0 Days to Christmas…

Budni_Vecher-620x465Tonight we had the boys from the Learning Center Borovtsi over for Christmas Eve.  In Bulgarian it is called Budni Vecher (Бъдни вечер).  This is the normally a big family occasion.

It’s been a full half day.

Before we began dinner we had a little time to talk about Christmas.  Of course we talked about Jesus’ birth, but we tried to move the discussion of the birth narrative to the Biblical meta-narrative, that is, how Jesus fits into the bigger picture.

This has been my theme for my ‘X Days to Christmas…’ blog posts.   Christmas is not just about the incarnation of Jesus.  It is about God acting decisively in history to save his people from their sins.

For this reason I created a video for the men to watch.  The theme that I try to capture is purpose in confusion.  This is a theme that they know well.

The video is called ‘Unnamed soundsculpture’ and it was created by Daniel Franke.  You can see the original and/or download it here at Vimeo.  I placed biblical text over the top of the film.

The text recounts the big picture that unfolds in the Bible: Creation, fall, redemption, re-creation.

The arrival of Jesus in history is momentous because in the Jesus God brings hope to the hopeless, purpose to the purposeless, and order to chaos.

Jesus is good news.  Merry Christmas!


5 Days to Christmas… Thanks for nothing!

burgasEach week Katie and I drive out to Burgas on the Black Sea.

From where we live in north-west Bulgaria it takes about 6 hours.  We normally leave on Wednesday. We arrive in Burgas at about 2 in the pm and spend an hour with Svetlana and Mimi. The next day (Thursday) we spend another hour with the little lovelies before we get back in the car to drive home again.

Needless to say we get through a fair number of albums on the ol’ iPod.

funOne of my more recent purchases (not illegal downloads!) is by the band Fun.  I really like their punchy sound, lots of base and Queen-esque flavour.

What have they got to do with Christmas?

One of the songs that they sing is full of theology and accurate theology for that matter.  In the song called One Foot we hear these words repeated :

But I will die for my own sins thanks a lot
We’ll raise up ourselves thanks for nothing at all,
So up off the ground up for fathers who are nothing but dust now

Let me quote from another book called the Bible.  In Matthew 1:21 we read:

She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

The link between the quotes is, well, fascinating.  In the Fun lyrics he’s claiming that he will die for his own sins even though in the Bible this person called Jesus is going to die for his sins.

The question is this: why would someone die for his own sins if Jesus is willing and has in fact died for them already?


The writer of the song has his theology right.  Yes, according to the Bible you will die for your sins because we read that the penalty for sin is death.  But this penalty may be paid by the someone else – Jesus.  This is the heart of Christmas and it has been the heart of my Christmas posts.

Jesus came to Earth not merely to be God on earth, but God on the cross.

6 Days to Christmas…

twitterWell, the Pope’s been at it a week now.

He has the world at his fingertips, well, 1 245 470 people to be exact, plus those that happen to somehow chime in on his 140 characters of wisdom.

I waited and waited for the first tweet.  I wondered what it would be.  A few of my friends on face book gave some suggestion of what he might say.  One hinted that he could be coming out of the closet to profess that justification is by faith alone.  Another one of my witty friends thought he could come out with, ‘Holy Tweet!’,  hahahaa.

What was it?

A bit of a let down really – ‘Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.’

But I tell you what, the full stop was the 140th character – it’s his first tweet and he’s all over this game!

maryHis latest tweet was this: ‘Mary is filled with joy on learning that she is to be the mother of Jesus, God’s Son made man. True joy comes from union with God’ – no full stop (129 characters).

What do you reckon?

Mary, as one who was bearing Jesus (or in union with Jesus) was filled with joy – a reference to the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55).  If you want true joy as Mary did then you must be in union with God.

True or false?

8 Days to Christmas… put that tree up!

Christmas-Tree-Nature1024-226431I never really wondered where the Christmas tree came from.  Did you?

Well, I did a bit of research and for all hullabaloo surrounding the un-Christian-ness of the humble fir tree it appears that there are grounds to the idea that there is a very Christmasy meaning to it.  Well, it seems to cut both ways.  The Christians don’t want it because it is pagan and worldly, and the White House doesn’t want it because it is to Christ-y.

You can’t help feeling a bit sorry for the ol’ tree.

This is what I found.

Back in the Middle Ages (Robin Hood era) people began decorating trees as a part of a play depicting Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  This is why we often see apples on Christmas trees because this was the forbidden fruit that they ate… hmmm… anyway…

birthday-christmas-creative-jesus-lights-125672The play ended with a prophecy that there would be a saviour that would make new what had been destroyed or lost because of sin.  Perhaps the Christmas tree is in fact Christ’s mass (mission) tree after all.

Did somebody say gospel?

Granted, the Christmas tree did have a pagan look to it when the Eastern Europeans decided to set the village Christmas tree on fire and dance around it.  Ok, so it’s getting a bit dodgy here, but this is only as perverted as what we have done to it by making it a present umbrella.

Who would have thought?  All around the world the grand story of the Bible: creation, fall, redemption and re-creation is being shown.

If only they knew.

9 Days to Christmas… A time to serve

ice bear fallThis morning we climbed down the steps from out first floor apartment to walk to church.

Katie’s first step outside the door nearly ended in tears (of pain for Katie and laughter for us) as she slipped and slid like a rookie roller-skater.

By the time we all got on the ice we were only able to walk (a generous description of what we were doing) 20 meters in about 15mins.  At that rate we would have missed the service, and the evening service if they had one.   So we turned around and slipped all the way home.

