Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Coming of the Worthy Ruler...

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:1-6 ESV) Matthew leaves out many of the details that Luke does of the Nativity. One thing he wants to make very clear is that this baby is the King, the Messiah, the One all had been waiting for. It was something very much in the back of everyone's mind. That's the problem - so many had been looking for a temporal deliverer, and forgetting what we needed was the King to Come and rule in our hearts and lives. Welcome, King Jesus, we need You!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas: Worth waiting for...

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 ESV) Anna had waited for years for this day. Rather than complain "What took you so long???" she instead gave thanks to God. What is our post-Christmas attitude? Likely it is similar to what it was before Christmas. If we were looking in hopeful anticipation, we will be thankful, knowing that Christ has come. But if we have been wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness, we will continue with our complaining, missing out on God's best. So, what's it gonna be?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas: Can I have a witness here???

Luke 2:22-35 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles,and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” As Luke follows up the initial impact of Christ's coming, he shares objective facts about what happened. Rather than march into Jerusalem proclaiming that their baby was "special", Mary and Joseph went about their parental responsibilities as they were expected to. God did the speaking, through his servant. The message was clear: "He is the one we have all been waiting for." May we hear God speak to our hearts, and let Him use us to tell others too.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Suspect identified...

Luke 2:21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. As we read Luke's account, it becomes obvious that what we are doing is reading a report of facts, and the facts are important. His name is Jesus. When we read in conjunction with the other Gospel accounts, our minds race to what Matthew reminds us of: "You will call His name Jesus, for He will deliver His people from their sins." So this event does much to identify Who Jesus is: He is the Messiah Who came to identify with His people, the Jews, to provide salvation and deliverance. At this point, everything has gone according to God's plan. Still today, Jesus is the Name we can call upon and identify as the One who delivers us.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pondering Christmas...

Luke 2:19-20 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. As we sit here early in the morning, waiting for the noise to begin, what better time to do the Mary thing - meditate on what it all means that Christ has come. May we all find time today to do that. And may we also do the opposite - having seen and heard that the Son of God has come, may we praise and glorify God loudly for all to hear. May there be no doubt that His coming has made a difference in me.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas - a time to scoot, see and say...

Luke 2:15-18 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.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 
The response of the shepherds was immediate and appropriate.  They did not make excuses like "Who's gonna take care of the sheep?" or, later on "We've got to get right back to the sheep." They took the time to go and see for themselves, then share with others what they had heard and seen.  They carried out their part in God's plan.  That's what He wants for us as well.  He wants us to come to see for ourselves Who Christ is and why He has come, then He wants us to share with others we meet what has happened.  May we be as responsive as the shepherds.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas: High Impact advertising...

Luke 2:13-14  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 among those with whom he is pleased!” 
Except for the Super Bowl, there is no greater push to get peoples' attention in a brief moment, than at Christmas.  Though the final product is greatly misplaced in its emphasis, the example is found in the first Christmas story.  The MULTITUDE (like at the feeding of the 5000...) - no small choir of angelic voices - were getting the attention of this group with a brief message: The Great God is doing the Greatest thing ever!  He is pleased to announce the sending of His peace.  This is no pushing of a product we do not really need; it is a joyful press release of pending release from sin and death.  Let's sit up and pay attention to advertising of what really matters!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Shepherds Shaken and Shown a Sign

Luke 2:8-12 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. 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 
As we stop the paragraph at verse 7, we are left with a sense of peace and calm, with "Silent Night" playing in the background.  But lest we be lulled to spiritual sleep, this Child came to awaken us - to boldly proclaim with neon lights and loud noises that this this Savior we need.  And just in case we miss the memo, there is a sign - a confirmation - which indeed is what these gospel accounts really are - that we can be certain (Luke 1:1) that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World we all need. May we be shaken  and certain this Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simplicity Speaks...

 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. (Luke 2:6-7 ESV)
What is it that makes the "Christmas Story" so "romantic", if you will?  Is it not the simplicity of what is the most important event in human history? God becomes man.  That moment took place with very little fanfare on earth - in obscurity, barely noticed. Without the context leading up to this birth, it would seem like just another birth, only a little less important or impressive.  God speaks plainly and simply to the need of all humanity.  He loved us enough to send His Son to us, born in humble surroundings.  He walked on earth in humble service, with simple speech.  All to accomplish the greatest feat of all time - to conquer sin and death in our stead.  So simple, so profound.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas: Joyful inconveniences...

Luke 2:1-5 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. 
When we consider what a struggle this event was for Mary and Joseph - traveling while with child, it would have been very difficult in that time.  But then when we look at the big picture, and the fact that what happens later in this chapter with the manger scene is the most depicted event in human history(in competition only with the Cross), then the inconveniences seem well worth every effort.  So may our time this advent be - the lines, the crowds, the "I'm sorry but we're sold out..." - every little irritation must be kept in light of the big picture - we are building up to the coming of Christ, and I should not let anything take away the joy of that meeting!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent: getting on the path of peace...

