Marcia Wood
Varnville, SC
Sound Off by Marcia
Featuring
Tommy Kelly, Pastor
Varnville First Baptist Church
www.varnvillefbc.org
                “Origins of Christmas Traditions”

It is common for many people to never question Christian traditions.  Christmas Day is listed as December 25, so it is a natural assumption that was Christ’s actual birthday.  However, the first three centuries after Christ’s birth, Christmas was not in December or on any calendar. 

Some early theologians were against a Christmas celebration because they felt Christ’s arrival should not be viewed similar to pagan rulers and other gods.  Yet, December 25th was selected as early as 273 A.D.  Origen was concerned that Jesus was being confused with other pagan Gods.  Therefore, church leaders commandeered December 25th and introduced a new festival to dispel all the rumors that Christ was just another deity.  The first official December 25th Christmas celebration was instituted by Emperor Constantine in 336 A.D.

Another overlooked holiday tradition is the Christmas tree.  Throughout history, Egyptians, Romans, and the Druids decorated their homes with evergreens in celebration of their religious holidays.  Legend traces the Christian use of the Christmas tree to the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther.  The sight of a small fir tree dusted with snow that shimmered in the moonlight prompted him to erect a similar tree in his home decorated with lighted candles in honor of Christ’s birth.  This long lasting tradition came to Americans during the American Revolution.  Hessian troops, or German immigrants, in Pennsylvania and Ohio introduced this custom to their American friends.  However, this tradition spread slowly.  In fact, Puritans banned Christmas in New England.  As late as 1851, a Cleveland minister almost lost his job due to the fact that he allowed a Christmas tree to be erected in his church.

A final holiday tradition would be the nativity scenes that many Christians place in their home during the Christmas holidays.  Historians trace the first nativity scene to St. Francis of Assisi after a trip to Egypt and Acre in 1220.  While many nativity characters vary from scene to scene, the wise men were not present at the first Christmas.  Even though popular belief places three wise men during the birth of Christ, the word “magi” is plural denoting at least two.  The idea of three wise men comes from the gifts presented-gold, frankincense and myrrh.  There may have been several “magi” visiting Christ.  In Matthew 2:10, the wise men worshipped the “child”.  This meant that Jesus was possibly walking and talking by this time.  Therefore, the wise men were present sometime after Christ was born. 

As some may read this article, they may feel their Christmas celebrations past have been all in vain.  Yet, if the tradition does not override the celebration of God’s son coming to Earth, these traditions are reminders of what Christmas really means.  Whatever tradition some may practice, let them all keep the most sacred tradition-Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas!
Tommy

“Pray for our Leaders”

February is usually associated with Valentine’s Day.  However, people often forget another holiday celebrated.  President’s Day is observed as a Federal and State holiday.  It is designated to remember our country’s chief leaders.
While most presidents have been strong leaders, some have exemplified better qualities than others.  For example, George Washington led the United States during a critical time.  Other leaders may have crumbled under the unusual pressure faced by Lincoln.  He unashamedly admitted that his Christian faith sustained and guided him during his most trying experiences.
Another United States president who unashamedly stated his personal faith as a source of strength was Dwight D. Eisenhower.  While President Eisenhower was not classified a “person of faith” during his military, his faith became a defining characteristic of his presidency.  He was instrumental in adding the “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance as well as the adoption of “In God We Trust” on paper currency.  Cabinet meetings were opened with silent prayer and interaction with religious leaders were normal under his administration. 
However, some United States presidents have had questionable or non-existent Christian influences.  One example would be Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson was famous for formulating his own version of the Bible entitled The Jefferson Bible or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.  This document extracted the doctrine of Jesus by removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural acts and other personal perceived misinterpretations. 
Another example of a United States President exhibiting a non-Christian lifestyle would be James Monroe.  Even though Monroe was reared in the Episcopal Church, little is known concerning his religious thoughts.  Any remaining correspondence from Monroe has no mention of religion.  Some sources claim that Monroe was deist or someone who believes in a divine power without participating in an organized religion.
Although the United States has had presidential leaders described as Christian and non-Christian, the Bible is clear on how the individual Christian should respond to those who occupy the Oval Office in Washington D.C.  I Timothy 2:1-3 states that praying for our leaders, “Is good, and pleases God our Savior” (NIV).  Whether the president is Republican or Democrat, Christian or non-Christian, it is our duty as Christians to pray for these leaders.  Let this Presidents Day be a day of prayer for all elected officials.

