Posted in christmas, theology

Solstice thoughts on Christmas Eve

By Elizabeth Prata

I was saved by Grace of God late in life, at age 42. But that doesn’t mean I spent the first four decades ignorant of God. His creation spoke to me, my conscience pricked me, and my soul longed to be filled even as I mused as to why it was curiously empty. Romans 2:15, Ecc 3:11).

I’d asked the big questions: Why are we here? What is life good for if it is so short and the earth so old? It seems pointless. Why did nothing satisfy me for very long? Money or travel or accolades work or marriage or accomplishments? What was the point of it all? If there was a God, why would he care about us? We’re so puny.

I finally acknowledged there was a God, because creation existed. I was a living example of Romans 1:19.

I could not, however, figure out who went to heaven and why, what the benchmark was that allowed some people in and others not. This was because I rejected the notion of my sin and Jesus’s blood in atonement for it. I was a living example of Romans 1:18.

During the time just prior to my salvation, while I was seeking actively, I fell in with a group of pagans and witches. I was invited to a solstice night gathering. This was in Maine and on December 21, it’s cold. The average low for that night is 17 degrees, with the average high just hovering above freezing, with an average of a foot of snow on the ground. That particular year there was a lot of snow.

I’d been familiar with Roman Catholic ceremonies, my husband was Catholic. There, the gravitas of the situation was impressed upon you by long-held shiny rituals and reverberating chants in another language. Mysterious. I didn’t understand it but it was obvious that other people did. One can see the attraction to this sort of thing.

The ritual or ceremony for the Solstice event was to simply go outside and stand around in the yard in shin-deep snow, looking at the pine trees. As the sun sank, we were told to think of something or say something that came to mind.

Like what? It’s cold outside? When can we go in and have the hot chocolate that was promised? Am I supposed to worship a tree? Where was the meaning in that?

Where was the framework to put this into perspective? What were we supposed to think? Or say? Or do? I just shifted feet and pushed my hands further into my pockets. Is this where eternal meaning was? If so, it felt so empty.

I now know that in addition to being a silly ceremony, if that’s what it was, it was empty because we were trying to find meaning in the creation when we were part of the creation itself. It went no higher than that.

The joy of Christmas is that the transcendent was made manifest, and on our behalf too. The problem with a solstice ceremony was that they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:23). Honoring the creation but not the Creator who created it is foolish. And it felt so.

The Lord in His grace saved me a short while later. He opened my eyes to His glory and caused my heart to incline to worship of the Ancient of Days. He is living, His glory was shown in the image of His Son, (Hebrews 1:3) who was born that day in the city of David. (Luke 2:11).

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The Christian world rejoices tonight in the mystery of the incarnation, the babe, who lived as a lamb but will return as a lion. Praise God that “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5).

 

Posted in christmas, Uncategorized

Christmas verses from Old Testament and New

shepherds christ's birth

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.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14).

The Righteous Reign of the Branch
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
(Isaiah 11:1).

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2).

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9).

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (Hosea 11:1)

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5).

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39-45)

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about : His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25).

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:1-20).

 

chris powers full of eyes christmas banner

 

Posted in christmas, incarnation, prophecy, second coming

We celebrate Christ’s first Advent, look forward to His Second Coming; prophecies fulfilled and to come!

“Simeon and Jesus. Russian Painter Andrey Shishkin

Prophecy: For unto us a child is born, (Isaiah 9:6a)
Fulfilled: For unto you is born this day (Luke 2:11a)

At Christmas we think of it as having begun. But it is finished. Christ was born a savior, Luke 2:11 says-

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He did not become a savior or grow into a savior but was born a savior, and one who was born having to die, shedding His blood.

