Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
TEXT: Luke 2:10, Psalm 98
INTRODUCTION: One of our freshest and most invigorating Christmas hymns is also one of our oldest. “Joy to the World”, was written by Isaac Watts and first published in 1719. It is a free rendering of the last part of Psalm 98.(read the psalm)
Birthdays are always occasions for joy and celebration, and it is most fitting that the birthday of our King be characterized by the singing of joyful carols. Christianity is a religion of joy. While other religions have fine ethics and morality, only the Christian faith gives men something to SING and REJOICE about.
(I) HEAVENLY JOY OF THE ANGELS. (Luke 2:9-14) Usually celestial beings are not seen by mortal man, nor are they heard by them. But with the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth, the heavens could contain them no longer and the angels literally burst with joy. We do not understand all of the characteristics of angels or their creation or purpose. But we do know that they are representative of the population of heaven and as such, minister to God constantly. We know that they rejoice when a sinner is born into the Kingdom of God, and surely they must have rejoiced with great joy when the Redeemer Himself came to earth. Why should it matter to us whether angels in heaven rejoice or not? When we are terribly discouraged and it seems that we have no allies among our fellowmen, it strength the resolve and heartens the spirit to know that there are countless angelic hosts who rejoice at our smallest happiness and who stand ready at God’s command to help us in every difficulty. We do not know what kind of fellowship we will have with the angels when we are in heaven ourselves. But, surely, there will be a wonderful compatibility, for they seem to rejoice over the same things that give the deepest kind of happiness to mankind.
(II) THE HUMBLE JOY OF THE SHEPHERDS.(Luke 2:20) “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” The shepherds did not have the heavenly quality of the angelic choir, nor did they have the wealth and possessions of the wise men, but this did not keep them from expressing unutterable joy that they knew in their heats after seeing the Christ child. Poverty in worldly things ought to make us rejoice more in the gift of God’s heavenly things. The less we have of this world, the more room there is for God to give us heaven’s blessings. Those who cannot sing because they are poor or because they feel inadequate in the world, would probably not sing if they have all the possessions and abilities that others seem to have. The deepest joys of life often flow from the quietest and simplest streams.
(III) HONORABLE JOY OF THE WISE MEN. (Matthew 2:10) “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.” Men of science are not given to undue and overt expressions of emotion, but when these stargazers of the Orient saw the start of Bethlehem they “rejoiced with exceeding great joy..”
Two misconceptions about Christian father involve the intellect. ONE, IS THE BELIEF THAT NO MAN CAN HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM AND STILL BE HUMBLE AND GENUINE IN HIS Christian faith. This has led to much mistrust of those in high places of educational, scientific, and economic fields. Some of the most outstanding testimonies of the validity of the Christian faith are made today by brilliant, ambitious, and successful people in all walks of life. (Dr. Atkinson, surgeon of Irene, Wake Heart Center, Raleigh, NC)
The SECOND misunderstanding is that which believes that the GOSPEL STORY OF JESUS CHRIST IS TOO SIMPLE to interest or appeal to intelligent people. A new pastor in a college town found himself trying desparately to produce the kind of intellectual sermons that would appeal to the students and professors in his congregation. Finally, a professor called the new pastor aside and said quite gently, but plainly, “Pastor, when I come to church I do not need or expect to be intellectually stimulated or scientifically informed. I come here to feed my soul and to bathe my weary feet in the fountain of life. The story of Jesus Christ is the most appealing thing you have to offer to any of us from the pulpit.”
The story is told of a GROUP OF NOBLEMEN who were gathered together in London when the KING OF GREAT BRITIAN entered. They all knew him personally, yet they all honored him as their king. So, when he entered, THEY STOOD TO THEIR FEET, “take your seats, gentleman,” said the king. “I count you my personal friends.” And then jokingly he added, “I am not the Lord, you know.” One of the noblemen, a true Christian, spoke up, “No, Sir, if you were our Lord, we would not stand to our feet. We would fall on our knees.”
The loveliest thing about the Christmas story, IS NOT the simple faith of the shepherds who were keeping their flocks by night; NOT the singing of the angelic host, BUT it is when the WISE MEN found the baby JESUS and FELL ON THEIR KNEES BEFORE HIM AND WORSHIP HIM.
(III) THE INHERITED JOY OF THE SAINTS. In verse 10, the angels give the good news that the promised joy is to be universal and to be shared – ‘TO ALL THE PEOPLE,” Actually the JOY ITSELF is not promised directly to ALL THE PEOPLE regardless of whether they are Christian or not. It is the PROCLAMATION of the “good tidings of great joy” that is promised to all people. Then, whoever and wherever these people are who respond to the proclamation and receive the good tidings, joy shall surely come.
JESUS WANTS US TO HAVE J OY AS HIS PEOPLE. In John 16:22 He promises us, “Your joy no man taketh from you” and in verse 24, he promises again, “You joy may be full.” There seems to be two ideas concerning joy about which Jesus often spoke. He combines them both in John 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”
CONCLUSION: As we too often do with the singing of most of our hymns, we usually OMIT THE THIRD STANZA of “Joy to the World, The Lord is Come.” This third stanza admonishes us thusly –
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
It is only when we are WILLING to let sins and sorrows and thorns LEAVE our world and LET HIS blessings FLOW IN, that the curse of sin can be REMOVED so that we can really have joy. Are you willing to empty your heart of everything that is keeping you from these and receive today, the beauty and depth of HIS peace and joy?
THE JOY, JESUS GAVE TO HIS WORLD!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
We had our Christmas Pageant at our church last night. It was quite nice for a church the size of ours. Our Minister of Music did not use a “store bought” program, but rather picked music for each scene from some old favorites as well as some newer contemporary tunes. Our Children’s and Youth Ministers wrote the scenes and directed the actors, so it was an effort of the entire staff.
