54 thoughts on “Our Daily Thread 3-31-18

  1. I have some of those spring flowers.
    Only mine are white.
    Pretty anyhow.
    Good morning everyone but Jo.
    Jo should be in bed snoozing by now.

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  2. Morning all. We have those flowers here, too.
    I finished my newsletter, but it isn’t checked yet.
    Just staying up to finish off the dough for the croissants that I am bringing to lunch tomorrow. It needs to be refrigerated for four hours or up to four days.
    So I will have to roll them out before church in the morning.

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  3. I have yellow ones, the only flowers that grow in both front and back yards here, but I don’t like the yellow ones much.

    But a bunch of purple tulips are up and blooming, and it’s the last time I’ll get to enjoy them, so I am. The crocuses are kind of messed up in their blooming, not many this year and scattered a bit, including one in some grass we just planted around the corner last year, so I am guessing some rodent got into the bulbs. But someone else can worry about it, or not worry about it.

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  4. Roscuro, I am really surprised that “Smitten, Stricken, and Afflicted” was new to you. We sang it last night, too, by the way. And always on Good Friday.
    We also sang “When I Survey.” The tune was the same as I’m used to but the timing was different. We usually have the music printed in the bulletin but for this one, it was only the words. At first I thought the organist was changing the timing but when I looked in the hymnal, I saw that there were two versions and the one listed in the bulletin was the one with the odd timing. I didn’t care for it.

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  5. Morning…I have been up since 4…oh sleep where art thou?!!!
    Those are very pretty flowers up there. I have those and yellow ones…mine do not bloom til summer’s end though. My first flowers of the summer are peonies and they do not bloom until the end of June/early July. My butterfly bushes blossom mid June usually and you just never know if the lilac is going to appear. I believe it has only blossomed twice in our 8 years of living in the forest….sure is hard on a person who loves to garden and smile at flowers! 🌺

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  6. I told you all last night that I felt I had been pecked by a mean little red hen. I have an aversion to red hens. One chased me as a child.
    If you subscribe to the theory of a “love bank” and in this instance I will just call it an “emotion bank” I am severely overdrawn. Last night I didn’t have another penny to spend.
    While I still love my job, teaching the agents, being the broker, answering questions, organizing the awards luncheon, working with another market center to bring a national class to the area, and a multitude of other things I do around the office like empty the trash and make the coffee…I am feeling drained by it.
    I overslept last Sunday so I didn’t make it to church. I came in here to do a few things and stopped at 7pm. Monday and Thursday I was in class all day which meant I had to do the things that didn’t get done when I was in class. I got a new listing last week which meant all that –paperwork, scheduling photographer, etc. In between all of that I answered calls from agents attended a couple of meetings, went on a listing appointment, wrote an offer for someone yesterday, and am dealing with a personal friend who is an agent in Texas and wants to move back. Last week was a blur. Some of you got really short and to the point answers from me when I really wanted to say more….like DJ–I don’t like the green for your house when I usually really love green. I like the red better, but the blue door won’t go with it. 😦
    Cheryl, I have lots to say about your situation but I know everything is going to work out for the best. I have a good feeling about all of this.
    I tried to take yesterday off, but it didn’t work that way. The team I work with to sell real estate in addition to my job as broker/trainer is starting to make additional demands which is within their right to do so. I need help! but I can’t get it because of a program my market center has in place where everyone is sort of strong armed into joining productivity coaching at 10% of their commission. I have gone until I can’t go anymore and need a break but that isn’t coming. I also start a 3 day a week class I am teaching for four weeks starting Monday.
    The thing that tipped me over the top yesterday was that the team I work with wanted to know when I am holding an open house on the new listing I have. That would be on a Saturday or Sunday and I just can’t figure out how to make it work.
    I think I might feel better if I were at least acknowledged or thanked for what I do. At the awards luncheon last week, the Team Leader brought 4 of us up to the front and thanked all of us for getting everything done for the luncheon. The productivity coach teaches a class and gets all kinds of thank you’s and “great class with B…. today” on the private FB page. What I want is a little recognition and a thank you too, but I don’t get it. I refuse to ask for it because then it isn’t sincere.
    I am tired and I have nothing left to give anyone.
    NOW, I will try to get over my pity party and write all the thank you notes to the sponsors the of the awards luncheon so when I beg them for money in September/October they will once again be willing to give.

