Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Years Eve

We've finally made it to the end of 2020. Though things may not be much better right away tomorrow, we at least have hope that the coming year will be better than the one we are finishing.

We can watch the New York's New Year's Eve festivities at Times Square virtually this year (though to be honest, I have never witnessed it in person anyway)... 

I actually suggest that we celebrate the new year with the "4 R's"...

1. Remember
The wise man of Ecclesiastes said, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’” (Eccl. 12:1). In January, the year is young and the opportunities seem fresh. So many productivity gurus preach a gospel of self-empowerment, but as gospel people, we know the fragility of human life. We know every breath is a miracle, a gift given to us by our Creator.

In a cursed and tumultuous world, creation itself reminds of God’s great faithfulness. Every new season is a testimony, a signpost, to grace. So the proper response to the past year, whether good or bad, is not “I made it through” or “Look what I achieved.” It is “Thank you, Lord.”

2. Repent
Our worship of God for his faithfulness and majesty, evidenced by the changing of seasons, should then lead us to repentance. His goodness breaks us in fresh ways as our sin is exposed by the light of his glory. But this isn’t a morbidly introspective, navel-gazing exercise. To repent is to rejoice. We claim the promise of 1 John 1:9 because we know our forgiveness has already been purchased at the cross.

Beginning the new year with repentance is to draw closer to Jesus, to appropriate the fresh grace that is ours in him. This is why confession always brings relief and joy. It is the gateway to greater intimacy with God.

3. Renew
New Year’s should also be a time of renewing old commitments, like marriage, family, and church. Before we begin grand plans to lose weight or develop a new skill—good creational goals—let’s begin by renewing the core commitments we already have.

We should also renew ourselves to the faithful body life of our local Bible-treasuring, gospel-preaching church. The local church is the locus of God’s mission in the world, where we gather in community to declare Christ’s kingship each week, and where we work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) with brothers and sisters in Christ.

Commitments to marriage, family, and church don’t always look or feel significant. But faithfulness in these core things over a long period is a radical, countercultural life. They form the habits of a disciple and show the world what it looks like to be a Christian.

4. Rest
New Year’s should be a time to rest. First, we rest in the reality of our identity in Christ. We probably didn't accomplish all the resolutions we made at the beginning of 2020, but Jesus still loves us, despite our failures, unchecked boxes, and disappointment at the scale. The gospel tells us that he loves us in the midst of these.

It’s not the voice of your Savior, but the whisper of the enemy that says you have less worth because you blew your resolutions. A “more successful 2021" will not make Jesus love you any more. He’s the One, after all, who calls broken sinners and empowers them for his mission. Failed apostles, former persecutors, recovering Pharisees—his body is full of them. 

Second, we should plan to physically rest. We don’t often do this on New Year’s. We plan to work and hustle. But do we schedule time to reflect and acknowledge our need for sleep and leisure? Rest isn’t a sign of laziness or weakness; it’s a sign of spiritual strength and confidence that when we close our eyes, our lives are in the grip of a sovereign God. To sleep is to say that we’re not God and that the world can go on without us. 

So make a toast and welcome in the new year with renewed hope and anticipation that this year will be better. New Year’s Eve is a wonderful time for Christians to get together and celebrate the completion of another year of life, and welcome in the New Year with prayer and rejoicing. New Year’s Day is an opportunity to prayerfully set goals for the year ahead.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I hope in Him! The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:22-26)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

As 2020 Comes to an End...

This year has been filled with uncertainty, tragedy, and chaos—and countless opportunities to share the love of Jesus Christ. Watch this month’s Billy Graham TV Special and witness the many ways God has drawn people to Himself—from patients in COVID-19 field hospitals to protestors in the middle of civil unrest. You’ll also see how hurting men and women are discovering the hope of the Gospel in their own homes in the midst of lockdown restrictions. Plus, hear a powerful message from Franklin Graham on the importance of persevering in sharing God’s love in 2021. Watch the video HERE.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” —Galatians 6:9, ESV 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The 12 Days of Christmas

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Technically we are still in the Christmas season. There actually is a 12 days of Christmas in Western Christianity, but it begins on Christmas Day, not before, and ends on January 6, which is known as Three Kings Day, or Epiphany. It’s the day the Three Wise Men arrived to honor Jesus. 

We are all familiar with the secular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and though the song is titled thus, it is actually a secular song. The original poem goes back to before 1780 when it was printed in an English children's book and was not put to music until 1909. Though the rumor of a "secret code" in the song has been around since the 1990's, it has never been documented to be true. The rumor is that after the Reformation in England, persecuted Catholics taught their children the catechism using the poem’s imagery as symbols relevant to their faith. 

The symbolic nature is as follows:
The partridge in a pear tree is supposed symbolizing Jesus
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, hope, and charity, as the principle theological virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels |
5 Golden Rings = The first five books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch,” which gives the history of man’s fall from grace
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation (highlighting life)
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the Ten Commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

It’s an interesting theory, a good bit more romantic and mysterious than tit simply being a fun Christmas song written for children. 

What is interesting is that for 37 years PNC has calculated the cost of all the gifts in the 12 days of Christmas. In 2020, there was a substantial drop of 58.5% from last years cost to $16,168.14. They claim it is due to the adjustments for the pandemics impact on the cost of purchasing the gifts...  primarily due to unemployed dancers, pipers, and drummers.

Today would be the 5th day... and I look forward to receiving five golden rings. 😁 Regardless of what you believe about it's meaning, it is a fun song. Here is a version from Pentatonix released about a month ago...

Friday, December 25, 2020

Have A Happy Christmas!

Due to the pandemic, many people are not able to gather with friends and family today. If you are looking for something to fill your time this Christmas, I recommend watching the program, Christmas with The Chosen that was presented live 1 1/2 weeks ago. It was easily the best Christmas programs/concerts that I have seen this year. You can watch it here...

If you aren't in the mood for a full program, I suggest that you at least watch the show The Chosen: The Shepherd. This is an amazing program that was the pilot for the television series, The Chosen.

If you enjoyed the above Christmas show but are not familiar with The Chosen, this multi-season show is a series is about the life of Christ through the eyes of those who encountered him. This is show that you can binge-watch over the holidays without any guilt. 

Season 1 can be watched for free by downloading The Chosen app at Season 2 is currently being produced and should be out in early 2021. This is an amazing show with remarkable scenery, great acting, and of course a wonderful story. I encourage you to watch. Here is the series trailer...

