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Merry Christmas 2019!

Merry Christmas 2019!

Christmas nativity scene.

It is hard to believe that we have arrived at another Christmas Eve. There is much going on in the world. The U.S. President is under impeachment. War still rages in the Middle East. There is still the atrocities of terrorism. There is disease and famine. It is not a peaceful time by man’s standards.

However, today we look back 2,000 years to remember a night of great joy. A night when the angels appeared to the shepherds to say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill, toward men.”

What if we, the church, recapture that spirit, that moment? Can you imagine the shepherds in that field that night? They were terrified according to Luke 2. Who wouldn’t be? But at the same time, they were awestruck by what they saw. Again, who wouldn’t be?

But what did the shepherds do? They listened. They followed the instructions of the Lord’s message and went to see this amazing baby. They went to see the Savior.

Christmas reminds us that God came in the flesh (John 1:14) to live here among us. He came to live as we did, to experience what we experience, to know what we know and feel what we feel. And, most importantly, He came to take our place on the cross. He was the perfect sacrifice. He was the substitute for our condemnation. He died in our place.

That is what Christmas is truly about. It was the start of a 33-year story. A story that is the greatest story ever told. A story that shows how God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but he will have eternal life.

Merry Christmas and, in the words of that famous character, Tiny Tim, May God bless us, everyone.

Was Mary Sinless?

Was Mary Sinless?

Virgin of the AnnunciationA lot of focus during the Christmas season gets put on Mary as well as Jesus since she was his mother. There is a lot of incorrect theology about Mary, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church. One of these doctrines is the idea of the Immaculate Conception.

The immaculate conception often is misunderstood to mean the supernatural conception of Christ in Mary’s womb. I also misunderstood this in the past. But that is not what this term refers to at all. In fact, the immaculate conception has nothing to do with the birth of Christ. Instead, the immaculate conception deals with Mary. Specifically, it teaches that Mary was sinless and free from original sin.

There are two primary texts that Catholics use to make this claim. The first is Genesis 3:15.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15 English Standard Version

The main problem with using this text to define anything about Mary is that Mary is not found in this verse. The woman here is Eve, not Mary. Yes, Mary is part of Eve’s distant offspring through her descendants, but the only people mentioned in this verse specifically are Eve, Satan, Christ, and God the Father. So we can automatically throw this verse out with having anything to do with supposed sinlessness of Mary.

The other major text used by Catholics for the Immaculate Conception is Luke 1:28

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

Luke 1:28 (ESV)

In this verse they use the term favored one to claim that Mary was sinless. But how do they come to this conclusion?

First we must look at the underlying Greek for the term favored one and see whether or not it means sinless. The term is κεχαριτωμένη, which is pronounced kecharitomene. It is derived from the lemma χαριτόω (charitoo). But what do these words mean, and if they mean sinless, why are they translated as favored one?

The underlying Greek has a meaning of showing kindness, favor, giving grace, showing favor. So translators have gotten it right with favored one. But Catholics focus on one portion of this definition, giving grace. In fact, they argue that Mary was so full of grace that she did not receive original sin because she was “fully endowed with grace perfectly.”

But there is a problem with this viewpoint. First, being fully endowed with grace does not mean that you are sinless. All Christians are full of grace and favored and blessed. That is part of being the elect of God. Ephesians 1:6 uses the same word, charitoo, to describe all believers. Yet, all believers have original sin, and continuing sin that must be dealt with. Mary is no different.

The point is that there is no Scriptural basis for the Immaculate Conception. This is an invention and false doctrine of the Catholic Church. Mary was favored only in the sense that she was chosen to have the very special honor of giving birth to the Savior. She is not to be worshiped, not to be prayed to, she is a sinner saved by grace just like everyone else who is a part of the kingdom.

What Are We Celebrating?

What Are We Celebrating?

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving is past us and we are already full-swing into another Christmas season. Christmas movies are on, presents are being purchased, trees and lights adorn the country. All of these things are fun, exciting, and part of the celebration of Christmas. But what exactly are we celebrating? John’s Gospel gives us the answer:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,

John 1:14a (English Standard Version)

We are celebrating the fact that the God of the universe thought enough of His elect that He took on flesh to walk on this earth as one of us. He faced the same trials and temptations yet he remained sinless. He took our place on the cross and took our penalty for our sins in his death. He brought us salvation and redemption that we might have eternal life. There is no greater love.

We often hear that Jesus is the “Reason for the Season.” But do we really take this to heart? Do we really understand the magnitude of what happened on that first Christmas? Do we really think about Immanuel, God with us? Do we consider what Christ did for us on the cross? Does it make a change in our lives?

These are the things that we need to dwell on this Christmas season. And not just Christmas, we need to think about these things every day of the year. So let’s remember what we are celebrating. We are celebrating the Word becoming flesh to dwell among us.

Soli Deo Gloria!