Updated: Jan 28
I watched the local Baptist preacher deliver his sermon on television this morning. His focus was on the Christmas story found in Luke's Gospel. More than once he referred to the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon, when Linus read those verses and then said, "That's what Christmas is about Charlie Brown."
I have not been posting here much lately, due to my work on a new book having begun, but more because Advent is a season of the same ole same ole. What I have posted about it in the past still holds today. However, the Baptist minister made such false claims, I felt urged to make some comments.
Let me first state that the Baptist minister gave full credit to Charles Schultz as the premier interpreter of Luke. What he implied through a cartoon of Linus speaking is all a Christian needs to know. Unfortunately, the pastor kept saying things that can only be attributed to ignorance, which is then passed on to all who listen to and believe that Baptist preacher and Charles Shultz.
When I say "ignorance," I do not mean to imply a state of stupidity exists, nor do I want anyone to think that is a statement about anyone's lack of intellectual abilities. I use "ignorance" in the truest sense, where the facts of what is written are ignored, so one can jump right to the memorized beliefs of one's youth, where it is no longer important to evaluate the written Word.
I make this statement of ignorance because the Baptist minister repeatedly said Jesus was born at night. He asked for raised hands of those who had children or grandchildren born at night. He was amazed when only a few indicated they knew that as a truth: babies seem to always be born at night. Jesus was not born at night; and, to make that clear, the Baptist preacher repeatedly read how the angel stated, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born." (Luke 2:11a) That preacher ignored that truth.
The Greek word translated as "Today" is "sēmeron." It is not capitalized, so it is not a statement of importance being implied; but it is a statement saying "this day." Because shepherds would only be "keeping watch over their flocks by night" by putting their sheep into a safe enclosure (a sheepfold), the assumption of "agraulountes" (meaning "lodging in the fields") has to be both: a statement of the shepherds having a comfortable place during the day, from where they watched their flocks; and, a statement meaning the sheep had their own "lodging in the fields at night," which is a sheepfold. One must realize that keeping watch at night is akin to being blinded by darkness:
Shepherd 1: "Did you hear something?"
Shepherd 2: "I did. Sounded like a lamb getting killed somewhere."
Shepherd 1: "Want to go try to find it in the dark?"
Shepherd 2: "What? And fall into another hole, like the last time we tried to find a lost sheep in the dark?"
That simple truth then ignores the fact that, assuming it was "night," then "night" is when the Jews believe anything past 6:00 PM is "night." To be putting the sheep in a sheepfold means there was still enough light "at night" to safely round up sheep and put them in a pen. While that was taking place (or soon after all the sheep were secured), an angel appeared and spoke in the past tense, saying, "today has been born." That is truth that says, "While you guys were out under tents in the fields watching over your flocks during the day, in the nearby town of Bethlehem your Savior was born."
God must be seen as All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and able to do things human beings cannot. When John wrote "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1), then that says Jesus was planned from the very beginning. Jesus was not some happen-chance birth. Jesus is said to be "the light," so think about that and ask yourself, "Would God want His Son to be born in darkness?"
To answer that question, the Baptist minister said, "If Jesus hadn't been born at night, then we wouldn't have such beautiful songs as Silent Night and Oh Holy Night." That assumes God loves darkness, because people can write Christmas songs that bring a tear to the eye … I guess.
The preacher then pointed out how lowly the shepherds were. For such lowly human beings to be called away from their flocks, which they so diligently watched over them at night, by God's angel [he figured it was Gabriel, but it is not clearly stated … he pointed out], there was significance in that. The Baptist minister pointed out how shepherds could not testify in courts. He said they were totally insignificant, just barely above lepers in society standing. He forgot to point out shepherds are children, like David was not taken by Jesse to the Samuel anointing, because David was just a boy; or, like the fable told by Aesop: The boy who cried wolf. Children (and women too) were all persona non grata back in the day. Neither children or women could testify in court, since they should be seen, not heard. It was adults who managed the sheepfolds and watched over them overnight (for a price); so, they were similar to hired hands, who were business men that would never risk their lives saving sheep.
I imagine the sheepfold owners got to testify in courts: "Someone hopped over the stone wall and took a sheep. It was dark, so I didn't get a clear look at him. The thief ran away."
All of this is very important to know. When the sheep wander into the sheepfold of a Baptist church and listen to the pastor feed them ignorance, they then think nothing about questioning the hand that feeds. They then go back out into the fields like nothing important happened in their lives. It is very important to know that there is so much more to this story than readily meets the eye. It needs God to be with one, so one's eyes can be opened and see the light.
In the sermon delivered by the Baptist preacher, he ended with focus put on the angel's message that "A Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." He made a point that said the angel announced Jesus was for the whole world. Before the sermon began, the church had presented a video of a missionary in Mongolia spreading the Gospel to poor tribal Mongolians. The Baptist minister then said the announcement by the angel was a statement about spreading the Gospel, telling the whole world (like those poor Mongolians) that Jesus was born so everyone could be saved.
That is another flawed misconception that has been spread to so many, for so long, that people call themselves "Christians" simply because they believe that message. Even when the minister pointed to the attending congregation and told them that "Some of you might be as poor as those Mongolians, in need of being told this message of the Savior having come for you." It wholly misses the point of the shepherds running ("they hurried off ") to actually go to that Savior. The Baptist preacher said nothing about that act that brought "the Savior [who] has been born … to you" (the Greek word "hymin"). That says poor Mongolians, lost sheep sitting in Baptist church pews, and the whole world still has to "make haste" to find Jesus, so he can be born "to you" individually, so you can individually be saved.
The Baptist preacher said nothing about how "the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." That symbolically says the shepherds became Jesus reborn. It says they acted to go to Jesus and God rewarded their faith with the truth revealed, so filling them emotionally that they glorified and praised the Lord, because they were in the name of Jesus Christ. In that name the shepherds became tenders of human flocks, as Apostles … Good Shepherds. They each became anointed shepherds, just as was David, prepared to later assume a role God would lead them to realize. They were working to earn their Salvation; and, there can be no other way.
The Baptist minister made this claim: "Jesus is coming twice. The first time was for redemption of our sins. The second coming is when Jesus comes to rule the world." Little did he know how true that is, as it is reflected in this story told by Luke.
Jesus came as a baby to become the redemption of a promise made by God, through His Prophets, that a Messiah (a Christos) was coming to save the world (more than just the Jews). Jesus comes the second time when his soul is reborn in a true Christian … like all the shepherds who received that Holy Spirit became Apostles. The "world" Jesus will rule is YOU. You become the kingdom in whom he is king … you become the Temple in whom Jesus is the High Priest.
If you are waiting for Jesus to come to throw Joe Biden out of office and reinstate Donald Trump as your savior, then you are missing the whole point of this story told by Luke. If you have not become the second coming of Jesus, reborn in the name of Christ [as a new baby Jesus for the world], then the Gospel has not been spread to you.
Receive the Spirit. Then act on it.
R. T. Tippett