On (not) Observing Christmas
December 8, 2022 (based on December 3rd sermon)
It is officially OK to put your Christmas lights up now.
I saw a survey of some 4000 U.S. homeowners which identified December 1st as the day it is OK to hang those lights, and, I guess, start focusing on the upcoming holiday season. I won’t be doing either of those as I stopped observing Christmas a long time ago. I have had friends and family who just could not grasp why I did not embrace Christmas. Sometimes those failures to understand have deteriorated into harsh words. It can be an emotional subject.
Many see Christmas as an opportunity to proclaim, to draw the attention of the world at large to the birth of Christ. And they have a valid point; each year the birth of Christ is once again focused on, to one degree or another, by most of the world, I suppose. So why not celebrate it? Why refrain from embracing it?
I do not think the answer to those questions is as easy as many would like. Many years ago, the quick answer by some would have been simply it’s pagan.
But not all of it is pagan, right? Some very beautiful and true music is often played during the Christmas season. The birth story of Jesus Christ, His incarnation, His first Advent, is proclaimed. As my mother would often tell me, He was born; what’s wrong with celebrating a birthday for Him?
And yes, there are definitely pagan traditions, but it is hard to avoid all paganism in this age. We are accustomed to using names for the days of the week, which originated from pagan mythology. And in an effort to avoid the pagan traditions of Christmas, some have come to avoid the Biblical narratives of the birth of the Messiah as if the Bible itself is something to be avoided in that area.
And that is not a good response.
In thinking about all of this, I thought it might be good to talk about the celebration coming up which tends to alienate some of us from other professing Christians and put us on the spot, so to speak, of seeming to take a rather bizarre stand against what most see as a good thing. In past years, I have spent weeks digging into this topic; I do not intend to do that this year. Probably just this one study today, so a lot will be left out. I want to concentrate on what I feel is the most important reason.
I do not celebrate Christmas. Why? The reason is the very same one many people use to celebrate Christmas.
I love Christ and wish to honor Him.
Now, it’s important to realize, those reasons are not important to everyone. Some people do not believe in, do not care about Jesus Christ. Some just like the celebration; it is a time to party. It is a bright point in a drab time of the year. To others, Jesus may be a peripheral consideration, a casual part of a tradition which is enjoyable and expected by friends and family to be participated in. To these two groups, what God thinks about celebrating Christmas is either unimportant or simply assumed to be approving. Not a whole lot of thought is given to whether such a celebration actually is what God would want.
Then there are those who really care what God thinks. Many of those celebrate Christmas with a desire to honor the Son of God who laid aside His glory for a while to become a lowly human and Savior of mankind. To them, the traditions are peripheral and the honoring of Christ is central.
We need to recognize that. People observe Christmas for different reasons and some have good intentions.
Some, like me, do not observe Christmas with good intentions.
Good intentions matter to God, but it is quite possible to have good intentions and make poor choices. And poor choices lead to negative consequences. Ignorance of what God wants from us is no free pass. One quick example:
47And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Those who claim to have a relationship with God have been given much, some more than others. But ignorance is not an adequate excuse to entirely escape God’s chastisement. There is an expectation we are to diligently seek our Lord’s will in all things. After all, that is the path we started on of our own professed will at baptism, confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life we are to imitate.
So, how do we know God’s will, His desires, His expectations for us in anything, including Christmas?
That is what His written Word is for. We must, if we care about His will, carefully and honestly seek to understand what He has deemed worthy to preserve in written form.
We must be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in us, those who have the gift promised at baptism.
John 16:13-15: 13However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He [c]will take of Mine and declare it to you.
There is a unity in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, of what the Godhead desires and approves of. We need to carefully discern the leading of the Spirit of God in our lives in all things, regardless of traditions, or what we prefer, or what others prefer for us. This is loving God, loving Christ, above all others. We are to express that love as God indicates, not necessarily as we think it is good to express.
Have you ever given a gift to someone and you later learned that gift was not appreciated, for some reason was not even liked? I know my wife well enough I do not give her chain saws as gifts. I would be delighted to receive such, but not-so-much with her. Nor would I give my daughter the best coffee beans I could buy. She would not be appreciative.
God tells us something in His word that He clearly hates. I’ll get right to the point now: God hates syncretism. Oh, the word does not appear in the Bible. But the practice of it, and God’s response to it, does.
Online, you can find these definitions: Merriam-Webster defines syncretism as “(1) the combination of different forms of belief or practice; (2) the fusion of two or more originally different inflectional forms.”
Wikipedia defines “religious syncretism exhibits the blending of two or more religious belief systems into a new system, or the incorporation of beliefs from unrelated traditions into a religious tradition.”
Christmas clearly shows the incorporation of beliefs from unrelated traditions into a religious tradition - syncretism, in a word.
Christmas tradition combines the Biblically-accurate account of the incarnation of the Son of God with peripheral traditions that did not come from the Bible. Those “peripheral” traditions either have clear traceable links to other religions or, if not directly traceable, then are uncomfortably similar to other religious traditions. It is very difficult to “spin” all of the non-biblical peripheral traditions into a Biblical narrative. To try to do so is ludicrous.
I’m not going to provide many examples of that as researching Christmas traditions is easy to do online and even the old-fashioned way, in books. Lots of information is out there, and I’ve covered it before.
Rather, I want to look at some of the responses in the Bible to syncretism.
Galatians 1:1-7 1Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) 2And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, 4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: 5To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
There is not another; there is only one gospel.
8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
I believe this is the Holy Spirit in Paul expressing a strong condemnation of tampering with, syncretizing, the Gospel.
Some think what is being referred to here is early Gnosticism, which involved belief in revelations from angelic beings. It is a possibility based on the reference in verse 8. Let’s move on.
10For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.11But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
Paul is going on to describe another syncretistic threat to the true gospel.
12For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
Paul was highly trained, deeply immersed in, the Jews’ religion, Judaism we refer to it. He trained under one of the best, Gamaliel, a leading authority in the Sanhedrin, mentioned both in Biblical and non-biblical history. Paul was exceedingly zealous for the traditions of his fathers, what would later come to be called more commonly, the oral law. The oral law was never the religion of the Old Testament; it was a creation of men. Jesus was frequently in conflict with the Jewish religious leaders over the written law of God vs. the oral law traditions. Judaism, the traditions of the fathers, came to be totally rejected by Paul as an improper addition to the authority of the Word of God. And his opposition to it was strong. Judaism was perceived by Paul as a syncretistic threat to the written Word of God.
OK. Let’s take another look at the Biblical response to syncretism, a bit more closely linked to Christmas perhaps, although I think a bit misunderstood, in my opinion. Jeremiah 10:1-2:1Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
It does not take a lot of research to determine pagan religions, unbiblical traditions, have risen from what ancient people saw happening in the sky. The winter solstice, happening in late December in the northern hemisphere, was a time of festival in many pagan traditions, long pre-dating the birth of Christ.
The Bible tells us a lot about the birth of Jesus but does not tell us the date. In fact, it seems to go out of its way to obscure the exact day. Since I believe God inspired what is written, I do not think God wanted the date known, at this time. I can confidently say God didn’t overlook it. God did not forget to tell us something we would have obviously wanted to know.
That seems significant to me. There are hints and attempts to calculate it, but they all fall short of certainty because there are too many variables. If someone claims to have figured out the date of Jesus’ birth to December 25th, I believe the proper response is extreme skepticism.
So, how did we get December 25th? It’s unlikely anyone knows exactly how it came about. I’ve heard a lot of maybes presented as fact over my years of researching the topic.
So instead of taking a position on that, let me just say this: The date of Christmas and many of the traditions done as part of Christmas bear some similarities to pagan religions, you think? I think that is safe to say, even understated. Syncretism? I think so. That’s what I feel the Holy Spirit confirming to me. But not all will see it that way. Each person needs to examine what information is available and listen for the Spirit of God to guide and to lead into truth - those that love God, I’m referring to.
Jeremiah goes on and I think some Bible teachers have missed the mark here and done some damage in trying to make this into a Christmas tree. It sounds similar to a Christmas tree, but in my opinion, it is a mistake to accuse people of worshipping a Christmas tree. This following passage is referring to fashioning a false god, an idol. Jeremiah 10:3-5: 3For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
When I was young and my family observed Christmas, we never even thought of attributing any deity to the tree. It was just a nice-smelling, sometimes pretty tradition. Now where the tree tradition originated is disputed, but we would have rejected any accusations of worshipping it. I would not accuse anyone of idolatry because they had a Christmas tree; I just don’t think that is fair. That does not mean the tree doesn’t have some possible shady links in tradition though, pardon the pun. Perhaps Martin Luther had a part in the current Christmas tree tradition, but trees and idolatry go way back beyond Luther. Putting a tree in our house during the winter solstice would have a strange, uncomfortable feel to me based on what I know about the Bible and pagan traditions. It sure would violate my conscience at this stage of my walk with God.
