Category Archives: Christian History

Where Were You in the Seventies??? …My Jesus People Memories and Why Jesus People Reunions Rock On!

Tom and Maryellen Stipe during the Jesus Movement

When most people search back through the annals of their memories and remember the life changing passages in their lives they often think back to high school or college.

They remember the schools they attended, the relationships they had there, and the music that played in the background.

But when I think back on my life molding times—I am different.

I’m different because it was not the hallowed halls of an educational institution that profoundly shaped me. I am not without an educational alma-mater but the influence that sent me on my life course did not come from there.

What profoundly formed my life was a spiritual time—a special period of “God history.” And the spiritual environment, the spiritual experiences and the relationships that I tasted then are the elements that make up the indelible imprints of my young adulthood.

I consider myself fortunate to be one of “thousands” of so-called “Jesus freaks”– individuals whose teens and twenties were dominated by no less than Jesus himself. We are an unusual bunch, who when thinking of “where were you in the seventies?” don’t think of a school or a stadium, or even a war, but instead think of three words—The Jesus Movement.

The Jesus Movement was a culture unto itself—a counter-culture expression contrasting a youthful society gone mad. By the grace of God, at a time when evil raised up a banner extolling free sex, drugs and eastern mysticism, the Almighty raised up a standard of His own. To a generation looking for love in all the wrong places God lifted up his Son and His Divine love and thousands including me flocked to Him.

There was never a time before or has there ever been a time since when God moved so dramatically on young people. It was “revival” –and a spiritual Wind moved across a generation whisking tens of thousands into its influence. My life was dramatically changed by that Wind and my choice for a mate, my calling, and my lifestyle were cast in its wake.  I chose to follow Jesus and I have never looked back.

As a result, the story of my youth will never be encapsulated in a yearbook. Instead, the saga of my young years is tied to a dynamic people—the Jesus People—and their culture.

Yes, we had our own culture. We had our own brand of religion, with its own liturgy and a new spiritual jargon. We had our own dress; our own music and we even had our own folk heroes.

It was the music, which was a new type of sacred song that was the most defining element of our “spiritual culture.” And the music was pioneered by an elite group of young minstrels. The band that was at the epicenter of the musical awakening taking place was a group of redeemed “rockers” called Love Song.

The young guys who made up Love Song were unlikely “Levites.” They were not the beneficiaries of a long religious heritage, like the worship leaders of old; instead God drafted them off the street.  They came out of the “hippie” culture they were called to juxtaposition and God gave them inspired songs for the spiritual climate he was creating. They became the “pied pipers” of the movement, calling young participants to follow The Master.

Tom Stipe preaching in "Tent" at Calvary Chapel during the Jesus Movement

As I said, we also had our own folk heroes, these were teens that God raised up from amongst us to take the forefront leading the new sacred gatherings we were initiating. Jesus music concerts were one of the staples of the spiritual life of the Jesus People and they were almost always punctuated by the messages of young evangelists.  I married one of these evangelists/folk heroes and nearly forty years later we are still making disciples.

I never went to one of my high school or college reunions, but through the years I have attended several “Jesus People Reunions.”  These events are extremely popular because they help true “Jesus People” to remember the happenings that for most of us eclipsed everything else in our young lives. We have a chance at these gatherings to sing the old songs, to raise our hands in the same holy ways and to consider once again the spiritual truths that have always been so important.

These reunions, while misunderstood by many, are immensely clear in their importance to those who actually lived through the Jesus Movement. They are meaningful and bring to our remembrance the sacred times that carved out our personalities and determined our futures. At these events we have an opportunity to savor the spiritual essence of a time gone by while we worship the Savior who’s always the same and who we will always love!

On September 15th at 6:30, Crossroads Church of Denver will host the Love Song Reunion Tour with Chuck Smith; also on hand will be hundreds of Jesus People who actually lived through that incredible time in history. I will be there with my husband Tom Stipe. Tom and I moved to Denver in 1976 to plant a Jesus Movement type church in Colorado. We were on staff with Chuck Smith from 1970 until 1976 and during that time Tom was the staff evangelist in charge of the Saturday Night Maranatha Concerts.

