Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

By Erin Bird

Christmas time is here! So I will keep this short and sweet this week.

Please join us tonight at 4:30 pm for our Candlelight Christmas Eve service as we celebrate the coming of Christ. We’d love to have you grab a mask and your family and join us in person at our new building (2704 5th Ave NW in Waverly Iowa). But if you need to be at home, please join us online. We’ll sing some songs, have a “kids” moment, hear a brief message (that concludes our Christmas Songs series), light the Christ candle on our Advent wreath, and then light our own personal candles as we worship Jesus and thank Him for coming to earth for us.

So I hope to see you tonight. And if I don’t see you, have a wonderful Christ-focused worship-filled Christmas!

Merry Christmas!


Here are some Spotify and YouTube Christmas playlists that will help your heart worship God today and tomorrow through music:

Advent Conspiracy “Worship Fully” Playlist

The Gospel Coalition’s 2020 Advent Playlist

Essential Worship’s Christmas Worship Songs

The Oh Hello’s “Family Christmas” Album

Give More this Christmas

Welcome to December! On what feels like the 5th anniversary of 2020 (aka the year that never ends), we want to close out this calendar year by helping you get the most out of this Advent season. That’s why we are back with Part 2 of our Advent Conspiracy series, looking at the tenet of “Give More.” And to help us contemplate how we can do just that, here is the team from Advent Conspiracy with some thoughts*:

We’ve talked about rebelling against consumerism by Spending Less, but now we’re encouraging you to Give More… Is that a contradiction? Nope! Giving More isn’t about giving more toys, more gadgets, more clothes, more gift cards, more stuff.

God is calling us to Give More intentionally and relationally. That means giving more of our time, our energy, our memories, our talents, our presence. It’s a both/and. Spend less money and give more of yourself to the ones you love.

We believe that the best gifts celebrate a relationship. Think back on the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received. Chances are there is a story and a relationship that was connected to that gift. Now try and remember all of the gifts you were given last year…For most of us, that’s hard to do.

It sounds obvious, yet we seem to have drifted away from this liberating, straightforward truth: The Father gave his one and only Son (John 1:14, 3:16). God’s answer for the world’s problems has never been material things. God did not give us more stuff – even good stuff like work, food, or health. He gave us himself. The most priceless and personal gift of all!

Relational giving means we think about the other person–who they are and what they care about. We focus more on giving our undivided presence and less on a pile of presents under the tree. This takes time and effort on our part. These kinds of gifts often require planning, but you’ll hardly be able to wait until Christmas to give such a gift!

When we give relationally during the Advent season, this is what we remember: it’s an opportunity to worship as we remind each other of the gift that was given for our sake. If we can resist the trap of giving easy gifts, and reject the assumption that giving expensive gifts is the best way to express love, something else might begin to happen. Our kids, family, neighbors, and coworkers will watch us celebrate Christmas differently, and through our actions, they will hear the good news of the Gospel.

Some ideas to help you Give More:

  • Check out this list of relational gift ideas.
  • If you’re overwhelmed, start small. Choose one person on your list to give a relational gift to.
  • On Christmas morning, turn off your cell phone. Take a couple of hours to be present with your family and focus on the people God has put in your life.
  • Invest in experiences you can share: Sign up for dance lessons, go camping, plan a vacation, take cooking classes.
  • Pass down memories: Make a recipe book or photo album to give to your family.
  • Get a blank journal and write notes and prayers to your kids or a close friend.
  • Give a copy of your favorite book to a friend and then meet up for coffee and discuss it. Then switch and read their favorite book.
  • Buy someone a gift that relieves a burden: babysitting money, help out with yard work, make a meal. Or give them a set of “coupons” that does a similar thing. (Download some coupon ideas here.)
  • Give the gift of hospitality: Invite a new family over for dinner and games.
  • Do an activity with your kids: puzzles, jewelry making, baking, hiking, fishing, sports. Be present.
  • Set out a “giving jar” at home or at work. Any monies put in the jar within a certain time span (like from now until Dec 24) will be given to a charity, family, or project of your choice.

In light of this week’s topic of Give More, don’t forget: we are collecting our annual Impact Gift on Sunday, Dec 20, to be given to Northside Neighborhood Church to help them do neighborhood revitalization of homes and property destroyed by gang violence or drunk drivers. If you won’t be able to join us on the 20th, or would prefer to give online, you may do so here; just be sure to select “Christmas Impact Fund” in the drop-down menu.


