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Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

No Christmas (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

Luke 2 tells us that there would be born “ a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Each of these three names have implications for our lives today. He is our rescuer, our Messiah, but also our Lord. This title demands a response of complete obedience. Many call him Lord, but your life reveals the truth.

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Gifts (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

In these modern times, gifts have become increasingly more extravagant and expensive at Christmas and yet we barely remember what we’ve received from one year to the next. We are less satisfied and less content than ever. What people are really looking for is real connections and relationships, despite our endless avenues of communication and social networking. God desires that we deepen those relationships, encourage our fellow believers in their faith, and share the true gift of salvation as our priority. What is the most important gift you will give this year?

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Some Stats on Recovering Christmas

Baptist Press released an interesting article yesterday on how Americans celebrate Christmas.  The article relates well to our topic this month of "Recovering Christmas."  Here is an excerpt (entire article here):

"Overall, a little more than one-third of all households (38 percent) encourage belief in Santa, compared to 42 percent of Christian households. Just 27 percent of agnostics or those without a religious preference, 22 percent of those claiming other religions, and 18 percent of atheists encourage belief in Santa Claus."

"Santa is more popular among households with children under 17 (52 percent) than among households without children (33 percent)."

"Encouraging belief in Jesus as Savior is actually more common among all Americans, at 58 percent, than encouraging belief in Santa. In fact, more than three-quarters agree, 62 percent strongly, with the statement, "I believe Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season," and 59 percent strongly agree that "Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus Christ."

"That's good news, but it is not the whole story," Stetzer said, pointing out that 38 percent encourage belief in Santa Claus yet only 28 percent read or tell the Christmas story from the Bible."
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Advent Conspiracy

My friend Chris shared this information with me yesterday in response to my post "Struggling to Recover Christmas."  It looks like there are others out there who are not wanting to be legalistic with Christmas, but at the same time are taking practical steps to do better with the season.  This is the intro video from adventconspiracy.org.  I think it really sums up what many of us have been feeling as we seek to recover Christmas.


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Struggling to Recover Christmas

It is not difficult to confess how misguided we have become with Christmas.  The difficult part is figuring out how to find our way again.  We are going to exchange gifts as a family, but we have cut back.  Instead of trying to simply fill the wish list, we are trying to be more thoughtful and personal with our choices.  We have chosen a passage to meditate on and talk about throughout the season.  We are involving our daughters in missional acts this season.  But it is still busy, still expensive, and Christmas still feels as if it can be easily lost again this year.
Between family, school, church, the rec. team and a few other odds and ends our daughters are involved with, it seem as if for the next few weeks there is a party every 30 minutes, each of them requiring a $5 - $10 gift.  Before you know it, you’ve spent $60 - $80 on relatively frivolous things.  I know I sound “scrooge-ish” but I guess this year my conscience has been more awakened to the materialistic waste of it all.  An interesting note is that our oldest daughter, who is very conscious of the needs of others, is beginning to question the same things.  She is awakening to the pattern that at Christmas we mostly buy and do without personally connecting to a sense of need or meaning.  Many families in our church have shared the same sort of feelings my wife and I are experiencing.   We know there is something wrong, but with so much social pressure it is very difficult to do anything about it without coming across as The Grinch.
If there is anything in all of this I do not want; I do not want to be Scrooge in Jesus’ name.  I refuse to use my daughters as the objects of our social protest by holding them out of parties.  To do so would not be parenting with grace.  To send them to a party with nothing and tell them that because we love Jesus they must to sit out of the gift exchanges is not edifying to anyone, nor is it the gospel.  If I read the Gospels correctly, Jesus seems to be the sort of guy who would go to a party with a gift just so He could be with the people He sought to save.  Maybe that’s the answer, I don’t know.  Practically what can you do?  Are we to surrender Christmas to culture or are we to rage against the machine?  Where is the balance?  We are struggling not only to justify it, but even to afford it.
All I can say is that at this point, we are talking about it more.  As a family, I think we are sharing more of our struggles and we are seeking more definite ways to apply Scripture.  I hear the content of our prayers changing.  We are talking about moral balance, monetary budgets, and how to exercise grace and refrain from being judgmental.  We have fostered some good ideas on how to calculate not only waste, but ways we can meet the needs of others.  Things are changing, but there are still a lot of questions.
Where are you in your pursuit to “Recover Christmas?”  I am curious to know.  Please share your thoughts.      
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Xmas

So what's the real story behind reducing "Christmas" to "Xmas?"  Is it simple shorthand, an atheistic ploy to rid the world of Christ-mas, or something far more sinister?  The answer may be less offensive than you think.  R.C. Sproul shares what X-mas may actually mean.

