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Suspect sought after Paradise Valley home burglary on Bluebird Lane

The suspect or suspects allegedly stole a wallet with three credit cards and $340 in Paradise Valley.

      

 

 

Why Putting Christ Back in Christmas Is Not Enough

The history of American holiday cheer obscures the difficult details of the nativity narrative.

Christmas in America has never been a straightforward event. Whether in the privacy of our homes or in the public square, it has always been a conflicted affair.

For some in our present cultural climate, it’s been a matter of religious liberty and a political right to be able to say “merry Christmas” at Target or Walmart. For others, it’s been a matter of religious pluralism and political hospitality to say “happy holidays” instead.

This pushes a portion of our society to want to abolish Christmas altogether. For others, the answer is to keep putting “Christ back in Christmas.” But maybe there is a deeper problem.

Perhaps the problem is not whether we remember “that Jesus is the reason for the season,” but that the story that “Christmas in America” tells looks nothing like the story that Matthew and Luke tell about the birth of Christ and always seems to distort or to leave out essential elements of the Nativity narrative.

There’s a reason for that, of course. Christmas in America is influenced less by the stories of a publican and a physician—the Gospel writers Matthew and Luke—than by the stories of a Puritan, a princess, a poet and a host of painters.

What’s needed, I might argue, is a far more radical re-conceptualization of the story of Christmas—what it sounds like, how it feels, where it takes us, and what it enables us to imagine—and for the story of Matthew and Luke to redefine how Christians in America celebrate the “mass of Christ.”

Perhaps what’s needed, more bluntly, is to leave the story of “Christmas in America” alone and for Christians to learn to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity. …

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China Closes Megachurches Before Christmas

Raids on major congregations led by pastors Wang Yi and the late Samuel Lamb represent “the most horrendous evil of Chinese society … hindering [non-Christians] from coming to Jesus.”

A week after a prominent pastor in China released his viral letter on faithful disobedience amid a government raid on his church, Communist authorities once again shut down worshipers from Chengdu’s Early Rain Covenant Church—one of the most prominent unregistered churches in the country—as well as Guangzhou’s Rongguili Church, one of its first underground Christian communities.

On Sunday, 60 police and religious affairs officials interrupted weekly gatherings at Rongguili, ultimately closing the church, seizing materials, and taking cell phones from attendees, Asia News reported.

“Halfway through the children’s Bible class, we heard the footsteps of dozens of police and officials stomping up the stairs,” one member said, according to the South China Morning Post.

“They read out law enforcement notices declaring our venue was an illegal gathering [that had engaged in] illegal publishing and illegal fundraising and confiscated all Bibles.”

The Protestant congregation, which now draws more than 5,000 people to worship each week, was founded in the 1970s by the late pastor Samuel Lamb; it represents one of the few churches in China dating back to before the Cultural Revolution.

Ahead of Christmas, Chinese authorities have continued their ongoing crackdown on underground Protestant churches, which do not belong to the government-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement and are illegal under Communist rule. The activity has spurred further concern by US officials and American Christians.

The previous Sunday, December 9, officials shut down Early Rain Covenant Church, arresting more than a dozen Christians, including pastor Wang Yi. After he was detained, the church released Yi’s …

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Arizona charter schools spend more on administration, less in classrooms

In the rush to write charters into law in 1994, legislators omitted regulations that would have constrained unruly school spending.

      

 

 

Driver sentenced to 10.5 years in death of Scottsdale motorcyclist

Tracy Morehouse was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2017 death of a motorcyclist.

      

 

 

French Designer Jeweler’s handmade, unique pieces spark conversations, loyal clientele

French Thompson, owner of French Designer Jeweler, has created a niche that jewelry aficionados have come to admire and expect.

      

 

 

What does it take to open a charter school in Arizona?

For most people, pursing an application consumes years and thousands of dollars in a school that may never exist.

      

 

 

Reading The Jesus Storybook Bible in Iceland

In the world’s most bookish country, evangelicals are taking up the ministry of translation.

In the pitch dark of Christmas Eve in Iceland, after family dinner and unwrapping presents, the lights stay aglow for another special tradition: reading. Not just reciting the Nativity story or The Night Before Christmas; book lovers in the tiny Nordic nation spend the night cracking into the shiny new hardbacks they received as gifts.

Gunnar Ingi Gunnarsson, a pastor in Reykjavík, remembers his father staying awake until 6 a.m. on Christmas, curled up with a box of chocolates and whatever book he’d received that year.

Even in the 21st century, the decades-old read-a-thon carries on. Bolstered by a cultural love for stories (dating back to the Viking sagas that chronicle the island’s history), Iceland now publishes and reads more books per capita each year than almost anywhere else.

Though sales have dipped due to digital options, Iceland’s printing output has remained steady at about 1,500 books a year, according to government statistics. The bulk of the new titles come out in the months leading up to Christmas during Jólabókaflóð, or the “Yule Book Flood,” so they can be given as gifts and read during the holidays.

For years, Gunnarsson has dreamed of his own three kids getting to unwrap one particular book: The Jesus Storybook Bible.

Though the popular children’s Bible has sold 3.2 million copies in 38 languages, Icelandic wasn’t one of them. Few evangelical books at all make it to the overwhelmingly secular island, deemed the “most godless country in Europe.” And just one version of the Bible is available in print in the local language.

But this year, Gunnarsson finally was able to give his kids—and hopefully thousands of others—an …

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Harvest Bible Chapel Disputes World Investigation of James MacDonald

Former staff and elders criticize shuffling of funds and 50-mile noncompete clauses for former pastors.

In an investigation published by World magazine yesterday, former Harvest Bible Chapel leaders raise concerns over the Chicago-area megachurch’s operations, including claims of shuffling funds between related ministries and efforts to restrict former staff through noncompete clauses and nondisclosure agreements.

Harvest officials said in a statement to CT that the report “fails to uncover desired scandal” and represents “the opinions of a few disgruntled former members” rather than the views of the church’s current elders.

In October, Harvest along with lead pastor James MacDonald filed a defamation lawsuit against the author of the World article, Julie Roys, for “asserting false allegations” during her eight-month investigation.

In this week’s “Hard times at Harvest” article, Roys follows up with a trio of former Harvest elders who had a falling out with the church in 2013. MacDonald issued an apology over their “unbiblical discipline” in 2014.

Leaders stated today that Harvest “has owned its mistakes and endured to become a happier and healthier church” since.

“Subsequent to the most vocal departures, the Elders of [Harvest] designed a system of Elder government filled with meaningful accountability for staff and active involvement of volunteer Elders that exceeds in every way the former system filled with conflicts of interest and poor decision making,” they stated.

However, the former elders continue to critique the financial and organizational structures at Harvest, which numbers 13,000 attendees across seven locations.

World reports that Harvest shifted significant funds from MacDonald’s popular radio program, Walk …

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National wave of hoax bomb threats hits Phoenix-area cities

Police in Scottsdale, Surprise, Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe reported they had received multiple calls for bomb threats throughout their cities.