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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category


Encountering Jesus

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 11, 2010

What does Jesus mean to you?

The way you answer that question directly correlates with your encounter with Jesus.  It’s the Christmas season, so I’d like to use a few examples from those that encountered Jesus as an infant and young child as an example of how we encounter him and what we get from that encounter – the shepherds, the magi, and Anna and Simeon.

The Shepherds

Let’s call this the Accidental encounter.  There was nothing in the shepherds actions that would lead you to believer that they were looking for Jesus or any real encounter with God.  In fact, their own words indicate quite the opposite.

“”Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” –  Luke 2:15

They didn’t know anything was about to happen until they were told.  They had an accidental (though orchestrated by God) encounter.  In other words, they weren’t looking for Jesus; Jesus found them.

Millions of Christians take this approach to their Christian walk every day.  They go about their duties and wait for the “Sunday” encounter or for God to do something first.  If he doesn’t, then they just keep on keeping on. They don’t really chase after God, they let God do all the chasing.

Not a very rewarding relationship, but like any relationship, you will get out of it what you put into it.

The Magi

The Magi encounter was unique in this one respect; they weren’t looking for the Messiah, just a king.  It was Herod that actually figured out that this king was the promised Messiah.  The Magi were just doing what they had done for years, seek out kings. Let’s call this the unintentional encounter.

A king had not been born in Judea for almost 500 years, now all of a sudden a king was to be born.

The Magi were looking for something real, they just didn’t understand completely what the were seeking.  They were at least chasing after truth, they discovered the truth of God because God honored their endeavor.

They were non-Jews, but because they were coming to Israel looking for a king, which they hadn’t had for 500 years, God let them find the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Many people in this world seek after truth.  Some find half-truths and deceptions, but those that seek God in the right context more often than not, find him.  God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek him – Hebrews 11:6

Anna and Simeon

These are the only two in the story that really get it.  Simeon had been promised well in advance that he would not die before seeing the Messiah.  Anna spent her days and nights worshiping God for almost 60 years at the Temple.  Both of these dedicated people knew what they were looking for and chased God in pursuit of it, and God honored them in a special way.  Let’s call this the Intentional encounter.

These two didn’t just bump into Jesus, they actually blessed him.  Look at the words of Simeon:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” – Luke 2:29-32

And Anna:

Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:38

Both of these were people that could testify to the truth of the savior with understanding from the truth of Scripture.

This is the most fulfilling encounter.  When you chase God and catch him, the reward is not only that you find Jesus, but you are also fulfilled because the investment you made in seeking him returns to you 100 fold.

Note: This is a revisited post from 2009, but the content is timeless.

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – Getting it Right

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 26, 2009

“Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”- Luke 2:28-32

In an old song by that great theologian Bob Dylan, he wrote:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. – “Gotta Serve Somebody”

Our life is governed by who we follow.  Each one of us, even our “leader” are led in the end by the Lord or by the devil.  It not only determines our path but our destiny as well.

Simeon was a man led by the Lord, and it was evident in both the journey he took and the destination.

At some point in his life, God had made a promise to him that he would see God’s anointed one (that is Jesus the Messiah) before he died.  Simeon, followed God and to ensure that he would be available for God when that time came, he hung out at the temple.

The temple was the place of worship.  It was the place where the people of God could get as close to God on earth as possible.  Simeon exemplified a servant of God because he wanted to be in constant worship of God.

That path he chose was not just a weekly activity on a Saturday night (or Sunday morning), but it was a daily venture.  He sought God’s throne room every day of his life.  Life is the journey we all take; Simeon chose to chase after God and so was rewarded for his journey.

The passage above shows what happened the day he met the savior.  The years faithfulness were rewarded in this life and the journey reached its intended destination.  He was not ready to move on because God had revealed to him the promised Messiah.

Oh, that we would have  a heart like Simeon.  Oh, that our worship was driven by our destination like Simeon’s worship was.  Oh, that our heart for God was humble like the shepherds that saw him that night when Christ was born. Oh, that we would chose the right path, serve the right God and  journey to the right destination making ourselves available for God on a daily basis.

Jesus came into this world as a child that would grow up with one purpose – to die for the sin of the world.  Too many people missed him even when he was right under their nose.  Too many more miss him today.

