A Tale of Two Christmases

Pastor David Jeremiah confessed at last weekend’s service that he loves the trappings of Christmas. Every year he takes his family to New York City to watch the Rockettes perform their holiday program. He shared the story of his family’s recent visit:

They gave us a pair of special glasses and turned down the lights. As the program began we could see 3D projections of Santa Claus flying over the stage delivering presents. It looked so real that I actually reached out to try to catch one of the wrapped gifts.

At the end of the program they recreated the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. I sat in wonder as the story of Christ’s birth was presented on the big stage. How would it be received by a New York audience in 2017? Well, there was a standing ovation, but as we were leaving I heard a man say,  “I really enjoyed the first part of the program, but why did they have to ruin it with all that religious stuff?” I wanted to reach out and tell the man, “That religious stuff is what Christmas is all about.”

When it premiered on December 9, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas was expected to be a ratings disaster. CBS executives didn’t like the theme music (Linus and Lucy by Vince Guaraldi) because it sounded too adult. More importantly, TV execs did not want to broadcast a religious-themed Christmas program. Director Bill Melendez somewhat agreed with the network, but noted that “Sparky (Charles Schulz) would not budge.”

CBS thought of canning the program, but it had spent so much money to develop the project that it decided to air the special and simply write it off as a production loss. The rest, as they say, is history. A Charlie Brown Christmas was seen in 50% of American households. It earned critical acclaim, and was awarded an Emmy and a Peabody. It became a Christmas classic, and has aired for over fifty years.

Pastor Jeremiah warned that even a Christian can get caught up in the trappings of Christmas. Santa Claus is a jovial, non-threatening substitution for Jesus Christ. The North Pole is a substitute for heaven — a lump of coal  a substitute for hell. The concept of good and evil reduced to an innocuous list of those who are naughty, or nice.

 There is a great divide — two Christmases, if you will, one for the pagans and one for the Christians. It is hypocritical, though, for non-Christians to celebrate Christmas, or Christ’s mass. The world loves the holiday music, parties and gifts, but they fail to recognize the true gift of the season.

2 Corinthians 9:15
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Ephesians 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God blinds their eyes and hardens their hearts so that they cannot discern what is true nor perceive what is deception. My sorrow is that many Christians are equally confused.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

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Apollo 8 Christmas Eve 1968

– NASA Press Release –

Christmas Eve, 1968.

As one of the most turbulent, tragic years in American history drew to a close, millions around the world were watching and listening as the Apollo 8 astronauts — Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders — became the first humans to orbit another world.

As their command module floated above the lunar surface, the astronauts beamed back images of the moon and Earth and took turns reading from the book of Genesis, closing with a wish for everyone “on the good Earth.”

The crew entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968. That evening, the astronauts held a live broadcast, showing pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft.

“We were told that on Christmas Eve we would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice,” recalled Borman during 40th anniversary celebrations in 2008. “And the only instructions that we got from NASA was to do something appropriate.”

The crew rocketed into orbit on December 21, and after circling the moon 10 times on Christmas Eve, it was time to come home. On Christmas morning, mission control waited anxiously for word that Apollo 8’s engine burn to leave lunar orbit had worked.

The crew splashed down in the Pacific on December 27. A lunar landing was still months away, but for the first time ever, humans from Earth had visited the moon and returned home safely.

-End-

America had come through a tumultuous year of social and political upheaval. Riots in the street, escalation of the war in Vietnam, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy had left the nation reeling. It seemed as if God had removed His hand of favor from the United States. It is said that when the Apollo 8 astronauts read from the Book of Genesis that you could hear a pin drop in every corner of the earth. In those brief moments the peace of God reigned in the hearts of people on every continent.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Jesus’ Genealogy — Answering a Skeptic

This is a companion piece to the previous post, Can You Answer this Bible Stumper? I was actually doing research on another topic when I came across several atheist websites that post alleged contradictions in the Bible. The discrepancies cited are irrelevant to God’s greater plan of redemption, but I brought it to your attention for the simple fact that the devil is often in the details.

Bart Ehrman — author (Misquoting Jesus), and professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — was once a seminary student, but he stumbled over the details and became an agnostic/atheist. His books have planted seeds of doubt in the hearts of unsuspecting souls which is why we must remain ever vigilant.

He could not understand, for example, why the genealogies in Matthew and Luke differed. I know many people gaze over the genealogies because, frankly, it bores them; but the information provided is very important in Judaism as it establishes birthright. More importantly, the ancestral record follows the line of David to the Mashiac.

It may be news to those whose eyes glaze over this portion of Scripture, but the gospel writers clearly diverge on the important genealogy of Jesus. This information causes many people to stumble, or even lose faith. As a seminary student, Ehrman learned why the accounts differ, but was not satisfied with the explanation.

Do you know why the genealogies differ?

Ehrman came to the simplistic conclusion that if the Bible was the inerrant Word of God then it shouldn’t be difficult to understand. As I noted previously, this attitude reflects intellectual dishonesty and academic indolence. The professor is not qualified to chair a religious studies department at any scholastic institution.

The Bible must be understood in the context of an ancient language and culture. We can’t be so ethnocentric as to disregard who wrote the Bible and to whom it was written. What might appear to be a contradiction may simply be a reflection of our ignorance. It can be worthwhile to unplug the television and study the Word of God.

We have about 5700 copies of the Greek New Testament. Including Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic versions there are over 24000 manuscripts (MSS) of the B’rit Chadasha. In comparison, there are less than 200 fragments and MSS of Herodotus’ History of the Ancient World. In other words, there is more extant evidence for the Bible than any number of ancient MSS including Homer’s Iliad.

Ehrman claims that there are hundreds of thousands of discrepancies in the New Testament alone. As a seminary student, Ehrman should have learned that these textual variants are typically an error in spelling or grammar. Considering that thousands of manuscripts were hand-copied it is not difficult to understand a copyist error. For example, a scribe may have penned “Jesus” rather than “Jesus Christ”, and Ehrman counts this as a discrepancy. If the “error” is repeated by a thousand scribes it is counted as 1000 discrepancies thus inflating the actual numbers.

The eight-minute video will present a brief overview of what we have discussed here. Oh, and to answer the question of the disputed genealogies, Matthew presented Jesus’ ancestry through Joseph while Luke presented the birth line through Mary. Both led back to David through his sons Solomon and Nathan. This was to fulfill the Davidic covenant and establish Christ’s authority to sit on David’s throne.

Ehrman’s objections are simply a distraction, but this is what Satan does best — deceive the unwary.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