Christmas or Xmas

English: Christmas postcard picture with Santa...
English: Christmas postcard picture with Santa Claus and holly, with message, “I bring you a Merry Xmas from” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


courtesy of “Theological Word of The Day


The annual holiday celebrated by Christians on December 25 celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was born somewhere between 7 and 2 BC. Dec. 25 is probably not the date when Christ was born, but was designated as such in the 4th century in order to substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The designation Christmas comes from a combination of “Christ” with “Mass.” Often the Greek X (Chi) is substituted for “Christ” making Xmas (as was the custom in the early church when abbreviated Christ’s name). Although there is no command in Scripture to celebrate this day as a holiday, Christians believe the incarnation is the foundation to salvation and, according to many, the greatest miracle in the history of man.


So, Merry Xmas to all 🙂


The first Christmas gift

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26)

Hail! Mary?

Petrus Christus, The Annunciation (c.1450, Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Petrus Christus, The Annunciation (c.1450, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Petrus Christus’ c.1450 depiction of the angel Gabriel’s annunciation to the virgin Mary places her at the threshold of a gothic church building guarding the door as a protective mother and teacher with the right of veto over any who would enter to instruct God’s people. This elevated perspective of Mary represents a widely held view of her importance and sanctity in Christian history. Whilst there are strong differences between Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and mainstream protestants about the extent of veneration or honour Mary ought to receive, she still occupies a unique place in redemptive history as the earthly mother of Jesus. So much so that the chronicler Luke, gives her a significant emphasis in the introduction of his narrative about the things Jesus did and taught before the day he was taken up to heaven.

As a protestant Christian I don’t venerate, worship or pray to Mary. Much that has been written and believed about Mary in tradition and depicted in western history’s greatest artwork is not from the Bible. However, I also don’t go to the opposite extreme of ignoring her completely. Mary is an exemplar in how she responds to the news about the arrival of Jesus. Luke invites us to compare her story and reaction to Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. Where Zechariah was disbelieving and doubtful of God’s intention and ability, Mary is receptive and embraces the news. When Mary is mentioned in the Bible, the emphasis of the scripture is always on Jesus the Son of God, not Mary his earthly mother. By God’s grace, let us aspire to be like her in how she responds to this good news of God’s Son.

Mary is blessed among, not above, women. She is the beneficiary of grace not the bestower. God’s purpose with her is to fulfil his promise that a woman would have a child who will save sinners. Gabriel explained that Jesus will be born by a creative act of the Holy Spirit, not via a physical sexual encounter and not through virgin veneration. Gabriel also explains that Jesus is the Son of the Most High and Son of God, not, by title, office or status, the Son of Mary.

Mary responds magnificently 😉 confessing her trust in God as the greatest promise keeper in all generations. This is a God who does the opposite of what is expected, scatters the proud thinkers, brings down rulers (like the evil Herod), lifts up the humble and fills the hungry.

God is the starring actor in this story. All the other players mentioned, Gabriel, Zechariah, Elizabeth, John and Mary serve as a supporting cast to emphasise the central role Jesus will play as the Saviour who will inaugurate the kingdom of all of God’s promises.

This is a God whose agenda is to reveal himself in his glory of fulfilling his promise to bring salvation to sinners and fulfil his covenant promise. To rest in God as Mary does is to know him as holy, merciful, mighty and a reverser of fortune. One who is the absolutely reliable sovereign.

Mary has much to teach us about God’s character, on this Petrus Christus was right. When we read her story in Luke’s Gospel we are both introduced and reminded of a God who mercifully saves and that is worthy of a “hail,” a “hello” and maybe even a “hooray”.

You can read the story of Mary in Luke 1:26-56.

For they will be comforted

That is the promise of Jesus as he sat down to teach his followers about the economy and ethics of a God-based worldview.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” ~ Matthew 5:4

Jesus comments on a present situation and offers a future promise. “We are apt to think, Blessed are the merry; but Christ, who was himself a great mourner, says, Blessed are the mourners.” (Matthew Henry) There is a notion we have of what is “blessed” and what is not. God’s blessing isn’t offered to the rich, the great, those who live free of worry and pain, but to the opposite end of human experience. Any other idea of “blessed” comes about through the striving, efforts and seeming good fortune of those that “make it.” Apart from God’s subversive interloping that is all they have to look forward to. For those that mourn, those that suffer whether from their own sin and stupidity or at the hand of an evil perpetrator, where does their “blessing” come from? Where do they look for help? Hope? Happiness?

SHESIn the face of such evil and wickedness that would result in the deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School I hope that, for those of you that attended Church this morning you heard from your pastor/minister words of assurance and comfort; a promise of justice and a prayer for the comfort of those who suffer and those who serve and help them in the days ahead; a reminder that forgiveness triumphs over bitterness and most of all, how on earth the message of Jesus answers this deplorable tragedy.

I hope you didn’t hear trite platitudes or insensitive political posturing about either end of the gun control debate (that will come and is past due, but today is not that day, today is the day of mourning). I hope your pastor challenged you to consider that it is exactly because of such evil that Jesus had to come into our world and begin to set it aright. If there was no Christmas, then full justice isn’t even a pipe dream, it’s an empty wish for a pathetic bunch of proteins that collided in the cesspool of humanity.

Your pastor doesn’t have all the answers. I certainly didn’t for my congregation. I can’t tell you, specifically, why this gross sinful evil was perpetrated. But I do know that “the wicked shall be cut off in darkness” and that justice will be carried out and that comfort, mercy, relief and forgiveness is possible. Jesus, having suffered for sin has been appointed the judge of all. When the books are opened and we face judgement, the shooter will also, and the judge of all the earth will do what it right. I can’t begin to make a clear determination of what that will consist of, because, I too am deserving of judgement for my sin. Rather than celebrate his damnation, I cling, as invited by Jesus, to the promise that mourning precedes comfort.

As I lead my congregation in worship this morning, I spoke to this end to remind and encourage that Jesus came at Christmas to put an end to sin and suffering and death. And I prayed, albeit inadequately, that the God of all comfort would keep his promise and give healing to those affected by this awful event.

Heavenly Father, to all generations you have always been faithful and extended your mercy to those that fear you. Let us rediscover what that means today and continue to help us and give us more of your unending love. Provide your mercy, compassion and healing to those families who lost children in the shooting and for those still suffering from serious wounds. Provide calm leadership to their community as they seek justice and try to rebuild their lives and their school. Be the shield and protector of those children, staff and families who are experiencing trauma. Provide them with counsel and support that will enable them to recover and grow. Enable them to commit themselves to you as a faithful and good judge of the sin that occurred and enable them to trust in your forgiveness so that they are not consumed by bitterness. Give strength to the police and social workers who will serve these families in the days ahead that they can provide counsel that will start the process of recovery. Thank you that Jesus has come to make this possible and has full justice at his disposal. We rest in your goodness and power as we pray to you in Jesus name. Amen.

Here are some other helpful reading for Christians to think through how they can respond to the Newtown massacre serve their friends and community.

  • Three Thoughts (and several resources) for Addressing Sandy Hook at your ChurchEd Stetzer
  • Rachel Weeping for Her Children, The Massacre in Connecticut – Albert Mohler
  • And Slew the Little ChilderDoug Wilson