We have one journey in this world and then it’s over.  We have one life in which to get it right, to serve the right one.  Chose this day who you will serve, make it the Lord and then never look back.

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – The Star

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 24, 2009

Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. – Matthew 2:2

The “Star of Bethlehem” as it has become known has produced much conjecture over the centuries.  Is it a real star, a celestial event or something supernatural.

To be completely honest, it really doesn’t matter what the star was, but that it “was” and that the people who needed to see it saw it and their encounter is recorded in Matthew.

Many times throughout Scripture, God uses the natural things of this world in a supernatural wa to accomplish a particular task.  God brought water from a rock through Moses, 9 of the 10 plagues on Egypt were natural occurrences, and even some of the miracles of Jesus, though not explainable through natural means, were accomplished using natural methods (e.g. putting mud on eyes to heal them).

It’s easy to write off the star as a supernatural event, but that brings several things into question:

  • They why was it that Magi, who were trained astronomers/astrologers the only ones to see it?
  • Why didn’t anyone else see it?
  • Why did it guide them to the region of Judea, but not directly to the place where Jesus was until they got more information from the Jews about where Jesus was to be born?

Over the years, many people have tried to discover the celestial event that may have been the event that the Magi followed, but to no real avail.  There are many possibilities from comets to exploding stars, but nothing really showed three key things about the Magi :

  • This event was all that was needed to define for the Magi that a King was born in Judea
  • This event was something that would fit their understanding of the stars
  • This visit was not blown off by Herod (he believed it credible enough to slaughter the boys in Bethlehem)

Recently, an interesting hypothesis was brought up based on an archeological finding.  A coin was found dating to the first century A.D. that shows Aries (the ancient constellation symbol for Judea), the moon and a star (Jupiter).  The representation of them together had to do with the annunciation of a king that was born. The event represented by the coin occurred on April 17, 6 B.C.

This date fits with biblical accounts.  King Herod died in 4 B.C.  He was king when Jesus was born, so Jesus would have had to been born before that date.  Since the Magi visited him when he was close to 2 years old, and Jesus family fled to Egypt at this time, that puts the date to at least 6 B.C.  This, and the fact that the Bible says Herod dies, and so Jesus come back from Egypt, tells us that his birth was most certainly at least in 6 B.C.

The Star, according to the researcher, was the eclipse of Jupiter and the Moon while it travelled through the constellation of Aries.  This would explain why nobody else saw it, how it could lead the Magi East and why it was Magi that followed the star in the first place.

Just a thought. Merry Christmas!

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – Why a Virgin

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 20, 2009

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – Matthew 1:23

Why a virgin?  Why did God choose this method to bring Christ into the world.  After all, He is God.  He could chose to just make Jesus appear on earth without any mother or father.  Why did God choose this particular approach.

The virgin birth is a core element to Jesus birth for many reasons, and I’d like to show you some reasons you may know and others you may not have thought about.

It is Miraculous

OK, this is a cop out, but yes, being born of a virgin is quite a miracle in and of itself.  It takes two (male and female) to make one person, so by only having a human female bear a child without the human male interaction would be quite the testimony.

It was Prophecied

The verse quoted above in Matthew 1 came from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14).  By some accounts there are over 300 prophecies in Scripture about Jesus.  Everything from his birth, to his ministry, to his preaching style to his death and victory over sin is prophecied about.  Many of these prophecies are what I call “passive” prophecies, which means that you couldn’t make them come true if you tried because it takes outside forces to cause you to fulfill them.

For example, Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem.  Jesus could only fulfill this prophecy on purpose if he were God before he was born.  He couldn’t just tell his mom and dad from the womb, “Hey, I need to be born in Bethlehem so that I can fulfill a prophecy.” They had to make the decision that affected Jesus – a passive prophecy would be fulfilled.

One odds maker took 8 prophecies about Jesus birth and ran the numbers on these passive prophecies.  To have just 8 fulfilled by one person would be one in 1 x 10 to the 17th power.  or 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.  You have better odds winning the lottery one million times in your lifetime than Jesus fulfilling 8 prophecies. That’s not only an amazing example of the power of prophecy, but quite miraculous too.

