Spurgeon: The Day of Atonement

19 12 2011

Thus have I led you to consider the person who made the atonement: let us now consider for a moment or two THE MEANS WHEREBY THIS ATONEMENT WAS MADE. You read at the 5th verse, “And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.” And at the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th verses, “And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.” The first goat I considered to be the great type of Jesus Christ the atonement: such I do not consider the scapegoat to be. The first is a type of the means whereby the atonement was made, and we shall keep to that first.

Notice that this goat, of course, answered all the pre-requisites of every other thing that was sacrificed; it must be a perfect, unblemished goat of the first year. Even so was our Lord a perfect man, in the prime and vigour of his manhood. And further, this goat was an eminent type of Christ from the fact that it was taken of the congregation of the children of Israel, as we are told at the 5th verse. The public treasury furnished the goat. So, beloved, Jesus Christ was, first of all, purchased by the public treasury of the Jewish people before he died. Thirty pieces of silver they had valued him at, a goodly price; and as they had been accustomed to bring the goat, so they brought him to be offered: not, indeed, with the intention that he should be their sacrifice, but unwittingly they fulfilled this when they brought him to Pilate, and cried, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Oh, beloved! Indeed, Jesus Christ came out from the midst of the people, and the people brought him. Strange that it should be so! “He came unto his own, and his own received him not;” his own led him forth to slaughter; his own dragged him before the mercy seat.
Note, again, that though this goat, like the scapegoat, was brought by the people, God’s decision was in it still. Mark, it is said, “Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” I conceive this mention of lots is to teach that although the Jews brought Jesus Christ of their own will to die, yet, Christ had been appointed to die; and even the very man who sold him was appointed to it—so saith the Scripture. Christ’s death was fore-ordained, and there was not only man’s hand in it, but God’s. “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” So it is true that man put Christ to death, but it was of the Lord’s disposal that Jesus Christ was slaughtered, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”
Next, behold the goat that destiny has marked out to make the atonement. Come and see it die. The priest stabs it. Mark it in its agonies; behold it struggling for a moment; observe the blood as it gushes forth. Christians, ye have here your Saviour. See his Father’s vengeful sword sheathed in his heart; behold his death agonies; see the clammy sweat upon his brow; mark his tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth; hear his sighs and groans upon the cross; hark to his shriek, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,” and you have more now to think of than you could have if you only stood to see the death of a goat for your atonement. Mark the blood as from his wounded hands it flows, and from his feet it finds a channel to the earth; from his open side in one great river see it gush. As the blood of the goat made the atonement typically, so, Christian, thy Saviour dying for thee, made the great atonement for thy sins, and thou mayest go free.

read the whole thing here





Ignatius: On Dying for Christ

19 12 2011

I remember exactly where I was the first time I read this.  I was stunned.  This is a very spiritually edifying piece from Ignatius.  He had been taken captive by the Romans to be put to death for his faith.  He had learned of a rescue attempt to be staged by the church in Rome.  But as you can see from the letter, he was eager to “die and be with Christ.”  What do I expect people to get from this letter?  A vision of a man who finally realized there is nothing more precious than Christ.  It is because of this realization that a man who followed Christ his whole life can say  ”Now I begin to become a disciple.”

I write to the Churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless ye hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep [in death], I may be no trouble to any one. Then shall I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. Entreat Christ for me, that by these instruments   i.e., by the teeth of the wild beasts. I may be found a sacrifice [to God]. I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles; I am but a condemned man: they were free,   “Free,” probably from human infirmity. while I am, even until now, a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus, and shall rise again emancipated in Him. And now, being a prisoner, I learn not to desire anything worldly or vain.

