Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Gentle Caroling

December 19, 2012

And now, for some soothing Christmas music….

Angels We Have Heard On High (Sixpence None the Richer)

Away In A Manger (Celtic Woman)

Breath Of Heaven (Amy Grant)

First Noel, The (Natalie Cole)

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (Julie Andrews)

Mary Did You Know (Trent DeWhite)

Oh Holy Night (Celine Dion)

Silent Night (Sinead O’Connor)

What Child Is This (Mercy Me )

Mary, Did You Know?

December 16, 2012

Poignant Christmas video I must share, by CeeLo Greene:

Mary Did You Know….

The Star of Bethlehem

December 13, 2012

It’s that time of year when we start hearing debates centering around the Star of Bethlehem.
Was it real?
Was it only a myth?
If it were real, then how did it happen?

Recently, my church’s adult Sunday School tackled this topic using the research provided by Rick Larson. I believe the information is compelling and convincing, and so I am sharing it with all of you.

All information in this post is a quick re-cap based on research performed by Rick Larson.
More information on Larson’s research is at the end of this post.

Before we get into the science of the matter, let’s first review what the Bible account says about this Star:

Matthew 2:1-10, New King James Version:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

First, we have the question: What was it about this Star that signified to the magi that a King of the Jews had been born?

To answer this, it is important to note that, in those ancient days, all heavenly bodies were viewable only by the naked eye because telescopes were not invented until 1600 years after Christ’s birth. This means that the ancients saw two kinds of stars in the sky: Fixed stars (which we now know are real stars), and wandering stars (which we now know are actually planets, whose positions change in the sky each night). From the vantage point of Earth, these planetary “wandering stars” are often observed making looped paths through the night sky through the course of each year. These magi were educated in the study of stars and understood the precision of the movements of these celestial objects.  So, at this point in time, what did they see?

Because the planets and stars all move in clockwork synchrony, it is possible for us today to know what the ancients saw at any given time. Rick Larson, the man who researched this Star, made use of  astronomy software, specifically “Starry Night“. There is also a similar program you can download for free, called Stellarium.  By adjusting the dates and coordinate features, this software can show you the exact positions of the celestial bodies, even from as long ago as Jesus Christ’s birth. This is what the ancients saw:

The “wandering star”, Jupiter, was known as a King star.   Thus, over a certain time period of time, the magi noticed the path of this wandering King star pass over Regulus, which was known as a fixed King star. The path of Jupiter seemed most unusual though: From the moving platform of Earth, the planet Jupiter appeared to loop back and forth over Regulus a few times, as though it were “crowning” Regulus (this movement would have happened over a period of weeks, not hours). From this, they deduced the announcement of a king.

Along with this phenomenon, that fixed King Star, Regulus, is one of the stars that makes the constellation of Leo, the lion. And, interestingly, the tribe of Judah (from which the word “Jew” originates) was often symbolized with a Lion (which is why Jesus Christ was called the Lion of Judah- Rev.5:5).  From this, the magi deduced the king was from among the Jews.

From the vantage point of Earth, as Jupiter continued it’s path across the night sky after “crowning” Regulus, the planet Venus — the “mother star” — seemed to catch up with Jupiter. The combined light from Jupiter and Venus added to each other, making them look like a very bright, single star in the sky to the naked eye. The magi deduced that the wandering King Star combined with the Mother Star signified the birth of said king. Ergo, they came to the understanding that a King of the Jews had just been born. Apparently this excited them enough that they decided to travel to Jerusalem — the royal city in Judah — to see this newborn king. It is thought that these Magi probably came from Babylon, meaning they had a journey of several hundred miles to undertake. Clearly, they were very intrigued by these heavenly signs.

After finishing with their visit with Herod, they continued to follow the “wandering star”, Jupiter, in hopes it would lead them to this newborn king they were seeking. According to Scripture, the Star appeared to stop over the place where Jesus was staying at the time. Notice that Scripture does not say the Christ child was still in a manger — at this point He was staying in a home. This signifies a certain passage of time since his birth — perhaps some months after the magi first recognized the signs in the sky, since it would take some time for the celestial bodies to complete these movements.

So now we have the big question: How did Jupiter actually STOP in the sky? Aren’t planets “wandering stars” that continually move? The thing is, when a planet is looking like it’s making a loop, it appears to be briefly stationary to the naked eye before it reverses position in the sky. It is this timing that made the Star appear to be stopped over the residence of the Christ child.

 

As I stated at the beginning of this post, this is only a quick review of the fascinating research done by Rick Larson.  I couldn’t go into the riveting details because the post would just simply be too long — there is MUCH more to this than what I’ve posted. I strongly recommend that you look at his presentation for yourself for it is scientifically sound and absolutely amazing. He released a DVD presentation of his work that, I believe, will convince you that this was no myth. For more information on obtaining his DVD click the following link:
http://www.bethlehemstarmovie.com/

May you have peace and blessings through this season of Advent, as we prepare to commemorate the first coming of Christ.