In Christ,
                                         Tommy

(Tommy Kelly is the pastor of Varnville First Baptist Church located at 165 East Palmetto Avenue, Varnville, SC  803.943.3089 www.varnvillefbc.org)           

Tommy Kelly, pastor of Varnville First Baptist Church, has led the church since 1994 in many activities. During his ministry there have been many milestones accomplished. Giving all credit to God, he considers his service to the church and community an humbling experience. Under his leadership, it is with love, compassion and outreach  that the church family can continue its mission to be servants of God.

Tommy writes an article monthly for Lowcountry Life published by Tony Gross. It is with Tommy's permission the same article may be published on this web site.
Start Local and Go Global

Last week I listened to a lecture given by Jim Slack.  Jim is a seventy plus year old gentleman who is employed by the Southern Baptist’s International Mission Board.  During his ministerial career, he has served as a pastor in Hawaii, a missionary in the Philippines, as well as his present position, Head of Missiology and Ethnicity for the International Mission.
Dr. Slack spoke to a group of Baptist pastors and institutional administrators about the Christian influence within the world.  While his remarks were enlightening, they were even more alarming.  His statements were alarming because they addressed the dwindling Christian influence throughout the world.  Since these facts were alarming to me, I feel they should be shared with you. 
First, even though the King James Version of the Bible is celebrating its 400th birthday, an estimated seventy to eighty percent of churches have no idea what the Great Commission means.  Acts 1:8 gave this mandate when he said, “But 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” (NIV).  Slack paraphrased this passage by stating, “Start here and go to the most remote.”  However, this has not happened. 
Second, Slack cited a recent incident in England.  A United Methodist official from England appeared before the Anglican Church.  He presented the Anglican Church with all Methodist church properties because they had become too expensive to maintain without adequate funds.  Although the Methodist church in England gave the world such great preachers as John Wesley and George Whitfield, this recent event will be repeated worldwide if Christians do not seek to evangelize the lost and disciple the new Christians.
Third, Slack stated that 5,000 languages still need their own translation of the Bible.  While many people wring their hands and fret because they think the end of time is near, this fact is even more alarming without a saving knowledge of Christ.  These 5,000 language groups will spend eternity separated from God in hell.  Rather than focus on prophecy, Christians need to spend time, energy and resources doing local and foreign missions.  In light of these facts, I urge all Christians regardless of denomination, to step up doing local missions, and to increase giving to foreign missions, so that all the world may know Christ as Savior. 
In Christ,
                                                                                   Tommy

(Tommy Kelly is the pastor of Varnville First Baptist Church located at 165 East Palmetto Avenue, Varnville, SC  803.943.3089 www.varnvillefbc.org)

“Easter Traditions”

