“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” – (I John 3:16-18)
“Real love is an action, not a feeling. It produces selfless, sacrificial giving. The greatest act of love is giving oneself for others. How can we lay down our lives? By serving others with no thought of receiving anything in return.” – (NIV footnotes)
The greatest example ever given, was born to us, and is remembered each Christmas. Jesus was the ultimate example of what love is, for He loved with His very life. He stepped down from heaven, and became God with us – demonstrating again and again how to love with actions and in truth. As the only One who was fully God and fully man, there were so many “could have done’s” along the way, yet He chose instead, each time, to model love. He drew near to those whom society deemed undesirable, and He touched the untouchables. His love broke down social, racial and religious barriers, and encouraged all who came near, to love as He loved.
Though this blessed day of remembering is nearing an end, our command to love will remain. How can we carry Christmas with us as we approach the coming year? What can we give of ourselves to others, as He has given unto us?
What can I give?
Unto You Lord,
my great, mighty King.
My heart, You have,
and likewise, my life;
what of my time,
resource and supply?
Anew I ask,
how might I show love;
to honor You,
so You’re known above?
Lead me, I pray,
show me how to move;
let Your love shine,
so people see You.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You chose to come close – to draw near to us and show us that You are love. Thank You that You loved so much, that You sent Your One and Only Son, so that we may receive all that You are offering. Forgive us for giving with expectations, or for withholding, where You would have us to give more of ourselves. Teach us to trust You more, so that we may more clearly hear Your voice and Your instructions for the coming year. May we love as we are loved by You, and may many come into a lasting relationship with You. All glory to You, our great and mighty King. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Oh you crazy and sad world, rejoice! This season is a reminder of a promise fulfilled in the birth of a child from a virgin, and a promise of hope to all who believe. Upon His shoulders all the weight and the sin were given to pay for those of us who choose Him. Rejoice all you believers and even those who are looking for a reason to believe. He brings an even greater promise for the future. A promise of no more pain, no more suffering, no more tears! A world of peace! A promise of true hope! Have faith and know that His promises are kept. God bless you and rejoice!
I really think that this old song is one of the greatest reminders that we could have everyday. I know how easy it is to look upon the negative in our lives. To consider what we need or want for ourselves or even for the world. But what if every day we considered our blessings first, before we went to prayer and ask God to give us what we think we need, what if we spent the time just considering what He has already done for us and give thanks for that.
When we consider this season that we use to celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus, what could be more of a blessing than the promise that the Lord has already kept when He sent His Son to save all of us who are sinners upon this earth. The blessing of being adopted into His family! How wonderful it is to know that our eternity is secure in the promise and the knowledge that He keeps His promise. God bless you and have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!
As we have traveled through the season of Advent, my pastor has taught a series on the attributes of God, which He imparts to us, as a gift through the sending of His Son. The four weeks have covered, peace, hope, joy, and finally yesterday, love.
Jesus, is God’s gift of love to us, as He sent us His one and only Son. (1 John 4:9-10) The love of God is so great, that it covers us with the commitment of His very life. His love is agape – love that genuinely and exclusively seeks the good of others, rather than one that might expect something in return. Christ’s love was so vast, that He set aside the robes of majesty, and took on the role of a man, so that we might know love. (paraphrasing Pastor Jon McIntosh)
In John 13:1-12, Jesus shows the full extent of His love for the disciples, as He takes on the role of the lowliest of servants, and kneels to wash the filth from the feet of His friends. The washing of another’s feet, would have made the one who was washing, completely unclean. Feet were filthy, and to touch them, would have been a wretched violation of plenty of purity laws. Jesus was modeling to the men that it matters not what it takes, when we love, we must be willing to set aside ourselves, and serve. His serving, left the disciples cleansed and refreshed, despite personal cost.
Philippians 2:5-8 encourages us to have the attitude of a servant, just as was seen through Christ. The love described in Philippians, is humble and obedient to God, willing to love with His very life. Such love is unshakeable, and will remain forever. (See also: Isaiah 54:10, Romans 8:38-39)
so the world might know;
the height and depth,
of love truly shown.
Love seeks not self,
records not the wrongs;
is patient, kind,
fills hearts with sweet songs.
Where there is Love,
peace too, shall be found;
for where Christ dwells,
all goodness abounds.
Love seeks to serve,
do unto others;
cares for each one,
as sisters, brothers.
Love will endure,
none can remove,
the Ancient of Days.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the glorious gift of Your Son, Jesus, whom You sent to us so that we might know Love. Thank You that we set aside this season to remember the blessed birth, the arrival of God with us. Forgive us for allowing anything to distract or taint the significance of this season, and help us to hold fast to that which truly matters. May we learn to love as You loved, and be Your hands and heart to those who are hurting this Christmas. May many come to know the limitlessness of Your everlasting love this season. May our every attitude and action be as You would have us do, and may our every offering be pleasing unto You. We love You, Lord. Amen.
*Scripture references taken from yesterdays sermon at http://www.gcfw.org
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
Christmas is a remembrance of when Love came near. God, came in flesh, so that all might know the saving grace that is available through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, the Light unto the world, and the good Shepherd to all whom believe.
