God is at work in human history even if his ways are confusing—this is one lesson of Advent.
The prophet Isaiah said that God, who had made a covenant with Israel, was at work even though the nation had sinned and would enter exile. He who had created the heavens and earth, and gave breath to people, would bring forth his Servant: “My servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations” (Isaiah 42:1-5). Continue reading Advent: A Promise of Light and Freedom →
Back in the early 1990s, when I began serving as a youth and young adult minister, a young woman from the congregation told me that she was dreading the approaching Christmas season. All the glitter, all the songs of joy and peace, all the smiling faces—she just couldn’t get into it. “I hate Christmas,” she said. Continue reading When Christmas Feels Like a Barren Desert→
WINNIPEG, Man.— At the beginning of the month of February 2019, Crestview Fellowship Church experienced two prominent events. One of them brought the community, congregation, and youth group together to enjoy an evening full of fellowship on Feb.1, 2019. The event was held on a Friday night, starting at 6:30 p.m., where we were able to enjoy a tasty taco dinner before we settled in for a movie in the sanctuary.
I Can Only Imagine was the movie being viewed that evening, and it definitely brought some interest in from the community. Crestview Fellowship loves these events for reasons of outreach and, fortunately, God’s hand was at work again with another successful opportunity. Without the thought and time put in from the volunteers, these types of events would not be possible. The church is very thankful for the working hands and willing hearts within it; they truly go the extra mile.
The second event was on Feb. 3, 2019, where we celebrated with the Triskle family, as they committed their second baby to raising them in the love of Christ. The church is eager to watch baby Allistair Triskle grow in his faith, as we will be supporting him, whether that is through prayer or helping out with Sunday School. The future of Crestview Fellowship Church is continuing to strengthen as we watch our family grow and use their gifts to benefit our Lord’s kingdom.
CFC enjoyed many Christmas blessing and outreach events during December 2018. Three of the many highlights this Christmas included Christmas hampers, the L.O.F.T. Christmas party, and the second annual Christmas Eve service and potluck.
This year Crestview blessed nine families with a Christmas hamper. The church was very generous and the hamper assembly and deliveries were able to run smoothly.
The L.O.F.T. stands for Living Our Faith Together, where youth from the church and around the community meet on Friday nights, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., and study God’s Word and enjoy playing exciting games. The L.O.F.T. Christmas party consisted of delicious homemade pizza, surprising youth leader trivia, extreme white elephant gift exchange, tasty sugar cookie decorating, and a game of capture the flag in the dark. The youth that attend are grateful for an awesome and welcoming Friday night every week.
The Christmas Eve service and potluck was another year of outreach success with many smiles of members and visitors enjoying each other’s company and sharing in joy of our Saviour’s birth. The message was called, “Is He the One?” Our eyes were opened to seven of the many prophecies of the coming of the Messiah, in the Old Testament, being fulfilled many years later. We can all trust in God’s Word and celebrate His faithfulness this year. Pastor Darrel Guenther challenged everyone, “He is the One. Is He your Saviour?”
On Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, Crestview officially welcomed Adam Schmidt has our youth pastor. Adam Schmidt grew up in the Crestview Fellowship community, and many in the congregation have watched him grow and express his faith in Jesus Christ. Adam has a servant heart that is always eager to help and encourage. He went to Steinbach Bible College where he learned a lot about himself and God through four years.
Connecting with youth, both inside and outside the church, is something that is so important to Adam and his efforts in these relationships are evidently huge and so cool. Adam connects through his own experiences, whether it’s on the court or reality. It’ll be exciting to see how God uses Adam as he serves as youth pastor in the Crestview Fellowship community.
On Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, Crestview enjoyed reaching out to the community with a free sale and free breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m. The church had been collecting items for the free sale since early spring; therefore, we had endless things to share with the community. From boots to books, from couches to pouches, we had it all. The breakfast was served: orange juice, hot coffee, fluffy pancakes drizzled with maple syrup, and savoury sausage, all cooked right in front of the community. This outreaching event touched the hearts of many, both the ones serving and receiving.
What a joyful message filled with excitement and hope. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!
I can still remember, as if it were yesterday, singing that song as a little boy during one of our Sunday School Christmas programs in church. Mrs. Dyck made sure that when we got to that “Go Tell It” we were all nearly shouting at the top of our lungs. We had no fear. We sang with all our hearts and voices and didn’t care if we were out of tune. Our excitement was all that mattered.
