Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Christmas

Boxing Day musings

Feasting on Christmas Day has a long and noble tradition and one is at risk of being branded a heretic if he suggests it might not be necessary.

Noble in that first sentence is meant to be taken literally – for many centuries it was only the nobility and the rich who could afford to feast on Christmas Day, or any other day.

Many years ago it became the custom in England for rich families to give their servants a day off on the day after Christmas. They had served their masters on Christmas day, now it was their turn to go home to their families and celebrate. They didn’t go empty handed. They were given boxes with gifts, a little money and some of the food that was left from the Christmas day feast.  Thus was born the tradition of Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is a statutory holiday in Canada, but alas, it is no longer a day of giving. Rather it is a day when merchants put all their left over Christmas stock on sale at deep discounts. This means that everyone gets the day off except store employees. This is their busiest day of the year.

Sunday morning our minister in his message pointed out many of the things that most people believe about the birth of Jesus that are not found in the Bible. It’s about time. These things are being pointed out in newspaper and magazine articles and we’re getting to a situation where non-Christians know more about the facts of Jesus’ birth than Christians do.

My parents told me that my gifts on Christmas morning came from Santa Claus. It was almost 70 years ago, but I still remember how I felt when they told me that Santa Claus did not exist. My first thought was “What other lies have they been telling me?”

What do we have left when we strip away all the fanciful stories that have been added to the account of Jesus’ birth (why not just call them lies)? We have the account of the miraculous birth of the only begotten Son of God, coming into a fallen world to make a way for our redemption. And that is everything.


The Logos

Greek philosophers believed the world had always existed and realized that there must be some active principle that made the world function in an orderly fashion. Heraclitus, Zeno and Plato described this principle that ordered and maintained the universe and permeated all reality as the Logos. Logos means word, reason, plan and all that might be included in their meaning.

Then Jesus was born and walked this earth with a few followers. One of those who walked with Jesus, described him this way:

In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (The gospel of John chapter 1, verses 1 to 5 and verse 14).

Do you see what John is doing? He is telling us that the Logos is much more than philosophers have been able to grasp by their reasoning. He is a person, He is God, yet in some way separate from God the Father. He has created all things, He is the source of life and of light. John is saying I have met Him and I want to introduce Him to you so that you may also know Him and walk with Him.

John also tells us that the darkness did not comprehend the Logos when He came into the world. The English language has a million words, yet lacks a word to describe the kind of darkness that John is speaking of. This darkness is not the mere absence of light but the home of Satan and all that is opposed to the light. In French it is called ténèbres; many other languages have a similar word, but not English. Most of the time when the New Testament uses the word darkness it means that kind of darkness:

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness (ténèbres) of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Colossians 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness (ténèbres), and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness (ténèbres) to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness (ténèbres) rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

The English Bible (AV) says that the darkness (ténèbres) did not comprehend the light. Comprehend comes from the French word comprendre which sometimes means understand, but the root meaning is to take in. The French Bible simply says the ténèbres did not receive the light.

Let us rejoice that the Logos, the light, has come into the world. May we truly know Him and walk with Him. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Merry Christmas!

Let’s eradicate Black Friday in Canada

In the USA, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, the day that Christmas merchandise goes on sale for the first time. It’s a big thing, usually the highest dollar volume of sales for the year.

In Canada it obviously just  a crass copy-cat attempt to pry a little more money out of shoppers’ bank and credit card accounts. It has no relation whatsoever to anything in our calendar or culture. We celebrated Thanksgiving 46 days ago and Christmas merchandise has been on sale for several weeks already. Black Friday is a bizarre US import that should have been stopped at the border, much the way the province of Alberta goes all out to prevent Norway rats from crossing their border.

Here in Canada the coming weekend is Grey Cup weekend, the Canadian professional football championship. The actual game is on Sunday. I won’t be watching it, I have other things to do on a Sunday and I don’t own a TV anyway. Still, it would seem far less intrusive to me if retailers tried to profit from the excitement surrounding the Grey Cup by holding Grey Cup week sales.

Saved through childbearing

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety (1 Timothy 2:14-15).

These are Christmas verses. Here is why. In verse 14 and the first part of verse 15, the Apostle Paul speaks of the woman being in the transgression and the woman being saved in childbearing. I believe this speaks of two women, taken as the embodiment of all womankind. The first was Eve, by whose disobedience sin came into the world. The second was Mary, by whose obedience the remedy for sin came into the world.

