Teaching Notes from Believe at Faith Tri-Cities

Have you felt the hurry?  When everything loudly says RUSH RUSH RUSH- like free shipping ends tonight!  You and I must fight back.  No, I’m not advocating a total street mob, but maybe??

I have 3 boys and 1 girl and it can feel like a mob!

Especially now that they are all 15 and above.  They are a riot, a riot I love. And they remind me each Christmas season I need intentionality and a little clarity if I’m going to stay sane.

Dare I say a plan before Christmas gets out of control!

Each time I had a baby I felt like I was forced to get a bit more organized.

And even there I needed a whole lot of grace.  Are there any mom’s here who can relate?

We have been running the marathon from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day.  And today is the water stop along the way.  A chance to catch your breath.

If you are a grandma maybe you don’t feel like your in the same marathon, however how many children and grandchildren do you have?  It’s a marathon of gift giving and beware of the out-of-control Christmas budget!

Without good intentions a budget gets blown.

Lord help us budget our time and our energy.

I have 5 intentions specifically to share with you, so that together we can celebrate and enjoy the time we are given this holiday!

1)Start with your HOLIDAY INTENTION

One phrase.

God with me.

Or one word.

Emmanuel.

I will actually celebrate and enjoy this year.  Rejoice.

I will see the opportunities to help others.   Bless.

I will take my change jar down to the Salvation Army donation.  Give.

I will hand out Taco Bell gift cards to my teens to share a meal with those who might be hungry. Maybe your one word will be SHARE.

What is your intention for this Christmas? To have the best gathering with your loved ones…tomorrow over a cup of coffee take a moment to write it out, create a screensaver on your phone to remind you.

2) BLESS OTHERS

Why? because it feels amazing to be blessed.  You know you have been blessed by the strength you feel afterward.  It feels real.  You feel stronger.

Read the story I shared with Faith Tri-Cities here.

The choice is ours and the opportunity is there look for it.  Just say yes to God.

3) REJOICE, take an opportunity to laugh and play:

I tend to be on the emergency text or call list. Some of you may be as well, if you are a safe person or you are relationally close when tragic things happen, it’s coming your way.  I believe in helping however sometimes I have to set a healthy boundary. I have to be intentional about when I’m investing in my family.

Chose family JOY this holiday.

This means for me if it’s a day on the hill, or out tree hunting interruptions are off limits.  Phones switch to silent.  It’s a all about making joy a priority.  Tell your children stories about the messes they have made over the years take time feasting with family.  Bring joy and laughter where ever possible.  Make them merry often! Hey non-crafty just do it that craft won’t kill you if it makes the kids happy!  Try ice-skating, sledding, or snowman making!  Head out to a nativity, host festive dinner gathering, or take that teen to pick out a new ornament for the tree and their favorite holiday drink.  Christmas prank the playful: the fruitcake re-gifting, or with “yellow snow” coloring write Merry Christmas.  Ugly Christmas sweater contest?!

The options are endless.  In general have some fun and when you are dive in totally.

4) Stay flexible:

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t cancel? Yeah me too!

Plans can change, snow happens, kids get sick. Embrace the adventure.

This lesson was learned the year I should have canceled hosting.  It was the day before and all the pre-cooking was done my three younger all had the 24 hour flu.  I carried on the next day, because no one was throwing up anymore.  Evidence of the chaos had passed.  The only symptoms were cheeks cute and rosy and kids extra cuddly.  The entire family came and ate all the pies and the chocolate tart and snuggled my virus carrying children.

Having a good Christmas felt more like doing than believing.   So I kept doing. 

AND then the text messages, the next day.  Everyone got the 24 hour flu from those darling happy faced kids of mine.  Instead of Montezuma‘s revenge they were calling it Rattray’s revenge unforgettable in every way.

Or the year I made creme brûlée with fat-free half and half.  It’s either memorable for the joy of it or it’s the story your family NEVER let’s you live down. Hahah no one believes that I can truly make crème brûlée.

Another year where we had to stay flexible with perfection.  Jared and I moved right before Christmas and had no tree and barely anything unpacked, no tree stand, so last min Christmas eve we found the best tree of my life to date on a major discount and the tree lot.

