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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

I just wanted to point out an awesome little series of posts by Richard Beck on Christmas

http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2008/11/everything-i-learned-about-christmas-i.html
http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2008/12/everything-i-learned-about-christmas-i.html
http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2007/12/everything-i-learned-about-christmas-i_04.html

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In my prior post (https://scottpd.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/beyond-a-birthday-incarnation-as-an-outreach/) I focused on Christmas being a representation of the bridging of the gap between man and God. In this post I want to delve a bit more into what Christmas itself reveals to us about God. The Jews were expecting a king, a divine ruler to set them free of the oppression of the Romans and restore the glory of God. What they received however was not a king, not a military or political leader, but a son of a carpenter. In hindsight, it is easy to see that the prophets had foreseen a new type of king for a different type of kingdom who would bring with him a new covenant and a different law; why is it that the Jews did not see this? The answer lies in the way we perceive God. The Jews perceived God as mighty, powerful, and Kingly, worthy of worship and obedience. They viewed their God as one who was kind to His people and terrifying to those opposed to Him or those who broke the covenant.  In many ways parts of us (and parts of Christianity) see God the same way; we see God as a sovereign lord reining over the earth, who is awesome in power. With this mindset we tend to look for God in the big pictures and the big events. We look at where God is moving in global organizations, governments, the rich, our political leaders etc. So why would we expect the Jews to behave differently? If God is ruling the earth (a political term) then that is where we expect to see God, and the Jews were no different. They were looking for God in high places.

But Christmas shatters this view. Jesus was born in a dark stable, the son of poor, lower class Jews, visited by lowly shepherds.  Jesus was not in the high places, the elite and political, the rich and powerful, but rather he was among the poor and weak, lower echelons of society. God communicates by Jesus’ very birth that we need to start looking for Him in the right places. God’s heart is not in ruling and symbols of earthly power, but in humility and love, sacrifice and hardship. God’s new kingdom is not about politics, not about moral laws and commandments. It is about a new law written in our hearts, and a transformation within and without and fellowship and love toward our neighbors. The reason Jesus says it is near impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven has little to do with the possession of riches. It has everything to do with how the rich and elite view God. God is not working in their picture and in their worldviews. They need to give it up, to start looking for God in the right places. In places that manifest His true character. When God’s sovereignty is emphasized above His other characteristics, He becomes a political God whose laws are to be obeyed; this God is a God that is too big. People who interpret big events to be God’s will naturally have trouble interpreting and justifying what God is doing. God is not interested in what we call the big picture, He is interested in transforming the weak and humble so that they might show the strong and powerful what is truly important; relationships of love. That God, the God of Christmas, is much Greater than the God of Sovereignty.
 

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I wanted to do a few posts on Christmas this December since I think it is the largest Christian holiday but has the least content of any holiday. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ and I think, especially as one with a Protestant upbringing, that we have de-emphasized God’s incarnation through Christ in highlighting death/resurrection/atonement so that Christmas in nothing more than a big American birthday celebration. I have come to realize that Christmas is very important beyond a mere birthday commemoration and so I want to take this first post to talk about God’s incarnation in Christ as an outreach to man.

Luke 2
8
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This passage has a lot in it but what is most important here is that the angel says “do not be afraid for I bring you good news…” Unlike the prophets who had been sent earlier by God to bring judgment and call God’s people to repentance, Jesus comes with good news for all men. Jesus comes as a gift from God and is an outreach to all of mankind; an offer of peace for all those with whom he is pleased.

This is one of the most imperative things about Christmas. God is not sending a prophet with news that people need to return to God or face judgment; rather, He is sending Himself to reveal something new and something great.

I think the incarnation of God is an idea that we often lose sight of because of our narrow focus on atonement. The gap between God and man is not just a gap of sin but also one of understanding. In the Old Testament God has tried to reveal Himself to Israel over and over and sometimes they get it; Moses on the mountain understands the glory of God; David; Jonah; the Prophets; but in transmission, the Hebrews continually see God as a head deity/law giver. Jesus comes to bridge that gap, to give a concrete way for us to really understand the nature of God. He does this not by changing us, but by becoming one of us. In a way which is just as important as dealing with our sin which separates us from God, Jesus allows us to actually relate to God and bridges that gap of understanding.
John 14
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.

There is something more to bridging this gap that the Bible reveals. Not only do we now have a way to understand who God is through his Incarnation in Christ but also God has more intimate knowledge of us because of it. The Bible suggests that God, through walking in our shoes, has a greater pathological knowledge of us and so, a greater empathy for the human situation.

Hebrews 4:14-16
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

So beyond the birthday, Christmas is a time that we can celebrate that we have a God who is not content to leave us separated from Him but is willing to come walk in our shoes and reveal Himself to us in a way we can truly understand. It is also a time to celebrate that we have a God who was willing to become the least so that He might know us more fully and so that we might have confidence in that.

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Happy Holidays?

A Quick Word on the Fight for Christmas

For years there has been a Christian baclash against the supposed secularization of Christmas. All I have to say is that for businesses who’s declared goal is to exploit December to promote material wants and make profit, perhaps its better if they leave the Christ out of Christmas. Better that they say happy holidays than pretend that what goes on in a walmart in December has anything to do with Christ.

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