We invite you to come and join us for what we are sure will be a life-changing concert with Love Song and Chuck Smith. If you are a Christian who dates back to the Jesus Movement days please come ready to be part of a heart warming reunion and if you are one who wants to just come and check out what you have heard about this incredible band please feel welcomed. I am sure no one will go away without experiencing a blessing and a dose of God’s love. God’s love in abundance was one of the hallmarks of the Jesus Movement and it’s the same yesterday, today and forever!

For a taste of the time, I’ve included the following excerpt from an article from a local newspaper of the period. This posting is a part of just one of the many articles that I have collected that reported on the spiritual happenings in the tent that Calvary Chapel called home during the Jesus Movement. This particular piece is one of my favorites because it captures the preaching of my husband Tom Stipe.

Sunday March 31, 1974 Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram (from article “Jesus on Campus”)

Tom Stipe, the folk hero of Calvary Chapel comes on after the large, youthful congregation has warmed up with an hour of moving ballads interspersed with deep-bass, hand-clapping Jesus rock from the musicians of Love Song, one of the chapel’s nationally known rock groups. He’s wearing faded jeans, a blue work shirt and tousled, shoulder length hair. Stipe is a showman, but he mocks his own showmanship, dropping into a Southern preacher drawl that delights the teenagers.

“Now when ah got saved, ah wasn’t falling into the depths,” he drawls. “Ah was into the whole party thing in pursuit of fun—you know the kinda guy who is driving around at three in the morning to see it anybody is still awake…” Laughter rocks the light-flooded chapel.  It’s Saturday night and it’s the biggest Jesus show around. For local high school and college students, it’s the Southland’s religious mecca.  They come driving down to South Santa Ana from as far as the San Fernando Valley and San Diego.

“Now, everybody thinks they can get more from Pier One in Newport Beach than from Jesus Christ,” Stipe preaches. “They think they can get more action on Long Beach Boulevard or Pacific Coast Highway than from the Lord…Before I got saved I always thought that if you became a Christian, you’d become like a stone, You know,” he says, dropping into a deep, moronic voice. “duh I am a Christian.” And people would just roll you around. (Roars of laughter). Well let me tell you what it’s really like…”

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Christ’s Death the Ultimate Expression of the Love of God

God proved his love on the cross.

When Christ hung, and bled, and died it was God saying to the world—I love you.

Billy Graham

God sat in silence while the sins of the world were placed upon his Son. Was it right?

No. Was it fair? No. Was it love?

Yes. In a world of injustice, God once and for all tipped the scales in the favor of hope.

Max L. Lucado

What happened that Friday, Good Friday?

The Apostle’s Creed states it without embellishment: “He was crucified, dead, and buried.” After being tried and sentenced Jesus carried His own cross to Golgotha,

And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. John 19:17

Golgotha in Aramaic (The place of the skull) was probably called this because the hill with its stony barren top looked like a skull. The probable site of Golgotha was outside the city wall and not far from Herod’s palace—perhaps a thousand feet north/northeast of it. Roman custom placed crucifixions, and Jewish custom located stonings, outside towns rather than at their center

The sin offering always used to be taken outside the camp or city (cf. Heb. 13:11-13).

For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people withHis own blood, suffered outside the gate.

Several stakes, at most about ten feet high, stood in Golgotha ready to be reused whenever executions occurred. The upright part of the cross (the stipe) was permanently mounted in the crucifixion area. The part that the victim carried was the cross bar, weighing in at 75 to 125 pounds. The cross bar would be balanced on the victim’s shoulders, and their arms would be tied to the crossbar. In this position, if the victim tripped or fell, they could not use their arms to break their fall, and they would likely fall face first into the ground.

