When Did Jesus Claim His Crown? At A Very Unexpected Time.

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Have you been Jingle Bell Rocked yet? If you haven’t, don’t worry. Unless you go through Wal-Mart wearing ear plugs (not a bad idea, actually), it’s coming. Inflatable Santas, racks of Christmas trees, elves that chuckle warmly, and a constant stream of Christmas songs all await you at your nearest shopping center. Though we’re more than a month away from Christmas, the industrial-Christmas complex is already in full swing.

At some point, if you happen to tune in or remove the ear plugs, you’ll hear lyrics like this: “glory to the newborn king.” “Born the king of angels.” “Let earth receive her king.” Even secular songs give a nod to the idea of Jesus-in-the-manger as a royal baby. That’s completely consistent with Scripture, of course. When Gabriel told Mary she would have a baby, he gave this promise about the baby’s future: “and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).

But here’s a question: when exactly did God give Jesus the throne of David? When does the baby become the king? How did Jesus claim his crown?

In all the rest of Luke’s gospel there are only two places where Jesus is called a king. The first is the triumphal entry in Luke 19:38. The crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem with these words: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Then, just a few days later, Pontius Pilate stands before him to ask, “Are you the King of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus responds (Luke 23:3) – and offers no other explanation or defense. Despite the fact that Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus whatsoever, he sentences him to die by crucifixion. Then: “The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews’” (Luke 23:36-38). The only time in his life the baby “born the King of angels” is called a King is at his crucifixion, by a group of hardened, brutal Roman soldiers who spit out the words as a taunt. And yet they spoke truer than they knew.

The underlying theological fact is that the dying of Christ is a kingly act, not merely in the sense that he dies royally and with dignity, but in the sense that his dying is his supreme achievement for his people: the act by which he conquers their foes, secures their liberty and establishes his kingdom…It is precisely as the crucified criminal that Jesus is the Christ, the King; and the cross…is the scene of his victory. (Donald MacLeod, Christ Crucified)

Call that last sentence to mind the next time you hear a Christmas carol proclaim Christ as king. He is our King – but he claimed his crown by hanging on a cross.

Photo by Levente Fulop

Cutting Through The Chaos Of the Holidays

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Another year has passed. The holiday season is upon us, and if your life is anything like mine that means busyness is also upon us. On top of ordinary life come Christmas parties, vacations to see family, gift shopping, decorating ? not to mention consuming the requisite quantities of eggnog and Santa-shaped sugar cookies. For the most part these once-a-year festivities are joyous?but they?re chaotic, too.

But let?s pause for a moment to cut through the chaos. Another year has passed. Once again we proclaim that Christ has come. Once, many years ago, in the fullness of time, the Son of God took on human flesh. Infinity joined with finitude. Omnipotence joined with weakness. Years would pass. In the weakness of that human flesh, Jesus would grow from infant to adult. And yet, in the weakness of that human flesh, and for the first and only time in human history, Jesus would offer perfect obedience. The second Adam would succeed where the first had failed.

Then, when the years of his life were complete, in a moment foreknown before the foundation of the world, the Son became the sacrifice. On Golgotha, God provided the lamb. Jesus died for our sins. And God accepted the sacrifice.

Three days would pass. Then, for the first but not the last time in human history, resurrection conquered death. The Lamb who was slain was raised as the Lion of Judah. Sin lost its dominion and the grave lost its sting. The new age has dawned. Redemption accomplished.

Years would pass, decades into centuries into millennia. Until one day, in the power of the Spirit, from the lips of ordinary humans, the message of this redemption came home to me. With saving power I heard that the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me ? and for you too, if you receive him by faith.

More years will pass. An unknown number of Christmases will come and go. Until one day, in power and glory, before the watching eyes of the cosmos, this same Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead ? and me, and you. We will stand before him. And one plea will be sufficient: Jesus died for me.

The holidays are busy, even chaotic. So is life in a fallen world. But underneath it?s very simple. Christ came. Christ died. Christ rose. Christ is coming. Until then, him we proclaim.

Come Lord Jesus!

Photo by Tim Green aka atoach

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas everyone! Thank you so much for reading our blog.

Here’s a Christmas song I wrote a few years ago that Sovereign Grace Music was kind enough to publish. If you’d like to listen to it you can do that here.

