Do our Christmas Traditions have a deeper meaning?
December 25 Pastor’s Roundtable
Do Christmas Traditions Have a Deeper Meaning?
Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
Was Jesus born on December 25?
December 25th. A day remembered throughout America by nearly everyone. Even those who deny the historicity of Jesus, question the worth of His life, reject Christianity or call the Christmas season the “winter holidays” recognize that December 25 is the traditional date of Jesus’ birth. Is that true? Does the Bible tell us when Jesus was born?
The Bible gives little specific information about the time of the birth of Jesus. Contrary to the popular Christmas carols, we don’t even know for certain if Jesus was born at night or in the middle of the day (though night does seem more likely since the angels appeared to the shepherds at night). We don’t know the year in which Jesus was born, much less the month or day of His birth. The Bible does give a couple clues as to the time of His birth. Some have surmised that because the shepherds were in the fields fields at night when the angels appeared, Jesus probably wasn’t born in the cold winter months. We know from Luke 1 that Mary conceived sometime around the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Because John the Baptist’s father was a Levite and the Levites served in the temple according to a fixed rotation, a rotation that history has preserved for us, we can make other surmises about the date of Christ’s birth. Luke tells us that John the Baptist was conceived after his father’s time of service in the temple, which would probably have been sometime around the beginning of the Jewish New Year. Adding everything together, Jesus’ birth would have been about 15 months after John the Baptist conception. After some juggling of the calendars to correct for differences between our 365 day year and the calendar of the Jews, some have concluded Jesus was most likely born in May or June. Despite diligent research and careful calculation, every consideration still assumes a lot of details that the Bible just doesn’t provide. In the end, any fixing of a day, month or season of the year for Jesus’ birth is speculative. We just don’t know when Jesus was born.
The precise date of His birth is not at all significant. What is significant is that Jesus is the promised Savior who was born just as God had promised and did all that God determined for Him to do. Jesus’ birth is the entrance of Deity into humanity, the robing of God in the flesh of man so that God the Son would become mankind’s substitute and suffer the infinite penalty of sin instead of men. Jesus’ birth is not the climax of history. His birth is just the beginning of a long dark road that led inexorably to Calvary and redemption for men.
In what way is Jesus begotten of God?
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” At Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus. Jesus’ birth is of universal importance because Jesus is God who set aside His Divine prerogatives, clothed Himself in humanity and suffered the punishment of man’s sin so men can be saved. John 3:16 famously describes Jesus as the “only begotten Son” of God. Jesus as the begotten of God seems to be at odds with the Biblical doctrine that Jesus is the eternal God. If Jesus is the eternally existent God, in what way is He begotten of God?
Psalm 2:7 presents a powerful promise of the coming Messiah. God comforts His servant David with the promise He will establish as King of Jerusalem His own Son who will reign forever over all the earth. God’s promise to send a King is certified by the Divine decree, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” The New Testament declares that Jesus is the Son decreed by God in Psalm 2 (Hebrews 1:1-6). The begottenness of Jesus is the decree of God to establish God the Son as the Messiah of Israel and King in Jerusalem who would rule over the entire earth.
John 1:14 connects the incarnation- God the Son’s taking to Himself humanity- with His being begotten. Jesus is begotten of God in His birth into the world. Jesus was not conceived by natural means but by the power of God uniquely working to generate a child. Jesus’ begottenness is the working of God to miraculously create a body for the Son within Mary’s womb. His begottenness is in the working of God to send the Son of God, the seed of woman, into humanity to become the Savior of man. God the Son eternally existed, but He was given a body in the womb of Mary and begotten of God in the person of Jesus
God the Son is the eternally existent God who created all things. He is fully God and equal with the Father in existence, eternality, infinity, majesty, power and glory. The begottenness of Jesus does not imply the least inferiority. The begottenness of Jesus does not imply a point in eternity in which the Father existed alone without the Son or the Spirit. Jesus is described as begotten because of the Divine decree that the Son would take upon Himself humanity. Through His humanity Jesus became the Savior of those who trust Him and He will be the conquering King who will rule eternally over all the earth. Jesus is begotten in His human personage and in His Messianic work.
God the Son did not spring into existence on Christmas day (or nine months before His birth). God the Son has no source nor origination. The Son of God is fully God, the second person of the Trinity, who shares entirely in the identical, eternal essence and existence of the Triune Godhead.
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November 27 Pastor’s Roundtable
Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
How can I learn to be more thankful?
