Daily Archives: December 15, 2013

Someone Once Said …

   The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.—J. I. Packer

•     The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable.—Ralph W. Sockman, nineteenth-century Methodist pastor

•     Let us not flutter too high, but remain by the manger and the swaddling clothes of Christ, “in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.—Martin Luther

•     I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.—Better Homes and Gardens

•     God bless us, every one.—Tiny Tim, from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol[1]

 


[1] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., pp. 107–108). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Right Now Counts Forever: Marley’s Message to Scrooge by R. C. Sproul

BAH! HUMBUG! These two words are instantly associated with Charles Dickens’s immortal fictional antihero, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge was the prototype of the Grinch who stole Christmas, the paradigm of all men cynical.

We all recognize that Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean person—stingy, insensitive, selfish, and unkind. What we often miss in our understanding of his character is that he was preeminently profane. “Bah! Humbug!” was his Victorian use of profanity.

Not that any modern editor would feel the need to delete Scrooge’s expletives. His language is not the standard currency of cursing. But it was profane in that Scrooge demeaned what was holy. He trampled on the sanctity of Christmas. He despised the sacred. He was cynical toward the sublime.

Christmas is a holiday, indeed the world’s most joyous holiday. It is called a “holiday” because the day is holy. It is a day when businesses close, when families gather, when churches are filled, and when soldiers put down their guns for a 24-hour truce. It is a day that differs from every other day.

Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of them. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history murmur that Christmas isn’t biblical. The Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras, the nay-sayers complain. Christmas? A mere capitulation to paganism.

And so we rain on Jesus’ parade and assume an olympian detachment from the joyous holiday. All this carping is but a modern dose of Scroogeism, our own sanctimonious profanation of the holy.

Sure, Christmas is a time of commerce. The department stores are decorated to the hilt, the ad pages of the newspapers swell in size, and we tick off the number of shopping days left until Christmas. But why all the commerce? The high degree of commerce at Christmas is driven by one thing: the buying of gifts for others. To present our friends and families with gifts is not an ugly, ignoble vice. It incarnates the amorphous “spirit of Christmas.” The tradition rests ultimately on the supreme gift God has given the world. God so loved the world, the Bible says, that He gave His only begotten Son. The giving of gifts is a marvelous response to the receiving of such a gift. For one day a year at least, we taste the sweetness inherent in the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

What about putting Christ back into Christmas? It is simply not necessary. Christ has never left Christmas. “Jingle Bells” will never replace “Silent Night.” Our holiday once known as Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming known simply as “Turkey Day.” But Christmas is still called Christmas. It is not called “Gift Day.” Christ is still in Christmas, and for one brief season the secular world broadcasts the message of Christ over every radio station and television channel in the land. Never does the church get as much free air time as during the Christmas season.

Not only music but the visual arts are present in abundance, bearing testimony to the historic significance of the birth of Jesus. Christmas displays, creches, Christmas cards, yard displays all remind the world of the sacred Incarnation.

Doesn’t Santa Claus paganize or at least trivialize Christmas? He’s a myth, and his very mythology casts a shadow over the sober historical reality of Jesus. Not at all. Myths are not necessarily bad or harmful. Every society creates myths. They are a peculiar art form invented usually to convey a message that is deemed important by the people. When a myth is passed off as real history, that is fraud. But when it serves a different purpose it can be healthy and virtuous. Kris Kringle is a mythical hero, not a villain. He is pure fiction—but a fiction used to illustrate a glorious truth.

What about the historical origins of Christmas as a substitute for a pagan festival? I can only say, good for the early Christians who had the wisdom to flee from Mithras and direct their zeal to the celebration of the birth of Christ. Who associates Christmas today with Mithras? No one calls it “Mithrasmas.”

We celebrate Christmas because we cannot eradicate from our consciousness our profound awareness of the difference between the sacred and the profane. Man, in the generic sense, has an incurable propensity for marking sacred space and sacred time. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the ground that was previously common suddenly became uncommon. It was now holy ground—sacred space. When Jacob awoke from his midnight vision of the presence of God, he anointed with oil the rock upon which he had rested his head. It was sacred space.

