Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

The Challenge of Christmas

December 6, 2012

These are the sermon notes from December 2, 2012.

I.  Call to Repentance: Isaiah 1:16-17

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

These verses are a call to action.  We are not simply to feel bad about our shortcomings, we are to do something.  We should change our ways.

We are to cease doing evil.  The first step in ceasing to do evil is to be able to recognize what is evil.  God has given us His Word and His Holy Spirit.  By the Word and the Spirit we are able to learn to recognize evil.  Then the Holy Spirit will also give us the strength to change our ways.  Sometimes this change happens quickly, and sometimes it takes a while to learn new habits.  God understands, and is patient with us.

We are to learn to do good.  A new life is not just about not doing evil, it is learning to do good.  God is a just God, and is concerned with justice in our society.  We, as Christians, should also be concerned with justice.

There are two types of justice: criminal, and distributive.  As Christians we should use what influence we have in society to work towards justice for all.  Whether that means appropriate punishment for crimes, or protection from harassment for the innocent.  Distributive justice is the fair distribution of burdens and benefits.  We might not all agree about how to achieve distributive justice, or exactly what that would look like, but we should agree that it is important, and try to work toward that ideal.  We are to rebuke the oppressor, and take care of the needy.  It is also important as we work toward that goal, to treat one another with respect, recognizing that we may have honest disagreements about these important matters.

II.  Offer of Forgiveness: Isaiah 1:18-20

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The message of Christmas is that Christ came to earth so that our sins might be forgiven.  Those who respond to the message of salvation are forgiven.  John 3:16-17 says  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Not all will listen to the message.  For them, there remains only judgement.  John 3:18-20 reads “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

III.  The Challenge of Christmas  III John 11

Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, buthe who does evil has not seen God.

The message of the early church was simply put “Repent and believe the gospel.”  The Greek language was not real concerned with the order of words, and so it is acceptable for us to think of this as believe and repent.  We believe in Jesus and are called to repentance: to cease to do evil and learn to do good.  One of the best ways that we can learn to do good, is to imitate good.  The best one to imitate for good,  is to imitate Christ.  That would be the challenge of Christmas.  Christ came to earth to show us the Father, we are now called to imitate Christ.

The message of Christmas is that Christ has come.

The challenge of Christmas is to imitate Christ.

 

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The Message in the Christmas Tree

December 27, 2011

Well, Christmas is over, but before you take down the Christmas tree, I wanted to share what we can see in the message of the Christmas tree.

The first thing that I notice is the lights.  They shine brightly and can be seen easily, not only by the people in the house, but by people outside, if the shades are open.

Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness.  He is at the heart of the Christmas message.  There are many lights on a Christmas tree because the light of Jesus shines through the lives of Christian people.  We need to open the shades of our lives, and let the light of Christ shine.

The tinsel that is draped all over the tree hangs in vertical lines.  These lines remind me of the prayers of the people of God as they lift their concerns to Him.  They also remind me of the answers that God gives to His people.    The tinsel ascends and descends, like the angels on Jacob’s ladder.

The garland is draped around the tree and is meant to give an appearance of continuity.  I am reminded of the passage of the faith through the ages.  Generation after generation sharing the message and the love of Jesus.

Ornaments of all kinds hang upon the tree.  These ornaments remind me that all good gifts come from God.  Our lives are filled with many people, objects, and events that add beauty and color to our existence.

As I sit on my couch and look at the tree I notice that not all is light and color.  There are patches of darkness that persist even with all the decorations.  This darkness reminds me that life does indeed have it times of testing, trial and tribulation.  There are times of sorrow and times of heaviness of heart.  We do not deny that these times exist, but we trust that God is with us always, even in the days of darkness.

As we look more closely we see not just the decorations, but the tree itself.  It is an evergreen, symbolic of eternal life.  Even as the leaves of an evergreen do not die, even so there is a part of human life that does not die, but is eternal.

Looking to the heart of the tree, we see the trunk, and are reminded that even though we are celebrating the birth of Jesus at Christmas, we must never forget the purpose for which He came.  He came to earth to die upon the cross for the sins of the world.  The trunk reminds us of the wood of the cross upon which Christ died.

Christmas colors are red and green.  This reminds me that the blood of Christ provides eternal life for those who believe in Him.

So, before you take the tree down, take one last look, and remember the message in the Christmas tree.

Is Christmas Pagan?

December 9, 2010

Over the years I have occasionally heard accusations that many Christmas traditions are rooted in non-Christian religions.

It’s true.

The Christmas tree, holly, mistletoe, yule log, and probably some other  Christmas traditions were  indeed part of non-Christian religions earlier in history.

When the church was expanding into Europe there were very popular mid-winter celebrations that entire communities had celebrated for generations.  It was very difficult to eliminate these traditions, so the Christian community incorporated them instead.  They were given new meanings as they became symbols used by a new faith.

I like to think of them as having been converted.

Yes, they were pagan, but they are Christian now.

Life and Christmas Past

December 28, 2009

Christmas is over. Only the mess, and the added pounds remain.

Sigh…

Oh, there are also the memories.  I am profoundly grateful that our sons were able to be here.  Andrew was here for Christmas, and Christopher and Galina arrived on the 26th. There were two nights with everyone home.  We played “Life” together last night and had a really good time.  (Chris won!)  It seemed ironic to me to be playing Life with these young people who are in the early stages of their own lives. 

