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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Here with Us

Joy Williams Here with Us, scenes from The Nativity Story

UPDATE: This is still one of my Christmas favorites. This year I did a full write up on what’s going on in this video:

https://themasterstable.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/here-with-us-2/

Mary Did You Know?

UPDATE: Mary Did You Know was written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene.  I stand corrected; read the comments below.

Mary Did You Know was originally written by Mark Lowry in 1984.  Lowry is best know for being a comedian, and practically made a career out of making fun of Bill Gather.  Michael English was the first artist to release it on his debut album in 1992.

Here is Mary Did You Know performed by Mark Lowry, with scenes from the Jesus film.  

*The video description spells his name incorrectly; Lowry not Lowery is correct.

If you prefer Michael English:  Continue reading

Christians and Santa Claus

I opened the floor for comments on Santa and got them.  I didn’t go out looking for it, but ran across this sermon outline.  If you’re looking for a scriptural basis that Santa is from Satan, well there it is.  And now for my bit.

Christmas – It’s worth noting to begin with that not all Christians celebrate Christmas.  The Christ mass is Roman Catholic in origin, which is enough to cause some Protestants to avoid it.  Eastern Orthodoxy originally celebrated the day in January, and few countries using the Julian calendar (such as Ethiopia and Russia) still do.  Many of the traditions are clearly not Christian, and some speculate (the history is uncertain) that the December 25th date corresponds to the winter solstice and pagan celebrations.  Tree decorating really was a pagan element that Christians “borrowed” for their own celebration.  The argument can also be made that there is no scriptural command to celebrate Christ’s birth.  Jesus said “This do in remembrance of me” at the Last Supper, but after his birth is recorded in the Gospels there is really no further mention of it.  Only two Gospels record the birth of Christ, Matthew and Luke, but all four record his death, burial and resurrection.  The incarnation is fundamental to Christian theology, but celebrating Jesus’ birth is not. Continue reading

The First Sunday of Advent

Advent is a season of waiting and preparation for the nativity of Jesus Christ.  I have been pleased to see many friends doing the “30 days of Thanksgiving” thing on Facebook.  I’m more encouraged by 30 days of Thanksgiving than by 60 or even 90 days of Christmas.  If you watch some classic movies, from say the 40’s or 50’s, you’ll see Dad bringing home a tree on Christmas Eve!  The family decorates the tree, hang their stockings, then celebrate Christmas the very next day.  Part of the beauty of Christmas is waiting for it to arrive. Continue reading

From the Archives: Christmas

Here are a few articles on Christmas from years past that might be worth another look:

Rethinking the Angelic Choir examines the words of scripture carefully and challenges our notion of the angels that announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.  The first thing angels always say when they appear in full glory to human beings is “Do not be afraid.”  If they were beautiful women in choir robes, why would people tremble in fear?

Santa Claus Has Not Sold Out suggests that Santa has not become commercialized, but rather our American image of Santa is the product of commercialism.  He wears a red and white suit because of those early 20th century Coca-Cola ads, and comes down the chimney because of department store Santas standing on the roof.

Christmas Card Theology is from last year, and begs the question what do we learn from the pictures on the Christmas cards we send? There are several things besides the fact that angels are beautiful women with long blonde hair.

All of the posts for Christmas and Advent are listed under the tag in the categories list, but these are a few of my favorites.

…And the Holy Spirit

God manifests himself in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It’s easy to recognize the Father and Son in many of our Christmas stories and traditions, but the Holy Spirit is sort of the missing character.  That’s just in our remembrance of the story; in the Biblical account, he is all over that story.

If we’re aware of the Holy Spirit in the Christmas narrative at all, it’s probably when the angel Gabriel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and she will conceive, Luke 1:35.  That’s just the first time Luke will mention the Spirit. Continue reading