Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2020

What A Great Story

The "Christmas Story" is one of the most remembered and by far the most told of any other story in human history. Not only does this story reveal the birth of Christ the Lord, but a closer look reveals the movement of creation itself in bringing forth the Savior. It is the Gospel according to Matthew and Luke that uncover the events of the "Christmas Story." So as we look at these events, we will see the infinite wisdom and love of God at work in human history for only one reason, "to open their (humanity) eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'  (Acts 26:18) 

In Luke 1:5-25 we see a priest named Zacharias chosen to minister before the Lord in the temple in the form of burning incenses. His wife's name was Elizabeth and they were both descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother and first Priest chosen by God along with his sons. (Exodus 4:14, 28:1)  Zacharias was a praying man and his prayers were heard. The angel of the Lord, Gabriel was sent to give him the good news concerning what was about to break forth into human history. However, we see that Zacharias first response was doubt. Like Zacharias, we too can get so caught up in doing our regimented Christians duties or building our own personal kingdoms, that we miss what God is about to do. Then when God reveals to us His plan we again like Zacharias do not believe. I believe that most Christians today struggle with a lack of faith for the very same reason. They pray, look for God, but when He reveals Himself doubt enters and they forget the very things that they were praying for. Most often, God revealed Himself His way not their way. Although, Zacharias doubted God's Word, what the angel had spoken still came to pass. 

Next, Luke 1:26-38 records another miraculous event happening. The same angel, Gabriel appears to a virgin woman whose name is Mary who was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph. He reveals that she is “highly favored" by God and "blessed among women" and that it would be Mary who would be used by God to bring forth the One who would be the Deliverer. Mary questions Gabriel, but his answer should cause believers to see God for who He really is, "For with God nothing will be impossible." This is an important key to having prayer answered as well as living a victorious life. Jesus says it this way, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) Not only are all things possible with God but He makes all thing possible to all believers who exercises faith. It is very apparent that Mary believed Gabriel's report, "Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her."

Although we see Mary exercising faith for the impossible, we see a different picture with Joseph, her betrothed. Again, we see doubt take the place of faith. (Matthew 1:19) However, we do see an angel of the Lord appear to Joseph in a dream explaining the situation to him, which caused Joseph to respond to what the angel had spoken. (Matthew 1:20-25) You may be thinking, "Well getting the news that your wife is with child and you have had nothing to do with it certainly would cause one to doubt." This may be somewhat true, but remember Zacharias had a visitation of an angel of the Lord but he still doubted. Also, Matthew records that Joseph was a "just man' which means, "justly, righteously, in accordance with what is right."

So, we have to assume that for Joseph to have this type of character, that he attended synagogue and or was versed in the the scriptures. If so he had available to him what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) But isn't that the problem that the children of God have struggled with then and still struggle with today? For most believers, although we have the Word of God recorded in what we call the Bible, many still chose to look at the circumstances in the natural like Zacharias and Joseph and entertain doubt rather than faith in a faithful God, "that what He has promised He is also able to perform." (Romans 4:21) Although it appears that Joseph had some doubts, he still responded to the command of the angel to take Mary as his wife.

The wonderful events continue to unfold. Luke 2:1-7 records that not even Caesar Augustus the top official of the human government at that time could do nothing more than to bring the prophetic Word of God spoken 700 years prior through Micah to pass, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2) Joseph following the orders of the government, made his way with Mary to the very town where Christ was to be born, Bethlehem. 

Finally, Luke 2:8-20 shows us the culmination of the events of the birth of Christ. Again, an angel of the Lord appears. This time to "shepherds living out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." It is recorded that the"angel stood before them and the glory of the Lord shown around them" and the angel reported the most incredible event to date in the history of humanity, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." Once the angel gave this report "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, goodwill toward men!" Not only were the people of the earth moved to be participants in the ingenious plan of God (whether they knew it or not) but even the angels of God rejoiced. Think about that. The angels of God who are spirit beings were excited for humanity that now the plan of God was manifested for the salvation of humanity. Deity and humanity has now come together as Jesus Christ the Lord. 

