Church on Christmas Morning?!

It’s happening again. This year, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.

I looked it up and discovered that the cycle takes twenty-eight years in total to complete. Due to leap years, at the beginning of the cycle, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, then again in eleven years, then in six years, then in five years, and then in six years again.

This year we come to the end of that twenty-eight-year cycle. This means that it will be another eleven years before Christmas falls on a Sunday again, in the year 2033.

Eleven years is a long time. If the Lord tarries, in eleven years, some of us will no longer be around for Christmas, but will be with Christ, which is, as Scripture says, “far better” (Phil. 1:23).

In eleven years, some of our children will be teenagers, our teenagers will be adults, and some of us adults will be senior citizens. In fact, if I live another eleven years, I will be eligible for the 55-plus Silver Menu at Salisbury House. (This does not fill me with joyful anticipation.)

Whenever Christmas falls on a Sunday, someone inevitably asks, “Are we actually going to have church on Christmas morning?” And my answer is always, “Yes.” As far as I know, when Christmas falls on a Sunday, Rowandale has always planned to have church, even if a snowstorm or some other cataclysmic event prevented us from carrying that plan out.

I confess, the thought of coming to church on Christmas morning does not burden me or bore me or perplex me in the least. Instead, I’m excited about it. Why? Here are three reasons:

1) It’s an opportunity to prioritize Scripture over tradition

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas traditions. But nowhere in the Bible are we told to gather around a tree in our pajamas and exchange gifts. We are, however, exhorted to gather to encourage one another in the faith (Heb. 10:25). When our human traditions get too big for their britches, it’s good to shrink them down to proper size, and prioritize what really matters. (By the way, if your kids come to church in pajamas on Christmas, I’m okay with that.)

2) It’s an opportunity to remember God’s greatest gift

When kids ask, “Why are we going to church on Christmas morning?” Parents can answer, “It’s because of God’s gift.” Then, in the car on the way, they can further explain that it’s because God gave us his Son (John 3:16) that we give gifts to each other, and that going to church on Christmas morning helps us not to forget the greatest gift of all.

3) It’s an opportunity to show that worshipping the Lord Jesus is more important than celebrating the baby Jesus

It’s right to honour Jesus’s birth. As the Apostle John wrote, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). This is no ordinary birthday. This is God entering the world as a human being–one of the most staggeringly wonderful events in human history!

Nevertheless, Jesus never instructed us to remember his birth. He did tell us to remember his death (Luke 22:19). When we gather, we don’t do so to worship the baby Jesus. We gather to worship the grown up, crucified and risen, ascended, glorified, and soon to return Lord Jesus.

His cradle is important, but let’s not lose sight of his cross, his crown, and his kingdom that is to come. Gathering to worship on Christmas Day reminds us of these realities.

Am I sure my family and I will be at church on Christmas morning? Nope. Life is full of uncertainties. As the proverb says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Pr. 27:1).

But, as far as I’m concerned, if the Lord wills, we will be there, ready to sing and celebrate God’s greatest gift to us. I hope you will join us too, because, after all, it will be another eleven years before we have the chance to go to church on Christmas morning again.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker

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Peace Be With You

Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. (John 20:19-20)

Jesus had been crucified, was dead and buried. John records that the disciples were behind locked doors for fear of the religious authorities. Then Jesus, having risen from the dead and bypassing their security system, suddenly appears in their midst. And the first word out of his mouth is “peace.”

Peace is like gold—the scarcer it is, the more valuable it becomes. As we watch in horror as the war in Ukraine claims many lives and uproots countless more, we are reminded of how easy it is to take peace for granted.

We’re also reminded how fragile this world’s peace is. In the context of the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27).

This world offers a peace that is easily lost—whether by a tyrannical world leader, an Internet data breach, an unexpected medical test result, or a broken relationship. But Jesus offers a peace that can never be taken away—the peace of knowing that God forgives and accepts us, and that Jesus has defeated death for us.

The Hebrew word for peace is “Shalom.” It refers not just to the absence of conflict, but to a state of wellbeing—physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational. It includes peace within people, peace between people, and most importantly, peace with God. This is the kind of peace that Jesus came to bring.

