Church Calendar

Christmas Sermon: The Marriage of Heaven and Earth

Sermon: People of God, merry Christmas! On this joyful day Christians celebrate the birth of our Lord. We celebrate the humanity of Christ, and we celebrate our humanity. To be human is not to shelter an insignificant body, but a body that will become incorruptible at the resurrection.[1] In the end of the day, we are Christian humanists. Because of the incarnation, we are truly human. We do not despise our humanity. We recognize that in Christ we are better humanists. Stanley Hauerwas writes:

Christian humanism is not based on the presumption that our humanity is self-justifying. Rather Christians are humanists because God showed up in Mary’s belly. We are not an evolutionary accident. We are not bubbles on the foam that coats a stormy sea. We are God’s chosen people.[2] More

Are You Going to Church on Christmas?

My good friend, Steve Wilkins, has already written a few insightful thoughts on the subject. It is not hard to find churches all over the country cancelling Christmas Sunday. In many ways this is a theological travesty. The celebration of Christmas on the 25th is a long held tradition going back to the 4th century. The Church elected this day to celebrate the birthday of our Lord. However, many in our day have imbibed of cultural Christmas, wishing to indulge in everything else, but the worship of the Triune God. How is it possible to celebrate an ecclesiastial holy day by abandoning the ecclesia? This makes no sense.

But as churches and church-goers debate whether they should gather together, not forsaking the assembly (Heb. 10:25), many of us have made a clear commitment to honor our Lord’s incarnation on this sacred day.

It is not often that (see note at the end) the church celebrates Christmas on a Sunday. Indeed a rare occasion that should be viewed with even greater enthusiasm by the Christian community. This is a wonderful opportunity to re-iterate our loyalty to Christ and his Bride. Christ and Church go together. Attempting to celebrate one without the other is biblically irreconcilable.

But what are the cultural implications for such a view? What does that say about our evangelical culture’s understanding of the role of the Church? It is safe to conclude that this perspective is openly hostile to the early church and the reformation, who stated unequivocally that outside the church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. The ecclesia speaks salvation to the world. By embracing the world’s paradigm the modern church is being de-Christianized.

When any excuse serves as a substitute to not be present where God desires his people to be, then God’s people have in some way ceased to truly rejoice; they no longer sense the psalmist’s joy when he said, “I rejoiced when they said unto me: Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Am I going to Church on Christmas Day? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Note: My friend Randy Evans correctly observes:  “Christmas was on Sunday six years ago last time – and the time before that it was eleven years. The next dates are 2016, 2022, 2033, 2039, 2044 and 2050.”

All Saints’ Day

How shining and splendid are your gifts, O Lord
which you give us for our eternal well-being
Your glory shines radiantly in your saints, O God
In the honour and noble victory of the martyrs.
The white-robed company follow you,
bright with their abundant faith;
They scorned the wicked words of those with this world’s power.
For you they sustained fierce beatings, chains, and torments,
they were drained by cruel punishments.
They bore their holy witness to you
who were grounded deep within their hearts;
they were sustained by patience and constancy.
Endowed with your everlasting grace,
may we rejoice forever
with the martyrs in our bright fatherland.
O Christ, in your goodness,
grant to us the gracious heavenly realms of eternal life.
Unknown author, 10th century

Thoughts on the Church Calendar

Fellow CREC pastor, Toby Sumpter, offers some thoughts on the Church Calendar as well as some helpful resources.

The Epiphany of our Lord

MATTHEW 2:11-12
And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.


DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT
Have you ever received a gift at Christmas that you didn’t understand, or that didn’t mean very much to you at the time? Maybe you received a Bible before you knew how to read, or a watch that belonged to your grandfather before you knew how to tell time.  More

Twelfth Day of Christmas

MATTHEW 2:9-10

9When 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. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

Today brings to a close our celebration of the 12 days of Christmas. Tomorrow opens a new season; the season of Epiphany. On this day our reading reminds us of the marvelous way in which the birth of our Savior was announced to the Gentile nations. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16). More

Eleventh Day of Christmas

MATTHEW 2:7-8

7Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8And 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.”

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

Important men from the east have come into Herod’s territory bearing tribute—lavish gifts for a powerful ruler. Thus Herod hears that there is a rightful son of David to rule over Israel’s throne, and so he claims he wishes to do obeisance to the newly born king.  More

Tenth Day of Christmas

MATTHEW 2:4-6

4And 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. 5So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6‘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.'”


DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

One of the most famous passages in Scripture, and the center or hinge of Matthew’s gospel comes when Jesus asks His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded with the good confession given from above: “Thou art the Christ; the Son of the Living God” (Mt 16:13-17). “Christ” means “anointed one.” The Christ was the long-expected ruler/deliverer of Israel. We learn from Colossians 2 that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The Father loves to hide things for His children to find and bring forth with delight, and so the concept of the Christ is deep and wide. Jesus often was met with a partial, incomplete, or distorted view of who and what the Christ would be. Matthew records Peter’s rebuking of Jesus right after the good confession; Peter couldn’t fathom that the long-awaited Christ would suffer and be put to death. More

Ninth Day of Christmas

MATTHEW 2:1-3

1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “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.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

It might seem a little ironic that at a time like this when most of this season is filled with so much joy, peace and festivities—especially among the believing—that the news of Jesus’ birth brought so much trouble to people’s lives in Jesus’ day. The text says that when Herod the King heard that a baby was born who was being proclaimed as the king of the Jews that not only was his heart troubled, but all of Jerusalem was troubled with him. More

Eighth Day of Christmas

ROMANS 9:33

As it is written:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,

And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT

According to our calendars, we stand at the beginning of another new year. What should we be thinking? Almost unavoidably we pause to think about what has transpired since last January and begin to craft and hone new resolutions for the months ahead. And yet, if we’re really honest, all of the years past have never really gone according to our plans. We aim to put in at Phoenix for the winter and instead we get shipwrecked on Malta. Today we forever swear off second helpings of fudge and cookies only to be named honorary “Keebler elf” by the twelfth day of Christmas. The fact that resolutions even exist simply points back to a long record of our failures. Happy New Year indeed! More