Beneath the Wrapping

(This is based on a post that I republish each year around this time.)

While you’re unwrapping your gifts this Christmas I wanted to take a few moments to unwrap the real Christmas story.

We all enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It’s more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or ‘spirit’ that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than time with family enjoying good food and good times.

I find it interesting that any time someone suggests removing the word ‘Christmas’ from our celebrations at this time of year there are cries of ‘political correctness gone mad’ yet we still pay so little attention to what that word actually signifies.

While it’s generally accepted that the 25th of December isn’t the actual date that Jesus was born, it’s the day that has been chosen for celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That means Christmas is really a big birthday party.

So why should we be invited to the birthday party? Jesus was born around 2000 years ago. Why do we still celebrate his birth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, and this is where it gets tricky, according to the Bible, Jesus is actually God in human form so this is no ordinary birthday.

Here’s a little bit of the Christmas story from the Bible. This account is from a book of the Bible written by a guy named Luke.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no vacancy for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Aha! So that’s where the manger and the shepherds come in.

That’s pretty much the story of Christmas. God living among the people he created. It’s an amazing thought but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together. After all, usually when we celebrate someone’s birthday we don’t just remember the day they were born, we celebrate who that person has become and what they’ve brought to the world.

If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born around 2000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life. If you want to find out more about the remarkable life of Jesus, I’d encourage you to grab a Bible in an easy to read translation and then read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) to find out about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.



Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Beneath the Wrapping? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

Happy Birthday, Jesus

(This is based on a post that I republish each year around this time.)

While you’re unwrapping your gifts this Christmas I wanted to take a few moments to unwrap the real Christmas story.

We all enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It’s more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or ‘spirit’ that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than time with family enjoying good food and good times.

I find it interesting that any time someone suggests removing the word ‘Christmas’ from our celebrations at this time of year there are cries of ‘political correctness gone mad’ yet we still pay so little attention to what that word actually signifies.

While it’s generally accepted that the 25th of December isn’t the actual date that Jesus was born, it’s the day that has been chosen for celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That means Christmas is really a big birthday party.

So why should we be invited to the birthday party? Jesus was born around 2000 years ago. Why do we still celebrate his birth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, and this is where it gets tricky, according to the Bible, Jesus is actually God in human form so this is no ordinary birthday.

Here’s a little bit of the Christmas story from the Bible. This account is from a book of the Bible written by a guy named Luke.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no vacancy for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Aha! So that’s where the manger and the shepherds come in.

That’s pretty much the story of Christmas. God living among the people he created. It’s an amazing thought but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together. After all, usually when we celebrate someone’s birthday we don’t just remember the day they were born, we celebrate who that person has become and what they’ve brought to the world.

If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born around 2000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life. If you want to find out more about the remarkable life of Jesus, I’d encourage you to grab a Bible in an easy to read translation and then read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) to find out about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.



Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Happy Birthday, Jesus? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

RetroRadio – Phil Cooke

RetroRadio is a series of posts of radio interviews from my time working at 98five Sonshine FM covering everything from issues of spirituality to chats with visiting musicians and celebrities.

Hopefully, the interviews spark a few memories and a few thoughts.

Back in July 2007, I spoke to Phil Cooke. I’ve just relistened to the interview and so much of what he has to say is still incredibly relevant today.

He’s produced TV and film programming in more than 60 countries around the world, and in the process, been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter, and in Africa, been threatened with prison. And during that time – through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California – he’s helped some of the largest Christian and nonprofit organizations in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture.

Phil was Executive Producer of “Let Hope Rise – the Hillsong Movie” released to theaters nationwide, and Producer of “The Insanity of God” a feature documentary that premiered nationally as a Fathom Event. According to former CNN journalist Paula Zahn, Phil is rare – a working producer in Hollywood with a Ph.D. in Theology. He’s appeared on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, and his work has been profiled in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. – PhilCooke.com

We chatted about his work and the media in general as well as a range of other ways in which Christians are portrayed.

Phil had a lot of great insights into the most effective ways for Christians to harness the power of the media in its various forms. One thing that came out very strongly a number of times in our discussion was the need for people who want to share their faith story to understand the culture they’re trying to reach.

If you want to hear the interview just use the media player below.

[Note: All RetroRadio interviews on RodneyOlsen.net are a snapshot of the time they were recorded. We all grow and change and so the opinions and thoughts of those in the interviews at the time of recording may or may not necessarily be the same as they are today.]

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading RetroRadio – Phil Cooke? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

A Very Long Way to Ride a Bike

I’ve made it to Balladonia … by bicycle.

If you haven’t caught up with what I’m doing, I’m currently cycling across Australia for highly vulnerable children living in extreme poverty.

Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast started in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday the 15th of September. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, New South Wales on Tuesday the 16th of October.

We’re travelling with 24 cyclists and a support team of 9.

We’ve finished 6 of our 28 riding days and had 1 of our 4 rest days. The average riding distance for our riding days is just over 155 kilometres. Our longest days are just under 200 kilometres.

Today’s journey from Norseman to Balladonia covered almost 192 kilometres. That’s our second longest day of the whole trip. In a few days we’ll ride our longest distance of 195 kilometres.

If you’d like to support my part in the ride you can do so in two ways.

I am personally seeking to raise $15,000. I really need your help to make that a reality.

You can make a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

So far, I received donations from $10 to $1,000 from some generous friends. All donations above $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Your contribution, of any amount, will put me closer to my target of $15,000.

The other way you can help to boost my total is to sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Sponsorship gives kids safe places to play, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, education, and the opportunity to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

Whichever way you choose to support me and however much you choose to give, your contribution will not only help push me closer to reaching my target, you’ll also change the life of a child or children living with the devastating effects of extreme poverty.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate through my fundraising page.

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading A Very Long Way to Ride a Bike? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂

Have You Met Alphonse?

Have you met Alphonse? Alphonse is a child from Rwanda who is receiving ongoing help through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund. That’s the fund that Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast is supporting.

You can watch Alphonse’s story here:

Ride for Compassion: Alphonse's Story from Compassion Australia on Vimeo.

Today marks exactly two months from the first turn of the pedals on Ride for Compassion Coast to Coast. We’ll be riding for children just like Alphonse.

The ride will start in Perth, Western Australia on Saturday the 15th of September. We will arrive at Compassion’s head office in Newcastle, New South Wales on Tuesday the 16th of October. There’ll be 28 riding days and 4 rest days. The average riding distance for those riding days will be just over 150 kilometres. Our longest days will be just under 200 kilometres. There’ll be around 25 cyclists and a support team of around 9.

The team’s fundraising tally is currently stretching towards $250,000 with over 60 children sponsored but I’m sure we can go higher and offer a hand up to even more children.

Two Months Today

That first day’s ride between Perth and Northam will come so very quickly. Planning for this ride began some years ago and yet here we are, two months out, working towards that first day on the bike, then the second, then the third and so on all the way to the other side of the country.

More than 4,300 kilometres from west to east won’t happen unless there are thousands of kilometres in training beforehand. I’ve been on my bike quite a lot so far this year but there’s still a lot to be done.

It’s Too Important

The cause behind the ride is too important to treat lightly. Hundreds of children living in extreme poverty are depending on those of us making this journey and making it count. They don’t know we’ll be riding across the continent, they’ll probably never know, but it’s an important cause all the same.

There are children, just like Alphonse, who through no fault of their own are living in the most unacceptable circumstances. We plan to make a difference for as many of them as we can by offering them a hope more powerful than poverty.

If you’d like to support my ride you can do so in two ways.

I am personally seeking to raise $15,000. I really need your help to make that a reality.

You can make a direct donation to my fundraising page. Your donation will touch the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our world through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children’s Fund.

Every child in poverty is vulnerable, but some children are at risk of the most deplorable situations in the world.

Children whose parents who have left, died, or are unable to provide for them, children exposed to exploitation and children with special needs are highly vulnerable. They often find themselves on the edge of extremely dangerous situations like child labour, gang violence, trafficking, and life on the street.

So far, I received donations from $10 to $1,000 from some generous friends. All donations above $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Your contribution, of any amount, will put me closer to my target of $15,000.

The other way you can help to boost my total is to sponsor a child living in poverty. By using that link your sponsorship will count towards my fundraising goal while releasing a child from poverty in Jesus’ name.

Sponsorship gives kids safe places to play, the chance to see a doctor when they’re sick, education, and the opportunity to discover Jesus’ incredible love for them.

Sponsor a child. Give them a brighter future so they, and eventually their own children, can live free from poverty.

Whichever way you choose to support me and however much you choose to give, your contribution will not only help push me closer to reaching my target, you’ll also change the life of a child or children living with the devastating effects of extreme poverty.

The Long and Winding Road

So there is quite literally a long road ahead for me beginning two months from today but the journey has already begun. I’ll be doing my best to fulfil my responsibilities in training, fundraising and then riding. Will you support me on this massive venture?

It’s unacceptable that millions of children are living in extreme poverty so I’m putting my body on the line to do whatever I can to make a difference for as many of those children as I can.

Will you help me give more children a chance to live, dream and hope? Sponsor a child today or donate through my fundraising page.

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Have You Met Alphonse?? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. 🙂