As usual, I had to do some scrambling near the end of the year to take some pictures for the mission calendar. Here are some of the results: some of the men, engaged in what appears to be serious congregation and looking very thoughtful; the young people, including the obligatory texter, and some of the kids, who I managed to get to stand still just long enough for this shot. This is what the Prince George mission congregation looks like!
“And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).
Every year when Christmas comes around, you can expect to hear the same concerns from Christians. We see the increasing secularization of Christmas as our nation moves further and further away from its Christian foundations, and we mourn because of it. We hear the words, “Happy holidays,” and we grit our teeth. We forward along stories on Facebook about people who call Christmas trees “holiday trees,” we say, “Keep the Christ in Christmas,” and “Jesus is the reason for the season”…
It’s the same thing every year – we look back to the past, and very often our view of the past is quite well tinted by the rose-coloured glasses that we wear. And so we decry our culture’s abandonment of the kind of Christian celebration we remember.
Then we go to the mall. We see people fighting for parking spaces and getting impatient in line-ups at cash registers. We see the trinket booths sprouting up, the huge Santa Claus setup with its attendant line-ups populated by harried parents trying to keep impatient kids under control, we see people loading up on junk to give to people they don’t really care that much about, simply because they feel that they need to buy that person a gift. We see our consumer society kicking everything up a notch, putting everything into overdrive, and we shake our heads at the ever-increasing commercialism and materialism that surrounds Christmas.
What we’re seeing, what we’re experiencing, is what happens when people forget the reasons for their traditions. With the foundations removed, there’s no longer any real, meaningful, reason to celebrate, so the celebration becomes meaningless and empty. The reasons that lie behind the things we do, the traditions we have, are lost. And so we become enslaved by the tradition itself, and lose the beauty, the transcendence, the eternal importance, of what we’re doing.If a culture can be understood by understanding what it celebrates, our culture is depressingly void of meaning, purpose, and foundation.
But it’s not the giving of gifts that’s the problem; it’s not spending money that’s the problem, as long as we’re only spending money that we actually have, as long as we’re being good stewards of the financial resources that the Lord has entrusted to us. It’s the fact that our society has forgotten why we give gifts at Christmas time – the purpose of giving gifts; the truth that “’tis better to give than to receive.” Instead of focusing on giving, which is what we Christians should be best at, we focus on receiving. Instead of giving gifts to bring joy to the lives of other people, we give gifts because we feel compelled to do it. Instead of giving thoughtful, meaningful gifts to the people we love, we give useless trinkets to people we don’t really care about.
And so we need to develop a theology of gift-giving. And Christmas time, when we celebrate the birth of the Saviour, is the perfect time to really, seriously consider that theology, and how that theology must inform the way we live.
Here are the latest audio links to sermons I’ve preached in our Sunday morning services. First of all, the last in the series on 2 Peter:
In the close of his second letter, Peter writes of the coming day of God, and tells us that on that day, “the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn.” For many, this picture of the Day of the Lord is frightening, but as God’s people we know that the day of the Lord will not be a day of destruction for us, but a day of purification and renewal, a day to which we can look forward with great longing and eager anticipation. A fitting ending to Peter’s letter, and this series of sermons!
After completing the series on 2 Peter, I have begun a series on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. So far I’ve preached on the first three beatitudes, and here are the links to the audio:
https://archive.org/details/13SermonBeatitude1 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
https://archive.org/details/SermonBeatitude2 – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
https://archive.org/details/15BlessedAreTheMeek – “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
My plan is to preach one sermon on each of the Beatitudes, and then select some slightly longer sections from the Sermon on the Mount as sermon texts. As usual, God’s word provides a treasure trove, and it’s a pleasure to be able to delve into this small section of Scripture in detail!
Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving together with a number of members of our congregation. A great time was had by all, and the Thanksgiving meal was wonderful – the usual turkey, of course, stuffing, veggies, and the accompanying goodies. Our house was filled with people, and the best part (aside from the Brussels sprouts, which yes, I love), was spending a few hours of good conversation and fellowship with our brothers and sisters. We have a lot to be thankful for, and one of the most important things we give thanks for is the communion of saints.
This past Sunday I preached another sermon in a series on Peter’s second letter – on 2 Peter 3:1-10. Peter is dealing with false teachers who deny that Christ will come again, and providing us with a reminder of how we can stand firm in the face of scepticism and unbelief. And he reminds us of one more thing (actually, one central thing) that we should be thankful for: God’s patience.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfil His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (v.9).
So we give thanks for God’s patience – that He hasn’t brought this world to an end, and that He has given us opportunity to turn to Him. That delay in Christ’s coming that Peter writes about has allowed us to be brought into His kingdom, and each day that He gives us is another opportunity to serve Him. This is definitely cause for thanksgiving, every day!
Here’s the audio link to Sunday’s sermon: