Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Tag

Merry Chaotic and Disturbance-filled Christmas?!

Killing babies

Matthew 2:1-3 New International Version (NIV)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod…[Herod] was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

I don’t know about you, but I want to run from Christmas chaos! I hate the thought of everything from the slowed up, jammed up traffic, to the packed out gas stations, highways, and stores of frenzied people pushing and shoving, literally, to get “deals” (or NOT because of getting punched by other people who snatch the “deals” right out of their greedy – oops – grubby little hands! HaHa!) Yikes!

But, as much as I hate all of that, I have to admit this atmosphere seems more true to the context in which Jesus was actually born 2000 years ago; only chaotic danger and disturbance when God enters the room in flesh, as one of us! I’m even thinking that maybe its sort of indictment against Christ’s Body, the Church, that there is not more chaos and crisis at Christmastime in our world at the proclamation of this Jesus Christ Who has entered it?

As I read Mathew’s story of Jesus’ birth, I am especially struck at how disturbing it is for the Son of God to come into the ordinariness and horrors of our broken world as man; how chaotic it really is (how disturbing it should be till everyone knows and trusts Him?! ) Everyone and everything disturbed at the entrance of the Son of God coming in flesh – “God With Us!” A marital engagement is disturbed by embarrassment and shame, and then met with the prospect of divorce before the wedding can happen! A king is disturbed enough about Jesus’ birth to lie, hunt for and cross regional lines to kill babies and toddlers hoping he killed Jesus! A family is on the run from an evil father and his ruthless ruling son!….hmmm…

Maybe Christmas isn’t really about encouraging a cute religious experience after all. Not about a nice teaching that will make people nicer and more peaceful. Maybe it’s not even about making people confident in going to heaven after “death by trampling” at the mall.

Maybe Christmas is about the Kingdom of the Father, Son and Spirit rumbling in like a jumbo jet and, through His Body the Church, fostering airwaves and noises of disturbance, prompting crises, as the Church excitedly and urgently encourages and warns its brothers and sisters of the need to get ready for the return of the Christ in “Christ”-mas???

As much as I’d like to know NOW the peace that is promised in Christ’s coming, I have to admit that because the God the Father sends His Son, in the Spirit, into the chaos of this world to be with it and see it saved, that’s the way he is still moving on earth in his Church Body till he returns bodily again! How could there not be chaos and crisis with God breaking into our world?; against evil and our broken human nature, to redeem what He has already redeemed in the glorified humanity of Jesus???

As N.T. Wright has written, for Jesus there is “No point in arriving in comfort, when the world is in misery; no point having an easy life, when the world suffers violence and injustice! If he is to be Emmanuel, God-with-us, he must be with us where the pain is.” Where the Head, Jesus, is, so must his Body, we, be, right?

Perhaps the real peace I long for, and you long for, at Christmas is where Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it was when he wrote, “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture, and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security… To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying down the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”

Merry Cross-mas to You as We Enter the Chaos and Participate with Christ in His Loving Disturbance,

– tjbrassell

 

Photo courtesy of: http://www.muchoburrito.com

Christmas: God’s Plan and Response For Man!

God With Us

https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/15-12-20-christmas-gods-plan-and-response-for-man-matt-1-2-9-10-tah.mp3”

In this Message on the 4th week of Advent, and heading toward Christmas, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to those gathered in worship at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore. The special emphasis of this message is that just as the Head, Jesus, was born into this world 2000 years ago as God’s Plan and Response for humanity, His Body, the Church, follows Him today, participating with Him in his ongoing work of redemption in this present world!

Check it out and be assured and unafraid as you GO with Jesus into our world, proclaiming Him in word and deed!

 

picture courtesy of ad-ne.org

God’s Coming Humanly Means God’s Going Humanly!

victory in jesus

 https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/14-12-28-gods-coming-humanly-means-gods-going-humanly-hebrews-10-19-25-tah.mp3

Do you wonder how you can live through suffering in a way where you are still filled with FAITH, HOPE and LOVE? Where you can know VICTORY and experience New Life and a Higher Dimension of LIFE and DIGNITY? 