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  7. Kim, you are amazing, really, and I have no idea how you do all you do (and you probably make it look so effortless and smooth that no one realizes all the steps and juggling and quick thinking that goes into it all). I hope you can take today for some much deserved down time. And don’t worry, I won’t paint the house red, green and blue while you’re not looking

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  8. KIm. It is appropriate.
    Go over to the Prayer thread and read my comment.
    It will work out for you. It is much better than working with “Guy” that you had.
    Busy isn’t bad. It will work out.

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  9. Roscuro, from yesterday, indeed Jesus’s conception and birth are important parts of His incarnation. But celebrating Jesus’ birth (at least American style) ends up being sappy and sentimental and cute, and that isn’t what the incarnation was–even the infancy part. I’m sure we see babies with a lot more sentiment than they did (even while we kill a third or so of them before birth and put most of the ones that have been born into day care within a few months), but even the baby Jesus was worshiped as a King, not cooed over as “so cute.”

    Last Christmas, for example, members of my extended family requested a birthday cake for Jesus as part of a family event so that their three-year-old could sing “happy birthday” to “baby Jesus.” He isn’t “baby Jesus” anymore! While I think Jesus loves the praise of children, the idea of reducing Him to someone smaller and more helpless than a three-year-old is and singing to Him as a baby rubs me the wrong way. It isn’t “proper worship.”

    I’m OK with celebrating the incarnation as part of one’s Christmas celebration. But I hate reducing the celebration to seeing Jesus as little and cute and helpless. Yes, part of the incarnation is that He humbled Himself to the point of infancy. How can the Lord of all creation become a zygote? But the cuteness isn’t the message and is, in my opinion, a major distraction from the message. We want our gods manageable, and the baby in the manger is. He’s (literally) a child’s toy, a doll a child can run around with.

    Years and years ago, I was appalled by a couple versions of a stuffed-toy doll Jesus (not really a “baby” in that instance, think a flannelgraph Jesus in robes) that was supposed to provide comfort to children by being something they could cuddle at night. Some of the ways we present Jesus to children are disrespectful and some even blasphemous. This is what I have trouble with. (This isn’t the same doll, but the same idea: https://www.hallmark.com/gifts/toys/dolls-and-pretend-play/my-friend-jesus-stuffed-doll-13-1KID3468.html )

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  10. Well that’s pretty creepy (the doll).

    It’s so foggy this morning I can barely see across the street. The fog horns are sounding off in the harbor.

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  11. Mama Ruth used to host a neighborhood Birthday Party for Jesus a few days before Christmas. She had done all of her Christmas shopping in the summer and was prepared. She baked a cake and invited everyone else’s children to her house for a birthday party while the other mothers shopped and cooked.
    Knowing her, I am sure the children left with the true meaning of Christmas.

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  12. Cheryl – Like you, I don’t like hearing references to “Baby Jesus”, and the idea of Jesus dolls makes me cringe.

    Years ago, during the Beanie Baby craze, we bought two little Beanie Baby “praying bears” for the girls. They’re little bears kneeling, with their palms together, and their eyes closed. Cute and sweet. A few years ago, after the girls had outgrown them and “abandoned” them, Hubby started keeping those two bears by his pillow. (It was during a particularly rough time.) He named them Gabriel and Michael, after the archangels, but that made me feel uncomfortable. I told him that Gabriel and Michael were fierce, strong angels, not cute little bears. He took my words to heart and stopped calling them those names.

    A post script to this story is that at some point when The Boy was littler, he tossed one of those bears into the air, and it disappeared. Couldn’t find it anywhere we looked. So Hubby went online and ordered two more. I thought it unnecessary to order two, but he wanted an extra one in case another one went missing. Shortly after the new ones arrived, I found the missing bear between my dresser and the wall.

    So when Hubby died, there were four of those bears – one for each of us. I have mine on my bedside table. I think he would be happy that we all have one, and that they are special to us as a remembrance of him and of his belief in prayer. (And hopefully also a remembrance of his belief in the One to whom we pray.)

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  13. I let son use one of the flip phones we kept in the event one of the sixteen’s would “need” it for communication. Only for spring break so he could be in contact with his bosses and they with him. And he had to return it every evening and if we discover any use besides telephone use (texting, internet, games, apps, etc) we would not let him use it for the summer. Anyway, I was looking in the user book for instructions so I could check useage or history or whatever (there are no such instructions) I learned that I should not put the phone in the microwave. Who needs to be told that??? I could have used instructions on history and passwords and parental blocking but apparently there are none.

