nightBefore
This season I did a rewrite of the classic “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” for our church’s Christmas Eve Service. I am really proud of how it came out and may even illustrate it for next year, but thought in the mean time I would share it.
Below is the text
AND HERE IS A GRAPHIC OF IT – Click to download it in High Res

‘Twas the night before Christmas – Joel Klampert

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the world,
Man’s minds were cloudy, their hearts were all swirled;
From beginning to end it’s not often told,
This story is new and also quite old;

Our tale begins, of course from the start,
In the garden with Adam and God’s broken heart;
Eve was tempted by knowledge and pride,
While her husband stood passive, right by her side;

The greatest of love is to lay down one’s life,
So why didn’t he act to save his own wife;
Ashamed they stood separated from Love,
Riddled by fears too much to speak of;

Many years go by, many hours are spent,
Mans repair strategy never made a real dent;
Prophets spoke up straight from the Lord,
Truth rang out, a loud hope had roared;

The Father above, a craftsman by trade,
Stared at the gifts that his hands had made
He made them whole, he made them right
Now they lay broken and shattered by night

The misfits were nestled all snug in their sin,
Awaiting redemption soon to begin;
The father and son since the beginning of time,
Had a foolproof plan to right mans crimes;

An angel appeared to a young girl that that day,
Fear not, you have favor is what he would say;
And the peace from the creator poured like an oil,
On the squeaky heart of Mary, faithful and loyal;

She knew she was pregnant, her heart now made whole,
Joseph stepped up, earthly father with soul;
The dark one, now frantic, did all that he could,
To stop the one foretold, who would crush him for good;

In the middle of a field stood the lowest of low,
tending their sheep when the sky starts to glow;
they shook in their sandals, Their eyes open wide,
As an army of angels appeared in the sky;

“I bring you good news” the angel had said,
“you will find him wrapped snug, while resting his head”;
Their voices soared, what a song they would sing,
The shepherds packed up to go find their king;

They hurried to the village to see with their eyes,
astonished, they saw Him, and heard his sweet cries;
The stories they’d tell, sharing with any who’d hear,
That Jesus had come, The Messiah was here!

A few years had passed and some magi had heard,
The prophecies were true and Herod got word;
He sent them all out to seek and to find,
with a ruse that he’d worship with all of mankind;

To bethlehem they would ride, following a star,
which stopped over a home, They traveled so far;
They bowed down and worshiped leaving gifts at his feet,
and left to trick Herod so death they’d not meet;

Mary sat with Gold, Frankincense and myrrh,
silently thinking, it’s all been a blur;
Did she know what would happen, Did she know the whole truth,
Did she trust that God’s plan was completely foolproof?

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature,
Fully God, fully man the Grace dispatcher;
He took on flesh to save mankind’s skin,
God became misfit to free misfits from sin;

From heaven to earth, From manger to cross
He came to seek and save all who were lost;
Hung on the tree mary saw her small child,
was now a man who’s love was quite wild;

Recklessly loving His eyes peppered with grace,
A life must change that looks at His face;
The power of hell could not hold, death would lose,
Our God is alive!! THIS.. is the good news

When you sit with your family, as you unwrap and you eat,
Remember that death has suffered defeat;
We have been given a gift, receive His pure light,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

More Loud and Deep

December 5, 2015 — 1 Comment

bells

I am one of those people that loves the anticipation period of advent and all the symbolism with it even more than I like Christmas itself. Don’t get me wrong… I love waking up on christmas morning at the crack of dawn to race down the stairs and watch my kids have a blast with their new toys as I munch on cinnamon buns and bacon, but.. there is just something about advent that makes my spirit full.

Have you ever tried to truly wrap your head around what it might have been like for the jews anticipating the messiah. Can you imagine your whole life being told that a savior was coming who would put an end to all the governments and people groups that reeked havoc on your people. A season of waiting that had gone on for generations must have felt like it would never come.

They were told in Isaiah 6:9 a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.



They waited in uncertainty for a messiah and it must have been easy to doubt. I can imagine that many would have forgotten to care. The sense of urgency was gone and the complacency with whatever life has dealt them sank in.

Then one day God interrupted time.
For God so loved.. that he sent his only son.
This King of Kings… The son of God. The messiah didn’t come riding on a horse armed to the teeth to save the Israelites.. instead he came as a baby.

