“I’m starting a new hobby–procrastination. Or maybe later.”

“I am going to start believing in something. I believe in cheesecake.”

“I resolve to spend more time with underprivileged kids: mine.”

Most of us feel a need for some changes. New Year’s seems like a good time. We chucked the old calendar. Can we toss out old habits as easily? Not a bad way to think, and there’s biblical precedent for doing it on New Year’s and on other times, like…

Daily. The day started for the Hebrew the night before: “There was evening and there was morning—the first day” (Genesis 1:5).  Here are questions to review the day: “Did I live for others today? Did I miss any God-appointed opportunities?” Start the day right—when you hit the sack! We take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). And the name of the Lord is to be praised “from the rising of the sun to its setting (Psalm 113:3).

Weekly. Each Sabbath brought a new opportunity for a Hebrew. A day of rest meant time for reflection. Worshipping Christians find an opportunity in taking communion: “Let a man examine himself…” (I Cor. 11:28). We are not to “forsake the assembling of ourselves together…”

Monthly. Hebrews built their calendar around the moon. The Hebrew word for month (“hodesh”) means “new moon.” The new moon brought a fresh month. Time slowed down and work ceased, bringing a chance for rest and review. Some friends take a day a month for reflection.

Yearly.  The Hebrew agrarian society harmonized with nature. Key seasons came at springtime and harvest. Feasts were holy days, marked by worship and reflection. Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated in the fall. It gave them (and still does) a time of serious introspection, confession, and resolve, ending ten days later with Yom Kippur, day of atonement, the most serious day for repentance and renewal in the Jewish year.

The God who says, “Behold! I make all things new,” gives us the desire to make some changes as well. Businesses take inventories. We can do the same. However–

We cannot change. Resolutions fail if founded upon our ability. Paul acknowledged that willpower did not get the job done (Romans 7:15,18). Resolutions should maybe start with the confession, “I can’t.”

God changes us through the Holy Spirit.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news, not good advice. Jesus came because we couldn’t change. If we could, no need for the cross. God works from the inside out–by the Holy Spirit. The law says, “Do.” The Gospel says, “Done!” Think about stating your resolutions as an invitation. Instead of, “I am going to exercise more,” try saying, “I am trusting You to work in me self-control.”

If we catch the rhythm of change throughout the year, we don’t have to put all our marbles in the New Year’s basket. Otherwise we cave in by Valentine’s Day. The calendar provides us with a rhythm for resolution.

One final word: who we are determines what we do. Those who only focus on the imperative, “I must change my eating habits,” don’t get the results they want. The indicative leads to the imperative. The Christian life is more about receiving than doing. If we know we are princes and princesses, how we live follows. When we get the indicative down (who we are), the imperative (how we’re commanded to be) comes more as an invitation than as a standard. Identity drives behavior. So–remember who you are, and have a happy New Year!



I was finishing my last year at Luther Seminary, Larry’s alma mater.  I was told that I could choose my internship. I had heard of Larry Christenson but had not met him. He knew my father, also a pastor. I wrote, “I am evangelical, conservative, and I speak in tongues.” He told the elders, “Sounds like we’re his last hope. We’d better take him.”

He took me to lunch on my first day and said, “People will try to separate us. Let’s not make that happen.” People did. I was thankful for the counsel and knew how to head it off. We had a rich and seamless relationship. He mentored me for forty-seven years. In later years it was mainly by phone or email, but still the same sound wisdom.

We prayed every day for eleven years at 6 AM with two elders, not counting weekends and holidays. Do the math, close to three thousand times. I had heard people say that prayer is two-way communication. I just never met anyone who took that seriously–until I prayed with Larry. About a third of the time was listening. I didn’t know what to do at first. Were we trying to think of something to pray about? He would sometimes write things down during the silence. I figured it was a note like, “Don’t forget to pick up milk.” I found out later that he was listening to God. Little by little I began to learn how to hear the voice of God. Larry had his feet on the ground, but his ears were attuned to heaven. Hearing the voice of God became one of the greatest joys of my life. He taught me more by what he did than by what he said.

