Thursday, December 26, 2013

Augustine on Christmas

I love to read an old, African pastor named Augustine.  Augustine lived during the 4th century and converted to the Christian faith as an adult.  He served a church in a town called Hippo and wrote a lot about Christian belief.  Augustine’s sermons and writings are still very influential in the Christian faith today.

Augustine wrote a lot about how God became a human in Jesus.  Some call it “the incarnation.”  Mostly, we call it Christmas. 

Preparing for this season’s services, I read bits of Augustine’s Christmas sermons.  I enjoyed them a lot and found beautiful descriptions of Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem.  They made enough of an impact that I thought I would share. 

So, as the Christmas season comes to a close at Faith Center, remember:

Our Lord came down from life to suffer death;
the Bread came down, to hunger; 
the Way came down, on the way to weariness; 
the Fount came down, to thirst.

-       Sermon 78

He so loved us that, for our sake, 
He was made man in time, 
although through him all times were made. 
He was made man, who made man. He was created of a mother whom he created.
He was carried by hands that he formed. 
He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word,
without whom all human eloquence is mute.

- Sermon 188, 2

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Charlie Brown Christmas

In 1965, the CBS Network aired A Charlie Brown Christmas for the first time.  A Charlie Brown Christmas tells the story of a young boy (named Charlie Brown) who is depressed by the commercialism and materialism surrounding the holiday.  Time and time again, confronted by the excesses of the season, Charlie asks, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

At the height of Charlie’s frustration, Charlie’s friend Linus answers the question.  Linus reads a passage from the second chapter of Luke.  It describes shepherds and angels celebrating Jesus’ birth.  Linus reads, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  At the end of the passage, Linus adds, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

How many of us need Linus to remind us what Christmas is about this holiday season?  We feel so overrun by commercials and calendars and high expectations that we almost forget why we are celebrating in the first place.  We find ourselves asking the same question as Charlie Brown: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

If that is the case, remember Linus and Luke’s answer: “for unto you a child is born.”  God Almighty has come into our lives through the birth of His Son Jesus.  He is here.  He cares about your every challenge and frustration and fear. 

This Christmas, invite Jesus to be born in your life in fresh and new ways.  Find the answer to Charlie Brown’s question in Him.  As you do, you will learn what Christmas is really all about.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Song for Every Generation

Leah returned from last Saturday's Christmas brunch and said, "Kathy Baker gave a great teaching on tradition at Christmas."  I asked Kathy to send me a condensed version, I read it, and agree with Leah.  It is great.  So, this week, I'm sharing it with y'all on the blog.  Enjoy Kathy's thoughts and Merry Christmas!

Out of all the wonderful traditions surrounding Christmas, the one that I enjoy the most is the music.  Music has always told the story of who we are; what we feel through our experiences both past and present, and the deep longing in what we hope for in the future.  Christmas music is no different. 

My favorite Christmas song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, contains these three dimensions of past present and future within its many verses.   The song is thought to be written sometime before 800 AD most likely by an anonymous monk in Europe and was originally an antiphonal chant used as a call and response between two choirs.  It found a new and haunting melody in the company of French nuns ministering in Portugal in the 15th century, rediscovered and transcribed from Latin into English by an Anglican priest serving in the Madeira Islands off the coast of Africa in the early 19th century. 

This song, based on Isaiah 7:14, "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel" (which means “God with us”)  speaks first out of the ancient past as the Israelites longed for God’s deliverance from their captivity in Babylon through the promise of a great and coming King, to the author’s present moment living in the Dark Ages as he also looked for Christ coming to them, and finally to the hope for the future where God would come and bind all peoples in one heart and mind.  To each generation the author proclaims Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to you!

Emmanuel comes to us in every generation because God’s love for the world is so extravagant that He gave us His only son. Jesus, the living Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.  And that same Jesus who was taken from the earth into heaven will come back in the same way that he left.  In this promise we have hope.  Past, Present and Future:  The song of Emmanuel, God with us, is a song for every generation.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Family Traditions @ Christmas

We all have Christmas traditions.  We decorate trees, sing Christmas songs, and give gifts.  Some watch their favorite Christmas movie.  Others plan special days to go out shopping and get gifts for loved ones.  These traditions are a lot of fun.

This week, I read about a family that has an inspiring Christmas tradition.  A family of five named the Robynsons gets up early on Christmas morning to brew coffee and make pancakes.  When breakfast is ready, they pack it up and head to the downtown area of their city.  They load the breakfast into a red wagon.  Then, the youngest Robynson pulls the wagon through downtown as other family members look for homeless folks.  They share breakfast with those in need as a way of celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas.
All Christians recognize that God met our needs by sending His Son at Christmas.  What better way to do that than through a family tradition of serving others in need?  The Robynsons are a great example of how Christians can celebrate God’s coming into the world.

As you go through this Christmas season, see how your family traditions might reflect how God sent His Son to meet our needs.  It might be serving those in need as a family.  It might be giving generously as a family.  It might involve sharing faith with a neighbor who doesn’t understand the reason for the season.  As you do, you will discover why God gave the world a gift in Jesus.  You will also participate a great Christian tradition of following Jesus’ example.