Regardless of how you plan to celebrate, I wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you are blessed with a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Eve

 It's finally Christmas Eve. 

Just for fun, here is the reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas 2020 Edition as imagined by Matthew West...

On a more serous note - I'm not sure how you are going to celebrate this year. I will be at our annual candlelit service at church (beginning at 5:00 PM for those who would like to attend). This is my favorite church service of the year. I know that a lot of  people will not be able to attend a Christmas Eve service this year because of the pandemic, but I pray that you have a way to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. 

The resounding theme of Christmas Eve is hope... I think sometimes that Christmas gets in the way of Christmas. Are you following me? Sometimes the celebration of Christmas causes us to take our eyes off of the true hope of Christmas. Christmas is a time when we often indulge ourselves in gifts and extra things we don’t necessarily need. And sure, they bring us joy for a moment, but they don’t satisfy our hearts in the way we wish they would. It is because they are a replacement for the real hope that is Jesus.

We have featured a lot of great new Christmas songs about hope over the past couple month's but here are some that are worth another listen this Christmas Eve. 

First, Matt Maher tells us that there is "Hope For Everyone"...

A song that is probably most relevant this year is "The Hope of Christmas" by Matthew West..

Another great new song about hope is "Hope Is Here" by Building 429...

However you are celebrating this Christmas may you have hope. Trust in the promise that God will make all things new (Romans 8:20). That creation will be changed.  Satan, sin, and death will be forever cast away. This is a hope that no other present can replace. May your Christmas grow in the hope of a coming Savior.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

More Christmas Music...

 Last week I shared a couple of videos of songs that were remade into Christmas versions... "Christmas Amazing Grace" and "Christmas Hallelujah". Today I have a real treat... For all you Queen fans I would like to share the "Bethlehemian Rhapsody".

Okay... if you are looking for a more serious (and seriously better) representation of Christmas music, here is the encore performance of Sidewalk Prophet's Christmas program. I highly recommend watching (especially if you didn't get a ticket and watch the show live last week.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Real Christmas Story

I found this article and thought it should be shared. Mary and Joseph were people just like you and me. Thinking about their personal story of faith and hardship can  give us a new perspective and change the way we view Christmas.

A Teenager

Mary was a teenager. Wait. Stop. Think about that. She was only a few years older than my oldest daughter. She was a teenage girl in a culture where her entire identity consists of having a husband and having babies. She had no rights, no voice, no occupation outside of having a family.

She could lose her life for admitting to her pregnancy outside of wedlock. And if she was “shown mercy,” she would be labeled a liar and a whore for the rest of her life. She wouldn’t be taken by any man. She’d be a burden to her family. And she’d carry shame with her for the rest of her life.

I can’t imagine how terrified she must’ve been. Even today, young girls getting pregnant is considered scandalous, but with the help and support of a community, they can still have hope and a future. But for Mary, this pregnancy would’ve tainted her for life.

I’m certain she considered all of this: a possible death, shame and cruelty from others, and a reputation that would prevent her from starting over. She was giving up her only opportunity to do something with her life. She’d face disappointment from her parents and live under a cloud of embarrassment in her community. But her answer is “I am His servant, let it be to me according to your word”. And so it all began. She was brave and had immense trust.

When we read the words of the angel, she is told who her son is said to be. Luke 1:32–33 says,

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Upon hearing these words, she goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant. When she greeted her, the baby inside Elizabeth leaped within her and Elizabeth exclaimed, “Why am I so favored that the mother of our Lord would come to me?!” Elizabeth was John the Baptist’s mother, old and pregnant, claiming to have a great child within her. And here comes Mary, young, unmarried, and pregnant, proclaiming she is carrying the savior of the world.

Most people would have called them crazy even today.

Mary’s Family

I’m not sure there was any way for Mary to fathom the depth of what she was told about the greatness of her baby, but in her Magnificat she speaks of being blessed among all women

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. I believe she stayed and helped Elizabeth give birth to her son, six months before she would have her own child. Two women helped one another, served one another, found comfort in the other’s company. It’s the sweetest picture of empowerment and sisterhood, in a time when it scarcely existed.

We don’t know when Mary told the rest of her family. Did she tell them right away? Did she wait until she began to show?

I know some of the young moms I’ve worked with waited until the last possible moment. One continued to lie even when her mom guessed she was pregnant. It’s not a secret easily kept. And it quickly becomes a secret impossible to keep.

Joseph was also a good man, refusing to have Mary killed or publicly shaming her. Instead he trusted Mary and the angel’s words. I’m sure he was ridiculed and also brought shame to his family for taking a promiscuous girl as his wife.

He even honored her by not having sex with her until after the baby was born. Again, in this culture, she had no say over her body, and his act was loving and selfless and showed a kindness to Mary beyond what her culture said she deserved.

I don’t know, but it’s entirely possible they were shunned by their families. In moments somewhat similar to these, where I was so sure of something, when I get resistance from others I can start to wonder: “Did I hear it right? Did I make the right choice?”

So many things are left unanswered. I wonder if Mary and Joseph ever doubted their choices.  They were human, after all. I wonder if they ever said, “This won’t work out!” Those months before Jesus’s birth had to have been so full of massive ups and downs.

Mary’s New Husband

When the time came for Mary to give birth, they travelled to Bethlehem.

Really think about that.

They were foreigners and alone. They had no friends or family near, and Joseph’s betrothed wife was in labor with a child that is not his. He can’t find a place for her to rest or give birth. He probably felt completely helpless.

I’ve seen that deer-in-the-headlights look with many, many dads during labor. They feel worthless and want to fix it.

Not only could Joseph not fix Mary’s pain, but he couldn’t even find a private place for her to have her baby- a very true and urgent need.

And Mary. Desperate, vulnerable, alone, scared, in pain. In labor, a very intimate thing, in front of a man she hardly knows. A man she may not have even grown to love yet.

He had never seen her without clothes on.

No matter what people will tell you, women like to keep their dignity while in birth. I work hard to preserve it for each woman I help. While the give birth, they are still women- with thoughts going on in their heads about people seeing them in this state. Women aren’t any less uneasy just because they’re giving birth.

We don’t know if she had a midwife to help her, but we do know she didn’t have any family with her. Birth was something women in the families were a part of. Mary had probably seen a handful in her life.

Because of my experience as a midwife, I can picture her pacing, falling to her knees, crying, grabbing her belly as contraction after contraction seized her. I can see her sweating, wiping her hair from her face. Asking for a drink of water. Crying out for her mom. Clutching onto a post or laying on the hard floor.

Nothing is clean. Nothing is sanitary. Women died doing it. And she is left on her own in an unfamiliar place with a man she is just getting to know. And she’s doing one of the hardest things a woman does.

In my job, seeing so many women give birth, those moments are engrained into my mind.

I’m certain, like every single woman on the planet, she thought she would die. She lost track of the goal. Felt helpless.

It’s a very vulnerable and very desperate scenario.

What Really Happened?

I wonder… was Joseph any help? He had never seen a woman give birth. Was Mary embarrassed or self conscious? Was she fearful of what he would think? Did she ask for his help? Did she have anyone to help her? Did he run to find help? Was she completely alone? Was she scared to yell out?

Then the moment came when her body told her it’s time to bring her baby forth. And if she was quiet before, she probably wasn’t after the final contractions began. It’s the most intense and impossible sensation, and the sensation feels like it will swallow you whole. The hard work, the energy expelled, the digging deep for each push. The grunting, the wanting to give up. The thought you would give anything if it could just be over.

I wish I could’ve seen that moment. But if it’s anything like the many births I’ve seen, it was probably no more than a humble, messy, raw, and simple moment.

Unremarkable. A commonplace miracle- an unremarkable birth and commonplace miracle that changed the world. He came into it just like all of us. The creator of the universe came as a helpless poor baby delivered to a newlywed teen mom.

Each mother’s body breaks to bring forth a new life. Mary’s body broke to bring forth life. Her body broke to to bring forth the peace God had established within Jesus. It began with a simple, but so costly “yes” from a girl and it continued with his birth.

Then, 33 years later, Jesus’s body also broke to bring us life. His body broke to finish the job that began within Mary’s body- the job of bringing peace between us and God, the job of bringing peace between each other. And his mother was there to the end, when all but two others ran away.

What a beautiful bookend to the most beautiful story I know.

No Cost was too Great

So I ask this advent: what are you and I giving up to bring peace to others?

Mary gave up her dignity, safety, home, reputation and body.

For Joseph, it was his honor, his name, and home. He became a father to a child that wasn’t his.

Jesus gave up everything.

To Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, no cost was too great.

I pray these next few days, we think on Mary and her sacrifice, her courage, her trust. I pray that we may be more like her. Maybe that means saying yes to something simple or something really hard.

I pray we think of Our Savior’s birth in the stable where Mary cried out with no immediate family around her.

And I pray we deeply consider the beauty of Jesus becoming our brother. The weight of His name ends oppression. His light breaks chains of bondage.

The awe and wonder of Christmas isn’t about Santa, gifts, or shopping. The awe and wonder of Christmas is about God being born into the world through a teenage virgin to a poor misfit couple. Merry Christmas. May we all ponder His gift of peace and love.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Everywhere

As Paul Anka told us 60 years ago, It's Christmas Everywhere. This thought is reflected in a lot of Christmas songs. Just for fun, I thought I would share a few of these with you...

CMA star, Thomas Rhett told us that its "Christmas In The Country"...

Irish CCM group, Rend Collective reminds us that its "Christmas In Killarney"...

Glee alum, Lea Michele sings about "Christmas In New York"...

Collectively, I have attended more concerts of these two groups than any other artists. Home Free joins with the retired group, Alabama for a rendition of the Alabama hit, "Christmas In Dixie"...

Country artist Scotty McCreery knows that Christmas time can be tough if you’re missing a lost loved one. There is an empty space in our hearts and the holiday season just doesn’t feel quite the same. His touching song ‘Christmas In Heaven’ will remind you that our friends and family are in a better place.

I hope that it is Christmas wherever you are. Just remember that like Steven Curtis Chapman told us, "Christmas Is All In The Heart"...

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Dave Ramsey Ruined Christmas

Thought I would share this bit of comedy with you today...

If you know what a “rice & beans budget” is or where the phrase” Act your wage” comes from, chances are you’ve been through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

Whether you’ve given your “debt-free scream” or you’re working your way there, this parody will make you laugh.

*Don't forget to go to the Living Word Lutheran Drive-Through Live Nativity from 2:00 to 4:00 this afternoon.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Flashback Friday

This week on Flashback Friday we go back to the 90's to talk about CCM artist, Chris Rice. Chris Rice, a native of Clinton, Maryland, grew up as the second of four sons born to bookstore owners. His parents, and other adult mentors, influenced Rice's Christian faith and his early work with youth and college students.

Having taken only three years of piano lessons as a child, Rice did not aspire to a career in either music or student work. But frequent invitations to speak and lead music at his church's youth group events led to more such invitations throughout his college years at the University of Maryland, Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, and Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Rice's songwriting career began in the mid-1980s, after moving from his Washington, D.C., home to Nashville, Tenn. During that period several of Rice's songs were recorded by other artists, including Kathy Troccoli and Terri Gibbs. Rice's "Welcome to Our World", an original Christmas song since recorded by Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and John Tesh, moved Smith to urge his new label, Rocketown Records, to sign Rice as its first artist in 1996.

Of course with Christmas next week, we need to feature "Welcome To Our World," a song we play in church every Christmas season...

After signing his recording contract, Chris released his debut album, Deep Enough to Dream in 1997. The title song off this album is one of my favorites...

The album, Past the Edges followed a year later. Rice's third album, Smell the Color 9, was issued in late 2000. In 2001, Rice released two piano-only, instrumental releases, The Living Room Sessions and The Living Room Sessions: Christmas, recorded on Rice's own living room grand piano. His sixth album, Run the Earth... Watch the Sky, released in March 2003.

The year 2005 marked a major turning point in Rice's artistry. Leaving Rocketown Records at the end of his contractual agreement, he no longer limited his music to Christian radio format. His fifth studio release CD Amusing, released in August 2005, included love songs and other life topics, as well as some songs about his faith.

The year 2006 proved to be a turning point in Rice's emphasis, with most of his attention and radio station visits and interviews involving pop AC stations across the United States, rather than his former attention to CCM radio. Since 2007, Rice has branched out in the visual arts, including photography and painting. In 2016, he self-published Widen, a book of poetry.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Story Behind The Song

Every month in our church newsletter we feature a song and tell about the story behind the song. Most are hymns and songs that we sing in church or hear on the radio and are very familiar to us… sometimes too familiar. 

