Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

3Dec/130

Christmas Traditions: Part 1 – What do I celebrate?

Christmas is a worldwide holiday season and has been for 100's of years, and it has picked up and given birth to too many traditions to count or explain! Many times Christians get worried that they are bringing too much commercialism or even pagan religion into their homes, since there are not clear lines between Christian traditions and other parts of the season.

While I may carry on this theme for a bit and explain a few of my favorite traditions, I wanted to start with a bit of general advice related to this issue. So here are my top 3 encouragements to anyone evaluating Christmas traditions:

(1) Personally adopt or invent traditions that you enjoy and give them meaning that reflects Jesus, not simply Santa or giving gifts.
The reason we don't know the meaning of traditions is that people stopped explaining it. Take time to explain your traditions every year--make them meaningful! The point is not, "what traditions have non-Christian origins?", rather, the question is, why do you do these things? Christians have stolen tons of things from nonChristians and used them for a worthy cause. Martin Luther used to steal bar songs and rewrite the lyrics into worship hymns. what matters is whether you make each action spiritual.

(2) Don't be a hater.
Just because you don't like a tradition or don't think its a good one, doesn't mean you need to make others feel bad for doing it. We are trying to express Jesus love. When Christians go around bashing other people for not being "Christian enough" in their celebration of Christmas, all people hear is, "You suck. God is a hater who judges you for petty things like Christmas lights"

(3) The celebration of Christmas is about God giving us a gift we did not deserve.
If you want to celebrate Christmas to it's greatest emphasis, make sure you take time to serve people who need help--even if they don't deserve or ask for the help. Make traditions out of hosting people for dinner who aren't the kind of people you'd normally go out with, paying for someone's lunch behind you in line, or serving a soldier who's returning to Fort Campbell this Christmas without holiday plans. Basically, celebrate Christmas by going to an extreme to serve others with your time and money. That's the best Christmas tradition.

Remember, there's nothing in the Bible that tells us to celebrate Christmas. The church created this tradition and season because we wanted to focus on Jesus arrival and the kindness of God.

Also remember that the world celebrates Christmas entirely differently than we do. Ask someone from another country how they celebrate Christmas. It may just open your eyes and heart to something new!

10The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. 11Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. - Luke's Gospel, chapter 2

18Dec/110

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you! This is the time of year when Stacy and I wish most that we could spend a few minutes with you, so that you could pass on the things that God has been doing in your lives this year. We send our letter as our side of the conversation we desire to have with each one of you.  We hope that this season will provide you with a chance to reflect upon Jesus, the Christ, so that you might be reminded of the richness of His salvation, and of all the ways in which He has been active in and around you in 2011. And if you have time to put those thoughts on paper, please, PLEASE send them to us too!  We love hearing from you as well.

In that same spirit, here are our reflections from 2011. God has been hard at work in and around us this year! On the one hand, we’ve been growing through our opportunities to serve Him as Stacy continues to lead a portion of the Seminary Wives ministry and I taught a class on Small Group Leadership; as we served with Victim Relief Ministries in ministering to tornado victims in Alabama in the spring and as our church opened a new campus in north Dallas in August, thrusting me into media ministry and Stacy into being the medical emergency responder on Sundays. On the other hand, we’ve been built up by the rich studies through DTS, the conferences we attended on leadership, missions, and ministry to Muslims, and the richness of our relationships with friends: Adam and Kim, Aria and Kate, Andy and Kristyn, and many more. We even had the awesome privilege of becoming an aunt and uncle this year as Tim and Ali Shepherd had their first child, Lillian Christine, in November.

Looking ahead is a scary prospect this year, as we will say goodbye to DTS in May without knowing where we are off to next. With the fury of my final graduate deadlines pulling me forward, I’m working through the challenges of writing my Thesis on the use of the prophet Amos in the book of Acts, constructing a book proposal for a publisher, and refining my preaching skills. We are also deeply engaged in trying to build a better outreach and discipleship program for our lives and our church. Whether we end up making our next home here in the U.S. or overseas, it is our desire to plant churches for our generation and the next—so we’re doing everything we can to create materials and prepare for that task.

Stacy and I have been truly blessed to have some very unique friendships this year, and to get to know some transformational mentors too. And while we can’t introduce you to John and Carolyn Hannah or Gene Grounds, we’d like to urge you to acquaint yourselves with Steve Smith, Bill Hybels, Michelle Rhee, Cory Booker, or Wess Stafford through some of the books we have been transformed by as we have listed them at the end of this letter.

As we reminisce over the many blessings the LORD has provided, we are reminded again that all we have, all our money, possessions, time and talents, have been given to us by our Savior.  One day we will be held accountable to the LORD for how we have used what He has given us to further His Kingdom.  In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus gives us this admonition:  “Do not store treasures for yourself here on earth where moth and rust will destroy them and thieves can break in and steal them.  But store your treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed by moth or rust and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.  Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So as we celebrate this season of giving, may we be challenged to give sacrificially, like our Savior did, to His Kingdom in ways that will impact eternity.  If you are looking for a cause to contribute to this year or in the one to come, we’d ask you to glance through the short list of needs on the next page and consider supporting one of the causes that might grip your heart as it has gripped ours. Stacy and I are both active supporters of all these people and organizations.

As always, we miss you! We look forward to the day when we’ll be able to celebrate with the entire family of God in a place where time does not create distance between us. We continue to keep you in our prayers, and ask for your prayers as often as you think of us too. Finally, we continue to carry the hope that the future will take us to a place where we are serving side-by-side, doing the difficult work of loving the unlovable and spreading the message of Christ, together.
God Bless & Merry Christmas,

 

Patrick and Stacy Fowler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books that Have Transformed Us this Year:
The Chronological Study Bible by Thomas Nelson Publishers
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
MOVE: What 1,000 Churches Reveals about Spiritual Growth by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson
The Bee Eater by Richard Whitmire (Michelle Rhee)
Church Planting Movements
by David Garrison (Steve Smith)
Sun Stand Still by Steve Furtick
Understanding My Muslim People by Abraham Sarker
Decision Points by George W. Bush

 

Organizations and People to Consider Supporting:


J and S – Missionaries in Middle East
Read about their work at http://www.christar.com/about.htm and contact us if you want to follow their work or give to their cause. We can’t share the details in print.

E & E – Reaching People w/no gospel
Please read check out the site http://lifeonthemountain.com/ and contact us if you want to know how to support them- we’ll have to share this info verbally to protect their work.

Mike and Kris York
Missionaries in Romania we met in 2006 that continue to coordinate the efforts of a national college ministry throughout the country. Read about their ministry on their blog: http://yorklink.blogspot.com

A & M – Missionaries in East Asia
This couple started working in China last year, and they are diligently learning the language and serving their neighbors.

The International Mission Board
One of the largest organizations dedicated to the task of sending missionaries and reaching people across the world. http://public.imb.org/globalresearch/Pages/default.aspx

Marriage Mentors
Dedicated to helping hurting marriages www.marriagementors.com

Answers in Genesis
Reaching People through Biblical Science www.answersingenesis.org

Dallas Theological Seminary
Training geeks like Patrick to teach and preach the Bible.
www.dts.edu

4Dec/090

Quoteable Quotes: Christmas Edition, Vol 1

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
~ Dr. Seuss

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
~ Charles Dickens

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet the words repeat,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had roll'd along th' unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bow'd my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
'Til ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow