At this year’s Christmas Eve service, Pastor David shared reflections on the season by drawing on two centuries-old English poems. Why do we celebrate Christ’s birth? Why do we give thanks for the Incarnation? Can we praise God for the full story of redemption? Click below to hear this seasonal message.
Elizabeth and Mary, two pregnant women in very different yet similarly miraculous circumstances, meet each other in Luke 1:39-45. Their yet unborn children, John the Baptist and Jesus, meet each other in this story as well. What can this story tell us today about the transformative, life-changing power of an encounter with Jesus Christ? Click below to hear Pastor David’s sermon on this fourth Sunday of Advent:
How can we, as the people of God, process the terrible events that occurred in Newtown, CT last Friday? What words of comfort come from Zephaniah 3:14-20, the final verses of a challenging Old Testament prophet? Listen here to Pastor David’s sermon on a difficult weekend – and reflect on the difference between joy and happiness.
I was visited by two Jehovah’s Witnesses at the church this afternoon. One of these two ladies has visited me several times this year, each time with a different companion. I generally enjoy spending time with them, although I wonder why they visit me (will I convert? probably not!) and why I often feel on the defensive when they visit (do I have anything to fear? no!).
Jehovah’s Witnesses express faith in Jesus Christ, believe in his death for the atonement of sins, and generally try to please God with how they live. (As a side note, they do not talk much about Jesus’s resurrection. They say, quietly, that “God resurrected Jesus, but not as a human.” This is an unorthodox and non-biblical belief. If Jesus was not raised to life again as a real human being, then his power over sin and death is greatly diminished. In my understanding, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ mistaken beliefs about Jesus are, in part, what make them non-Christians.)
Yet the reason for today’s visit was to discuss the meaning of Christmas and how “pagan” (to use my friend’s word) many of our Christmas celebrations are. She said that it is more important for God’s followers to live in ways that please him all year long rather than simply to remember Jesus for one day (or one season) of the year. She said that true Christians should not celebrate Christmas at all because of its pagan origins – which is a standard Jehovah’s Witness belief.
To illustrate her beliefs about Christmas, she had me imagine a glass of pure water. If you just add a little bit of cyanide or other poison to the water, it may still look like water – and it may not kill you. Eventually, though, if you keep adding poison to the water, it will be deadly to someone who drinks it. It’s best to stick with the pure water. My friend said this is what “so-called Christians” have done with the Christmas season, especially by adding so many commercial and marketing and gift-giving events to the month of December.
Friends, this is exactly what these visitors from the Jehovah’s Witnesses have done: they have gotten used to a certain amount of “poison” in their water. Each time my friend visits, I am given another piece of literature from the Watchtower organization. (I enjoy building up a library of works from all sorts of religions, such as Islam, Mormonism, the Witnesses, etc.) Jehovah’s Witnesses must adhere to everything the Bible says – this they claim readily – as well as everything the Watchtower organization says, which often dictates how people should interpret the Bible. You cannot disagree with anything found in these publications of the Jehovah’s Witnesses if you want to remain in good fellowship with that group. And you must “work out your salvation” by going from door to door in order to spread the message of the kingdom of God – and, incidentally, to spread the Watchtower’s literature.
How much poison can a person get used to? How many good works must a person do to please God?
As for us, “the Bible is our rule of faith, and Christ alone is Lord.” All other resources outside the Bible can be helpful or harmful. We are free to study the Bible, to question it, to test it, to doubt it, to live according to it. But we must constantly be on the lookout for modifications to true biblical faith that put, in this case, too much emphasis on our own works for righteousness and too much emphasis on believing everything a human leader or organization says.
I don’t think my Jehovah’s Witness friend realized that her illustration applies perfectly to her very own life. And that makes me sad.
Christmas is the season for giving gifts, but as people of faith we often ask, “what gift could I bring to Jesus?” What are acceptable gifts in God’s eyes, anyway? And how should we understand our role as gift-givers to God between the first and second comings of Jesus? Click below to hear Pastor David’s message on Malachi 2:17-3:5, and take note of the kinds of offerings that the Lord accepts!
Advent is a birthday party for Jesus – and an anticipation of a greater party at the end of the age! The prophet Jeremiah spoke about eternal hope for the people of God in Jeremiah 33:14-16; then Jesus himself spoke about hope for a future return of the Son of Man in Luke 21:25-28,34-36. How do these passages answer the question about who is invited to the party? Click below to hear Pastor David’s message on this subject.