Christmas History

...now browsing by category

 

#StarIsBorn!

Friday, December 18th, 2020

It all comes down to red carpet night. Stars, wannabe-stars, and people who hang on all make their way onto the red carpet and inside for the grand production. So many flashbulbs go off you gotta wonder why they don’t have seizures or get flash burns. The “who’s who” of fandom is there. Some come solo. Some come with their significant other. All dressed to the “nines” in clothing that cost more than I make in a couple of months. Ridiculous fawning over people and celebrities, enough to make you want to gag, goes on all night. But to be sure…this is the night all the hard work is rewarded.

We have seen that as we have made out way through the Christmas story.  The supporting cast (the ladies in Jesus’ genealogy and Zechariah and Elizabeth).  The Unknowns (shepherds and wise men who appear and never to be heard from again). The co-stars (Joseph and Mary).  And now the culmination.  The STAR of the whole production  has made his appearance. Everything has led up to this point. All the OT prophecies and the prophets who wrote them. Isaiah. Micah. 

Then we get to John 1. I will be spending the bulk of my time. Two statements will stand out Sunday.

Christmas was not a beginning but a becoming. Christmas wasn’t His start, but His commission. He was not created; He came. The Christmas We Didn’t Expect by David Mathis (p.24)

“We are not being told merely that Jesus Christ has eternal life or even that He gives it. This verse in I John 1:2 is saying He is eternal life, salvation itself.”

I’m looking forward to Sunday and preaching about the STAR. Join me if you would like.

#12Days#LessonstoLearn

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

Saturday night as Jo and I were sitting in the living room she asked me if I had heard the story of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I told her I had but couldn’t tell her exactly what they meant. She then read it to me. I had her send it to me via text so I could retype it here for you.

The song was written by Catholics in England as a song to teach their children about the Christian faith.  “True love” refers to God. “Me” refers to every Christian.  The other symbols mean the following:

  • 1 Partridge in a pear tree= Jesus Christ
  • 2 Turtle Doves= the Old and New Testaments
  • 3 French Hens= Faith, Hope and Love or the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
  • 4 Calling Birds= the Four Gospels
  • 5 Golden Rings= first 5 books of the OT
  • 6 Geese-A-Laying= the 6 days of creation
  • 7 Swans-A-Swimming= the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (I cor. 12:8-10)
  • 8 Maids-A-Milking= the 8 Beatitudes
  • 9 Ladies Dancing= the 9 Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)
  • 10 Lords-A-Leaping= the 10 Commandments
  • 11 Pipers Pipers= Eleven Apostles, not Judas
  • 12 Drummers Drumming= The Twelve points of Doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed

So there you have it.  Brings a whole new meaning to a seemingly fun and mundane and nonsensical song.  Now you can teach it to others!!

#UnsungHero#SecondViolin

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Have you ever heard the expression, “Close but no cigar?” Or some of you are old enough to remember Maxwell Smart from the TV show Get Smart. One of his favorite expressions was “I only missed it by that much” while holding his fingers up to indicate how close.  Or I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Almost doesn’t count except in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

There are actors and actresses who ply their trade for years and never hit it big. They always seem to wind up second fiddle.  Many of them go year after year playing second or bit parts while working another job to keep food in their stomach. Sometimes they hit it big (think Harrison Ford) and some never get the big time.  Some will always play the “one-who-never-made-it.”  Of course there are always those who think they are worth far more than they are and when a sequel comes up they say, “Bill me top dog or I’ll decline.” A lot of actors overestimated their value and lost out on their future. Hmmm that happened to one of my favorite trilogies.

Anyway, the Christmas story is coming down to the nitty-gritty. We talked about the supporting cast (Jesus’ genealogy) and Zechariah and Elizabeth. Last week I talked about the Unknowns (shepherds and wise men) who showed up, did their part and then were never to be heard from again.  This week is about the Co-Stars, whom I’m pretty sure you will come to realize are Joseph and Mary. I’m calling Joseph the Unsung Hero and Mary is the Second Violin (not to Joseph but to her Son).

There are some tremendous lessons both co-stars teach us and I believe if we can learn them it would change our world (our influence) and ultimately the world.  Two actors, both co-stars, but both vital to the outcome of the play. Join me if you would like.  At least, please pray for us. That just might be the best of all!

#Unknowns#SimpleMen#WiseMen

Friday, December 4th, 2020

The title gives it away. There should be no question who my sermon will be about in my A Grand Production series. 🙂

Life is full of surprises as we all know. Christmas morning is full of surprises.  When I was growing, when I still believed in SC,  Christmas morning in the Grandi household was one big huge surprise. We went to bed with nothing except lights in the windows. No tree.  No gifts. No train. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. But when we woke up life was full of wonder and surprises. Our living room had been transformed into a Christmas wonderland.  A well-lit tree. Gifts under the tree. A running train (my dad’s pride and joy). Even up to the day she died mom had pictures which showed our surprise as we hit the top of the steps and then came down to see what wasn’t there when we went to bed. I now know-or should I say I no longer wonder-how mom and dad stayed up all day. Oh yeah…coffee.  Lots of it. I know they had to have stayed up late at night, maybe most of the night putting everything together to make a magical surprise.

