Giovanni's Madonna with Child

I think it’s probably only natural that this Christmas is different for me.

Not only I am too bogged down in newborn-ness to really decorate, bake, or buy presents, I’ve had a child this year.

Now when I reflect on the nativity on top of my china cabinet, I think a little differently. I consider how much pain Mary must have been in on her donkey, traveling many miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem (a quick Internet search says anywhere from 60 to 90 miles). I was so uncomfortable in my last weeks of pregnancy I could barely sit in my desk chair. I spent most of it on the couch watching movies and old Project Runway episodes. If she was having contractions, all the worse!

Now I am sure God could have given Mary a very easy labor if He wanted, and maybe He did, but why should we think it was any different than what we go through to give birth? She probably hurt tremendously. She certainly had no epidural. She was in a stinking stable! And can you imagine Joseph’s face as he had to cut the cord? Deliver the placenta?

Joseph and Mary were humans, and I think sometimes we forget that. And this year I can identify with Mary and look at the scene differently. Imagine her feelings of honor, excitement, pain, joy, and exhaustion all at the same time. And responsibility.

And then there was the Savior of the world, in her arms. Not just the joy of holding your own baby, whom you have carried in your belly for many months and felt kick and respond to your voice. The joy of holding in her arms her very own Savior.

I really, REALLY love the CD The Nativity Story: Sacred Songs. I would encourage you to go to iTunes or Amazon and at least get “The Virgin’s Lullaby” and this song, which has brought me to tears many times this season already.

Labor of Love (go listen here on Peterson’s own blog)
Andrew Peterson

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David’s town …

Originally posted December 13, 2008 on Vanderbilt Wife

It’s Christmas. Shouldn’t Jesus get top billing? Check out the word “Christmas” one more time… Christ-mas. The first syllable of the term we use to describe the season is the name above all names, the name…

…through which we are adopted by God Himself… Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— John 1:12

…that eliminates all others when chasing after eternal life… Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

…through which we experience life in all its fullness, joy, and peace… But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31

…that reminds us that He is our Lord… Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” 2 Tim. 2:19

The season of advent has been replaced with football season and basketball season. And every season is tied to the names that are most prevalent during that season. This Christmas season, Tebow and Calipari are names that come up often when group members get together. Twitter is flooded with less than 140 characters proclaiming the birth of the latest superstar running back (Mark Ingram of Alabama sure comes to mind.) or disclosing the name above all names in the world of golf…Tiger.

Let me prove my point. If your group gets together this week mention the game of golf and see how quickly a discussion ensues about Tiger Woods. At some other point, prior to or after the formal meeting time, mention Christmas and see if the conversation turns to Jesus.

Just sayin’…

The celebration of Jesus’ birth is almost here. Your small group may have decided to take a break beginning a few weeks from now or you may be spending Christmas day together. If you’re like me, you may want to take a one week break from the study your group is involved in so that you can focus on some part of the birth of Jesus. Also… If you’re like me you don’t want to purchase an entire study for just one small group experience. Below you’ll find questions for a small group experience taken from the Serendipity Bible for Groups produced by Lyman Coleman.  I think you’ll find it will create healthy, life tranforming conversation.

Ice-Breaker: When does your Christmas tree go up? Who trims it? How? What other traditions do you observe from your childhood? 

Read Luke 2:8 – 20 

Bible Discussion: 1. Of all the people the angels could have visited, why do you suppose God sent them to the shepherds? How does that relate to Mary’s song (Luke 1: 46 – 55)? 2. What three titles are given to Jesus in verse 11? What is significant about them? 3. What do you treasure the most about Jesus?

 Going Deeper: 1. God appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds when they were just being themselves. What does that imply about what it means to be “spiritual”? How has God spoken to you in the ordinary flow of life? 2. What precious event has God done that you “treasure in your heart”?

 In case you haven’t heard of the Serendipity Bible for Groups… The Serendipity Bible for groups has a Bible study like the one above for every passage of Scripture in the Bible.