Category Archives: Blog

‘Twas The Blank Before Christmas

The following is an original poem I wrote over several weeks for our Advent Sermon Series this year at Parkview Alliance Church.  The video is the dramatic presentation of the completed poem performed on Christmas Eve by the talented Ralph T.

‘Twas The Blank Before Christmas
by Bryce Ashlin-Mayo

‘Twas Centuries before Christmas and all through the land,
People longed for a Saviour, a deliver and mighty right hand,
They awaited someone to be the new King,
To reign forever – peace and goodwill to bring.

The people waited with great expectation
For centuries and centuries with increased anticipation
The Messiah was prophesied to come as a child
Not as a giant but as a man – meek and mild

‘Twas fourteen months before Christmas, and a miracle was to commence
Zechariah, the priest, was in the temple about to light the incense
And then an Angel appeared, announcing he would have a son
But that would mean Elizabeth’s barrenness would have to be undone

Zechariah questioned this possibility
How could it happen with Elizabeth’s infertility?
Then nine months later they had a boy
They named him John and were full of joy

Now John grew up to be quite strange
He ate locusts and honey and lived on the range
In the Spirit of Elijah, he preached in the land
“Repent,” he would say, “the Kingdom of God is at hand”

‘Twas nine months before Christmas and a young virgin was dreaming
Of the man she would marry, her excitement was beaming
Then out of thin air, an Angel did appear
Saying you are highly favoured, you don’t have to fear

You will have a child and the Son of God is He.
Mary responded: “I am a virgin, how can this be?
But what will Joseph think – the man I am to wed?
But if it is your will, may it be as you have said!”

‘Twas days before Christmas and the young couple was found
leaving from Nazareth and heading to Joseph’s hometown
So off they went on an eighty-mile trek
Through rough terrain  – all for a population check.

‘Twas the night Before Christmas while ‘tired and weary
they entered Bethlehem in quite a hurry
Traveling for days, the baby’s birth was imminent
They were placed in a barn with animals’ excrement

Later that night, Mary gave birth to a boy
She placed him in swaddling clothes and was full of joy
As the angel had told, they named the boy “Jesus”
He was God’s son, who came to save us

In that same night, Angels did appear
They came to the Shepherds whose reaction was fear
They were told to go to Bethlehem and see the new King
Born in a stable, peace and good will to bring

Jesus, God’s son, Immanuel is He
Came to this world for you and for me
For if you call on His name, you will be saved
And experience freedom from sin, for all the enslaved.

All of this was foreseen by the prophets of old
We remember these things, the truth to behold
That day of Christ’s birth would have been quite the sight
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night

White Christmas

The following article was originally published in The Vermilion Standard.

Although we have been blessed with a long and beautiful Fall, we are reminded that one of the benefits to living in our part of the world is the gift of snow and the very strong probability of a white Christmas.  There is something about a white Christmas that rings true to the spirit of the holidays.  Perhaps it is connected with the myth of Santa Claus and the stories of the North Pole.  Perhaps it is related to our desire to stay home and stay warm with family and friends, and the snow helps to keep us indoors.  Or perhaps there is something about the snow that speaks to the real message of Christmas according to the Bible.

Snow has a wonderful quality when it first falls.  It acts like a thick large blanket draping over nature’s withering Fall landscape, replacing it with the purity of snow.  This image of pure white snow is one the Bible uses to talk about forgiveness of our sin, our wrongs, and our impurity that is only possible through Christ. “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.“  (Psalm 51:7, NLT)  The Bible uses the image of pure white snow to illustrate forgiveness that is possible through Christ.

At Christmas, we remember the birth of Christ, our Saviour.  Scripture says that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17, NLT)

This Christmas, as the snow falls and gently blankets the ground, may you know the promise that Jesus offers: eternal life and forgiveness from sin for all those who believe.  Christmas is not just intended to remind us of the birth of Jesus, but also the purpose for which he came – to bring life, abundant and eternal for those who believe.  This new life, the reality of purity as white as snow, is re-communicated to us visually every time we look outside and see the blanket of white pure snow that gently falls to the ground.

This Christmas consider the image of snow.  Consider the forgiveness that is possible in Christ, in whom you may know the hope, love and joy that the Christmas season celebrates.  A celebration of Jesus – the baby who was born called “Immanuel,” meaning “God with us.”

May you truly have a white Christmas!

When Dreams and Destiny Collide

I wrote this article last year (published in The Vermilion Standard) and it received such a warm response I thought I would repost it here.

The biblical Christmas story is filled with unique and unusual characters that are brought together in God’s divine plan to bring Christ into our world. One of those unusual characters is Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Mary is not the character that we would naturally expect God to choose as the Mother of Christ. Historically, Mary was most likely about 14 years old and would have been everything we would expect in a teenager. Imagine that for a moment. She would have had all the dreams of a teenage girl; a girl engaged to be married to her beloved Joseph. She would have been thinking about her wedding and her new life with her future husband. She would have had all the dreams of what her life was going to be like and then…suddenly…one evening…everything changed. Her dreams and her destiny violently collide and things change forever.