When God touches earth, the place is holy. When God appears in history, the time is holy. There was never a more holy place than the city of Bethlehem, where the Word became flesh. There was never a more holy time than Christmas morning when Emmanuel was born. Christmas is a holiday. It is the holiest of holy days. We must heed the warning of Jacob Marley: “Don’t be a Scrooge” at Christmas. ▲[1]

 


[1] Sproul, R. C. (1993). Right Now Counts Forever: Marley’s Message to Scrooge. (R. C. Sproul Jr., Ed.)Tabletalk Magazine, December 1993: Marley’s Message to Scrooge, 5–6.

The Joy and Music of Christmas (Study Guide)

 

In this lesson we examine the universal phenomenon of the music of joy and celebration at Christmas.

Outline

One of the hallmarks of the Christmas season around the world is the playing and singing of holiday hymns and music. In light of that, have we ever stopped to ask ourselves why this is so? And even more important, where did this music of joy and celebration originate?

The answers to these questions—taken directly from the pages of Scripture—are sure to deepen their meaning.

I.  There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because Old Testament Prophecies Were Fulfilled

II.  There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Problem of Sin Has Been Resolved

III.  There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Pain of the Lowly and Forgotten Has Been Remembered

IV.  There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Possibility of Peace Is Renewed in Our Hearts

V.  There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Purpose of Life Is Illustrated in the Songs of the Nativity

VI.  There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Predictions of Christ’s Second Coming Are Secure

Overview

Christianity is a religion of song. Agnosticism has no carols. Confucianism and Brahminism have no anthems or alleluias. Dreary, weird dirges reveal no hope for the present or for the future. Christianity, however, is filled with music. Only the message of Christ puts a song in a person’s heart.

When you have Christ in your heart, when you know what Christmas is all about, something changes inside of you, and a melody starts to form that you can’t really control. It is unlike any other belief system.

As we read the stories of Christmas in the book of Luke, we find six different songs recorded almost back-to-back: the “Beatitude of Elizabeth,” when she was visited by Mary; the “Magnificat of Mary,” Mary’s song; the “Benedictus of Zacharias,” the father of John the Baptist; the “Song of Simeon,” when he was presented with the Christ Child at the temple; the “Evangel Song” of the angel of the Lord over the plains; and, finally, the “Gloria” of the angelic hosts. When Jesus came into the world, poetry expressed itself and music was reborn.

Why do we sing during the Christmas season? Everywhere we go, every time we turn on the radio or television, every time we go to a shopping center, someone is playing or singing Christmas music. If we didn’t know what it was all about, it could really be irritating! There’s nothing worse than knowing that somebody is truly filled with joy, but not understanding why—wishing you had it, but not understanding how to get it.

Why are we so filled with joy and music at this season of the year? What is it about Christmas that makes us want to sing?

Several reasons are illustrated by the songs in Luke 2.

There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because Old Testament Prophecies Were Fulfilled

When Christ was born, one of the reasons for great songs in the hearts of people was that the prophecies of the Old Testament had at last been fulfilled.

In Simeon’s song recorded in Luke chapter 2:25–32, we get some understanding of the Jews’ longing for the fulfillment of prophecy. “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Somehow, for some reason, Simeon had been given a word from the Lord that he would live until the Messiah was born. Every day he probably wondered, “Is this the day when prophecy will be fulfilled?” All of his life he had longed for the Messiah. Simeon was well-acquainted with Isaiah 40–55, which tells about the nature of the coming of the Messiah. The joy of seeing those prophecies fulfilled kept Simeon alive until at last, one day, in the temple, he had the joy of seeing the Messiah Himself. Simeon, then, is an illustration of all those who awaited the coming of Christ.

The Old Testament is filled with prophecies of the coming of Messiah in such a specific way that most Jewish people had a tendency to read right over it and miss the significance of what the prophets were saying. Micah, for instance, said that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Daniel actually gave a timetable of how this was going to happen. Isaiah said that Messiah would be born of a virgin, something that had never happened before. Jeremiah said Christ’s birth would be accompanied by the slaughter of many children. Hosea revealed that at a certain time they would have to go into Egypt to spare the life of the Child.