The victim was escorted by a Roman guard (probably a centurion and several soldiers), who were responsible for guarding the victim until his death. One of the soldiers would display a sign with the crime written on it. Once the crucifixion area was reached, the victim would be offered a drink of wine mixed with myrrh to act as a mild pain killer. The drink was a charitable service performed by an association of women in Jerusalem.  Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. – Mark 15:23

The Crucifixion

The victim would then be nailed to the cross bar. The nails would be driven through the wrists, not through the palms, as these would not support the body weight. The cross bar would be raised and placed on the upright post, where the victim’s heels would be nailed to the post.

Once crucified, a victim would live for a period ranging from a few hours to a few days. How long he lived depended mostly on how severe the scourging was. If no one claimed the body, it would be left on the cross to be eaten by predatory animals. The family could, however, claim the body for burial. In this case, a Roman soldier would pierce the chest with a sword or spear to make sure the victim was dead.

What actually kills the victim of crucifixion?

The initial scourging would weaken the victim, cause massive blood loss, and probably induce shock. By the time the victim had carried the cross bar to the crucifixion area, he would be exhausted. Once up on the cross, the victim would have his body weight suspended by their arms. In this position, it is difficult to completely exhale. The victim could take shallow breaths for a while, but eventually would be forced to push himself up to take a full breath.  At this point three things happen:

The victim’s weight is now fully supported by his feet. The nails through the feet would be likely to hit two major nerves running through the area. The result would be excruciating pain in the legs.

The nails in the wrists would be likely to pierce the main nerve running through the arm. As the victim pushed up to breath, the wrists would rotate against the nail, irritating the nerves and causing intense pain in the arms. Some authorities also believe that the crucifixion position would dislocate the shoulder or elbow. Any movement would aggravate the pain from these injuries.

The wounds on the victim’s back from the scourging would push up against the rough part of the centerpiece. This would tend to re-open the wounds, leading to more pain and blood loss. This combination of pain would quickly force the victim to lower himself back down. Eventually, the victim would no longer be able to raise himself up and would suffocate. The shock from blood loss due to the scourging would hasten this process. In some cases, the victim’s legs were broken to “finish him off.” This would prevent the victim from being able to raise himself up and he would suffocate in a matter of minutes.

Before the scourging and crucifixion, Jesus was beaten by his guards, which would weaken him. In addition, he would have had no sleep that night, and walked back and forth from trial to trial.

His weakness is attested to in the gospel narritives.

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Mark 15:21

As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. – Matt 27:32

As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. – Luke 23:26

Typically, a prisoner carried his own cross to the crucifixion site. The fact that Simon was pressed into carrying Jesus’ cross suggests that Jesus was too weak to carry his own cross. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.

Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. – Mark 15:42-44  Since the Jewish Sabbath would begin at Sunset, it was important that the bodies not be left up, as Jewish law required that they be buried by the Sabbath. Note that Pilate is surprised that Jesus is already dead.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. – John 19:31-32

As mentioned earlier, breaking the legs of a crucified person would cause suffocation within minutes, because they would not be able to raise themselves up to breath. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. – John 19:33-34

Again, this was typical crucifixion practice — to stab the victim to make sure he was dead before releasing him to relatives. The “water” that John describes as flowing is probably serous pleural and pericardial fluid fluid that would build up from shock and blood loss. This fluid would tend to accumulate in the chest cavity and lungs.

What does His crucifixion mean for us.

If we believe in Him and trust in Him then our debt of sin is fully paid and the record of our sin is nailed to the Cross with Christ.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. Col. 2:13-14

If we believe in Him and trust in Him then those of us who were once far away from God can be brought near.  Nothing remains between God and us but an open door.

So brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death.  We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us.  It leads through the curtain –Christ’s body. Hebrews 10:19-20

Take some time and speak to the LORD about your need for forgiveness and the removal of guilt over sin in your life.  Imagine the cross and take those charges you want destroyed once and for all and visualize them nailed there.  Jesus was crucified, dead and buried to eliminate the sins of the world that keep man separated from God.  Believe in what Jesus did for you, allow Him to take your sin, repent and follow Him as Lord and Savior and you will be reconciled with God.  That is the message of Good Friday.

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The History of Halloween! Is It Really Something Christians Should Celebrate? And if so how?

History of HalloweenInformed Christians should understand the origins of Halloween as they assess their level of involvement in celebrating what is actually a “pagan” holiday.

According to Wikipedia,

Halloween is typically linked to the celtic festival of Samhain which is derived from Old Irish and means “summer’s end”. The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year.”

The celebration has some elements of a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honored and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual.

Another common practice was, divination which often involved the use of food and drink.  The name ‘Halloween’ and many of its present-day traditions derive from the Old English era.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween

The Bible doesn’t speak directly about Halloween, but some biblical principles apply. One overriding principle is clear — all pagan practices should be avoided. Witchcraft, occult practices, sorcery, etc. are strictly forbidden in the Bible (Exodus 22:18; Acts 8:9-24; Acts 16, 19). It is obvious that a small child dressing up as a character to go trick or treating isn’t involving themselves directly with witchcraft but what are the boundaries that a responsible Christian parent should set up?

Parents, the decision is up to you, but do not proceed in your decision from a place of ignorance.

If you decide Halloween is something fun for your children, it is probably most important that they are kept far away from the evil aspects of Halloween. When believers participate in anything (even Halloween), their attitudes, dress, and behavior should glorify Christ.

Every year at Crossroads Church of Denver we offer a special alternative celebration for parents who are interested in allowing their children to dress up and go trick or treating in a controlled environment. This year the event we are offering is a Trunk or Treat Celebration.  The event is held in our parking lot and we encourage participants to dress up and decorate their open car trunks as a site for handing out candy to the kids. The children go from car to car collecting their treats and a great time is had by all.  The parking lot is well lit, safe and secure and participants are monitored (nothing evil or too scary allowed)!

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President’s Day: Celebrating the Legacy of Two Outstanding Christian Leaders

Abraham Lincoln and George Washington are the presidents whose birthdays we celebrate annually on President’s Day. Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809 and Washington was born on February 22, 1732.  

This year, February 16th, is the date set aside to commemorate the great contributions of these outstanding leaders of our country.

Time has not tarnished nor years decayed the reputations of this duo who represent the finest of U.S. statesmen. 

In fact, CNN annouced this weekend the results of a recent survey constructed and given by C-SPAN that reported that Lincoln and Washington still rank first and second at the top of presidential ratings among historians.  CNN reported “It’s been 145 years since Abraham Lincoln appeared on a ballot, but admiration for the man who saved the union and sparked the end of slavery is as strong as ever.”

Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley, who helped organize the survey of 65 historians for the cable television network stated, “As much as is possible, we created a poll that was non-partisan, judicious and fair-minded”  And he added, “It’s fitting that for the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln that he remains at the top of these presidential rankings. Lincoln continues to rank at the top in all categories because he is perceived to embody the nation’s avowed core values: integrity, moderation, persistence in the pursuit of honorable goals, respect for human rights, compassion”

In the ranking by historians of the 42 former White House occupants Abraham Lincoln finished in first place.  Founding father George Waxhington finished second, followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman, in that order.

In my opinion it is no coincidence that both Lincoln and Washington were also devout Christian men.  Lincoln in his second inaugural address communicated the following paragraphs which I believe are particularly fitting considering the context of the challenges that our nation faces today.  Lincoln spoke candidly from a clearly Christian mind mind set and called for a repentance amongst his fellow country men.  We still need that repentance today, let’s reflect on the truth Lincoln penned so long ago.

“It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in Holy Scripture, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” [March 30, 1863]

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2Chronicles 7:14

Do you have any comments, prayers or opinions as you contemplate President’s Day please share them with us!

