God in flesh

Christmas, at the heart, is the celebration of the incarnation of God in the flesh.  We believe that Jesus is God in the flesh by faith, not by reason.  However, this faith is reasonable and we can see signs that show this belief as reasonable.  I would present to you the observation that Phillip Brooks, a 19th-century preacher, when he describes Jesus’ humanity and deity this way:

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.  He grew up in another obscure village.  He worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.  He never wrote a book.  He never held an office.  He never owned a home.  He never had a family.  He never went to college.  He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born.  He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness.  He had no credentials but Himself.  He had nothing to do with the world except the power of His divine manhood.  While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him.  He was turned over to His enemies.  He was nailed on a cross between two thieves.  His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying – His coat.  When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.  And on the third day, He arose from the dead.  Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the centerpiece of the Human race and the leader of the column of progress.  I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together have not affected the life of man on earth as powerfully as has the One solitary life.  The explanation?  He is the Son of God, the risen Savior.

Jarrod Scott

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Christmas Funk Be Gone

You would think it was too early for the post-Christmas funk, what with Christmas still almost two weeks away and all.  Now, according to some very reliable websites, feeling less than yourself after the holidays is a very real condition more affectionately labeled Post-Holiday Depression.  But since it’s only the middle of December, the “post” part of the diagnosis seems a bit of a misnomer.  Consider the circumstances than any number of us might be enduring at this very moment.

In a matter of days, what many would consider to be the biggest day of the year will arrive, and it is your job to make it be as special and perfect as possible.  That means presents have to be bought, and presents have to be wrapped.  And a few weeks later, presents have to be paid for.  The house has to be decorated, starting with the putting up of a Christmas tree.  And then from what is usually the least-accessible storage area, decorations must be dragged out and put on display.  Some are still in the tradition of sending out Christmas cards, and how could the 25th come and go without enough food being prepared to feed your entire neighborhood?  Many are buried at work, and some are desperately in need of more.  There’s over-spending, over-committing, and on and on and on.

An article suggested to treat this time of year like any other to minimize the depression, and don’t pretend to be happy when you’re not, for that only adds to the blues.  Not very uplifting advice for “the most wonderful time of the year.”  Many pundits have their recipe for how to recover from one’s depression.  Most include things like expecting some sense of letdown, taking some small self-help steps, and continuing to seek out the relationships that sustain you throughout the year.  That sounds reasonable, though not extremely revelatory.

One writer reminded that Mary and Joseph had their own form of post-Christmas adjusting to do.  The baby Savior that they had been promised eventually came, and the anticipation was then gone.  The next year, they weren’t going to deliver another Messiah to mankind.  He was a one-of-a-kind gift.

Maybe treating this time of year as the gift that it is can take that funk and those blues and all your depression, and turn it into the joy it so deservedly should be.  It is His gift to us, remembered and celebrated each year.  Let’s start and end there, and leave all the rubbish behind.

Rich Holt

Christmas cheer?

Lights, Christmas trees, holiday parties, presents, carols, Rudolph, Santa, parades, advent candles, nativities, and food are just some of the features of the Chrismas season in America.  Does just the mention of these items help you with the “Christmas Spirit?” For some of us, we are on “go” when it comes to Christmas and we are all in when it comes to decorating and enjoying the festivities of Christmas.  However, what about when we are not?

Yesterday, I was visiting in the hospital and for some of the residents, Christmas won’t look like any of the features mentioned above.  Four years ago on December 14, our nation endured the shooting of Kindergarteners and elementary students at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.  Somehow singing “Jingle Bell Rock” and having parties didn’t seem appropriate.  The peripherals of Christmas were revealed to be shallow and useless in providing joy for real pain.  So we go back to the source of Christmas and see if there is any cause for joy that deals with the pain of a suffering world.

 Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 states,  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Here we have the prophecy and observation that the world is evil and it is to a suffering world that Messiah comes.  This child will be a Wonderful Counselor to a world lost and confused.  He will be a Mighty God to the world that needs power to right the wrongs,  He will be an Everlasting Father to the world that needs an enduring love.  He will be a Prince of Peace to the world that is restless with strife.

 

We see the beginning of the prophecy  fulfillment in some fields outside of Bethlehem.  To society outsiders working just outside of the Herodium, Herod’s fortress for security, a heavenly announcement was made. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12 ESV) Here God enters a dark and suffering world, not exempt from the suffering but enduring the suffering with us so that evil could come to an end. This news never gets old and produces the joyful heart, from which comes cheer.

Jarrod Scott (below is a field outside Bethlehem from my trip there in 2007)

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