Earlier in the week a friend had come by to make a ginger bread house.  Again, I am struck with the thoughts of how we build our lives bit by bit.

It takes a while to build a life.

I am thankful for the “brick” of the Christmas season.  I have enjoyed the times with family and friends.  I will add the experiences to my accumulated memories and will call it good.

Now to get back on the diet, clean up the mess, and carry on with life.

Good Will to All

December 24, 2009

“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  Luke 2:14 NASB

As we celebrate Christmas, it is good for us to remember that God loves all the people of the world.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

No person is an enemy to Christians.  All the people of the world are meant to hear the message of salvation.  Even when people reject the message, they do not become our enemy.  They are still people for whom Christ died.  We are to continue to proclaim the message of forgiveness, hope, and salvation; offered to all the world, through faith in Jesus Christ.  We are to continue to offer the love of God, and to pray that people will respond to the message, the real message of Christmas.

Merry Christmas Mr. President

December 23, 2009

It looks like the Senate is going to pass a bill on health care reform just in time for Christmas.  It has been referred to as a Christmas present for the president, since he has made it the centerpiece of his domestic agenda.  It will still have to be reconciled with the House bill which will not be easy since there are substantial differences, none-the-less, it looks like Merry Christmas Mr. President, here’s your health care bill.

Actually, the bill will be coming later.  It is like the person who spends too much at Christmas, and then regrets it when the charge card bills come due.  Will we regret this holiday purchase?  Can it be returned if we don’t like it?

This is not change that I believe in.  However, unlike Rush Limbaugh, I hope that I am wrong.  I hope that the president is right, and that this is a great thing for our country.  I hope that it provides coverage, while lowering the deficit, just like they say that it will. 

I am also glad that, ultimately,  I put my trust in Jesus, not in the U.S. government for my future.

Christmas Lights

December 8, 2009

I enjoy the lights of Christmas.  One of our family traditions has been to take some time specifically to drive around looking at the light displays.  Some of the families really go all out with spectacular arrangements of various colors and designs.  It takes a lot of work, and a lot of money to put together those expressions of Christmas spirit.

When I see Christmas lights I can’t help but think that Christ has told us that we are the light of the world. (Math 5:14)   I wonder how much effort we put into letting our light shine?

“Let your light so shine before men, that they will see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.”  (Math 5;16)

Christmas Explosion

November 30, 2009

We are in a time of transition at my house.  It is that time of year when the fall decorations are taken down and the Christmas decorations go up.  This is a wonderful thing because I enjoy the Christmas season and Gloria does a fantastic  job of decorating the house. 

My primary contribution to this process is to bring the boxes up from the basement, filled with Christmas stuff, and then to return them to the basement, filled with the things that have been taken down, to make room for the Christmas decorations.  My other contributions are to put up the lights in the front porch,  put up the nativity scene outside, and help decorate the tree.

The problem is that this process takes a while, a few days, to a week, or more.  There are a lot of boxes and we are both busy people.  After the boxes are brought up, and until the process is complete. it looks like there has been a Christmas explosion at our house.  (I prefer this expression to the one Gloria sometimes uses, when she is not- so- happy with the process;  that Christmas threw up in our home… that just sounds nasty.)

Every year we talk about reducing the amount of stuff we put up.

Every year we add more.

I am hopeful that we will be able to send some things with our boys, who each now have their own places.  In fact, we delivered a small (very small) amount to them over the Thanksgiving weekend. 

The dust is starting to settle, the bulk of the boxes have been returned to the basement.  Thanksgiving is done, let the Christmas season begin!!

Christmas, the Bible and Truth

December 24, 2008

Christmas, the Bible and truth.

There are several approaches in epistemology for determining truth value. (Epistemology is the section in philosophy that deals with issues of knowledge and truth.)

The correspondence theory states that truth is determined by whether or not empirical facts can verify claims.  Atheists and Christians have argued for a long time over the conclusions of this approach.  Of course, as a Christian I believe that the Bible is true and I have not personally seen anything that satisfactorily contradicts that claim.  The eternal nature of some of the claims of scripture will have to wait for eternity for verification.

The coherence theory evaluates the cohesiveness of a group of claims to determine truth. (kind’ve like how we can catch a person in a lie.)  For me, and for millions of others,  the Bible is a cohesive truth.  It is internally consistent, which is remarkable since it is written by so many different people over such a length of time.  It is also consistent with its application to life.  It fits together with my understanding and my experience very well.

The pragmatic theory states that something is true, if believing it to be true “works”.  Again for myself, and for millions of others the Bible works.  Millions of people live better lives because of their belief in the Bible as the word of God.

The concept of truth as a social construct is yet another approach.   This theory states that truth is determined by ones culture, or society. ( I personally do not accept this basic concept of truth, but if I did, it could apply to the Bible.)  There are millions of people who for thousands of years have believed the Bible to be true, therefore in this approach the Bible is true.

As we celebrate Christmas, we can believe that the biblical story is true.  Jesus  was born of the Virgin Mary.  He is the Son of God.  Immanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas Everyone!