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A Valentine’s Day Mystery

This week on February 14th Americans across this nation will celebrate the holiday known as Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is the annual holiday honoring love and romance and as you probably know it is celebrated by the custom of sending greeting cards or gifts to express affection. The cards, known as valentines have become big business in the U.S.  According to the National Greeting Card Association, 25% of all greeting cards sent this year will be valentines and that will amount to over a billion dollars in profits.

What you may not know is the history behind the holiday, the background of the saint for whom the holiday is named or the origin of the custom of the cards themselves. So for you who enjoy a little history as I do, I did some research, compiled the facts and I invite you to please read on.

The historic roots of Valentine’s Day are found in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility celebration that was enjoyed annually by the ancients on February 15th .  In 496 A.D., Pope Gelasius I recast this pagan festival as a Christian feast day by declaring it Saint Valentine’s Day.  It had become customary as Christianity came to dominance in Europe that pagan holidays were recast and changed to reflect Christian values.  Celebrations such as Lupercalia were frequently renamed for early Christian martyrs and the festivals became feast days instead. It was in accordance with this tradition that the Pope renamed Lupercalia for Saint Valentine. These are the clear facts about the holiday.

But who is this mysterious saint and why has the honoring of love and romance become synonymous with his name? That is where the topic becomes interesting because the history of Valentine’s Day and its patron saint is surrounded by obscurity.

The reason that the holiday’s history is so unclear is because there were at least three Catholic Christian Saints in the early history of the Christian church by the name of Saint Valentine. Exactly which Saint Valentine this early pope intended to honor has been lost in history and remains a mystery.  According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, concerning the history of the three Saint Valentines: one was a priest in Rome, another a bishop in Terni and the third was a virtual unknown except for the fact that he met his end in Africa. The astonishingly fact however, is that all three Valentines were chronicled as to having been martyred on February 14.

Most scholars believe that the “real” St. Valentine whose name the holiday bears was the priest in Rome. It is thought that the priest attracted the disfavor of Roman emperor Claudius II around 270 and that is where his fame and his trouble began.  Credence is given to this Saint Valentine being the one Gelasius honored because of the amount of myth and legend surrounding his name.  The Legenda Aurea, a collection of stories recounting the lives of the saints, which was compiled around the year 1260 and was a medieval best seller, contained several entries about the Saint Valentine of Claudius II’s reign.

Wikipedia states,

“According to the Legenda Aurea, St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman EmperorClaudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.

The same Legenda Aurea, also portrays Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first “valentine” himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his belovedthe jailer’s daughter whom he had befriended and healed. It was a note that read “From your Valentine.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentines_Day

On February 14, 270 AD, Valentine was executed and that is a documented fact. While the legends may be embellishedthe combinations of these stories—represent the most plausible explanations of how Valentine became a Patron Saint, and spiritual overseer of an annual celebration of love. Early in the history of the Saint Valentine Feast Day it became linked with a custom which involved young Romans offering women they admired, and wished to court, handwritten greetings of affection on February 14.  This is presumably how the greeting cards acquired Saint Valentine’s name and by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

The custom of the Valentine’s Day card spread with Christianity, and the holiday is now celebrated all over the world. One of the earliest cards that museums have on display was sent in 1415 AD by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London. The card is now show cased in the British Museum.

Whoever Valentine actually was and whatever the circumstances of his death actually were may have become a mystery cloaked in myth and legend, but one thing we know for sure is that he was an actual person who was martyred for his faith.  His existence cannot be denied because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to him.

In 1836, relics that were exhumed from the catacombs on the Via Tiburtina, then near (rather than inside) Rome were identified with Saint Valentine and placed in a casket. These remains were transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland where they reside today.  Many tourists visit the remains on Saint Valentine’s Day, when the casket is still carried in solemn procession to the high altar for a special Mass dedicated to young people and all those in love.