44 Prophecies Jesus Christ Fulfilled

Prophecies About Jesus Old Testament Scriptures, New Testament Fulfillment

1. Messiah would be born of a woman. Genesis 3:15 Matthew 1:20 Galatians 4:4
2. Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 Matthew 2:1 Luke 2:4-6
3. Messiah would be born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:22-23 Luke 1:26-31
4. Messiah would come from the line of Abraham. Genesis 12:3 Genesis 22:18 Matthew 1:1 Romans 9:5
5. Messiah would be a descendant of Isaac. Genesis 17:19 Genesis 21:12 Luke 3:34
6. Messiah would be a descendant of Jacob. Numbers 24:17 Matthew 1:2
7. Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah. Genesis 49:10 Luke 3:33 Hebrews 7:14
8. Messiah would be heir to King David’s throne. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 Isaiah 9:7 Luke 1:32-33 Romans 1:3
9. Messiah ‘s throne will be anointed and eternal. Psalm 45:6-7 Daniel 2:44 Luke 1:33 Hebrews 1:8-12
10. Messiah would be called Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:23
11. Messiah would spend a season in Egypt. Hosea 11:1 Matthew 2:14-15
12 A massacre of children would happen at. Messiah ‘s birthplace. Jeremiah 31:15 Matthew 2:16-18
13 A messenger would prepare the way for. Messiah Isaiah 40:3-5 Luke 3:3-6
14. Messiah would be rejected by his own people. Psalm 69:8 Isaiah 53:3 John 1:11 John 7:5
15. Messiah would be a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:15 Acts 3:20-22
16. Messiah would be preceded by Elijah. Malachi 4:5-6 Matthew 11:13-14
17. Messiah would be declared the Son of God. Psalm 2:7 Matthew 3:16-17
18. Messiah would be called a Nazarene. Isaiah 11:1 Matthew 2:23
19. Messiah would bring light to Galilee. Isaiah 9:1-2 Matthew 4:13-16
20. Messiah would speak in parables. Psalm 78:2-4 Isaiah 6:9-10 Matthew 13:10-15, 34-35
21. Messiah would be sent to heal the brokenhearted. Isaiah 61:1-2 Luke 4:18-19
22. Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Psalm 110:4 Hebrews 5:5-6
23. Messiah would be called King. Psalm 2:6 Zechariah 9:9 Matthew 27:37 Mark 11:7-11
24. Messiah would be praised by little children. Psalm 8:2 Matthew 21:16
25. Messiah would be betrayed. Psalm 41:9 Zechariah 11:12-13 Luke 22:47-48 Matthew 26:14-16
26. Messiah ‘s price money would be used to buy a potter’s field. Zechariah 11:12-13 Matthew 27:9-10
27. Messiah would be falsely accused. Psalm 35:11 Mark 14:57-58
28. Messiah would be silent before his accusers. Isaiah 53:7 Mark 15:4-5
29. Messiah would be spat upon and struck. Isaiah 50:6 Matthew 26:67
30. Messiah would be hated without cause. Psalm 35:19 Psalm 69:4 John 15:24-25
31. Messiah would be crucified with criminals. Isaiah 53:12 Matthew 27:38 Mark 15:27-28
32. Messiah would be given vinegar to drink. Psalm 69:21 Matthew 27:34 John 19:28-30
33. Messiah ‘s hands and feet would be pierced. Psalm 22:16 Zechariah 12:10 John 20:25-27
34. Messiah would be mocked and ridiculed. Psalm 22:7-8 Luke 23:35
35 Soldiers would gamble for Messiah ‘s garments. Psalm 22:18 Luke 23:34 Matthew 27:35-36
36. Messiah ‘s bones would not be broken. Exodus 12:46 Psalm 34:20 John 19:33-36
37. Messiah would be forsaken by God. Psalm 22:1 Matthew 27:46
38. Messiah would pray for his enemies. Psalm 109:4 Luke 23:34
39 Soldiers would pierce. Messiah ‘s side. Zechariah 12:10 John 19:34
40. Messiah would be buried with the rich. Isaiah 53:9 Matthew 27:57-60
41. Messiah would resurrect from the dead. Psalm 16:10 Psalm 49:15 Matthew 28:2-7 Acts 2:22-32
42. Messiah would ascend to heaven. Psalm 24:7-10 Mark 16:19 Luke 24:51
43. Messiah would be seated at God’s right hand. Psalm 68:18 Psalm 110:1 Mark 16:19 Matthew 22:44
44. Messiah would be a sacrifice for sin. Isaiah 53:5-12 Romans 5:6-8
(Source)

