‘Tis the Party Season

The same thing happens to me every year on Christmas morning. I’m awake very early. I sit with some coffee and listen to “Behold the Lamb of God,” and read the Christmas story in Luke. Then I start thinking about all the people I know and love who are in the grips of profound sadness, people who will celebrate Christmas without a child, or a parent, or a spouse who has passed away. I think about people who are very sick and about the ones who won’t get better. Without fail I end up in tears. Everything in me wants to just scream that this is so wrong. Death and pain and loneliness are everywhere all the time. Every year, in the wee hours of Christmas morning my heart breaks, because I know for many people the season exacerbates their pain.

Then, I look around at all collage of beautiful (and cheesy) Christmas paraphernalia that surrounds me. Someone who didn’t know us might think we have bought in to all the worst that secular culture has done to Christmas. We bring out the Christmas coffee mugs, cheesy musical Christmas toys, the door mat that plays a carol when you step on it, snowflake window decals, the electronic Christmas bell band, the basket full of elf hats, and the fake snowballs (really, whatever Wal-Mart was going to put in the dumpster we use at home to decorate for Christmas).

But even though they are just trinkets, and woefully inadequate, they proclaim that in our home we are remembering and rejoicing that something beautiful has happened.

We delight in the day because we believe the story.

We believe Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem and had a baby in a barn. We believe the angels burst out of the sky and blew the shepherd’s minds as they sang about the glory of God’s love. We believe Joseph maybe still had his doubts, but he trusted and obeyed God, and so witnessed the miracle. We believe that the child born of Mary is the Savior of the world, our Savior, and the Savior of all those people my heart hurts for on Christmas morning.

Every year as I sit in the light of the Christmas tree and listen to the story in song my tears change from sorrow to joy. Every year the wonder of God’s grace wells up in me and fills me with so much happiness and hope I want to burst.

How can I not jump for joy? Our Savior has come to us!

Christmas at our house means non-stop feasting and carbohydrate overload. We open presents. We launch sticky rubber chickens so they stick to the ceiling, then shoot them off with helicopter pistols and Nerf guns. We have fake snowball fights. We blow up balloons that fly around the house and make fart sounds. We play with all the new toys and wear our new slippers and wear ourselves out having the best time together.

But I love Christmas and Christmas day because I cherish the story the season represents.

I think it is God’s grace to us that so much of our culture still pauses for the season. Even if for many people it is just a few days off work, or if they think it’s just the greatest marketing ploy ever; even if some Christians get put off because an unbelieving culture doesn’t honor the meaning of a miracle they don’t believe; none of that inhibits the party at our house.

The holidays are no different than any other expression of God’s common grace to people – you can miss it completely if you choose to. Or, you can have eyes to see that God has given the most wondrous reason to throw a party.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2: 10-11

206: Can Anyone Really Understand the Bible? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 3:14-18)

So many Christians have a deep desire to study the Bible, but find themselves confused or frustrated along the way.

In this episode, Tanner Smith, Aaron Chester, and Tiffany Ravedutti get practical about if its really possible to understand the Bible, and if so, how to do it.

205: Where is Jesus Now? And, When is He Coming Back? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 3: 1-13)

Jesus has risen from the grave, he’s alive!

But….where is he and what is he doing now?

When will he be back?

In this episode, Rachel Chester discusses these questions and more with Jenna Kraft and Aaron Chester.

204: Why is God So Angry? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 2:1-22)

Is God an always affirming easy-going Santa in the sky?

Or is he an always angry vindictive monster in the sky?

On this episode, Tanner Smith talks with Aaron and Rachel Chester about a biblical understanding of the character of God and our desperate need for justice.

203: Are There Any Modern Day Prophets? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 1:16-21)

On this episode, Tiffany Ravedutti talks with Yancey Arrington and Jenna Kraft about what prophecy looks like in the Bible, if there are any modern day prophets, and how we can think biblically about prophecy today.

200: Did Jesus Really Come Back From the Dead? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 1:5-14)

Is the resurrection of Jesus fact or fiction?

Does it even matter?

In this episode, Tiffany Ravedutti sits down with Jenna Kraft and Yancey Arrington to discuss the resurrection of Jesus, the evidence to support it, and its impact on the daily lives of Christians today.

199: Is Jesus Really God? (A Closer Look at 2 Peter 1:1-4)

Seventy-three percent of evangelicals believe Jesus was created by God.

Forty-four percent of evangelicals believe Jesus was a great teacher, but not God.

Is this right? Or is Jesus really God?

