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ENGAGING ALL PEOPLE
SERMON DISCUSSION | LUKE 1:1-4
Gabe Hagstrom

This Sunday we discussed our vision as a church for 2017. Vision is so important to us as a church to ensure we’re all together and moving in a direction to continue advancing our core values: God’s Glory, The Jesus story, and San Diego.

Do you have goals for 2017? Do you have a vision for yourself and/or your family for 2017?

To decide on our vision we look back to see what God has been teaching us. In ‘13-14 we focused on God’s glory on Genesis and Galatians. ‘15-16 focused on the Jesus story as we walked through Psalm 23. As a church, we’ve matured, grown in health, and we now look to focus on San Diego. Our theme this year is Engage. We’re going through the gospel of Luke written to show that Jesus is for all people. To learn more about Engaging Duane took us through a great passage in Colossians. Let’s read that:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. – Colossians 4:2-6

Duane had three takeaways he wanted us to focus on as we begin to look to engage with our city.

The Mission
In this passage, we see Paul is giving amazing practical advice to the believers in the city of Colossae about how to be successful in their mission and how they can be a part of his mission. Mission is such an odd word, used in many walks of life, the military, the church, business, geography.

How do you explain our idea of “mission?” Is it different than having a goal?

We as a church are on a mission to share God’s glory and the Jesus story with San Diego. So it can transform out friends, co-workers, neighbors, and family. Duane took us to Romans 9:2 where Paul models for us the “sorrow and anguish” we may have for the non-Christians we know. What does the “sorrow and anguish” for

What does the “sorrow and anguish” for non-believers we feel tell us about our God? Do you have great sorrow for anyone in San Diego? How can we pray for you and them? Our church will hopefully grow this year and fill with

Our church will hopefully grow this year and fill with non-believers. We’re looking to share with anyone and everyone who we have an open door with.
Where are your open doors? Your communities that you are positioned to engage? Do you need communities of non-Christians? Individually we are all set to engage and love San Diego this year. As a church we’ve targeted two particular needs to focus on practically:

Individually we are all set to engage and love San Diego this year. As a church we’ve targeted two particular needs to focus on practically: 

- Burbank Elementary (volunteer, tutor and raise literacy scores)
- Human trafficking

Some of the details are still being sorted, though at first glance:
How do you feel you can help with these needs? Do they match up with your current “open doors” at all? Do you have non-Christian friends who you could invite along as we work in these areas?

The Message
Our mission is to spread the message of God’s glory and the Jesus story in San Diego. Duane pointed out that often when we have the open door to share these things we don’t because we’re unsure what our message is exactly.

When do you work out your “message” and think through sharing it? If you’re not, how can you start? With your kids? Spouse? Community Group? Friend?

How was the message shared with you? Would you do it differently knowing what you know now?

We see in verse 3 that we are to “Declare the mystery of Christ.” Duane pointed out that “mystery” in the Bible means something that wasn’t known but now is known. A secret that is shared. Things we would not have worked out for ourselves.

What does it say about our God that mysteries exist? Do you think of sharing the gospel as letting someone in on a secret?

The Method
All throughout the passage, Paul is giving the believer practical methods to accomplish the mission. Duane found seven that we can use to improve our methods as people in San Diego:

1. Praying

2. Speaking (If you aren’t speaking Jesus name you aren’t on mission)

3. Being clear (Practice. Share your story)

4. Using wisdom (each person is different. You have to listen so you know what aspect of Jesus to share)

5. Using time (Use free time to build up the mission)

6. Being gracious (Be a learner, and know that we’re not better or smarter, someone just shared the secret with us)

7. Answering questions (ask questions genuinely and and maybe they’ll reciprocate)

Which of these are your strengths? Which of these are your weaknesses? Was there anyone in your CG that is strong in your weakness that you can spend more time with?

Prayer
Pray as a group for open doors in San Diego for our church, and as individuals. Pray that we’d grow in our method of sharing God’s revealed secret and that our work in Jesus’ mission will bring God glory this year.

