Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Post-Christmas Lesson

When I was younger, I used to watch Sesame Street.
Let me rephrase that.
When I was younger, I wanted to live on Sesame Street.

I watched that show multiple times a day, almost every day; I never got tired of it. One reason I loved it was the songs. I remember one in particular song around this time of year (well, two, but, for the sake of this post, one) from one of the Christmas Specials (I can't remember which one, but I'm pretty sure it's not Big Bird Searches for Santa):

"Keep Christmas with you| All through the year.| When Christmas is over| Save some Christmas cheer.| These precious moments,| Hold them very dear.| So keep Christmas with you| All through the year."
Pretty profound for a kids' show.

Now, I know the song is talking about saving the love, joy, and general "Christmas-y" concepts to enjoy throughout the year, but I cannot help but draw all of this back to God.

You see, Christmas is truly about love, joy, peace, hope, etc., but the reason for that is not because of the people, the gifts, or even the "Christmas Spirit". The reason for Christmas and all its associated marvels lies in its name - Christ.

Christ, or Messiah in Hebrew, is a title meaning "Anointed One".

Okay, well, what does that mean?

In Jewish society (the Jews were the ones awaiting the Messiah, after all), anointing was a physical demonstration of the appointing of one by God to a specific calling, notably the high priest, prophet, or king.

So, we have this Anointed One, Jesus, who is appointed by God for a specific task - namely the rescue and redemption of mankind from sin to God. Which means that He had to have been free from sin as well. (Think about it: can one mired in sin rescue all others from their sin? No, only one who is already free from sin can bring others to freedom.) Because mankind is inherently sinful (thank Adam and Eve for that), to be born free from sin, the Messiah must have been conceived sinlessly, i.e. from the seed of a sinless being - God.

Enter the "Immaculate Conception". As was prophesied (Isaiah 7:14), God begat a child with a virgin woman, Mary. Why a virgin? Two reasons: 1) To prevent any doubt as to whether the child was really the son of God and 2) to be miraculous - normally, to conceive, a virgin must lose her virginity; therefore conception without a loss of virginity is miraculous. (no, IVF hadn't been devised and I'm pretty sure that would constitute a loss of virginity anyways)

So, we have a sinless Anointed One, born of a virgin, who is supposed to free mankind from sin, which is separation from God. God is holy, perfect, and just. As such, God cannot stand sin as it is less than perfection and neither can he ignore it as to do so would not be perfectly just. So, to save mankind from sin, someone had to pay the punishment and the only one able to pay the punishment for another is one who has not committed the crime. (otherwise he's merely doing his own punishment) It is for this reason, redemption, that Jesus the Christ came into this world as a sinless, Anointed One.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life" - John 3:16
Oh, I forgot to mention, the punishment for sin: death, and by death I mean a final, total, spiritual death following one's corporeal death, while the end of those redeemed by Christ is life eternally in the presence of God.

This is the message of Christmas. This message of God's love, redemption, and forgiveness and our subsequent peace, hope, and joy is the reason we celebrate Christmas. This is what we must keep with us, carrying it all through the year, reminding ourselves and telling others this very same message of the Anointed One, Christ Jesus.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Seeking the King

So, with my family in the US and all, my dad, of course has done and will be doing some speaking engagements. Today was one such day. One thing he said (which was also touched upon by the Sunday School teacher) struck a bit of a chord.

Looking at the magi which traveled to honour the (at the time) newborn Messiah (Matt 2:1-12), he illustrated, amongst other ideas, the dedication and drive possessed by the magi to finding this newborn king.

These men saw a star, traveled for ~2 years, found that their initial idea of the child's location was wrong, found correct information and went to the child. They brought with them gifts; some might say they were symbolic, but all will agree they were expensive gifts, gifts deemed the best to give to honour the now-come Messiah.

Conversely, the Jews in Herod's court (and Herod himself) knew about the coming arrival of the Messiah and where He would be born. They were a very short distance away from Him, yet when they heard that He was born, they couldn't be bothered to take a measly day's travel to seek Him out.

The question my dad asked [well, either that or implied] which caught my ear, and I hope it catches yours, was "What is your reaction to the newborn King?" Is it "I must follow after and seek out the King" or merely "Meh"?

Ooh, and add to that the shepherds' reaction - they were rejoicing and ecstatic about the birth of the Messiah, while, once again, the Jewish advisers and scholars reacted indifferently, a distinction of "THE MESSIAH IS BORN! WE MUST GO AND SEE; TELL THE OTHERS!" versus "The Messiah? He's supposed to be over there."

So, I ask myself as I ask you, the reader, "What is your reaction to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the saviour of the world?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Finals Week

Once again, it is that time, the time of year when millions of students across the land lose sleep, sanity, and sociability. It is the time of year when hours spent toiling under the forbearing glare of paper taskmasters breed new colourful epithets describing the derisive tortures of the soul

Fear not, my people, for an end is nigh! Though your strength might fall, your courage falter, and your determination faint, there is an end and soon, very soon, that end shall be upon us; on some it had indeed already fallen. So, gather yourselves! There shall come a day when the grip of your hand may fail, when the words trail off the edge of the paper in a senseless line, but it is not this day.

So you can give up and roll back in bed, yes, or you can study, get up and take the final. You may fail, yes, but years from now, as you walk into that interview, do you desire to look back into the past at these finals and regale your prospective employer or graduate school provost with tales of your cowardice or tales of your fight, your struggle, of hours spent slaving away under harsh light, staring at the manifold scribings of ink on pages? Simply remember this: they may take our time, they may take our sanity, but they will never take Winter break!