Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’


At Christmas time, we’re used to reading the story of a birth. Just maybe not this birth.

“When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said,“So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez.Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.– Genesis 38:27-30

What a bizarre story found in this tucked away corner of the Scripture. One son waves hello, gets a scarlet thread tied around his wrist, and then disappears. The other son… (continue reading at www.treasuretheordinary.blogspot.com)


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What do you remember about Christmas?  No doubt, there are certain gifts or events that stick out as highlights, but the ingrained memories are found in the rhythms Christmas brings to our homes.

In our fast-paced, ever changing, highly disposable culture, we are finding fewer opportunities to establish family traditions.  Christmas, however, stands as an anchor, rich in heritage and overflowing with possibilities for every home to establish their unique pattern of memories.

Christmas traditions allow us to maintain a proper perspective on the meaning of this precious season, even in the madness of our holiday shopping and schedules.  Christmas traditions allow us to slow down and take a reflective pause, before we clutter our floors with ripped-up wrapping paper and empty boxes.  Christmas traditions allow you to give your children more than a gift each year, but a memory–a memory they, in turn, can pass on to their children.  Christmas traditions give your home a heritage.

It will be up to your family to determine which traditions you establish in your home, but I recommend you not neglect two basic essentials.  I encourage you to ensure that your Christmas traditions are designed to honor the gifts that are given at Christmas time.  First, honor the gift of Jesus every Christmas morning.  Before a single present is unwrapped, allow time for the Bible to be opened.  Read and remember the nativity story each Christmas morning.  Second, honor the gifts given to one another every Christmas.  Encourage your children to slow down, only allow one gift at a time to be opened, make sure appreciation is expressed to the giver of each gift, and do not allow anyone’s generosity to be lost in the mountains of wrapping paper accumulating in your living room.

The Christmas traditions of the von Atzigen house include:

  • We always wake up in our own home on Christmas morning.  We will travel all throughout the holidays, but Christmas morning is uninterrupted and undistracted.  It is our family moment.
  • Not a creature stirs before 7:00 a.m.  This builds anticipation and allows mom and dad to recover from their late night of “some assembly required.”  Too many Christmas mornings get lost in early unwrappings and the ensuing crabby sleepiness.  And the thundering of the herd as they break into our room at 7:00 has become a beautiful Christmas morning sound, as well!
  • The Christmas story comes before the gifts.  We circle up as a family to read the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20).  We follow the Christmas story by receiving Communion together.  We use a slice of bread and sparkling apple cider for our Christmas Communion elements, and we always drink from the finest stemware we have in the house.  We follow Communion with a chocolate mint as we remember Psalm 34:8 and “taste and see that the Lord is good!”
  • Finally, we make our way to the stockings and the gifts.  Mommy directs traffic as gifts are opened.  We make certain the giver of each gift is recognized and gifts are opened one at a time, as we pause with each present to celebrate the groovy things each person has received.

There are many more traditions you can establish, many more ways of making Christmas morning a worshipful experience.  I pray that your home will find a way to give more than great gifts this year — but, to establish great memories for a lifetime.

What about your family?  I would love to hear some of the special traditions you have established in your home to make the most of the beauty of Christmas.

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A Collection of MondayMorningReview Christmas posts:

On The Radar

Our youth will be rocking in the New Year at the Red Letter Rock Fest in Snyder, Texas, this December 31.  Check out the Salvage Yard website for more details.

You Heard it at EFC

Been trying to remember one of those awesome songs we sang?  Here is our worship list from yesterday for those of you who just absolutely need a copy for yourself.  You can usually find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. “O Come All Ye Faithful” traditional version
  2. “Desert Song” by Hillsong
  3. “Let Heaven Shout Jesus” Culture version
  4. “Wonderful Maker” Jeremy Camp version 

Family Connection

Check out these resources to connect with our ministry to children and youth.

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, December 26, Pastor Eric will present the fourth message in our “Christmas – The Divine Gift Exchange” sermon series.  The service will close with a special activity for families, so don’t miss this meaningful morning.

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Have you ever noticed God likes shepherds?  Over and over again, He shares his heart with them.  First, there’s Abraham.  Then Moses.  Then David.  Then the shepherding prophets.  And finally a group keeping watch over their sheep on a hillside over 2,000 years ago.

Ever wondered why God seems to favor this occupation when He’s looking for someone to reveal His plans and thoughts to?  Maybe it’s because their heart looks a lot like His.  He is, after all, a very good shepherd.  And if you’re wanting to “be about your Father’s business,” then He’s called you to be one, too.

