Archives For Advent


Lesson #4 – What are the implications of advent?

INTRODUCTION

Hopefully, if done right, this lesson will be delivered around (or on) Christmas day and will be good for discussion.  Please feel free to go over what has been taught and learned in the previous four weeks and discuss any revelations that have occurred amongst the students during this focused time.

ILLUSTRATION:  What we are going to emphasize today is the biggest component of Advent: Waiting.  What I want you to do is to introduce the class that we are going to talk about the implications of advent.  Then what I want you to do next is wait.  Don’t say anything, don’t do anything but just sit there.  You can do it for one minute or three minutes.  Inevitably teenagers are going to give you weird looks because they can’t stand 15 seconds of silence let alone a full-blown minute.

ASK…

WAS IT HARD FOR YOU TO WAIT?  WHY OR WHY NOT? 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT US THAT DRIVES US INSANE WHEN IT COMES TO WAITING? 

SAY…

[You can use your own personal story that emphasizes our impatience] I can’t stand to wait!  If a web page on my iPhone does not come up in less than four seconds I become angry.  If I don’t get my Wendy’s Baconator in less than three minutes then I get irate.  I mean how long does it take to throw half a pig on half a cow and throw some cheese in there?  Come on people!!!  We all struggle with waiting because of the digitized, fast-food mindset of Western Culture where we have to experience things right now.

This lesson is to allow us to focus on being ready for Jesus to come with patience but also with anticipation.  This lesson is short, but simple.  Here is the bare outline.

BODY

Two things…

Waiting means we must be ready!

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt. 24:44).

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak” (Luke 12:38).

4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  (1 Thess. 5:4-11).

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS DO WE NEED TO BE READY FOR THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD?

SAY…

When Jesus came John the Baptist prepared the way for the people compelling them to repent for the “kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mark 1:1-8).  In like manner we are compelled to be ready no matter what the cost may be and that means we are to “bring-in” the kingdom of God by being disciples and making disciples.  You hear of people talking about “Christmas cheer” and what they mean is giving gifts and such but the Christmas cheer is that we need to be ready for the coming of the Lord.

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS ARE PEOPLE NOT GOING TO BE READY FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD?

SAY…

In the first century they thought that Jesus was going to come soon (you could make an argument that Paul even thought that).  Paul was very upset at people who stood around “idle”.  Paul said, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6).  In other words we have no clue when Christ will come (see 1 Thess. 5:4 above) so we should not give up our labors of spreading good news to the world.

Waiting means we must be drunk with anticipation!

“The LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire.Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night— as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion. Be stunned and amazed,  blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer” (Isa. 29:6-9).

SAY…

The verse in Isaiah is given to talk about a time when the Messiah will reign from Zion and the people will be drawn towards his reign.  The kicker for the Christian is that Jesus now reigns (i.e. his “kingdom”) and Jesus will always reign.  We need to be intoxicated with anticipation at what we can participate in and what God has called us to do.  “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

ASK…

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD “ANTICIPATION”?  WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

SAY…

I remember the birth of my first son (Kaleb) and the weeks felt like years until he finally came into this world.  There was excitement, fear, desire, longing, responsibility and humility all wrapped-up in a box known as anticipation.  It means we become ready for something and eagerly long for it.

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU/ARE YOU ANTICIPATE(ING) THE LORD’S RETURN?

CONCLUSION

SAY…

To anticipate for something you must have some sort of desire to fuel that anticipation.  Anticipating the Lord’s return gets me excited because of a single group of verses:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:1-5).

This is the final moment when the Lord returns and the new heavens and new earth form and all things become completely new.  It is when the curse of Adam is ultimately lifted and mankind is allowed to enter Eden again.  It is where we participate in complete union with God and with his risen saints and we join in the eschaton at the table (see Isaiah 25:6-9) and feast forever.  No tears, no sorrows, no pain, no suffering…peace, perfect peace.

Enjoy this video and I hope you enjoyed this series.  We all can join the early Christians in a popular saying called Maranatha.  It simple means, “Come, Lord” (see Rev. 22:20).  So, “Come, Lord Jesus…Come!”


LESSON #3 – What are some things we can do to help us make the most out of advent?

