Church Calendar

Shorter Catechism question 21 and the meaning of Advent

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Third Sunday of Advent

Westminster Shorter Catechism #21

Who is the Only Redeemer of God’s elect?

The only redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.

In this third Sunday of the Advent Season, Americans will sing of an impotent Jesus. Instead of a Messiah that came to bring His indisputable claim of Lordship and His glorious kingdom of grace to earth, the world will pay homage to a Europen-like Jesus who is seeking to fulfill your greatest dreams. Whatever happened to the Jewish Messiah? The One who was to be the Savior of the world; who came to bring true peace and to call us to repentance?

Our catechism question teaches us that the only Redeemer of God’s elect is true God of true God; light from light eternal. He is not an impotent Messiah. The Lord Jesus is our only Redeemer because for our sake He became like us; in the fullness of time from all eternity the Son of God came to earth to redeem a people unto Himself of His own pleasure. The little Lord Jesus is the powerful Judge; the little Lord Jesus is the Redeemer of sinful men; the little Lord Jesus is the King of angels; the little Lord Jesus is both God and man. O, Come and Let Us Adore Him.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Maundy Thursday

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26:1 When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.”

6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

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20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. 56 But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Lent, Weakness, and the Sabbath

The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigor during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbor). Today, some people give up something they enjoy, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.1 Prayer, fasting and almsgiving; these are the three central elements of Lent. Though there is no particular obligation to maintain these elements for forty days from a Biblical view, we are to be reminded that all these elements are Biblical. The pattern of 40 days follow many examples in both Old and New Testament. Furthermore, the church has faithfully celebrated this time. We are not in need of an explicit reference in the Scriptures to celebrate something that the Scriptures itself demands.
I have been reminded of the weakness of my prayer, the poverty of my giving, and my non-existent life of fasting. This is why we need Lent. This is why we need to keep Lent Holy.
Sabbatarianism ought not to be a hindrance to Lent. I firmly believe that both can go hand in hand. In fact, as we fast weekly, the Sabbath can serve as a day of feasting from that which we have fasted. Presbyterians generally look down upon Lent.2 Though I understand the reasoning behind it, we are to look at Lent as a Holy time to reflect upon our sinfulness and our careless endeavors to please God. These need to be days of wilderness wanderings. Even Christ himself went through the wilderness3 and taught us that His faithfulness is our faithfulness.

 

  1. Taken from Wikipedia [ back]
  2. In their estimation Lent and other Holy Days diminish the importance of the Sabbath [ back]
  3. Matthew 4 [ back]

The Advent and Sadness

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Advent does not always bring exclusive joy to Christian families. In this case, this Advent Season has brought sadness to my president’s family here at Reformed Theological Seminary. In this last week, our dear professor Dr. Frank James has been an eloquent representative of the three mountain climbers, one of which was his brother Kelly James.

Frank’s hope and optimism that his brother and the other two experienced climbers would survive, has been a wonderful testimony to the hope our faith gives us in all circumstances. This morning I heard news that Kelly James was found dead in one of the caves, where he remained as the other two went on seeking help. There is to this point no news on the other two mountain climbers. We continue to pray that God in His great mercy and power would deliver those two men back to their families.

Dr. Frank James has been an apologist for the Christian faith this week. In his many words, he spoke of the greatness of our God to save and deliver the troubled and the hope we Christians have. Though this brings great sadness to hear of his brother’s fate, Dr. James rejoices in this Advent that Kelly’s life is not really over, but has just begun in eternity. The Advent has brought sadness to Dr. James and all the families, but there is ultimate rejoicing in the new life Kelly is now experiencing. Christ has come so that Kelly could experience the glorious heavenly manifestation of the life to come.

Lent

Tomorrow we come to our third Sunday in Lent. It has certainly been a joyful journey. This year is the first time I have given something up for Lent. My lack of knowledge and historical ignorance has kept me from exploring this time of refreshment and meditation. Whereas some of my friends have given up all sorts of technological gadgets that they cannot live without, I decided to abandon two important items in any seminarian’s daily agenda: Beer and Bread. Whereas bread is the essence of life, beer is the liquid form of bread; or so the reasoning goes. I am reminded of our Lord’s words: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Indeed, how difficult it is to abstain from that which gives temporary life and how necessary to feast in the eternal bread of life.

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ [5] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed [6] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.