Categories
Commentary Life

The Feast of St. Lucia

Yesterday, December 13, was the Feast of St. Lucia, a festival of lights celebrated in honor of St. Lucia (or Lucy), a martyr who was killed by the Romans in AD 304.

The name Lucia/Lucy comes from the Latin root lux which means “light.” Celebrated in the darkness of winter, St. Lucia Day reminds us that the true Light of the world has come.

It’s celebrated primarily in Sweden and Norway, but also in Italy (where Lucia was born) and in parts of Finland.

It’s also celebrated in our house.

My wife has quite a bit of Scandinavian heritage and richly embraces it. So much so that I’ve embraced it, too, and now consider myself an honorary Scandinavian. Our children love traditions, especially ones with significant meaning. So St. Lucia Day has become tradition in our home.

St. Lucia’s feast calls for breakfast in bed. With a 1-year old, we start at the table. As we gathered in the darkness with only our dim, white Christmas lights lit, I read this:

In the liturgy of the Church, Saint Lucy has held, and still holds today, the inspiring position of a saint whose very name reminds the faithful at the middle of Advent that her own “light” is only a reflection of the great “Light of the World” which is to start shining at Bethlehem on Christmas Day. It is as if she would say: “I am only a little flame in Advent showing you the way: 

Behold, the Lord will come And all His saints with Him, And on that day There will be a great light. Alleluia.

Lucia is one, small candle in the night pointing to the Great Light, who lights up the entire world. And whoever follows that Light will never walk in darkness again.

Here’s a brief insight I had from the day. I couldn’t help but think that Protestants would benefit from intentionally celebrating more feast days like this. It was fun. It had purpose. And, ultimately, it points us to Jesus.

The problem is that when we Protestants hear anything having to do with a “saint” we don’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole. Dealing with “saints” smacks of all-things-Roman Catholic and idol worship. So we just avoid it altogether and, for the most part, forget those who have come before us. And we are poorer for it. (Remember, of course, that Lucia lived in the third century AD, well before the formation of the Roman Catholic Church as you know it today.)

The Scriptures tell us that celebrating a day or a religious festival is a matter of conscience because they are just a shadow of the things that were to come (see Col. 2:16-17). So no judgment at all if you or I abstain. Period.

But a feast like St. Lucia Day, while just a shadow, is still a shadow. And shadows can help us to see and experience the Substance.

We have a great cloud of witnesses who have come before us–ones we read of in the Scriptures and ones we read of outside the Scriptures. These witnesses don’t point us to themselves, but to Jesus. Otherwise, they aren’t true witnesses.

Maybe you are a Christian, of any tradition, who feels like you aren’t connected to your spiritual heritage. Maybe you are a parent who wants to structure your holidays and year with meaningful traditions. Maybe you just want to learn about those who have gone before you.

Then celebrate a feast day.

I’m not asking you to pray to or worship saints. I’m asking you to remember that you are a part of a great, spiritual family tree that spans generations and geography. Our history is rich. And I hope you to use that history to help you see and worship the One to whom the saints, like Lucia, point.

Categories
Theology

What is Preaching?

When you listen to a sermon at church, what do you hear? In his book Transforming Conversion, Gordon T. Smith has some very important words for all Christians to keep at the forefront of their minds:

Preaching is not about urging hearers to work harder, try harder, and do more so that they are more faithful. They cannot do so; the depth of the human predicament makes this impossible and thus futile and (rightly) results in much cynicism about the Christian life—better put, it is cynicism about a false conception of the Christian life. Rather, preaching is about drawing the people of God into the grand accomplishment of Christ in the cross and the resurrection so that they can participate in this life, rest in the wonder of the gospel, and know the transformation that comes through the ministry of the Spirit. Yet in this [the people of God] are not passive! Rather, they need to be involved in active response comparable to one who attends to the subtle yet sure movements of a lead dancer (93).

If you do not leave a sermon in awe of Christ’s grand accomplishment in the gospel and assured of the grace of God at work in you through the Spirit, but rather leave wondering how in the world you will do what the preacher just told you to do, then you did not hear a Christian sermon. You may have heard positive thinking, good advice, or straight-up law; but you did not hear gospel preaching. And lest anyone think that this produces an anti-obedience or anti-effort Christianity, remember Smith’s final words: true Christian sermons aim at active, faith-fueled response, just like a good lead dancer’s initiative.

Let’s respond by praying for our pastors to proclaim Christ, not just talk about Christ. And let us also pray that we respond to Christ’s gospel and the Spirit’s work in us with grace-driven and faith-fueled effort to the glory of God.

Categories
Life

Monday Musings

Here’s a few thoughts and links to start off the week:

  • The Superbowl ads were kind of lame this year.  But VW’s SuperBowl commercial was the best, in my opinion.
  • You heard it here last, but I bet Peyton Manning will be having literal nightmares about that 4th quarter pick-six for months.
  • David Sills, a 13-year-old from Delaware commits to USC and Lane Kiffin for the class of 2015.  This whole situation represents everything that is wrong with college sports, recruiting, and sports marketing.  Here’s a video of Sills (I apologize for the terrible choice of music they used for this video).  A YouTube commenter said it best: “Congrats.  You are the king of middle school football.”  This is a terrible abuse of a child who will never be able to be a kid, grow up normal, or enjoy high school.
  • Tim Tebow and Focus on the Family’s Superbowl ad should not cause any controversies.  Why?  It wasn’t controversial.
  • I don’t think it’s a question whether Sara Palin will run for president in 2012.  The question is will she run for the Republican Party or Tea Party?
Categories
Theology

Conversation Between a Calvinist and an Arminian

This is from John Piper’s post earlier this week about how Charles Simeon, a Calvinist, tried to reason with John Wesley, an Arminian, about the supremacy of God in the salvation and perseverance of Christians.  I have adapted it to contemporary language.

So you call yourself an Arminian. People call me a Calvinist; and therefore we are supposed to argue about finer points of theology. But before we start fighting, may I ask you a few questions? Do you think that you are a depraved person, so depraved, in fact, that you would have never turned to God if God had not put it in your heart first?

Yes, I do indeed

And do you reject your coming to God with your works as the source of your righteousness, and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

And since you were at first saved by Christ, do you try to continue to be saved by something other than him?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Since then you were first saved by the grace of God, do you need to keep yourself saved by your own power?

No.

Are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, just like a baby in his mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you so that you will be able enter into his kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, let me say, my friend, that this is what Calvinism is. This is election and justification by faith, and perseverance. This is really all there is to it and nothing else. Therefore, instead of searching for differences in language and definitions and having that be a source of contention between us, can we please be united in these things that we agree on?

Obviously, there is a lot more in Reformed theology than just this, but I think Simeon’s point is to show that “Arminians” and “Calvinists” have more in common than they think.  Furthermore, I think that Simeon may have tried to show the inconsistencies in Arminian thought.

How do you think the conversation would have gone if Wesley had asked the questions?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of coming to God with your works as the source of your righteousness, and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

And supposing you were at first saved by Christ, do you try to continue to be saved by something other than him?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Since then you were first saved by the grace of God, do you need to keep yourself saved by your own power?

No.

Are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, just like a baby in his mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you so that you can enter into his kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, let me say, my friend, that this is what Calvinism is to me.  This is election and justification by faith, and perseverance.  This is really all there is to it and nothing else.  Therefore, if you please, instead of fighting about language and having it be a source of contention between us, can we please be united in these things that we agree on?