Catching a Glimpse

The first Christmas comes and goes, and most people don’t notice. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and a few others catch a glimpse of what is happening, but they’re just a handful.

Crossroads: Mary’s Song

I loved talking about Jesus as a child and teenager. I tried to share Jesus with my friends. There was a time when a good friend of mine was having a hard time. Her parents were fighting a lot, and their family was struggling. So I shared God’s peace with her. I told her about difficult times that I had been through.

Christmas Card Boxes and Advent Calendar

I always keep my Nativity themed Christmas cards because the children, especially at our school, love to look at them and talk about the Nativity story.

Waiting During Advent

In the Advent/Christmas season, let me encourage you to learn how to wait. I know we don’t want to do that.

Facing Grief, at Christmas and Always

I am neither a nihilist nor a pessimist. For heaven’s sake, I am pastor of America’s home of Positive Thinking. I am, however, a realist. And as such, I have a theory about life. Here it is: Life is not the last five minutes of the movie.

Crossroads: Peace

Peace is a funny thing. We pray for peace in a world full of violence. We pray for peace in times of trouble. We pray for peace in times of stress. We pray for peace in times of worry. And at first glance, we think that peace means that our situation changes. The world puts down its weapons. Trouble ceases. Stress disappears.

Formations 12.19.2021: Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels are everywhere. That’s not a theological statement; it’s just an observation of life in a modern, Western culture in December.

Connections 12.19.2021: A Friend in Pregnancy

Soon after I became pregnant with our first daughter in 2004, I learned that my best friend—already the mother of two—was pregnant as well.

As Slow as Christmas

It was late on Christmas Day; the sun had set and my parents and I were somewhere between Yatesville and Barnesville on our way back home after the day-long celebration of Christ’s birth through the eating of food and the exchanging of gifts.

Crossroads: My Hope is in the Lord

I am a worrier by nature. When things go wrong, I get anxious. When things have the possibility of going wrong, I get anxious then too. So it is comforting to know that the Lord who watches over us doesn’t sleep. God doesn’t get tired. God doesn’t get anxious.

Formations 12.12.2021: God Will Be Our Shepherd

I’ve met—and am related to—a bunch of farmers and others who live in rural communities. But I don’t think I’ve ever met a shepherd.

Connections 12.12.2021: How to Live

Who knows what people expect to hear when they go out to listen to John the Baptist preach. We do know what they hear.

An Invitation to Joy

If we relied on Mark, we would have to stretch to get a story worth a Christmas carol. Mark has no shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, no Mary, no Joseph, no manger, no wise men, no Herod.

Formations 12.05.2021: The Lord Looks on the Heart

What is God doing here? God has sent the prophet Samuel to anoint the new king of Israel. The king will be a son of Jesse from Bethlehem. When Samuel sees Jesse’s son Eliab, he’s ready to call off the search.

Connections 12.05.2021: Completed Love

Wouldn’t you have liked to be there on that long ago day when the Christians of Philippi gathered to hear the letter from Paul that they had just received?

A View from the Pew: Lighting the Advent Wreath

With the exception of that time one of the deacons set the church lawn on fire while trying to get rid of fire ants, I don’t remember much fire at church during my formative years.

DIY Nativity Advent Calendar

If you’ve ever thought of making your own Advent calendar but wondered if it would be too tricky, this is the post for you! Here you can make your own Nativity-themed calendar that can hold candy, small toys, or personalized daily Advent activities.

A View from the Pew: Pancho and the Christmas Play

If you’ve ever performed in a Christmas drama you know the truth of the old show business maxim attributed to W.C. Fields: “Never work with children or animals.”

Crossroads: Love

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t feel loved by God. I grew up in the church, and I remember standing on top of the pew and sharing the hymnal with my mother.

Formations 12.27.2020: Blue Christmas

It’s always good to remember that the Christmas season isn’t always joyful for some of us. Those folks ringing the bells and collecting donations outside your favorite grocery store?

Connections 12.27.2020: The Blessings of the Old

My grandparents have played an enormous role in my life. My mother’s parents worked side by side for years in the tiny town of Woodland, Georgia.

We Need the Hope of Christmas Now

Simply and directly, our world is not what it should be. And the Advent and Christmas season offer the expectancy of what should be.

Pass the Parcel Nativity Story

I wanted a simple, interactive way of telling the Nativity story, as my Sunday group can be a bit lively, so I decided that we would use some of our leftover Christmas cards.

Crossroads: Joy

I have a friend named Joy (she’s one of the 8-year-olds at church), and her name suits her personality. She always has a smile on her face and a radiant attitude.