Excerpt:

"First of all, you have to understand that it is not the letter X that is put into Christmas. We see the English letter X there, but actually what it involves is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. Christos is the New Testament Greek for Christ. The first letter of the Greek word Christos is transliterated into our alphabet as an X. That X has come through church history to be a shorthand symbol for the name of Christ."

"We don’t see people protesting the use of the Greek letter theta, which is an O with a line across the middle. We use that as a shorthand abbreviation for God because it is the first letter of the word Theos, the Greek word for God."

Read the rest of the article at: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/x-christmas/







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Christmas: A Candid History (Book Review)

Christmas: A Candid HistoryOne book I would recommend in researching the history of Christmas is Bruce David Forbes' Christmas, A Candid History.  I usually refrain from recommending books I have not read completely, but yesterday I finally finished this one, I think.  I have used this book as a primary historical resource for the “Recovering Christmas” series and in doing so, I have not read it consecutively, but in sections.  I have criss crossed, highlighted, and notated it, and I must say it is very entertaining, easy to read, and incredibly interesting.  As far as its historical accuracy, I have found that when it comes to Christmas, as stated in my previous post, there are many versions of the legends, but always similarities.  At most every point I have cross referenced Forbes‘ information with other historians and he holds consistent with reliable sources.   

The author is a fellow believer, a United Methodist, and a religious studies professor, who seems to be struggling, like many of us, with the indulgences we associate with Christmas.  "On the one hand, I love the music, lights, and family gatherings along with the story of the Christ child, shepherds, and wise men, and the messages of generosity, love, joy, and peace.  On the other hand I am frustrated by how hectic and commercialized the season has become, and worried that all of the cultural trappings can overwhelm spiritual aspects of Christmas."  His introduction is an apt description of how many of us feel during this season, but really don’t know what to do with what we know has gone wrong. 

This is the profit of history.  History explains why we are as we are and how we may be able to make some corrections.    As a preacher I am not big on rote historical recitations.  I look for interpretation and application.  How has history shaped us and what can we learn from it?  I really appreciate Forbes’ work in this respect.  He shares great history and a great message.  For me, the overriding message is that left to itself, Christmas has nothing to do with Christ.  If we want this to be a truly meaningful season for our families, we must be intentional, but careful.  The gospel does not declare itself, nor does Christmas in itself declare Christ.  The message needs the voices of people who have been deeply changed by it.  Throughout history, Christians have been able to do some very meaningful things with the season, some have gone well, others not so much.  We should learn from our mistakes, especially those that explain why Christmas has so easily slipped away from us.  Perhaps the most convicting message I gleaned from the book is that Christ didn’t ask for, command, nor does He need Christmas.  He is who He is without December 25th.  In “The Earliest Centuries” and “Christmas Comes Late,” Forbes shares how the church knew nothing of Christmas for at least 300 years after Christ.  They were a resurrection people.  The birth of Jesus, though important, was not the central message of the early church.  Reading this chapter has challenged me that when it comes to Christmas, sharing the birth narrative is not enough, we must be the gospel incarnate and proclaim its full message if we desire to see people come to Christ. 

Although Forbes claims to be a believer, he seems to purpose his book for a much wider audience.  In appealing to a wider audience Forbes explores some issues and draws a few applications that require discernment.   One such issue, is that early on Forbes makes the very conjecture I warned us about at the outset of this series; critiquing historical tradition is not the same as critiquing the Biblical text.  In a section entitled, “Is The Christmas Story True,” Forbes seems to speculate that since the history of Christmas is so sketchy, and not quite what the church would believe it to be, that the birth narrative of the gospels may need to be questioned as well.  This is an illogical and unnecessary connection.  Just because the church gets it wrong doesn't mean that the Biblical text is errant.  The Bible has enough internal evidence to sustain its own integrity without the interpretations of the church throughout history.  If I could illustrate my point, God was God before people believed upon Him.  He did not become God when people began to believe.  In the same sense I would also say that because all of the horrible mistakes people have made in their application of Scripture, those human errors do not diminish the glory of God.  In the same way, the Bible is the Word of God with or without the church.  The church is fallible and errant and as a result has made some gross mistakes in misapplying or categorically ignoring Scripture in Jesus name.  Though these mistakes have been made by the church the Bible remains infallible and inerrant.  I could by a car manual at Auto Zone and make a horrible mess of an engine.  The horrible mess is not so much as testimony to the manual or its writer as it is to my sheer lack of mechanical skills.  Shade tree mechanic I am not!  

