It’s still Christmas – this is the second day of the Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas are more than a song. They are the keeping, the remaining, the staying, of Christmas. It is not moving on, but staying and gazing, wondering, worshiping.

Christmas, in the church year, begins on Christmas Day, and completes on Jan 5. Jan 6 is Epiphany. The observance had its origins in the Eastern Christian Churches and was a general celebration of the manifestation of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It included the commemoration of his birth; the visit of the Magi (“Wise Men”, as Magi were Persian wisemen) to Bethlehem; all of Jesus’s childhood events, up to and including his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist; and even the miracle at the Wedding of Cana in Galilee. It seems fairly clear that the Baptism was the primary event being commemorated.

God in flesh is the burden of the twelve days of Christmas. God one of us. God as us. God among us.

In the liturgical communions, the Twelve Days of Christmas include three feasts, that of St. Stephen (12/26), the first Christian martyr. In remembering his death, we are recalling that Jesus himself came to die and that many who have followed him have given their lives in witness to his light. There is also the Feast of St. John(12/27), who reminds us in chapter one of his gospel that the Word became flesh and we beheld his glory. On 12/28 there is the Commemoration of the Holy Innocents, those infants slaughtered by King Herod in a fit of paranoia.

And then there is the Feast of the Holy Name on 1/1, on the eighth day after the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the day our Lord was circumcised. This reminds us of the Jewishness of Jesus and that salvation is of the Jews, as Jesus himself said. This is a fitting way to start the New Year, reminding ourselves that Jesus has the name which is above all names.

1/6 is Epiphany. Here we remember the visit of the Magi to worship the Christ. There is a completeness to the nativity, for even the Gentile nations come to worship the Christ child. Jesus is Jewish and the fulfillment of promises made to Israel, but he has come for all peoples.

Thus we complete the Christmas season. Soon we will be on our way to the cross with Ash Wednesday and Lent beginning on Feb 22. Cradle and Cross. These are poles around which the Christ story turns. We embed these stories in time, on calendar, year by year, lest we forget that Christ has entered time and changed days and weeks and months and years into the Last Days, the visitation of our God, who will return again.

Winsome Words 12/27/11

Poor sinner! Christ has not left going forth yet. And when he goes forth, recollect, he goes to Bethlehem. Have you a Bethlehem in your heart? Are you little? will go forth to you yet. Go home and seek him by earnest prayer. If you have been made to weep on account of sin, and think yourself too little to be noticed, go home, little one! Jesus comes to little ones; his goings forth were of old, and he is going forth now. He will come to your poor old house; he will come to your poor wretched heart; he will come, though you are in poverty, and clothed in rags, though you are destitute, tormented, and afflicted; he will come, for his goings forth have been of old from everlasting. Trust him, trust him, trust him; and he will go forth to abide in your heart for ever.  Charles Spurgeon

Parishioners at baptist church watched as a brawl broke out right in the middle of service

There have been times when I actually have been surprised this hasn’t happened in a church I was pastoring. Though it doesn’t seem music and who gets the microphone were at the center of this brawl, it’s no surprise that the fighters were musicians. Moments have come on praise teams when I thoroughly expected a throw down. Believe me, don’t ever get in between a singer and the microphone. You will find out that electricity isn’t the only thing that has voltage.

When pastors get together, what they talk about is praise teams and how crazy it all gets. And yet pastors step back into it again and again, thinking that if they just had a better music program the church would be saved. You pay a price for that kind of thinking.

Blessed is the church where the powers that be keep a governor on the accelerator of music. When that baby is pushed all the way to the floor, the pyrotechnics can be blinding. The stories are amazing.

Here’s the article.

Behold What the Grace of God Does

Christianity is many things but certainly not less than the study of grace, God’s unmerited kindness to sinners. The Bible does not seek to prove the existence of God with endless arguments. Nor does it seek to prove his sovereignty. All intuitively know that God exists and that he is Almighty. We might forget these lessons, but the very light of nature teaches these things to be so.

But what needs to be argued again and again is that God looks with mercy upon us. We are a self-condemning lot. Even in our proud appearance before others, our consciences smite us. At times we cannot bear the weight.

Thus the story of grace. Here is what grace does in a sequence of effects that lead to nothing less than full participation in the life of God through union with Jesus Christ:

the restraint of sin by which the Holy Spirit provides time for repentance
the conviction of sin, by which the Holy Spirit awakens the sinner to the awareness of sin
repentance, by which the Holy Spirit lead the penitent to godly sorrow for sin, reform of behavior, reparation of harm done to others, revulsion against sin, and confession of sin
faith, by which the Holy Spirit enables one to place personal trust in the Savior
regeneration, by which the Holy Spirit quickens life spiritually so as to begin a new life born of God, born by adoption into the family of God
the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by which the Holy Spirit comes to reside in the heart of the believer
baptism of the Holy Spirit, by which the new person becomes dead to the old way and alive to the new
the sealing of the Holy Spirit, by which the Spirit confirms the living Word in the heart
assurance, by which the Holy Spirit witnesses inwardly to the spirit of the believer that one is a son or daughter of God, pardoned and adopted, enabling a firm conviction that one is reconciled to God
the filling of the believer by the Holy Spirit, by which the Holy Spirit comes more and more fully to express the way of holiness in the life of the believer
sanctification, by which the Holy Spirit works to bring the regenerate spirit of the believer into full participation in the life of God through union with Christ.

 

This is the way a Christian should write an obituary of Christopher Hitchens

Francis Collins writes a remembrance of Hitchens that is full of common grace. I know it is tempting for all believers to end any obit of Hitchens by the epithet, “and now he is in hell.” Why does my tribe have to do this? Does Jesus lose out for some reason if we don’t attach these words? Do we become less consistently Christian if we do not use these words? Do we perceive of ourselves as less loyal to Christ?

I applaud those who keep faithful to the hard sayings of Jesus. Many Christians forget that it was Jesus who put hell on the map. Yes, this great teacher of love taught an ultimate separation, a broad road leading to destruction and a narrow road leading to life. How conveniently this is left out in so many of our pulpits.

Nevertheless, as Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice:

“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?”

There is a time to wound, as a faithful believer must do. But “showing our stuff” at the expense of someone else’s loss is out of bounds.

Here is the article.