Today’s Bible study was “Ask the pastor…” which was appropriate and led to some important topics. For those who have not been in Bible Studies that I have led, on occasion I give participants a chance to ask any question that is on their minds. Today was one of those days.
One question came up about abortion. As Christians we take seriously the value of human life, and our church body is strongly pro-life. In fact, as a church body (TAALC) we only have two statements on social issues: Pro-life statement and Family-life statement. We have to recognize the magnitude of the problem of abortion, the effects on women and younger women/girls, on men and fathers, on families, and on the church.
What are we doing within the church? Yes, we speak against abortion. But we also need to have the heart and compassion of God to walk with those who have had abortions or are contemplating one. If someone is pregnant, we can encourage them to go full term and give birth. If keeping the baby is an option, we support the women/girl. If adoption is an option, we support that.
What about the woman/girl who has had an abortion? Our care does not end at that point. In my experience there is guilt, fear, shame, anger, and self-hatred…maybe not always, but sometimes those emotions appear years later. We have to be ready to listen, comfort, encourage, support, and yes, forgive and restore. Forgiveness and restoration is not for the “approved” ones, but for anyone who has sinned—that means all of us.
Ephesians 4:32: “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”
Galatians 6:1 “Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.”
Advent, Christmas, and Liturgical Questions
We moved from the heaviness of abortion to questions about how things are done liturgically and why differences among churches. In most of this we have freedom to do what we want, but we also see value in the traditions of the Church (Church Catholic—not the Roman Catholic Church, but the Church of all Christinas throughout history—that is our history, not the exclusive domain of the Roman or Orthodox churches.
The Date of Christmas
Why is December 25 set aside? There is not absolute proof of when Jesus was born. A couple thoughts are behind the dating: 1) Not favoring Dec. 25: It seems less likely that the shepherds would be in their fields at that time of year, so some favor a spring date for Jesus’ birth, 2) Favoring Dec. 25: Some note that a person died on his conception date, which for Jesus was traditionally March 25. Thus, nine months later, it would be December 25. Also, if Zechariah served on the day of Atonement (Luke 1), during the fall, and Elizabeth was pregnant about six months when Mary received the visit from Gabriel, that visitation would take place sometime in late March.
Bottom line: we really don’t have conclusive evidence to support Dec. 25 as Jesus’ birth date. But as we celebrate, we remember the importance of his birth. For the early church, Easter event (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday) was the critical event of Jesus’ life and so it gained importance much earlier than his birth.
Advent Candles and Christ candle
Why do some Advent wreaths have a Christ candle in the center and others do not. If the congregation has a separate Christ candle that is always in the sanctuary, then the Advent wreath does not contain one (how many Christ candles are there?). In our church we do not have a Christ candle continuously in the sanctuary, and so it is appropriate to have the Christ candle in the center of the wreath.
Historically purple is the color of Advent, a color associated with royalty and mourning. Thus, Advent carries a penitential (repentant) theme as we prepare for the coming of our Lord.
1st Sunday of Advent: Hope (Prophecy)
2nd Sunday of Advent : Love (Bethlehem)
3rd Sunday of Advent: Joy (Shepherd)
4th Sunday of Advent: Peace (Angel)
The 1st, 2nd, and 4th candles are purple (or blue), while the 3rd candle is rose (sometimes pink). It is to sound the note of joy in the midst of the penitential waiting (mixing purple and white to achieve this color of rose).
We had more, but this is at least a review of some of our topics. If you haven’t been to Bible study, then come each Sunday for our study of the Gospel according to Matthew.