On April 24th, Easter will be celebrated on the latest calendar date according to history.  It is almost celebrated parallel to the Jewish holiday of Passover.  We know this because Jesus Christ was in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration when he was crucified, buried, and arose.  However, several variations to the holiday celebration have transpired over the last two thousand years.
First, when I was a child my grandfather was a firm believer in planting one’s garden on Good Friday (the day Jesus died).  However, this was always contingent upon whether the “sign” was right for planting according to the Farmer’s Almanac.  Typically, Good Friday was a school holiday which meant that my brother and I were out of school and had to participate in the planting.  While it was not the most exciting springtime activity for a teenager, I still can smell the fresh tilled ground and hear the traces behind the mule clanking as row after row was plowed. 
Second, I have been told that some people will not mow their lawns until after Easter in order to allow the grass to grow to a specific height.  This height provides ample hiding places for Easter eggs so children will have to search to find the hidden eggs.  Although I can see that this practice has merit, I wonder if any child has ever encountered a snake or other dangerous animal while searching for Easter eggs.  Still, the adults hiding these eggs may be likely to intrude upon such an unwelcome guest.  Third, while many families eat turkey for Thanksgiving, they also dine on ham for their annual Easter feast.  This tradition has its roots in early Christian symbolism.  Since the pig was considered to be a symbol of luck in many pre-Christian societies, early Christians ate ham for their Easter meal as a symbol that they placed their trust in God’s providence, rather than random luck.  These Christians were adamant that they would trust God rather than any manmade superstitions. 
Finally, the Easter Bunny has begun to rival Santa Claus with its deposits of gifts and candy on Easter morning.  These origins can also be traced back to pre-Christian times.  Since rabbits are known to be extraordinary fertile creatures, they also were seen as a symbol of the arrival of spring.  Yet, this tradition has not been widely adopted by the Christian community’s Easter celebration.
Even though many people choose to celebrate Easter through various traditions, Christ’s resurrection has increasingly lost its focal point for this holiday celebration.  Some Christians have become defensive about embracing Easter traditions such as hiding Easter eggs or receiving gifts from the Easter bunny.  These traditions can be harmless if they do not overshadow Christ’s resurrection.  However, if Christ is reduced to a secondary place, then Christians have allowed the greatest event in the world to be lost.  Also, the opportunity to evangelize the world through this holiday has been squandered.  When I baptized a young man many years ago on Easter Sunday, he stated that he wanted to be baptized then he said “That’s what it is all about.”

In Christ, Tommy

(Tommy Kelly is the pastor of Varnville First Baptist Church located at 165 East Palmetto Avenue, Varnville, SC  803.943.3089 www.varnvillefbc.org)

“Graduation”

While driving by most houses in the United States, people will inevitably see decorative flags for specific holidays.  In December, yuletide symbols or nativity flags will grace people’s lawns.  During February, cupid or heart flags will don the flag poles.  For May, flags depicting graduation regalia will begin to appear on homes to symbolize high school and college graduations.  These tokens remind graduates of an honor to be bestowed upon them for discipline, hard work and sacrifice. 
Even though I have participated in four postsecondary graduation exercises, I can not say that one overshadows any of the others.  These were fond memories that I will treasure throughout my life.  In order to receive specific diplomas, I was required to complete a required field of study.  Once completed, I was awarded the appropriate degree.
To achieve a specified degree, required classes were mandated by the colleges and seminaries.  These degrees required specific courses that enlightened the students on necessary theories and terms required within their field of expertise.  Even though many graduates are employed in areas different from their fields of study, their education enhanced their adaptability to other areas of employment.  However, some institutions have conferred degrees after discovering that all the requirements had not been accomplished. 
I once knew a young man who graduated from a prestigious Southern university.  After reviewing his transcript several years later the university realized the former student had failed to complete an elective or non-major course.  Through correspondence or summer school, the young man satisfied his degree much to the embarrassment of the university and himself.  Although this was an oversight on both parties, it was rectified. 
However, graduation also symbolizes the transition of adolescence to adulthood for high school graduates.  These recent graduates will enter the workforce, enroll in college, or enlist in the military.  While it would be understandable for a high school to resend their diploma, it would be impossible for the parents and the church to recall the young people back to teach them valuable spiritual and practical lessons. Two verses of scripture come to mind concerning the soon to be graduates and their role models.
First, the students should remember the words of a wise man, Solomon, who said in Ecclesiastes 12:1 “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’”(NIV).  Graduates enjoy this time in your life, you deserve it.  Second, the parents should be reminded of some other words of Solomon in Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NIV)  As parents, we get only a few short years.  Let us vow to do everything possible to rear Christian children.
To our graduates, Congratulations and to one special graduate, Rebekah, thank you for making Mama and Daddy’s life so special.  I love you all.

