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Southeastern grads urged to tell Christmas story til all have heard

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Christmas came early for more than 80 Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students who received their diplomas Dec. 13, recognizing years of study about the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Now with their academic degrees in hand, graduates were exhorted by Southeastern President Paige Patterson to work until every person in the world has heard the Christmas story.
“Men and women, your task is as simple and profound, at the same time, as it could possibly be,” Patterson said. “Your task is to see to it that every single member of the human race, nearly 6 billion strong now, hears the story of the little child of Bethlehem, who grew up and gave his life on the altar of Calvary in order to redeem them, and that they know about this Wonderful Counselor, this Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, who alone can bring peace to the world and even more importantly alone can bring peace to the human heart.”
Preaching from Isaiah 9, Patterson said the prophet’s foretelling of the Savior’s birth eight centuries before Christ is arguably the most “phenomenal passage of Scripture anywhere in the Lord’s Word.”
“Eight centuries before Christ this man Isaiah uttered words concerning the birth of a child that would be by all rights the most remarkable child who would ever live,” Patterson said. “The child that was born at this time of the year that we celebrate, the Christ child, was literally born unto all nations.”
Patterson commended Southeastern’s graduates for choosing “to live a life of sacrifice and give themselves to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“It’s because they have learned by experience that the forgiveness of God in Jesus Christ is the most important single thing in all of time and eternity,” Patterson said.
Southeastern awarded 85 degrees, including 68 seminary degrees and 17 college degrees, to students from 17 states and two foreign countries.
The seminary’s December 1997 commencement exercises marked the school’s first graduating class of students earning the master of divinity with church-planting degree. Nine students, including eight couples and their families and one single student, completed a two-year stint in August spreading the gospel and starting churches throughout the east African country of Kenya.
The nine graduates went to Kenya in 1995 to pioneer the first church planting program on foreign soil conducted by a Southern Baptist seminary in conjunction with the SBC’s International Mission Board.
Among the other academic programs, the following number of degrees were awarded: associate of divinity, 3; bachelor of arts in biblical studies, 14; master of divinity, 41; master of divinity with Christian education, 7; master of divinity with counseling ministry, 2; master of arts in counseling ministry, 2; master of arts in Christian education, 6; doctor of ministry, 1. Patterson told the graduates their degree was not as important as how they planned to use it in ministry. “It is critically important that the message involved in what you do be always Christ, him crucified and risen on the third day.”

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  • Lee Weeks