Tag Archives: family

Manger Scene

manger sceneWhen I was a kid, during the season of Advent we would always have a little manger scene out with the figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, a shepherd and three wise men. It was a child-friendly set, with almost like a Lincoln Log stable and Fisher Price style figures (I know I am dating myself with these references).

I just recently learned that this manger scene was a wedding gift for my parents, who were married 50 years ago on December 27, 1967. What a wonderful wedding gift to give: the story of the birth of Jesus in tangible form to share with future children as part of a family tradition.

My parents still have those figures and they still put them out. And I am again reminded when I see them of the marvelous story of how Christ came to earth to save us.

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A Ritual of Thanks

thanks ritual

One of our our most pervasive rituals of thanks is gathering for a feast with family and friends.

When we were little and someone gave us something or complimented us, our parents prompted us with, “Now what do you say?” We would dutifully say thank you (perhaps rather meekly and/or begrudgingly) and run away.

As adults, we often continue to need prompting from our heavenly Father to say thank you. As the Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Scripture itself is encouraging us to develop a ritual of thanks in our lives. We are called to make thanksgiving a regular part of our every activity.

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Family Gatherings

game nightHave you heard of the popular online trend of monthly box subscription services? Amanda Monroe, a director of children’s and family ministry at Grace Lutheran Church in Loves Park, IL, applied the concept to develop faith formation at home. Her online store is faithfixbox.com. Faith Fix Boxes can be purchased by families or congregations to use.

The idea is to provide devotional materials and faith-based activities for families to use and work on together to strengthen their individual commitment to Christ and build relationships of faith with one another.

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Table Talk

table talk

Take time to talk at the table.

In this year when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is good to us to remember some of the practical, everyday components of Martin Luther’s life that we can apply to our lives today.

One of those is the idea of Table Talk. Luther would regularly gather around the dinner table with friends, family and students of his for dinner and for conversation. The topics of these conversations would range from religious doctrine and history to instructions regarding government, church, and the academic university. Many who were there took notes on what Luther and others said at these Table Talks, which were eventually compiled into a book called Table Talk

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Christmas letters

Christmas letter

What will you say in your Christmas letter this year?

I confess that I am one of those people who loves composing and receiving Christmas letters. Maybe it is the writer in me, but there is something therapeutic to me about summing up the events of the past year in a single page and reminding me and all the friends and loved ones on my Christmas list that the Savior who was born for us in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago is still at work in our daily lives.

I love to hear the stories of how God worked in the lives of others during the past year and there is a sense in the very writing of Christmas letters that we are all in this together, that we are corresponding out of mutual love and respect and a bond with one another.

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House Churches

house churchAs we gather in our homes this Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the concept of “house churches,” which has had somewhat of a resurgence in our world as of late, mostly in China and in other places where Christians are being persecuted. House churches are defined groups of Christians who regularly gather for worship in private homes. The group may be part of a larger Christian body, such as a parish, but some have been independent groups that see the house church as the primary form of Christian community.

I recently talked with Jim Buckman, a missionary-at-large and a church planter in the New Jersey area, who explained that his approach to building churches was to start in the home. People feel more comfortable in their homes, they are surrounded by loved ones, and they are not caught up the structure of the organized church.

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Faith Formation

dinnerOne of the main tenets of the Church is that the home is the primary agent of faith formation. Scripture tells us:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:7-8

And it is something that Martin Luther urged strongly and the reason why he wrote the Small Catechism.

So how are we to go about that in our busy lives?

One suggestion is right there in the Scripture. Do it “when you rise” and “when you lie down.” Gather together as a family in the morning and before bedtime to pray and read Scripture and talk about how God helped you through the day and how God will give you strength for the day ahead.

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The Rise of the Nones

none of the aboveThe recent book The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated by James Emery White brings to light a phenomenon that has been bubbling under the surface in Christian circles for several years now.

The number of people who check the box for NONE when asked for their denominational affiliation has risen exponentially in the last decade, and has led to a decline in membership in almost all mainline Protestant denominations in America today. The reality of that fact has left many in the institutional church in a quandary because trying to bring the “nones” back into the fold only makes them want to run further away, but changing the message of your particular denomination to placate or soothe the “nones” undermines why the various denominations exist in the first place.

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Keeping the Sabbath

people in churchIt seems like it is getting hard and harder these days to “keep the Sabbath,” unfortunately. There are so many competing activities on any given Sunday morning with soccer games conflicting and sporting events starting at noon and homework and family obligations that have to be taken care of before the end of the weekend.

The wife of a friend of mine recently said, “The devil is really hard at work on Sunday morning.” It’s a fact, especially in households with teenagers, where it is more difficult than ever to get them to wake up and go to church with so many other things to do.

But that is exactly why we must keep the Sabbath, to keep all the competing events in perspective. If we don’t have time for God on Sunday morning, what does that say about having time for God during the other days of the week?

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Filling the Pews

When I was home over Christmas last December, there was a beautiful moment when all the members of my entire immediate family fit into one long pew at my parents’ church. My mom and dad were celebrating their anniversary that particular day (Dec. 27) and it was especially moving for them to see all their children with their spouses and grandchildren being together in one row in the house of God. It was a wonderful picture to me of what passing on the faith means.

pewsThe love and the faith that began with my mother and father were carried on in my life and in the lives of my brother and sister and their families. The baton has been passed, and we now are called to carry on the faith to our future generations. But as we know, the pews are not as full as they once were in “our day.” Attendance at traditional worship is not as much a staple of our weekend schedule as it once was in our Christian families.

That is not to say that people are not religious. It is just that they are expressing faith in different ways: at home, through online streaming worship services, through small groups at coffee shops.

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