So how does syncretism happen to even sincere, godly people? Through bad reasoning, exposure, and carelessness.
I think a pretty good example of that is when David tried to transport the ark to Jerusalem, described in 1 Chronicles 13. I won’t go there; we have discussed it in detail not too long ago. The Philistines had captured the ark in a battle, but God made it difficult for them while they had it, and they decided to send it back to Israel. They put it on a new cart to do so, and it came back to Israel’s possession. Later, David chose to do the same transportation method, a new cart, instead of the way God had clearly said to transport it - to be carried. A man ended up being struck dead because God’s instructions were not followed. It’s easy to not check God’s word, to like how others relate to God and to imitate them. There may not be anything obviously wrong with an idea other than God said don’t apply that to Me.
There’s lots of other examples, but I think we probably understand what syncretism is. Does the Creator of the universe and all in it have a right to be sensitive to how we relate to Him? Let’s look at a few verses of what God says and then think about why He is so sensitive to syncretism in our relationship with Him.
Deuteronomy 12:29-32: 29When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; 30Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
This extended to even how the ark was to be transported, what many might consider of lesser importance.
Deuteronomy 13:1-2: 1If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
So this person is presenting an argument to at least syncretize, if not to totally abandon following God, and he has some angle of persuasion to get people’s attention, to convince them he might be right.
Deuteronomy 13:3 3Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
So adhering carefully to what God has said, avoiding syncretistic additions to the worship of God, is a love test.
Deuteronomy 13:4: 4Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
Sounds like what Jesus said in the gospel of John: If you love me, keep my commandments.
Why is our love important to God? Because He has an attribute we might find surprising. He is jealous of our relationship. He says so.
Exodus 34:14-16: 14For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: 15Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; 16And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.
God likens syncretism to adultery, to sexual immorality.
God’s intimate relationship with His people is consistently referred to throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.
2 Corinthians 11:1-4: 1Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. 2For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
The Church is the Bride of Christ; purity is a priority with Paul as he oversees God’s people. Like in Galatians, Paul is concerned about other stuff coming into the Corinthian church, perhaps a syncretistic blending they would not even recognize happening.
Ephesians 5:21-32: 21Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. 22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
So the relationship between God and His people, Christ and His church, is one of intimate love.
So, perhaps we can extrapolate this out to better understand why a Jealous God is so sensitive to syncretism. Most adults, whether now married or not, have experienced a close relationship with another at some point in time. They believed it to be, intently wanted it to be, exclusive of all others, special, intimate, reserved for only the two. You and me separate from the world.
If someone else began to intrude into that special relationship, became a syncretistic third party, jealousy would no doubt be the response. Even seemingly little things become an issue when an outsider threatens an intimate relationship. The intruder’s cologne or perfume, choice of words, clothing items, opinions brought into the intimate relationship between two can create anger, jealousy, and ultimately, even a break-up of the relationship.
What we want in an intimate relationship with another is for that person to focus on us, to learn our ways, our desires, at a special level relationship. And, in turn, we do likewise.
That is God’s special relationship with His people and ours with Him.
Israel and the Church were not prohibited from interacting with others; they could do business, mingle, and even have friends with different beliefs. But when it came to worship and how to live out life, there were to be no syncretistic intrusions into the relationship with God. Rather, pursuing that intimate relationship with God is a lifelong pursuit, continuing to learn from God’s Word at church and at home, changing as we go down the path, the Way.
I grew up with Christmas. I know the attractions and the pulls of human nature to observe it. But I heard of another Way, proclaimed by God Himself in Leviticus 23 and other passages, a different set of holy days to observe. The New Testament reveals those Holy Days, listed in the Old Testament, were designed by God to be about Christ and to be observed by Christians. Nevertheless, it was not easy to make the change to the Sabbath and Holy Days of the Bible, as traditions we learn as children are not easily changed. But I did it because of love, first God’s love toward me and in response, my love toward God.
So, again, I do not observe Christmas. It’s not about legalism or some fanaticism against everything pagan. It’s about love for God.
My little sermon/article probably won’t change many people’s opinion, if any. We all have the right to decide how to conduct ourselves in our intimate relationship with God. Nevertheless, be aware of syncretism. It is all around us in this world.