The prophecies are so specific there is no doubt Jesus is who He says He is, and that He accomplished what He said He will do. Since He came to atone for our sins, this means that you sin, I sin, we all sin. What will you do in the face of these truths? Ignore and suppress the truth of Jesus in unrighteousness? (Romans 1:18)? Or surrender to His sovereignty and plea for forgiveness of your sins, repenting and living for Him?

The joy of knowing Him is unparalleled, and the peace of soul and heart is inexpressible. The sweet Babe is also a fierce and victorious King. He is returning, and He will slay the wicked and exalt the righteous. We celebrate the past of His first advent. We look forward to the coming of the Second Advent. When He comes, which side will you be on?

Charles Spurgeon’s devotional for Christmas morning says:

He Came; He Is Coming

This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)

Many are celebrating our Lord’s first coming this day; let us turn our thoughts to the promise of His second coming. This is as sure as the first advent and derives a great measure of its certainty from it. He who came as a lowly man to serve will assuredly come to take the reward of His service. He who came to suffer will not be slow in coming to reign.

This is our glorious hope, for we shall share His joy. Today we are in our concealment and humiliation, even as He was while here below; but when He cometh it will be our manifestation, even as it will be His revelation. Dead saints shall live at His appearing. The slandered and despised shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Then shall the saints appear as kings and priests, and the days of their mourning shall be ended. The long rest and inconceivable splendor of the millennial reign will be an abundant recompense for the ages of witnessing and warring.

Oh, that the Lord would come! He is coming! He is on the road and traveling quickly. The sound of His approach should be as music to our hearts! Ring out, ye bells of hope!

Posted in christmas, encouragement, jesus, shepherds

The Shepherds were watching their flocks by night…

EPrata photo

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. (Luke 2:8-17)

Shepherds. Shepherds? Why them?

watch … by night—or, night watches, taking their turn of watching. From about passover time in April until autumn, the flocks pastured constantly in the open fields, the shepherds lodging there all that time. (From this it seems plain that the period of the year usually assigned to our Lord’s birth is too late). Were these shepherds chosen to have the first sight of the blessed Babe without any respect of their own state of mind? That, at least, is not God’s way.

“No doubt, like Simeon (Lu 2:25), they were among the waiters for the Consolation of Israel” [OLSHAUSEN];

and, if the simplicity of their rustic minds, their quiet occupation, the stillness of the midnight hours, and the amplitude of the deep blue vault above them for the heavenly music which was to fill their ear, pointed them out as fit recipients for the first tidings of an Infant Saviour, the congenial meditations and conversations by which, we may suppose, they would beguile the tedious hours would perfect their preparation for the unexpected visit. [Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible]

Let us go, &c.—lovely simplicity of devoutness and faith this! They are not taken up with the angels, the glory that invested them, and the lofty strains with which they filled the air. Nor do they say, Let us go and see if this be true—they have no misgivings. But “Let us go and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” Does not this confirm the view given on Lu 2:8 of the spirit of these humble men? [Source: Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible]

Humble men, guiding and caring for the sheep of Israel. This is a well-known metaphor laced throughout the bible, starting with the first shepherd, Abel. (Genesis 4:4). The first human blood shed in the Bible was shepherd’s blood, performed by an angry, jealous one who rejected God.

Who were shepherds in the Bible? Abel, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Laban, Jacob’s twelve sons, Moses, David, Mesha– King of Moab (Jordan), Doeg, Amos, the shepherds who came to honor Jesus (source).

Source(s): Genesis 4:2
Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.

Genesis 21:28
Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock,

Genesis 13:5
Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.

Genesis 26:12
Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

Genesis 30:32
Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages.

Genesis 29:9
While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.