Not Ready To Let Go

December 30, 2011

Today is December 30th.
I’m still hearing Christmas hymns on the radio.
AND I LIKE IT!

Christmas is simply hard to let go of.
I’m not talking about the frenzy of decorating – shopping – wrapping – cookie ing – shopping – visiting – shopping – parties – etc.

I’m talking about the PERFECT part of Christmas.
Remembering a big miracle in such a small child.
Remembering a humble couple grappling with the responsibility of raising the Son of God.
Remembering that we would all remain lost without this event.
Remembering the Perfect Love that decided this should be this way.

Of COURSE we don’t want to let it go! Of course the Christmas hymns linger for another week!  Why would we want to forget that God loves us puny humans THAT much! The greatness of the Love, the process to save everyone, the willingness of Jesus to humiliate Himself for us so readily, just to keep us from being swallowed by Satan’s evil…

For a month or two we have Christmas bombarding our heads each year. And for the week afterwards we wean ourselves off the intensity of the greatness and the wonder. Christmas reminds us of the beginning of our Salvation.

No other holiday in the United States evokes such a feeling of “let down” that needs such a weaning. Think about it:
The media  doesn’t continue to play patriotic songs  on the fifth of July.
Nor does the media care so much about leaving the Thanksgiving holiday behind.
Valentine’s day is forgotten by February 15th (except for the stores steeply discounting their leftover merchandise).
Even Easter is off by the wayside the day after….and how many Easter hymns are recognized by the general public anyway? (And yeah, Easter should be a bigger deal too, but that’s another post for another time)

But CHRISTMAS…That one is definitely a media feast — and I’m not talking about the commercial stuff. Christmas in the United States has the hymns all over the radio for the entire season and then some; even on the non-Christian radio stations. The television stations have Christmas movies all over the place; classics and newbies, all bespeaking the sense of love and miracles that is the common thread in Christmas, even through New Year’s Day. Newspapers feature Christmas stories related to charities, churches, Christ, and children.  Church members practice their lines for Christmas plays, and lawns display Nativity scenes to commemorate the momentous occasion.

And all of these decorations, displays, hymns, and stories don’t stop immediately the day after Christmas.
No.
Instead, they slowly wind down. In truth, we really don’t want to let it go so fast.

And that’s exactly how it should be.

C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.

December 22, 2011

C — Christ Child came to be.
H — Holy Angels in the Lea.
R — Running shepherds ran to see.
I — Isaiah’s newborn prophecy.*
S — Sheltered in a stable cold.
T — Twinkling star shining bold.
M — Magi came with gifts of gold.
A — A Christmas story to be told.
S — Son of God,gift of life, always be our guiding light.

*Isaiah 6:9 — For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (NIV)

The Christmas Come Down

January 2, 2011

Christmas 2010 is now past.
And now is the “come down” from the frenzy.

The frenzy actually has two sides:
The commercial side (Santa Claus, presents, television specials, decorations, cookies, and anything else that has to do with money being spent for someone else’s gain)
AND
The Spiritual Side (Church Christmas plays, family Bible readings of the Christmas story, church Candlelight services, Christian radio Christmas music, and anything that is completely based on the actual event of Christ’s birth)

Don’t get me wrong, the commercial side isn’t all bad. I mean, if we didn’t have the commercial element we wouldn’t be able to buy the gifts, or decorate the tree, or have a nativity scene sitting in our front yards. Without the commercial element we couldn’t buy the candles required for candlelight services, or Bibles from which to read the Christmas story.

There is an advantage to commercialism.

And there is also an advantage to the Spiritual element.

Without that we would forget the Christmas story altogether, as well as the reason for the season, losing it to the commercialism that runs rampant. The spiritual element balances us out, reminding us of the real reason we are celebrating; reminding us to stop for a long moment and absorb the importance of Christ’s first coming. The profoundness of the occasion.

And then, after all the frenzy between the two sides crescendos to its peak — CHRISTMAS DAY!….it quickly dies out.  We spent at least a month (and more in many cases) looking forward to Christmas: Buying, planning, baking, writing, reading, inviting, and preparing for this one wonderful day in the year and then it’s all over within a matter of hours. Then it’s only a matter of days before it’s placed on the back burner again.

We are winding down, again.

Of course, keeping this frenzy up throughout the year in celebration of Christ is unrealistic: Not only would it be burdensome (imagine having to do Christmas every month of the year- Yikes!), but the constant theme would eventually become commonplace and ordinary; our appreciation for what He did can never be allowed to become commonplace!  Christ’s first coming was neither common nor ordinary!