On this 1st Sunday after Christmas, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore points us to the answer to this dilemma in this GOSPEL FILLED GOOD NEWS message entitled, “God’s Coming Humanly Means God’s Going Humanly”and shows through Hebrews 10: 19-25  that, God Father, Son and Spirit KNOW and SHARE IN our real suffering through JESUS CHRIST! In Christ, God reveals that He is not one who stands apart from suffering, but One who stands WITH US, stands ESPECIALLY IN HUMAN SUFFERING!

Listen and understand better that:

~God’s coming as a human being, him becoming human through Christ, means He comes not just in our celebrations but in the depths of our human sufferings!

~Since the Ascension of Christ, humanity has a hope built on an accomplished fact that humanity could not have before the Ascension. That God has taken up our cause in CHRIST and not only cried our cries but in the resurrection and ascension He has ANSWERED our cries and has VICTORY over them now, IN HIS PRESENT HUMAN BEING! In Christ, God has been a Gift for Himself and for us!!

~The most clear understanding of who God is, IS JESUS CHRIST! Understand our participation with Christ now in the “Rhythms of Grace” and not “Regulations of Law”, as ways of relating with Our Father and Jesus in the Spirit !

~The most clear understanding of who man is, IS JESUS CHRIST! To see Jesus from His birth to His Ascension before the Father is how we understand what it really means to be human, since Jesus is and always has been God’s Plan for Man in man’s adoption!

~God’s Coming Humanly Always means God’s Going Humanly! His coming always means His going = God’s Being a Living, Active and Dynamic Lord, filled with Life and Movement! NOT A STATIC GOD!

WILL YOU COME AND GO WITH HIM, as His chosen disciple?

Christmas: What It Means! Why It Matters!

christmas

 https://trinityandhumanity.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/14-12-22-christmas-what-it-means-why-it-matters-john-1-1-14-tah.mp3

 On this 4th Sunday Of Advent 2014, Pastor Timothy Brassell of  New Life Fellowship of Baltimore delivers this Christmas message filled with ASTOUNDING GOSPEL GOOD NEWS entitled, “Christmas: What it Means! Why it Matters! and shows through John 1: 1-14 that because JESUS IS THE WORD made flesh, CHRISTMAS MEANS: That God in Jesus LISTENS to us and FEELS us – That God is CHRIST LIKE, he has revealed himself in Christ – That man was made in the LIKENESS of GOD.

In this message we grasp how Christmas helps us:

~ Rehearse why it is important to hold to the fact that Christ shared in our actual and sinful, human flesh, inherited from Mary, His mother, AND “dwelt among US” and not in some other make-believe fantasy world that doesn’t exist!

~ Recognize and Live more fully in Reality in our daily lives, and in line with Who God is as Revealed in Jesus Christ, and who we are in Jesus; Recognize what Christ’s Ministry and Mission can and should look like among believers.

~ Respond to the burning questions: “Does God REALLY Care?” “Who and What is God REALLY Like? and “Will God REALLY turn out to be like Jesus?”

~ Realize why every human being has worth and is full of dignity even in this present, evil age (while also understanding reasons why the horrors of Nazi Germany happened and how its rotten strategies and effects are still being played out in our ordinary lives all over the world!)

….and MORE…

 

Photo compliments http://www.neloo.com

 

How the Battle of Guadalcanal Gave Me Christmas

How the Battle of Guadalcanal Gave Me Christmas

I grew up in a faith tradition that did not celebrate Christmas. I grew up being taught and believing that Christmas was a pagan ritual that Christians had been duped into observing and that God was entirely put out by it all to the point that one may just burn up in a sea of fire for uttering the words “Merry Christmas.”  I was taught that Christmas was a rip off of the pagan holiday Saturnalia… and well there is a connection. Let me explain. You see Saturnalia was indeed a pagan celebration kept by the Romans in the last centuries B.C. and throughout the early centuries A.D.  Saturnalia was a time of gift giving and feasting. Families gathered for meals and to renew relationships. During the time of the Early Church Christians made every attempt to root out pagan observances so why not replace Saturnalia with a festive celebration of the birth of Jesus? Since no definitive date or time could be established for the birth of Jesus the Early Church saw no problem celebrating it over-top Saturnalia to replace the pagan ritual.

