Augustine as mentor excerpts

Augustine as Mentor is a book I reviewed written by Edward Smithers. Here are some points that really stuck out:

Mentoring or discipleship is the work of one Christian helping another (or group of them) grow in their knowledge and application of the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures to realize the fullness of their salvation.

Mentoring includes guiding and helping disciples live holy. It gets messy but it is so important.

Sound teaching is a key component to mentoring/discipleship.

This book had some very good and interesting points. Not everyone would enjoy reading it because it reads like a theological/historical thesis's.I will post my review here in the near future.


Christ's Mass

It is cliché to say let’s bring Christ back in Christmas but ironically that is not really the case…

This might be sermon you have heard before if you are a seasoned Christian, especially around the Christ MAS Season. Did you catch that? The word Christmas was originally known as Christ’s Mass. A phrase first recorded in 1038 AD. Which symbolizes Christ’s death as a "death sacrifice." So by saying, "Merry Christmas", we are literally saying "Merry death of Christ!" Although the celebration that looks exactly like the American “Christmas” was celebrated in the same way up to 2000 years BEFORE Christ’s birth!

That is right 2000 years…the traditions of this holiday (the tree, the evergreen, the holly, the mistletoe, the bells, the caroling and even the gift giving and charity) were all traditions of ancient middle eastern/ and early Roman pagan holidays. In fact there is reference to these festivities in Jeremiah 10. I could spend an hour going through all these traditions and explaining how they came about…it is so interesting! I personally spent a lot of hours recently studying these and I think that you would find much of the history fascinating. The main festivity was that of worshiping the sun. Other traditions were added as the years went on Santa Clause for instance was added in the fourth century. There actually was a St. Nicholas who was extremely generous in his gift giving especially t children who had been well-behaved.

Even the date, Dec 25th is not original to Christians. The sun god festivals ere first celebrated from Dec. 17-25. It was not until the fourth Century that Christians also adopted this date to eclipse the pagan festival and give people a good reason to celebrate, that being Jesus.
Otherwise Dec. 25th is a very interesting date to pick. We have to match up the Word of God with reality if we are going to curiously consider this date. The final answer is that God did not lay out a date of Christ’s birth for us to know. We do know that Caesar was collecting taxes and many people were traveling to their hometowns to pay their tribute and be counted while Mary was pregnant. (Prego). Taking this into consideration it is more likely that the Caesar would collect taxes closer to harvest when the weather is nicer and the food supply is more abundant than it is in the colder times of Dec.

We also see that in Luke 2:8 tells us (whatever night it was) that the shepherds were in the field that night and the angel told the m about Christ’s birth. It is not unreasonable for shepherds to be out in the field year round if the weather permitted them to be outside. The winter months can be slightly colder and could potentially offer more precipitation than the summer or fall months. Even still,, the mean December temperatures for Palestine is around 40 degrees. So a warm night in December could potentially be a nice near 50 degrees. So the weather issue could go either way. So in conclusion Dec 25th is not unreasonable. But the main point is that it is not important. My point is to disregard looking for a solid answer to the question of “what day was Jesus born” and instead focus on the reason why WE as Christians are celebrating.

At this point there are several approaches I could go with this sermon and similarly different approaches to looking at Christmas in light of all that has been pointed out. Some people will try and oppose all of the pagan traditions of these holiday times and say that Christmas is a diabolical paradox because it is not focused on Jesus Christ’s birth. In fact, there are some that say that Christmas is a blasphemous holiday and are very much against it because it is more or less mocking Jesus. Then they is the more lenient, liberal approach which suggests that it is not such a bad thing that the Church wanted to bring Christ into a pagan holiday. This blending and mixing of ideas is acceptable and legitimate. That is why the Dec. date was chosen in the first place to compete with and evangelize Jesus despite pagan tradition.

The approach I am taking is a mix of the two. I have grown up in the American materialistic version of the holiday season but I also grow up remembering the reason for the season. I enjoy both giving and receiving presents, decorating the house, singing seasonal songs, and all of those little traditions but I do not let these little things stress me out. I do not make a huge deal of them and above all of these things, I celebrate Jesus Christ as Savior. I thank God that He was born and remember what He did for me. I recall the life of Jesus Christ. It is not so much a “merry bloody death of Christ” – but it is about Christ and on the other hand it is not a huge festivity where I am focused on competing to see how many gifts I get. The traditions are not sinful in themselves. Insomuch as that we remember what Christ’s Mass is all about: It is about Jesus Christ.

At some point in time Jesus Christ was born of a virgin Mary while they were in the town of Bethlehem to pay taxes and be counted for the census. When the couple arrived to the town the inn had no room for them. He realized that she was pregnant and could offer a manger/a stable. After such a long journey to Bethlehem and a wife who is in the most painful final stages of childbirth, Joseph as got to be thinking…”really? This is where my child, one who is to be called Jesus is to be born?” But being a good godly man, he carries Mary to the most comfortable spot, clears away the animals and builds a fire while saying a prayer to the Father! The Christ child is born in the humble manger. Later that evening shepherds would come and worship him directed by an angel.

Still almost two years later, a caravan of wise men would come and bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. At this point it is likely that Mary and Joe have moved out of the manger and into a house. These wise men were directed by a star. It is also likely that there were many more than “three” wise men or “kings,” as three wise men carrying three gifts might work logically it is simply not logistically sound because of safety issues and robbery. It is likely that more than three men made the trip in a caravan. These men gave a gift and did not expect or receive any gift in return except to be graced by the presence of Christ as a child.

This is the story of Christ’s birth according to the Word of God. I encourage you to check it out this week despite all the business of the holidays take time and remember Christ! Many of us are too busy planning His party to seek His will or grieve His absence. Let’s enjoy His grace and His presence as we celebrate His birthday. Let’s celebrate Christ this Christ’s mass!