Formations 12.20.2020: The Honor Christ Deserves

My wife and I got married over my school’s Thanksgiving break one year. I was a newly minted Ph.D., with little as of yet to show for it. We arrived at the hotel before our room was ready, so we gave them our luggage and went out to explore the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Connections 12.20.2020: Faithful to Send Jesus

I thought about opening with these words: “Put yourself in Mary’s place.” But then I realized that we can’t do that.

Crossroads: Peace

dish detergent, water, and food coloring. We started with clear water, and then we began to talk about all the hard things that can happen in life.

Formations 12.13.2020: Rejoice!

On January 1, the new year seemed fresh and exciting. Maybe the new decade would even become the twenty-first-century version of the Roaring Twenties! We could only hope. But March came.

Connections 12.13.2020: God Will Do This

By my count, Paul offers a list of fourteen instructions to the Christians in Thessalonica in verses 12-21 of this week’s lesson text.

Flame: Advent Wreath Craft

We’ve now entered Advent and I was thinking of how families could use the tradition of the Advent wreath at home in a craft and prayer activity. Of course it’s great to have the real candles to light, but here’s an alternative to make and do.

Crossroads: Hope

I saw the Star Wars movies much later than many others. I was in my early twenties before I watched any of them, but when I did, I found a familiar story: of hope.

Connections 12.06.2020: The Waiting Time

Do you like roller coasters? I confess that I liked them better when I was a younger woman. After the most recent time I rode one, it took me a couple of hours to recover from motion sickness.

The Night Before Advent

The calendar gave us an early Thanksgiving this year and it seems like it has been an eon between turkey and Advent. But I am ready for Advent. I need Advent right now. I need it more than I need Christmas.

Connections 11.29.2020: Christian Holism

I recall a day when I was in fifth grade and it occurred to me that I had to go to school for seven more years before I could graduate from high school.

Helping Each Other Grieve

As well as being a joyous time, Christmas can be difficult for people touched by tragedy or loss in the past year. Grief is isolating. While the rest of the world seems to be celebrating, tragedies years and decades old resurface.

Connections 12.22.2019: A Righteous Man

Our lesson text says that Joseph was “a righteous man” (v. 19). We could use more righteous men these days. I say that as a man. I’m allowed to talk about my own kind.

A View from the Pew: ‘Tis the Season for Missionary Speakers

Missionary speakers at church are as much a Christmas tradition as Christmas trees, Advent wreaths, and Nativity scenes.

Coming, a Prayer for Advent

Come to us, Lord Jesus,
in every purple-patterned life,
every wrap of loving arms
in shivering December.

Formations 12.08.2019: Happy Holidays

How many traditions can you name surrounding the birth of Jesus? Some of these traditions are purely secular; others are deeply religious.

Connections 12.08.2019: Privilege

Advent is a good time to consider our privilege and what we need to do about it. This week’s lesson text features John the Baptist.

Flame: Advent Prayer Bags

Lately, I’ve seen a variety of lovely ideas online for helping children and families to get involved with the Advent season. Drawing on some of the ideas I’ve seen, I’ve come up with a little bag of items that will take children through some of the main Advent themes.

Connections 12.01.2019: Being Alert

This week we begin a unit called “Advent and Christmas Goals.” Our lesson text calls us to be ready for Jesus to come again.

Meditations on Mark: Prepare the Way

This is the promise John the Baptist makes in the opening chapter of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t begin with the story of Jesus’ birth. Rather, he jumps into the middle of the story with Jesus already as an adult, ready to begin his ministry. This is the urgency in Mark: The Messiah has come.

Connections 11.10.2019: Getting and Being Ready

I try not to think too much about “the real meaning of Christmas”—the incarnation event, the Word made flesh, the baby in the manger—until just after the fourth Sunday of Advent. Don’t freak out on me.

Advent Devotions: Joy

Merry Christmas! Technically, Advent is over, but as I’ve said before, even though the Christ child has come, in a way, we are still waiting. We wait with hope. We wait with peace. We wait with love. And today, we wait with joy.

A View from the Pew: Hearing the Story

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” aired in 1965, and a generation formed an indelible association with the passage from Luke 2 and the recitation of the Christmas story by the character Linus Van Pelt. Born in 1970, I am definitely of that generation.

Advent Devotions: Love

When I was in junior high school I began going on mission trips each summer to New Orleans. Our youth group would break up into teams and lead backyard Bible clubs in neighborhood parks. We always carried Evangecubes—an interactive tract—with us. One day I was sitting at the bottom of a slide with a little boy who was around 8 years old.

Formations 12.23.2018: Rhythm Saved the World

The fourth Sunday of Advent, less than a few days before Christmas—It’s a time when I often turn from the prophetic hopes of Israel to a single family gathered around a manger. But Paul raises a vision of Christmas that is more cosmic than it is common.