And we serve a Jealous God.
So apparently the vaccine line at one South Carolina location was hours long - inefficient, frustrating, and absolutely ridiculous. Somebody commented that no one handles drive-through lines better than Chick-Fil-A. So those in charge of the vaccine administration called a local Chick-Fil-A manager. He came down, looked things over, made adjustments, and decreased the wait time to a mere 15 minutes. Sandy, on JoyFM, was telling this story. And her take? When she finds herself in a pickle and things are not going well, she just wants to see one cow, as in Chick-Fil-A’s slogan “Eat More Chicken.” (The sign held by a cow.)
Doesn’t that make you smile?!
As I smiled, I was flooded with my own cow associations. I don’t automatically think of cows and Chick-Fil-A. I think of the Sandhills of Western Nebraska on my grandparents’ five-section cattle ranch. I think of the summers I spent on the ranch chasing cows, following Uncle Mike, milking cows, helping Grandma, putting up hay to feed cows, taking piano lessons from Mary Ann, riding on the feed sled, talking with Grandad, driving the scatter rake, checking salt, flying in the two-seater Cesena with Grandad to find a bull, cleaning out an autogate, changing the irrigation lines, picking potato bugs off the potatoes, taking the cows to the Dille (my great-grandparents’ homestead - 16 miles across country from the ranch), doctoring the cows for pink eye . . . Very quickly I get lost thinking about one of my most favorite places on earth.
I associate the Sandhills with peace, quiet, fresh air, sweet smells, sweet Sandhills water, precious childhood memories, and a more relaxed pace than my normal hurried existence. It is still a wonderful place, but there’s a sense of loss. So many people who are part of the fabric of my memories of the Sandhills have died. It’s just not the same without them; there’s a huge void.
It takes a lot longer to describe the thought progression from vaccine lines to Chick-Fil-A to cows to the Sandhills than it actually happened in real time. In just moments, a twinkling of an eye (so to speak), I was thinking of that time when I’m going to see all of those who have gone before. I’m going to experience a place more wonderful than the Sandhills, a place of peace and joy and the people I love so much. I’m very grateful to have that blessed assurance before me every day.
And I’m so glad that when I’m in a pickle, when things aren’t going so well, I think of the One who can make all things right, make all things flow more smoothly - my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I don’t think about a cow.
I'm still flabbergasted by Christians who claim they hate abortion but voted Biden. Was it because of their inability – or unwillingness – to think biblically, to have a biblical worldview, and to have their faith inform all aspects of their lives? I'm saddened to say that today the words "lemmings, woke, and cultural pressure” comes to my mind when thinking on Christians gulping so much of the worldly media’s influence instead of the Bible. These claimants to Christ too often are just clones of the world, and offer little difference to what the pagans are all about. For Christ followers the issue of LIFE can not be anything but the very first issue. It is the umbrella that covers ALL the other components relating to mankind: Family, Marriage, Law and Order, Gender, Govt., Abortion, Church, Sexuality, Morality, and Freedom just to name a few. So by using abortion as a litmus test in voting we have been accused of being "single issue voters." Really? That would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. That is just not true. Life is found as God's intention in ALL the important concerns of God in the Holy Bible. From the very first book we can read His Words to Cain.
Genesis 4:10 NIV "The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood (LIFE) cries out to me from the ground." This was said to Cain right after he killed his little brother. These brothers are the sons of Adam and Eve. This was the first family! It didn’t take long in history for a godless choice to snuff out a life. It took even less time for God to reveal what He thought about taking a Life in the verses that followed
Years later in an effort to equip Israel with wisdom right before taking up residence in a demonically influential territory across the Jordan River God states emphatically, “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you LIFE and death, blessings and curses. Now CHOOSE (Vote) LIFE, so that you and your CHILDREN MAY LIVE and that you may Love the Lord your God, Listen to His voice, and Hold Fast to Him. For the Lord is your LIFE, and He will give you many years (LIFE) in the land He swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NIV
Did you notice here that CHOOSING LIFE is equivalent to Loving God, Listening to God, and Being in the Presence of God? What Christian shouldn’t, IN ALL OUR WAYS, reflect those things first? But that’s just a start in these two verses in regards to LIFE. Not only will the adults be blessed but the natural overflowing result spills out into the LIFE of the children. By choosing life you are choosing to allow God to bless you and YOUR CHILDREN. God gives us the great gift of freedom to choose (blessings, vs.19) but with that freedom comes a very real danger. That danger is that we can make the wrong choice (curses, vs.19). Finally He is telling Israel that when you choose LIFE you are choosing Him. This foundational rule is reinforced by the Messiah Jesus as He talked to Thomas the Apostle, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me (LIFE), you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” (John 14:6-7 NKJ) Voting Life is obviously much more than a single issue to The Father and The Son. Jesus seems to be saying when you don’t regard LIFE to the fullest, when you don’t choose that which represents His very character, you don’t know Him or His Father. That is unthinkable for a Christian….and should be for everyone!
