Joy to the world, by Mitch Davis (12/14/2014)

December 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Blog, Sermons

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The debate rages on, whether it is biblically authorized to celebrate Christmas. In the meantime, many in our American society celebrate the babe Messiah. For this reason we will rejoice over the fact that many are thinking about, talking about and praising the King’s entrance to save this dark and sinful world.


God With Us, by Mitch Davis (12/22/2013)

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The reaction to Jesus, who came into this world as God incarnate (Phil. 2:6-8), was seen by rejoicing and rejection. Children of God should always rejoice at His arrival into this world – including this time of year – knowing that such was necessary for Him to live among man and die for Him.


Contentment Check

Another Christmas has come and gone. Did you get what you wanted? Perhaps, perhaps not. If you’re like me, even if you got stuff that you did want, you’re now on to your list of the next level of stuff you want. There always seems to be more stuff to want. This last week of the year is a great contentment check. Most of us were given something this week. Are we grateful for what we were given or are we complaining because of what we didn’t get?

Hebrews 13:5 has an interesting take on our contentment. The Hebrew writer said, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have…” Be content with what you have. That is be content where you are. However, does he mean we should be content because of the material goods we have right now? No. Finish the verse. “…be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” What do we have with which we should be content? We have God.

Psalm 73:25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” I don’t think this verse means it is a sin to claim we want anything other than God. But it does demonstrate what is most important to us. It also demonstrates our contentment. No matter what house, what car, what clothes, what appliances, what computer we have (or don’t have), we are content because the one thing that really matters to us is having God.

How then am I going to spend my day today? I’m going to spend it trying to get closer to God. What will it take for me to be near Him and have Him in my life? It doesn’t come from being good enough. We’ll never make that. It comes from striving to connect with Him. I need to talk to Him. I need to pray. I need to listen to Him. I need to spend time in His word. If I want to get closer to God, I can do so by getting closer to His family. I need to spend time with His other children, my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I want to get closer to Him and have Him in my life, then I need to strive to be like Him. I should just let Him direct me in my steps. His way will work. If I want to be closer to God, then I must increasingly rid of things that keep God at bay.

All of these things help us get close to God. They help us be in God and allow God in to us. Isn’t that what we want more than anything else? Let’s check our contentment this week and make sure it is completely anchored in having God.


Christians and Christmas

At this time of year many Christians struggle with how to deal with Christmas among their family, friends, co-workers and other Christians.

How do we present the story of our Savior’s birth, a true and essential part of our faith?

How do we deal with “gifting”, why do we give gifts to others at this time of the year?

As a family, do we have a tree in our home or not? How was this tradition started, is it appropriate for Christians to observe this tradition?

What do we tell our children and grandchildren about Santa Claus (St. Nicholas), is there a place for fairy tales and myths in the life of a Christian?

Can we as Christians sing traditional spiritual songs associated with this Christmas season?

As a congregation, do we avoid any preaching, teaching or songs that would lead our visitors or others to believe we condone the religious celebration of this season?

I will not attempt to answer all of these questions.

We do have scripture that cautions us about observing special days, Galatians 4:10.

We do have scripture that teaches us to do good unto all men, Galatians 6:10.

We do have scripture that teaches of the Greatest Story Ever Told; Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of our Lord.

We do have scripture that teaches of the Greatest Gift ever given, John 3:16.

We do have scripture that teaches that our Savior died on a tree (cross), different from this traditional tree.

We do have scripture that teaches us to teach and admonish each other in song, Colossians 3:16.

At this time of year I am always reminded of Paul’s teaching in Philippians 1:15-18. ” not withstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice, yea and will rejoice.”

In whatever way Christians choose to observe the traditions of this season, let us seize every opportunity to teach Christ!

–David Coleman

Exactly Why Are We Celebrating Christmas?

I would like to ask you to do a very difficult thing. Instead of just going along with what everyone says today and without being swayed by hundreds of years of growing modern religious practice, let’s just look at the Bible as if we were receiving its letters in the first and second century when they were written and then distributed. I would like to ask you a second difficult thing. Hear me out all the way to the end before shutting me down just because what I’m going to say is not the popular opinion.