A year after I came to Trinity Larry left for a year to do studies. He trusted this upstart enough at the ripe age of twenty-seven to lead the congregation. A missionary home on furlough helped to guide the ship. Ten funerals that year shaped my pastoral ministry–and regular calls from Larry.

He was the smartest man I ever knew, a true intellectual. He didn’t fit the caricature of a Holy Spirit person. People sometimes expected a charismatic leader to lean a bit on the emotional side. Wrong. Or maybe wear his religion on his sleeve. Really wrong. Larry was not religious. He took on this recovering Pharisee and worked it out of me. He had radar for pretense–and strong words.

I think he might have traded straight A’s and Phi Beta Kappa to be a football player. He deeply loved his father, who was an athlete, then a highly successful coach. The athletic center at St. Olaf was named after Ade Christenson. One of his best years out of the twenty-one Larry served at Trinity was when his son Arne played quarterback on the TLS football team as a senior. Larry did a lot of traveling, but he didn’t travel that year. Another father of two of our football players urged him not to travel that year–and Larry was listening. He stayed home to help his dad coach. A favorite picture is seeing grandfather, father, and son talking strategy together on the sidelines. (Normal length)

At thirty, I was extremely single. I didn’t have marriage on my mind–I had ministry.  He changed that with one sentence: “It’s time to get married.” As best I could, I always listened to his words. Then some months later he strongly encouraged me to consider Karen Luttio. He asked one day if I was interested in going with him and Nordis up to Santa Barbara. He said that Karen might be going along. I said sure. So I figured I should probably talk to Karen. He said, “I already did.”  When he asked Karen if she wanted to go, she answered, “I teach that day.” His response: “I’ve already taken care of that.“ He was the principal. So Larry asked Karen out on our first date. That was April 18. We were engaged in June and married in August. I asked her to marry me–Larry didn’t. But he was at the wedding upfront, along with my dad and her dad, my best man (a pastor) and the monsignor of the Catholic Church where we were married. Things were covered.

Karen had been living at his home for two years leading up to our wedding day, so you could probably say that he and Nordis got Karen ready for me. His guidance in my life was paralleled by his guidance in Karen’s. This is his greatest gift to me. Karen’s disciplined and vital devotional life was shaped by her parents–and her second parents, Larry and Nordis. I am often enriched by what comes to me from Karen’s daily look into the Scriptures.

When I read the two sexuality documents coming from the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) and his response that dismantled them piece by piece with his keen intellect, I said to him, “I’m sure glad that we’re on the same team.” He debated in college; I much preferred supporting him to debating him. People expected something different from a person leading what was to many a questionable movement, the charismatic renewal. They were disarmed and surprised.

He loved telling jokes, not often in messages but frequently at informal meetings or in conversation, like at our men’s breakfasts or at our weekly mentoring meetings. My questions that came scratched out on paper often directed the agenda. Larry’s answers were unpredictable. I would never get an “off-the-top-of-my-head” answer. It was a deliberate response, often leading me back into the Scriptures that he knew well or into prayer that he practiced often. He was a man of the Spirit. It often came back to that when I had discussions with him. Though he was brilliant, he would not trust his intellect–He trusted the Spirit of God and encouraged me to be led by the same Spirit.

Once I questioned whether I was coming down too hard on someone and needed to be more gracious. He listened, then responded, “Everyone needs to hear grace and truth. Only Jesus is full of grace and truth. What you are bringing is truth. Someone else will bring the grace.” I was grateful for his wisdom.

