giv 2017

Home for the Holidays


During this Advent season our church family has studied and celebrated how through Christ’s birth we’ve received grace for our sin, hope for our suffering, and peace for our world. We know that in the coming days, many in our church family will be heading home to family members who either don’t know or don’t reflect this grace, hope, and peace that Christ offers. For many in our church family, heading “home for the holidays” brings with it tension and uneasiness as they navigate various family dynamics. We wanted to offer up some resources that we have found particularly helpful on the topic as you pray and prepare well to love your family and put Emmanuel on display.

We love you and are praying for you this Christmas season. 

“Preparing for Family Time at Christmas”

In this podcast, Dr. Gordon Bals discusses how to handle family time during the holidays. He gives some particularly helpful language to use as we differentiate between our “structural family” and our “functional family”. 

“Jesus Also Had Unbelieving Family Members”

In an article of encouragement, Jon Bloom reminds readers that if they have unbelieving family members, they are in good company; so did Jesus. Bloom believes this is meant to give us hope and he explains why. 

“Family Tensions and the Holidays” 

Russell Moore humorously provides four thoughts on what followers of Jesus should remember as we approach time with extended family—especially those of us with difficult extended family situations.

“Going Home for Christmas? Honor Mom and Dad”

Darren Carlson reminds readers that the biblical command to honor your parents is never rescinded, even when the child becomes an adult. Carlson gives four considerations for how this may play out for adults heading home for the holidays. 

“10 Ways to Bring the Gospel Home this Christmas”

For anyone headed home to unbelieving family, this article compiles a list of ten points from Randy Newman’s book, Bringing the Gospel Home, to help you think ahead and pray about how you might grow in being a proxy for the gospel in word and deed among your family.  

“Christmas Among Family: Four Suggestions:”

Pastor Chris Castaldo gives several suggestions for how to view our family gatherings as an opportunity to put the wisdom and grace of Christ on display while being committed to the people whom we love. 

“Home for the Holidays When Home Isn’t Safe”

Theology Professor Dan Doriani writes on forgiving dangerous family members and setting a course for future relationships. As someone who grew up in a violent home himself, Doriani states that his goal in writing the article was to connect aspects of the biblical teaching of forgiveness to some hard questions: Should I go home as an adult when home was dangerous and may still be? What should I expect if I do go home? 

Hope for the Hurting This Christmas


“The Christian knows more of the glory of God and the peace he brings than even the angels do. Our sins and sorrows and sufferings are covered by the blood of Jesus. Sentimentality won’t solve our sin problem; only salvation will do that. And only Jesus, the Savior who knows what it’s like to be scarred, can heal our hurts and wounds.”

–Trevin Wax

We know that there are members of our church family who are grieving and suffering this Christmas season. If you are hurting (or walking through life with someone who is), we encourage you to check out these articles and be reminded of the beautiful truth that Jesus entered into your pain and suffering and in Him is the fulfillment of hope and peace. 


 “Singing ‘Peace on Earth’ When Your Heart Is Heavy”

Trevin Wax addresses the question, “How can we sing “peace on earth’ when it’s been such a hard year for peace?” While we don’t have an answer that satisfies all the questions we could ask, we do have a Savior. And in this Savior, this little baby born in Bethlehem, we have hope. Jesus knew suffering, not from a distance but up close. He didn’t give us an answer to satisfy all of our questions; He gave us himself.


“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

John Piper discusses why it is good for us to have Christmas songs that capture both dimensions of life: the overflowing joy of the “already” redeemed and the tearful yearning of the “not-yet” redeemed. He goes on to specifically examine the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. 


Sermon: Happy in Hope, Patient in Pain, Constant in Prayer

In this sermon, (audio and transcript provided) John Piper weaves Romans 12:12 together with the Christmas events of Jesus’ birth. He reminds us that Christ has come at Christmas. He has broken into our tribulation and taken it on himself. 


“To Those Hurting This Christmas” 

John Knight offers encouragement to those hurting during this Christmas season, reassuring them that Jesus knows their hurt and more than that, He endured and is victorious. 


“Joy to This Cursed World”

Nancy Guthrie speaks from the personal experience of losing her daughter and son and addresses how to fight for joy in the midst of the holidays. She specifically recounts singing the Christmas carol, “Joy to the World” and being stuck by the line “far as the curse is found.”


“Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart” 

Brittany Salmon recounts one particular Christmas when sin, death, and grief seemed ever-present, and raw grief prevented her from celebrating the holidays like she used to. She describes her fight for gratitude and how that particular season of suffering unveiled her eyes and enabled her to celebrate the holiday’s truest meaning. 


