Xmas and Christmas

Xmas and Christmas

In 1954, C.S. Lewis published an essay titled “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus.” It is about certain winter customs of the islanders of Niatirb (Britain spelled backwards). An excerpt follows:
In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas, and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card… And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness…

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, they have been unable to sell throughout the year they now sell as an Exmas gift…

This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush… But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine…

But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child…

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible… [I]t is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in…1

As we prepare for Christmas, let us avoid being distracted by the “commercial” or “cultural” Christmas around us and focus on the one thing Christmas is really about-the Incarnation of the Son of God.

“For I have come down from heaven… to do… the will of him who sent me… this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

JOHN 6:38, 40 (ESV)
1 C.S. Lewis, “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus,” God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), pp. 301-303.

Go On Reading

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” — Psalm 119:9 ESV

Meditate on Scripture

Many of the difficulties we experience as Christians can be traced to a lack of Bible study and reading. We should not be content to skim through a chapter merely to satisfy our conscience. Hide the Word of God in your heart! A little portion well digested is of greater value to the soul than a lengthy portion scanned hurriedly. Do not be discouraged because you cannot understand it all. Go on reading. As you read, the Holy Spirit will enlighten the passages for you. Reading the Bible has a purifying effect upon the heart and mind.

Daily Prayer

Let the enlightenment of the riches of Your Word sink deep within my soul, Lord.

 

The Apostle’s Creed

Apostles’ Creed (Symbolum Apostolorum). A statement of Christian belief that is used by Western churches, both Catholic and Protestant. While it is explicitly affirmed only in Western churches, it reflects traditions that were affirmed officially by the entire Church in the Nicene Creed. Although its roots are much earlier, in its present form it dates to about the eighth century.

The Old Roman Creed

An early version of what later became the Apostles’ Creed, called the “Old Roman Creed,” was in use as early as the second century (Kelly, Creeds, 101). The earliest written form of this creed is found in a letter that Marcellus of Ancyra wrote in Greek to Julius, the bishop of Rome, about AD 341. About 50 years later, Tyrannius Rufinus wrote a commentary on this creed in Latin (Commentarius in symbolum apostolorum). In it, he recounted the viewpoint that the apostles wrote the creed together after Pentecost, before leaving Jerusalem to preach (Symb. 2). The title “Apostles’ Creed” is also mentioned about 390 by Ambrose, where he refers to “the creed of the Apostles which the Church of Rome keeps and guards in its entirety” (Ep. 42, trans. in Saint Ambrose: Letters). The text of the Old Roman Creed is as follows, with the last phrase (included by Marcellus but omitted by Rufinus) in brackets (Kelly, Creeds, 102):

I believe in God the Father almighty;
and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended into heaven,
sits at the right hand of the Father,
whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
and in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Church,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh,
[life everlasting].

The Later Creed

What we now know as the Apostles’ Creed is an enlargement of the Old Roman Creed. The first known occurrence of the Apostles’ Creed, in a form that is nearly equivalent to its final form, is in the Latin tract De singulis libris canonicis scarapsus by the monk Priminius (sometimes spelled “Pirminius”) from the early eighth century. The process by which the Old Roman Creed became the Apostles’ Creed cannot be exhaustively known, though Kelly notes that creeds that are “practically identical” to the Apostles’ Creed began to appear in South Gaul in the fifth century (Kelly, Creeds, 413). Over the next few centuries, the Apostles’ Creed in its final form gained acceptance throughout France and Germany. It was officially recognized by Charlemagne throughout the Frankish Empire in the early ninth century, and was eventually incorporated into the liturgy of the Church of Rome.

The creed as it exists today consists of three main articles, like the Old Roman Creed divided according to a Trinitarian arrangement. The text is as follows (Kelly, Creeds):

I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, descended into hell,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty,
thence He will come to judge the living and the dead;
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh,
and eternal life.
Amen.

Disputed Phrases

Grudem argues that the phrase “He descended into hell” is a late addition to the creed. This phrase is commonly understood as a reference to the “harrowing of hell,” which is based on one interpretation of 1 Pet 3:19. The phrase is first mentioned by Rufinus in the late fourth century, and does not appear in any other versions of the creed until AD 650. Rufinus himself notes that the clause “is not added in the Creed of the Roman Church” (Symb. 18), though he includes it in the version of the creed that was accepted by his own church of Aquileia (see Symb. 3). Moreover, Rufinus makes clear that he did not believe Christ literally descended into hell, but rather that the phrase merely meant He was buried. The Greek form of the creed has ᾅδης (hades), which can mean merely “the grave” rather than a place of punishment. Thus a more accurate version would be, “He descended into the grave” or “He descended to the dead” (Grudem, “He Did Not Descend,” 102). This understanding of the phrase is reflected, for example, in Question 50 of the Westminster Larger Catechism.

