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John UpChurch

Senior Editor, BibleStudyTools.com

Coffee Napkin Highlighter Writing

As we’re reading our way to Christmas this year, digging into the promises of the coming Messiah, my daughters keep hitting me with the hard questions. You’d think at 7 and 5 that they’d just snuggle in, listen, and enjoy the wonder of the holiday.

But no. That’s not how it goes. Why? 1) They’ve realized that Daddy loves to answer questions about the Bible and will do so until Momma finally puts the kibosh on the nightly routine, and 2) they’re listening better than I think they are.

One of their favorite topics of late has been the Trinity. This may be because it’s a topic that is impossible to explain completely. Sure, I can point to passages in the Bible that support the three-in-one nature of our God, but describing how this all works is pretty much impossible. They know Daddy will take some time on that particular question.

Answering this issue for my daughters is one thing, but discussing it with those who don’t believe Jesus is God, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, can be a completely different matter. How can we demonstrate that the Trinity is in the Bible to those who are hostile to the idea?

Justin Taylor, senior vice president and publisher at Crossway, wants us to have a straightforward answer to those who challenge the God-hood of Christ in particular (the Arian heresy). In a recent blog post, he explains what we’ll need to show:

“If you want to prove the Trinity, then, all you need to do is show that three specific truths are taught in Scripture. First, there’s only one God. Second, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are truly distinct persons. Third, each has the essential attribute of deity. That’s it.”

In fact, he wants the method to be so easy that you can sketch it out on a napkin the next time someone challenges you about it. To do so, he suggests focusing on one passage of Scripture, such as John 1:3:

“All things came into being by Him [the Word, Jesus], and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

On your napkin, simply draw two connected boxes that represent everything that exists. In the first box, put “all things that never came into being” or “all things that always existed.” In the second box, write “all things that came into being” or “all things that were created.” These are the only two options according to the verse.

Obviously, the only entry in the first box would be “God,” since He was un-created (otherwise, He wouldn’t be God). The second box (what was created) includes everything else (e.g., the universe, angels, people, etc.). Outside the second box, as shown in John 1:3, put that Jesus (the Word) created all these things.

Finally, take out a quarter that represents Jesus and ask the other person to show where Jesus would fit in these two boxes. They may try to put Jesus into the “created things” box, but Taylor points out that’s not possible:

“John says the same thing two different ways for emphasis and clarity: everything that ever came into being owes its existence to Jesus, who caused it all to happen. If Jesus caused all created things to come into existence, then He must have existed before all created things came into existence. Therefore, the Word could not have been created.

“In other words, if Jesus created everything that has come into being, and Jesus also came into being (as they contend), then Jesus created Himself. He would have to exist as Creator before He existed as a created thing, which is absurd. Therefore, Jesus can’t be placed in the square labeled, ‘all things that came into being.’ ”

In an article on BibleStudyTools.com, Ray Pritchard dives into the doctrine of the Trinity to help Christians better understand what the Bible teaches and how to address objections:

“C. How can we illustrate the Trinity?

“A number of illustrations have been suggested. They all are useful as long as you remember they are only illustrations. For water can exist as solid, liquid, or steam. That's okay, but usually water only exists in one state at a time. However, there is a physical condition in which water can exist as solid, liquid and steam at the same time—which would be a much better illustration of the Trinity.

“There are others we could mention. An egg is made up of a shell, the eggwhite, and the yolk. All three are needed for an egg to be complete. One of the more interesting illustrations note the different roles a person can play. I am a father, a son, and a husband at one and the same time. Yet I am only one person. Perhaps a more biblical approach is to consider that a husband and wife are two persons yet in God's eyes they are ‘one flesh.’ Add children and then you have the family as a miniature (and very imperfect) version of the Trinity.”

We’d love to hear from you? How do you illustrate the truth of the Trinity? Do you have an easy method for doing so? How do you answer objections that you’ve run into?

John UpChurch is the senior editor of BibleStudyTools.com and Jesus.org. You’ll usually find him downing coffee at his standing desk (like a boss).

If you’re a parent, the days leading up to Christmas can often feel like this huge performance review, with mounting pressure to create incredible experiences for your kids so that when they are grown, they can look back in fondness and love and have special memories of Christmas to cherish forever. No pressure, right? Yeah… I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it.

Now, how many of you have seen even the most meticulously, lovingly crafted holiday plans for your kids blow up in smoke, ending in meltdowns and tantrums? How many of you have seen your kids totally lose when all you’re trying to do is drink hot chocolate and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas and bake cookies? What is going on here?

This irrationality is what blogger Jen Hatmaker calls “Big Day Sabotage.” In her trending piece, Parenting Kiddos Who Sabotage Big Days, she writes, “On Christmas morning, behavior turns insufferable over the smallest thing, over nothing. The “who got more” tally is in full effect (Ben particularly struggles with scarcity). The six thoughtful, loving presents are discarded for the one unreasonable, outrageous thing [my daughter] didn’t get. We will absolutely hear: “This is the worst day OF MY LIFE!!” (We hear this regularly on Big Days.) She will end up crying in her bedroom, devolving into shame: “I am the worst girl! I am on the naughty list! I ruined Christmas! I’m giving all my presents away!” I feel so frustrated that I sometimes snap, making it all worse. Ultimately, I dread Big Days altogether and while she is thinking she is the worst kid (bless her), I am thinking I am definitely the worst mom.”

