ADVENT: Born to Die

What follows is an excerpt from The Story of Reality—How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between by Greg Koukl.


I want you to think for a moment about what the Story says about Christmas. Now when I say “Christmas,” I am not speaking of any of those things that usually come to mind when you think about the birth of Christ. I do not want you to think, for example, about shepherds or wise men or stables or mangers or anything like that. Those things all have their place, but they have nothing at all to do with my point.

I am talking about something in the Story you probably have never noticed. I want you to consider the most important Christmas verse in the Story that you will never see on a Christmas card, and you will never hear in a Christmas pageant because it is not in the accounts of Jesus’ birth at all. In fact, it does not appear anywhere in the record of His life. Instead, you find it in a dark and foreboding passage that speaks of blood and sacrifice and death. It is a section of the Story recounting a ghastly, grisly system of slaughter where bulls and goats were bled out, their innocent lives forfeit on behalf of others who were the guilty ones.

Now, I think it is obvious to just about everyone that animals can never really pay for people at all. The system of sacrifice God gave to the Hebrews, as important as it was, served only as a kind of sop, a temporary measure to cover man’s moral wound for the moment. It would never do in the long run, and it was not meant to. No, man owes the debt, and in the long run man, not creatures, must pay. And only a sinless man—someone with no debt of his own—could cover the debt of another. And only a man who was more than a man could ever pay for the sins of multitudes.

And this brings us to the most important Christmas verse you will never hear on Christmas. Here it is:

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings You were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about Me in the scroll—I have come to do Your will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:5-7 NIV)

Note the opening words of this passage: “When Christ came into the world….” The Story is saying that on that first Christmas, in some incredible way the eternal Son of God in a baby’s body said to His Father, “Here I am. I will do as You have asked. I accept the body You have prepared for Me, the body that will bleed out in perfect payment for sin.”

And this is the answer to our question. This is why Jesus came to earth. God’s Son surrendered His sinless human self to be the future unblemished offering to perfectly and completely save sinners.

read more here…

Advertisements

ADVENT: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

Advent means “coming”. We get our word from the Latin “adventus” which is a translation of the Greek “parousia”, which is commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For followers of Jesus, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

This year, I want to share a few of the hymns that my family sing to help us focus on the season and bring us closer to the King of Kings who humbled himself to save us all from our rebellious hearts.



Although penned by Charles Wesley in in 1737, this carol did not become what it is today without two unwanted changes. Wesley originally wrote the first line to read “Hark! how all the welkin rings, glory to the King of Kings.” Welkin literally means the “vault of heaven makes a long noise.” It was set to one of Wesley’s melodies and gained favor throughout the Methodist movement. However, when published by his friend, George Whitefield, the first lyric was changed to “Hark? the herald angels sing” without his knowledge. Wesley was mortified at the change and refused to sing it to his dying day.

In 1855, William Cummings took a tune written by Felix Mendelssohn in tribute to Johann Gutenberg “Festgesang an die Knustler”, and combined it with the Whitefield rewrite, creating the carol that we love today. Although not exactly what Wesley had wanted it to be, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” still retains his intended Scriptural integrity and deep meaning.

Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king.”
Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king.”
Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings;
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn king.”

ADVENT: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Advent means “coming”. We get our word from the Latin “adventus” which is a translation of the Greek “parousia”, which is commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For followers of Jesus, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

This year, I want to share a few of the hymns that my family sing to help us focus on the season and bring us closer to the King of Kings who humbled himself to save us all from our rebellious hearts.



While reviewing scripture-based writings, John Mason Neale came across a Latin chant of unknown authorship. Much more than the simple, almost monotone, melodies employed during the earlier centuries of the Church, these words painted a rich illustration of the many biblical prophecies fulfilled by Christ’s birth.

Seizing on the importance of the song’s inspired text, Neale translated the words to English and set them to a fifteenth century processional. Although it has been translated into scores of languages and sung in wildly differing styles and arrangements, the simplistic yet spiritual nature of the song remains intact. It is reverent, a tribute to not only the birth of God’s son, but also the fulfillment of God’s promise to deliver His children from the world.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny ;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

ADVENT: Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Advent means “coming”. We get our word from the Latin “adventus” which is a translation of the Greek “parousia”, which is commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ. For followers of Jesus, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.

This year, I want to share a few of the hymns that my family sing to help us focus on the season and bring us closer to the King of Kings who humbled himself to save us all from our rebellious hearts.



Today is the first Sunday of Advent and I want to share a song that beautifully combines both perspectives of our anticipation.

Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is based on a Latin poem whose form that is in most hymnals today, was translated by John Mason Neale in 1851.

The original poem was a treatise against a heresy within the church during the life of its author, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-c. 413). During his lifetime, the Arian heresy was alive and well. There were many Christians who believed that before his incarnation, Jesus was created by God and therefore Jesus did not exist through all time. Jesus was a creature (“created being”) that, though divine, was not equal to the Father.Prudentius, who was a lawyer and eventually became a judge, used his legal skills to pen in poetic form what would eventually become the orthodox understanding of the Trinity.


1. Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!
2. This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!
3. O that birth forever blessèd,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bore the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!
4. O ye heights of heaven adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!
5. Christ, to Thee with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be:
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:36)

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father. (Psalm 2:7)

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John  4:9)

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:44)

All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43)

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. (Psalm 98:1)

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:9-14)

Why Celebrate Advent?

Once upon a time, there was a season in the church year known as “Advent.” The word comes to us from the Latin for “coming.” The purpose of the season was to anticipate the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting.

As early as the fourth century AD, Christians fasted during this season and ended their fasts with celebrations either of the arrival of the wise men or of the baptism of Jesus. For many Christians today, the most familiar sign of Advent is the lighting of candles—two purple candles, followed by a pink and then another purple—on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

Advent has fallen on hard times, though. In the Protestant and free-church traditions, the loss is somewhat understandable; we Baptists in particular tend to be suspicious of anything with origins in ancient or medieval tradition. Yet even in congregations that closely follow the rhythms of the church year, the meaning of Advent seems in danger of being misplaced. By the closing week of November, any sense of waiting has been eclipsed by the nativity scene in the lobby, the tannenbaum in the hall, and the list of Christmas parties in the newsletter.

[continued here…]

Seven Reasons to Celebrate Advent

I grew up in one of the branches of the church that did not celebrate Advent. Before the leftover turkey disappeared from the refrigerator, we were in full-blown Christmastide through December 25.

I was in my twenties before I was introduced to the tradition of Advent, and it frankly did not have much appeal right away. What was the value of four weeks of longing and expectation? It seems so contradictory to the prevailing atmosphere of festive, cheery glow in the shopping malls.

But I have grown to love Advent. And though it is not a mandated observance in Scripture, there are profitable reasons to consider making Advent part of your holiday rhythm. Here are seven potential benefits of observing Advent.

[continued here…]

From the Founding Fathers…

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

~ Declaration of Independence