Archive for December 24, 2010

Who Needs Christmas?

This Article In It’s Entirety Is Re-Posted From Matt Redmond’s Blog

Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most

By: Matt B. Redmond

We are by now accustomed to hearing about how Christmas is difficult for many people. The story of Scrooge and his—ehem—problems with this season is no longer anecdotal. It is now par for the course. Maybe it always has been. Maybe the joy of the season has always been a thorn in the side of those who can scarcely imagine joy.

Not too long ago, I heard from someone about how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. There was utter hopelessness and devastation. Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of this pain. It’s been a story very hard to forget.

I get it. I mean, it makes sense on the level of Christmas being a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.

But allow me to push back against this idea a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS they got last year. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

But this is backwards. Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.

Merry Christmas from Clapham Community!

Santa Clause Is No Comfort For Me

It’s All God’s Fault

God Should Never Be Relegated To The Role Of Cosmic Scapegoat

Playing the blame game is always a losing proposition. This is especially true when you blame everyone else and fail to take responsibility for your own actions. I know, I am a professional at finding fault and deflecting. What I find remarkable is how we allow sin to so alter our perception that we choose to blame God. Of all the people you could choose to make a scapegoat out of, God is the absolute least qualified for the job. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

What brought this to my attention was a tweet sent by Buffalo wide-receiver Steve Johnson after dropping a pass. Read what Mr. Johnson wrote:

I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…

This post is not intended to be a rant about Steve Johnson. He only wrote what many of us often feel. What he wrote was wrong, as I will point out in a minute, but this is not about Steve, its about my heart and your heart.

What is there about our sin that causes us to doubt the most faithful, loving, kind, gracious, and trustworthy friend that we could ever know? The only sense I can find in this is to examine two positions in the light of eternal Truth. First, lets consider our position:

Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Ecclesiastes 9:3 – Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.

Romans 3:9-12 – What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.

Isaiah 1:5-6The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.

Romans 7:18 – For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.

Now for comparison purposes, lets consider God’s position:

Exodus 15:11 – “Who is like Thee among the gods, O LORD? Who is like Thee, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?

1 Samuel 2:2 – “There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides Thee, Nor is there any rock like our God.”

Psalm 24:3-5 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

Isaiah 6:3 – “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

1 Peter 1:16 – “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

No exhaustive commentary on my part can make it more clear that we are in no position to lecture God on what is fair. It is His sheer grace that prevents us from “getting what we deserve.” Let’s take it a step further however and see what God has done despite our position. Examine the following verses:

Ephesians 2:1-9 – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We can choose to blame God for many things, but in the end the only thing He is truly guilty of is being Himself. I for one am glad that He is guilty on that charge.

HT: Justin Taylor and Erik Raymond

Making Wise Christmas Music Choices

Choosing Genuine Christmas Worship Not Sentimentality

Call me a grinch but I am really trying to take a healthier view of the holiday season. Why get hyped -up on sentimentality, over-eating, over-spending, gift-giving, etc. when there is profound heart satisfying truth to be found in the whole story of redemption in the gospel?

Below is an article from the Biblical Worship blog that gives practical tips on how to have gospel focused Christmas worship. Enjoy.

Selecting Christmas Songs for Worship

Years ago I served with a dear pastor who enjoyed the Christmas season, but was quite ready for it to be over after a couple of weeks. He thought that people are so distracted by the trappings of the holiday season that they are not spiritually focused and not moving forward in their Christian walk. In our worship planning we would agree to only use Christmas music on certain Sundays which usually ended up being the first 3 Sundays of December – not before or after. He believed that much of the Christmas music used in worship only led to sentimental reflections of Christmas seasons gone by with little real focus on Christ.

We must admit much of what happens at Christmas often has little to do with the real reason for the celebration – Jesus. How can a worship leader select music for worship during this season that helps to keep the proper perspective on Christmas? Here are some suggestions:

1. Avoid songs that over sentimentalize the season such as songs that focus on the “most wonderful time of the year.” Are we in love with the season or with Christ?

2. Avoid songs that are strictly secular in their association. Some churches choose to do several of these type songs at the beginning of their musicals at Christmas to either “entertain” or “attract non-believers.” I believe these type songs have no place in a worship service especially when it is intended to be evangelistic. What’s evangelistic about singing secular songs? I think sometimes we can be so entertainment focused that we are in danger of entertaining them to hell. Point your people to Christ.

3. Choose songs that correctly describe the Christmas story according to Scripture. Many of our songs really do not portray the story very well. Look for songs that are clear in communicating the story.

4. Choose songs that tell the whole Gospel Story– Jesus birth, his ministry, his death on a cross and his resurrection. The problem with many Christmas songs is that they leave Jesus in the manger. Christians and non-Christians need to hear the whole Gospel at Christmas. Look for songs that go beyond the manger. He came to be our Savior.

5. Choose Christmas songs that your congregation can sing. Many songs of this season (old and new) are difficult to sing in a congregational setting. Consider the key of the song and the rhythmic structure.

Do all Christmas songs have to fit every criteria listed above? No, but a good group of your songs should. Let’s help our people keep Christ in their Christmas season by using great songs that lead us to the Messiah – Our Savior and Lord.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir to God.

Galatians 4:4-7 (ESV)

HT: Tim Challies