Commentary: Professor ponders the question, 'Is Christmas done?'

 
Although the Christmas holidays are getting smaller and smaller in our rearview mirror, a Christmastime question asked by my young son continues to linger in my head. We had gathered with friends for one of the holiday's first Christmas parties on the first Friday in December last year. We enjoyed the tasty food, great conversation, special music of the season and a twist on our Christmas ornament gift exchange that left us all cracking up. Then, as our family began ...

Study: Most churches will be open for worship on Christmas

 
More than half of Americans plan to go to church at Christmastime. And most Protestant pastors will keep the doors open for them, a new study shows. Nearly nine out of 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold services on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, as both fall on a Sunday, according to a recent survey from LifeWay Research. More than seven in 10 Protestant senior pastors say their churches plan to hold Christmas Eve services. And ...

At Thanksgiving, immigrants & refugees cherish freedom

 
Dung Duong remembers the long walk from South Vietnam to Cambodia as he, his father and brother fled life at the hands of the communists who had overrun their nation 15 years earlier. The year was 1989, but thoughts of that suffering—including losing friends who took to the open sea in small boats and were never rescued—remains with him to this day. Cuba native Samuel Aleman remembers well the individuals Fidel Castro stationed on every block in his ...

The first Thanksgiving: myth and reality

 
When Americans think about the first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621, they tend to reflect back to images of smiling Pilgrims and Native Americans huddled around a large table filled with copious amounts of food. In addition, there is the image of a Pilgrim elder offering an extended season of prayer over the feast. Yet the two surviving accounts of the first Thanksgiving challenge some of our images. The second governor of Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, included an account of ...

Thanksgiving: Not just a holiday or shopping melee

 
Last year I received a phone call from a friend who asked me what I was doing on Thanksgiving Day. Our conversation was on Tuesday, just two days before the holiday. I had been so preoccupied with the "busyness" of life during the previous month that I had not been paying attention to the "big day." Thankfully, my wife had not lost track, and our family had a very fulfilling day. Like many other families in our country, our Thanksgiving ...

LifeWay study reveals what Americans are thankful for

 
When Americans count their blessings at Thanksgiving, God will get most of the credit, a new study shows. And money might be the last thing on their minds. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say they give thanks to God on that day, according to LifeWay Research. Fifty-seven percent give thanks to their family. About a third (31 percent) thank friends. Eight percent thank themselves, while 4 percent thank fate. Most Americans are thankful for family (88 percent), health (77 percent), personal freedom (72 percent) and ...

Study: Halloween is time for outreach, pastors say

 
This Halloween, millions of Americans will carve pumpkins, dress up in costumes, decorate their yards and gobble down a lot of candy. And America's preachers hope they'll also consider coming to church, a new study shows. Two-thirds of Protestant pastors say they encourage church members to ask their neighbors to a church-related event like a fall fair or trunk-or-treat, according to a new phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from LifeWay Research. Half tell their church members to befriend those ...

Survey: Pastors favor patriotism for July Fourth services

 
Americans who attend a Protestant worship service the week of July Fourth are likely to get a good dose of God and country. Six in 10 Protestant pastors (61 percent) say it's important for Fourth of July worship services to incorporate patriotic elements to celebrate America, according to a survey by LifeWay Research. And while they plan to celebrate the birth of the nation, more than half (53 percent) agree their congregation sometimes seems to love America more than God. Most of the 1,000 ...

Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney faces Father's Day of memories

 
When Father's Day rolls around this year, Dabo Swinney won't be able to pick up the phone and call his dad. But Clemson's head football coach still has a few voicemail messages from the man he calls "Big Erv," who passed away last August. Maybe he'll listen to them again, as he does from time to time. Last summer, in the months before he died, Ervil Swinney had been receiving treatments in Greenville, S.C., for a recurrence of lung ...

What about Easter Monday?

 
We all know about Easter Sunday (resurrection) and Good Friday (crucifixion). Some know about Maundy Thursday (Last Supper). But do you know about Easter Monday, the day after Easter? Known as "Bright Monday" among the Eastern Orthodox, Easter Monday is regarded in the West as the second day of Eastertide, the 50 days from Easter to Pentecost, and in the East as the second day of Bright Week (or Renewal Week). Easter Monday is observed by many all over the world. ...

NAMB VP: Make evangelism central to Easter message

 
The Easter service drew a packed crowd, so when 12-year-old Steve Davis entered the auditorium, the only seat he found was at the side of the platform. The crowd didn't intimidate Davis; he was the first to respond to the invitation that morning to profess faith in Christ. A few minutes later, he was not alone on the front pew where he sat to fill out paperwork at First Baptist Church in Richmond, Ind. A favorite aunt and uncle also ...

