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Jesus, The Light of the World
The Boston Camarata

Christmas 2020 - Newsletter #41
Lambert Dolphin with Lawrence Hoppis

Christmas 2020

Fifty years ago this month my friend Ted Wise and I were privileged to spend a month in India. We traveled there by TWA Super Constellation from San Francisco, via New York, Paris, Frankfurt, and Rome to Bombay   in an old fashioned 360 mph prop luxury airliner. See: Ted Wise and I visit India. Our trip changed us both forever! Ted's web pages are well worth a visit.

Arriving in the dead of night we took a taxi to our hotel through that very dark city. Real beds in a real hotel were very welcome. That Sunday morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast in our luxury hotel in Bombay (Mumbai). [Our hotel is in the photo below. The new hand-made hotel is the white building in the back. It was being built while we were there.]

The omelets that morning were garnished with parsley and a tomato. I was ready to eat when a large green inch worm emerged from my tomato and marched triumphantly across my omelet and boldly over the white linen table cloth. The embarrassed waiter hastily brought me a new omelet with a worm-free tomato.

That week Ted and I saw zero evidence of holiday gift shopping, no Christmas trees, no Christmas cards in the mail. Ted and I were warm and comfortable in summer clothes in India as we explored the vast city over the next week. India Airlines was on strike, so after we spent several days seeing the city, we reluctantly boarded a "deluxe, air conditioned bus" for a 23 hour ride to Kerala, South India. We thought of our friends back in cold California gathering around the fireplace with mugs of hot buttered rum or spiced apple cider, The Time difference was +10 hours and home was 9,000 miles away. Telephone service iffy.

We quickly realized that Christmas as we knew it is a cultural affair, with roots in Northern Europe centered on the Winter Solstice. I have since been in Egypt and Israel at Christmas season so it's clear to me that Christmas as we know it in the United States springs mostly from knowledge spread by the early church and by missionaries who brought the Bible to far distant lands.

Yet there is a beautiful aspect of our western Christmas traditional and it's about giving and caring for others, not only our family members but the homeless, the sick, the unemployed. The God of the Bible is all about love, mercy, compassion and renewal.

India has a population today of 1,400 million people. Christians number only about 2.3% of the population. Everyone in India is culturally "religious" too. 80% of the people in India are Hindu, and 14% are Muslim! Underlying Hinduism is pantheism. Pantheism identifies the entire universe as God   the universe is a manifestation of God. Hinduism therefore admits or tolerates all gods.

This is in contrast with theism, which maintains that god, or gods, are separate from the created order. The Bible portrays God as One being, not as many gods. Obviously the Western world is largely influenced by Deism. If a person in India claims to know Jesus, he may be risking his life.

Cultural Christianity in unknown there. Eastern religion was imported into our nation a half century ago largely through immigrants from China, Japan, India and the Far East. This was a big change, as the founding fathers were mostly Europeans and therefore mostly bringing with them theology handed down by the Reformed Church trailblazers.
In contrast, 80% of Europeans today say they are Christians, 4% say they are Muslim, 8% are "other" religion--few professing Christians in Europe know Jesus these days and are true believers. It's now well known that Christianity is fast fading away in Europe.

In Israel today only 2% are Christians, 40% are "secular," 14% are Muslims, and 40% are "religious" Jews. This will soon change as God has made many promises that He will restore the Jewish nation to her former glory after the calling out of a true church is complete. (See Romans 9-11).

