Thursday, November 1, 2012

Old Wine, New Wineskins by Martin Wiles

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.

It was 2010 and Upstate South Carolina was expecting snow. My wife and I were visiting family for the holidays and excitedly anticipating a white Christmas-something that hadn’t happened in forty seven years.

Most of Christmas day was rainy, but around mid afternoon sleet and a wet mix of snow began falling. By 9 p.m. it was entirely snow. Since accumulation occurred before midnight, Christmas day was registered as a white Christmas. Though alive in 1963, I had never witnessed a white Christmas I remembered.

Snow continued throughout the night and into the next day which happened to be Sunday. Churches across the region cancelled services. This was disappointing since it was the perfect day to celebrate the season’s old message in a new setting.

Jesus said it was unwise to put new wine into old wineskins (Mark 2:22). As new wine fermented, it stretched the goatskin bags. Old skins were already stretched so putting new wine into them would cause them to burst, losing the skin and wine. The illustration was a veiled rebuke of the religious leader’s practices-practices that were religiously rigid like old wineskins. Jesus’ message didn’t accommodate their philosophy of hypocritical rules.

But it’s possible to put old fermented wine into new skins, and this is what Christmas is about. The Christmas message isn’t new; it just came in novel form. Since the beginning of time, God had presented his message of love to humanity. Jesus taking on human flesh and dying on a cross was old wine in new wineskins. Christmas-along with Good Friday and Easter, are graphic displays of how far God will stretch to save humanity. Have you welcomed his outstretched arms?

Prayer: Father, help us stop among the hustle and bustle of the season and drink of your old wine.

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