Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

The Signal of Christmas

I pulled up to a major intersection.  It is one of those intersections where there is a designated lane and signal for every turn.  In every direction, right turns, no turns, left turns.  There were two lanes of incoming traffic to my left, three lanes to my right.  In every direction, for every lane, there was a light.  The cornucopia of red lights served to each driver in the intersection a unified message - “Sit here - wait your turn!”
On this particular occasion my desire was to turn left.  I have no scientific proof, but it seems like at this intersection the lefties are stranded much longer behind the light than everyone else.  When the left turn signal does finally come, the green light initiates a virtual drag race to the white stripe.  You have only a few seconds to make your move or you are doomed to repeat the cycle again and wait twice as long for your turn.
There were four cars in front of me.  Familiar with the situation I reached for my addiction of choice to pass the time, smartphone!  Realizing I had missed several text messages I began thumbing away my replies.  Digital conversations ensued.  I would pass the time waiting with texting - attempting to effectively communicate emotion and information, two to three words at a time, instantaneously to friends also stuck in traffic three states away.  
I am not sure exactly how long I was there, but something in my mind alerted me that my hiatus in the left turn lane was expiring; it was time to check the light.  Raising my eyes from phone to road, I realized the scene had changed dramatically.  Where there had once been two lanes of signal stranded motorists to my right waiting to pass through the light, now there were none - only empty lanes.  Where there had once been four cars in front of me, I now saw only the distant taillights of car number four engaged in a left turn.  Almost as if to mock me, the signal rapidly changed from yellow to red as car number four passed beneath it.  I was now doomed to repeat the cycle of signals once again.
It wasn’t that I had failed to pay attention.  My failure was to pay attention to the right thing.  I should have been watching the signal.  Instead I was reading messages on my phone.  Because I wasn’t watching the right thing, not only was I left embarrassingly alone in the intersection, I missed my chance to go.
Luke is writing to a companion described as, “most excellent Theophilus (Luke 1:3).”  His purpose is to assure Theophilus that the things he has been taught are accurate (Luke 1:4).  To do this, Luke begins with a series of signals.  A series of angelic visits ensues.  A childless, aging priest named Zechariah is given a sign.  His wife Elizabeth will have a son who is to be named John.  This child will prepare the way of an even more significant one.  
The angel Gabriel visits a young virgin girl named Mary.  Supernaturally she too will conceive a child; not a child by man, but this child will be the Son of God.  
More signals, more signs, come in rapid succession.  Like the array of red lights in a major intersection, the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel are full of signals.  The children are born.  Angels visit shepherds.  The sighting of the Christ child inspires prophecies.  Every sign a fulfillment of prophecy.  Every sign a signal, like the changing colors of light at an intersection, each sign signaling a new, ordered, sequence of events is now on the move.  
The message of Christmas is simple.  Something is happening.  God is moving.  Are you paying attention?
When Zechariah received the news that his child was to be born, he immediately recognized the activity of God in the sign and he made a move.  
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old (Luke 1:68-70).”
Christmas is a signal.  The Son of God has been born.  The Word has become flesh and dwelt among us.  God is up to something.  Make no mistake, a lane of history and prophecy is moving.  Zechariah realized that Israel had been stuck in a dark intersection of their nation’s history for centuries.  But now it was time to make a move.  Zechariah was watching.  The signal was happening.  He was responding.
There is a real sense in which we have grown unfamiliar with Christmas.  Unfamiliar with Christmas?  How can this possibly be true?  We are a few days past the inauguration of the season, Black Friday . . . or perhaps Black Thursday Evening as it seemed to be this year.  We have digi-shopped cyber-Monday.  On the horizon is a tight schedule of Christmas parties, plays, and gatherings.  There are cards to write and family pics to be printed.  And who can forget the shows?  There is a certain regimen of Christmas movies that must be watched for Christmas to be Christmas.  
I will be the first to admit, I enjoy all of these things in this annual season.  But I will also be the first to admit, these are distractions to what is really happening.  If being busy with holiday themed activities defines your Christmas, you are watching your smartphone in the intersection and you will soon be left alone in the dark.  You are missing the signal.
Christ’s birth is the signal of a new season of salvation history.  Christmas is the green light of Biblical prophecy that tells us that we are now in the season in which He comes.  True, He was born.  As important of a message as the birth of Christ is in Christmas, it is not the only one.  The full message of the season is that He is coming again.
His birth identifies Jesus as the Messiah.  His death, burial and resurrection is the inauguration of a season of time in which more dead things, situations, and people will live again.  This is the season in which people are saved because Christ has come.  This is the season in which God pours out His Spirit and gathers for Himself a people for the sake of His Son.  
Zechariah recognized the signal.  “God . . . has visited and redeemed His people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us (Luke 1:68-69).”  
Christmas is not merely a holiday, it is time to make a move.  In this season of time God has signaled that it is time for repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.  The commercial Christmas season is filled with pleasant distractions, but the Biblical message of Christmas is about paying attention to the right thing - we need to be forgiven for our sins (Luke 1:77).  

