Merry Christmas! …from Charles Wesley*

Christ, by highest heav’n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord:

Late in time behold him come, Off-spring of the virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the God-head see, Hail the incarnate Deity!

Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

O for a thousand tongues to sing My great Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King, The triumphs of His grace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the pris’ner free,

His blood can make the foulest clean – His blood availed for me.

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia! Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!

Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth reply, Alleluia!

 – Charles Wesley –

* The above was lifted from the sidebar of my brother’s Christmas letter, featuring verses from three of the greatest hymns – Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, and Christ the Lord is Risen Today.  My brother’s name is Wesley, no doubt named after the 18th Century Wesley brothers, John and Charles Wesley.  Our younger brother’s name is John Charles. This was also no doubt influenced by this love of my parents for their Wesleyan heritage, the preaching and hymn writing of John and Charles Wesley.

The War on Christmas?

Is there a war on Christmas?  If so, how should we respond? Is it time for a new crusade to take back Christmas from the infidels? Should we invest our time, money and energy to engage this war, take no prisoners, and defeat the ACLU and all the enemies of God and Christmas?

The announcement of this war has come primarily from Tim Wildmon and the AFA (American Family Association) through the AFA media arm, One News Now, a helpful source for what is going on in government that threatens religious freedom.

I receive regular emails from One News Now with powerful evidence of this war on Christmas.  It is primarily an effort by America’s retailers to replace Merry Christmas! with Happy Holidays! and AFA’s effort to force them to reverse that policy and put Christmas back in their ads, on their websites, and in the mouths of their employees.  With threats of boycotts, naughty and nice lists, and appeals to the heads of these companies, the AFA has succeeded in getting numerous companies to put Christmas back in their stores. Is that a victory for Christmas and Christians?  And retailers who refuse, such as Radio Shack, are listed for boycott.  Is this the way to fight for our Lord? Continue reading “The War on Christmas?”

Put the “X” back in Christmas

Xmas is coming!  Does that offend you that Christ has been replaced by X?

I confess that I often use X as an abbreviation, not so much in published writing, but in my own note taking, my very limited form of shorthand.  I use X for Christ and Xn for Christian.  Shocked?  Horrified?  Worried about me?

I understand that X can mean the unknown factor in Algebra or various other uses for X in our culture.  But none of that is the background for Xmas.  Rather there is a longstanding history, at least 500 years, of using Christograms, that is symbols of Christ.

The X in Xmas is really not the 24th letter of our English alphabet, but the Greek χ, anglicized as Chi.  But the use of  χ for Christ  has a much longer history, going all the way back to the first century, the first letter in the Greek  χριστός, Christ.   In the early church of the first  century, the Greek word for fish, ἰχθύς, served as a symbol of Christian identity.  This is an acronym for the Greek words, Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ θεὸς υἱοῦ  σωτὴρ, which is translated Jesus, Christ, God, Son, Savior.

Because few know that background, I don’t commonly refer to Xmas in public writing or speaking.  but I hope the X will now trigger for you, not the unknown factor, but the wonder and beauty of Xmas, which is all about Jesus Christ.

For further detail, take a look at What Does the X in Xmas Mean? by R.C. Sproul and from the blog What is the X in Xmas?

And for those who do see X as the unknown factor, let that be a challenge to you to share the good news that the X is Christ!

What is the Gospel?

What is the essential nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as expressed in Scripture?  Is it the ethics of Jesus, the love ethic?  Is it the example of Jesus? What about the death and resurrection of Jesus, the substitutionary sacrifice for sin?

What is the Gospel?

A popular catchy saying is, “Preach the Gospel everywhere.  If necessary, use words.”  Are words necessary?  Or are the words of Gospel proclamation secondary to the good works of the Gospel?

This is not a minor issue! Continue reading “What is the Gospel?”

Thanksgiving in America

Do you know the history of Thanksgiving?

It’s difficult to sort out legend from reality in the history of Thanksgiving in the New World.  For a review of Thanksgiving prior to the 1621 Pilgrim Thanksgiving, I found The True Thanksgiving Story to be helpful.  Governor William Bradford’s widely distributed proclamation is great reading, but probably not an authentic 1623 document as claimed.

However, as the new country was formed, called the United States of America, the history of Thanksgiving is much clearer.  George Washington issued a memorable Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789.  Some presidents ignored the idea, some embraced it with a variety of proclamations, but it was Abraham Lincoln who declared it an annual holiday with a proclamation in 1863.  It only took congress 78 years to finally ratify it as a national holiday on the 4th Thursday of each November. A brief history of the holiday was recently published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

As you gather to give thanks this week, take time to review this history of Thanksgiving in America.  Read one of the  presidential thanksgiving proclamations, such as Washington in 1789 or Lincoln in 1863.  Read a key Bible passage on Thanksgiving.

Can’t think of one?  How about the short but powerful Psalm 100?

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 
Worship the Lord with gladness;  
come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;   

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise; 
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
 his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Through the Eyes of a 12 Year Old

My oldest grandson is 12 years old.

