Do Not Open Til Dec. 26th

You may think it odd timing, but think about it…

 

Historically, Jesus’ birth was likely not on December 25th. That date was set as the celebration a long time ago, and established in the church calendar to coincide with the pagan celebration of Winter Solstice. At the time, church leaders were seeking ways to include followers of other faiths in the Christian celebrations. For this reason, some Christians have stopped celebrating Christmas. Historians estimate the blessed event to have happened some time in October. There are several historical and biblical discrepancies in traditions of the season. For example, the Bible does not specify how many Magi there were; however, it does say that they found Mary and the young child about two years later “in the house”. But the tradition makes a beautiful nativity scene.

But really… does it matter when we celebrate the birth of our Savior? Shouldn’t we celebrate Emanuel all the time? The miracle of God becoming one of us should affect every day of our lives. Choosing to celebrate on December 25th does not make us pagans. Regardless of the non-Christian origins of many of the season’s traditions, observing them does not invalidate our celebration. God has used pagan nations and practices to show His glory and fulfill His will. For example, the ancient Roman Empire built superior roads connecting the entire empire (which included most of the civilized world at that time). When the Romans began persecuting the Christians, it caused them to scatter. The road system made travel easier, and theses believers took the gospel with them wherever they went. God had used the Roman empire to spread His good news.

As the season approaches, we must resist the world’s attempts to take Christ out of Christmas. Commercialism breeds despair, particularly in our economy. Giving gifts is a wonderful thing, especially joyful when we give in remembrance of the gift we received from our heavenly Father in Jesus.

Glorify God in all we do in all seasons. Celebrate Emanuel (God With Us) every day. Be a beacon of joy this Christmas. Do not wish anyone a “happy holidays” or “merry X-mas”. Respond with love: “Peace on earth, and goodwill to all”.

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True Victory

What a strange game this life is. When you think of a “game”, certain concepts would naturally seem included.

For example, isn’t the object of a game usually to win? This suggests competition, and a desire to be number one. While some may live their lives like that, they are in for a lot of grief and strife. And at the end of their life, they will discover that there can only be ONE number one, and they are not the One! It shouldn’t be this way for Christians though. We are commanded to put God first, striving only to please Him. On the next priority level in a Christian’s life is… others! We are to esteem others better than ourselves. This is the living proof that we are being re-created in the image of our Lord Jesus. Christ said that the love we have for others would be the identification tag of His followers. We’re not in a competition against others. We are in a race toward the prize of fulfilling the calling God has for each of us.

I saw the most wonderful commercial on TV that still draws tender tears from me as I think about it now. The setting was a stadium (about the size of a suburban high school’s track stadium). You saw a young man running in a race. Flash to what was obviously his proud parents in the crowd. He was leading the pack. Suddenly, he stumbled and fell to the ground. As you saw the concerned parents, the boy did not get up immediately. When the other runners came up to him, they all stopped. Then you were able to see that they were “special needs kids” (i.e. Downs Syndrome). They gathered around the fallen runner and helped him to his feet. Then, arms around each other, all of the runners crossed the finish line together. The words on the screen were something like: “A True Victory!” Wow! Isn’t that beautiful?

Everyone should live their lives that way, but especially Christians!

Games have set rules. If you cheat, you are penalized, disqualified, and lose. This life has conflicting rules. The world is so diverse, filled with people who devise their own moralities. We live in a world where its becoming unacceptable to say someone is not playing by the rules. The world worships the Individual’s right to make up their own rules; and don’t dare challenge someone about their choices.

Religion takes the rules God has established and adds their own agendas. It’s a powerful weapon in the hands of people who desire to control others. One group says you have to act or even dress a certain way. Another group may have a different interpretation of the very same Scripture. What makes these standards so dangerous is that each group presents it as “God’s laws”. Judaizers!

A lawyer asked Jesus which was the “first” (primary, most important) commandment of God. Why would he ask that specifically? Maybe because he knew that he was unable to keep the hundreds of “God’s laws” their faith required. But, if he knew what was the most important commandment to God, he could make certain he didn’t break that one. The Lord told the lawyer (and us) to love God with all that you have and all of your being, and love everyone else as you love yourself. Jesus said that was all of the sum of the law. If you obeyed those two rules, then you are obedient to God.

Of course, the two and greatest commandment (no, that’s not a typo!) are really one, and entirely too rich and deep in meaning to address in a short article like this. Let’s really encapsulate: Love. So the rules to this “game of life”, as set by the game designer are simple: LOVE. Simple, right?

Or is it?

Because It Was Torn

******************* This article is based on the first chapter of my book, More Than Songs. *******************

  By Mike Mattice

It’s quiet this afternoon in the Temple, a sharp contrast to the riotous mob in the streets a few hours ago.  You had struggled to pass through the crowd on your way here to pray.  The Romans were parading the Nazarene called Jesus through the streets, to the garbage dump outside the city gates to be crucified.   The march to execution is a commonplace event; yet you were sickened to see the condemned man’s condition.  He had been beaten so badly he barely appeared human; and although he could barely stand, Jesus was being made to carry his cross.

You remember, as you admire the splendor of the Temple around you, when Jesus tore through the courts of this blessed place in a destructive rampage, only a few days ago.  You heard this foolish man say that if the Temple were destroyed, he could rebuild it by himself in three days.  Now, a few hours before the Sabbath of Passover everything was back to normal in the Temple.  The ranting of a lunatic could not stop the work of God.  With the bloody image of the man fresh in your mind, you pray that death will come swiftly for the Nazarene, and that God will forgive his madness.

You marvel over the extreme reactions of the crowd following the procession.  Some wept as though they were losing beloved kin.  You’d heard that some of his followers claimed Jesus was God, and there were rumors of miracles.  A people so desperate for a Messiah could easily be deceived.  You must remember to pray for those poor misguided souls, that they would see the truth.

But most of the mob screamed obscenities and struck the condemned man with their hands or kicked him, throwing rocks if they couldn’t reach him.  As you passed through the violent scene, you were aghast to see the faces of neighbors you knew to be godly people, contorted with demonic hatred.  How could this fool incite such powerful emotion?

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