In John 10:11, it says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Though few of us have much exposure to present-day shepherds, what I can gather from footnotes and other resources that I have read, is that shepherds treat their sheep as family, and are willing to lay down their own life to keep each of them safe from harm. A shepherd’s love and commitment to care for his flock is not a paid position, but rather one’s chosen duty as he cares for each sheep as if it were his own precious progeny.
Jesus, throughout scripture, is called the Good Shepherd. He is the ultimate example of one who loves us with His very life, and cares for each of us, individually. When we make the decision to follow Him, we become the sheep of His flock – the people of His pasture. The cross was endured on our behalf, so that we are forgiven and freed from all that would lead us away from the security of our Good Shepherd; and His resurrection and the sending of His Holy Spirit, provide us with the ability to hear and obey His voice, as well as the power to hold fast to the promise of our eternal hope. What a treasured song to sing, when His glad tidings we choose to bring.
in flesh, became man;
still fully holy,
for us, came to stand.
The Light of the world,
came down to the earth;
an innocent child,
lowly stable birth.
Announced by angels,
to shepherds in field;
for they knew of love,
Baby became man,
Good Shepherd to all;
who choose to follow,
and answer His call.
For He gave His life,
so our life we’d gain;
the truth to proclaim.
Sing out, fellow sheep,
glad tidings to share;
for His hope is ours,
rejoice in His care.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our Good Shepherd. Thank You that You know us and love us, individually. Thank You that You willingly laid down Your life, so that we could have life with You forever. Forgive us for allowing the worries of the world to steal our joy, and help us to rejoice in the promises that are ours forever. Help us to share the great news of who You are, and may many receive the gift of You this Christmas. May we love as You love, so that Your light is evident in all that we say and do. May our actions be announcements of Your goodness and grace. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
Just over three months ago, a very dear friend of mine breathed her last breath. She had fought long and hard, a battle that would have caused many to quit, yet never in the nine years of the invasion of that devastating disease, did Anne even once, allow cancer to define her. She knew with all certainty that she was above all, a child of God. Her faith in our Heavenly Father did not waiver, regardless of what the doctors had told her.
Her perseverance and unwavering faith, are two of the things that I most admired about Anne. So often, she would extend encouragement to those who were providing her medical care. Laughter and light-hearted banter were common during many of her appointments. The verse that brought her great comfort in her final days was 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” For she had indeed fought and finished in firm faith.
A dear friend asked me how I might remember Anne this Christmas. I was a bit taken aback, as avoidance has been my coping mechanism of choice. However, it is nearly impossible to navigate this season without reminders of my dear friend, as we have had many outings in this most blessed of seasons gone by. As we spoke, I realized that perhaps part of me had avoided actual shopping in stores for gifts this year, as that is something that Anne and I have done together many times over the past few years.
I do not yet know if I am meant to do anything in particular to remember Anne, but I do know that I am to embrace her memory – the gift of friendship that I was given in her – and to be grateful for the example she set in perseverance and faith, and for the assurance that I have, knowing that she fought the good fight and is home, where I will one day see her again.
memories so dear;
treasures of friendship,
hope that is secure.
The faithful fighter,
no more needs to fight;
now in heaven’s hold,
our Savior’s delight.
I will remember,
the blessings I’ve known;
such steadfast faith shown.
Thank You, Lord Jesus,
for Your gifts of grace;
may we be steadfast,
secure in our faith.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the gifts that You give us in friends. Thank You for the blessings that they bring, be it for a season or for a lifetime. Thank You for the lessons that we learn from one another, when we are securely rooted in You. Forgive us for not facing painful or sorrowful things, and help us to embrace each of the experiences that You bring, trusting that You have a purpose and a plan to use each experience for our ultimate good. Teach us to persevere when things are difficult, and to have a faith that is unwavering, even when all seems to be shaking around us. May our confidence and security in You, be a living testimony to all who are around us. May many come to call You King this Christmas. Be our hope and our help, Lord God. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” – (Luke 2:8-11)
The great joy the angel was declaring, was both the first and greatest joy ever known. The gift of God, sending His Son to earth to take on the sins of all, is the provision of joy found in the promise of hope, that is secure in our Savior. “Joy is a sense of well-being and delight that comes from knowing and serving God.” (Pastor Jon MacIntosh)
Joy was further defined by Pastor Jon as follows:
1) Joy is not an emotion. Joy is not dependent on our circumstances.
2) Joy is sourced in God Himself. This is why our joy cannot be shaken.
3) Joy is both a present reality and a future hope. Though we know joy now, it is only in part of what will one day be fully known.
We can know joy despite our circumstances, when we are deeply invested in Christ. Joy is rooted in love, tied to obedience, and is a gift of God that is found in the person of God. We may know His joy more fully, as we walk in His will. We discover a deeper joy when our focus extends beyond ourselves, and we pursue the purpose that He has placed before us. (see Psalm 16:11, 19:8, and John 15:9-13)
declaring great joy;
found in a stable,
born an infant boy.
