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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

As I was reading the Christmas story in Luke this year, I was struck by something that I had never considered before. It was the angels. It is not that I never noticed them in the story before, but rather, I have never seriously considered what their conduct was really saying about what they were thinking and feeling. I believe that their actions confirm that they were filled with excitement and anticipation. They were like the person who buys the perfect gift for their child or friend and can’t wait for them to open it, the person who is counting down the days until Christmas morning because they can’t wait to see the expression on the recipient’s face when they open the wonderful gift. I think the angels were filled with that type of anticipation of the joy of others at the gift (Jesus) that was coming.

Can you imagine the excitement in heaven when the angels learned that Jesus, God incarnate, was going to be born a man and live among men? What anticipation they must have felt for what the Son of God could do for man. The light that surrounded Him in heaven would follow Him to earth. Oh what a great day when the darkness that hovered over man would be dispelled, banished from His presence! What great excitement the angels must have had for man.

The angels, while created being like man, share the creator’s hand. However, they are “higher” beings than man according to Psalm 8:5. Man, however, has the distinction of being created in the image of God, a description never used of the angels. This trait we share with Jesus who is described as “the image of the invisible God.” The angels are with God in heaven. In their positions in heaven, in the presence of God, the angels have seen a lot. They would have witnessed the creation of man, the flood, the ark, the tower of Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the turning of Lot’s wife to salt, the exchange between God and Satan regarding Job, the battles between the angels of God and the angels of darkness, and all the other goings on in the throne room of the Most High God. I don’t think they would be easily impressed.

The Bible teaches that part of the job of the angels is to serve or minister to men. Paul says of them in Hebrews, “are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” The Psalmist tells us “[t]he angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him.” In Psalm 91, we are told, God “shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” They have a very close relationship with God and witness His glory and power without end. They are in sync with the will of God. Angels do what God likes. Of course, angels are not omniscient (all-knowing), so they have to wait to find out what God has planned, but in contrast to us, they are a lot closer to the action.

Another thing to notice about angels is that when angels appear on the scene in the Bible, people are always moved. Manoah was so upset when he saw an angel that he told his wife he was going to die. When an angel came to Daniel, he trembled on his knees and palms. When Zachariah was visited by an angel in the temple, “he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.” He left the encounter unable to speak for at least nine months. When Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, she was troubled. When Peter was in prison and the angel came and “stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.” Now that is the stuff of action movies.

So what does the conduct of the angels in Luke 2 tell us about the events that were unfolding at that time in Bethlehem and what the angels thought about those events, given who they were, what they did, and what they knew? The story is told as follows in Luke 2:8-18:

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

We notice that this scene occurs right after Mary has brought forth the Christ child and wrapped him in Swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger. We also notice that these shepherds were no different from others who had seen angels in that they were “greatly afraid.” Also we notice that the angels are communicating with the shepherds, giving them information about the great event and where they could go to be firsthand witnesses of these amazing things (even the angels didn’t know exactly where God was going with this plan). What is really amazing is that out of nowhere, because their excitement was just too much to contain, the heavenly host of angels just breaks through from beyond our space and time and begins praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” They make it clear that God’s purposes toward man are all good. Their message was clear, “this is a GOOD thing that is happening!”

The events that unfold next confirm that the shepherds received the message from the angels because they decided to go to where the baby was. We also know that they must have been moved greatly by what they saw because they told lots of folks. It should be pointed out here that part of the skill set for shepherding is not necessarily addressing crowds regarding miracles, but we see that “all those who heard . . . marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds,” so the shepherds were not staying silent or isolated with the good news.

All that to say, I was struck by how excited the angels were. They know God, and they observe man. They knew that God coming to earth as a man (Jesus), was a good thing for man. They were so excited that they wanted to tell man (shepherds), so they wouldn’t miss it. Angels, who dwell in heaven, with God, where all the really cool stuff happens, were excited for us, mankind, that God was coming to live among us. They knew that His coming would mean that we would have hope, that we would not have to continue to dwell in darkness, separated from the God who was so holy, loving and majestic – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They saw our future to be bright with Jesus. They knew what it meant to have Jesus living with you. That is what the angels’ conduct was saying that Christmas night over 2000 years ago.

