From Splendour to Squalor

Advent meditation by Matt Smethurst: Read Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5–11) Reflect Many religions throughout history have acknowledged the value of humility. None has dared speak of a humble God. The reason is simple: the notion of humility applied to deity is seen as

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Advent Meditation: Sigh No More

Brett McCracken: Read And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isa. 35:10) Reflect The essence of hope is not the downplaying, justifying, or avoidance of present pain and sorrow. Rather, hope is the ex­pectation that as real as the pain is now, it will one day feel as foreign as our faintest memories. In our day, we can relate to the experience of “ransom captive Israel,” who mourned “in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.” As Israel waited—in bondage to suffer­ing, sin, pain, and injustice—so we wait now. Sorrow is ev­erywhere: in the bleak headlines that cross our feeds, in the sickness and death that plague our own friends and family, and in the temptation and sin that leave us feeling frustrat­ed, defeated, even hopeless. Sighing is everywhere too. We

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Between the Advents

Duke Revard: For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:6 Six and Seven year-olds massacred in Newtown, CT. Others randomly shot in a mall in Oregon. Dozens of other headlines highlight less spectacular bloodshed in your hometown newspaper. It appears there is no end in sight. Random wickedness and brokenness are also your problem in your otherwise safe pocket of the world. Evil is local and apparently sustainable. It seems to be everywhere and affecting everything. Though the topic

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What Advent Is All About

From The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper: The Coming of Christ Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) Christmas is about the coming of Christ into the world. It’s about the Son of God, who existed eternally with the Father as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” taking on human nature and becoming man (Heb. 1:3). It’s about the virgin birth of a child conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit so that he is the Son of God, not the way you and I are sons of God, but in an utterly unique way (Luke 1:35). It’s about the coming of a man named Jesus in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). It’s about the coming of the “fullness of time” that had been prophesied

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10 Things You should Know about the Virgin Birth of Jesus

Sam Storms: Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, so it only seems fitting that we should turn our attention to the glorious message of Christmas. We will do that by devoting today’s article to 10 things all of us should know about the virgin conception and birth of Jesus. (1) Some object to this doctrine by pointing to the many parallels to it in ancient literature. Their argument is that countless myths concerning the virgin births of various Greek gods and superheroes were prevalent in paganism. Those Greek Christians who were familiar with them account for the narratives in Matthew and Luke that describe this “miracle.” In other words, Christians in the early church simply created, i.e., concocted or fabricated their own story of their “hero” and “Lord” being born of a virgin. One problem with this is that all these alleged parallels prove to be quite different from the NT account of the conception and birth of Jesus.

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

  John Piper: This translation of an anonymous Latin hymn doubles as a prayer for the first and second coming of Christ. It takes us into the mind of old Israel, longing for the first coming of the Messiah. And it goes beyond that longing by voicing the yearning of the church of Christ for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to consummate the history of redemption. This makes the carol especially apt for Advent. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we put ourselves in the shoes of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and all the pre-Christian saints. We ponder the promises. We strain to see the dawn of salvation. But we know that when it comes, the waiting will not be over. When Emmanuel arrives — when the Day-spring rises — we learn that redemption has only begun. To be sure, it is a magnificent only. The final blood is shed. The debt is paid. Forgiveness is purchased. God’s wrath is removed.

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His Birth and Our New Birth

’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ’God with us’ —Matthew 1:23 Oswald Chambers – My Utmost For His Highest His Birth in History. “. . . that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God ( Luke 1:35 ). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form. His Birth in

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Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth?

Dr. Mohler takes on this question. His answer? “The answer to that question must be a decisive No. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture, deny the supernatural birth of the Saviour, undermine the very foundations of the Gospel, and have no way of explaining the deity of Christ.” Read the whole thing here. (HT: Tim Challies)

Disturbing Christmas – by CJ Mahaney

From CJ’s blog: The days before Christmas can be a tiring season of preparation, planning, shopping, and wrapping. But I think as we prepare for the Christmas celebrations, dinners, travel, and gift giving, it’s equally important that we pause and prepare our souls for Christmas. During this time of year, it may be easy to forget that the bigger purpose behind Bethlehem was Calvary. But the purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death. Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner. The incarnation reminds us of our desperate condition before a holy God. Several years ago WORLD Magazine published a column by William H. Smith with the provocative title, “Christmas is disturbing: Any real understanding of the Christmas messages will disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992). In part, Smith wrote: Many people who otherwise ignore God and the church have some religious

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Is the Celebration of Christmas a Pagan Ritual?

I think it’s common sense really, but here’s a good article posted by Tim Challies. Is the Celebration of Christmas a Pagan Ritual? by R.C. Sproul That question comes up every year at Christmastime. In the first place, there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25. There’s nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, there’s much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during that time of year. It just so happens that on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to mystery religions; the pagans celebrated their festival on December 25. The Christians didn’t want to participate in that, and so they said, “While everybody else is celebrating this pagan thing, we’re going to have our own celebration. We’re going to celebrate the thing that’s most important in our

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Highly Favoured!

Praise God that Christians are ‘highly favoured’ in Christ. This is an encouraging piece from John Fonville: If someone were to ask you, “Is God pleased with you?,” how would you respond? The joyful, astounding truth of the Christmas message is this: God is pleased with you! “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased,” (Lk. 2:14)! Note carefully. God the Father is pleased with you not because of you. He is pleased with you because you are united to His Son! And this is what He says about His Son, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Matt. 3:17). Through the gospel and faith, the Holy Spirit brings a sinner into union with Christ. Once a man is united to Christ, whatever God the Father says about His Son, He also says about His adopted son! God the Father has blessed us in the Beloved (i.e.,

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Obedient Son, Ultimate Purifier, All-Providing Bridegroom

This week’s sermon from John Piper: “Obedient Son, Ultimate Purifier, All-Providing Bridegroom” Mary had no inside track with her son. Jesus’ highest allegiance was to his divine Father, not to any human. Throughout his ministry, Jesus was careful to clarify that physical relation to him did not translate into any spiritual advantage. All saving connections to Jesus are through faith, not family. Jesus’ ultimate obedience was to his heavenly Father, not his earthly mother. This is one glory on display in John 2 at the wedding feast at Cana. Jesus also is the ultimate Purifier. The hour of his death had not yet come, but in calling for the use of Jewish purification jars, he anticipates the decisive purification for sins he will make at the cross. This is another glory. Finally, Jesus is the all-providing Bridegroom. When the groom fails in his responsibility to supply sufficient wine, Jesus makes provision and, in doing so, suggests that he himself is

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‘Incomprehensibly Made Man’

Paul Helm has posted an excellent piece on the incarnation here. He begins with this wonderful quote from Augustine: Wherefore the Word of God, who is also the Son of God, co-eternal with the Father, the Power and the Wisdom of God, mightily pervading and harmoniously ordering all things, from the highest limit of the intelligent to the lowest limit of the material creation, revealed and concealed, nowhere confined, nowhere divided, nowhere distended, but without dimensions, everywhere present in His entirety, — this Word of God, I say, took to Himself, in a manner entirely different from that in which He is present to other creatures, the soul and body of a man, and made, by the union of Himself therewith, the one person Jesus Christ, Mediator between God and men, he His Deity equal with the Father, in His flesh, i.e. in His human nature, inferior to the Father, — unchangeably immortal in respect of the divine nature, in

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Should Christians celebrate Christmas?

Here’s an excellent answer from John Piper: I sympathize with those who want to be rigorously and distinctly Christian, who want to be disentangled from the world and any pagan roots that might lie beneath our celebration of Christmas, but I don’t go that route on this matter because I think there comes a point where the roots are so far gone that the present meaning doesn’t carry the pagan connotation anymore. I’m more concerned about a new paganism that gets layered on top of Christian holidays. Here’s the example I use: All language has roots somewhere. Most of our days of the week—if not all—grew out of pagan names too. So should we stop using the word “Sunday” because it may have related to the worship of the sun once upon a time? In modern English “Sunday” doesn’t carry that connotation, and that’s the very nature of language. In a sense, holidays are like chronological language. Christmas now means

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The Incarnation

David Mathis, at Desiring God blog, reflects on the advent and incarnation of Jesus Christ. This is a really great series. I rcommend it highly! Advent and the Incarnation Jesus Is Fully Human What Is the Hypostatic Union? The Virgin Birth (HT: Justin Taylor)

We Three Kings

We can learn a lot from the three Magi that Matthew mentions in Matthew 2.  Martin Downes has written this helpful little piece. Matthew 1-2 tells the story of three kings. These kings are not however the ones known in the West, from the eighth century on, as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. The visitors from the East were Magi, not kings. No, Matthew 1-2 tells the story of King David, King Herod and King Jesus. They are the three kings in the narrative. King Herod may well be the king of Israel but he acts like Pharaoh king of Egypt. Joseph must flee Israel for Egypt, and later return there just as Moses did in Exodus 4. There is a great reversal theme in Matthew 2 as Israel and Egypt swap identities, and as we realise that Israel is a nation under judgment. This reversal theme extends itself to the Magi. The wise men and magicians of the nations always

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