Catholic or non-Catholic it does not change the facts about the origins of Valentine’s Day. Do you have any opinions or comments about the great Valentine’s Day Mystery?  Please feel free to contribute.

As for me, I like to focus on the fact that it doesn’t really matter which of the three early churchmen was the real Saint Valentine, they were all martyrs for the Christian faith and that makes all three of them worthy candidates for the respect and honor of fellow Christians.  It is just too bad (IMHO) that the meaning of the holiday could not have remained focused on, or even become inclusive of; honoring love for God, which is the one thing we know with a certainty that all three Saint Valentines had in common. I guess the bottom line is–what can we expect in a society that has worked over time to even eliminate God from Christmas and Resurrection Day celebrations–it is the way of the world.

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Christmas Greetings

Vintage Christmas Greetings

Vintage Christmas Greetings

A greeting is by definition an acknowledgment or expression of good will, it often takes the form of a salutation exchanged upon meeting someone.  Gabriel the angelic messenger assigned by God to handle the news of the birth of Christ became practiced at delivering just such salutations. 

In the first chapter of the book of Luke we are told,

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to a virgin whose name was Mary and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you’.” 

The Greek word that is translated greetings is elsewhere translated “rejoice” in the New Testament.  It seems that in angel-speak the only phrase that can suffice when good news is virtually brimming in your throat is “joyful greetings.” Gabriel did not mean to frighten Mary as he approached her but we are told nonetheless that Mary was thoroughly shaken.  She was shocked and wondered what could possibly be behind such “joyful greetings.”  Likewise the shepherds were equally stunned when Gabriel burst on their scene months later announcing the same “greetings of great joy.”  Joyful greetings and the events of Christmas just seem to go together. 

 

To send forth joyful greetings in response to the good news of Christ’s birth is a natural reaction.  The shepherds on the morning of Christ’s birth went throughout Bethlehem passing on the “joyful tidings” that they had received to even more astonished recipients.  And the greetings have gone on and on now for over two-thousand years.  The question is, as you face Christmas are youlike the many faithful who have gone before youbrimming with “joyful greetings”? Or is “bah-humbug” more akin to what is really on your lips?  It may be time for an attitude check.  If Christians are not prepared to send forth the good news through Christmas greetings who will?  This is why it is important that before we launch into the holy day festivities we prepare our hearts and have our joy rekindled.           

 

All of those who claim Jesus as their Savior are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom and like Gabriel it is our duty to deliver the life changing Christmas greetings.  The true Christmas greetings the good tidings of the gospel are calling out to be sent.  Sent to the checker at the grocery store, to the single mom up the street, to the teen-ager next door, and to whoever crosses your path and is willing to listen.  But are you willing to get involved in the process?  Christmas greetings can be spoken, they can be written, and they can even be sung.  They can be delivered, in a letter, in a card, in an e-mail, over the phone, or over the back fence but they must be delivered.

 

In Matthew 28, following his resurrection Jesus went forth with excited anticipation to be reunited with his disciples and after he said, (you guessed it) “Greetings” he made it clear what they ought to do.  “Go into all the world and teach all nations, the things I have made known to you.”  Jesus called his disciples to participate in the spreading of the good news.  Just like Gabriel, the angel choir, the shepherds and the wise men, they were called to go forth and meet and greet new ones with the news of the incarnate Christ’s coming to the world and the salvation he has to offer.  This Christmas before you get all involved with the buying of presents, before you take on the task of decking the halls, or preparing for the endless holiday meals, ask the Lord who he would have you share some “Christmas greetings” with.  Who would God send you to as a messenger of His timeless good news?  Pray and ask the Lord to show you the divine appointments he has scheduled for you this season.  Be like Gabriel so many years ago and be faithful to share the good tidings of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection with a waiting and wondering recipient.