Since we’re speaking on character, if you define “abortion,” one of the definitions is “to terminate and destroy”. Did you know that in the last book of the Bible, the book called Revelation the prince of the bottomless pit is known as Apollyon? Were you aware his name means destroyer! Rev. 9:11 KJV
Finally in this same book of Revelation, let me list the overwhelming evidence the Father and Son place on LIFE. In these divinely inspired verses they give their readers an inside view of the very heart and mind of God. Listen to how They have titled the various precious things of eternity for Themselves: Water of Life, Tree of Life, Book of Life, Spirit of Life, and finally the Crown of Life. We should be in Awe of the LIFE He gives ALL freely and protect it always.
A “single issue voter”? Hardly!
My aunt died a few weeks ago. She was a good woman, and I loved her dearly. We decided to take flowers to her gravestone in memory of her for Memorial Day.
The cemetery is located in a small southeastern Missouri town, a very poor community with many rundown buildings. Nevertheless, the cemetery was very pretty, already showing a wide display of flowers distributed around the grave stones in anticipation of Memorial Day. There’s something to be said for people who remember their loved ones. And maybe even their not so loved ones.
After placing the flowers on the gravestones (My parents are buried there too.), we spent some time just exploring the cemetery. The oldest gravestone we found was of a child who died in 1867. Some stones looked older but had weathered to the point we could not read the etchings.
There was a certain sadness in that for me.
Time eventually even erases the marks in stone we make in an effort to remember people who once experienced life.
Looking out over the cemetery, I could see in my mind the layer of caskets beneath the surface of the ground following the contour of the land like a vein of ore waiting to be mined. The value of this vein is not in the materials making up the caskets, substantial even though that might be. Rather, the value resides in the caskets and their contents as markers of prior lives God has not forgotten over time. There is no weathering of God’s memory.
Atheists would say this is a religious pipe dream.
I’m glad I’m not an atheist.
I have hope, a strong conviction, from what I have learned from the Bible.
Pentecost is about a harvest season, not of grain or even of valuable ore, but of people. Walking around in that cemetery I could almost feel the waiting, the listening for the call from Christ to come forth.
John 5:28-29 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
One of the messages of Pentecost is to remember we are workers in a harvest season. In the not too distant future, this particular harvest will end.
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We are planning to observe Pentecost on Sunday, May 31st at 11 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall in Washington, MO. This is our first meeting in many weeks, and we will not have a potluck this time. You are welcome to bring your own snacks/drinks if you so desire.
We do plan to follow the guidelines on social distancing. If all goes well, we may return to our regular sabbath schedule at the Opera House in June.
I know some of you have plans to meet elsewhere, and that is fine. Please feel free to observe Pentecost wherever you so desire. Regardless, may we all enjoy the Holy Day!
It is hard to believe that song was first recorded some 65 years ago. Jerry Lee Lewis was not the first to record it, but his version in a 1957 release event climbed to #1 on the Billboard R & B chart and on the country charts and made Lewis a celebrity.
“I ain’t fakin’, whole lotta shakin’ going on.”
In the last four months the world has experienced a whole lot of shaking going on. The health, economic and social shakings from the COVID-19 pandemic have been severe. Many sources claim there’s a lot of faking of information in attempts to move forward various agendas.
The truth is hard to come by oftentimes in this world; we rarely, if ever, get an accurate total picture. Nevertheless, some things are telling. Funeral homes in hard hit areas overflowing with bodies waiting to be cremated. Refrigerated body storage facilities parked on some hospital lots. The desperate pleas for respirator devices which marked early attempts to treat sick people with low O2 levels.
I think most of us, maybe not all, can at least agree this is not your average flu season.
But agreement beyond that has been difficult to come by. Many kinds of allegations have been made. My inbox has been inundated with multiple warnings of the plots “really” behind the COVID-19 actions, both governmental and private.