It’s easy to know all the words and still miss the spirit of what we’re singing. But what if we knew how these famous songs came about, what inspired their authors to first write down the words? Often, as we read the powerful stories of the beginnings of our favorite songs, it helps us to remember that their messages of hope and healing are just as true for those of us singing them today.

Since the The Christmas season is short, I thought I would share a few such "stories behind the song" for some Christmas songs that we did not get to mention...

“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
When Phillips Brooks, a rising young preacher and staunch abolitionist, was asked to give the funeral address for President Abraham Lincoln, he must have been daunted by the task, and sure that his eloquent eulogy would be the most famous lines he would ever pen.

He was wrong. Shortly afterward, exhausted from years of war and longing for rest, he took a sabbatical from preaching to visit the Holy Land, hoping to find peace.

There, as he visited still-insignificant Bethlehem and looked out at the landscape at night, the lines for a poem jumped to his mind: “O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, a silent star goes by.”

Several years later, he came back to the poem and completed it. His organist, Lewis Redner, added the music. It was first performed by the children’s choir in his church, and very quickly, the verse was included in hymnals as a seasonal favorite.

But one child, who wasn’t yet born, would find special meaning in Brooks’s song. Helen Keller, the famous educator who was born blind and deaf, met Brooks years later. He was the one who explained the gospel to her for the first time.

Through her teacher and translator, Anne Sullivan, she told Brooks, “I’ve always known there was a God, but until now I’ve never known his name.”

The carol’s third verse, though written years before Brooks had met Keller, captures perfectly the joy of salvation arriving to a deaf and blind child whose ears could not hear his coming, but whose heart had long recognized his presence:

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in

 Here's a new version by Tommee Profitt with Rachael Lampa. From the new album Birth of A King by Tommee Profitt...

“Go, Tell It on the Mountain”
History can’t tell us who first sang the lines of “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” because the original author and lyricist was an enslaved African-American. The call-and-response praise songs that came from this terrible stage of our history are known as spirituals, spread orally from one plantation and farm to another.

We do know much more about the people responsible for bringing this song to the rest of the world. In 1907, John Wesley Work Jr. compiled and edited a number of songs, including this one, in his songbook Jubilee Songs and Folk Songs of the American Negro. But the song was popularized decades before that, by the original Fisk Jubilee Singers.

The Jubilee Singers started out in 1871 as a brave little band of young people led by George White and Ella Shepperd. Many of them were former slaves, and their mission was to raise money for their struggling university on a singing tour through cities of the North. 

They began by performing only traditional hymns and classical arrangements to show their musical training and their performances received a moderate amount of attention, but the journey was anything but easy.

When their money ran out and they had to scrimp to get coats to protect themselves from the cold Northern winter, they kept going. When they were met with threats and hostility and were turned away from hotel after hotel in Ohio because of the color of their skin, they kept going. 

When reviews derided their music and editorial cartoons depicted them as minstrel singers, they still kept going.

At last, three days before Christmas, the tide turned. The choir had run out of funds when the most famous preacher of the day, Henry Ward Beecher, invited them to his church. They began to sing the songs of their hearts, the spirituals they’d learned from their parents during slavery days. 

And the wealthy congregation responded with tears… and donations. Soon, they went from struggling to successful to, eventually, famous—world-famous, when their following tour of England had them appearing before nobility and even Queen Victoria herself.

Their concerts were the first time most Americans were introduced to spirituals, including “Go, Tell It on the Mountain,” a seasonal crowd favorite, so that the good news could truly spread “Over the hills and everywhere.”

Here is for King & Country from their recently released album, A Drummer Boy Christmas...

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

By the mid-1800s, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a household name, and his poems, like “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and “The Song of Hiawatha” were memorized and quoted all over America. 

But in 1863, it had been many years since he’d written an original verse. Longfellow was weary after years of hardship. His beloved wife had died in a tragic fire, causing him to fall into a deep depression. That Christmas, he wrote in his journal: “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays.”

A few years later, despite his deep conviction against violence, his oldest son, Charley, left this note in his house after stealing away to join the Union Army: “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer.” 

Less than a year later, on December 1, 1863, Longfellow received a telegram that every parent during wartime dreaded: Charley had been injured in a skirmish with Confederate troops and was currently in a Virginia hospital. Knowing the poor conditions of battlefront medical stations, Longfellow immediately left his Boston home to search for his son.

After arriving, he spent three days searching the incoming wounded arriving at the train station, passing up and down the line of bleeding, bandaged men, limp on pallets packed into boxcars, until he finally saw a familiar face: Charley, the prodigal son, alive, but barely breathing.

After being rushed to medical care and stabilized, Charley was eventually allowed to return home to Boston. On Christmas Day, with his son still shivering with fever, possibly never to recover, Longfellow struggled with the terrible reality of the war that had torn his country apart… and began to write a poem. 

With each line, he built a picture of darkness—and in the midst of it, hope.

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Charley did eventually recover, and he and his father were reconciled, but this wartime Christmas poem-turned-song still rings out a story of the triumph of hope over despair even today.

Here is a version by Marc Martel from this new album Thank God It's Christmas...

And finally a story that you have probably heard before...
“Silent Night”
The most recorded carol of all time had humble origins: it was written in a tiny village in Austria by Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr, churchmen who wanted a simple song to perform for Christmas, since the organ had been damaged by flooding. It was performed with accompaniment by the guitar, and was later performed by groups of traveling folk singers, spreading it around the world.

But perhaps the most famous place the carol has been sung was also the most unusual: the trenches of WWI. In December 1914, hostilities had died down between battles, as tense English, French, and German soldiers waited for the next bout of gunfire.

But on Christmas Eve, what they got instead was an unexpected ceasefire. In certain places along the line, enemy soldiers ventured into no-man’s land to play games, exchange gifts, smoke cigarettes, and celebrate together as best they could, knowing that in a few days they would resume fighting against each other again.

Many men recounted the beauty of the familiar Christmas carols that were sung among the soldiers: the Englishmen’s “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” the French with their boisterous “Cantique de Noel,” and “Silent Night” in its original German.

Stille Nacht! Heil’ge Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht.
Nur das traute hoch heilige Paar.
Holder Knab’ im lockigen Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

Silent night! Holy night.
All is calm; all is bright.
Round yon virgin, mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

It was a song from a simpler time, first performed at a midnight mass on Christmas Eve in a small village church, sung a century later over the bloodied, disease-ridden trenches, in hopes that there would be another silent night again soon.