Announced by angels,
proclaimed by a star;
followed by strangers,
who’d come from afar.
The infant, He grew,
into God, the man;
taught of salvation,
lived redemptive plan.
His death on the cross,
our sinfulness bore;
so we might be found,
come, let us adore.
The grave could not keep,
Jesus in the ground;
God’s power at work,
our joy in Him found.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are our Source of joy. Thank You that joy in You is not dependent on how we feel, nor on that which is going on around us. Thank You that You are our Joy, and in You, we find joy as we come to know and serve You, our Savior. Forgive us for allowing our eyes to fix too closely on the troubles of this world, rather than on You, whom all troubles are subject to. Teach us to trust You more, so that we may know more completely, the joy that is found in You alone. Help us to love and serve as You are asking, and may many see Your joy in us. May those who do not yet know You, come to know the joy that is found in You alone. Joy to the world, the Savior has come! Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
I simply cannot explain these feelings that have been welling up in my soul lately as we approach Christmas. While Jesus is the reason for the season, like a flower blooming petal after petal, a swarming of love and adoration for Christ has covered me like an abundance of sweet honey reserved just for the best. Jesus Christ is our best. He is the greatest gift we could ever receive. Not just for Christmas, but for all time.
All I need for Christmas is Jesus.
Teaching my children why we celebrate Christmas is very important. While decorating for the holidays, giving and receiving gifts comes with tradition, the main focus is on Christ and His coming to earth in the form of man. (starting off as a baby of course). Lately I have being drawing closer to Him asking that my eyes be opened like never before and that my ears be tentative to my surroundings. Having a little talk with Jesus is like chicken noodle soup for the soul. That’s just my opinion.
I remember some years ago that I would become overwhelmed with the Christmas season approaching. It was more emotional than physical. I would become saddened and somewhat lethargic. I say this because my eyes were set on the wrong things and I was always “thirsty”.
I’m not one to do the Christmas shopping in my house for the most part. Thankfully it has always been my husband because no one would get anything most likely had it been left up to me to go out in the chaos and mass of people rushing, shoving, cursing and just flat-out been mean-spirited. Plus, I don’t have that kind of patience. Having 5 babies back to back kept me busy so it just became easier for my dear husband to do. I digress but for a moment!
My thoughts always went back to my childhood. While I had a pretty decent life growing up, I always felt something missing.
Jesus wasn’t there.
Feeling confused and happy at the same time was just weird. Plain old strange and yet I managed to get through another holiday season. I could not wait for the holidays to pass.
Recently, my heart was on a couple of senior citizens who were in need of some items that they needed. It was an article I caught in the newspaper that came from the aid of the Salvation Army. I told my husband about it and that I wanted to sponsor the people’s needs. While my eyes glazed over the many people young and old with a wish list, I wondered even more about those lost. The lost who needed Jesus; the very One who is our ever-present help, comfort and aid.
I began to cry. Not just because some cannot afford material needs and wants, but that many go lacking without a Savior.How often we walk daily without Him. As Christians and sinners alike ,but first as human beings, we find ourselves at times trying to do things on our own. We try to make things happen within our own power and might. We fix our eyes on higher prizes and treasures beyond our means. Some are just desires to want, want,want. Fleshly things. Things that will pass. Treasures that will not go with us on a U-Haul when we leave this old world.
Getting caught up over-shopping and over-spending will give anyone a headache and then possible regret for debt than may take a while to pay off when we “rob Peter to pay Paul”. That’s a saying I got from my Mom. Maybe you’ve heard of it before.
Nevertheless, we need peace and true joy. It can only be found in Christ Jesus. He will make us whole. He can satisfy our deepest needs. Will you invite Him into your life? Will you allow God to direct your life, your finances, your will, wants and your plans that they will align with His?
While I am not attempting to take away your joy of shopping for your friends and loved ones, I just want to provide you with the opportunity to receive the greatest gift of all this year as we bring 2013 to a close. Health may have fallen, bills may be behind and loved ones may have turned their backs on you but know that there is a risen Savior who is waiting to receive you today.
I want to share with you a song I heard on the radio yesterday. I don’t drive much if I can help it but when I do, I tend to listen to uplifting music to carry me throughout my day. This song about had me in tears. No matter what we are going through, we must know that we cannot do anything in this life without the Lord no matter how hard we try. I know for myself that I cannot walk without Him holding my hand. This song has become one of my favorite and it lingers within me to the point of praise.
All we NEED for Christmas is Jesus Christ. If we trust God, He will provide all that we need and bless us with our wants. By His grace we have what we have. May we be thankful for the little and great. Be blessed one and all. You are loved, cherished and prayed for.