Genesis 47:3
Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?” “Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.”

Exodus 2:17
Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.

1 Samuel 21:7
Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the LORD; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd.

2 Kings 3:4
Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to supply the king of Israel with a hundred thousand lambs and with the wool of a hundred thousand rams.

Amos 1:1
The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.

Luke 2:15
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Luke 2:20
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the Last Shepherd, the Best Shepherd

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)

The shepherds in the field made “haste” to go. They did not hesitate to go and worship. Let us make haste to worship the Good Shepherd on this eve of His birth, He is deserving of all praise, glory and worship.

What Child Is This?

Posted in christmas, encouragement, incarnation

For to us a child is born…

All of this deliverance and joy will be based upon the incarnation and the birth of Christ (“Immanuel,” 7:14), 9:6, 7. Christ will be both human (“a child is born”) and divine (“a Son is given”). He will bear five names:

(1) “Wonderful” (He will do wonderful things);
(2) “Counsellor” (He will be able to advise all men in regard to all things);
(3) “The Mighty God” (He will be the mighty “El.” “El” is contrasted with man, 31:3; Hosea 11:9);
(4) “The everlasting Father” (“the Father of eternity”); and
(5) “The Prince of peace” (He will subdue all of His enemies and give peace to all of His friends).

He will do six things:
(1) He will sit upon the throne of David;
(2) He will set the kingdom of David in order;
(3) He will establish justice in this kingdom forever;
(4) He will bear the government of the world upon His shoulder;
(5) He will keep on extending His government (rule) until it covers all men (“of the increase of His government there shall be no end.”) All who refuse to come under His rule will be destroyed; and
(6) He will keep on bestowing His peace until it has been bestowed upon all men (“of the increase of His peace there shall be no end”).

Source: Gingrich, R. E. (1993). The Book of Isaiah (pp. 16–17).

Posted in christmas, encouragement, God, incarnation

The Remarkable Exclusivity of the Babe

As a student who was blessed with a classic education, I studied the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. The entire genealogy of gods and goddesses in the Greek and Roman mythology are hard to keep track of. However, one thing that is not hard to discern is their character. As The British Museum puts it:

The ancient Greeks believed there were a great number of gods and goddesses. These gods had control over many different aspects of life on earth. In many ways they were very human. They could be kind or mean, angry or pleasant, cruel or loving. They fell in love with each other, argued with each other and even stole from each other.

They were always angry at something or other. For example, there was Eris, goddess of discord.

ERIS was the goddess or spirit (daimona) of strife, discord, contention and rivalry. She was often represented specifically as the daimon of the strife of war, who haunted the battlefield and delighted in human bloodshed. Because of Eris’ disagreeable nature she was the only goddess not to be invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (parents of Achilles). When she turned up anyway, she was refused admittance and, in a rage, threw a golden apple amongst the goddesses inscribed “To the fairest.” Three goddesses laid claim it, and in their rivalry brought about the events which led to the Trojan War. (source)

Hm, ‘the golden apple of discord’. Sounds familiar. Anyway, one would have thought that a goddess possessing great powers and knowledge would have had a bit more self-control. I guess not.

Then there’s the story of poor Arachne. Ovid wrote-

Arachne was a shepherd’s daughter who began weaving at an early age. She became a great weaver, boasted that her skill was greater than that of Athena, and refused to acknowledge that her skill came, in part at least, from the goddess. Athena took offense and set up a contest between them. Presenting herself as an old lady, she approached the boasting girl and warned: “You can never compare to any of the gods. Plead for forgiveness and Athena might spare your soul.”