Here's a great version recently released by NeedToBreathe...

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Bible Thought: Grow

By now you know God is faithfully working in you & for you. Be encouraged that He is committed to you and promises to build you strong in the faith. Following Jesus isn’t always easy. But look at the fruit He produces when we commit to doing the work.

Colossians 2:6-10 NLT
Freedom From Rules And New Life in Christ

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

John 15:1-11 NLT
Jesus, the True Vine

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

Philippians 1:9-11 NLT

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

The question we need to ask today is  "What’s the next step I need to take as Christ’s disciple?"

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Favorite Christmas Music Videos

 There are many good Christmas videos that I enjoy watching, but there are several that I find myself watching over and over, so I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.

Caleb and Kelsey singing the Christmas version of "Amazing Grace". This is hauntingly beautiful...

Maybe not the most polished version, but I am always touched to watch "Christmas Hallelujah" by Kaylee Rodger and the Killard House School Choir. The performance of this young autistic girl and her classmates is amazing...

New this year, but quickly becoming one of my favorites is the Zack Williams version of "Go Tell It On the Mountain".  It almost makes me want to dance...

If you want to hear an impressive vocal battle, check out this rendition of "Silent Night" by Tori Kelly and Kelly Clarkson...

My favorite Country group is Home Free. This a cappella group (originally from Minnesota) shows off their vocal talents on this version of "Do You Hear What I Hear"...

Finally, nothing tops the live performance of "Little Drummer Boy" by for King and Country on last year's CMA Country Christmas program...

I could probably go on and on, but these videos will give you a good start into the Christmas season. If you have a favorite to share please leave it in the comment section.

Monday, December 14, 2020

A Christmas Quiz

How well do you know the Christmas story?

Most of us know the general outline because we’ve heard or sung it or watched it being enacted in the Christmas programs that most churches offer during December. We know about the shepherds, the angels, the “Wise Men,” the star, the innkeeper, the long journey of Mary and Joseph, the baby in the manger, and we know about the gold, frankincense and myrrh. But how much of what we know is tradition and how much comes from the Bible?

For the last several years David Langerfeld, associate pastor of Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, has given a Christmas IQ test to his Sunday School class. I should warn you that this is a tough quiz. When I took it, I missed several questions. Try taking it first without checking the Bible to see how well you know the real Christmas story.

Scroll to the end to read the answers.

1. Joseph was originally from... (Luke 2:3)
    A. Bethlehem
    B. Nazareth
    C. Hebron
    D. Jerusalem 
    E. None of the above

2. What does the Bible say that the innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
    A. “There is no room in the inn.”
    B. “I have a stable you can use.”
    C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
    D. Both A and B
    E. None of the above

3. A manger is a...
    A. Stable for domestic animals
    B. Wooden hay storage bin
    C. Feeding trough
    D. Barn

4. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
    A. Cows, sheep, goats
    B. Cows, donkeys, goats
    C. Sheep and goats only
    D. Miscellaneous barnyard animals
    E. None of the above

5. Who saw the star in the east?
    A. Shepherds
    B. Mary and Joseph
    C. Three kings
    D. Both A and C
    E. None of the above

6. According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
    A. Came
    B. Donkey
    C. Walked
    D. Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
    E. Horse-drawn chariot
    F. Who knows?

7. How many angels spoke to the shepherds? (Luke 2:10)
    A. One
    B. Three
    C. Multitude
    D. None of the above

8. What did the angels say/sing? (Luke 2:14)
    A. “Glory to God in the highest, etc.”
    B. “Alleluia”
    C. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given”
    D. “Joy the world, the Lord is come”
    E. “Glory to the newborn King”

9. What is a heavenly host?
    A. The angel at the gate of heaven
    B. The angel who serves refreshments in heaven
    C. An angel choir
    D. An angel army
    E. None of the above

10. There was snow that first Christmas...
    A. Only in Bethlehem
    B. All over Israel
    C. Nowhere in Israel
    D. Somewhere in Israel

11. What is frankincense?
    A. A precious metal
    B. A precious fabric
    C. A precious perfume
    D. None of the above

12. In Matthew, what does “wise men” or “Magi” refer to?
    A. Men of the educated class
    B. Eastern kings
    C. Men who studied the stars
    D. Sages

13. What is myrrh?
    A. Middle Eastern money
    B. A drink
    C. An easily shaped metal
    D. A spice used for burying people
    E. None of the above

14. How many wise men came to see Jesus?
   A. 3
   B. 6
   C. 9
   D. 12
   E. We don’t know.

15. Where did the wise men find Jesus? (Matthew 2:11)
    A. In a manger
    B. In a stable
    C. In Nazareth
    D. In Saudi Arabia
    E. In a house
    F. None of the above

16. When the wise men found Jesus he was... (Matthew 2:11)
    A. A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
    B. A young child
    C. A boy in the temple
    D. A grown man

17. The “star in the east” that the wise men followed... (Matthew 2:9)
    A. Stayed in the same place their entire journey
    B. Disappeared and reappeared
    C. Moved ahead of them and stopped over the place where Jesus was
    D. Was just a mirage
    E. None of the above

18. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem... (Matthew 2:2)
    A. To inform Herod about Jesus
    B. To find out where Jesus was
    C. To ask about the star
    D. To buy presents
    E. None of the above

19. Where do we find the Christmas story?
    A. Matthew
    B. Mark
    C. Luke
    D. John
    E. All of the above
    F. Only A and B
    G. Only A and C
    H. Only A, B and C

20. When Joseph found Mary was pregnant, what happened?
    A. They got married
    B. Joseph wanted to break the engagement
    C. Mary left town for three months
    D. A and B
    E. B and C

21. Who told (made) Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem? (Luke 2:1-5)
    A. The angel chorus
    B. Mary’s mother
    C. Herod
    D. The shepherds
    E. Caesar Augustus

Answers are below. 





1. A. He worked and lived in Nazareth, but he was returning to Bethlehem - “his own city” (See Luke 2:3).

2. E. The innkeeper didn’t “say” anything (See Luke 2:7). The Bible doesn’t even mention an “innkeeper” because the “inn” was probably more like a guest room in a house.

3. C. Feeding trough - Interestingly enough, most mangers in New Testament times were made of stone. If you visit Israel today, you can see stone mangers used by Solomon to feed his horses at Megiddo.