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THE CHIEF EXERCISE OF FAITH
Michael Reeves

I like to define prayer as 'the chief exercise of faith'. At the same time, my first reaction to this definition is: O my Lord, how faithless am I!

In one sense your prayer life is disgustingly revealing: it does reveal who you really are. For all your talk and theory of faith - you can affirm the truth of prayer and know that God is good - your prayer life reveals how much you really depend on Him. I stress it absolutely does not tell you about your security as an unrejectable child of God, but it does tell you, very accurately, how much of a baby you are spiritually, how much of a hypocrite you are, and how much you actually love the Lord. Thus if your tendency is to think you're rather wonderful, just remember your prayer life. 

Yet don't be dismayed! Yes, it means you need to start at the beginning in learning how to pray. But if prayer is the 'chief exercise of faith', then of course you're naturally rubbish at prayer, because you're naturally lacking in faith. If prayer is 'the chief exercise of faith', then of course everything - the world, the flesh, and the devil - conspires against prayer. This means that you're not the odd one out in your struggles with prayer, and it's not your secret shame - which can be a crippling fear. You're just a sinner, naturally inclined away from faith and prayer. We're all sinners. And you know who the friend of sinners is: Jesus!

 

This is an adapted excerpt from Enjoy Your Prayer Life by Michael Reeves.

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JESUS: THE FIRST SURFER
SERMON DISCUSSION | Matthew 14:22-33
Sean Keefe

Take some time to talk about the new year. Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Duane said that once a year he likes to preach on one of his favorite verses. Do you have a favorite verse or passage? Why is it important to you?

I.  Our Intimacy with God
After long and tiring periods of ministry, Jesus liked to get away and be alone with God.

Did 2016 seem like a long and tiring year for you? Was it more stressful or more restful? How come?

Jesus demonstrated that even He needed rest and renewal. What do you do to rest and renew your soul?

Jesus put his foot down and forced into His life the priority of being alone with God. Is being alone with God a priority for you? Why or why not?
When was the last time you had an extended time alone with God? What did you do?

II.  Our Trials and God
This passage takes place in the midst of a storm. Are there any “storms” in your life now or on the horizon?

The disciples cried out to God in their fear. When a trial or storm comes into your life, what is your initial reaction?

In the midst of the storm, Jesus told the disciples, “Take heart, I AM. Do not be afraid.” He declares Himself to be the Almighty God with the power over the wind and waves.

How should the knowledge of Jesus’ almighty power change the way we live?

How could it change the way we think about trials and hardships in life?

Jesus promises to always be with us, even (or especially) in the storms of life. What do you think Jesus would say to you right now about the hardships you are facing?

III.  Our Cry Out to God
Peter got out of the boat, but starts to sink. Jesus rescues him from his lack of faith.

Duane said this passage isn’t about how to get more faith, but about how Jesus rescues us when our faith falters. When you’ve read this passage in the past, have you read it from the perspective of needing more faith or of Jesus rescuing from a lack of faith?

When your faith falters, how do you think Jesus responds to that? How do you think He feels about it? What would He say to you when it does?

Duane said faith is not about how much or how little you have. It’s about having it or not having it. God’s Word teaches us that faith is a permanent gift given to us from God.

Do you think of faith as being a matter of degrees (having more or less) or as a gift? Why?

How might viewing faith as a gift change the way you live? Think? Worship?

IV.  Our Worship of God
When Jesus got back in the boat, the disciples worshiped Him, which means they literally bowed down before Him in reverence and awe.

When you think of worshipping God, what comes to mind? How does that compare with the disciples’ response?

Duane asked, “Is it your goal to worship Jesus with all that you are?”
What would that look like?

Duane said we can tell what we worship by what the primary pursuit and passion of our life is. If someone observed your life for a year, what would they say your passion is?

Pray Together
Pray for each other’s hearts to be captivated by Christ this year.