“Making Christmas Melancholy Point Hopeward”

Jon Bloom speaks to our Christmas Melancholy. (known as “Christmas let-down”) He proposes that our Christmas celebrations might actually serve us best as pointers to, not providers of, lasting joy. Bloom specifically addresses how to point this post-Christmas melancholy to hope for children. 


“What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas”

While those of us who surround grieving people can’t fix the pain of loss, we can bring comfort as we come alongside those who hurt with special sensitivity to what grief is like during the holidays. Nancy Guthrie speaks from the personal experience of losing her own children as she offers five truths that grieving people wish we all knew at Christmas. 

Sermon Recap | Peace for our World


Read Luke 2:8-14.

Every other time in the Bible that we see a group of angels singing, they are in the throne room of God. But here in Luke, an entire group of angels comes to witness and proclaim divinity being born as a human baby.

And in verse 14, the angels proclaim peace over those with whom God is pleased.

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom - the Greek word is eirene - and it’s way more than the absence of conflict. It is not just the absence of bad. It’s the presence of everything good that is supposed to exist in all our relationships with God, ourselves and others. 

(Check out this 4 minute video for a more in-depth explanation of the word Shalom; This could be great to watch as a family or a LifeGroup and discuss!) 

In Luke, when the angels declare peace on earth, they mean way more than just internal, personal peace. Jesus’ advent is going to impact the global fabric of the world - broken shalom at a macro level. 

The reality of macro level broken shalom is the backdrop for a prophecy in Isaiah 9:2-7: 

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

The solution for peace on earth is actually government—but a totally different kind of government. A sinless one. One that can change sinful hearts. One that can restore shalom completely in all our relationships, with God, ourselves and others. The promises in Isaiah are powerful because Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is going to bring exactly that kind of government.

The angels proclaiming Jesus’ birth in Luke 2 are the beginning of His peace invasion.

God has promised that there will be no end to the spread of Jesus kingdom and peaceful reign. And wherever it spreads, it’s taking shalom with it. 

We don’t have to wonder if that will happen, just when it will happen. We are like shepherds in a field, watching our flocks by night, smiling and just waiting on the clouds to part. We know that as surely as the angels broke through and announced the good news of Jesus the first time, He will surely come again and finish what He started.

And in case you have any doubt how committed God is about restoring shalom in all of creation, the cross is the proof. In the cross, the Prince of Peace took all of the world’s brokenness and sin onto Himself. And then He didn’t stay dead. God’s Spirit rose God’s Son and Jesus has conquered death and the grave.

So now until King Jesus returns to usher in His kingdom of peace once and for all, we long for His return and we live for it. We are called to be peacemakers—to  join God in increasing his governance to people and systems and communities that are broken and in need of shalom. 

Because we’ve been given peace through the blood of the Prince of Peace, we’re now looking for every opportunity to bring His kingdom of peace on earth. All seven of our Serve the City partners are precisely about this. The challenge this week is for all members of Midtown Family to give an average of $20 to our Serve the City partnerships. You can give online here. You can also sign up to serve here

Sermon Recap | Hope in Our Suffering


What do we do with our disappointment? What do we do with misplaced expectations?

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel” - Matthew 1:22-23

This name Immanuel, God with us, is one of the most beautiful things about this season. And here’s why: your whole life hinges on what you make of this name. Without it, your life will be marked by anxiety and fear.

In Isaiah 7, the prophet assures the people that when the enemy inevitably comes, God will be with them. 

Later on in the book of Isaiah, God comforts His people again with the hope of Immanuel by offering them a picture of what Immanuel actually looks like. Isaiah doesn’t promise God’s people that He will take their suffering away. Instead, Isaiah gives a vibrant picture of what Immanuel looks like in action.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
   he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
   I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
   the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
- Isaiah 43:1-3

There are two promises Immanuel sings over His children:

1. Immanuel will be with us in the midst of our suffering.

2. Immanuel gives us an identity that cannot be taken by the worst suffering

This is why we celebrate the Christmas season; it’s a picture of God relentlessly pursuing us. He shows up into human history not to give us the punishment we deserve but to bless us.

  • Rather than punishing, He pursues.
  • Rather than inflicting death, He offers life. 
  • Rather than cursing, He gives grace.

Emmanuel is more than a nice, happy Christmas song we sing during the holidays. It is a declaration of how far God is willing to go to be with His people in the midst of their pain.