The Prince of Peace

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Christmas

The Hurt of War amidst the Hope for Peace

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. —Isaiah 9:6, KJV

One of my favorite Christmas carols, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, contains the same line in all five stanzas; that being the sweet refrain, “peace on earth, good-will to men.” [1] Yet lurking ominously in the midst of this song lies this reckoning which contradicts the hoped for reality:

And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong, and mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men.” [2]

With the exception of a few decades, the history of the world is the history of war.

Even now by announcing its move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the United States government has taken a step towards its eventual recognition of Jerusalem not as an international city as currently endorsed by the world’s nations, but as the capitol of the nation of Israel. The announcement has been greeted by demonstrations and protests, both organized and spontaneous, with masked masses burning both Israeli and U.S. flags, shouting defamatory and inflammatory protests and raising clenched fists in the air as they call for war.

Then too, civilization remains under similar attack with so-called anti-fascists contradictorily employing violent means to seek a peace that is not there, with North Korea threateningly firing missiles over the Pacific Ocean towards the U.S. mainland, with Russia threatening by military conflict to seize eastern Ukraine, with ISIS and Al Qaeda, Boko Haran and other terrorist groups operating in the world, with massive movements of immigrant populations from one country to another the world over, all of this and more contradicts any romantic notion that there will be peace on earth and good will toward man any time soon. Perish the thought . . . but a devastating World War III may be just around the corner.

Throughout the world, terrorists have successfully interrupted the normal flow of civic life, especially where western interests are at stake. From Bali to New York, bombs have exploded and planes have been flown into tall buildings. The possible detonation of a dirty bomb by terrorists in a public place gravely concerns urban security and city officials. Dirty bombs not only do extensive damage in the vicinity of the explosion, but they will also emit low levels of radiation throughout an extended area several miles in diameter from the center of the blast. Just how severe a health hazard the radioactive materials pose over a long period of time is unknown. There may not be enough hospitals to treat the sick. Then too, if detonated in the stratosphere over earth, EMPs (electro magnetic pulse bombs) could send the world into chaos by destroying the electronic grid our utilities and communication systems (TVs, cell phones, Internet, etc.) absolutely depend on. Welcome to the new “dark ages.”
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The Night of Nights

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Christmas

As reenacted in nativity scenes and Christmas pageants down through the history of western civilization, this story, in various ways, whether in part or whole, is told:

God promised Israel a coming Messiah. God chose a teenage virgin to be the mother of Israel’s promised Messiah. The virgin was engaged to a young and moral carpenter. A crisis pregnancy occurred. An angel of the Lord alerted Joseph that Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Angels announced Messiah’s birth to shepherds on a night vigil near a little Judean town of Bethlehem. Magi from the East visited the infant. To preserve the rights of his royal family to reign, paranoid King Herod ordered the infanticide of all male children under two years of age.

On the very night of our Savior’s birth, Luke, a physician turned historian, records that, “there were some shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Possessing gnarled and scared hands and countenancing  weather-beaten faces, these ordinary men worked the grave-yard shift protecting their sheep, some of which were probably marked for eventual sacrifice at the temple about six miles away. With slings, crooked staffs, and studded clubs, these men risked their lives to protect their sheep from predatory animals and criminal rustlers.

Unbeknownst to them, one particular night was a holy night. The sheep were resting comfortably. The only sound that penetrated the quiet night was an occasional “baaaa!” of a sheep. Whether standing or sitting, these nameless shepherds breathed in the crisp night air as they fought off sleep’s beckoning call. It was a night like many others until . . . .
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Star Trek Sages

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Christmas

The Magi’s journey of faith.

But without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Though they are becoming an endangered species in public places, manger scenes can still be viewed on Christmas cards and on wrapping paper. Once a newscast reported how a man, defying law that forbids setting up Christmas créches in public places, constructed a manger scene on the bed of his pick-up truck, drove it to the town square and displayed it there. So there the manger scene sat in a public place, and government authorities could do nothing to remove it because the truck was considered the man’s private property!

Bethlehem, sometime between 7 and 4 B.C.: A stable. A manger. A feeding trough for animals, wherein lies the Christ Child wrapped in swaddling clothes. Mary, the Virgin Mother and her espoused husband, Joseph, looking on. Shepherds from a nearby field standing by. Three Magi from the East, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and their camels. The nativity scene. This is how Christians have viewed the manger scene for decades, if not centuries. This is how Christian minds have been conditioned to remember the first Christmas. As they reenact the initial Bethlehem drama, manger scenes usually depict the biblical characters and players of it. But would you be shocked to know that the Gospel narrative indicate it’s likely that the Magi were not present at the manger in Bethlehem shortly after Jesus was born, when He was a baby?
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His Star in the East

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Christmas

From astrology to nativity: the role of the star in the Magi’s journey to find the Messiah.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1-2, NASB

Star Light Star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

So goes the Mother Gooose Nursery Rhyme that many in their childhood repeated as they wistfully lay on their beds looking out the bedroom window at the sky above. From Disney to astronomy, stars fascinate the human mind and soul. But there are mystical and spiritual worldviews, ancient and modern, associated with stars, astrology and its attendant horoscopes being but one example. Stars can promote myths.

Among others, one that has accumulated around Christmas is that by night and by day from Babylon, or from places thereabouts, an ongoing star led three wise men or magicians to Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Christ child. Enduring frigid nights and blistering days and traveling by caravan on camels over desolate desserts, these ancient astrologers followed a star that first appeared in the east where they lived and practiced the occult arts, to the West where the infant (not baby) Jesus resided. The Christmas carol “We Three Kings” perpetuates the myth. The lyrics read:

First Stanza:
We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

Chorus:
O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright;
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to Thy perfect light. [1]

Preachers too help to perpetuate the myth that to locate Him who was born King of the Jews, the wise men followed an ever present star. One has written:

The star of Bethlehem was a star of guidance. This star guided the wise men through the desert and across great distances. It guided them to the Lord Jesus Christ. [2]

Yet questions abound around this Christmas scenario. Is this understanding of the role played by the star too star-struck?
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