Mary’s obedience has taken away the reproach that had fallen upon women by Eve’s disobedience. Through the birth of Jesus, the seed of the woman, the head of the serpent has been crushed (Genesis 3:15). 1 Timothy 2:15 switches from she to they after the comma. She refers to Mary as representative of all womankind, they refers to women as individuals and describes the evidence of salvation for each one.

Other attempts to explain these verses are not very satisfactory. The difficulty arises from extracting a verse or two from the Scripture and attempting to explain them without reference to the rest of Holy Writ. To suppose that the salvation of women depends on bearing children creates more questions than it answers. What about those who have never borne children? The idea that women’s lives will be spared during childbirth is just as problematic. What about faithful Christian women who did die in childbirth?

The explanation I have given follows that given by Daniel Whedon and Adam Clarke in their commentaries. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown and Matthew Henry only hint at it. (Matthew Henry had finished his commentary to the end of the Acts of the Apostles when he died suddenly of a stroke. The commentaries on the remaining books of the New Testament were done by thirteen other writers.)

Christmas Eve thoughts

I don’t believe that Jesus was born on December 25. I don’t believe any of the cunningly devised fables that have attached themselves to the story of His birth. I don’t appreciate the crass commercialism of this season. I cannot comprehend how giving gifts at Christmas time has any connection with the birth of the Saviour.

Some folks talk about putting Christ back in Christmas. It often sounds like they want to leave Him in the midst of all the pagan borrowings and just give Him a little higher place of honour. I would be glad to be rid of all the pagan borrowings and honour Christ alone.

Nevertheless, if I spend too much time looking on the negative side I will become a Scrooge. I do believe that the birth of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, did take place in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago and that this seemingly inauspicious event changed everything. Therefore, my wife and I will be in church tomorrow morning to sing the old songs and hear some aspect of the Scriptural account read and expounded.

I also believe that families are important in God’s eyes and we will get together with our daughter and son-in-law, and our four grandchildren, for dinner and a good part of the day tomorrow. And yes, we will be bringing gifts for them all. I don’t believe that it dishonours our Lord in any way to give good things to those we love..

The message of the angels was that the birth of the Christ child was glad tidings of great joy, for all people. They spoke of giving glory to God, of peace on earth and good will to men. (I believe the modern versions which speak of “peace to men of good will” have got it wrong. The angels message was of  good will to all men.)

I wish a joyous Christmas to all those who chance to read this.

Brad Wall’s Christmas message

Seven hundred years before the First Christmas, one of many promises by Old Testament prophets was made about the coming of the Christ.

“For unto us a child is born,” wrote Isaiah, “unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Peace? Isn’t that the promise of Christmas? Not just peace between nations but between each of us . . . toward each of us . . . for each of us.

These are the beginning words of the Christmas message of Brad Wall, Premier of Saskatchewan, which is printed in most newspapers in our province.

We are told that we live in a post-Christian era, a time when most people are not familiar with the Bible and don’t want to hear anything about what it says. Yet for several years now our premier’s Christmas message has had a distinctly Biblical and Christian theme.  Nevertheless, when surveys are done of the population’s approval of government leaders across Canada, Brad Wall’s name usually heads the list.

The Politically Incorrect Messiah

The sceptre had truly departed from Judah. There was once more a king in Jerusalem who ruled over Judah, but he was not of the lineage of David, nor of Judah, not even of Jacob. Herod was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau. Surely the time was ripe for the coming of Messiah.

When Messiah came he would throw off the ignominy of this foreign king and all he stood for. For Herod had been appointed by Caesar and was really just a puppet of Rome. The shame of it all was fertile breeding ground for the Zealots, whose support seemed to increase daily. The Zealots considered it a sin to in any way acknowledge the rule of the uncircumcised, heathen Romans. Messiah would soon come and sweep away all the shame of Israel. He would establish his throne in Jerusalem and his reign would spread far and wide, as far as Rome. The Zealots were preparing to be Messiah’s conquering army.