INTRODUCTION

ASK…

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN SURPRISED BEFORE?  LIKE A SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY OR A SURPRISE GIFT.  WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

SAY…

[This is my personal story but you should share your own] I remember the biggest surprise I ever received was when my wife through a surprise birthday party for me a few years ago.  She went through the trouble of getting some people from church to gather and they all surprised me with gifts, food and laughter.  I felt completely excited and at the same time humbled that people even cared for me like that.

In the same way the season of Advent is about a Child who came and reordered the world as we see it and the fact that he is going to come again and re-reorder the world into the New Heavens and the New Earth.

BODY

Have students break up into groups of 3-4 and read the following passages: Isaiah 49:1-50:3; 50:4-51:8; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-3.  Talk about how these passages all are Messianic Prophecies discussing how Jesus (the Servant) was called into this world to serve the brokenness of our humanity.  Have the students talk about how these verses portray Jesus and anything else that spoke to them during the reading.

After they have finished reading…ask them to pray for what needs to be done in their lives to be ready for the coming of our Lord.  Then ask them to pray for what they need to do to help others be ready for the coming of the Lord.

Give them a few minutes…

SAY…

I want you as a group to come up with ways, like Jesus, you need to serve people in your communities.  It could be people inside of your local church but it could also be people outside of the church.

Give them a few minutes then SAY…

To make the most out of this season we need to do three things (I shared some of these in the sermon I preached at Main Street this past Sunday so these may be new to you but old to some others)…

  • SERVE…

Here are some ideas of areas where you may serve.  Donate your time to a charity or to a family in need.  Put up Christmas lights for a family.  Put up decorations for the elderly.  Bake cookies for someone who lost a loved one in your local church.  Provide warm meals for the homeless.  Sing carols at a local shelter.  Read Christmas books to children in the hospital.  [add more ideas…]

  • SIMPLIFY…

The average American will spend $646 dollars this Christmas season.[1]  Check this statistic out: In 2010 the total amount Americans gave to charities was $290.89 billion.[2]  According to the National Retail Federation  on Black Friday this year Americans spent a record $52 Billion.[3]  The same organization estimates that in 2011 Americans would have spent an estimated $465.6 Billion on Christmas spending alone!!![4]  Paul said it best, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:7-9).  Do you really need those presents?

  • SURRENDER…

 Herod the King did not want to Jesus to come into this world.  The reason was because he felt his kingship was threatened.  The prevailing view was that the Messiah would come and would establish himself on the throne and all other kings, rulers and princes would be subjugated to serve the Messiah.  This is why Herod sent wisemen, or Magi, to go find where Jesus was born (Matt. 2:1-7).  Herod said that he wanted to worship the child (2:8) but the real motive was that he wanted to harm the child so he could remain as king (2:12).  What I am concerned about is the reaction the Magi had to the Messiah when they saw him: “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” (2:11).  Do you want to know what this season is about?  It is about an opportunity to participate in the kingdom of God where Christ sits as both Lord and King.  Presents are ok, ham is ok, lights, trees and all of that is ok but it is only a shadow of what is really important.  Jesus serves as our king and our Lord and this season calls us to simply surrender to the one who came and will come again.  “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).

  • SHARE

How good is “good news” if we do not share it?  The real story of Christmas needs to be shared to someone and perhaps you can offer them a chance for them to participate in the story.  A chance for them to be “washed” of their sins but also a chance for them to live a holy and sanctified life with the saints helping others join the kingdom.  “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8).  “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me” (Ps. 66:16).

CONCLUSION

As you well know I am big into media and visual images with powerful songs.  A most powerful song is “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”

 

 


Lesson #2 – Why should we even bother celebrating it?

INTRODUCTION

I am big on visual illustrations and movies and such so that is why I use a lot of videos.  I think you will enjoy this one.

ASK…

What were your reactions to the video?
How did it change your perception on how we should approach the holidays? 

BODY

ASK…

DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR CHRISTIANS TO CELEBRATE THIS TIME OF YEAR? 

SAY…

For some it is a waste of time to think about religious seasons like Advent, Lent and others.  They point to verses like Colossians 2:16-17 saying religious days should not be recognized.  Actually the verses point to religious days as being a REQUIREMENT for spiritual growth.  We shouldn’t require people to observe it but we should also not say that it is pagan or evil to observe the days.