CHRIST THE LORD IS BORN TODAY

VERSE 1
How my happy heart rejoices
I can hear the angel voices
“Christ is born” they all are singing
From the sky this good news bringing
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voices

CHORUS
Christ the Lord is born today
He came from heaven’s throne
God is born a man today
To bring His children home
To bring His children home

VERSE 2
Death and darkness surely tremble
Light has come to all the people
The Lion comes to crush the serpent
He comes a Lamb, a lowly servant
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voices

VERSE 3
God has sent His greatest treasure
Shown His love in greatest measure
Sending Christ to bleed and suffer
Purchasing our joy forever
Let the earth rejoice
O come and lift your voices

from Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man, released 01 November 2006
Words and music by Mark Altrogge
? 2006 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

My Love-Hate Relationship With Christmas Carols

Let me say from the beginning, the problem is me, not you. I have a heart that is two times too small. I’m a Scrooge, a Grinch you might say. Every year around Christmas time, I find myself becoming more cynical. A permanent scowl begins to harden on my face. My nostrils tend to flare more frequently. Why? Christmas carols. I don’t like them. And they’re everywhere!

Now, I realize that I am in the serious minority here. When I tell people that I don’t like the song “Mary Did You Know?”, they look at me as if I’ve just said I like to eat kittens. But, before you write me off as a total Christmas-hating Scrooge, hear me out.

As I read through the Bible, it seems that the story of Jesus’ birth has a soundtrack running behind it. It is an epic soundtrack, a thundering soundtrack, a soundtrack of war. Of battle. Of great, intense conflict. When Jesus was born, the demonic powers shuddered with fear. They knew that the king had come, and that their doom was imminent. They did all they could to stop the king. They incited Herod to slaughter baby boys. But they could not stop God’s redemption plan.

Jesus’ birth is the story of light breaking into darkness, of hope bursting into gloom. It is the story of sadness being undone, and the demonic rulers being overrun. It is the story of the King of Kings becoming a lowly, grasping, nursing, crying baby. It is the story of hidden glory.

The Christmas story is the story of a great warrior coming to rescue a helpless people. It’s a story of grit, and blood, and a rugged cross that awaited the newborn babe. The soft flesh of the babe would soon be punctured by nails. The smooth skin of the child would soon be ripped apart by a whip. When I hear Christmas carols, I don’t hear the grit or the struggle or the rescue. I don’t hear the initial cracks and pops of Satan’s skull underneath Jesus’ foot. I hear the story of a little drummer boy, and a silent night that is calm and bright. I hear about a white Christmas, and the Christmas shoes.

Now, is it wrong to like Christmas carols? Of course not! Jen loves them, including (to my chagrin), Amy Grant’s Christmas album. Plus, Christmas carols often cause us to brim over with memories of Christmas past, which is good.

But as we listen to their sweet melodies, let’s not forget about the glorious battle our Savior fought and won. Let’s remember the grit and the glory of what our Savior has accomplished. Let’s remember that the stable hung under the shadow of the cross.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some beef log to eat.

Jesus Is For People Who Hate Christmas

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Sometimes I think my heart is two times too small.

Don’t get me wrong, I really do like Christmas. I like getting together with my family to open presents and sit around the tree and watch reruns of Seinfeld and?The Andy Griffith Show. I’m happy when it snows on Christmas. I like seeing tastefully decorated houses. Heck, I even like?some?Christmas music (don’t get me started on “Mary Did You Know?”).

But Christmas often brings out the gloomy side of me as well. I’m reminded of one of my favorite families who, because of cancer, no longer has a dad around the house. I’m reminded of some of my favorite people who, after many years of patiently waiting, are still single. I’m reminded of my sister, who has been dealing with migraine headaches for years without much relief. I’m reminded of my own ongoing battles with intense physical anxiety.

After the tree is down and the wrapping paper put away and the music silenced and the egg nog polished off, all the problems still remain. I think one of the reasons we cling so tightly to Christmas is that it helps us forget about our problems for awhile. For a few, brief days, everything seems as it should be. We long for a white Christmas because the snow covers up all the mud and muck.

My propensity toward Christmas gloom is one of the reasons I am so grateful for Jesus. Not in a “Jesus is the reason for the season,” kind of way, but in a, “Jesus is a holy warrior,” kind of way.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 8-9. In these chapters Jesus cleanses a leper, heals a centurion’s servant, heals Peter’s mother-in-law, calms a storm, drives demons out of two raving madmen, heals a paralytic, raises a girl from the dead, heals two blind men, and heals a man who is unable to speak. In the comments section of?The Gospel Transformation Bible?it says:

Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God, and where God reigns, the invisible powers of the universe in rebellion against him are banished and left powerless to do anyone ultimate harm…Since believers are united with Christ, they share Christ’s victory over evil.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the true meaning of Christmas. Wherever Jesus goes he brings the reign of God! Christmas is ultimately about the kingdom of God coming to this sad, broken, sin-marred world. Christmas is ultimately about a baby who would grow into a mighty warrior – a warrior who would crush Satan, undo sadness, defeat death, and ensure that it would be always Christmas and never winter.

