One of the things that has helped me better prepare for Christmas each year is to take up a study of the story of the Nativity about a month before the actual holiday. Advent (the four Sundays before Christmas) is a great time to begin, and gives you plenty of time to read at least one book, and the two accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ as found in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. Adding this to my study during the weeks before Christmas makes this special day become all the more holy. Below are a few of the books I have enjoyed reading to prepare for Christmas:
Good Tidings of Great Joy by Eric D. Huntsman
An excellent resource for Advent. The book is divided into five main sections, which are designed to be read during the four weeks before Christmas, with the last chapter studied on Christmas eve or day. The book includes commentary, music, and activities that can be added to Advent to help increase the overall feel of this special season.
Advent of the Savior by Stephen J. Binz
Short (only 69 pages), yet concise and powerful. This has become one of my new favorites for the study of the birth of Christ. A verse-by-verse commentary on the Nativity story, yet it does not have the feel of most commentaries. Excellent insights and highly recommended!
The Nativity by Alonzo L. Gaskill
A simple, short, yet very interesting study of the Nativity story. The book is divided into sections that discuss the account of Matthew and Luke, with other supplemental material (including a short quiz to see how well you know the Nativity story). If you want a simple quick read, this is the best book to read.
Mary and Elisabeth by S. Kent Brown
BYU professor, Kent Brown, examines the lives of two of the most important women in scripture (the two mothers of the Messiah and the greatest prophet ever). As we so often gloss over the lives of Mary and Elizabeth, and focus on the birth of Jesus (who is of course the reason for the story), this is an excellent study of the lives of these two women. There is much we can learn from their examples of faith and devotion.
A Coming Christ in Advent and
An Adult Christ at Christmas by Raymond E. Brown
Short, yet very detailed and doctrine heavy booklets on the story of Christmas by Raymond Brown, one of the greatest American Catholic scholars or our day. The first booklet covers Matthew 1 and Luke 1, the second booklet covers Matthew 2 and Luke 2. This is the very condensed version of his 750 page Birth of the Messiah.
November 23, 2014
October 6, 2014
Here are a few more pictures of my progress on the breastplate of the High Priest. The only things left to do is to engrave the stones, and then actually mount them. (As of right now they are just being held in by pressure, so they can still fall out easily). The two shoulder stones will have six of the twelve tribes on each stone, and each of the chest stones will have a single name of one of the twelve tribes. My plan is to engrave the Hebrew letters using a font from the Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls. My hope is to have everything finished by the end of the year!
|The breastplate of the High Priest|
|Closeup of the stone settings (they are still now sown on yet)|
|A few sample stones showing Hebrew letters from the Isaiah scroll|
|Breastplate of the High Priest with the stones representing the 12 tribes|
|Showing both shoulder stones|
|Closeup of the shoulder stone of the High Priest|
|The breastplate of the High Priest|
September 29, 2014
August 12, 2014
This summer I had a chance to go on my third pioneer trek. It was a neat experience to once again remember the sacrifices many of my ancestors made in crossing the plains to come to Salt Lake. It was also neat to actually be trekking on July 24th, the day Brigham Young arrived in the valley. Below are a few of the video highlights. Enjoy!
July 31, 2014
This fall experience the Bible, as you never have before. Be part of an ancient Jewish wedding feast, with a procession of lights, authentic music, food and dance. Learn about the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus’ first miracle at the marriage at Cana, and come to understand our own covenants we make with Christ, the great Bridegroom.
Ancient Jewish Wedding Feast
Friday, September 5 at 7:00pm
1495 East 4705 South, Salt Lake City, UT
Oil lamps will be sold for $5 and must be ordered by August 6th (as I am ordering them from Israel). To purchase, click here and complete order through PayPal. You will receive your oil lamp at the activity.