We all should see Christmas as a time for great rejoicing. A is new birth. A new birth in our love towards God and toward one another. A new birth in dedicating our lives to His service. Christmas not New Years should be a catalyst for change, hope and increased faith. A great expectation of what God can and will do through those who believe. For some, maybe we need to see Christmas through the eyes of three wealthy wise men who left their nation and traveled a great distance to behold an infant King. Three men who apparently exercised faith having only the knowledge of ancient writings and a star that guided their way. Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger, it's about the complete redemption of humanity. We should celebrate Christmas as one of the two greatest moves of God in human history. That baby, the Christ, had come into the world to save humanity from Satan's power, to reconcile God to man and man to God for us to have "life and to have it more abundantly." Have a wonderful and very "MERRY CHRISTMAS."

Monday, December 23, 2019

Behold, The Savior Is Come

The "Christmas Story" is one of the most remembered and by far the most told of any other story in human history. Not only does this story reveal the birth of Christ the Lord, but a closer look reveals the movement of creation itself in bringing forth the Savior. It is the Gospel according to Matthew and Luke that uncover the events of the "Christmas Story." So as we look at these events, we will see the infinite wisdom and love of God at work in human history for only one reason, "to open their (humanity) eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'  (Acts 26:18)

In Luke 1:5-25 we see a priest named Zacharias chosen to minister before the Lord in the temple in the form of burning incenses. His wife's name was Elizabeth and they were both descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother and first High Priest chosen by God. (Exodus 4:14, 28:1) Zacharias was a praying man and his prayers were heard. The angel of the Lord, Gabriel, was sent to give him the good news concerning what was about to break forth into human history. However, we see that Zacharias first response was doubt. Like Zacharias, we too can get so caught up in doing our regimented Christians duties or building our own personal kingdoms, that we miss what God is about to do. Then when God reveals to us His plan we again like Zacharias do not believe. I believe that most Christians today struggle with a lack of faith for the very same reason. They pray, look for God, but when He reveals Himself doubt enters and they forget the very things that they were praying for. Although, Zacharias doubted God's Word, what the angel had spoken still came to pass.

Next, Luke 1:26-38 records another miraculous event happening. The same angel, Gabriel, appears to a virgin woman whose name is Mary who was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph. He reveals that she is “highly favored" by God and "blessed among women" and that it would be Mary who would be used by God to bring forth the One who would be the Deliverer. Mary questions Gabriel, but his answer should cause believers to see God for who He really is, "For with God nothing will be impossible." This is an important key to having prayer answered as well as living a victorious life. Jesus says it this way, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) Not only are all things possible with God but all thing are possible to all who exercises faith. and simply believe. It is very apparent that Mary believed Gabriel's report, "Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her." 

 Although we see Mary exercising faith for the impossible, we see a different picture with Joseph, her betrothed. Again, we see doubt take the place of faith. (Matthew 1:19) However, we do see an angel of the Lord appear to Joseph in a dream explaining the situation to him, which caused Joseph to respond to what the angel had spoken. (Matthew 1:20-25) You may be thinking, "Well getting the news that your wife is with child and you have had nothing to do with it certainly would cause one to doubt." This may be somewhat true, but remember Zacharias had a visitation of an angel of the Lord but he still doubted. Also, Matthew records that Joseph was a "just man" which means, "justly, righteously, in accordance with what is right."

So, we have to assume that for Joseph to have this type of character, that he attended synagogue and or was versed in the the scriptures. If so he had available to him what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) But isn't that the problem that the children of God have struggled with then and still struggle with today? For most believers, although we have the Word of God recorded in what we call the Holy Bible, many still chose to look at the circumstances in the natural like Zacharias and Joseph and entertain doubt rather than faith in a faithful God, "that what He has promised He is also able to perform." (Romans 4:21) Although it appears that Joseph had some doubts, he still responded to the command of the angel to take Mary as his wife.

These wonderful events continue to unfold. Luke 2:1-7, which records, not even Caesar Augustus the top official of the human government at that time could do anything more than to bring the prophetic Word of God spoken 700 years prior through Micah to pass, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2) Joseph following the orders of the government, made his way with Mary to the very town where Christ was to be born, Bethlehem.

