Merry Christmas to You!

Forget the troubles of the year. Forget that people feared the end of the world last Friday. Forget the fiscal cliff, the Sandy Hook and other tragedies. Lay down you present concerns and follow my words for a moment.

It is easy to celebrate Christmas without celebration. It happens that we participate in Christmas festivities, presents, eggnog, parties, meals, vacations, ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas and all and still not celebrate.

There are many reasons this might happen, but the core aspect of celebrating with celebration is we have lost our focus. Here comes the cliché, so excuse me for a moment.

  • Jesus is the reason for the season.

The whole idea behind the holiday that contains Christ’s name is remembering Christ’s birth. Many do so with decorations, presents, programs, church attendance and special services, visiting soup kitchens, spending time with family, sharing gifts, and a lot more ways. In all of this, we can still get lost in Christmas without the hint of actual celebration.

How do we come back to celebrating Christmas. Look to Jesus!

Is it that simple? I believe it is. It is for me. I am not decrying the things that occur at Christmas. I am not putting down commercialism, or Santa Claus, or holiday parties, or Rudolph and Frosty, but I am trying to direct our focus to the real thing, Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he (sent) his one and only Son, that whoever will believe in him shall have eternal life” John 3:16.

Isn’t that what Christmas is about? God’s love, Jesus’ human life, our salvation.

May you have a Merry Christmas filled with the peace of God and the grace and joy of knowing his Son, Jesus Christ.


X or no X? Holy-day or Holiday?

So what about all the confusion and disruption involved in Christmas. I don’t mean should courthouses be allowed to display nativity scenes, but is is Xmas or Holiday?

Greek Letter chi

Let’s start where it really is. Xmas, though it seems to have been forgotten and overlooked, “Xmas” isn’t a bad thing unless people intend for it to be. If they intend to leave Christ out of Christmas, if they imply X as the “unknown quotient” that it is in math and science, then Xmas is bad.

But, X is the Greek letter for English’s “ch.” In Greek it’s chi (pronounced “key”). This is the first to letters of Christ. in fact, the chi (X) is often an abreviation for Christ. If Xmas means Christ-mas, there is nothing wrong with it.

What about holiday? Is there something missing there? WE say “Happy Holidays,” but do we mean what it means. Holiday comes from the words meaning “Holy” and “day.” Holiday means “Holy day.” Is that what we imply when we wish others a happy holiday? It should be because it is a recognition of one of the holy things that God has done and we honor a day as holy to recognize that fact.

These are two facts that have been missed in recent days. I have been having fun doing this too. But more importantly, I wish you a Merry Xmas and a Happy Holiday.



No Room for Sin (Romans Pt 3)

There wasn’t room for sin in heaven and there still isn’t room. To be truthful, that’s what took place.

Lucifer was an angel of God who wanted the glory that belonged to the Christ. His self-seeking, self-gratifying way was contrary to God and God wouldn’t have anything to do with that rebellion and unseated Lucifer.

One of the beautiful things about the ancient world recorded in the Bible is that names mean something. By this I don’t mean that each name simply has a definition, but that each name’s definition related to the person who had the name. Lucifer means “bringing light” ( ).

When we read about a name change in the Bible, there is something significant at work. E.G. Abram who we meet at the end of Genesis 11 and the beginning of Genesis 12, his name means “exalted father,” but God changed his name to Abraham, “father of a multitude” designating the characteristic of the nation of people who would be his descendants, both by family lineage and by faith.

Lucifer is no longer his name, he does not bring light anymore (though he can appear as an angel of light to deceive; 2 Corinthians 11:14; John 8:44). Therefore his name is Devil (deceiver) and Satan (slanderer). Both are opposite to God’s character and ways and so sin was removed from God’s presence. Cast down to the earth where the he works his wiles, deceiving and tricking people in order to keep them from or draw them away from God.

Sin does not have a seat in the presence of God. But sin sits easily in the lives of people. We are easily deceived. We are taken captive by selfish desires. We are held in bondage and slavery because the devil’s temptations are anywhere from just askew to totally opposite from the truth and right.

