Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sifting through Scripture, a Christmas greeting this September

Pastor Bob has started the series on Matthew called "Oh, Worship the King." It's the sixth lesson on this series, and given the rate at which we progress, it may take another five years to the final sermon. When I began college in 2004, the series on the Book of John was about a year old, give or take, and we would be finished with it by the time I graduated and started medical school. During medical school and my internal medicine residency training, the pulpit series was on the Book of Acts. We just finished with Acts this year.

The Filipino word is himay, roughly translated to sift through--a slow, meditative inspection, analysis, and interpretation of the biblical text. This is what Pastor Bob, and other faithful pastors, are doing in their own local churches. I find it particularly useful in that I am forced to think along the lines of thought of the book's writers (the Bible tells us that these words are ultimately God's), reading the words in their proper cultural context, and so on. All Christians are students of theology, and I feel challenged and encouraged to receive that treatment in church.

I love how there's almost always something new to discover in Scripture. The preaching today was on Matthew 2: the visit of the magi to Jesus. Careful inspection of the text reveals that during the visit, Jesus would have been two years old already, and Mary and Joseph had moved out of a manger, into their own home. It makes our Filipino belen historically false, but I like its imagery nonetheless.

The Christmas story is a beautiful story that cuts right at the heart of the Christian faith. It is a poetic reality of the glorious God becoming man, only to be born in a manger and to die on the cross. It is the harshest humiliation but the most glorious demonstration of love. John Calvin wrote:

“We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.
If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him” [I Cor. 1:30].
If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing.
If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects [Geb. 2:17] that he might learn to feel our pain [cf. Heb. 5:2]. (emphasis mine)
If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion;
if acquittal, in his condemnation;
if remission of the curse, in his cross [Gal. 3:13];
if satisfaction, in his sacrifice;
if purification, in his blood;
if reconciliation, in his descent into hell;
if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb;
if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same;
if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven;
if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom;
if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge.
In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.” -- The Institutes, Book II, Chapter XVI

With that, and given the fact that we start our celebration early in the Philippines, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

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