4. E. The Bible doesn’t say, we just assume that since Jesus was born in a stable that there were various barnyard animals present. This is really a double assumption because the Bible doesn’t mention a barn or a stable. However, the feeding trough was used by animals so a stable or barn adjoining a home would be a reasonable inference.

5. E. This is a “trick” question. The “magi” saw the star. However, the Bible doesn’t say how many there were and they were not kings, but astronomers (see answer 14).

6. F. Although the modern “pictures” in many Children’s Bibles show Mary on a donkey with Joseph beside her, the Bible doesn’t say!

7. A. Luke 2:10. A semi-trick question because verses 13-14 record what the angel company said as they praised God together. However, only one angel spoke directly to the shepherds.

8. A. Luke 2:14.

9. D. The word means “army” - literally thousands. Now, since there was a “multitude” of the heavenly army” (hosts), there could easily have been from 10,000 - 100,000 angels there that night! No wonder the shepherds were “sore afraid"!  It refers to a heavenly army of angels.

10. D. Another trick question. There is always snow on Mt. Hermon. 

11. C. Frankincense was used in the temple worship of the Lord. It represents his deity because he is truly God born in human flesh.

12. C. The word “Magi” literally means “star-gazers”. Although there is no Biblical record of exactly who they were or their point of origin, I personally believe that they were descendants of the “wise men” of Babylon. I believe that God, in His great providence, used Daniel (while he was in captivity in Babylon), to teach these men about future events - including the birth of the Savior of the world. Read Daniel 5:11 - Daniel was put in charge of these men! David chose “C. Men who studied the stars” so that’s the answer we’re going with. But A or D would work also. Who were the magi? They were the professors and philosophers of their day. They were trained in history, religion, prophecy and astronomy. They were also trained in what we would call astrology. 

13. D. Herod was buried with over 150 lbs. of Myrrh wrapped in his burial clothes. Myrrh was used in embalming in those days. John 19:39 tells us that Jesus’ body was bound in linen wrappings along with 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes.  The gift of myrrh pictures his suffering and death.

14. E. We don’t know. They were magi, not wise men - but the Bible doesn’t give the number. Many people assume that there were three because of the three gifts. However, in ancient times these men usually traveled in caravans of ten to twelve, along with a full entourage for protection.

15. E. Read Matthew 2:11 (see next answer)

16. B. Read Matthew 2:11 When the Shepherds found Jesus (Luke 2), he was a “babe” in a manger. The Greek word used in Luke 2 is for a “newborn baby”. However, by the time the Magi appeared, Jesus had been moved from the manger to a house (verse 11) and the Greek word used in Matthew is for “toddler or young child”. He was probably somewhere between 12-24 months old. In many of our Christmas programs, we bring the magi and the shepherds to worship Jesus together at the manger. Nice thought and it makes for a beautiful scene, but it didn’t happen that way. The shepherds were there the night Jesus was born. The magi came months later.

17. C. Read Matthew 2:9 Most people miss this question. The star did not stay stationary over the manger or the house. This verse makes it clear that the star moved “in front” of the magi and guided them till it “stood over where the young child was.” I think you can infer that from Matthew 2:9, which can be read to say that they saw the star in the east, knew from prior study that the baby was to be born in Bethlehem, and made the journey across the desert. 

18. B. Read Matthew 2:2. They assumed Herod would know. I find it fascinating that although the scribes knew exactly where the Messiah was to be born (according to Micah 5:2), they were not interested enough to travel the four or five miles to Bethlehem to see for themselves. 

19. G. Isn’t it amazing how God divinely inspired these two gospel writers to write His exact words, but he used their interests and professions to recall different aspects of Jesus’ birth. Matthew, a tax collector, records the genealogy of Jesus (used for taxation) and the “magi” - men of means from a foreign country. Luke, a physician, records the pregnancy and birth.

20. E. Joseph wants to “put her away” secretly and Mary left town to see her cousin. Matthew 1:19 and Luke 1:39, 56 The phrasing here is ambiguous. This question is really asking what happened first because A, B and C all happened eventually. 

21. E. “There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus... everyone into his own city... “ (Luke 2:1-5). This is a tricky question because Caesar Augustus never met Mary and Joseph and almost certainly never even heard of them. He “made” them return to Bethlehem only in the sense that he gave the order for the census, forcing Joseph and Mary to make the difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the latter stages of Mary’s pregnancy.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

More Christmas Concerts

Tired of TV... replays of Hallmark movies or serial killer shows? Here's another option... Here is a week full of Christmas concerts you can enjoy.

First, On Sunday night, December 13th at 7:00 pm CST is The Chosen Christmas Special. Watch a special presentation of The Chosen Christmas short film and hear artists for King & Country, Phil Wickham, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, Matt Maher, Zach Williams, Stephen McWhirter, and more performing their favorite Christmas songs. Install and watch on The Chosen app or join on YouTube at


On Monday night watch the recorded version of Tori Kelly on A Tori Kelly Christmas - Live From Capitol Studios. It is hard not to get carried away with the Christmas spirit listening to the amazing vocals of Tori as she performs her recently released Christmas album.  Watch on YouTube HERE.


On Tuesday, December 15th at 7:00 PM CST on @Facebook Live and @YouTube, join for King & Country for their Live Christmas Special.

It’s been called ‘the most wonderful time of the year, and after the loss and heartache of 2020, perhaps we all need it more than ever. It’s with that in mind we invite you to join us for DRUMMER BOY: A Night of Celebration, honoring the greatest hope the world has ever known. We’ll be LIVE performing songs from ‘A Drummer Boy Christmas’ and sharing stories in two magical locations to help usher in the holiday season.


On Wednesday, December 16th @ 6:30 PM CST watch a free virtual Christmas concert with CCM artists Building 429. Being brought to you by Bethesda and Lutheran Church Extension Fund. RSVP for this concert HERE.

On Thursday, December 17th at 7:00 PM CST, the Northland Thrivent Member Network invites you, your family and friends to a special early viewing of the Concordia Christmas Concert. Not a CCM concert, but I have attended several of these concerts in person at Concordia University while my daughter attended college there and they are great. Enjoy beautiful Christmas music featuring more than 425 student musicians from across seven ensembles. This online event is free and everyone is welcome. You do not need to be a Thrivent member to attend so register HERE to get the link to join.