 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
  for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
  in the forgiveness of their sins,
 because of the tender mercy of our God,
  whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
  to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

(Luke 1:76-79 ESV)
Having done first things first after his months of silence, and focusing on Christ, Zachariah then turns to his newborn son and rejoices in what he is being called to do: to get people back on the path.  His job is to proclaim the mercy and forgiveness of God which is found in Christ, so that, when the Light shines, we will not reject Him, but allow Him to shine on our path, and to follow Him.  He is the way, the path to true peace.  Once on the path, we too need to repeat the same message of hope to others.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent: at time to shut up, step back, see and serve

Luke 1:68-75 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 
Zacharias has just had his tongue loosed after being kept silent while awaiting his son's birth.  You would think the first words out of his mouth would relate to his son.  Instead, this time of silence has given him the ability to step back and see the bigger picture - it's all about the coming of Christ. God is coming for a visit.  He is coming to deliver.  What should our response to God be in light of His coming? to serve Him all our days.  May we shut up, step back and see chat Christ's coming is all about, and then let us go and to serve Him joyfully with a life a holiness that He deserves.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas: A time of wonder... and of throwing names around...

 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:59-66 ESV)
Luke lays out a number of themes, two of which are wonder and names.  Here the people wonder what the experiences of Zacharias and his family mean for everyone else. Mary is wondering what her son will be like. The shepherds will wonder, as well as all those people who hear their message. Anna and Simeon will wonder.  Maybe we should wonder too?  And then there are the names.  Not only all the names used to describe the Messiah, Jesus Christ, but also John. Do you know what it means? Do we take the time to weigh the importance and meaning of all these names of Christ?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The ripple effect of Christmas...

 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. (Luke 1:57-58 ESV)
Luke does not want us to miss any important details.  Though the focus is to be on Christ, and the inner circle around Him involved Mary and Joseph, there were many others key to the event who were also blessed by His coming.  Such was Elizabeth.  Having been considered beyond the age to have a child, she had lived a life of disappointment, but with the privilege of having a son, and a very special son in God's plan, she was one of many caught up in the ripple effect of Christmas.  So are we. Because Christ has come, the blessings of Christmas have come to us, and to all we share Christ with.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Song for every Christmas...

 And Mary said,
 “My soul magnifies the Lord,
  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
  and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
  from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
  he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
  and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
  and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
  in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
  to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

(Luke 1:46-55 ESV)
Mary, contemplating her opportunity to carry the Messiah, counts her blessings and gives a song of praise.  Though not necessarily sung by her, I like to think of life as a musical we could sing.  And though no one else will have her exact experience, celebrating Christ's advent is something we all can and should do.  It is "from generation to generation", because we all can experience the blessings of His presence - He is the same merciful, Holy, helping God today that He was to Mary.  So, let us sing His praises; let us magnify the Lord and rejoice!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas - a time of double blessing!

 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45 ESV)
When Mary comes to visit Elizabeth, she and her unborn son, John, are overwhelmed with Joy in the presence of the Messiah.  But she is also filled with joy for Mary; she is excited to see her faith and obedience, and the blessing she is receiving.  The last sentence indeed applies to both of these women - they are getting to see God at work in their lives, and they are joyful for one another.  How about us? Are we joyful for others at this time? Are we filled with joy because we see others growing in their faith and being blessed by God? May we joyful not just because "unto us a Son is born", but also because He has come for others and is making a difference in their lives. It's a joy to behold!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent: Time to Straighten Up!

Mark 1:1-3 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make his paths straight,’” 
I like Mark's version of the "Christmas Story." He gets right to the point.  Christ is coming; get ready!   As with other places in both Old and New Testaments, there is recognition of a forerunner to help us prepare. But his (John the Baptist') responsibility is to proclaim.  Our responsibility is to prepare, to straighten up and be ready.  Are we actively engaged in getting ready to meet Christ, as He comes to get in our face?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Being more than a Good Boy at Christmas...

Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel”which means, God with us. When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. 
Joseph is described by Matthew in glowing terms - he is just and thoughtful of his wife to be - he was an honest man you could trust - like good ole Charlie Brown.  But He was much more - He was a man who knew how to listen to God and a man of courage who did the right thing.  He was a man who obeyed God in the details.  God is not looking at "naughty or nice."  He is looking even deeper. Christmas is a time to see how we will respond to God and the challenges He sends our way: will we trust and obey Him? Will we demonstrate a care for others?  Will we live our lives to please Him?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas - what God can do

Luke 1:34-38 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 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. 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. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 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.
In our contemporary celebration of Christmas, we have come to expect something miraculous to happen - to receive that coveted possession, to find the love of our lives, to be healed of some chronic disease.  We live in hopeful expectation.  Though the things we hope for are not necessarily the right things, there is a reason for that - an annual, cyclical pattern, because when Christ came the miracle of miracles did happen: a virgin conceived, the power of God came down, the Son of God was born. And He brings with Him the possibility - especially the possibility of a renewed relationship with God that we all need and deeply desire, whether we admit it or not.  Christmas, Advent, the coming of Christ is all about what God can do.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Coming King of Eternity...

