Worshipping the Baby who changed the world today!
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!!
Christmas Eve. The wonder and splendor of the season comes to its grand finale tonight. All around the world Christians are coming together to celebrate the birth of Christ. Thinking back to that first Christmas, what comes to your mind? The announcement of the angels, the glory of God filling up the night sky, a young Mary experiencing the pains of birthing her first child, Joseph, trying to do all he could to comfort his hurting wife, a cold dark stable filled with smelly animals and moldy hay?
Our pretty manger scenes don’t begin to do justice to what exactly went on that night. The conditions in the stable where Jesus was born were definitely not the norm for welcoming in a King. The manger where the newborn King slept was in a stable. A stable not made of wood, but of stone. A stone cave, borrowed from an inn keeper, welcomed our Savior.
As you picture that stone cave, fast forward some thirty-three years to another cave, another place where Jesus was laid inside a stone cave, this time not by Joseph, His father, but by Joseph of Arimathea: “Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away” (Matthew 27:59-60). Here is our King, again laid to rest in a borrowed cave; this time not to welcome His birth, but to mourn His death. Once again we see that He was born to die, for my sins and yours.
Can anyone shout HALLELUJAH!!! with me? Okay let me tell you why we’re shouting. Because just three days later, He was ALIVE!!!!! That stone had been rolled away and He was alive. Once again angels heralded the news: “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who had been crucified. HE IS NOT HERE, for He has risen, just as He said” (Matthew 28:5-6, emphasis added).
I praise You, Lord for You were born to die for me so that I could have life eternal. Praise His name!
the East and have come to worship Him.
Matthew 2:2b & 11
Very soon my family will celebrate Christmas at my parent’s house with my sister, her husband, and grandmother. The living room will be filled with gifts for everyone to enjoy. There will be big gifts, little gifts, long skinny gifts, heavy gifts; gifts wrapped in pretty paper tied neatly with a bow; gifts in big, bright colored bags; all kinds of gifts. With all these gifts waiting to be opened, my thoughts can't help but think about Jesus and the gifts the Magi brought to Him.
The gifts they brought the Christ-child were
gifts fit for a King.
Gifts fit for a King?
Will there be any gifts in our living room that are gifts fit for a King?
We have no gold.
No aroma of frankincense will fill the room.
Myrrh? Highly unlikely.
So, what do we have that could be offered to the King? What could be given to Him this year? Does He want gold and frankincense and myrrh? No, not really. What He really wants is YOU and ME. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords wants us. He wants our hearts. He wants us to have a real relationship with Him. That’s why He came.
So, yes- there will be gifts in that living room fit for a King; not the ones with the bows on them, but the ones with hearts longing for their King.
Beloved, fall down on your knees, worship the King, and give Him yourself today.
A decree, or census, had been ordered by Caesar Augustus for each nation to be counted by family and tribe. Joseph and Mary were descendants of David so they had to travel to their tribal home of Bethlehem in Judea. From Nazareth, where they currently lived, to Bethlehem was about a 70 mile journey. Not too bad, huh? Just hop in the car and it would only take a little over a hour. WRONG! They had a few things against them:
...first, Mary was pregnant, most likely in the latter stages of pregnancy, making any trip uncomfortable
...second, they didn’t have a comfy little car with an AC and CD player to hop in and enjoy a quick ride over to the next town, all they had was a stubborn little donkey
...third, there were no Chick-fil-a’s or Starbucks' along the way to stop and eat, they had to take food and water with them
...fourth, there were no exits for hotels, so they had to sleep under the stars with the bugs and other creepy crawlies
...fifth, the D.O.T. hadn’t made it to their area yet to pave the roads, so they trekked through treacherous mountain terrain- Joseph walking and Mary, pregnant, riding on a donkey that was also carrying food, water, blankets, and anything else they might have needed.
Are you getting the idea here? This trip wasn’t FUN. It was hard; very hard. When they finally got the Bethlehem they were ready to be in a nice warm inn, enjoy a yummy meal, and sleep in a cozy bed.
Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly how many inn doors they knocked on trying to find a room for the night. My guess would be that it was more than one. Because there were so many people who had traveled to Bethlehem for the census, every room in the entire city was booked. There was no nice warm room, no yummy food to eat, no cozy bed to sleep in. Nothing. Nowhere. Noda. There was no room for them.