So, as we all settle into the after-Christmas “come down”, let’s allow the frenzy die out…BUT let’s not allow the remembrance of Christ die out along with it.

Peace be with all of you throughout this new year.

Christmas.

December 25, 2010

Today is Christmas!

What does that mean?

Yeah, of course most of us know that Jesus Christ really wasn’t born on December 25th — after all, shepherds in Bethlehem’s latitude wouldn’t be out watching sheep in a cold, frozen night; the sheep would be sheltered, as would the shepherds!

But….since scripture gives us no specific birth date for Jesus, and Jesus is the best thing that happened to mankind since creation, it stands to reason that we’d set aside a day each year to celebrate his coming to Earth to save us.

And celebrate we must!

We never deserved Salvation. We cannot earn it. We cannot negotiate for it. We were a cursed creation due to the presence of sin — and sin cannot stand in the holy presence of God. There was absolutely no way we could solve this problem.

But God was able to solve it for us:
Take a sinless man who didn’t deserve to die  (and therefore didn’t deserve death because only sinners deserve death), and have him voluntarily die. Because he didn’t deserve the death, he didn’t die for himself. AND….because he didn’t die for himself, he could only die for others.
Others, meaning those who are sinners.
And Jesus did just that.

BUT…in order to do all that, he had to become the sinless man to begin with! In order to truly become a man, he had to become a part of mankind. This is why he had to be born of a human; conceived of the Holy Spirit of God and a human female. I am not suggesting that this happened sexually — God is too omnipotent to need to do it that way. If God can create Adam without a human sexual element involved — and Adam was fully human — surely he could do this again with Jesus!

And, on one crazy night, there was a couple traveling into Bethlehem. A poor carpenter and his heavily pregnant wife, traveling from far away because some pagan king decided to hold a census: The rule was that every man had to go to his city of birth to register for the census. The poor carpenter was born in Bethlehem.

As my pastor pointed out in our Christmas Eve meditation, this poor wife was trapped into this situation: She was nine months pregnant and she was forced to travel with her husband  for 4 days to Bethlehem. *
They didn’t have cars, trains, or airplanes.
They had a donkey, if they were lucky.
If that wasn’t bad enough, when they arrived in Bethlehem there were no rooms available in any inns anywhere! (most likely because so many others were also coming to Bethlehem for the census!)
And, as this is happening, she goes into labor.
Imagine her husband’s distress at this situation!
Here his wife, the mother of the Saviour, is going into labor, and he can’t find a decent place for her or the child!
A man HATES to fail to provide for his wife — this must have been torture for him!
The best he could do is a stable; a barn for storing beasts of burden.
How awful for him!
But he did his best; she didn’t give birth out on the street, or in a field.
And at least she and the baby were sheltered for the night.

As far as we can tell, she didn’t complain.
She was right there with him as he tried to find a place for her.
She saw how long and hard he tried, place after place.
She wasn’t oblivious to his fight for her wellbeing.
So when they were finally offered the barn, she probably didn’t give him a hard time about it.
At least she and the baby were going to be sheltered.

Now she was trapped in the situation of giving birth to the Lord in a dirty, smelly, unequipped, stable.
But since she had been carrying God’s son all this time, she must have known that God wouldn’t let something bad happen to them.
Why would God take her this far just to drop everything? That doesn’t make sense!
If God was okay with the stable, then the stable it would be.

And while all this crazy childbirth in a stable stuff was going on, God sent angels to disclose the news to a bunch of nobody-shepherds —  The Bible doesn’t even give their names!

Yeah. Lowly shepherds.
Did you know that, in those times, shepherds were considered to be so unreliable in Jewish society that they were the only class of people that weren’t allowed in a court of law — even if they had witnesses to an event?!
That’s right.
Shepherds were that low. And yet God chose them to be the first to know and see!

Remember, God doesn’t see how mankind sees.
And this initial, angelic announcement to the shepherds supports that.

God sent His son to rescue the lowly and the damned. This is why His son was  born to lowly parents, in a lowly place, with lowly shepherds as their first visitors. It wasn’t about pomp and grandeur, riches and palaces, status and fame — it was all about humbling himself so that we may have life through him.

And access to this life is not impossible: All that is required is that we believe and live according to that belief.
Nothing more.

Thank you God for sending us a Saviour to rescue us from the damnation of sin.
Thank you Jesus for being willing to be that Saviour.

Let us never forget that Christmas is all about JESUS — for without his birth we’d all remain damned, and nothing else would matter.

*It is generally taken that a “day’s journey” in scripture is about 20 miles or so. Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth, and had to travel to Bethlehem — an 80 mile journey. That translates into about 4 days.