I don’t imagine there could be anyone more surprised than the shepherds when the angel and the host of angels visited them on the hillside with an announcement which shook their world. And to see how the wise men followed the star which took them from their home in the east to Bethlehem by way of Herod’s court is the stuff of legends. Come to think of it both of them are the stuff of legends even though we know nothing more about them than what we are told in Luke and Matthew.

I am afraid we have sometimes lost our wonder. Like the young man in Polar Express,  we go through a crisis of belief and settle too easily for the mundane. Excitement awaits us if we follow Jesus.

I’d appreciate your prayers if you are able and would love to have you join us via live stream.

#SupportingCast#Messy

Friday, November 27th, 2020

One of the hardest times for me to preach is Christmas. I know that sounds weird. But it is true. It isn’t that I don’t like Christmas. I love it! What makes it so hard to preach at Christmas is most people know the story so well they could probably do a better job than me. 🙂  So the hard job for me is to find a new way to tell an old story. By new way I obviously don’t mean denying it or the truth of it or the virgin birth or the Incarnation.  The questions are:

How do I make it come alive?

How do I make it appealing and not boring?

How do I tell this timeless story and bring old truths to life?

I’m not sure how I succeed in those but I do try. This year I am calling my series A Grand Production.  I plan to look at it through the idea of a play with the different actors and actresses in their roles. My sermon this Sunday is on the Supporting Cast.  I’m breaking it down into the Messy People and the “Go-Before” people. Do you know who they are? Hint: the first group is found in Matthew 1 and the others are found in Luke 1.  You should be able to figure them out.

If you are unable to come to OVCF don’t forget we live stream at 9:00 and 10:45. I’d love to have you join us. If you can’t would you at least pray for me/us? Thanks.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post16

Monday, December 16th, 2019

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is considered by many to be America’s greatest poet.  He is quoted as once saying, “Believe me, every man has his secret sorrows, which the world knows not; and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.”  He was writing from experience.   A Hallmark movie his life was not!

He was married in 1831 and by 1834 had a wonderful wife, a dynamic reputation, and a house overlooking the Charles River.  He seemed to have it all, yet within a year of moving to that home in Massachusetts, his wife became ill and died.

It took him seven years before he recovered enough to marry again. With a new love, the good life returned to him. The Longfellows welcomed five children into their home. It was during this time that he wrote some of his greatest works- The Song of Hiawatha and The Courtship of Miles Standish, to name two. In 1861, at the height of his greatness, tragedy struck again. While lighting a match, his wife’s dress caught fire and she burned to death. Then before he could hit his stride, his faith was challenged by the American Civil War.

He hated the Civil War-it tore at his heart to see the land he loved, the United States, to be so fractured. Longfellow was an ardent believer in the power of God to move on earth, and he pleaded with God to end the madness. When his oldest son was injured during the war, while tending to his wounds and seeing others around him doing the same, his prayers turned to rage. He asked his friends, and his God, where is the peace? He took pen to paper and penned the refrain from the song we often hear at Christmas: “I heard the bells on Christmas day/Their old familiar carols play/And wild and sweet the words repeat/Of peace on earth good will to men…And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth I said/For hate is strong and mocks the song/Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

I suspect if we are honest we have all asked the same question about peace and have stated it (perhaps without as much clarity). The angel’s announcement to the shepherds that night was “peace on earth among men on whom God is pleased.”  May we all come to know the peace He promises us.

Reasons

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I have said this before and I’m sure will say it again (as I will now): I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. That’s not a put down; it’s reality. I realized early on that I was not without the ability to learn, i.e. stupid or dense, but I also realized I was not one who could probe deeply into subjects. Math and science, for example, have always been challenges for me. Advanced Biology was a required course chore. Chemistry was a train wreck. When it comes to spiritual things I have often taken a rather simple approach to things: “God said it; that settles it; therefore, I believe it.”  I am not into the finer details of things. That does go along somewhat with my Sanguine personality, but in matters of faith, I’m content to trust. So when I come upon something which is so good I want to share it, then believe me when I say I was touched by it.

I recently read an article by a woman named Rebecca McLaughlin (whom I have never heard of) entitled 4 Reasons to Believe in the Christmas Miracle.  I’m going to list those four reasons but I will also include the link so you can read the whole article yourself. So here is the recap. The link will be at the end.

  1. Miracles aren’t hard for God.
  2. Miracles aren’t ruled out by science.
  3. The gospels aren’t mythologized.
  4. Forgiveness is the greater miracle.

