Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

If “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”…Why do I Feel Like Such a Scrooge?

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Guest Blog by Kevin Burke

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Christmas can be a magical time, especially when enjoying the season through the eyes of children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. However, alongside the lights and festivities, the joy and wonder of this special time, many struggle with a sense of grief and loss.

Sometimes it’s not a pervasive gloom, but more a gnawing melancholy we can fight off by being consumed with all the busyness of the season. You may find yourself (or notice a friend or relative) drinking more than usual at holiday celebrations, dulling an aching pain you would rather avoid.

You don’t have to be an Ebenezer Scrooge to recognize that the expectations for an idealized Hallmark Card Christmas by the fireplace fail to match up to the complex realities, the uncertainty and fear that are part of many of our lives. If we can slow down the Holiday rush for a few minutes, we may discover something important in this great feast. Perhaps the deeper meaning of this Holiday does not require us to deny our grief and pain, but to come to see that this suffering is intimately connected to the Christmas story.

Much of the music and mythology of the holiday highlight an idealized and sanitized version of the Christmas story. But the accounts of the Annunciation and birth of Jesus in the Gospels reveal that God intimately enters human history with a man and woman who are struggling with confusion and fear… just like us.

We know the stories; we have heard them thousands of times. But focus in a special way on the initial response of Mary and Joseph as they learn of God’s invitation to embrace their very mysterious vocation:

The Angel Gabriel is well aware of Mary’s fear when his greets her.

“Do not be afraid Mary…”

And to Joseph:

“Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife…”

Of course they were both confused and afraid. We think of the Christmas story in the context of cozy and warm family gatherings, with cookies baking in the oven. But in the real Christmas story, the lives of Mary and Joseph are in the process of being turned upside down! They will face even more anxiety, fear and uncertainty.

Joseph and Mary, and the life of their newborn child will be threatened with terror and death from a demonically inspired Herod. They face dangerous travel and exile from their hometowns for years to come. They surely were challenged in many ways that the stories do not recount. We know that while their faith in God would prove in time to be rock solid…no doubt that faith and trust in Him was forged in the fires of anxiety and fear. We can imagine that Joseph had other moments of doubt and confusion and would need to remember the Angel’s words of reassurance… “don’t be afraid, God is with you, keep moving ahead…trust in Him.”

Christmas Triggers

We are not so different than Jesus and Mary. Fear, anxiety and depression can at times be part of our own Christmas story…and like Scrooge we may face scary ghosts of Christmas past haunting our sleep as the clock tolls midnight.

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The focus on the Christ Child and the joy of children at Christmas may remind you (or someone you love) of an event in the past when you were overwhelmed with a fear and anxiety and tempted to see abortion as the only “choice.” We remember the loss of a son or daughter, grandchild, or a brother or sister who will never share in the wonder of the Holiday. This can be very much a conscious awareness. However for many this loss is frozen deep under the waters of denial. The Holiday themes trigger those feelings and memories of that lost child, which can be expressed in depression, melancholy and a hunger to remain distracted and busy in the hustle and bustle of the season.

Perhaps this was a child that you longed for in the recesses of your heart, but your partner insisted that abortion was the only rational solution. Like the Holy Family you felt powerless and afraid. You grieve that there was no Saint Joseph in your life to save the child from the modern day Herods of Planned Parenthood. Maybe you’re a man grieving that you failed to be more like Saint Joseph to that vulnerable woman facing an unplanned pregnancy.

Christmas can be a time when we are acutely aware of the loss of a beloved relative, remember joy-filled memories that have faded…or perhaps painful experiences of family dysfunction which are often magnified at the Holidays. We may be facing the anxiety of health concerns, economic and employment uncertainty, or the breakdown of a marriage.

The Cross Above the Manger

The presence of suffering, death, fear and anxiety need not be denied and suppressed in order to protect some sanitized, idealized Christmas season. If we can learn the intimate connection between the incarnation and birth of our Savior and his suffering on the cross, we may discover in our own suffering the true joy and hope of this holiday.