Contemporary Baptist historians: St. Patrick not 'a closet Baptist'

 
In William Cathcart's "Baptist Encyclopedia," a catalog of Baptist doctrines, organizations and individuals, there is a surprising entry under the letter P: "Patrick, Saint, the Apostle of Ireland." Perhaps more surprising is that Cathcart, a 19th-century Baptist historian, was not alone in claiming Patrick for the Baptist tradition. Pastor W.A. Criswell of First Baptist Church in Dallas and Pastor Wayne Dehoney then of First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.—both of whom went on to become Southern Baptist ...

Home for Christmas: Kentucky siblings find 'forever family'

 
Sam and Stephanie Patterson's long and emotional quest to become parents was finally realized last December when they adopted four young siblings through foster care. "It feels like the greatest Christmas present we could have ever received," Stephanie said of her and her husband's journey. Dec. 18 marks the first anniversary of the adoption of Carrie, now 12, Carissa, 8, Austin, 4, and 3-year-old Kali. The children lived in the Pattersons' home for more than a year while waiting for the Commonwealth of Kentucky ...

Christmas in Bethlehem: An occasion to share Christ

 
Music pulses through Manger Square as Muslims and Christians chant in Arabic, counting down to the annual lighting of the Christmas tree. They reach wahad (one), and the lights flash to life. The crowd cheers and whistles as green, gold and red fireworks explode above the tree. It’s Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. The night is filled with choral performances and speeches. Dec. 24 is a festive occasion in Bethlehem for Christians and Muslims who celebrate a shared cultural heritage. ...

Texas church's video of kids telling 'Cwismus' story goes viral

 
A video of kids telling the Christmas story produced by a Texas church has gone viral, reaching unlikely audiences globally in the few days since it was posted online. "A Movie on Cwismus," produced at Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, Texas, has been viewed more than a million times and has logged more than 36,000 shares on Facebook. The 8-minute video features kids from Mobberly Baptist telling the Christmas story in their own words as adults act out the scenes. The ...

Authors explore 'The First Days of Jesus' in book

 
Everyone knows the biblical Christmas story, with Mary riding on a donkey, an innkeeper turning away Mary and Joseph, animals surrounding the Christ child and three wise men visiting Jesus on the night of His birth. Or do they? It may come as a surprise to some that none of these elements are included in the two scriptural accounts of Jesus' birth in Matthew and Luke—though they commonly are featured in Christmas pageants. In "The First Days of ...

'Christmas' censorship attempts recur annually in United States

 
At least four public attempts to censor the use of the term "Christmas" and the display of related decorations such as Christmas trees have been reported this year in the United States, specifically in New Hampshire, Virginia, New York and Tennessee. Such censorship attempts occur annually at Christmas, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) told Baptist Press. "Every year, we see several of these challenges pop up around the country. We see efforts to censor the inclusion of religious songs in school ...

Study shows people are open to attending church at Christmastime

 
Christmas is a great time to invite someone to church, according to a new study. In a poll of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found six out of 10 Americans typically attend church at Christmastime. But among those who don't attend church at Christmastime, a majority (57 percent) say they would likely attend if someone they knew invited them. "Regular churchgoers may assume the rest of America has already made up their mind not to attend church," said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay ...

Advent rediscovered by Southern Baptists

 
Late preaching professor Calvin Miller once quipped to Christianity Today that many Southern Baptist churches "probably could hardly spell Advent" in the early 1990s. Not anymore. LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention has published Advent devotional books and includes tips for observing Advent in at least two holiday magazines this year. North Carolina's Biblical Recorder newsjournal commends Advent to its readers, offering them a list of Advent resources. And Southern Baptist congregations across America light Advent candles weekly&...

How to avoid being consumed by the culture's craziness at Christmastime

 
Worry, hurry, traffic, presents, shopping, tree, food, kids, money, food, family, parties, food and more food. Are you getting panicked? Well, don't! God never intended the celebration of the birth of His Son to be anything but joyful. The culture's craziness at Christmastime does not have to consume us. We can experience the true meaning of Christmas with a happy heart and attitude. For example: 1. Set food boundaries. The average American will gain 3 to 7 pounds over the holidays. This might ...

Jacksonville church to hold Christmas Eve Eve service in historic venue

 
At the upcoming Christmas Eve Eve service at the Florida Theatre in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., church planter Boyd Bettis plans to ask the audience to consider "what could be." Each time he has prayerfully asked that question, Bettis said he has been amazed by the answers he has received over the last three years. From launching a new church in his living room to preaching before more than 1,000 people at last year's Christmas Eve Eve service in the historic theater, ...