How We Stole Christmas

How_We_Stole_Christmas_std_tDid you know that during the early days of Christianity, different parts of the world celebrated the birth of Christ on different dates?  The Bible does not reveal the exact date of the Lord’s birth and the earliest believers did not have a fixed time for observing it.  However, that did not stop many from trying to figure out the day Jesus was born.  So, as a result of scholarly consideration, multiple dates have been suggested to commemorate the Lord’s birth:  January 6, April 18, April 19 and May 20.  According to Hippolytus, a 3rd century theologian that lived from the year 170 to 236 A.D., Christ was born on Wednesday, December 25, in the 42 year of the reign of Augustus. (which is 2 B.C.)   

Therefore, if you traveled widely in the Roman world, you could conceivably enjoy 5 or even six different celebrations of the Savior’s birth in the span of a single year.  However, it was Pope Julius I in the mid-fourth century who appointed a monk named Dionysius to set up a calendar standardizing a universal date.  December 25 officially became the recognized date and on that day a special mass was celebrated, hence the word Christmas (meaning a Christ mass).  This date was primarily selected because it coincided with the pagan festivals celebrating Saturnalia and the winter solstice.[1]  In other words, we stole Christmas. 

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In Grace We Stand

Christianity is all about news; it’s the Good News.  It’s the best news the world has ever had and yet that news is often scrambled and confused.  Too often the gospel of Jesus Christ has become a thin veneer spread lightly over the world’s values shaping and forming to the contours of our culture rather than allowing the gospel to radically transform the landscape of people’s lives.

 The news that Jesus brings is not intended to be a religious therapy session for those to stretch out on the proverbial couch in order to help them feel better about themselves.  The Good News of Jesus Christ discloses God’s matchless grace given to us which revolutionizes the mind and lives of those that dare to follow.

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Sign for Life

Introduction

The Gospel writers did not include all that Jesus did in their gospels.  In fact, they recorded very few of the “signs” (very few of the remarkable events) of Christ.  Contrary to what is commonly thought, all the spectacular things that Jesus did are not exhaustively recorded in Scripture.

The last verse of John’s gospel reads, “John 21:25 25And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”  Jesus did enormous amounts of ministry that has not been recorded in the Bible.

Jesus was apparently ministering and meeting the needs of multitudes every day; from sunrise to sundown.  His ministry is characterized by doing many spectacular things.  He was busy every day with:

  • acts of love and purity,
  • acts of righteousness and justice,
  • works of mercy and compassion,
  • works of miracles and power,
  • works of godliness and sovereignty
  • words of truth and salvation
  • words of peace and faith
  • words of hope and joy
  • words of morality and discipline
  • words of commitment and self denial

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Is it Time for a Change?

“I am not the person I used to be.  I have changed.”  I don’t know if you have ever heard someone say that before, but I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that expression offered by someone that had been incarcerated down in the Butler County Jail.  Typically, those I visit are grateful to see me and although I do not go there to judge them, my presence is often a reminder that things need to change; things need to be different.  So they often volunteer these words or sentiments like them, “I am not the same person I used to be.  I have changed.”  These words are usually followed up with a verbal commitment to attend our services upon their release.  Unfortunately, I rarely if ever see them again.

Does that surprise you?  Most of us would probably say, “No it doesn’t”.  In fact, many would say, “I am not that naïve or gullible.  Haven’t you heard you can’t teach an old dog new tricks or a leopard can’t change his spots?”  I suspect that most people are skeptical toward people who claimed they have experienced significant change in life.  I have found that most people today struggle to believe that that anyone can authentically change.  Ask anyone’s opinion and thoughts on politicians, celebrities, athletes, musicians, lawyers, reporters, co-workers and family members and see what people think about their predetermined vices.  They all have them don’t they?

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Don’t Give Out, Don’t Give In, Don’t Give Up

Lyman Beecher was born in New Haven Connecticut on October 12, 1775.  His father (David) was a blacksmith, yet Lyman chose not to follow in his father’s vocation.  Instead, Lyman went to Yale and graduated in 1797.  The following year Lyman went to Yale Divinity School and was eventually ordained into the ministry.

Lyman Beecher began his ministry in Long Island New York and in 1806, Lyman gained notoriety after preaching a sermon concerning the historic duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.  History records that Hamilton, one of our nation’s founding fathers, was gunned down in that duel in defense of Burr’s honor and pride.

This fiery Presbyterian preacher went on to raise a large family in Connecticut, eventually served in Boston’s Hanover Church but ultimately came here in the Cincinnati area to pastor the Second Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati where Lyman Beecher is credited as being one of the leaders which led our nation into the Second Great Awakening.   (Today, this congregation is named Covenant First Presbyterian Church, 717 Elm St., 8th and Garfield)

In 1828 Ebenezer Lane, a Baptist laymen and a New Orleans merchant, along with his brother, William, pledged to finance from their business profits the establishment of a seminary in Cincinnati.  When the Baptists were unable to carry the project through, the Presbyterians assumed it.  So 1832, Lyman Beecher became the first president of Lane Theological Seminary in Walnut Hills where his mission was to train ministers to win the West for Christ.

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Are You Fully Alive?

God loves us!  Lean into that:  Despite where we have come from, what we have done or where we have been going, God loves us.  In fact, He has moved Heaven and Earth to position Himself at our heart’s door for He desires an authentic relationship with us.  Christ said it this way, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Now, some believe what the Lord was suggesting is that Jesus came to extend to us worldly prosperity for mankind often equates “living life” with material wealth and circumstantial blessing.  However, that is reading into His statement that which He never intended.  Jesus never promised man such things; rather He simply promised us life; abundant life. (i.e., excessive life, superior life, superabundant life)

So the question becomes, what does it mean to live?  Not only, what does it mean to live life, but rather what does it mean to be fully alive?

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Leaving a Signature of Significance

When we think about it, everyone worships.  Literally, everyone yields their life to something and pursues it authentically.  There are many things in which humanity will seek after and submit their life to; prosperity, position, power, popularity, and prestige are just to name a few.  In of themselves, these things are not evil and wrong to experience, but yielding to these pursuits have proven to be empty accomplishments to those that have achieved them.  Yet many continue to yield there life and worship worldly success.

However, I am beginning to notice that more and more people are not satisfied with pursuing worldly success.  This discontentment has seeped in for many reasons.  First, some have tasted all the world can offer and it has left them completely disillusioned.  They have been the “lucky” ones in our society and have achieved great prosperity in this life, yet they would be the first to tell us that worldly success is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

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