We Were There

christmas-2874137_960_720 With Christmas approaching, most people are aware that the holiday exists to celebrate the day our Savior, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human form. But even with such awareness, here in the United States, it seems that many people would rather ignore the religious facet of Christmas in favor of a more generic celebration centered on the commercial aspect. They will happily take the gifts, the paid days off from work, and the meals shared with family, but they would rather not discuss the real reason we celebrate.

This is most unfortunate. When people push away the real reason for the celebration, they experience all the stress of the holiday season without understanding and benefitting from the object of the celebration which, of course, is Jesus Christ. Jesus is God, the third person of the trinity who, for a time, humbled himself by coming to earth in human form and living among us. He experienced growing up, obeying his parents, and working for his father. He resisted temptation, confronted the wrongs of the religious leaders of the day, performed miracles, taught the people, and when the time came, suffered a horrifying death that all of us, no matter where we live, would find appalling in this day and age. It’s not a myth or fairy tale; it is actual history, and few experts would deny that.

So as Christmas approaches, before you get too bogged down in the shopping and decorating, I implore you to consider this one fact when it comes to the life of Jesus Christ: there were eyewitnesses. Lots of them. There were people who saw, heard, and testified to the truth of the Gospel narratives. The apostle Peter recounts that ‘we were there’ in this passage: “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’ We ourselves heard the voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.” (2Peter 1:16-18)

Notice closely what Peter is saying. First, he says “We have seen…”. He is remembering what is commonly referred to as the transfiguration (read Matthew 17:1-13) and he was there with James and John. So the three were there and were eyewitnesses. And what did they see? The Bible says Jesus’ appearance changed, his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became dazzling white. And then Moses and Elijah, who had long been departed from the earth, were standing next to Jesus talking with him. This is an incredible, otherwordly experience and Peter, James, and John saw this happen with their own eyes. And then God spoke from heaven and they heard his voice. The Bible recounts that Peter, James, and John were terrified by this experience as one might expect they would be.

When Jesus was crucified on the cross, there were eyewitnesses. People who stood there and watched him suffer and die. And people who watched as the Roman guards thrust a sword into his side to be sure he was really dead. And eyewitnesses who saw him buried in the cave that was later sealed and guarded by highly trained military men. And when Jesus rose from that grave and walked the earth again, there were eyewitnesses. People such as Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-17) and Thomas (John 20:24-29), and the seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee, who were there and saw him while they were fishing (John 21:1-14). And the Apostle Paul tells us the risen Jesus was seen by more than 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), many of whom were still alive at the time he wrote his letter.

That is a lot of eyewitnesses. And it’s only a partial list of the people who saw Jesus, walked with him, listened to him, were healed by him, or otherwise interacted with him right here on earth. In any court of law, this would be overwhelming evidence that could not be denied. And we are all eyewitnesses, too. Not of Jesus Christ in the flesh, but of the existence of God. For the Bible tells us clearly: They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:19-20)

And so I would tell anyone who would ignore the real reason we celebrate Christmas that they are willfully ignoring the facts. Jesus is real, he walked this earth, he died in our place for our sins, and he rose again. Jesus is God. The evidence is simply overwhelming.

How about you? Are you preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, or are you ignoring the evidence and choosing unbelief? The choice is yours. If you would like to know more about the evidence for Jesus Christ, please contact us at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. We will be happy to help you and/or recommend resources for further information.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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The Reason for the Season

christmas-tree2 Christmas is almost upon us once again, and many of us are busy making those last minute shopping trips to find just the right gift for that special friend or family member. And whether or not you live in an area with a snowy white Christmas, or a warm tropical setting, the stress of the holiday shopping and budgetary strain seems to affect us all. But amidst all this stress, let us take time to reflect on the real reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ.

It is very fortunate for us that Luke took the time to thoroughly research the facts surrounding the birth of Jesus when those facts were still contemporary and that he put those facts down in a written record that is still available to us today. But can we really trust the record Luke left? Well, the evidence supporting the historical accuracy of Luke’s narrative is myriad, but let’s look at one specific piece of evidence right now. First, we’ll start with an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 2:1-21 (NIV): In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

This part of the Christmas story starts with a census being taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius is known to have governed Syria during 6-9 A.D. Josephus records that a census taken in 6 A.D. sparked a violent Jewish revolt, this is also mentioned by Luke in Act 5:37. Quirinius oversaw this census and played a major role in putting down the rebellion. But this cannot be the census Luke is referring to here in the Christmas story because it occurred much too late to fit Luke’s chronology. Luke was far too meticulous in his recounting of events to be accused of such a chronological error.