Fr. Bernhard Speringer shares:

The Gospels…indicate that the Cross above the Manger is more than a mere decoration…The birth and death of Jesus Christ, the Manger and the Cross, belong together indissolubly. God became man in order to die for us as man. God was born in Bethlehem in order to be able to lay down his life on Golgotha out of love for men! Thus the Manger and the Cross form a union. Both the Manger and the Cross are for us the revelation of God’s love.
When our lives are turned upside down by the tsunamis of upheaval and suffering that come unexpectedly and without warning, we can turn to a God that is intimately connected with the suffering of his people. We can come to a deeper understanding of that powerful and precious title of our savior and God born into the anxiety and violence faced by many poor families, and a baby Jesus who would end his life being tortured to death on a cross.

This child’s title is Emanuel – God with Us.

Loneliness and isolation in times of suffering and temptation can blind us to an essential truth of our faith; God is with us in our suffering…intimately present to us in Spirit and in the hearts of those who reach out to us in love.

During the Holidays give the gift to a friend or relative (or to yourself!) of providing an opportunity to share what it is truly on their heart and soul this Christmas season. Acknowledge that while this is a time of joy, you know that they may also be suffering from the loss of a loved one, financial anxieties, and if they have confided in you, a previous abortion. Allow them to share their feelings and memories. If they are in need of deeper healing of a loss like abortion, share with them the good news that this is a perfect time of year to bring this suffering to the Lord, and attend a program for spiritual and emotional healing after abortion in the New Year.

This is the Reason for the Season!

May we draw strength in the year ahead from the courage and faith of the Holy Family. Joseph and Mary, though struggling with fear and anxiety, gave birth to the mission of their Son.

For those healed of abortion loss, like Scrooge on Christmas morning they learn that despair and death do not have the last word!

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They discover in recovery from this wound their own special mission. They respond to a calling to proclaim the truth of their abortion loss and the good news of healing to a Nation and world that desperately needs to hear their message in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.

Jesus has promised us that in time he will transform all our suffering, into the joy and hope of resurrection to eternal life.

When in the darkness and loneliness of suffering this can seem a very distant hope.

I pray that these words of Christ will fill you with peace and joy…that whatever you are facing, and will face in the days ahead, you can trust that He is indeed Emanuel and is close to you in your suffering, and will transform the darkest shadows of your life with the blinding light of His Glorious Resurrection:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then he said, “Write these words down, for they are trustworthy and true.” Rev: 21

How Can the Dream Survive?

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Share God’s Love at Christmas

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

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It might just be wistful thinking, but I pray the Grinch doesn’t get to steal your Christmas this year. This season can be very commercial, all about giving and getting with little thought regarding the true meaning, which is the love of God and the ultimate gift of Christ. I pray that you find a few quiet moments to reflect, relax and receive His grace.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May God touch your life in a very special way during the holidays. Click HERE for audio message.

p.s. Watch this wonderful short video: The Christmas Scale

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A Special Gift at Christmas: A Prayer for our Leaders

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

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Click HERE to listen to the Christmas Prayer.

1 Timothy 2: … pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

It’s a privilege and necessity to pray for our leaders, their families, our nation and our government. Let’s pray not only for our president, but for all leaders. Do we really hate the sin, yet love the person bound by sin? Are we secretly asking God to kill those whom we perceive to be our enemies, instead of praying for them to be blessed?

And Jesus said in Matthew 5:44: “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

With compassion, let’s pray this Christmas that God will heal, use and protect their lives from destruction; that our world can recover and be rescued from the grip of sin and despair.

