Bethlehem, considered the cradle of Christianity, is perhaps one of Earth’s most special places to embrace the Christmas spirit. Located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it’s the “little town” where Jesus was born, and it attracts thousands of pilgrims at Christmas.
Bethlehem is the site of the Church of the Nativity, an underground cave where Christians believe Mary gave birth to Jesus. A 14-pointed silver star beneath an altar that the emperor Constantine the Great and his mother Helena had built around the year 338 marks the spot, and the stone church is a key pilgrimage site for Christians and Muslims alike.
All of us raised in Western culture have been strongly conditioned by what is called a secular worldview. The word secular comes from the Latin saeculum, meaning “the present world.” A secular worldview, therefore, is one that focuses on the present physical world and ignores or rejects the spiritual realm. To the extent that one is secularized, spiritual realities like God, angels, demons, and heaven don’t have a significant role in one’s thought or life.
Of course many of us continue to believe in things like God, Jesus, angels, demons, heaven, and hell. But as every study on the topic has shown, our beliefs tend to have little impact on our lives. The majority of Western people hold some sort of spiritual beliefs, but nonetheless continue to live much of their lives as functional atheists.
Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t think about God in most of our waking moments. Still fewer consciously surrender to God in most of our waking moments. Even fewer experience God’s presence in most of our waking moments. Our day-to-day lives are, for all intents and purposes, God-less.
I’ve heard the Christmas messages on TV and social media through recent days. They intimate that the message of peace lies in the Christmas story. I’ve heard it too from busy shoppers, bemoaning their lot as, stressed and sweaty from their efforts, even in the middle of winter, they hurry to buy the advertised accessories to peace.
We moan about commercialism, but it doesn’t stop us from joining in, big time. We scurry, along with everyone else, to buy last minute presents, and to make sure we have enough food! Enough food! I think this kind of scurrier generally has enough food.
The message of peace comes from the child in the manger…
I used to think that. I used to say it too, but I don’t believe it anymore.
Peace doesn’t lie in the manger. It never has.
Just a couple of years ago, for the first time in 4 years, the courageous Christians of Aleppo celebrated Christmas with carols and a tree in the midst of the city. A city at war and almost destroyed. And the peace? Where was it? Peace was celebrated between opposing camps in a set of trenches in WW2. It lasted the day… and then they went to the task of killing each other again. Continue reading Peace on Earth… Really?→
Shane shares a testimony of a pastor whom God told to get rid of all Christmas decorations in the church and fill it with hay and manure. As a result, the Holy Spirit fell and they had an amazing encounter with the Lord. Shane also points out how radical the original Christmas was, and why it’s time to put the “Christ” back in “Christians”.
Shane went on speaking about his fight against Philadelphia’s anti-homelessness laws: “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday?” He also shows why you don’t mess with Pentecostals.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!
We have a lot of symbols for Christmas, and honestly I feel that neither jingle bells, snowflakes or Santa Claus are adequate representations of, you know, the birth of God’s Son. Angels, however, are.
Angels play a huge role in the birth of Jesus. Massive, in fact. This is yet another reason I believe that people without charismatic experience or theology won’t get what the Gospel is all about. You cannot have Christmas without angels.
First of all, the angel Gabriel visits Mary to tell her that she will give a virgin birth to the Messiah (Lk 1:26-38). Then, he visits Joseph to ensure him that Mary has not been cheating but that the Holy Spirit has conceived the child (Mt 1:21). As the Son is born in Bethlehem, angels tell some nearby shepherds that the Messiah has been born, and sings a angelic song about glory to God and peace among men (Lk 2:8-15). After the visitation of the wise men (who surprisingly weren’t led by angels but just by a supernatural star and prophetic dreams) an angel tells Joseph that he must take his family to Egypt to escape Herod’s madness (Mt 2:13). And after some time, Joseph gets to know that it’s clear for him to go back to Israel by – you guessed it – an angel (Mt 2:19f.).
Kim Walker-Smith is one of the most inspirational worship leaders I know of.Her personal testimony of visions that Jesus has given her is absolutely amazing. Her voice and musical talent are astounding. And her passion for Jesus is extremely apparent and appealing when she sings songs like How He Loves, Holy Spirit and Freedom Reigns.
And here she is singing about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: