To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Christmas Every Day

Roy Wood and Wizzard first opined back in 1973 that “I wish it could be Christmas every day”. The sentiment underlying the song was that Christmas was too good to be restricted to one day, or one part, of the year. I want to assert to my own soul, and to all other fellow believers, that this is a theme we should embrace ourselves as well.

It’s three days after Christmas Day now and in a sense Christmas is over. As a result we can be inclined to start to pack away all of the reminders about the incarnation. And weren’t they really just for unbelievers anyway, because it is they who need to know about one who came to save. But no surely this is all wrong.

It should be Christmas every day for us as Christians. We should be marvelling day by day about the reality of Christ our Lord being incarnate in the womb of Mary. It is a key ingredient of the faith once delivered to the saints that Mary was found with child by the Holy Spirit.

Having Christmas is good because it makes us once a year trip over the immense realities of Jesus coming into the world. However, it is a problem because it can mean that we “park” the doctrine of the Virgin Birth and the major implications of that doctrine for most of the year.

This is so very much wrong and we should make sure that we aver that we see this as a trap that we do not want to fall into. We do want it to be Christmas everyday. In a sense we need it to be Christmas everyday.  So as we move our of 2019 and into 2020 let us determiner to celebrate Christmas every day. We will be much benefited in understanding our faith and living out our faith, if that is the case.

I have written more fully about these matters here.

His Indescribable Gift

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Cor. 9:15) What a verse this is. Such a wonderful reminder, at this Christmas season, of how our Lord Jesus came into the world as Saviour. But the riches of the verse start to become even more sparkling when we delve into the context of the passage.

Paul is seeking to bring forth giving hearts from the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 9:6 he has asserted the agricultural principle of sowing and reaping to illustrate the reasonableness of giving. In the agricultural scenario the farmer will sow as much seed as possible in order to maximise the yield from his crops. In springtime he is not thinking about keeping as much seed as possible back in the barn. He is instead, thinking about getting as much as possible out on his fields.

When our hearts are in tune with God’s then we will be following this principle. Our default position will be to give as much as possible rather than keep as much back as possible. We want to share and give in order to bless.

Now with that in our minds let us look at our verse. In eternity God has dwelt in a beautiful, righteous harmony which is hard for us to grasp. Father, Son and Holy Spirit always there; always enjoying loving communion together; always delighting in each other. And as we think about what prompted the incarnation of the Son, we are led on to the thought, that the three persons of the Godhead concluded that the wonder of their bliss was too good to keep to themselves.

So the whole programmes of creation and redemption was played out by our beautiful God. Rather than keeping all this beautiful relationship within themselves, Father, Son and Holy Spirit determined to share it with others. All that is unfolded in Genesis 1 and 2 shows how mankind was created for the purpose of knowing God. Alas sin came in, but God was not to be thwarted in sharing His glory with others. And so there is the divine purpose of Jesus coming into the world. This is first stated in the proto-evangeleon of Genesis 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The Son is appointed to come as the head  crushing offspring of the woman. He has come as a love gift. God in His grace does not want to just keep Himself to Himself, but to share Himself with others.

This sharing could only be brought to fruition by the Lord Jesus coming into the world. Paul seeks to pass on something of this when he says to the Colossians; For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:19-20)

This all ties in with the context of 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 as we see how a giving heart leads to blessing. God did not keep for Himself all of the triune joy of His relationship within Himself, but was set to share it. And that meant the incarnation; that means Calvary. Oh what a gift. Oh what a God. Oh what blessing is now ours.

So as we ponder upon the giving heart of God this Christmas, let us worship and praise. And let us further ponder upon whether our hearts are godlike and therefore prone to share.

Christmas Is Coming

I do find myself somewhat intimidated by the high octane messages which emerge from certain parts of the evangelical scene about how Christmas is the big time for evangelism. It is the season when we have great “an open goal” to reach people with the gospel is how it is presented. I understand that this is the case in many places, but I have not found it to be so here in Feltham.

It was therefore interesting to read this article here by Stephen Kneale. This would be something of our experience here in Feltham, although for different reasons.

It seems to me that in more middle-class areas we can expect the influx of visitors because it is something that people do a Christmas. However, in an area like Feltham which is historically working class and now of more mixed ethnicity this does not appear to be the case. So we are seeking to reach out and invite people to carol services this Christmas, but we are not seeing it as “The” big time for evangelism. If we did gets lot of people in that would be great and we trust they will hear good news concerning the Saviour who has come to save sinners. And what joy there would be to know of those being saved

If in your situation you normally gets lots of strangers coming in at Christmas then that is great. And may the Lord use the Word declared and relationships established to bring many to Himself.

What’s The Problem With Christmas And Easter

The asking of such a question may shock many of us. We think that Christmas and Easter are our key Christian festivals and so there can surely be no problem with them. But is it all so straight-forward? Can our acknowledgment of Christmas and Easter actually be harmful to our living for Christ?

Let us immediately go to the heart of the issue, and the heart of the issue is that the birth, death and resurrection of our LORD are at the very heart of our faith. Without them we have no faith. So you say isn’t it great that we have Christmas and Easter to mark these monumental events? The answer to that is probably “yes” and “no”.

What are they good for?

“Yes” it is because the situating of these events in our calendar necessitates us having to “trip over” the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. We are therefore forced to be aware of how major these matters are. Every occurrence of Christmas declares to us that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14b). Every Good Friday tells us how Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18). And as Easter Sunday comes we rejoice in the great fact that He was raised to life for our justification (Rom. 4:25b).

