‘twas the night before Christmas

“Twas the night before Christmas and people were jaded
From hustling and bustling through malls they had waded.
They’d spent all their money and shopped till they’d dropped
But the meaning behind it seemed more and more cropped.
The joy and the laughter had gone from the season,
As media and retailers perverted the reason.

But for one group of people the light still shone through
The hype and commercialism they knew wasn’t true.
The jingles and trappings they chose to ignore,
For them, Christmas wasn’t something bought in a store.
Sure, the essence of Christmas is all about giving,
But God’s kind of presents – a quality of living.

For this group of people Christmas wasn’t about shopping
Or holidays and tinsel and food till you’re popping.
To them it was time to worship and recall
The fact that God gave them the best gift of all;
The coming of Jesus and the changes he made
In the lives of his followers and the debt he repaid.

Rather than copy others and try to compete
They resolved to become a new Christmas elite.
They shunned all the junk mail and specials unending,
Refusing to be lured by material spending.
To all of the pressure and tension they cried, “Enough!
We want to get back to the true Christmas stuff!”

That night before Christmas these people decided
To stand up for truth that their culture derided.
They cut through commercialism and retailer bluster
With all of its hype and its tension and fluster,
And paused to give thanks to the God they adored
For his mercy and grace and their lives he’d restored.

They put to one side all the presents received
The goodies that tempted and kept them deceived;
They turned their attention once more toward the Lord
To receive with both hands his heavenly reward.
The rest of their lives to Jesus surrendered,
And this Christmas became the best they remembered!

Brian Winslade, written 1998. Published Prac10.

The morphing of corporate worship

I am a product of what is euphemistically called the charismatic movement that swept through a number of Western countries in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. Along with my first steps as a follower of Jesus came wind gusts of renewal, blowing through the branches of the Christian family tree. It was a great time to come to faith: a rediscovery of biblical teaching on the Holy Spirit’s contemporary activity in the life of every Christian, empowering and enabling them with spiritual gifts (charismata) for service. Ministry was a prerogative of all, not just the professional clergy.  (more…)

Word or deed: How should faith be shown?

“Lord, I can’t really love these people unless you love them through me.” …

I was surprised to discover an uneasy theological tension between the gospel in “word” and the gospel in “deed.” By some kind of osmosis I grew up understanding that each lent eloquence to the other and that both were indispensable.

(more…)

2020 Vision for Hobart

Prac recently caught up with Rev. Stephen Baxter. Stephen is employed by the Baptist Churches in Hobart, Tasmania to help coordinate and facilitate 2020 Vision, their strategic church planting and mission project.  (more…)

Missional intelligence gathering

Churches have moved beyond a “bums on seats” approach to evaluating their effectiveness and, when it comes to planning for healthy and highly missional churches, Australians have a gift that the church worldwide is envious of. (more…)

Every tribe and nation

God calls us to go: to go and meet people in their context. Then, once we have gone, we can invite them to come: to come and meet with Jesus, joining with other disciples as the Church.1 Go; then come. The order of these two events cannot be overstated in our current cultural setting. Let me explain. (more…)

The wonder of Christmas

Every church wants to be a light in its community and, at Christmas time, the people of Maroochy Baptist Church do this in a very special way. PRAC caught up with Senior Pastor Phil Greenbury to find out all about their Christmas Lights. (more…)

Community transformation through partnership

The varied and complex issues associated with poverty, both here in Australia and around the world, are often talked about in terms of the numbers: the number of homeless Australians on any given day (105,0001), the number of children dying before reaching their fifth birthday (8.8 million in 20082), or the number of people struggling to exist on less than $US1.25 per day (1.4 billion in 20053). They are numbers that can overwhelm us with their magnitude or simply numb us with their distance from our everyday experience of life. (more…)

Here I am to sing

It’s late on a Sunday afternoon. I’m early, but not the first one there. I can make out two shadowy forms behind the glass doors – no doubt the rostered greeters. I pull into my customary spot close to the entrance, grab my guitar and leads, nod and smile at the greeters as I push through the doors and walk into the main auditorium.  (more…)

Evangelism: it’s all about prayer

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “evangelism?” Do you think about overseas mission? Do you think about the need for strategy? Or perhaps you cringe at the word because it is something you really don’t think you do very well? (more…)