From Syria even unto Rome I fight with beasts,  where the word is also used figuratively.both by land and sea, both by night and day, being bound to ten leopards, I mean a band of soldiers, who, even when they receive benefits,  Probably the soldiers received gifts from the Christians, to treat Ignatius with kindness. show themselves all the worse. But I am the more instructed by their injuries [to act as a disciple of Christ]; “yet am I not thereby justified”. May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray that they may be found eager to rush upon me, which also I will entice to devour me speedily, and not deal with me as with some, whom, out of fear, they have not touched. But if they be unwilling to assail me, I will compel them to do so. Pardon me [in this] I know what is for my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple, and have no desire after anything visible or invisible, that I may attain to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let breakings, tearings, and separations of bones; let cutting off of members; let bruising to pieces of the whole body; and let the very torment of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.

Ignatius, Letter to the Romans





Martin Luther: Galatians 5.1-13

19 12 2011

Our conscience is free and quiet because it no longer has to fear the wrath of God. This is real liberty, compared with which every other kind of liberty is not worth mentioning. Who can adequately express the boon that comes to a person when he has the heart-assurance that God will nevermore be angry with him, but will forever be merciful to him for Christ’s sake? This is indeed a marvelous liberty, to have the sovereign God for our Friend and Father who will defend, maintain, and save us in this life and in the life to come.

As an outgrowth of this liberty, we are at the same time free from the Law, sin, death, the power of the devil, hell, etc. Since the wrath of God has been assuaged by Christ no Law, sin, or death may now accuse and condemn us. These foes of ours will continue to frighten us, but not too much. The worth of our Christian liberty cannot be exaggerated.

Our conscience must he trained to fall back on the freedom purchased for us by Christ. Though the fears of the Law, the terrors of sin, the horror of death assail us occasionally, we know that these feelings shall not endure, because the prophet quotes God as saying: “In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee.” (Isa. 54:8.)

We shall appreciate this liberty all the more when we bear in mind that it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who purchased it with His own blood. Hence, Christ’s liberty is given us not by the Law, or for our own righteousness, but freely for Christ’s sake. In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of St. John, Jesus declares: “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” He only stands between us and the evils which trouble and afflict us and which He has overcome for us.

Reason cannot properly evaluate this gift. Who can fully appreciate the blessing of the forgiveness of sins and of everlasting life? Our opponents claim that they also possess this liberty. But they do not. When they are put to the test all their self-confidence slips from them. What else can they expect when they trust in works and not in the Word of God?

Our liberty is founded on Christ Himself, who sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Therefore our liberty is sure and valid as long as we believe in Christ. As long as we cling to Him with a steadfast faith we possess His priceless gifts. But if we are careless and indifferent we shall lose them. It is not without good reason that Paul urges us to watch and to stand fast. He knew that the devil delights in taking this liberty away from us.

Read it all here





Jerry Bridges: The Gospel is for Believers Too

19 12 2011

I think Bridges has a lot of good things to say, espcially in his book The Discipline of Grace, which was given to all of our folks who renewed or were confirmed in the faith.  Below is an essential truth about the Christian life, namely that the Gospel is for believers too.  Too often in evangelical America we shake hands at the cross with Jesus, thank him for what he’s done then get on to the “real work” of discipleship.  These folks have never come to the cross in the first place.  It was simply a detour on their future career in legalism.  Rather the true Christian, as Bridges commends to us, stays always at the cross.  This is a timely reminder for us in the performance driven culture we all live in. 

Gradually over time, and from a deep sense of need, I came to realize that the gospel is for believers, too. When I finally realized this, every morning I would pray over a Scripture such as Isaiah 53:6,” All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” and then say, “Lord, I have gone astray. I have turned to my own way, but you have laid all my sin on Christ and because of that I approach you and feel accepted by you.”

I came to see that Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:20, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me,” was made in the context of justification (see vv. 15-21). Yet Paul was speaking in the present tense: “The life I now live ….” Because of the context, I realized Paul was not speaking about his sanctification but about his justification. For Paul, then, justification (being declared righteous by God on the basis of the righteousness of Christ) was not only a past-tense experience but also a present-day reality.