Zechariah was waiting and watching.  When the signal came, he saw it and made a move.  Christmas inaugurates the season in which Jesus comes.  Are you watching and waiting?  Are you ready to make a move?
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The Irrational Season

Madeleine L'Engle calls Christmas, "The irrational season."  She is not referring to the irrational behavior we often exhibit during this season.  Crazy we are, but it is not the irrationality that is a by-product of our greed or our busyness that inspires L'Engle's poem.  The focus of the short verse is the rebellion of Christmas against enlightenment.

I do not sleep well.  I spend many nights wondering around the house, going from room to room, thinking, praying, watching the most boring thing I can possibly find on TV in hopes that it will someone put me to sleep, or finding a couch to just lay there.

One night late last summer I was awakened by the barking of a dog somewhere in the dark shadows in front of our house.  There was nowhere in the house I could go that I could not hear him.  Sleeping was out of the question.  If I can be honest for a moment without being judged by dog lovers . . . I just want to be real.  I went upstairs and stood within the frame of a very large window staring into the darkness, searching for the dog.  If I could locate the dog, I could kill said dog! 

I never could see the dog even though my eyes were adjusting well to the darkness.  I could hear him and if he chose to move at all, I was certain to notice the movement.  But then he stopped barking and I was left with only a pitch black silent landscape.  There was this pause.  Maybe it was because I was now focused more intently trying with any of my senses to find the dog, but it made the silence and the darkness that much more acute.  Then it happened.

The darkness was interrupted by a light so bright I could discern the colors of the trees, plants, houses, everything within my view.  It was not lightening.  It lasted too long, several seconds it seemed.  It also didn't flicker like lightening seems to do.  Here is the weird thing, the light was moving.

You know how a car passing your house, or a tree, will cast a moving shadow as the car goes by?  As the angle of the light changes, the shadows move.  That's exactly what happened.  Even though the light seemed as bright as the sun, I could discern that it was coming from a source behind my house which cast a shadow of the pitch of the roof across my driveway and into the field below the window.  The shadow quickly moved from right to left.

What was that?  I quickly raced down the stairs not only replaying the image in my mind, but running all of the logical scenarios - shooting star?  I've never seen one that bright that lasted that long.  Car?  No way, too bright and no car actually passed my house.  Missile launch?  Who knew that The Pentagon had missile launch sites in Chatsworth, GA?  Low flying plane?  There was no sound.  And then it hit me about the time I walked out on my back porch . . . UFO?  Well, at this point if aliens had landed in my backyard they would have to take me in my boxer shorts and I would have to defend myself with an iPhone.

I know what you may be thinking at this point.  Why does the Pastor of Liberty Baptist Church walk around his house in boxer shorts and an iPhone in the middle of the night?  If that is what you are thinking, I need you to concentrate on the bigger issue here . . . there may be a UFO in my back yard.   By the way, the dog was still silent - hopefully dead or abducted by aliens.

There had to be a logical explanation, but I was coming up empty.  I will admit, the whole thing freaked me out, to the point that I was afraid to tell anyone about it, even my wife.  Should I tell her that a dog was abducted by aliens in our neighborhood.  We just moved into this house.  Would we now have to defend it from space invaders?  For the next few days I recalled the light and the movement of the shadows.  I couldn't figure it out.

Late that Saturday night the lead story on the Chattanooga 11 p.m. news, "Massive meteor explodes over Cleveland, TN.  The light could be seen for miles."  AHA! I yelled.  I then confessed everything to my wife, what I had seen, and my fear of telling her about it.  Yes!  A meteor explosion, it makes perfect sense, no big deal!

That's our problem.  Everything has to make sense to us.  Everything needs an explanation.  This is why, for us, there are no more "Irrational Seasons" to enjoy.  Enlightenment has murdered amazement.  A meteor explodes 20 miles from my house and I am relieved that is all it was.  Cool?  Absolutely, but not amazing.

