A most excellent Christmas gift.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:15

Here we go, Christmas 2022! We are just days away from people gathering together for Christmas traditions and celebrations, Christmas Eve services, candlelights, carols and exchanging of cards, gifts and family hugs. Reunited families gathering around the tree and later the festive table for the feast. Neighbors waving and kids playing with new toys. Most have prepared and waited for weeks for this special season. And here we are. Christmas has come and the meaning is as powerful as ever for those that know and follow Jesus.

Christmas is special.

Whether or not it matters that there were barnyard animals looking on as December 24 rolled around, the truth is, the Bible tells us that the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. The prophecies and purposes of God were about to be fulfilled. So, as followers of Christ who have been changed by His grace, we celebrate, we remember and we worship.

Join with the Grace Church family this Christmas Eve for 5:15 service either on Friday Dec 23, or Saturday Dec 24. Hope to see you there.

Here’s a gift idea:

If you’d like a great idea for a gift that will long be remembered, come to Israel with me and Laurie this coming October. We will once again be hosting a group to the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked. We’ll even have a chance to go to Bethlehem where the whole experience of “Immanuel: God with Us” began. You’ll see the garden where Jesus prayed the night before the crucifixion and the garden tomb where we believe His body was laid, before the glorious resurrection.

Check out the information here. After the holidays we’ll begin having some interest and information meetings. So, whether to give or receive, what an ideal Christmas gift: let’s go to Bethlehem and see!



Blessings to you this Christmas.

Luke For Christmas

Along with many others, I saw various challenges put out to read the Gospel of Luke during the month of December.  One chapter a day, finishing on Dec 24th. Since our church has been going through Luke’s Gospel for sometime, I thought it a great plan to read familiar passages each day.

Like the other Gospels, Luke ends with the resurrection and ascension of Christ.  Yesterday, the 23rd, I was reminded of the cruel cross and the evil plot of the enemy to silence once and for all the Son of God. That move by hateful people was superseded by the very gracious plan of God all along.

Jesus was born to die. So that when we die, we live.

Repeatedly in Luke, we’re told why He came and what would come of His journey to Jerusalem.

Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Luke 24:6-7, 44

I love the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  The best part was when the men realized who they’d been listening to along the way.  Later that same day Jesus appeared to the other disciples and the same thing happens. Here’s how Luke says it:

30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.

45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  Luke 24:30-31, 45–47

By the telling of the story of Christ through all the Scriptures, by the breaking of bread (how familiar that must have seen!) and the prayer of Jesus, He opened their eyes. When Jesus again articulates His complete mission in vs 46, He then leaves them with the commission to carry it forward. Our eyes have been opened.

Are we helping others see Jesus?

Imagine, watching the Son of God ascend into the heavens.

Reading that on Dec 24th as we gather to celebrate His first coming reminds us of the mission. To look for His coming and tell everyone about repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Merry Christmas, with eyes wide open for His return!



Here’s a Christmas gift they’ll never forget!

Still need to find the right gift for that very special person? You’re not too late!

I’ve never liked the ads that came out in early December shaming me with words like “last minute” or “hurry, final days”, like they know anything about procrastination.  I’m a pro at it. When it comes to shopping, I bet I can find it on the way home!

Well, that’s a little tongue in cheek, but you get the idea. I hope you’re doing well with it all, but if you need a little idea, let me help.

How about a trip to Israel next October? 

How’s that for “best Christmas present ever”?

Whether you want to give the best ever, or it’s time for you to make a trip like this happen, here’s some just-released information!

Dates: October 3-13, 2019

Cost: $3895 from Phoenix (click link for details on what’s included and what’s not)

Land Only: $2557 (that means you meet us there)

Check here for the website with all of the details!


First 20 to sign up with a deposit receive a free book!


Don’t forget to check out the website for all the details!

Merry Christmas!


Whose Birthday?

Christmas is more than a birthday observance. It’s a theological gold mine as followers of God from all time and all places realize the miracle of the incarnation.

Though not just a birthday, let’s not forget it is a birthday all the same.

My wife has her birthday just one week before Christmas. My brother actually gets to share his birthday with Jesus.