Beloved Christian sisters and brothers, what is your conduct saying about the message of Christmas? Are you, like the angels, rejoicing because you know God and you know His plans for man are for good and not for evil, to give a future and a hope? Are you, like the shepherds, going to find Jesus daily in the pages of your Bible, and sharing his love in the pews of your church, in the streets of your city, and in the corridors of your work place? Are you telling people about Jesus because you know He alone has the words of eternal life? My prayer for you . . . for me . . . is that this Christmas season, we would be like the angels and like the shepherds. Each of them did what they did because they had an encounter with God.

Merry Christmas! May the joy of the promised hope penetrate your heart.

 

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The second Advent candle is called the “Candle of the Way.” This candle is also purple and represents the truth that Christ is the only way to God. For those lost in sin, Jesus Christ is the Light sent into the world to show the way out of darkness. It is also called the “Candle of Preparation,” reminding Christians to get ready to receive God.
–Jesus is the Reason for the Season, Pocket Inspiration

1. What things do you do every year to prepare for Christmas? What do you notice about those things?

Read Luke 1:5-25
2. Who is Zacharias? Who is his wife Elizabeth?

3. Why was he burning incense in the temple?

4. What happened to him while he was in the temple?

5. What is prophecy was given to him? By whom?

6. Why is the prophecy hard for Zechariah to believe?

7. What happens to Zechariah as a result of his unbelief?

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In the flurry of activity surrounding Christmas, one can lose sight of the wonder and awe of the one true and living God, the one who calls Himself “I AM”, “EMANUEL”. It is also possible to overlook the exactness, the precise plan, the deliberately placed scarlet thread woven through the fabric of God’s revelation, connecting the books, written by various authors, from various walks of life, over many generations.

This Christmas, look for the scarlet thread, consider the Weaver, the love evidenced in the fabric woven before the foundations of time, God’s plan for salvation . . .

God prepared the perfect place for man to live in perfect fellowship with Him . . . the garden, in the east of Eden . . .

God allowed them to choose; they chose death, spiritual and physical.

BUT GOD had a plan to bring life . . .

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel . . .

The plan is slowly revealed . .

God provided a sacrifice for Adam and Eve, a covering for each of them before they left the garden.

God saved Noah . . .

God called Abraham out of a pagan land filled with idolatry to walk by faith in an unseen God.

God asked Abraham for faith, seen in the willing sacrifice of a son by a father in obedience to the God he loved. God provided Himself a sacrifice, so Isaac was spared.

From Isaac, came Jacob and the 12 tribes. The Messiah was to be the Lion of the tribe of Judah.

The 12 tribes were held captive in Egypt and suffered under the bondage of Pharaoh.

God sent a deliverer, Moses, a picture of the ultimate deliverer, Jesus, who God would one day send to deliver the world, from sin.

God gave His people the law through Moses, laying out how sinful man might approach a holy God.

The Law was a school master showing the people their inability to measure up, their ultimate need for a Savior, a Redeemer.

In the wilderness, God gave signs of the Coming One, bringing living water from the Rock . . .

Raining down the bread of life from heaven . . .

A pillar of fire by night and a cloud of protection by day.

God drew the plans for a temporary dwelling place for Him in the wilderness, the Tabernacle. It was a picture of Jesus, the Way to fellowship with the Father.

At the entrance of the Tabernacle was the altar, where the blood would be spilled, the sin offering, the atoning sacrifice for sin.

Next was the Laver, a place for cleansing, for reflection like the water of His Word, which washes us clean and shows us who we are.

Then, the Holy Place, to be entered only by the Priests where there were many pictures of Jesus, the lampstand (the light of the world), the show bread (the bread of life), and the altar of incense (the intercessor).

Finally, the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter and then only once a year. It was a clear picture of our separation from God, our need for a mediator. Jesus Christ, our High Priest, would tear the veil and forever remove the barrier separating us from God, allowing us to run boldly to the throne of grace.

God’s plan was to all-inclusive . . . Consider Rehab, a pagan temple prostitute in the messianic line.

Consider Ruth, the Moabitess, also in the line of the Messiah. We see the love of Boaz, the Kinsman Redeemer, for the foreigner, Ruth. Boaz is a foreshadowing of our Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus.

Boaz lived in Bethlehem, growing barley in fields near where one day our Kinsman Redeemer would lay in a manger.

Consider David, the King God chose, a lowly shepherd boy, watching his sheep in those same fields outside of Bethlehem.
Over time, the people fell away; they left God to seek after idols. They played the harlot, and God forsook them. They were again taken into captivity, this time in Babylon. God, in His great mercy, preserved a remnant.

Consider Esther. A Queen in a place of influence to save her people from total destruction.

Through the remnant, God restores Jerusalem and rebuilds the temple. However, the people again find themselves in captivity. This time, they are under the domination of the Roman Empire, and God has been silent for some 400 years.

But God has not forgotten His promise to Abraham. He has not abandoned His plan for salvation.

In Bethlehem, as foretold by the Prophets of Old, God sent His only begotten son to be the Savior of the world. All the Old Testament signs and foreshadows come into focus in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

It was God’s plan to save man. It was God’s mercy to provide Himself a sacrifice for the sins of man. He sent Jesus to be the mediator between a Holy God and sinful man. It was God’s intention that
the Word would become flesh and dwell among us that we might know God’s love.

No one is righteous; all fall short of God’s law.
The just punishment for violation of God’s law is death.
We’re all dead men walking.
We can’t save ourselves.
We are at the mercy of God.

Jesus, the son of God, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of Jesse, the Promised One, the Messiah . . . He provides the covering for our sins. On the cross at Calvary, He laid down His life, an atoning sacrifice for the sin of mankind. He died and was placed in tomb. On the 3rd day, as He promised, He rose again, conquering death once and for all. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

He is the Way . . . the only Way.

May your Christmas be spent worshiping the true and living God who died that you might live . . . forever.

Merry Christmas!

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In every Christmas celebration, there needs to be some consideration of Resurrection Sunday. Before there was Christmas, there was a need for Christmas. Before the birth of the Savior, there was a need for a Savior. Before crucifixion and resurrection, there was a need for atonement and victory over death.

1. What do you learn from the following verses?
□ Leviticus 17:11

□ Romans 6:23

□ Hebrews 9:27

□ Romans 3:10

□ Romans 5:8

□ Romans 10:9-10

The message of Christianity is . . . “Things really are this bad, and we can’t heal or save ourselves. Things really are this dark–nevertheless, there is hope.” The Christmas message is that “on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Notice that is doesn’t say from the world a light has sprung, but upon the world a light has dawned. It has come from outside. There is light outside of this world, and Jesus has brought that light to save us; indeed, he is the Light (John 8:12).
–Hidden Christmas, Timothy Keller

2. How do you see darkness in the world today? In your family? In your friends? In your workplace? In your school?

3. What does God require of those who seek Him according to John 10:9? 14:6?

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I was excited when Mother said I could put help her unpack the manger scene figurines and them into the creche. Mother says creche is just a different way of saying manger scene–the place where Baby Jesus was born.

Before Christmas, when the time comes for the Christmas decorations, the box for the creche is carefully brought down from the attic with the others. The smell of the Christmas decorations is wonderfully full of pine and promise. The box for the creche is marked–I recognize my mother’s handwriting–so beautiful and curvy.

I mustn’t pull things out of the box too quickly. I have to wait as Mother checks each little bundle wrapped in tissue paper. Not everything in the creche box are put in the manger scene at the same time. The baby Jesus figurine doesn’t go in until Christmas and the three kings come even later.

Christmas music plays softly in the background as it always does at this time of year. Music is just finding its way back after being gone for so many months. Mother hands me a small bundle wrapped in tissue paper–I can open this one. As I gently pull back the tissue, I find it is a sheep. It goes in the barn with the other animals who are watching Mary and Joseph as they wait for Baby Jesus. I gently place it in the back of the stable so Mother will give me another one to open. This time, she gives me a larger bundle–a cow. I wonder when we’ll see Mary or Joseph.

Mother pulls back the tissue on a bundle and then re-wraps it–it is a Magi–she explains that they were the kings from the east who came to see Baby Jesus but they don’t arrive until the Feast of the Three Kings on January 6th.

I watch with anticipation the next little bundle that she pulls from the box filled with tissue paper–this time, she pulls back the edge of the tissue and hands the bundle to me. Gently, I hold the bundle in my hand and pull back the tissue to reveal Joseph. His face is gentle–like my daddy’s. My daddy’s gone to heaven but he had a kind face like Joseph. The figurine is hard and smooth in my small fingers. I have to be careful not to drop any. I want to hold Joseph and look at his face. I still miss my daddy. Mother presses me to put Joseph into the stable.