It Made God Human

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1).  He is God and yet he would have to become man to dwell among us (this the Imannuel effect – Click here to read my book on this subject). To become human, God had to be born of woman, and since men can’t give birth, this was the obvious method of introducing Jesus to humanity. The Holy Spirit became the Father of the Son of God the Father (I know, it’s confusing). And in so doing, Jesus became fully man and yet was fully God.

In Order to be Born Sinless

This is probably the biggest reason of all. Any person born of a man and woman are born into sin, and could never be the sacrificial lamb of God needed to cover the sin of all mankind.  There is a reason for this, and it goes back to the Garden of Eden.

When Eve ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6,7) her eyes were not opened to the sin she had committed.  It was only when Adam ate the fruit that their eyes were opened.  This is because God told Adam before Eve was created not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It was Adams responsibility to tell his wife, Eve.  He was the only one accountable to God for the rule.

He stood there next to his wife as she ate the fruit.  He then followed her lead.  This is backwards from God’s plan of accountability, and sin entered the world when he failed in his responsibility.

Had Eve eaten the fruit, and Adam not eaten, there would be no sin in the world because the sin seed does not pass through the woman… it passes through man because he is the one responsible to God (this is a huge subject in the discussion of marriage responsibilities).

Notice the promise given to Eve through the curse pronounced on Satan,

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15

The redeemer would be in the offspring (literally, “seed”) of the woman.  This is the only mention of a “seed of a woman” anywhere in the ancient world.  Men were the seed spreaders.  It almost didn’t make sense, but the women understood one thing.  One day, a redeemer would be born of a woman that would crush the head of the serpent.

Every woman in the ancient world strove to have children partly because of this promise.  It was a curse not to have children.  They all hoped to be the mother, grandmother, great-grandmother of the redeemer, and man was to be left out of the loop.

Was Mary sinless?

The Catholic Church has tried to cover the loophole of God being born of a sinful woman by saying the Mary was ‘immaculately conceived”.  In other words, she was without original sin. This was put forth in 1854 by Pius IX and based on other Catholic traditions.  There is no Scriptural basis for this unless you first draw the conclusion that Mary was sinless and then read the passage in Luke 1:28, “Hail, Mary, full of grace”, which has become a core prayer of the Catholic Church.

Mary was favored, yes, but the favor was to be hers because she would bear the Son of God. God didn’t need her sinless first, because the sin seed, though present in her, was not passed by her if the human seed was not present. She even calls Jesus her “savior” in the prayer she prays. (Luke 1:47)

All of this was part of the plan God laid out before the foundations of the world.  God was not caught off guard, but knew what needed to be done, built the framework to make it happen and then when the time was right, entered this world fully God and fully man to crush the head of the serpent, Satan, and set up his kingdom forever and ever.

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – Hodgepodge Humbug

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 19, 2009

It’s me again – your official Christmas season downer.

In all these posts (this is number nine), the key to always keep in mind is that at the core, we should recognize that God sent His one and only, born of a virgin in a stable in an obscure desert town, announced by angels to shepherds so that He could bring the gift of life and salvation to a depraved human race that is truly lost and destined for eternity apart from God unless God stepped in, which is what happened that fateful night roughly 2012 years ago.

Everything else is fluff.

But traditions usually become bigger than life, and like many people, I do appreciate traditions until they veer off course and cloud the truth.  So once again, I need to step on the toes of traditions so that we might gain an understanding of what is real versus what is fanciful.


As I noted in my previous post, even the name “Christmas” doesn’t reflect the celebration we claim.  Traditions tend to do that. In fact, you might be surprised to know that virtually every Christmas practice we celebrate today came from outside Christianity and many were celebrated before Jesus was even born.

One of the byproducts of combining church and state (as began in 313 with Constantine and the ‘Edict of Milan‘) is that worldly influences are injected into the waters of the church diluting truth with everything from paganism to half-truths to out-and-out lies.  I know that sounds strong, but the church tends to function much better when it’s being persecuted than when it is accepted by the world – but that is a discussion for another time.

Let’s look at some of the Christmas traditions:

December 25th

Jesus was not born on December 25th.  Luke 2:8 tells us that the shepherds are in the field at night keeping watch over their sheep.  Jewish tradition along with Scriptures (Ezra 10:9-13 and Song of Solomon 2:11) indicate that the winter is the rainy season and the sheep would not be in the fields – especially at night.  The time for the sheep spending the time in the pastures was from Passover (spring) to fall (Oct 15th).  However, the nighttime trips to the fields ended around September and the harvest.  This would put the time frame of the birth between Passover and September, far from the “December 25th” date.

