A Different Kind of Christmas Leader Guide

A Different Kind of Christmas Leader Guide

by Michael Slaughter
     
 

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An inspirational churchwide experience exploring how to find peace and joy at Christmas and throughout the year.See more details below

Overview

An inspirational churchwide experience exploring how to find peace and joy at Christmas and throughout the year.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781426753633
Publisher:
Abingdon Press
Publication date:
09/28/2012
Edition description:
Leaders Gu
Pages:
64
Sales rank:
1,037,253
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Different Kind of Christmas

Living and Giving Like Jesus


By Mike Slaughter

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2012 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-5363-3



CHAPTER 1

Expect a Miracle


Planning the Session


Fundamentals

1. Confirm your meeting place and time.

2. Secure a TV and DVD player, and ensure that they are operational.

3. Obtain extra copies of Christmas Is Not Your Birthday to have on hand so that each participant will have a copy to use during the study session.

4. Have extra Bibles available for participants to use during the study session.

5. Obtain newspapers and magazines that participants can cut apart during a group activity.

6. Secure paper, pencils, scissors, and glue sticks or tape for participants to use during group activities.

7. If your meeting area has Internet access, secure one or more computers and the necessary information for connecting to the Internet.


Session Goals

This session is intended to help participants

• identify their mental picture of God;

• understand that their mental picture of God shapes their faith and values;

• realize how distorted Christians' view of Christmas has become;

• hear that the message of Christmas is about a sacrificial gift;

• understand that Christmas is the celebration of a miracle;

• realize that God's miracles are conceived and delivered through ordinary people who are willing to act on God's vision.


Key Insights

1. The picture that you have of God has everything to do with the shaping of your faith and values. If your picture of God is distorted, your life perspective will be skewed.

2. The real meaning of Christmas gets lost in shopping, spending, escalating debt, making exhausting preparations, and building stacks of gifts that are not needed or will not be used. In the chaos of the holiday season, we miss the true gift of Immanuel, God with us.

3. Debt driven by the spirit of materialism holds many Christians captive today. Jesus came to break the chains of oppression and bondage—even the chains of debt.

4. Debt creates incredible economic challenges for families. Slaughter says that in 2005, for the first time in U.S. history, Americans reached a negative savings rate. Americans were spending $1.22 for every $1 earned.

5. It's time for Christians to focus on Jesus' birthday and celebrate Christmas in a way that honors the birth of the Messiah—concentrating their resources on the least and the lost.

6. Every work of God is conceived in the heart of a disciple, grows in conviction and clarity of vision, and then is delivered through God's intended action; more simply stated, God births miracles through ordinary people.

7. Throughout Scripture, God chose ordinary, unqualified people through whom to perform miracles—Moses, David, Elizabeth, Mary, and others.

8. The power of Immanuel is the power to create change in the world through God's action in your life.

9. Grace may be free, but it is never cheap. Miracles come at a cost.


Leader Background

• Jesus spoke more about money and materialism than any other single topic except the kingdom of God.

• One definition of miracle describes it as "a visible interruption of the laws of nature, understood only by divine intervention and often accompanied by a miracle worker."

• Although Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, were devout believers, traditional thought was that a childless couple was not in God's favor. They faced scorn and ridicule from their neighbors.

• Under Old Testament law an unwed mother faced possible punishment by stoning.


Getting Started

Opening Prayer

Merciful heavenly Father, as we begin this study of the celebration of the birth of your most precious miracle, open our eyes that we may see you clearly; open our ears that we may hear your voice; and open our heart that we may be a vessel for your use. We praise your name and lift our thanksgiving to you for the sacrificial gift of your son, Jesus. Bless this time of learning, sharing, and celebration. Amen.


Biblical Foundation

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 NIV).


Opening Activity

Choose one.

• Divide the group into two smaller groups. Set out newspapers and magazines that can be cut, glue sticks, tape, scissors, and blank paper. Instruct participants to work together with their small group and use the newspapers and magazines to make a collage. One group should make a collage showing the consumer's view of Christmas while the other group makes a collage of the Christian view of Christmas. When groups have finished with their collages, have them come back together and share their collages. Lead a discussion of how the real meaning of Christmas has gotten lost in the shopping mall.

• Ask the group to call out the many names for Jesus—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Messiah King, and so forth. Write these names on a board as the group calls them out. Then give each participant a piece of paper and a pencil. Instruct them to review the names of Jesus that you have written on the board, and from those names create a drawing of what Jesus looks like. When everyone is finished, ask for volunteers to show their pictures and tell why they drew what they did.