John points out that it was after Jesus spoke peace to his disciples that he showed them his hands and side. His hands bore the marks of the nails; his side the spear. These were not indications of an incomplete miracle; they were physical signs to prove to the disciples that the one who stood before them really was Jesus, and that he had in fact risen from the dead.

The peace that Jesus speaks of can never be understood apart from the marks on his hands and side. It’s because he suffered and died for our sins that we can have peace when we trust in him. The Apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

This is the peace that is most precious of all. It’s the peace that came at the greatest cost. It’s the peace that is promised to those who believe in Jesus. It’s because of him and him alone that we can confidently say to one another this Easter and all year, “Peace be with you.”

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker

Judge Not the Lord by Feeble Sense

This past week we resumed the Seniors’ Bible Study, the focus of which is to study the life of Joseph as recorded in the Book of Genesis. As I read and reflect on Joseph’s story, I’m reminded of an old hymn by William Cowper entitled, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” One of the verses goes like this:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

    But trust him for his grace;

Behind a frowning providence,

    He hides a smiling face.

As a teenager, it appeared that the smile of God was upon Joseph’s life. He was a favoured son and had the robe of many colours to prove it. That ended, however, when his brothers, full of jealousy and hatred, threw him into a pit and later sold him as a slave to some travellers who were headed for Egypt.

After successfully serving his new Egyptian master, things were starting to improve for Joseph. That is, until he was falsely accused of going after his master’s wife and thrown into prison. Providence was frowning on Joseph again.

In prison, things began to improve, as the warden recognized Joseph’s administrative skills and put him in charge of the other prisoners. We read that “the Lord was with Joseph and made everything he did successful” (Gen. 39:23).

Not only did Joseph excel in leadership in prison, but when two of Pharaoh’s servants ended up there, each having had mysterious dreams, Joseph was able—with God’s help—to interpret the dreams, which came to pass exactly as Joseph had predicted: Pharaoh’s baker was put to death, and his cupbearer was released. Although Joseph had pleaded with the cupbearer to remember and mention him to Pharaoh, the cupbearer forgot all about Joseph, and he spent two more years in prison. Once again, providence was frowning on Joseph.

Looking at Joseph’s situation from a merely human perspective; judging “by feeble sense,” as Cowper describes, we might conclude that God was displeased with Joseph, or had forgotten him or turned his favour away from him. We may come to the same conclusion in our own lives, when circumstances don’t make sense; when God’s hand and face seem to have vanished without a trace.

At times like these we wonder, how can God be good when the world is such a mess, when our relationships are full of conflict, and when we experience so many detours and disappointments?

The answer to this question is found, in part, by reading to the end of Joseph’s story and seeing all that God did. Joseph was eventually brought out of prison and promoted to a position of great power and influence in Egypt. During a terrible famine, Joseph’s leadership saved many lives. And, when he finally reconciled with his brothers, Joseph was able to say to them, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people” (Gen. 50:20).

During the hardships he experienced, Joseph would have had many opportunities to be tempted to “judge the Lord by feeble sense,” and thereby give in to discouragement and despair. Instead, he trusted in God’s grace, even when he couldn’t make sense of things.

Only in hindsight was Joseph able to get a glimpse of what God was doing in those dark times. Looking back, he could see that behind a frowning providence was the gracious face of his God, smiling down upon him.

Though Cowper’s hymn was written long after the time of Joseph, were he to hear it today, I think we can assume that he would respond with an enthusiastic “Amen.” Can we?

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker

My Bible Plan for 2022: Read for Breadth, Study for Depth

It’s a New Year and a lot of people are starting fresh with their Bibles.

With the limited space I have here I’d like to share some ideas. Hopefully you will find something useful for your own studies.

Bible Reading & Bible Study

There’s a difference between these two and they’re both important to keep up all the time.

Bible Reading is taking in large chunks of scripture, like reading whole books of the Bible at once. It helps us see the “big picture” of how the whole Bible tells one cohesive story. The Lord commands us to remember, and not forget who he is, what he has promised and what he has done. Reading large portions helps us do that. Why do we need to be reminded to remember? Because we so easily forget! And we also need to let the old truths sink in deeply.