This post was written because as Rebecca was reading the Christmas story to her daughter, she said she didn’t believe in the angel visitation. To read more about this here is the link. I’d encourage you to read it in its entirety. You’ll be glad you did.

I would like to hear your thoughts if you have any.

Unfiltered

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Don’t you just love genealogies? Aaaaah no. “As a matter of fact I usually just skip over them and go to the end. Sort of like I do when I’m reading all about the clans and offspring in Numbers.”

But there is one genealogy you just don’t want to skip over. I’m sure you know I’m speaking of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. I used to. I was lost at the first “begat.” You know…the old KJV version of “father of.” And honestly, when people want to talk about Christmas they want to talk about the baby in the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, Bethlehem, no room in the manger, or some other well known part of the story. But the genealogy? Surely you have got to be kidding!

But there it is in black and white and as glorious as it can be! There is the requisite “father of” found in all genealogies. But, as you may know, there are some women included in His. The culture of that day excluded women from any place of prominence, especially in the genealogy. But not Jesus’. I’m sure you have heard it before but here is what we find with the woman:

Tamar– disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah. Find her story in Genesis 38

Rahab– anyone who has read the story of Jericho knows her profession.  She was an idolatrous, an outcast Gentile woman, and a professional prostitute. She became the mother of Boaz who married our next woman.

Ruth– a Moabitess, a lineage that came as a result of incest. (Genesis 19). She married Boaz (Read the book of Ruth) and became David’s great grandmother.

Bathsheba– Is the anyone who does not know who she is? Just say “David.”

Mary- the mother of Jesus. A sinner like you and me. A virgin but still a sinner.  Definitely not perfect and definitely not deserving to be elevated to the heights with Jesus. She was in need of a Savior like all of us.

The genealogy of Jesus speaks of grace. It shows that God accepts outsiders. Like me. Like you.  The genealogy shows people with warts. It is unfiltered.

Grace is my main topic for this Sunday. The Unfiltered Light of Christmas. Your prayers would be appreciated.

“IT”

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

godsgiftofchristmas

No…not IT as in technology.

“It” as in what you call your baby until you know its sex.

Jo & I had our two girls in the age when knowing the sex of your baby was, at best, guesswork. They listened to the beat of the heart. Watched the way mom carried it (not an exact science). But before the modern technology, knowing the sex of your baby was, as I said, guesswork. So we tended to call the baby “it.” Unless, of course, you are like me who would not let Jo look at any girl’s clothes while pregnant and then boldly stated from the pulpit on the second one that I put my dibs in with the Lord and this one is a boy.

Yeah…both were girls…and I wouldn’t trade either of them for all the money in the world. I’m convinced God said He was going to have some fun with me for the first one and probably changed the sex of the baby in the womb when I bragged it was a boy. 🙂

I just got a text from an expectant mom Tuesday that their baby was going to be a girl. Oh…modern technology. Takes the guesswork out of the sex of the baby and takes the wonderment out of it as well.

Last week I talked about Emmanuel (God with Us). This week I’ll be speaking on Isaiah 9: 6-7, the passage where names of Jesus abound. While Mary and Joseph knew the baby was to be a “he,” the names given in this passage tell so much more about Him.  It is a good way to prepare for Christmas-to know the names of the future Messiah.

Which one means the most to you?

Mistletoe

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Time for another Christmas tradition lesson!

I love mistletoe. Let me rephrase that: I love what mistletoe suggests. 🙂 But then again some sarcastic person will say, “Who needs mistletoe?” and technically they would be correct. If people only knew…

Do you know what the origin of mistletoe is? In Old English, mistel is the word for “dung,” and tan means “twig.” Mistletan is the Old English version of the word we know today as mistletoe. Well…I guess it just lost some of its romantic appeal. Don’t you think?

But, let’s move on. In ancient times, mistletoe was viewed with awe, as a miracle plant. It is actually a parasite, and yet it is radically different from what we think of a parasite. It is a beautiful, flowering plant which thrives in treetops when all else dies. Scandinavian warriors would stop battles if they found themselves under mistletoe (No…not to kiss each other). They believed it would dishonor a plant which stood for life by killing. It became a symbol of peace.

Eventually, the restorative powers of the berries migrated to England and the plant became a symbol of love. When a couple passed under the plant they stopped to kiss. If they did (they believed) God would bless them with everlasting love.

By the time Dickens wrote The Christmas Carol, the plant (for Christians) had become a symbol of life after death, of faith that was so strong it could grow even in the harshest of environments. Like the FISH symbol of the ancient Christians, the mistletoe was hung as a testimony of a person’s love for the God who had sent His Son.

Today, sadly, the message of peace, faith, and hope has been largely lost, but if even in a childish way, the message of love remains. (Sounds strangely biblical doesn’t it? See I Cor.13)  So…the next time you see a mistletoe hanging take advantage of it! Remind yourself it stands for the message of love.  (Had you going there for a minute didn’t I?)

This was adapted from this book:

Product Details