Tuesday, December 4, 2007
It will soon be Christmas, Lord willing, and I wanted to post several articles, poems, etc from some friends from around the world that will help all of us remember the true reason there is this season. These may either be in links to what they're written or the actual material. (If I find more, I will be sure to update this so you may want to put this post in your favorites until about January first.)
What is the Christmas Spirit?
In Preparation for Christmas: A Christian Meditation
In order to get ready for Christmas it is always helpful to prepare our hearts by thinking of what it must have been like for those of the household of Israel who had been waiting for the Messiah. It all started right after the fall when God told Eve that there would be a seed that would have His heal bruised by the serpent, but He would ultimately crush the serpent’s head. Already, God was promising a remedy for the spiritual death they had brought upon themselves, and all subsequent generations, and also for the physical death that was working in their bodies at that very moment.As time went on God's people were taught many things about this coming one who was going to redeem them from the wages of sin. To name a few, they were told that He was going to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and He would speak in parables (Ps. 78:2-4). On top of all that, He would be hated without reason (Ps. 35:19), He would be spat upon and stuck (Is. 50:6) and He would be pierced (Zech. 12:10), all to save His people by being a substitution for them in order to make atonement for their sins (Is. 53:5). Then in the darkest hour He would be resurrected (Ps 16:10, Ps 49:15).The prophecies had been progressively revealing details regarding the coming Messiah, and although they did not fully understand it, it gave them hope. But the promise of a Messiah, who was to redeem them from the grip of sin, is not the same as actually having Him present and knowing His name. Those among the Hebrews who really believed must have constantly been wondering who He was going to be and what His name would be. Jacob had wrestled with Him, and when Jacob asked Him his name He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name? (Gen. 32:29),"and he was left in mystery. Later, Samson’s father Manoah Spoke with Him, and though he did not fully understanding at the moment with whom he was speaking, he also asked Him His name and the response was "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful (Judges 13:18). For the name was not to be revealed until the fullness of time.With such wonder, hope, and speculation, they lived for thousands of years, including an approximately 400-year period of time, following the prophet Malachi, where God seemed to go silent. Then that faithful day came when an angel of the Lord appeared to Mary and said, "you will conceive and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus." His name would be Jesus, and He would save His people from their sins! The wait was over. Sinful humanity was to be redeemed, and the one who was to do it was going to be named Jesus!Oh, how we have sung His name for thousands of years. How long we have known the only name under heaven by which man can be saved. How long it has filled our hearts with joy. We have not only known His name and His teachings, which are and endless supply of light and life, but we have also known Him because He is still with us today, and will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.As we already know, He bore our sorrows and carried our grief. He took upon Himself our sins, thus ending the condemnation that the law demanded, and He imputes to us His righteousness, making us co-heirs in the inheritance that He so rightly deserves, and we most certainly do not. None of the rapturous joys that fill the believer’s heart would be the same, had it not been for His birth in that lowly stable when God himself took on flesh.It is easy to be swept away by all the trappings of the season, but the believer must not lose the infinite worth found in Christ, in all the paltry tin of secular add-ons. As you prepare your home this season, be sure preparation is made to spend time with your savior through meditation on His word and prayer, for no heart is as full as the heart that is filled with Christ.May the Lord bless you this Christmas season,Doug
The Meaning of Christmas
(Feel free to distribute this holiday e-card.)
Hope Shone Forth From an Infant Child - A Christmas Poem
In the manger that cold dark night
In humility, God himself appeared mild.
Yet His plan moved forth in all its might.
Salvation to humanity was born
The angels could not help but sing
This Infant Child would bear our scorn
This newborn Sovereign King.
Helpless was mankind in sin
Until the star shone forth its light
Our salvation to begin
Bringing hope to the contrite
The sin we bear has show n us guilty
Under the righteousness of God
Our defense is proven faulty
As He sees through our façade
But this Child would fulfill
The law that we could not
And by our sin, His blo od we’d spill
to pay our debt and take our lot
There is no guilt, which can’t be cleansed
The darkest stains can be removed
When His Grace has b een dispensed
By Jesus Christ, in Him approved
Let us worship the infant child
Born, a life, to set us free
By His grace we are beguiled
Infant born of sov ereign decree
What is the Christmas Spirit?
Sin, Sorrow, and the Joy of Christmas: A Meditation
The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy in this time of year. Being "grown-up" is a bit over-rated, because being "grown-up," according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart. Now, there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is time to be immovable, there is a time to be moved. There are things that should stir our hearts, and move us to childlike wonder, and the story of the birth of Jesus is one of those things.
Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise, we despise what is good, and we love that which will destroy us. So much so that it seems we love our own destruction. The disgracefulness of our sin is of such a nature that it does exactly that; it destroys the natural graces in which mankind was created. Left alone we will do nothing but revel in our own corruption, making ourselves all the more miserable. And what is worse, is that we are constantly heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a Holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished, and at the thought of such things should cause us to weep.
If this were where we were left, there would be no hope for any of us. But as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to give us a seed who would be the remedy for sin. What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, we see a curse that was to come upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion, and that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow. Why would God do such a thing after such a wonderful promise? Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder to us of the seriousness of sin. It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is, it is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.
As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have pondered that night and have thought of the cold ground beneath her, with no doctor’s guidance, and no comforts of her own home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His People from their Sins.
Christ, God incarnate, had entered our sin riddled world. From his first breath He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, willingly went to the slaughter never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and By His stripes we are healed.
If this Christmas season is passing you
by, and the thoughts of our Savior have
not yet moved your heart to adoration,
through the Spirits work, may the meditation of our great God and His Gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation. Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was
born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.