The same thing that makes us run outside onto our porch in our boxers armed only with an iPhone to search for aliens also explains why we are no longer amazed at Christmas.  Instead of standing in my window and worshiping God in that moment by simply saying, "Wow", I was influenced by every stupid sci-fi movie I have ever seen (confession: Signs has forever freaked me out), every scientific article I have ever read, every intellect who has ever lectured me, every ounce of inescapable cultural cynicism in which I have been raised.  I forsook awe and did what I have been conditioned to do, search for answers.

Christmas at its core, "is the irrational season."  L'Engle's full verse reads as follows:

This is this irrational season.
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.

Perhaps this is why we are so drawn at Christmas to movies that challenge us to "just believe."  In Elf, belief makes Santa's sleigh fly.  In Polar Express, belief enables you to hear the bells on Santa's sleigh ring.  In The Santa Clause it is forsaking an adult reality and returning to the belief of a child that helps Tim Allen's character embrace becoming The Claus.

Belief rescues us from a dark, soundless world raped of wonder and makes things "bloom bright and wild" again.  The problem with movies is that it is impossible to hold our faith in fiction.  Once the credits scroll upon the screen, we are reminded of what our momma always told us, "It's just a movie."

But what about the irrational season of Christmas?  Perhaps you are convinced that the Jesus story is also just fiction trying to impotently hold our faith.  Maybe you are like I was when the meteor exploded, no longer considering simple "awe" but instead filling our heart with reason and consequently crowding out the Christ child.  If so, perhaps you would agree with me, that we have lost one of the greatest gifts God gave us, amazement.  Without amazement there is no worship.  Without amazement we have no place for faith.

What has caused you to dismiss the amazement of the "irrational season?"  Is it the science of the whole thing - a virgin girl giving birth?  Is it a dose of heady theology you have heard - the Hebrew word doesn't necessarily mean virgin, but rather young girl.  Is it the total lack of amazement we find in the modern church, or perhaps her people - hypocrites aggravate, they do not amaze.  Has the irrational season been forever skewed by tragedy - if there is a God, why is my life miserable instead of amazing?

We need desperately to be amazed.

If you struggle with the amazement of Christmas, join me this Sunday, 8:45 and 11 a.m., at Liberty Baptist Church in Dalton, GA.  I will be looking at this topic of amazement and belief in the irrational season.  I will be using several popular films that challenge us to return to belief, much like the version of belief we had when we were children.  We will have a conversation about science, hypocrites, tragedy, and culture - all things that tend to destroy amazement and belief.  We will be looking at the irrationality of Christ's birth and how it beckons us to be amazed and believe.

If you can't join us on Sunday.  I will have audio and video posted on this site very soon.  May God bless you.  I pray that you will be amazed this Christmas.      

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
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Caesar Augustus, The Roman Context of the Birth of Christ

Sermon Title:  Caesar Augustus, The Roman Context of the Birth of Christ
Sermon Title:  The Last Days of B.C.
Sermon Text:  Luke 2:1
Resources:  Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity 3rd. ed.
The birth of Jesus Christ is the event on the Gregorian calendar that split time.  In an increasingly secular society the calendar is divided between BCE (before common era) and CE (current or “christian” era).  Yet until recently the eras of the calendar were counted in relation to Christ, Before Christ or B.C. and A.D. or Anno Domini, the Year of our Lord. 
For the next three weeks we will be looking at the Christmas story from a different perspective, a historical one.  Most people are familiar with the Gospel narratives, found in Matthew and Luke, of the birth of Christ, but relatively few have heard the story of what the world was like when Jesus was born.  We read Luke 2:1, “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus . . .”  What were “those days” like?  Who was Caesar Augustus?  Luke’s early readers would not and could not have read the Christmas narratives without its historical context.  Many of us, for generations, have read the Christmas story with no historical context.  By doing so we are missing a great deal of the impact of the message that Luke and Matthew were trying to convey.  As a result we have adopted a vanilla form of Christianity that is disconnected from its historical and textual roots.  In the end what we preach, I fear, is no gospel at all.

