Tag Archive: Christ



It’s that time of year again and, as usual, the controversies rise to the top. It is my goal to simply celebrate the season, celebrate the birth of Jesus, celebrate the friendships I have, and celebrate the family I have.

There are always many discussion concerning the real birthdate of Jesus. The truth: Weborn-in-a-manger-by-yori-narparti will never know; neither the Bible nor history tells us anything. Certainly, many have attempted to deduce the birthdate but truthfully, we will never know. Could it have been December 25? Possibly, but there are 364 other days it could have been too. The Catholic church, (you know, the one from which most of us “descended”) has laid claim to the December 25 date since before the middle of the fourth century. And many of the Orthodox church hold that the birth occurred on January 6. The reasons for these dates are many but typically relate to the dates of the Passover season or the Feast of Tabernacles and the sentiment during the middle fourth century that dates and events were cyclical and occurred with relation to each other.

Of course other theories abound, including the concept that the Church borrowed the dates from pagan practices of the times. While this sounds good and feasible … and even diabolically conspiratory … all probability points away from this because the early Church was a body of people which chose to steer far away from anything pagan. (Certainly, there did come a flood of pagan practices to be related to Christmas but these came also in the fourth century after dated Christmas celebrations began.)

The greater truth is this: the date of Christ’s birth really doesn’t matter; let’s celebrate Him all year long.

roman_empire_by_bamoon-d4hsq3dNow there is something to be said of the adaptation of certain pagan practices.The Roman Empire was built not only on its strength, but also on its syncretism, or ability to adapt what was already found in a place with those practices and principles of the Roman Empire. In other words, they would adapt the current gods of a conquered land into their own panorama of gods, and this even included the adaptation of certain buildings purposed for the worship of these gods into the worship of other gods. We can see this in the invasion of Israel by the Romans. Israel could have bowed under Rome’s pressure like every other country did EXCEPT that Israel WAS NOT willing to incorporate their God into the Roman worship of many gods; they KNEW that God Himself had declared that He was THE ONLY God, that He was ONE, and that Israel should worship NO OTHER. Therefore, the Jews WOULD NOT abide by the addition of other gods and customs because of their reverence and fear of the one, true God.

So, although Christmas now occurs in the season of year that is recognized as a season of Saturnalia and other pagan practices related to the solstice, it probably originated as a December 25 (or January 6) celebration purely out of respect and desire to honor Christ.

Again, if we choose to celebrate Him all year long, we will definitely cross some days that coincide with pagan celebrations … so don’t worry too much about it.

Another controversy that takes place at this time of year is that of the place of the birth of jesus birthChrist. Some say that there was no room for Him in the inn, others say there was no private room for Him in the family household, and others say there was no available space in the family guest room. In all probability, a more proper understanding of the place of His birth is that it DID occur in a home, although it more accurately took place in the animal-keeping area of the home … probably under the house in a hollowed out place. It might even have been a natural cave that a house was built upon … the main thing is that it was a place where animals were kept. It was dirty. It was lowly. It was smelly. But it was a portrait that the Messiah was born to relate to all humankind.

I have had the privilege to go to Israel three times. I have seen two different places that tradition says were the burial places for Christ. I have seen at least two places where he was said to have been born in … one being a church and the other being a cave. I am told that there are other places where He might have been born and where He might have been buried. (By the way, in both places claiming to be the Tomb, He is not in either one … His IS RISEN!)

The point with ALL of this is that we need to simply worship the savior, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We are not to revere a date, a place, or a tradition; instead, we are to worship Him.

So wherever you are, whatever day of the year it is, and whatever you are doing, why don’t you stop for a moment and praise Him … and thank Him … and exemplify Him.

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If this has resonated with you, please drop me an email at jgarrett1958@hotmail.com. Thanks.


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One of the beloved Christmas songs that gets a lot of airtime every year is the song known as the 12 Days of Christmas. It is often rumored that this song was originally a coded reference to the Catholic catechism in order to veil their persecution by the Church of England. Another version of this story is that the song was again, used as a hidden message, but this time between believers in societies where the Gospel was frowned upon or outlawed. According to Snopes.com, however, these are popular rumors that have little to no substance.

