Matthew 2:11-12

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 2:11-12

Hug someone. Hugging is great for all occasions. (Hurt, happy, excited? Hug!)

Matthew 2:7-10

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed

Matthew 2:7-10

Compliment someone—or everyone! 

Matthew 2:1-6

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Matthew 2:1-6

Use the card you received on Sunday to invite a friend to Christmas services!

Micah 5:2-4

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.

Micah 5:2-4

Listen to the Beauty of Christmas songs as you go about the day. 

Luke 2:15-18

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Luke 2:15-18

Plan a party. Music + food + friends = a room full of love!

Luke 2:8-11

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 

Luke 2:8-11

Create a masterpiece. Painting, sculpting or songwriting will create a joyful feeling.

Luke 2:1-7

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while. And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Luke 2:1-7

Enjoy some hot tea and Christmas carols. 

Luke 1:46-55

Mary’s Song

And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke 1:46-55

Say or sing a thankful song. A thankful heart is a hope-filled heart.

Luke 1:39-45

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

In a loud voice she exclaimed: “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? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Luke 1:39-45

Jump in the car and deliver Christmas flowers to a friend. Create some joy on the spot!

Luke 1:34-38

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:34-38

Spread hope by volunteering, cleaning up the neighborhood or making cookies for others.

Luke 1:29-33

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:29-33

Watch the sunrise together, tomorrow. God’s beauty makes the heart smile. 

What is Advent about?

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“The Empire Strikes Back Snow Fortress with the exploding ice wall! YES!!!”

These were the words that burst forth from my lips, Christmas morning 1980. I was ten years old and, once again, Mom had saved the best present for last. Every year, we had the same pattern. We’d start with the perfunctory gifts: socks, underwear, slippers and the like. Slowly and gradually, we’d work our way up the gift ladder of greatness to the better presents, anticipation, excitement, and gratitude growing along the way—until all the presents under the tree were opened. Then, for a moment, we’d all act like that was it, all the presents had been given. But we knew, Mom always saved the best present for last. That final penultimate present would be hidden behind the white chair in the living room. 

  • In 1975, it was the Big Trak tank.
  • In 1980, it was the Star Wars gear.
  • In 1985, it was my first guitar amp.  (Now that is real love. They actually paid to have that racket in their house.) 

Each Christmas, there was a slow build-up to the big moment; the big reveal: the best present last!

That is the purpose of the Advent season: a slow build of anticipation, excitement, and gratitude. Each day, opening another gift, as we move toward the celebration of His greatest gift to us: His presence to us in the person of Jesus.  

Over the next four weeks, we will unwrap the gifts of Christmas as we journey through the Advent season. It is our chance to listen to the stories, to remember the true meaning of Christmas, to wait in expectation for the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. The point is not to get rid of the trappings and traditions and celebrations all around us but to take a purposeful journey through them to more deeply experience the gifts of Christmas: hope, love, peace, and joy.

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The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” and the season is marked by expectation, waiting, anticipation, and longing. Advent is not just an extension of Christmas—it is a season that links the past, present, and future. Advent offers us the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, to celebrate His birth, and to be alert for His second coming. Advent looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration, while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom in full when He returns. Hope fulfilled in Jesus. And hope still to be completed in Jesus’s second coming. During Advent we wait for both—active, assured waiting. 

One of the common traditions of Advent is the lighting of the candles on an Advent wreath. A circular evergreen wreath represents God’s unending 1st Love for us. And the lighting candles throughout the season—one for each of the Sundays before Christmas and one on Christmas Eve—represents Jesus’s coming to a world lost in darkness.

As the prophet Isaiah wrote,

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2). 
 

As we celebrate the Advent of First Love this season, we will light an additional candle each week. Each flame brings us closer to the arrival of the true Light of the world, born in Bethlehem.

In a season often marked by frenzied busyness, Advent is an opportunity to set aside time to prepare our hearts and help us place our focus on a far greater story than our own—the story of God’s First Love for our world. It’s not a season of pretending or covering over—it is a season of digging deep into the reality of what it means that God sent His Son into the world. It is a season of expectation and preparation, an opportunity to align ourselves with God’s presence more than just the hectic season of presents.

I hope you’ll plan on being here each Sunday and using the 1st Love Advent calendar, so you can experience the slow build of joy and truly experience the Best Present last!

Right then, I knew I needed to say the F-word: Forgive.  

There’s an old apocryphal story from Spain that tells of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: 

Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. 

On Saturday, dozens of Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. 

In Jesus, we meet our one true, loving Father, who not only forgives us, but runs to us, with arms wide open. There’s nothing we can do to make Him loves us more. There’s nothing we can do to make Him love us less. His forgiveness of us is complete and eternal, thanks to the finished work of Jesus at Calvary.