I had followed him as senior pastor at Trinity, when he moved to St. Paul to direct the work of Lutheran Renewal. I never expected to follow him again. We still have a gravesite in San Pedro. But he called in the fall of 1994 and wanted to know if I was sitting down. I said I wasn’t but could if I needed to. He asked if I would be one of the speakers at the Holy Spirit Conference the next summer. That was an easy “yes.” Then he said, “The Lutheran Renewal board would like you to be the next director.” So I sat down. It had never occurred to me–not once. I requested a month to pray about it. Halfway through, Karen said, “Shouldn’t we start praying?” I asked, “Do we need to?” She answered, “No.” It seemed right, but it meant leaving parents who had retired from thirty-seven years in Japan, and we had told them we weren’t going anywhere. But we did–with five of six kids and a moving van stuffed with stuff. (The idea of a Southern California Lutheran Renewal office didn’t fly)!

As I prepared to assume the responsibility, one of Trinity’s leaders said, “Don’t try to walk in Larry’s shoes.” That gave me an idea. I looked in shoe stores for the biggest pair and found nothing too impressive. Then Karen reminded me of the Timberwolves. I called Target Center, told them what I was doing and that if they gave me a pair of shoes, I would mention it in the installation. They said, “Come on down.” On the counter was a pair of size 18 Nike Airs. I probably could have purchased them for $300. I put them on when I was installed to illustrate that I couldn’t possibly walk in Larry’s shoes, a brilliant leader known around the world, a million-copy best-selling author, a true father in the faith.

But I followed Larry in other ways as well.  After he lived many years at 1603 W. 7th Street, we bought the house and lived there for fifteen. We bought a car together and traded off using it, though I used it much more. After he wrote a book on the Holy Spirit, I did as well, though his sold many more.

What are Larry’s main legacies? Certainly the 1.2 million copies of The Christian Family, plus the seminars he and Nordis did around the country, impacting family life for many. An even greater legacy is bringing the Pentecostal movement into mainline churches. The Azusa Street Revival of 1906 was shut down by most denominations (shame on them), but in the 60’s it was revisited, and Larry was one of its primary proponents, both in speaking and in writing. Up to 15,000 came yearly to the the Minneapolis Auditorium for the International Lutheran Conference on the Holy Spirit in the 70’s and 80’s.

He was a Lutheran pastor and theologian, but he ran comfortably with Catholics and Pentecostals. He didn’t trip over theological differences, as long as friends were solid on the Trinity, the Lordship of Christ, and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t mind sparring with them regarding Lutheran doctrines like infant baptism, but the friendships were clearly made of love, and doctrinal differences did not pull them apart.

Other than my dad, no man has influenced me more. And in terms of theology, “no one” includes my father. In some ways he was like a dad. Rodney Lensch, one of the leaders of the Lutheran Charismatic Renewal, once said to me, “We envy you, Paul. You get to be mentored by Larry.” I did–for almost half a century.



We don’t always deal well with the silence of God. A godly, priestly couple hoped for children. “They were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly…” (Luke 1:5). If you knew they were not going to have a child for a long time, would you tell them? God was silent. The neighbors were not. They gave her the “b” word, “barren,” as in “barren desert.”

God chose to visit the priest on his turn in the temple, decades later. Gabriel showed up and scared the old man.  He announced the birth of a son  who would be “great before the Lord” (15), would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb, and would be used to bring revival. Had resentment toward heaven set in for hope deferred? We don’t know, but he asks for a sign. Come on, Zach. When was the last time an archangel showed up for church?

He went into a nine-month timeout.  Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months, making it rather quiet in the priestly home. She didn’t want neighbors mocking:  “Elizabeth is hallucinating. Miss Barren thinks she’s pregnant.” Five months would stop brutal tongues.

Then Gabriel pays a return visit up the road about seventy miles. A single young girl is soon to carry the Son of God. She asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (34). No thoughts like, “I had better hurry up and marry my man.” Didn’t have a husband–wouldn’t need one. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. She said two things: “I’m the doulos (bondservant) of the Lord.” In other words, no will of my own. I serve the will of the Lord. Then she said, “Let it be…”  Call it total submission!

