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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Easter People

St. Augustine once said, “We are Easter people and alleluia is our song!”

A few weeks after the Boston bombing, the Texas explosion, the horrific Gosnell trial, and whatever else has tried us in the last few days, it becomes easy to forget about Easter that we celebrated a few weeks ago. When tragedy strikes, we often watch the news anxiously for the next detail to come to light: who was it? why did they do it? are they going to catch them?  As we continue to watch the coverage, we begin to despair over the condition of our world. We believe that things are falling apart, that the end may be near.

Things may be falling apart, and the end could be near. Or it could be another 10,000 years.  Either way, our job as Christians  live everyday in light of the Resurrection. To live as though Jesus really did rise from the dead. Our God has brought Jesus through the worst pain that the world has to offer, through death, and then to new life again.

We don’t stick our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong. Nor do we throw our hands in air, giving in to the world’s message of gloom and despair. No, we must call to mind once again, that Christ has risen from the dead, and we are raised with him. And as people of the new creation, God has place us here to live out the resurrection life.

God has not given us the Spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.  Often what is reported in the media doesn’t affect us directly, and we cannot change what happens in the world around us. But we can change how we interact with the people we come in contact with. We can help our neighbors. We can encourage our families. We can teach our children the gospel, and the Jesus inspired morality the springs from it, including the sanctity of every human life.  We can live new life through power of the resurrection.

This is the Easter season, and we are the Easter people! Alleluia is our Song!

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Pietro Perugino - The Adoration of the Magi (E...

Pietro Perugino – The Adoration of the Magi (Epiphany) – WGA17259 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this week following the Epiphany of our Lord, we remember the revealing of Christ to the gentiles.  It is truly good news that the Jewish Messiah would come not just for Israel, but for all nations. We are all recipients of this grace.

Those wise men who came from the east were the first non-Jews to see the Christ.  The folks in Israel had not really paid much attention to this baby who was destined to be King of the Jews. However the Magi from a far away pagan land traveled hundreds of miles under the guidance of a star to see this child.  They were so excited to see this child that Matthew records that they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”  when they got close to Jesus. When they came into his presence they fell down and worshiped him.

When King Herod, King of Judea,  did find out about this child, he was not happy to hear about one who had “been born King of the Jews.”  He did not worship him; he declared war on him. Attempting to eliminate any threat to his throne, he had the infant boys of Bethlehem murdered.

As the gospel of John says, “he came unto his own, and his own did not receive him.” Many in Israel did not recognize the majesty of Jesus, while many pagans from around the world came to believe in him as their Lord.  This is not to pick on the first century Jews; we too fail to see the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

Far too often, we pay little attention to the King in our own midst. We strive for control of our own lives, and often buck against any perceived threats that would undermine our own little kingdom. When we are confronted with the news that the true King is here, we must be careful not to rebel against him as Herod did. Of course, we wouldn’t go to the extremes that Herod did in trying to eliminate the threat to his position. However, even our simple ignoring of his presence is really the same as rebellion against him.  He is a kind and gentle king, but he is still King.

Rather, God wants us to gladly bring him our worship and treasure as the Magi did.  This requires time and effort –  just like the Magi’s long and hard trip across the hot desert. However, the payoff will be worth it, as Hebrews says, “he rewards those who seek him.”

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12 Days of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Though December 25 is past, Christmastide is just getting started. This season of the church year is also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas (yes, it appears there actually was some reason to have a song called “The 12 Days of Christmas”).  These Twelve Feast Days run from Christmas to Epiphany on January 6. For more on the Twelve Days see the Wikipedia  article.

It seems as though the Twelve Days have been largely forgotten by many, including myself. At any rate, there does seem to be value in observing all twelve days of Christmas.  As I mentioned in this post, the Christian season Advent is ignored by many, and is swallowed up by Christmas of commerce.  On Christmas day we celebrate, and then its over. As Christians, we want to keep Christ in Christmas, but if we’re honest, most of us will probably admit that the events of December 25 often draw our minds to many things beside the Incarnation.  It might be helpful if we used the slower pace that usually comes after Christmas Day for continued celebration and reflection on the coming of our God in the person of Jesus Christ.

For the advertisers Christmas is over. They now begin a new marketing strategy to keep us in their stores through the cold and dark months of January and February. For the Church, Christmas is not over – its just getting started. We take this time to rejoice in the God of our salvation and to shine as lights in witness to the Joy he has brought to the World!

