[forthright] Pursuing God's Purposes ... Experiencing God's Grace / A Real Reason for Humbug!

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2009 06:45:27 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine 
http://www.forthright.net 
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: HANDS-ON FAITH

Pursuing God's Purposes ... Experiencing God's Grace 
 by Barry Newton

Pouring out their hearts before God that they might
fulfill their mission, the young Jerusalem congregation
had prayed: "grant your servants to speak your message
with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal …
through the name of your holy servant Jesus." (Acts
4:29,30)

They wanted the name of Jesus to be exalted. Their
lives were consumed with the desire for Jesus' story to
impact the life stories of those around them. Even in
the face of officials issuing powerful threats, this
young church's attention was riveted upon sharing
Jesus.

What happens when the heart and soul of a congregation
is galvanized upon fulfilling its divine purpose of
being their Lord's yeast in the community? The next
couple of paragraphs from Acts are no accident.

Not only did they speak "the word of God boldly"(4:31),
and the apostles proclaimed the resurrection of Christ
"with great power"(4:33), but this family of believers
were united "in heart and mind" and "shared everything
they had"(4:32). Indeed, the Christian community life
they experienced can be summed up with “abundant grace
was upon them all"(4:33).

Individualism wanes while a thriving knit community
arises whenever God's people share a common ground more
important to them than their personal competing self-
interests.

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COLUMN: REALITY CHECK

A Real Reason for Humbug! 
 by Stan Mitchell

"She will bear a son, and you shall call his name
Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins"
(Matthew 1:21, ESV).

History suggests that Christmas was originally held as
an early church counter to a pagan holiday. Church
leaders found that new converts to Christianity who
seemed to be adapting to their new lifestyle tended to
backslide around Winter Solstice, when their old
friends invited them to participate in the drunken
revelry of the ancient ways. Such symbols as the Yule
log and Christmas tree are echoes of this pagan
background. So the church offered an alternative that
became "Christ Mass."

Many sincere believers in Christ haunted perhaps by a
spirit of Ebenezer you-know-who in Dickens' novel
refuse to celebrate this event at all because of its
pagan background.

Perhaps we should worry more about the other pagan
elements of Christmas, greed and avarice, drunken
excess, and rampant materialism, all of which render
today's Christmas more pagan than any unrestrained
dance that might have taken place among ancient
Germanic tribes!

Over time its original intent has been diluted. The
Bible nowhere gives an actual date for the birth of
Jesus. Interestingly, it does give the time of year for
his death - in the spring time, the Friday of Passover.

And a time for his resurrection - the Sunday following.

Everyone loves a baby, but the birth of Jesus Christ
was less about sentiment, and more about sin.

Ours.

Do you celebrate Jesus' birth on December 25? Fair
enough. But a Jesus who saves us from sin - now there's
a real reason to celebrate! 

----
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