All of this has resulted in much conflict between people: the left vs. the right; citizens for/against government policies to deal with the outbreak; churches for obeying/not obeying government guidelines for meeting/not meeting, and so on and on.
Lots of animosity.
Stress does that type of thing.
There’s a saying which goes something like this: “When you get shaken, what’s really in you spills out.” That’s my paraphrase of it. Until something unbalances a person they can hide what’s in their cup. No more hiding though when the contents slosh out.
I do know for sure none of this has caught God by surprise. In fact, Isaiah 45:7 quotes the LORD, “I form the light, and create darkness. I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (KJV). This verse is an example of parallelism in Hebrew scripture - light vs. darkness, peace vs. (not moral evil) calamity.
God Himself says He creates calamity, trouble.
Deuteronomy 8 gives some insight. Even though God brought Israel out of Egypt as His chosen people, not everything seemed rosy to Israel in the wilderness.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 - And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. (KJV)
Difficulties humble us and prove what is in our hearts. Our words, choices, and actions declare what is really in us.
We have been shaken out of our prior lives and routines. Things will never be just like they were even when a “new normal” does come.
Romans 8:28 is a favorite scripture: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (KJV)
There is evil in this world manifested at both the physical and spiritual levels.
They mean it for destruction, but God means it for good.
There may still be some flare ups over the next few weeks of COVID-19 panic/disruptions/disagreements, but it is likely the worst of this particular challenge is in the rear view mirror. At least for the summer. Hopefully.
We all should take some time to meditate on what spilled out of us during this time of shaking.
As Jesus indicated in Matthew 24, these birth pangs will precede His return and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on this earth. Stronger contractions, birth pangs, are coming in the future. That’s how the birthing process normally goes, right? The wise see, learn, and prepare.
This is from Marvin Olasky’s page in World magazine, April 11, 2020, page 72:
A Duty to Protect
Some Christians have said things like: Let’s continue to meet. God will protect us. Here’s what John Calvin wrote in his Insitutes of the Christian Religion (Book 1, Chapter 17): “For he who has set limits to our life has at the same time entrusted to us its care. He has provided means and helps to preserve it . . . Thus if the Lord has committed to us the protection of our life, our duty is to protect it; if he offers helps, to use them; if he forewarns us of dangers, not to plunge headlong; if he makes remedies available, not to neglect them.”
What’s the practical application? One Sunday in 1862 pastor and soldier Robert L. Dabney preached a sermon on God’s “special providence,” nothing that in a recent battle “every shot and shell and bullet was directed by the God of battles.” Not much later Dabney found himself under fire and took cover behind a large gate post. A nearby officer kidded him: “If the God of battles directs every shot, why do you want to put a gate-post between you and a special providence?” Dabney replied, “Just here the gate-post is the special providence.”
That story ends with a touch of humor, but the following is only tragic:
Richmond Pastor Who Defied Social Distancing Orders Dies of COVID-19
Anne Stych April 14, 2020, Ministry Watch, (https://ministrywatch.com/richmond-pastor-who-defied-social-distancing-orders-dies-of-covid-19/).
A Richmond evangelical preacher who told his congregation “God is larger than this dreaded virus” after defying state social distancing recommendations has died of COVID-19.
Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, 66, died April 11. The church announced the pastor’s death in a video on its Facebook page that was posted on Easter Sunday.
Bryan Nevers, a church elder, said in the video that funeral arrangements will be announced in the next few days and that they will adhere to Virginia’s quarantine guidelines.
Glenn continued to hold services at Richmond’s New Deliverance Evangelistic Church even after the spreading coronavirus threat led government officials to warn against gatherings of 10 or more people, preaching to 185 congregants March 18, per The Washington Post, and saying at a March 22 service he would continue “unless I’m in jail or the hospital,” the New York Post reported.
“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that,” he said at the later service, repeating the statement for emphasis.
Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam had closed non-essential businesses and banned gatherings of more than 10 people on March 17 in response to the spreading pandemic. Northam expanded the mandate to a stay-at-home order March 30.
Glenn’s wife, Mother Marcietia Glenn, 65, also has tested positive for the virus, according to their daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, who urged people to “understand the severity and the seriousness of this, because people are saying it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone around us.”
That last sentence is worth re-reading. For those not concerned about self, there is still the possibility of passing this virus along to others. A substantial percent of people pass this virus along while not showing or developing symptoms.
At least for the present, consider social distancing and diligent hygiene as providences of God.