The pie chart for religious profession for the United States is revealing. If knowing Jesus Christ personally is what matters most, then the number of followers of Jesus Christ in the US is probably only 10-20%. There are obviously many Closeted or Compromised Christians in our country and others like them, hiding in the woodwork.
Europe and the rest of the world, except for monotheistic Israel   since Abraham (c2000 BC)   have been idolatrous nations. Christian values today tend to be only a thin veneer, skin-deep, in Europe and in the New World.
The Greeks, followed by the Romans "civilized" the world by reducing the main pantheon of the many pagan gods and spirits to a only a dozen or so. The Greeks invented 12 main (Olympian) gods, Zeus, Hera, Athena, Apollo, Poseidon, Ares, Artemis, Demeter, Aphrodite, Dionysos, Hermes, Hephaistos The Romans adopted these, changing their names to: Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, Venus, Apollo, Diana, Minerva, Ceres, Vulcan, and Vesta. The Greeks and Romans claimed they were civilized when they were not.

The Resurrection of Jesus Matters More than His Nativity! What is most important about Jesus is not His birth, which is highlighted at Christmas and heralded widely as the start of Advent season. Neither Jesus' brief thirty-year life nor his amazing teachings had much staying power then or now.

But for a man, who had been clearly dead, to return to life was what galvanized the early Christians. They took the Good News to the ends of the earth, beginning in Jerusalem.  Often they did so at the cost of their lives. Their grand announcement is what we call today "the gospel."

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel (Greek euaggelion) which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,  by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep."

"After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed...”
(1 Corinthians 15:1–11)

The message itself does not save, only the Man behind the message.

"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

The Acts of the Apostles, written by a Greek Physician named Luke, launched a new activity of God in calling out a unique people from all nations--while God’s long term program for Israel was placed on hold. The birth of a Savior in Bethlehem (probably in September 2 BC), is of course perennial good news for our weary world, but it was (and is) the raising of Jesus from the dead that changed history forever. The initial stir was at Pentecost, AD 30, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus, that God began the calling-out (ekklesia) of a glorious church.

That living Body is now nearly complete. The true church Jesus has been Himself growing for 2000 years stands in stark contrast to the visible groups and buildings which constitute a great counterfeit. But most of the world has no clue about the grand working of Jesus from creation to now. His death, burial, and resurrection changed history forever!


Signs in the Stars? | Glimpses of Jesus | Growing up in Nazareth
His Final Trip to Jerusalem
 Last Dinner with Friends in The Upper Room | Jesus, Plain and Simple
Jerusalem AD 30 Pentecost
"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'” (Acts 4:8-12)

"Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, 'Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:'"
"‘After this I will return
And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down;
I will rebuild its ruins,
And I will set it up;  So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD,
Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name,

Says the LORD who does all these things.’
Known to God from eternity are all His works."
(Acts 15:12-18)


The Polytheism of the World

Our cultural heritage in the West is derived more from the Greeks and Romans than from the Hindus and Muslims obviously. We even call it "Western Civilization"   long held us as superior in every way to the values of "pagan" nations where the gospel had not yet gone. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries missionaries from the U.S. and Great Britain were dispatched from the West to plant churches, schools and hospitals in "Third World" countries. The sharp decline in Biblical piety in this nation has allowed full-scale invasion of the demonic. Our present overseas crusades and missions are  shadow of the former glory.

When the Apostle Paul came to Athens in the First Century AD he spoke briefly but powerfully into that culture about the One, true God. What has changed today is our assimilation of alien gods and embracing of many idolatries and outright following pagan gods. Apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, all men are lost! See Idolatry Notes.

"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, 'What does this babbler want to say?' Others said, 'He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,' because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? “For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.' For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing."

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  “for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring."

"Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, 'Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things."

“Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.“ (Acts 17:16-34)

Historical notes

 When exactly Jesus was born is secondary to the true spirit of Christmas. The fact is, many people ignore Jesus all their lives   except at Christmas   when sentimental memories encroach. It's around Christmas when many read the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, the Star, the wise men from the East, the manger in Bethlehem, the wrath of King Herod in murdering all male babies in Bethlehem under two years old, the Flight to Egypt... The Roman Catholic Church liturgical year starts in December with Advent. But the notion of a Liturgical year can be very misleading since God is not constrained by secular history nor by the proclamations a Pope or of any Caesar.