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6: 26, 33 NKJV
To God be the glory now and forevermore,
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” – (Hebrews 13:16)
Community is critical, and I am so thankful that both my school and church community are heavily invested and committed doing good and sharing with others, as these two arenas are the areas where both my boys and I spend the majority of most of our days. Teaching kids the importance of looking outside of themselves to see that there are needs right here in our own community, and empowering them to rise up and take action, is a common occurrence throughout the year, as my school holds a food drive prior to Thanksgiving, and then sponsors families in need prior to the Christmas break, so that children will have gifts to open and families will have meals to share. Similarly, our church creates Thanksgiving baskets for families in need in the community, and then holds an incredible evening event where many businesses and the police department partner with our church to turn the sanctuary into a space where parents are able to come in and select several gifts for each of their children, and then have them wrapped and tagged, while their kiddos are being cared for in another area, unaware of the surprises that will soon be theirs to open.
The good and sharing that we do with others, goes beyond big events. Our time, our resources, and ourselves – these are what He is asking us to share with others, so that they too, may come to call Him King this Christmas. For the time that you have invested in others, even when it was not convenient, know that He is pleased. As you chose to give, even when it meant you did not get something that you may have wanted, He is pleased. Each time you truly listened and heard the heart of another, He has seen you, and with you, He is well pleased.
Forget not to do good,
and give yourself away;
as we extend our hearts,
that’s the choice to obey.
Giving that which we have,
of our talent and time;
God sees and He honors,
each kindness to mankind.
May we go forth and give,
as we have been given;
may His Name be made known,
on earth as in heaven.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You have done the ultimate good for us, as You shared Your Son so that we might have the hope of eternal life. Thank You that this is a season, more than any other, that people are receptive to receive the good and sharing that others extend. Forgive us for not making the most of the opportunities You provide, and help us to have open hearts, so that we will hear and obey whatever You ask of us. Teach us to trust You completely, knowing that You are good, and that You are pleased each time we choose to do as You ask of us. Just as a parent is proud of their child when they share and are kind to others, help us to remember that You too, see us through the eyes of a loving Father. May we share with others and do good, not only in this sacred season, but throughout the year – as an offering unto You. May many come to know You as their Savior, as we seek to serve You with our lives. Be exalted, O God. Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.
R.C. Sproul “That He has given us 52 holidays a year does not mean that we cannot rejoice over His grace on Monday, and Tuesday, or any day- even December 25. That others before us celebrated the same day as us, for wicked reasons cannot mean that we cannot do what we will do in eternity for godly reasons- rejoice over the coming of the Messiah. That others tell their children stories about Santa is no reason for us to not tell truth stories to our children about Jesus, and to laugh with joy as we do so.
May Christians celebrate Christmas?
“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:5-8).”
Read more at Ligonier Ministries
Christmas Reformation Long Overdue
In these latter years of the twentieth century no other season of the year reveals so much religion and so little godliness as the Christmas season.
Since Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, scarcely anyone dares to come right out and say what he thinks of Christmas. To do so, we fear, would be to identify ourselves with a nasty old grouch who hated everybody; so we go along with the tinseled festivities, doing our best to preserve a misty smile on our faces and a happy, vibrant ring in our voices, no matter how we feel.
Now, Dickens to the contrary notwithstanding, I do not believe that we are compelled to choose between old Scrooge and Tiny Tim. Surely there is a middle ground where mature, love-inspired, Spirit-illuminated adults can locate themselves and make up their own minds about that most beautiful but most abused and abased holiday we call Christmas. I for one want to do just that and love everybody in the process.
I never knew an Ebenezer Scrooge. My own childhood was brightened by the annual return of Christmas. My sweet-faced mother struggled to provide a few extras for her family on Christmas morning and somehow she always succeeded. If there was no more than an orange, a popcorn ball and a cheap toy for each of us, it was yet a memorable time for all. Even the old yellow mongrel that lay on the homemade braided rug was on that happy morning treated to a handful of hard candy which he crunched loudly and solemnly to the squealing of delight of the younger children.
The children that later came to my own home could, and I am sure would, testify to the almost unbearable delight Christmas morning brought to them. Their near delirium as they tumbled out of bed and gathered around the tree to unwrap their gifts amid shouts of surprise and delight will never be forgotten by them or by their parents while life and memory endure. No, whoever else might drop in during the day, Scrooge was never there; he�d have died of apoplexy if he had come near the place.
Yet Christmas as it is celebrated today is badly in need of a radical reformation. What was at first a spontaneous expression of an innocent pleasure has been carried to inordinate excess. In one section of Chicago, for instance, the excited citizenry vie with each other each year for the biggest, gaudiest and most vulgar Christmas tree, on the porch, on the lawn, along the street; and one gigantic, flashily dressed and cold but determinedly smiling Santa Claus drives a fully lighted herd of reindeer across the yard and over the house!
How far have we come in the corruption of our tastes from the reverence of the simple shepherds, the chant of the angels and the beauty of the heavenly host! The Star of Bethlehem could not lead a wise man to Christ today; it could not be distinguished amid the millions of artificial lights hung aloft on Main Street by the Merchants Association. No angels could sing loudly enough to make themselves heard above the raucous, earsplitting rendition of �Silent Night� meant to draw customers to the neighborhood stores.