After starting off with a sing-along with such classics as “Up on the Rooftop” and “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer”, we quickly moved into the sacred meaning of the holidays. We watched as a family heard the Biblical story of Christmas as other church members acted out the biblical scenes.
One of the cutest parts of the pageant was when our children’s group, “Pocketful of Praise”, had their singing parts.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Did you know that the candy cane was created to honor Jesus? If the Candy is held upright, it is in shape of a shepherd’s staff, which the shepherd uses as he watches over his sheep. Jesus is our Shepherd. If the candy is turned upside down, it becomes the letter “J” for Jesus.
The Bible tells us that by Jesus’ stripes we are healed. Jesus was beaten and stripes were put on His back when He was crucified in payment of our sins. So, the candy cane was made with red and white stripes to represent the blood of Jesus that washed away our sins and makes us pure and white as snow. One bold stripe represents one God who is Father of us all. The three fine stripes represent the Trinity: one God, who has revealed himself to us in three ways: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
There are a lot of candy canes in the stores today made with different colors. But they are not TRUE candy canes unless they are red and white and have one bold stripe and three fine stripes. True candy canes are Christian candy because they tell the story of Jesus.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Christmas begins in Sweden with the Saint Lucia ceremony. Before dawn on the morning of 13 December, the youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe with a red sash. She wears a crown of evergreens with tall-lighted candles attached to it. She wakes her parents, and serves them with coffee and Lucia buns. The other children accompany her. The custom goes back to Lucia, a Christian virgin martyred for her beliefs at Syracuse in the fourth century. The Saint Lucia ceremony is fairly recent, but it represents the traditional thanksgiving for the return of the sun. Often she is followed by star boys, who wear pointed hats, and carry star wands.
Candle-lit processions to Church feature Scandinavian Christmases, where, in the home, it is mother who always lights the candles on Christmas Eve.
Christmas trees are usually found in Swedish homes two days before Christmas. Decoration may include candles, apples, Swedish flags, small gnomes wearing red tasseled caps, straw ornaments. The houses may filled with red tulips and smell like pepparkakor, which is a heart-star, or goat-shaped gingerbread biscuit.
After Christmas Eve dinner, a friend or family member dresses up as tomte or Christmas gnome. The tomte, unlike Santa Claus is supposed to live under the floorboards of the house or barn and ride a straw goat. The make-believe tomte, wearing a white beard and dressed in red robes, distributes gifts from his sack. Many are given with funny rhyme that hints at the contents. In Sweden, Jultomten, a little brownie helps Santa Claus give gifts to the children who have been good. The julbok, which is the Christmas goat, is responsible for the distributing of the presents.
The Julbock (Christmas Goat) has nothing to do with the Tomte (Santa Claus)... He doesn't ride it. When Sweden was changing from goat to Santa they came together but that was more than 20 years ago. So it use to but no longer. And it was originally to honor the goats that Tor (an old God) used to pull his carriage. Today basically no one knows why we have them. Sadly and the Tomte doesn't live under a barn anymore. Now it is like in America, he lives at the North Pole. In the old days the tomte took care of the farm and lived there but then he had nothing to do with Christmas (then it was the goat). He was mean and hard to work with but he made sure there would be food on the table and looked after all the animals, IF the people on the farm took care of him and behaved well. No Christmas.
Balls of Glass are in our trees as well as Tinsels now but most of all: You've forgotten about the most Christmassy in Sweden Donald duck at TV at 15.00 on Christmas Eve. Has been shown on TV since 1960-somethink.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
That holiday superstar, the poinsettia, actually has its own holiday. By an Act of Congress, December 12 was set aside as National Poinsettia Day.
The date marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who is credited with introducing the native Mexican plant to the United States. During Poinsett's appointment in Mexico, he wandered the countryside looking for new plant species. In 1828, he discovered a beautiful shrub with large red bracts growing next to a road. He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina.
We're not sure what Mr. Poinsett would think of the latest trend in painting the colored bracts of his beloved plants with various shades of blue and layers of sparkles, but holiday shoppers certainly seem to dig them. Whatever the case, Poinsett's introduction is now a tradition that brightens the holidays every year.
The Tradition of the Poinsettias
The poinsettia has become the traditional Christmas flower. Although it is treasured in all parts of the world as a symbol of Christmas, it can be traced back to an old Mexican legend. A poor peasant girl going to her church to visit the manager scene on Christmas morning was broken-hearted because she had nothing of beauty to offer the Christ Child. On her way, she picked some weeds from the side of the road and, as her only possession in the world, laid them at the feet of the statue of the Virgin Mary. Miraculously, they were transformed into the scarlet brilliance of the poinsettia we know today.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Long before the celebration of Christmas, candles were used to signify Christ as the light of the world. In medieval times, there was a charming legend, which said that on Christmas Eve the Christ Child wandered throughout the world, looking for places where he would be welcomed. Those who loved Him, hoping that he might find their homes, placed lighted candles in the window to invite Him in.
No one, of course, knew for sure how he might appear. Perhaps he would come dressed in the rags of a beggar, or he might come as a poor and lonely child. Might he come on the form of a disabled person who was put out to roam the streets of the city or the lonely footpaths of the countryside?
So, it became customary for devout Christians to welcome into their homes all who knocked on their doors on Christmas Eve. To turn away may have meant the rejection of the Christ Child, who had come in an unfamiliar garb.
During the Advent season, we remember that the Christ Child is wandering along our streets, looking for homes where he will be given warmth and shelter. The candles in the windows of homes and churches symbolize to all of our community that Christ is our guest. Here is a place where there is room in our hearts for him.