I will need lots of help with food, servants, etc. so let me know if you can help in any way.
|An oil lamp, which will be used during the wedding procession|
May 27, 2014
|The breastplate and clothing of the High Priest (image from the Temple Institute)|
|Looming the breastplate fabric|
|The end of the fabric just before I cut it off the loom|
|Closeup of the fabric showing the purple, red, blue, white and gold thread|
|The 9" x 18" piece of fabric before finishing and tying off the ends|
|The breastplate fabric folded in half with the un-set 12 stones|
The Bible teaches that the breastplate was to be attached by two chains (at the top) which were hooked to two straps that ran down the back, and two blue ties, which were tied to the ephod. The chains were to be of "wreathen work" or braided, and attached to golden rings (see Exodus 28:22-25).
|Gold chains of "wreathen work" or braided|
|The blue strap on the bottom of the breastplate|
April 22, 2014
|Fish-eye view of our Triclinium Passover (one triclinium table and two round tables not shown)|
|Giving instructions to everyone on how to fill the food baskets|
|Giving the final touch to the food baskets|
|Endless baskets of food|
|Various meat dishes (lamb, chicken and beef) for the Passover dinner|
|Various dishes, including entire fish, lentils and hummus|
|Cheese and hummus bowls and a biblical dip|
|Instructing the 'servants' on how to serve the guests|
|Triclinium table and an oil lamp|
|Servants placing the food baskets out on the tables|
|Food on the tables|
|Various pictures of the 'four cups' of wine|
|A servant pouring water for a guest|
|Guests enjoying the Passover biblical dinner|
|A servant washing the hands of the guests|
|Various biblical artifacts out for display|
April 20, 2014
April 18, 2014
The scriptures then record the profound interchange that took place between Pilate and the Jewish leaders: "When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children." (Matthew 27:24-25).
Here among the group were many of the priests of the temple, including the high priest himself who well understood the concept of a blood atonement. The word khapper (atone) in Hebrew means to cover, blot out, expiate, condone or cancel. For the priests, this term also had a literal application during temple sacrifices, wherein a portion of the blood of the animal was dabbed upon the altar, covering it with the blood of the sacrifice. In addition, on the Day of Atonement (the holiest day of the year), the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies of the temple and dabbed or covered the four corners of the Arc of the Covenant. Because of these rituals, the act of covering with blood, and atonement were almost interchangeable for the Israelite people.
How ironic that here the people ask that His blood be upon them. Of course they did not actually request that His blood would atone for them, or cover them, but the symbolism of the word they choose still vividly remains. How true their request would be that the blood of the Lamb of God would come upon them or cover them; for Christ did suffer for all, even His accusers. Even more powerful is the statement that His blood be upon their children, for all, both Jew and Gentile, are to be grafted into the lineage of Abraham, thus becoming children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Each of us, in essence, are part of the crowd who requested that Jesus' blood cover them. As sinners we each have the need of having our sins blotted out, or covered up to be remembered no more by God. Truly, it is by His blood coming upon us that we are forgiven. It is through His suffering, death, agony, and resurrection that we will live again. How prophetic the words of these wicked men, who in attempting to place blame on their children, actually helped in providing salvation to their children through the blood of the Lamb of God. The Lamb, that on their behalf, and by their request, was slain!
April 17, 2014
The scene of Jesus before the high priest and the Sanhedrin is a vivid image. Here the true High Priest (Jesus) stands before the earthly established high priest Caiaphas. This same High Priest was in charge of all temple activity, in particular to this week of Passover was the choosing and judging of the lambs to be slaughtered for the Passover Feast. Each lamb had to be brought to the priest (which was overseen by the high priest Caiaphas) to be inspected so as to ensure that the lamb was "without blemish." How ironic that the True Lamb of God, who would be slain for the sins of the world, was now being judged by this same high priest, who for days now has been judging to determine if literally thousands of lambs were without blemish.
Now before Caiaphas stood the True Lamb, who prior to being scarified, was subject to that same law that prescribed the election of lambs for Passover. Yet, though He was truly the "unspotted lamb," He was judged as being spotted. Though He was the very One who gave the Law of Moses, He was now subject to His own law under the hands of wicked men.
What great self-control Jesus showed. Here was true humility. He who was the Creator of mankind, now was mocked, spat upon, and buffeted by His very creations. Yet the scriptures state that He held His peace. When most men would revile against false accusations, Jesus held back. He knew that this was required so that we might be freed from spiritual bondage. For our sakes He was bruised and scorned.
How grateful I am that during all of these false accusations, Jesus did not think of Himself, but of us. How grateful I am that He went through what He did so that I might have life eternal. How grateful I am for the True Lamb of God, who on this night was judged of man as spotted, though He was perfectly unspotted in every way.