Learning Together

Video Presentation

Play the DVD segments for Introduction and Session 1. Running Times: 00:46 and 13:06


Group Discussion

In Session 1 of the book and video, "Expect a Miracle," Mike Slaughter points out that Jesus was not what most people expected. He did not possess worldly wealth or majestic power. In fact, he resisted the world's obsessions with wealth, pleasure, power, and recognition. In spite of this, we have allowed materialism and consumerism to skew our view of Jesus. We have created a Santa Claus Jesus who promises to fulfill all our earthly wants and wishes.

Ask participants to share how Christmas celebrations in their lives have changed throughout the years since they were children. This discussion may be especially interesting if you have a wide range of ages in your group. Then ask:

• If Jesus were a guest at your family's Christmas celebration, what would he observe? Would you change anything if you knew he was coming? Would you or your guests act differently?

• What are some things you currently enjoy or love about the holiday season? What don't you like? Is there a common theme between what you like and don't like?


Slaughter points out that the real meaning of Christmas is the celebration of a miracle—the birth of the Messiah. Jesus' mother, Mary, was an ordinary girl chosen to grow and deliver God's precious miracle. Today God still works miracles through ordinary people. God plants the seeds of miracles in the hearts of available people who are willing to act on God's vision.

Ask participants to imagine how Mary felt after speaking with the angel. Did she feel qualified for such an awesome responsibility? What did she do to prepare for delivering God's miracle? Ask:

• Why do you think God chooses to deliver miracles through ordinary people?

• How can we prepare to deliver the miracle that God is growing in our heart?


As Mary suffered the pains of childbirth in order to deliver God's miracle to Earth, we must suffer the pain of sacrifice if we are to deliver God's miracles to the world today. Most of us go to great extremes to avoid discomfort and sacrifice. When we do acknowledge pain and sacrifice, we tend to sanitize it. Ask the group:

• What do you think the author means by the statement "Grace may be free, but it is never cheap?"

• Have you ever witnessed or experienced a miracle? If so, what happened?

• Do you think God could actually work a miracle through your life?

• What ideas do you have that could be seeds for a mission miracle? How could this group help to make it happen?


Group Activity

Choose one.

• Provide the group with hymnals or copies of familiar Christmas carols. Call their attention to the author's short description of "Away in the Manger" on page 11 of Christmas Is Not Your Birthday. Ask the group to find other Christmas carols and suggest how each offers a sanitized version of Jesus' birth.

• If your meeting place has Internet access, look up the Sudan Project begun by Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church (www.thesudanproject.org). Spend time learning about this project that has helped many people in Africa.


Wrapping Up

Taking It Home

Explain that there are two resources available to help participants with personal application each week.

First, there is the Participant Handout. (See the handout for Session 1, below.) Briefly review the "Taking It Home" application exercises included on the handout. Encourage participants to complete the activities during the coming week.

Second, there is the accompanying book, Christmas Is Not Your Birthday, which expands on the material covered in the weekly video presentations. Encourage participants to read the first chapter this week as a follow-up to this group session, and possibly to read the second chapter in preparation for the next session. Encourage participants who have not ordered or purchased copies of the book to do so now.


Notable Quote

"I praise God all the time that He knew exactly when I would be ready to listen and am so thankful He let me be a part of His plan" (Therese Garison in Christmas Is Not Your Birthday,page 17).


Closing Prayer

Lord God, we celebrate you and the birth of your precious son, Jesus. This time of learning and sharing has made us so aware of "God with us." We are grateful for your Word and the opportunity to study about the miracles that you perform. As we continue our study in the weeks ahead, prepare our hearts to conceive and deliver your miracles, and our feet to act on your vision. Amen.


1. Expect a Miracle Participant Handout

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 NIV)


Key Insights

1. The picture that you have of God has everything to do with the shaping of your faith and values. If your picture of God is distorted, your life perspective will be skewed.

2. The real meaning of Christmas gets lost in shopping, spending, escalating debt, making exhausting preparations, and building stacks of gifts that are not needed or will not be used. In the chaos of the holiday season, we miss the true gift of Immanuel, God with us.

3. Debt driven by the spirit of materialism holds many Christians captive today. Jesus came to break the chains of oppression and bondage—even the chains of debt.

4. Debt creates incredible economic challenges for families. Slaughter says that in 2005 for the first time in U.S. history, Americans reached a negative savings rate. Americans were spending $1.22 for every $1 earned.

5. It's time for Christians to focus on Jesus' birthday and celebrate Christmas in a way that honors the birth of the Messiah—concentrating their resources on the least and the lost.

6. Every work of God is conceived in the heart of a disciple, grows in conviction and clarity of vision, and then is delivered through God's intended action; more simply stated, God births miracles through ordinary people.

7. Throughout Scripture, God chose ordinary, unqualified people through whom to do miracles—Moses, David, Elizabeth, Mary, and others.

