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Rebuilding Amidst Mystery

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About this time last year, I stumbled upon a story I’d never read in the Bible before. It’s about a grieving widow from a town called Nain. Luke writes (chapter 7 if you want to read for yourself) that Jesus is traveling with His disciples and a crowd, passing through Nain when a funeral procession walks out of town. The woman leading the procession is burying her only son and, Luke notes, she is a widow.

Telling us the woman is widow is an important detail because according to the customs of the time, this meant she now had no one to care for her or protect her. And, unless the family was already wealthy, she was facing the unknowns of how to provide for her most basic of needs, made especially difficult because women ordinarily couldn’t earn an adequate income in the society of that day.

Luke continues the story, writing, “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’”

I’m well acquainted with the story of the girl that Jesus raises from the dead in Mark 5 and also Lazarus in John 11, but this story? These six verses eluded me until maybe just the moment I needed them.

That last part that Luke adds about the crowd stuck with me for days — “Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’” The Message (which, sidenote, isn’t a Bible translation but more like a paraphrasing that I enjoy referencing for its often gobsmackingly beautiful language) says, “They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful — and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, ‘God is back, looking to the needs of his people!’”

That phrase, “holy mystery,” really stuck with me. It was probably in part because we were at the beginning of a new year with seemingly a million possibilities ahead. (Oh, what we didn’t know!) It was also close to my birthday, a personal new year, as well. Something about those two words, “holy mystery,” summed up much of my experience with God. He comes so close and makes Himself known to us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit — but He is still God, always holy and often mysterious in the whys and hows of life.

Then life started to quickly change and I held on to the phrase even tighter as a reminder that God is at work.

The pandemic unfurled across my life.

My plans changed again and again.

Streets around the world filled with protests and my eyes opened to see issues of race in a way I never had.

Our country rocked with political tumult.

And again and again I turned that phrase over — holy mystery — as I asked God what was going on. It became a reminder that God is at work. I may not understand it, but He is at work and just like with the widow of Nain, He will not simply pass me by.

For all of us, the hows and whys of so much that we experience seem shrouded with mystery. The answers elude us, but we can trust that God is at work. The Bible tells us this much in story after story — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Ruth, Naomi, Esther, Elizabeth and Zechariah, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, Paul, Lydia.

So much of life is a wild, holy mystery, isn’t it? There’s a scene in the Disney movie “Aladdin” (yes, I’m about to tie Aladdin to this story — I’m a millennial and this is how we do) that I always think of when it comes to mystery and following God. It’s a pivotal moment in the movie where Aladdin shows up on his magic carpet and Jasmine, the princess, is clearly intrigued but trying to play it cool. You can tell she absolutely wants a spin on the runaway rug but isn’t sure … it’s a flying carpet, after all! And right then Aladdin leans out, extends his hand and says (millennials, say it with me), “Do you trust me?”

We do not have all the answers to how God is at work in the world and in the details of our lives, but the widow of Nain is a reminder to me that He is and that I can trust Him.

What are you rebuilding or starting from scratch this year? A relationship? A dream project? Your trust in God’s promises? Hope? Maybe it’s a rebuilding of the way you see, hear or understand something. A matter of faith, justice or your neighbor next door. Wherever, however you find yourself rebuilding this year, I hope you’ll remember the truth that however mysterious the hows and whys feel, God is at work and He’ll meet you right where you’re at for this new year and season.

 

 

Caitlin Rodgers

Katie Morris

Katie Morris

Author Bio Goes Here

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The Christmas Story

When we hear the Christmas story we’re reminded of the miraculous birth of Christ. But God wants us to be sure and know the rest of the story. God had a purpose for sending His Son into our world. He came to be our Savior, just as the angel announced to the shepherds. But why do we need a Savior if we try to be good?

The answer is that God is perfect and holy and no matter hard we try, we are not. But God still wants a relationship with us. So He sent Jesus into the world to offer a way for sinners to have a relationship with a holy God. God placed our sins on His sinless Son on the cross, so that we might be forgiven and become a child of God. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He paved a way for us to come to God as well.

Romans 10:9 tells us that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Jesus is the greatest Christmas gift ever given.

MSM Meeting Times

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5+6 Meeting Times

5+6 families, we miss you guys! We are determined to stick together as one big 5+6 ministry. Be sure to check out everything happening online. We are here for you guys!

Campus Day Time Location
Fort Worth

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4:30 p.m.
West

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1:30-2:45 p.m.
South

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5-6:15 p.m.

HSM Meeting Times

HSM families, we miss you guys! We are determined to stick together as one big HSM ministry. Be sure to check out everything happening online. We are here for you guys!

Campus Day Time Location
Fort Worth

Sundays

6:30 - 7:30 p.m.

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West

Wednesdays

6:30 - 7:30 p.m.

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6-8 p.m.