There are however, surface truths that we can gather from this song: It DOES concern the 12 days between the birth of Christ and the coming of the Magi (or wise men.) Additionally, it probably grew into a song as a game where competitors would add various verses while repeating all previous stanzas until one player “messed up” a previous line. We DO have record of it as a song as far back as 1780 although it surely is much older than that. It is also believed that the song is of French origin, not English.

What else can we derive from this song?

01dayThere is a certain “un-ending-ness” that occurs in love.

There is a material way to show and observe love.

There is a “value” in and from love.

Surely, each of these truths are voiced throughout the song. Of course, and I know that I am very prone to spiritualize things … even to over-spiritualize them … but I think there is perhaps even more that we can derive from this song.

On the initial glance, I want to observe the rumored meanings because I do think the song can help us to understand various aspects of our relationships with God and with fellow believers.

Perhaps each of the gifts could mentally correlate with teachings of the faith. Immediately, the One known as the "True Love" could refer to God Himself and the one receiving the various gifts would represent the believer.

Other imagery could be represented as follows: 
One (a) partridge in a pear tree could represent the one and only Son of God, Jesus Christ.22257s

Two turtle doves could perhaps represent the two divisions of the Bible, the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Three French hens could represent the three extremely important virtues of 1 Corinthians 13: faith, hope, and love.

Four calling birds could represent the message of Jesus Christ as revealed in the four Gospels.

Five golden rings could perhaps, represent the Pentateuch or Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Six geese a-laying could be thought of as a reference to the six days of creation.

I had a difficult time imagining this next one but as I began to look through the lens of Catholic theology, I understood the Seven swans a-swimming as the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church:  Water Baptism, Confirmation, Communion, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Ordination, and Marriage.

imagesEight maids a-milking has been thought by some to note the eight beatitudes found in Matthew 5 as a part of the Sermon on the Mount.

Nine ladies dancing could represent the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV.)

Ten lords a-leaping may be used to represent the Ten Commandments, the Foundation that points us toward our need for God and His perfection.

Eleven pipers piping can be thought to represent the 11 apostles who remained faithful to Christ.

And the 12 Drummers Drumming could simply point to the 12 statements of the Apostle’s Creed: (http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp accessed 12/04/2014.)

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I know that various other methods have been devised for the aide of the remembrance of certain doctrines and other elements of the Christian faith. Many have used songs, poems, even decks of cards … so why not use the song, the 12 Days of Christmas as a device to remind ourselves of various aspects of our faith. And this Christmas, while we focus our attention on Christ as the infant, let’s also remember that He is the Risen Lord and the Conquering King and that He has surrounded us with a whole multitude of examples, witnesses, and relationships..

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT)

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The Bible tells us an important story concerning the place of the delivery of Jesus by His mother, Mary.

3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. (Luke 2:3-6 NLT)

no room 4The Bible tells us that during the birth of Jesus, there was found no room for Him in the normal lodging places.

Certainly there are many facets to this story than can be exhaustively discerned in this blog; the question that I want to confront each of us with is this: Is there room in your heart for Him?

Many images are found throughout Scripture of times when God’s chosen people had no room in their lives for God … and times have not changed so much as many may think.

There is a popular video that is found on the internet and in popular leadership books concerning the placement of many objects in some type of container. The objective is that as we fill the container with instantly gratifying things, we do not leave room for the important things; conversely, as we cleanse our lives of the instantly gratifying things and begin to place those things of greatest importance to our lives in the container, more room is left for the other things.

Here is one of those brief videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmV0gXpXwDU

no room 2downloadWhile this video is particularly focused on time management, the principle shown carries over to relationships, particularly our relationship with Jesus Christ.

And rarely is this more evident than at this particular season of the year.

As we approach the season known for the birth of our Savior, we also face the season known for the hustle and bustle of shopping, eating, going, and everything else.

The pertinent question I want to ask in this hour is this: Is there room in your heart for our Savior this season … and all other seasons?

