Saturday, December 26, 2009
Christmas Eve at a Baptist Church
I took my aunt and cousin to the Christmas Eve service at their Baptist church. The service was lovely and included lighting of the candles of Advent. More and more Baptist churches are returning to some of the rituals that were tossed out in the radical reformation.
My family has observed Advent for years. I usually pick up a daily devotional for Advent at my local Catholic bookstore. Those daily readings help us focus on the meaning of Christmas amidst all the bustle.
The Christmas Eve service included a short sermon. The minister focused on the Second Coming. I believe that is a very cogent topic at Christmas. Many Christians never think about the Second Coming, even though many writers in the New Testament are consumed by the thought of Christ's return. Paul believed Christ would return at any moment and wanted all Christ's followers to be prepared. Only with the death of the apostles did that emphasis lessen, but it never went away.
The sermon was short but to the point until the end. There the minister stumbled into the end time theology currently in vogue. The pastor spoke of a man waking to find that the Rapture had begun and believers were being swept up into heaven ( at another time I will tell you why I do not believe in the Rapture). Christ looks at this man as he pleaded to go to heaven, too. The minister said sadly it was too late, Christ left without this sinner. I believe that is a horrible way to portray Christ.
Jesus is God in action. Through this manifestation of God we all enter his presence. He would not abandon any one that sought help. No one will ever be left behind who desires to be with God. Only those who knowingly reject God will be excluded. This means you know that God exists, know his will, but choose to go your own way. These people are not condemned to hell but to death; they cease to exist,
God, the Trinity, wants all of us to join him. He never gives up. Creator, Comforter and Son: "I am love in action."
Photo by rutlo (not the church attended)