Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Price of Christmas

by John Richard, ACTION Missionary

Scripture Readings: Matthew 1:18-21; 2:16-18; Luke 2:33-35

Since we are called to celebrate a Christian Christmas, we need to remind ourselves of an important truth, namely, that there was a price to be paid by those connected with the Christmas event.

Nine Observations:
1. The parting that the Father underwent
2. The poverty that the Son embraced
3. The condescension that the Spirit showed
4. The shame that Mary endured
5. The stigma that Joseph carried
6. The anguish that the Bethlehem homes suffered
7. The interruption that the shepherds experienced
8. The trouble that the wise men took
9. The sword that Mary anticipated

1. The parting that the Father underwent
Of His own accord did God, the Father, part with His only begotten Son, the Son of His love. There was no other way to rescue fallen man. That was Christmas.

2. The poverty that the Son endured
God, the Son, had to vacate the richest place in heaven, even the bosom of the Father. Though He was rich, yet He became poor. How poor? Not as a king born in a royal chamber did He come. In lowly birth He came. So lowly that His cradle was the manger. His curtains were the cobwebs, and His companions, the oxen and the donkeys.

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem homes was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity;
The foxes found rest and the birds their rest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod
In the deserts of Galilee.

That was Christmas.

3. The condescension that the Spirit showed
God, the Holy Spirit, condescended to come upon a virgin, who like every other human, was stained with original sin. He had to purify her womb and make it meet to bear the Holy One, the sinless Son of God. That was Christmas.

4. The shame that Mary endured

Mary made her body available for the incredible thing to be performed in her and through her. An event that set wagging tongues cast aspersions on her chastity. That was Christmas.

5. The stigma that Joseph carried
Joseph fared no better than Mary. Undoubtedly, he had fathered Jesus ! It could not be otherwise. This palming off the responsibility to the Holy Spirit. Whoever can swallow such a story? Don’t you see Joseph could not after all put away Mary? That was Christmas.

6. The anguish that the Bethlehem homes suffered
The Bethlehem mothers had to witness the awful spectacle of seeing their two-year old baby boys slain under their very eyes. Screams of anguish arose from Ramah. Rachel was weeping for her children unrestrainedly. That was Christmas.

7. The interruption that the shepherds experienced
The shepherds had to act on the angelic announcement. For them it meant leaving their flock and going with haste to seek out the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. They were prepared to have their normal pastoral life disturbed. That was Christmas.

8. The trouble that the wise men took

The wise men, too, took a long arduous journey. All the way from the East led by a star to a place they knew not where. More than that they presented the Babe with their choicest treasures: gold, symbolic of Christ, the King; frankincense, symbolic of Christ, the priest; and myrrh , symbolic of Christ, the prophet. That was Christmas.

9. The sword that Mary anticipated
Remember Simeon’s message to Mary at the Jerusalem Temple: “A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many in Israel …” That was Christmas.

What does Christmas mean to you?
A voluntary giving up of a prized darling?
A willingness to quit the comfort of security?
A willingness to be ridiculed and reproached for the sake of Christ?
A willingness to soil our hands with unlovely things?
A willingness to give of our sons and daughters to defend the cause of Christ?
A willingness to have the daily pattern of our lives disturbed?
A willingness to take hazardous duties?
A willingness to part with our material wealth?

If these be evidenced in you, then Christ’s coming is not in vain.

Christmas is really paying the price of Christian discipleship. And discipleship is an affair of great cost. It may cost a man his life; it may cost him lifelong separation from his nearest relatives; it may set him at variance with his loved ones; it may require him to pack up and go wherever Christ may send him; it will require of him the sacrifice of ease and self-indulgence; it will make demands upon his time, his money, his talents.

In short, he has to give his heart to Christ and make himself available to do His bidding according to His good pleasure.

“Tho’ Christ a thousand times
In Bethlehem be born,
If He’s not born in thee
Thy soul is still forlorn.” (Angelus Silesius)
-- John Richard

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Should We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Well, it’s “the most wonderful time of year” again! That familiar phrase from the well-known Christmas song is at once both an exciting statement as well as a confusing sentence. Simply put, our world is a realm which is chronically drunk with frequent incremental celebrations throughout the year, most of which are void of any substantial purpose for our lives. And chief among those celebrations is the “Christmas” time of year.

The time of year of Christ’s birth can be deduced from both the Bible and secular history as NOT being during the month of December, let alone being specifically on December 25th! In fact, most conservative NT scholars say the time of Christ’s birth was probably springtime or an early fall event. The reason for the late December dating was no doubt a Romanesque touch which added yet another celebration to its calendar! I am sure that their thinking went like something like this, “Why not add another celebration to our pantheon of parties which celebrates the virgin birth of Jesus (which was really a virgin conception, not a birth)!? So, in considering the pagan origin of December 25th, is there still Scriptural warrant for celebrating the birth of the Son of God – especially at this time of year? The answer is a resounding yes!

There are two key texts: Matthew 2:9-11(esv) reads, after listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh; and Luke 2:18-20 (esv), And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The shepherds were mere men. We are mere men, women and children. They praised God and worshipped at the news that the Savior of the world had arrived into His very own sin-soaked world (Colossians 1:16). Now that’s news to celebrate!!

Pastor Jerry Marcellino
Audubon Drive Bible Church

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is There Really More to be Done?

One of the biggest concerns for mission leaders is that we start to think the job is finished. We need to celebrate when many come to Christ. The angels in heaven rejoice when just one sinner comes to repentance. But we must inform ourselves about the realities, and guard against the feeling that there is no more work to do:

The truth is, 4.4 billion people on our planet do not know Jesus.

The truth is, currently, at least 1.87 billion people live in areas with no gospel presence at all (World A).

The truth is, in spite of major growth efforts, the percentage of people who call themselves Christian around the world has stayed essentially the same since the beginning of the 1900s (about 34%). We haven’t grown percentage-wise for the past 100 years. [Barrett and Johnson, World Christian Trends, 40; Market, “Global Christianity.”]
The truth is that 6500 people groups still do not have a Christian witness at all.

The truth is…we are not there yet. [Page 64]

Source: Sylvia Foth, Daddy Are We There Yet? (A global check-in on the world of mission and kids), Kidzana Ministries, Mukilteo, 2009