ASK…

WHAT ARE SOME REASONS YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE CELEBRATE THIS SEASON?

SAY…

Below are some reasons I think we should celebrate Advent or Christmas (or the holidays if you can;t bring yourself to say those two).  [I am not going to expound much on these as I wanted to give you just a raw outline]

  1. Because everyone else is talking about it.  Good or bad people are talking about gifts, vacation and this is the one time many people will cross the threshold of a church auditorium.  To not talk about the birth of Jesus, the point of advent and the hope of mankind is, at best, awkward.  Imagine you never go to a church and you decide to pick the local church of Christ to attend Sunday morning Christmas worship.  You listen to the songs and they sing Blues Skies and Rainbows, The Old Rugged Cross, Each Day I’ll Do and you think, “What is going on here?”  Then you the preacher gets up and you think, “Well this will be better as he will talk about Jesus.”  But he delivers a sermon on premillenialism and never mentions Jesus.  Was that ok?  Sure.  Did they do things biblically?  Absolutely.  Dis they miss an opportunity?  You better believe it.  This is an opportunity to make sure the right story is told.  They hear stories of consumerism, selfishness, and gluttony why not correct that with the real story of Jesus?
  2. It allows us to see how God redeemed mankind, and how he will eventually redeem the church.  God created everything good (Gen. 1) but eventually mankind encountered the Fall (Gen. 3) but God established his covenant with his people (Gen. 9, 12; Exodus 20, et al) and assured the people that eventually the Messiah would come to redeem the people from their oppressive state.  Jesus came to save mankind from their fallen state and died on the cross for our sins.  To participate in the saving act of Christ we become disciples of the church through faith, grace and baptism.  God has promised (Rev. 21-22) a particular time where he will redeem the church and we will live with him forever.  The first coming was the birth of Jesus and the second coming will be his return.
  3. It places perspective on what our weaknesses truly are.  Last lesson we learned about what Christmas really has become: a consumerist buffet for getting things we really do not need.  We as an American people struggle immensely with greed which, ironically, was something Jesus did not come for.  He came to free the captives and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (Isa. 61:1-2) yet we proclaim it the year of the iPad, the PS3, the cool outfit, or insert whatever you have desired.  Advent forces us to focus on THE reason for Christmas: Jesus Christ.  Not just Jesus in a Let’s-sing-sappy-songs-about-Jesus-and-feel-all-warm-and-fuzzy-inside kind of way but a Jesus is going to come again so you better be ready kind of way.  That’s perspective.
  4. It gives us an evangelistic (missional) thrust with a sense of urgency.  My good friend Rusty Pettus is doing a series of lessons called, “Telling Your Friends About Jesus” where he is taking advantage of the season to help his students talk to others about Jesus.  Great time to do this as it gives us a sense of preparation and urgency.  Right now!

CONCLUSION:

Again….another video.

 


LESSON #1 – WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF ADVENT?

INTRODUCTION

Show this movie….thanks to Adam McLane for the referral

ASK…

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS AS PRACTICED IN YOUR FAMILIES?  WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TRADITIONS YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED?

Talk about consumerism and how it has taken over not only the original meaning of Christmas but many other holidays.

ASK…

WHAT IS THE POINT OF CHRISTMAS? 

BODY

SAY…

We live in a time where the original meaning of Christmas is trumped by people spending insane amounts of money to “keep up with the Jones'” and make sure little Johnny and Sally have what they want.  This past year we had a record Black Friday where the National Retail Federation reported we spent close to $52 billion through Sunday (SOURCE).

ASK…

DO YOU REMEMBER ALL THE TOYS AND THINGS YOUR PARENTS HAVE BOUGHT YOU? 

SAY…

Most of the time we don’t remember what our parents purchased for us and we spend more time using what we have now and then moving on to the “next best thing.”  Surely this was not the original intention of Christmas.  The original Christmas was about a moment when the people of Israel anticipated the coming of the Messiah.

Read and discuss Messianic passages like 2 Samuel 7:16; Daniel 9:24-26; Isaiah 7:14; 11:10; 40:1-5, 9; 49:6; 50:6; Jeremiah 23:5; Micah 5:1-2.