Instead of “holy catholic church,” some Protestant churches, particularly in the Lutheran tradition, recite “holy Christian church” to avoid misinterpreting the phrase as a reference to the Catholic Church. The creed seems to use “catholic” in the sense of “universal” or “global” (the Latin uses the adjective catholicam); this interpretation fits with the historic nature of the creed, which predates in its tradition the split of the Orthodox and Catholic churches.

Tradition, the “Rule of Faith,” and Core Christian Beliefs

The Apostles’ Creed seems to represent some form of what the early church called the “rule of faith.” The early Christians were guided by the “rule of faith,” the Holy Spirit working in community and individuals, and the authoritative Scriptures. Before the “rule of faith” was called such, there were general references to the teachings and traditions of the apostles. It is these core teachings that seem to make up the Apostles’ Creed.

Signs of these “core teachings” are seen as early as the New Testament book of Hebrews, which speaks of a need for Christians to grasp and embrace the basic concepts of faith so that they can move into deeper parts of their Christian faith, while at the same time realizing how essential it is that they never depart from a core belief in the real and living Christ (Hebrews 5:11–6:12). The Apostles’ Creed represents a set of uncompromisable core beliefs for Christians. As such, the core tradition of it is also found in the Nicene Creed. The Apostles’ Creed, like all creeds, functions like a filter for orthodoxy; it indicates what is and what is not “Christian.” It is a public profession of belief in historic Christianity.

Am I Really Converted?

April 13:
Am I Really Converted?

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James 2:26

I believe in the deeper Christian life and experience—oh yes! But I believe we are mistaken when we try to add the deeper life to an imperfect salvation, obtained imperfectly by an imperfect concept of the whole thing.

Under the working of the Spirit of God through such men as Finney and Wesley, no one would ever dare to rise in a meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and had taken Jesus Christ as his Lord.…

Today, we let them say they are saved no matter how imperfect and incomplete the transaction, with the proviso that the deeper Christian life can be tacked on at some time in the future.

Can it be that we really think that we do not owe Jesus Christ our obedience?

We have owed Him obedience ever since the second we cried out to Him for salvation, and if we do not give Him … obedience, I have reason to wonder if we are really converted!

I am satisfied that when a man believes on Jesus Christ he must believe on the whole Lord Jesus Christnot making any reservation!

 


A. W. Tozer  Tozer, A. W., & Foster, M. E. (2007). Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 366-day devotional. Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread.

  Exported from Logos Bible Software, 10:01 AM April 13, 2015.

 

Breathing Out and Breathing In

April 6:
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

— Proverbs 8:13

Our attachment to the Person of Christ must exclude all that is contrary to Christ. These are the days when we are trying to be 100 percent positive. But the Scripture says of Jesus, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness” (Psalm 45:7).… If He had to hate in order to love, so do you and I.

To be 100 percent positive would be as fatal as to inhale steadily all your life without exhaling. You can’t do that.…
When the Church inhales the Holy Spirit she must exhale everything that is contrary to Him.

I don’t believe any man can love until he’s able to hate.… I don’t think he can love righteousness unless he hates sin; for the Scripture leaves us with the belief that in order to accept there are some things you must reject. In order to affirm there are things you have to deny; in order to say yes you have to be able to say no.

Jesus, breathe Thy Spirit on me,
Teach me how to breathe Thee in,
Help me pour into Thy bosom
All my life of self and sin.

The Bible, and much more. Bible.faithlife.com is an online Bible study tool with dozens of Bibles for your Bible Study needs. It is a service of Faithlife / Logos Bible Software.

REF.LY

 

Problems! Problems!

March 30:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. — 1 John 4:7

What … is the conclusion of the matter? That problems are the price of progress, that friction is the concomitant of motion, that a live and expanding church will have a certain quota of difficulties as a result of its life and activity. A Spirit-filled church will invite the anger of the enemy.

How then shall we deal with our problems? First, expect them so you will not be taken off guard. Second, realize that every live body of Christians has its troubles, from Christ and His apostles to the present day, so yours are not unique. Third, pour in copious amounts of love, the best lubricant in the world. Love will reduce friction to a minimum and keep the whole body working smoothly and without injury to its parts.

Where does this love come from? The love of God bursts forth from the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
The same bond which unites believers to Christ, binds them to each other.… Those who love Christ, love those who are like Him and those who are beloved by Him.… There is unity of design, a common interest in the objects of their pursuits.

The Bible, and much more. Bible.faithlife.com is an online Bible study tool with dozens of Bibles for your Bible Study needs. It is a service of Faithlife / Logos Bible Software.

REF.LY