What is the Hope of Christmas? During this time of year we are all filled with hope. We hope for a great Christmas. We hope the decorations are perfect. We hope for the perfect present. We hope the turkey is cooked to perfection, and we hope that our hopes are fulfilled.

In His Gospel, Luke recounts what happened that first Christmas Eve by saying,  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:8-12).

Ultimately, the real hope of Christmas lies in a child born in a Bethlehem named Jesus who was God’s perfect gift to you and all who believe.

John 3:16 says:  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Take care and have a Merry Christmas!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

Nobody wakes up one morning and says “I think I’ll climb Mount Everest today!” Such a monumental climb takes months, if not years, to prepare for. And not only will you need preparation, you will need gear, lots of gear.

You will need boots, lots of boots! You will need socks, lots of socks! You will need gloves, lots of gloves! You will need clothes, lots of clothes! In other words, you don’t just wake up one day and say, I think I’ll climb Mount Everest. The truth is nothing in life worth achieving happens without incredible preparation.

Hundreds of years before Christ was ever born, the Prophet Isaiah prepared the hearts of Israel for the coming Messiah by saying, “ For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

So as you make all your Christmas preparations this December, prepare to focus on Christ. After all, knowing Him will always be your spiritual Mount Everest.

Take care and have a Merry Christmas!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

Matthew 20:28, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I recently read an article about the world’s least powerful people. It is not uncommon for news media outlets to offer plenty of lists of the “Best” or “Most Powerful” people on the planet. For instance, Forbes Magazine presents its annual list of top 100 celebrities or the 400 richest Americans, or the world’s most powerful women.

Other organizations are constantly issuing their lists of the most powerful people in the world as well.

A website called 24/7 Wall Street has an unusual twist on these lists. They put together a list called the “100 LEAST Powerful People in the World.” The list includes corporate executives, athletes, politicians and celebrities who share one common characteristic—they USED to be powerful but aren’t anymore.

Some of the individuals on this least powerful list were victims of circumstances; others made poor personal or business decisions, but none of them chose to become powerless and none of them set out to make the LEAST POWERFUL list. My guess is that you would not choose to be on that list either.

However, the Bible tells us 2,000 years ago, God’s Son made just such a decision. He chose to leave heaven and come to this earth. He chose to be on the list and He did it for you and me.
Jesus said, “I did not come to be served , but to serve and to give My life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28
Take care and have a Merry Christmas!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

Luke 2:1, In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to their own town to register. 4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

This week we have been looking behind the music of some of the greatest and most popular Christmas Carols of all time. Back in 1847, a young poet in a small French town was asked by the Parish Priest to pen a poem for Christmas Mass. The request of the Priest initially shocked the young poet who was known much more for his business dealings and poetry than his church attendance.

However, the young poet agreed to use his talents to pen a poem for Christmas Mass. He Read Luke 2 and tried to imagine himself witnessing the Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem The thoughts of being present at the Birth of Jesus so inspired him that he wrote these words. Read them carefully:

Oh holy night!

The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

 Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices

Oh night divine-Oh night when Christ was born

 

Perhaps you are like that young poet and you are known a lot more for your business dealings or talents than for your church attendance. If that is so, I encourage you to Read Luke 2 and imagine your response had you been there that Bethlehem morning.

 

Think about it and have a Merry Christmas!

This week we have been looking at some of the greatest Christmas carols of all time. They are truly great songs, but what makes them amazing is not their catchy tunes or their rhythmic beats, it is their subject matter and content. People react differently to Christmas songs: some remain speechless, some get chills, and some shed tears. But, all who hear experience a reverence for a Holy God and the birth of His son.

The first verse of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” says:
“Hark the herald angels sing, 
”Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise, 
 Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim: 
 “Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing, 
 “Glory to the newborn King!”

While all of those words have meaning this time of year, the most important phrase for all of humanity is found in those four words, “God and sinners reconciled!”
After all, reconciliation is the reason God gave us His One and only Son. The Apostle Paul says, All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19.

This Christmas, remember RECONCILIATION. God desires more than anything else to reconcile humanity to Himself! That includes you!
Think about it and have a Merry Christmas!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconcile.
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
.

Christ by highest heaven adored
Christ the everlasting Lord
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail, the incarnate deity,
Pleased as Man with Man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Son of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.

John 1:14, The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As I said yesterday, part of the greatness of Christmas is the Spectacular sameness. We see the same trees, the same lights and the same foods every year, but every year provides something new and spectacular.  Part of the spectacular nature of Christmas is that we sing some of the same songs, but every time we hear them they offer a new look into the greatness and simplicity of Christmas. One of those songs is “Away in a Manger”.
It is one of the shortest Christmas Carols you will sing this year with only 3 short verses but with powerful meaning. Here are the lyrics of verse 1:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay, The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.
Part of what makes that song so powerful, are those three words, “The Little Lord Jesus” which is restated twice in every verse of the song.

Christmas is definitely the time that we remember “the Little Lord Jesus”, but we must always remember that He was not always the Little Lord Jesus as John’s Gospel reminds us saying, The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

That verse speaks of that Little Lord Jesus who is grown up allowing us to see the “Glory of the Father, full of grace and truth!”

My prayer for you and your family this Christmas season is that you would see the full grown grace and truth of the Father this Christmas.

Take Care and have a blessed Christmas!

John Mark Caton

My blogs this week will examine some of the most spectacular Christmas Carols of all times.  Part of the beauty of Christmas is its spectacular sameness. Oftentimes those words just do not seem to fit together…spectacular and sameness, but they do at Christmas.  Every Christmas, we see the same lights, the same trees, the same foods, the same gifts, but every year they are spectacular in a new and different way.

Part of the spectacular sameness of Christmas is the Christmas Carols we sing each year. I am not talking about the songs about Rudolf or Santa Claus but the original Christmas carols that place an emphasis on the true reason for Christmas. These are the songs about our spectacular Savior who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We sing about the night of His birth, the town, the visitors, the animals, the angels, the manger, and most of all… the small child born that day.

They are songs like the ones that prompted the angels to sing in Luke 2: 13-14: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”
Many Christmas concerts and plays have featured this scripture. We envision this grand event as it introduces Jesus Christ to our world. The grandeur of His birth is enhanced for us because we know about his death. We know the impact this small babe had on our eternity.
Glory to God!
Take Care and have a blessed Christmas!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

It has been said that the best way to avoid problems in life is to gain wisdom!  However, someone else rightly pointed out that you gain wisdom by encountering problems.

Truth be told, both of those statements are equally true.  Wisdom helps us avoid problems, but experiencing problems allows us to gain wisdom.  This has certainly been true in my life.  My greatest learning experiences have come from some of my greatest struggles.

Understanding this dilemma fully is probably what propelled James, the brother of Jesus, to write these words, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to youJames 1:2-5

I have never been in a prayer meeting when someone prayed that they would encounter a problem; however, most of us have unexpectedly and unwillingly endured the experience of a difficult trial. How you endure your trial often depends on YOU.  I have seen people slam the door on God when difficulties occur, AND I have witnessed God transform individuals for His glory through the challenges of difficult circumstances.

When you look at your next problem see it as a new opportunity.  Use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself.  Mold your problem into a chance to empathize and care more about others.  Gain perspective from your difficulties, and learn to laugh and smile more in the good times.

Think about it and have a blessed weekend.

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

November has been a month to remember at Cottonwood Creek. With the emphasis placed on missions this month, our church family has participated selflessly for the cause of others. The Mission’s Ministry at Cottonwood Creek exists to equip the people of God to serve and to care for those who are in need. We were able to see this purpose put into practice this month with The Big Give.

