Posts Tagged Christmas

Sanity Takes a Holiday

by Rev. Rick Robinson

So they don’t want us to call it Christmas anymore? The caravans did not travel following OnStar to their destination for a holiday. The angels did not announce glad tidings of vacation time and great shopping discounts. All right then, I want to wish you a very Merry Jesusmas! I know it has extra syllables, even for those of us who are from the south–but if you get a running start with it, you can make it fit in most of those songs that offend some people.

Well, if I can’t change the name legally, then why can someone else? At least I left the “mas” in my revision; they aren’t suggesting Happy Holidaymas. When is the last time you asked someone if they accepted a Holiday as their personal Lord and Savoir? If you don’t like Jesusmas, you are not alone. My spell checker wants me to change it. Add it to the dictionary…argument over. Maybe there should be a Sanity Clause in all of this legal mumbo-jumbo.

While we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25th, and many are working to remove reference to Christ from the day of celebration, let’s look to the Bible to see what information we can get about the birth date of Jesus Christ.
Many Christians acknowledge that no one knows the exact day Jesus was born, but the Bible gives us some good information about the event. The exact date of Jesus’ birth is not as critical as not losing focus of the greatest gift given to mankind. Let’s look at the series of event recorded in the book of Luke, and break it down into a time frame.

Luke 1:5-17 (NASB)
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years. Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. And aan angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

We see from this passage, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was serving in the course of Abijah in the temple. The “course of Abijah” was a specific time when priests served in the temple. King David had divided the sons of Aaron into 24 groups (1 Chr 24:1-4). This would set up a schedule by which the Temple could be staffed with priests all year round in an orderly manner. Lots were then drawn to determine the sequence in which each group would serve in the Temple (1 Chr 24: 7-19). Zechariah served in the course of Abijah, the eighth course, which started in early June.

Luke 1:24-37 (NASB)
After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.” Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of  the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, ‍The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

As we continue exploring the timeline in Luke, we see the angel announcing the birth of Jesus, to Mary six months later. The Jewish calendar was different than the one we use today, but this would have been sometime around our December, when Mary conceived. If I was teaching this in a classroom environment we would dig deeper into this, but this is not a course on calendar conversion. We know this was six months after the conception of John, because the angel told Mary that fact. Assuming that both Mary and Elizabeth were normal in terms of length pregnancy, John the Baptist would have been born in March, and Jesus probably sometime in the month of September.

The Bible also gives more evidence that Jesus was not likely born in December.

Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Shepherds were not in the fields in the winter, they were in the fields early in March until early October. This would place Jesus’ birth in the spring or early fall. It is also known that Jesus lived for 33.5 years and died at the feast of the Passover, which is at Easter time. He must therefore have been born six months the other side of Easter – making the date around the September/October time frames.

Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Palestine is very cold in December and much too cold to ask everyone to travel to the city of their fathers to register for taxes. This would also support the evidence of the shepherds being out in the fields.

If Jesus started His ministry at the age of thirty, as was customary for the Jews (Numbers 4:3) and was crucified at the feast of the Passover, which is Easter time, then He was about thirty-three and one-half years old. Six months the other side of Easter would make His date of birth around the September time frame.

Regardless of when Jesus was born, our hearts should be filled with thanksgiving that God chose to send his Son into the world for our redemption and salvation. I hope this information does not ruin your Christmas, but makes it more special. If you have not received this gift of Christmas (eternal life) you can do it now and make This Christmas the best ever.

The gospel does not require the celebration of Christmas, but there is no time that is “off limits” for us to meet together to celebrate the good things God has done for us through Jesus Christ. We celebrate Christmas in our home every year, but we are aware that the thing that is sacred, is the birth of Jesus Christ, not December 25th.

Copyright 2010 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Living in the Past

by Rick Robinson

If you look at the things I enjoy in life it would be easy to think I live in the past. I like Christian music from the eighties. I like automobiles that are older than I am. I like black and white movies and classic TV generation shows like I love Lucy. Nostalgia is big right now with a lot of people. Maybe there is a part of us that would like to go back in time to a place we think was simple.

Was life as simple as we remember it? Would you really like to exchange your cell phone for the phone booth you can step inside of and close the door? Would you trade your computer for a typewriter? Would you miss your microwave and the hundreds of TV channels you can get?

I hear people say about automobiles, “They don’t build them like they used to!” That part really is true. I have a 1929 Pontiac with 33,000 miles on it. In 1929 it was recommended to change the oil every 500 miles. The life expectancy of a car in 1929 was 50,000 miles. My Pontiac is not air-conditioned, and does not have power windows, although the windshield cranks open. An automatic transmission was not an option in 1929, but bumpers were. The windshield wipers work on vacuum, so the faster you drive, the faster they wipe. In a downpour, speed up! The Chevy I drive every day has 185,000 miles and still has not had its first tune up. People are right, they don’t build them like they used to, and the windshield does not even crank open.

You may remember many good things that happened to you in the past. I look back at my past and the two biggest and greatest events I will ever experience happened there. In July of 1977 I married the love of my life, Victoria. The other major event in my life happened around November of 1981. That is when I met Jesus Christ and He revolutionized my life forever.

Song of Solomon 3:4
I found the one my heart loves.