I was in my late twenties before I ever actually celebrated Christmas. It was a difficult time for me. Mythologies die hard and in the back of my mind lingered this nagging

US Marines with a captured Type 92 Machine Gun

US Marines on Guadalcanal with a captured Type 92 Machine Gun (1942)

fear that God was gonna git me. Yep, “git” me. I know… git ain’t a word but down South where I cut my teeth we don’t much care what is or ain’t a word so long as we know what we’re talking about. 🙂

In any case I struggled with the idea of Christmas as a Christian celebration. The first year of our marriage my wife gave me an early present a few days before Christmas. It was a set of documentary DVD’s about the US Marines in World War II. In one of the documentaries the narrator explained that on one particular occasion on Guadalcanal a squad of Marines attacked an enemy machine gun emplacement. Enduring the withering fire of a fully automatic machine gun these brave Marines managed to capture the gun. It was what the narrator said next that turned the light on for me about Christmas. You see the Marines, being who they are and having traditionally received the left over low-grade equipment the other branches had cast aside, did not have a machine gun of their own but as soon as they captured the enemy machine gun nest they did! What the Marines did that day back in 1942 was to turn the machine gun on the enemy.

Brilliant! What the Marines did on Guadalcanal and what the Early Church did was simply brilliant. Most often the enemy of the Gospel is the wrong-headed mythologies of our own broken minds. We invent false religions and celebrations to soothe the longing within our souls. Jesus Christ, the babe in the manger… Emmanuel is the only salve for the wounded soul. The genius of the Father, Son, and Spirit is that out of our mythologies and wrongheadedness they may just redeem and put to good use what some might dismiss as being “rooted in paganism”.

The Father’s Son has come. The Father, Son, and Spirit love and like you! Hallelujah! Amen!

  ~Bill Winn

Somewhere In God’s World

 

Recently we celebrated Veteran’s Day in the United States. It is a time when we honor those who have served our country in the Armed Forces. My Uncle Joe Winn is someone our family honors and respects greatly for his service to our country, his selfless life as a family man, and for the legacy he has left us in his children and grandchildren. Joe D. Winn made an impression on all of us in our family but I wanted to tell you about a time in 1945 when the events of Joe’s life impacted one little girl who was only 4 years old. You see after completing flight school in the Army Air Force, Second Lieutenant Joseph Daniel Winn was assigned to the island of Iwo Jima as a bomber escort flying the famed North American P-51D. On 28 July 1945 Joe was shot down during a strafing run over an airfield on the Japanese mainland. He was taken prisoner and (as were all allied flyers) classified by the Japanese as a war criminal.  One evening my Aunt Beth could hear her parents and grandmother talking about Joe. She was only 4 at the time but she recounts the story in this way. Joe Winn

 “Mama, where’s Joe?” No answer. “I heard you say Joe’s gone to ‘War’. Mama, where’s ‘War’?” “Honey, there are some things children shouldn’t hear. Please don’t ask any more questions.” Later, I heard Mama and Daddy talking about Joe again. They used words like “Japan” and “missing” and that enormous word, “War.” Mama was crying.  Young as I was, I knew where to get an answer. “Grandma, please tell me, where’s Joe?” Grandmother put her arms around me and held tight, so I wouldn’t see her tears, but I knew. “We don’t know exactly,” she said, “but wherever Joe is, that place is somewhere in God’s world.” Fear slipped away, just like that, as Grandmother’s words drew a picture in my mind: a circle of light surrounding and shrinking the dark place called “War.” Then Grandmother said, “Let’s say a prayer for Joe.” 

Being sent to Omori civilian prison in Tokyo, Joe and the rest of the boys in his cell block endured conditions too horrible to mention. One ray of hope came from their guard who had gone to school in the USA. As Japan’s surrender grew near the guards could be heard going from block to block executing the Allied P.O.W.s. Joe’s sympathetic guard locked the large steel door to their cell block and slid the only key under the door with instructions not to open it for any reason. Moments later Joe and his comrades heard the other prison guards shoot their friend who had just saved all of their lives. Joe made it home after the war, raised a wonderful family, and lived the rest of his life in peace. He is one of our family’s greatest heroes, though I doubt he ever thought of himself as such. 