Week One – Orphan Sunday – Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
• 42 people visited our foster/adoptive families booth
• Brought awareness to our church about caring for children who have no family to call their own.
Week Two – Shields of Strength – Veterans Day
• 76 Veterans from Cottonwood Creek filled out Information Forms
• Sold 240 Shields of Strength Dog Tags
• Collected $6,170.00 to support Shields of Strength
A story from Shields of Strength – Thank you Cottonwood Creek for the outstanding support for Paratroopers within the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery (DIVARTY). Sharing God’s Word with a Warrior is the best way to strengthen and prepare them for combat and the aftermath. (From David Dodd) We support the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg under Chaplain Brad Baumnn.
Week Three – The Gift – Partnership with GAIN Ministries, Operation Christmas Child/Samaritan’s Purse, Pink Heart Funds, McKinney Food Bank, Carter BloodCare, Local/National/International Missions @ Cottonwood Creek
• 159,000 meals packed
• 28,000 seeds sorted
• 86 gave blood
• 25 ponytails donated
• 95 angels chosen from the tree
• 1600 + cans of food collected
• $35,000 raise to cover the cost of the event

A story from The Gift – There was a teenager sitting in the worship service watching the Pink Heart Fund testimony from the platform. After seeing the impact of this ministry, she walked out, called her mom and told her, “Mom, I feel like God is telling me to donate my hair today!” With the support of her mom, who was not even at church Sunday, this precious girl made a sacrifice by caring for others. A true example of what The Gift is all about. We love because Christ first loved us!
Week Four – Thanksgiving Boxes – Supporting families in need in East McKinney for Thanksgiving – Working together with CityChurch in East McKinney.
• Donations received: $1,597.30
• Thanksgiving Bags Filled: 76
• 109 Families were provided meals for Thanksgiving from our church of the 300 that are receiving meals.
A story from Thanksgiving Boxes – A little girl from our church was moved by the Lord to give all of her money in her piggybank to the people who were in need for Thanksgiving. So, she gave Cottonwood Creek a bag of coins that totaled $20.30 – All she had!

In closing, God is at work in and through the lives of the people of God at Cottonwood Creek. Not only were we able to meet the physical needs of so many locally, nationally and internationally, but we were able to show them the love of Christ by caring for their spiritual needs as well. From the example of Christ – Matthew 20:28, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”, our church has followed His example and served well this month.

To hear more stories like this, you can visit our website. http://cottonwoodcreek.org/missions

Also, take a minute to like us on Facebook – On Mission at Cottonwood Creek. https://www.facebook.com/cottonwoodcreekmissions?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Are you envious of other individual’s successes or possessions? The dictionary defines envy as: a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, successes, or possessions. The worse part of envy is not what it is but what it does.

The Bible says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Proverbs 14:30

Did you hear that? Envy rots us from the inside out and robs us of any sense of peace we should have with our own successes, possessions and relationships.

In Ecclesiastes 4:4, scripture teaches us: “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Being envious is as pointless as trying to catch the wind. Envy does not bring peace. Envy does not provide prosperity, and it does not prompt promotion; however it does cause unrest, bitterness, and a negative self image. There are no advantages to envy; in fact, it will just leave you exhausted and still envious.

My sister-in-law recently lost everything she owned in an apartment fire. As part of the process, she had to write down every single item that she lost. She had to record every shoe, every piece of furniture, every kitchen, bath, and bedroom item that was destroyed. After completing this task, she commented, “Sometimes you have to lose everything to realize what you had to begin with.”

Maybe State Farm had the right idea… every now and then, we all need to make a detailed list of all we have: family, faith, friends, etc. I believe the best way to overcome envy is to stop looking around you and comparing yourself to others. INSTEAD, enjoy your own successes, relationships, and possessions! Chances are good that you have plenty for which to be thankful.

Think about it, and have an envy-free day!

John Mark Caton
SENIOR PASTOR
office: 972.359.7777 x1021
pastor@cottonwoodcreek.org

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