Christmas Thought – 2017

Christmas is here again. My thoughts this year have been on relationships and the application of love in our Christian lives. I’ve been going over the passages of the “Greatest Commandment” in consideration of John’s teaching in 1 John. Writing about 1 John as I am, right now, I’ve been touched by John’s continued use of love. One verse really touched me as I went through 1 John:

“He who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”

(1 John 2:10 BOGV)

This verse impressed on me something I knew already, but had forgotten – or hadn’t gotten in my bones yet (as one of the Elders of the Willamette Bible Chapel says) – along the way. It brings to mind the conversation Jesus had about the “Greatest Commandment”. Jesus said the whole of the Old Testament (the Law and Prophets) depends on the love of God and love of our neighbors. In a clarifying parable we see in loving his neighbor the Samaritan took care of a person in need. At Christmas we are told it is better to give than receive and numerous other aphorisms of taking care of those around us.

What is one of the greatest ways we can take care of our neighbors? Taking care of their needs? Yes, of course, but what is, arguably, everyone’s biggest need? Eternal Salvation? So often, we get so caught up in Christmas we forget what makes it important and it’s not Jesus’ birth. (Muslims even believe in the virgin birth (Qur’an 3:47; 66:12) and yet miss the purpose of the miracle.) The importance of Christmas, and the virgin birth, comes from it being the first sign about Jesus.

We should be using it as a means of pointing our friends, family, and neighbors to Jesus, and His work on the cross. Through this we show love for others and are able to show we remain in the light. Keep this in mind through your celebrations this year. Celebrate Jesus, not just for the miraculous conception and birth, but for Him setting us free from sin and condemnation.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have a blessed and wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Christmas Thought – 2016

Christmas has come upon us again. As people begin the celebration of this season, whether they are celebrating one form or another, many people ask “What’s the reason for the season?” Personally, I don’t celebrate what is traditionally considered “Christmas”, but I typically end up celebrating “Easter” twice a year. To me Christmas is and what it stands for (the birth of Christ) doesn’t have very much meaning.

I do not mean Christ’s birth is meaningless, I only mean His birth only has meaning if He did what the Gospels say He did. This is true across religions even. Muslims believe in the virgin birth, they believe in His miracles, and in fact they ascribe more powers to Jesus then do the Gospels. They do not, however, believe in His death and resurrection, which makes His birth meaningless to them except as a story of mythic proportions. Easter, or the event we celebrate at Easter, is the only thing which brings purpose to Jesus’ birth.

As far as importance goes we also can look at the New Testament for dates. The NT is very clear on the day in which Jesus was crucified, but it doesn’t give the slightest clue as to when He was born (except for it wasn’t winter). This points us to the importance of events. Something else which allows us to see importance is how often are the events repeated across the four Gospels. The traditional Christmas story is only put down in two of the four Gospels, but the death and resurrection is written about in all four Gospels. (By this logic Christ’s ministry and the events which took place during His ministry are more important than His birth.)

So as you celebrate Christmas take a moment to reflect on the reason for the season, and note it is not Christ’s birth which makes it so important, but what He did for us which does so. I hope you all have a merry Christmas this year.

Christmas Thought – 2015

Today is the day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Christmas really is a weird time. It was chosen by the Roman Catholic Church to bring in all the pagans who were already practicing a festival on that day. So as we all know Jesus wasn’t really born on Christmas day. It really is as good a day to celebrate as any other, arbitrary, day.

But putting aside all this for a second I look at Christmas for Christmas’ sake. What is the purpose of Christmas? In all honesty I grew up in a household that, although Christian, did not celebrate Christmas. (No, we were not JWs.) So as something that I do celebrate now with my wife and daughter, I have to ask that question. In today’s Christianity what purpose does Christmas have?

Sadly, for a lot of people, it means they go to church (for the first time since Easter) hear all about the virgin birth and (maybe) a gospel message, then they go home. Later on Christmas day they open presents they’ve been worked all year to buy. In this hypothetical person’s life consumerism has obviously taken the lead in Christmas. Is this what Christmas is about? Blatant and unabated consumerism? For others it is all about balancing out their imaginary scales of right and wrong, the scales of karma, if you will. Volunteering, baking, helping others, giving gifts (consumerism again), and spending time (read putting up with) family top the list of things that add positive karma.

Is any of that Christmas? Pastors over the years have come up with many great sermons as to the “Biblical Christmas” or the “Message of Christmas” but I ask you to find in the Bible where it actually talks about Christmas. Yes the “Christmas Story” is there at or near the beginning of three of the four Gospels, but that is missing the point. The Bible is silent on all of our holidays.

Christmas’ purpose? We can read in Matthew of His birth and the visit of the wise men (which was not on the day of His birth). We can read another account of His birth and the visit of the shepherds (which disproves a winter date) in Luke. But these do not readily point out the purpose of Christmas. I think the Gospel that has a “Christmas Story” that points out its purpose the best is John’s Gospel. In the prologue to John’s Gospel (John 1:1–18) John gives a summary of the whole Gospel.

John shows us how God came to earth to take away the sin of the world and allow believers to become children of God. Some have said that the Gospel of John does not have a Christmas story, much like the Gospel of Mark. I, however, think it has one of the most complete Christmas stories, without having to read the whole Gospel through to figure it out. It even mentions His birth (“And the Word became flesh” verse 14).

We briefly touched on its purpose, but really Christmas has no meaning without the cross and resurrection. Jesus could have come all the same way He did and without the cross and resurrection it would mean nothing. That is what I am remembering this Christmas season and I hope you will too. As you spend time with family and give and receive gifts I pray you will remember Christmas’ purpose. That all the sin of the whole world was taken away once and for all and whoever believes in Jesus as their savior will have eternal life.

Merry Christmas Everyone!