Monday, December 25

Monday, December 25

Luke 2:1-20 (ESV)

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

In Romans 8:22-23, the apostle Paul speaks of the future glory in Christ Jesus.  He describes our present time as:

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

So, what does this verse about groaning have to do with a joyous Christmas Day?  Do you know that all of creation including, you and me, groan or long for Jesus’ return?  We wait for the redemption of our bodies when Jesus comes back for us.  Inwardly, we all long to be made completely whole through our Lord.  Yes, we have the first fruits in that we have been saved by grace and have God’s Holy Spirit living in us.  But we will not be completely whole until the new heaven and new earth are ushered in by Jesus.

Christmas day, therefore, is the beginning of the end.

On Christmas day the promised Messiah entered the world.  Without this day there would be no hope….no hope for Easter day, no hope for a risen Lord and no hope for the salvation he brings.  We would remain dead in our sins with no hope for the future.

In Luke 2:17-18 we find the shepherds going to Mary and Joseph.

“And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them (by the angels) concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”

They knew this child was the beginning of all they had longed and hoped for.

Today let us glorify the Lord who saves us.  He was willing to enter this sin-filled world to redeem us and, one day, end all the groaning and longing for complete redemption of his creation and of us.

Blessings and Hope this Christmas day!  It’s only the beginning!

 

Merry Christmas!

 

 

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Sunday, December 24

Sunday, December 24

Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.  And the virgin’s name was Mary.  28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.  36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”  38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  And the angel departed from her.

Fourteen.  That’s about how old Mary was when God sent Gabriel.  “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”  No matter how pure or holy she was, that is a lot to lay on a teenager.

Does it surprise you that God would place the responsibility of raising his son in someone so young?  Maybe not.  We have heard the story so often that we can easily overlook Mary’s youth.  Frankly, I wouldn’t trust a fourteen-year-old with a credit card, much less the son of God.  However, God’s choice of Mary, however, is consistent with the way he does things.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)

The early Christians were largely poor, uneducated people.  But, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God used these lowly people to change the world.

That is how God does things.  He selected Mary.  He raised up his church through the underclass.  Many of the heroes of the Bible came from humble or questionable origins.

God can use anyone, even you, for his great purposes.  You don’t need special training.  You just have to be willing… like Mary was willing.

Someone once said, the greatest ability of a Christian is availability.  Have you made yourself available to God?  If not, why not?

Lord, I offer myself to you.  Please use me for your purposes and glory.  Amen.

Saturday, December 23

Saturday, December 23

John 1:19-28 (ESV)

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”  21 And they asked him, “What then?  Are you Elijah?”  He said, “I am not.”  “Are you the Prophet?”  And he answered, “No.”  22 So they said to him, “Who are you?  We need to give an answer to those who sent us.  What do you say about yourself?”  23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”  28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Within the kingdom who are we?  John affirms his place, calling himself unworthy to untie Jesus’ strap from His sandal.  He humbled himself before the Master.  John recognized where he fit inside the Kingdom.  He placed himself as just a man answering his calling for the king, preparing the way for the Lord.

The question is where do we place ourselves within the kingdom?  Often we put ourselves on a pedestal, especially in this individualistic/materialistic culture of ours.  We act selfish, placing our needs of the moment above the needs of the kingdom.  We inflate ourselves to the same level as God when we should be putting ourselves last.  Sadly, it is a symptom of our brokenness to become our own master.

So, this season, prepare your heart for humility.  Reflect on the how you approach life.  Are you first or last?  Are you willing to help a random stranger or even someone very familiar?  Are you putting a heart of a servant on display?  Are you unworthy to untie the master’s sandal?  So, who are you?

God, humble me to the level of John, a servant not even worthy to untie his master’s sandal.  God give me insight to serve, placing myself last among your creation.  Let me be a servant that is not above the master.  God, be my guide for the needs of your people and lead me to the opportunity of your Almighty Kingdom.  Amen.

Friday, December 22

Friday, December 22

John 1:6-8 (ESV)

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

John the Baptist was the forerunner to Jesus.  He came to tell others about the coming of the Christ. He was to do more than merely tell people about Jesus, he was to bear witness and not only to bear witness but to do it in a way that others might come to believe in Jesus because of his witness.  That certainly seems like a tall order, but we have been called to the same tall order.  We are to be witnesses for Christ and bear witness in our words, attitudes, and actions of the amazing love and grace we have in Jesus.  Others are to see something different in us and the way we respond to situations versus the way others in the world respond.

