Archive for December, 2012

A Special Christmas Gift

Just a few days before Christmas Day, my nephew Stephen Stallard and his wife Sonya had their first child.  They named her Malia.  This makes me a Great Uncle for the first time!  What a special Christmas gift!!!  Thank you Stephen and Sonya!  Of course, chief thanksgiving goes to the Lord, the giver of life.  I had a chance to hold her in the hospital.  I have provided a picture of her which I believe my niece Rebekah took.  Nothing as precious as a little one.  May God guide her every step.  Our family has already begun to pray for her, not just her health as she begins life, but her spiritual development as well.  May she come to know the Lord at an early age.


More Christmas Memories with Google’s Help

Yesterday (Christmas Eve 2012), I spent most of the day using Google Maps and Google Earth to find all of the places that my parents and I have lived.  The project is still ongoing.  However, I made a lot of progress and learned how better to use the tools that Google gives in this area.  I also looked for the special house of my grandparents Hillis and Cora Stallard (both in heaven now).  They lived in the mountains in southwestern Virginia northwest of Bristol.  I followed Google street level along highway 652 through the mountains back and forth for almost two hours and finally found their home.   See the picture of it here:

My grandparents ran a small two-room grocery store which was located on this side of that first building which is a car gargage.   The store is no longer there.  Their house is up on the hill in the background.  I have a lot of good memories of that  house.  But I have more good memories of my grandparents.  They are in heaven today because they had embraced Jesus, the one whom God had sent into the world (His Son) to die for our sins.  I will hug their necks again after the resurrection to come.

More Christmas Memories

In my last entry, I talked about Christmas memories and answered four questions about Christmas.  Here are some more to add to the list.  Some in my last post were personal.  Here I give historical and ethical questions with potential ways to answer:

1.  Who is the historical person behind our modern notions of Santa Claus?

There are many historical strands that go into our modern invention of the character of Santa Claus.  I once did a study of these historical threads and found it quite facinating.  One of the pagan pictures that interject into our modern portrait is the false Norse god Odin.  Note the table of comparison below:

Saint Nicholas Norse god Odin
Long beard Long beard
Rides in a sleigh driven by reindeer flying in the sky Rides a white horse in the sky
Children have stockings by fireplace and leave food for Santa Claus Children would place boots by the fireplace with food for Odin’s horse
Santa leaves gifts for children by fireplace Odin would replace the food with gifts or candy

However, the one strand that I passed on most strongly to my children when they were growing up was the Christian personage of St. Nick or St. Nicholas, the fourth century Church Father who, according to some Christian traditions and/or legends, attended Nicea and supported the orthodox trinitarian formulation over against the Arians.  One can visit his tomb today.  He was known in his lifetime for generosity.  There was perhaps an inevitability that pagan examples of that (like Odin) would be conflated with traditions honoring this Church Father. Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas Memories

It is Christmas season once again (2012).  As a believer in Jesus it is quite natural to have mixed feelings about all of the consumerism and partying that we complain about sometimes but never do anything about.  Perhaps the early American Puritans were on to something when they eschewed any celebrations on December 25.  Nonetheless, I seem trapped in the Christmas bubble like everyone else.  I do try to have a Christ-centered Christmas, but many family traditions still contain value for which I thank the Lord.  Below I have listed some random Christmas questions with my observations.

1.  Is December 25 the right day for the birthday of Jesus?

In the Western Church this has been the traditional day to celebrate Christ’s birthday since about the 4th century. There are some church groups which celebrate Jesus’ birth on other days, most notably January 6.   I have seen some research and commentaries that suggest that Jesus was not born in the winter.  One study Bible I looked at noted that the shepherds would not have had their flocks out in the field during the winter.  One man in a Sunday School class I was teaching years ago asked the obvious question, “Where else would they keep their flocks?”  I have been in Israel in the winter months when it snowed in Jerusalem.  The shepherds had their flocks in the field and brought them to the market on Fridays like they have been doing for centuries.  So I do not have a difficulty with a winter birth.  However, I am not sure we know enough to be dogmatic.  The important truth is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners like me.

2.  What is my favorite Christmas gift of all time that I have received?

There have been many special gifts I have received through the years.  One occasion was when my twin brother Jimmy and I gave each other a book.  This was when we were both in seminary.  We opened our presents at the same time and discovered we had given each other the same book! — Wuest’s Expanded Translation.  Of course, from Mom and Dad there was electric football, hockey, and baseball games.  However, when I think about Christmas gifts over the years, one of my first thoughts is about a Davy Crockett figurine I got when I was around 5 or 6 years old I believe.  The Disney production of the Davy Crockett saga ending with the Alamo story mesmerized me as a little boy.  Fess Parker who played Davy Crockett (picture to the right) became one of my heros.  As an adult when I visted the Alamo in San Antonio for the first time, it was a super special time. 

3.  Was any Christmas more special than others?

There is one Christmas season that stands out more than the others.  It was Christmas 1974.  I had come to faith in Christ in August of that year.  This was my first Christmas as a Christian.  I remember watching a TV presentation of “The Little Drummer Boy” that produced great emotion in me.  The thought came to me that “I final get it.  I now understand what it is all about.”  Of course, all have been special as my kids were born and raised and we visited grandma and grandpa.  There are special ones to come I suppose.  But that 1974 Christmas will remain unforgettable.

4.  Was Jesus really born of a virgin?

Of course.  Once you believe in a Creator God, the virgin birth is a small miracle and does not take much faith to believe in.  The Bible clearly teaches the virgin birth so I accept it.

Stay tuned for more Christmas Memories.