To remedy this we will explore the historical context of the Christmas narratives, through this series, The Last Days of B.C., and by doing so gain a greater understanding of the gospel message the Biblical writers were seeking to convey.  My prayer is that by recovering this story we will also recover the gospel of Jesus Christ in its proclamation and in our devotion. 
Christianity emerged out of three historical contexts:
1.       The Greek world which provides the educational and philosophical context.
2.       The Jewish world which provides the religious context.  It is from this context from which Christianity emerges.
3.       The Roman world which provides the political and economic context.  It is in this context that Christianity spreads.
This week we will discuss the Roman context in the last days of B.C.  It is this Roman world that Luke notes in Luke 2:1.  Next week we will discuss the Jewish context in the last days of B.C.
Outside of its Judaic roots in the Old Testament, Christian history covers roughly 330 B.C. (Alexander the Great) to 330 A.D. (Constantine).  The period from 330 B.C. to 30 B.C., Alexander to Augustus, is known as the Hellenistic Age and is the story of how Rome came to be.
Before Alexander we have the very Old Testament landscape with its various empires (Persian, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, etc.).  But with Alexander we have the rise of the Greeks and the unification of the world.  Prior to Alexander, Greece had risen to prominence as it became the cultural elite of the world through philosophy.  But it was not until Alexander began to conquer the world that Greek culture actually began to spread to foreign lands.
This Greek ideal was known as Hellenism.  Because Athens was the center of this new age of thought, dominated by speech and reason, the movement was given the appropriate name Hellenism as educated Greeks were known as Hellenes.  Greeks were no longer simply Greek by birth, but by education.  They were not bound by genealogy but by culture.  In this way, the various nations of the Mediterranean world slowly became “Greek" or Hellenized.  We see this in Paul’s writings as he does not specify ethnicities when he speaks of the power of the gospel to save, he simply states that the gospel is the power of God to save the Jew first and also the Greek (Rom. 1:16). 

When Alexander died three dynasties emerge from three of his prominent generals:
1.       Ptolemaic – Egypt
2.       Seleucid – Persia, Syria, and Asia
3.       Antigonid – Macedonia
Ptolemy I brought Hellenism to Egypt by founding the great library in Alexandria (one of only three cities with Greek names in Egypt at the time).  Unter the Ptolemies Alexandria becomes a cultural, educational, and spiritual epicenter for the Greek world.  Historically and Biblically, Alexandria is important to the church because a vital manuscript family is born there from the meticulous scribes who copy the Scriptures.
Seleucus I (358-280) worked to secure Babylonian regions of the empire.  He had control of the whole region as far as India by 312 BC.  Some notable Seleucid successors, pertinent to the last days of B.C. include: 
·         Antiochus III, or The Great (223-187 BC) - the Seleucids begin to expand and overtake the Ptolemaic/Egyptian territories.
·         Antiochus IV or Epiphanes (175-163) - the fight for Egypt intensifies.  As Epiphanes establishes control of new territories he brings a “Hellenized” version of relgion with him.  Which is why the most notable structure in Ephasus was the Temple of Artemis instead of Diana (an ancient Roman goddess), by which it was formerly known.  Artemis was a nature goddess of the Greeks.  The story of Antiochus Epiphanes will provide a critical backdrop for next week's content as we discuss the Jewish context in the last days of B.C.
It is from this strife between the factions that Rome begins to emerge.  Moving into the final two centuries of B.C. Rome is a loose collection of city states with common law and culture.  The land was conquered by armies.  The people were conquered by culture, but the empire began to emerge when Rome solidified its control as it captured the gods.  Rome absorbed foreign lands by not only taxing and educating them, but by absorbing their dieties.  The final step of Hellinization was to “Romanize” the foreign gods by promising them greater devotion if they would join the Roman pantheon.  Once in the Pantheon Rome not only influenced economies and powers, but also garnered religious devotion. 
Rome is the Greek word for “strength.”  Yet as B.C. drew to a close there was more work to do before Rome would truly be the strong empire that was essentially Alexander’s Hellenistic vision.

