The Spirit of Christmas

The Christmas season is designed to be merry and bright.  Christmas lights, trees decorated with ornaments and angels, carolers singing hymns of the Messiahs birth, and figgy pudding make up the ambiance of the season.  Gift exchanges and family gatherings highlight our favorite time of year.  More importantly we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, on Christmas.  Children’s Christmas plays reveal an adorable portrayal of Jesus’ birth surrounded by angels, shepherds, sheep, and wise men offering gifts to the newborn king.  Nativity scenes also reveal the charming nature of the event that would alter the cosmic course of history.  This Christmas I would remind you that the first Christmas was anything but merry or bright.

Jesus was born an illegitimate child, according to his peers, to Joseph and Mary, a poor couple from an undesirable neighborhood.  In order to prevent their newborn from being slaughtered at the hands of Herod the Great, the migrants smuggled the infant across the Egyptian border until it was safe to return to Israel.  Growing up in Nazareth Jesus would, no doubt, have been relentlessly teased as a child for being poor and having a “scandalous” mother.  This reality brings a whole new meaning to “treat others the way you want to be treated” (Luke 6:31).  This is the harrowing tale of Christmas, the colossal event often referred to as the Incarnation.  In this way God joins the human race to demonstrate His unending love and offer His perfect peace.

The story of Christmas is not as pretty as we present in children’s plays or pose in our nativity scenes.  It is a frightening tragedy.  The Christmas story should even challenge our own preferred holiday traditions.  When we swipe our credit card to purchase that final stocking stuffer, are we sharing the Christmas spirit?  What about when we order that Barbie doll for that special girl in our life, you know the one who already has 14 Barbie dolls?  Is this how Jesus really wants us to celebrate his birthday?  Some say we should make every effort to “put Christ back in Christmas,” but I wonder if we have corrupted Christmas to the point where Jesus would rather sit the holiday out.  “Let Satan have this one,” I can imagine Jesus saying.

Christmas is a vital part of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.  Christmas calls us to worship God, welcome the stranger in our midst, root out prejudices, and love others like God loves us.  Christmas is an invitation to Trust God, Bless Others, and Celebrate Grace.  Only when we do this do we reclaim the theological truth and the spirit of Christmas.  Merry Christmas!

Understanding the Empty Tomb

The tomb is empty on Easter morning.  Jesus is not there, for he has risen!  How do we interpret the meaning of the empty tomb?  How did those close to Jesus understand his resurrection?   In this Episode of the Scripture and Spice Podcast, we are going to dive into ways to interpret the resurrection of Jesus and the good news of the empty tomb.

Also in this Episode:

– How do Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple react to the empty tomb?
– How does Jesus reveal himself to his followers?
– John 20:1-2

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Lessons from the Cross

The Cross has been the symbol of Christianity for centuries.  What do we know about Crucifixion from the ancient world? How might these insights help us to understand Jesus’ death better?  In this episode of the Scripture and Spice Podcast, learn about Jesus’ death on the cross, and the political and religious implications.

Also in this Episode:

  • What typically happened to the bodies of those crucified?
  • What does archaeology teach us about the ancient practice of crucifixion?
  • What makes this specific crucifixion unusual for Pilate?
  • Scripture of the Day: Matthew 27:11-24

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

 

Messiah in the New Testament

Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2

  • What does the term Christ mean?  Is it the last name of Jesus of Nazareth?
  • What is the difference between “Messiah” and “Christ?”
  • Cyrus as Messiah?
  • What does it mean to say that Jesus is the Christ?
  • What do the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke tell us about Jesus?

 

Jesus & Temple Economics

Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48, John 2:13-22

  • What economic implications does the temple have in Israel during the lifetime of Jesus?
  • What does Jesus think about taxes and sacrifices associated with the Temple in Jerusalem?
  • Why does Jesus cleanse the temple?
  • Luke’s Gospel as good news for the poor.
  • Was Jesus a Capitalist?