Ideas for Bible Reading (Big Picture)

1. Bible Reading Plans: I like the Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. You read the New Testament and Psalms twice and the Old Testament once in one year. There are many Bible reading plans out there, just Google it or send us an email for some advice.

2. Audio Bible: If you are a slow reader, like me, and you like podcasts, consider getting your “big picture” of the Bible by listening to someone read the Bible! “Daily Audio Bible” by Brian Hardin (free) and the “Dwell” App (paid) are great options.

Ideas for Bible Study

Bible Study is slowing down, taking small bites of scripture, digging in, thinking about the meaning of the text and its impact on everything.   

Get yourself a mechanical pencil and a “Scripture Journal”. These are single books of the Bible with scripture on the left page and a blank page on the right to make notes. The CSB and ESV ones are usually under $10 on Amazon. I like writing in these more than my regular Bible because the pages are thick and I feel more free to mark it up.

After you pray and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help, try this method. (I learned this from an online Bible class I took on

Read the passage and slowly do the next four steps. Each step starts with “H”, so it should be easy to remember.

Step 1: Highlight – Underline the key words and phrases, repeated words, draw arrows and make connections to show the train of thought in the passage. This is where you ask the question, “What is this passage saying?”

The next 3 steps have to do with interpretation and application.

Step 2: Head (Thinking) – After reading the passage, ask these questions:

1. How should I think differently about God/myself/others because of what I’ve just read? 

2. What doctrines are taught in this passage?   

3. What other Scripture texts add to the truths taught in this passage?

Step 3: Heart (Emotions) – After reading the passage, ask these questions:

1. How should I feel differently about God/myself/etc. because of what I’ve just read? 

2. What emotions are expressed in this passage? 

3. What emotions does this passage exhort me to feel?

Step 4: Hands (Actions) – After reading the passage, ask these questions:

1. How should I act differently because of what I’ve just read? 

2. What motivations does this passage give for acting differently? 

3. What sins do I need to repent of and put off? 

4. What good works do I need to put on?

At this point in your Bible study you may need to memorize some scripture to help you get through the day… that would be a good topic to discuss at another time, because it’s very important.

I would like to end by encouraging you to devour your Bibles this year! Psalm 119 says that once God opens our eyes, we will see “wondrous things” in his word (119:18). It will be a lamp to our feet (119:105), and a powerful tool to fight sin, with God’s help (119:11).

Pastor Dave Miller

We Have Seen His Glory

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14; ESV)

At the heart of Christmas is what J.I. Packer called the “unfathomable mystery” of the incarnation; that God became a man and dwelled among his people in the person of his Son.

The Apostle John saw it firsthand. He wrote down what he saw. And what he saw was the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth.

In our recent sermon series, we’ve considered what it means to be made in the image of God. We’ve seen how we’ve been created to reflect his character and glory in our lives. We’ve also seen how sin has distorted God’s image in us. A glance in the mirror confirms that we are not the people he made us to be. And what is wrong with us is more than skin deep. It’s something that even the best lighting and the most skillfully edited selfie cannot remedy.

The good news of Christmas is that there is a better image to behold. Instead of looking at ourselves, we can look at Jesus. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). We may not see him with our physical eyes, as John and many others did. But we can see him by faith, with the eyes of our hearts. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

When we look at Jesus, we see the fullness of God’s truth – truth that shatters our carefully-curated self images. But we also see the fullness of God’s grace – grace for broken, burned-out, badly-behaved people like you and me. Grace that forgives and redeems and restores and renews us in the image of God.

How did that grace become ours? The Son of God was not only born a man; he died a man, in place of sinful, fallen, image-bearers of God. Then he rose again as the firstborn of the new creation, as Lord of all who look at him and believe.

The true joy of Christmas will never be found in the mirror. It will never be found in the best holiday selfie. It will be found only by taking our eyes off ourselves and looking at our Lord.

May God reveal more of his grace and truth to us and in us this Christmas, as we marvel at the mystery of the incarnation, and gaze upon the glory of his Son, who became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker

Just Say No to Nostalgia

Don’t say, “Why were the former days better than these?” since it is not wise of you to ask this. (Ecclesiastes 7:10; CSB)

“Normal isn’t coming back, but Jesus is,” read the sign outside my pastor friend’s church. My gut reaction was mixed. Can’t we have normal AND Jesus?