In our mad materialism we have turned beauty into ashes, prostituted every normal emotion and made merchandise of the holiest gift the world ever knew. Christ came to bring peace and we celebrate His coming by making peace impossible for six weeks of each year. Not peace but tension, fatigue and irritation rule the Christmas season.
He came to free us of debt and many respond by going deep into debt each year to buy enervating luxuries for people who do not appreciate them. He came to help the poor and we heap gifts upon those who do not need them. The simple token given out of love has been displaced by expensive presents given because we have been caught in a squeeze and don�t know how to back out of it. Not the beauty of the Lord our God is found in such a situation, but the ugliness and deformity of human sin.
Among the harmful abuses of the Christmas season in America is the substitution of Santa Claus for Christ as the chief object of popular interest, especially among the children.
The morality of Mother Goose stories and fairy tales has been questioned by serious-minded Christian parents, but my opinion is that these are relatively harmless because they are told as fiction and the child is fully aware that they are imaginary. With Santa Claus it is not so. The child is taught falsehood as sober truth and is thus grossly deceived during the most sensitive and formative period of his life.
What shall we do? Cultivate humility and frugality. Put the emphasis where the Bible puts it, on the Christ at the right hand of God, not on the babe in the manger. Return to the simplicity that is in Christ. Cleanse our churches of the unscriptural pageantry borrowed from Rome. Take the Scriptures as our guide and refuse to be pressured into conformity to paganism practiced in the name of Christ.
EVERYWHERE, EVERYWHERE, CHRISTMAS TONIGHT!�
That there were in the world multiplied millions who had never heard of Christmas did not matter to our poet for the purpose of his poem. He was expressing an emotional fact, not a statistical one.
Throughout the Western world we tend to follow the poet and approach Christmas emotionally instead of factually. It is the romance of Christmas that gives it its extraordinary appeal to that relatively small number of persons of the earth�s population who regularly celebrate it.
So completely are we carried away by the excitement of this midwinter festival that we are apt to forget that its romantic appeal is the least significant thing about it. The theology of Christmas too easily gets lost under the gay wrappings, yet apart from its theological meaning it really has none at all. A half dozen doctrinally sound carols serve to keep alive the great deep truth of the Incarnation, but aside from these, popular Christmas music is void of any real lasting truth. The English mouse that was not even stirring, the German Tannenbaum so fair and lovely and the American red-nosed reindeer that has nothing to recommend it have pretty well taken over in Christmas poetry and song. These along with merry old St. Nicholas have about displaced Christian theology.
We must not forget that the Church is the custodian of a truth so grave and urgent that its importance can not be overemphasized, and so vast and incomprehensible that even an apostle did not try to explain it; rather it burst forth from him as an astonished exclamation:
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:
He appeared in a body,
was vindicated by the Spirit,
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations;
was believed on in the world,
(1 Timothy 3:16)
This is what the Church is trying to say to mankind but her voice these days is thin and weak and scarcely heard amid the commercialized clangor of �Silent Night.�
It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas and so few stop to inquire into its meaning; but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import. The same man who will check his tires and consult his road map with utmost care before starting on a journey may travel for a lifetime on the way that knows no return and never once pause to ask whether or not he is headed in the right direction.
The Christmas message, when stripped of its pagan overtones, is relatively simple: God is come to earth in the form of man. Around this one dogma the whole question of meaning revolves. God did come or He did not; He is come or He is not, and the vast accumulation of sentimental notions and romantic practices that go to make up our modern Christmas cannot give evidence on one side or the other.
Certain religious teachers in apostolic times refused to believe that Jesus was actually God come in the flesh. They were willing to exhaust the language of unctuous flattery to describe His glorious manhood, but they would have none of His deity. Their basic philosophy forbade them to believe that there could ever be a union of God and human flesh.Matter, they said, is essentially evil. God who is impeccably holy could never allow Himself contact with evil. Human flesh is matter, therefore God is not come in the flesh.
Certainly it would not be difficult to refute this negative teaching. One would only need to demonstrate the error of the major premise, the essential sinfulness of matter, and the whole thing would collapse. But that would be to match reason against reason and take the mystery of godliness out of the realm of faith and make of it merely another religious philosophy. Then we would have rationalism with a thin Christian veneer. How long before the veneer wore off and we had only rationalism?
While faith contains an element of reason, it is essentially moral rather than intellectual. In the New Testament unbelief is a sin, and this could not be so if belief were no more than a verdict based upon evidence. There is nothing unreasonable about the Christian message, but its appeal is not primarily to reason. At a specific time in a certain place God became flesh, but the transcendence of Christ over the human conscience is not historic; it is intimate, direct and personal.
Christ�s coming to Bethlehem�s manger was in harmony with the primary fact of His secret presence in the world in preincarnate times as the Light that lighteth every man. The sum of the New Testament teaching about this is that Christ�s claims are self-validating and will be rejected only by those who love evil. Whenever Christ is preached in the power of the Spirit, a judgment seat is erected and each hearer stands to be judged by his response to the message. His moral responsibility is not to a lesson in religious history but to the divine Person who now confronts him.
�Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight.� But Christmas either means more than is popularly supposed or it means nothing.