In Christ,  Tommy

(Tommy Kelly is the pastor of Varnville First Baptist Church located at 165 East Palmetto Avenue, Varnville, SC  803.943.3089 www.varnvillefbc.org)           

Click here to add teThe Origin of an Expression

Many expressions  have been adopted by the general public without any understanding of their origin or meaning. One such statement used concerning this month is "beware of the ides of March". This statement originated with the assassination of Julius Caesar. Yet, most people assume it is to equate with radically inclement weather associated with Spring.

Ides was originated in Roman culture as a term synonymous with the middle of a month. Around March 15 in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated. This precipitated a great crisis within the Roman Empire. Since the Roman emperor was considered divine, this murder shook the cultural foundation of Roman society.

When high winds and fluctuating temperatures arrive during March, many pagans thought that their pagan deities were protesting Caesar's untimely death. However, Christians should not live under  such superstition. Their outlook should revolve around an abiding faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. This attitude would likely translate into actions that would help non-Christians see one's Christianity.

One statement that has it origin embedded in Christianity is "before you tell me how much you love, you must show me". God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to show us His unequaled love for all humanity.  While inhabiting the earth, Christ healed the sick, interacted with the untouchables, and died a criminal's death to demonstrate God's love. He came to earth to show everyone God's love in order that all doubts would be removed.

In Christ,

Tommy Kelly
The Origin of an Expression

Many expressions  have been adopted by the general public without any understanding of their origin or meaning. One such statement used concerning this month is "beware of the ides of March". This statement originated with the assassination of Julius Caesar. Yet, most people assume it is to equate with radically inclement weather associated with Spring.

Ides was originated in Roman culture as a term synonymous with the middle of a month. Around March 15 in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated. This precipitated a great crisis within the Roman Empire. Since the Roman emperor was considered divine, this murder shook the cultural foundation of Roman society.

When high winds and fluctuating temperatures arrive during March, many pagans thought that their pagan deities were protesting Caesar's untimely death. However, Christians should not live under  such superstition. Their outlook should revolve around an abiding faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. This attitude would likely translate into actions that would help non-Christians see one's Christianity.

One statement that has it origin embedded in Christianity is "before you tell me how much you love, you must show me". God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to show us His unequaled love for all humanity.  While inhabiting the earth, Christ healed the sick, interacted with the untouchables, and died a criminal's death to demonstrate God's love. He came to earth to show everyone God's love in order that all doubts would be removed.

In Christ,

Tommy Kelly
xt.
                                         The Origin of an Expression

Many expressions  have been adopted by the general public without any understanding of their origin or meaning. One such statement used concerning this month is "beware of the ides of March". This statement originated with the assassination of Julius Caesar. Yet, most people assume it is to equate with radically inclement weather associated with Spring.

Ides was originated in Roman culture as a term synonymous with the middle of a month. Around March 15 in 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated. This precipitated a great crisis within the Roman Empire. Since the Roman emperor was considered divine, this murder shook the cultural foundation of Roman society.

When high winds and fluctuating temperatures arrive during March, many pagans thought that their pagan deities were protesting Caesar's untimely death. However, Christians should not live under  such superstition. Their outlook should revolve around an abiding faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. This attitude would likely translate into actions that would help non-Christians see one's Christianity.

One statement that has it origin embedded in Christianity is "before you tell me how much you love, you must show me". God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to show us His unequaled love for all humanity.  While inhabiting the earth, Christ healed the sick, interacted with the untouchables, and died a criminal's death to demonstrate God's love. He came to earth to show everyone God's love in order that all doubts would be removed.

In Christ,

Tommy Kelly

M
Click here to add text.
Eagle Nation
FB Page
Marcia's
FB Page
Va Wildlife Center
FB Page