At Christmas time, I often listen to a local radio station that features 24/7 Christmas music well before Thanksgiving day. They are a commercial station which means that commercials are interspersed throughout their daily playlists. That’s not a problem; that is how they are sponsored and I get that. However, there are a few commercials that play throughout the day that feature one of these “hey-let’s-rattle-off-the-legal-details-as-quickly-as-we-can-because-it-has-to-take-place-but-we-don’t-want-to-take-up-precious-airspace-for-those-important-but-minute-details.” When I hear these, I am quickly made aware that these folks are rendering their own version of what is really important for Christmas. One of these ads tells me that they KNOW what my wife wants for Christmas; diamond jewelry. Another soon beckons that I NEED a new car for Christmas. And yet another tells me that I need the latest new toy.

no room 3And immediately after we have experienced a time of giving thanks to God (aka Thanksgiving), we enter into the season of the self: Black Friday, Cyber Monday … and who knows what we will come up with next. These are all days when retailers supposedly offer their best pricing for the entire year. What actually takes place though, is that we see signs of the self-indulgent greediness of our modern society. Have you seen videos clips of the fight scenes in some of the stores over TV bargains or other electronics deals. http://socialnewsdaily.com/45985/5-of-the-best-in-store-fights-from-black-friday-2014/

Even though I am appalled by these signs, more so I am faced with the understanding that all of this is a characterization of another distraction from our relationship with God.

While I could drone on concerning these various situations, I want to focus on my premise for writing this paper: to ask if there is room in our hearts for God this Christmas season (or any other time, for that matter.)

Have you found yourself without time for prayer?

Have you found that church is often difficult to attend because it is so early in the morning (or late on a Saturday afternoon … or conflicting with a child’s rehearsal/practice)?

Mary and Joseph found a place of shelter where the Christ-Child could be birthed.

If we will diligently seek, we, too, will find a place for relationship with Christ in our hearts and in our life-situations.

no roomSo again I ask, is there room in your inn?

Is there room in your heart for Christ this Christmas season?

Is there room in life-situations for Christ to be honored, adored, and proclaimed?

Coco’s Challenge


 

Can you imagine the feeling of defeat and despair that one who has lost 10 family members to the Ebola virus could sense? We recently sat down with Coco Dahn and her husband, Peter, as she talked about the pain of having ten close family members pass away due to the Ebola virus over in Monrovia, Liberia. And if that pain isn’t enough, she still has three teen-aged children there who are trapped in isolation inside Liberia and whom she hasn’t seen in months (although she has spoken with them on the phone.) Their names are Bernice, Luther, and Nelson. Luther and Nelson are 15-year-old twins.Coco3

As you have probably already heard, the CDC is currently urging everyone to avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone because of the unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in those countries. The CDC further recommends that travelers to these countries protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola.

There are reports of civil unrest and violence against aid workers all over West Africa as a result of this outbreak. In fact, the public health infrastructure of Liberia is being severely strained as the outbreak grows.

Coco1

Of course, the Liberian government has responded by recently implementing enhanced measures to combat the spread of Ebola. These measures will affect travel in, out, and within Liberia. This creates another aspect of Coco’s Challenge. movement of her children within and without the country. Here are the five-point measures that the Liberian government is taking.

  • All Liberian borders are closed except for major entry points.
  • There are new and stringent measures of screening for the virus to be implemented at those major entry points. Again, this affects ALL incoming and outgoing travelers.
  • There are new restrictions concerning public gatherings.
  • Quarantine measures have been established for communities heavily affected by Ebola; travel in and out of those communities will be restricted.
  • Authorized military personnel have been placed to help enforce these and other prevention and control measures.[1]

Coco2All of these situation make Coco’s story even more difficult. She wants to get her teen-aged children out of Liberia to a place where they can be reasonably safe. But they are trapped within their own city. Because of the quarantine measures there in the city of Monrovia, they are essentially confined to their house … even though they are not sick nor show any signs of the sickness.

So ISOH/IMPACT is trying to help Coco by getting her children out of Liberia. Phone calls are being made to immigration attorneys, emails are being sent to embassies, questions are being researched concerning medical and health screenings, and finances are being raised to support this massive project.

We are aware that there are many who are in a similar situation to the one that Coco is in. And we know we can’t help them all BUT … together, we can help one or two.

Would you consider making a gift of love to help us with this project? We are not sure what the final price tag will be because we are only in the initial stages. But we promise to be good stewards of the gifts that God gives us through you.OFDA-CDC_EbolaMap_08.20.2014 copy

If you want to donate, please go to the following website and click on the “Donate” button under “Where Needed Most”: http://isohimpact.org/make-an-impact-with-hope/ Be sure to let us know that this gift is for “Coco’s Challenge.

Thank you in advance and May God richly bless you in your giving.

Dr. James Garrett


[1] http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/warning/ebola-liberia (Accessed September 17, 2014.)