Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tradition + Theology = ?????

This year I have listened to a few radio stations playing the old Christmas songs that I grew up with. It brings back many memories. One of those songs is "Here Comes Santa Claus" sung by Gene Autry. Below is a brief history of the writing of this song:

Gene was riding his horse, Champion, down Hollywood Boulevard for the annual Christmas parade in 1946 when, hearing the crowds of children gleefully crying, “Here comes Santa Claus!” he was inspired to write a song. He turned his sketch over to Oakley Haldeman (then in charge of Gene’s music publishing firms) and legendary A&R chief “Uncle” Art Satherley. They completed the lead sheet, hastening a copy over to singer/guitarist Johnny Bond’s home to make an acetate disc of the finished product. A cocktail was mixed for Uncle Art, who sipped near the microphone while Bond sang Here Comes Santa Claus for the first time. When the group heard the ice cubes jingling so merrily on the playback, they were inspired to use a “jingle bell” sound on Gene’s record! It was the first Gene Autry Christmas release, a huge commercial and artistic triumph that opened the door to an unexpected extension of his phenomenal career.

While listening to this song it seems the authors, Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman, mix a little of the tradition of Santa Claus with the truth of God. A few of the lines of the song while making good lyrics really don't make clear theology - in fact I don't quite fully understand them at all:

Santa knows that we're God's children,
That makes everything right.
Fill your hearts with Christmas cheer,
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

The author tells us that Santa knows that we are God's children. What does that mean? Are all people God's children in light of being part of the human family? Well, that might be somewhat seen in Scripture, but the Bible seems to show more often that God has a particular, chosen people who are His children. He possesses them as His own (Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9). The writer of this song then tells us that this knowledge makes everything right. Again, what does he mean by that? How does it make everything right? He ends this stanza by concluding that based on these facts we are to fill our hearts with Christmas cheer - because Santa Claus comes tonight.

Another stanza has the phrase:

Peace on Earth will come to all
If we just follow the light

While this is probably derived from the scripture concerning the proclamation of the angels to the shepherds concerning a Savior, it really again is unclear as to how will peace come to all on the earth? What light does he mean we are to follow? While not trying to over analyze this Christmas ditty, I still think it is crucial that we always pay attention to those things we hear, read, and even sing to make sure that we are not proclaiming things the Bible does not.

I find it interesting that this song focusing on the coming of the traditional Santa Claus as the source of this joy. But if we look at these lines from the song from a Biblical perspective, we see that the source of this joy is found in the coming of a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, who will save His people from their sin. The songs talks about being a child of God, having peace, being right, and following the light. This is only possible through Jesus Christ. It is because of His coming, His perfect righteous life, His substitutionary sacrifice for His people, and His resurrection that indeed anyone can have true peace - a peace with God that comes from being forgiven from our sins which rightly deserve His wrath (Romans 5:1). It is only thought Him that we can be made right with God - able to stand before Him in the righteousness of Christ without fear of Him and able to call Him Father (Romans 5:19). He is the true light (John 1:9-13) and only those who call on and trust Him as Lord and Savior can truly be called His children for they have been adopted according to His kindness and His grace (Ephesians 1:5).

So while we sing and listen to these old time songs at Christmas, remember to sing some of the old time true Christmas Carols as well. In many of these we can see what happens when Biblical truth presents true doctrine clearly vs a tradition trying to exclaim why we really need to celebrate this time of year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Does It Really Take So Long?

Have you ever began a Bible reading program with the goal to read through the entire Bible in a certain amount of time? And have you ever after a short period come to the conclusion that it will simply take too much of your time and seems to take too long. Well, I began thinking about the actual time it would take to read through the entire Bible. I looked up 3 popular versions of the Bible as they are offered in an audio format. The following are the times presented for the entire Bible being read out loud in a non-dramatic format:
  • NIV - 77 hours
  • ESV - 75 hours
  • NASB - 73 hours
So we see an average of 75 hours to read the entire Bible. That is just 3 hours over 3 complete days. That is less than 1% of a year's time. And remember, that this is reading the Bible out loud - which would probably take longer than reading silently to yourself. Of course- thoughtful meditation while reading would also take longer. But on the surface would you have thought that it would only take a little over 3 complete days to read the entire Bible? Think about the time you have spent this year doing other things. I know I have spent way more time than this watching sporting events, movies, and favorite television programs. Which would be a better use of my time?

I guess my point is that reading the Bible really does not take so long when viewed in the aspect of a year. As a new year approaches, make it a point to read through the Bible. If fact, make it a point to read through the Bible at least once every year of your life. There are many published plans out there and even designated Bibles that can aid you. And while I bet that it may take you longer than the time above because the Holy Spirit will aid you in understanding and illumination of the Bible, it will be time well spent. And - it will not seem to be so long. In fact you may feel that you may need to make more time to read God's revelation given to His people - a revelation straight from Him meant for His glory and our absolute best.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

To Be More Blessed Than Mary

Tonight during family devotion, we read a short reading from Jonathan Edwards based on Luke 11:27-28:
While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Edwards brought up the passages in Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:48-49, where Mary is called "highly favored," "blessed among women," and one who "from henceforth all generations" shall call her blessed. Indeed quite a blessing to be chosen as Edwards puts it "the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that Creator of the world, and the Savior of sinners and the Judge of angels and men."

But then Edwards goes on to focus on the Luke 11 passage. Apparently one listening to the teachings of Jesus broke out in praise and blessed the mother of Jesus, Mary. He goes on to point out the response of Jesus to this statement. Jesus says, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Edwards writes:

How great a privilege was it to this young virgin to conceive in her womb and hold in her arms and suckle at her breasts, a Child who was the Son of the highest, who was the great and eternal and infinitely beloved Son of God, the Creator and mighty Governor of heaven and earth and the great Savior of mankind. . . . But hearing and keeping the word of God renders a person more blessed than any of those privileges. . . .The woman to who Christ directed himself in the text had been hearing the word externally. Christ therefore here informs her that if she not only hears but keeps this word, he will render her more blessed than that privilege that she spoke of.

Do we believe that today? Can we imagine that we can be more blessed than Mary was, who experienced the wonderful privileges mentioned above? Well, Jesus tell us that we can and are more blessed than Mary if we hear His words and obey them. Indeed as an English speaking nation, we have to quote Dan Wallace, "an embarrassment of riches" when it comes to the Word of God. We have multitudes of translations in our language. But do we avail ourselves of these riches. Jesus tells us that if we will read, hear, and obey His word, we will be blessed. What a wonderful promise to remember this Christmas. Do we believe this promise? Well, do we read His word? Do we hear it faithfully preached? Do we obey it? If so, we are indeed most highly blessed. Even more so than being the mother or even a blood relative of Jesus (Matthew 12:47-50)

This devotion came from a book entitled "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas." It contains 22 reading from various authors focusing on the incarnation of Christ. I highly recommend it to you for your edification and use during this season.

Monday, December 7, 2009

History of the English Bible

There are a lot of great seminary level lectures at Biblical Here are a few from Daniel Wallace - one of the foremost NT textual experts. You may not agree with everything he says especially about translations, but these are very beneficial.