Then Jesus was born, of the lineage of David, in the city of David, yet in the most obscure and humble circumstances possible. The Bible says “there was no room for them in the inn.” “Inn” in this verse simply means a guest chamber. Joseph and Mary will have travelled slowly, because of Mary’s condition. It is quite likely that when they arrived at their relatives the house was already full with other family who had come to Bethlehem to be properly counted on the tax rolls. There was no privacy to be found in such a crowded home for the birth of a baby. So Joseph and Mary were led to the stable, either adjoined to the house or in a cave adjacent to the house. Most likely the midwife was called and other women of the house would have helped. Nevertheless, baby Jesus’ first bed was a manger.

The visit of the shepherds, recounting their angelic visitation, should have erased any shame attached to the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. The visit of the magi will have further established his credentials as the promised Messiah. Yet all of this happened in an out of the way place, far from Jerusalem which was supposed to be the real seat of power.

When Jesus embarked on His ministry some thirty years later, disgust with Roman rule had increased, and with it the influence of the Zealots. Many people were ready to consider Jesus’ claim to be Messiah, if only He would come out and proclaim that He had come to set things right in Israel. That is just what He did, but in a way that was completely contrary to the peoples expectations.

When Jesus first taught about the nature of the kingdom of God, He spoke of the blessedness of being meek and merciful, of being peacemakers and of suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake. He told them they should rejoice if they were mocked and reviled because they believed in Him. He told them that the kingdom of God was for the pure in heart and for those who loved their enemies. In short, He told them that the Zealots completely misunderstood the nature of the kingdom of God.

Nearly two thousand years have passed and Jesus’ kingdom still stands. It is not a political kingdom where submission to Christ is enforced by a sword of steel, but a spiritual kingdom where the love of God rules in the hearts of born again people who submit to Christ of their own free will. How could a literal earthly reign of Christ, enforced by might and brawn, be any better than this? The true nature of the kingdom is fully described in the Sermon on the Mount.

Papa Martin, conclusion

The hours went by, the passers-by also. The little stove continued to rumble and Martin, in his chair, still watched the street.

The Master did not appear.

He had seen a young priest pass by with blond hair and blue eyes, just like Christ is depicted in the portraits in the church. However, while passing by his shop, the priest had murmured: mea culpa. Obviously Christ would not have accused Himself. That couldn’t be Him.

Young men, old men, sailors, workers, housewives, great ladies, they all passed in front of him. Many beggars approached the old man; his kindly look seemed to promise something. They were not disappointed.

Nevertheless, the Master did not appear.

His eyes were tired, his heart grew faint. The days pass quickly in December. Already the shadows were growing long in the square, already the lamplighter could be seen in the distance, already the windows across the street began to glow joyously and the aroma of roasted turkey, the traditional food of the Marseillais, arose from all the kitchens.

And the Master did not appear.

Finally the night came, and with it a fog. It was useless to stay any longer by the window; the rare passers-by were unrecognizable in the fog. The old man went sadly to his stove and began to prepare his supper.

“It was just a dream,” he murmured. “Yet I had so much hoped.”

His meal finished, he opened his book and tried to read. But his sadness prevented him.

All of a sudden his room was lit with a supernatural light, and without the door being opened the little shop was filled with people. The street sweeper was there, the young woman with her child was there, and each said to the old man:

“Didn’t you see me?”

Behind them came the beggars to whom he had given alms, the neighbours to whom he had spoken a kind word, the children he had smiled at, and each one asked him in turn:

“Didn’t you see me?”

“But who are you then?” cried the shoemaker to all these phantoms.

Then the little child in the arms of the young woman leaned over the book of the old man and with his little pink finger pointed to this passage right where the book was open:

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in . . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. “

— the end —

Papa Martin and the young woman

[Part 3 of Ruben Saillens’ le Père Martin, translated from French.]

A few homeward bound revellers passed by, but the old shoemaker barely glanced at them. The marketplace vendors came with their small carts. He knew them too well to pay much attention to them.

After an hour or two, his attention was drawn to a young, poorly dressed woman, carrying a child in her arms. She was so pale, so thin, that the old man’s heart was touched. Perhaps she made him think of his daughter. He opened the door and called her.

“Hey, you there!”

The poor woman heard him call and turned in surprise. She saw Papa Martin beckoning her to come.

“You don’t appear to be doing well, ma belle.” (“Ma belle” is the most commonly used expression in old Marseilles. It is used indiscriminately for the fishwives of the Vivaux market, for laundry women, and all women, young or old, rich or poor, who have anything to do in these quarters.)

