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Two years ago we ran a series of blog posts for Advent written by different members of our church. Please consider reading the series by yourself or as a family to help you remember once again the miracle of Christ coming to earth.

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Reformation. That's not a word we use often, but it has to do with re-forming something that already exists. Ideally, it is re-forming it in a better, more desirable manner. What we call the “Reformation” of the 16th century didn't create the church or the gospel or the Bible, but it significantly re-formed what many people thought about each of these.

This summer we're preaching a set of sermons that all fit together around this broad topic of Personal Reformation. These three mini-series' are brief and practical, and for each one we have selected a book to recommend if you…

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“The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived”: That is the sub-title of a book by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Justin Taylor called, The Final Days of Jesus. In the book the authors, both highly regarded evangelical scholars, work through each day from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. The book provides a helpful reflection on the historicity of these events, but it also gives a good set of readings for individuals and families who want a way to reflect deliberately on these teachings and events so central to our faith and life.

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In the European gallery at the art museum, I found myself alone in a silent maze of carpet and dimly-lit pictures. I was surrounded by depictions of Christ on every side, each one different. As I stood there in the stillness, I heard the words Jesus spoke to his disciples in Matthew 16:14, “Who do you say that I am?”

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It was Christmas Eve in Decatur, Georgia, and my brothers and I had been tucked into bed. In the darkness of my room I opened the curtains on the window next to my bed and peered out into the dark night, my eyes scanning the skies expectantly. But I wasn’t looking for a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. I was hoping to see the star of Bethlehem appear.

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The birth of Christ takes up much space in story books, movies, Christmas pageants, songs, and poems. Certainly these advent readings cover many events in the Gospels surrounding the coming of Christ, such as the birth of John the Baptist, the visits of Gabriel to Mary and then to Joseph, the announcement to the shepherds, the visit of foreign wise men, and the blessing of Simeon. There are also all of the amazing prophecies fulfilled in the circumstances surrounding the advent of Jesus. Yet Luke here records the birth of Christ in a single, simple sentence. Mary gave birth, wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger.

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The first time I heard the song “Mary, Did You Know,” written by Mark Lowry (1984), Kenny Rogers was performing, and it made me cry and ponder what it must have been like for Mary. It's been one of my favorite Christmas songs ever since. Recently I heard/saw a CeeLo Green rendition put to video in 2012 (using clips from a mini-series on the History Channel). This time it didn't make me cry but, rather, provoked me to passionately love Jesus more, to want everyone to know Him, and to praise God for all He's done.

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We are called to focus on and believe in the impossible when we believe in Christ and the events surrounding His first coming. The story here in Luke covers the facts, but between the lines we read the glorious news of God’s redemption, and the power of His love for us. It is His love that raises a humble girl, Mary, and an elderly woman, Elizabeth, into pivotal roles through which come both the Messiah and one in the spirit and power of Elijah. It is His love for us that sent Gabriel on this holy mission to tell a virgin that the Messiah is coming, and through her.

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