Here’s a few shepherd pointers:

  1. Shepherds protect.  At all costs, they are ready to lay down their life for the sheep.  Are there sheep in your life you need to protect?  Maybe you need to evaluate the state of your flock and see if an enemy has come into the fold that needs to be expelled.
  2. Shepherds pursue.  No matter what the lost sheep has done or not done, the shepherd goes after it.  It’s unconditional love, and it can hurt to give, but sometimes it’s the only way to see sheep returned to the fold.  Have you written someone off as a lost cause?  Go after them with the love of a shepherd.  Even if the only way to pursue them is with prayer, it will be worth it.
  3. Shepherds proclaim.  Yep, they spread the good news.  And what good news you have for those around you!  When’s the last time you shared with someone the love God has for them?  The Great Shepherd is counting on you to share his heart with the “sheep” he brings into your life.

Don’t fall asleep on your watch.  Just like some shepherds 2,000 years ago, there’s joy in the Heavens when you hear the word of the Lord and obey it.

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In an unprecedented show of unity and church leadership the elders of Emmanuel Fellowship Church get their groove on as they wish you a very Merry Christmas.

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Yesterday, we lit the “Bethlehem” candle for the second week of Advent.  It’s the week we remember the faith of Mary and Joseph—and what faith that was!  Is easy for us to forget how impossible the word was they were asked to believe.  And not just believe, but act on.  And not just act on, but be ridiculed for.  After all, no one was really prepared for God’s plan.  No one expected an unwed teen girl to give birth to the Messiah.  No one expected the Savior’s earthly caregiver would be a poor carpenter.  No one expected the King of Kings to be born in a stable amongst the barn animals.  And no one expected the Lord of Lord’s welcoming committee to be a group of rag-tag shepherds.

But, Mary and Joseph heard the word of the Lord.  They took it in, let it change them, and obeyed it– even at great personal cost.  And the beautiful thing is it was their very obedience that paved the way for their own salvation.  The manger made the resurrection possible.

God hasn’t asked you to give birth to the Christ in a stable, but He’s definitely asked you to do something.  And it’s probably something you weren’t expecting.  How do I know?  Because He’s not a tame God.  His ideas are wild, adventurous, and beautiful.

How will you respond to His word over your life?  Will you take it in, let it change you, and obey?  One thing’s for sure.  You’ll never experience the glory of resurrection in your life if you’re not willing to undertake some manger experiences.



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The thought of a pastor having a pastor can be hard for some people to grasp, but it seems like the most natural and appropriate relationship in the world to me.  It was a joy to host Pastor Scott as our guest yesterday.  For more than 13 years, I have looked to Scott as a pastor, mentor, and friend.  I am thankful for his leadership and wisdom, and I was excited by his message from yesterday.

As you are aware, Emmanuel Fellowship is a non-denominational church.  But, that does not mean we are un-connected, anti-relational, or non-dependent upon the influence of others.  Our local congregation is autonomous in that decisions affecting our church are made by our local leadership, but we have chosen to live by the Biblical principles we teach.  In a practical sense, this means that we as a congregation tithe ten percent of our income into ministries and missions around the world, and our leadership seeks out godly relationships and accountability.  I hope it is encouraging for you to know that your pastor has a pastor, and your pastor’s pastor has a pastor as well!

The primary framework for our church’s relationships comes through an organization called Summit Ministries International.  SMI is a connection of churches and ministries who have banded together to tend to the basic needs of ministers and ministries.  SMI provides an avenue for fellowship, vision sharing, cooperative mission endeavors, continuing education, and church assessments.

The point that I want you to consider is that no man and no church is an island.  Though each of us carries the final accountability for our actions, we were designed to live in relationship.  Each of us, pastors included, needs the benefit and the blessing of connecting with a spiritual vision larger than our own.  It is my sincere prayer that Emmanuel Fellowship Church is more than a place for you to attend.  I pray it is a ministry you can connect with.  I pray it is a place where fellowship, vision sharing, mission endeavors, education, and personal growth can occur in your life.  I know it is occurring in mine!

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  1. I am thankful to be part of a team of ministers who are amazingly energetic, passionate, and creative.
  2. I am thankful to be part of an elder board that is wise, prayerful, and hands on.
  3. I am thankful for an army of EFC volunteers who love children, greet, welcome, usher, serve communion, and work hard to make every church gathering a joy and a success.
  4. I am thankful for the building renovations this year that have given us room to grow.
  5. I am thankful for those who gave their hearts to Jesus this year.
  6. I am thankful for the weddings I was able to officiate this year.
  7. I am thankful for the healing we have experienced this year.
  8. I am thankful to serve on staff with my best friend, my wife.
  9. I am thankful to be where I am, doing what I am doing, and for the people I get to do stuff with!
  10. I am thankful that 2011 will be even better than 2010.  The best is yet to come!