So this Christmas if you find yourself unsure of where a loved one may be or if there is some reason you and a loved one are apart remember: Jesus is the Light of the Cosmos! (Jn.8:12) Jesus called his Father the Lord of Heaven and Earth. And Jesus himself declares that we are in him and he is in us. (Jn 14:20) This is indeed Triune God’s world and whether we know exactly where someone is at any given time, whether we worry about loved ones serving in the military, a son or daughter that we have not heard from in a while, whether we are estranged from family because of brokenness or divisions we must remember that where ever that person is they are in Jesus and in God’s world. It is no small comfort to know that we are all in Jesus and we are all ultimately safe as long as Jesus is safe. Just ask my Aunt Beth.

~Bill Winn

On Step-Fathering

Traditionally, the second week of the Christmas season focuses on ‘the holy family’—Jesus with Mary and Joseph.  If there is a patron saint of step-dads, it should certainly be Joseph.  He did the holy work of fathering another guy’s kid.  Joseph was not the father who gave little Jesus his origin or his destiny.  I like to think he understood that it was important that he not impose his own agenda on this boy he was tasked with raising.

That makes me think of how I raise my sons.  I am their biological father, so it’s not the same, but it’s not entirely different, either.  I am not their ultimate Father.  My boys do not belong to me in the way they belong to Father.  I have begotten them, but I have not in any sense created them.  My status as ‘Dad’ to them is about stewardship rather than ownership.  Father has granted me the opportunity to ‘play dad’ to two of HIS beloved sons.

Step-fathering requires a certain restraint that comes from knowing ‘This kid is not MINE, and I must not treat him as such.’  As I grow to identify more with Joseph, I am learning to adopt that mantra as my own.

As spiritual stepfather to my biological sons, it is not my place to have an agenda for them.  Whatever my unfulfilled dreams are, woe to me if I foist them onto my spiritual stepsons.  Their destiny does not belong to me, not even a little.  Their True Father has his own agenda for them, an agenda for their glorious freedom and joy, an agenda He has sworn to accomplish.

Thank you, Father, for giving me to share in your work of parenting your sons.  Help my lingering foolishness not to get in the way too much.

~ John Stonecypher

He Came to Ascend

The song says:

I wonder, as I wander, out under the sky / How Jesus the Savior did come for to die

As much as I like this old Christmas song, I find I have to take exception with the implication that the only purpose of Jesus’ existence was his death. Certainly Jesus’ death is important, but I’ve come to believe that his ascension is even more important.

In Ephesians 1:5, Paul tells us that the whole purpose of Jesus Christ is the adoption of humanity. For us to be adopted as children of the Father, living and participating in the Trinity, the Son had to unite our human nature to himself by taking up existence as the man Jesus Christ.

This adoption of humanity into the Trinity took place at the first Christmas.

That’s when the Son of God was born into our nature and thus we were born again as children of the Father. The Son of God became the man Jesus Christ in order to bring us home to our Father, and that homecoming took place in Jesus’ ascension. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:6, were raised up with Jesus when he was raised up and we are now seated in him in heavenly realms.

Jesus’ death was one necessary step in this process of adoption and ascension.

Since we had fallen into sin and death, these had to be put to death in Jesus’ body so that our sinfulness and death would no longer be a barrier to our participation as children of the Father in his life with the Son and the Holy Spirit. So, yes, Jesus came to die – but more importantly he came to ascend to the Father’s right hand and take humanity up into the heavenly life of the Trinity.

We need to think of the shape of Jesus’ life as a “U”.

The Son of God descended from heaven into our human nature, even descending into the depth of our sin and death. But then he rose up again in the power of his resurrection and ascension – and as he returned to heaven he took us with him.

At Christmas the Son of God descended into humanity and at his Ascension he rose up again to the Father’s right hand and took humanity with him.

I wonder, as I wander, out under sky/How Jesus the Savior did ascend on high!

~ Jonathan Stepp

Merry Christmas!