What to do?  Umm, hello, St. Matt’s uniChurch podcast… bring on Jeff Hunt on Mark.  If you haven’t been tuning in then give it a crack.  It’s been great.

st matsI’m up to the September sermon on Mark 9:30-10:31.  What did it have to do with Christmas?  Nothing, but much in many ways.

Jeff’s big idea was that to be great is actually to be small.

To be small is to not claim greatness as the disciples were doing in secret.  To be small is to not be like the rich young ruler who was characterised by his wealth and submission to it.   To be small is to not be like the disciples who turned the children away from Jesus in an attempt to de-clutter Jesus’ life with un-importants.

To be great is not about assumed titles of greatness, pockets full of money, position or age.

To be great is to be small, like a child, generous, submissive and humble.  To be the greatest is to be the servant of all, which Jeff pointed out is what we see in Jesus’ fatal yet not fatal cross-work.

At this time of the year we also understand Jesus’ servant nature in his incarnation.  The Apostle Paul points to this very fact in Philippians 2.  But what Paul does is fabulous.  He couches Jesus’ condescension within the scope of the purpose for his coming.

He became a servant to serve.

For this reason the Christmas story is about the cross.  Check out Paul here in Philippians 2:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Christmas is a time to share the great message that Jesus came to be the servant of all.

10 Days to Christmas… a killing

chrisyThis weekend we have been reminded that evil cares little for our festive season.

When we read that 20 odd children have been gunned down in cold blood we stop and wonder.  We wonder about many things, including what could have been.  This was Obama’s point.  These kids will not get to enjoy growing up and enjoying the best of life.  Their families will forever wonder about what could have been.

We also wonder how someone can be so evil and carry out such a heinous crime?

How can we not wonder how such a developed country can have such an undeveloped sense of duty to their own people?

rightsWhile their kids are being slain in their classrooms the world watches and shakes it head at a nation that is too proud to rewrite history.  It cannot bring itself to change its God-given right to carry arms; even for the sake of the most innocent and vulnerable people in their country – children.

Some might say that this is not the time for such a discussion but clearly it is.  Is there are a better time to deal with this issue than now?  We are supposed to be celebrating the time-honoured notion of peace on earth and goodwill to all men (people?), but instead it is being shot down around us.

Like last time, and the time before that, and the time before that, and, well, you get the picture, we pray for the families that are left to deal with the horror that has happened.

A merry christmas is not likely for many.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

11 Days to Christmas… a poem

music3There are only eleven days until Christmas Day.  The festivities are well under way.  I know that in my hometown Perth the temps are getting up to 30 (ish) and here in northwest Bulgaria we are getting into -10 territory.  These certainly mean that Christmas is not far away!

Today I’ve posted a poem that was written by Geoff Spedding.  Geoff has an interesting global story.  He was born in New Zealand, lived in Australia for many years and now resides in Rome.  Moving up in the world some might argue.  Some might agree wholesale (mainly Europeans and Italians), while others would agree on geographical terms only.

Whatever the case, Geoff places the music we listen to at this time of year under the spotlight.  I tend to agree with his conclusion.  Enjoy.



by Geoff Spedding

It came upon

A midnight clear

Old Santa and

His red-nosed deer.

The music of Christmas

Is so confused,

The wonder of the season

Is so abused

With songs of sleighs

And dreams

Of White Christmases,

Frosty snowmen

And Santa Clauses

Coming to town,

Earning descendants

Of writers

Money for songs

That have nothing to do

With the birth

Of the Saviour

Of the World.


A drummer boy,

Pah ruppa pum-pum,

Now that’s just dumb.

Jingle Bells:

The whole thing


Of denial

Of Truth.

This time is for

Rejoicing in

The birth of a Baby

In Bethlehem,

Who came

To live and to teach

And to die.

The Son of God

Now dwelling on high.

The One True King

And Head

Of His people

Whose minds are

Blurred with silly songs

That have no bearing

On the birth of

The Lord of All.


On a silent

And holy night,

A Child was born

And laid in

A manger,

A feeding trough,

In Bethlehem.

Angels sang

Heavenly Songs

Rejoicing in His birth.

Shepherds quaked

At the sight of God’s

Great Messengers

Bringing the best

Of Good News.

It is a time of

Joy to the World,

The Lord is come!

Let all the earth


In the little town

Of Bethlehem

The Saviour

Was born.


Christmas is a time

For great music,

A time for making

A joyful noise

To the Lord.

The halls

Can be decked

Another time.

Wenceslas can wander

In the snow

On another day.

Christ is born!

Let the Earth rejoice!

Tin pan alley

Has no place

In the revealing,

In human flesh,

Of the Lamb of God

Who takes away

The sin of the world.


So we should sing


Praise the Lord!

Christ is born!

That is the music

We need at Christmas.

That is the song

We should be singing.

And cinematic songsters

Should go away

And write songs

About another day.

New Year, perhaps,

Or a National Day

But please,

Leave our Lord’s Birth



When we think of


Let us think of


His birth, His life,

His death,

His Resurrection;

And let Rudolph

Disappear forever

Into the oblivion

Where all bad music

Must go.

God’s people have

A Saviour

Who is Christ the Lord.

We must sing of Him

Or all will fade

Under the burden

Of trite and foolish songs

That mean nothing.


Silent Night,

Holy Night.

Angels singing,

Shepherds worshipping

And a Baby

Breathing the first breaths

Of His human life.

This is Christmas,

This is real.

This is where

Our minds should be.