With that said, it is not uncommon to disagree with writers and still appreciate their work.  Disagreement is evidence that we think.  And I am, at some level, comfortable recommending books with which I disagree at various points.  I trust that if you read my blog you are curious, have a desire to learn, and that you are discerning.  Use your brain, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible, you can figure out what's what.  So if you want a great historical read this Christmas, check out Bruce David Forbes’ Christmas, A Candid History.  Even if you did not enjoy it as much as I did, at the very least, once you finish it, you will be awesome at Christmas Trivia! 
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Researching Christmas

I want to recommend some of the resources I have used in researching for this series "Recovering Christmas." Before I do, allow me to strike a few extremes off of the list. By showing you the kinds of things I chose not to use, maybe it will not only save you some time, but also help you form a more balanced opinion of the holiday.

Suffice it to say there are a gazillion websites and books about the history of Christmas. The good news is that when you pull them all together they basically offer only slight variations on the same historical episodes. If you choose to chase the paper trail of the historical Christmas you are going to have to sift through legend. When it comes to Christmas, it is difficult to conclusively verify the origins of many of the season's traditions. In this respect, Christmas is very mythological. For example, there are several legends of the Christmas tree and even more surrounding Santa Claus. Why is gift giving such a big part of the modern Christmas? Hint: there are numerous legends, but the most recent commercial phenomenon has nothing to do with the 3 wise men! Although there is a world of diversity in the legends, I try to find similarities and trust that similarity is a pretty good indicator that I am falling on the version that has become most popular as these stories are transmitted down through the generations. If you can find some strands of similarity in legend, there is probably a nugget of historical truth at the root of it.

I tried to stay away from websites and books that were overly Christian or distinctly atheist. Both extremes have similar agendas, get rid of Christmas. I found neither of those opinions honest nor fun. I found that both extremes fail to be historically accurate, not wanting to admit what most balanced research finds true about the historical roots of Christmas. The atheists want to rid the world of any religious tones of the holiday, wanting us to believe that it has never been anything but a non-religious winter solstice event. Yeah right! The overly Christian resources got a little tacky wanting me to see Jesus in every symbol and tradition in the modern version of Christmas. Yeah right! On a personal note, I must also confess that I immediately exclude any website that plays midi Christmas tunes or uses .gif animation. That stuff is so 2000. I hated it then, and I'm still there.

My point is that if you choose to research this topic, the information out there tends to prey on extremes. Crazy gets attention. If you go to the extremes, you will probably not only lose perspective, but you will probably lose your mind. This is same reason that when some people spend too much time online they either end up in a cult or believing that 9/11 was a conspiracy. It seems that Christmas is another topic that can drive people crazy. With such a wonderful holiday, whether one observes it culturally or religiously, this shouldn’t be the case. As a pastor, I often observe that Christians tend to overreact. Just because Deck the Halls is a song about ancient Norse winter festival decorations does not mean that if you sing the words Fa-La-La-La-La backwards it will cause your kids to sacrifice a goat and worship the devil. Use common sense. Personally, in researching Christmas I have not only been informed, but entertained. It has been fun and convicting. The overriding message in all of it, for me, has been that Christmas, left to itself, means nothing. It becomes a bad version of us. For the church it can become a way to religiously justify ourselves without actually paying attention to Scripture. At large, Christmas is not a reflection of Christ, but a reflection of the culture. In this respect, our current version of Christmas is a glaring indictment of our addiction to material things.

However you work through it all, find good data and make informed decisions about how your family can make this Christmas more meaningful this year.
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The Story of Your Christmas Tree

