Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Emails from Allen (10052011)


I admit it. I was glued to the television as Amanda Knox heard the news that she would be freed from Italian prison. Not guilty. Her reaction was rivaled only by the look she had as she boarded the plane to head home to America. That look of relief, joy, and delight could only be matched by a child at Christmas. Or a cancer patient who just got good news.

My friend, Jack, has fought cancer for two years now. 3 major surgeries, nearly 40 chemo treatments. And he received the news this week that his scan shows an all-clear. At least for the next two months, no more chemo, no more exhaustion. When I saw him yesterday, his face shone like Amanda Knox’s.

Amanda and Jack have both learned a lesson that most humans fail to grasp on a day to day basis. We rarely remember this unless we suffer. Too often, our busy-ness in life causes us to take the most valuable lesson for granted. Here it is: Life is precious. It is a gift. Savor and enjoy each moment. Embrace the people around you. Because you never know when your freedom, your health, or your life might disappear.

Here’s to Amanda and Jack. May they both enjoy the coming days with glee. Through their suffering, they’ve earned it.

Grace and Peace,



Correcting the month Jesus was born


Since we know, with very little doubt that Jesus was actually born 2 years earlier than once thought (2 BC) the question becomes, can we know the real month of his birth? Most would answer: “December 25 of course!”

According to Luke, that doesn’t gel. Luke 2:8 says “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night”. If it were December, the shepherds wouldn’t have been living in the fields. Not exactly warm, outdoor weather. Most likely, Jesus wasn’t born in the winter months. It is also unlikely that Joseph & Mary, being pregnant, would’ve made the 5 day trip in the winter. See the following quote from the Companion Bible (appendix 179).

“Shepherds & their flocks wouldn’t be found ‘abiding’ (or in Greek: agrauleo) in the open fields at night in December (Greek: Tebeth), for the major reason that there would be no grass for the flocks to eat. It was the custom then (as now) to withdraw the flocks during the Greek month Marchesven (our late October-November) from the open districts & house them for the winter.”

Question: How did we end up celebrating Christmas on December 25?

Answer: Early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas. To them, the death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven of Christ was far more important and reason to celebrate. Consider that our holidays are reversed. Easter was the big deal then (and is my favorite now), and Christmas was barely, if at all celebrated. It was not until the 4th century that anyone was interested in celebrating Christ’s birth. The problem they had been that nobody knew the date exactly. There were many ideas of when it was, and this caused a ton of controversy in 4th century Christian church leadership.

In the year 440, during the pagan conversions to Christianity, it was decided that since they celebrated the birth of their “Sun God” on December 25th, that it would be easy to pick that date to make the transition easier to worshipping the Son of God, who is called the “Sun of Righteousness” as in Malachi 4:2.

So, is it then really possible to find the real month? The gospel gives us some clues, indirectly, but most likely intentionally. The gospel hints about the conception of John the Baptist that may help us figure this out. Luke 1:5 tells us that Zechariah was a priest in the order of Abijah. The priests were divided into 24 groups (1 Chron 24:7-19) of which Abijah was the 8th (Luke 24:10). Luke 1:8 says that it was while the Abijah division was on duty that Gabriel visited Zechariah in the Temple. So the question now becomes: When was the division of Abijah on duty?

(immediately continued tomorrow)


Father’s Day weekend


Fathers, how are you spending your time? The following story is my Father’s Day post. This Sunday will also by my very first official Father’s Day, and I find myself more excited than if it were my Birthday + Christmas x 1,000! I can’t even begin to describe the pride and joy that swells up in me every time my son smiles and says “Da-Da”. With that being said, the following was passed on to me, and I want to pass it on to the Dads out there, and even the future Dads as well as the single Moms who have to do the job of both and deserve more credit than I can even imagine.

It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his son and wife. He was working on his future and nothing could stop him. One day he had a chat on the phone with his Mom that went like this:

Mom: Mr. Belser died, the funeral is Wednesday.

~Instantly memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he remembered his childhood days.~

Mom: Jack, did you hear me?

Jack: Oh, sorry Mom, yes, I heard you. It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago.

Mom: Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him, he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over on his side of the fence, as he put it.

Jack: I loved that old house he lived in.

Mom: You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life.

Jack: He’s the one who taught me carpentry. I wouldn’t be in the business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important. Mom, I will be there for the funeral.

~As busy as he was, he kept his word. The night before he had to return home, Jack and his mom stopped by the old house next door one last time. The house looked the same. Jack stopped suddenly.~

Mom: What’s wrong Jack?

Jack: The box is gone!

Mom: What box?

Jack: There was a gold box he kept locked on top of his desk. I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was “the thing I value most.” It’s gone, now I will never know what was inside it.

~Jack flew home and soon after he got home, the mailman came with a package and it required a signature. The package looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. his eye caught the return address – Mr. Belser. Jack opened the package and there was the gold box and a note that read: “Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents to Jack Bennett. It’s the things I valued most in my life.” Taped to the letter was a key. With tears in his eyes, he unlocked the box and inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. He unlatched the cover and inside, he found these words engraved, “Jack thanks for your time, Harold Belser.” The things he valued the most was….. Jack’s time. Jack immediately called his office and cancelled his appointments for the next two days.~

Jack’s secretary Janet: Why?

Jack: I need some time to spend with my son, and oh by the way, Janet thanks for your time.

–Okay Dads, are you using your time wisely? Don’t put off taking every opportunity to spend time with those who love you. I pray today that God will help not only Dad’s, but all of us use our time wisely, and with our loved ones.

