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

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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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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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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.

4th Sunday in Advent – Peace

advent-wreathToday is the 4th Sunday of Advent.  Let’s begin with a review.  The first Sunday of the Advent season was Hope, and we lit the candle of Prophecy.  The second Sunday was Faith, and we lit the Bethlehem candle.  The third Sunday was Joy, and we lit the Shepherd’s candle.  Today is the Sunday of Peace, and we will light the Angel’s candle.

Luke chapter 2  tells the story of the angels appearing to the shepherds as they watched their flock.  On the third Sunday we focus on the joy the shepherds experience as they hear the good news and then find the baby lying in a manger.  On this day, our focus is on the angels themselves, and their delivering the message of peace; specifically “peace on earth, good will toward men.”  If you read Rethinking the Angelic Choir, it’s ironic that the angels singing about peace and were probably all holding swords.  There are plenty of anti-war demonstratorsthat will quickly tell you peace cannot be brought with a gun; that peace is not brought with violence.  In Scripture, however, peace is brought with violence.  There cannot be peace as long as Satan is deceiving the nations.  He and his demonic forces are the enemies of peace.  God will cast Satan and all his followers, human and angelic, into the lake of fire.  After His righteous judgement, death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire, and then Jesus will rule the nations… with peace.  Recall the prophecy of Isaiah:

To us a child is born, to us a son is given; the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighy God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…   -Isaiah 9:6-7

At his first appearing (or advent) Jesus did not come to bring peace.  He came to offer himself as a sacrifice, in order to reconcile us to God.  Read Ephesians 2:13-22, which I saw tonight in a whole new light.  This may be the best one paragraph summation of the Gospel anywhere in scripture.  It explains the sacrificial work done by Jesus Christ and his relationship to the Father and Spirit perhaps better than any other single text.  At his next appearing, however, Jesus will not come as a baby in a manger.  He will be riding a white horse and wielding a sword.  He came before to be our sacrificial lamb; He will back as a concurring king.  At his first appearing, he became the savior to all nations; at his next, he will judge the nations. 

Even as we celebrate the Advent of Jesus Christ, let us be found spreading the Gospel message and preparing for his second appearing.  That is our hope of peace.

Wacky questions, episode 2

question_mark_3dWacky questions.  You know, like if I say to my history class “Lincoln was shot at the Ford Theater,” and a student asks “What movie was he watching?”  This is my second installment of wacky theological questions and/or search engine terms.  Today’s example is of the latter.

This phrase, typed into a search engine, brought 3 people to my blog today:

“photo of angels and shepherds.”

 

If you don’t get why that’s funny, go back and watch Gone with the Wind.  That’s the movie Lincoln was watching the day he was shot.