We had better decide.
There are many different thoughts on celebrating Christmas, and I find it something that seems to bring conflict to many who follow Christ! While many believe that practicing what originally began as a pagan celebration is wrong, the fact is that Christians turned it into a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. Others find it wrong that we celebrate birth at all. The birthday was not something that was celebrated by early Jews.
We are not instructed in the Bible to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but it is notable that the birth was noted in the Bible itself with the honoring of the baby by Angels declaring His birth, by Wise Men looking for Him and bringing gifts to celebrate His coming and recognizing the importance of His future Kingship. The gospels do not give us a date of His birth, and yet they do emphasize the importance of His birth. Without His birth, we have nothing. He had to come to earth as a human to fulfill the prophecy and give the sacrifice. It stands to reason that His birth is one of the most important days in history. And while we are also told to celebrate death over birth, without the birth, you can not have the death.
As for the fact that Christmas itself began as a pagan holiday, people ceased to associate the day with the worship of a pagan god and began to associate it with the birth of the Savior of the world. For ministry, is that not what we want? For people to disregard pagans and remember Christ’s coming?
One of the biggest problems with modern day followers of Christ is that all to often the celebration becomes more about themselves than it is about Christ. We don’t truly celebrate the birth of Jesus so much as we take the opportunity to party and feed our own desires, whether with food, friends, presents or other indulgences. Do we really spend enough time in reflection on the reason for His birth and thanksgiving for it?
While we may or may not agree on whether we should celebrate Christmas, I decided that I would include a few others thoughts on that very thing. God bless!
“Christmas now means that we mark, in Christian ways, the birth of Jesus Christ. I think the birth, death and resurrection of Christ are the most important events in human history. Not to mark them in some way, by way of special celebration, would be folly it seems to me.” From: Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? John Piper
Charles H. Spurgeon on Christmas from Founders Ministries Blog:
He had little patience with his Protestant brethren who made much of the day out of religious devotion. Yet, Spurgeon was far from a Scrooge. Nor did he think it some violation of Scripture to utilize the inevitable emphasis of the season to preach the incarnate Christ. So it is easy to find sermons on the birth of Christ that he preached around Christmas time.
In December of 1855 he preached on “The Incarnation and Birth of Christ” from Micah 5:2. His opening words were these:
THIS is the season of the year when, whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. I hold it to be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas-day. There are no probabilities whatever that our Savior Jesus Christ was born on that day and the observance of it is purely of Popish origin; doubtless those who are Catholics have a right to hallow it, but I do not see how consistent Protestants can account it in the least sacred. However, I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year; for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt laboring people. Christmas-day is really a boon to us, particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although we do not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus. We do not wish to be classed with those“Who with more care keep holiday
The wrong, than others the right way.”
By Paul Ravenhill
300 years after Jesus’ death the church set December 25th as the day of commemoration and celebration of His birth.
Was Jesus born December 25th?… Possibly not!
Does the exact date matter? I don’t think so! Some people have a problem with December 25th because it was the date of the heathen celebration of the mid-winter festival. As Studdert-Kennedy (to whom I am indebted for his notes which lay the basis for this writing) has pointed out, for the heathen it was based in a time of dread
(dread of the winter cold which had taken the life from the trees and plants and
touched the waters and the fields with frost,
dread of the darkness which had taken over a greater portion of every day,
dread of the scarcity the uncertainty, the unrelenting attack of winter) from this fear was born the custom of lighting fires and burning logs to “warm up the sun” lest he flicker out and die and never rise again….. Read the rest at Christmas
By Paul Ravenhill
From Billy Graham
“I don’t think we ought to stop celebrating Christmas, but I do agree that we’ve lost sight of its true meaning. All too often, I’m afraid, we have left Christ out of Christmas, and yet (as the popular saying goes) He truly is “the reason for the season.”
Instead of focusing on what Christmas has become, however, let’s focus instead on what it can become for us, no matter what others do. Christmas celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, which set in motion the greatest event in human history. What better time to stop and reflect on what God did for us by sending His only Son into the world?
Why is Christmas important? It’s important first of all because it reminds us of our greatest need: to be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to the God who created us. If we could solve this need by ourselves, Christ wouldn’t have had to leave heaven’s glory and come to earth. But He did — because God loves us, and He wants us to know Him and spend eternity with Him.
Christmas reminds us too of what God has done for us. We could never save ourselves — but Christ came to save us by His death and resurrection. Make Christ the center of your Christmas this year — and then you’ll begin to understand the greatness of God’s gift to us that first Christmas. As the Bible says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)”. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
From A.W. Pink:
To you the Word of the Lord is, “Be THOU AN EXAMPLE of believers in word, in deportment, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Is it not true that the most corrupt “churches” you know of, where almost every fundamental of the faith is denied, will have their “Christmas celebrations?” Will you imitate them? Are you consistent to protest against unscriptural methods of “raising money,” and then to sanction unscriptural “Christmas services?” Seek grace to firmly but lovingly set God’s truth on this subject before your people, and announce that you can have no part in following Pagan, Romish, and worldly customs.