As followers of Jesus, we are to bear witness to the light of Christ.  Think about being in a pitch-black room and how even the smallest light like that of a Christmas light on a strand of lights puts off a great light against the dark.  Jesus is the light of the world and as his followers, we can bear witness to His light.  We can share with others the love, grace and forgiveness of sins that we have received from Christ.  We can help others understand that Jesus is not just someone who came and died but that He rose again and He will return.  That is what the season of advent is all about—the birth of Jesus and the hope we have in His glorious return.  How can you share that with someone today?

Lord, during this Advent season, use the many Christmas lights we see to serve as reminders that we are to bear witness to the light of Christ.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Thursday, December 21

Thursday, December 21

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (ESV)

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  19 Do not quench the Spirit.  20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.  22 Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

We have all likely prepared for a major event in our lives – perhaps a wedding, or the birth of a baby, or buying a new home, or going to college, or getting a new job, or retirement.  Major events in our lives usually require some sort of preparation.  But nothing we do in life is more important than how we prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s not a to-do list that we check off as we complete all the tasks; rather it is a change of heart.  We acknowledge our own sinfulness and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  After that, we are prepared for the coming of our Lord and Savior.  There is nothing else we need to do, but wait.  Wait for the Promised One to come again.

Well, nothing else than this little process we call sanctification in which the Holy Spirit transforms us into the likeness of Jesus Christ.  It is by the power of the Holy Spirit in us that we are able to test and to hold onto all that is good; that we can abstain from the evil that rages within us; that we are able to move closer toward rejoicing always, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in all circumstances.  He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

Faithful Father, continue the work You have begun in us to sanctify us completely, that we – our whole spirit and soul and body – may be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Prepare us this day and every day for eternal life with You.  In the precious name of Your Son, Jesus, our joy and our hope, we pray.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 20

Wednesday, December 20

Psalm 126:4-6 (ESV)

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126 fires on several levels.

In Eschatological terms it proclaims the joy promised in the heavenly homecoming at the consummation of the age.  The promise is made to the just, whether alive in the flesh or resurrected from the dead. —He…  shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Resurrection is also a theme in the life of nations.  Why?  Aridity in the soul of a people follows closely upon the departure of divine favor, hence the Psalm’s poignant petition—Restore our fortunes, O Lord.

Thus, David prays for the restoration of Israel to God, the return of wayward children to their Heavenly Father.  He recalls that the laughter and joy of Israel in previous times were as unexpected as the great things raised up in them through a divine power beyond them.

As a metaphor, the Psalmist bids us consider the sudden opening of springs heretofore occluded by the desert sands.  Zion may yet see life in the midst of death, for the Lord’s reconnecting to the lost yields an overflowing abundance, an embarrassment of riches.

That’s why this Psalm also proclaims some very good news to individual seekers and families.

So!  Do you know anyone living in a brown house, a place where the denizens are starved for the Good News?  This Sunday, where might you invite such folk?

Going forth with weeping, sewing for the Master,
Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves,
When our weepings over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

–Knowles Shaw

Tuesday, December 19

Tuesday, December 19

Psalm 126:1-3 (ESV)

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

Ever lost anything really important to you?  Something that is irreplaceable, a one-of-a-kind sort of thing that is not really a thing, but rather something that has to do with people, with a relationship?  You know, maybe someone you loved, or needed, or looked up to?  Or all three?  Someone you miss, to this very day.  Someone nothing on earth can replace.  Someone who is gone, and will not come back.  Someone you know you will live without for the rest of your life.

This sort of loss of fortune leaves a hole in our hearts, a hole we feel whenever we think about it.  They say that time will heal this sort of hurt; but the hole, that place they occupied in your existence—that hole is still there.  And you know it will be there, that hole, it will be there until you take your last breath.

We move on from these losses and we want to congratulate ourselves; but, deep down, we know we will never fully recover.  That loss, that hole—it has changed our very experience of life.  We live around that hole—it is a part of us, and it will not go away.

Only one thing can fill that hole; but it is not really a thing.  What we lost, that person—they were a facsimile, a stand-in, an “avatar” for the Person we really lost.  They were similar enough to that One that we gave them that deep part of our heart we can never take back.

Now, it is gone, that part of our heart.  But we lost it a long, long time ago, when we traded the love of that One for the love to know—things.

So now, we know—things, holes.

Lord God, fill these holes with You.