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DEVELOPING A PERSONAL VISON FOR 2017
Pastor Duane Smets

The Bible teaches us it is wise to have vision (Proverbs 29:18). Every new year I love to sit down for a bit, reflect on the previous year and then think through what some personal goals for the new year.

As Christians, we are to be continually changing as God increasingly works to form us into the likeness of our Lord Jesus. This is the doctrine of sanctification. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, "We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another."

How have you changed in the last year? There are three options. Either you have changed a lot, very little, or just stayed the same. Sometimes change can come in large quantities and very suddenly. Other times change is slow and very subtle. Or change can just not happen and we can become stagnant.

How do you know how you have changed and how you need to be changed in this next year? Here are some good self-evaluative tools.

1. Reflect

Take some special time to be alone by yourself and reflect. Think back to your life at this time last year. Remember how things were with your job or school, the relationships you were spending time in and the spiritual lessons you had been or were learning. Think about your current character and life and where you need to grow and would like God to work in you.

2. Ask

Spend some one on one time with people you respect who know you well and ask them what they see in you. Have someone tell you what they have seen in you in the last year and what they see you need for the upcoming year. Be humble and teachable and ask some others to speak into your life.

3. Goals

See how you have accomplished the goals you set for last year and set new goals for this year. Change takes determination and if you don't plan for God to change you it is most likely not going to happen. Think through at least three or more things you’d like to do, accomplish or see change in your life.

4. Write

This can be one of the most helpful tools. If you journal, go back and read some of the entries from this time last year and see what your own personal thoughts were and how God has either worked in those areas or where He needs to. Write down a personal list that you put in your phone or on a piece of paper where you’ll see it regularly prompting you to pray over your goals.


Without having a personal vision for your life in 2017 you’ll likely flounder and fumble your way through the year. So get some vision and go after it. Things may not work out the way we want them to or think they will (Proverbs 16:9), but usually, that provides an opportunity for us to grow in the very ways we are asking God to change us in.

If we’re living for God following Jesus, we have the guarantee that no matter what it will be a good year (Romans 8:28). May our Great God and Savior bless you this year as He works in you to make you the person you long to be and that He has designed you to be.

Pastor Duane

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Help Us Balance Our Year-End Budget!
Pastor Dan Calvert

2016 was a tremendous year for us as a church! We reached for the high goal of becoming a healthy, mature, and great church and with the year ending soon, we can say that we are a few steps closer to these goals as a church body.

We have seen God grow us all in our generosity as well as our stewardship of what He gives to us. In September and October, all of our Community Groups went through a series about giving this year that both inspired and challenged our hearts to give God what is His.

Money is a tool to help get ministry done and often the biggest thing that holds our hearts. For the first time since we moved to the new building, we are on track to finish in the year financially in the positive! This is a huge blessing as we continue to see how God stretches us, builds our trust in Him, and how he continues to take care of us.

2017 Goals
We want to continue our momentum of the past few years to be a giving and generous church, to be a healthy church, to be a mature church, and to be a great church. We strive for those goals so we can continue to be a light in our city and give God all the glory for it!

In 2017, we desire to see San Diego affected by the gospel due to your generosity.

A Request
We would like to ask if you would prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to The Resolved Church.

We hope to end the year well and, with your help, we can begin 2017 financially healthy to further pursue our goals.

Your financial gifts directly translates into reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything you can do would be an immense blessing.


Click here to give
or
text a dollar amount to 84321.

Pray with Us
Please join us in praying that God would continue to grow us in our relationship with Jesus and to bring more people from our city in to know Him as well.

Pray for our leaders, our community groups, the ministries of our church and that God would continue to bless all we set our hands to do.

Take a minute to pray through our complete Prayer Guide.

Thank you for being a part of what God is doing in and among us.