Listen closely. For just a moment, tune out the Christmas music and television commercials. Do you hear that slow creaking and cracking noise? It’s the sound of Satan’s skull being slowly crushed underneath the foot of our conquering Savior. Now we suffer. Now we experience cancer and migraines and anxiety and singleness and sadness and loneliness and poverty. Now we are afflicted by sin and Satan and our flesh. But not always.

Ultimately, Christmas should give the most hope to those who hate Christmas. Things won’t always be this way. As it says in 1 John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Those are such sweet words. Christmas is a celebration of war! Jesus himself has declared open season on Satan. He came to destroy all the works of the evil one. He came to wipe away tears and heal broken bodies and lift up despondent hearts and drive out fear and destroy loneliness.

If you’re feeling gloomy, take heart. Jesus is for those who hate Christmas.

The Ultimate Comedown

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I don’t like to humble myself.

I love myself too much.? That’s why I so need the Lord’s grace to serve and lay down my life for others.? Apart from the Spirit’s power, I would only seek to be admired and served, to live for my own comfort and pleasure.?? I’d never associate with the lowly nor look to the interests of others.

How I need to contemplate the immeasurable humility of Jesus.

Before Jesus took on flesh he existed as God from all eternity, infinite in glory, power and majesty.? All he had to do was give the word and the host of heaven would fly to do his will.? Myriads and myriads of angels worshiped and served him.? He had no needs, existing in perfect joyous fellowship with his Father and the Holy Spirit.

But Jesus “emptied himself” of his glory and took on a human nature.? This self-humbling was the ultimate comedown.

For Jesus to tread the mud of this earth and suffer hunger and weakness and associate with sinners was a greater humiliation than if I became a cockroach, for Jesus is infinitely exalted above his creation, and I am certainly not infinitely exalted above cockroaches.? Even the most radiant angels in heaven are only finite creatures, separated by an infinite chasm from the unfathomable greatness and glory of Jesus.? Angels are closer to garden slugs in their being than they are to God.? The highest order of creatures, seraphim, must cover their faces with their wings because they cannot bear the sight of Jesus’ blazing holiness.

Never has there been so deep a humiliation as Christ’s incarnation.? But on the cross his humiliation reached incalculable depths when he “became sin” in God’s sight.? Jesus, the sinless One, in bearing our crimes, became the most abhorrent, despicable thing that exists in his Father’s eyes.

And he did all this to purchase our salvation, to bring us to God, and clothe us with his own beauty.

That’s what Christmas is all about – the glorious Son of God, willingly embracing infinite humiliation to rescue and exalt vile sinners.

photo by kunkelstein

This Is The Glory of Christmas

Christ, the Lord from eternity past

Did not clutch tightly to his glory – his brilliant, blazing, baffling glory that forces angels to cover their eyes

As if it were a thing a to be clutched and grasped

But took on the fragile clay of humanity

A body, formed inside a woman

A body that would be racked by hunger and headaches and heaving sickness

The World Maker, who keeps Jupiter and Saturn from colliding, who declares supernovas, who breathes forth the snow and the rain

Became a baby – a helpless baby, clutching and grasping at his mother

The Light of the World took form in the darkness of a womb

Was born into the darkness of a stable

Into the darkness of a world at war with God

A rescue mission, redeeming mission, sacrificial mission, servant mission

Jesus, the Christ, the Lord, the King, and the Conqueror at birth

Born beneath the specter of the cross, haunted by the shadow of death

Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give us second birth

Lift your hearts in grateful praise, Christ the Lord is born today

Why I Don’t Like Christmas Carols

Please don’t hate me for this post. I realize that for some people, dissing Christmas carols is right up there with dissing the Bible and dissing your mother’s grave.

But the fact is, there are some Christmas carols that I don’t like. Now before you call me a grinch, and say that my heart is two times too small, and that I need a hug and a big glass of egg nog (which is disgusting), there are SOME Christmas carols that I really like. I love “Joy to the World”, even though it’s actually about the return of Christ. I love “O Come All Ye Faithful”. I love “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. So I’m not all Scrooge.

But there are a lot of Christmas carols that rub me the wrong way. Take the song “Silent Night” for example. The first verse says:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

It all sounds so nice and peaceful. Baby Jesus being held by his adoring mother, sleeping in heavenly peace. There’s nothing particularly wrong with these lyrics. But they all feel so…sanitized. And I don’t think that the birth of Jesus was nice and sanitized. It was humiliating.

As every mom knows, having babies is a messy, bloody, excruciating business. There are screams of agony when the contractions get fast and furious. When the baby comes out, it is covered in mucus and blood. In our modern hospitals, everything is quickly cleaned up and the baby is placed on a warming table. Jesus wasn’t afforded those luxuries.