For Friday, as I told you before, there is still time to get your free ticket to watch the Sidewalk Prophets Christmas program on December 18th @ 7:00 PM CST. You can get your ticket HERE.

Looks like next week is going to be a great week of Christmas concerts. Hope you can join me.

Finally, to round out your week of Christmas entertainment, plan on coming to the Living Word Lutheran Church Drive-Through Live Nativity in the church parking lot on Saturday, December 19th from 2:00 to 4:00. Come see the manger scene complete with live animals and actors. 

Friday, December 11, 2020

Flashback Friday

This week I want to feature CCM artist Scott Krippayne. Born July 23, 1971 Scott is an American singer and songwriter. Krippayne is better known for his contributions towards other artists, as over 150 of his songs have been recorded by others including Point of Grace, John Tesh, Avalon, Jaci Velasquez, FFH, True Vibe, Kutless, Sandi Patty, and more. He is an Emmy-nominated songwriter & producer based in the Seattle area.  With 16 #1's, 22 other Top 10 singles, and over 500 songs recorded, Scott has enjoyed a productive career with success in multiple genres.  

As an artist, Scott desires to create music that reflects life, resonates with people, and touches the heart.  He has released 12 projects to date, which have spawned nine #1 songs. 

Scott has released many great songs like "Sometimes He Calms The Storm", "You Have Been Good", "The Coffee Song", "I'm Not Cool", and more. One of my favorite songs is "No More Pretending" which was released in 1997 on his More album...

In 2007, he wrote the song "This Is My Now", which was chosen as the coronation song for the final of American Idol Season Six sung by the Top 2 Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis. In 2014, Krippayne received a Daytime Emmy nomination for writing the theme music on PAW Patrol (we have grandkids, so I am well familiar with this show 😀). Krippayne has also authored two books; Hugs for Teens and More Than a Story.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

More Christmas Videos

 A couple weeks ago, Building 429 released a new Christmas song called "Hope Is Here". This song  has a message that is so desperately needed after a year like 2020, and it’s destined to be played every Christmas season for years to come.… 

Rend Collective released some new Christmas videos. The first is a fun upbeat Christmas song that definitely shows their Irish heritage, "Christmas in Killarney" and the second is a great song called  "Today Is The Savior's Day"...

The McClures (Paul and Hannah) released a new EP titled Christmas Morning is a joyous and celebratory collection of Christmas songs that encompass the excitement and beauty of the season. The title song, "Christmas Morning" symbolizes the day the world received the best news it had ever heard, that Jesus, the rescuer was coming. The song "Heaven Is Here" is also a great reminder of that...

Finally, country music artist, Karen Waldrup released the inspirational song, “Mary’s Very First Christmas." I really like this one...

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Bible Thought: Love

Jesus liked the word love. Your whole relationship with Him is based on His love for you … and because of His love in you, it should transform everything you do.  Today, God shows us what He means by everything.

1 John 4:7-13 NLT
Loving One Another

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.

Romans 12:9-21 NLT

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;

    I will pay them back,”

    says the Lord.


“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.

    If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap

    burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

New Music

GRAMMY nominated, multiple American Music Award and Dove Award-winning band MercyMe has debuted their powerful new single, “Say I Won’t” last week.

Hailing from MercyMe’s next album coming spring 2021, “Say I Won’t” was inspired by the story of Gary Miracle, who worked with the band for many years on the road. Miracle lost both arms and legs in January of 2020 after falling into septic shock. His story is one of strength and profound faith, told in part by himself and through imagery in the video.


Chris Tomlin released Miracle Of Love: Christmas Songs of Worship EP earlier this year (Oct 30). Last week, Tomlin premiered the official music video for "Christmas Day" featuring award winning CCM group, We The Kingdom...

Christian pop rock group, Winona Avenue has released its new single “December Night.” This latest single is about feeling lost and distant, until a life-changing experience occurs in which you find somebody that cares about you and what you are going through. You finally find a place in your life that you can call home.

Nashville-based singer/songwriters Ellie Holcomb and Jillian Edwards have teamed up to form a duo - The Dailys. The female duo will release a four-song EP on January 15, 2021. Today they debuted a new single, "Fill This Cup," from the forthcoming EP. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

COVID Vaccine Information

The news lately has been filled with positivity related to vaccines, and hopefully that will continue.  Certainly, vaccine news has been coming fast and furious in the last few days.

Many people have shared that they are a bit nervous about vaccine safety, given the expedited timeframe for development. Here is information to share that might be helpful for anyone wondering about vaccines. While it is from the Minnesota Department of Health, all states have similar information, processes and protocols. 

  • Making vaccines safe
    • Reviewed and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other scientific groups
    • Minnesota Department of Health will only distribute a vaccine if it meets the safety requirements of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a national independent committee
    • A COVID-19 vaccine must meet the same requirements as ALL vaccines
    • Vaccines have led to the dramatic reduction of smallpox, polio and the measles
    • It prevents you from getting sick and/or dying from COVID or passing on the disease to others
  • Who is the FDA?
    • Scientists and physicians with globally recognized expertise in vaccine development, efficacy and safety
    • The agency has regulatory independence for making science-based decisions
  • How is the vaccine tested?
    • First vaccine studies are done on groups with the highest risk for the disease or who will get very sick if they get the disease
    • Next, those who are pregnant or have a compromised immune system are studied
    • Clinical trials are conducted using a diverse group of people that takes into account racial and ethnic differences for ensuring safety for everyone
    • Phase III trials for COVID-19 vaccines have been as large as those for other vaccines, including tens of thousands of participants
  • How is the vaccine being made?
    • None of the early vaccines being tested for COVID-19 are live weakened versions
    • Early vaccine manufacturers include Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson
    • Live weakened versions of vaccines are used for measles, mumps, rubella or varicella vaccines
  • How will the vaccine be distributed?
    • It’s free
    • It’s optional
    • Healthcare workers and emergency responders will most likely receive a vaccine first; distribution beyond that will most likely will include essential workers.

