Archive for January, 2012

Why Celebrate Christmas?

January 6, 2012

Title: Why Celebrate Christmas?

Text: Joshua 4:4-7, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Romans 14:5-6

Time: December 25th, 2011

 

 

Today is Christmas and millions around the world are remembering the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. It’s a unique Sunday because Christmas falls on a Sunday. Some large churches have canceled services, while most are having the regular Sunday service, only maybe an abbreviated version, in order to let families visit and be together today. As we gather today for Christmas church let’s remember the reason why we celebrate Christmas. Not all Christians have deliberately celebrated the birth of Jesus with a special holiday. After all, if you remember, the Puritans – those first Christian settlers to North America – didn’t formally celebrate the Christmas season. They abstained from it for spiritual purposes, believe it or not. What was their problem with Christmas? To understand their logic you have to understand the scene in Europe at the time. Puritans were called “puritans” because they sought a pure form of biblical Christianity without all the traditional trappings the established church brought to the Christian faith. In other words, they were reformers of the Christian faith who felt it was important to limit Christianity to only what the Bible specifically taught, nothing more. In Europe at the time most of Christianity was operating under a state church system, meaning, that each country had it’s own official state Christian church. For example, in England there was the Anglican Church. In Spain, there was the Roman Catholic. In Norway, Sweden and other Northern European countries, Lutheranism was the official state church. And these state churches controlled the public expression of Christianity, including how Christmas was celebrated. The Puritans rejected these ideas.  For them, Christmas was a time, yes, to remember the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ, but in a simple, modest way. The feast days and holiday celebrations of the established churches had gotten out of hand, out of control in their revelry and indulgence. Now what true Christian today can’t sympathize with our Puritan forefathers in their criticism of overdoing Christmas celebrations? Don’t we see this happening all the time today, although in a new, modern way? The overly commercialization of Christmas, the extra secular trappings constantly added year-after-year, the strong link between Christmas gift-giving and materialism and consumerism, the emphasis on celebrating the celebration rather than the reason for the season, Jesus. Yes, if our Puritan forerunners were here today they’d probably vote all the more to pass on Christmas because of what it has become today, as well as their original reasons. But as Christians today, we must ask the question anew, “Is the condition of the modern celebration of Christmas so bad that we totally abstain from the holiday altogether, like the Puritans?” In answering this question, I conclude that the sad state of the Christmas holiday season, as bad as it is and as bad as it’s getting, still doesn’t give us reason for doing away with all of it. We are free to celebrate Christmas in any way we choose today, so we aren’t forced into one, established Christian or church expression that the Puritans faced. We are free to emphasize any aspect of Christmas that aligns with our biblical Christian convictions. But even though we are free to celebrate Christmas according to the biblical emphasis, that doesn’t mean we aren’t led astray by our mostly secular, pagan culture – we can be led astray and we often are led astray because of its strong influence today, especially with television. So we need to listen to the Puritans, even though we decide against their radical reaction to culture’s excessive holiday celebrations. Let’s look at a few reasons why we should celebrate Christmas using a number of passages from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. (more…)

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Modern Science Shows the Virgin Birth is Possible

January 5, 2012

Title: Science Shows the Virgin Birth is Possible

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Time: December 19th, 2011

 

I just wrote another article for the local newspaper for publication during the Christmas week dealing with the possibility of the Virgin Birth in respect to modern science:

 

The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ: Fact or Fiction?

In the PBS television documentary The Elegant Universe the argument was made for the strangeness of the universe – reality is a lot more mysterious than we ever imagined. As science learns more and more about the way things operate at a sub-atomic level, the more we find that the old Newtonian idea of a perfectly rational and ordered reality is not how things really work. For example, according to Quantum physics a particle might be in two locations at the same time or might arrive at a destination before it departed from its previous location, etc. Now the implication of all of this to the Christmas Nativity event is this – the virgin birth of Jesus Christ can’t be ruled out as scientifically impossible any more by skeptics because of the direction modern science has taken. According to quantum physics, the universe isn’t some closed system that’s locked into a naturalistic loop without any possibility of divine intervention. No. Now science is showing us that at a fundamental level, reality is very unpredictable and that we can’t rule out anything from happening at any time. How did God perform the miracle of the virgin birth? Under the old paradigm, skeptics, atheists and agnostics simply ruled it out as impossible according to the laws of science. But they can’t do so anymore, not with quantum physics and new developments in sub-atomic science, because at this fundamental level of reality the laws of science, as we know them, seemingly don’t apply. Working at the sub-atomic level, God Almighty could easily stir into the mix the recipe for a virgin birth without much disruption at all. Or he could simply stack the statistical odds of certain particles being in one place with a different value – and the result, a virgin conception in the womb of Mary. According to quantum physics when we examine things at the smallest level particles or energy can’t actually be observed but only predicted based on statistical averages. Applying this to the virgin conception in Mary, Jesus’ birth is not impossible, but only a very statistically rare event. But we already knew that, as everyone will agree. So the next time someone gives you the old, “The virgin birth of Jesus is impossible” argument, tell them about quantum physics. With God all things are possible. (more…)

How Was Jesus Conceived?

January 5, 2012

Title: How Was Jesus Conceived?

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

Time: December 18th, 2011

 

One of the great advantages of living in the modern 21st century is our ability to think about age-old questions in light of new scientific discoveries. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on how we think about things, or how we put together the new knowledge and the old historical, biblical accounts. A Christian will be careful to give God’s Word, the Bible, full credibility – while at the same time try to integrate what new knowledge that science can shed light on with the biblical truths. That’s what I intend to do today in tackling an important Christmas question, “How was Jesus conceived?” Now the account in the Book of Matthew simply states that Mary was “found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” and “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit,” but it doesn’t go into details as to how this came about. Let’s read the whole passage on the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25 in order to get the context (read). Now we know that Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, but how did this actually come about? I raise the question because in light of new science and technology there are a number of different possibilities as to how God the Holy Spirit could have brought about a virgin birth. I’d like to look at a few of the more plausible options as to how God could have brought about a virgin conception. Of course, we don’t actually know for sure 100% how it came about because God hasn’t revealed that to us in his Word. It wasn’t his intention to reveal everything about everything in the Bible. Can you imagine how big the Bible would be if God went into detail about everything he revealed in his Word? The Bible is already a big book, although through the providence of God, it is a manageable book – we can actually pick up and carry around the complete and full revelation of God for mankind in one volume! But imagine how big the Bible would be if God stopped to explain how every miracle took place in detail. It would be unmanageable. So there aren’t many details that explain things in the Bible, and we actually don’t need these details to benefit from God’s written revelation. But as curious humans – made that way, by the way, in the image of God — we ask for more information. We think about things and come up with possible explanations. That’s what I’m doing in respect to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. What better time of the year to ask such questions as Christmas? The world is celebrating the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem two thousands years ago, so let’s ask a few questions and consider a few possibilities about the virgin birth. (more…)