“I’m going to the hospital,” replied the young woman. “I hope they will admit me with my child. My husband is out at sea and I have been waiting for him for three months.”

“Like I wait for my son,” thought the shoemaker.

“He doesn’t come and now I don’t have a sou left and I’m sick. I really need to go to the hospital.”

“Poor woman,” said the old man tenderly. “You’ll have a bit of bread while you warm up, won’t you?”

“At least a cup of milk for the little one. Take this, I haven’t touched it yet. Warm yourself and let me take the little bundle. I have cared for babies in my day, I know how to handle them. He is good looking, your boy. What! Didn’t you put any shoes on him?”

“I don’t have any,” sighed the poor woman.

“Wait then. I have a pair that will just suit him.”

And the old worker, amidst the protestations and thanks of the mother, went to find the shoes that he had looked at the night before and placed them on the feet of the child. They were just the right size.

Martin stifled a sigh however, in letting go of his best workmanship, the best he had done in his life.

“Bah!” he said, “I have no more need of them for anyone now.” and he returned to the window. He searched the street in such an anxious manner that the young woman was surprised.

“What are you looking for?” she asked.

“I am waiting for my Master,” replied Martin.

The young woman did not understand, or did not care to understand.

“Do you know the Lord Jesus?” he asked.

“Certainly,” she replied while crossing herself. “It’s not such a long time ago that I learned my catechism.”

“It is Him that I am awaiting,” said the old man.

“And you believe He is going to pass by here?”

“He told me so.”

“Impossible! Oh, how I would like to stay with you to see Him myself, if it’s true. . . But you must be mistaken. And then, I need to go to be admitted to the hospital.”

“Can you read?” asked the shoemaker.


“Well then, take this little book,” he said, placing a portion of the gospel in her hands. “Read it carefully, and it will not be exactly the same as if you would see Him, but it will be nearly the same thing, and perhaps you will see Him later.”

The young woman looked doubtful, but took the book and left, saying thank you, and the old man returned to his place before the window.

— to be continued

Papa Martin and the street sweeper

[Installment two of a Christmas tale by Ruben Saillens. Original title: le Père Martin. Translated from French.]

Long before daylight the little lamp of the shoemaker was lit. He put more coal into his stove, where the fire had not yet gone out and busied himself preparing his coffee. Then he hurried to make his bed, then placed himself in front of the window to catch the first glimmers of daylight and the first passers-by.

Little by little the light appeared, and Martin soon saw a street sweeper, the earliest of all workers. He hardly noticed him, really, he had more important things to do than watch a street sweeper!

Nevertheless it appeared to be cold outside, fog kept appearing on the window and the sweeper, after a few vigorous sweeps of his broom, felt a need for more vigorous exercise to warm himself by slapping his arms with all his strength and stamping the ground, first with one foot, then the other.

“The good man,” Martin said to himself, “he’s cold out there. It’s a holiday today, but not for him. Why don’t I offer him a coffee?” And he tapped the window.

The sweeper turned his head, saw Papa Martin in the window and came closer.

The shoemaker opened his door, “Come in,” he said, “come and warm yourself.”

“I won’t refuse, thank you. What miserable weather, you would think we were in Russia.”

“Will you accept a cup of coffee?”

“Oh, such a good man you are. With pleasure. Better to celebrate Christmas Eve late than not at all.”

The shoemaker quickly served his guest, then returned to the window to look up and down the street to see if anyone was passing.

“What are you looking for outside?” asked the sweeper.

“I’m waiting for my Master.”

“Your Master? You are working for a chain then? It’s too early to be out checking on his workers. Besides, it’s a holiday for you today.”

“I was speaking of another Master,” replied the shoemaker.


“A Master who might come at any time and who promised to come today. You must know his name; it’s Jesus.”

“I have heard tell of him, but I don’t know him. Where does he live?”

Papa Martin then began to tell the sweeper the account he had read the past evening, adding a few details, turning toward the window as he spoke.

“And that is who you are waiting for?” said the sweeper when he understood. “I don’t think you will see him in the way you expect. But no matter, you have helped me to see Him. Could you lend me your book, Mister . . .”

“Martin,” said the shoemaker.

“Mister Martin, I guarantee that you have not wasted your time this morning, even if it is hardly day. Thank you and good-bye.”

The street sweeper went on his way and Papa Martin again placed himself in front of the window.

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