I confess that I often pine for the good ol’ days. The normal days. I gaze at 2019 and before through a pair of golden lenses, too easily forgetting that those days had troubles of their own.

In the verse quoted above, the author of Ecclesiastes addresses the folly and futility of living in the past; of assuming that the old days were always better than these days, or that the world is much worse than it used to be.

To be clear, the author isn’t saying that there aren’t good days and bad days. Further in this same chapter, he refers to the “day of prosperity” and the “day of adversity” (v. 14). We experience these sorts of days and seasons in our own lives and read about them in the Bible. The Jewish exiles in Babylon, for example, were right to think back with longing on the days of living in the Promised Land and worshipping the Lord in Zion (Psalm 137:1).

The author of Ecclesiastes isn’t saying that it’s foolish to fondly remember the good times of the past. Rather, he’s saying that it’s unwise to dwell in the past, to have an unrealistic view of the past, or to constantly compare the present to the past. In short, while nostalgia might be a pleasant place to visit, it’s a foolish place to stay.

Nostalgia is a kind of homesickness; a sentimental yearning for what once was. It must have begun with Adam, as he remembered his Paradise lost and compared it to the sin-cursed world he now inhabited.  This homesickness has continued ever since, in every human heart, in one form or another. The good but fleeting moments of this life delight and then elude us. Long gone, they can haunt us. They tell us that we were made for something more, something better, something permanent. They whisper to us of our need for a Saviour who can bring us home.

Under the influence of nostalgia’s cheap wine, we can be tempted to idolize or idealize the past, or worse, to ignore the present. And that might be the most dangerous temptation of nostalgia—that it keeps us from living for the Lord right now, loving others in this moment, and looking forward in faith to what God has promised in the future.

The author of Ecclesiastes is right. It’s foolish to live in the past. It’s probably also unwise to obsess over “getting back to normal.” Because, as the sign said, normal isn’t coming back. But Jesus is. And that is something to look forward to!

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker

Overflowing with Gratitude

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. (Colossians 2:6-7; CSB)

There are good and bad kinds of overflow.

One  warm summer day, I started filling the kiddie pool in the backyard, then walked inside and forgot all about it. That was one kind of overflow. Another time, on a May long weekend, I heard a cry of horror from the basement. Our sewer line had backed up. That was another kind of overflow.

Backyards and basements are one thing; the human heart is another. Jesus said, “the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart” (Matt. 12:34). Out of the mouth can flow good things or bad things; sewage or streams of living water; depending on what is in the heart.

In the verses quoted above, the Apostle Paul encourages the Colossian believers to be “overflowing with gratitude.” If anything is going to overflow, there must be a source. So then, what is the source of overflowing gratitude? It’s everything that Paul has mentioned just before: receiving Christ Jesus as Lord, walking in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith according to the teaching of Scripture.

Sometimes we assume that the way to overflow with gratitude is to try harder to be thankful. But that would be sort of like trying to pump water from a dry well. Instead, as Paul says, gratitude comes from having Jesus Christ as Lord, continuing to walk with him, and basing our lives on the truth of the good news that we have believed about him.

During this time of Thanksgiving, don’t just try to be more thankful. Instead, connect your heart once again to the never-ending flow of gospel grace. Remember how forgiven, approved, loved, blessed, and equipped you are in Jesus Christ! Sink your heart into that reality. Live your life based on that reality. Let your mouth speak from that reality. You may find, without even trying, that gratitude is bubbling up and overflowing all over the place.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker

Hey Grads… What’s next? Jesus says, “follow me”

It’s the end of another school year and we thank God for every paper submitted, exam written and lesson learned! Yeah, it was a different school year than we were hoping for – thanks to “you know what”. You didn’t get to hear your name on the P.A. to walk on the stage. You didn’t get to wave to your family as you walk off with that piece of paper that says, “You did it”!

Perhaps you are now scratching your head about what’s next. You have a lot of decisions to make about life’s direction, goals, and the kind of person you want to be. And everyone has advice for you to follow, so you’ll need to be careful who you listen to.