“Ha, I only speak the truth and if Athena thinks otherwise then let her come down and challenge me herself,” Arachne replied. Athena removed her disguise and appeared in shimmering glory, clad in a sparkling white chiton. The two began weaving straight away. Athena’s weaving represented four separate contests between mortals and the gods in which the gods punished mortals for setting themselves as equals of the gods. Arachne’s weaving depicted ways that the gods had misled and abused mortals, particularly Zeus, tricking and seducing many women. When Athena saw that Arachne had not only insulted the gods, but done so with a work far more beautiful than Athena’s own, she was enraged. She ripped Arachne’s work into shreds, and sprinkled her with Hecate’s potion, turning her into a spider and cursing her and her descendants to weave for all time. This showed how goddesses punished those human for wanting to be equals. (source)

It’s where we get the word for the class of spiders, arachnids. The gods were always either seducing someone or their wives the goddesses were always changing someone into something for being seduced. The Titans were the first set of gods, and like all others that followed, were subject to succumbing to human sins and passions. Though the premier gods, the Titans couldn’t even hold onto their power, and were usurped by their children, the twelve Olympians. I guess they weren’t so Titanic after all.

I used to wonder, what made them gods? Why did they seem like such humans? It is the same with Hindu gods, Native American gods, Chinese gods…decidedly not…god-like.

Of course we know that this is because these gods are made-up. Because their origin came from the mind of man, they are like man. These gods either were distant and removed from the petty squabbles of mankind, or were directly involved but not usually to humankind’s good.

Preceding all these was Yahweh. After Cain wandered away from God and the faith, departing in blood after killing his brother, he founded cities and these cities held people who also were not believers in God. So they made up their own. Lots of them. Some of these false gods were mentioned in the Bible- ancient gods like Amon, Asherah, Baal, desert gods like Dagon, Roman gods like Zeus and Hermes, Artemis, Castor and Pollux. Of course, since none of these gods were real, they were all a #fail and were constantly disappointing the people who foolishly believed in them.

Since these fake gods were like man, when man looked at these gods, they felt comfortable. Looking into a mirror of mercurial, petty gods was like looking at themselves, and all was well. I can understand a god like me, goes the thinking, I can handle a god with problems.

God has always been a God of perfection, holiness, goodness, justice. If He says it, it shall be done. (Ezekiel 12:28, Psalm 33:4, & etc.) In Him there is no shadow of turning at all. He is not changeable, mercurial, petulant, angry without reason (like changing people into spiders). Man could not conceive of a God as perfect and just as our God. Man cannot look upon His holiness and live. He is decidedly a God that mans sinful man uncomfortable.

Who is like God?

Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you– majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)

For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? (Psalm 89:6)

Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, (Psalm 113:5)

And then came the Incarnation. Our God, seeing the lost state of humanity and our need to be redeemed from sin’s bondage, sent His Son to be birthed into this terrible, dark world. He is King, who emptied Himself and became a baby, then an obedient boy, then a servant of men, then a sacrifice unto death. Who is like our God! Who is like Jesus, the firstborn of all creation!

Many babies grew to be kings. No king has ever become a baby. Yet God promised a Redeeeer from the beginning, and so it came to be. He is a God of promises kept.

The supremacy of our Jesus is unparalleled. His time on earth as God-man is an event which split history, reverberated through earth, heaven, and eternity, and broke sin’s bondage. Who is like our God!

No other petulant god, no other angry idol, no other petty deity exists. Only the perfection encapsulated in a baby born on earth, to the glory of God and to the praises of angels and shepherds.

Christ is born. And there is no other.

Posted in christmas, incarnation, joseph, nativity

The Christmas Story: Joseph

We rightly focus on the Incarnation at this time of year. And we rightly study the main people associated with it, Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Gabriel the messenger, the Shepherds, the Wise Men…but what of Joseph? Here is a small scene which gives us much rich insight into the foster father of our Lord and Savior.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18-21)

–v. 18: “her husband Joseph“. Betrothals in ancient Israel were different than engagements of our day. They were contracts and the betrothal was as good as the actual marriage-without the consummation. That’s why in the next verse, Joseph is recorded as considering a divorce.

