Now, I see here today more people that I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel. Did you think you would be honoring God? Consider what sort of obedience to God your coming displays. In your mind, you are celebrating a holiday for God, or turning today into one but so much for that. In truth, as you have often been admonished, it is good to set aside one day out of the year in which we are reminded of all the good that has occurred because of Christ’s birth in the world, and in which we hear the story of his birth retold, which will be done Sunday. But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, you are as crazed as wild beasts. For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshiping God, you have just turned it into an idol. True, you insist that you have done so for the honor of God, but it is more for the honor of the devil.
Let us consider what our Lord has to say on the matter. Was it not Saul’s intention to worship God when he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, along with the best spoils and cattle? He says as much: ‘I want to worship God.’ Saul’s tongue was full of devotion and good intention. but what was the response he received? ‘You soothsayer! You heretic! You apostate! You claim to be honoring God, but God rejects you and disavows all that you have done.’ Consequently, the same is true of our actions. For no day is superior to another. It matters not whether we recall our Lord’s nativity on a Wednesday, Thursday, or some other day. But when we insist on establishing a service of worship based on our whim, we blaspheme God, and create an idol, though we have done it all in the name of God. And when you worship God in the idleness of a holiday spirit, that is a heavy sin to bear, and one which attracts others about it, until we reach the height of iniquity. Therefore, let us pay attention to what Micah is saying here, that God must not only strip away things that are bad in themselves, but must also eliminate anything that might foster superstition. Once we have understood that, we will no longer find it strange that Noel is not being observed today, but that on Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and recite the story of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. But all those who barely know Jesus Christ, or that we must be subject to him, and that God removes all those impediments that prevent us from coming to him, these folk, I say, will at best grit their teeth. They came here in anticipation of celebrating a wrong intention, but will leave with it wholly unfulfilled.
—From Calvin’s sermon preached on Christmas day 1551 in John Calvin, Sermons on the Book of Micah, trans. Benjamin Wirt Farley (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2003), 302–04 (HT: Ryan Cavanaugh)
FTA: The original of Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport, Rhode Island is small in size, but its impact on American life is immense. In 340 well-chosen words, the Letter reassures those who had fled religious tyranny that life in their new nation would be different, that religious “toleration” would give way to religious liberty, and that the government would not interfere with individuals in matters of conscience and belief. Quoting the Bible’s Old Testament, Washington writes,
“every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
For happily the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.1
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
When he wrote this particular letter in August of 1790, the new President must have been aware of the effect it would have on the fledgling nation. He could not have known the extent of its influence today. The history behind Washington’s Letter not only gives us an understanding of the values of the early colonists and our Founding Fathers, but also insight into two fundamental tenets of American democracy: the separation of church and state, and the right of individuals to believe in and practice their religion.
Read more here.
The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. -Isaiah 17:1
Many are saying, and I’m one of them, that soon Damascus will be a ruinous heap. I imagine, though this is not in the scriptures, that Russia, Iran and Turkey will gather together to shoot nuclear bombs at Israel to wipe her out and God’s hand of protection will intercept causing those bombs to fall on Damascus. But in this post by Bill Wilson is a challenge to our prophetic leaning concerning Damascus:
The context of Isaiah 17 is judgment on nations that come against Israel, beginning with Assyria in Chapter 9 and continuing with Palestina, Moab, Ethiopia, Egypt, Shebna, and Tyre through Chapter 24. The phrase “In/At that day” is mentioned no less than four times in this short chapter of 14 verses. This phrase is an indicator for the Day of the Lord, meaning when the Lord returns to judge the nations that came against Israel. Verse 7 says, “At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel.” Verse 11 speaks that the harvest shall be a day of grief and of desperate sorrow. Context is key. It’s dangerous to take just one verse and develop a scenario or doctrine around it. In Syria, we are seeing prophetic movement, but we will know when God fulfills the prophecy. It will be clear. The Daily Jot
What is the day of the Lord?
(be patient with this video-it has some interesting things to say about the recent US led bombings near Homs and Damascus!)