Joy Born at Bethlehem

Sermon 1026, delivered on Lord’s-Day morning, December 24th,1871 by C. H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”—Luke 2:10-12.

WE HAVE NO superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Saviour’s birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. Fabricius gives a catalogue of 136 different learned opinions upon the matter; and various divines invent weighty arguments for advocating a date in every month in the year. It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. Because the day is not known, therefore superstition has fixed it; while, since the day of the death of our Saviour might be determined with much certainty, therefore superstition shifts the date of its observance every year. Where is the method in the madness of the superstitious? Probably the fact is that the holy days were arranged to fit in with heathen festivals. We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Saviour was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December. Nevertheless since, the current of men’s thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction. Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men’s superstitions to render such a meditation improper for to-day. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of his dear son. Read more about Joy Born at Bethlehem

Why Did Joseph Go to Bethlehem?

Bethlehem - Vasily Polenov, 1882

In a previous article, I suggested that the ruling descendants of David had migrated from Babylon to Nazareth. It is also possible that some of the descendants of David first moved to Bethlehem—David’s original home town—and then later migrated to Nazareth, perhaps joining other family members who had come from Babylon. Or perhaps they had all come, more recently, from Bethlehem.

When Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem for a census (Luke 2:1), it is unlikely that they returned to Bethlehem simply because David had been born there a full thousand years earlier. Luke’s brief summary for the reason of their journey to Bethlehem is just that: a brief summary of what might otherwise be an involved (and tedious) explanation. Read more about Why Did Joseph Go to Bethlehem?

Rachel Still Weeps

Jakob Steinhardt - Rachel Mourning Her Children - 1953 (art.famsf.org)

Originally posted at Sometimes a Light, December 16.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:18)

It’s happened again—only this time it wasn’t in Connecticut but almost 7,000 miles away in Peshawar, Pakistan. This morning, gunmen broke into classrooms and slaughtered boys and girls as they sat learning. It’s a story we know too well: December. School. Children. Death.

Tonight, parents will return to empty beds; food will be left uneaten; and a soccer ball will stand in the courtyard, still and unmoving. And just as they did two years ago, despite the divide of language and culture, our own mother—and father—hearts will crack, life and hope leaking out of us, as we wonder how is there any meaning in this? Read more about Rachel Still Weeps

The Basis and Mandate of Christian Ethics

The simplicity of Paul’s ethical mandate for believers is unmistakable in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whatever then you eat or you drink or whatever you do—all unto God’s glory you are to do.” In that context Paul challenges the Corinthian believers specifically to handle freedoms pertaining to eating and drinking in a such a way as to contribute to the purpose for all activity: to glorify God.

If God’s own purpose in His activities is His own glory (e.g., Eph 1:6, 12, 14), then it should come as no surprise that the stated singular purpose in our activities is that we should likewise glorify Him. This is the ought of Christian ethics: that we should glorify God, and it is important that we also understand the is upon which the ought is grounded. Read more about The Basis and Mandate of Christian Ethics

Book Review: The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel

The book under review is the result of a conference that was held in New York in support of the special place of Israel in the Scriptures. Seventeen contributors put forth various articles under the headings of New Testament, Old Testament, Hermeneutics, Theology & Church History, and Practical Theology. A Forward is provided by popular writer Joel Rosenberg. The Introduction is by Glaser, and a short Conclusion is by Bock.

The purpose of the book is to bring together studies advocating the place of “Israel and the Jewish People in the Plan of God’ as the subtitle has it. The presenters come from the broadly premillennial camp; many are dispensationalists.

On the whole the articles are brief—about 12 to 15 pages on average, but for the most part each author has made good use of their allotted space. It may be helpful to give a few general remarks about the contributions rather than choosing one or two pieces for extended comment.

In the first place I found Rosenberg’s Forward to be off-putting. It is written in a journalistic parlance which is at odds with the tenor of most of the articles. It also focuses on biblical prophecies being fulfilled in our time, which seems a questionable assertion. That said, I agree with the statement that the existence of the State of Israel today is testimony to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (17). Nevertheless, I think the book could have done with a less popular opening. Read more about Book Review: The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel

The True Message of Christmas

Nativity - Andrea Sabbatini (16th century)

Every year it becomes sadly apparent that fewer and fewer Americans understand what Christmas really means.

Christmas is an international celebration of a moment in history on planet Earth when God’s eternal Son, whom we know as the Lord Jesus Christ, became a genuine and permanent member of mankind in order to die for our sins upon a cross.

The key word is love—not our love, but God’s love. In spite of our profound selfishness, pride and indifference to the claims of a holy and loving God, He—not willing that any should perish—provided the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, to die in our place—as our substitute, our divine and sinless representative—and to rise from the dead.

Christ (the Messiah) was born in Bethlehem of Judea and raised in Nazareth of Galilee 2,000 years ago. He was sent into the world by God the Father because of His love for human beings. Read more about The True Message of Christmas

From the Archives: Humanism's Delusional Dream

A Humanist Manifesto was signed by thirty-four men in 1933. Scorning any notions of religion based on divine revelation, the signatories cast vision and set guidelines to achieve peace and goodwill on earth through enlightened human effort. Six years later, the world’s superpowers tumbled headlong into a catastrophic World War. Millions were slaughtered.

Following World War II, millions more were butchered by regimes laboring in the supposed interest of economic utopia. The agenda of these regimes synchronized with the Manifesto’s vision decrying “profit-motivated society” and calling for “radical change in methods, controls, and motives.” The Manifesto contended that “a socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible…. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.” Apparently the Humanist signatories never envisioned the barbaric means by which dictators such as Stalin and Mao would “demand a shared life.”

In 1973 Humanist Manifesto II was signed by twenty-one Nobel laureates. The document began with these telling words: Read more about From the Archives: Humanism's Delusional Dream

Following in the Footsteps of Faith Part 6: The Life-Long Process of “Faith Refinement”

Meeting of Abraham & Melchizedek, Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–67

Read the series so far.

Listen sometime to an NFL or college football coach after they have just won a Super Bowl or national championship. Almost inevitably you will get some excitement about this achievement in their lives and how much it means to the players, etc. But that interview always seems to come back to this theme: “that was great, but it means that the coaches who didn’t make the playoffs have had this much time to get a head start on next season.” It’s a never-ending process.

On a much smaller scale I go through this each week with sermon prep. I study, pray, meditate, study some more, and form a message (hopefully from God) from the text for the week. I stand up Sunday and deliver a word from the Lord, then go home exhausted. Sunday night we do it again. Monday is a day of rest, and the cycle begins again on Tuesday. Read more about Following in the Footsteps of Faith Part 6: The Life-Long Process of “Faith Refinement”

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