Pastor Dan Calvert
Executive Pastor
The Resolved Church

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THE JOY OF JESUS
SERMON DISCUSSION | Luke 2:8-20
Gabe Hagstrom

This week we entered the 3rd week of Advent and lit the Candle of Joy. This season leading to Christmas should be one of hope as we learned last week. It should also be a season of joy.

What are some things, traditions you do during this season that bring you joy?

Joy is an odd thing. When you’re young everything feels joyful, and as you get older a bit of gray starts to seep in and you wonder if you ever felt joy or just happiness? Are they even different? Duane takes us to Luke 2, a passage about joy to help us understand and experience joy. Let’s read the passage:

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. - Luke 2:8-20

Duane wanted to highlight 3 joys we can observe here:

The joy of shepherds
The joy of all peoples
The joy of joy
THE JOY OF SHEPHERDS

Shepherds were nothing great. They had a very low thought of occupation. They weren’t even allowed to testify in court! God chose these people to make His announcement of the arrival of His son.

What would be our San Diego modern example of shepherds? Who in our country would you expect to get an announcement of God’s son being born?

We see God choosing an unexpected group of people and using them to take his message to the world. 1 Corinthians 1:27 explains that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” When we’re faced with sharing the Jesus Story, the good news that He has come, often we feel foolish and weak.

Should we feel foolish and weak? What are somethings we can think about to encourage us when sharing the Jesus story? Have you shared any news of Jesus story this season?

God sent these Shepherds angels, a host of angels. Probably the most terrifying thing they’ve ever seen, and would ever see. He gave them a sign of Jesus being born and laying in a animals food dish. And he told them to tell the world about it.

How excited do you think these shepherds were to tell others? How excited are you to tell others this good news? Are you more excited? Less excited? Why?

THE JOY OF ALL PEOPLES

The angels proclaim that Jesus has come as a “Savior for all the people”. That was good news, the news that should bring the joy.

Do you have anyone in your life who you struggle to think could become a believer? Who?


Duane pointed out that often we’ll think that Jesus came for the low hanging fruit, the seekers and the lost. We also love to think about how he came for the poor people, the powerless people who need someone to save them. Often though we forget that he also came for those that seem to have it together, the ones who believe they’re close to saving themselves.

Would you say you’re more of a lost person, a powerless person, or a self saving person?

What about God coming for you brings you joy?

 

THE JOY OF JOY

Finally we get down to a big question. What is joy?

How do you define joy to friends or coworkers? Is it different than happiness and contentment?


Duane defined joy very specifically. He said “it means having a deep abiding sense that I am loved by God no matter what because He sent me Jesus to make everything okay.” That was the good news the angels were bringing. Not that a baby was born in trough. Not even that God had humbled himself to come down and take a look around earth in the form of a man. It was that Jesus was here to die so we don’t have to. We have joy in that. And that because Jesus is God He’s coming again.

Are you feeling the joy of the gospel this season? Have you tried to fuel that feeling of joy using other things or traditions? How can you remind yourself for the rest of the season and in the future what your source of joy is?

PRAYER

Thank God as a community group for bringing us the only gift that can inspire joy. Ask Him to open our hearts and minds to dwell on that joy and hope in the middle of this season.

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2016 was a tremendous year for us as a church! We reached for a high goal of becoming a healthy, mature and great church. That comes with its growing pains, pruning and even deep joys. With the year ending soon, we can say that we are a few steps closer to those goals as a church body and in a healthy spot. There were many evidences of God’s grace and work among us this year to prove that.

LEADERSHIP

We added two more pastors to our team to help shepherd us, Dennis Frey & Dave Maddox! Both of these gentlemen have years of experience in and out of the church to help guide and love our people here. We gained a new deacon, Ryan Leech who has proven his worth on staff and his various roles to help the church function. And we have more candidates on the way.

STAFF

This year we added six part-time staff! These roles play a huge part in reaching the people of our city and beyond. We have Nick Todd building a youth program that allows middle and high schoolers to dig deeper in relationships to each other and God. Lily Christmas is slowly transitioning into R | Kids director to help maintain, improve and take care of the kids and team members alike. Both of those positions go a long way to attract families into our church body to grow with us.

We also have Louie Juarez building our video programs & teams. Those medias are huge in todays culture to reach people and draw them in both on Sundays and through online outlets. Then Emily Mueller has been crucial in getting information and inspiration out through our social media platforms. Mike Smith on facilities is a huge help to maintain and keep our first impressions looking good for us all and especially visitors. And for next year, Dave Christman is working on raising funds for his position to help us with our college ministry and outreach efforts as next year one of our big vision goals is outreach!

I wanted to note those roles and people, because ministry takes the whole [church] body working together. This crew is a diverse group that’s just a smaller picture of that. They help with many of the spiritual and practical needs so that we can function better as a church and reach more people with the gospel!

OTHER GROWTH

We revamped and improved our theology classes and leadership development program. We now have a board making efforts to continue that process of improvement to build our people up in knowledge and love of our God and His people.

We went from one morning and one evening service to two morning services. The morning services have proved to be a healthy move allowing space for guests to feel welcome and are split pretty evenly. The kids classrooms are in a much better spot space wise as well. Even though we cancelled our evening service, we have a crew that wants to reopen that with a refreshed and healthier initiative.

We continue to have multiple baptisms both on Easter and in October. Along with countless children being covenanted to the Lord throughout 2016. Such a joy to see.

Speaking of kiddos, we have had multiple families bring new life to the world and it’s such a joy to see God bless so many that way.

The monthly church planting meetings that we host have an average of 30 pastors and church leaders learning how to better take care and reach God’s people here in San Diego.

BUDGET

We have seen God grow us all in our generosity, but also in our stewardship of what He gives to us. We had all of our community groups go through a series about giving this year that both inspired and challenged our hearts to give God what is His. We are definitely not all about money here, but money is a huge tool to help get ministry done and usually the biggest thing that holds our hearts. And for the first time since we moved to the new building, we are on track to finish in the positive! This is a huge blessing as we continue to see how God stretches us, builds our trust in Him, and how he continues to take care of us.

2017 GOALS

For 2017, we want to continue our momentum of the past few years to be a giving/generous church; to be a healthy church; to be a mature church; to be a great church. We want to always reach for those goals so we can continue to be a light in our city and give God all the glory for it!

A goal we will also focus on next year is outreach. We are working on different ways to make a difference in the lives of people in San Diego.

REQUESTS

We would like to ask if you would prayerfully consider making a year end [tax-deductible] donation to The Resolved Church.

We hope to end the year in the positive with our budget. With your help, we can build on that to start 2017 in a healthy spot financially to not only be in the positive but thriving and going after more of our goals. Your financial gifts directly translates into reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything you can do would be an immense blessing.


To give go to www.theresolved.com/give  OR text 'give' to 619.345.5859 

PRAYER

Please join us in praying that God continues to grow us in our relationship with Jesus and to bring more and more people from our city in to know Him as well.  Pray for our leaders, our community groups, the ministries of our church and that God would continue to bless all we set our hands to do.  Take a minute and pray through our complete Prayer Guide.

As you can see in this report, God has greatly blessed our church this year in so many ways. We feel so privileged to be a part of what God is doing in San Diego.

Thank you for being a part of what God is doing in and among us.

- Pastor Dan Calvert
Executive Pastor
The Resolved Church

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THE BABYHOOD OF THE SON OF GOD
J. I. Packer

The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man. The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth.

 

This is an excerpt from J. I. Packer's book, Knowing God.

 

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THE HUMILITY OF JESUS
SERMON DISCUSSION  | Philippians 2:6-11
Sean Keefe

Duane began the sermon with some reflections on the modern idea of Santa Claus and compared that with the historical figure of Saint Nicholas of Myra. Did you learn anything new? How were you raised to think of Santa Claus?
Duane showed a video comparing and contrasting Jesus and Santa. How do you think Christians ought to address the idea of Santa Claus in their homes?