The tree was stabilized with white twine by a helpful husband who stapled it to the adjacent walls using two by fours to make a stand he nailed that big beautiful tree to the floor, hahah Transforming this magnificent tree into a less magnificent sight, but the best effort.

For many years we had the kids all grab a costume and dress up to reenact the nativity story on Christmas Eve mainly because we had so many kids cousins grandkids and usually a baby on hand.  And then game changer Jonah entered the scene. That year my son Jonah wanted desperately to dress up in a full blown buddy the elf costume.  Nothing says to the world more loudly I have not emphasized the nativity story like your son in a full-blown elf costume.  And yet he brought so much joy to the room! Jonah has been a symbol of God‘s miracle working power when he was five the Lord healed him have life-threatening seizures. So he can dress in an elf costume and still represent Jesus just fine.

The year we had the smallest apartment and were missing our family, so we hoped in the car only married a year and drove from California to Washington to not miss Christmas.  We needed that human to human connection.  FaceTime wasn’t yet an option, so we pulled a Christmas GAME CHANGER!

And when life does it to you, like the year without my mom for the first time ever, needed some adjustments.  Less demands and more grace.  More help.  I had to believe God would do as He promised “comfort the downcast” “bless those who mourn”.  I begin to embrace the painful aspects of the Christmas story the challenges that they faced rather than romanticizing the events of 2000 years ago.

Mary and Joseph embraced the “lodging challenges” ie the homelessness in Bethlehem and it has become one of the most beloved icons of Christmas, “born in a stable in Bethlehem” demonstrating the humility of our God with those who suffer from poverty.

5) BELIEVE : GOD HAS COME TO HELP HIS PEOPLE, personalize it, God has come to help me. Tell your neighbor God has come to help you. Anticipate God meeting you this Christmas.  Wherever the challenge is, whatever the circumstances.

The phrase comes from Luke 7:15  after Jesus raised a boy to life and gave him back to his mother…they said.  “God has come to help his people.” This news spread about Jesus.

The belief “God is here to help” is so right on!! This is the news we are to expect. Stories of God helping like that older woman in Starbucks.

Not news about the latest drama or the latest failing within society or culture or where our community isn’t enough but rather good news— no matter the current challenges Jesus himself has come to help you. This should be our reputation too!  Any act of helping is evidence of God’s Spirit at work helping us and helping other’s through us.

Believe.  We learn this from children.  They are full of belief and full of hope.  They wake up excited anticipating presents under the tree. The hard part is as adults we often are afraid of disappointment.  We doubt it will all be as great as we had believed.  Consider the name given in Isaiah some 700 years before Christ was born Emmanuel God with us.

We have a powerful and present God who can do beyond all we ask imagine or think.  One who says His plans are for our good and not to harm us, to actually give us a hope and a future.

Believe this Christmas God has a good future for you.

There’s a phrase “Christmas come early” like when everything works out you get a bonus or an incredible turn of events find you really blessed.

In this room right now it can be a Christmas come early moment.

Thankfulness helps us see.  Community helps us see, and in that place of community seeing is believing.

Addie.

When a friend is living intentionally thankful it shows me how.  That good can come out of bad.

Welcome community here. We believe a whole lot better in community.

You may have a friend near you right now that makes having fun look easy.

Or another that is naturally kind, or perhaps there is a teacher that maintains her calm and stays flexible in the midst of a ton of “game-changes”.

All these friends inspire us.  I don’t have to be everything I just connect to another and together we are better.   We are here as a community to help.

And this church is a great place to begin.  A place where you can grow and learn about a vital relationship that makes all the difference.  A relationship with God.  A place where we can expect grace and help like this mom of 4 so desperately needs.

GOD’s HELP is MEANT FOR EVERYBODY. THIS IS THE MESSAGE OF CHRISTMAS. ALL ARE IN NEED OF GOD.

LUKE 2: 8-12 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,

Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.  (shun the shame this Holiday season and say “I please God” knowing the message is for all of us worldwide, only believe)

15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. They said, “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

It will turn out.   And even if it’s a bit different than we’ve planned remember Emmanuel with God is with us. Only Believe!

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