That was my age when Mrs. Marshall interrupted my eighth grade class at Lily Lake school to announce that President Kennedy had been shot as the presidential motorcade passed through Dallas, Texas.  A short time later, we heard that the president was dead. Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as our new president.

How does a 12 year old kid process the assassination of our president?   Continue reading “Through the Eyes of a 12 Year Old”

Stupid Links – Idle Curiosities on Augustine’s Birthday

How many times a day do you get off track, distracted from your work by “idle curiosity,” the term used by the church father, Augustine, for “the desires of the eyes” from 1 John 2:16?  How has being “online” all day every day added to the seduction?  I’m not talking about pornography here, though that is a deadly problem.  I’m not taking about time wasters, chasing links here and there to learn this or that, the equivalent of scanning the tabloids at the Super Market check out.  Tony Reinke’s post yesterday spoke to me, one link I clicked that I think might challenge you and help you avoid time wasting silliness.

Why We Click Stupid Links

By Tony Reinke | Nov 13, 2013 12:20 am

By “stupid links,” I mean hyperlinks on the Web that do nothing but tap our kneejerk curiosity. They do little for us because they have little to offer. We click, we read, we watch, and often we feel dumber for it.

Such clamorous links litter the Internet, offering up celebrity gossip, bizarre crime stories, violent videos, and sexual images — each link asking for little more than a click (such a petty request).

So just how pervasive are these links? As I write, the CNN home page features these seven hyperlinked titles as “Top Stories”:

  • Crack-smoking mayor won’t quit
  • Was pushed husband blindfolded?
  • Woman killed in cougar attacks
  • Misquotes fuel Tom Cruise attacks
  • Deer pierced in the face by arrow
  • Guess who’s back in skinny jeans?
  • Do astronauts clean their undies?

The magnetic pull we sometimes feel to headlines like these predates the Internet and the evening news. It was a concern taken up by church father Augustine, born on November 13, 354 A.D. (more than 1,650 years ago). Continue reading “Stupid Links – Idle Curiosities on Augustine’s Birthday”

Kirsten Powers, Democrat, and Believer in Jesus

Former Clinton Administration staff and current Democratic strategist and Fox News consultant, Kirsten Powers, has become a Christian.  Or as she puts it, “The Hound of Heaven has pursued me and caught me–whether I liked it or not.”  You can read Kirsten’s personal testimony, The God I Can’t Write Off, in the November 2013 edition of Christianity Today.

Even though she has generally represented the opposing political viewpoint from mine, I’ve always appreciated Powers’ respectful and sincere tone when I saw and heard her on Fox News.  I knew nothing about her beyond that until I read her story.

How did this alternating Atheist/Agnostic, having left her father’s borrowed Episcopal faith, come to faith in Jesus? Continue reading “Kirsten Powers, Democrat, and Believer in Jesus”

Martin Luther’s Trick or Treat

October 31, 2013 – The iPhone forecast for Indianapolis is 100% chance of rain all day except for a mid-afternoon dip to only 90%, but back to 100% for the evening Trick or Treat hours. So here in central Indiana, Trick or Treat night has been officially postponed for 24 hours, expecting more favorable conditions tomorrow night.

October 31, 1517 — I don’t know about Wittenberg weather 496 years ago, but conditions were ripe if not favorable for challenge to a corrupt church, and even worse a heretical church. Martin Luther had no tricks up his sleeve when he posted his 95 Theses  on the Wittenberg church door and lit the spark for the Reformation.  But what he did was certainly threatening to the established church, not used to being challenged.  And it wasn’t just the Selling of Indulgences, selling salvation for money.  That was the main focus in Luther’s first public challenge, but issues of eternally greater importance weighed on Luther’s mind.

David Mathis of Desiring God reminds us of the primary issues that should lead us to celebrate this holiday.

Reformation Day is ripe for remembering an array of biblical truths — that the Scriptures are our only final authority (sola Scriptura); that God accepts us by grace alone, through faith alone, on the   basis of Christ alone (justification); that God often uses the unlikeliest of people to turn the world upside down; that God doesn’t just raise up great individuals, but collections of people, veritable teams, each with his lot, and his own local cohort, to bring about widespread change; and all these conspiring to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria).

For a larger perspective, read the entire article,  The Reformation:  Trick or Treat?


The Dark and Light Sides of Halloween

Last week, I posted my thoughts on Halloween and my preference to call it Reformation Day.

This week, a bit more about Halloween. I’ve wavered back and forth over the years from being hard line opposed to any participation in the “Devil’s Holiday” to a more practical acknowledgement of the cultural event that Halloween has become, and to give focus to the significance of the day as the first shots fired in what is known as the Protestant Reformation.

In our neighborhood, I’ve been amazed that Halloween is competing for Christmas in yard and house decorations, complete with grave markers in front yards. Why such obsession with death? Continue reading “The Dark and Light Sides of Halloween”