Paul lived every day by faith in the shed blood and righteousness of Christ. Every day he looked to Christ alone for his acceptance with the Father. He believed, like Peter (see 1 Pet. 2:4-5), that even our best deeds — our spiritual sacrifices — are acceptable to God

only through Jesus Christ. Perhaps no one apart from Jesus himself has ever been as committed a disciple both in life and ministry as the Apostle Paul. Yet he did not look to his own performance but to Christ’s “performance” as the sole basis of his acceptance with God.

So I learned that Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but upon what Christ did for us in his sinless life and sin-bearing death. I began to see that we stand before God today as righteous as we ever will be, even in heaven, because he has clothed us with the righteousness of his Son. Therefore, I don’t have to perform to be accepted by God. Now I am free to obey him and serve him because I am already accepted in Christ (see Rom. 8:1). My driving motivation now is not guilt but gratitude.

read it all here





Spurgeon Part II: How Do We Battle Spiritual Depression?

19 12 2011

Last week I put out a post on a particularly striking sermon of Charles Spurgeon called “Songs in the Night.” I found the sermon not only spiritually edifying but also tremendously practical. Below is a brief attempt to summarize Spurgeon’s thoughts on battling spiritual depression.

Spurgeon says in times of “night”, which he here uses as a metaphor for spiritual depression, we may “sing” about three things to cheer our hearts. “Either we sing about the yesterday that is over, or else about the night itself, or else about the morrow that is to come.”

In times of spiritual depression we may first sing about the “yesterday that is over.” By this Spurgeon means that we take the time to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past in order that we may gain comfort in our present difficulties.  He writes:

“Christian, perhaps the best song thou canst sing, to cheer thee in the night, is the song of yester-morn. Remember, it was not always night with thee: night is a new thing to thee. Once thou hadst a glad heart, a buoyant spirit; once thine eye was full of fire; once thy foot was light; once thou couldst sing for very joy and ecstacy of heart. Well, then, remember that God, who made thee sing yesterday, has not left thee in the night. He is not a daylight God, who can not know his children in darkness; but he loves thee now as much as ever: though he has left thee a little, it is to prove thee, to make thee trust him better, and serve him more.”

So what kind of things did Spurgeon have in mind when he encourages us to remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past?  We can remember the electing love of God (Eph 1.4), which is a faithfulness to us which began before the foundations of the world.  We can remember his mighty act of redemption in Jesus Christ.  We can remember his giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  But we can also remember when we were first called to Christ.  We can remember times of particularly intense fellowship with him.  We can remember when he has delivered us from evil, temptation or strife.  If for one reason or another we cannot think of God’s faithfulness to us in the past, Spurgeon encourages us to think of God’s faithfulness to others most often applied to the great protagonists in the scriptures.  Spurgeon’s exhortation to remember when we were first called to Christ is particularly moving.  He writes:

What! man, canst thou not sing a little of that blessed hour when Jesus met thee; when, a blind slave, thou wast sporting with death, and he saw thee, and said: “Come, poor slave, come with me?” Canst thou not sing of that rapturous moment when he snapped thy fetters, dashed thy chains to the earth, and said: “I am the Breaker; I came to break thy chains, and set thee free?” What though thou art ever so gloomy now, canst thou forget that happy morning, when in the house God thy voice was loud, almost as a seraph’s voice, in praise? For thou couldst sing: “I am forgiven! I am forgiven:”

“A monument of grace, A sinner saved by blood.”  Go back, man; sing of that moment, and then thou wilt have a song in the night.

We might also sing of “the night itself”.  This is the shortest section of the sermon and perhaps the most brutal in its honesty.  Whatever “night” you and I are enduring, Spurgeon reassures us that things are not as bad as they could be, nor are they as badas we deserve.  Psalm 103 vs 10 reads “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us for our iniquities.”  The application of this verse is the crux of Spurgeon’s argument in this section.  To make it very simple and very clear, no matter what you are currently suffering through it is not hell.  When describing a particularly trying event people will occasionally say “it was hell.”  But of course it wasn’t.  Hell is a place of unimaginable torment.  Spurgeon’s point here is that you are not in hell, even though you deserve to be.  So take some comfort and derive some joy from the fact that God has indeed had mercy upon you through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Spurgeon says we can sing a song in the night by singing about the day to come.  I was speaking with a man recently who suffers from depression.  He said to me, “at least I know I will one day be happy in heaven.”  This is true!  He will one day be happy in heaven, and he can derive some joy from that now by resting in that hope and allowing some of that future joy to break into his present life.  Perhaps the most ready analogy is that of a pregnancy.  When a family is expecting a child, the day they long for and wait for is the day when their baby is born.  But in the meantime, the imminent birth of that child breaks into their present day lives.  They put together a crib, they paint a nursery, they buy diapers and blankets, they select the perfect teddy bear.  The expectation they have of the future gives them joy and motivates behavior in the present.  So too can our joy and expectation of a future with Jesus in heaven break into our lives now, shaping and affecting us.





Rob Sturdy: Jesus, Puberty, and the Mid-Life Crisis

19 12 2011

In between readings of “Your Best Life Now,” I occasionally like to look back, dust off the cover of some old, stuffy theologian and see what he might have to say that was important enough to endure 1800 years of Christian thought.  To this end we turn to the early church father, Irenaeus. For those of you caught unawares, Irenaeus lived from 120-202 A.D., studied as pupil under Polycarp and later became the Bishop of Lyon (178).  He devoted much of his life to combating heresy, specifically the many heresies that fall under the big tent of Gnosticism.  His most famous work, adversus haereses, is a celebrated Christian classic.  While he is principally known for his defense of orthodox Christianity, Irenaeus is also known for his thoughts onrecapitulation, which actually speak in some quite important ways to major life changes (such as our title infers) that introduce no small degree of difficulty in our lives and leads us into no small measure of sin.

First off, what is recapitulation and why should I care?  Let’s begin with the condition of our humanity.  Genesis ch. 3 presents us with the narrative of the fall of humanity into sin and disobedience.  If Gen ch. 3 presents the fall, it is the Apostle Paul who presents the consequences of the fall.  The consequences are as follows:

1.   Sin came into the world through Adam’s disobedience (Rom 5.12)

2.   In the one man’s sin, all have sinned in him (Rom 5.12)

3.   Since all have sinned in him, all men have been made sinners (Rom 5.19)

4.   Death enters the world as penalty and condemnation for sin (Rom 5.14; 5.16)

5.   Death reigns over the world (Rom 5.14)

One quick note of clarification on point two.  How did all men sin in Adam?  Why does the responsibility not lay on his shoulders alone?  There are two ways to look at it.  The first way to look at it is through the lens of human solidarity.  Human solidarity is the rallying cry for all of us to band together against injustice, global warming, poverty, etc.  Why?  Because we are all one.  The one’s decisions affect the many.  Adam’s one decision, as the father of all humanity, has affected the many through his disobedience.  The second way to look at this is genetically.  The author of Hebrews can easily conceive of this, as he sees the Levites, born after Abraham, nevertheless part of Abraham as they were “still in the loins” of their ancestor (Heb 7.9-10).  Adam, the father of all humanity, carried a DNA that was radically corrupted by the fall, a corruption that he has not failed to pass down to each and every one of us.

So where is the specific application to puberty?  Well, this sin and disobedience passed down to us from Adam affects the whole of our life.  There is not one age, nor desire or motivation from that age that can be said to be free from the taint of Adam’s corruption.  From birth until death you and I will demonstrate through our private thoughts and our public actions that we are indeed heirs to a fallen race.  There are portions of our life when this is more evident than others and the two I have identified compose the title of this post although we could easily identify others.  However in terms of puberty, it is easy for the parents or concerned well-wishers to say, “it is just a phase,” or “he’ll grow out of it.”  While he may ”grow out of it,” it does not mean that it is merely a phase, but is evidence of a deep corruption of the soul that the individual may learn to disguise but will never grow out of nor escape from by his own power.  ”For was it was not possible that the man who had once for all been conquered (by sin), and who had been destroyed through disobedience, could reform himself, and obtain the prize of victory” (Irenaeus, AH). 

