Category Archives: Holidays

1st Week in Advent

This is the first week in Advent, the period of four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth on Christmas Day. Today I bumped into one of our high school youth, John, who works as a stock boy at the local grocery store where we shop. He had attended our Hanging of the Greens service last night. That’s the service where we sing Christmas carols, have scripture readings, and place crismons (Christian Christmas tree ornaments) on the two trees at the front of our sanctuary.

John told me, “I liked the service. It helped me have a better attitude at the beginning of this Christmas season.” With all the busyness of the pre-Christmas season we certainly need to enter it with a good attitude.

As we begin this Christmas season how about committing ourselves to being sensitive to the Lord coming to each of us through the sights and sounds and the activities and events we’ll experience over the next four weeks? Let’s not let the Christmas activities distract us from Christ but attract us to Him!

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He Is Risen!

I came upon this cactus while on a prayer walk in Mexico.  Out of what seems to be a seemingly dead cactus comes new life.

That’s the message of Easter!  Out of a tomb that was designed to hold death came new life!  It was the ultimate new life, the resurrected Christ.  And because He lives we can live too!  We can live an abundant life in His presence and empowerment now and we can live in eternity with Him.

We don’t follow a religious leader who is dead and gone where we’d have to follow his teachings under our own strength and with our own insight.  We serve a living leader!  He is very much with us through the working of His Holy Spirit.

He is with us and is able to guide us, comfort us, help us, and be a companion to us.  We can truly follow Him!  That means He is just one step ahead of us as we walk through each day and each moment of each day.             Happy Easter!  Dave

Palm Sunday Reflecting

I find it a fun challenge as a photographer to capture a fresh interpretation of a palm frond.  This picture was taken last week while visiting our daughter and family in Mexico.  The palm frond is, of course, the classic symbol of Palm Sunday, which is this coming Sunday.

It’s one of my favorite Sundays because it has such an upbeat theme.  We celebrate, as they did on that first Palm Sunday, the kingly power and hope that Jesus expresses.  It just goes to show how greatly we misunderstand Jesus Christ when we resist giving Him control over our lives.  He wants nothing but the ultimate best for us!  When we resist His will for us we reject His best for us!

Let’s take this Palm Sunday as an opportunity to renew, or establish for the first time, the rulership of Christ in our lives.  No one can give better leadership to our lives than He can!  Happy Palm Sunday!
Dave

The Christmas Ladder

I wrote a Christmas story called The Christmas Ladder that you can view as a web page or download as a pdf file to print. I know, it sounds strange to talk of a Christmas ladder, but I have my reasons.

A ladder’s meant to take you up and down.  Jesus came down so we could go up; He came down to earth so we could go up to heaven. 

Jesus, as the eternal Son of God, divested Himself of divine attributes.  He gave up His omnipresence (being all places present) to limit himself to a cradle.  He gave up omniscience (knowing all) to being a newborn that was lucky to manage moving his thumb to his mouth.  He gave up omnipotence (having all power) to being a helpless babe, having to be picked up and nursed. Yes, He, the eternal Son of God, humbled Himself in a remarkable way by being born as one of us.  The only human being who ever asked to be born!

His principle purpose in coming down to us was so that 30 years later, as a grown man, the perfect God/man, He could go up on the cross for us!  There, on that cross, He died, for your sins and mine.  They took Him down from the cross and laid Him down in a grave.  But He didn’t stay there!  He came up out of the grave and went back up to heaven where He once again has the glory due Him.

Jesus’ story is a story of downs and ups, ups and downs.  He came down to be with us so we could go up and be with Him.  It’s the theme of The Christmas Ladder.  It’s the Christmas Story.

Dave

The Two Paths of Christmas

Imagine a hillside Christmas display.  “Come See Christmas in Lights” the sign says.  You’ll be walking a pathway, seeing Christmas portrayed in multi-colored lights and moving displays.  You have two paths to choose from, you’re told upon entering.

The bottom path (no steps, no climbing, little effort required) is advertised as a secular display.  You’ll see images of Santa, reindeer, the Grinch, Frosty, etc., including a swirl of lights on the ground portraying grandma who got run over by the reindeer.

The upper path (some steps, a little climbing, definitely some effort required) is advertised as the religious display.  Here you’ll find the nativity display with the Christ child, angels, shepherds, wise men, the inn keeper, and a blazing star.

If you choose to take the secular path you’ll be with the crowd.  Look up and you can see the haze of the lights from the religious display but nothing is clearly visible to you.  It remains a mystery.  “Happy Holidays!” you’re told upon exiting.