The angel lets her know that another miracle is taking place in Aunt Elizabeth. Mary wisely decides that she is going to need the counsel of her relative and lets Joseph know she will be gone. Who better could prepare her for a life of rejection? When she returns she will be showing. Ridicule came to Elizabeth for having no baby. It will come to Mary for carrying one.

Elizabeth has been rejoicing in God during her retreat. He lifted the shame. They had been favored, not forgotten. She was so much in the Spirit, that when Mary arrived, her five-month old baby “leaped for joy,” sensing the presence of Jesus less than a centimeter in the womb of Mary. She prophesied, blessing Mary for believing the impossible word of the angel. After five rich months of seclusion, she took three months to pour into the young adult who would raise her Lord.

Elizabeth gave birth a month later. When Zechariah wrote down the name of the son, not Zechariah as tradition anticipated, but the name given by the angel, his speech returned. What was inside came out–praise and prophecy. Resentment, if there was any, had been dealt with. People were stirred when he announced the saving work of God and the contribution this little baby would one day make.

When a prince is born, the world knows. Hardly anyone was stirred when Mary’s boy was born, just a few shepherds, on the low end of the social totem pole, and a massive choir of angels in the sky announcing the birth, maybe a bit baffled by the crowd. Days later as the couple paid their tax, the Roman official said, “Name? Joseph. Married? Yes. Name? Mary. Children? Yes. How many? One. Name?”  Joseph paused: “Jesus!”


God moves comfortably in the realm of the impossible. We, like the old priest, might look for reasons why something can’t happen. God found a girl prepared to sign on without resisting. Her brilliant response: “Let it be.”

Luke sets her story right after Elizabeth’s. Her priestly husband’s response contrasts Mary’s. He received some shocking news with skepticism. God has favorites—people He favors because they favor Him.  


The back-to-back birth stories provide rich contrast. The senior couple prayed many years for a child, while Mary was still a virgin. The shame the elder couple felt in barrenness was lifted with the pregnancy, while shame came upon Mary when she began to show.

Even geography figures into the drama. The priest came from Judea, while Mary lived in Nazareth, a place of questionable reputation. Both participated in a miracle, one because of age, the other bypassing the normal route toward parenthood. A pregnant virgin is an oxymoron is there ever was one.

Both received visits from Gabriel, with five months intervening. Both women marveled at the grace of God shown them. And by divine action, both women carrying children marked for greatness came together at the home of Elizabeth. The young mother-to-be needed the strength her older relative could provide, but she had no idea how that encouragement would come—through prophetic proclamation of pinpoint accuracy.

Favor with God overrides the blessing of man, and that is how Mary towers above others. Elizabeth spoke appropriately and with volume, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear. But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42,43).

She then closed her astounding message with yet more strength-giving words: “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (43). This provided a stirring entrance into the song of Mary, words set to music ever since (46-55)..


The spotlight now turned from the girl to the God who favored the girl, the God her Savior, whose “mercy extends to those who fear him,” as Mary certainly did, who “has performed mighty deeds with his arm,” who “has helped his servant Israel” through that mercy. It was being shown not just to a small nation but to the world, as the Mighty One sends His Child to be born of a virgin, whose birth will divide history, marshal armies, split up families and nations, and force a decision from every person who will ever live.

How should we honor Mary? Had the apostles wanted to assign her significance beyond what Elizabeth gave her, they would have given her mention in the rest of the New Testament. Their silence is telling. We can say what Elizabeth said and what she said herself.  She is to be honored greatly for her faith and humility and for raising the Son of Man, and yet according to her own words, she is dwarfed by the true hero of heaven. We magnify the person Mary magnifies.

What impossibilities are staring you in the face today, challenging your circumstances, defying your peace, threatening your joy, mocking your future? How is God asking you to respond? The bottom line message from Mary is that she believed God. May you do the same—and walk in God’s favor!