All of these prophecies were given 500 to 700 years before the birth of Christ; and there were devout Jews who every day would read the Scriptures, ponder these verses, and wonder, “Will that happen in my lifetime? Will I see the Messiah?”

So, when Christ was born, and it became apparent that this was indeed the Messiah, they were filled with joy, and they burst forth into song and excitement.

Consider the incredible nature of the prophecies concerning the coming of Christ. For example, in 700 b.c. Micah prophesied that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. What possibility is there of any man, by his own wisdom, predicting the birthplace of someone not yet born? There is no possibility at all. If we examine every piece of American literature down to the year 1830, we will not find one phrase even suggesting that a future president of the United States would some day be born in Harlan County, Kentucky. But Micah the prophet put his finger on one of the smallest countries in the world, Israel, designated one of the twelve provinces in which the Messiah was to be born—namely, Judah—and within that province, put his finger on one small village called Bethlehem, and said it was there that Messiah would be born. David is the only king of Judah who had ever been born in Bethlehem. All the other kings, generation after generation until Judah fell, were born in the royal city of Jerusalem. Most of them probably were born in the palace. So, if prophets of Micah’s day had guessed the birthplace of Jesus, they never would have guessed Bethlehem. They would have guessed Jerusalem, where kings would normally be born.

It was only due to a Roman edict concerning taxation that Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. It was a pagan edict that sent them to the very place where Micah said Jesus would be born.

When Christ was born and it became apparent to the few who gathered around the scene that this was indeed the Messiah, we can understand why they were filled with joy and became so excited they couldn’t do anything but burst into song.

We sing at Christmastime because the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled, and we are reminded of that truth.

There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Problem of Sin Has Been Resolved

Once and for all, the sin problem has been solved. If we look back to Bethlehem and back to the birth of Jesus, we have to look back through the empty tomb. We have to look back through the Cross. We have to look back through the Garden of Gethsemane. And as we look back, we come to the manger, and we know that Bethlehem was the answer to the question that plagued every heart: How can a man know God?

In the Old Testament, in faith believers brought sacrifices in order to know God in the Old Testament way. But there also was the promise of the Lamb of God who would come and be slain for everyone, thus sin could forever be put to rest for those who would trust in the Messiah.

I think that’s what Zacharias was talking about in Luke 1:68–79:

Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us … that we should be saved from our enemies … , to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant … , to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies … , to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God …

Zacharias understood that the coming of Jesus Christ was for a specific purpose, that He might ultimately be the Redeemer.

Why is there joy and singing at Christmas? For the same reason that there is joy and singing in heaven when one sinner repents. When salvation becomes a reality, when we understand what it truly means to be forgiven, to have the burden of sin lifted off us, to know that we never have to stand in judgment for our sin, that is a reason for song.

There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Pain of the Lowly and Forgotten Has Been Remembered

Listen to Mary’s song, beginning in Luke 1:46:

‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel …’

Every Christmas, God is saying to the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the exploited of mankind, “Be of good cheer. I am your friend, and I am your champion. I have sent My Son with good news for the poor, to proclaim and release captives, and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Why is there joy at Christmas? Because no matter who we are, no matter how poor we are, no matter how unimportant we may feel, every Christmas there is a renewal within us of this message: Christ has chosen to be among the common people. He came in a common way, not born in a palace but in a manger, not surrounded by kings but by shepherds, to make sure that none of us, no matter who we are, no matter how insignificant we may think ourselves to be, none of us are out of the sphere of the love of God at Christmas.

There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Possibility of Peace Is Renewed in Our Hearts

In more than a few past wars, the warring nations would call a cease-fire for Christmas Day. They would agree that on Christmas Day they wouldn’t shoot at each other, drop bombs on each other, or try to destroy one another. Then, of course, the day after Christmas they would start killing each other again.