The formalization of Rome came after about a century of civil war with first indications of unsettledness arising in 133 B.C.  After 100 years of civil war three powers emerge:
1.       Julius Caesar
2.       Crassus
3.       Pompey
This arrangement of power is known as the First Triumvirate, but the balance was quickly upset.  Crassus died unexpectedly leaving Julius and Pompey as rivals.  The Roman senate fueled the rivalry by formally positioning Pompey against Caesar.  Caesar invaded Italy (Pompey’s territory) in 49.  By 48 Caesar was sole ruler of the Roman world.  But with many fearing the end of the republic, Caesar had his rivals and Pompey was not without his allies.  On the Ides of March, 44 B.C., Caesar was attacked by 60 men before the members of the Roman Senate and was stabbed 23 times.  A painting by Jean-Leon Gerome depicts the Roman Senators celebrating as they abandon Caesar’s mutilated body.
The result of the assassination was not as hoped.  The republic would not be restored.  One historian has said, “They had planned the assassination well, but they had planned little else.”  Instead of a new Republic, Rome received the 2nd Triumvirate.  It was led by:
1.       Octavian – nephew and adopted heir of Julius (since Julius had no son)
2.       Mark Antony – Caesar’s chief lieutenant
3.       Lepidus – former governor of Spain
The 2nd Triumvirate dissolved as Lepidus was quickly accused of usurping authority against Octavian.  He was stripped of his power in 36 BC and exiled.  The dismissal of Lepidus left only a rivalry between Mark Antony and Octavian.
Mark Antony had an infamous affair with Cleopatra of Egypt.  He was portrayed by Octavian as one aligning with Egypt against Rome.  Octavian not only won public opinion, but he also won on the battlefield.  Antony and Cleopatra were defeated at Actium in 31 B.C.  Both committed suicide in 30.
The end result was a Rome very tired of strife and desperate for peace.  The other result was that Octavian was left alone with power and with the duty of establishing a new constitution.  Through a crafty campaign of propaganda, Octavian convinced the war weary Romans to centralize power in him.  The result was a power in a man the Romans had yet to see.  By 27 B.C. Octavian had absolute control, money, an army, and extra/super constitutional powers. 
A new name was given to Octavian.  He would no longer be known as Caius Julius Octavius.  Because the name Octavian was associated with bloodshed, he would garner a new name to acknowledge his accomplishments.   From now on he would be Imperator Caesar divi filius Augustus which means roughly, the Emperor (or supreme citizen), son of God, Augustus.
The name Augustus is difficult to define, but in general it is an acknowledgment that Octavian was more than human.  The name Augustus confirms only that there was no sufficient category to appropriately acknowledge him.  In Augustus was the merger of man and god as one.  To obtain real control Octavian knew that he must not only have Rome’s money and army, he must also have her gods.  With his joining of the pantheon, the Caesar would forever be the human incarnation of god ruling over men.
To spread the news of Augustus’ coronation a euangelion, a pronouncement of good news was written.  You and I are most familiar with the English interpretation of the Greek term euangelion, good news, or gospel.  The gospel of Augustus read:
The providence which has ordered the whole of our life showing concern and zeal has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life by giving it to augustus by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor for men and by sending in him as it were a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war cease, to create order everywhere . . ; the birthday of the god (Augustus) was the beginning for the world of the glad tidings that have come to men through him. . .
Approximately 30 years later a new gospel was proclaimed.  Not to the Roman elite, nor to her scholars, but to shepherds,
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all people.  For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. . . Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
In the gospel of Jesus there is something distinctly Jewish.  He is born in the City of David.  He is called Savior.  He is proclaimed as Christ the Lord.  But in the gospel of Jesus there is a message that is decidedly Hellenistic, Greek, Roman – this is the child through whom true Pax, or peace will come.
The term Pax is a Latin term that implies peace that comes through a dominant ruler.  When the birth of Christ was announced it was not the proclamation of a new holiday, it was the good news that the Messiah had begun his quest to take over the world.  Herod, whom we will discuss later, knew this.  Pilate knew this.  As Christianity incubated and grew during the Pax Romana and proclaimed that Jesus is Lord, all of Rome’s emperors from Tiberius to Constantine would understand the ramifications of this new gospel proclamation.  We read Luke 2 as if it were simply a “season’s greetings”, but Luke knew what he was writing.  God has sent us His Christ and in Him Pax, world dominating peace, will come.
As we proclaim the gospel of Christ in 2011 the world is in turmoil.  It is difficult to find peace.  As economies crumble world rulers are seeking ways to strengthen the nations.  We have lost all sense of Pax, peace and prosperity.  Ironically as governments fail, it seems that people grow more trusting of political solutions to the chaos.  We seek Pax in the very governments and political parties that have failed us.  Over the last decade in America we have experienced the loss of the republic through the greatest movements toward centralized government in our nation’s 200+ year history.  We are war weary.  We are not good students of history and thus we are ignorant of the parallels that seek to teach us.  We swallow the propaganda and seek another Augustus.
It is in this context that the message of the gospel must become radical again.  2000 years ago, Luke 2 was radical, treasonous, and tremendous.  For the last 100 years the Church has grown vanilla and we have lost the meaning of our proclamation.  We are not saying Happy Holidays, although these days the 'verbage' seems to be our chiefest of concerns.  Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, do we really understand what it means that the Christ is born.  In the gospel we are not merely greeting the season.  The gospel is not a poem on a Hallmark card.  The gospel is a call to devotion in one centralized power, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  For those who repent of sin and call upon His name the reign of peace begins in them, now.  While the world descends into the chaos from which it came in Genesis 1, the followers of Christ do not lose heart, they do not lose focus, instead they proclaim that Pax is found in Christ alone and they wait faithfully for His return and the culmination of His Kingdom.  In Christ world peace will come.  The message of Christmas is not focused on a manger, but on a throne.  The path to that throne is through the cross.  Christ has invited the sinner to come with Him and die so that we may live, like Him, with Him, in Him, in Pax.  The Christian life is not Pax Romana, but Pax Animae – a soul brought to peace through the dominant rule of Christ over their life.
Christmas is a call to decide.  Who rules, now?  Do we seek only Pax Romana, a peace that is destined to decay?  Do we need another Augustus?   Or do we seek Pax Animae, the peace of a soul that is brought about by a life dominated by the rule of Christ?  This is the message of Luke to us.  Peace is not found in men and we are deceived to believe that lasting peace is possible Rome.  In Christ a true ruler who brings everlasting peace is found.  Follow Him. 

