The Pastor’s Corner is written by the pastor of Coronado Bible Church.

A Christmas Message from Linus:

LinusThis year marks 50 showings of the classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Fifty years … but I wonder how many people have noticed this. I read about it in a piece entitled, Just Drop the Blanket, by blogger Jason Soroski. In commenting on Linus’ delivery of Luke 2:8-14, Soroski writes,

Linus is most associated with his ever-present security blanket. Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up. Until this moment. When he simply drops it.

In that climactic scene when Linus shares what “Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words “fear not.”

What do you fear? What’s your blanket? Does the Christmas message have any power to help you let go? As we move past Christmas on our calendars, let’s not forget the prophesied Messiah bears, among other titles, “Wonderful Counselor … The Prince of Peace.”

I would think that owning the title “Prince of Peace” would have the power to dispense that to his followers. He certainly spoke as if he did …

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Our Prince has power to give us peace in the midst of worldly troubles … but according to the second passage, that peace is only “in” Him.

Father, grant us the grace to drop our fear and the blankets we use to cover it and cling to our Prince of Peace. Help us to live under His reign and be lights of peace in a dark and fearful world.



StrAngels

 
Angels
Angels can be problematic. There is a risk of making too much or too little out of their existence. Angelic appearances are highly concentrated in the Nativity narratives … so it’s fitting that angels are represented at Christmas time.
 
Part of the problem is that angels, while abundant during this season, are not well represented. What I mean is that the angels we see in Christmas displays and on trees have little or no resemblance to what the Bible teaches.
 
Resemblance … is a good place to begin. First of all, angels are not typically visible to human eyes. They were created and exist as spiritual beings in the spiritual realm (Hebrews 1:14). The Bible says very little about their actual appearance. One conclusion we can draw is that they are awesome beings. There may be some distinction among heavenly beings, but one of their Hebrew names is Seraphim, which literally means “burning ones.” The New Testament brings this across, In speaking of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.” There are several places where an angels appearance is so imposing that the humans first response on seeing him is to worship. Angels are always swift to redirect all praise and worship to God alone. John reports in Revelation 22:8-9, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel … But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”
 
 Him? Another thing that’s odd about Christmas representations of angels is that they are predominantly feminine. The universal testimony of Scripture is that when angels make themselves visible, they either take the form of or are mistaken for men. Why that would be, I can’t say, but it is obviously God’s design as reported in His Word. Does anyone know where I can purchase a fearsome, shining manly angel for my tree?

 



No Credit

No Credit
This past week, I thought I was sinking one more root into Panamanian soil. I thought I was actually going to have a monthly phone contract. I walked into the cellular store armed with the requisite letter of credit from my bank. I gave the sales associate my residency card and reference letter, which she proceeded to examine closely. Then she showed my letter to another employee and they talked quietly. She returned to tell me that my credit standing only qualified me for the two lowest plans. Her English was a bit broken, but I got the message that if I proved myself by being a good customer, I could move up the food chain.
 
It was a strange feeling. Part of me wanted to strongly object. My credit rating in the States is exemplary. People give me loans with just a signature. My last cellphone company went on and on about what a long-term customer I had been. I guess in the cellular world; twelve years is real loyalty. But … in this country, I have no credit. “Oh well” … I thought, “At least I can get this started.” That’s when she asked me for my water bill. WHAT????
 

Living cross-culturally adds another level of tension to our lives. I need to keep these small frustrations in perspective. The Incarnation story helped me this week. I’m from another country where my credit worthiness has been established. Why should I expect instant entrée here in Panama. But what would it be like to deserve every recognition, every privilege … and receive none? That’s what Jesus Immanuel endured for me!

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 1 John 9-11

I think I’ll survive.


The Other Wiseman

The Other Wiseman
Have you ever wondered about the Wisemen? Was there really just three? What was it like following ‘the star’? While we don’t really know, it is interesting to think about.
 
Sue’s family had a Christmas tradition of reading Van Dyke’s story, “The Other Wiseman.” That’s how I became acquainted with the story of Artaban. Van Dyke built on the Biblical story of the visiting Magi and specifically the tradition of the three wise men. Artaban, his story goes, was delayed by stopping to lend aid to a dying man. That postponement put Artaban permanently behind. He arrives in Bethlehem after Joseph and Mary have fled with Jesus to Egypt. While there, Artaban uses some of the treasure intended for the infant king to save a child from Herod’s soldiers. Always one step behind the movements of Jesus, Artaban spends thirty-three years and almost his entire treasure searching, doing acts of mercy and saving lives. The old Wiseman finally arrives back in Jerusalem in time for Jesus’ crucifixion. Having never met Christ face-to-face, he spends the last of his treasure to rescue a girl being sold as a slave. While in the Temple, a falling roof tile strikes the old man down. As he lays dying, Artaban finally hears the voice of the King he so longed to meet … “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
 
I do not think that Van Dyke believed that you could work your way into God’s presence. I think he was pushing Christians to ask whether our lives truly reflect the values of the One we say we’ve met. Many who feign a bow at the manger have never encountered the Savior King. Have you?


Advent

Advent
Advent is shortened from the Latin, adventus. It simply means “coming.” The dictionary defines it as “the arrival of notable person, thing or event.” Even if you didn’t grow up in a more traditional church, you can probably put two and two together. Advent is the season leading up to Christmas when we remember the birth of Jesus. Even if you grew up in a liturgical church, you might nod in agreement to that definition of Advent. That’s where the emphasis usually rests.
 
But take one step further back. When the earliest manuscripts of our New Testament were converted into Latin, adventus was used to translate the Greek word parousia.Parousia does not refer to Christ’s first coming, but his second. As the beginning of the church calendar, Advent was originally a solemn time of looking ahead to the Lord’s coming at the end of time. Early observances included fasting and spiritual reflection concerning an individual’s readiness for the Second Coming of Christ.
 
Over the years, the Advent season has migrated in many churches to solely a remembrance of Jesus’ infant arrival in Bethlehem. Although that will be our main focus of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, I encourage you to also take that look ahead. I think this sentence from Wikipedia says it very well:The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming.”
 

Had Jesus, the Immanuel of Bethlehem, not gone to cross to bear the rightful sentence for our sins … none of us could ever hope to face him at his Second Coming. His gift should be more than enough to make your Christmas Merry!

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.                    1 Thessalonians 5:23-24