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  14. Did you know you can find out how to do nearly everything on the Internet?

    I have 2 of my favorite drinking glasses, both delicate, stuck/wedged together, one inside the other. I’ve been trying to gently separate them for 2 days now, no luck. I just found a video online that tells you how to do that (ice water in the top glass and submerge bottom glass in hot water). Who knew? I’ll see if it works later today.

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  15. Michelle, you are way, way out of our moving route, but I appreciate the offer. 🙂 Ideally we won’t need any temporary housing, except for the days when the condo is being cleaned and painted and so on, and we already have a place to stay in that time.

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  16. Have a wonderful Easter! I have a few moments break after lunch. We have had clients talking about Jesus today. It is nice when strangers meet and automatically connect over knowledge and love of Jesus.

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  17. Cheryl, personal anecdotes of tacky celebrations does not mean that all or even most celebrations of Christmas are that way. There have been cute elements in my experience of Christmas celebrations – live nativities made up of small children playing the parts are inevitably cute – but that does not take away from the wonder of what we are celebrating.

    As for the idea that Jesus was only worshiped as a king, and not cooed over, human experience would suggest otherwise. I observe, in the mix of cultures and ethnicities in this city, that their reaction to small children is uniform; they all melt and smile at the little ones and say silly things in silly voices. Every culture treats babies as cute. When Simeon took the 6 week old Jesus up into his arms, he would have handled him with all the tender care we lavish on infants. When the small children were brought to Jesus, the disciples, full of their solemn and ridiculous self importance as followers of a Rabbi, tried to send them away, but Jesus scolded them and took the children up in his arms to bless them. He was not too important to show tenderness for the least of these, for he had once been that small.

    I once read a comment by a Muslim on a Egyptian Christmas song that was posted on YouTube – the commenter said how offensive the idea was that God should do human things such as pass through a woman’s birth canal and sit on a toilet. I thought, “That’s it! That’s the whole point!” God did become a mundane human, and participated in all the mundane activities that humans do – including being a baby who cooed back at his mother when she crooned over him.

    The mindset of that commenter was very similar to the mindset of the Pharisees who told Nicodemus, when he tried to defend Jesus, that nothing good ever came out of Nazareth. The Pharisees had created a hierarchy of the high and respectable over the low and mundane. Paul later warned the Christians against such a mindset: “Mind not high things, but associate with men of low estate” (Romans 12:16).

    Jesus was a man of low estate. He was a manual laborer by trade, a poor man without a house to live in, uneducated even by the standards of the day. “When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Muslim and Jew are both offended by the mundane qualities of our Saviour – “to the Jews a stumbling block, to the Greeks foolishness.” Yet we Christians should remember it was because of that utter ordinariness that he could die for us. Jesus is God, but he is also human and only by being fully both could he provide us with salvation. There is no irreverence in wondering anew over how completely God became flesh. “Great is the mystery of Godliness,” Paul marveled, “God manifest in the flesh.”

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  18. We have daylilies that grow wild along our road. We have taken a few clumps back to grow where we are. The one’s in the photos are single lilies, but we have double and even triple blooms on our daylilies. The double and triple ones are not fertile – I remember learning while studying high school biology that certain plants can quadruple their copies of DNA but it means they cannot produce seed – instead the daylillies clone themselves through the roots.

    Kizzie, the wee laddie I mentioned last evening bears the name of one of those powerful angels. He is very weak in contrast to his namesake, and as a human, always will be. I do not see the irreverence in naming the little after the great. One of my cousins once named her cat after our grandmother, – at the time, the cousin had not known if she would have children and was sorrowing the loss of our grandmother and wanted to do something to remember her. None of us took any offence.
    Also, I was not aware that we were commanded to show more reverence to the angels than we do to humans. I remember when Pastor A preached through Hebrews, he mentioned that the second chapter of Hebrews – which shows that Jesus is worthy of worship in contrast to the angels – was written in the context of the angel worship that the Jews practiced (something they have in common with the Muslims, incidentally). Powerful being the angels may be, but they are not gods.

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  19. Roscuro – It wasn’t only the names themselves, but that he was kind of acting as if they were stand-ins for those angels. My discomfort wasn’t in the sense of worshiping or revering the angels themselves, but in how God has made them to be powerful creatures to do His bidding. Their power, of course, comes from and is ordained by God. So in some way, seeing God’s powerful creatures treated as cute little bears seemed somewhat irreverent to me. Not horribly so, and not anywhere near blasphemy or anything like that, but it just didn’t sit right with me. Hubby understood.