Compare Mt 1:20, “Mary, thy wife.” Betrothal was, in Jewish law, valid marriage. In giving Mary up, therefore, Joseph had to take legal steps to effect the separation. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

–v. 19: Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. (ESV). The NIV says
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

The Holy Spirit in His wisdom chose to include the word “just” here. Joseph is a just man. The Spirit didn’t inspire Matthew to write Joseph was a good man, or Joseph was a kind man, or Joseph, being a man, but notes that Joseph was “just”. What does this mean? Strong’s word definition explains that here, just, or righteous means “relates to conformity to God’s standard (justice; especially, just in the eyes of God; righteous).”

Joseph did not become angry, or run to his friends and complain about Mary, or immediately seek the rabbis. According to the Law in Deuteronomy 22:23-24, and Mary and Joseph were a couple living under the Law (Luke 2:22), this was supposed to happen:

If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, 24then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.”

Yet Joseph did not want to make her a public example. Matthew Henry says,

But he was not willing to take the advantage of the law against her; if she be guilty, yet it is not known, nor shall it be known from him. How different was the spirit which Joseph displayed from that of Judah, who in a similar case hastily passed that severe sentence, Bring her forth and let her be burnt! Gen. 38:24. How good it is to think on things, as Joseph did here! Were there more of deliberation in our censures and judgments, there would be more of mercy and moderation in them. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible.

–v. 20a: “But as he considered these things,”

Joseph was thoughtful mulling over his responsibility as a husband, as a God-fearer, as a citizen under the Law. Joseph was just in the eyes of God so he…”resolved to divorce her quietly.” One can hardly imagine the spiritual and emotional distress of those moments. Here, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown have some words:

Who would not feel for him after receiving such intelligence, and before receiving any light from above? As he brooded over the matter alone, in the stillness of the night, his domestic prospects darkened and his happiness blasted for life, his mind slowly making itself up to the painful step, yet planning how to do it in the way least offensive—at the last extremity the Lord Himself interposes. (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D., Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible.)

–v. 20b: behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Our Lord’s timing is gracious indeed. One may have suspected Joseph of feelings of betrayal or anger. Or we may also alternately suspect Joseph of knowing Mary’s character, believing her tale of conception by Spirit to bear the Messiah and thus perhaps Joseph was fearful of marrying a woman who was bearing the Messiah, and did not want to presume himself into such an exalted event. Is that why the angel said, “Joseph, do not fear to take Mary as your wife”? The word “fear” is the word phobos, meaning “I fear, dread, reverence, am afraid, terrified” according to Strong’s. Was Joseph’s reverence of the holy event part of his fear to continue with Mary? Or was his fear of taking on a harlot and assuming her guilt and reproach for her [perceived] immoral behavior? We do not know for sure, all we do know is the angel said that proceeding in marriage with Mary is something not to fear.

Our God salved Joseph’s heart with a confirmation of the message that the Messiah is within his Mary, and Joseph knew a great, Divine work was progressing. Joseph obeyed God and continued with Mary. Matthew Henry says, “Note, It is a great mercy to be delivered from our fears, and to have our doubts resolved, so as to proceed in our affairs with satisfaction.”

–v. 21: She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew Henry again,

“He is here informed concerning that holy thing with which his espoused wife was now pregnant. That which is conceived in her is of a divine original. He is so far from being in danger of sharing in an impurity by marrying her, that he will thereby share in the highest dignity he is capable of. Two things he is told, (1.) That she had conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost; not by the power of nature. The Holy Spirit, who produced the world, now produced the Saviour of the world, and prepared him a body, as was promised him, when he said, Lo, I come, Heb. 10:5.
That she should bring forth the Saviour of the world (v. 21). She shall bring forth a Son; what he shall be is intimated,

[2.] In the name that should be given to her Son: Thou shalt call his name Jesus, a Saviour. Jesus is the same name with Joshua, the termination only being changed, for the sake of conforming it to the Greek. Joshua is called Jesus (Acts 7:45; Heb. 4:8), from the Seventy. There were two of that name under the Old Testament, who were both illustrious types of Christ, Joshua who was Israel’s captain at their first settlement in Canaan, and Joshua who was their high priest at their second settlement after the captivity, Zec. 6:11, 12. Christ is our Joshua; both the Captain of our salvation, and the High Priest of our profession, and, in both, our Saviour … he is therefore able to save to the uttermost, neither is there salvation in any other.