Is there any biblical evidence for claiming the divinity of Jesus and does this even affect our faith?

In this episode, Lance Lawson asks Greg Poore and Aaron Chester these questions and more.

How Can I Do More for God?

It’s a question so many well-intentioned Christians ask: “How can I do more for God?”

You experience the love of God and the goodness of the Gospel, and your natural, automatic response is, God did something significant for me, so I want to do something significant for Him! How can I pay him back?

The problem is nothing we could do for God could ever repay him for the grace he has shown us in the Gospel. In fact, God isn’t sitting around waiting for someone to offer their assistance so he can finally get something done around here. And there’s really nothing we can offer to God that he doesn’t already have.

So… what can we do for God, we wonder.

To find the answer, we start trying things like serving in the church, reaching out to neighbors, and being better stewards and employees and husbands and mothers and friends. But at some point, serving stops being convenient. It starts creating tension, conflicts with our goals, becomes overwhelming, and, little by little, we drop the plow we excitedly picked up in an effort to perform for the God who loves us unconditionally. The problem for many of us is we have the wrong idea of what it means to serve. It’s not about what we can do for God out of obligation or recompense, and more about how we can partner with him in love.

To help illustrate the difference, I want to give you two different pictures of Jesus and the way he served the Father during his earthly ministry. These are beautifully illustrated in the book The Burden is Light by Jon Tyson.


If we were to write the Gospels today, they would be infused with this winner script. They would probably go something like this:

“Jesus was born of a virgin (a great start), and as a teenager, he was passionate about his Father’s house. He started his ministry with a prophetic declaration about the kingdom of God, fulfilling truth in a new and spectacular way. He then called disciples, gathered momentum, confronted hypocrisy, healed the sick, raised the dead, and challenged Herod. Then he voluntarily died to become the savior of the world. He rose again in victory, proving to everyone that he was alive, then ascended into heaven. Right before he arrived, the heavens opened and the Father announced, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ The angels stood to their feet, the disciples raised their hands in victory, and all of heaven rejoiced.”

For generations we have been trying to earn our Father’s applause by following this script. But of course, that’s not how Jesus’s life was ordered at all.



The actual Gospels are not ordered like this. They show Jesus spending almost thirty years in relative obscurity. Before he healed a sick person, raised the dead, confronted hypocrisy, made disciples, preached to the crowds, and died and rose again, he was baptized. And at Jesus’s baptism, his Father declared, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”* Jesus hadn’t done anything public or important yet, so what could the Father have been pleased with? It’s simple. Relationship. Jesus spent thirty years abiding in his Father’s love, and that was enough. What pleased the Father was not Jesus’s accomplishments but his intimacy. This is the same thing that pleases him in our lives today.

Because Jesus was aware of his Father’s approval before starting his ministry, he didn’t have to compete with others during his ministry. The Father’s approval gave Jesus the security to avoid an addiction to success and scandalously give his life away in love. [1]

You see, Jesus lived a life of ministry out of love. He loved the Father and knew he was loved by the Father, regardless of his performance or success. There was no trying to pay the Father back for his love; his life was simply an expression of the love he had already received in his relationship with the Father.

When we go to serve God, whether it be in the local church, in the community, in our families or workplaces, we must adjust our motivation and remember this: God already loves you and accepts you because of Jesus. There is nothing that you can do to earn his love or repay him for it. So, when you serve, let it be out of an abundance of love and devotion.

Will it be difficult? Sometimes.

Will it be inconvenient? Often, yes.

But a life lived partnering with Jesus in love is a life lived as a son and daughter – not simply a servant.

If you’d like to find ways to get connected serving in this local expression of the church, click here. We’d love to help you find a place to serve that suits your gifts and talents and serves the body of Christ effectively.

[1] Jon Tyson, The Burden Is Light: Liberating Your Life from the Tyranny of Performance and Success (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2018), 52-53.

191: Real Faith, Apostasy, and Community (A Closer Look)

In this episode, Tanner Smith interviews Lead Pastor, Bruce Wesley and Teaching Pastor, Yancey Arrington about this week’s sermon, “Real Faith, Apostasy, and Community”.

They discuss questions like: How does this sermon fit within the Biblical story of redemption? How did this message convict them, personally?

190: Being Prayerful (A Closer Look)

In this episode, Tanner Smith interviews Associate Pastor, Greg Poore and 528 Campus Pastor, Chris Alston about this week’s sermon, “Being Prayerful”.

They discuss questions like: How does this sermon fit within the Biblical story of redemption? How did this message convict them, personally?