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  20. Also, Roscuro – I forgot to ask you a question before posting the above.

    You said that Jesus was uneducated. I once heard a pastor say that Jesus must have had enough education to be able to be called Rabbi/Teacher. Do you think that is possible, that in the years for which we have no biblical text, Jesus had some education? Or was name Rabbi used more loosely than that pastor thought? (He insisted that one needed a rabbinical education to be referred to as Rabbi.)

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  21. According to https://hymnary.org/text/when_i_survey_the_wondrous_cross_watts, the most common tune in hymnbooks for “When I survey” is Hamburg, which most of us know, and the second most common is Rockingham:

    As long as the melody has the correct metre – for ‘When I survey’ it is 8.8.8.8. (8 syllables to each line) – and the right number of melody lines to fit the stanzas, any tune can be used for any hymn. There is quite a difference in tune choice between the U.K. and U.S., for example, as there is between denominations. Winston Churchill remarked in his WWII account Their Finest Hour about his Christmas time visit to the U.S. and singing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ to a different tune (the Americans sang it to a melody by an American composer, and the British sang it to an English folktune). It is the hymns with irregular metre – the ones with a chorus are often irregular – which need specially composed music to fit them.

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  22. Here’s something I ran across on Facebook. I have no idea how accurate or inaccurate this is, and there were no sources listed. To the best of my recollection, I don’t think I’d ever heard that John had survived an attempted execution before being exiled to Patmos.

    “HOW THE APOSTLES DIED.
    1. Matthew
    Suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, Killed by a sword wound.
    2. Mark
    Died in Alexandria, Egypt , after being dragged by Horses through the streets until he was dead.
    3. Luke
    Was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous Preaching to the lost.
    4. John
    Faced martyrdom when he was boiled in huge Basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution In Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered From death.
    John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic Book of Revelation on Patmos . The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve As Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey . He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully
    5. Peter
    He was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross.
    According to church tradition it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die In the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
    6. James
    The leader of the church in Jerusalem , was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his
    enemies beat James to death with a fuller’s club.
    * This was the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the Temptation.
    7. James the Son of Zebedee,
    was a fisherman by trade when Jesus Called him to a lifetime of ministry. As a strong leader of the church, James was beheaded at Jerusalem. The Roman officer who guarded James watched amazed as James defended his faith at his trial. Later, the officer Walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and Knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.
    8. Bartholomew
    Also known as Nathaniel Was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed for our Lord in present day Turkey. Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death by a whip.
    9. Andrew
    Was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: ‘I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.’ He continued to preach to his tormentors For two days until he expired.
    10. Thomas
    Was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church in the Sub-continent.
    11. Jude
    Was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
    12. Matthias
    The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded.
    13. Paul
    Was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write his many
    epistles to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire. These letters, which taught many of the foundational Doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.”

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  23. Kizzie, being called Rabbi (master) is not necessarily a sign of education. It is not a title of a degree like our Doctor. Rather, the one who learns from a Rabbi is the one who calls him Rabbi, the way a child in school may call their instructor ‘Teacher’. It is something the Western mind does not understand very well, but I understood it a little better after what I witnessed in West Africa. There, Sufism is the predominant form of Islam. Sufism has many strands, as each Sufi teacher puts their own brand of interpretation on Islam. Sufi brotherhoods exist across the Muslim world, from Afghanistan to West Africa, and the followers of each brotherhood visit the shrines of their particular master or teacher (hence the reason the puritanical Wahhabists and Salafists oppose and persecute the Sufi). The well known convert from Islam, Nabeel Qureshi – whom we have discussed on here – grew up under the teaching of one such Sufi brotherhood based in Pakistan. I once saw one such up and coming Sufi preacher come visit the village for an all night preaching during a month in the dry season that people make time for such activities. This teacher had originated from the village and was a manual laborer who had never had a formal education. As his car drove into the village past the house I was in, the crowds ran alongside, touching the sides of the car and shouting his name. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I had a clearer picture after that of the sheer enthusiasm of the crowd who surrounded Jesus on his entry to Jerusalem. In the Eastern mindset, if a man can gather followers, he is a teacher. There is many a guru in India who is neither a Brahman (priestly line) by birth nor an educated man, but yet may gather thousands to his following. It is quite a democratic way of becoming a teacher when one thinks about it – teacher by the will of the people 🙂