Why do we make such a big deal about the event of His birth?  We don’t do that with our birthdays. With the exception of maybe a mother, most of us don’t care to hear too much about the day, the setting, was it night, was it day, was it silent (wanna guess?) were there any animals inside the hospital, what kind of gifts were given for the kid.

No. We don’t celebrate birthdays that way. We celebrate by honoring the person. We make a fuss over them.  The best gift I can give my wife is time and attention. I give a couple of gifts and we do something special together. This year we went to a wedding, a concert and a museum.  Busy 24 hours!  Usually it’s a fun meal. A new trail.  Sometimes it’s just an extra special day off together.

You probably get my point already.

Along with the wonderful traditions and festive gatherings, what if we add a simple component to our Christmas.  Let’s honor the One born.  Don’t make it complicated. A couple of gifts, some extra time.  We are made in His image, so I think some of the stuff we like, He too likes. Like a couple of gifts and some special attention.

Merry Christmas.

If you’re in Flagstaff, join us at Grace for our Christmas Eve services Saturday, at 4:30 or 5:45.  Christmas morning, we’ll gather at 10 for a brief Christmas morning worship.

The manger, the cross, and the tomb

He came

He died

He rose from the dead

That’s been our theme this Christmas in “The Wonder of Christmas”. It’s still a wonder that He came to us in a manger. It’s a wonder that He took my place on a cross. He died for me. It’s a wonder that a place where dead bodies lay is found empty. He arose victorious over death. So I,too, can know eternal life!

When you see the manger you must see the cross. He didn’t just come on a silent night. He came in humility to take on my punishment.

When you see the empty tomb, you know He’s alive and He’s coming again.

Join us at Grace Community tomorrow for one of our two Christmas Eve services at Sinagua.  The Wonder of the Manger.

Come at 4:30 (with childcare for infants through preschool) or at 5:45 (with no childcare). All are welcomed! Invite family and friends to join you. Arrive early. You don’t want to miss the opening!

Merry Christmas

The Humility of Jesus

This past Sunday Brian Ketter spoke on humility.  As happens, when you sit under the teaching of God’s Word you are putting yourself in a good position to both hear about God and hear from Him. And I, like you, need both.

This week I’ve done a lot of thinking about the humility that God calls us to as well as the example Jesus sets for us.  This is so obvious, it may seem simplistic to write the words. But, if you are getting wound up pretty tight on all the Christmas season expectations and busyness, or even if you’re not… perhaps this simple message will remind you of the One who loves you so much He humbled himself.

Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  Phil 2:6-7

Jesus. Fully God, became fully man.  That’s humility.

He humbled Himself. He wasn’t humbled by another. He stepped out of eternity and entered our time, our space, to be with us, to be one of us.

Ready for this?

So that we could become one of His.

And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Phil 2:8-11


Here’s the web-version of our Christmas Letter we sent out to our family.  After reading a few this season, we realized what a year this has been and it only seemed appropriate to share how God has led and blessed us this past year.

In January, Laurie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully God allowed the doctors to find it early and she began immediate treatments after her February surgery. We were both very thankful her mom was able to come and help out the week of her surgery.  Her radiation treatments started in March.  Her last treatment was May 13th. She is cancer-free but will continue with regular follow up visits.

Just two days after Laurie’s last treatment we made the trip to say goodbye to my nephew Zac. We saw him briefly on Sunday morning, and that afternoon he was able to see Jesus face to face.  It was an added blessing to see several family members for his amazing memorial service at NewSpring Church. I miss him on a regular basis.  You can watch a part of his story here.

A huge highlight from our summer was a few days in Mammoth Lakes, CA.  It was our first time there and Laurie had it planned out very well where we simply enjoyed down time in a beautiful setting. At the end of our week, we did a quick drive through Yosemite and came out the western side so we could have an afternoon visit with Laurie’s Grandma Clarice.  We were both so glad we made that trip. Grandma died just a few months later.  Laurie was able to join her mom in Three Rivers for a brief visit for Grandma’s memorial service. An added blessing was reacquainting with family.

In October I learned the reason for some unexpected weight loss was a condition called Graves Disease, a form of hyperthyroidism. Though the name sounds morbid, it appears this is not terribly uncommon and it is very treatable.  My good doctor has me on a medication with regular blood work to monitor the progression. So far so good.