Yet, the forgiven often find themselves unsure or unable to forgive others. We’ve received this immeasurable wealth of forgiveness, but find it hard to spare a dime of it on someone else who has hurt or offended us.  

Sometimes, we aren’t even aware that we are harboring unforgiveness.

Five years ago, I was on a five-day sabbatical that I spent in silence at a monastery.  The first two nights, I didn’t sleep well. I was restless, tossing and turning. Nightmares plagued me. I was exhausted by day three.

That afternoon, I had finished praying the Sext, the midafternoon office, with the monks. As I was making my way back to my cabin, my thoughts drifted toward an individual, who had been very significant in my life for many years. This is a person I saw almost daily and loved dearly.   As their face came to mind, a torrent of anger suddenly burst up out of me, along with a string of words that I won’t print here. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. The whole thing felt so primal and almost involuntary, like vomiting a bad meal that gave you food poisoning. 

In the aftermath, as the wave of rage passed, I was ashamed that I had said the F word, cursing someone I loved. In that moment of shame, the Spirit made it clear to me. Over the years, there were some habitual behaviors in this person’s life that had deeply wounded me. I had excused the behavior. The hurt I had buried deep in the basement of my soul, hidden behind a false wall. The combination of the three days of silence and prayer mixed with the physical exhaustion had caused that wall to crumble. In that moment, the years of hurt I had buried and all the unforgiveness I had harbored came pouring out.  

Right then I knew I needed to say the F-word: Forgive.  

Over the next hours, into the evening, through prayer and journaling, I revisited those wounds and wept. By God’s grace, I was able to pass on what had been given to me in limitless measure: Forgiveness.

I literally felt 100lbs lighter.  I slept like a baby that night. My soul was free.

But the work of forgiveness had only begun. Over the coming months, I found myself needing to forgive that person again, as they continued in the toxic behavior.  But because I was forgiving immediately, it cleared up my perspective to see I needed to change how I was relating to this person.  My relationship with that person changed because forgiving empowered me to lovingly and directly address the behavior. Furthermore, instead of surrendering to a false martyrdom that turned me into a welcome mat for the inappropriate behavior, I began to erect healthy boundaries. Eventually, because the person wasn’t willing to change, I phased out of that relationship.  

It was one the most life-giving moves Jesus ever led me through.  

The next five weeks, we’re inviting everyone to experience the freedom that only the forgiveness can bring. We’ll address the myths about what forgiveness is that keep us from forgiving. Myths like, “Forgive and forget.” What!? How do you forget childhood abuse, a devastating divorce, or a rape? Trying to forget is not forgiveness, that’s insanity. We’ll take a clear look at what forgiveness is and what it is not. Furthermore, we’ll dig into the deep soul work that makes forgiveness of any wound possible.   

With forgiveness comes freedom. Each week of this series builds upon the other, like a Master Class on Forgiveness, so make sure to be a part of every weekend. It’s time to say, “I forgive myself. I forgive you. I am forgiven!”

It's moms inviting friends and strangers to our play dates or out to coffee in obedience to God's prompting.

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As a mom of 3 littles under 4 I was looking for a place to connect and belong. Motherhood can be both fulfilling and isolating, sometimes at the same time. We were new to the area and I was desperate for a community of moms where I could share my fears and frustrations, compare sleepless nights and potty training stories and build friendships that would follow me (and my kids) through the next decade. 

We had been attending Westside for several months, but I had no idea they had a moms group. My plan had been to join a local MOPS group, but the one closest to me was full. I was pretty devastated that my ideal moms group wasn't going to be a reality, so I did what any mom would do. I took my kids to CFA and ate my feelings. 

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God has a way of showing up when we least expect him. I was sitting in CFA eating my breakfast and another mom and I strike up a conversation. In the past this might have been something I would have tried to avoid,  but we immediately connected because both our kids were playing together and starting preschool that week. Somewhere during the conversation church came up and we discovered we both attended Westside. She asked me if I knew about the Moms group and proceeded to tell me about it and how to find it on the website, which was important. This mom didn't attend the mom group because of work, but I'm so thankful she listened to God and engaged me that morning. I immediately went home looked up the group and sign up to attend a meeting. I was hooked after that initial meeting. It was what I needed and desired. 

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Moments like that show how God is moving in this ministry. It's moms inviting friends and strangers to our play dates or out to coffee in obedience to God's prompting. It's asking for prayers over difficult situations and sharing our struggles without judgment. It's changing the culture of the group to include moms with kids of all ages and in various stages of life. It's allowing women to come together with a shared purpose to learn and grow. 

I have been so blessed by this group in a short amount of time. My kids have also formed relationships that without the group I don't feel they would have made. This group was there when I was at one of my lowest points. My prayer is that other moms are impacted, encouraged, and blessed by MOMS Together. 

For every mom, in every stage, YOU belong. 

MOMS Together is meeting every 1st and 3rd Wednesday. Join us! 

 
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