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nativity

 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “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.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.   Luke 2: 1-20

 

My last post was on the serious side.  Here’s some Christmas humor with some serious talent mixed in.

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May the LORD bless you and your family as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

 

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As Christians we need to understand that Christmas is pagan in origin, Roman Catholic by tradition and extra-biblical at a minimum.  Not one passage of Scripture tells us to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I am not saying we cannot or should not, there is just no scriptural mandate for it. 

For a number of years, I have struggled with how to be obedient to Christ when it concerns celebrating Christmas.  Then last weekend I read a convicting article written by Arthur Pink as part of a Grace Gems devotion. 

One particularly challenging passage in Pink’s article states,

 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). How solemn and searching! The Lord Jesus declared that “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). If every “idle word” is going to be taken note of, then most assuredly will be every wasted energy, every wasted dollar, every wasted hour! Should we still be on earth when the closing days of this year arrive, let writer and reader earnestly seek grace to live and act with the judgment seat of Christ before us. HIS “well done” will be ample compensation for the sneers and taunts which we may now receive from Christless souls.” (emphasis mine)

Wow!  I had to ask myself,

  • “What am I ‘wasting’ when I spend so much time, money and energy engaging in some of these ‘Christmas’ activities? 
  • Am I truly focused on Christ? 
  • Am I turning my children’s hearts to the LORD?  
  • Why do we do these things? 

Judy pointed me to some Spurgeon for another perspective.  Here’s one of his thoughts,

“We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas. First, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be sung in Latin or in English; and secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior’s birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. … It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. … Probably the fact is that the “holy” days were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December. Nevertheless since, the current of men’s thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction. Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men’s superstitions to render such a meditation improper for to-day. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son.”  
(emphasis mine)

After reading a few more of Spurgeons quotes, I turned to Scripture and while I found many passages that exhort us to holiness like;

“You shall not follow a crowd to do evil…”  (Exodus 23:2)

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be  conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  (Romans 12:1-2)(emphasis mine)

I also found Scripture that grants us freedom, like;

“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems everyday alike.  Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it…” (Romans 14:2)(emphasis mine)

So…where do I go from here? 

Prayer.

I do not have all the answers, but God does.  He will lead my family where we need to go with this issue. 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  (James 1:5)

Amen.

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bow_4414c2Over the last few days, I have read the writings of a number of people who remind us of the most important truth about Christmas. 

Yesterday, Judy, at The Simple Front Porch, posted a wonderful message  about fully understanding the ‘mystery of God‘  through Christ.  

Also, in my local, county paper, Pastor Rick Crookshank wrote a powerful missive explaining the true meaning of the Christmas gift, namely that Jesus is God.   He makes the point that many people, in this post-modern culture, “are more apt to have thoughts regarding the nature and mission of Jesus Christ at Christmas than at any other time of the year. ” 

Some of these ‘thoughts’ may include:

  • “forsaking greed to emulate the selfless example of gift-giving”
  • “plea for mankind to honor the spirit of peace and harmony”
  • “be thankful for our blessings and be thoughtful of others less fortunate.”

These ideas are all “good applications and worthy reminders of higher values relevant to all mankind.”   However, the pastor rightly informs us that none of these messages communicates the “salvific, life-redeeming message of Christmas.”  He continues, “the prophetic Name given for Jesus is ‘Emmanuel, God with us.’  It is precisely this truth, Jesus is God…which is the true meaning of the Christmas gift.”

“Simply put, the significance of the Father’s gift is ‘God with us’ in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus is fully God… he was born to die that we may live…a God-sized task.” 

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Lord, grant us hearts to focus on the true meaning of the Christmas gift.   Amen.

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sheep1During this season we have been studying the Gospel of Luke, focusing especially on chapters 1 and 2.  Recently, we read about the angelic announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. 

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people…”  (ch. 2 v. 8-10)

After the angels left them, the shepherds decided to “go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”   (ch. 2 v. 15)  The shepherds found Mary, Joseph and the Babe just as the angels had told them.

As the children and I kept reading, the next verse stood out to me. 

“Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” 
(v. 17)

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I had an ‘Ah Ha’ moment!  Shepherd Evangelists

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These shepherds left Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus and told people what they had heard and seen!   They spread the “good tidings of great joy!” 

 

What an excellent example of what we, as Christians, should be doing everyday. 

We can take a lesson from these shepherds:

Scripture does not say they waited until they developed a relationship with that person.

Scripture does not say they did a Bible study on the best evangelistic methods.

Scripture does not say they stood on a street corner with a bull horn.

Scripture does not mention any special training or questioning techniques.

These shepherds “made widely known.” 

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Simple.  Tell what the Lord has revealed: Christ Jesus, Emmanuel–God with us, our Savior, has come.

…just like the shepherd evangelists did.

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Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
   And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
   Then the angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
   “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
   “And this will be the sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

   And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

   “Glory to God in the highest,
       And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Luke 2:8-14

 

 

 

 

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