…about that Christmas Tree…

Author’s noteAs I see Christmas Day bearing down on me, and wanting to eliminate any stress that I can!, I’m not attempting a special post for this December 25th.  Rather, I am reblogging again one from 2011. 

But I do want to make a very somber and serious observation on our times, one which I had been hearing about for a few years now, but wasn’t aware of in my own areas of life.  Franklin Graham hit the nail on the head in his article “The War on Christmas.”  By endorsing Rev. Graham’s thoughts on the ‘sacred nature of Christmas’ I might seem to be contradicting my own, expressed in the following post.  Not my intention at all!  Rather, the removal of God in Christ from any aspect of our society will leave us an emptiness & lack of joy that will only get worse.  I have never been so aware of hearing “Happy Holidays”, and not one “Merry Christmas.”  Twice, I wished cashiers “Merry Christmas” recently, and they seemed caught off-guard, flustered. I felt a little bit sad.  I had not realized how far along spiritual changes had progressed.

Even so, we who still believe, (regardless of how we do or don’t celebrate Christmas) keep on keeping on, looking within our own hearts & spirits, where Christ dwells, and shines.  And the darkness overcomes it not. 

ΑΩ

 

 

All around the world, people are preparing to celebrate that Holiday of all holidays, Christmas.  Like the siren call of myth, the lure of yuletide activity is almost impossible to resist.  Even the Scrooges I’ve known, still, amidst their bah humbugs! usually join in the celebrations, one way or another.  Just about everyone finds him or her self sitting around a Christmas tree, sharing food and exchanging gifts amidst garland, glitter and goodwill.  And those who aren’t able to, wish they were.

What is it about that Christmas tree?  I’ve been working on mine for awhile now, off & on, taking my time and ensuring that it is just right!  Why do almost all of us do it?

My money is on hope and expectation.

We think we’re ‘decorating a Christmas tree’, but the roots go much deeper than that.  People are looking for something better.  We want the comfort & contentment of security.  We want the release of joy.  I believe the decorated Christmas tree stands as a symbol & token of such things.   For myself, I find an almost inviolable sense of peace, of serenity as I gaze upon my own tree, with its twinkling lights and its sparkling elegance.  It is a silent and immoveable testimony to enduring abundance.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”   (John 10:10)

~~~

Springing up around the centuries-old tradition of decorating a live evergreen tree at Christmas time are several different stories pointing to its origin.  Reading these accounts I learned that it was possible that Martin Luther himself had set this practice in motion…or St. Boniface…and the tradition began in Germany…no, wait, it was France…I’ve seen Egypt mentioned…well, actually, it looks like ancient Rome was where the practice first surfaced…

And speaking of the ancient Romans, their trees were just pieces of evergreen shrubs decorated with bits of metal, celebrating a winter festival (that ended on December 25) in honor of their god of agriculture, Saturnus.   The pagan god Bacchus was honored in a similar fashion as well.  And the prophet Jeremiah wrote of the cutting down & adorning of trees, declaring it a vain, heathen custom  (Jeremiah 10: 2–4).  So it does seem that what eventually became the symbol of the birth of the Saviour of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, had its roots in pagan practices.

 I find it so amazing, then, that the ultimate outcome of God-less ritual became this universally recognized symbol of  true Life, eternal Life.  Talk about transformation!  Talk about restoration!  Talk about mortality being swallowed up of Life!  In fact, turning it inside out, who is to say that this very outcome was not the original intention of a  seed constrained within an outward expression of another sort.    Certain types of men “..hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18) 

But the truth is still there.  When Ecclesiastes 3:11 speaks of God placing the world in their heart (the hearts of human beings), it is important to know that the more literal meaning of ‘world’ connotes a sense of eternity, and that which is concealed (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew #5769, #5956.)  This awareness is placed within us all.  That is a good thing.  Those invisible things are understood by the visible, created things…such as a tree…but ‘vain imaginations’ (Romans 1:21)  darken hearts, and what is produced misses the mark. 

You end up with a raggedy shrub wearing scraps of metal.

How triumphant, then, is the glorious Christmas tree of today! 

 “…The evergreen theme continues to weave its way through the history of Christmas trees as a symbol of the promise of life to come…” (link)  While this statement refers to the warmth of spring after a cold, hard winter, there is another Parallel here.  The truth of eternal Life in Christ, who has abolished death!  bears witness of Itself throughout this same history.

~~~  

      

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…so, about that Christmas Tree?