1. Pray that our leaders would have understanding to discern between good and evil.
2. Pray that the Bible and the teachings of Christ would characterize our leaders’ policies.
3. Pray that our leaders’ marriages would be kept a priority even in the midst of daily demands.
4. Pray that our leaders would become friends to those who honor Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
5. Pray that our leaders and all global would uphold the sacredness of marriage as a covenant only between a man and a woman.
6. Pray that our leaders would lead the way in protecting and upholding the value of the unborn, newborn, elderly, and those who are unable to care for themselves.
7. Pray that our leaders’ administrations will respect the place of Judeo-Christian values in our global society.
8. Pray that our leaders would have perseverance in leading the effort to defeat terrorism around the world.
9. Pray that the presidential family and families of all leaders would model lives of integrity, purity, and humility in the midst of high visibility.
10. Pray that our leaders would promote laws that enable God’s people to lead quiet and peaceful lives in godliness and honesty.
11. Pray that our leaders would be surrounded by wise, biblical counselors who have an understanding of the times.
12. Pray for physical, mental and emotional strength and courage as our leaders seek to serve our governments as stewards of God’s authority.
13. Pray for physical protection for our leaders’ families and administrations.
14. Pray that our leaders would make decisions that would allow Christ’s church in America and around the world to flourish.
15. Pray that our leaders would enact policies and legislation that protect the family, encourage parents, and uphold a biblical standard of righteousness.
16. Pray that our leaders would daily seek the God of heaven, and that they would exemplify true meekness and humility while addressing crucial issues.
17. Pray that our leaders would follow attempts to significantly curtail pornography, the human trafficking trade, and the triple threat of racism, reproductive genocide and sexual perversion.
18. Pray that God would clothe our leaders with wisdom and discernment to lead righteously.
19. Pray that our leaders’ administrations would be men and women of integrity in both their private and public lives.
20. Pray that the Lord would close the mouths of those who oppose righteousness.
21. Pray that our leaders would have wisdom and discernment on how to apply Scripture to our government’s fiscal policies.
22. Pray that the presidential family would avail themselves of the Lord’s help in facing each day’s challenges.
23. Pray that our leaders would be accountable to men who are morally upright in order to prevent any downfall due to pride or moral weakness.
24. Pray that our leaders would not allow their deep desire for unity to supersede their desire to do what is right according to God’s Word.
25. Pray that God would unite the nation behind our leaders in any decisions that honor God.
26. Pray that our leaders would establish protective hedges in areas of vulnerability to temptation.
27. Pray that our leaders would wisely handle the issues of the Middle East.
28. Pray that God would prompt our leaders to disarm all influences that seek to undermine godly principles.
29. Pray that our leaders will seek the heart of God for any potential Supreme Court justices and federal court judges.
30. Pray that our leaders will set aside regular times to rest and to focus on God and His Word, as well as their families.
31. Pray that our nation will truly become one nation under God, respect and pray for our president, and elect state and local leaders who will govern righteously.
32. Amen.

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Jesus Is the Reason for the Season

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Sandy Hook CrossIn our darkest moments shines the light divine. As we consider the back-to-back tragedies of Superstorm Sandy and the Sandy Hook massacre, we must remember this Christmas season that there are hundreds of people who have lost not only their homes and material resources, but also their loved ones.

One of the most poignant losses of this season came as the face of evil descended on the little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our emotions have been overwrought and we are left trying to understand what happened.

For me, as a fifth generation minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the first thing I did was to pray for the children, staff, teachers and their families. The second thing I did was recognize that the teachers and children of Sandy Hook weren’t able to pray as a matter of policy — even as their very lives were threatened.

That’s been the case since prayer was banned from public schools back in 1963. I imagined how the students and teachers must have been huddled together, frightened and trembling, and not able to call on the name of Jesus without breaking the rules.

As I considered those little school children huddling and hoping to live, I also couldn’t help but think of the unborn babies trembling in the wombs of their mothers as abortionists take away their chance at life.

At the same time that our children were under attack in Sandy Hook, there were also little kindergarten children being stabbed to death in China. Oh my. This would seem hopeless if we couldn’t have the blessed promise of Jesus, especially in this season.

Please bear with me as I recall that even the joyous birth of Jesus was surrounded by spiritual forces that caused hundreds of little Hebrew baby boys to be slaughtered as the king tried to prevent the birth of a savior.

Similar shifts occurred during the time of the birth of Moses, the Old Testament prophet who told pharaoh that God said: “Let my people go.”

I can’t help wonder what would happen if we would lift up our eyes to the hills where our help comes from these days? I know that we must be sensitive and prayerful, yet we can still have hope, and must not feel guilty for being able to thank God for Jesus by singing a sweet Christmas Carol or two this Christmas day.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t shed tears for those who lost so much. Yet, as we pray in the midst of all of the horrors around us, let us also remember that God is still supreme.

In the words of my dearly departed grandfather, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., let us “thank God for what we have left.” Let us be grateful for his love. Let us continue to pray, according to 2 Chronicles 7:14.

