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Student Ministry - December 2021

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Dear Church Family, 

Christmas is my favorite time of year! I actually enjoy many of the external Christmassy things that we do as a culture. I love Christmas music and movies (the classics), decorating and gift exchanging. It brings me joy to consider what to buy for my family and how I can surprise them. It brings me joy to think about all of the fun and meaningful things we will do as a church family during this season. And above all it brings me joy to teach people about the advent and incarnation of our Savior and Lord. 

One of the ways that my family likes to keep the gospel at the forefront of our minds and the glory of God as our motivation during the Christmas season is by observing the Advent Wreath. The Advent Wreath is just one of many ways to teach about the biblical history and meaning of Christmas. All you need are five candles (three purple, one pink, and one white) and a wreath to put around the five candles. Each candle stands for a specific aspect of Christ’s advent. So each week leading up to Christmas Day you are to light one of the candles and read certain scriptures that expound on that aspect. Then on Christmas Day you light the last candle along with the others that you have previously observed, which culminates with the gospel, the whole purpose of the incarnation.  

This has been such a memorable and meaningful practice for keeping the gospel at the forefront of my Christmas celebrations. I never wonder what the meaning of Christmas is and rarely feel a sense of disappointment or discouragement because of the season. In fact because of this, Christmas often acts like a reset to my motivation for living out the Christian life. I don’t know what kind of holiday traditions you and your family have. But I highly suggest doing something like this. So if you’re interested in how to do the Advent Wreath, here are the things you will need to know. It can vary in practice, but the main elements are as follows: 

The first candle is The Candle of Hope- Prophets’ Candle. This is one of the purple candles and it represents the prophetic hope of the coming Messiah. Some scriptures to read with the lighting of this candle are Isaiah 7:10-14, Isaiah 9:5-7, 2 Samuel 7:12-14, and Isaiah 11:1-5.

The next candle is The Candle of Preparation- Bethlehem Candle. This is also a purple candle and it represents the way in which God prepared the world for Christ’s incarnation. Some scripture to go along with this one are Micah 5:2-4, Isaiah 40:3-5, and Luke 3:2-6. 

The Candle of Joy- Shepherds Candle is third and it is the last purple candle in the wreath. It represents the joy that Christ brings into the world, and accompanying scriptures are Luke 2:8-14, 15-20, and Matthew 2:1-6, 7-12. 

The fourth candle is the pink candle. It is The Candle of Love- Mary’s Candle. Some scripture to read with this candle are Luke 1:26-38, 46-56, Luke 2:19, 51, and 1 John 4:9-10,19. This represents the love of God for the world and the love and devotion of Mary for the Lord. 

Finally, and most importantly, is The Candle of Salvation- Christ’s Candle. This candle represents the fact that Jesus is the Messiah who came to take away the sins of the world and bring salvation to all who believe! This is what Christmas is all about. It is the reason for the incarnation. It is the cause of the hope, readiness, joy, and love we have in God. Some scripture to go along with this are Luke 2:25-27,28-32,33-35, 36-38, John 1:29. 

There are many more texts of scripture that you could include in these devotions, but these will suffice as a good start. And there are some great online resources on the Advent Wreath. So go do some research and make it your own. But no matter how you do it, be sure it is steeped in the Word of God. I hope this is helpful and encouraging to you and your family. And Merry Christmas!

Posted by Brian Van Doren with

Student Ministry - November 2021

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Dear Church Family,

Last month was my five year anniversary serving as the Student Pastor of Oakhill Baptist Church. It has been a wonderful five years! Since being called to serve here, Kayla and I have been working to connect with families, equip parents, and join efforts with them to disciple their students in the gospel. As the Lord saw fit to be gracious to us and bless us, we also became parents of two wonderful little boys. We are even expecting a third child this coming April! I have also had the privilege and honor of baptising a number of students and walking with them in the beginning stages of their faith. I love getting to preach the gospel to the next generation and help them have a love for God and His word. Explaining the gospel to people and helping them see it in the Old Testament is my passion. I get to do what I love every week! And being a part of this church is such a joy to me and my family! 

Our youth group makes my job great too. We have some of the best students who really want to hear God’s word and grow in it. Sometimes they need to be reminded that that is what they want the most. But they always prove to be hungry for the Truth. We currently have a Student Leader group that is made up of 18 high school students who have a desire to serve the Student Ministry by reaching out to new, younger, or disengaged students. They also do much of the setup and teardown for Sunday and Wednesday nights. And the whole goal is to teach them how to take ownership and serve in their church. It is a real delight to see students being the church and making an impact in other people’s lives that they don’t even know they are making yet. And our adult leaders are a mix of parents, older adults, and younger adults. That is what it needs to be so students are connected to all spectrums of life and Christian experience! Our adult leaders are making huge impacts on these
students just by teaching their Life Groups and playing games with them. It is in these connections and the accurate teaching and example of God’s word that we drastically reduce the likelihood of the students walking away from the church later in life. I love being a part of that. 

So basically the whole point of my article this month is just to say thank you. Thank you for having me and my family be a part of this church family. Thank you for being such a great church and always supporting your pastors. Thank you for loving God’s word and not letting anything stand in the way of making the proclamation of the gospel the primary task. Thank you for loving my wife and kids well. Thank you for prioritizing the discipleship of the next generation. Thank you for loving the Lord and following His voice. And thank you for making my job awesome! 

Posted by Brian Van Doren with

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