You are a sinner. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but the truth is hard to swallow. We are all sinners because we have fallen into the devil’s trap and sinned. Whether it was a little white lie or disobeying our parents, embezzlement or lust, or any number of minor or serious wrongs, sin is sin when it comes to guilt.

Read Romans 3 and see  where your standing is with God.

With Christmas 3 days away, God came into this world because of sin. The relationship that we should have with God was injured and severed because sin has no welcome in God’s house (IE, heaven, where God is). Two things always touch my heart about the Christmas account. That Jesus’s birth was so he could save people from their sins and the God entered the world, God is with us, one of Jesus’ other names, “Emmanuel, God with us,” Matthew 1:21-22.

The pure for the impure. The righteous for the unrighteous. The holy for the unholy. The just for the unjust. The Truth instead of the lie. Life to replace death for sin. Jesus came that sin would be conquered, overcome and destroyed in our lives so that we could sit in God’s presence.


Christmas is Coming Soon

It’s Friday, one week before Christmas day as I write this. I’m sitting in Panera Bread with a cup of coffee and a gingerbread man cookie. I’m taking the cookie home.

There is Christmas music playing from the ceiling. Blue Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and others.

Everyone is in a festive mood. Life seems good even when it isn’t.

So, what are you doing with Christmas this year. Has your focus been on Christ? Will it remain on Christ? The thing is, Christmas is where Christ is.

Without Christ, there is no “Christ”-mas. I know you’re seeing and hearing that all over the place, but that is the reality of it. Without Christ, there is no Christmas.

Over the next week, we’ll take a test (sort of) and see how well we know the account about the birth of Jesus Christ.


Merry Christmas

To me the whole idea of Christmas is a blast.  I love the pagentry, the music, the shows, and the better moods it puts us into, but I must never, and I hope you never forget what this holiday is about.  Charles Schultz was a theologian if you didn’t know.  In Linus, he helps us get that grip on what this is about.  Gauge it all through the scripture.  Merry Christmas!


The Shepherds were First

If the Wise Men who came from the east and brought the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were “seekers“, than the shepherds who saw Jesus the same day that he was born were “tellers.”

Something awesome happened to these guys (and like with the wise men, we have no idea how many there were) and it wasn’t the appearance of the angels, as awesome as that was.  The angel and the choir were just a fancy GPS system sent by God.  They were news reporters and direction sensors.  They announced that the Messiah had been born that day and gave them directions on how to get there and find him, and the angel choir provided an mp3 of music running through their head as they headed off to find him.

Imagine if you will a Chevy Impala (these are God’s people with entry-level salaries so they’ll drive low-cost GM cars) and the soft, voice of the GPS saying, “Go straight on the south road, 2/3rds of a mile, turn right on Main street, watch for a stable with a baby wrapped in a snuggie.”

A little ridiculous, of course.  I hope it makes us aware of the significance of the announcement.  These shepherds represent the whole nation of Israel, from the time that Israel became a nation.  For centuries, they were looking for the fulfillment of the promise made by God to their ancestor, Abraham.  Hundreds of years, hanging on God’s promise, never giving up hope that God would fulfill the promise that the Messiah would come.  And now . . . “Da, da, daaaaaa!”  He has.  And these guys, out in the fields with smelly sheep, in the dark, wanting to fall asleep see this incredible scene and are given this incredible announcement, “The Christ that you’re looking for, well, he’s here. He’s in Bethlehem and you’ll find him in a feeding trough wrapped up in soft cloths.”

You can read about it in Luke’s Gospel, Luke 2:1-20.  Pretty awesome stuff;

But . . . the exciting thing that happened was that they found the baby.  They found the Messiah.  You know, a lot of people are bothered by the fact that Jesus was human too.  The Jewish shepherds don’t seem to be bothered a bit by it.

Verse 16 – They hurried off to Bethlehem and found the baby just like the angel told them.

Verse 17 & 18 – They left and told everyone they could and everyone was amazed.

Verse 20 – They returned to the sheep and were glorifying and praising God.

