Why Not Shepherds?

screenshot-2016-12-11-at-7-49-28-amToday is the third Sunday of Advent. Many of us will light the shepherds candle and sing Joy to the World. We’ll read Luke 2:8-20 and talk about how joy was for all people, even lowly shepherds. That first Christmas night was celebrated by a carpenter, an unwed mother, and a few dirty, smelly shepherds from a nearby field. There is certainly a message of hope in the clear demonstration that Christ had come for all…

But why not shepherds? Continue reading

Advent Joy

advent candlesAnd 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!”

The angel brought good news of great joy. Good news is the Gospel, but today let’s focus on joy. Miriam-Webster.com defines joy three ways:

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Advent, Fourth Sunday

 4th Sunday Advent lesson, originally published December of 2011.

advent-wreath“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

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

Whose Side Are You On?

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”
(Joshua 5:13-14 ESV)

First, notice that the angel Joshua encounters is not a beautiful woman in a choir robe. Armor-clad soldiers is one of the things History’s The Bible got right.

Secondly, notice he doesn’t say he is on Joshua’s side. He is the commander of the army of the LORD, and Joshua is his servant. Where do we get the idea that God is ever on our side? We don’t even have a side. If you recall, it is later Joshua who says to the nation of Israel “Chose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house we will serve the LORD.”

A Couple of Old Favorites

It’s Christmastime Charlie Brown originally aired in 1965.  Charlie Brown and Rudolf are lifetime favorites, Home Alone and The Santa Clause are a little bit newer (but perhaps still old movies to some of you).  And I watch them all again every year.

Here’s a couple of oldie but goodies here on the Master’s Table that come back around every Christmas.  Prayerfully consider the scriptures and see what you think.

Rethinking the Angelic Choir:

the-angels-song-and-the-shepherds-visitWhat is the first thing the angel says to the shepherds?  Most of the time when angels appear in the Bible (unless in disguise) the first words out of their mouths are “Do not be afraid.”  There must be a reason for this.  Either the stature, or brilliance, or something we are not told about angels evokes fear in regular people.  Note the words “heavenly host.”  Anytime the Old Testament says anything about a host it is in reference to an army.  I want you to carefully consider all of this together.  An angel appears to a group of shepherds whose natural tendency is to run in fear.  The sky was then filled with the heavenly host, singing and praising God.  This was not a choir, made up of beautiful women in choir robes; it was a vast military force, an army of angels, possibly with swords drawn ready to do battle.  Is all of this baseless conjecture?  I do not think so.   READ MORE

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

magiAnd what about myrrh?  See myrrh is different.  It’s a resin similar to frankincense, but offers a bitter aroma rather than a sweet one.  In Biblical times its most common use was as an embalming agent.  Had the women found Jesus on Sunday morning after the crucifixion, they would have anointed him with myrrh among other herbs.  Gold and frankincense are obviously valuable gifts, but why offer myrrh?  READ MORE 

God is in the Manger

nativity, liveHave you ever seen a live nativity?  Instead of plastic figures of shepherds and wise men, a live nativity scene has actors in costume, and for an hour or two each evening you can drive by and see them.  The shepherds bow and worship, the magi present their gifts, perhaps Mary rocks her baby in her arms, or else Mary and Joseph simply admire him.  It’s unlikely, even at a live nativity, that they have an actual newborn present.  The “baby Jesus” might be a toddler, or even an infant, but you wouldn’t want to keep a real baby out in the cold for very long.  Even a live nativity scene will often use a doll, or even just pretend there is a babe wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.

Contrast that scene with the night Jesus was born.

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

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