And, indeed, archaeology has upheld Luke’s accuracy. A fragment of a stone tablet discovered near Rome in 1764 contains an inscription in honor of a Roman official who was twice governor of Syria during the reign of Augustus. The name of this official is not found, but details listed among his accomplishments could fit no one other than Quirinius. Thus, we conclude that Quirinius served as governor twice. And other ancient records mention a “first” census being ordered by Augustus in 8 B.C. Evidently, this earlier census was not carried out in the Palestinian region until 2-4 years later, perhaps due to political difficulties between Rome and Herod. But Luke does state in verse 2 that the events he recounts occurred at the time of the “first” census taken while Quirinius was governor (obviously indicating there were more than one). So Luke’s accurate rendering of these historic events is validated by the evidence and can be considered completely trustworthy.

So based on this we can conclude that Luke’s telling of the Christmas story is reliable and I hope presenting this evidence helps you see that Christmas really is a celebration of true historical events. And, as such, should inspire us to pursue relationship with our Creator who loved us so much He sent His one and only Son to live among us, to die for us, and to be raised again that we might be reconciled to Him. Yes, Jesus truly is the reason for the season!

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The Best Gift Ever!

Ralphie   In 1983’s “A Christmas Story”, the affable and ever-scheming Ralphie conspires to assure he receives the “Holy Grail of all Christmas gifts,” the Red Ryder 200 shot range model air rifle BB gun with a compass in the stock, and “this thing which tells time.” Believing this to be the best gift a boy could ever receive, Ralphie, despite dire warnings of serious eyeball injury, will not be dissuaded, and goes to any length to achieve his quest. His father understands and ultimately makes Ralphie’s Christmas the best ever!

Just like A Christmas Story, I have my own tale of the best gift ever. It was the mid 1970’s, and we were the only family in the neighborhood who did not have their own snowmobile to ride. My oldest siblings had grown to maturity, somehow surviving adolescence without skipping across the white, winter landscape at high rates of speed, but for my younger brother and I, another snowmobile-less winter meant certain black-balling, consigning us to lonely days playing by ourselves indoors while all the other kids sped to and fro on their shiny snow-machines.

Our family tradition for Christmas at the time was to start the holiday festivities with a great family gathering and feast on Christmas Eve, after which we would attend midnight mass, before attempting to sleep despite our childish excitement for the glorious gift opening that would occur the next morning. Despite our later than normal bedtime, my brother and I were usually up at the crack of dawn, to the certain glee of my grandmother, and possibly the exasperation of my otherwise loving parents. This Christmas was no different, at least as far as my brother and I could tell.

For children, even teenagers, who are focused on the Christmas Day gift opening ceremonies, Christmas Eve family time can seem a bit lengthy, and dare I say, tedious. To add midnight mass to the evening seemed insufferable. I can only imagine we were not the most pleasant company for my parents as we sat among their friends and neighbors for the late night church service. I’m almost certain we were fidgety and prone to misbehavior, though I honestly don’t recall specifics. To us it seemed only the normal torture that must be endured prior to the delight of Christmas morning.

Christmas morning came that year, as it normally did, with gifts aplenty under the tree. I cannot recall with any specificity a single present that I opened, but the opening ceremonies took the usual form and, I think, the standard amount of time. And then it was over, all the gifts opened, all the wrapping paper properly placed in garbage bags ready for disposal. Life was pretty good…..and then my father uttered a sentence that remains more or less in my memory to this day, “There’s one more present I’m going to need your help with.” And we were instructed to follow him to the garage, which we did, with my mother and the rest of the family close behind.

And there it was. The greatest possible gift a kid in his teens could ever receive, a shiny Arctic Cat Panther snowmobile, with the 303 Wankel engine, perched upon a trailer, right there in our garage. It would be an understatement to say my brother and I were flabbergasted. I think the surprise and excitement my brother and I felt at that moment was beyond description. We had a snowmobile! But how? We had been in the garage during the festivities the night before. There was nothing in there then. How exactly did this snowmobile magically appear? Was Santa Claus real after all?

Arctic Cat Panther 2

It turns out Mom and Dad must’ve loved us more than we could imagine. So much so that they went to great lengths to purchase this perfect (and rather large) gift; and then enlist the aid of their close friends, Mr. and Mrs. Knight, who concealed the beautiful black sled at their house, and then delivered it to our garage while we squirmed and fidgeted during midnight mass. We came home and went to bed none-the-wiser. A flawless and extremely well-executed, and somewhat devious, plan. I never knew, before that morning, that my parents’ had such clandestine capabilities.

I have received many wonderful gifts in my many years on this planet, most of which I can no longer specifically remember, but none was as memorable as that Arctic Cat Panther snowmobile. But there is another gift I received that was even greater, and that is the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And this gift is available to all, including any of you reading this now. Have you availed yourself of this gift? It’s absolutely free!

Merry Christmas to you all and may you experience the joy of our Savior during this holiday season. As always, feel free to drop us an email at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com.

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