December 25th was chosen by the Romans in 274 A.D. as a Winter Solstice celebration based on the previous week’s celebration of Saturnalia (the god of fire/sowing).  Later, after the “Christianization” of Rome, the date was chosen for the celebration of the birth of the Son of God. So a pagan holiday with it’s traditions became a “Christian” holiday.  Yet you know that the pagan traditions didn’t just stop but were simply migrated into the church.

This Winter Solstice celebration goes back all the way to Nimrod after the flood in Babylon.  The gods Molech, baal and others were celebrated at this time of year for the death and rebirth of the sun.  In the celebrations, countless human sacrifices were performed.  From the despicable acts of man to the drunken orgies and celebrations of the Romans, this season never really had a righteous past.

Other Traditions

Pagan traditions that came from these celebrations included cutting down trees, bringing them in the house and decorating them, decorating the outside of houses with wreaths, garland and lights, yule logs and giving gifts.  The tree decorating even goes back as far as the time of Jeremiah when trees were cut down, decorated and worshiped.

I have merely scratched the surface because it is very easy to really cast a lot of questions on the celebrations during this time of year.  So much of it is based in worldly traditions, misinterpreted scriptures and traditions.  I doubt that most people celebrating Christmas have much of a clue of what the origins of most of the traditions in which they partake.

Final Thought

I am not one of those people that like to harp on something like this and tell you that you are partaking in pagan idolatry and violating Scripture.  I don’t think that is what this season is about. It just doesn’t have much to do with God, that’s all.

I don’t want to be a humbugger in the hodgepodge of Christmas. Sure the season is about peace, love, joy, happiness, giving and family.  No doubt; these are all good things.  I am all for celebrating with loved ones, giving gifts and decorating.  My point in this is to separate fact from fiction.  To help you understand that when you are giving gifts, you aren’t celebrating Jesus birth.  When you are decorating your house or tree, you aren’t worshiping God.  In fact, the Bible never tells us to celebrate Jesus’ birth, but we are to remember his death.  Because if he didn’t come to die, his birth is meaningless.

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – Correcting “Christmas”

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 18, 2009

If you like to hold to traditions, you don’t want to read this article.  Just wait, and in a couple days I’ll come out with another you might like (or not).  However, if you want to dig down and discover some truth, even when it hurts to swallow, then read on.

Right out of the gate, let me be blunt – evangelical believers cannot celebrate “Christmas”.

Your defensive mechanisms just engaged, but you need to follow through to understand.  I am not saying throw the baby out with the bath water as some tend to do when discovering something new, but I am saying that we might need to see clearly and understand why things are the way they are and how it relates to your relationship with God.

To be sure, the core of this season is to commemorate the birth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  All the rest is fluff, and some of it is fluffier than other stuff.

The Real Christmas Defined

The term we have come to know and even defend, may not mean exactly what you think it means.  Christmas does not mean, “the birth of Christ” or “advent of Christ”.  In fact, it means that absolute opposite, “Christ’s death”.

The first part of the word is indeed, “Christ”, but the whole word comes from the old English, Cristes mæsse which means, “Christ’s Mass”.  Coined in 1038, it literally is the Mass of the Catholic church.  That being the case, we have to defer to the Catholic understanding of what a Mass is to get the full meaning of the word, “Christmas”.

The term Mass is the English word for the celebration of the Eucharist (the body and blood of Christ). It comes from the Latin, missa, and means “dismissal”. It’s from the last phrase uttered in the mass, “Go, it is the dismissal”.

The Council of Trent (1545-1563) reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that the Mass is the same Sacrifice of Calvary offered in an unbloody manner. The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different. And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and offered in an unbloody manner… this sacrifice is truly propitiatory” (Doctrina de ss. Missae sacrificio, c. 2, quoted in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367). – Wikipedia

The Catholic Mass introduces Jesus literally into the bread and wine.  This process called transubstantiation, is substantially different from the Evangelical teaching that sees Christ’s work on the Cross as “finished” and the communion time as a time of remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:24). In fact, James tells us in essence that it brings public disgrace on Jesus to subject Jesus to sacrifice all over again (c.f. Hebrews 6:6).

So in short, the “Christ-mass” doesn’t exactly fit into evangelical theology.

Does this mean that you should stop saying, “Merry Christmas”? I’m not going to tell you one way or another, but I have heard many people complain that companies, schools, etc. are forcing their workers, students, etc. to say, “Happy Holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas”.  I get it.  I know that you want to keep Christ in your greeting.  But the true meaning of the season is buried under a blizzard of man’s traditions, pagan celebrations and theological inaccuracies, that I really think that being able to say, “Merry Christmas” is the least of our problems this time of year.

If we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, then celebrate his birth, but if you are going to throw trees, lights, presents, yule logs, Santa Clause, elves, snowmen, and sales at Macy’s in the mix, maybe you need to reevaluate what you are really celebrating.

Jesus came quietly in the night to a stable in the desert. Maybe, we should desert some of our traditions and focus on the real source for hope and peace in the world.

I’m just saying…

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – His Name

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 13, 2009

A true American weakness lies in our linguistic skills.  Our language is a true hodge-podge of other languages, butchered English vocabulary and local colloquialisms that don’t always match up with the most obvious definitions.

Each generation chips away at hundreds of words, adds new and “improved” terminology and further deteriorate the American lexicon.

With all its negative aspects, I do like our language for the most part, but it really shows its weakness when we attempt to translate the scriptures.

My favorite deficiency, if that makes sense, is in the way we use names.  We just don’t put a lot of thought into how we take a name from another country, culture or language and write it or say it.

When I was in the Army in Germany, I’d listen to the radio announcers as they were speaking in German get to an American name and pronounce it exactly as if I were saying it.  We don’t take that kind of care when returning the favor.

What’s in a Name?

That’s where this blog starts.  The angel, Gabriel, told Joseph concerning Mary, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name ‘Jesus’, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 2:21)

The Hebrew name that the angel gives to Joseph was a rather common name that when translated means, “The Lord who Saves”.  If the translators of the Bible wanted to simply translate Jesus’ name, they could have called him, “The Lord who Saves the Anointed” (Jesus Christ).

We give our kids names today that aren’t real words in our language, but in those days, they would use a word or phrase straight from their own language when naming their kids.  So when Jesus was called by his fellow Jews, they were calling him “The Lord who Saves” every time.

You don’t see a lot of Americans with the name “Jesus”, probably because we think that is his real name and don’t want to share his name, but you might be surprised to find out that the one name with the closest association to Jesus is extremely common in America.

Follow the etymology of the name Jesus…

His name given by the angel was Yeshua.

When the name was translated to the Greek, since there is no “Y” in Greek, they used the letter “I” (iota).  In addition, they don’t have the “SH” sound, either in Greek, so the “S” (sigma) was used.  The letter “S” was added to the end because if the word ended in “a”, then it could be construed as an ending that could affect the mood or voice of the name’s usage.

Therefore, the name used in Greek was “Iesous“.  If they translated his name into Greek from Hebrew, it would be “Kurios Soter”.

Before the Bible was translated to English, it went through Latin and German first.

The Latin took the Iesous and transliterated it directly from Greek – “Iesous”

When the German Bible was created from the Latin and original Hebrew, the Germans went back to the original Hebrew sound.  The German letter for “Y” is “J”.  They maintained the rest of the word but dropped the “O”.  The name was pronounced, “Ye-sus”, and was later used when the Bible was translated to English, “Jesus”.

Had the translators of the English versions gone back to the original Hebrew (and Aramaic) and used Yeshua and passed it through the to the English the way the rest of the Hebrew was passed on (bypassing the Greek), the name would be “Joshua” in the English.  In fact, the Hebrew name Yeshua in the Old Testament when seen in your English Bible, is transliterated, “Joshua”.

You may know a few people with the name “Joshua”… maybe a friend, neighbor or even yourself.  Did you realize that that name is the closest English word to Jesus’ real name?

But all this aside for a second, it’s not the letters used that really matter, but the name behind the name that matters.  In fact, most of the times when the name “Jesus” is translated to other languages, it is further butchered, but a rose by any other name is still a rose, and the Bible shows us clearly it is who he is and because of what he did that matters:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus (Iesus, Iesous, Yeshua…) every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – The Sacrificial Baby

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 8, 2009

Several years ago when studying the birth of Jesus, the Lord led me into an interesting understanding of the power ofthe birth.  Hopefully this will give you new insight as it did to me.