*Every the 3rd Wednesday of the month, West campus meets at Worship Center

What is Christmas … Really?

The Christmas season is full of stories. There are favorite movies like “White Christmas,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Elf,” Santa Claus and reindeer, and lots of traditions that go back many, many years. All of these stories share messages of hope and cheer, good news and happy days, giving and serving — and they all encourage us to look forward to a bright future.

The reason that all of these stories have similar themes is because in one way or another, they are all a reflection of the very first Christmas story — the true, real life one that happened two thousand years ago in a small rural town called Bethlehem. (The story is told throughout the Bible, but if you’ve never read it for yourself, a great place to start is Luke 2.)

The date was sometime between 3 B.C. and 6 B.C. in Israel. The Roman Empire, which controlled the region at that time, was requiring that everyone return to their hometown so that they could complete a census.

There was an engaged couple who were among the many people who had to travel home to complete their part of this census. The couple, a man named Joseph and a woman named Mary, were not well-known or uber successful. They were regular people who lived in a small town. Because they were engaged, they headed together to Joseph’s hometown, Bethlehem.

As Israelites, both Mary and Joseph had grown up learning the history of their people through the Scriptures. Israel was a very small nation surrounded by great world powers – and yet, God had always protected their people. In fact, God, had promised that a savior would one day come and save them. No one knew when that would happen, but generation after generation, the people of Israel waited with hope for that day.

Months before Joseph and Mary set off on their journey to Bethlehem for the census, one of God’s angels appeared to Mary with a very surprising message. He showed up out of nowhere one day to tell her that God was not only pleased with her, but had chosen her to be the mother of the savior that everyone had been waiting for! And while that may have been a great honor to Mary, she was confused about how that could happen because she was most definitely a virgin. The angel told her that through the power of God, she would become pregnant. This baby was God’s Son and He was to be named Jesus because He would one day save His people. And because Mary had grown up knowing these future promises of God, she believed the angel.

Months later and nearing her due date, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem for the census. Because so many people had come to town for the very same reason, there was no room available at the town’s inn. Now in labor, the only option the couple could find for a place to stay and have the baby was in the inn’s stable. So there, in a cave among the animals, the long-promised and long-awaited savior, Jesus, was born.

A few miles from that stable, a group of shepherds was laying out in a field. It was night and they were there to make sure that their flock was not harmed or picked off by animals or thieves. All of a sudden and out of nowhere, an angel appeared in the sky above them. Shocked by the angel, they were completely terrified, but the angel quickly told them that they had no reason to be afraid. In fact, they were about to receive some of the best news ever: that very night, a savior, THE Savior that they had been waiting for, had been born. The angel told them where they could find this baby and in excitement they got up and ran to find Him.

And it was just as the angel had told them: the baby was in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth, a fulfillment of God’s great promise to them. After seeing the baby, the shepherds told everyone they met that God had indeed kept His promise and sent their Savior.

That Savior, Jesus, grew up and as God’s Son, one day gave His life for the whole world. Only a true Savior could do this — and because Jesus was the Chosen One sent by God — He could. He was crucified by the Roman government, died and laid dead in a tomb for three days. Then, by the power of God, He came back to life. Many people witnessed His death and then saw Him alive again.

Jesus, having come from God and entered human history as a baby, grew up and fulfilled the promise of being a Savior. Through His death, every person on earth can be saved and can know God personally. Because of Jesus, every person can have hope and cheer, good news and happy days, can look forward to a bright future. Through a relationship with Jesus, we can live the great joy of Christmas every day. That is what Christmas is really about.

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Christmas Gift Tags

Looking for the perfect finishing touch for the gifts under your Christmas tree? Download our custom gift tags! Just click the “Download” button below and pick your favorites to use. Whether you decide to write a note or fill in the “To” and “From” blanks, we recommend using permanent or metallic markers.

Here are a few tips for printing the labels:
Planning to tie the tags to your gifts? Download the PDF and print the pages you need on white card stock. After printing, trim each tag to size with scissors, then punch a hole at the top, thread your ribbon, yarn or twine through it and attach the tag to your gift.

Want to skip the ribbon and turn the tags into labels? Easy peasy! Print on 8.5” x 11” full-sheet label paper, then trim each tag to size and you’ve got gift labels! (Printing Tip: For best results, make sure you’re printing at 100% scale, or “actual size.” )

Merry Christmas, and happy gift giving!

9 Socially Distant Things to do This Christmas

Holly, jolly and socially distant, that’s the name of the game this Christmas season. We’ve rounded up some places in our community where you can go and safely continue favorite holiday traditions, along with a few ideas for making the most of the season at home with your family or roommates. Here’s to celebrating this year … maybe, especially this year. 