Choose the religious path and you see images of the story that made Christmas a reality in the first place.  There are not as many people on this path as the one below.  You enjoy the images of the Christmas story as you walk along with the story being illuminated afresh in your imagination and heart.  Funny thing is that you can also glance down and enjoy the images of Santa, the reindeer, the Grinch, Frosty and all the rest.  They’ve become classic images and stories, holding their place in your imagination along with such fictional characters as Mickey Mouse, Batman or Cinderella.  You’re enjoying the best of both worlds but, most definitely, the path you’re on is the best of the two worlds.  Upon exiting you’re told, “Merry Christmas!”  It truly is for you a merry Christmas for you’ve chosen the path least traveled, the high road, and that, in this Christmas season, and other times too, has made all the difference in the world!

Dave

Focusing on the Christmas Wrappings

Sunday’s snowstorm resulted in our cancelling our church services.  The weather was just too bad, but not bad enough to keep us from heading to the Indy area to visit our son, his wife and grandson Casey!  You have to remember, I grew up in Iowa and Diann in Minnesota, so the amount of snow we had Sunday wasn’t what we would really call a snowstorm.  At any rate, we had a good time with the family.

Pictured here is Casey enjoying the wrappings from his present.  That’s right, at his age he is as enamored with the wrapping as he is with the gift!  This is not an unusual occurance with small children.  It also can happen with us adults!

We too can get caught up with the wrappings and trappings of Christmas while missing the essential gift that’s supposed to be wrapped up in it all, the personal gift of God, Jesus.  I know this reminder is not new, but I think it bears repeating.  Join me in looking for Jesus in all we do throughout these next days that make up the Christmas season.

Dave

The Miracle of His Coming

   

(a photo of mine I’ll be using in Sunday’s sermon along with the following piece) 

Jesus
For all eternity, the second member of the triune God,
Father, Son, and Spirit enjoying perfect holy harmony.
From the timelessness of eternity’s heaven they came
into earth’s time, the perfect time.
Father, Son, and Spirit who dwell all places
came to a certain place;
land of Galilee, village of Nazareth, home of Mary.

The angel gave explanation to the mystified Mary.
“This is how it happens…
The Holy Spirit comes upon you,
the power of the Most High Father will overshadow you.
They leave.
The Son stays.”

Too small to see, an invisible beginning of being human.
Absent from God’s heaven, present in a woman’s womb.
No longer aware of everything in the universe,
now an embryo that has yet to grow to consciousness.

God in the flesh,
forever to be different from eternity before.
God changed to be like us,
that we might change, becoming more like Him.

“You are to give Him the name Jesus.”
Jesus.
Name above all names.
Worthy of worship, love, obedience, all I have to offer.
No longer my own, He lives in me. I live for Him.
Jesus.

“It’s Christmas” — a Christmas hymn

Here’s a Christmas hymn I wrote a few years ago.  “Immortal, Invisible” is the traditional hymn tune to which it is sung.  You may use it for church use free of charge.  All that I ask is that you let me know you enjoyed using it.  You may also connect with the following link for It’s Christmas and download a printable PDF file of the hymn.  Enjoy! Dave

It’s Christmas

It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas, a time of great joy,
A stable, a manger, the birth of a boy.
The leaving of heaven to earth He came down,
Relinquishing glory and heaven’s great crown.

The stars on that dark night were lost in the light
As heaven’s great chorus to earth took their flight.
Amazed were the angels at what God had done;
They let loose with praise for the gift of the Son.

God’s heaven was emptied of His only Son.
The shepherds, in awe, to the village did run.
The wise men, they came from a distance so far,
To worship the Christ Child, announced by a star.

It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas, a time to rejoice.
To make Him our King is our very own choice.
None other, none other we hail as our King;
His praises forever and ever we’ll sing!

(Sung to the tune of “Immortal, Invisible”)
Copyright 2001 by David J. Claassen
E-mail: djclaassen@gmail.com
Web site: www.daveclaassen.com

Happy Thanksgiving!

I sometimes hear of this holiday being referred to as “Turkey Day.” It never ceases to amaze me how we humans will try our best to strip any and all holidays of any spiritual meaning. This special day is not all about the turkey!

I like to eat turkey, a lot! I enjoy carving it. It’s my job to help clean the carcass afterwards so Diann can make homemade turkey soup. I am intimately involved with the whole process of the turkey-part of Thanksgiving. Still, it’s not at all about the turkey!

Let’s keep the “thanks” in this special day! The way to have a “Happy Thanksgiving” is to give thanks to God for what He’s blessed us with and, more importantly, who He is to us. This is what puts the “happy” in “Happy Thanksgiving.”

I encourage you to think of just five things for which you can thank God. Imagine filling in the lines below.

1.I’m thankful to God for ________________
2.I’m thankful to God for ________________
3.I’m thankful to God for ________________
4.I’m thankful to God for ________________
5.I’m thankful to God for ________________

It’s hard to stop at #5, isn’t it?

Happy Thanksgiving!
Dave