Finally, Luke 2:8-20 shows us the culmination of the events of the birth of Christ. Again, an angel of the Lord appears. This time to "shepherds living out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." It is recorded that the"angel stood before them and the glory of the Lord shown around them" and the angel reported the most tremendous event to date in the history of humanity, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." Once the angel gave this report "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, goodwill toward men!" Not only were the people of the earth moved to be participants in the ingenious plan of God (whether they knew it or not) but even the angels of God rejoiced. Think about that. The angels of God who are spirit beings were excited for humanity that now the plan of God was manifested for the salvation of humanity. Deity and humanity has now come together as Jesus Christ the Lord.

We all should see Christmas as a time for great rejoicing. A new birth in our love towards God and toward one another. A new birth in dedicating our lives to His service. Christmas not New Years should be a catalyst for change, hope and increased faith. A great expectation of what God can and will do through those who believe. For some, maybe we need to see Christmas through the eyes of three wealthy wise men who left their nation and traveled a great distance to behold an infant King. Three men who apparently exercised faith having only the knowledge of ancient writings and a star that guided their way. Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger, it's about the complete redemption of humanity. We should celebrate Christmas as one of the two greatest moves of God in human history. That baby, the Christ, had come into the world to save humanity from Satan's power, to reconcile God to man and man to God and to give humanity "life and to have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) Have a wonderful and very "MERRY CHRISTMAS."

Monday, December 24, 2018

I Have an Announcement

Christmas is celebrated throughout the world with many traditions and various ways (to many to share hereon). Although the holiday itself has some dark history tied to it, our focus is from a more joyful, traditional perspective. It is both a cultural and deeply religious occasion celebrated by billions of people around the world. From the inclusion of the Christmas tree to the annual gift-giving, the feast day that spans through modern history has many traditions, myths, and stories that resonate around the globe. For instance, the evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals (pagan and Christian) for thousands of years. Pagans used branches of it to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as it made them think of the spring to come. The Romans used Fir Trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia. Christians use it as a sign of everlasting life with God. However, nobody is really sure when Fir trees were first used as Christmas trees.

In America, communities around the country honored the day in different ways. Some observed Christmas as an important Christian religious day, honoring the birth of Jesus. Others celebrated the day with parties, music, drinking and eating. However, some communities did not celebrate the day at all. It was during the early 1800s that Americans began to reinvent the holiday. They started combining ancient Christmas traditions with modern American influences. Religion played a big role in how an American might celebrate the holiday. Calvinist Christians banned the celebration of Christmas. But groups such as Episcopalians and Moravians honored the day with religious services and seasonal decorations. By mid-century, Christian groups began to ignore their religious differences over the meaning of Christmas and honored the day in special ways.

Though the celebration of Christmas is not a biblical concept, the early church, (when is not actually known) in an attempt to get rid of the pagan holiday, declared December 25th to be the day to celebrate the birthday of the Son of God, though the Bible does not reveal the actual day or date that Jesus was born. Many historians think that Jesus was born sometime in the spring because the shepherds were in the fields at lambing time. It seems quite appropriate that the "Lamb that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:19) would have been born during the time that all of the lambs destined for sacrifice in the temple were also born. Since it is also a fact that the very hour Christ gave His life for the sins of men, all over Jerusalem the Passover lambs were being slain (John 19:14). It would not be coincidence, but the timing of the plan and purpose of God. It was not until 1870 that December 25th was declared a federal holiday in the United States. With this said let's look at what we call the real reason for the Christmas season... 

"And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:1-7)

The census that was ordered by Caesar Augustus was the first of its kind. It was done because the Roman government wanted to make sure that everyone in the Roman Empire was paying their taxes correctly. The census was carried out over the entire Empire. For Jews in Palestine, it meant that families had to register in the their historical tribal town rather than where they lived. This also meant that Joseph and Mary, (Mary now pregnant with child), would have had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as this was town that Joseph's family originally came from, a journey that would have taken about three days.

History reveals that during that time period there were no such things as motels or inns, such as we have today. People who traveled would have normally stayed in the homes of either extended family or friends. Due to the census, many people would have traveled to Bethlehem, so it was most likely that most, if not all of the houses, were filled with guests, especially the upper levels of houses, which were the guest rooms. So Joseph and Mary probably had to sleep with the animals on the lower level where it was common to have a manger cut into a wall where you put the animal food or they could have possibly been in a stable, cave or even a covered market stall that sold animals. 