Can I share with you a word that is conspicuously absent from the Bible? Christmas. It is not in our Bibles ever. Charlie Brown specials notwithstanding, the Bible never presents a single Christmas story, let alone the first Christmas story. I invite you to read the New Testament from cover to cover, upside down and backwards if necessary. Please provide me one shred of evidence that suggests God has ever asked us or wants us to establish a holiday (holy day) to celebrate the birthday of Jesus?

Christmas Day

Interestingly enough, the first problem we would have is figuring out on what day such a celebration should occur. It seems to me, since the Scripture equips us for every good work (cf. II Timothy 3:16-17), if God wanted us celebrating such a day He would have, at the very least, let us know which day to celebrate. But we can’t find that day anywhere in Scripture.

Why is December 25 the day? Certainly not because God equipped us to celebrate the birthday of Jesus on that day. Consider what The Encyclopedia Americana says about it:

“The reason for establishing December 25 as Christmas is somewhat obscure, but it is usually held that the day was chosen to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter solstice, when the days begin to lengthen, to celebrate the ‘rebirth of the sun.’”

Consider also what the New Catholic Encyclopedia says about it:

“The true birth date of Christ is unknown. The worldwide census reported in Luke 2:1-2 cannot be substantiated. By the late second century different groups of Christians held divergent ideas on the date of Christ’s birth: January 6 or 10…, April 19 or 20, May 20, or November 18…With no evidence for the exact date of Christ’s birth, and no clear proof of the date at which the feast began to be celebrated, nor its rationale, liturgical historians have developed two noncompetitive theories.”

Christmas Practices

The second problem we have is striving to figure out how to celebrate the birthday of Jesus. Again, the scripture equips us for every good work. Exactly how on the special day, for which there is no equipping, do we celebrate Jesus’ birthday? Scriptures would be nice on this one. Should we bake a cake? That’s how we often celebrate our birthdays. Should we pass out gifts? Should we decorate a tree? Hang out mistletoe? Burn a Yule Log? Amazingly, most of the practices we now associate with celebrating Christmas did not come from the equipping of Scripture. Rather, they came from adopting pagan practices into Christian religion.

The tree stems from the celebration of the pagans around the winter solstice of the rebirth of the sun. The evergreen trees had special significance because they represented life even during winter. The Yule Log stems from the pagan practice to light a bonfire on the darkest day of the year to keep away evil spirits. Mistletoe and Holly were part of the pagan worship, considered symbols of fertility and eternal life and were important like the evergreens as signs of life even in winter. Interestingly enough, even the gift giving stems more from pagan worship than from the wise men, who incidentally did not visit Jesus on the night of his birth (cf. Luke 2:11). Read what World Book 2001 says about gift giving:

“The custom of giving gifts to relatives and friends on a special day in winter probably began in ancient Rome and northern Europe. In these regions, people gave each other small presents as part of their year-end celebrations. By 1100, Saint Nicholas had become a popular symbol of gift giving in many European countries. According to legend, he brought presents to children on the eve of his feast day, December 6. Nonreligious figures replaced Saint Nicholas in certain countries soon after the Reformation, and December 25 became the day for giving gifts.”

Folks debate why people wanting to celebrate Jesus’ birthday co-opted so many pagan rituals and acts of worship. Some sources suggest it was so Christians could blend in and not be persecuted for their celebration. Some suggest it was so Christians could attract and keep the converts from paganism. However, no one remotely suggests it is because Christians who studied the Scriptures from God found direction or instruction to do these things.

Some Disclaimers

First, before someone throws up Romans 14:5-6, allow me to assure you that I certainly believe if you, as an individual, desire to set aside a day on which you primarily think about the birth of Jesus, celebrating it, honoring it, teaching about it, I agree you can. That, however, is a far cry different from establishing national and congregational holy days. Additionally, while you may set aside some day to personally celebrate Jesus’ birth, Romans 14:5-6 does not mean you are allowed to do so anyway you see fit. We can celebrate Jesus’ birth the same way we might celebrate anything Jesus did in His life. We pray and praise God for it. We sing songs about it. We teach it. We definitely do not co-opt pagan worship to do it.