Hebrews 2:14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. 16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters,[h] so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

He came as a man to save mankind… to help us so that we would not only share in his suffering but share in his glory. It’s amazing and all together mind-blowing that our God is that loving.

There seems to be a disconnect these days especially when you turn on the news. The world we live in is such a mess. War is all around us and possibly at our doorstep these days. Terrorists are killing people, extremists are targeting Christians, Sex trafficking is huge in Atlanta, Racism looks like it’s 1950 again, there is video of planned parent hood killing babies and nobody blinks an eye… Our world is in outrage over atrocities and we battle it with fear and ranting Facebook posts in a literally limp wristed attempt at justice by the click of a mouse. Cities are getting blown up by people wearing suicide bombs, politicians are parading their lying evil agendas, millions are starving, There is still homeless in our community, Christians battle each other with hateful words and accusations, prejudice and persecution fill our news headlines, we are afraid to go to the movies and we kick ourselves for profiling people because we never know who to be afraid of. Our response once again is sitting on our couches in amazement and fear.

Where is God in all this?


Where is the God of justice in a world of so much pain and injustice?

These days it is hard to truly appreciate the anticipation of advent. It has been described as an expectation of something we know will come much like a pregnant woman in labor… but we want everything now. We want instant gratification… so every year Christmas gets just a little bit closer and every year we complain about Walmart already having their christmas decorations up in sept… but it’s what we want if we are honest. We want it now! 

In the same sense we want the God of justice and mercy to come in and fix everything and we get upset and frustrated without the anticipation that HE WILL when he returns.

The other night after a church outreach prep, my co-pastor mark, and I were in the parking lot and a cop pulled up beside us in the parking lot. It was dark and mark and I were like.. oh man here we go. The cops have met us outside our church many times asking why we were there at 10PM…
This time it was different. He got out and let us know that he has been assigned to help, serve and protect the churches in the area. He shared with us that he is a christian and in a worship team. A really nice kid. Then he asked if we would be willing to go through active shooter training with him.
I have to say that even hearing that line made me uneasy. These are the times we are in sadly. I have been in ministry for 20 years and I have never heard the words “we should prepare for an active shooter situation.”

. 

The enemy comes in like a roaring lion looking to steal and destroy.

So in the mean time… where is God because if I am honest I want to spend this season excited about Jesus and not afraid about our world, but then my social media lights up yet again of another shooting or some other horrible thing that has come from the dark hearts of man.

“While dining at home on December 1, 1863, The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received a telegram that his son had been severely wounded four days earlier. On November 27, 1863, while involved in a skirmish during a battle of of the Mine Run Campaign, Charley was shot through the left shoulder, with the bullet exiting under his right shoulder blade. It had traveled across his back and skimmed his spine. Charley avoided being paralyzed by less than an inch.

He was carried into New Hope Church (Orange County, Virginia) and then transported to the Rapidan River. Charley’s father and younger brother, Ernest, immediately set out for Washington, D.C., arriving on December 3. Charley arrived by train on December 5. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was alarmed when informed by the army surgeon that his son’s wound “was very serious” and that “paralysis might ensue.” Three surgeons gave a more favorable report that evening, suggesting a recovery that would require him to be “long in healing,” at least six months.

On Christmas day, 1863, Longfellow—a 57-year-old widowed father of six children, the oldest of which had been nearly paralyzed as his country fought a war against itself—wrote a poem seeking to capture the dynamic and dissonance in his own heart and the world he observes around him. He hears the Christmas bells and the singing of “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14) but observes the world of injustice and violence that seemed to mock the truth of this statement.” This story Href

Longfellow writes in I heard the bells on christmas day:
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Isn’t that the place we are in sometimes? This world is a mess, our community is broken, christians can be real hypocritical jerks and persecute each other, families are broken, relationships on the rocks, depression… anxiety and fear are devastating and crippling…

It’s one of the reasons why the Church is so important.. because hate is strong, depression is strong and it flies in the face of peace on earth good will to men.

But.. There is jesus..

I was watching interviews with Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Bagdad. He was talking about what it is like to have a church in the middle of a warzone. The US is not there of course, but we can learn a lot about what it looks like to deal with fear by Canon Andrew’s church. He shares about kids who are running away from killers and people who have lost everything. The Christians, when asked how do they deal with the fear and the fact that when they are baptized that the next day they might be killed, respond with these lines:

“when you have nothing…Jesus is everything”

“Yeshua is always with me”

If you are reading this and made it this far I want you to sit on those two phrases and then move on to the rest of this piece.