Use it with your Christmas family. I put together a Thanksgiving quiz. Great discussion. Trying now with Christmas. I’ll send answers if you want (

  1. How many miles did Joseph and Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem a) 50  b) 80  c) 120.  Any idea what route they took? Did Mary ride on a donkey?
  2. What time of year did they travel?  a) Winter  b) Spring  c) summer  d) We don’t know.
  3. What significance do you see in shepherds visiting the newly arrived child? How were shepherds regarded in that day?
  4. Zechariah was a priest. Priests married in Judaism. Was Elizabeth also from a priestly family?
  5. How many angels are identified by name in the Bible?              
  6. Was the baby born to Mary God? Did he give up His Godhood to come to earth?
  7. What do you know about Augustus Caesar? Did Julius Caesar come after or before?  Is the word “caesar” a name or a title?
  8. What was Zechariah doing when the angel Gabriel showed up?
  9. Why do you think Zechariah asked for proof to substantiate the angel’s words?
  10. What did friends of Zechariah and Elizabeth assume at the birth of John and why?
  11. Why do you think Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months after her pregnancy began?
  12. How was the timing of Mary providential in seeing Elizabeth when she did?
  13. Which song has been sung the most down through the centuries–Happy Birthday, Silent Night, or Mary’s song? What is Mary’s song?
  14. How was the announcement to Mary similar to the announcement to Zechariah?
  15. What are swaddling cloths?
  16. What does a manger look like?
  17. Why did Joseph speak about divorcing Mary when they were not married yet?
  18. When was Jesus circumcised? Why then? Where? How far did they have to go from Bethlehem to get Jesus circumcised?
  19. So when did the three kings show up? Were they kings? Why did they give such strange gifts? Were there three?
  20. Who was excited at the birth of John? Who was excited at the birth of Jesus?
  21. What two people gave lengthy prophecies regarding the two births? What was the content of their prophecies? Whose prophecy was first? By how many months?
  22. When do you think Joseph found out about Mary carrying a child? Why?


Two visits by one angel, five month apart. Two people, an old man and a young woman, both devout. Two angelic proclamations about two sons. Good news, miraculous, unbelievable—a child past child-bearing years and a baby without a husband. Never happened before or since. Two opposite responses to the incredible news.

Two sons destined for greatness, one the greatest of the Old Covenant and the other the greatest of the New Covenant, both named by heaven, bypassing traditional names: John (“the Lord is gracious”) and Jesus (“the Lord saves”). Two regions, Judea and Galilee. The priest needed to live near the temple at Jerusalem. Galilee would light up in thirty years like never before: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” Jesus was born in the south and ministered in the north.

Two women, one barren, one a virgin. For the first, the news would lift the shame she felt her whole adult life. For the second, the shame would commence when she began carrying a child.

Two impossible pregnancies facilitated by the moving of the Holy Spirit on their bodies, both including prophetic words by the mothers when the sons met in Judea—still in the womb. Both sons would change history, the one serving the other as a forerunner, yet knowing Jesus came before.

During Mary’s angelic visitation, she found out her relative was miraculous carrying a child. She told Joseph she was going to pay her a visit. She needed strength from a motherly figure who would understand. Mary could be stoned for what appeared like adultery. God’s miracles can masquerade behind mistakes. They also hide behind impossibilities. Both women were graced by heaven but disgraced on earth, one before the baby came, the other during and after.