A couple of weeks ago I shared the history of the Christmas tree in a sermon; no need to rehash it here.   Suffice it to say that the story behind how the Christmas tree made it into your living room is interesting.  If you did not hear that sermon either take a few moments to listen or do some research on your own.  The moral is that every Christmas tree tells a story.  What does your Christmas tree say about you?
Our family Christmas tree says distinctly that we have two daughters.  Between the bows and balls there are princesses.  Our tree says that they played soccer, once, and because it did not go well, now we swim.  Our tree says that on Shannon’s first trip to New Orleans a few weeks ago she learned why the world loves Beignets at Café Du Monde.  Our tree is full of family crafts and pictures that make the tree uniquely us.  Our tree is our story.
As I sat and thought about our tree I wondered if in telling our story, what does it say about our faith?  Does it reflect our conversion to followers of Christ?  That thought took me one step further.  What if my life were an ornament on the tree, there for everyone to see?  If that ornament reflected my secrets, my sins, and the most central values of my soul, what would it say about me?  Most of us would not want that ornament on our tree!  That is exactly why our tree has Disney princesses instead of little “me’s”.  But if I allowed such an ornament to be placed on our tree, would it also have as its central them that at the core of who I am, is Christ?  Would it be able to tell the story that He has conquered everything that I am? 
Take a look at your tree.  It is your story.  For us it is Beignets, princesses, tacky church crafts, and old pictures.  Yet in the midst of it all, throughout our tree is Christ.  We have been converted and His life is woven throughout ours.  If you are a follower of Christ decorate your tree to share your story.  But don’t forget to add the most important aspect of your story to your tree.  Throughout your tree, add some ornaments and symbols that also share how Christ has impacted your life, your family, your story.   
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Should You Tell Your Kids Santa Isn't Real?

There is an argument that Christian parents should not promote belief in Santa with their children for fear that when the child does come to realize there is not a Santa Claus they will also question their belief in God.  Even worse, some fear their children will stop believing in God.  A logical digression of this argument is that Christian parents who choose to “play Santa” with their children are sinning against their children and against God for propagating false belief.  So what are Christians to do about Santa?
1.       Ultimately we must observe the Biblical principles of Christian liberty and conscience.  Life is full of cultural grays, for many Christian parents Santa may be one of them.  In my observation, legalism has caused many more children to rebel against Christ than Santa.  At the same time, if a family holds a sense of Spirit led conviction that Santa is not for their home, I support that conviction.  The Christian community should be one that fosters a sense of love, balance, and respect for one another’s beliefs.  Let the Holy Spirit guide.

2.       If parents practice a nominal form of faith that resembles a fantasy type faith in Santa, then yes, I would think believing in Santa could potentially be a problem.  Personally, we have fun with Santa at our home, but his story moves in and out of our lives seasonally.  Jesus is someone we share with our children daily.  Children do not primarily read a sense of belief, they read devotion.  Who are the parents really committed to?  If devotion to God is on par with devotion to Santa, your kids may indeed have trouble separating the two.

3.       Some parents may fear that while Santa may not lead to disbelief, at the very least he will lead to doubt.  My question here is simple, do you ever doubt?  Does it have anything to do with Santa?  Everyone has doubts.  Part of belief is testing validity.  Part of the Christian life is a constant examination of self to see whether or not we are truly of Christ.  The first article I ever posted on this blog dealt with the doubts of my then first grade daughter.  Those doubts had nothing to do with Santa.  Your kids will have doubts and so will you.  Yet I have faith enough in the Word of God to believe that the gospel and the triune God are powerful enough to conquer doubt.  I would contend that many people allow doubt to become disbelief because they do not compare their doubts to the evidences for faith given to us in Scripture.  When you and your children have doubts, kicking Santa out of the house will not be enough to overcome them, go to the Bible.

4.       When your kids ask about Santa, tell them the truth.  Before we had children Shannon and I talked about the Santa idea and how we would relate as parents.  From those conversations, the Branam policy became, if they asked, we would tell them the truth.  For her first 7 years, we had an interesting experience with our oldest daughter.  Every summer she had to learn how to swim again; and almost every Christmas she believed in Santa even though the previous year she had asked and we had told her that he wasn’t real.  She seemed to have a selective, seasonal memory.  Kids are kids.  Answer their questions.  They will probably ask them again.
So whether or not you choose to allow Santa down your chimney, what are the positive principles for Christian parents here?  Be devoted to Christ.  For parents who play Santa, your kids should see a distinct difference between your devotion to Christ and Santa.  In our house, there is no comparison.  For parents who choose to close the door to Santa, they too should be more devoted to Christ than they are to Santa (or in this case conquering the story of Santa).  My wife says that some people can “find the devil in a dollar.”  What she is describing are people who live constantly in fear thinking every component of culture is a conspiracy of the devil to shipwreck faith.  While I do believe Satan is very much alive and active, I don’t lead my family to find him.  Families should concentrate on Christ, not the devil. 
Whatever you choose to do with Santa this year, make it your aim that in all things Christ be preeminent (Col 1:18).  
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Santa Claus (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

As the finale to every holiday parade and the hero of almost every Christmas movie, Santa Claus has become a beloved icon of the season. He has been given several names through the years, most notably, St. Nick. While history and legend propose ideas on the significance of this name, we know that his “sainthood” was bestowed primarily for his goodwill and generosity. However, as believers, we too have been called to be saints, not for anything we have done, but because of what Jesus did for us. As saints of God, we are to be proclaiming the excellencies of Christ.