If you need more encouragement to be thankful in the big things as well as the small things in life, check out www.aholyexperience.com.  Blogger Ann Voskamp has a ministry of exhorting her readers to gratefulness.

Wanting to make an Advent wreath to mark the season?  How about Scriptures to read and prayers to pray with your children as you light the Advent candles?  Check out one mom’s ideas at http://www.amazingmoms.com/htm/christmas_advent.htm.




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We asked quite a few “why” questions yesterday as we contemplated the birth of our Savior.  I hope and pray the message gave you some good thoughts to consider.  The purpose and plan of God to offer His Son as a sacrifice for mankind demonstrates to us that Jesus truly is THE way to salvation, not simply a way to salvation.

Another “why” we encounter during the Christmas season is the question, “Why do we have a Santa Clause?” 

It’s a very good question.  Who is the big guy in the red velvet suit anyway?  And does he prefer milk or Coca Cola with his cookies?

It is my humble opinion that Santa Clause never intended to hijack the meaning of Christmas.  If anything, the meaning of Santa got hijacked somewhere along the way.

I invite you to read my historical fiction account of “A Christmas Without Options” and discover what history and tradition tell us about the real significance of that jolly old soul.


Click here to listen to Pastor Eric’s message “God’s Perfect Sacrifice.”


In yesterday’s message we listened to the song “Such a strange way to save the world” by 4 Him.  Click the title for a reprise.

Parents — don’t forget to head over to the WorldChangers page to access ways to connect Kid’s Church to your kitchen table.

On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule

I am looking forward to our children’s Christmas pageant next Sunday.  They have been working very hard to present the beauty of the Christmas story to us.  I love to catch the whispered hums of my little ones as they rehearse their songs throughout the day.  We will also be distributing a Christmas gift to all of our congregation this Sunday—something the worship team has been hard at work on for a month now!

This is going to be a very special morning for us as a church family.  I hope you will invite your family to experience this wonderful day with us.  And, please be in prayer for Pastor Lolo as she works with the children to put the finishing touches on the pageant this week. 

  • Wednesday, December 16 – Hayride, Caroling, & Chiminea Christmas Party — Leave from the church at 6:30.  Click here for more details.
  • Saturday, December 19 – Ladies’ Cookie Swap & Ornament Exchange.  Click for instructions.
  • Sunday, December 20 – Children’s Christmas Pageant
  • Wednesday, December 23 – No Church Activities
  • Sunday, December 27 – Last Sunday of 2009
  • Wednesday, December 30 – No Church Activities
  • Thursday, December 31 – New Year’s Night of Worship — and talent show!  Email me at efcsweetwater@aol.com to sign up.

Revelation Bible study this Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in my office.  Everyone is welcome to join in, just bring your Bible and a lunch box.  Keep up with the progress at The Watchman’s Gaze.

The Drum Circle will be getting back on rhythm in 2010.  Drop me an email if you are interested in learning to play hand drums.

You Heard it at EFC

Been trying to remember one of those awesome songs we sang?  Here is our worship list from yesterday, for those of you who just absolutely need a copy for yourself.  You can usually find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. “O Come, Let Us Adore Him”
  2. “I’ve Found a Love” Bethel Live version
  3. “I Adore You” Jesus Culture version
  4. “How He Loves” Kim Walker version

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, December 20, is the fourth and final Sunday of Advent.  Come celebrate with us as our children lead us in their Christmas presentation!

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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. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:4-7 NIV)

Photo: Aschwin Prein

“Because there was no room for them in the inn” is one of the most recognizable phrases found in the Bible.  It is quoted in Christmas pageants and family Bible studies all around the world as the celebration of the birth of Jesus approaches.

What do we know about that inn in Bethlehem?  Does the Bible have anything else to say about the humble sight that would welcome the King of Heaven to dwell on the earth?  Who did it belong to?  When was it built?

If you turn back in the pages of your Bible, you find a curious reference in Jeremiah 41 to a place in Bethlehem in which some travelers made a stop while they were fleeing to Egypt.

… And they went on, stopping at Geruth Kimham near Bethlehem on their way to Egypt to escape the Babylonians … (Jeremiah 41:17-18 NIV)

It is an interesting reference to a little known location near Bethlehem that has no bearing on the story being told in Jeremiah 41.  Like so many passages of scripture, it is a small nugget planted within the text to shed light on a much bigger picture.