The stable was probably cold. The bitter smell of animal manure and musk was probably overpowering. Did Mary lay on straw, or was she just on the cold, hard ground? How did they clean everything up? How did they clean Jesus off? Was Mary shivering with cold or pain?

When Jesus became a man, it was infinite humiliation. He was not born in palace, like we would expect. He was born in a stable. A dirty, filthy, stable. There were no attendants waiting on Mary. Just Joseph, a first time dad who had never even slept with Mary, let alone taken Lamaze classes. The son of God, Christ by highest heaven adored, made his entrance in dirty obscurity. I bet that even the angels were shocked by that turn of events.

And the moment that Jesus was born, the death clock started ticking. The shadow of the cross hung over the stable.

So it’s not that I don’t like Christmas carols. I do. It’s just that sometimes I think that the Christmas carols paint everything in a nice, clean, Thomas Kinkaid-ish way. Sometimes they varnish over the utter humiliation of the Son of God.

Jesus was Lord at birth. The angels did adore him. But Jesus was born in humiliation. The King of Kings made himself nothing. As Philippians 2:5-8 says:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

When we listen to Christmas carols this year, let’s enjoy them, but let’s also remember that things weren’t pretty when Jesus was born.

Incarnation Conversation

Father: What shall we do, my Son?? Look at this hopeless throng, mired in their sin.? My holy justice has called forth my terrible wrath, like a tsunami, to sweep them away with eternal retribution.? How shall we rescue them?

Son: Father, I?ll go.? I?ll take on their nature and live in their world.? I?ll obey you completely like they should have.? Give me your wrath in their place.

Father: But you?re my one and only Son, the everlasting delight of my heart.? Do you know what this means?? Things will be different.? In your human nature, you won?t sense me in the way you have for all eternity, you won?t experience my love in unbroken, face to face fellowship.

Son: But it?s the only way to rescue them from the holy justice they deserve.

Father: Here in heaven you have only infinite pleasure.? On earth you?ll be poor.? You?ll shiver with cold and cry out in thirst.? You?ll be spit on, mocked and insulted.

Son: I?m glad to be emptied to make them rich in you.

Father: Son, for 33 years you will endure the fierce, personal temptation of the Evil One.? For he will realize that if he can entice you to disobey me just once, the human race will be irrevocably lost.? He?ll spare nothing in his attacks.? No human has ever been or ever will be tempted the way you will.

Son: Father, I?m willing to endure all his venom for you and the ones you love so much.

Father: Son, to remove their sins, I must lay you in the dust and give you to be tortured, beaten beyond recognition, and nailed to a cross.? And when I heap the mountains of their sin upon your soul, you will practically become sin itself.? In my infinite loathing for sin, I will abandon you.

Son: More than any pain, Father, I dread being cut off from you.? But I?m looking to the glory that lies beyond, when you exalt me and I bring your children home.

Father: My beloved Son, in whom is all my delight,? I love you.

Son: Father, I love you and delight to do your will.

(note: Obviously, the Father had eternally planned our redemption.? I got the idea for a conversation from John Flavel in The Fountain of Life as a way of contemplating what the Incarnation cost the Father and Jesus).

Merry Christmas everyone!

Photo by: IrenaS

Christmas In the ER

If you want a fresh appreciation for Christmas, try spending four hours in the emergency room.

This past Saturday my little girl had a high fever and was in obvious pain. After consulting with a pediatrician, Jen and I decided to take her into the ER as a precautionary measure.

Five minutes in a hospital is all it takes to destroy any rosy conceptions you might have of the world. In the waiting room we talked to a little boy named Luis, who carried around a stuffed monkey and a bag of powdered doughnuts. Luis’ grandpa had accidentally sliced his hand open with a pair of scissors.

In the examination area we were surrounded by pain. A girl next to us complaining of incessant nausea. Another girl with heart palpitations. Occasional cries of misery from down the hall.

Emergency rooms bring you face to face with the reality that something is seriously wrong with the world. Things aren’t as they should be. Suffering permeates our existence. We live in a world that has been ruined by sin.

But a brilliant light has penetrated this darkness. A baby born in squalor and filth. Jesus Christ, the eternal God, the Holy of Holies, the King of Kings, took on flesh. God plunged into the blackness – the blackness that we created. Hope came to hopeless people. People enslaved to sin. Emergency room people.

A sinless life later, the Light of the World hung upon a wooden cross, engulfed in darkness, calling out in anguish. The sustainer of life died.

But death couldn’t hold him. Empty tomb, death broken, sin beaten. The kingdom of God is now advancing, invading one sinner at a time. The darkness is being repulsed. Forced back. Crushed. And a day is soon coming when emergency rooms will be no more.

All because of a baby born in a manger. Christmas is truly a glorious holiday.

By the way, Charis is fine. A simple infection that can be easily treated. One day those will be gone as well.