 

 

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The mailing of Christmas greetings has been an American tradition for well over one hundred and fifty years. The first Christmas cards actually came from humble origins beginning as handwritten letters and artwork sent from school children to their families around the holidays.  It was not until after the invention of the steam printing press in the 1840s that Christmas cards as we know them today began to appear.  The first cards specifically for use at Christmas were printed in England in 1843 and within a decade the custom of sending cards soon spread to the United States. Initially, Americans had to import their Christmas cards from Europe and it was 1875 before Christmas cards were published in the U.S. 

 

The first Christmas cards were not cheap and with prices ranging from .75 to $1.25 only wealthy Americans of the time could afford to send them.  It was the postcard boom of the early 1900’s that made sending Christmas greetings a custom that most Americans could afford.  By 1907 the American public was wrapped in the idea of the “penny postcard”, and with more and more Americans moving west, mailing a postcard was an inexpensive way to send Christmas communications to the relatives and friends back east.  It was the “penny postcard” craze that firmly established the tradition of sending Christmas greetings in the U.S. 

 

Christmas greetings in the 21st century have endured a similar twist of the times. As expenditures for Christmas cards have again become “pricey” and the cost to mail them equally high, Americans of the last decade have once again changed the face of Christmas greetings.  Today the least expensive way to send a message to those we hold dear is a down-loaded e-mail full of Christmas tidings.  These digital Christmas-grams have begun to replace the Christmas cards and postcards of old and sending personally designed messages clad with an individual’s personal digital photos has become the new craze.     

 

How ever you choose to send them, Christmas greetings can bring wishes of joy and health and the good news of Jesus Christ to those we know and love. Christmas cards, postcards, e-mails and the like give us the opportunity to honor our intentions to “keep in touch” with an old friend or relative. They bring joy to those who receive them, not just because of a beautiful illustrations or inscriptions, but because they all say, in intent, “I thought about you this Christmas and wanted to share with you all the joy of Christmas that is in my heart.”

 

Do you send Christmas Greetings of any type during the holiday season? If you do why do you think it is an important practice?  And what form do your Christmas Greetings take cards, postcards, e-mails, phone calls, personal visits etc.  Please respond and comment with your views concerning Christmas Greetings?  We would like to know what you think?   

  

 

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A Call To Give Thanks

 Thanksgiving by definition means to express gratitude towards God. Thanksgiving was central to the Jewish faith and an essential part of worship according to the Old Testament.  It was offered generally by the Jews in response to God’s concrete acts in history but sacrifice and offerings were also to be given continually out of a grateful heart.

 

In the Old Testament it is taught that thanksgiving should never be given grudgingly but always with a generous and willing heart. In Judeo-Christian tradition it is the duty of the faithful to express thankfulness to God for His constant love, care, provision and mercy. The praises of His people were considered the most valuable sacrifice of all, more pleasing to Him than the blood of animals.

 

I will  I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better       

than   than an ox or bull, which has horns and hooves.  Ps 69:30-31 (NKJV)

 

      The Old Testament Law called for constant and continual thanks to be offered before the Lord.  In the eras of the Jewish Tabernacle and Temple certain Levites were appointed to give continual praise and thanks to God. 

 

He appointed certain of the Levites to minister before the Ark by giving constant praise and thanks to the Lord God of Israel and by asking for his blessings upon his people. (1Chronicles 16:4, tlb)

 

In the New Testament believers are also taught that praise and thanksgiving should be a regular part of our routine

 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1Thes 5:16-18 (NKJV)

 

It is good to make thankfulness a habitual part of our worship of God and to bless Him regularly with the expressive and spontaneous fruit of our lips.

 

It is good to say thank you to the Lord, to sing praises to the God who is above all gods.  Every morning tell him, “Thank you for your kindness,” and every evening rejoice in all his faithfulness.  Sing his praises, accompanied by music from the harp and lute and lyre.  You have done so much for me, O Lord. No wonder I am glad! I sing for joy.  O Lord, what miracles you do! And how deep are your thoughts!  Psalms 92:1-5 (TLB)

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