It was the custom in those times to wrap a new born baby very tightly in long bandages called swaddling clothes. The arms and legs of the baby were also wrapped, so they couldn't move. This was done because they thought it helped the baby to grow strong, straight limbs. And as no proper crib was available, the new baby boy was placed in a manger, or feeding trough. At the birth of Jesus we also see the angel of the Lord make the most wonderful announcement, For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) Then the heavens were filled with rejoicing, ...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, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2:11, 13-14) So, let us remember that the Incarnate One is come, Christ the Lord. Have a very Merry Christmas...

Monday, December 19, 2016

Tis the Season to be Jolly

Deck the Halls" or "Deck the Hall" (which is the original version of the lyrics) is a traditional Christmas, yuletide, and New Years' carol. The melody is Welsh dating back to the sixteenth century,  and belongs to a winter carol, "Nos Galan." The English lyrics were written by the Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant. They first appeared in 1862, in volume 2 of Welsh Melodies, a set of four volumes authored by John Thomas, including Welsh words by John Jones (Talhaiarn) and English words by Oliphant. The lyrics "Tis the season to be jolly" typically refers to the time before Christmas, which can be defined as anywhere from October 1st to December 24th.

But why do we tend to limit October 1st to December 24th the season to be jolly? For believers, should not the season to be jolly be throughout the entire year, everyday? Jolly is described as joyful, joyous. The Bible tells us to, "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises." (Psalm 98:4) The Apostle Paul tell us, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) He also tells us that "joy" is a fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22) The Apostle James tells us, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." (James 1:2) 

So, no matter where we find ourselves, no matter what the circumstances of life may bring, for believers, everyday is the season to be jolly. The most important reason behind this is what God did in Christ. What the Father did in Christ, is the most spectacular, most incredible, most staggering thing that could ever be done for mankind, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:16) We also must remember, that though Jesus is not physically here on earth, that the Father has given us the Holy Spirit who works in and through us to continue the work of Jesus on earth for God's glory. (John 14:19-28)

Matthew's gospel records a prophetic word from the Prophet Isaiah, "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) This was not the best person that God could find on earth. This was not the purest angel among the heavenly hosts. No, no, this was God Himself putting on flesh, (John 1:1, 14)  becoming a man to save humanity from the powers of darkness, the tyrannical power of Satan himself. Although the Christmas season is exciting to many believers, let us not lose sight that there are many believers who hurt a little more during this time of year for various reasons. We also need to be mindful that there are many who do not know the Savior who may also struggle during this season.

So, I want to encourage every one of us, every believer, go! Go and share this great news to all we meet. Not the gift giving part, but "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11)..."for He will save all people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)  Amen?

Have a very Merry Christmas and let us all remember to take some time to reflect on and remember that Jesus Christ is the real reason why we celebrate Christmas...    

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas; A Time of Sharing Christ

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ; the Son of God; the Savior of the world. The original meaning of Christmas came by-way-of a special church service, or mass, to celebrate the birth of Christ, "Christ Mass." The story of the Nativity, that is, the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, are the central focal point of the church's celebration of Christmas. The Bible does not give a precise date for the birth of Jesus. Historically, it is also unclear when December 25th became associated with the birth of Jesus. However, the idea of turning this day into a celebration was accepted by the church in the early Middle Ages in Europe.

During Reformation and up until the middle of the 1800s, Christmas was often not celebrated because partying and making merry was seen as unchristian. However, from about 1840, celebrating Christmas became more widespread. Finally, on June 26, 1870, December 25th was declared a federal holiday in the United States. Since then Christmas Day has become a steadily more important holiday. In the United States, Americans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday, where old customs were unearthed as they looked to the church to see how the day should be celebrated. In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving. Although most American families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas the way it had been done for centuries, they had really re-invented a holiday to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation.

Today in America, there are many who reject the true meaning and purpose of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, and yet the holiday season itself tends to be filled with a kindness that most people exhibit which is not expressed in any other time throughout the year. This includes the holiday's of other world religions as well as all other sectors of public life throughout the world. I believe the reason behind this, is directly tied to why Christmas itself is celebrated, "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:8-14)

There is a peace, that for most is unexplainable, but for believers it is due to the first advent, the incarnation of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Even the events that led up to the birth of Christ had a major impact upon the civilization of that time. For instance, Luke's gospel records, "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:1-7)


To fulfill the Word of the Lord spoken by the Prophet Micah, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
(Micah 5:2) the heathen Emperor Caesar Augustus ordered that all should be registered to his own city, which caused Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem where Christ was born. We also notice, "Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)  The announcement of the birth of Christ was proclaimed to shepherds keeping watch over their flock by an angel of the Lord. 

