The Nativity Revisited
Last month Christians throughout the world celebrated the birth of Jesus. Our own church was adorned with an elaborate and impressive nativity scene, complete with shepherds, angels, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. The source of the nativity story is Luke 2:8-20, a grand total of thirteen verses. Well known to us but missing from Luke's account are the star and the wise men (magi). These references are in Matthew 2:1-2, which is actually about a time after Jesus was born. “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Mark's first reference to Jesus is his baptism by John the Baptist. John begins in a similar fashion with John the Baptist encountering Jesus for the first time. So of the four gospel writers, we have Luke to thank for the magic and majesty of the birth of the Christ child.
Who is this man Luke? We know that he was not one of the original disciples. He never saw Jesus and may have never even heard of him until after the crucifixion. What's more, Luke was a Gentile, who hailed from the city of Antioch in Syria. We know that Luke was a doctor and a historian of the first order. He became a disciple of the apostle Paul, probably when Paul traveled to Antioch after his own conversion. He followed Paul until his martyrdom (death). Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit Luke died at the age of 84. In addition to the gospel of Luke, he authored the book of Acts, the historical account of the apostles' activities after the resurrection of Jesus. It doesn't take a third year seminary student to realize that our Bible would not be complete without these two books.
Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. We are also told: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways." Our God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. Praise and glory to our wondrous, mysterious God.
From the Pastor
Welcome 2015! A New Year, new plans, new life, new beginnings, new memories!
We sing of the "Twelve Days of Christmas," as those days prior to Christmas. However, as Christians, those twelve days, are actually twelve days after December 25th - ending on the 6th of January. The 6th of January announces the miracle of the birth of our Savior, Jesus. We do not "take down" the Christmas Tree or other decorations in our sanctuary until after the Epiphany – for it is at this time – the 6th of January – 12 days after we celebrate Christmas - that Christians observe the Epiphany – “to make known or to reveal.” It was at this time that Jesus was revealed as the Savior.
In the past couple of months we have celebrated All Saints’ Day; the end of the Christian year or Christ the King Sunday; Advent for four Sundays; Christmas Eve; the Birth of Jesus; and now, Epiphany. All of these "celebrations" may seem confusing, but it all follows a logical pattern:
The 1st Sunday in November – All Saints’ Day - we celebrate all those daily saints who have gone before us – these are the people who will welcome us into Heaven – our family and friends.
Christ the King Sunday is the Sunday before Thanksgiving – this is the last Sunday of the Christian year.
The 1st Sunday after Thanksgiving is the beginning of Advent – the first Sunday of the Christian year. Advent is those four weeks that we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Each of those four Sundays we light separate candles on the Advent Wreath honoring hope, peace, joy, love. We are awaiting the birth of Jesus.
Our Christmas Eve Service celebrates the miracle of the birth of Jesus. Advent is over – we now have the Savior, born as a babe.
Twelve days later (or the closest Sunday) we celebrate the Epiphany – the commemoration of the birth of Christ, the Anointed by God. Jesus is revealed to mankind as the Savior.
As "epiphany" means to reveal, to show, to make known. Christians make known the Lord’s Christ as we acknowledge Epiphany Sunday.
The arrival of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and His first miracle at the wedding Cana are noted as making known or revealing that Jesus is the Lord’s Christ.
For Christians, the Epiphany represents a responsibility to reveal Jesus as the Divine Son and Savior sent by God the Father to atone for the sins of mankind. It is a time of healing and fellowship, where Christians come together in the covenant of brotherhood to love one another as Christ commanded.
Joy and Peace,
Gonna Lay Down My Burden
That's the first line of a familiar spiritual. Christians know that Jesus died to save us from sin. But he also asked us to bring our burdens and lay them at the foot of the cross. The psalmist wrote, "Truly my soul finds rest in God. " - Psalm 62:1
Upper Room contributor, DeVonna Allison, has this suggestion for us. "By trusting God and pouring out our hearts to God in prayer, we find comfort, peace of mind, and freedom from fear and worry. Then we lay our burdens down and go on our way, lightened, refreshed, and encouraged."
Remember, says Allison: "God already knows what is in our hearts, so we are not informing the Lord of our cares and burdens when we seek God in Prayer. We are laying our burdens upon the Lord so that we no longer need to carry them ourselves."