 

All around the world, people are preparing to celebrate that Holiday of all holidays, Christmas.  Like the siren call of myth, the lure of yuletide activity is almost impossible to resist.  Even the Scrooges I’ve known, still, amidst their bah humbugs! usually join in the celebrations, one way or another.  Just about everyone finds him or her self sitting around a Christmas tree, sharing food and exchanging gifts amidst garland, glitter and goodwill.  And those who aren’t able to, wish they were.

What is it about that Christmas tree?  I’ve been working on mine for awhile now, off & on, taking my time and ensuring that it is just right!  Why do almost all of us do it?

My money is on hope and expectation.

We think we’re ‘decorating a Christmas tree’, but the roots go much deeper than that.  People are looking for something better.  We want the comfort & contentment of security.  We want the release of joy.  I believe the decorated Christmas tree stands as a symbol & token of such things.   For myself, I find an almost inviolable sense of peace, of serenity as I gaze upon my own tree, with its twinkling lights and its sparkling elegance.  It is a silent and immoveable testimony to enduring abundance.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”   (John 10:10)

~~~

English: A Christmas Tree at HomeSpringing up around the centuries-old tradition of decorating a live evergreen tree at Christmas time are several different stories pointing to its origin.  Reading these accounts,  I learned that it was possible that Martin Luther himself had set this practice in motion…or St. Boniface…and the tradition began in Germany…no, wait, it was France…I’ve seen Egypt mentioned…well, actually, it looks like ancient Rome was where the practice first surfaced…

And speaking of the ancient Romans, their trees were just pieces of evergreen shrubs decorated with bits of metal, celebrating a winter festival (that ended on December 25) in honor of their god of agriculture, Saturnus.   The pagan god Bacchus was honored in a similar fashion as well.  And the prophet Jeremiah wrote of the cutting down & adorning of trees, declaring it a vain, heathen custom  (Jeremiah 10: 2–4).  So it does seem that what eventually became the symbol of the birth of the Saviour of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, had its roots in pagan practices.

I find it so amazing, then, that the ultimate outcome of God-less ritual became this universally recognized symbol of  true Life, eternal Life.  Talk about transformation!  Talk about restoration!  Talk about mortality being swallowed up of Life!  In fact, turning it inside out, who is to say that this very outcome was not the original intention of a  seed constrained within an outward expression of another sort.    Certain types of men “..hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18)

But the truth is still there.  When Ecclesiastes 3:11 speaks of God placing the world in their heart (the hearts of human beings), it is important to know that the more literal meaning of ‘world’ connotes a sense of eternity, and that which is concealed (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew #5769, #5956.)  This awareness is placed within us all.  That is a good thing.  Those invisible things are understood by the visible, created things…such as a tree…but ‘vain imaginations’ (Romans 1:21)  darken hearts, and what is produced misses the mark.

You end up with a ragged shrub wearing scraps of metal.

How triumphant, then, is the glorious Christmas tree of today!

“…The evergreen theme continues to weave its way through the history of Christmas trees as a symbol of the promise of life to come…” (link)  While this statement refers to the warmth of spring after a cold, hard winter, there is another Parallel here.  The truth of eternal Life in Christ, who has abolished death!  bears witness of Itself throughout this same history.

~~~

…about that Christmas Tree…

All around the world, people are preparing to celebrate that Holiday of all holidays, Christmas.  Like the siren call of myth, the lure of yuletide activity is almost impossible to resist.  Even the Scrooges I’ve known, still, amidst their bah humbugs! usually join in the celebrations, one way or another.  Just about everyone finds him or her self sitting around a Christmas tree, sharing food and exchanging gifts amidst garland, glitter and goodwill.  And those who aren’t able to, wish they were.

What is it about that Christmas tree?  I’ve been working on mine for awhile now, off & on, taking my time and ensuring that it is just right!  Why do almost all of us do it?

My money is on hope and expectation.

