Categories
Theology

Celebrating Advent

Historically, the Christian church has devoted the month of December to celebrating Advent (from the Latin adventus, which means “coming, arrival”). The first Advent was Jesus’ birth: when God himself took on flesh as a humble baby, born in a dirty stable. For centuries upon centuries, the Old Testament saints had anticipated the Messiah’s arrival. We, too, are saints who anticipate the Messiah’s second arrival. Jesus’ next Advent will come when he returns at the end of the age, not as a poor, humble carpenter, but as a warrior King who rescues his friends and slaughters his foes.

As we celebrate Jesus’ first arrival, and anticipate his second, join me, and millions of other Christians around the globe, in purposeful and intentional daily reflection on the wonders and glories of the gospel. Below are a few options for daily Scripture/devotional readings.

Categories
Ministry Theology

Thoughts on Mission and Halloween

Here are some perspectives on Halloween from Christians:

On Mission This Halloween – Jeff Vanderstelt

What does a Christian need to know about Halloween? – James Harleman

What are your thoughts on Halloween? – John Piper

Sent into the Harvest: Halloween on Mission – David Mathis

Categories
Life

Happy May Day!

Originally posted on May 1, 2008

On Christmas Day, we put gifts underneath a pine tree, hang socks above the fireplace, kiss under weeds hanging on the ceiling, eat a lot of candy, leave cookies and milk out for Santa and perhaps, in some circumstances, might even sing happy birthday to Jesus.  Now that I think about it, that sounds a bit odd.  And  actually, the more I think about it, the more I wonder why we don’t celebrate May Day as a nation.  I mean, it’s not all that different from Christmas.  Well…it’s a holiday with pagan origins.  I guess that’s about where the similarities end.

The day has roots in celebrating fertility (ancient Egypt), remembering political/social victories (U.S. and U.K.), engaging in sexual activity (Germany), warding against witchcraft (Germany), and commemorating the beginning of spring (England).  During the festival in England, at the break of dawn on May 1, villagers would go out into the forest and gather flowers and wood for the day’s celebration.  The largest piece of wood brought back would be used as the Maypole.  This gathering of flowers and wood is calling “bringing in the may.”  Geoffrey Chaucer is attributed with the poem Court of Love, written in 1561.  The following excerpt is a glance into the Mayday Festival.  (It’s in old English…but you’ll do fine.)

And furth goth all the Court, both most and lest,
To feche the floures fressh, and braunche and blome;
And namly, hawthorn brought both page and grome.
With fressh garlandes, partie blewe and whyte,
And thaim rejoysen in their greet delyt.

I’m sure somebody will be able to put a Christian spin on this, right?

Villagers & Morris-men dancing beside the Maypole on Ickwell Green, Bedfordshire; Dawn on 1st May 2005.

The Maypole, in England, in all its glory.

Categories
Life

If you only go to Bethlehem, you haven’t gone far enough.

Have you ever wondered why so many artists (who aren’t Evangelical Christians) have recorded classic Christmas hymns praising Jesus? Neil Diamond belting out “Silent Night.”  Mariah Carey performing “O Holy Night.”  Natalie Cole giving a stirring rendition of “The First Noel.”  The list goes on and on.

Well, here’s a possible answer to my question:

A baby Jesus isn’t very intimidating, but a Jesus who dies on the cross for your sins and miraculously rises from the dead and demands honor, love, and repentance is.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jesus was just as much God at birth as he was on the cross.  But if we have learned anything from Ricky Bobby, we’ve learned that praying (or in this case, singing) to an “8 lb. 6 oz. newborn infant Jesus…just a little infant, so cuddly” is not awe-inspiring.  Praying to the God of the universe who went to the cross for all the times you trampled upon his glory, however, is.

First John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  That means that little baby Jesus was born to kill sin.  The only way Jesus could make this happen would be to move on from his manger in Bethlehem toward Golgotha in Jerusalem, where he died on the cross and then triumphantly rose from the dead to conquer sin, Satan, death, and hell.

If you love the classic hymns of the season, sing them with honor and reverence and praise for the Baby who grew up into a Man and died and rose again.  Jesus didn’t stay in Bethlehem.  Neither should we.

Categories
Life

O Holy Night

Perhaps one of the best Christmas hymns ever written (theologically, lyrically, and musically), in my opinion.

O Holy Night
Written by Adolphe Adam.  Performed by Chris Tomlin.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

Christ is the Lord, O praise his name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,

Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;

In all our trials born to be our friends.

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.

And in his name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,

His power and glory ever more proclaim!

His power and glory ever more proclaim!