One evening this young girl was visited by an angel who tells her that she will be with child and that child will not be an ordinary child but will be the Saviour of the world – God’s one and only son. This was not the life Mary would have expected, dreamed about, or was trained for. Imagine, for a moment, how this would have affected Mary. She would have faced the probable rejection of Joseph as well as her immediately family for what, to them, would have been interpreted as her promiscuity. Although their perception would not have been accurate, her situation would not have been tolerated in the culture and society of her day. It would have mostly likely meant her being an outcast and potentially disowned. Mary would be facing a life of rejection by the world around her and her family. The news of the angel telling Mary her destiny would have violently collided with her dreams. God interrupts her life with an angel and the news of a life-altering event that makes her dreams collide with her destiny.

Have you ever had your dreams collide with your destiny? Everything was moving along as you had planned until…suddenly…everything changed. Maybe that something was a diagnosis, maybe it was a tragic event, maybe it was news you were not expecting, maybe it was something God was calling you to. Whatever it was, or is, how did you, or are you, responding?

Mary is told that she would be the mother of the Christ and her response in the biblical story is quite inspiring. She replies: “I am the Lord’s Servant. May it be as you have said.” Wow!!! How many of us at 14 would have responded with such an open, willing and mature heart and perspective? In the midst of the collision of destiny and dreams, she turns her heart to God and submits her dreams and desires to God and focuses on who He is.

This Christmas season, have you experienced a violent collision? Have your plans, your preferred future, or your dreams come into collision with your destiny (what you can’t control)? What has your response been?

The Christmas story reminds us that even though the biblical narrative involves real people with interesting stories, the main character is, and will always be, Christ. Mary, in the midst of her collision, focuses on Christ. This focus allows her to have a unique perspective in the midst of the collision she is facing. When you face a collision, whom will you focus on? Where will you find peace, purpose, etc.? The Christmas story is a great reminder that Christ needs to always be our focus, even when our dreams collide with our destiny.

Monetizing Authenticity & Relational Connections

As part of my doctoral program at George Fox Seminary and my dissertation topic studying the effects of social media on preaching, I had the great opportunity to attend the largest industry blogging and social media conference in North America.

One of the many things I gleaned from the conference was the economic potential that exists in the area of blogging and social media.  This economic potential is being rapidly and increasingly democratized and monetized.  It is democratized in that anyone can jump into the blogging and social media world and, with enough social networking, media creation and media curation, you can create “clout” (interestingly: the company scores clout).  This clout can then be monetized.  The increasingly inherent challenge is that the monetization of clout carries with it a major temptation – the temptation to sacrifice authenticity on the altar of economic opportunity.

Let me explain:
First, clout (or influencer) is an industry word that simply refers to the influence you have online.  Basically, the more hits you receive on your blog and the more social connections you have with social media (FaceBook friends, Twitter fans, etc.), the greater your “influence.”
Second, as your clout and influence grows, so does your potential environment for advertising and product endorsement.  These fertile environments are bursting with ecological potential for financial benefit.  Allow me to explain through a hypothetical example: Jim Bob is marketing his new Whatyamacallits and he knows that he can use traditional advertising to reach a large group of people but by doing this he also knows that the audience will interpret the advertisement message as the Whatyamacallit Company talking about Whatyamacallits.  Thus, people will be, inevitably, skeptical of the claims the manufacturer is making about the product they manufacture.  The audience knows that the manufacturer is not neutral.  However, if the Whatyamacallit Company can get seemingly neutral Jane Doe to blog and/or Tweet about their product to her large social following for either a sample of Whatyamacallits and/or other financial or promotional incentives, people will pay attention because they will assume that this third person is an impartial product reviewer.  This neutrality becomes assumed and perceived authenticity.
Third, the other revenue stream exists through advertising. This revenue stream can produce substantial income to the blogger.  Custom advertising by an ad service can provide significant income, but it also comes at a relational price.  Ad services work by using information provided by the content of the blog and any information it can glean from the blog visitor, customizing the ads for greatest impact.  In essence, the person blogging submits part of their online presence and the information of their visitors for financial gain.
I have no problem with any of this IF it is clearly understood and disclosed upfront by the blogger/social media user.  The problem is that this level of authenticity rarely happens and if it does, is often hidden or subtlety communicated.
As we look ahead to the future of social media and blogging, this practice will only increase (industry experts and their budget allocations affirm that this will only intensify in usage).  The challenge is that our culture highly values authenticity and relationships (part of why using it for marketing is brilliant and effective).  This is the very reason that blogging and social media have economic value.   In addition, people are also increasingly skeptical and as people become more aware of what is happening (recognizing that people are monetizing their authenticity and relationships), skepticism will only increase, inevitably decreasing the economic value of influencer clout and destroying the presumed relationships that once existed.
Once again, I have no issue with people who use their clout/influencer ability to promote products, services or earn money through advertising, as long as they are honest and upfront about this.  If they are not, they are, to use a shockingly pejorative term, prostituting their authenticity and relationship connections for financial gain.  This, of course, will eventually hurt one’s credibility and in a culture that highly values authenticity and relationship will not have sustainability.
The future of social media and blogging is exponentially growing and as it does, we need to increasingly be aware of the effects it is having on us and how it is being used and abused and/or using and abusing us.  As Marshall McLuhen brilliantly said: “All media works us over completely.”