    Jesus, when the Jews marveled how he could preach on spiritual truths, having never studied them, replied he had learned them of his Father (John 7:15-16; 12:49). That there was a formal school for the Pharisees is evident from what Paul said of his education “at the feet of Gamaliel.” Paul was of high status, being both a Roman citizen and a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He had the formal education that Jesus did not. I remember reading a skeptical historian speak at length how Paul with his extensive education, not Jesus, was really responsible for the spread of Christianity. The historian made the mistake of thinking that a formal education was necessary to be able to know how to speak the truth about God. It is the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). Paul’s extensive education in the things of God was useless until the Holy Spirit convinced him that Jesus was Lord.

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  24. Thanks, Roscuro. I had been skeptical while listening to that sermon. (That was our former pastor, not our current one, and there were a few things he said that made me wonder where he got his facts from.)

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  25. Kizzie, some of those are recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs – I distinctly remember reading about Peter there, and also Paul, but Foxe was published in 1563. I had read that John was tortured – some accounts I’ve read said he was dipped in boiling oil – before being exiled. All the accounts of the apostles death, with the exception of James the elder, brother of John, are based on Church tradition, and fragments mentioned in passing in early church writings: https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/how-do-we-know-10-of-disciples-were-martyred.html.

    What I find more interesting is the living evidence of the disciples’ work. I was just researching about the Christian community in India, which began with Thomas’ work there. The community has had its problems the centuries, becoming too comfortable in the world, but they have gone through several reformations and are still in existence, numbering some 4 million (in that particular community, as there are, of course, many other denominations in India as a result of European missionary activity): https://www.britannica.com/topic/Thomas-Christians.

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  26. Roscuro, I almost said that of course Jesus as a baby would have been doted on by His mother and by others, that cuteness is part of being a baby–but one cannot say everything possible in a blog comment and I didn’t. My point is more that we have made it sentimental and our focus of the incarnation is mostly on the birth and the wee little baby, and Scripture just doesn’t put a huge emphasis there.

    I started teaching Sunday school at 13 after a lifetime in a Christian home, and one of my first lessons was Jesus’ birth. I didn’t just read the lesson material, I went to the Bible to read all that it said about the birth, and was shocked to realize His birth is only mentioned in two Gospels, and very little said about it in either. I went to my mother in some surprise. “Is this really all that is written about it?” “Yes, that’s all.”

    I don’t think there is any evidence the early church celebrated Jesus’ birthday, and I think the idea probably would have seemed odd. I have no particular problem with Christmas; I just don’t really see it as a “Christian” holiday (spiritually significant). But I have no problem with people who do, as long as it doesn’t become a sentimental thing that trivializes, domesticates, or cute-ifies the Lord of the universe.

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  27. I guess I think of Christmas and Easter all in a combined package of miracle after miracle fulfilling God’s plan foretold by prophecy in the Old Testament. I don’t compartmentalize them into one being more trivial than the other. It’s like that saying about something being only as effective as the weakest link. Without Jesus born as a baby then there would have been no Jesus the man who would follow through with the rest of His Father’s plan for salvation.

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  28. Cheryl’s moving? I’ve been so busy lately that I don’t get all the comments read. Where to (by that I mean across town or a long distance)? When?

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  29. Winter weather is coming back. Today was 57° in the morning, with dropping temps all day. Tomorrow it’s going to snow up to 4 inches and only get to 32°. The farmers say if it rains on Easter then it rains the following 7 Sundays. But what if it snows on Easter?

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  30. There are three vitally important incidents which are only in the Gospel of John, no other Gospel records them – there are actually more that only John records, but these three stand out in the mind: the coming of Nicodemus to Jesus, where Jesus speaks of the second birth; the raising of Lazarus from the dead, where Jesus declares he is the Resurrection and the Life; and the sermon to the disciples and prayer of Jesus after the Last Supper and before his arrest, where he speaks of the Comforter that would come. No other Gospel records these incidents or the words that were spoken at them. Does that make them less important?

