Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Incarnation of God

Incarnation is a word that so many people don't fully grasp. Of course we can't fully comprehend the incarnation, but we can apprehend it in Scripture. The reason we rejoice at Christmas is that the Baby born to Mary and Joseph on that very first Christmas was not an ordinary Child. As Matthew records, this Baby was the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy of Immanuel, or God with us, the ultimate self-revelation of God to humankind. Jesus, the Christ, was, and eternally is, God incarnate or God in flesh.

Although John's Gospel doesn't include a narrative of the birth and infancy of Jesus, the doctrine of the incarnation is aptly summed up in John's introduction to His Gospel where He says "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Then, says John "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

So the clear testimony of Scripture is that in the incarnation Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man; that is, Jesus Christ existed as the perfect unity in one Person of a divine and a human nature, neither co-mingling those natures nor becoming two persons. It is this miraculous incarnation of God that you and I, along with Christians worldwide, celebrate this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Were the Magi Astrologers?

I was just in San Diego, California and we did a Pastor's Appreciation luncheon there for Salem Broadcasting and got to meet a lot of pastors in the San Diego area and we engaged in a question and answer session with the pastors. One of the questions that the pastors were asking was this question about the magi and whether magi were actually astrologers, and if they were astrologers how could God lead His people through astrology.

In response I mentioned that even if the magi did practice astrology the Bible makes it crystal clear that the wise men were led by God both by means of the star which guided them to Christ and by means of the warning that kept them from returning to Herod. Contrary to the practice of astrology then, which involves divination and attempts to predict the future apart from God, the star that the magi followed was not used to foretell the future, but to forthtell the future. In other words, the Star of Bethlehem did not prophesy the birth of Christ - it pronounced the birth of Christ.

In a little booklet that I produced called Christmas Truths And Traditions I deal with many of the other traditions that have formed around the magi. While it is important to separate truth from tales when it comes to traditions which surround these magi, we must never cease to emulate their example of reverence and worship for the King of kings and Lord of lords whose birth we celebrate during Christmas.

As such, when entities like the Watchtower Society suggest that the wise men gave gifts to Christ, not to one another, we should immediately recognize that they have missed the point entirely. As Scripture makes abundantly clear, giving to others, particularly those in need, is tantamount to giving to the Lord Jesus Christ, and taking a special opportunity at Christmas to selflessly give gifts to those we love would likewise excite us, even if we have no expectation of receiving something in return.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmas Truths and Traditions

Every December I look forward to two things: enjoying special times with my family, the people that I love and cherish the most, and then receiving numerous, often passionate calls to the Bible Answer Man broadcast about Christmas. Others are asking questions which are theological in perspective such as "Was it a literal virgin birth? Are the Gospels really reliable?" Then there are whose who ask these cultural questions like "Is it right to have a Christmas tree this Christmas? What should we tell our children about Santa Claus?" Then a few people, perhaps misled by the claims of the Jehovah's Witnesses, have even called into question the practice of giving gifts.

Well, throw in the fact that Christmas has become a major cultural battleground - many people in our society, of course, want Christ left out of the season - the bottom line is that the holiday commemorating God's magnificent demonstration of love towards mankind has become a source of confusion.

When Christmas was originally instituted December 25th was, indeed, a pagan festival commemorating the birthday of a false god. That's a historical fact. What is frequently overlooked is that the church's choice of December 25th was intentional. Instead of merely Christianizing a pagan festival, what the church was doing was establishing a rival celebration. The world has all but forgotten the Greco-Roman gods of antiquity but they are annually reminded that two thousand years ago Christ, the hope of humanity, invaded time and space