ASK…

DO WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS IN A WAY IN WHICH WE TALK ABOUT THE MESSIAH?  WHY OR WHY NOT? 

SAY…

The Christian calendar is a tool that allows Christians to move through the year focusing on different seasons of Scripture.  This time of the year is what is called “Advent” and has been focused on for many years.  The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus meaning coming and stems from the New Testament Greek word parousia which focused on the Second Coming of Jesus (cf. 1 Thess. 5:1-11).  The point was for Christians to focus on the birth of Jesus Christ this time of the year like the early Jews did.  Advent is about anticipation and being vigilant and sober for the second coming of Christ (1 Thess. 5:6, 8).  The early Jews were vigilant and sober for the first coming of Christ (i.e. Messiah) as he would right all wrongs and establish justice to those who were oppressed and his kingdom would reign forever.

Dennis Brown, in his lovely article “The Christian Season of Advent,” shares these splendid thoughts about advent:

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

So Advent, and its history, is about the who (Jesus came and will come), the what (incarnational kingdom-living) and the to-what-extent (until the new heavens and the new earth). Different things are done on advent like feasts, fasts and special services all of which are not the means to an end but merely a way of praising God for what he has done and will continue to do.

CONCLUSION

ASK…

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS CHRISTMAS COULD BE BETTER CELEBRATED BY CONCENTRATING ON ADVENT?  WHAT ARE SOME PRACTICAL THINGS YOU AND I NEED TO DO?

Show this video to close.  (Thanks to my friend JP and the Village Church in Texas)

CLOSE THE LESSON IN SILENCE, PRAYING FOR BOTH JESUS TO COME BUT THAT WE WOULD ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE STORY OF REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD’S BROKEN PEOPLE.

 


If you’re wondering about what Advent is please read a series of posts I did a year ago called “Christmas” starting here.  I dealt with the theological necessity of teaching about the birth of Jesus as the true understanding of what Christmas is supposed to be about.  Yet, I did not give a “practical” way of how to teach your students about the importance of Advent or even what to teach them. So I want to give you some practical outlines on what Advent is all about and then what to teach your students.  I think you could do a four-part series and so that is what I will break it down to.  The series title will be ADVENTUS: THE REAL STORY OF CHRISTMAS.  Here is the outline:

  • Lesson #1 – What is the history of advent?
  • Lesson #2 – Why should we even bother celebrating it?
  • Lesson #3 – What are some things we can do to help us make the most out of advent?
  • Lesson #4 – What are the implications of advent?

I will give a raw outline for each and then let you teach them in your own contexts.  Hope you enjoy.

Come, Lord.


I just finished reading The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister and thought that overall it was an excellent book.  Chittister is a s a Benedictine Sister of Erie, PA and has authored well over 40 books.  I have read Wisdom Distilled from the Daily and was highly impressed so naturally I was more than elated to read this book.  In The Liturgual Year Chittister seeks to show how the seasons and movements of the year actually unite followers to the work and mission of Jesus Christ.  Each successive season allows us to be in touch with who were are in relation to whose we are.

The purpose of the liturgical year is to bring to life in us and around us, little by little, one layer of insight after another until we grow to full stature in the spiritual life.  (p. 21)

She organizes the book in a way that draws attention to seasons, moments and movements within the life of the Christian (i.e. Advent, Easter, Sunday’s , etc.).  The way that Chittister writes is engaging and every page turned a quote that was thought-provoking and worthy of mention.  The book was helpful to me since it opened new possibilities for me to concentrate on participating with the death and burial of Jesus Christ.  However, Chittister seemed to assume too much on the reader’s knowledge of liturgical seasons.  Sometimes I was left aloof with some of the jargon that many of the Catholic readers would already know and understand.  I also thought she should have given more of a historical treatise of the liturgical year and how that shapes and formulates the present practice.  Other than those two objections (minor at best) I thought this book was needed for much of the evangelical community in an effort to concentrate more on the movements of worship instead of the rote practices each period of worship brings.  I recommend this book to ministers, educators and the well-read Christian on the pew who desire more out of worship and discipleship.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Here they are in ascending order…

#5 – Tim Hawkins “Christmas Songs” – Posted this before but it is a good laugh.

