The Christian Christmas

In The Nick of Time
Want to know a secret? Something really personal? The kind of thing that could actually end up in a tabloid?

Well, here it is.

I love Christmas.

No, really. I love Christmas.

I love seeing trees and buildings aglow with colored lights. I love the smell of fresh-baked gingerbread. I love the red of bows and berries against the deep green of pine and holly. I love the jingling of sleigh bells and the soft sound of carols wafting in the streets.

When I was a kid in Michigan, we began to celebrate Christmas right after Thanksgiving. We would always drive into Midland to see the lights. Midland was the location of Dow Chemical, and in those days the city had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world. They spent a good bit of that wealth putting out one of the best Christmas displays around. To a child’s eyes, it was dazzling.

We always had a real Christmas tree. The night that we decorated the tree was always an event. Each child participated, including the variety of foster children who lived in our home through the years. Dad and Mom would wind the lights around the tree, but each child would hang decorations. When every bough was festooned with a paper chain or a bulb or a string of beads, we would layer everything with cascades of tinsel foil.
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Christmas Letter from the Aaron Blumer Family

First, I had probably better clarify something folks find a bit confusing. There are two Blumers actively involved in The one on the left is me. The one on the right is my brother, Adam. Adam is the younger and better looking one. I’m the nearsighted, bearded, and nearly bald one. Adam studied journalism. I studied “divinity.” Adam handles the editing and coordinates advertising. I get most of the hate and “other” mail (so far, mostly “other”). Adam is married to Kim, has two lovely daughters, and lives in the north woods in Michigan. I’m married to Marilyn, have one lovely daughter and one ebullient son, and live in west central Wisconsin.
Aaron      Adam
Now that that’s out of the way, merry Christmas!

I can barely remember how to write a Christmas letter, but I seem to recall that the genre involves pictures, News from the Year, and maybe a few Profound Observations Related to the Season. Since the profound part of my mind is out to lunch, here’s some news.
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Merry Christmas from the Adam Blumer Family

Adam Blumer FamPeering out the window, we realize that the falling snowflakes are as numerous as God’s blessings in 2008—simply too many to count. Laura (7) and Julia (4) are growing taller and looking more like little ladies all the time. We are praying that they will learn to love the Lord more and yield their lives to Him. They continue to do well in homeschooling and enjoy making new friends at church. Laura is a veteran flower girl now after filling the role twice in the last year. She began piano lessons this fall and had her first recital last week. Julia, our little “monkey” who loves climbing on everything, is learning her letters and numbers. Each day brings new joys and discoveries. Two hamsters died this fall, but both girls moved on pretty quickly.

Kim stays busy homeschooling the girls and doing other tasks around the house, including running a part-time virtual office for Shalom Ministries. One of her big projects is planning the annual May Israel trip. There are so many details to keep track of, but Kim excels in organization and planning. In her free time, she enjoys trying new recipes and taking on decorative and gardening projects.
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Merry Christmas from the Jim Peet Family

And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come … Haggai 2:7
PeetsThe faithful Old Testament saints looked for the coming of the Messiah. We see this in the person of Simeon who “was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25-32) and Anna (Luke 2:36-38).

On this side of the First Advent we look for the second Advent of our Savior.

John Flavel in his message, Christ the Desire of Nations, wrote:

If Christ is the desire of all nations, examine whether he is the desire of your souls in particular; otherwise you shall have no benefit by him. Are your desires after Christ true spiritual desires? Reflect, I beseech you, upon the attitudes and tempers of your heart. Can you say of your desires after Christ, as Peter did of his love to Christ? “Lord, you know all things, you know that I desire you.” Examine your desires as to their sincerity …

According to Hebrews 12, God has not completed His shaking of the nations:
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Why Jesus?

by Pastor Dan Miller

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections.
NativityYou may remember the days when our nation’s media sources were obsessed with the dawn of the new millennium. It was difficult to pick up a newspaper, thumb through a magazine, or watch a thoughtful program on television at that time without encountering a list of the most influential people of the past year (1999), decade (1990’s), century (twentieth) or millennium (second). The lists of names, pigeon-holed into one inventive category after another, seemed endless.

In the midst of this barrage I was struck with Time magazine’s nomination for pivotal figure of the past millennium: Jesus of Nazareth (Time, December 6, 1999). Time is an “enlightened” journal with wide circulation and fully innocent of any and all charges of pandering to religious zealots. So I was a little surprised by its acknowledgment of the significance of Jesus—surprised at such candor from a publication that so studiously ignores the significance of Christ in the lion’s-share of its endeavors. Be that as it may, I believe Time was right to recognize that no single individual has so influenced our world in the past millennium (make that two) as Jesus Christ.
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Changing Our Minds about Missionary Training

BibleDissatisfaction with current missionary training has led to radical proposals. Ferris, following Frame, proposes that “we dump the academic model once and for all—degrees, accreditation, tenure, the works” (Ferris 1990, 16). Prominent missiologist Gailyn Van Rheenen decided to leave Abilene Christian University based on the following conclusion: “We have grown to believe that we cannot adequately train people for evangelism and church planting within an institutional setting” (Van Rheenen 2004, 7). It is not necessary to agree with dissonant voices, yet their concerns should be heard.

A number of training modes describe various perspectives. I am not an expert on missionary training, but I listen to the experts. Here we’ll consider the formal, nonformal, and informal modes. Thompson summarizes the purpose of these different modes of learning:
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