Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Trees, Adam, Eve and Jesus

Why decorate Christmas trees? Frankly, it’s fun. That’s reason enough for most of us. But the tradition likely came from an ancient Christian celebration we that we no longer observe (well, some Eastern Orthodox Christians still do). 

On Christmas Eve throughout the medieval era it was the common practice to decorate an evergreen tree with bright red apples. This was the celebration of Adam and Eve Day. Christians would commemorate both the amazing gift of creation and life represented by our primal parents. And they would remember the fall of Adam and Eve into sin which locked humanity and the world under a curse.

The curse (Gen 6:14-19) cast our existence into disharmony and disconnection with humanity being cast from paradise and deep union with our creator, children associated with pain, women ruled by men, an unrelenting struggle between humanity and nature and even death itself.

The original “Christmas Tree” was not for “Christmas” but to remind believers of the Garden of Eden (the evergreen tree) and the temptation to sin (the apple). To celebrate the birth of Jesus on the following day, however, was the perfect way to experience and relive the most amazing truth of “Emmanuel – God with Us.” That truth is that Jesus was born, the “Second Adam” (one of John Wesley’s favorite terms for Jesus) to reconcile breached relationships between humanity and the Divine, between men and women, between different people groups and even between humanity and the world God created. 

Jesus came to reverse the curse. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1Cor.15.22). The cursed believe “might makes right,” some men are more “equal” than others, the planet and its inhabitants are resources to exploit, and death is inevitable. 

The liberated in Christ know eternal life carries with it a joy that outweighs our light and momentary suffering. Sometimes, this suffering flows as the liberated struggle to set a crooked world straight, to set captives free, to advocate for equality for all, and seek to care well for the gift of a planet untrusted to us. As you decorate your trees, remember Adam and Eve . . . and celebrate the Second Adam who set us free.

Connecting to Fulfill the Great Commission

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1.7

Every church in the NCC is a missional outpost – seeking to be on mission with Jesus as “fishers of people.”  Missional people routinely look beyond their personal or local situation in order to grasp bigger picture realities, experience fresh insights of how God it work everywhere and to discover news ways to bless and refresh beyond their borders. With joy Free Methodist churches recognize that we are a connectional movement who envision “bringing wholeness to the world through healthy biblical communities of holy people multiplying disciples, leaders, groups, and churches.”

We are multiplying churches globally faster than we can count. God is at work through your connectional Great Commission prayers, service and giving. This is the time of year when your churches are making commitments to global Free Methodist missions. We commit as a connection of churches to supporting Free Methodist missionaries as first priority in global commitments, and to support other missional work as God prospers and so leads.

This would be a bitter pill to swallow and viewed as limiting if our global works were ineffective or merely supporting an institutional structure that has outlived its usefulness.  BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE! Our global missions strategy continues to be solidly embedded in identifying, training and equipping local leaders who multiply disciples and churches at rates the United States has never seen. Hands down, your missions dollars provide the best “return on investment” -- in terms of souls saved, communities transformed, literal prisoners and slaves set free – toward which you contribute.   

Learn more about the missionaries our conference supports. Pray for them, encourage them, invest in them.  Visit the web site for ongoing information.  Our missionaries are Mike Reynen (Africa), Alan Mellinger (Eastern Europe) and creative access missions (dangerous locales in Asia and the Middle-East). Make your commitments before January to keep our missionaries on the field.