As we study the reference to “Geruth Kimham,” an amazing picture begins to unfold for us.  A picture of blessing and covenant and what can happen when a man chooses to leave his past and walk in relationship with a king.

Geruth Kimham is not a city near Bethlehem, it is a residence that was established near Bethlehem as a place for travelers to find shelter.  The Hebrew words are literally translated as “the lodging place of Kimham.”  We would refer to it today as a hotel, in the pages of the Bible you would find it referred to as an “inn.”

This man, Kimham, who established an inn near Bethlehem, has an interesting appearance in the story of King David.  After the rebellion of Absalom, David returns to Jerusalem to be reestablished as king over the nation of Israel.  David is accompanied on this return trip by many of the men who provided for him when he fled from Absalom to avoid a civil war in the streets of Jerusalem.  One of those men, Barzillai the Gileadite, has a very special place in David’s heart, and David desires to richly bless Barzillai.  We read the account of their conversation in 2 Samuel 19, where we find Barzillai refusing the offer of King David and sending a substitute in his place.

“Your servant will cross over the Jordan with the king for a short distance, but why should the king reward me in this way? Let your servant return, that I may die in my own town near the tomb of my father and mother. But here is your servant Kimham.  Let him cross over with my lord the king.  Do for him whatever pleases you.” The king said, “Kimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him whatever pleases you. And anything you desire from me I will do for you.”

So all the people crossed the Jordan, and then the king crossed over. The king kissed Barzillai and gave him his blessing, and Barzillai returned to his home.  When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Kimham crossed with him.  (2 Samuel 19:36-40 NIV)

Here we find another one of those significant pieces of information hidden away in the details of a story.

King David blessed the man Kimham, whose only right to receive the blessing was that he didn’t say “no” when the invitation was extended.  In a moment in time, when others refused, Kimham said “yes.”

We don’t know what Kimham had to sacrifice to say “yes” to King David, but we can gain an amazing glimpse of what he gained.  Apparently Kimham was given land near David’s home town of Bethlehem.  Kimham evidently established a resting place for travelers who were passing through the region of Bethlehem.  And, it would seem, that a young man and woman, traveling to be counted in the Roman census, would travel to Bethlehem and find no room in the inn.  But, they would seek shelter in the stable behind the inn.  And the King of Heaven would be born in a stable built by a man who’s only recorded action was that he said “yes” at the right time.

The story of the Inn of Kimham amazes me.  It speaks to us on so many levels.  Did Kimham have an ounce of understanding the stable beside his inn would welcome the birth of the Messiah?  Did David perceive his generosity toward Kimham would establish the birthplace of his great, great, great (etc.) grandson?

Do we have even the slightest glimmer of an idea of the power of our acts of willingness and generosity?  Even today, stables are being built all over the world that will welcome the King of Glory into the hearts of men.

Your life, your actions, your “yes” will echo through human history.  May it be a sweet sound in the ears of all who hear. 


Click here to listen to Pastor Eric’s message “Sacrifice and Relationships.”

On the Radar – Church Holiday Schedule

  • Wednesday, December 9 – Lifegroup Christmas Party / Youth Christmas Party
  • Sunday, December 13 – Third Sunday of Advent
  • Wednesday, December 16 – Hayride, Caroling, & Chiminea Christmas Party
  • Saturday, December 19 – Ladies’ Cookie Swap & Ornament Exchange
  • Sunday, December 20 – Children’s Christmas Pageant
  • Wednesday, December 23 – No Church Activities
  • Sunday, December 27 – Last Sunday of 2009
  • Wednesday, December 30 – No Church Activities
  • Thursday, December 31 – New Year’s Night of Worship

Revelation Bible study this Tuesday from 12:00 – 1:00 pm in my office.  Everyone is welcome to join in, just bring your Bible and a lunch box.  Keep up with the progress at The Watchman’s Gaze.

The Drum Circle will be getting back on rhythm in 2010.  Drop me an email if you are interested in learning to play hand drums.

You Heard it at EFC

Been trying to remember one of those awesome songs we sang?  Here is our worship list from yesterday, for those of you who just absolutely need a copy for yourself.  You can usually find them for purchase on itunes.com.

  1. “Joy to the World”
  2. I’ve Found a Love” Bethel Live version  
  3. Freedom Reigns” by Jason Upton  
  4. When I think about the Lord” by James Huey  

Sunday Preview

Next Sunday, December 13, is the third Sunday of Advent.  We will continue our series on Sacrifice by looking at the sacrifice God made on our behalf.

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