We think we’re ‘decorating a Christmas tree’, but the roots go much deeper than that.  People are looking for something better.  We want the comfort & contentment of security.  We want the release of joy.  I believe the decorated Christmas tree stands as a symbol & token of such things.   For myself, I find an almost inviolable sense of peace, of serenity as I gaze upon my own tree, with its twinkling lights and its sparkling elegance.  It is a silent and immoveable testimony to enduring abundance.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”   (John 10:10)

~~~

Springing up around the centuries-old tradition of decorating a live evergreen tree at Christmas time are several different stories pointing to its origin.  Reading these accounts I learned that it was possible that Martin Luther himself had set this practice in motion…or St. Boniface…and the tradition began in Germany…no, wait, it was France…I’ve seen Egypt mentioned…well, actually, it looks like ancient Rome was where the practice first surfaced…

And speaking of the ancient Romans, their trees were just pieces of evergreen shrubs decorated with bits of metal, celebrating a winter festival (that ended on December 25) in honor of their god of agriculture, Saturnus.   The pagan god Bacchus was honored in a similar fashion as well.  And the prophet Jeremiah wrote of the cutting down & adorning of trees, declaring it a vain, heathen custom  (Jeremiah 10: 2–4).  So it does seem that what eventually became the symbol of the birth of the Saviour of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, had its roots in pagan practices.

 I find it so amazing, then, that the ultimate outcome of God-less ritual became this universally recognized symbol of  true Life, eternal Life.  Talk about transformation!  Talk about restoration!  Talk about mortality being swallowed up of Life!  In fact, turning it inside out, who is to say that this very outcome was not the original intention of a  seed constrained within an outward expression of another sort.    Certain types of men “..hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18) 

But the truth is still there.  When Ecclesiastes 3:11 speaks of God placing the world in their heart (the hearts of human beings), it is important to know that the more literal meaning of ‘world’ connotes a sense of eternity, and that which is concealed (Strong’s Concordance, Hebrew #5769, #5956.)  This awareness is placed within us all.  That is a good thing.  Those invisible things are understood by the visible, created things…such as a tree…but ‘vain imaginations’ (Romans 1:21)  darken hearts, and what is produced misses the mark. 

You end up with a raggedy shrub wearing scraps of metal.

How triumphant, then, is the glorious Christmas tree of today! 

 “…The evergreen theme continues to weave its way through the history of Christmas trees as a symbol of the promise of life to come…” (link)  While this statement refers to the warmth of spring after a cold, hard winter, there is another Parallel here.  The truth of eternal Life in Christ, who has abolished death!  bears witness of Itself throughout this same history.

~~~  

      

‘…the Axe to the Root’ continues…

(See ‘…the Axe to the Root… )

We’ve been hearing about President Obama’s proposal that Israel return to her pre-1967 borders. Hamas has taken it further and suggested pre-1948, and ‘suggested’ is probably not really an accurate word to use here. The plot to, if at all possible, thwart the plan of God never ceases. It seeks whatever approach might possibly work. If not through obvious & sworn terrorist intent, then let’s try the Obama route, let’s attempt an American Presidential disguise. ( And how ironic is it that it was, in fact, an American president who came to Israel’s aid during the Yom Kippur War, when her enemies tried to take back land lost to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. That same Israeli victory is now being threatened by…an American president. )

I cannot recall a time when, one way or another, Middle East conflict has not existed. I can, however, recall a time when it first occurred to me that those very lands are host to those places ‘where Jesus walked’. Where he was born, preached, healed, died & rose again. There’s got to be a connection here. He has got to be at the heart of it all. One way or another.

We Christians recognize Jesus as the Promise fulfilled. Our God is a God of promise, and His habit of making promises to His people goes waaaay back in time. I’m wondering if a pattern in the Spirit can be traced back to “In the beginning…” (Genesis 1:1), and if a link can be found between the Adam & Eve incidents in the Garden, and the hotbed of conflict & violence that exists in the Middle East today. Because I believe that everything that matters comes back to Christ, and that in Him we live and move and have our being…I will proceed with this train of thought.

I want to compare the promises/warnings made in Eden by the LORD, to Adam & Eve and the promises made by the LORD to Abram concerning Isaac & Ishmael. Looking for a thread of similarity here…

I’ll be starting with that eternally famous Tree that Scripture tells us was planted smack in the middle of the Garden of Eden. You know the one – some believe that Tree bore the fruit of apples – but the Word indicates otherwise. The Tree was called the Knowledge of Good & Evil. The promise of which I’m speaking may more accurately be labeled a warning as well as an instruction, but I take the liberty of calling it a promise because the inherent consequence of its disregard was quickly realized. The man & his wife were told not to handle, nor partake of, this knowledge. The promise/warning was one of incumbent death. A God who is good sought to save His creations from death. An option was provided: the Tree of Life. So, keeping it simple, an attempt was made & a plan was put in place to provide Life.

We know how these circumstances played out – Adam & Eve did not follow God’s instruction, and history as we know & see it today was set in motion. Plenty of death to go around, wouldn’t you say?

Telescoping into the future – and keeping it extremely simple – another promise concerning Life was made, this time to the patriarch Abraham. He was promised an heir, and numberless progeny through that heir. Life bursting out all over the place, into time not yet arrived and lands not yet discovered. Good stuff here!

