Christmas was yesterday. The birth of Jesus is the greatest gift the world has ever known. The wise men brought valuable treasures to be sure, but the most precious gift was rocked to sleep by Mary. The first odd thought I had today, the day after Christmas, was about gift exchange. Although some gifts can and should be returned, the gift of God’s love is often swapped for things of lesser value. Exchanging God’s gift would be tragic. For those of us that have accepted, we are called to re-gift! Continue reading
My apologies for the lateness of this post. Car trouble on the road turned our one day trip into two, and we started this day in the wrong city. Please accept this 4th Sunday Advent lesson, originally published December of 2011.
In Luke 2 the sky was filled with the heavenly host proclaiming the gospel of peace to a few lowly shepherds. Last week, Joy, was about the shepherds. They found the baby as the angels had said, and went out of Bethlehem rejoicing and praising God. This week we celebrate Peace and light the Angels’ Candle. Continue reading
There are many well-known passages of scripture that make their way onto Christmas cards and into sermons this time of year. Prophesies of Isaiah and Micah foretelling the Messiah are common, and the birth of Jesus is recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. While Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christ child, there’s a lot more going on than just a birthday. The incarnation is about God robing himself in flesh. Emanuel is God with us, and the New Testament has much more to say about the incarnation than it does the night it happened.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20, ESV)
If you want to know how much God loves us, look in the manger. If you want to see how much God hates sin, look at the cross.
Joy Williams is a celebrated Christian singer/songwriter. She released Here with Us in 2005. Some how, some way, I had never heard it until last year. The video above combines her song with images from The Nativity and the mini-series Jesus of Nazareth. Christ coming into the world is cause for celebration, but don’t loose sight of the fact that… he came to die. Continue reading
Happy Monday was long enough already and I didn’t want to just stick this in at the bottom. Here is an imaginative take on what the incarnation might have looked like on the pages of social media (i.e. Facebook). Props to the brilliant folks at Igniter Media.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and 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 among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14 ESV) Continue reading
One of my favorite texts during the Advent season is the Magnificat, and you will see it below. The Second Sunday of Advent is Faith, and lighting the Bethlehem Candle reminds us of the faith required of Joseph and Mary to make the journey. Matthew 1 describes Joesph’s encounter with an angel of the Lord, Luke 1 the same for Mary. In faith they acted according the to the angel’s words and so fulfilled many prophesies.
The first chapter of Luke also records Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, who is carrying the child we will come to know as John the Baptist. The Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth as Mary enters the house, and she declares Mary blessed above all women. Mary’s response is now well known as the Magnificat: Continue reading
The advent of anything refers to its first appearing. The season of Advent is a time of preparation, waiting for the arrival of Christmas. We celebrate the waiting (perhaps honor is a better word) by examining the Old Testament prophesies, and considering the lessons the shepherds and wise men and teach us still. Lighting the candles of the Advent wreath is a far more time honored tradition than waiting in line for Black Friday deals on Sony’s PS4. Continue reading
The American culture is very young. We think of things like baseball and the Fourth of July as being ancient traditions, because our country has barely existed for more than 200 years. Our Christmas celebrations and even our American Santa Claus are also rather new compared to European traditions. If the Roman Catholic Church were a human adult, then the SBC would still be in diapers.
Many European cultures, including those of Eastern orthodox faith, celebrate Christmas from December 25 until the January 6 day of Epiphany. The real season continues until February 2, ending in a celebration known as Candlemas which celebrates Jesus’ presentation at the temple. In America, our celebration begins earlier and earlier each year as retailers attempt to get their merchandise moving and improve their bottom line for the quarter. The idea that the birth of Christ is the beginning of the season, rather than the end of it, would be unusual here.
What about the song?