Mary’s Plight

December 20, 2010

Taken from Luke 1:1-55 and Matthew 1:18-24
(I have taken a few liberties with this, just so you know)

You are a young teenaged girl, engaged to be married to an older man.
In your society, premarital sex is a crime worthy of death.
In your society, being engaged was as good as being married — and adultery is also a crime equally worthy of death. Therefore, your engagement to this man is pure; you remain a virgin as you await your wedding day, and you avoid being tempted by other men as well. All is going very well.

And then the unthinkable happens: An angel tells you that God has chosen you to to be the mother of His Holy Son. And, without any sexual action, you are suddenly pregnant with this child.

Who in the world is going to believe that you are still a virgin?!?!

Your much older cousin, Elizabeth, is also miraculously pregnant through the will of God…and has been for about six months now. Perhaps she can give some guidance on this situation. So you tell your fiance, Joseph, that you are going to visit her. And you do…for three whole months. Elizabeth recognizes your God given position and praises Him for it; even the miracle baby still growing within her reacts to your presence! Surely this is an encouraging sign! And for three months, your cousin and her husband give you very strengthening encouragement.
And then it’s time to go back home again.

To your husband-to-be.
And you are starting to show your pregnancy.

The lengthy visit with Elizabeth and her mate has been so uplifting and so encouraging that you happily explain everything to your betrothed — after all, you are bearing the only Son of God! How glorious!

You forgot that your fiance received no visits from angels; whereas you and Elizabeth’s husband did. You forgot that your fiance has been clueless the entire time; all he knew is that you took off for three months to visit a relative!

And he is angry! Sad! Hurt! How could you possibly be pregnant when he waited so long for you to return! He’s been faithful to you the entire time! And what’s this story about Holy Spirit and angels and miracle pregnancies??!! C’mon Mary, what do you take me for???!!!

He storms away from you, angry, confused, and deeply wounded. To break up with you requires an actual divorce in your society; and a divorce requires proof that you cheated on him — something that your pregnancy would show. But such proof would also be your death sentence.

Oh dear God! What are you supposed to do now?! You don’t want your pure reputation dragged through the mud! You don’t want the accusations, the rumors, the stoning! Oh please, Joseph — you have to believe me! I’ve been true to you the entire time!

He doesn’t believe you. It’s simply too incredible of a story to be real! In his eyes you’ve betrayed his trust in many different ways, and your silly story is an absolute insult to his intelligence! He leaves you, and doesn’t look back.

He cannot bear to be with you any longer, but  he also can’t bear to see you be put to death over this foolish mistake of yours. He can’t marry you, but he also can’t bring himself to make a public spectacle of you. No. He would divorce you quietly. That way he could go on with his life and not carry the burden of feeling responsible for your death. It was the only way.

After a long, painful night of emotion, he finally falls asleep.
And in his sleep, in a dream, God’s angel speaks very clearly to him:
Take Mary as your wife. She is not lying; she is pregnant through the will of God. The child will be the saviour of the world, and you will name him Jesus.

Joseph awakens abruptly!
What??!! Seriously??!
But this was no ordinary dream. This was for really real!
It was settled: He would marry you.  He would help you raise the Son of God.

Meanwhile, you can’t sleep either. Your betrothed has left you, accused you of adultery, and wants nothing to do with you. Not only do you now face the prospect of being a single mother, but you also face possible death — for everyone knew you are engaged to be married to him! What else would everyone think as your pregnancy grew?! How can you possibly get out of this!

God! Where are you?! You want me to bear your Son but now I face certain death!
What’s going on here?! What do I do??!!

You cannot sleep. You are too worried for yourself and the child you are carrying.
It is so hard to understand how any of this is supposed to work out.
God help me, please!

Morning comes. Sleep never came to you.
What now?

You continue to  lay in your bed, praying and worrying.
When you hear a knock at your window.

Huh???

You hear the knock again.
You approach the window, hesitantly.
Perhaps people already found out about your situation and have already come for you.
You slowly open the shutters and see…

YOUR BETROTHED ONE!

You stand there, stunned in silence.
And he speaks:

I’m so sorry I stormed out on you yesterday! You gotta understand how hard it was to imagine all this stuff…this never happened to anyone else! God’s angel told me the truth, and that I should marry you — so come with me now to my home as a show of our marriage! You’re pregnant, and getting bigger by the day — you need to come now so that people don’t start talking and questioning everything!

You don’t know whether to hug him or slap him!

Well, c’mon Mary — we don’t have all day! He teases.

You quickly gather your things, and praise God for protecting you from all the stuff you worried about. You praise God for giving you a man willing to go through this with you. You praise God for the coming saviour that you are carrying!

Amen!


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