As I mediated on this passage the past few days, the Lord asked me this question, “do YOU have room for Me? In the midst of the business of your life right now, the Christmas parties, the shopping, the traveling, the kids, everything you think you have to do, do you have room for Me?” My first response was, of course I do, Lord. Don’t You remember the 5 minutes I spent with You a few days ago, and didn’t You see me reading the story to my children about baby Jesus in the manger, and….?" Then I had to stop. "You know what, Lord, You are right. I haven’t had room for You. I’ve been too caught up in the season to remember its reason. I am so sorry!"
Beloved, do YOU have room God? If not, stop right now and seek His forgiveness for not giving Him His rightful place in your life. Let Him, today and everyday, fill up every room in your life.
My husband and I have had many conversations over the years about who we would entrust to care for our children if something were to ever happened to us. There are certain things, character traits if you will, we would look for in those persons. For instance, we would want our children to be raised by persons who loved God and sought to live according to His will for their lives, persons who would offer stability, discipline,and protection; we would want our children to be in a home where they would be taught God's Word and how important He is in their lives.
These types of conversations always get me to thinking, I mean REALLY thinking; thinking beyond common every day life occurrences into the deep depths of the why's of why God set the world into motion and wills for life to play out the way it does.
For instance...why did God choose Joseph and Mary to be the earthly parents of His one and only Son? What was it about these two adolescent individuals that caused the Father to hand pick them from the masses to raise Jesus from baby to man; to teach Him how to walk, how to talk, how to carve a piece of wood into a beautiful piece of art, how to simply, make His bed? A teenage boy and a pre-teen girl preparing for a "normal" life together, now chosen to be the parents of the King of Kings...Why?
Scripture doesn't tell us much about Jesus' earthly father Joseph. What it does tells us, though, I believe is of utmost importance and a great example for all of us.
First, Joseph was a just man.
Matthew 1:19, tells us that Joseph was "a just man", a righteous man. This terminology is a Hebrew phrase suggesting he was a true believer in God who had been declared righteous by God, and who carefully obeyed the law. Joseph was a Jew and came from a rich heritage of men and women who loved God and were devoted to Him; men and women like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Salmon, Rahab, Boaz, and Ruth; Jesse, David, and Solomon (Matthew 1:1-17 gives the genealogy of Joseph and Jesus). Coming from a devout Jewish heritage like this, it is very likely that the "Shema" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9- the Jewish confession of faith, which was recited twice daily along with Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41) was read aloud and practiced faithfully in his home aiding in him becoming the righteous, just man God declared him to be.
In Matthew 1:24 and Matthew 2:13-15, we see Joseph's devotion to God by his unquestioning obedience to God's instruction of him accepting Mary as his wife and taking Mary and Jesus to Egypt to protect them from Herod. When God gave Joseph instructions to follow, Joseph obeyed immediately and completely. A man with this type of integrity would be of utmost importance in the raising of His Son who would be called upon to obey His Father's instruction without question.
Secondly, I believe Joseph was a man who had a compassionate heart for all mankind.
As I said before, Joseph had a rich heritage full of Godly men and women; not perfect men and women, but individuals who loved God and sought to please Him with their lives. Having come from this rich heritage of Godly men, I believe, was also a great example to Joseph in his acceptance of and unconditional love for Mary.
Why do I say this? Look at Salmon who married the Gentile prostitute, Rahab. The two of them later had a son, Boaz, who married a Moabite widow. When God looked upon Joseph, I think He knew Joseph would have a tender heart toward this young Mary who had become pregnant before they married with a child that was not biologically his own. If I had my guess, I would say Joseph showed Jesus, in the flesh, how to respect and love all peoples in spite of the label placed on them by society.
Lastly, Joseph was a hard worker.