    Jesus’ birth is recorded twice in the Gospels because both John and Mark begin their accounts at John the Baptist’s preaching, but if Luke and Matthew had not established that Jesus was born, the Gnostics might have had far more fuel for their false claim that Jesus had not come in the flesh (because they believed the physical body was evil – in fact, some Gnostics celebrated Jesus’ baptism because they said that was when he became God). In fact, Mark and John’s openings would be utterly confusing without Luke’s account, because Luke is the only one who explains just who John the Baptist. The accounts of the Birth are vital not only to show that Jesus was born as a human, but also that he was the Son of God. Paul’s statement that Jesus was born of a virgin would have no meaning were it not for Matthew and Luke two accounts. Only Luke records Gabriel’s words to Mary and only Matthew records the angel’s words to Joseph on the subject of the conception, yet those two short accounts are inscribed into the Apostles and Nicene Creeds which are the foundation of every confession of faith in every church:

    …I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
    and born of the virgin Mary…

    …And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God…
    For us and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven;
    he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary,…

    Those creeds are evidence that the early church considered Jesus birth to be vitally important. Incidentally, the earliest record of of Christ’s birth being December 25 is the early church writing of Hippolytus’ Commentary on Daniel, dated about 205 A.D; while the first recorded observation of the birth of Christ on December 25 was in 336 A.D., according to a record written 18 years later in 354. By way of comparison, the Nicene Creed was written in 325 A.D.

    It is true birthday anniversaries are not as well celebrated in primarily illiterate societies. That is partly because seasons, rather than dates, mark the passage of time – in West Africa, for example, the birth of a child was celebrated 8 days later at the baby naming ceremony, but subsequent anniversaries of the day were generally not marked, although all that was changing, as more people who were more literate took note of the date. They rather took to the idea of a special day to celebrate the anniversary of one’s birth. It would seem that Roman society also changed, as the Julian calendar became well established (it can take quite some time for such changes to sift down through the layers of a society). But whether they marked the anniversary or not, Christ’s birth was important to the early church. Justin Martyr, repeatedly spoke of Christ’s birth of a virgin as a significant piece of evidence for the deity and humanity of Christ in his Apologies and Dialogue with Trypho. His expounding of the event of Christ’s is quite interesting for what it reveals of the early church teachings only 100 years after Christ ascended to heaven:

    “Now this king Herod, at the time when the Magi came to him from Arabia, and said they knew from a star which appeared in the heavens that a King had been born in your country, and that they had come to worship Him, learned from the elders of your people that it was thus written regarding Bethlehem in the prophet: ‘And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art by no means least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall go forth the leader who shall feed my people.’ Accordingly the Magi from Arabia came to Bethlehem and worshipped the child, and presented Him with gifts, gold and frankincense, and myrrh; but returned not to Herod, being warned in a revelation after worshipping the child in Bethlehem. And Joseph, the spouse of Mary, who wished at first to put away his betrothed Mary, supposing her to be pregnant by intercourse with a man, i.e. from fornication, was commanded in a vision not to put away his wife; and the angel who appeared to him told him that what is in her womb is of the Holy Ghost. Then he was afraid, and did not put her away; but on the occasion of the first census which was taken in Judaea, under Cyrenius, he went up from Nazareth, where he lived, to Bethlehem, to which he belonged, to be enrolled; for his family was of the tribe of Judah, which then inhabited that region. Then along with Mary he is ordered to proceed into Egypt, and remain there with the child until another revelation warn them to return into Judæa. But when the child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him…
    “So Herod, when the Magi from Arabia did not return to him, as he had asked them to do, but had departed by another way to their own country, according to the commands laid on them; and when Joseph, with Mary and the child, had now gone into Egypt, as it was revealed to them to do; as he did not know the child whom the Magi had gone to worship, ordered simply the whole of the children then in Bethlehem to be massacred. And Jeremiah prophesied that this would happen, speaking by the Holy Ghost thus: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and much wailing, Rachel weeping for her children; and she would not be comforted, because they are not.’ Therefore, on account of the voice which would be heard from Ramah, i.e. from Arabia (for there is in Arabia at this very time a place called Rama), wailing would come on the place where Rachel the wife of Jacob called Israel, the holy patriarch, has been buried, i.e. on Bethlehem; while the women weep for their own slaughtered children, and have no consolation by reason of what has happened to them. (Excerpt from Dialogue with Trypho)

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  31. HE IS RISEN!
    Today is also April Fool’s Day. Be careful.

    It was good that Dr. Luke had to spend a couple of years in Jerusalem while Paul was in prison. He had a chance to talk to Mary (Jesus’s mother), Mary Magdalene, and others who had intimate knowledge. He told their story as it connected with Jesus.
    Gives us an entirely angle to look at the incarnation.
    As does John. (The disciple)
    Mark doesn’t even start until John was put into prison. Jesus and John had parallel ministries for a while.