In an earlier post dated November 22, 2009 ( ) we noted the link between passion for Christ and effective evangelism.  They didn’t run out and have t-shirts and ball caps made to announce the fact, they were so excited that as they returned to their job, they told people the Good News.  We often say Peter preached the first Gospel sermon (Acts 2).  Maybe.  It depends on how you look at it.  I am contending, right now, that the shepherds were the first Gospel preachers.  It was to a Jewish audience, and it was more likely, one on one, not a crowd setting.  “Get an auditorium, set up the PA system, let’s preach this thing.”  No, the first sermon was that the Messiah, the promised Savior had arrived.  It was more like evangelism than pulpit preaching, but that’s what preaching is, telling other people about Jesus.

The Wise Men were seekers.  The shepherds had been seeking a long time, but now they were tellers, “evangelists.”  They were the ones that with excitement and passion began spreading the Good News, “Jesus the Christ has been born.”


Why Did They Show Up?

The 3 Wise Men came for a single reason.  It was a personal journey.  It wasn’t official.  They didn’t come to gawk at a side-show or at some celebrity.  They came for one reason and one reason only.  They came to worship.

Listen to the message, Jesus, the Wise Men and You at the following link.


Agents of Hope

We don’t know these wise men very well.  We know they were from the east, wherever that is.  Traditionally, and much of that tradition comes from Marco Polo, it is believed they came from Persia, modern-day Iran.  Tradition says that there were either 4, 2, 12, or 3 actual wise men.  Depends on your source.  What a wise man was, is debated (a common claim is that they were priests who worshiped Zoroaster).  What the symbolism of their gifts meant, varies.  And don’t get started on their names.  I prefer to call them Larry, Moe, and Curly.

There is more we do not know about Larry, Moe, Curly than we do.  What do we know?

  • They came from the east
  • They saw a star appear in the sky and followed it
  • They knew a king had been born
  • They searched for this king in the capital city of Israel where the star led them
  • They found the child with the directions that Herod gave them
  • They offered gifts, “expensive gifts” to Jesus
  • They worshiped the baby Jesus
  • They were warned in a dream to go back home another way

We can deduce a couple of other things about them, but we really don’t know any more.  The wise men are an enigma to us.  There are two things that stick out to me at this moment.

  1. They worshiped Jesus. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, and of incense and myrrh” Matthew 2:11, New International Version.  This was their whole intent; to worship Christ.  What they knew, what they understood, how that affected them otherwise, we do not know.  We can understand that they came fully intending to pay honor and homage to a baby king.  And they brought “treasures.”  I think Curly brought the gold.
  2. They were Gentiles.  This is obvious.  Whether Jesus was 13 days old or 13 months olds, or toddling around, these men from a far-off country, another nation, a different nationality, came to worship him.

They represent you and I.  I mean, I think, the reason God did not tell us who they were (their country, their names, or anything else) other than that they came from the east, was so we could identify with them.  We are not Israel.  Even now, if you are Jewish by lineage, these travelers from the east represent you too.  Simply because we are 2000 years removed from that moment in history.

The wise men represent our search for God.  Searching for who God is and what he does and that search leads to and through Jesus.  If we find God, we will have found Christ first.

And . . . the wise men are agents of hope.  Not agents in the sense of they “bring” it, but in the sense that they looked for it.  God always intended to save all people, not just the Israelites.  He would one day offer that hope to the whole world.  The promise of Abraham is for all the world, not a single family or nation.   God made us aware that he wants to save the Gentile too when he sent Peter to preach to and baptize Cornelius in Acts 10, and when he sent Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

There is hope for everyone.  Not just Abraham’s family.  Not just David’s family line.  Not just those with Jewish blood.  Anyone who lives and breathes is eligible to receive hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.  They must worship Him as Savior and trust Him as Lord and obey Him as King.

[Hear the first message in the Christmas series; Jesus and You called, “Jesus, the Wise Men and You” on the sermon page of , Monday, December 21, 2009]


PS: As I wrote this, I had this sense of deja’ vu.  Like I dreamt this or something.