After this announcement was made, we see, "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, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2 13-14) Scripture does not mention the number of angels present, but a word search reveals much. The Greek word for host refers to “the heavenly bodies, stars of heaven.” Heavenly host in the Hebrew means "armies." The heavenly host present at Jesus’ birth were so numerous they were compared to the stars and armies. We see that both the heavens and the earth were greatly moved by the birth of Christ.  

During the Christmas season, let us be mindful that hearts are prepared to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ like no other time of the year. So, in the midst of the hustle and bustle that we may find ourselves in, let us be mindful of these very important facts, For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:16-17) "God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:4) "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) So, let us start a new tradition. Let us share the gospel with at least one person during the Christmas season. Let us introduce people to "Christ the Lord." Have a very Merry Christmas...

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is a popular Christmas song written in 1963 by Edward Pola and George Wyle. It was recorded and released that year by singer Andy Williams on his first Christmas album, "The Andy Williams Christmas Album." The song is a celebration and description of activities associated with the Christmas season, focusing primarily on getting together with friends and families. But is the Christmas season the most wonderful time of the year? Honestly, for many, they find nothing wonderful about the Christmas season. There are many reasons for this. For some, they are all alone, some remember a loved one who has passed away, some may fall prey to stress and cannot wait for the Christmas season to end and some are of a religious persuasion that do not celebrate any of the aspects of the Christmas season. Every person will experience the many difficult situation that life brings. However, everyone of us has a choice. For all of us, we can focus on the problems, or remember the good things and good times.

For Christians, we should never forget first and foremost, the depths of what the Christmas season really means. I remember the Charles Schulz Christmas program, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that made its television debuted in 1965 and is still being aired today. Basically, Charlie Brown wants to discover the meaning of Christmas in which Linus explains in brief the birth of Christ the Savior. When we look closely at the birth of Christ, we discover the immeasurable love of God toward humanity. The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul reveals mans condition since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, "...having no hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12) and "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Mankind could not find his way back to God on his own. He was in need of a mediator that could stand before God on behalf of man.  The only way that this could be accomplished is that God Himself would assume mans liability for all the crimes which man committed since the fall. This meant that deity and humanity must come together to meet mans greatest need, redemption.

The incarnation of Christ is certainly a remarkable event in the history of man and should certainly be celebrated. It is what Christmas is all about. However, when the difficulties of life try to rob such a wonderful event from our hearts and minds, let's remember that there was even a greater event that took place in humanity. Jesus, the God-Man was born for one main purpose, to save humanity from Satan's power. The Apostle Paul tells us of the commission that he received from Christ for humanity, "...to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ." (Acts 26:18) and "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Savior would have to suffer in two realms, the natural through the horrific beating and crucifixion of His body and the spiritual realm. His spirit would become impregnated with sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and He would be separated from the Father (Matthew 27:46) and spend three days in hell (Matthew 12:40, Acts 2:31, Ephesians 4:9) where He suffered and was tormented beyond our comprehension.

The Bible tells us that Jesus paid in full mans sin debt, by dying a death that all people should die. He then arose from the grave, ascended to heaven, offered His own blood and sat down at the right hand of the Father (Romans 5:17-21, Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:51, Hebrews 9:12, 10:12) So during this Christmas season if you feel the weight of life trying to come upon you, let's remember what Jesus the Savior has done for each of us. In doing so, the burdens will be lifted (Matthew 11:28-30) and we can enjoy this wonderful festive Christmas season. Have a very Merry Christmas. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

'Tis the Season

This year, Thanksgiving fell on November 27, 2014. Thanksgiving Days is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the USA and is a national holiday of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Thanksgiving has its historical roots in religious and cultural traditions. Thanksgiving also sets the tone for the season of Advent.

Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the West. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve. However, if Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve beginning at sundown. The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival." The Advent season (also considered the Christmas season) is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his first Advent. However, also celebrated is the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. In fact, Advent is actually celebrating a truth about God, which is, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.