*originally published at

Making Christmas Meaningful

by Erin Bird

How are you doi…

What’s that? Oh, the topic. Yeah, um… about that. Yes, yes, I know, we just got through Halloween and barely are past the Election, but yes, we actually are going to talk about Christmas.

Ok, ok, simmer down. I hear you. I suspect by your complaining you are like me: no “Christmas” stuff until AFTER Thanksgiving.

Now, perhaps I’m wrong and you are of the I-listen-to-Christmas-music-beginning-in-August crowd, but I’m a fairly strict “no Christmas” kind-of-guy until I’ve had Turkey Thursday and spent the day with family thanking God for all He’s given. Then on “Black Friday” I whip out Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” Christmas album as my family makes the annual trek to cut down a Christmas tree.

I’ve taken a bit of the same approach at Riverwood. We talk about Christmas during the season of Advent, but not before (excluding Operation Christmas Child). If you’ve been part of the Riverwood family for more than a year, you’ve probably figured this out. For the past two years, we’ve talked about the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy.

But as I talked with Christine Blessing (who edits these blogs) about upcoming plans for the future, it didn’t make sense to wait until December to talk about Advent Conspiracy when many of you will possibly have already begun your Christmas shopping.

And so, I want to be proactive and influence your Christmas purchases & choices ahead of time. And to do that, I want to talk about Christmas a month earlier than I normally do.

But why talk about the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy yet again? I’ll let the Advent Conspiracy team tell you:

“Advent Conspiracy isn’t a formula or strict set of rules; it is about reorienting our hearts back to Christ. It’s about letting go of traditions that actually take our focus away from God during Christmas. Things like overstuffed schedules, credit card debt, stress, and dread that have replaced the hope and peace the angels speak of.”

So, even though we’ve barely gotten the political ads out of our mailboxes before the Christmas catalogs start to appear, we are going to talk about Christmas to proactively make this Christmas incredibly meaningful. So join me next week right here as we dive into the first of the four Advent Conspiracy tenets – Spend Less.

Worship Fully during Advent

Hark! The herald angels say, “the Riverwood News & Notesis here today!” (Dec 19, 2019)

Worship Fully

For the month of December, we are doing a series here in the News & Notes on three of the four tenets of Advent Conspiracy. We have looked at these four tenets in the past, but because of the cultural pressure around us, it is worth us considering them again. If you are unfamiliar with Advent Conspiracy, head to their site and read the blog post called “Advent Conspiracy 101.”  And even if you are thoroughly familiar with all four tenets of Advent Conspiracy, I strongly encourage you to read today’s email so you can be reminded of how to make the most of this Christmas season.

In Christ,


Worship Fully
from the Advent Conspiracy team

For many of us, the time of year when focusing on Christ should be the easiest, is often the hardest. Our calendars are full of activities, the to-do lists are getting longer, the stores are getting busier, and an overwhelming stress has creeped into our hearts.

So how do we get back to the heart of the Christmas narrative?

For starters, worship. We see the tenet of Worship Fully as being the cornerstone tenet. We believe that when our hearts are oriented towards Christ, the rest of the tenets will fall into place. The way we spend, give, and love will radically change when it comes from a place of true worship.

Each year Advent brings another opportunity to worship the miracle of the Incarnation when God revealed himself to people in a new way. If you read the Christmas narrative, nearly every character who encountered the infant King had the same response: worship.

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the LORD.
Luke 2:10-11

Nativity SceneExcitement, anticipation, hope—each of these emotions swell around the object of our dearest affection. The reality is that we spend our time and energy on what matters most to us. Notice what you’re spending your time and energy on. Is it drawing you closer to God or is it distracting you from something else?

Here’s a tough question: Does the way we spend our time, money, and energy testify that we worship God incarnate?  Sit with that today.  Ask God to open your eyes and heart to the truth.

Some activities to help you Worship Fully:

  • Invite a friend over and see how they’re doing. Listen well.
  • Have your kids read the Christmas story while setting up the nativity.
  • For one night, unplug from all technology and social media. In a world full of noise, be intentional about quiet time.
  • Participate in the daily Advent devotionals or listen to the audio version of the Bible.
  • Turn the radio off in the car and spend 10 minutes thanking God for the ways He has blessed you.
  • Listen to the Advent Conspiracy playlist on Spotify or a favorite Christ-centered Christmas album. Let the lyrics settle into your heart.

Originally published at

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