‘Complete Anarchy’: Famed Pastor Issues Major Wake-Up Call for Christians About the Dire State of American Culture
TheBlaze’s Carly Hoilman contributed to this report.
The centerpiece of Driscoll’s new book titled, ”A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?,” is that we’re living in a “post-Christian culture — a culture fundamentally at odds with faith in Jesus.”
Culture Is Quickly Shifting
The pastor recently told TheBlaze that he believes cultural norms are rapidly shifting in American society and that these changes come at the same time that Christianity is losing its place of prominence.
“A commitment to secularism to pluralism has really come very, very rapidly, and certain issues like gay marriage have accelerated and highlighted that,” Driscoll said. “More biblical, conservative traditions…values have gone from being respected to really despised in very short order.”
Driscoll explained that 40 years ago, homosexuality was still listed in psychological manuals and textbooks as a mental disorder, and now it is considered a civil right. He added, “That’s a quick flip.”
“We are living in a post-Christian culture — a culture fundamentally at odds with faith in Jesus.”
He believes that there’s been a paradigm shift in society from “morality to personality.”
Rather than moral absolutes governing what’s right or wrong, Driscoll said that there’s a general view that people should be true to themselves — that they should essentially stand by their feelings and desires.
“We’ve shifted from a worldview where there is a God who makes laws, and they apply to you, to whether or not there is a God it does not matter — ‘I don’t recognize any laws external to me. The only thing that guides me is my own internal convictions,’” he said. “Authority has shifted from external to internal, from God to me. And what you end up with is not a discussion of morality but a defense of personality. And that’s the world we live in.”
Driscoll believes that there is “a culture of complete anarchy in the name of tolerance and diversity.”
“One in four women sexual assaulted, one in six men, people that are sexually addicted, sexually assaulted, sexually abused, rampant debt, broken families, suicidal,” he told TheBlaze. “The number one category of prescription medication is antidepressants. Somebody’s gotta stand up and say, ‘This ain’t working — we gotta try something else.’”
One of the Big Questions Facing Christians
One of the big questions facing Christians, the pastor said, is how to peacefully exist in this context of change without compromising values and theology.
“Christians need to understand that Christians and non-Christians just disagree about a lot of things,” he said. “We disagree about where we come from, we disagree about why we’re here, we disagree about what we’re supposed to do, we disagree with what we’re supposed to do with our pots and our pans and our genitals and our wallets — we just disagree on all kinds of things.”
Driscoll went on to say that one of the biggest threats to Christians is the assumption that compromising on what they believe will help them or serve a positive purpose for the non-believers they interact with. Doing this, he said, simply doesn’t work for anyone
With the changing cultural dynamics, Driscoll warned that Christians need to start getting better at understanding suffering and dealing with pushback, as they’re poised to receive more of it.
“In the West we’re not really familiar with suffering [and] Christendom and Christians have tended to be in a position of power, a respected position, and so all the issues surrounding suffering and criticism and such — we’re not very good at that,” he said. “And it’s something we’d better get better at pretty quickly because it’s just going to get harder to stay true to what we believe.”
Driscoll said that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for people to be Bible-believing — and practicing — Christians and that there are “no social perks to being a Christian” in today’s society.
Issues Facing Churches
The decreasing role and reverence for churches is also noticeable, Driscoll said. While houses or worship were once much-respected, today he believes that this dynamic has profoundly changed.
“The churches, for the most part, held a very respected place in society — and if you’re going to be a good business leader, a good citizen, a moral person, well obviously you believe in God and you’re involved in some religious community,” he said. “So what that led to was really a lot of people who weren’t committed to their religious beliefs — they didn’t really live them out — but they would sort of wave the flag because of the social benefits that came with it.”
Driscoll believes the social benefits and connotations the church once offered are decreasing. Being ostracized or marginalized for being in the pews makes it somewhat less appealing to participate in church. While he doesn’t necessarily believe that there are fewer Christians, he said “the teams have gotten very clear.”
“Somebody’s gotta stand up and say, ‘This ain’t working — we gotta try something else.’”
Fewer of those who went or go to church mainly to bask in these benefits are now doing so and for obvious reasons; the purported benefits are diminishing.
With the changing dynamics, Christians have to find a balance, Driscoll argued. What battles will they choose to fight? Which will they choose to ignore? Of these concerns, Driscoll said, ”You can’t fight over everything, and you’re not very courageous if you won’t fight for anything.”
The pastor said it’s important to decide what’s worth fighting for and then to be prepared to deal with the consequences of speaking out.
Driscoll expounds upon these themes in “A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?”
|By Bill FedererHe entered Yale College at age 13 and graduated with honors.He became a pastor, and his sermon,“Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God,” started The Great Awakening Revival.
His name was Jonathan Edwards, born OCTOBER 5, 1703.
The Great Awakening Revival can be traced back to earlier revivals in Scotland, and to Scottish Rev. William Tennent’s Log College in Pennsylvania.
The fiery Dutch Reformed minister Theodore Frelinghuysen preached divine outpourings of the Holy Spirit and conversion.
