Providence Church: Proclaiming the Biblical and Reformed standard for faith, family and society. 

The Warm Fuzzy, Gut Wrenching Christmas Spirit

Let's be real.  Christmas is as romantic as smooching a pig.  
Christmas is loved by virtually everyone because it is perceived as such a romantic time of the year.  We become warmed over with quaint nativity scenes, shepherds with their flocks, and traveling maji.  
The marketers work hard to arouse these feelings.  Creating this ambiance is good for business.  However, such sensations have nothing to do with Christmas.  Christmas is actually quite the opposite in its sentiment.
Along with the miraculous conception Christmas marks the commencement of Christ's humiliation.  I actually prefer to speak of Christ’s abasement.  Don’t get me wrong, humiliation is a good word.  It was humiliating for Christ to do what he did.  But the word abasement sounds more descriptive.  It possesses an ugliness about it; a soiled, dirty feel.
We have no doubt heard Luke 2:7 read bizillions of times:  "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."  Our reaction is typically one that we have with all new born babies.  It goes something like, “Aaawwwwwhhh.”  Yet the passage should make us wretch.  If we are reading it right, it should appall us.  After all, this is the Son of God.  He is the Author of Creation and the one who, not long ago, claimed the fanfare of heaven’s hosts. 
Yet when he is born he is treated just like any other common baby.  To be sure, there is a great deal of disrespect in the ordinariness of these first few moments outside the womb.  To be crudely swaddled in these everyday linens is, in all reality, to make a mockery of his rightful dignity.  Robes of crimson and purple would not even be enough to mark his true grandeur.
Then there is that whole manger thing. 
This is why nativity scenes are a bit of a pet peeve to me.  No, I’m not advocating you pitch it if you have one.  I simply submit to you that they often send a different message than what Luke was trying to communicate.   When you drive by a nativity scene what you typically see is something quaint; a charming depiction of two lovers and their baby with the accompanying animals nestled adoringly round.  It’s all so rosey.
That’s certainly not the emotion that ought to be evoked when you hear that the second person of the Trinity bed down in a cow trough.  When Luke says that he was laid in a manger, you ought to be overcome by a feeling of disgust—if not outrage.
It is not my goal to crush any of the allure of the upcoming holiday.  If the truth be known, my real aim is to bring more light upon its magnetism.  For as we grasp the appalling nature of what Luke says, we come to understand the real glory of Christ’s work as our mediator. 
The captivation of Christmas ought to be in the sullied and outrageous nature of it:  God became man.  He was degraded with our form, our clothes, and a lack of proper bedding.  Yet Christ was abased on our behalf.  He descended into hell that we through him might have our sins remitted and ascend on high.
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The Paradox of Christmas

He, through whom time was made, was made in time;
and He, older by eternity that the world itself, was younger in age than many of His servants in the world;
He, who made man, was made man;
He was given existence by a mother whom He brought into existence;
He was carried in hands which He formed;
He nursed at breasts which He filled;
He cried like a babe in the manger in speechless infancy -- this Word without which human eloquence is speechless!

Sermon on Christmas, by Augustine of Hippo

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Christmas Catechism

From the Hiedelberg Catechism: 

Question 35. What is the meaning of these words "He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary"?
Answer: That God's eternal Son, who is, and continues (a) true and eternal God, (b) took upon him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, (c) by the operation of the Holy Ghost; (d) that he might also be the true seed of David, (e) like unto his brethren in all things, (f) sin excepted. (g)

Question 36. What profit dost thou receive by Christ's holy conception and nativity?
Answer: That he is our Mediator; (h) and with His innocence and perfect holiness, covers in the sight of God, my sins, wherein I was conceived and brought forth. (i)

Proof texts for your personal study: (a) Rom.1:4; Rom.9:5; (b) 1 John 5:20; John 1:1; John 17:3; Col.1:15; (c) Gal.4:4; Luke 1:42-43 (d) John 1:14; Matt.1:18-20; Luke 1:35; (e) Ps.132:11; Rom.1:3; 2 Sam.7:12; Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30; (f) Philip.2:7; Heb.2:14-17; (g) Heb.4:15; (h) Heb.7:26-27; Heb.2:17; (i) 1 Pet.1:18-19; 1 Cor.1:30-31; Rom.8:3-4; Isa.53:11; Ps.32:1.

Another Baby Step in the Heartbeat Bill

Ohio senate hears testimony:  On Wednesday the Ohio state senate heard testimony in behalf of the Heartbeat Bill, the legislation that would prevent doctors from performing abortions after a heartbeat is detected.  Here are a few highlights:  

The Dix Capital Bureau reported that Ducia Hamm, the director of the Ashland Care Center, began her testimony by showing a video of the ultrasound that was given live to the House earlier this year.  Then she introduced the baby who has since been born to the senate.  "Halley's heart started beating 21 days after her conception, and it hasn't missed a beat since," said Hamm, "Who you see before you now is the same baby that we scanned back in March. This baby has only changed size and location."

"The members of the House saw her heart... now you can look into her eyes... her life has the same worth then and now," said Hamm.

Julie Aber, a native Ashlander who attended the testimony, said that two pastors also addressed the body.  "They spoke about God's judgement on nations who do not protect innocent life, comparing abortion to sacrificing children to idols of self and convenience and sexual pleasure like the nations in the Old Testament."  Aber added, "I'm not sure how the Senators took this, but the pastor did a powerful job presenting the truth respectfully and unashamedly."

Testimony was also heard from several others, including two ladies who had abortions in the past regarding the emotional trauma.

Prayer is advised as the Heartbeat Bill does have its enemies.  One threat comes from, oddly enought, the pro-life ranks.  The Ohio Right to Life group has not backed the bill because they believe that the bill goes too far and will end up hurting pro-life legislation.  Some have even reported that the group is actively atempting to block the bill's passage.  

