On the night that Jesus was born, shepherds came to the manger to worship Him. They found the experience so spiritually beneficial that they said to Joseph, “All of Bethlehem should be joining us! Go out and find more worshipers!”
“Will we have enough room?” Mary asked. “Bethlehem is not a large town, but even so, I’m not sure we can fit them all.”
“We’ve already seen miracles tonight,” Joseph said. “The Lord will provide for the worshipers.”
So Joseph went out into the streets of Bethlehem to invite the residents to come worship their king. When he got to the first door, he knocked and a young man answered. Continue reading
“The Marriage of the Virgin” by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1304-6 (from “Scenes from the Life of the Virgin”)
As we near that magical day when children will eat far too many sweets and parents will get far too little sleep, we are continually reminded that the Christmas season isn’t just about Santa Claus, elves, and reindeer (a.k.a. caribou). Slogans such as “Put Christ back in Christmas!” and “Jesus is the reason for the season!” abound, all of them meant to call our minds back to the true meaning of the holiday, or at least question whether or not atheists should be allowed to join in the fun.
One saying that seems to have a stronger theological grounding is some variation on the following: “Jesus Christ was born in order to die.” The motivation behind this choice of phrase is a good one. While the manger, angels, and donkey are all nice, the story of Christmas cannot be properly told without mentioning the problem Jesus came to solve. He was not born merely to proclaim peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Rather, He came to save us from our deadliest enemy: sin. The peace He brought us is not a temporary, earthly one, but rather an eternal, heavenly one. He made it possible for us to be permanently at peace with God.
Therefore, it is entirely appropriate and even necessary to link the incarnation of Jesus Christ with His atonement. Christmas means nothing without Easter. The first step in appreciating Christmas is to understand that the Son of God took on flesh to make an end of death and sin. His sacrifice allows us to be forgiven. We must never lose sight of that fact or diminish its importance.
Nevertheless, stating that Jesus was born to die puts us in danger of minimizing other parts of His work that were equally important and necessary. The Son of God became incarnate as a human being not only to remove our sin, but also to make us righteous. Yes, those two things are connected, but they are not exactly the same. Continue reading
The scene at Clifton Mill last week, all aglow for Christmas.
It’s that time of year when you listen to so much Christmas music that by December 26th, you’ll be begging for it to stop, wondering how you ever became so foolish. Then when Thanksgiving rolls around next year, you’ll be begging to break out those tunes again. There are some Christmas songs infinitely better than others, and all manner of authorities have attempted to rank both the best and worst, hoping to create click bait that will boost their sites. I, however, would never stoop to such a level, would I?
Well, what the heck, it’s Christmas! You’ll forgive me for posting just one holiday related article. Therefore, I have ranked for you my five most and least favorite Christmas songs (in no particular order) and will explain the rationale behind my decisions. The general criteria include tune, lyrical content, and a certain emotional factor (i.e. warm fuzzies vs. extreme annoyance). Here goes nothing… Continue reading
“The Mystic Nativity” by Sandro Botticelli, circa 1500-01
Henry was having a terrible Christmas – possibly the worst Christmas ever.
One might almost say he was experiencing hell on earth, and not just because he was in the midst of producing a translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, famous for its fanciful depictions of hell in all its ghoulish glory. He didn’t need Dante to tell him the meaning of suffering and despair. He was all too familiar with both.
Two years earlier, his beloved wife, Frances, accidentally set her dress on fire. He heard her cries from a nearby room and ran to her aid, throwing himself on top of her in an attempt to extinguish the flames. He sustained serious burns in the process, but none so bad as his wife’s. She died the following morning. Henry’s grief was absolute. He stated that he was “inwardly bleeding to death” and resorted to taking drugs in an attempt to dull the pain.
But that was only the beginning of Henry’s troubles. Indeed, his wife’s fate served as an apt metaphor for the world around him, which was in its own way going up in flames. Continue reading