#4 – Tim Hawkins “Tim on Dangerous Toys (Part 2)” – Funny

#3 – Skit Guys “Christmas Eve Invite” – Funny but has some serious implications to it as to how we evangelize people.

#2 – “Amazing Grace Christmas Light House – Techno”  No I don’t advocate amazing grace to techno but you have to give it up for innovation

#1 – “This is Way” by Dustin Kensrue – An excellent contextual understanding of the birth of Jesus.  Absolutely Fabulous!!!


I close this series with joy filled in my heart anticipating Christmas day.  I long for the time with family, the meals, the happiness, the presents but also the knowledge of why we are there.  “Advent” is a word that comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming.”  It is the Latin translation for the Greek word parousia which is used in the New Testament most often to describe the Second Coming of Christ (see 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11).  Apparently advent was started in the 18th century to recognize not only the birth of Jesus but also the coming of the Lord.  We live in a tension right now that all Christians live in from the time Jesus ascended in Acts 1 until the time of Jesus returns.  The tension is entangled in mystery and wonder knowing that God has wrought a day in which the Lord will return and we shall be like him and dwell forever.  But not yet…not now…not here…not long.  The advent season is about recognizing and celebrating the birth of Jesus but paradoxically anticipating the return of Jesus.  The fact is…Jesus is here and there are implications for you and I.  To really celebrate Christmas is to subvert the consumerism that society puts out and to make it more than simply “HAPPY HOLIDAYS.”  I saw last night where the ACLU sent memos to Tennessee schools warning them of celebrating one religious holiday to the exclusion of others.  That’s fine but the celebrations typically seen are incorrect for the real point of advent is to show that everywhere and anywhere Christ is the Lord who was born of a virgin from the seed of David.  Caesar was not Lord nor is the president today.  Our idols of power, freedom, pride, consumerism and safe-living all miss the mark for the only true Lord in this world is and was Jesus Christ.

So celebrate appropriately.  Decorations are only a hint of the beauty of Christmas as we celebrate the coming of God himself.  We celrbrate that JEsus is Lord.  We anticipate that one day all wrongs will be right and that true peace will reign at the coming of our Lord.  We long for that day but know there is much work for us to do while injustice and evil still reign.  Jesus, we welcome you in our lives as Lord.  Thank you for coming down to this earth and relinquishing your God-abilities to be human.  We recognize the work of your Father as the work we adhere to.  Forgive us this season for our consumerism and allow us to celebrate what is most important beyond the toys, decorations and false narratives sent by society.  Allows us to celebrate you.  Thank you for coming.  I love you.  Reign in my life and let my breath breathe the air that comes from only you.  Amen.

Below is an advent poem by W.H. Smaw and then a couple of songs I thought were worthy of note.  Peace.

I am. I was. I will be.
I am not coming soon I am here.

I was born on a cold night in a cold place
Unnoticed, unheralded by cold people
Who turned my mother away.
On that night were you listening?
On that night the “least of your brothers” was me.
Now do you see, do you hear and do you care?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In your life do you see me
In the ragged men and women
Who search the cold street
Looking for my reflection in your heart?
Do you hear my voice in
Their muttered plea or in their tear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
Do you hear me when your friend turns to you
To ask forgiveness and trust?
Do I not forgive you always?
Do I not give you a merciful ear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In this season I was born unto you
Fulfilling the promise of God’s care.
Look for me, listen to me…
I am not coming soon I am here.


I have already addressed some issues concerning Christmas (i.e. paganism, materialism, et al) but a couple objections from the Scriptures I think need to be contextually situated before they are mis-applied to Christmas.

  • The first one I mentioned in the first post and that people use Jeremiah 10:1-10 and the “trees” and “asherah poles” as proof that Christmas trees are, in fact, pagan.