What then can be done about this?  We have a two fold problem.  First, we need something (or someone?) to, like bleach through shirt stains,  pass through the many troubled layers of our lives (puberty, mid-life crisis, etc.) andwash them clean.  This will take care of the corruption.  However, as the Apostle Paul has already noted, corruption is not the only problem, but we also have to deal with the penalty for corruption and this is the greater problem.  When I was at military college, to have a stain on my shirt was a problem, but the real problem was the penalty that the sergeants would impose upon me for that stain.  To arrive before the throne of God with stains on the soul carries with it a penalty.  Namely, that we must be excluded from his presence (Psalm 5.4) and cast into hell.  So we not only need a solution to the corruption, we need to pay the price for the time that we have carried the corruption.  In Christ, we have a solution to both problems.

First off, the answer to the problem of our corruption.  Irenaeus writes “For He came to save all through means of Himself- all, I say, who through him are born again to God- infants, and children, and boys and youths and old men.  He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age…so likewise He was an old man for old men…Then at last, he came to death itself.”  Like bleach through many blankets, or a mighty river that over time wears through the surface of the earth, washing each layer as it passes through, so too Christ has passed through every stage of human life and sanctified it with his perfect life.  This means that Christ has passed through the utter selfishness of my infancy, the wild lusts of my teenage years, and the return of my selfishness in my twenties! and will be with me through every stage of life, having already passed through it and bound it to himself.  If then through I receive this gift through faith, he has passed through my life, then he has been my selfless infancy, he has been the purity of my teenage years, he has been the courage and innocence of my young adult life because in passing through my sin I have taken on his righteousness.  “Because of his measureless love,” Irenaeus writes, “He became what we are in order to enable us to become what He is.”

If we were to leave it here, however, we would be missing the crucial piece of the puzzle.  There is a difference between removing the stain of sin, as a simple matter of spring cleaning.  It is another thing altogether to remove the stigmaand penalty of sin.  This is what we turn to next.  As Christ has become an infant for infants, a teenager for teenagers, an adult for adults, and an old man for old men, he has not only cleansed their lives, but he has appropriated their lives to himself.  In a very real exchange, we have taken on his righteousness, but he has taken on our sinfulness.  To allude once again to our analogy of the river cutting great deeps into a canyon, the canyon rock is cleansed by the rushing river, but the river itself carries with it ever increasing amounts of sediment and filth from the canyon rock.  So it is with Christ, who after passing through humanity and cleansing it, leaving behind clean rock, the Christ himself has picked up our stench and filth and carried it straight to the throne of the Father…that he might bear the condemnation for our corruption.

Ireneaus writes:  “this then is what we call the day of retribution…this day does not signify one which consists of twelve hours, but the whole time during which believers in Christ suffer and are put to death” in Him, having been gathered together in his flesh and punished corporately in his crucifixion.

Adam introduced sin into the world, Christ passed through the sin cleansing it and gathering it to himself.  All who have descended from Adam sinned in Adam, but all who are descended from Christ through faith have been innocent in him.  Adam’s transgression brought the condemnation of death upon us all, but Christ gathering us to himself bore our condemnation releasing us from the penalty of death.  Adam’s descendants, sold as slaves to death and sin because of the debt of their father, are released not only because the debt is paid, but because they have a new Father in heaven that is indebted to no one.  Or, as Paul put it

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.  But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.  Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Rom 5.12-21)

This is the comfort of that peculiar word “recapitulation” and it is the marvelous work of Christ both in his incarnation, but especially upon his cross.





What should Christian parents do about Santa?