Sources: and

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Lauren Daigle Christmas Concert

Thought I'd quickly share a concert notice with you for tomorrow night... Watch Christmas Under the Stars Starring Lauren Daigle

The most magical time of the year is almost here! And the most magical music of the year is on its way too

On Sunday, December 6, at 7:00 CT, join Grammy winner Lauren Daigle for a seasonal spectacular on BYUtv’s Christmas Under the Stars. In an intimate concert setting, Daigle will greet the holidays with jazz-inspired renditions of Christmas classics and discuss how family, tradition, and service are at the core of her festivities. What better way to get in the holiday spirit than with a new Christmas special from Lauren Daigle! Join the GRAMMY and Billboard Music Award winner for Christmas Under the Stars, a cozy holiday concert on BYUtv, filled with holiday favorites like “White Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland,” Christmas lullabies like “Away in a Manger” and “What Child is This,” and of course her hits “Rescue” and “You Say.” 

Start your Christmas off right with this one-of-a-kind celebration! Catch a special sneak peek of the festive performance below.

PLEASE NOTE:  You will need to download the free BYUtv app to your phone, computer, or smart TV, but it is free and you can find more information and the download HERE. There also have lots of other shows available to stream for free.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Flashback Friday

This week's Flashback Friday takes us back to the 80's and 90's to talk about CCM artist Michael Card. Card was born in Madison, Tennessee. He is the son of a doctor and the grandson of a Baptist minister. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in biblical studies from Western Kentucky University, and was awarded university's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997. His studies in physics and astronomy led to a job at a planetarium, allowing Card to fund his education. In 2005 Card worked on a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Classical Literature.[

Michael Card began writing songs at college, where he would write praise choruses for a local church service. Although pushed to earn his Ph.D. by a professor, he was lured into the recording industry by friends Randy Scruggs and John Thompson, who needed a musician to record for their production company's demos. The record label insisted they produce Card's music as their first project, and his acoustic folk sound appeared from the very start; among his records was 1981's Present Reality, 1987's Life, 1993's Come to the Cradle and 1996's Brother to Brother. In 1998, he returned with Starkindler: A Celtic Conversation Across Time.

Many of Card's albums are structured around a unifying theme. The songs from The Beginning are all based on the Pentateuch. The individual songs have subjects such as Genesis, Leviticus, Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Card is particularly adept at relating difficult or obscure concepts from the Old Testament to more understandable themes from the New Testament. The song "Jubilee" concerns the period of rest and the release from debts and slavery commanded in the Jubilee year as described in Leviticus 25, but also relates to the rest and freedom from condemnation offered through Jesus.

Card's most famous song is "El Shaddai", which was also recorded by Amy Grant. Grant's recording was named No. 326 on the RIAA's list of 365 Songs of the Century in 2001. Other popular Card songs include "Immanuel," "Joy in the Journey," and "Heal Our Land." "Heal Our Land" was commissioned as the 1993 National Day of Prayer's theme song...

Despite his success in music, Card has always maintained that his music career is secondary to his calling as a Bible teacher. He has distanced himself from the CCM industry by criticizing the promotion of personalities over musical content and the shifting emphasis away from God to sell more albums.

Michael Card is the author or co-author of twenty-two books. He originally started writing as a way to share the knowledge he accumulated while researching his songs. He found his studies were too in-depth to condense everything he had learned into one short piece. The books that resulted from album research bear the same titles as the albums. He then branched out to other subjects not specifically based on his music, such as the Gospel of John, homeschooling, and Christian discipleship and mentoring. In 2014, Card completed the Biblical Imagination Series, a four-volume set which takes a deeper look at each of the gospels and the voice of the writers behind them. He followed up on the Biblical Imagination Series next by releasing a new book (and album) on the subject of the Hebrew word חֶסֶד (ḥesed), an idea which he first explored in his two books on lament (A Sacred Sorrow and The Hidden Face of God). The book is about the bibliography of the word throughout the Old Testament, and how we can start to understand this word that is so often used to describe God and cannot be precisely expressed in the English language by the context in which it is used.

Thursday, December 3, 2020


 It is Advent time again... The Advent season is a four week period before Christmas that celebrates the anticipation and coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The origin of "advent" is from the Latin word adventus which simply translates "coming" or "arrival". Not only is the Christian meaning for preparation and celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ, his birth at Christmas, but also to celebrate the new life when someone accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, and lastly, the anticipation of Jesus returning again. 

There are beautiful and rich traditions behind the celebration of Advent. Let's take a deeper look at the focus and themes of each week of Advent and some of the traditions celebrated around the world during the Advent season. May you find time to slow down this Christmas season, say "no" to the things that distract you from Jesus and say "yes" to the gift that God wants you to experience.

The four Sundays of Advent each have a specific theme or focus. The purpose of each theme is to spend time reflecting on the true meaning of the season - the life of Jesus Christ. The goal should be to come before God with a sincere heart and to worship Jesus Christ. To help the observation of these weeks, many churches led their congregation through Advent Readings. This tradition includes the reading of Scriptures that reflect the theme of each week. Whether in a traditional church or at home with your family, these Bible verses are a great way to reflect on the promise of the Messiah both yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Week 1: Hope (or promise)
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7:“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned...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. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

Week 2: Faith (preparation or waiting or prophecy)
Isaiah 40:3-5: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’”

Week 3: Joy (or peace)
Matthew 2:10-11, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

Week 4: Love (or adoration)
John 3:16-19, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a mission for children created a wreath out of the wheel of a cart. He placed twenty small red candles and four large white candles inside the ring. The red candles were lit on weekdays and the four white candles were lit on Sundays.

Eventually, the Advent wreath was created out of evergreens, symbolizing everlasting life in the midst of winter and death as the evergreen is continuously green. The circle reminds us of God’s unending love and the eternal life He makes possible. Advent candles shine brightly in the midst of darkness, symbolizing and reminding us that Jesus came as Light into our dark world. 

The most common Advent candle tradition, involves four candles around the wreath. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Each candle represents something different, although traditions vary. Often, the first, second, and fourth candles are purple; the third candle is rose-colored. 

We can ask God to prepare our hearts the way He prepared all of history to receive the gift of His Son. Ask the Father to use this time during Advent to cut away the distractions and make our lives a place of warmth and openness. God can help us make sure there's "room at the inn" of our hearts this year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Bible Thought: Evangelism

Being a Christian is not just about me and God. Jesus came to earth to redeem all people. In today’s reading, watch Jesus reach out to someone who feels alone.  What does this person (and His disciples) need to hear? 

John 4:1-42 NLT
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman

Jesus knew the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John (though Jesus himself didn’t baptize them—his disciples did). So he left Judea and returned to Galilee.

He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”

But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”

“Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.

Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

Many Samaritans Believe
Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.” 

For today, we should ask ourselves, "Who can I reach out to with Christ’s love?"