Drive-Through Holiday Lights 
This is the year for drive-through holiday light displays! Really, could they be any more perfect? There’s no getting out of the car required and plenty of dazzling holiday lights to see. Luckily, you can have your pick based upon where you live and how far you want to drive. There’s Radiance in Weatherford, Gift of Lights at Texas Motor Speedway, Prairie Lights in Grand Prairie and Christmastime in Texas located in Joshua. 

Walk-Through Holiday Lights 
There are several places in the Metroplex where you can enjoy incredible light displays while keeping to the outdoors. Luminova at Globe Life Field is keeping crowds at a limited capacity so that you have space to wander through its three million lights of creative holiday landscapes. And don’t forget about The Modern Lights in Fort Worth! You can walk the grounds of The Modern off of University Drive and 7th Street after sunset and take in the incredible feat they’ve accomplished of wrapping every limb of every tree surrounding the museum. 

Holiday in the Garden 
On Saturday, Dec. 12, Christmas is coming to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden with Holiday in the Garden. There will be food trucks and live music (including the Fort Worth Opera who will be delivering strolling performances throughout the garden), an artisan market and a Christmas tree farm. It looks like an ideal day in Fort Worth for Christmas! 

Watch The Nutcracker from home 
This year instead of heading downtown to Bass Hall, you can take in the incredible leaps, spins and tricks of the Texas Ballet Theater from home! They will be streaming performances of The Nutcracker December 14-26. Sorry, no precipitation comes with the purchase of your tickets — you’ll have to find your own way for snow to magically fall from the ceiling … just like in Bass Hall! 

Panther Island Ice 
Panther Island Ice, Fort Worth’s outdoor skating rink, is open with limited capacity this year for all your Christmas-skating dreams come true. Reserving space for your group ahead of time is required, so make sure to plan out when you want to go this year. 

Coyote Drive-In 
The beloved drive-in theater is a great way to watch a holiday movie safely with others. Plan an outing with friends and park next to each other — you’ll still be watching together, but from your own car/bubble of space. You’ll want to check the theater’s website for updated showings. They play Christmas movies throughout the season. 

I Love Christmas Movies at Gaylord Texan 
Do you love classic Christmas movies? Then you may want to check out the Gaylord Texan’s new immersive Christmas experience. The exhibit, appropriately dubbed I Love Christmas Movies, has recreated famous movie scenes from the likes of Elf, The Polar Express, A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation that you can step right into and enjoy. Masks are required and social distancing will be observed throughout the experience. 

Go big at home 
What if you make this Christmas extra festive at home? You could make a plan for a special service project every week or a schedule of holiday recipes to try out. You could order Christmas pajamas for your whole crew, hang twinkle lights everywhere or have a virtual ugly Christmas sweater contest with your family over Zoom by using your leftover wrapping, bows, ribbon and such. 

Christmas Eve at Christ Chapel’s Internet Campus 
Are you looking for a way to celebrate on Christmas Eve? Christ Chapel’s Internet Campus is streaming services all afternoon and evening. You’ll get to mark the holiday with a community of friends, sing some holly jolly holiday songs and hear an encouraging message to send you off into Christmas Day. Plan to join us at live.ccbcfamily.org. 

Holiday Bucket List

While you’re spending more time at home this holiday season, why not make a holiday bucket list for those long winter nights and weekends? Click below to download a bucket list. 

Here are a few ideas to get you started: bake cinnamon rolls for neighbors, watch a favorite holiday movie, write and mail notes to family members you won’t be seeing over Christmas, go to a Christmas Eve service, make paper snowflakes. 

Holiday Scenes

Leave it to the internet to create some seriously delightful holiday scenes to play in the background of your day! While you’re busy at home working, cooking, helping your kids with school or just hanging out, any of these scenes are sure to bring some cheer and probably a few chuckles. 

Classic Yule Log: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LssTi4X8jY 
 
Beach Bonfire (for anyone missing the beach this year): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wesLXOzom24

Snow-covered Mountain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V37Q3l6AFAU

Sleigh Ride with Real Reindeer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dHETOyiE6U 

Log Cabin with Crackling Fire: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9caj-VdGzM

Christmas Village with Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjMLWXOK_vM

Captain America’s 1940s Living Room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBi29OnappU&feature=emb_title

Cat Riding a Roomba: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1Xkt1E7PJY&feature=emb_title

8-Bit Yule Log: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSO-iitdc2k

Snowy Train Ride: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=facDr2lTAUM

Hulu Holiday Scenes: You’ll need a Hulu subscription to stream these, but Hulu has amassed a small army of holiday scenes to bring delight your way. Their collection includes a Gingerbread Home Remodel, a thrilling Thermostat War (a must-watch if you’ve ever worked in an office setting), a Puppy White Elephant Party and a Sap Story (yes, that’s sap falling out of a tree — it’s riveting and oh-so-soothing). Just look for the “Holiday” tab the next time you open Hulu.