First of all, let it be known that there is much danger in grabbing a concordance and looking up “tree” and finding a verse and then applying it to the present context.  Each verse has both an immediate and an extended context.  Most people use Jeremiah 10:2-4 to prove (quite proudly I am sure) that the decorated tree is an example of what we should not do.  Trying to be as patient as I possibly can I want you to first note who is speaking: God.  That is important because also we need to address who God is speaking to: Israelites.  Those two bits of information are very important for last time I checked we are not Israelites and are not dealing with the cultural context that they were dealing with.  Clearly this tree, in verse 5, is an idol much like the Asherah poles mentioned in 1 Kings 14:23 and other passages.  One needs only to look at Isaiah 44:14-19 to see how a tree was cut down and fashioned into an idol.  The whole purpose of the tree spoken there was to serve as an idol where the people bowed down to it in worship.  Christmas (even Jesus) was not even a thought so how could Jeremiah be recording the words of God speaking to our present day Christmas tree?  Furthermore, the tree was an idol because it was worshipped.  When was the last time you saw someone bowing down worshipping a tree?  An idol is ANYTHING that takes the place of God so anything can be an idol because everything has been an idol.  A relationship with your husband could be an idol.  Your children can be idols.  Power, fame and fortune all can be idols because they take the place only God has a right to contain in our hearts.  So if a Christmas tree takes the place of God then it is an idol (doubtful anyone does this at all) but to say Jeremiah 10 applies to our present-day Christmas trees is poor biblical study and haphazard exegesis.  Do your homework.

  • The second objection to Christmas comes from Galatians 4:10 where Paul was against the Galatian observance of special days and months.

Again, there are three rules to proper interpretation I learned while an undergraduate bible student at Freed-Hardeman University: 1) Context, 2) Context and, 3) Context.  What is the context of this passage?  First of all the context is with the occasion of which Paul wrote the letter to those in Galatia.  They were apparently being bombarded with false teachers (1:6; 5:12) and apparently they are Jews who want the Galatians to keep certain elements of the Jewish faith.  Paul encourages them that Christ’s death brought about a new covenant (3:23-27; 4:4-5) in which they do not have to follow the old aspects of the Mosaic Law like circumcision (2:3), customs (2:14-15) and ceremonies (4:10).  Why?  Because there is now freedom in Christ and circumcision and customs have no merit but only faith expressed from love (5:1-6).  This is the context of 4:10.  They were recognizing Jewish ceremonies and BINDING it on the brethren which defeated the purpose of Christ’s death.  Christmas, in juxtaposition, supports Christ’s death and celebrates the new law.  The old ceremonies kept them captive but Christmas celebrates the freedom that “Christ has set us free” (5:1).  Furthermore, Paul said in Romans 14:5, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers everday alike.  Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”  The point?  Do not be divisive about this kind of stuff.  Besides, did Paul, in Galatians 4:10, really speak out against special days?

These are two major objections from the Scriptures that usually are tossed out there that can easily be refuted just understanding one rule: context.  Tomorrow is the last post.


Moving from Iraenaus’ claim to the apostle John we find comfort in knowing that it was God who came down to be one of us…to be one with us.

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.  (John 1:14-18)

A few things to note about this text that is worthy of reflection and devotion.  First of all, the Word became flesh.  Describe this?  I am not sure what happened but I know that he “emptied himself” (Phil 2:7) which means, in my opinion, that Jesus abdicated his rightful place on the throne of God and took on the form of something lesser…us.  Secondly, Jesus did this so that we would receive grace and truth.  Without this moment we do not have access to the father.

13For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9:13-14)

How is this possible? Because it was the plan altogether (see John 1:1-4; Col. 1:16-17; Heb 1:1-2).  During this time of the year we celebrate the plan that God wrought through His son.  We celebrate the plan that Jesus executed as he was executed.  No matter how you put it, the birth of Jesus points to the death of Jesus.  In the season of giving presents, decorating houses, drinking hot cocoa, eating fruit cake and kissing under mistletoe isn’t it much more meaningful (although I do like kissing under mistletoe) to recognize the Savior of the world?  Tim Keller, in a context of discussing reasons for the existence of God, reiterates the importance of Jesus coming to this world:

In the Christian view, however, the ultimate evidence for the existence of God is Jesus Christ himself.  If there is a God, we characters in his play have to hope that he put some information about himself in the play.  But Christians believe he did more than give us information.  He wrote himself into the play as the main character in history, when Jesus was born in a manger and rose from the dead.  He is the one with whom we have to do.[1]

Amen. 


[1] Tim Keller, The Reason for God, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008): 128