Archives For Christmas

Christmas Reflections

wesblackburn —  December 25, 2013 — Leave a comment
6x9 - Front - LandscapeThe people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:2-4; 6-7

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope you’ve gotten a chance to spend some time already today with family, friends, and loved ones. (Maybe a little bit too much time… probably why you are reading the Cultivate blog right now.) I know I am enjoying the time that I get to spend at home for a few days with my family, taking a break from it all, and enjoying the wonderful smorgasbord of food that my mom has so laboriously prepared.

Today I just wanted to offer some brief reflections of my own on Christmas. That verse above is, to me at least, one of the most beautiful statements about what we celebrate at the Christmas season. We celebrate the light and life of God that came crashing into our world in the most powerful and personal way possible at Christmas. We rejoice at the beginning of the end of bondage to sin, we celebrate God’s redemptive plan being set into motion in an enormous way, and we remember that the little baby in the manger on Christmas Day was so much more than just a child. He was and is the Son of God. Christmas

There’s something beautiful about being reunited with someone. A couple of weeks ago, I had to drive to Cincinnati for a day in order to fulfill some college degree requirements. Because I knew weather would probably be rough and snowy, I decided I’d leave on Sunday afternoon, take care of my school business Monday morning, and drive back to NWI Monday night. A nice side effect of this was that I got to spend the night at the home of my best friends from college, C.J. and Ami.

On this particular Sunday night, C.J. and Ami were busy at their church with the Christmas program happening that night, but C.J. gave me the garage code to let myself in, unpack, and get settled until they got back. As I walked through the door, I was absolutely and unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotion. I looked at the walls of their home and saw pictures of them together, and how happy they looked. There were pictures everywhere of Chloe, their baby girl who is now 2 1/2 years old… she could barely even walk last time I saw her! I went upstairs and saw the former guest room, now prepped and underway to become a nursery for their newest baby on the way next year. As a small tear rolled down my cheek, I was reminded how much I love this family. I was simultaneously kicking myself for not keeping in touch better while being so happy to be with them again in this moment, if only for one night in December. Not even a terrible Sunday Night Football loss by my beloved Cincinnati Bengals was enough to ruin this mood.

urlAs I said my goodbyes and drove home the next day, I reflected on how my experience being back with C.J., Ami, and Chloe probably parallels my journey with God. There have been a lot of ups and downs in the journey, and there have been seasons of my life where I’ve run from him, only to come back home later. The emotion and joy that I felt at being reunited with long-lost friends is probably the same emotion and the joy in some way that God feels when we are reunited with him. When Jesus came into the world in the most personal way possible, God was setting into motion his plan to draw all people to himself. I have no doubt that there is radical celebration in heaven from God himself at the heart of each person who chooses to turn back to him.

I guess that for me, Isaiah 9’s Christmas prophecy about Jesus is so important to me because it begs me to ask the question: “Why would I turn away in the first place?” God’s Son breaks us free from the chains of oppression. He is a counselor to us. He is a mighty God, greater than any other circumstance we face. He is a loving Father to us, and his kingdom brings peace. Jesus coming to our earth sets all these things into motion. This Christmas, I’m really thankful for that and I’m really thankful for the reminder of what a baby boy in a Bethlehem manger means to me, even 2,000 years later.

O Holy Night

wesblackburn —  December 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today’s song is my personal favorite Christmas carol, “O Holy Night.” It’s performed here by Kari Jobe. Take a listen:

(Can’t see the video? Click here.)

Everyone’s really familiar with the first verse of this song, but I love the second. It’s a personal reminder to me that Christ’s call to us was to love one another. In the process, we see freedom discovered, chains broken, lives changed. But it all began with one fateful night in Bethlehem. It was truly divine; angels appearing to shepherds, a virgin giving birth to a child, wise men moving at the sight of a star.

Today, I hope that this song is an invitation to us all to take a step back, consider what happened on that Christmas night many years ago, and give thanks for the God who chose to step in and save our world in the process!

We talk on here a lot about the importance of reading the Bible. It is God’s Word to us, and there is no quicker way for us to hear from him than to simply open Scripture and allow him to speak. Earlier this week, someone tagged me in a post on Facebook about the ten most influential books you’ve ever read. As I thought through my list, the Bible was a clear #1. In my life, personally, there’s been no more transformational habit than interacting with God’s words to me each day as revealed through the pages of the Bible.

christmas_tree_01Christmas is upon us, and so I think this produces in us a great opportunity to engage with Scripture (and specifically, the Christmas story) in a cool way this season. Perhaps you are looking to read or familiarize yourself with the story for the first time, or maybe you are hoping to read it with your kids or share with your family. YouVersion is a really cool website and Bible reading app that has produced several different plans where you can do just that!

Specifically today, I’d love to push you to this plan. It’s a great little five-day reading plan designed to take you through the Christmas story. We’ve still got a week before Christmas, so you’ve got plenty of time to tackle one reading a day and still have time to spare (perhaps to finish up some last minute Christmas shopping).

open bible

Simply click the link above (or here) and you can subscribe to the plan on YouVersion’s website. Don’t forget that the YouVersion Bible app is available for your smart phone or tablet, so you can also download there to track with the Christmas story this season!

Happy reading! I hope God interacts and works in your life in a really cool way in the next week as you engage and interact with him!

Light Has Come

wesblackburn —  December 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today’s song for #MusicMonday is by Charlie Hall and entitled “Light Has Come.” Take a listen:

(Can’t see the video in your email or blog reader? Click here.)

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was madet through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  -John 1:9-14

Today’s song is sort of like a Christmas hymn that proclaims the truth of Christmastime that light has come into the darkness of our world. The light of Jesus Christ illuminates our lives; he came to show us what God is really like and he came to offer us hope that no matter who we are, what we’ve done, or where we’ve been, that we can be reunited in a restored relationship with God. The chains of our sin have been torn apart, and we are given new life! I hope that today’s song leads us all into a spirit of worship in this Christmas season.