Our culture wants you to define yourself, shape your life, become the best you and profit as much as possible by offering something “valuable” to the world. Our culture wants to train you to be self-made, to see every obstacle as something that you can overcome with elbow grease and creative problem solving. You should “write your own story” and prove to your peers and the world that, compared to them, your path has progressed upward.

I just summarized a bunch of self-help videos from YouTube.

As Christians, we have a better storyline: We don’t live to create our own story; we are invited into God’s story. In his story, God is the Creator and we are his creatures. He is the Rescuer and we are the redeemed. In his story, Jesus is our Lord and Shepherd, he is the voice we listen to and follow. And this is good news if you are experiencing some decision fatigue about what steps to take next.

We can be certain what to do with our most important decisions. As Christians, we follow Jesus. Students, when you make plans, when you decide what to do, will you consider what it means to follow him?

You will face decisions like:

What education and career path is best to take? How will you use your education and career? For selfish reasons or for God’s glory? What if God wanted you to become a missionary? Will you look for a spouse according to your own wisdom or will you seek the Lord’s direction? Even if that means being single for a while, or forever?

Eventually you might have savings and a plan to retire. Will you consider Jesus and his Kingdom when you make plans? He will ask you to serve him. He will ask you to be generous with your time and money in a way that only makes sense from Heaven’s perspective.

Only God knows where he will lead you. Following Jesus is the adventure our souls were created for! There is no such thing as a more joyous path! “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:10)

Jesus calls us to follow him today! This means “in all of your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:6)

I pray we will all follow him with joy. That we will trust him in the uncertain times, seek to honour him with our whole lives, and to “taste and see that [he] is good” (Psalm 34:8).

May we all know what it means to walk with Jesus every day, regardless of the dark cloud blocking our view of the future. May we follow him where he leads us and join him on his mission to share the Gospel with the world.

Let’s make his glory and blessing others be the deciding factor in everything we do!

Pastor Dave Miller

What Time Is It?

“…the Issacharites…understood the times and knew what Israel should do…” (1 Chronicles 12:32; CSB)


The times they were a-changin’. Saul was dead, and it was God’s plan for David to be king. Those who helped with the transition are listed in chapter 12 of the first Book of Chronicles.

In that list of mighty warriors, we read of the men of Issachar (Issachar was one of Jacob’s sons whose descendants became one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel):

“From the Issacharites, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do: 200 chiefs with all their relatives under their command” (1 Chronicles 12:32; CSB).

The description is so brief it’s easy to miss. But the chronicler thought it important to include. In this monumental transition from one administration to another, both brawn and brains were needed. The mighty men of valour supplied the muscle, but the Issacharites were noted for their mental acuity.

The Issacharites were not only smart; they were wise. And there is an important difference. Smart people acquire knowledge and retain information; wise people know how to put that knowledge and information together to live well and lead others effectively. This is what the Issacharites were known for.

They understood the times

To understand the times is to have a finger on the pulse of the thoughts and dreams and hopes and fears and events that shape the way people think and live today. It is also to understand the challenges and opportunities that our time presents.

The Issacharites were able to discern the real needs of the hour, and therefore provide effective leadership during a challenging transition.

They knew what Israel should do

Not only did the Issacharites understand the times, but they also knew what to do. They knew, based on their understanding of God’s words to David, that it was time for him to become king (1 Chron. 11:2). And they knew how best to get that done.

In the Issacharites we see two important traits combined. They understood their world (“the times”), and they understood God’s words (what Israel should do in view of God’s revealed will).

Today’s complex world

In today’s complicated world, Christians are no less in need of both these traits. In other words, we need to understand the world, and we need to understand God’s word.

To be clear, understanding the world and understanding God’s word are not two equivalent, parallel activities that we are to pursue, independent of each other. Indeed, how can we even begin to understand this world as it really is, unless we look at it through the lens of what God has revealed to us in the Scriptures? With that in mind, when you first wake up, open the Bible before you open the news feed on your phone. Because God’s world can only be truly understood in the light of God’s word.

As we navigate this challenging season and prepare for the next, we will need the truth of God’s word and the wisdom of God’s Spirit. May the Lord help us as a church, not only to understand the times, but even more importantly, to know him, the one who holds the times in his hands (Psalm 31:15); and who has redeemed and called us to live faithfully under Christ as King.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker