Is Christ in your Christmas (carol)?

Nativity_tree2011

I’m not saying that every Christmas carol needs to be a gospel presentation. But if in singing our Christmas carols, the deity, humanity, mission, and accomplishments of Christ are assumed, ignored, downplayed or revised, then our view of Christmas will be no better than that of a secular greeting card.

Someone once said, “Show me your songs and I’ll show you your theology”. Some carols are excellent in weaving together:

  • Who Jesus is – the fulfilment of long-awaited prophecies, literally Emmanuel / God with us (Matt 1:22-23)
  • Why Jesus came – “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).
  • What Jesus did – “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8)
  • How we ought to respond – “If you declare with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9-10)

On the other hand, I think there are carols out there that don’t give a clear picture of the above. Yes, they may be very uplifting to sing and have a great tune to go with them.

But if you tune out the melody and just read the words for what they are, would they be able to teach the word of Christ clearly (Col 3:16)? Or would they paint a sentimental, sanitised view that starts and ends in the surprisingly clean manger scene?

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild

Did the birth of the Son of God happen in a library? Was the Incarnation a serene event or an earth-shattering one?

It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth, To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men, From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay, To hear the angels sing.

Believe it or not, but in the rest of this carol there is no mention of Jesus. Is it helpful to be unclear about the source of our peace on earth?

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease

Even here, what is the gospel of peace? How does Christ cause all oppression to cease?

A question I often ask when choosing songs for gathered worship is: could a [insert different world religion] sing this song without being confronted with a Biblical view of things? Could a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness sing through all the songs in our carol service and have nothing they disagree with?

If a non-Christian can sing through a whole service full of carols and leave without seeing a clear, complete, unvarnished picture of Jesus, I think we’ve missed an opportunity to proclaim Christ in our Christmas carols.

It’s not be enough to sing something that everyone can assent to at Christmas. Whether in church services or in our communities (e.g. door-to-door carolling) we ought to be clear that Jesus was:

True God of true God, Light from Light eternal
Humbly, He enters the virgin’s womb
Son of the Father, begotten, not created (1)

He was:

Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth. (2)

His mission was clear:

Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary. (3)

Our response should be:

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with his blood mankind hath bought (4)

And we should invite everyone to:

Come then to Him Who lies within the manger,
With joyful shepherds, proclaim Him as Lord.
Let not the Promised Son remain a stranger;
In reverent worship, make Christ your Adored.
Eternal life is theirs who would receive Him;
With grace and peace, their lives He will adorn.
Fall on your knees! Receive the Gift of heaven!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine! (5)

Don’t just tuck Jesus away in the manger in your carol singing this year. Let’s be sure to sing clearly about who this Child is, why He came, what He did, and how we should respond.


  1. O Come All Ye Faithful, final verse
  2. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, verse 3
  3. What Child Is This, verse 2
  4. The First Noel, final verse
  5. O Holy Night (alternate words by Kevin Hartnett), verse 3

Please pray for our church

church-auditorium2

In God’s providence, this year has turned out to be a real rollercoaster for our home church (Howick Baptist). In March, our Associate Pastor Joe Fleener announced that after seeking much counsel and prayer, he had accepted a call to plant a church in Rolleston. I had the privilege of serving alongside him to help organise this year’s Stand Conference, before his family made the move down at the end of July.

Just last week, our Senior Pastor Peter Somervell informed the church family that he had accepted a call to lead a church in Richmond, Nelson (you can read his announcement here).

This means in the space of less than a year, our church will have lost two of our full-time teaching elders.

This will be the first church transition our family will be a part of, and it’s possible that our church will be without a Senior Pastor for much of next year.

If you could keep Howick Baptist Church in your prayers, it would be really appreciated. Specifically, please pray that:

  • That we would trust in God alone, find refuge in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and walk by the Spirit each day
  • Each of us would grow in our love for Christ, His Gospel and His church during this time
  • Peter, Francelle and their family would be able to “finish well” and be encouraged and ready to serve at their next church
  • That amid the confusion and questions, we would speak with and about one another in ways that would glorify God
  • Our elders and staff would shepherd wisely and care for the flock through the uncertain months ahead
  • The members of HBC would continue to love and care for one another during the time of transition, and that we would remain a community that loves Jesus and proclaims His good news
  • Even now, God would prepare the right person to become the next Senior Pastor, so that the message of grace and peace through Jesus Christ may continue to be proclaimed at HBC.

 

Who am I? What is my ‘self’?

I_dont_know__Who_Am_I__by_madazulu

In our young adults group on Tuesdays we have been working through the book of Romans. When we were in chapters 6 and 7 there were some great discussions about our true identity as Christians.

In chapter 11 of The Cross of Christ, John Stott explains how a Christian’s identity cannot be recognised accurately without reference to the cross.

Who am I? What is my “self”? The answer is that I am a Jekyll and Hyde, a mixed-up kid, having both dignity, because I was created and have been re-created in the image of God, and depravity, because I still have a fallen and rebellious nature. I am both noble and ignoble, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, upright and twisted, image and child of God, and yet sometimes yielding homage to the devil from whose clutches Christ has rescued me. My true self is what I am by creation, which Christ came to redeem, and by calling. My false self is what I am by the Fall, which Christ came to destroy.

Only when we have discerned which is which within us, shall we know what attitude to adopt towards each. We must be true to our true self and false to our false self. We must be fearless in affirming all that we are by creation, redemption and calling, and ruthless in disowning all that we are by the Fall.

Moreover, the cross of Christ teaches us both attitudes. On the one hand, the cross is the God-given measure of the value of our true self, since Christ loved us and died for us. On the other hand, it is uthe God-given model for the denial of our false self, since we are to nail it to the cross and so put it to death.

Or, more simply, standing before the Cross we see simultaneously our worth and our unworthiness, since we perceive both the greatness of his love in dying and the greatness of our sin in causing him to die.

– John Stott, The Cross of Christ: 20th Anniversary Edition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 329-30.

Cycling adventure: Beach Rd and Grafton Gully Cycleway

Had some breathing space between projects today, so I decided to spend the morning trying out the new Grafton Gully and Beach Road cycle way.

Since it opened in September this year lots of cyclists in Auckland have had a go and raved about it.

cycle way Auckland transport beach road grafton gully

You can watch Auckland Transport’s video “bike-through” of the Beach Road cycle way here:

Getting into town

I left home about 9:45am and made my way to the Half Moon Bay Ferry Terminal. It takes about 12 minutes from our place.

01 bicycle-half-moon-bay-ferry-terminal
Got on the 10:15am ferry (bikes can be brought on for free) for $6.64 thanks to the AT HOP card.

02 auckland-city-view-from-ferry-cloudy

It was a beautiful journey in. Got to catch up on emails and read and enjoy the harbour views. The clouds began to break up as the ferry turned into the Ferry Terminal on the Auckland waterfront.

03 bicycle-auckland-city-ferry

The ferry got in at the City Terminal at the same time as two large Korean navy ship were berthed at Queens Wharf.

04 korean-navy-ship-auckland-visit-1

05 korean-navy-ship-auckland-visit-2

06 korean-navy-ship-auckland-visit-3

 

Watched a few minutes of the on-deck parade then headed off. Later found out online there was a public viewing planned afterwards, and the ships are here till Thursday.

Beach Road Cycle Way

Back on the bike – from Queens Wharf, turned left onto Quay Street, then headed straight until I found the right turn onto Tapora St, complete with cycle-specific traffic lights – neat!

08 beach-rd-cycle-way-cyclists-button

At the end of Tapora St, the cycle way forks right onto Mahuhu Crescent, then onto Beach Rd. So far so good – and the dual cycleway has raised kerbs as a bit of separation from the vehicle lanes.

09 beach-rd-cycle-way-te-taou-crescent

I made a mistake and didn’t follow the 2-lane cycle way at the Te Taou Crescent intersection (went straight instead of diagonal right), and initially wondered why the cycle lane just disappeared and I was in front of Parnell Rise. After realising and backtracking, found the connection through to the Grafton Gully Cycleway.

Grafton Gully Cycle Way

The Grafton Gully Cycleway is steeper (you are cycling from sea level up a hill after all) but it was manageable on a lower gear and no hurry. Quite neat to go underneath the Wellesley Rd offramp/bridge, and cool to see traffic bustling below.

11 grafton-gully-cycle-way-southern-end

Look at this – can you believe we have something like this Auckland?

When you exit the GG cycleway you end up at the top of Upper Queen Street, and the entrance to the Northwestern Cycle Way is just one intersection away.

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North Western Cycle Way

I’d never tried the NW cycle way before, so dutifully slipped onto the well-marked path and took it all the way to the Western Springs exit. Must be great for cyclists who live out west to be able to cycle to work each day!

13 northwestern-cycle-way-along-motorway

Came back in time to meet Christian for lunch at a cafe off Symonds Street. Had a good chat about the bible studies we’ve been working on together.

City to East Auckland

I was feeling reasonably energetic after lunch so thought I’d try cycling home from the city. Set off at about 12:45pm, back onto Symonds Street. Turned left and went across Grafton Bridge (which is thankfully bus and cycle only during the week), past Auckland City Hospital, then through Newmarket. Made a wrong turn (went straight through to Manukau Rd instead of left onto Remuera Rd) and ended up having to cycle eastwards along Great South Road, but it was reasonably light traffic so didn’t feel too scary. Appreciated the small stretch of cycle lane approaching the Panmure Roundabout (though still had to negotiate the crazy thing!) Along Pakuranga Highway and the two big hills, and was home by about 2pm.

Overall thoughts – the Beach Rd and Grafton Gully cycle ways are very professionally done. Loved how it linked up with the Northwestern Cycleway. Wish there were more cycle-friendly layouts out East (it became very road-focused after crossing Panmure Bridge). In the meantime, I’ll be scheming up how to get one of the girls to come along for next time!

福音歌 (The Gospel Song)

So the second half of this video didn’t quite go to plan…

Thankful for a family that loves to sing!

福音歌 (The Gospel Song)

聖潔神以愛成為
完美人承擔我罪
十架上受苦犧牲
祂受死我得永生

Holy God in love became
Perfect man to bear my blame
On the cross he took my sin
By his death I live again

Credits:
Music by Bob Kauflin, words by Drew Jones. Translated by Joffrey Hsu, Wong Bo Sang and Andrew Jong-Shin Liau (廖忠信).
© 2002 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)/Sovereign Grace Worship (ASCAP). Used with permission.

Song info
Download the MP3
Chinese translation