God bless, and Happy Father’s Day Weekend,


Teenage Jesus

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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If you read about Jesus to the extent that I have lately, you notice something that for whatever reason, every pastor seems to neglect mentioning. Our savior was indeed a baby that was born in a manger and visited by magi. Our savior was also a thirty something year old man when he began his ministry. One instance that comes to mind of his childhood is when his family could not find him in the city on their way home and found him teaching the priests at the temple in Jerusalem. But have you ever noticed that not long after the birth of Christ, you stop hearing anything about Joseph, his earthly father. This has forced historians to assume he died at a fairly young age or during the massive gap that is left in the gospels of his youth. There is a school of thought that years were counted much differently back then. And that Jesus was actually in his very early twenties during his ministry, maybe even twenty years old when he died on the cross. Either way, Jesus was many things to many people, and in a large family with multiple brothers and sisters of which he was the oldest, he was also a TEENAGER. We learn in the Bible that he was very familiar with the Old Testament, as well as a skilled carpenter. But other than that we must assume he had no formal education. In those days, your education was your trade. You worked as an apprentice under (usually) your father. We also hear a little about his workshop being near their home. So just imagine, being a child, or a mother, and coming home from gathering water at the river or getting fresh crops and meat from the market to walk into your house, put down the things you brought home and walk across the yard to the workshop to find your big brother (and possibly the father figure if Joseph indeed passed away that early on) or your son sawing logs to make a table he got an order for from a neighbor. Or carving a seat of some sort, or a bed. And seeing the smile on his face happy to see you, wiping the sweat from his brow, cleaning his hands and giving you a hug while asking how your day was. Then imagine the time in your life where the realization hit you that you had lived with the Son of God, the Savior of the world, all humanity would one day depend on Him? While I understand the need to deify Jesus in order to teach messages, we must also remember. That as the oldest son, of a single mother, with a very large family to feed. During this recession, keep in mind that even your Heavenly Father once struggled and did back breaking work to feed his family at one time. He went through similar if not worse situations financially than you are. But he stayed faithful to God, and all was provided for at the end of the day. While I love the God-like version of Jesus we learn so much about, I believe it is also important to keep in mind that he was a human just like us and still made the great sacrifice for all of us.


Can “you” trust God?

Dune on Cape Cod near Provincetown

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Trusting God is not always as easy as it sounds. The simple sounding question: “Can you trust God” is actually two questions wrapped in one. The first of which being “can you trust God to be there when you need him most?”  Times like: a miscarriage early or late into the pregnancy, suffering from a depression so bad that it actually puts you out of work and stops you from being able to earn a living for the very family’s finances that have you stressed to begin with, or what about a new parents passing away? These all, sadly have either happened in my family, to me personally, to amazing and dear friends, or members of my church family in just the last twelve months. These all seem like absolute crimes against us, at times, committed by God personally. Ever walked through a children’s cancer ward? But the Word tells us that God gives us the good and the bad both. Sometimes, to us, in seemingly unfair proportions. Take this story for instance.

The man with the majestic castle built on the sands of the most beautiful beach on Earth will eventually see his possessions washed to sea and blown away in the wind. This will happen long before the humble man, living in a one bedroom lower-income home,  built firmly up high on the strong rock foundation. We all know that this metaphor doesn’t mean anything at all about the homes themselves, but is about the actual men. The guy in the castle, envied by his neighbors and peers and viewed as the guy who has it all. While, the meager life of the humble man may lack in material greatness his is built on a strong foundation. A foundation of faith. He may or may not have been blessed the way that the brash, wealthy guy was. But, he never cursed God for his social or financial short comings, or his problematic children. Instead he praised God through the very eye of his life-storm and came out with a better appreciation for the immaterial, important things in life. The legacy of the rich man would be long forgotten by time while the legacy and story of the humble man would go on to inspire billions throughout the ages.

When God puts us in situations where we question God’s presence in our lives instead of giving God the time he wants to show us His way for our lives. Expecting God to give you a reason for every little thing that occurs in your life is insane. He doesn’t serve us, we serve him.

The second question within “Can you trust God” is simply, “Can you trust God?” Do you personally have the ability to let go of your problems and let God take control. We know that He will be there, He is always there. He made YOU, the air you just breathed into your lungs, and all of the knowledge over time that has built the very technology in order for you to be reading this right now.

He created man from the dust, or sand of the Earth. Since that time God has tried to show us that we are to move away from that sandy foundation of our inner selves.  He has given us a Rock to build our foundation on. His only son, Jesus. God wants us to leave that flimsy foundation of sand and instead, build upon the solid Rock. It is your choice. Do you want a legacy of sand, washed to sea or blown in the wind, completely forgotten by history with the exception of a footnote in a wonderful metaphor? Or a family. Built on a foundation that cannot be shaken?

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God Bless, and since I will be taking time away until after Christmas, have a very, very Merry Christmas.



Santa Claus with a little girl

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I sat in the audience tonight and loved every second of not being the one on stage for a change when the music played. Every so often it is nice to feel the music from the other side of the experience of worship. Tonight was all the more different because it was the children’s Christmas musical and it was great. Stacy and everyone involved tonight was great. A few standout performances here and there but every single kid was absolutely great at what they did. The message was clear and the solo’s were just as much. If you’re reading and you had a child involed just know that you are not the only person who was proud of their effort. All of the lugging them to practice most definitely paid off tonight. I saw several new faces, and that is always a great thing. It got me into the Christmas spirit and now I want to see it again, maybe I’ll buy the DVD.

God Bless