Worship fully. Spend less.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

It is Christmas season. While we may lament the encroachment of a hectic, rushed season that seems to come earlier and earlier, let us not forget that it is a time to be joyous for what those who believe. If we have been made a new creation through Jesus Christ, then we are to actively seek good for those around us, for His sake. I’ve just become aware of Advent Conspiracy, which is a way of putting Ephesians 2:10 into practice during this wonderful time of year.

If we really believe that we are not to be conformed to the image of this world, then we need to rethink how we celebrate Christmas. The idea that we spend less and worship fully is something we can all do well to put into practice.

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‘Santa Claus is a poor replacement for Jesus Christ’

There’s this growing idea that religion is the thing that makes the world an awful place, that somehow if people lived without religion, we would all get along better and be happier. It has been tried throughout history, but it doesn’t help. At this time of year, we even put that effort in the form of a person called Santa Claus. This is what John Piper says about that and how the effort fails to help us:

If there is going to be any salvation at all, there must be a divine revelation. God must reveal these things to us or we perish. We can’t find them out from television or radio or medicine or psychology or art. We learn the truth about ourselves from the Word of God. And once our eyes are opened to the truth that God reveals, then we can see confirmations of it in virtually all the sciences and arts.

Santa Claus and Religion

But if we don’t start with God’s interpretation of who we are, we will be like blind people who go on developing elaborate theories to prove that there really is no such thing as vision, and that color and light and perspective are the inventions pious imaginations projecting onto reality their own dissatisfaction with the dark. “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

That statement is not simply classic Marxism. It is classic American materialism. The difference is that American materialism doesn’t outlaw religion; it imitates it and then uses it. That is the real meaning of Santa Claus.

The true meaning of Christmas—that God sent his Son into the world to save us from our evil hearts of sin (Matthew 1:21), and to destroy the works of the devil in our habits and homes and schools and workplaces (1 John 3:8), and to rescue us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10)—that meaning of Christmas is unacceptable to the spirit of this world. But the impact of the truth of the incarnation is so undeniable after 2,000 years of influence, that the god of this world behind American materialism cannot oppose it outright, but simply imitates it with Santa Claus and a hundred other trappings in order to direct the religious impulses of the masses into economically profitable channels.

Does that mean you sit Christmas out completely? Listen to Piper explain how Christmas Day looked at their house when their kids were growing up:

Click on the image to view the video
Click on the image to view the video

Making sense of Christmas

Click on the image to see the video
Click on the image to see the video

This video, from the folks at St. Helens Bishopgate, asks questions about what Christmas means. If there was ever a time for someone to look into Jesus (like Larry Norman asks), it would be this time of year. Surprisingly, many people don’t think about Jesus at Christmas, but it’s not too late to think about someone and something that’s not tradition or myth, but real history. And this isn’t ancient history, but something that matters for your life right now and every day.

HT: Adrian Warnock

Absolutely free: The best deal this season

I am not a shopper by nature. I love to buy things. I love to go out, find that thing, purchase it and bring it home. But for some, the joy of finding it and finding it a good price almost surpasses the giving. Those are the shoppers. I am related to people like this and I love them.

But this is something that is such a great deal that both the shopper and the purchaser can be completely happy with it. Imagine getting something that will make you completely happy and satisfied for the rest of your life. For nothing. And, if you tried to buy it, you couldn’t afford it because it costs too much.

Yet this is precisely what God offers to us through Jesus Christ. It’s salvation. What did it cost God? Only the most precious thing to him, his son Jesus, who he loves more than anything. What did it cost Jesus? Everything. His life, his close relationship with his father. What does it cost you and me? Nothing. But it is ours for accepting it and believing Jesus is who he say he is.

In the Bible, in Romans 5:8, it says that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. There are no deserving people who receive this gift, only needy people who realize their need. I’m a needy person. And, because I know I got this gift even though I didn’t deserve it, I don’t want to act like I did deserve it. I want you to have this gift, too. I will guarantee you that there is nothing you get this Christmas that will make you as happy or satisfy you as much. Not even close.

Things break, wear out, get old, lose their appeal, become too small, get lost, don’t fit like they used to, get eaten, are spent and need to replaced. The joy is temporary. Salvation in Jesus will save your life (for eternity) and give you a joy that cannot be lost, no matter what happens in this life. I know too many things in this life that make what is supposed to be a happy time an unhappy time for too many people.

This is different. Jesus talked about what he offered and its worth when he said: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44) It’s an offer we all have before us. No one is excluded.

What do you say? Do you want to get something really worth having this year?

New Christmas music: Ten Out Of Tenn

The collection of talented artists who make up Ten Out of Tenn have made a beautiful, fun holiday album. Click on the image to go to the iTunes Store link.
The collection of talented artists who make up Ten Out of Tenn have made a beautiful, fun holiday album.

I love Christmas albums. Just when you think you’ve heard them all something new and fresh comes along to bring a smile to your face. That’s what I like about Ten Out of Tenn and their new album “Christmas.” It’s like getting a box of assorted chocolates. It’s a new treat with each song, and there’s not a chocolate covered cherry in the bunch. (Sorry if those are your favorites! You can have mine.)

Ten Out of Tenn are a talented group of Nashville artists who have teamed up to record and tour together. There are a lot of good things going on in Nashville and it’s been a great idea to have these artists get more exposure for their work through this group.

What do we have here? Everything from the wistful “Cinnamon and Chocolate” by Butterfly Boucher to new takes on old classics (“O Holy Night” by Griffin House, “Little Drummer Boy” by Erin McCarley, “Silent Night” by Katie Herzig and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Matthew Perryman Jones). Those and the clear-eyed looks at the good and not-so-good parts of the holidays (“Raise The Tree” by Trent Dabbs, “Why Are Mommy and Daddy Fighting on Christmas” by K.S. Rhoads and “Christmas Time” by Andy Davis and “Sentimental Christmas” by Tyler James) make this an album that’s easily listenable time and again. It’s not bouncy but reflective, which gives the listener some credit for thinking.

And, of course, for a little spike in the holiday punch, there’s “Santa’s Lost His Mojo,” the most fun holiday song since “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” Jeremy Lister gives it a bounce that will get any party swinging. It will be one song (although not the only one on this top-notch album) that will stick in your mind and merit repeat listens. If this were the kind of music playing in department stores I wouldn’t mind braving the crowds.

All said, this is the kind of compilation that makes you eager to hear the rest of the efforts by these fine artists. You can find this holiday treat at the iTunes Store.

Looking forward with great rejoicing to a Savior, not a president

The Indelible Grace folks have a collection of songs that focus on Jesus called “Your King Has Come.” While this may look to some like a bunch of songs focused on Christmas, it is actually much more:

Your King Has Come is a collection of songs born out of a community of artists. From the contemplative opening chords of Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken’s “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” to Jeremy Casella’s awestruck “Joyful Fire” to Matthew Perryman Jones’ worshipful “O Holy Night,” the album represents the heartcry of the people of God. A cry of rejoicing because a baby has been born to save His people from their sins…and a cry of longing, wanting Him to return soon.

"Your King Has Come" is a collection of songs by Indelible Grace focused on the savior, Jesus Christ.

You can listen to full versions of five of the songs here.