One by one, we unwrapped the figures. I gently place Mary across from Joseph. The shepherds–one standing with a lamb over his shoulders and the other down on one knee–I place towards the back of the stable–all eyes are on the manger where Baby Jesus will be. The angel which hangs from the front of the manger scene is the final piece–for now.

Mother hurries off with the half-empty box–on to the next task. I stared at the scene–Mary kneeling next to the manger with straw and across from Joseph. They were a mom and dad–it was perfect. My mom didn’t have my dad anymore. We weren’t like Jesus’ family anymore. As I tried to understand my family, a Christmas carol came on the record player: Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head. The stars in the sky looked down where He law, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

I listened as the words became pictures in my head. Those in heaven were looking
down–like my daddy. He was in heaven–he would be looking down. I wonder if he was looking down at me.

The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying He makes. Love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky, and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

I saw the image of Baby Jesus–so gentle, so good. I wish I could be good like Him. I cry at night even though I shouldn’t. After Mother has come in to our room and said prayers with us, I cry. The empty space in my belly hurts from missing my Daddy. I should be better–like Baby Jesus–no crying He makes.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to heaven to live with Thee there. Those were words from my own heart. Please stay close Lord Jesus–I need someone to love me. Since Daddy left, Mommy doesn’t seem to love us anymore. It would be better if you could take me to heaven to live with You and Daddy there.

In those moments, the magic of the creche wrapped around me. I felt safe. I am not sure how long I stood staring into the scene. The song ended and another Christmas carol washed over me. I knew that my Daddy was near–he was watching over me–he and the Lord Jesus. One day I would go to heaven to be with them there, but it wasn’t today.

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Mary Beth Copyright 2016

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O, Sweet Jesus

O, SWEET JESUS!

O, sweet Jesus, baby boy
Your gentle hand will guide
Generations to the promised land
Sinners justified

By Your birth you testified
The Father’s faithfulness
By Your death upon the cross
You taught obedience

O, sweet Jesus, meek and mild
In rugged manger born
You chose the humblest entry point
not even one was scorned

Shepherds, the most lowly
You revealed Your birth to them
Wise men from afar off
Believed and worshiped then

Twas not to high and lofty ones
With knowledge, power, prestige
But to the humble, foreign men
From waiting a reprieve.

From Bethlehem to Golgatha
Wasn’t far to walk
But every step the Father’s will
You would never balk

O, sweet Jesus, born to die
So sweet your baby hands
But later they would pierce them thru And kill the precious lamb

I know the end
All is not lost
Like Jonah and the fish
Three days passed, You rose again
having paid the cost

O, sweet Jesus, hear my prayer
You died for me I know
But now I want to live for You
And make my heart Your throne

O, sweet Jesus, Lord of all
King o’er every King
Come quickly for your church to take
Your praises we will sing

But ‘til you come I pray to be
A light upon a hill
your name I want to lift up high
Bring glory, do your will

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1. Christmas is about God, about Him manifesting Himself. Christmas is about the Triune God: Father, Son and Spirit. What do the following verses teach you about God?
□ Deuteronomy 32:39

□ 2 Chronicles 2:5-6

□ Psalm 100:3

□ 2 Corinthians 5:21

□ Philippians 2:6-8

□ Colossians 1:12-22

□ Revelation 1:11-18

Who is He–Jesus?
The world has struggled with this issue since Jesus came on the scene more than 2000 years ago. Was Jesus simply a man? Was he a great prophet or teacher? Or was He the Christ–the Messiah–the Promised One, fulfilling hundreds of prophecies of the Old Testament prophets?

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2. What does Isaiah 7:14 foretell about Jesus (the Messiah-the Promised One)?

3. What does Isaiah 9:6-7 tell us about the Messiah?

4. What additional information is given regarding the Messiah in Isaiah 11:1?

5. What do you learn from Isaiah 53:1-3

6. When did Isaiah live and give his prophecies?

7. What does the prophet Micah tell us about the birth place of Messiah in Micah 5:2?

9. When did the prophet Micah live and give his prophecies?

10. What does the prophet Zechariah tell us about the Promised One in Zechariah 9:9?

11. When did the prophet Zechariah live and give his prophecies?

12. When you read these prophecies, given hundreds of years before the person they describe was born, by three different men, and you learn that they came true in the person of Jesus, what does that make you think about the Bible? God? Jesus? Yourself?

 

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