I. The Holy Divinity of Jesus
Read through Philippians 2:6-11. This is a familiar passage, but it is not often read in the context of Advent. How might this passage influence your understanding of the traditional Christmas story this season?

In the Scriptures, Jesus is called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus has always been God, but He was not always a man. Christmas is about God coming to be with us as one of us. When you think of Jesus being born in the manger, what thoughts and emotions come to mind?

How can we make the story of Jesus’ birth fresh and life-giving this Christmas season?

How does knowing that God desires to be with us effect you? How might it influence our attitudes this holiday season?

Duane said the difficult part of believing is not that Jesus lived and died on the Cross, but that in Christ, God became a man. Why is that difficult to believe? Have you ever wrestled with really believing this?

II. The Humble Humanity of Jesus
Duane said the story of Jesus’ birth is the ultimate example of true humility. Do you think it’s important for people to understand that Jesus is humble? What difference does understanding this make?

How does believing in the Incarnation provide hope, both for the lost as well as for those who already believe?

It is in God’s very character to be humble. We often subconsciously apply this character trait strictly to Jesus, but Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature. Do you think of God as being humble? Why or why not?

How might believing in the humility of God effect the way you worship or pray?
Jesus didn’t stop being God when He was born, but He did empty Himself of the glory of God (the constant display of His God-ness). What are some ways we could explain this to a non-believer?

III. The Humiliating Gift of Jesus
In 1 Peter 5:5 we are told that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Jesus’ ministry on earth constantly demonstrated this.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “humility”? When you think of a person being humble, what does that look like?

What comes to mind when you hear the word “pride”? When you think of a person being proud/arrogant, what does that look like?

Duane listed several areas in which pride can be observed in our lives. Pride can be found in…

What we get angry about.

What we are afraid of.

Our motives.

False Humility.

Thinking we know better than God.

Justifying sinful actions/attitudes.

We all have pride in our hearts, but it just manifests differently. Where have you seen pride manifest itself the most in your life?

Humility only comes through the work of a humble Savior in our hearts. Where do we need to let the humility of Christ sink in more this Christmas season?

How might the humility of Advent have practical effects in our lives?

Pray for One Another
Pray that the Christmas story and the season of Advent would be life-giving and joy-filled for each other this year.

Ask God for a greater understanding of the humility of Christ.

Thank God for sending us the greatest gift imaginable in His Son.

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What We Tell Our Kids About Santa
Pastor Duane Smets

Every year in our home we love to fully embrace all the fun that goes along with Christmas.  We decorate our house inside and out, we have a tree, an elf on the shelf and we have fun talking about Santa and playing along in all the fantastic stories about him.  However, usually during our nightly family worship times we have a number of serious discussions about Santa.  Below is what we tell them and the story of how we developed our approach as a family.  

It began in 2009 when my first daughter was about 2.  We were walking by the Santa center at the mall and my daughter stopped, froze her step, and in her pause stared in confusion at the whole hoopla... Santa, his big chair, some elves, reindeer, candy canes and the whole bit. I thought I'd try and help and clarify for her so I said, "that's Santa, sweetie." That only made things worse because then she said, "Santa scares me, daddy." I was sort of dumbfounded at how to reply so I just said, "Well you don't have to be scared honey, because Santa was a pastor just like daddy." To which she then said, "hug, daddy, hug" and she grabbed on to me real tight.

I don't think she really understood at all, how could she? And as I've thought about it more, I'm not sure I do either. Sometimes words just come out of your own mouth without giving them a whole lot of thought that actually bring out something very important. What's the whole deal with Santa and how should we approach him?