The bill has been stalled in the senate for a number of months already.  The opposing side is scheduled to present this coming week to the committee.  A date for the vote to get it out of the committee and before the senate body is yet to be determined.

Ducia Hamm encouraged Providence members to contact their representatives and the committee chair to express backing for the legislation.

For more news and a list of phone numbers of Ohio State senators to call, please click here.

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
all for love's sake becamest poor;
thrones for a manger didst surrender,
sapphire paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor,
all for love's sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love's sake becamest man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising,
heav'n-ward by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love's sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us what thou would have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.

-Frank Houghton, 1894-1972
Worship services at Providence are each Sunday at 10:30 a.m.  We meet in the Lions club building across from the Mifflin Trading Post on St. Rt. 603.

O Christmas Tree

Did you know that some credit Martin Luther as having the first modern Christmas tree?  The above picture is a replication of the event.  Suzanne Lieurance renders the story in her devotion, The First Christmas Lights, which is quoted in full below.

It was a cold winter's afternoon in the dense German forest. Martin Luther did not notice the sun slowly setting and the sky growing dark. His thoughts were on the sermon he was preparing. The forest soon came alive with the night sounds of owls, wolves, and other wild creatures.

Martin Luther shivered. He pulled his cloak tighter around his shoulders. Then he quickened his pace, saying a little prayer for comfort as he went.

The forest grew darker. Martin Luther scurried along, continuing to pray that he would not cross paths with a wild animal. He glanced up to see the night sky filled with tiny pricks of light, twinkling blue and silver. What could they be?

"Stars!" Martin Luther said suddenly, as he realized what he was seeing. "Lights from Heaven to guide and comfort me, just as a star led the Wise Men to the stable that first Christmas. What a splendid theme for my sermon."

Martin Luther smiled up at the twinkling sky. He was no longer afraid.

Feeling safer, Martin Luther looked around for a small tree he could take home for Christmas. He found a young fir tree, pulled it up, and dragged it with him through the forest.

At long last Martin Luther was safe at home. He quickly prepared the little fir tree, hoping to surprise his family.

"Hmmm," he said, as he noticed the triangle shaped candle holder on the table by the window.

Soon Martin Luther called his family in, so he could tell them about his long walk through the dark and dangerous forest. Everyone gasped at the sight of the little fir tree, for it was customary to hang Christmas trees upside-down from the ceiling beams and leave them undecorated. Yet, Martin Luther had placed this little tree upright in a pot, high on the table. The candles had been removed from the triangle shaped holder. Now, as the very first Christmas tree lights, they flickered from the tree's delicate branches -- just as the stars had flickered through the forest to guide Martin Luther.

The family gathered around as Martin Luther told them what had happened earlier that evening.

"Just as I was getting very frightened, I saw the stars twinkling through the trees as if God was saying, 'Don't be afraid, for I am with you.' And that's when I realized the theme for my sermon. God's light shines through the darkest night for everyone, but sometimes we have to look up to see it." 


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Providence Youth Speak Up

Amy Wakefield reflects on Speech class: Eleven weeks. Hours of excruciating classes. Days of monotonous preparation and research. It all came down to December 8th, 2011: The debate.

Okay, so it wasn’t all that bad. It was still eleven weeks, but the hours of classes were actually quite enjoyable. The preparation and research was a bit on the monotonous side, but…interesting all the same.

It all started out in September, where we all shakily walked up to the front of the class, and stuttered out barely intelligible sounds that equated to our names, favorite colors, and our favorite Bible verses.

The complexity of the speeches grew with each assignment. An impromptu speech, surprising in its difficulty, followed the first class. Then a how-to speech, a persuasive speech (the first complex and ‘deep’ speech we were required to give) and finally a ‘pet-peeve’, or Passion speech, in which we were allowed to go over, up, and above the top on our emotions, exaggeration, and stretch the truth to quite unfathomable levels.

But I began this article with the remark that it all came down to December 8th, 2011, the debate.

A few weeks before the debate, Mr. Timmons assigned the topics. He put all of his carefully written slips of paper with the topics on them into a hat. The male-to-female age ratio in the class was ironically set up so that each girl would be debating a boy.

Mr. Timmons would read a topic from the hat to the girl, and she would decide if she wanted it or not. If she did, then she would take it and the boy would get to pick which side he wanted to be on. If the girl did not want the first topic, she could pass and Mr. Timmons would draw a second topic…however, this topic she had to take.

Now, there was an uneven number of students in the class. I had mentioned this to Mr. Timmons after class one week and he asked me if I wanted to debate him. Not being one to back away from a challenge, I accepted. Since I had a ‘significant disadvantage’ to debating one of his years of experience, he let me not only pick which topic out all of the ones left in the hat I wanted, but he also let me pick which side I was to be on.

The debate was set up for the youngest of the class, David Hlavaty and Erin Watson, to go first, all the way up in age order to the oldest, Mr. Timmons and me.

For the ‘Junior High’ debates, David and Erin, and Joshua and Alayna, the Affirmative position presented their opening arguments first, and then the Negative had a one minute rebuttal. Then the Negative presented their opening arguments, and the Affirmative had a one minute rebuttal. The ‘Senior High’ debates, the three oldest students plus the teacher, it was the same except our rebuttals were to be 2 minutes and then the opposing side had a one minute closing statement after the rebuttal.

It was a very good learning experience. You could definitely tell who prepared the most.

We learned a lot about words and their power. When you deliver a speech with minimum technique and mumble through your words, it leaves a negative impression on your audience…it’s clear you don’t care about your topic. When you put passion behind your words, it leaves a lasting impression that people will never forget.

This whole class has definitely left a lasting impression on me.
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