As strange as that custom has been, in a wonderful way it is a mute testimony to the purpose for which Christ came—to bring peace. Wasn’t that the message that the angels proclaimed in Luke 2:8–14?

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

We sing at Christmas because within our hearts there is hope of peace. Today, there are many places in our world where peace is not a word in anyone’s vocabulary. Yet every Christian knows that there is coming a time when peace will reign on this earth. Each Christmas season, a kind of new hope is born in our hearts—that though the outlook may be dark, and the only darkness we may see is out there, we may not feel it here. The Prince of Peace has come, and with Him the faith that someday men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and we shall be at peace.

There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because the Purpose of Life Is Illustrated in the Songs of the Nativity

Throughout all of the songs we find this note of glory and praise to the Father. Mary’s song begins, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”

Elizabeth was so full of joy and praise for her God that when she met Mary, the baby jumped in her womb for the joy of being in the presence of the Messiah.

Zacharias, in his “Benedictus,” said, “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel.”

And the message of the angels was “Glory to God in the highest!”

What is the real purpose of life for all of us? According to the Westminster Catechism, it is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. And in the message of Christmas we find that wonderful story. Everywhere we read the songs of Christmas in the Book of Luke, they are extolling the glory of God, praising God, and blessing God.

There Is Joy and Music at Christmas Because Predictions of Christ’s Second Coming Are Secure

As we read the prophecies of Micah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Daniel, and Isaiah, and we follow them through 600 or 700 years, all the way up to when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, we are amazed at the accuracy of prophecies that could reveal exactly where Messiah would be born. Or that Isaiah could say, “Born of a virgin.” Or that Jeremiah could foretell a slaughter of children connected with that birth. Or that Hosea could reveal a flight into Egypt to avoid danger. Yet all of those same prophets have told us that Messiah who came the first time is coming again.

How accurately will those prophecies be fulfilled? Just as accurately as the first prophecies were fulfilled. Many things mentioned in the songs of Luke weren’t fulfilled at Bethlehem—because they are yet to be fulfilled when Christ comes again.

Why is there joy at Christmas? Because the same Jesus who came the first time is coming again.

Application

1.  Make a list of all the Bible-based Christmas hymns you can think of, then answer the following:

a.   Which songs mention the Divine nature of Jesus Christ at His birth?

Which specific phrases?

b.   Which songs refer to the fulfillment of prophecy at His birth?

Which specific phrases?

c.   Which songs refer to His eventual reign as King and Messiah on earth?

Which specific phrases?

d.   Which songs refer to His love and care for all mankind?

Which specific phrases?

e.   Which songs refer to the songs found in the Bible?

Which specific phrases?

2.   In Mary’s song (Luke 1:46–55):

a.   What is Mary’s emotional response to the message she is given?

b.   Upon whom is her focus?

How do you know?

c.   What future personal circumstances does she not mention?

d.   What is the significance of her statement in verse 55?

3.   In the song of Zacharias (Luke 1:68–79):

a.   How many future deeds or activities of the Messiah does he mention?

b.   What are those, in which verses?

c.   Why is God doing these things, according to the words of Zacharias (vv. 72–73)?

d.   What office will his son (John the Baptizer) fill, according to vv. 76–77?

e.   How does this relate to the last Old Testament book (see Malachi 3:1; 4:5–6)?

4.   In the song of the angelic host (Luke 2:14):

a.   Who ultimately is glorified by the birth of Messiah?

b.   What do you think the phrase “on earth peace” refers to specifically?

c.   To what does “goodwill toward men” refer?

Whose goodwill?

Displayed how?

5.   Which of the events or circumstances displayed in these three songs do you think have already taken place?

6.   Which events or circumstances do you think are yet to occur?

7.   If biblical “hope” is the present assurance of a future certainty, how would you describe the “hope” of the Christmas season?

Did You Know?

Some of the traditional Christmas hymns are tremendous repositories of Christian theology. For example, if one reads all the verses of Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” there can be found such doctrines as the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the incarnation, the depravity of mankind, the kenosis (humbling) of Christ, His sinlessness, and His Second Coming, to name a few. Perhaps the next time we celebrate Christmas, it would serve us well to acquire and read all the words to some of the historical hymns of the season.

