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“Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humility of its God.”

– Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, p. 3

(HT: Zach Nielsen)

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I’m home (in Iowa) for the holidays.  It’s been a joyful time being with family, opening presents, singing Christmas carols, and eating lots of food!  Perhaps like many of you, my family went to a Christmas Eve service together.  The service included many songs and many Scripture readings which I enjoyed hearing and taking in.  And then there was the message.  It was okay, but typical of most Christmas sermons.  Let me explain.

Most Christmas sermons, like the one I heard, tell of how God has come down to us (the incarnation) so he can show us the way and comfort us in our dark times.  That’s true, but the incarnation is not the end.  In fact, the only reason why God came down is so that he would be lifted up on a tree at Calvary.  The incarnation means nothing without the crucifixion.  But this is the disturbing part of Christmas, isn’t it?  The little baby born in Bethlehem is the one who grew up and died on a bloody cross at Calvary.  And if we tell only the beginning of the story we have no story at all — at least no gospel story. 

C.J. Mahaney puts it this way:

The purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death. Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner.

And so, in order for us to see Christmas for what Christmas really is, we must first see how disturbing the Christmas message really is.

Mahaney tells of an article written some years ago in WORLD Magazine by William H. Smith with the title, “Christmas is disturbing: Any real understanding of the Christmas messages will disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992).

Smith ends his column with these words which I invite you to ponder:

Only those who have been profoundly disturbed to the point of deep repentance are able to receive the tidings of comfort, peace, and joy that Christmas proclaims.

And so my prayer for you and me is that we would be filled with peace and joy this Christmas–because we have been disturbed by the God who was born in a manger so he could die on a cross for our sins.

Washed Away

This picture was #5 on Time’s Top Ten List of Photos of 2008.  Iowa was ravaged by floods in June. The rising waters carried these boat houses downstream until they collided with a railroad bridge in Cedar Rapids–my hometown.

Justin Taylor:

It’s very easy to forget–especially for those of us who are on the younger side–that it was only a little over 40 years ago that there were Jim Crow laws in the US. Just a generation ago, many African Americans were segregated from whites in public schools, transportation, restrooms, and restaurants.

Tonight, the United States has elected a biracial man to serve as its leader.

It would be an understatement to call this a watershed cultural moment in our country’s history.

No matter who you voted for–or whether you voted at all–it’s important to remember that, as President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

There are many qualifications to add to these exhortations–for example, see this excellent post by John Piper–but it’s still important to remember that these are requirements for all Bible-believing Christians.

Father in heaven, as we approach this election on Tuesday, I pray … above all, that we will treasure Jesus Christ, and tell everyone of his sovereignty and supremacy over all nations, and that long after America is a footnote to the future world, he will reign with his people from every tribe and tongue and nation.

Keep us faithful to Christ’s all important Word, and may we turn to it every day for light in these dark times.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

image

The folks at Culture Making Blog have put together (above) a beautiful diagram of biblical cross-references:

This diagram arose from a collaboration between a Carnegie-Mellon Ph.D student and a Lutheran pastor to create a grand map of Biblical cross-references: “We wanted something that honored and revealed the complexity of the data at every level –- as one leans in, smaller details should become visible. This ultimately led us to the multi-colored arc diagram… The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

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