and love while we worship our Lord together. The first Christmas fuels our faith and recalibrates us to Christ.
Post/Tweet: Christmas celebrates Almighty God’s descent into the decadence of humanity. #Christmas
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Christ in Christmas is like memorial in Memorial Day, mother in Mother’s Day, father in Father’s Day, labor in Labor Day, independence in Independence Day, and thanksgiving in Thanksgiving Day. However, in our attempt to not offend other religions and to become politically correct, we have diluted and desecrated the true meaning of Christmas.
Indeed, Jesus is the reason for the season. He is the explanation for eternal life. He is the answer from almighty God for grace and truth incarnate. He is the beginning and the end, a bright light in the darkest darkness. He is our hope on earth as we prepare for our home in heaven.
If Christ is not in Christmas, then churches can convert to corporate offices and missions can morph into humanitarian agencies. Christ in Christmas creates a tension for those who have yet to trust, but to us who have been saved, it is the most significant celebration.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4–5).
Christ in Christmas means you live for a purpose much grander than merchandise and commerce. Your children have a legacy of love for God and country, and service to others. You work as unto the Lord and give generously out of gratitude for God’s bountiful blessings.
Christ in Christmas motivates you to live like you were dying and to die like you were living, all in a spirit of faith, hope, and love. By God’s grace you promote a Christian worldview populated by praying people and full of eternal opportunities, while on guard in Spirit-led discernment to Satan’s schemes and evil’s deceptive intentions.
Christ in Christmas compels you to exclaim, “He was born so we would believe, He died so we would live, and He rose so we would rise!” Therefore, in humility and with pride, boldly keep Christ in Christmas. His birth is your excuse to brag about Jesus.
The Bible says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Prayer: How can I keep Christ in Christmas with my church and family traditions and my everyday life and conversations?
“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:7
Jesus came into the world in a modest manger with parents who had modest means. Mary and Joseph were long on love but short on financial resources. But in God’s economy, a family first needs faith in their Provider and not in the provision. A family who prays together has a higher probability of staying together. A home, rich in relational depth, experiences true riches. Modest financial means can liberate one’s love for the Lord.
You may receive a cool reception from those who feel superior because of their self proclaimed social status. Some look down on the work of your hands for their hands have not been soiled by sweat and physical labor. Pride breeds a smug countenance while humility births a kind and compassionate face. Indeed, modesty makes room for humility.
“But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of.” 1 Corinthians 12:19, The Message
Are you a little embarrassed that you don’t have the cutest clothes, the coolest car or the most decorated home? Don’t let the “comparison trap” trap you into not trusting God for His game plan and His good things. You may seem ordinary by the world’s standards, but your life surrendered to your Savior has extraordinary potential. Give Him all you have.
Maybe you are newly married or you know a newlywed couple. This modest season is a prime time to learn contentment in Christ and how to serve Him and others unselfishly. Give over to the Lord your modest means and He will multiply it for His glory. Your limited time He redeems with creative opportunities, your humble finances He stretches beyond a strict budget and your rich relationships He makes richer. Dedicate your modest means to your Master Jesus; like a soft rain, He will refresh dry hearts.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” Luke 16:10
Prayer: Heavenly Father, take my modest means and multiply them for Your glory.