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The Christmas Tree (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

Many of our current Christmas traditions have evolved and changed as they have been passed down through time, cultures, and even religions. The Christmas tree is yet another icon of the season that modern Christians have claimed and perpetuated through society. However, the tragedy is that we tend to evangelize our traditions much better than our faith. What are we really communicating to the world around us about this holiday, our decorations or our God?

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Recovering Christmas (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

Over time Christians have claimed and transformed the holiday of Christmas as their own. In truth, this celebration is rooted in secular festivals of the winter season. While it is a good thing to redeem the culture and even its holidays for the cause of Christ, in our actions, we have disconnected our lives from the very one we claim we are celebrating. We are instead now connecting more with our chosen holiday- Christmas, Easter, Sunday, etc. than we are to its substance, the gospel. These holy days should be a time of remembrance and preparation for our Christ who is no longer a baby, but our returning conquering King.

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Chrismons

Last week I spent time with family for Thanksgiving.  For the better part of this week I have been in New Orleans.  I am a little behind on posting.  Tonight I have just enough time to offer a suggestion that pertains to our current series on Recovering Christmas, and point you to a related website.  Last Sunday, as part of the sermon, we talked about the history and evolution of the tradition of the Christmas tree.  I drew attention to the idea that our Christmas trees tell a story.  I challenged everyone to evaluate their Christmas traditions, especially their tree, and see if it includes your story of conversion. 

Another idea that may add meaning to your Christmas tree is the Chrismons.  I was not familiar with the Chrismons until my time as pastor of Lantana Road Baptist Church in Crossville, TN.  Each year the church held a traditional service that involved decorating the sanctuary Christmas tree.  When I think ornaments, I think silver balls, bells, garland, lights, and candy canes.  The people of LRBC were hanging Greek letters, crosses, and ancient Christian symbols.  It wasn’t your typical “Christmas in Dixie.”  Later someone took the time to fill in the blanks and shared with me the idea of the Chrismons.

The story behind the Chrismons as well as associated resources can all be found at http://www.chrismon.org/site/chrismon/about.htm.  Perhaps this information will help spawn some ideas that you may be able to use to make your family tree more meaningful this Christmas.
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Non-Christian Historians and Non-Historical Christians

Historians who are not Christians and Christians who are not historians often make two critical errors. Error # 1: Historians who are not Christians believe that unearthing an inaccuracy within Christian tradition grants liberty to also attack the Biblical text. For instance, if historians can prove that the Christian holiday of Christmas does not have the origins most Christians assume it to have, then they also have warrant to doubt that the birth narratives of Jesus contained in the Bible are also suspect.  This is the glaring error of the History Channel and most books about the history of Christmas. Error # 2: Christians who are not historians may assume something traditional to be Biblical. Christian holidays are full of this type of conjecture. Ironically many of our traditional errors and biblical remixes are due to our sacred songs. The Christmas season is full of songs so familiar to us that their images have made it into our nativity scenes, but they are nowhere to be found in the Biblical text. In many respects, these two mistakes, being overly critical and/or being overly traditional, account for much of what has gone wrong with Christmas.

On one hand are a zealous group of Christian believers who propagate Christ as the "reason for the season. On the opposite hand are a zealous group of historians who investigate and find that Jesus actually had very little to do with what has become the holiday of Christmas. Between the two are a massive group of secular materialists, also known as shoppers, who are wondering what all the fuss is about. Some of them are historical. Some of them are Christian. Most of them are neither. All they know is that Christmas ushers in the bargain season. There is joy in the world because the stores are full of good deals. The truth of the matter is that in a materialistic Western culture rooted in Greco-Roman philosophy, Christmas has come from so much, and has become so much, that Jesus Christ has very little to do with what is actually going on.

Over the next six weeks we will be endeavoring to "Recover Christmas" both in blog and in sermon. As we progress, there will arise two mistaken emotions from the Non-Christian historians and from the Non-historical Christians. One will be a deep seated feeling of satisfaction in the non-Christian historians. These people feel that in unveiling the pagan roots of Christmas we are somehow undercutting the integrity of the gospel. I assure you that in the next six weeks this will not happen. Tradition is not Biblical text! The other emotion will be a mixture of fear and frustration from the non-historical Christian who just wants to believe, regardless of history. This person may become fearful that the integrity of their faith is being questioned and in the end they will be exposed as having believed a lie. I also assure you, this will not happen. Yet again, I remind you, tradition is not Biblical text!