The birth of Jesus is the known in theological sounding terms as the “incarnation”.  This fancy term simply means that God became man and dwelt among us (John 1).  This act was essential to the death Jesus would have to experience for our sins.  The lamb of God would have to die, and it would be His blood that would provide all the payment needed for the sin of man.  As critical as the sacrifice of Jesus is to us and the believer’s salvation, I always had this question,

How can Jesus die if he is God?

I mean, God paid the price, the sacrifice, for our sins.  For a sacrifice to mean something in God’s eyes, there has to be a loss.  How can it be then that Jesus would come to earth as a babe, take on the form of man, go through the death on the cross and then ascend into heaven and be with God again and everything be as it was before?  Where is God’s sacrifice if God cannot die?

This is where the incarnation comes into play.  The sacrifice for our sins is the death of Jesus, but the sacrifice God made was the incarnation.  Let me explain.

The Bible tells us in John 1 that, “in the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and the Word was with God and God was the Word ” (literal translation).  We know that Jesus, who was and is the Word of God, existed before the incarnation, but what did he “look” like?  What was His makeup?

We know from Scripture that “God is Spirit”.  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, what we label as the “Trinity”, have always existed, yet before the incarnation, it is almost impossible to determine the difference between them.  The role inside the Godhead is quite blurry to us.

However, the incarnation not only changed the roles and purpose of Jesus, it changed every aspect of his being.  Consider this:

  1. Before the incarnation, he was equal with the Father in responsibility, after, he became submissive to the Father even to death (Philippians 2)
  2. Before the incarnation, he was spirit, afterwards though, he was eternally altered into a fully functioning human body. (John 4:24)

The Birth of Jesus set into motion events the would eternally alter the very existence of God.  Jesus is presently sitting at the Father’s right hand in human form – we can see him (if you can see into heaven).  Stephen sees him in Acts. John sees him in Revelation as, the “Lamb the is slain”.  After the resurrection, everyone sees his heavenly body and even Paul states that we will become as he is…

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. – Philippians 3:20,21

God’s sacrifice was not just simply dying on a cross, that act merely sealed the deal. The incarnation was a one-way  trip for Jesus! There was no turning back.

  • Had Jesus come as a baby and failed in his mission (sinned), he would have been as man forever and his sacrificial death would have been meaninless.
  • Had Jesus come as a baby and succeeded in winning the Jews over (which was not his intent, but it was possible), He would have become their Messiah to rule and reign over them. (Fortunately for us Gentile people, the Jews rejected him making it possible for us – and them- to be saved.) Point is that he would have still been a man forever.
  • But Jesus did come as a baby and succeeded in a sinless life and complete obedience to God in death thus becoming our sacrifice.  But more than that, he is still a man (fully God) but fully man.

The sacrifice God made was the incarnation… He placed an eternal mark on deity by sending the Word to dwell among us.

So next time you sing “Away in a Manger”, or “Little Town of Bethlehem” recognize that the birth of Jesus was more than a simple act.  It was the beginning of the death of God… it was the first time in eternity that God would change.  It showed us once again, that the love of God is bigger than we can imagine and that the things He goes through for us are beyond our imagination.

“The Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” – Revelation 13:8

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – The Real Story

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 7, 2009

Many of the traditions and teachings about Christmas are not so much Biblically based as traditionally driven.  Over the past few posts, we have looked at a few:

  • The wise men weren’t even there
  • The wise men weren’t kings
  • There weren’t just three wise men
  • They brought more than little trinkets of gold and spices
  • They wise men visited Jesus in a house up to two years after the birth
  • The angels didn’t sing – they spoke
  • Jesus probably wasn’t silent – he was a baby after all
  • Jesus was probably not in a manger, but more likely in the hay next to his mother in the stall
  • The stable was a cave

And to be honest, I could look at many others…

  • The Inn was probably a house, not a hotel
  • The manger was probably not wooden but stone
  • Jesus wasn’t born on his birthday – December 25th
  • Mary didn’t ride a donkey, but was probably pulled in a cart… after all, she was 9 months pregnant
  • And even the star brings up an interesting debate… (there was a star, we know that, but what exactly was it?)