The giving of gifts at Christmas can be meaningful even at this late date in history. But an ominous giving-of-gifts will happen again when God's great witnesses are martyred outside the coming Third Temple in Jerusalem. Liturgical year Easter sometimes falls on or near the Jewish Passover. The Jewish calendar is way better than our Roman calendars and the rituals of the Liturgical Calendar when analyzing the life lived by the historical Jesus.
This yet future event is depicted in advance for us in Revelation Chapter 11: "Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. “But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months."
"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire."

"When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves."

"And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven."

(Revelation 11:1-11)

The Rise of the Counterfeit

Time marches on! We're late in history now and a sovereign God is doing whatever He pleases down through history today as He always has done. This years Great Lockdown is not an accident. We can't fix the damage ourselves   life down here on the planet will never be the same! It's likely we are seeing a change of dispensations! Only wholesale corporate prayer by the whole Body of Christ wherever they may be, and however they may gather together is effective today. Much is said in the Bible about apostasy, falling away   the love of money and controlled buying and selling!

The counterfeit church will soon have her day of greatest prominence in the form of one world Antichrist religion. Just as the false church's historic focus has been mostly on the birth of Christ, and not His current whereabouts and status; so she is now heralding the soon-coming of the Antichrist   the one who will be coming instead of the real Jesus! Having rejected the truth, God will allow the world to be deceived by the counterfeit.
My friends Tom Horn and Derek Gilbert alerted us this week: "AT SKYWATCH TODAY we note that the Vatican is inaugurating a blatantly occult and bizarre Nativity Scene in Saint Peter’s Square combining “Ancient astronauts” (or “ancient aliens”) and occult Egyptian symbols as part of the Christmas set. What are they trying to communicate with this strange representation of the birth of our Lord?

Dr. Thomas Horn’s presentation warns that the Vatican is preparing to greet an “Alien Savior.” Is this spot on? Behind baby Jesus in the scene is a very odd version of the Archangel Gabriel clearly on top of a 'ijed,' one of the more ancient and commonly found symbols in ancient Egyptian religion of great importance in the rites of Freemasonry and their secret rituals pointing to arrival of Antichrist!
Notes from Secular and Religious Sources about Christmas

The Emperor Constantine (306 to 337 AD), decided to make Christianity the one official religion of the Roman Empire. This was partly because many citizens in his empire had become followers of Jesus Christ. The pantheon of Roman gods was moved to the background. In turn, the Christians brought the Biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus into Roman culture. This included suggesting that the birth of Jesus took place in winter, perhaps near the shortest day of the year, December 25. The official church of Rome then added teachings about the birth of Jesus that are not Biblically sound. Thus Emperor Augustine in AD 202 chose December 25 as the official date of Jesus' birth. Emperor Aurelius identified December 25th as Sol Invictus in AD 354.

St. Nicolas a very real Christian living in 4th Century Turkey became the legendary Santa Claus, and Christmas Tree legends were championed by Queen Victoria. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term " Yule" may have derived from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The corresponding terms in other languages—Navidad in Spanish, Natale in Italian, Noël in French—all probably denote nativity. The German word Weihnachtende notes “hallowed night.” Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays the pivotal role. Christmas is celebrated on Friday, December 25, 2020.

The early Christian community distinguished between the identification of the date of Jesus’ birth and the liturgical celebration of that event. The actual observance of the day of Jesus’ birth was long in coming. In particular, during the first two centuries of Christianity there was strong opposition to recognizing birthdays of martyrs or, for that matter, of Jesus. Numerous Church Fathers offered sarcastic comments about the pagan custom of celebrating birthdays when, in fact, saints and martyrs should be honored on the days of their martyrdom—their true “birthdays,” from the church’s perspective...

The precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. The New Testament provides no clues in this regard. December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of the birth of the unconquered sun”), a popular holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer. Indeed, after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son. One of the difficulties with this view is that it suggests a nonchalant willingness on the part of the Christian church to appropriate a pagan festival when the early church was so intent on distinguishing itself categorically from pagan beliefs and practices.

A second view suggests that December 25 became the date of Jesus’ birth by a priori reasoning that identified the spring equinox as the date of the creation of the world and the fourth day of creation, when the light was created, as the day of Jesus’ conception (i.e., March 25). December 25, nine months later, then became the date of Jesus’ birth. For a long time the celebration of Jesus’ birth was observed in conjunction with his baptism, celebrated January 6.

Christmas began to be widely celebrated with a specific liturgy in the 9th century but did not attain the liturgical importance of either Good Friday or Easter, the other two major Christian holidays. Roman Catholic churches celebrate the first Christmas mass at midnight, and Protestant churches have increasingly held Christmas candlelight services late on the evening of December 24. A special service of “lessons and carols” intertwines Christmas carols with Scripture readings narrating salvation history from the Fall in the Garden of Eden to the coming of Christ. The service, inaugurated by E.W. Benson and adopted at the University of Cambridge, has become widely popular...

Contemporary Customs In The West

The tradition of celebrating Christmas as a secular family holiday is splendidly illustrated by a number of English “Christmas” carols such as “Here We Come A-Wassailing” or “Deck the Halls.” It can also be seen in the practice of sending Christmas cards, which began in England in the 19th century. Moreover, in countries such as Austria and Germany, the connection between the Christian festival and the family holiday is made by identifying the Christ Child as the giver of gifts to the family. In some European countries, St. Nicholas appears on his feast day (December 6) bringing modest gifts of candy and other gifts to children. In North America the pre-Christmas role of the Christian saint Nicholas was transformed, under the influence of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (or “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas”), into the increasingly central role of Santa Claus as the source of Christmas gifts for the family.

While both name and attire—a version of the traditional dress of bishop—of Santa Claus reveal his Christian roots, and his role of querying children about their past behavior replicates that of St. Nicholas, he is seen as a secular figure. In Australia, where people attend open-air concerts of Christmas carols and have their Christmas dinner on the beach, Santa Claus wears red swimming trunks as well as a white beard.

In most European countries, gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, December 24, in keeping with the notion that the baby Jesus was born on the night of the 24th. The morning of December 25, however, has become the time for the exchange of gifts in North America. In 17th - and 18th - century Europe the modest exchange of gifts took place in the early hours of the 25th when the family returned home from the Christmas mass.

When the evening of the 24th became the time for the exchange of gifts, the Christmas mass was set into the late afternoon of that day. In North America the centrality of the morning of the 25th of December as the time for the family to open presents has led, with the exception of Catholic and some Lutheran and Episcopal churches, to the virtual end of holding church services on that day, a striking illustration of the way societal customs influence liturgical practices.

Brother Lawrence Writes:

Dear Friends, this is the season and it is literally all about our Lord Jesus Christ. He was born to save the world through His light in coming into our hearts and into our lives. Though we are in a difficult season, HIs light shines brighter than the noon-day sun as we turn our thoughts to His sacrifice for us and the coming of His light into the darkness of needful lives.

Our faith is being tested in every possible way, and we must choose this day whom we will serve; either God or mammon. We must choose whom we will serve   either ourselves or others through Christ's love. How may we, in this day and age, come once again together across divides to restore fellowship with even those we may disagree with politically, regionally, ethnically and temperamentally.

I've spoken with many of you and at length with Lambert on this topic. This has been a rough year for Lambert and it likely has been for you as well. No matter, in this world we we will have trouble.  Lambert says his central Christmas wish for our newsletter is that you know that he is thinking and praying for you and hopes that you are well. He cares very much for you and hopes you will be encouraged and edified.

May the Lord bless you richly in the beauty of holiness in this season and hoping you and may God's love envelope you today.


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