8. The power of Immanuel is the power to create change in the world through God's action in your life.

9. Grace may be free, but it is never cheap. Miracles come at a cost.


Taking It Home

• List ways you can focus on the presence of Jesus rather than on the presents you expect to give and receive this Christmas.

• Are there other ways you can avoid consumerism this Christmas?

• Think of some ideas you've had recently. Could any of them be the seeds of miracles that God has planted? What actions could you take to deliver God's miracle?

CHAPTER 2

Giving Up on Perfect


Planning The Session


Fundamentals

1. Confirm your meeting place and time.

2. Secure a TV and DVD player and ensure that they are operational.

3. Obtain extra copies of Christmas Is Not Your Birthday to have on hand so that each participant will have a copy to use during the study session.

4. Have extra Bibles available for participants to use during the study session.

5. Obtain newspapers and news magazines that participants can cut apart for use in group activities.

6. Provide scissors and clear tape for participants to use in group activities.

7. Secure an easel or some other way of displaying the poster that participants will make during the opening activity.


Session Goals

This session is intended to help participants

• understand that our attempts to create a perfect Christmas take the focus away from the real meaning of Christmas—to celebrate the birth of the Messiah;

• realize that although God loves us and we are highly favored, we will still experience persecution, pain, and suffering;

• keep in mind that, for many people, the Christmas season is a reminder of painful life challenges;

• understand that the miracle of Jesus' birth came amidst uncertainty, fear, and suffering;

• realize that we often experience the loving presence of God in the midst of pain and suffering.


Key Insights

1. In our attempts to create the perfect Christmas, we overextend ourselves emotionally, physically, financially, and relationally.

2. The Christmas season, for many, is a reminder of painful life challenges: divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, and other challenges.

3. Christmas is God's vivid reminder that amid the uncertainty, God shows up to bring peace, purpose, joy, hope, and wholeness.

4. Our Christmas traditions have sanitized Jesus' birth narrative by removing the event from its biblical and historical context.

5. It is human nature to experience doubt.

6. God is always with us, even in the midst of our struggles.

7. God never intended for us to handle life's unexpected turns by ourselves.

8. God often speaks to us through others who have experienced similar struggles and have come out on the other side.

9. God can use our painful experiences as the seeds of hope for someone else's miracle.


Leader Background

• Jesus was born in a stable where animals were kept. The odor of animals would have brought flies and other insects. Mice, rats, and snakes probably lived in the stable where the animals' food was stored.

• Jesus spent his earliest years as a refugee in Africa escaping the genocide that Herod was committing in Judea against children aged two and under.

• God's favor does not come to us because of what we do or don't do. God favors his children unconditionally.

• Scholars believe Mary was between twelve and fifteen years old when she gave birth to Jesus.

• God's blessings to Mary also brought pain throughout her life—all the way to the foot of the cross.

• Many Christians struggle with doubt, even Mother Teresa. She often wrote about her "darkness of faith."


Getting Started

Opening Prayer

Lord God, thank you for this time of learning and sharing. We're grateful for your Word and the ability to read and study about you and your mercy. Help us to process the insights we will learn today and use them as we prepare to celebrate the Christmas season. Amen.


Biblical Foundation

The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:30-31, 34 NRSV).


Opening Activity

Choose one.

• The author points out that our Christmas traditions have sanitized Jesus' birth narrative by removing the event from its biblical and historical context. Give the group a few minutes to read through the section "A Sanitized Nativity" on pages 21-24, then lead participants to discuss: In what ways have we made the story of Jesus' birth, life, and death easier to cope with? Why do you think this has happened?

• Provide a stack of newspapers and news magazines that the participants can cut apart. Have the group look through the newspapers and magazines for stories about people in need. Ask them to cut out the stories and tape them to the poster board. At the end of this activity, place the poster on an easel and let it stand at the front of the meeting room throughout the group study.


Learning Together

Video Presentation

Play the DVD segment for Session 2.

Running Time: 13:17


Group Discussion

In the first chapter of Luke we learn that two cousins, both in exceptional circumstances, were going to have babies. Elizabeth was very old and had been married for many years, yet she had no children; Mary, on the other hand, was a teenager betrothed—not married—to a young man named Joseph. Ask the group to review the first chapter of Luke and discuss:

• How differently did Zechariah (Elizabeth's husband) and Mary respond to the angels who gave them news about the forthcoming birth of their sons?

• Why did the angels tell both Zechariah and Mary, "Do not be afraid"?

• What emotional and social pressures do you think the four people—Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph—might have felt in the months and days leading up to the birth of their sons?


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Different Kind of Christmas by Mike Slaughter. Copyright © 2012 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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