Gingerbread Cookie Ornaments

½ cup dark brown sugar

1 cup butter

2 teas. baking soda

1 teas. salt

4 tbls. sugar

1 cup molasses

1 teas. cinnamon

½ teas. ginger

¼ teas. nutmeg

¼ teas. cloves

3 cups flour

Cream together butter and sugars. Add molasses and blend well. Add remaining ingredients to mixture and stir well. (If dough is too soft, add a little flour; if too crumbly, add a few drops of milk or water.)

Divide dough into fourths and wrap each section in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least two hours.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough, one fourth at a time, to ¼ inch thickness. Cut with flour-dusted cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Punch a hole for hanging on top of each cookie with a drinking straw or wooden skewer.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until set.

Cool completely on wire rack, then decorate the cookies using icing, candies, and colored sugars. Let the children express their creativity.

It is fun to make a custom cookie ornament by writing a name in icing and tying it to a package for a teacher or special friend. Remember: Don’t worry about making mistakes; you can eat them![1]

 


[1] Jeremiah, D. (1999). Celebrate his love: Study guide (pp. 13–27). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Suppose

Suppose it were your birthday

And all your friends would come

And gather ’round your fireplace

There in your happy home.

 

They come with smiles and gladness,

And bring their presents, too.

But when they start to share them,

There’s not a one for you.

 

They give them to each other,

A grand and costly lot.

But for the guest of honor,

They somehow just forgot.

 

You say such things don’t happen,

Nor should it ever be;

It seems too crude and cruel,

For folks like you and me.

 

But friend, have you considered

Just this is what men do?

Not, of course, to humans,

But of our Lord, its true.

 

We celebrate His birthday

With all our pomp and style;

But give to one another

And grieve Him all the while.

 

’Tis Christ we claim to honor

At this glad Christmastime;

Don’t spend on friends the dollars

And give Him just a dime.

 

To give to one another

Indeed is very nice;

But best of all to Jesus,

For Him let’s sacrifice.

 

His cause too long has suffered

By thoughtless, selfish men.

Let’s bring to Christ the firstfruits,

And give our best to Him.

—Fred D. Jarvis[1]

 


[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

Muslim Questions: Muslim Bible Study—Christmas Story—Day 1

Bible Study: The Birth of Jesus

Introduction: Christmas has become a commercial holiday in many countries, celebrated with lights and banquets and gifts. But the true Christmas story is far more exciting—worth celebrating in every home!

The Bible tells the true Christmas story:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:18–23).

Christmas celebrates the unique birth of Jesus, Who came as Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” The next five days, discover how the true story of Immanuel’s birth may save you from your sins and lead you to a relationship with God!

Day 1: Who was Jesus’ Father?
Jesus was unlike any baby ever born because He was born of a virgin. So Who is the true Father of Jesus? The Bible explains that at Jesus’ birth, the angel Gabriel told the virgin Mary,

“ ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God’ ” (Luke 1:26–35).

As God’s Son, Jesus existed eternally in the Godhead (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), yet God the Father sent the Son to earth to become the perfect God-Man. Jesus is fully God and fully human in one Person (John 1:1; Colossians 2:9; 1 John 4:2–3).

When Jesus was 12 years old, He already recognized God was His true Father. One day, Mary and Joseph couldn’t find Jesus anywhere. Finally, they found Him in the Temple (the place of worship), amazing the teachers with His wisdom in the Scriptures. When Mary chided Jesus for causing them to worry, He replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49b).

God is called Jesus’ Father in other passages as well:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16–18).

Jesus came to save those who believe in Him. Find out tomorrow how Jesus’ birthplace was predicted centuries before His birth![1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Christmas: What is an advent calendar? How does an advent calendar relate to Christmas?