Luke 1:26-33 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, 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. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 
Stories within stories.  That's what we see in Luke.  In the midst of the story about Zacharias and Elizabeth, Luke gives us one of those "Meanwhile, back in Nazareth..." accounts.  God is speaking not only to priests, but to young women, revealing His plan.  The plan is for the King to come - not a king from Israel, but a King TO Israel, and to the world.  He is the King from eternity past, and of His kingdom there will be no end!  That is a big story to wrap our minds around.  May we not skip or skim over the story of the King, THE story of history.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent: Time to Turn things around...

 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 
(Luke 1:5-23 ESV)
Christmas is not a short story.  In our fast-food age we try to make it one, but the Incarnation demands full explanation.  In short, this passage is saying: "Its time to turn things around here." Christ was about to come. God was sending ahead his servant to prepare the way.  He will be filled with the Spirit to turn people back toward looking for God at work.  That's what we need today: some turning around, with people (us!) repenting, allowing the Spirit to control, and looking for what God wants to do through us.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Coming King of Adoption

 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:12-16 ESV)
Having hit the bottom during the exile, one would wonder of there was any hope at all for a coming King for Israel.  But God keeps the hope alive, as Matthew traces the kingly line forward to Joseph, son of another Jacob, who would be the "adoptive" father of Jesus, the Christ.  How appropriate for a Father in heaven Who would offer to adopt all those who trust in His Son.  As always, He will not leave us fatherless(Psalm 68:5). without hope, or without a True King in Whom we can trust.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Coming King of Hope

Matthew 1:7-11 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 
As Matthew continues with his selective genealogy, he takes us from the summit of King Solomon down the slope though very imperfect kings to "Jechoniah and his brothers," which brought them to rock bottom - the Exile into Babylon.  What could keep these people looking forward with any sense of hope?  The Coming King.  What can keep us looking forward through the ups and downs of life and our own failures?  The Coming King of Hope.  May this Advent restore in us the Hope that only Christ can bring.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Coming King of Faith

 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
 And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 
(Matthew 1:1-6 ESV)
Jesus Christ is different. As Matthew points out for us here, His human heritage is important.  He is in the line of the father of faith, Abraham.  But equally important to Matthew and to us is that He is in the line of David.  David was by no means perfect, as is alluded to her by Matthew's note that David had Solomon through Bathsheba.  But like David, Jesus Christ was God's chosen and anointed one - a King. When we are "waiting" for Christmas, it is not just the anticipation of a baby to be born, but the arrival of the King to whom we owe our allegiance and our trust.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Are we ready to be wowed???

 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-18 ESV)
During our cultural celebration of Christmas, there will be many things that seek to "wow" us - to catch our eyes and our hearts and make us think "this is a great Christmas!" - The lights, the movies, the gadgets on sale. But there is only One Who truly wows. John tells us to look at Him: the Eternal Word who has come down in as much of Hi,s glory as we can stand; the One above all others, Who humbled Himself to become a man; the One in Whom we have the grace of God revealed which should really take our breath away.  Let nothing us wow us like Him.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Certainty...

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4 ESV)
Luke was a thorough investigator and historian.  He knew the importance of facts, even during a highly emotional time like Christmas.  It is so easy for us to just ride the tide of feelings this time of year.  Those emotions are fine, unless they have no factual foundation.   That foundation is the incarnation of Christ - that He has come and carried out God's plan for our salvation.  That is something to "feel good" about for sure - something worth making a be celebration about.  But let's make sure we celebrate with our hearts and heads too-knowing we are celebrating the truth.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent: a time of opportunity...

 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13 ESV)
As John continues to give us the Big Picture of Christmas, as not just a day, but a full-fledged world-changing event in human history, he now focuses on the "splash" Jesus Christ made upon entry.  He was not well-received - most people viewed Him as an unwanted alien, rather than a long-lost Lord. BUT many saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime, and of eternity. To receive Him gives us everything we could never have otherwise - a new birth, new life, and a restored relationship with the Father.  Besides being an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, and experience the joy of giving to others, may this Advent season be a time of spiritual opportunity that enhances our relationship with our Creator.

Monday, December 2, 2013

True Light

 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.
 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world
(John 1:6-9 ESV)
As John helps us see the "bigger picture" of Christmas, he helps us see The Light.  He was there at creation, and has been shining forever - out there. But He was coming.  For many, celebrating Christmas involves many lights - all over the tree, all over the house - everywhere we look.  This may well lead to us missing The Light - the one who made light in the first place.  Instead, this Christmas, let's make sure The Light, Jesus Christ, God the Son, has first place.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Prelude to Advent

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV)
Many people are way ahead in preparing to celebrate Christmas this year.  They began a long time ago, and some, I have heard, have every present bought, wrapped and stowed away.  But Someone began the real preparations for the real story far before that.
If we were to ask "When did the Christmas Story begin?" our minds would immediately flash to appearances of angels and the parts different people played in "the story."  But in these verses John flashes us back farther, to when this world began, and beyond, to the story of the One who made it - The Word, the Son, the Light of the World.  Let's prepare our hearts by first of all looking back to see Him shining as the star of the story.