Mary

8 Ways Holy Week Shapes Our Lives

8 Ways Holy Week Shapes Our Lives

How is your life shaped by Easter week? I mean other than the obligatory 3 pounds that is about to be added to your waistline courtesy of honey baked ham, deviled eggs, and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups (if you’re going to put on the weight, it might as well be good… not Peeps or generic jelly beans!)?

It has often been noted that the final week of Jesus’ life takes up a disproportionate amount of the gospel narratives. Approximately a third of the gospel accounts are devoted to the final week of Jesus’ life:

·        8 of 28 chapters in Matthew

·        6 of 16 chapters in Mark

·        5 of 24 chapters in Luke

·        9 of 21 chapters in John

Of the 52 weeks of our year, Holy Week is highlighted and underlined. On this week the other 51 weeks of our year hang, on this week, the other 51 are shaped.

How does the Holy Week shape our lives?

The Villains of Christmas: The Innkeeper

The Villains of Christmas: The Innkeeper

Every self-respecting children’s nativity play has Mary and Joseph greeted by the gruff Innkeeper who rudely tells Mary and Joseph that there’s no room and then, for good effect, slams the door in their faces. What was the motivation of this heartless hotel manager? Why didn’t he find a place for this pregnant woman? Today we met the second villain of Christmas: the Innkeeper.

The biblical story isn’t nearly as clear as to the backstory of this Innkeeper. There is a just a fleeting reference to the incident and that reference only occurs after Jesus’ birth. Luke tells us simply, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”[i]

Unlike last week’s obvious villain: Herod, the Innkeeper is a little trickier to decipher. In the ambiguity, though, we find ourselves and the reality that Christmas reveals in us the sneaky villain of a lack of prioritization. Surely the Innkeeper should have been able to find a place for Mary and her child.

Let’s first briefly consider who this Innkeeper might have been and why he didn’t have room for Mary and Joseph.

The Villains of Christmas: Herod

The Villains of Christmas: Herod

Christmastime is here. It’s a time for joy and generosity and hope and celebration. But Christmas is not without its threats. Over the next four weeks we will consider four villains of Christmas. The name of the first villain is King Herod. King Herod exemplifies power. The yearning for power in our own hearts threatens our experience of Christmas.

Herod was the villain at the first Christmas. He was a politician’s politician. He was oily and underhanded, vicious and cold-hearted. Born in 73 BC, Herod rose to power quickly (in his mid-twenties) by maneuvering his way through the Roman political machine and given the title “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate.[i] Upon rising to power, Herod decimated anyone who might be his rival, including three of his sons and his first wife, Mariamne.

Herod’s paranoia served him well and allowed him to rule for 37 years—far longer than most. His political savvy extended well past his paranoia. A half-Jew himself, Herod was a master of alliances, eventually taking ten wives, each gaining him a strategic political advantage. And he knew the power of tangible change. Herod took on massive building projects throughout Judea including the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the Second Temple, the fortress at Masada, and Herodium. Many of these can still be seen in Israel today. In fact, most beautiful ancient buildings that remain are Herod’s handiwork. To fund these projects, Herod levied massive taxes on the people that created animus between him and the people (and also helps us understand just how hated the tax collectors we meet in the Bible were).

One day in the final years of Herod’s life, a group of Magi from the East requested an audience with Herod.

Jesus and His Family; You and Yours

Jesus and His Family; You and Yours

The untouched idol of the American evangelical church is family.

I love my family. No family is perfect, but I couldn’t be more grateful for a healthy family: a mom and dad who loved me and celebrated 43 years of marriage this year, a sister who is still one of my best friends.

And I overflow with thanksgiving for my wife and two children, who are a source of constant love and joy in my life.

It’s hard to make sense of what Jesus taught about family and lived out in his life. Jesus’ relationship with his family is complicated. At a first pass, you would probably say that his relationship with his family is flat out bad. Is that the case? And how should Jesus’ relationship with his family influence our relationship with our family?

The Hard Edges

Let’s examine four scenes in Jesus’ life that involve family. The first three of these scenes have some pretty hard edges in what Jesus says about family.

Mary's Christmas Song

Mary's Christmas Song

Isn’t Christmas great? Anyone who loves Christmas loves Christmas music. Even if Christmas isn’t your favorite holiday, you have to concede it has the best music.

God loves music. In Zephaniah 3:17, we see that God sings over us. And God’s people have always sung. Moses and Miriam sang when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.[i] Deborah and Barak sang.[ii] And the largest book of the Bible (Psalms) is a song book, filled with the songs of the greatest King of Israel and many others. Music has always been a part of God’s people and will always be – we know that in heaven we’ll still be singing.[iii]

It’s not surprising, then, that God’s coming to earth is celebrated with singing. In this advent series, I am going to share some of the songs that accompanied the first Christmas alongside some of my favorite Christmas songs today.

The first song is perhaps the most famous song of Christmas: Mary’s song of praise. But it is a song with a wallop that is missed by many a contemporary reader misses.