Important truths:

  • SUFFERING NEEDS TO BE STEWARDED WELL. It will shape our character and release the gifts of the Spirit if we do not allow resentment to color our perception of God. Elizabeth said, “Why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” only beginning to grow in Mary’s womb. Elizabeth’s remarkable recognition of Mary’s baby came out of the fires of affliction.
  • HUMILITY RELEASES GRACE that invites the activity of the Spirit. Elizabeth recognized that her task was dwarfed by a far greater assignment of being the mother of the Messiah. Her humility gave her revelation of the purposes of God. She could have made the moment about herself. If you want to prophesy well, suffer well and stay low.
  • GOD HAS CHARGE OF THE WOMB. He works His divine will without checking probabilities. “Against all hope Abraham in hope believed…” With God, it is not as it appears.
  • WE GIVE IT ALL TO JESUS. Mary said, “I am the Lord’s bondservant. Let it be to me according to your word,” another way of saying, “Jesus can use my body. A man who owned a donkey said, “Jesus can use my colt.” A woman said, “He can use my alabaster box.” Another said, “Jesus can use my grave.” What can we offer Jesus? Our car, our home, our gifting, our position? Use us, Jesus!



Things were going well for Joseph. Then Mary delivered the news. He would have preferred hearing that she had died. But God intervened. Joseph had already made a good decision by choosing a pure bride. Now he would make the hardest decision of his life.  

“Joseph, son of David…” The angel identified his subject: “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” Mary was telling the truth. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20,21). What looked like shame just turned to honor.

We assume the job of listening rests on our ability to hear. Scripture puts the ball in God’s court. The disturbing news that just destroyed his future had not tampered with God’s. Some truths surface about hearing:

One step at a time.

Don’t expect the entire scenario. “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife…” He could do that. If you stand at point A, ask B questions. “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.” You need the next step. Nothing more.

God’s will is good.

The angel said, “Do not be afraid,” because Joseph was terrorized by his option: “Divorce the lady.” God’s strategy proved just the opposite: “Marry your beloved and raise the Son of God as your own.” Fitting into the purpose of God does include suffering, but the presence of the Almighty gives purpose to pain.

God speaks with clarity.

“His sheep hear his voice.” The more confident we grow in God’s ability to speak, the more we will hear. By morning, Joseph knew what to do. Those who find themselves paralyzed by indecision need to act. Quit worrying that you might miss His “perfect” will and affirm that He lets you walk in it.  

God’s messages are often counter-intuitive.

They don’t spring up in our minds as if created by interior logic. They sound more like God than us. When Joseph heard from the angel, he didn’t say, “I should have known that the Holy Spirit did this.” Yet those learning to walk in the Spirit find that their intuition begins to track with God’s will.

What God says agrees with what God said.

God proves the present word with a past one. He links destiny with history, making His will verifiable. Matthew adds his commentary: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’ ” (22,23).

Hearing means heeding.

To hear and not obey is not to hear. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife” (24). We desperately need to hear from God—and desperate people do! Those more casual will turn guidance into a technique: “Give me three sure-proof steps,” while men like Joseph know it flows out of relationship. The story could have read, “When Joseph woke up, he divorced Mary.” And he would have missed his God-appointed destiny. He obeyed—and Jesus called him father.



The spirit of Christmas captures folks. Not sure what it is, but one reading of the Christmas story in Luke tells me that the spirit on that first Christmas was the Holy Spirit.


The announcement came to Zechariah during his course of duty: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son…and many will rejoice at his birth…He will be great…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:13-15).

God had his eye on John before John had his eye on God. What would make this child great? His diet? Abstinence? Demeanor? No, his filling! It is the Spirit that makes people good—and great!

He would “turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord” (16). How? Persuasive preaching? No. “He will go before him [Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elijah” (17). The same Spirit empowers you and me. Incredible!


Mary received the shocking news that she would have a baby. When she asked about it, the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God” (35,37). Matthew wrote that “she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (1:18).

It didn’t look that way. What appeared as an unholy moment of passion proved the quiet work of the Spirit. People looked at her getting bigger and wondered, while she looked at God, who grew bigger in her eyes. When Mary asked, “How?” the angel said, “The Holy Spirit,” the answer to every human impossibility, including yours.