The real Santa was a pastor during the third and fourth century who's name is remembered in conjunction with the city where he pastored, "Nicholas of Myrna." The ancient city of Myrna is now the modern town of Kale, Turkey. It's about 700 miles north of Jerusalem. Details of Pastor Nicholas' life are askant but basically what had happened is Jesus told the disciples to start the church and take the gospel out from Jerusalem, into Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Turkey is just north of Samaria. So it took a couple hundred years, but by that time there was a solid church in Myrna as the gospel just started to reach "ends of the earth."

We don't know if Pastor Nicholas started the church in Myrna or was appointed there. Due to many posthumous legends it's difficult to decipher what is actual history and what is fantasy. However, there are two things that are clear about his pastorate.

First, he was present at the council of Nicaea which produced the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is a powerful and beautiful declaration of both the divinity and the humanity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the gospel which saves from sins and gives us new life through the resurrection of Christ. It was drafted to protect Jesus' church from a heresy running around which speculated of a Jesus who was not fully eternal God and thus insufficient to fully pay the eternal penalty of sin. Thus, we know Pastor Nicholas cared deeply about doctrine, the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and it's power to save souls.

Second, though there are several extrapolated stories about Pastor Nicholas' generosity and how he extended it...what is consistent is that he was apparently very active in ministering to the poor. Whether it was in the form of money, food, or clothes he consistently made it a point to offer outward expressions of the work of the gospel in the heart which takes a poor and sick soul and gives it new life. Thus, we know that Pastor Nicholas cared deeply about mission and seeing as many people as possible come to know and experience the goodness of the gospel.

It's not much but these two facts about the real Santa paint a far different picture than the caricature of him in popular culture today. Today's Santa looks a lot more like a God figure than pastor who serves as Jesus' servant.

Today's modern Santa is supposedly everywhere present..."he sees you when you're sleeping" and supposedly all-knowing..."he knows when you've been good or bad." Being everywhere present and all-knowing are simply not gifts God gives to pastors, they are attributes which belong to God alone.

In addition, the modern Santa apparently seems to give good gifts regardless of whether or not kids have been good or bad. You never hear the stories about what happens to the bad kids. Does Santa the all-knowing bookkeeper then punish kids for being bad? If he doesn't, is he really good then? If he just sweeps bad under the rug and pretends it isn't real or didn't happen then isn't Santa corrupt for giving good gifts to bad kids? If Santa is really knows when we've been bad or good then he knows we've all been bad and should all get coal in our shoes.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the gospel. The gospel is the good news that though we are all bad kids and deserve not gifts but eternal judgment in hell, God sent his son Jesus to be born as a little baby in order to grow up and take our place of punishment as a substitute and suffer eternally so we would not have to. Jesus is the greatest gift of all that God has ever given unto the peoples of the world.

In 2008, New York magazine did an article titled, Learning to Lie. It addresses how parents breaking their children's trust can be detrimental for them as they grow up.  I’m not sure enjoying the Santa stories qualifies as lying.  I do think as parents we can have fun with fairytales…whether it’s Santa, the Elf on the Shelf or the tooth fairy while at the same time telling them the truth.  Santa is a fun story.  We don’t believe in Santa, we believe in Jesus and so did the original Santa and he would’ve wanted us to believe in Jesus too. By the way, Noel Piper has a helpful article on this you might want to check out too called, Thinking About Santa encouraging parents to have fun at Christmas time but to make Jesus the focus.  And if you want a really fun video to show your kids, I love this one, Jesus and Santa.

Pastor Nicholas was about Jesus. He was about the person and the work of Jesus who came into the world as a gift from God for sinners. He was about pointing as many people as possible through as many means as possible to the only possible person who can save–Jesus.

When my daughter saw the modern Santa, dressed in red robes representing the Catholic cardinal's robes, she said it scared her. I agree. The modern Santa is straight up scary in a hellish kind of way because of how he leads us away from focusing on Jesus. The real Santa was a pastor who made much of Jesus, the savior whom God gave to the world so that we might know him, be forgiven, and filled with inexpressible joy.

May God bless you this Christmas season,

Pastor Duane Smets