We can all take heart that humanity is still filled with stories of love, compassion, and triumph. Maybe we should turn off the gun control debates which will distract us from the real reason for this season.

Instead of focusing on banning guns, why can’t our government officials work to put prayer back in schools? Such an act of compassion would surely be a comfort and could even make the world a better place.

Who can argue that a reasonable firearms policy that protects the mentally challenged, their families and the broader communities wouldn’t be a good idea? We should have come to this conclusion long before the Sandy Hook tragedy.

It is commendable that the cry for help is finally being heard. But there is still a need to bring love and peace back into the media rather than the gratuitous violence and promiscuous sex that floods our airwaves and permeates the living rooms and family rooms of our homes, consuming the minds and souls of our children.

How many boxes and cartons of violent, anti-family DVDs, video games, software, CDs and other similar media are already gift wrapped and ready to burst into the lives of our children on Christmas day?

I can only pray that agape love will prevail over the material, mercenary clouds that threaten to rain on our peace.

And remember: Don’t leave Jesus out of the season, because he’s the reason for the season.

P. S. Join Day Gardner and yours truly to take back Christmas at The Vision. And try some holiday cooking tips from my kitchen.

Merry Christmas!
For unto us a son is given, for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son Jesus!

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A Few Of My Favorite Christmas Videos

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

SPACER
“And His Name shall be called….”

This is my favorite time of the year, awaiting the celebration of the arrival of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. The Christmas season also points to our anticipation of his second coming.

I wanted to share a couple of new videos that my friend Day Gardner and I made for you. The first is from an internet show that I do with Dr. Day Gardner entitled THE VISON. The second is a fun cooking segment video I did for Christmas. I hope you check them out and share them with your friends and family.

Also, enjoy the video below. This one is a particularly good one a friend forwarded to me; it’s a flash mob Christmas Celebration!

I’m looking forward to some old favorites such as Sound of Music and the Preacher’s Wife. May even catch the Bishop’s Wife on cable as well. Then, there’s LAST OUNCE OF COURAGE with our friend Jennifer O’Neill and some other really blessed and talented actors, producers, songwriters, etc.

Don’t forget to pray for those who are observing the loss of loved ones, and may God bless and comfort them during this season and always.

God bless you all and a very Merry Christmas!

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The Vision Christmas Show

Monday, December 10th, 2012


Here is the first of a few new episodes of The Vision. Check back regularly for upcoming episodes.

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National Call to Action!!!

Saturday, December 1st, 2012


A message from my good friend, Day Gardner

“Take Back Christmas” Project – Even though Mary became an un-wed mother in a very difficult time, God had specific plans for her baby—and He still has specific plans for each and every baby. Therefore, we are organizing participation of a thousand (or more) churches across the Nation to be very deliberate in holding biblical events this coming and every Christmas with heavy focus on the birth of Jesus celebrations.

We are also asking for each church to organize events in public areas such as traditional Christmas caroling hailing the birth of Jesus. We are also providing and producing support pieces on Facebook, Twitter, Email and YouTube videos.

Our hope is less Santa, Frosty and Rudolph—More Jesus!

Alveda and I — after this depressing election season felt it would be great to do something really uplifting and something ALL Christians can support!

Are you interested in helping us take back CHRISTmas?

Part One:
“Flash Mob” Christmas Caroling

We are planning “flash mob (FM) Christmas caroling”. Here’s the thing…songs only about Jesus–NO Frosty, NO Rudolph, NO Santa and NO Christmas tree or chestnut songs.

We are asking the “FM” to sing 10 songs – One verse only “always beginning” with O Come All Ye Faithful ( as a call to action)—”always ending” with Silent Night (to signify the end). (Approx time: 15-20 minutes)

Let’s make it fun!

Ask everyone to wear something red (ex:) a red coat or hat or scarf or gloves–or just carry a red bag!!!

Good thing is — no rehearsals needed!!!
No baby sitters needed!!! Bring the kids!!!

We will provide an email list of ten songs with the words included to the first verse of each song.

We are hoping churches, individuals, family and friends will do one or more of these in different locations in the week leading up to Christmas.

We have other ideas and would like to hear yours–so, are you with us???!!

Merry CHRISTmas!!!!
Day and Alveda

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