Even though many good things may be remembered from your past, It can be dangerous to live in the past. So how can you know if you enjoy antiques and nostalgia, or if you live dangerously in the past? Do you find yourself thinking “If only I had done this.” or “If only I hadn’t done that.”? These are thoughts of regret you can do nothing about. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes and regrets. If you need forgiveness, Jesus Christ offers freedom from your past. If you need to ask a person to forgive you, or to forgive someone, do it without hesitation.

Matthew 6:14
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Don’t get caught up in the “if only” of the past. When those words pop into your mind, you can bet they will lead you in the wrong direction. You will tend to make more wrong decisions and be unable to remain clear minded. Those two little words will stop you from achieving what God has for you. When you look at the past, keep in mind all that Christ has done for you.

Living in the past may not be as big of a problem for you as living in the fear of the future. Two more little words, “what if”, stop people from becoming all they can be. When you have thoughts like “What if I fail?” you may want to consider the reason. Many people suffer from what I call a “low spiritual self-esteem”. This is a condition that exists when we don’t see ourselves the way God does. Why would Jesus Christ die for you, then leave you to be on your own?

Hebrews 13:5-6
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Why would Jesus tell you to forgive seventy times seven, but use a different standard in His forgiveness to you?

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Once I was sitting on the shore of a lake, looking out across as the sun gleamed off the ripples on the water. The effect of the sun was like the twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, Illuminating, but for a second, then gone. As I looked out across the lake there were thousands of sparkles appearing and disappearing just as quickly. That is how a timeless God would see our lives.

James 4:13-15
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

As a Christian, your life should reflect the Son to a world that is watching how we face our trials. We never know when that light reflecting the Son, will be called to the other side of eternity, and the people we come in contact with may not realize how short and significant life really is.

Ecclesiastes 7:2
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.

Perhaps that is how we should see our trials. It seems like it takes forever to get through a trial, and the torment of the “if only” can become an extension to the pain. Whatever you are going through in your life right now, you don’t have to beat yourself up, and think back on a time when things were better or simpler. The past may be a great place to be from, but the present is where God has you at this time. As far as the future, anticipate what God is going to do in your life if you will yield to Him. Don’t try to tackle the problems of the past, present, or future alone. Let the grace of God sustain you as you walk through each day, and let the Son reflect a positive witness through your trust in Him.

Matthew 6:25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Copyright 2010 Church Growth Associates

http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Jailhouse Rock

In November of 1957 the movie Jailhouse Rock was released. In addition to Elvis Presley, the film cast a young Dean Jones as a radio disc jockey. (Dean Jones was the guest star in our Christmas presentation a few years ago at Idlewild Baptist Church.) Leading Lady Judy Tyler was killed in a car wreck just three days after the filming was completed. That is a sobering thought about the uncertainty of life.

Jailhouse Rock is a story of a man (Elvis) who has a change of character. While he is in jail for manslaughter, he performs in the prison show. Elvis decides to make a career of music after his release, but success goes to his head. Through bad decisions and circumstances, he learns about relationships and what is really important.

This is not a movie review of Jailhouse Rock, but a story of the original “Jailhouse Rock”. Paul did some of his best work while he was in prison. Though he previously was responsible for the death of many Christians, he committed no crime until he began to preach the gospel. The strength Paul experienced while he was in jail came from Jesus Christ, the “Rock”. The Lord was Paul’s jailhouse Rock.

Isaiah 26:4

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

God doesn’t protect His servants from trouble, but it is His character to preserve them through trouble. Sufferings or troubles are not always the chastening of God or the result of sin or bad decisions. Look at the attitude of Paul while he writes to Timothy while he is in jail for preaching the gospel. He wanted his jail time to encourage others to believe on Jesus, and he wanted those who already believe, to be inspired by his trials.

2 Timothy 2:8-10

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

Paul wrote that even though he was in chains, God’s word is not chained. Even though he was in chains, Paul’s tongue was not chained either. He led the jailhouse guards to Christ every chance he got. Sometimes, I confess my tongue is in chains, and that I don’t speak up for Jesus Christ, as I should. Even though I am faithless, He is still faithful because that is His character.

Are you suffering from being chained by finances? Are you in chains because of a health issue? Are you in prison, hurting over relationship problems? These can all leave you feeling like you are locked in a jail. These will tend to make your tongue act as though it were also in chains when it comes to sharing Christ’s love. Do your circumstances need to change or does your character need to experience a change?

We miss out on many blessings because of our lack of faith, but I have discovered many times, when I do not believe–God is still faithful. He will not change His character based upon my own.

2 Timothy 2:13

if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

The word of Rick Robinson depends upon my character. The word of you, dear reader, depends upon your character. The word of God then, depends upon the character of God. How many times are you guilty of not knowing the character of God? Not knowing the character of God will lead to uncertainty in your prayer life, fear to take action, abuse of your freedom in Christ, and a host of other failures. Your character may change, but the Lord’s character will remain faithful.

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

You might do your best work while you are in that prison if you trust in the character of God instead of your own. The word of God is with you, but not in chains with you. Even when your character fails to shine in your circumstances, the character of God is to bring peace, and grace to sustain us when we trust Him. Is Jesus Christ your jailhouse Rock?

Psalm 18:2

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Deuteronomy 32:4

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

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