 

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Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic

Jesus from the Deesis Mosaic (Photo credit: jakebouma)

The tragedies that occurred last week may cause us to think that Christmas should be cancelled this year. How can we celebrate in the midst of such terror? How can we be holly and jolly when such a horrible crime has been committed against small children?  How can we open gifts on Christmas morning, when there will be so many families with unopened gifts on a day of mourning?  Well, if Christmas is simply a holly jolly time of gift grabbing and consumerism, then I say it should be cancelled.

However, the above does not describe the true nature of Christmas, at least in any Christian sense. The Christian Christmas is remembrance of Christ our King coming into the world.  In fact, Christmas is about justice.  The ancient peoples in other lands had long experienced brutality, including unjust murders of innocent children. Isaiah foretold of a Servant-King who would “bring forth justice to the nations…” He also said that this man would “not grow faint on be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth. ”  Matthew quote this Old Testament prophecy and states that Jesus fulfills it.

This Christmas we must remember that though the darkness seems all so strong, Christ is the ruler still. This is why we observe advent: to remind us of our great need for a King and Savior. Though many skeptics say such tragedies are evidence that there is no God, we must remember that the final chapter has not yet been written. To give up on God is to give up on justice. The world will not be put to rights without a right judge of the earth.

According to Jesus, children are called the greatest ones in his Kingdom, and has no words but hard words for those who dare offend them. It would be better that they be drowned in the sea than for them to face the wrath of King Jesus.   Christ has come once, he will return again to sort everything out and to execute justice.   As Zechariah says in Luke’s gospel account , “He will save us from all our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.”  Those who have committed atrocities will receive their due – their suicide will not result in an eternal evasion of justice. Those who have suffered unjustly, we be made whole.

This Christmas, let us remember the birth of our Savior,  and anticipate that he will come again, rendering justice to the earth, and peace to those with whom he is pleased.

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Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zecha...

Birth of St. John the Baptist, depicting Zechariah writing, “His name is John”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today begins the second week of Advent and we light the candle of Peace.  Last week, we lit the candle of Hope, and what more does one hope for than Peace? A major part of the Jewish hope was the anticipation of peace in their land.  To secure this peace, the Jews needed more than just a absence of conflict, they needed someone to defeat all of those powers who were oppressing them.  Isaiah prophesied that there would be a day when a light would come and shine into the dark chaos that surrounded Israel:

“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.”

For Israel to have true lasting peace, the nation needed a Prince of Peace to render justice. The Jews needed a King of the Jews to defeat all the evil that plagued her and to establish a kingdom that would last forever.  After the birth of John the Baptist, his father’s prayer recalls that God had promised that Israel would be saved from its enemies. Zechariah saw that his son John would be the one chosen to go before the Christ and preach repentance to the nation. He prophesied that John the Baptist would  “go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

When the Prince of Peace comes, total submission is required. John the Baptist had the task of preaching repentance to a people who wanted peace, but did not want to live under the authority of the only one who can secure the such peace. A nation, a church, or individuals cannot expect peace to come when they have no regard for the one who brings what they hope for.  Christ brought peace to the world by defeating all the evils powers through his death and resurrection.  His Kingdom will indeed last from this time forth and forevermore. The call for the church today is to prepare the way of the Lord, repenting of our own sins, remembering that God in Christ will indeed forgive us. Then we can show the light of God’s peace in the dark chaos around us.

Update: See follow-up to this post here.

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English: Advent Wreath with Candles

English: Advent Wreath with Candles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over at Internetmonk, they’ve re-posted a good Michael Spencer post on Advent, which laments the demise of advent, with Christmas taking over. (He himself was actually referencing another article from a few years ago. However, the late imonk take on things is always worth considering, so I’ve linked to his post.)

I’m all for keeping Christ in Christmas as the saying goes among modern evangelicals. However, It seems that many who talk of remembering “the reason for the season” often ignore the season of advent which actually helps us prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas.  For centuries the church observed this season, but it has fallen by the wayside in many quarters. I myself have been pretty unfamiliar with Advent until recently.

Maybe we fail to recognize our need for Christ on Christmas day because we have failed to recognize our  need of a Savior during advent. Advent is a time of anticipation and of hope. But we only hope for a King and a Savior when we recognize that our attempts to run own our lives have failed.  If Christians would linger in the Advent season, perhaps we would find Christ more clearly on Christmas day.  See the imonk’s post. Its worth the read.

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