A righteous, kind, just, patient, thoughtful, responsible man was Joseph, foster-father to Jesus. A righteous, kind, just, patient, thoughtful, responsible God is our Jesus, a name given to Joseph by heaven and the only name under which there is salvation

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Posted in christmas, potppurri, the friendly agnostic

Prata’s Potpourri- vintage Christmas photos, the Friendly Agnostic, Panspermia, Pop Culture Christmas Cards, and more

Potpourri: a combination of incongruous items.

Jeopardy! Potpourri: a category of game show answers collected from unpicked clues in previous games.
Prata’s Potpourri: a collection of links to interesting and quirky articles.

10 Rare, Vintage Photos of Christmases Past That Will Make You Feel Warm and Fuzzy Inside
If the past is a different country, as the saying goes, we invite you to take a trip via these charming images to celebrate the holidays in a simpler, smaller place.

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The Inspiring Story of the Friendly Agnostic
My friend James Bell wrote:

And did you ever hear of the HAVEN OF REST Quartet… for years they had a radio broadcast… I never heard of them or of it… but A MUSIC LOVING AGNOSTIC DID!

And she wrote them, complemented them on their fine music and for the fact that they never asked for money. She told them that she ‘was not one of them’… that she was AGNOSTIC and would never become a Christian; and therefore, certainly did not want anyone contacting her. Thus gave no name or address… only signed her letter as… THE FRIENDLY AGNOSTIC.

She said that she did have one request…. but since she was not one of them… she would understand if they did not honor it… she said she always listened on Mondays… and that of all the songs the Quartet sang… one above all others was her favorite… maybe on some Monday they could sing it again— “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood!”

WHEN THE QUARTET received the Agnostic’s letter… they prayed and decided to sing “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” EVERY MONDAY!  As the year went forward… the Agnostic… wrote letters…finally giving her name and address… and a number of months, SHE WAS FULLY CAPTURED by the amazing grace of God!

Apparently preserved by the narrator of those Haven of Rest programs is the story and a reading of the letters. Listen to the quartet… and listen to EACH OF THE AGNOSTIC’S LETTERS being read… this is an amazing story!

Note: You can listen while you are doing other things… and then give full attention when the various letters are being read!

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A Geeky Collection of Pop Culture Christmas Cards by P.J. McQuade Featuring Movie Characters

Brooklyn, New York-based illustrator P.J. McQuade has created new geeky collection of Christmas cards and ornaments for 2015 featuring pop culture characters from movies. McQuade features memorable characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mad Max: Fury Road, Ghostbusters, Step Brothers, and more. They are all available to purchase online from Etsy.

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Double facepalm moment of the month: we’re all just sperm-spatter?

Panspermia Theory Mars

A theory called panspermia, which dates back to the 5th century BC, posits that certain life forms can hop between planets, and even star systems, to fertilize them with life. Following this theory, some scientists suspect that the first life on Earth never formed on our planet at all, but instead, hitched a ride inside planetary fragments from Mars that were flung into space after a powerful impact and eventually fell to Earth. We could be the aliens!

Because of course that’s not how it happened

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For photographers, here is a link to a page showing inspiring or interesting Instagram streams. Lots to look at.

20 Absolutely Fascinating Instagram Accounts Every Photography Lover Should Follow

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This is hilarious and totally adorable.

A new amusing holiday-themed commercial for Fresh Pet features cats and dogs dressed as elves. The adorable workers diligently keep lists, build toys and wrap gifts, each with a set of handy human hands to keep the line moving along for Santa. With each share of the video, Fresh Pet is also donating meals to animals who need them. For each share of this video, Freshpet will donate one fresh meal to a pet in need from our network of pet rescues and shelters.

Enjoy!

Posted in angels, christmas, shepherds, sing

Do Angels Sing?