Matthew 13:55 tells us that Joseph was a carpenter. Carpentry work is not easy. When I was young my granddaddy and dad did a lot of carpentry work. My granddaddy had been taught by his dad and in turn taught my dad the trade of wood working. I remember going into the shop and watching them measure, cut, nail, sand, and piece together, what looked like to me just a bunch a boards, and making it into something beautiful and of value. I'm sure Joseph's job was a lot like that. Spending countless hours in his wood working shop with his son teaching him the skills of the trade; the importance of paying careful attention to the details, the art of taking a few pieces of wood, some nails, and a hammer and the end result being something of beauty. I'm sure Jesus learned perseverance through the many hours spent carving and sanding and carving and sanding. God knew Joseph would instill in His Son a work ethic of perseverance until the job was complete.
God didn't choose just anybody to care for and raise His Son. He chose a man who, first and foremost loved Him and sought to please Him with his life; a man who would teach Jesus the importance of obedience without question; a man who would instill in Him the love and respect of all peoples; and a man who would show Him the importance of persevering through to the end in spite of the difficulty of the situation. Even though Jesus was God in the flesh, I have to believe that His earthly father, Joseph, had a great impact on His life.
God chose Joseph to be the earthly father of His heavenly Son. Definitely no small task, but one Joseph took on with great pride. God has chosen each of us for a special purpose here on this earth. Live out that purpose for Him today, be salt and light to those around you; be the hands and feet of Jesus; love the lost; care for the wounded; point the sinner to the Savior.
One December night in Palestine, an American preacher looked down on a group of shepherds watching their flocks by night just before he entered the town of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve Services. This experience so touched Phillips Brooks that he wrote about it in a poem and asked the children of his Sunday school to perform it. This poem would become the song "O Little Town of Bethlehem". Dr. Brooks asked his friend Lewis Redner (who was the choir director and organist for the church) to compose a simple melody for the children to sing. The week before Christmas came, and still Redner had not found the right tune. It is said that the Saturday night before the performance he awoke and heard angelic music, which he quickly jotted down. He insisted even afterward that the melody to one of our favorite carols was "a gift from Heaven." (taken from A Season of Joy by Susan Card)
I find it interesting that a group of shepherds tending to their flocks by night inspired one of the most beautiful Christmas carols we sing today. I also find it interesting that the angels announced to the shepherds first that a Savior had been born (Luke 2:8-14). After 400 years of silence from the Lord because of the sin of His people (Ezekiel 10-11), He chose to announce to shepherds, first, the Messiah had been born!
Doesn't make a whole lot of sense because shepherds weren't regarded as being the grandest of people. They were considered to be nasty, dirty people who smelled of sheep because they spent so much time holding and comforting those frantic, furry, four-legged beasts. This band of nomad wanderers would risk their lives to save a dumb sheep because they cared so deeply for it. Shepherds didn't even have a place to call home, because their roamings took them from place to place as they sought out better pastures for their flocks to feed on.
So, why the shepherds first? Why was it so important for them to know a Savior had come? I'm not exactly sure, but I do have a few thoughts.
Could it be because the shepherds represented all mankind in his current state; nasty and dirty because of the effects sin?
Maybe it was because they were wandering all over the place, trying to find something better to satisfy an empty soul?
Could it be because this Savior would relate on a personal level with the shepherds? After all, He, Himself, would become a Shepherd. He would begin to smell of sheep because He would spend so much time with them. He would become nasty and dirty going to great lengths to save them from a roaring lion or an angry bear; and He would eventually loose His life to save theirs. Being in His presence would bring about such a peace that it would cause the sheep to lay down and rest instead of wandering all over everywhere trying to find something better; He would fulfill that deep longing they had inside them.
I think the shepherds had to know this Savior who had been born, was born for them. Even though society deemed them nasty scum of the earth, this Savior, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, had esteemed them as precious in His sight. So precious, in fact, that He was willing to leave all He had to save just one of them.
Do you realize, Beloved, YOU are so precious to God that He sent the Good Shepherd just to save YOU? He loved YOU so deeply it hurt!
"Jesus said, 'What man of you, having a
hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the
wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he
has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. I say to you that likewise
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over
ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.' "
Luke 15:4, 5, & 7, NKJV
Good morning dear ones! Are you ready to push up your shirt sleeves and do a little more digging today in order to unearth those golden nuggets that lie beneath the surface of Isaiah 7:14?