America sets aside one day each year
to give thanks. Historically this day has been understood as a day to give thanks to God. Some may wonder why. What is there to be thankful about? In a time of economic, civil and international troubles, what reason do Americans have to be thankful? Many people struggle with thankfulness. Some are not thankful because they think good things are due them. Some are not thankful because their life is filled with sorrows which overshadow the blessings of life. Whatever the national and personal challenges to gratefulness, can a person learn to be more thankful?
The first step in learning thankfulness is to recognize your dependence on others. Every day every person is dependent on others. You are dependent on city workers to keep a smooth flow of water to your house and an equally smooth flow of waste water away from your home. You are dependent on farmers who raise meat and produce, on distributors who ship your food, on drivers who transport it and on grocers who sell it. Even someone who lives off the grid and grows all their own food is dependent on others for the lumber in their house or the electronics in their solar panels. Few in America today cut their own trees, mill their own lumber, plant their own gardens, raise their own livestock, create their own technology, build their own houses and dig their own wells. Every person is daily dependent on the work of others. Those who have the humility to recognize their dependence on others will be thankful for the good things they possess.
Every person is fully dependent on God for life. God gives life and breath to all people. (Acts 17:25) Life is dependence. Life is dependence on God for the air we breathe, the lungs to breathe it, the muscles that control the lungs, the blood that transports the oxygen and the brilliantly designed cells fueled by oxygen our lungs inhale.
Most Americans are surrounded by good things in excess of their necessities. These good things are from God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father.” (James 1:17) The refrigerator overflowing with food, the closet filled with clothes, the climate controlled house, the car, the job, the family and the friends are all gifts from God. Those who have the humility to recognize their complete dependence on God for life and goodness will be thankful for the good things He gives them.
Psalm 107 repeatedly says, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” A careful look at the world and the abundance that fills it will show that God is a good God who gives good things to all men regardless of what they deserve. He gives sun and rain to the righteous and unrighteous alike. (Matthew 5:45)
Humbly look for the good things in life and you will see you have many reasons to give God thanks. You are surrounded by opportunities to give thanks. We do not need to learn how to be more grateful, but how to better see the blessings we receive every day.
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What is Vocation?
November 6 Pastor’s Roundtable
Pastor Dave Chambers
Pastor Tom Schierkolk
Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?
Jesus died on the cross. This fact is as historically certain as any fact of history. Jesus was condemned by a hateful crowd of religious leaders who despised Him and His teachings. Instead of believing His claims to be their Messiah they demanded His death. Jesus was sentenced to death by an indifferent politician who found it convenient to bow to the wishes of a mob instead of doing what he knew to be just.
The political and personal reasons for Jesus’ crucifixion explain the motives of the individuals involved, but they do not explain it’s necessity. The “why” of Jesus’ death on the cross can only be explained theologically. Jesus died because of the sinfulness of men. The necessity of Jesus’ death is found at the intersection of God’s holiness and love.
God is holy. Consequently, He cannot have a friendly relationship with anything polluted by sin. Every person is a sinner. Man’s sin separates him from God. Sin is not an offense to God and rebellion against Him. God is holy. Consequently, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. The punishment of sin is death. The only way for a sinful human to have a relationship with God is for the punishment of his sin to be paid. God cannot simply overlook sin. To do so would be unjust. The punishment of sin must be paid, but ne perosn is able to pay the penalty and restore himself to God.
The love of God responded to the helpless sinfulness of man by providing a payment for sin that is sufficient to satisfy the holy demands of God’s justice and reconcile the sinner to Him. “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlsating life.” (John 3:16) “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Because God is love, God the Son willingly died to pay the penalty of our sin and restore us to friendship with God.
God’s system of justice permits a substitute to be punished in place of the offender provided the substitute meets certain standards of perfection. This is not the case in American justice, but it is true of Divine justice. When Adam and Eve sinned God provided a substitute to cover their sin. He then promised a greater substitute who would conquer sin. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice promised as the substitute for sinful men. His death satisfies God’s justice and makes it possible for sinners to be reconciled to God. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) “You, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death.” (Colossians 1:21-22)
Jesus had to die on the cross if sinful men were to be saved from the death they deserved. Through His death Jesus met the demands of justice. His death on the cross made it possible for sinners to be forgiven. If Jesus had not died, no one could be saved. Because He died, all will be saved who receive Him by faith. He promises forgiveness freely to any who will rely entirely on Him to take away their sin and restore them to God. Have you turned to Jesus for salvation? Will you?