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The Last Days of B.C.

I am beginning a new series of sermons tonight at Ridgecrest, The Last Days of B.C. This series will tell the story behind the Christmas narrative. What was the world like when Jesus was born? Who is Augustus Caesar (Luke 2:1)? What is a Messiah? When Jesus became an adult, why did he have so many disputes with the Pharisees? Where did the Pharisees come from? Surprisingly it is all in the back story of Christmas.

I offer you a teaser. Here is a quote from the gospel, “by sending in him a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war cease, to create order everywhere . . .; the birthday of god was the beginning of the world of the glad tidings that have come to men though him.” Doesn’t that sound Christmassy, sort of Handel’s Messiah-ish? Well, it is a gospel quote, but it is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not from the Bible and it has nothing to do with Christmas. Where did it come from? You may be surprised to find out – but I promise you that if you know the back story of Christmas it will make the true narrative of the Biblical Gospel’s come alive for you like never before. Join us at Ridgecrest (www.rbconline.net) tonight (6:30) as we explore The Last Days of B.C.
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Mega Soul

Christmas changes our tune. Early in November some radio station in town will sell its soul to Christmas. Where the voice on the dial once sang about pickup trucks, cheating boyfriends, and dogs now the voice croons Christmas. It takes some of us longer than others, but by Thanksgiving we are ready for the change. We are in the Christmas spirit. Yet by the time Christmas arrives we begin to sing another song. We are ready for Christmas to be over.

Is it that Christmas is too big? Is there too much to buy, to do, to decorate? Is it to the point that by the end of it all instead of being overjoyed we are overwhelmed? If we were to sing an honest tune about the condition of our soul during the holiday season would it be more of a rant than a reflection of peace and joy?

An unwed, young, pregnant girl named Mary sings a song about a season in her life that has changed everything (Luke 1:46-55). Her song is an honest reflection of her soul. The opening lyric reads, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” The word translated “magnifies” is built on the Greek stem “mega.” She is a young girl with a mega soul.

If we were honest about the things that we make “mega” in our lives we would confess that our mega concerns should rather be ranked mini. The human soul was not built to devote itself to mini. The human soul was created to devote itself to mega. If we sell our soul to mini, it crashes. Life is stupid, meaningless, and chaotic. If we sell our soul to mega, the minis begin to look different, not so large and important.

Mary has sold her soul to mega. She will magnify the Lord. The pressures of being the virgin mother of God would seem overwhelming, but not for a mega soul that magnifies the Lord. When God is the focus the trials of life seem mini. In the immediate future Mary stands to be ridiculed. To a mini soul that seems mega, but to Mary’s mega soul, with God as the focus, she trusts that, “From now on all generations will call me blessed (Luke 1:48).” A mega God makes a person’s scornful opinions rank mini. Call her what you want, God has called her blessed (Luke 1:28).

Listen to the song of our soul this Christmas. Does it reflect a soul that is focused on mini or mega?

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