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Wednesday, December 19, 2007
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"The Offense Of The Cradle"
"Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone', and 'A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense'" (1 Peter 2:7,8).
Do you find the photo above offensive? It seems many do. (If you're reading a text only version it's a depiction of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus on a hay bale.) Now normally I don't think a picture of a loving mom and dad and their baby offend people.
Last night we had a small group gathering in our home. Our friends, Ken and Nila, were present along with their six month son, David, but I doubt that many (if any) will be offended at this photo. Instead our hearts warm at the sight of Dad with a baby son on his lap. (I also point out to the easily offended that those are window frames in the background, not a "subliminal cross.")
The two most enduring symbols of the Christian faith are the cradle and the cross. The cross gets attacked all through the year, I suppose, because it tends to be a non-seasonal expression of faith to Christians.
However the cradle and manger scene are used primarily during this time when we commemorate Christ's birth and thus seems to be the focus of the offended. It gets even more bizarre in some places with Christmas trees along with green and red lights being banned, although neither have any Scriptural significance whatsoever. Even the greeting "Merry Christmas" is offensive to a small minority of people who then like to make it a controversial and divisive subject. While we're on the subject of being non offensive during this holiday season, please don't send a card with Scripture or a reference to your faith lest someone be upset!
We've all heard and probably repeated for many years the phrase, "Keep Christ in Christmas" so actually this marginalization has been going on for a long time. As a child I remember this phrase being quoted often in countering all the commercialization of the season, but now it's much more than that. The intense desire to remove Christ from Christmas seems to be increasing, including the many ways that are just plain silly. Many have been making this observation. In fact I have recently read articles using the phrase Christianophobia and "Christophobia."
Well, we shouldn't be surprised. The apostle Peter draws a contrast in the daily text. For those of us who believe, Christ is precious. But for those who do not believe, who are disobedient, He is "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." Thus, as disheartening as the current attacks on Christ are, they really should not surprise us. But let those of us who love Him indeed continue to declare His unsurpassed greatness without shame this holy season and everyday of the year!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen C. Weber
Daily prayer: Jesus, as we reflect upon the spiritual meaning of the season our hearts are warmed and filled with profound gratitude for Your choosing to dwell among us. You are the precious treasure of Bethlehem who has provided salvation for all who call upon Your name. We pray for those who do not know the Prince of Peace, who day after day walk in anger and hostility. We recognize that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. We pray that troubled hearts would find reconciliation with You and experience the peaceful exchange You provide when unbelievers lay down their hostile weapons of warfare and take up the sword of the Spirit which is Your Holy Word. We ask these requests in the name which is above every other name, the name of Jesus. Amen.
Some additional thoughts about todays' topic: There is so much more I could write concerning today's topic.
I am so thankful for those who continue to publicly proclaim their faith in Christ. Several years ago "The Family Circus" had the children observing a manger scene and the proclamation that, "The real star of Bethlehem isn't in the sky. He's in the manger."
Our local community paper has a full front page display ad proclaiming the real meaning of Christmas. And thankfully there are many, many other instances of public witness for Christ.
Here is a thoughtful article written by a pastor about Christophobia.
Here is a Christianophobia blog but it does not appear to be regularly updated.
This one has gotten a lot of press: Barbara Walters, who is nearly 80 and thus has surely received a lot of Christmas cards with a lot of different messages through the years, is offended this year because she received a Christmas card from the president with religious references! See here But click here to see the Christmas card in 1950 from the president who was from my home town of Independence, Missouri. I wonder if that made big news at the time for being offensive.
Several years ago we went to an area attraction in Hershey, PA called "Hershey Sweet Lights", a drive-through course with over 600 lighted displays and over 2,000,000 lights. It was an amazing display and surely a lot of work went into setting it up. When we went we didn't expect it to be a spiritual experience.
But we were amazed at the evidence of the marginalization of Jesus. The closest any display came to having any religious meaning at all was one celebrating diversity, which included various religious symbols from the season. Brooksyne kept saying, "With all of this surely there will be a manger scene somewhere!" But there wasn't.
Resources for Christmas celebrations
It is our desire to share resources that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.
Christmas Memories Here's a collection of Christmas memories sent in by daily encouragement readers several years ago, along with an opportunity to share your own story.
"In Remembrance of Me" pdf This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Stephen and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services. We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.
"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with the tune and some churches have already exhausted the usual list of Christmas carols.
Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18 pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him" pdf
My First Christmas in heaven A poem Brooksyne shared two years ago in memory of my Mom. This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year.
Here's a test for those who like tests! Christmas knowledge test
We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes with these posts, here and here.
"This Little Child" Today's recommended song resource is by Scott Wesley Brown. (Here are two full length mp3 versions from his website available as a free download) Original version African version
"Christ Is Come" (Audio)
"Lord You Are More Precious Than Silver" (Audio)
Info about multi-media files used on daily encouragement.
Today I would like to end with a photo posted by our friend Doris High taken during this weekend's ice storm that I'll call "icy green"!
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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