So how are we to reconcile the two: non-Christian historians and non-historical Christians? I think there are three critical principles we need to observe:

  1. A historical analysis of tradition is not the same as a critical analysis of Scripture. The Christian church may hold so strongly to a tradition that it may masquerade it as doctrinal faith. Throughout history, many traditions have often been proven unfounded, unbiblical, and lacking integrity all together. We sort of made a mess of the whole idea that the Earth was the center of the universe. Not good! Yet, although the church had this interpretation of Scripture HORRIBLY wrong, our mistake was not God's mistake. The text of the Bible did not change. Our interpretations of the text changed. Just because the church may have something wrong does not mean that the Biblical text has it wrong. Disproving tradition is NOT the same as disproving the Bible.

  2. Historical analysis is profitable in that it can help us remove unhealthy traditions that cloud the integrity of our faith and the gospel. Non-historical Christians are prone to mistake tradition as Scripture. This has become most often true with Christmas. Christmas stands in dire need of recovery both in history and in Scripture. There are many images, plots, and symbols that are a part of the Christmas season that most Christians believe to be a part of the Biblical narrative. Secular intellects are watching us do this and they are entertained by our mistakes. It is critical for Christians to read the Biblical text and appreciate history so that we can hold to faith and enjoy tradition with accuracy and integrity.

  3. Just because a holiday has evolved into something far different than it once was, or arose much later than the event it celebrates, does not mean that 1) its meaning cannot be recovered or 2) that it has become completely sinful or historically dishonest to observe it. Just because the entire world didn't throw Jesus a birthday party when he turned 1, or even 300, doesn't mean Christmas is pagan, unchristian and wrong. The Christian church has a history of overcorrecting at times and becoming entirely unhealthy and legalistic in its reactions to truth. Historians have a history of overcorrecting and becoming nothing more than skeptics. As we investigate Christmas over the next six weeks let us become neither legalistic nor skeptical. Let us recover our focus on the gospel.

My prayer in this is simple, that we become educated historically and edified biblically. We need, Christmas or no-Christmas, to return to the essence of our faith, Christ. "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."
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Recovering Christmas

On Sunday I will begin a series of 6 sermons on “Recovering Christmas.” My ambitions may exceed my abilities (or the time allowed), but in this series I am trying to draw together several themes:

1) What are the historical roots of Christmas as we know it? How did the holiday evolve into its current forms? I will trace how the Christian church tried to influence what was at one time a purely pagan ritual and infuse it with the gospel. Did you know that historically Christmas was more like modern day Mardi Gras so much so that the Puritans banned its celebration in the colonies? Is Christmas returning to its pagan heritage? Has it ever really forsaken it? How can we infuse Christmas with the gospel again?

2) What parts of Christmas are Biblical, what parts are merely traditional, and what parts are completely commercial? Some people may think that some of the elements we associate with Christmas came out of the Bible when in actuality they come from sources such as Charles Dickens. What is the true Biblical story of Christmas? 


3) Christmas is full of decorations. It is easy to become so cluttered with decorations that the gospel is choked out of Christmas completely. Yet here we will explore some of the symbols and rituals of Christmas the church has used through the centuries to help communicate the gospel message. What are some simple things you can do as a family to recover the meaningful messages and symbols of Christmas?


4) Finally, we are in the midst of a recession, or are we? Who knows? In any event, Christmas has become expensive and complicated. What are some practical ways you and your family can cut the budget and recover the simplicity of Christmas?

I promise you two things with this series. 1) I am not going to demand that we throw our Christmas trees to the curb and be bored in Jesus name this Christmas. This will not be a call for legalism! 2) I promise you that I will not be preaching 2 hour sermons for the next 6 weeks. Although, as I have been researching for this series there is no doubt enough material here for some lengthy presentations. Perhaps I will blog as we move forward and point you to some resources along the way. That way, we may not only save ourselves from lengthy sermons, but also foster a profitable and resourceful dialogue. Let’s work creatively this year to recover Christmas.
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A Random Act of Gospel

Just in case you haven't seen this clip.  The Opera Company of Philadelphia calls this a "random act of culture" but think of what is really happening here.  People in a retail environment are suddenly inspired to begin singing about the omnipotent reign of Jesus Christ, Lordship, and salvation.  If only we as a church could become this inspiring!

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