And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9 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.10 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.11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. -Luke 2:8-20Continue reading →
Many Christians celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday after January 6th. Sometimes my mind makes connections between things that others may have thought unrelated. Maybe we all do that, working in what some describe as thought webs, but I’m about to submit one such thought for your consideration.
Matthew 2:1-12 is the Gospel account of the wise men’s visit. Ephesians 2:11-21 describes how all believers are one in Christ. Verse 17 in particular says that Jesus has preached peace to those that were far away and those that were near. Consider how the Christmas narrative illustrates that point. Continue reading →
Today 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…
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:
What 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
And 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
Have 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.
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.