Mary’s visit with an angel was followed by a visit to her relative. When Elizabeth heard her greeting, the Spirit moved upon her, the same Spirit that moved on John, still in her womb. He responded to the presence of Jesus, less than a month along. Elizabeth burst into prophecy. It was likely her first time ever. Nothing strange about a kick in the womb, but it was this time, because it was the Spirit moving, not just John. The Spirit does the same for us, turning a conversation into an encounter.

Meanwhile, Zechariah had a nine-month time-out. But when he opened his mouth after the naming of John, resisting tradition, he “was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (Lk. 1:64,67). Before he had doubted; now he spoke powerfully and prophetically. The Spirit that shut him up now welled up—in his body. Trust the Spirit to do the same in you.


Simeon’s timing was right on. He came to the temple “moved by the Spirit” (Luke 2:27). How did that happen? ”The Holy Spirit was upon him” and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (26).

Were these people superstars? No, just common folks who yielded to the divine Spirit. Do you need the Lord’s leading—toward the right job, the right mate, the right decision. Paul says we prove we’re in the family by the way the Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14).

The spirit of Christmas is more than a party with good friends. It is the Holy Spirit, filling us to cooperate with God’s redemptive purpose, to speak His truth and recognize His Son! Have a Spirit-filled Christmas!


I jumped in with both feet to the Christmas season. I got my lights up this year BEFORE Thanksgiving. Don’t stone me. We had a great Thanksgiving, perhaps the best ever, all 30 plus of us. My kids agree. The lights weren’t a distraction. They simply added to the mood and announced, “Let’s celebrate and be thankful.” We can use two major holidays (literally “holy days”) to our advantage.

I’m doing something new this year; I am keeping the lights on all night. Hey, someone is going to drive by at 3 AM and say, “Look at those beautiful lights.” I just helped with a boring commute to work.

Mary and Joseph announce our Christmas every year by gazing into the feeding trough on the front lawn. (Okay, it’s really a short stool). Their devotion calls me to do the same. I want to meditate again on the Scriptures that might otherwise breed boredom for their familiarity. They are announcing the incredible descent from glory to shame, from the highest place to the lowest, from the throne to the barn out back. Wait a minute. Is that the way it was supposed to be? Couldn’t God have done better with His Firstborn? Yes, but He chose to make a point–He is for the outcast and the downcast.

More lights than ever this time around–inside and out. Light’s a good thing. God said, “Let there be light,” so I follow Him. Light always wins over the darkness. It is a law of physics. Go ahead. Open the closet door. Does darkness invade the bedroom, or does light penetrate the dark closet? I want to be a champion of the light, in my heart, in my home, in my relationships–okay, in my Christmas decorations.

We are playing the Christmas CDs daily. We do not tire of wonderful Christmas hymns that are not sung the rest of the year, tunes with great theology, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” We also enjoy the lighthearted melodies that help to put us in a merry spirit. What a gift music is to elevate the spirit and draw us into the powerful message of the Creator coming into His creation.

We launched this year’s Christmas celebration on the first Sunday of Advent by attending the Christmas concert at Northcentral University. Good decision. Wonderful and edifying music. You have permission to enjoy this beautiful season to the utmost!

Nate Johnstone’s message Sunday on the incarnation kicked things off for Lydia House in a profound way. The mystery of this truth cannot be overestimated. That “the word became flesh” goes past what the mind can grasp. The heart must receive it first–and marvel. Let’s do it!

How about lighting Advent candles? We do. Just as a season in Lent prepares of for the smashing glory of Easter, so four weeks of Advent get us ready for the powerful day of Christmas. The resurrection story does not grip as much when we haven’t thought about Calvary, about denying ourselves and taking up the cross. Good Friday anticipates brilliant Sunday. And so Advent announces that “the King is coming.” Prepare to meet Him, whether He comes by way of the barn out back or on a horse with fire in His eyes! Come, Lord Jesus!