What Happened To The Excitement?
Somehow we got to a place in our lives where we don’t get as excited about Christmas as we once did. We don’t get as excited about Jesus’ birth as we once did, and Christmas has become a time when we focus on our families and church families. It has become a rather private time of celebration.
Perhaps this is at least in part because of the move in society away from the religious aspects of Christmas and even the avoidance in society to speak the phrase “Merry Christmas” replacing it, instead, with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” or the infamous “Merry X-mas.”
Why is it Offensive?
The attack on Christ is not an attack on Christmas. Society doesn’t care whether we celebrate Christmas or not. Society doesn’t care whether we believe in Jesus or not. People say that using the word “Christ” is somehow offensive, and I have never understood why. What is so offensive? Is it offensive to believe that Jesus was a real person who lived roughly 2,000 years ago? To believe that Jesus taught that we should love one another?
Is it offensive to believe that Jesus lived a life without sin? To believe that Jesus modeled a way of life that is worthy to be imitated? To believe that Jesus was crucified and that God raised Him from the dead? To identify one’s self as a person who believes these things? To offer expressions of good will to others in the name of Jesus? There is nothing offensive in the words “Merry Christmas.”
They Don’t Know What It Means!
I think I have figured it out. We refer to “Jesus Christ” as if those were His first and last names, but Christ is not an actual name. No wonder society finds the phrase “Merry Christmas” offensive. People don’t understand what it means.
The King of Kings
Christmas celebrates the birth of the King of Kings. The Bible says that some day God will establish His Kingdom on earth. His Kingdom will be a perfect Kingdom. Nations will no longer fight against nations. Peace will exist throughout the whole earth. There will be no more disease, violence, corruption, injustice, suffering. The lion will lay down with the lamb and the whole earth will be like paradise. This coming Kingdom will be ruled by “the Christ.”
And as Christians, we believe that Jesus is that “Christ.” He is the coming ruler of the Kingdom of God. And although He was born, lived His life, died and was raised from the dead those so many years ago, we as Christians believe that He will one day return to set up the Kingdom of God as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
If you look at the teachings of Jesus, the one thing He said more than anything else was “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Mark 1.15 calls this “Kingdom of God is at hand” message, “the gospel.” And, in general, society has not heard this “gospel.” Society has not heard that God will someday turn the earth into a paradise.
He is Also Our Saviour
When God created Adam, the first man, God was making a promise. You see, the word “Adam” is spelled in Hebrew with three letters alef, dalet, and mem. The prefix letter alef means “I will” and dalet and mem together mean “bleed.”
Was it by accident that when God created Adam, the first man, the letters used could be interpreted as “I will bleed”? Is there a hint here of a promise that some day Jesus would shed his blood for us in order to pay the penalty for our sins? I think so.
Not only is Jesus the King of Kings, He is also our Saviour. Christmas celebrates the birth of Immanuel, God Incarnate—the God who bled on our behalf in order to save us from our sins.
What an Amazing God!
The only true, all-powerful God, the Ruler of the Universe, the God of all compassion and mercy, left Heaven and was born in humblest of circumstances. He lived with us as one of us and showed us by being the way, the truth and the life. And we have come to know Him, and He has come to live within our hearts. What a reason to celebrate!
Good News of Great Joy for all People!
These are the words the angels spoke to the shepherds in Luke 2.10 and the angel went on to say: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”
The birth of Jesus: our Saviour, the Christ, the One Lord God Himself in the flesh. The most important birth in eternity—and that’s a very long time. There will never be a more important birth. What a reason to celebrate!
To loosely paraphrase Isaiah 9.2, there are people who are living in darkness and they are desperate for light. The darkness has spread over the whole earth and people everywhere are longing for relief from their suffering, distress, and hopeless despair. And we have the message they are waiting to hear.
We have the message of light and hope for the world. And how will they hear if we don’t tell them? Romans 10:13-14 says, “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone telling to them?”
God has placed us where we are right now, at least in part, because there are people around us who are waiting for us to tell them the Gospel. So have no fear. Shout and sing with all our hearts and voices. This joyful message is filled with excitement and hope. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.