Every good & perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights, with whom tbere is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1: 17) – so troubles galore were not meant to be part of that package, it would seem safe to say. It would seem safe to say that this promise could have been assumed to be one of great blessing. But because of Sarai’s manipulation, and Abram’s capitulation to it, events took a different turn….pride, jealousy, anger, resentment – a child not promised & his slave mother cast out into a desert – resulting in a nation not Israelite, not God’s people, springing from that child of whom Scripture says “…his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him” (Genesis 16:12).

Now, in each of the above cases – Adam & Eve and Abram (w/ Sarai his wife) – there existed the promise, and there existed an option. In each of these cases, all human parties involved went the option route. The first man & wife chose Knowledge of Good & Evil over God’s way. The great patriarch Abraham & his wife chose making it happen themselves over trusting God’s promise, i.e., God’s way. So we see a parallel here. ( And we also see a confirmation of the LORD’s statement (in Isaiah 55) that our ways & thoughts are not His ways & thoughts {to which I would add, especially back in Old Testament times, when the mind of Christ was not yet imparted to His people, as can happen now, in this New Covenant day.})

OK…so…

Life or the Knowledge of Good & Evil.

Faith in God’s promise or in our means & ways.

Is it a stretch to come up with this formula: Life/faith in God’s promise vs. Knowledge of Good & Evil/our means and ways? Simplifying it even further: grace vs. law…

I believe this very basic thread of truth runs through all of history, and this is the truth, the Axe that needs to be applied to so many, many roots.

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…taking a break here…this could turn into quite a few posts…

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~~~


Lest Adam Live Forever…

(see Part One, “…Lest Ye Die”)

“…law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” (Romans 4:15, KJV )

If no laws existed, either external or internal, to tell us that it’s wrong for a person to, say, steal your newspaper from the front step, then what would your reaction be if that happened ? If you didn’t ‘know’ that such an act was wrong, why would you become angry? You wouldn’t. There would be no wrath present. It is the knowledge of the law that produces the wrath.

Wrath, or anger, when strong enough, or bottled up long enough, can kill you. High blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks can be, and are caused by excessive anger. Anger can also kill by degrees, in that the stress of it on your system damages its well-being, depleting your health, thus, your life. Or, it can kill someone else. You’ve heard of crimes of passion. Road rage. Persons furiously blurting out, when tempers are flaring, “I could kill you!” So the knowledge of the law produces the wrath that, one way or another, can produce death.

In some ways, ignorance IS bliss!

So, there needs to be a way out. (I”m sorry, did someone say ‘Way’? Hmmm…I’ve heard it said that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life) (John 14:6). Wait! Did I say ‘life’? In the garden, (see previous post) besides the tree of knowledge of good and evil there also was present the tree of Life. The LORD God did not originally warn the First Couple against partaking of that fruit. Scripture tells us that there were also many other ‘trees’, all pleasant to look at and good for food, none of which were off-limits. Only the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

There was a choice, there were options.


I’ve heard it taught that neither Eden, nor Adam and Eve, ever actually existed, and that this account of the downfall in the garden was intended to embody truth, principles, etc. I’ve heard this taught by a preacher whom I respected, and still do. I personally take the Genesis account of creation literally. I acknowledge symbolism may be present, as well. (It is true, however, that with the Lord, anything is possible.) So, going forward in a literal garden…

Once the first man and woman had partaken of forbidden knowledge, God had a problem. The humans weren’t equipped to handle such awareness. It appears to me to have been an act of mercy that Adam and Eve were removed from Eden, and the Cherubims and a flaming sword ‘which turned every way’ were placed ‘to keep the way of the tree of life’ (Genesis 3: 24), “…lest he (Adam)…take…and eat, and live for ever” (v.23). My conjecture here is that living forever with such tortuous knowledge would have been a form of hell for the couple, and all who came thereafter. God mercifully blocked their way. But in driving them out of Eden, He also set in motion His plan of the ages, to help all of us make our way back. Back to ‘Eden’, back to liberty, back to God.

Now, if any of you are still with me! here is where I need to ask you to take a leap of faith…hold on, here we go….!

In the New Testament book of Hebrews,the image of a two-edged sword is used to describe the word of God. In my mind, then, I see this flaming sword turning every which way as possibly a form of truth, powerful and contained in words spoken deftly, guarding and preserving that which is the most cherished, that which is most to be desired – life and liberty as God intended it
to be. I have watched some pastors preaching, and thought, they are that flaming sword, guarding the truth from the lies and attacks of enemies.

When I first started reading about Thomas Jefferson, about his multi-faceted, swiftly changing persona, “the elements of his thought and character assum[ing] different patterns and shadows from encounter to encounter, crisis to crisis, moment to moment” (R.B. Bernstein, Introduction, Thomas Jefferson), I kept getting this overlaid impression of a flaming sword turning every way, placed east of Eden.

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