19 12 2011

they seem pretty comfortable together

I’ve been getting this question frequently over the past few weeks so I thought I might put something down briefly to try to be of some assistance.  At the beginning of our parenting my wife and I wrestled with this same question and I think we’ve come to a pretty good place. First we need to ask “why would you even ask the question?”  In other words, what’s the big deal?  I can zero in on two things that would be problematic for Christian parents:

  1. For the Christian, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus the redeemer of the world.  A man in a red suit who brings presents is a bit of a distraction to the “reason for the season.”
  2. The Bible is pretty clear that it is mom and dad’s responsibility to pass on their faith to their children.  This is a process largely built upon the trust that the child has in the parents to tell them the truth.  When parents don’t tell the truth about some things (i.e. Santa Claus) it may compromise their trustworthiness in other, more important matters like Jesus.  Iain put it well this morning when he said “Mom wouldn’t lie to me about a big man in the sky with a white beard who sees when I do right and do wrong and gives me rewards…oh wait…”

But if these reasons make you think I’m ready to rule Santa out, don’t think so fast.  I’ve got a few good reasons for keeping him in the game.

  1. It’s fun.  Despite what your fundamentalist friends tell you, Jesus isn’t against fun.
  2. You don’t want your kid to be “that kid.”  You know the one that makes all the other kids cry in day school when he says “there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.”
  3. The fictional Santa Claus is modeled upon the historical person of St. Nicholas of Myra.  Turns out he wasn’t such a bad guy.  He was a faithful Bishop in the church who was tortured and imprisoned for his faith under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.  In the fourth century he stood up for the full divinity of Christ at the Council of Nicaea.  It is said that inspired by Christ’s words to “sell all you have and give to the poor” (Luke 18.22) Nicholas did exactly that, using his vast wealth to give anonymous gifts to the poor.  This is why Santa Claus, modeled after Nicholas of Myra, distributes presents at Christmas time.  So “Santa,” or Nicholas of Myra is actually a concrete example of how the Lordship of Jesus Christ can move people to generosity and concern for the poor.

Which brings me to what we do in my household.

  1. Make Jesus central to Christmas time:  In my house we’ve been reading the birth narratives from the Jesus Story Book Bible.  After the reading, I might sing a Christmas hymn to David.  After the reading and the singing, we sit and talk about the story and the song and what it means.  Finally we pray.  I try and pray something that reinforces what we read or sang about.  All this to say during this time of year, like every other time of the year, we talk about Jesus a lot.  It gave me immense pleasure a few days ago my son remarked to a nursery worker “Jesus came at Christmas time to rescue us.  And he’s coming again!  But not yet.”
  2. Use Santa as a teaching tool:  Nicholas was of course a historical person.  More than that he was the type of man who I would want my son to be like.  He was a tough, courageous, Jesus loving man who had a reputation for extravagant generosity.  You might use Phil 2 to talk about the extravagant generosity of Jesus vacating his throne in heaven to rescue us and how this moves followers of Jesus (like Nicholas!) to forgo their own wealth and privileges to help those in need.  You might follow this up with something practical, like taking your little one to buy toys or clothes for a donation.  So in the same way Jesus moved Nicholas to generosity, Jesus can move your little ones to generosity.
  3. Make clear that Santa is pretend: In my home we play lots of games.  We’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia and since David is only three, it is hard for him to stay focused through a whole chapter.  To help him stay focused we act out the chapters after we’ve read them and this is always lots of fun for both of us.  Mommy is pretend Lucy.  Daddy is pretty Edmund (too bad for me!).  David is pretend Peter.  And finally our cat Rico is pretend Mr. Tumnus (yes, he hates it).  Santa is a great, fun, pretend game.  Much like our Narnia game, Santa is a game that can teach David some valuable things about Jesus.  The thing about a good pretend game is that reminding everyone that we’re just pretending ruins the game.  You don’ t need to remind everyone you’re pretending because everyone already knows it.  So David knows Santa is pretend.  We’ve told him.  But we don’t bring it up constantly. That would ruin the fun.