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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas Story’

Away in a Manger

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

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

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

Christmas music played softly in the background as it always did at that time of year. Music was just finding its way back into our home after being gone for so many months. Mother handed me a small bundle wrapped in tissue paper–I could open this one. As I gently pulled back the tissue, I found a lamb. It goes in the barn with the other animals who are watching Mary and Joseph as they wait for Baby Jesus. I gently placed it in the back of the stable so Mother would give me another one to open. This time, she gave me a larger bundle–a cow. I wonder when we’ll see Mary or Joseph.

Mother pulled back the tissue on a bundle and then re-wrapped it–it was a Magi. She proceeded to explain that Magi were wise men or 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 watched with anticipation the next little bundle that she pulled from the box filled with tissue paper–this time, she pulled back the edge of the tissue and handed the bundle to me. Gently, I held the bundle in my hand and pulled 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 was hard and smooth in my small fingers. I had to be careful not to drop any or I wouldn’t be allowed to help mother. I wanted to hold Joseph and look at his face. I still missed my daddy. Mother pressed me to put Joseph into the stable.

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

Mother hurried 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 wished I could be good like Him. I cried at night even though I shouldn’t. After Mother has come in to our room and said prayers with us, I cry quietly. 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. 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.

Copyright 2016

Creche

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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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ANGELS & THE CHRIST CHILD

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 8:51. Man, however, has the distinction of being created in the image of God2, a description never used of the angels. This trait we share with Jesus who is described as “the image of the invisible God.”3 The angels are with God in heaven.4 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?”5 The Psalmist tells us “[t]he angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him.”6 In Psalm 91, we are told, God “shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all

your ways.”7 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.8 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.

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.9 When an angel came to Daniel, he trembled on his knees and palms.10 When Zachariah was visited by an angel in the temple, “he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.”11 He left the encounter unable to speak for at least nine months. When Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, she was troubled.12 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.”13 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.

This scene occurs right after Mary has brought forth the Christ child and wrapped him in Swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger.14  These shepherds were no different from others who had seen angels in that they were “greatly afraid.”  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).15 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.

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?

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.

Copyright M.E.Bush 2009

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Don’t look so surprised.  Genesis is not some lofty preamble to the Bible, but rather it is its spine, giving support and reinforcement for many of the later events which are recorded in other books of the Bible.

In Luke 1, starting in verse 26, we read of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary and announcement of God’s plan for her life, a plan that would be the salvation of all.  In the exchange between Mary and Gabriel regarding this baby that she was to bear, we see a glimpse of Genesis 1.

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you.”  Luke 1:34-35

In Genesis 1:2, we read “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”    Just before He created the world, God hovered.  Then in a moment, God spoke and the world was created.  It was His glory shown forth.

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.  Psalm 19:1

And so it was with Mary.  The Holy Spirit came upon her, the power of the Highest overshadowed her and the glory of God was once more shown forth.  God became man.  The Christ was born of a virgin, in Bethlehem, and a Great Light came to those in darkness.  Promises kept.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.  1 Timothy 3:16

Jesus is the glory of God shown forth.  It was the glory of God to not spare His own son, but deliver Him up for us all that we might have the chance to know God, to fellowship with God, to live in the glory of God forever.

The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.  Revelation 21:23

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As discussed in yesterday’s post, some characters from the Christmas story , despite their close proximity to the miracle, miss Christmas entirely.

We can make a case that the chief priests and scribes missed Christmas.  As strange as it sounds, those whose life was dedicated to the scriptures, to God’s law and teachings, missed God’s arrival as foretold in prophecy.

In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 2:1-2), Matthew tells us that after Jesus was born, Kings from the east came to Jerusalem looking for “the King of the Jews.”  Herod, when he heard this unsettling news immediately called for his experts in the field, the people most knowledgeable about such things.  He called the Chief Priest and the scribes, the experts in Jewish religion and writings.

As expected, these men knew exactly what the Kings of the east were referring to and where the “King” would be born.  Despite that knowledge, they had no presence in Bethlehem.  No one was monitoring the births of boys in town.  No one seemed to be watching for a Messiah in Bethlehem at all.

The words of the prophet Micah were no more than pen strokes on a parchment scroll.  The knowledge of God that these men had never translated into faith in God, so they missed Christmas.

We don’t want to judge them too harshly as this could happen to you or to me.  We might, like those men and others like them, mistake the mere knowledge of God, the knowledge of His Word and even a role as a religious leader as sufficient to satisfy God.  Beware, even the religious leaders, the most “Holy” men of their time, missed Christmas.  Knowledge of God doesn’t equal saving faith in God.

If you do not have a personal, intimate, saving relationship with God.  If you don’t know Him (not just of Him), you can change that today.  Pray the following prayer to change your status from outsider, to child of God.  Don’t miss Christmas.

Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner, and I have broken your law.
I need a Savior; I cannot save myself.  Please allow your shed blood to cleanse me of my sin. Forgive me and cleanse me.  I want to live for you, to submit myself to you, to be a child of God.

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In preparation for the coming celebration of Christmas, arguable the second most significant celebration in the year, Read Luke 2 and see how many of the following questions you can answer.  If you have questions or are unsure of something, please post a comment.
  • Why did Mary and Joseph have to go to Bethlehem?
  • Where was Jesus born?  Why?
  • What did Mary do with Jesus after He was born?
  • What happened out on the plains outside of Bethlehem that night?
  • To whom was the first recorded announcement of the birth of the Christ Child made according to Luke 2:8-14?
  • Why is it significant that the announcement of the Messiah was made first to the Shepherds?
  • What does Luke 2:15-16 tell us was the shepherd’s response?
  • What was the response of the shepherds to seeing Jesus in the manager?  (Hint: Luke 2:17-20)

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In preparation for the coming celebration of Christmas, arguable the second most significant celebration in the year, Read Matthew 1 and see how many of the following questions you can answer.  If you have questions or are unsure of something, please post a comment.
  • What horrible news does Joseph receive in Matt. 1:18?
  • How does Joseph come to terms with Mary’s pregnancy according to Matt. 1:19-25?
  • Read Luke 1.  According to Luke 1:26, who came as a messenger from God to Mary?
  • Where was Mary living at the time of this story?
  • To whom was Mary betrothed?  Of what lineage was her betrothed?
  • How does Gabriel greet Mary in verse 28?
  • What is her reaction in verse 29?
  • For what job has Mary been chosen according to verse 31?
  • How does Gabriel describe Jesus and what He will do in verses 32-33?
  • What is Mary’s very practical question in verse 34?
  • What is Gabriel’s response in verse 35?
  • What separate proof of the authenticity of his message does Gabriel offer in verse 36?
  • What is Mary’s response to the message from God through Gabriel in verse 38?
  • Who does Mary go to visit during her pregnancy according to Luke 1:36-41?  Why?
  • What happens to Elizabeth when she hears Mary’s voice?  Why is that significant?

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