LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR
November 28, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
Sunday begins the Western Church’s liturgical year and the period we know as Advent. Advent incudes the four Sundays prior to Christmas and is focused upon the “advent,” or coming, of the Messiah in the future and in the past. The second coming of Messiah marks the end of history as we know it and introduces the final judgment of mankind. The first coming of Messiah involves the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem and the beginning of the Gospel. The message of the heavenly messenger was, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news.” The word “gospel” is simply the Old English rendering of the Greek word “euangelion,” meaning “good news.”
Some of our favorite Christmas carols do not center the message on the first coming of Messiah, but the second coming. “Joy to the World,” and the last two stanzas of “It came Upon a Midnight Clear” along with others look forward to the Second Advent.
Christmas should raise the question for the world as to who this Jesus was, or is, who has impacted world history more than any other single individual. The word “Christmas” does in fact mean the worship service dedicated to the remembrance of the Messiah. “Messiah” is a Hebrew word with the root meaning of “the anointed one.” Christmas highlights the fact that this man Jesus was the anointed of God to bring salvation to the world. His name in Hebrew means “YAHWAH saves.”
It is clear why the dedicated atheistic secularism of our age wants to get rid of Christmas. Christmas is clearly a celebration of something God has done and will do in the history of the world. In a nation founded on the idea that all men are created equal because God endowed them with certain rights and privileges including the right to life, the right to liberty and the right to choose those things that pertain to happiness it seems either ignorant of dishonest to protest the celebration of God’s action in history.
As we work our way to Christmas I would like to give attention first to what the Church refers to as the Apostles Creed. The Apostles Creed is the earliest of the Christian creeds and was probably used as a baptismal confession in the early Church. It is a statement of Christian belief which unites all expressions of biblical Christian faith. If one cannot affirm the Apostles creed they stand outside the body of believers.
The creed begins, “I believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ (the Messiah) his son: born of the Virgin Mary…” One would think that the early Church would be most concerned to identify Jesus as somehow divine, an incarnation of the divine nature. This was done in the Nicene Creed which was affirmed at the council of Nicea in 325 AD, hundreds of years after the Apostles Creed was in use. However the Apostles Creed was more concerned to affirm the human nature of Jesus and his natural birth in Bethlehem.
The Greek thought of the first century did not think much of the physical world. The real world for the Greek philosophers was the ideal or non-material world. The physical world was temporary. The ideal or rational world was permanent and real. The physical world was passing away. For the Church God created the physical world good. He reigns in history, and enters it for the salvation of the people he loves. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. This is where the story begins.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at email@example.com). END-whs