The revival spread across America through the preaching of George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, Samuel Finley and others, inadvertently uniting the Colonies prior to the Revolutionary War.
Calvinist denominations split between traditionalist “Old Lights” emphasizing ritual, and revivalist “New Lights” emphasizing personal commitment.
The Revival inspired the founding of universities, such as: Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Rutgers and Columbia.
The Revival brought large numbers of African slaves to Christianity, being led by Presbyterian preacher Samuel Davies, who later became Princeton’s fourth president.
Blacks were welcomed into active roles in white congregations, even as preachers.
The first black Baptist churches were founded in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.
The Great Awakening Revival had a profound effect, as noted by Sarah Pierrepont Edwards, wife of Jonathan Edwards, who wrote to her brother in New Haven of George Whitefield’s preaching:
Our mechanics shut up their shops, and the day laborers throw down their tools to go and hear him preach, and few return unaffected.”
Ben Franklin wrote of Whitefield:
“Multitudes of all denominations attended his sermons…
It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants.
From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”
“And then it was, in the latter part of December, that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to…work amongst us.
There were, very suddenly, one after another, five or six persons who were, to all appearance, savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner.
Particularly I was surprised with the relation of a young woman, who had been one of the greatest company-keepers in the whole town.
When she came to me, I had never heard that she was become in any ways serious, but by the conversation I had with her, it appeared to me that what she gave an account of was a glorious work of God’s infinite power and sovereign grace, and that God had given her a new heart, truly broken and sanctified….
God made it, I suppose, the greatest occasion of awakening to others, of anything that ever came to pass in the town…”
“I have had abundant opportunity to know the effect it had, by my private conversation with many.
The news of it seemed to be almost like a flash of lighting upon the hearts of young people all over the town, and upon many others….
Presently upon this, a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world became universal in all parts of the town and among persons of all degrees and all ages.
The noise of the dry bones waxed louder and louder….
Those that were wont to be the vainest and loosest, and those that had been the most disposed to think and speak slightly of vital and experimental religion, were not generally subject to great awakenings…”
“And the work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner and increased more and more; souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ….
This work of God, as it was carried on and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town, so that in the spring and summer following, Anno 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God.
It never was so full of love, nor so full of joy…there were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house.
It was a time of joy in families on the account of salvation’s being brought unto them, parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands.
The goings of God were then seen in His sanctuary, God’s day was a delight and His tabernacles were amiable…”
“Our public assembles were then beautiful; the congregation was alive in God’s service, everyone earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink the words of the minister as they came from his mouth.
The assembly in general were, from time to time, in tears while the word was preached, some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for their neighbors.
There were many instances of persons that came from abroad, on visits or on business…that partook of that shower of divine blessing that God rained down here and went home rejoicing.
Till at length the same work began to appear and prevail in several other towns in the country…”
“In the month of March, the people of South Hadley began to be seized with a deep concern about the things of religion, which very soon became universal…
About the same time, it began to break forth in the west part of Suffield… and it soon spread into all parts of the town. It next appeared at Sunderland…
About the same time it began to appear in a part of Deerfield… Hatfield… West Springfield… Long Meadow… Endfield… Westfield… Northfield…
In every place, God brought His saving blessings with Him, and His Word, attended with Spirit…returned not void.”
“There is no leveler like Christianity, but it levels by lifting all who receive it to the lofty table-land of a true character and of undying hope both for this world and the next.”
Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ emphasis on training their children in godly values had a ripple effect. A.E. Winship’s A Study in Education and Heredity (1900) listed among their descendants:
1 U.S. Vice-President,
In 1877, while visiting New York’s prisons, Richard Dugdale found inmates with 42 different last names all descending from one man, called “Max.”
Born around 1720 of Dutch stock, Max was a hard drinker, idle, irreverent and uneducated.
Max’s descendants included:
The “Jukes” descendants cost the state more than $1,250,000.
“I have reason to hope that my parents’ prayers for me have been, in many things, very powerful and prevalent, that God has…taken me under His care and guidance, provision and direction, in answer to their prayers.”
“Those mighty kingdoms of Antichrist and Mohammed…have trampled the world under foot..(and) swallowed up the Ancient Roman Empire…
Satan’s Mohometan kingdom swallowing up the Eastern Empire.”
The thought that the “Sun of Righteousness” traveled from East to West contributed to the concept that America had a “Manifest Destiny”:
“When the time comes of the church’s deliverance from her enemies, so often typified by the Assyrians, the light will rise in the west, till it shines through the world like the sun in its meridian brightness…
And if we may suppose that this glorious work of God shall begin in any part of America, I think, if we consider the circumstances of the settlement of New England, it must needs appear the most likely, of all American colonies, to be the place whence this work shall principally take its rise.”
“Never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.”
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I will be taking a break until after Christmas but may post occasionally. Will try to read some of your blogs but surely hope that you all have a blessed Christmas!
I will be taking a break until after Christmas but may post occasionally. Will try to read some of your blogs but surely hope that you all have a blessed Christmas!!!