Jesus… Yeshua… casts out fear.

And the angel said “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel which means God with us.

Where is God? He is HERE! and…
God is not scared of what we are scared of.
God is not bound by what we are bound by.
God is not held captive by our captors
The Creator is NEVER defeated by the creation

Hebrews 11:1 
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Because we know that our God is with us and for us not only can nothing be against us, but we are given a source of hope. Our world has lost hope and is only in anticipation of more evil.
Advent teaches that the hope of the world came…
John 1:1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

The hope of the world, emanuel is with us now
John 1:4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.
He didn’t come into this broken world to put a bandaid on it and leave. He came to be emmanuel, God with us. He came to be the good news that “unto us was born our savior”

And Jesus, our hope will return someday and He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Longfellow finished his christmas song of listening, pain and despair with these lines:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor doubt He sleeps
The wrong shall fail the right prevail
With peace on earth goodwill to men

If you have lived near a church with bells then you know how loud they can be. For Longfellow, they became a deep reminder of hope. I think about all the times I have been in a funk, wrapped in fear or frustration and then I hear a song or read a verse or God speaks to me through a stranger… and the bells of heaven become more loud and deep in my soul reminding me that no matter how I feel: God is not dead.. He is not asleep. Emanuel is with me.

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Church, WE are the light of the world. Jesus gave us life so that we would shine bright for him in the darkness of our community.

As you give food to the hungry or clothe the naked
as you pray for a loved one
as you tell your kids Jesus loves them
As you speak with kindness to your starbucks barista
as you give a coffee and a hug to a homeless person
as you love recklessly
As you do anything for the “least of these”…
YOU become the ringing bells that ring more loud and deep and remind those who could no longer hear jesus or anticipated his presence that He is not dead and he is not asleep.

May our prayer for our world be that the eyes of man would then be opened by the ringing bells of the Body of Christ so that like Jacob people would say
“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”.

Double Book Review

December 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

The Carols of Christmas
By Andrew Gant

I was very excited to get this book because I think these days there is a disconnect with the songs we sing and understanding why they even exist in the first place. It showed up at my door at a time when I was doing a sermon series at my church on the correlation of christmas carols to the gospel and this was very helpful. This book has a nice feel and has a good number of songs. Of course it can’t cover all of them but I did feel there were a few obvious ones like “i heard the bells on christmas day” that were missing. However that could just be my hang up.
The author is a professor and church musician and sadly this comes across as more of a text book in some ways. With that said it is chock full of interesting facts and connections. I think for those who are not passionate about history and music and maybe looking for a light story read, it may be a bit of a bore. For people like me it was quite enjoyable and I am glad I got this.
3 of 5 stars

———

The Miracle in the Middle
Finding God’s Voice in the Void
By Charlotte Gambill

In the middle…
When you are tired and stuck in the valley.
Sounded like the book to me. I had been through times of burnout in life and ministry and spent a lot of time researching and studying this topic. I loved Charlotte’s creative example of being on a trip with kids and them asking constantly “are we there yet”. Being a dad with 4 kids, this hit home for me.
I think this is fantastic book and what I loved most about it is that it doesn’t give you all the answers. It leaves room for not only the mystery of God but for the reader to have to use their brain and pray through the content.
This is not a quick read. Not because it’s a long book but instead because each chapter really needs to digest inside.
Seems to be a trend, but this book spurred on a sermon that I preached about being stuck in the middle between a promise and the promised land. I applaud any author who has the guts to write about the realities of real life’s frustrations and teaches biblically how to deal with such feelings.
4 of 5 stars

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

PIA

Sunday night was absolutely amazing: My wife and I, along with friends, went to the Poets in autumn tour with spoken word artists Jackie Hill Perry, Preston Perry, Genetics = Janette…ikz, and Ezekiel Azonwu. I had seen them before online over the years and had been hoping I could see them speak live one day. For me it was a surreal experience. It was my anniversary of 18 years of marriage. I was sitting in a room with a few hundred other people and some friends. Then they started speaking… The first piece I had heard before, but live it landed on my ears differently.