Hear the Word of the LORD:  In Christ, you are born this day.  Yes, YOU.  You are Papa’s holy infant, tender and mild.  He made this silent, holy night just for you.  In his arms, all is calm.  All is bright.  Sleep in heavenly peace.  Sleep in heavenly peace.

~ John Stonecypher

Christmas Parties, Giving, and Fun ARE God’s Idea

In many religious circles, the emphasis of the Christmas season is rightly pointed toward Jesus Christ, Humanity’s Greatest Gift and Good News! After all, without Him, there is no season and no us! (Colossians 1 or Acts 17:28!).

However, I have noticed a trend that I don’t like very much or consider to be very Christian. It sometimes immediately follows, and even precedes, our emphasis on Jesus. Maybe you have noticed it too.

That trend is the seeming continual need to emphasize how partying, rushing to buy gifts and putting up all the lights is NOT what the season is about, and if we would all just focus more on Jesus, we would all be much happier (and God would certainly be more pleased, wouldn’t He? Nooooooo!!!)  Overemphasis on that kind of talk is one of my stresses during the holiday season!   Now, I can admit that being overstressed, in debt, and getting so plastered in alcohol that I can’t even remember my own name is NOT the way we were designed to experience our inclusion in Christ! Ha! Hardly! But neither were we designed to sit in our living rooms by the fireplace and think and talk about Jesus 24 hours a Christmas Day! Ha! Hardly! Believe it or not!

Do you see the either/or trap of that thinking?! I think we believers DO want to emphasize Christ on Christmas! But we don’t want to forget that emphasizing Him is understanding that our entire Human life is already included in His shared human life and we can (and should) engage in both activities (Talk more of Jesus and party hearty in our gift giving under the bright lights!!) Ha-Ha! How about that?!

As we point toward Jesus we want to remember that He is human, and that Advent and Christmas are REALLY about Him sharing His full humanity with us!

Jesus is from and thoroughly immersed in THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL Relational Being in the cosmos, that of the Triune God (I John 4:16), and we are only experiencing His relationship with His Father in the Spirit along with him (2 Cor 13:14.) The meaning of Christmas is that Jesus, in His Fully God/Fully humanness, is sharing that exact Godly fellowship with us, RIGHT NOW, and believe me – it is a life of communication, partying, and gift-giving!

There is a Word in God, so we know God communicates within His Relationship! (John 1:1-14!) There is a partying and fellowshiping Spirit in God! (Luke 15 – where every parable ends in a party!). And each distinct Person in God gives Himself away to each other (John 16:12-15!) Yes, giving, partying and rushing to serve others and meet their wants and needs is Triune God’s idea, no other creature or human being made that good stuff up (James 1:17!)

This relational being of Father, Son and Spirit even gives fully of Himself under stress (see Jesus’ entire human life, especially as seen in the book of John, and Philippians 2!) He even wrapped His gift up in something fleshly, FOREVER (Matthew 1:23, Luke 23:36-39, Col 1:19!) I think you get my point! The idea of relating around a party is God’s idea, as well as adding the music, putting lights in the sky, eating and drinking things hot and cold, etc. In Luke 14:15-24 the parable even seems to imply that when you want to do things in your own self-centeredness, instead of joining in on the relational party, you will MISS the party and fun! That seems natural and logical doesn’t it?! How can you enjoy a party you never participate in? Ha-Ha!

Jesus is not some egotist demanding 24/7 worship from us, in the sense we tend to speak of! In Jesus, the totality of our lives is already a 24/7 act of worship! We glorify Him by being truly human, just like a Bluejay glorifies Him by flying around and being a Bluejay!

So, whatever you do this Christmas season, BE MORE HUMAN by sharing in Jesus’ Humanity. It is a humanity SHARED with all of humanity and creation in our Adoption into the life of Triune God (Ephesians 1:3-6). After all, Jesus wasn’t called a “glutton and a drunkard” because he stayed at home worshiping God all day! His life of worship definitely INCLUDED being out and among the “rowdy” crowds as a genuine, down-to-earth, relatable, human being (Luke 7:33-35!)

Go ahead and do both…you know you want to!!

~ Timothy Brassell

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