The word ‘Advent’ has a Latin origin meaning ‘the coming,’ or more accurately, ‘coming toward.’ For Christian believers, Christmas is one of the greatest events in the yearly cycle, being the celebration of the greatest gift ever given by God to mankind. That gift was Jesus, the Son of God Himself, born into this world in human form and coming to live among us to show us the true nature of God, experience human joy and sorrow along with us, and finally, going of His own will to die a horrible, agonizing death. In this way the price was paid for all human sin that had cut us off from our Holy God and Heavenly Father, resulting in our complete and total reconciliation with Him.

Centuries ago, the importance of this event caused many Christians to feel that it was inadequate merely to mark off only one day on the yearly calendar for celebrating this incredible gift from God. Believers had (and still do have) such a sense of awe and overwhelming gratitude and wonder at what happened that first Christmas that they felt the need for a period of preparation immediately beforehand. They could then not only take time themselves to meditate on it, but also teach their children the tremendous significance of Christmas.

At first, the days preceding Christmas were marked off from December 1 with chalk on believers’ doors. Then in Germany in the late 19th century the mother of a child named Gerhard Lang made her son an Advent Calendar comprised of 24 tiny sweets stuck onto cardboard. Lang never forgot the excitement he felt when he was given his Advent calendar at the beginning of each December, and how it reminded him every day that the great celebration of the whole year was approaching ever nearer. As an adult he went into partnership with his friend Reichhold and opened a printing office. In 1908, they produced what is thought to be the first-ever printed Advent Calendar with a small colored picture for each day in Advent. Later on, at the beginning of the 20th century, they hit on the idea of making the pictures into little shuttered windows for the children to open day by day in order to heighten their sense of expectation.

The idea of the Advent Calendar caught on with other printing firms as the demand swiftly increased, and many versions were produced, some of which would have printed on them Bible verses appropriate to the Advent period. By now the Advent Calendar had gained international popularity, and children all over the world were clamoring for them as December approached. Unfortunately, the custom came to an end with the beginning of the First World War when cardboard was strictly rationed and only allowed to be used for purposes necessary to the war effort. However, in 1946, when rationing began to ease following the end of the Second World War, a printer named Richard Sellmer once again introduced the colorful little Advent Calendar, and again it was an immediate success.

Sadly, with the wane of Christianity in Western nations, the Advent Calendar, although still enormously popular with all children, has lost its true meaning. Many, many children and their parents have no idea of the history of the little calendar or its true purpose, which is to prepare us for the celebration of the advent of the Christ-child. Even if they do know, most would not care. Also, the makers of today’s Advent calendars are anxious only to sell their product, and the majority of these neither know nor care about the meaning and purpose of Advent. Their calendars depict Santa Claus and his reindeer, snowmen, holly, mistletoe, and all the secular trappings of Christmas behind the little windows, often along with a piece of chocolate. Fortunately, however, Christian printers are still with us to manufacture calendars for children from Christian families that unfold the story of the nativity with each window that is opened. We, as Christian believers, pray that one day the whole world will be aware of the incredible wonder of the true meaning of Advent and Christmas.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

7 Councils: The First Council of Nicaea

Today I am beginning a new series of articles on the seven ecumenical councils of the early church. These councils commenced with the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and concluded with the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. Between these two events were five more, each of which attempted to understand and establish a unified Christian theology.

In this series we will take a look at each of the seven councils. For each one we will consider the setting and purpose, the major characters, the nature of the conflict, and then the results and lasting significance.

We begin today with the First Council of Nicaea.

Read More Here

And Many Who Are First Will Be Last And The Last First

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

27 Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι· τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν; 28 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὑμεῖς οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι ἐν τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ, ὅταν καθίσῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, καθήσεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐπὶ δώδεκα θρόνους κρίνοντες τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. 29 καὶ πᾶς ὅστις ἀφῆκεν οἰκίας ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου, ἑκατονταπλασίονα λήμψεται καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσει. 30 πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι καὶ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι. (Matthew 19:27-30 NA28)

27 Then Peter answered, “Behold, we left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man sits upon His Throne of Glory, you who have followed me will also sit upon…

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