Christmastide

What is the meaning of Christmas? That is, what is it that we highlight and celebrate during Christmastide—the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany? We hear the annual refrain and exhortation to keep Christ in Christmas. But what does that mean? What about Christ are we keeping in Christmas? What is it about Christ that we highlight and proclaim during Christmas?

It is during this time that we remember that God is with us in the person of Christ and that he is with us to save us from our sins. As Paul would put it, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” (Titus 3:4-5a). But is it possible that there is more to the story than just that? I am thinking of texts like Isaiah 9:6-7:

For to us a child … Read More »

Read through the Bible, Part 26

Proverbs 23 – Ecclesiastes 10; 2 Corinthians 3 – 10

Few people are unfamiliar with the name C.S. Lewis. He was a literary genius par excellence. Like few others in history he was able to span the literary spectrum offering works on literary scholarship as well as children’s stories and even on Christian apologetics. He was a committed and thoughtful Christian and tenacious defender of the faith.

It’s because of this that many were startled when they read his A Grief Observed, a book that was a reflection on life, and especially death, after his young wife’s death. In the book he spoke of the pain of grief in vivid detail. “It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.” But that was tame compared to … Read More »

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Week 10

Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a redeemer.

Exposition

At question/answer 20 we are confronted with the gloriously good news of the gospel. Until now we were neck deep in sin and misery. Here we learn of the way God had planned to act for us, the way he acted for us in time, and through whom he acts.

God’s action in time has always been his plan. He doesn’t react to circumstances, but  works with them and through them because he has planned them. God … Read More »

Westminster Shorter Catechism – Week 4

Q. 7 What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Q. 8 How does God execute his decrees?
A. God executes his decrees in the works of creation and providence.

Exposition – Here the catechism moves from God’s being to his doing; from his nature and essence to his actions. Here the catechism is concerned to highlight the way in which history unfolds according to a plan. A decree is something we’re not exactly accustomed to because it’s more monarchical than democratic. Decrees are what kings make.

Then Darius the king made a decree…(Ez. 6:1). In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree… (Ez. 6:3).

What the catechism and the Bible behind … Read More »

Advent, part 4

The older I get the more I am amazed at how quickly time passes. Once again I can’t believe that Christmas is so close. But it has not always been like this for me. When I was a kid it seemed like Christmas was never going to come. The waiting and anxiety were almost painful. I remember Christmas Eve being particularly taxing. It was hard to fall asleep. All I wanted was for Christmas to come.

While not exactly a one-to-one correspondence, this is how we should feel during Advent. During Advent we experience the promise and fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan in the person and incarnation of Jesus. During Advent we look forward, too; longing and hoping and waiting for the second coming of Christ.

The anxious waiting of Advent is only intensified on this fourth and final Sunday.

The … Read More »

Advent, part 3

We have considered the way that our cultural calendars are often at odds with the church calendar and how this is especially the case during Advent. And it is especially the case when we consider the theme of Advent which is repentance and preparation. Laurence Stookey calls it a, “little lent.” In support of this, the church has historically appealed to the ministry of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for the birth of Christ. John’s message was fundamentally a message of repentance. Thus we have prayed with the church,

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns … Read More »

Knowing God

Narrowly defined, theology is the study of God. Generally, though, theology is defined more broadly, relating to God and Christ, creation and new creation, redemption and reconciliation, and everything in between. As Herman Bavinck says, “So then the knowledge of God is the only dogma, the exclusive content, of the entire field of dogmatics. All the doctrines treated in dogmatics—whether they concern the universe, humanity, Christ and so forth—are but the explication of the one central dogma of the knowledge of God (Dogmatics, II:29). So everything is related to the study and knowledge of God. Understood in this way, theology proves itself to be immensely practical (Who would have thought?). More than practical, theology proves itself to be the very essence and foundation of life.

The knowledge of God “is life itself”

The … Read More »