Month: December 2018

Merry Christmas!

This Christmas season we have been pondering the beautiful and precious gifts we are given. One of those is certainly our church family. We are so thankful that you have been a part of this year and our Christmas celebrations!

We wish you and yours a warm Christmas.

Hail! the heaven-born 
Prince of peace! 
Hail! the Son of Righteousness! 
Light and life to all he brings, 
Risen with healing in his wings

Mild he lays his glory by, 
Born that man no more may die: 
Born to raise the son of earth, 
Born to give them second birth. 

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King !”



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The Nativity Scenes of Christmas (Rebecca Rice)

Today on the blog, Rebecca Rice, the Counseling Center Director, shares her favorite Christmas traditions.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:11-12)

A number of years ago, I decided to greatly simplify our Christmas decorating. Brian and I no longer had a young child in our home and our family was beyond celebrating the sweet traditions of childhood. I had (although, not by design) several nativity sets that held both fond memories from the past and signified a holy hope for the future.

One of the first nativity sets I purchased was done so in the year that my last living grandparent died.  Grandpa Hamberger left a small amount of money to each of the grandchildren and, in remembrance of him, I used that money to buy this beautiful creche from Bethlehem, hand carved from olive wood.

When our son Matthew was young, he enjoyed playing with each piece. Every night after he went to bed, Brian would hide baby Jesus and Matthew searched for him …

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I Wonder… (Diana Trout)

Today on the blog, Diana Trout, one of our Worship Leaders, shares some of her favorite Christmas traditions.

I love Christmas. The family time, the food, the music, the decorations, giving and receiving gifts… it’s all so good!

My small, close-knit family back in New Jersey has always participated fully in the Christmas season.

  • We’d carol with our church every year.
  • We’d watch every Christmas movie known to man.
  • We’d all go out to find the perfect tree. Dad was always in search of the largest, fullest, best smelling one. He would usually win out over mom, who preferred trees that would better fit in our living room.
  • We decorated our house while Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant played LOUDLY in the background on my dad’s giant speakers. The giant speakers were generally reserved for Christmas decorating.
  • We’d help organize and participate in our church’s many services. Reverent Advent candle lighting; intimate Christmas worship nights; exuberant Christmas morning services.
  • Christmas Day was spent with both sides of the family, enjoying food and each other’s company.

Christmas, these days, looks different for me. I moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and don’t get to participate in many of those dear …

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O Come, Emmanuel (Pastor Brian Newman)

Today on the blog, Brian Newman, our Pastor of Leadership Development, shares his favorite Christmas carol.

I did not grow up celebrating Christmas, and we did not sing Christmas hymns or carols in my youth. I remember when I first learned Christmas carols I was quickly enthralled with “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

There was a certain yearning, a calling from deep in the writer’s soul, for God to send his Messiah. It is haunting and yet hopeful, a plea for Israel to return to its first love … of God and his Anointed One.

And if you listen to all the lyrics of the hymn, it is beautiful how this newborn Messiah is described:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
O come, O Wisdom from on high
O come, O come, great Lord of might
O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem
O come, O Key of David
O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
O come, O King of nations

I listen to the hymn again and again, and I wonder what the world will be like when Jesus is THE Wisdom from on high, when he is THE great Lord of Might, and when he is seen and …

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Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room (Connie Milchling)

Today on the blog, Connie Milching, our Director of Women’s Ministry and Prayer, shares some of her favorite Christmas traditions.

One thing I love about the Christmas season is a special memory from my childhood. Birth through elementary school took place in Elkins, West Virginia, population 8,307. To put that in perspective, Living Word’s weekly adult attendance is roughly one-fourth the town’s entire size.

Elkins was small, friendly, and familiar. When it came time for the Christmas Eve services, my mom, dad, two sisters, and I would pile into our gold Chevy Impala and drive 7 miles to town for the 11:00 pm service at First Baptist Church, which always ended promptly at midnight.

As the bell tower tolled twelve methodical rings, I would attentively and resolutely carry my lit candle into the night air, where invariably it was snowing. My dad would gently assist me in positioning it just right, so a snowflake could touch the tip and extinguish the flame. At the age of 4, 5, 6, and 7 this was truly magical! As if a kiss from heaven floated down to earth to intersect my tender life. Could God actually see me?

On Christmas morning dad would …

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What I Really Love About the Christmas Season (Kristen Kunce)

What I really love about the Christmas season today is the same as what I loved as a child.  As a child, when December would finally arrive, my 4 older siblings would make their way home for the holiday. We celebrated with meals together, a beautiful Christmas eve church service, simple gift giving, grateful hearts and tons of laughter. If it snowed, what a bonus!

