Tap Dancing through the Holidays: How do you feel the cultural pressure to perform at Christmas? We want to set the perfect Pinterest tables, give the just-what-you-wanted gifts and make those Facebook-worthy memories…feeling just a bit exhausted? If we find our identity in performance or approval, like Martha in the Luke 10 kitchen, we will tap dance till we drop and criticize ourselves and others for not dancing well enough. We’ll try to control Mary (and Jesus?) and get them tap-dancing as well.
But Mary offers a beautiful alternative. This message explores what it means to “choose the richer part” this holiday. To find your identity in sitting at the feet of Jesus in the midst of the Christmas rush. You’ll take away ideas of how to eliminate the Christmas crush and concentrate on what your family treasures most. ( strong gospel presentation)
The Advent Celebration topics below may also be adapted into keynote messages
Designed to offer a beautiful, intimate way to celebrate the season, these two-hour celebrations combine multimedia presentations of great art, music and message with time for reflection and discussion. Participants explore the Advent topics below through Scripture, art and music. They are then given an Advent Guide with Scripture and questions and released to find their own space where they can read, reflect and prayerfully respond. After the reflection time the group regathers for discussion. May be presented anywhere your group has access to video projection (with sound) or a large screen TV and room to spread out–from homes to churches. The event can conclude with lunch or tea. Participants may want to bring their own floor pillow, candle and Christmas mug.
Mary Overshadowed: An angel materializes out of thin air. Huge and powerful. But greeting this betrothed peasant girl with great honor and bearing gifts. Good news: You will bear the long-awaited Messiah. Great joy for everyone. But costly. At this point she has no idea. She only knows that God is asking her to be an open vessel that he will overshadow and fill with all his love, joy and goodness in the depths of her being. She yields and says yes. He gives her another gift: an understanding friend for the hard journey ahead. Hard, but joyful beyond imagining. How do we respond to the call to live a role in God’s story that feels so overwhelming? Even dangerous? How do we respond to the offer of intimacy with God?
The Brokenness and Beauty of Christmas: Francis Schaeffer has said that the gospel has a minor theme–pain, loss and sorrow. But over and against the minor theme is the major theme–redemption, overcoming and joy. We will reflect on the way both themes unfold in the story of Christmas.
The great Isenheim Altarpiece physically shows us that we come to the major theme–the birth and resurrection of Jesus–by opening up the panels of the minor theme–his crucifixion and death.
In the midst of a very minor-themed world, Advent is a season of waiting and longing for the overcoming and joy of the major theme . Today’s postmodern culture tends to focus on the minor theme. But the gospel, while it acknowledges the minor theme, invites us to keep the major theme the major theme. We’ll reflect on how we are experiencing the major and minor themes in our own lives this Christmas season. Are we waiting with resignation…or a confident, alert expectation that Jesus will come? That he will fulfill all his promises for us?
Emmanuel, God with Us: If there is ever a time we are tempted to live independently of God it’s Christmas. The time-squeeze focuses our attention on our to-do list and not so much on Jesus. This celebration begins with Norman Rockwell’s Christmas images set to Amy Grant’s song, “Emmanuel.” Both Rockwell and Peter Bruegel painted scenes of people so busy or preoccupied with their own cares that they miss the beauty and joy, the very essence of Christmas–Jesus’ coming to give us his presence and the life and restoration he brings.
The reflection time focuses on what it means to “seek God continually,” to find “fullness of joy” in his presence and how we can make more space for that over the holidays. Sometimes God’s presence is a warning as well as a blessing. We’ll also consider and confess the sin that separates us from his presence. The hard things we need to do that his presence impresses on us. Finally, we’ll focus on the anticipation of his second advent–what it will be like to be face to face in his presence.
The Vulnerability of God: Both in his birth and his death, God set aside his power and majesty to become open to harm, grief and attack. This message takes the measure of what Jesus left behind and what he embraced, emphasized by the tiny, naked babe painted by Dutch artist Geertgen Tot Sint Jans.
Marleen Hengelaar (daughter of Dutch L’Abri’s Hans Rookmaacher) has created a slide deck of Geertgen’s Nativity by Night synched with the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” as sung by American recording artist Sufjan Stevens. The stripped down art and music invite us to come and worship through the door of vulnerability–the only way into intimacy with God. We’ll reflect on how we can build bridges of vulnerably and intimacy with God and each other.