Now, Jen’s family is a little unique in that two of her children were adopted, and these kiddos bring understandable, unintentional behavioral issues to the mix. Jen notes, “Big Days are a reminder of what should have been but wasn’t, all that was lost, all that will never be. While their siblings happily skip through every charmed childhood Christmas memory, my littles are remembering lost birth parents, crushing poverty, and Christmases in orphanages.”

But it’s not just adopted children who struggle with Big Day Sabotage. Lots of children struggle with this. Crosswalk contributor Kimberly Kulp shares some helpful holiday advice for parents with children who have ADHD or other social disorders. She writes, “We all wear many hats in life — employee, sister, brother, church member, etc.  And, during the holidays our to-do lists and roles often double because of the nature of the season. It’s so important that we remember that we are parents first. This is hard for an extroverted holiday lover like myself. I want to say yes to every party, make every kind of cookie, and sing every carol starting in September. But, this just doesn’t work well for my mover and shaker. While I’d attend every party and talk to every distant relative, my son is terrified of new situations, homes, and people… Parenting involves sacrifice, even during the holidays. So, I have to remember who I am first the other 10 months out of the year: his mom. And that’s the best gift I can give him, being present, engaged, and focused on helping him to navigate and enjoy the holidays with as little stress as possible.”

Finally, Big Day Sabotage isn’t just something children do. So many of us adults do the very same thing. We build up the holidays into this huge ordeal that can just never live up to our expectations. Our intentions are good, but the results are often deflating and leave us feeling frustrated.

At some point, Jen had an epiphany about how to make the holiday season more manageable for her family. I think this is spot on advice for all of us at Christmas. “I initially thought MORE Christmas was called for. Let’s make up for lost time! Let’s make so many new beautiful memories! I’ll give you all the magic you missed! But it had the opposite effect. Too much stimulus, too many feelings, too much activity, too many opportunities to sabotage. We have to keep Big Days (and seasons) simple. We cannot overschedule or overhype.”

Less during the holidays is often more. Blogger Shauna Niequist coined the phrase “present over perfect,” meaning that instead of trying to make Christmas into this perfect thing, we should focus more on being present for the people in our lives. “You can show up with your perfectly wrapped grab bag gift & your perfectly baked cookies…and your perfectly resentful and frazzled self, ready to snap at the first family member you see,” she writes.

“Or you can choose to rest your body & nourish your spirit, knowing that bringing a grounded, present self to each holiday gathering is more important than the gifts you bring.”

“So this is my advice to you this week: add nothing to the to-do list. Abandon well-intentioned but time-consuming projects. And make rest & space priorities, so that what you offer to your loved ones is more than a brittle mask over a wound-up and depleted soul.”

What’s your experience with Big Day Sabotage? How have you fought back against unrealistic Christmas expectations? Share your stories with us in the comments!

Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.

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Should Christians get upset about seeing Christmas abbreviated as “Xmas?”

How did that tradition even get started?

Is it disrespectful?

The answer to that last question is “not necessarily.” While some Christians seem unduly judgmental of others who abbreviate Christmas as “Xmas,” the practice of using an “X” to abbreviate “Christ” began hundreds of years ago. Scribes in the early church who copied the Greek New Testament regularly used the Greek letter chi (which looks the same as the English letter “X”) to represent the name of Christ. Pastor and author, R.C. Sproul has this helpful article that explains further. Additionally, this short video by Pastor Mike Fabarez details more of the technical background on the subject.

The real issue here—as with everything—is the heart. Do modern-day people have the respectful use of “X” as a chi from the Greek New Testament on their minds and hearts as they scribble on a gift or a card the words “Merry Xmas?” Perhaps. But probably not. One former non-Christian admits here that he used to intentionally write "Xmas" in order to exclude Christ from his celebration of Christmas. He actually enjoyed seeing signs where the letter X replaced Christ and was annoyed by the "put Christ back in Christmas" people.

Yes, early scribes may have used the letter chi as part of the system of nomine sacra (sacred name) abbreviations for deity, but such reverential practice has mostly disappeared from common knowledge—at least in the 21st century where I live. So, what does that mean for Christians today? Maybe we’ve reached a time when wisdom dictates that we fully spell out the word Christmas, not only for the sake of other Christians who take offense out of ignorance but also to display a modicum of cultural awareness. 

And with that, I bid you Merry Christ-mas! 

Your turn: Are you offended when you see a sign that reads “Merry Xmas?” How many people do you know that truly understand the historical background behind the use of “X” as a sacred abbreviation for the name of Christ?
 

Alex Crain is the editor of Christianity.com. You can read more posts by Alex at his blog and follow him on Twitter @alex_crain.

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