I especially loved the moment my father gave my mother his gift to her. Watching him give and her receive, comforted me and assured me in my child’s heart of his love for us.

As I write today, what I really love about the Christmas season, my heart is struck by the realization of an unexpected extraordinary gift. An extraordinary gift but also a gift that has sat quietly, unnoticed.

It’s the unexpected gift of Christ with me through an entire collection of Christmas season celebrations with family. An entire history. Year after year of family gatherings for meals, going to church together, gift giving, and good songs to sing with grateful hearts toward God.

In this season I celebrate God’s unexpected gift, Jesus, Emanuel, and just so I can understand that, God has …

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Born to Give Them Second Birth (Pastor Chris Smith)

Today on the blog, Chris Smith, our Pastor of Worship Arts, shares some of his favorite Christmas traditions.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. I love the sights, smells, sounds, and, above all, the story behind this season. I love how everything becomes a little more beautiful when it is strung up with lights and covered with snow. I love the smell of freshly cut pine.

I have been known to play Christmas music throughout the entire year (one month is just not enough time to listen to everything!). I definitely get sentimental at this time of year, remembering Christmases past and those family members who are no longer with us. But above all, I love the incredible, wonder-filled story of God becoming man to rescue and redeem his creation.

Some favorite memories/traditions for me have been:

  • Visiting Philadelphia at Christmas to see the Wanamaker light show and the Dickens’ Christmas Carol village
  • Decorating the church where I grew up with close friends while listening to the original Michael W. Smith Christmas album (still a favorite album)
  • Enjoying Christmas cookies that my mom and grandmothers baked (and tried to hide from us kids, with little success)

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A California Christmas Tradition (Pastor John Hilliard)

Today on the blog, John Hilliard, our Pastor of Global Ministry and Local Outreach, shares some favorite Christmas traditions.

Growing up in California in a family of four boys always provided for lots of energy and excitement with never a dull moment. Christmas was no exception.

Putting up the Christmas tree and decorations after Thanksgiving and making sure that we hung the outside Christmas lights (remember the ones with the big bulbs?) was always exciting (especially making sure no one fell off the ladder!).

We opened our presents on Christmas morning. No one slept well that night, anticipating what gifts we were going to receive. We would open the gifts one at a time and were taught to make sure that we thanked the person who gave it.

When I was 11 or 12, I bought one of my brothers a toy fire truck using my own money. It changed my idea of giving to see his delight when he opened the gift.

Music is always a big part of our celebrations. With children and grandchildren, and a musically inclined family, singing old carols in four-part harmony, playing instruments together, and enjoying the gift of music is a big part …

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Jesus! His Name Literally Means…

To Save!

Jesus is the English version of the Hebrew word/name YeshuaYeshua means “to save.”

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas story takes place sometime after the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple to be consecrated to the Lord’s purposes (Luke 2:22-24). While they are there, the very old man, Simeon, led by the Spirit, comes up to Mary and Joseph. He takes Jesus into his arms, and he proclaims:

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your SALVATION… 
Luke 2:29-30

He sees Jesus. He sees SALVATION. He sees salvation because he sees a SAVIOR.

And what a Savior!

Jesus the Savior would die for beggars, thieves, and prodigals.

Jesus the Savior would die for hardened criminals and misguided materialists. For antagonistic atheists, curious agnostics, and sophisticated skeptics. For the morally self-righteous and the religiously smug. For seekers and scoffers. For the truly confused and the willfully defiant. For the oppressed and …

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My Christmas Traditions (Pastor Stephen Grames)

Today on the blog, Stephen Grames, our Executive Pastor, shares some of his favorite Christmas traditions.

I think many people do not grasp how much our experience of Christmas is wrapped in cultural traditions. I didn’t, until I spent my first Christmas in coastal Colombia, South America.

Christmas wasn’t commercialized there as it is here. There were no malls in the little town we lived in. As the Christmas season approached, the shops along the streets didn’t play Christmas music or add Christmas lights or Christmas displays. There were no jingle bells, or silver bells, or holly, or pretty much anything that I associated with Christmas.

It was hot, humid, and dusty (pretty much the same all year). I wasn’t going to see a white Christmas. On Christmas Eve our family went to bed, as was our custom, and woke up to a very quiet community that was sleeping off all-night parties with family and friends.

We learned that Christmas in that culture is mostly celebrated on Christmas Eve by visiting family and friends or hosting family and friends. On that first Christmas day in Monteria, Colombia, because most everyone was sleeping off their Christmas Eve party, the power company …

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