Yesterday we read from the book of Ezekiel where God's glory left the temple and His people because of their sins. We saw in chapter eleven of Ezekiel that yes, God's glory was gone but His covenant love and promise still remained. Because He is a covenant keeping, always loving God, He will never go back on His word. God fully intended to return and restore His relationship with His people; today we will see that He did just that.
God illustrates His coming back for His people in the book of Hosea. Grab your shovels and let's start digging.
Hosea is a book full of symbolism. The names in this book, especially in the first few chapters, are very significant to the picture God is painting for us.
In chapter 1 of Hosea we are introduced to the main characters of the book. Hosea, whose name means "salvation"; Gomer, his wife, whose name means "complete vanishing"; Jezreel, their first child, whose name means "God scatters"; Lo-ruhamah, the second child, whose name means "not pitied"; and Lo-Ammi, the third child, whose name means "not my people".
God told Hosea, who was a righteous man, to take for himself Gomer as his wife. Gomer would come to be known as a woman of adultery who would cheat on her husband time and time again. Even though God told Hosea the kind of woman his wife would become, Hosea didn’t waiver in his obedience to the Lord. He took her as his bride and loved her unconditionally.
In Hosea chapter 2, the characters of the book take on a whole new meaning. Hosea represents God’s salvation. Gomer represents the adulterer God’s people had become. And, their children represent God’s wrath on His people because of their sin.
Let's read Hosea 4:4-12.
So, whether you prefer ice cold Diet Mt. Dew or steaming hot Nantucket Coffee or both (smile) to start your day, I do hope you will pour yourself a cup of the beverage of your choice and settle in for some awesome reading this morning. And, I pray your heart will be filled to the brim with love and joy and peace and Christmas this day. All my love!!!
By His Grace Visits with Friends
What IS the purpose of Christmas? Is it the beautiful evergreens that light up our family rooms or the snowmen decorations that sit on our mantels? Maybe the purpose of Christmas is to see just how many lights we can hang from our rooftops and blowup Santa's we can adorn our yards with before we blow a breaker? Could it be that the true purpose of Christmas goes much, much deeper than the beautifully wrapped presents that sit underneath our trees and the stockings that hang by the chimney? Yes, indeed...I do believe it could be...in fact, it IS.
For us to grasp the purpose of what Christmas truly is, let's take a trip back to the very beginning of time as we know it. On the sixth day of creation God made mankind. Man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). He was the crowning point of God's creation; a living human, created in God's image to rule over all creation.
It is necessary for us to note here what the word image means. Image is the transliteration of the Hebrew word tselem which means to shade or to shadow. You and I were created to live in the shadow of God; we were created to shadow Him. Think about it this way. You've started a new job and you are being trained by someone who knows the job well. They are telling you everything you need to know about how to do that particular job. You are shadowing them, working right beside them, mimicking all they do.
God created us in His image, not to look like Him physically, but He created us with the capabilities to feel emotions, to have our own will and to be intellectual; and also to be morally good and sinless like He was. In the beginning man was able to shadow God perfectly and experience intimate fellowship with Him. Adam and Eve were able to walk hand-in-hand with God. They experienced the joys of fellowshipping with Him anytime they desired to do so because they were sinless, perfect, without blame. They had done and were doing all God had commanded them to do.
But, something happened.
Sin happened and literally broke apart man's relationship with God. Because man was created with his own will and intellect, having the ability to make choices, he chose to disobey God resulting in him being cast out from God's shadow. Man became sick with the disease of sin. There was now a dividing line between God and man; a line in which man was not allowed to cross. (see Genesis 3:1-24 to read the account of the fall of man from the shadow of God)
If God created us to have intimate fellowship with Him and to live in His shadow, what was man to do now that He was no longer allowed to freely enter into that shadow? How would man get back into right relationship with His God? How would man be healed from the disease of sin?
In the midst of God's heart being broken over man's sin and in the midst of having to punish man as a result of this sin, God promised man that there would come a Seed from woman who would crush the head of Satan, the father of all sin, and restore their fellowship with one another (Genesis 3:15). This Seed was the promise of a Savior, Jesus Christ, who would heal mankind of the disease of sin.
"And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness;for by His wounds we are healed."1 Peter 2:24