Merry Christmas!

Hello TD! MERRY CHRISTMAS! As we celebrate Christ’s birth, we pray that your hearts are filled with hope and wonder… that the holy God would come down and draw near to us! Incredible. Honor and worship Him today, cuz He deserves it!

Here is a Christmas essay to help you fix your mind and heart on our humble and glorious Savior today. Enjoy!

An Unfamiliar Christmas
By Jill Carattini

If the first chapter of Luke is the preface to a great story—the foretelling of a herald, the prophecy of a child, the return of the throne of a king—the second chapter is the culmination. The Roman world is called to a census. A young couple journeys to Bethlehem to be counted. A child is born. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’”(1)

Christian or otherwise, the Christmas story is often viewed as wonderful in its familiarity, calling forth each year a childhood delight in the monotonous, beckoning our imaginations to a stable and a story. Christmas hymns, full of imagery and story, are piped in as background music at post offices and malls. Manger scenes can still be found as part of familiar Christmas décor. Yet often for those to whom it is all most familiar, it is also a story we can find surprisingly unfamiliar each year. Like children delighting in another reading of a bedtime favorite, the Nativity is somehow still startling in its mysteries, the child still out of place in the manger, the story full of profound paradox.

The first time I walked through the crowded, pungent streets of Bethlehem, I was struck by the disparity between what I was seeing and “the little town of Bethlehem” I had imagined in pageants and songs. The harsh reality of God becoming a child in the midst of the cold and dark world I knew myself suddenly seemed a blaring proclamation: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. There is a plaque of the same words outside the dark and ancient church built upon what was once the place of the nativity. Reading this in the actual Bethlehem, I remember thinking I had never really considered it before: God taking on flesh to live here, with us, in our chaos and fighting and despair.

Upon his conversion, Charles Wesley took to hymn writing as a means of attempting to capture the strange hope of a God among us, which was persistently stirring in his mind. Though a few of the words have long since been changed, one of Charles Wesley’s 6,000 hymns is a widely beloved declaration of the Incarnation. Seeking to convey in pen and ink a Christmas story both familiar to our hearts and startling in its wonder, Wesley wrote:

Hark, how all the welkin rings,
“Glory to the King of kings;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

For Wesley, the Christ child in the manger was forever an indication of the great lengths God will go to reconcile his creation, a savior willing to descend that we might be able to ascend. “Welkin” is an old English term meaning “the vault of heaven.” Wesley was telling the radical story of the Incarnation: All of heaven opening up for the birth of a king and the rebirth of humanity.

The star of Bethlehem, the magi, the shepherds, and the willing child Mary are all amid the long-imagined and inconceivable markers of a God among us. The birth of Christ is the timeless gesture that God has chosen to remain. And Christmas is a time to imagine what it means if the hard cries of a real and unpolished world have really been heard, if a savior was born, if the vault of heaven was truly opened.

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in his wings.
Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

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TD Bible Study – “How Can This Be …?”

Hey TD! The December message and Bible Study are up!

Click here to download:

“How Can This Be…?” Message (mp3)

“How Can This Be…?” Bible Study

We’re trying something new and writing “skinnier” studies designed to prime the pump so you can bring more of your questions and thoughts to your small group for discussion.

Seize the opportunity to study the best stuff on earth, God’s Word! And deepen your relationship in the process!  See you Friday!

– Arthur

The Cosmic Battle: The Testimony of Jesus

Enjoy  and be challenged by the second essay of the Cosmic Battle series!

Amidst the confusion and babble of our day, the testimony of a Nazarene man echoes through history. Claiming to be the Son of God, Jesus Christ, born and raised in the city of Bethlehem, went around the Galilean land to heal the sick, seek the lost, and grant the forgiveness of sins. The religious authorities despised him and, after a betrayal and a series of faulty court trials, Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate. As these two men, God incarnate and a revered Roman governor, came face to face, they shared the most remarkable dialogue.

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

“Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?

Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

“Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” ” (John 18:36-38, emphasis mine) Continue reading

Getting antsy …

Hey TD’ers:

I’m getting a little antsy.  Nearly coming out of my skin, actually.  I’ve been preparing for Friday’s TD message, “How Can This Be …?,” and I cannot wait to share God’s word with you all!  Lot’s of great, great stuff.  I’m not done preparing yet, but the hours I’ve spent in His word this week has been so good already.

Can you all do me a favor and read Luke 1:26-38 this week for me and … well, just think about it?  That’ll really help in getting us all on the same page sooner.  Thanks much and we’ll see you Friday at TD!

Arthur