James Regehr has served as a pastor, including at Treesbank Community Church, and as the host of a Christian radio program. He lives in Yorkton, Sask., with his wife BettyAnn, and is shown here with his service dog.
What if Christmas were cancelled? What would you do?
When Jesus was born only a few people knew who he was. The shepherds knew because the angels told them. The wise men knew because they studied the stars and a new star had appeared. This meant a new king had been born. King Herod knew that if Jesus was a king he was in trouble. He felt threatened that Jesus would take his place. King Herod was so afraid he decided to kill all baby boys just to be sure Jesus would not grow up and would not become king.
But Jesus escaped. Mary and Joseph bundled him up and left Bethlehem. They went to live in Nazareth where no one recognized him. Jesus was safe for now.
Jesus was not ordinary. When he grew up he taught the people about God and that he was God’s Son. He healed the sick and raised them up to live again. People followed him because he gave them hope. When the synagogue leaders saw how popular he was they were very angry. They accused him of blasphemy, lying about being the Son of God, and they killed him. It was a dangerous time for his followers and many went into hiding.
For 300 years the Roman government punished the Christians for not worshipping the Roman gods. One was Sol, the sun god.
In AD 0312, after Jesus was born, Constantine 1 became the new emperor. He worshipped Sol, the sun god, too. One day he was on his way to fight a new battle. On the way God showed him a vision. When Constantine looked up at the sun he saw the shape of a cross over the sun, and the words, “with thissign you will conquer.” He won the battle. Constantine immediately turned to the true God and became a follower of Jesus, and he changed the laws. Christians were no longer punished for believing only the one true God. The Christian church grew and for the first time Christmas Day became a holy day, a holiday, and was celebrated with family and friends. Together they shared feasts and gave gifts to each other.
For several hundreds of years the celebration of Christmas spread from country to country. Celebrations lasted for 12 days from December 25 to January 6. It was a time of feasting and happiness. People decorated their homes with evergreen branches and sang carols. Christmas Day became the most important day of the year.
After a time, in the 1600s, the Puritans, a strict group in the church and in the government, believed the people were celebrating too much. And so they cancelled Christmas. Now celebrating was against the law.
Many years passed. In 1843 a man called Charles Dickens wrote the play, A Christmas Carol. The play tells the story of families celebrating Christmas together, taking care of each other and sharing with others. It is a story of joy and happiness. The play was an instant success. Everyone loved it. Once again the people began to celebrate Christmas.
Today we have the whole story. We celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth. We know he is the promised Messiah. We know that he died and rose again. We know that he will return for us. “I will come again,” he promised, “and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” This is why we celebrate Christmas.
Read Luke 2: 1 – 14, and John 14:1 – 6.
Activity: Make a mason jar table centre.
Need: 1 small mason jar, I pint size
3 or 4 pieces evergreen branches, each 8 cm long
½ cupful of fresh, or frozen cranberries
1 piece of raffia ribbon or jute string, 60 cm long
1 floating tea light
enough water to fill the jar
Do: tie the string around the neck of the jar
Place greenery inside the jar
Add the cranberries
Fill the jar with water to about 2 cm from the top
Place the floating tea light on the water
Use the mason jar candle as a center piece or give as a gift
During this Advent season filled with wars, famines, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other unnatural and natural disasters, we can be grateful for the presence and efforts of the worldwide Christian Church in word and deed—the light of Christ (Matt. 5:12-17).
We can give thanks for Presbyterians in Syria, Copts in Egypt, Lutherans in Finland, Methodists in England, Anglicans in South Africa, Roman Catholics in the U.S., Eastern Orthodox in Russia, Baptists in the Czech Republic, Anabaptists in the Netherlands, Pentecostals in Canada—and the list goes on. The Christian Church ultimately forms a single presence in many countries of the world. We can thank the Lord that his ministries are multiplied.
Yes, each part of the Church is more conscious of what it is doing and less aware of the work done by other parts of the Church. However, the Church worldwide has evangelism, relief, development, and justice activities in needy places by word and deed. For the wider Church and its work, we can give thanks.
Consider, for instance, Pastor Ibrahim Nseir and the Presbyterian congregation he serves in war-torn Aleppo, Syria; they provide hope amid the rubble, as Emily Loewen of MCC at times reminds us.
The light of Christ shines in many places and the darkness will not overcome it (Matt. 5:14-16; John 1:5; 1 John 1:8).