These “feasts” in our calendar also give us a window of opportunity to mention to people outside the church that the coming of Christ and His dying for our sins are major matters for them to consider in their lives. Let us be diligent in seeking these evangelistic opportunities.

Why are they no good?

On the other hand we can say “no” because we should be “tripping over” these events every day and in particular on every Lord’s Day. So the danger is that we think of Christmas as our “big time” to remember the incarnation and Easter is the “big time” for the cross and the empty tomb. We give lots of attention to these events at these times. And then when they are over they slip from our minds.

If this is the case it is an appalling situation. And if this is the case it is causing a big problem as regards to our living for Christ. If we can be so bold, we can carefully say that every day is Christmas Day, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. We live for a Saviour who came, lived, died, and rose again. If we spend even just one day minimising these issues then we have “lost the plot” as regards to living for Christ.

Overall then perhaps we can say for ourselves as believers that we can use Easter and Christmas for God’s glory, but certainly should not rely upon these feasts for the prompting and maintaining of our faith.

Why do we not need these feasts?

At this point the question might be raised about how God gave feasts in the Old Testament. In this realm we most particularly remember the Feasts of Jehovah in Leviticus 23. If the believers then had their “church calender” why should we not have one as well? In answer to that it must be stated that we now live in a different age. This is now the age of the Spirit when the Spirit indwells believers. The change which took place on the Day of Pentecost (see Acts 2) is revealed by our Lord when He said to His disciples, of the Holy Spirit, He lives with you and will be in you (John 14:17b). Jeremiah states the difference when he says:“This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest”(Jeremiah 31:33-34).

Accordingly, we do not need the outward prompts from a structured calendar to remind us of God’s great workings. Rather we have things upon our hearts written by the Holy Spirit to continually remind us of God’s great workings. Therefore, we have no need of Christmas or Easter or any other festivals.

This point is also established by the silence of Scripture as regards to the celebrating of Christmas and Easter. We search the Scriptures in vain to find any statute which directs us to have Christmas and Easter or any other festival in the church calendar.

So let us use Christmas and Easter for the bringing of the reality of the Christian faith before those around us. They can also be used to focus us on the key issues of the faith. However, let us never rely upon them for the building of our faith. And as we unpack these things into our lives perhaps we can think once-and-for-all of ridding ourselves of restricting our singing of certain hymns to Christmas and Easter. Surely, the great truths expressed in Hark The Herald Angels Sing and Once In Royal David’s City etc are too wonderful to be restricted just to a fortnight each year!

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Church Newsletter from June 2009 and originally published at Venabling on October 12 2015)

The Incarnation Is……..

…..excitement. When you look at all of the events surrounding the arrival of Jesus Christ into this world, first into the womb of Mary and then in His birth as a baby, you find every account pervaded by excitement. So on this April day how excited are you that Jesus Christ has come into this world. Let us seek to catch some of the excitement:

  1.     Elizabeth:  When she has the news brought to her that Mary is with child of the Holy Spirit, she says: But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:43-44). What excitement Elizabeth has; and the baby in her womb as well. It is as if all of what she hears spontaneously provokes rejoicing.
  2.      Mary:  Then we have Mary herself filled with delight.

 And Mary said:

‘My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me –
holy is his name
(Luke 1:46-47).

She is overwhelmed at the goodness of God in using her in these monumental events.

3.     The Angels: They are also euphoric. As news is brought to the shepherds by the heavenly messenger they burst into song Luke 2:13-14:

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.’

4.     The Shepherds: When the news of Messiah’s birth comes to these hard-working men in the hills they are stirred to act and go off to Jerusalem. That visit and the encounter with the Saviour leaves them: glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)

5.      Simeon:  This, very likely aged man was soon entering into this excitement, perhaps with suitable decorum for an older man. Here he is in Luke 2:28-32:-

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
  which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.’

How about you and me this April day? Are we rejoicing that our Saviour has come? We should be; because Jesus’s coming means salvation. So get some Christmas joy three months late or nine months early.

The Beauty of God’s Order.

One of the things that we can anticipate over the next couple of weeks is people getting disorientated. One statement you are likely to hear is “I don’t know what day it is”. And then as the holiday season moves on people will be saying that “I just want to get back into routine”.

Yesterday I made mention of how we should be careful to make it a priority to remember that this Sunday, is Sunday. This leads me on to consider more generally how the weekly setting aside of the Lord’s Day gives order and structure to our lives. We may be doing different things in the week, but “the first day of the week for the Lord” principle gives a re-orienting blessing into our lives.

This leads me on to ponder upon how our lives should, in many ways, be formed by our ‘Special Day’. Every week we should be living in the light of what the Lord brought to us last Lord’s Day and looking forward to His favour being upon us for the following Sunday. This point is particularly powerfully made when the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a central part of our worship. Each week looking back to last Sunday we remember how we confessed Him as Lord together with His people in the “Communion Feast”. And each week we anticipate the Lord’s Supper ahead next Sunday and as a result we will be continually confessing our sins so we are fully prepared for that great celebration.

Oh how beautiful and helpful is the order of God into our lives.

Don’t Forget It’s Sunday…………

…….on Sunday. Yes I know it is Christmas Day, but it is still the first day of the week. And so that is what makes it a particularly special time for Christians. Once a week God has given us our resurrection day to set aside ourselves to devote to Him.

Of course we can happily engage with the great truths of the Lord’s incarnation and make much of those matters. However, we must not forget that we have biblical guidance towards celebrating the Lord’s Day. whilst we have none for celebrating Christmas Day.

We are glad to engage with the truths of incarnation given the way that the ecclesiastical calendar is formed in our culture, but we must never forget that the arrangement is man-made even if the truths celebrated are most definitely God-made.

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