Throughout the Old Testament the coming of Christ was foretold by the Prophets. They announced the time of His coming, the place of His birth as well as the manner in which He would be born, the  miraculous virgin birth. The fact that the one true God would put on human flesh to save humanity from the tyrannical power of Satan is the apex of human history to date. The scriptures declare, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16) and "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8) This reveals the unfathomable love that God has for humanity even though all people were completely antagonistic toward Him. (Romans 6:23) Yet, through all that God did for humanity, a vast majority of westerners still have disdain towards Him.

The Bible further tells us, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17) It does not matter what one has done in their past, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to planet earth to save all mankind. His miraculous birth was only the means for a horrific end to His life for mankind. Although, Jesus died for us all, it is a new beginning, a new life for all who call upon His Name to be saved. (Romans 10:9-10, 13) For those who are believers, let us be mindful throughout the year that many either celebrate Christmas for the wrong reason or do not celebrate Christmas at all. Let us be mindful, especially during Advent, that there are many who may not believe in Christ and take advantage of a heart that is softened due to the season and let them know about the Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.     

Monday, December 23, 2013

Have a Merry Abundant Life

The "Christmas Story" is one of the most remembered and by far the most told of any other story in human history. Not only does this story reveal the birth of Christ the Lord, but a closer look reveals the movement of creation itself in bringing forth the Savior. It is the Gospel according to Matthew and Luke that uncover the events of the "Christmas Story." So as we look at these events, we will see the infinite wisdom and love of God at work in human history for only one reason, "to open their (humanity) eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'  (Acts 26:18)

In Luke 1:5-25 we see a priest named Zacharias chosen to minister before the Lord in the temple in the form of burning incenses. His wife's name was Elizabeth and they were both descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother and first Priest chosen by God along with his sons. (Exodus 4:14, 28:1)  Zacharias was a praying man and his prayers were heard. The angel of the Lord, Gabriel was sent to give him the good news concerning what was about to break forth into human history. However, we see that Zacharias first response was doubt. Like Zacharias, we too can get so caught up in doing our regimented Christians duties or building our own personal kingdoms, that we miss what God is about to do. Then when God reveals to us His plan we again like Zacharias do not believe. I believe that most Christians today struggle with a lack of faith for the very same reason. They pray, look for God, but when He reveals Himself doubt enters and they forget the very things that they were praying for. Most often, God revealed Himself His way not their way. Although, Zacharias doubted God's Word, what the angel had spoken still came to pass.

Next, Luke 1:26-38 records another miraculous event happening. The same angel, Gabriel appears to a virgin woman whose name is Mary who was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph. He reveals that she is “highly favored" by God and "blessed among women" and that it would be Mary who would be used by God to bring forth the One who would be the Deliverer. Mary questions Gabriel, but his answer should cause believers to see God for who He really is, "For with God nothing will be impossible." This is an important key to having prayer answered as well as living a victorious life. Jesus says it this way, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) Not only are all things possible with God but He makes all thing possible to all believers who exercises faith. It is very apparent that Mary believed Gabriel's report, "Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her."

Although we see Mary exercising faith for the impossible, we see a different picture with Joseph, her betrothed. Again, we see doubt take the place of faith. (Matthew 1:19) However, we do see an angel of the Lord appear to Joseph in a dream explaining the situation to him, which caused Joseph to respond to what the angel had spoken. (Matthew 1:20-25) You may be thinking, "Well getting the news that your wife is with child and you have had nothing to do with it certainly would cause one to doubt." This may be somewhat true, but remember Zacharias had a visitation of an angel of the Lord but he still doubted. Also, Matthew records that Joseph was a "just man' which means, "justly, righteously, in accordance with what is right."So we have to assume that for Joseph to have this type of character, that he attended synagogue and or was versed in the the scriptures. If so he had available to him what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) But isn't that the problem that the children of God have struggled with then and still struggle with today? For most believers, although we have the Word of God recorded in what we call the Bible, many still chose to look at the circumstances in the natural like Zacharias and Joseph and entertain doubt rather than faith in a faithful God, "that what He has promised He is also able to perform." (Romans 4:21) Although it appears that Joseph had some doubts, he still responded to the command of the angel to take Mary as his wife.