Thanksgiving gave us the opportunity to see several family members in Mesa, as Stacey hosted the main event.  We had a great Christmas Eve service with our largest crowd ever.  We were blessed to share the holiday with two of my sisters from Tucson, Janet and Sandra.

As we’ve exchanged gifts and shared precious family time together, we clearly think of our gift to God first and foremost.  What is it?  To give to God the praise and thanks He is due. We are so blessed.  And above all, we give Him thanks for Jesus, His Son. “For unto us is born this day in the City of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Mark and Laurie Smith

A Full Day of Grace

Last night as I was reflecting on the day, I realized just how good God is and what an amazing ride it is to serve Him and lead others to do the same.  Here are a few highlights:

  • I had a brief meeting yesterday with our Grace Group leaders and hosts. I was reminded how thankful I am for each of them and their leadership within our church family.
  • Each Sunday we meet with everyone working that day throughout the ministries of Grace.  We now meet at 9:30 and pray for the day and for our ministry and the opportunities we’ll have.  I love these people and their willingness to serve the family of Grace.
  • 10 minutes before the service even starts we have live worship music as our musicians get the day going and welcoming as the church gathers. Yesterday there was such a sweet spirit in the room as we awaited the 10 o’clock start.
  • We had our Grace Group at lunch yesterday, because of the Kids program last night.  With this amazing weather we grilled burgers as we said farewell to some that are leaving this semester.  Like many of the Grace Groups, we’ll start up after the first of the year.  Love our Group!
  • Last night Kelly Phillips led a group of Grace kids in a Christmas program.  It was very sweet. You could tell a lot of work went into practicing, costumes, building a set, and memorizing lines.  Kids did great!
  • Last night we got to hear testimony from one of our families who just returned from a missions trip.  Their enthusiasm is contagious. Laurie and I were encouraged and reminded of why we’re here as we listened and prayed with our dear friends.

The day seemed a little longer than usual, but it was full of God’s grace. We are seeing His hand at work throughout Grace and for that, we are most blessed and thankful.

Christmas is JESUS

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us

Titus 2:11; 3:4

The Word became flesh

God became man

Light entered darkness

All-sufficient became dependent

The Ever Present Help became the ever needy baby

King of kings humbled himself among his subjects

Creator came to the created

Infinite joined the finite

Wonderful came to not so wonderful

Counselor came to those in need of his counsel

Mighty God came to the extremely weak

Everlasting entered time

Father sent the Son to show the world God

Prince of Peace entered chaos

The God of humanity has come to rescue, to bring life-saving measures that we desperately need. He comes for the sorrowful, the resentful, the depressed, and the oppressed. He’s the God of the second chance, the third chance and the thirtieth.

Jesus, God with us, is the God of all comfort, healing, purpose, meaning and life. He’s not an option, He’s not an offer to be considered, He’s the Creator, the King, the ever present One, the all-sufficient One, the One who needs no introduction and deserves nothing less than an eternal ovation, He will be worshiped and praised. One day, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is God, that the Baby of Bethlehem, is in fact the Savior of the World, God with us, God come to be in us.


Some people complain about Mondays.  I probably have also. But not this Monday.

Yesterday was the first of the Christmas sermons and 5 people crossed the line of faith to place their trust in Jesus alone for eternal life!  AND we also had 3 baptized, 1 who just recently was saved at Grace!  It is such a blessing to be a part of God’s activity.  Yesterday, I was really going for 2 Cor 5:21 in the sermon, when I came across vs 20 that best summarized the point that we are invited to be participants in the Christmas Story, not merely onlookers.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

God makes his appeal to lost people through us!  Let’s not simply observe Christmas, let’s participate. Be an ambassador for Christ!

Flagstaff is under a Blizzard warning right now.  Snow is falling big time and schools have already cancelled for Tuesday.  NAU/CCC have also called off finals for today.  A blessing for some, I’m guessing. Also, we’re closing the church office for the remainder of today, and probably tomorrow also.

As we all enjoy the snow and the adjusted schedule that goes along with it, let’s be careful, and thankful!