The story of the visit of the Magi has much to teach followers of Jesus about the way of the Christian life. You can watch the whole service, or just catch the message, based on Matthew 2, beginning at 24:35.
The kids will be finished school today.
Maybe, you’ll be finished work today.
Christmas is coming. Are you ready?
Well, I still have baking to do, and a turkey to buy, and presents to pick up for…
No, are you ready?
Despite what the culture teaches us, being ready for Christmas has less to do with making sure the tree is decorated and the table is set for dinner than with making sure your heart is prepared. That’s what the season of Advent has been all about.
This coming week, we will celebrate the birth of the Son of God in a hewn-out cave behind a Bethlehem motel. But it’s not just about an historical commemoration.
The nod to the newborn Jesus lying in a manger is vested with its deepest meaning when his birth in Bethlehem is replicated in our lives. As we plead in one of the old Christmas carols:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.
When Jesus is born in us, that’s when his birth in Bethlehem’s stall becomes most meaningful, and when we are truly ready.
Let Christmas be significant for you this year. You still have a few days to get ready! Invite Jesus to be born in you. It’ll be like being born again.
Wait a minute, I’ve heard that somewhere before…oh, right:
“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3.3, NLT).
Christmas has the most meaning when Jesus is alive in our hearts.
If you’re looking for a place to worship the newborn King this Christmas, I invite you to join me at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton. It would be awesome to see you.
In western Christianity, today is the commonly-celebrated day for the feast of St. Nicholas – the guy who brought you Santa Claus.
Well, sort of. The Santa Claus we know today, visually at least, is said to be a creation of the Coca-Cola Company. But the notion of a benevolent figure who brings gifts certainly conjures notions of Nicholas of Myra, a bishop whose fourth-century dealings with poor women’s dowries is the stuff of legend.
Believe it or not, though, that’s not what Nicholas was most famous for.
He lived through the time of the early church’s Council of Nicaea, which in AD 325 formulated the doctrine of the Trinity: One God, Three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And Nicholas is said to have played a role in articulating a truth Christians hold dear today: that God the Father and God the Son are of one substance. (This same application was made to the role of the Holy Spirit later on.)
That might seem like a bunch of tiny theologians dancing on the head of a pin, but it’s actually really important for the historic Christian faith. For if Jesus or the Holy Spirit were merely of a similar substance to the Father, Jesus could not be God, and could therefore not have been the final, perfect sacrifice for our sins.
In fact, without being of one substance with the Father, Jesus would just be another dude…a righteous dude, to be sure, but just another dude.
On St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6, some cultures celebrate their gift-giving in honour of St. Nick himself. There’s nothing wrong with that. But let me encourage you likewise to remember the gift of St. Nicholas as a theologian, who helped shape the church’s understanding of the mystery of the Triune God, upholding Jesus as of one substance with the Father.
Small though it may seem, it makes a big difference. For if Jesus were not God, there would be no reason for the season.
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it. – John 1.1-3, NLT
It’s great to be back in the saddle! Thanks to all who prayed for me while I was on Inter-Mission/Sabbatical. It means so much! I will be talking this Sunday about one important aspect of my experience that is applicable to all of us (you can join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton or catch the service on YouTube later), and bits of my experience will trickle out over the course of the next while, including through Encouragement. Stay tuned!
This week begins the season of Advent, which many Christians mark as a time of anticipation for the birth of Jesus. Outside certain churches, it’s not widely practised in western society. Why?
I think it’s because we have learned to expect everything according to our timetable.
Waiting is not our strong suit.
Yet anticipation, if we stop to think about it, actually heightens our excitement over what we wait for. If you don’t believe me, let me ask you how much time you spent deciding what you were going to buy today…Black Friday. (Many of you probably won’t buy anything on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but sales statistics suggest that not all of us will resist.)
The fact that we are not good at waiting is noticeable even in the church, where there are overt suggestions (if there is no overt pressure) to sing Christmas carols well ahead of Christmas Eve. I get this; they’ve been played on the radio and in the malls since the day after Remembrance Day (or sooner); let’s enjoy them while we can.
But if we wait, it heightens our anticipation of what is to come.
True, the scenario ends the same way each year: Jesus is born! But this rhythm of time centred around the salvation narrative is so different from what we experience out in the world that I think it helps strengthen our faith. (Granted, there are many ways to make that happen.)
So this year, don’t open all the boxes on your Advent calendar in the first week. Don’t sing “O come, all ye faithful” just yet. Don’t buy everything you want for Christmas so that there are no surprises greeting you under the tree, symbolizing the greatest gift of all – the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God with skin on, breaking into history to redeem us from sin from which we couldn’t hope to save ourselves.
“For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9.6, NLT).