The incredible events continue to unfold. Luke 2:1-7 records that not even Caesar Augustus the top official of the human government at that time could do nothing more than to bring the prophetic Word of God spoken 700 years prior through Micah to pass, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2) Joseph following the orders of the government, made his way with Mary to the very town where Christ was to be born, Bethlehem.

Finally, Luke 2:8-20 shows us the culmination of the events of the birth of Christ. Again, an angel of the Lord appears. This time to "shepherds living out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." It is recorded that the"angel stood before them and the glory of the Lord shown around them" and the angel reported the most incredible event to date in the history of humanity, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." Once the angel gave this report "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, goodwill toward men!" Not only were the people of the earth moved to be participants in the ingenious plan of God (whether they knew it or not) but even the angels of God rejoiced. Think about that. The angels of God who are spirit beings were excited for humanity that now the plan of God was manifested for the salvation of humanity. Deity and humanity has now come together as Jesus Christ the Lord.

We all should see Christmas as a time for great rejoicing. A is new birth. A new birth in our love towards God and toward one another. A new birth in dedicating our lives to His service. Christmas not New Years should be a catalyst for change, hope and increased faith. A great expectation of what God can and will do through those who believe. For some, maybe we need to see Christmas through the eyes of three wealthy wise men who left their nation and traveled a great distance to behold an infant King. Three men who apparently exercised faith having only the knowledge of ancient writings and a star that guided their way. Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger, it's about the complete redemption of humanity. We should celebrate Christmas as one of the two greatest moves of God in human history. That baby, the Christ, had come into the world to save humanity from Satan's power, to reconcile God to man and man to God for us to have "life and to have it more abundantly." Have a wonderful and very "MERRY CHRISTMAS."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Are You Jolly?

The Christmas Carol, "Deck the hall(s)" is a Welsh melody dating back to the sixteenth century. The modern lyrics and melody that we know today were edited and originally published in 1866.One of the lines of lyrics says, "Tis the season to be jolly." However, for many, it is not a jolly season. Some are alone, some remember a loved one who has passed away, some may fall prey to stress and cannot wait for Christmas to be gone, the reasons are many. I myself, like others have experienced the many difficult situation that life brings and like others have a choice. I can focus on the problems of my past no matter how terrible they may have been or I can remember the blessings and be willing to share what I have with others.

We sometimes forget the depths of what the Christmas season really means. I remember the Charles Schulz Christmas program, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that made its television debuted in 1965 and is still being aired today. Basically, Charlie Brown wants to discover the meaning of Christmas in which Linus explains in brief the birth of Christ the Savior. When we look closely at the birth of Christ, we discover the immeasurable love of God toward humanity. The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul reveals mans condition since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, "...having no hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12) and "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Mankind could not find his way back to God on his own. He was in need of a mediator that could stand before God on behalf of man.  The only way that this could be accomplished is that God Himself would assume mans liability for his crimes which meant that deity and humanity must come together to meet mans greatest need, redemption.

The incarnation of Christ is certainly a remarkable event in the history of man and should certainly be celebrated, but when the difficulties of life try to rob such a wonderful event from our hearts and minds, let's remember that there was even a greater event that took place in humanity. Jesus, the God-Man was born to do just as the angel announced, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) Yes, a Savior was born, but He could not save man until He paid in full mans crimes to satisfy justice and give man right standing before God. The Savior would have to suffer in two realms, the natural through the horrific beating and crucifixion of His body and the spiritual realm. His spirit would become impregnated with sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and He would be separated from the Father (Matthew 27:46) and spend three days in hell (Matthew 12:40, Acts 2:31, Ephesians 4:9) where He suffered and was tormented beyond our comprehension.

The Bible tells us that Jesus indeed paid in full mans sin debt, by dying a death that all people should die. He then arose from the grave, ascended to heaven, offered His own blood and sat down at the right hand of the Father (Romans 5:17-21, Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:51, Hebrews 9:12, 10:12) So during this Christmas season when we feel the weight of life trying to come upon us, let's remember what Jesus the Savior has done for us. In doing so the burdens will be lifted (Matthew 11:28-30) and we can enjoy this wonderful festive season of Christmas. Have a very Merry Christmas. Fa, La, La, La, La, La, La, La, La...