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  32. Roscuro, the incarnation is extremely important. But the early church changed the day of worship because of the resurrection. Do we have any indication that the apostles knew Jesus’ birthday or that the very early church (e.g., the church under apostolic authority) had any sort of “holy day” to celebrate either the incarnation itself, or specifically the birth of Christ?

    If we do not (and I am nearly positive that we do not), then there is no reason at all to think that an individual church (or an individual family) that makes a point of a religious celebration of Christ’s birth is somehow more theologically attuned than one that does not.

    We hear Christians all the time who are shocked that their school district has dropped the songs about Jesus’ birth, or this town doesn’t allow manger displays, etc.–yet the early church would not have recognized even the validity of any of this, let alone its religiously mandatory nature. That is my hunch. Not that they would not have thanked God for the incarnation as they prayed, but that their focus was on the consummation of it all–His death and resurrection. Adding holy days willy nilly (whether to celebrate Jesus’ birth or special days related to Mary or one of the saints) seemed to have been a Roman Catholic thing (which is why we have Christ-mass), and as we need not follow their lead in adding sacraments, so we need not follow their lead in adding holy days. It isn’t wrong to spend time thanking God for sending Jesus, and to have a special time in the calendar that acts as a personal reminder . . . but neither is it, necessarily, helpful. It easily devolves into things that are problematic (Precious Moment cute manger scenes, feminine angels, etc.) rather than the biblical focus.

    Roman Catholics accrue some kind of religious credit for doing such things as lighting candles to Mary or saying extra prayers on a holy day. And I know “Protestants” who would feel at least some distress if for some reason they couldn’t get out their manger scenes this year, whether it’s putting one on the front lawn or putting up at least one for the family. I suspect the apostle Paul would have called some such gestures idolatry. (Maybe he would have called the baby Jesus “statue” idolatry, and maybe he would only call it so if it was seen as having religious significance, but I suspect that by the time Christians were judging how Christian other people or communities were by the presence or absence of statues of the incarnation, he would have done so.) I hesitate to do so myself–I have no apostolic authority and it’s beyond my pay grade–but I am very deliberate at Christmas time NOT to buy the stamps that have a manger scene and otherwise to avoid seeing Christmas as some special private holy day. It is always proper to give thanks to God for His good gifts, definitely including the incarnation. But how we do so, and when they run some risk of heading off into “forbidden” territory, is worth discussion. I am not saying that a manger scene is sinful–but I do believe it would be so for me, and I cannot see it as spiritually helpful for anyone. (It would be at best neutral, or helpful only as a reminder, getting the person to remember to read Scripture, for example.) But I say that with some hesitation, because God is a better judge of such things than I am.

    I think it is a very human thing to add celebrations: a baby’s birth, or a child’s birthday. I think it is a thing to be managed with care when we think of such events as holy days and not just as celebrations.

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  33. Peter, I have tried to be discreet as to details, much as I was in Nashville about the actual date I was marrying. But assuming some current glitches don’t derail the sale (as they could very well do), we will be selling our house sometime this spring and moving a few hours south (though the closing and the move will not happen the same day). The house has been sold and we have bought a condo, assuming all goes as planned–but this week we ran into a glitch that requires the buyer to get a different kind of financing than he currently qualifies for, and it’s currently an unknown how that will work out.

    We want to be farther south for multiple reasons, including less snow (we will have 40% as much as we get here, and slightly warmer winter temperatures) and being a bit closer to my family (including my widowed sister and her five children). But his mother lives locally and so does our married, pregnant daughter, and so we don’t want to go too far south. Yet my husband wants this to be our final move and so we were looking for a “senior friendly” move. Our current acre of land is simply too much to care for, for instance, and he is delighted that we ended up getting a condo (with very minimal yard care).

    A few weeks ago, we listed our house, sold it, took a couple of days to pack boxes, drove down to our new community (which has even more of a seller’s market than we do), looked at a condo being built and a used condo (in somewhat bedraggled condition), made an offer, and had that offer accepted . . . all in a week. In fact, within that week we had even had our condo inspected. (I had previously said the acceptance and inspection were one day past a week, but I was wrong about what day of the week we listed. It was Tuesday and not Monday that we listed, and we bought our condo on Monday and had the offer accepted on Tuesday–earlier in the day than we listed our own.)

    I’m inclined to say God brought together just the right home for us in amazing timing, and He will work out the further details too–but I know better than to think I know what God will do and how. So right now we are waiting on Him and watching to see what will happen.

