Remembering Christmas – Pastor Bill Lewis

 

When I was 11 or so, my dad and I sold Christmas trees out of the front yard of our house. It was big business for me, I loved it. We went to a tree farm and cut down the trees and hauled them home. I remember dragging them through snow and wet grass to the truck to haul them to the house. The smells of fresh pine as well as the tar stick with you and fill your memories. The smell of fresh pine still causes waves of nostalgia of Christmas’s past.

Then as I got older and the arguments of Christmas raged in Christian circles, it kind of lost its shine, its glow, its mystic. The arguments of pagan rituals, secular parties, hidden meanings all clouded the joy of childhood. I even went through a phase of having no tree which my wife and children delivered me from after a year or two of complaint and reality. For all the “truth” I had become somewhat of a religious Scrooge.

When I was a kid, I did not even think of such things. It was about mangers, pageants, wise men in bathrobes, kids dressed as sheep, angels with halos drooping, and lines forgotten and the fun of it all. Christmas was opening a present from Grandma I knew she could not afford. It was making gifts that were only useful for setting on the shelf as a memorial of a kid trying to be artistic. It was not a ton of gifts, but one gift that you had hoped for and maybe a couple of other gifts that were practical, like socks. It was running the electric train around the tree, having dinner with family and enjoying the day. It was the lights and festivities. These are the precious moments that are too lightly taken at the moment, but somehow build a palace of memories. Candlelight service at church was quiet and reverent. You could feel the awe of the new born savior.

Later, Christmas became more about the children as our family grew. Instead of me being the one to ask mom and dad to get up; it was I who was being jumped on early Christmas morning as the kids were full of excitement.

Christmas continues to change as the years pass. Now, it is just my wife and I on Christmas morning. No one wakes us. We enjoy our time together and then celebrate Christmas with the family on another day. We decided years ago that we would not make the holidays a battle for our children with divided allegiances with in-laws. We said that it was being together that counted, not the exact day.

So, now our memories are made on a day sometime following Christmas day. But there is still the joy of having family together, there is still the sharing of gifts, and there is gratefulness of the gift God gave to us in his Son.

Oh, the arguments are still out there. Sure, Jesus was probably born in the month of March, and yes, the tree had history in Norse traditions. Do I want to give up Christmas? No.

This is the opportunity to celebrate the virgin birth, this is the opportunity to marvel at the miracles surrounding his advent. This is a time when people are kinder, softer, and a little more open to hear the love of God expressed in the child who would die for them.

So, my wife has the tree up already. It is lit with several hundred lights. She loves Christmas. The decorations will slowly come out over the next few weeks and will slowly return to storage after Christmas and not be totally put away until, probably March.

We decided to do an Advent calendar again this year. In the midst and push of the holidays with Black Fridays and sales galore, I thought it might be nice to add a devotional side to things and keep things a little more simple.

So, I am all for Christmas. I think we should build every fond memory we can. I think we should embrace our children and grandchildren. I think we should honor our parents and indelibly write memories of these Christmas’s in our hearts.

Even though the season has gifts, our primary concern should be focused in the people we love and the savior who loved us beyond our greatest comprehension.

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Heat, No Light – Pastor Bill Lewis

Search the web and you find about any opinion that you want. Some of the Christian postings are vehemently attacked by atheists in the comment sections. Follow a few of these down the column and you find atheists and Christians going back and forth with argument and hot comment. This means there is a lot of heat, but really no light produced.

Sadly, this type of approach applies to argument in the Christian community as well. Take any sensitive subject and you will find the heat rising.

One of these hot button topics is tithing, giving, and benevolence. The real sticking point is usually tithing. Tithing is setting aside a tenth of increase to the Kingdom of God. The French use the term “dime,” meaning the dime or tenth. Most Christians believe in giving something, but the idea of a tenth requires re-organizing priorities and budgets.

The opponents of tithing make a severe separation of the Old and New Covenants. Their primary argument says that there is no such command in the New Testament; although Jesus says to the Pharisees that they should tithe, but not neglect weightier matters of the law like justice and mercy. Paul speaks of special offerings for the poor. However, little was said of tithing since the church was based in former Jews who would have been practicing tithing as a way of life from birth.

If we follow the logic of the anti-tithe argument, there would be an increase of income to the Kingdom of God, not a decline. The New Covenant principle was always a greater response, not a lesser response. So, if we were to follow the principle espoused by Jesus then the anti-tithe group would be the largest donors to the work of God.

Following those who hold to the tithe, the preponderance of the scriptural support comes from the Old Testament. There the principles and instruction for the tithe are outlined. The Old Testament says the tithe is to be used to support those who minister such as the Levites and the High Priest. Offerings were used to support the temple and of course, the alms were set aside for helping the poor.

Our eldership team holds to the Biblical pattern of tithes, offerings, and alms, We have categories and accounts for each. Our tithes support four staff members and is the primary way of financing all activities of the church. We tithe from the tithe to missions; so 10% of all our tithe goes to missions. All the offerings go to support the general fund. Designated offerings are applied to the desire of the donor. Alms are given regularly by a few that is used to help, mostly our members in special need.

Primarily the load of the ministry financing is carried by those who tithe regularly. Historically and experientially, those who tithe have invoked the blessing of the promises in Scripture. Famous people through the years have been tithers. Many of those who believe in tithing have made it their goal to exceed the tithe pushing to give greater percentages. Some of these who believed in tithing were not even known as Christians i.e. J.D. Rockefeller.

Giving is really a matter of one’s heart. The axiom of where your treasure is that is where your heart is, or it can be stated, where your heart is there your treasure will be. If your heart is convinced of the work of God, you will be investing. Laying up treasures in heaven is not your money, but where you invest your money now.