Second, celebrating Christmas as a secular celebration of family, love, etc. does not violate any Scriptural principle of which I’m aware. Just as we might celebrate national holidays of our independence or in memory of our Armed Forces, etc., I believe we can set aside a holiday for giving gifts and spending time with family. I certainly leave room for conscience. If you hear this and believe Christians should not be involved in the celebration at all because of its pagan roots, I will understand and respect your conscience. However, I suggest pagan roots do not necessarily equal modern pagan practice. Just because I decorate a tree does not mean I’m worshipping it as a sign of eternal life. In fact, all of us tacitly recognize this. No one thinks anyone is honoring the god of the sun when they speak of Sunday or the god of the moon when they say Monday. No one believes we are honoring the German gods Tia, Woden, Thor or Frija when we speak of their days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And no one is honoring Saturn when they speak of Saturday. I could go on and use the names of the months as examples but I think you get the point.

Third, I do believe we can make a mistake of being so intent on proving Christmas is not Jesus’ birth that we miss many golden opportunities to reach out to folks who are interested in thinking about Jesus at this time of year. However, I do not think we should follow lockstep with modern evangelicalism simply to attract numbers. So, please, do not feel the need to go around shouting down Christmas from the rooftops. Take opportunities to talk about Jesus with folks who are interested. But at the same time, don’t think you are doing Jesus favors by adding a holy day to your religious calendar so you can attract people to His body. Why not just let His plans work? He doesn’t need our added plans.

A Final Plea

Why does any of this matter? No doubt, some are saying, “What’s the harm? It’s all for a good purpose. What could possibly be wrong with celebrating Jesus’ birthday? Surely God doesn’t care.” As I see it, the issue is whether or not we will allow Jesus to actually be Lord of our lives, our worship and our service. Will we really surrender to Him or will we follow our plans as better. Luke 6:46 asks, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (ESV). Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (ESV). We need to be people who do what Jesus tells us. We need to be people who do what brings glory to Jesus because it is what He has blessed with authorization. We should not be people who make up things because it seems good to us.

So, I’ll offer my plea one more final time. Instead of just going along with everyone today because it seems like such a pleasant thing, let’s go back to the Bible and try not to be swayed by hundreds of years of religious practice to just read what those first century Christians would have read. If you can find authorization for the modern Christmas practice there, then by all means practice it. If not, let’s just do what we find in the Bible.

Encyclopedia Americana International Edition, Scholastic Library Publishing Inc, Danbury, CT, 2006 v6, pp 666-7

New Catholic Encyclopedia 2nd ed., Gale, Detroit, 2003, p 551.

World Book 2001, World Book, Inc, Chicago, 2001, v 3, 534.


Be Kind this Christmas

I know the title sounds a little bit odd. Generally, we have the idea that everyone is already a bit kinder around the holidays. We’re all in the mood for giving. We’re a bit more generous. We offer well wishes more readily.

All that is true. But amazingly, at the same time, my experience has been that people also get a bit less kind at the same time. Because we are in a rush to get to the store and purchase that perfect present we react more harshly if someone cuts us off in traffic. Because the store is crowded and we feel pressed upon, we get a little tenser. Because the item we wanted to purchase is out of stock, we get a little angrier. Because somebody else got what we wanted, we get a little more jealous. Because we have so much to do and so little time to do it, we get a little less patient.

With all the pressures, time constraints, expectations and financial burdens at this time of year, we can actually forget that we are supposed to be kind to others. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (ESV). While this verse speaks about “one another” these are good principles to follow with everyone, whether they are Christians or not.

Matthew 7:12 says, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (ESV). When you accidentally cut someone off in traffic, how do you want them to treat you? Do the same for others. When you accidentally bump into someone in the store, how do you want them to treat you? Do the same for others. When you get someone a gift, how do you want them to treat you? Do the same for them.

Times of bigger pressures are not times when we should expect God to look the other way and make exceptions. These are times for us to rely on Him even more so we can live by His will no matter what. We are called to do this even when others do not reciprocate.

Make a concerted effort this holiday season to keep up your patience and kindness. Treat others as creations of God who are struggling with all these pressures as well. When you do that, you will likely treat them in a much better way. Not to mention, you will develop more fulfilling relationships with the people in your life, connecting with them through your kindness rather than separating from them because of your bitterness.

Let’s remember that we are Christians all the time, not just when it is easy. We’re in the pressure pot this month; let’s make sure we don’t get cooked.