I grew up in NY, currently live in RI, but also lived in west coast, midwest and south. I am white. The reason why this matters is twofold.
1. I have never experienced racism in the way some of the poetry spoke towards myself.
2. While I have never experienced it, I have personally experienced prejudice and have seen first hand friends being profiled.

To hear Preston’s lens on racism today, something that makes me sick to my stomach, was mind blowing. I have no tolerance for the kind of hate the world spews out these days. I don’t see color. I see God’s precious creation. I Loved the way preston tackled the issues. He was bold, clear, unashamed and then so full of love and grace. He pointed to Jesus, forgiveness and that all life is sacred.

Sitting in a room with mostly black brothers and sisters in the lord and hearing his testimony broke my heart. I will never know what they have gone through and the hurt some of them have been through. However, I am so glad that Jesus can clean hearts, restore lives and that there is nothing this world can dish out that heaven can’t heal. I found myself in prayer for the great men and women of God in the room that night.

Lord… Take their lives.. make them yours.. use them to heal their city. Use them to break down walls. Make a way where there seems to be no way. Give them a platform and a voice that is greater than they can imagine.
Each artist shared from their heart with a mission to use their life story as a platform to arrest hearts and then step out of the way for the Holy Spirit to move. The stories were heartbreaking. The hope was mesmerizing. The talent was unparalleled.
I had just that morning preached at Ember Church about John the Baptist being a voice in the wilderness. I spoke on our picture of him being warped. He wasn’t a crazy man screaming repentance. He was a gentle yet bold man begging for children to return to their father. I spoke on ensuring that when we speak, much like john, that we need to be mindful if what we say points to Jesus. Clearly John the Baptizer did not water down the gospel. He wasn’t afraid to tackle hard hitting targets. Unlike the crazy doom, sign holding preachers on the street corners, John had a crowd that came out to meet him. He preached repentance and grace instead of judgement a prepared the way for the Lord. 

Sunday night in the middle of Brockton Ma, at Dominion Christian Church; 4 Modern day John the Baptist’s came to speak. They tackled the hard topics: Lust, Molestation, Broken Marriage, Deception of satan, Porn, Passion, Corruption, The word of God, Prayer, Abortion, Spiritual warfare… They were not afraid to speak truth and nothing was off limits. That had us in tears, in wonder, in shock, in self evaluation, in awe…

And then… With the voice of the Lord they prepared the way for the Lord and pointed everything they were and had to Jesus. 

They made sure every person in that room heard one thing. JESUS IS ENOUGH and I was honored to be present for that moment.

Unoffendable
How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better
By Brant Hansen

I have no right to be angry?
There is no such thing as a human’s righteous anger?
Offense is wrong and vengeance is the Lords?

That is pretty much what I read as the description of this book when I got it in the mail to review. I thought to myself. “Ok.. I will try this out because I know that offense and bitterness can kill my soul, but righteous anger is wrong?”

So I dove into it already offended by a few situations in my life, family and work. Now I am on chapter 2 and quite frankly offended by the book.

I am an artist… a Thinker and feeler. I have read many books on the use of anger and pain as the force that precedes GREAT actions. I completely understood that fact in my journey and have attempted to leverage it as much as possible. It always seemed the safest way to release offense and anger.

Brant says that instead we should make LOVE the best foundation for GREAT action.

“Choosing to be unoffendable, or relinquishing my right to anger, does not mean accepting injustice. It means actively seeking justice, and loving mercy, while walking humbly with God. And that means remembering I’m not Him. What a relief.”

Forgiveness and love are such tough things to embrace as a person of faith. As much as we strive to readily receive both we work much less at the act of giving them. Yet we are most like God when we do both.

Jesus had a right to be offended and a right to be angry. Quite frankly he was the only one who truly had that right and He chose to sacrifice that right on the cross so we could be forgiven and marked by grace.

I found myself by the end of the book not only not healed, but also still a sinner. However after taking an inventory of my heart and soul I realized that while I wasn’t easily offended or sensitive, but I had been deceived that I had a right to be angry over justice and truth.

Brant says we should “forfeit our right to be offended”… I’m realizing that when I don’t.. Joy does not come in the morning.

This was a great book. I highly recommend it. Reading it, but more so ingesting it has helped me release things to God that I was holding on to and given me a new peace in some areas I didn’t have.
I am still a daily work in progress… As we all are.

 

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”