At school last week, I wandered down the hall and enjoyed looking at all the kids’ projects hung up for display. I noticed one where the child had innocently renamed the famous Christmas song “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to “Heart the Herald Angels Sing.” I thought that was cute.

Many Christmas songs refer to angels singing. Not just Hark the Herald Angels sing, but also in the song, “Angels we have Heard on High”, the first lyric goes,

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plain

And the chorus is,

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;

Also, “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear”, where we read the lyrics,

The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing

Lots and lots of songs state that the angels sing. But does the bible say the same? No. Angels (probably) don’t sing. Or maybe they do. Here is Tim Chaffey from Answers in Genesis on the facts of the matter and why they matter:

The idea of angels singing on the night of Christ’s birth has become so common that many are surprised to learn that the Bible does not unequivocally state this. This example provides a good opportunity to discuss traditions. In and of themselves, traditions are not wrong, but they must be based on and consistent with Scripture. If they contradict Scripture, then they must be rejected. 

At the same time, we don’t want to be guilty of going too far in the other direction. Just because the Bible doesn’t explicitly state that they did sing does not necessarily mean that they did not. Some have even argued that angels do not or cannot sing at all, but those who make this claim must adequately address Job 38:7 and other passages that seem to support the idea that they can and have sung. Furthermore, there is no biblical or logical reason why they could not sing. Angels are highly intelligent beings who are capable of speaking. Why would they be incapable of putting those words into song, especially since other beings in heaven sing (Revelation 5:9–14)? 

One of the points of this series on misconceptions is to lead us all to look closely at what the Bible teaches. Far too often traditions have been the basis of our thinking, and we end up believing things that are not found in Scripture. We have heard and sung about angels singing on that night so often that many do not bother to look closely at the text.

EPrata collage

I agree. It’s one of those concepts that has embedded itself into culture so deeply we tend to stop looking at scripture to see if it is so.

Singing and praising are closely connected but not necessarily the same. God could have endowed his humans with an innate tendency to praise in song, and perhaps did not give that same tendency to angels, who mostly are declared in the bible to proclaim and to praise and to shout but not to sing.

On the one hand, J. Vernon McGee did not believe angels sing:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying [not singing], Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased. (Luke 2:9-14). They should have been singing. And the only place they seem to be singing is on the Christmas cards that I get. But they don’t sing in the Word of God. If there ever was a time when angels should have been singing, it was here in the Gospel of Luke when that angel made the announcement of the birth of Christ.

McGee says that he believes angels do not sing because they were never lost sinners and were never redeemed. “It is to the redeemed that God has given a song,” McGee wrote. And for the record, as Chaffey mentioned, McGee did adequately address Job 38:7 in his sermon. I tend to agree with McGee on the concept of angels not singing and also his interpretation of Job 38:7.

However, Charles Spurgeon did believe angels sang. In his sermon, “The First Christmas Carol“, Spurgeon preached,

And mark how well they told the story, and surely you will love them! Not with the stammering tongue of him that tells a tale in which he hath no interest; nor even with the feigned interest of a man that would move the passions of others, when he feeleth no emotion himself; but with joy and gladness, such as angels only can know. They sang the story out, for they could not stay to tell it in heavy prose. They sang, “Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” Methinks they sang it with gladness in their eyes; with their hearts burning with love, and with breasts as full of joy as if the good news to man had been good news to themselves.

EPrata photo & collage

Whether you believe angels sing or do not sing isn’t the point. It is that we should always examine our traditions (including Christmas carols) to remind us that ultimate truth comes from the bible. Always examine these things to see if they are so.

I’ll end with Spurgeon’s joyous sermon closing he delivered on December 20, 1857 at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens-

May God give you peace with yourselves; may he give you good will towards all your friends, your enemies, and your neighbors; and may he give you grace to give glory to God in the highest. I will say no more, except at the close of this sermon to wish every one of you, when the day shall come, the happiest Christmas you ever had in your lives.