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  34. Cheryl, in all this discussion, my purpose has not been to defend the celebration of Christmas as such (I do deplore the commercialization) but rather to emphasize that the birth of Christ is not simply a byline in the Scriptures. I do not think of even Sunday as a more holy day than any other day in the week, much less Christmas or Easter, so the concerns about Christmas being considered a holy day are somewhat lost on me. The term holiday is a shortening of holy day, but we speak of holidays of other religions without thinking the term renders the day actually holy.

    As for the historical generalizations that you make about holy days there are more facts to be considered. In the 300s, the Church was not yet Catholic [As for adding holy days, the other branches of the early church which broke off before the Catholics formed their Holy Roman Empire, such as the Coptic, the Syrian, and the Orthodox, have such days too and all of them observe the Nativity, as the songs that I have shared of theirs over the years show]. But what did happen in the 300s was the great struggle against Arianism, the popular heresy which denied that Jesus was fully God. The Council of Nicea was formed to refute Arianism, and the Nicene Creed was written as the dividing line between the true and the false church; while the term theotokos, meaning God bearer, was used by such defenders of the faith as Athanasius to describe Mary as the bearer of God – the term was not used to elevate Mary, but to elevate Jesus to his proper place as God the Son. The deity of Christ was, clearly, in the very early church writers, never in question until Arian. The 300s, as I have stated, is when we see the first recorded observations of December 25th as the day of the Nativity, although the date had been identified before that as the probable one for Christ’s birth.

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  35. Roscuro, The tune (to “When I survey”) was the typical, most common tune. It was the meter that was different. I tried to find a copy of it online to link to but couldn’t. If you ever come across the new (burgandy) LCMS Worship book, it’s on page 450. Maybe Michelle has an electronic version of it.
    I am very familiar with the alternate tune you shared and it is actually my favorite.

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  36. Janice, I noticed that H&R Block was open today — they had the curbside on one of the main streets I take to church staked out with sign after sign.

    We had quite a few people for the Easter ‘early’ service (the only time we do that as it’s simply too crowded to fit everyone + guests into our usual 10 a.m. service).

    It’s gardening day for me from here on out, however.

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  37. Roscuro, the birth of Christ is indeed important in Scripture–but not as emphasizing Jesus as baby. When we speak of the incarnation, we usually almost completely ignore Jesus as man, and look only on Jesus as baby. I don’t think that is a biblical emphasis.

    And yes, I do think that Scripture makes a distinction between the “sacred” or “holy” and that which is for common use. I know that “holiday” comes from “holy day,” and am arguing that Christmas is not a holy day (but the Lord’s day is). The New Testament use of the Sabbath / Lord’s day is not the same as the Old Testament use, but the idea is not simply done away with. And there is a distinction between baptism (holy) and a bath (common) or between Scripture and the newspaper.

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  38. Cheryl, I disagree that when speaking of the incarnation we almost completely ignore Jesus as a man. I was noticing today, as we sang several hymns, that many started with his incarnation, moved to his death, and ended with his resurrection – the hymn ‘One day (when heaven was filled with his praises)’ is an example – and many of the Christmas carols I have shared over the years similarly tell the story, even starting out in the Garden of Eden to explain the reason Christ came. I started out my Christian life as an adult having been trained to look cynically for how far other Christians fall short of the Scriptures in their practices, but I constantly find them better than I had been told.

    As for the Sabbath that God made holy, the Sabbath of the Church is Christ, as Hebrews makes clear: “For we who have believed do enter the rest… Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:3, 9-10). We rest from trying to attain salvation by works in Jesus Christ. Paul could say in Romans 14 that it was fine if someone regarded one day as no more special than another because the Sabbath had been fulfilled in Christ.

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  39. Cheryl – I understand being discreet. I also know what you’re going through with the house sale. We had one fall through and had to cancel the closing on the house we wanted to purchase.

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  40. Roscuro, I don’t think the question of whether one day is more special applies to whether or not a specific day is set aside as the Lord’s day.

    Also, when I was in college (in a hermeneutics class for women), while trying to decide what to preach on for one of my sermons, it occurred to me I had never heard a sermon specifically on “Jesus as man.” Jesus as God, yes; Jesus coming to earth as a baby, yes; elements of Jesus’ life (a specific incident), but never a sermon specifically focusing on the incarnation and Jesus coming as man. Thirty years later, I’m pretty sure I still haven’t.

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