But the fact remains that when all the fluff is pulled away, there are some very potent truths to Christmas that make it a very powerful day.

First, Jesus birth announcement was given to men who watched sheep at night… They probably weren’t even the main shepherds, because it was the third shift (you know, union rules).  Of all the people in the world, why shepherds?

Jesus would become the good shepherd… and the Good Shepherd would lay his life down for his sheep.  This symbolism runs very strong throughout Jesus life and ministry.

Second, Jesus is born in a stable.  Of all the places for the King of kings to be born, why a stable?  Where were the palace servants?  Where were the nurses and doctors?

He does not receive what he deserves because he is humbly coming as a servant that will eventually die a criminal’s death through false accusations. His humble beginnings and undignified death bracket a mere 3 years of ministry and changed the world.

He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).

Third, even his conception was scandalous.  Mary became pregnant out of wedlock. Joseph took her to be his wife, but anybody around Jesus could see because of the timing of the birth and the wedding date that Jesus was a bastard child and because of the culture, lived as a social outcast.

He was despised and rejected of men (Isaiah 53:3).

Finally, through his lowly beginnings, it would be 30 years before God would bring Him through the wilderness to begin the final stage of his journey which would be marred by  rejection, pain, suffering and finally death.

Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

His birth gave God a new label – Suffering servant. That humble birth brought upon our savior 33 years of undeserved rejection only so that we might be received by God.  What an awesome savior!

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

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12 Days of Christmas Correction – Away in a Stall

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 4, 2009

A famous and often sung Christmas Carol is away in a Manger. The song goes something like this,

“Away in a Manger no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head, the stars in the sky looked down where he lay that the Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

Again, this song uses a little poetic license with a few assumptions, but  hey, it’s Christmas!

The details in question are the manger and the crib. One detail in this song that is most likely accurate is that he was probably asleep on the hay. As I was doing some research on the details of the stable, I discovered an interesting fact about the manger.

The two words are used interchangeably when translated from the Greek or Hebrew word. The Hebrew word is abus, and the Greek word is phatne.

For example, Luke 13:15 uses the same word to refer to the stall. The Hebrew word can be used for bed, stall and feeding trough. When the angel comes to the shepherds in Luke 2:12, he tells them that they will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a phatne, or stall.

The Hebrew word when translated as “stall” talks holistically about the stall which includes the feeding trough, the stalls and the location. That concept is carried through to the Greek. In fact, in the King James the word translated “crib” in Job 39:9 is the same word as the word translated manger and stall. So technically speaking, he may have been away in a Manger but he did have a crib for a bed.

Think of it like this, if someone asks me where I sleep, I can say, “In my house.” That is not a very specific way of saying that I sleep in my bed, but the reality is that I sleep in my house. When the angel told the shepherds you will find him in a phatne, he was telling them to go to the stall or stable.

Most likely, if Jesus was just born, Mary probably would not put him in a feeding trough but would keep him very close to her in order to keep him as warm as possible. Being nighttime, she and Joseph could have both been laying down in the straw in the stall with the baby Jesus next to her. This would fit the description given by the angel to the shepherds and make the most sense.  It might not be the pretty nativity picture for your post card, but would be the responsible thing to do.

Yes, I know, it is a minor detail, but to think dogmatically that Jesus was in a feeding trough, probably is not a good idea.

Also, the stable was probably not made out of wood, since wood was an expensive commodity.  It was most likely a cave or a fenced in area with rock.  There are plenty of rocks and caves in and around Bethlehem.

Finally, the song mentions,”no crying he makes”. I don’t know about you, but every birth than ever heard about, there was screaming involved. There is nothing in the text to indicate Jesus did not cry. In fact, Jesus experienced everything that we experience including, messy diapers, potty training, learning how to walk (he even probably had some skinned knees in the process), and he even had to learn how to talk. Sure, he was probably the perfect child, but he still had to grow up just like everyone of us.

All this being said, Jesus was born in the humblest of circumstances. He was a king born in a stable, and destined for a criminal’s death. He illustrated to us in every way imaginable and what it is to be human and what it is to follow after God’s will.

Jesus entered this world perfect, and he left this world perfect. In doing so, we have the perfect Savior, and in him is a life everlasting.

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