Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." -Luke 2:14
The Man and the Birds by Paul Harvey
The man to whom I'm going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn't believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn't make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn't swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.
"I'm truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, "but I'm not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said he'd feel like a hypocrite. That he'd much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.
Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound...Then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud...At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.
Well, he couldn't let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them...He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms...Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.
And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me...That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.
"If only I could be a bird," he thought to himself, "and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safe, warm...to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand." At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells - Adeste Fidelis ( O Come all ye faithful)- listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.
Thus we see Mary, a young betrothed Jewish girl, an angel before her telling her she would give birth to the son of God. Jesus would toddle behind her in His infancy, but then she would follow Him to the cross. In that way God had sent the ultimate Christmas gift to all of us. God specifically chose her sensitive, God-loving husband to be Christ's earthly father. He specifically chose Bethlehem, a town meaning town of bread to host the one who was called the bread of life. In each and every part of the Christmas story God was specific. He was specific in the name Jesus which means God saves. He had sent an angel to Joseph to tell him that Name. It is amazing how God continually chose the low and the humble. Israel, a lowly nation, possible a manger in a cave, shepherds, peasants for parents, the lowly shepherds chosen to come first. None of these humble beginnings would have met our expectations, but God's ways often run counter to our own.
Then the mark of royalty came. The opulent wise men appear. They bring gifts with specific meaning and purpose. These 3 people were about to have to run for their lives to Egypt to escape King Herod. God had already set a plan in place for the wise men to make this journey and bring them provision for the journey. They were poor and could not have made it otherwise. Theologians speculate that it could have taken them up to two years to arrive. Can you imagine someone preparing for your needs two years before you even knew what they were?
What were the gifts? Gold- a gift you give a king. It probably paid for their passage to Egypt.
Frankencense (means whiteness)- If gold said kingship, the frankencense said godliness, purity...a gift for a priest.
Myrrh- the gift that would have made Mary shudder was a familiar anointing oil to embalm the dead.
We see in these three gifts a King who came to sacrifice as a priest and offered Himself to the point of death.
God was continually guiding them during the whole story. The fact that they were non-Jews and even foreigners suggested that the child was much more than a Jewish Messiah. This is a note to you- it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from.
So, why the manger? Why the lowly birth? Jesus could not have brought this message from a palace window. He could not have mixed with lepers or societies most rejected people. That is exactly what He came to do.
The forgotten end of the story- When Joseph and Mary went to dedicate Jesus at the temple they came upon Simeon. Simeon was an old man who had been declaring that he had been told he would see the Son of God in his lifetime. He saw Jesus and he knew. Anna, an old woman known to be a holy woman & a prophetess & who never left the temple began proclaiming that the Son of God had been born.
Can you imagine Joseph and Mary sharing with their son all they had been told. You will wipe away the sins of the world. Christ hung on ever word of God and poured over it until the day he stood in the temple to proclaim, " I am the one Isaiah described so long ago." Repeatedly He answers the question: Why did He come?
I have come to call sinners. I have come in my Father's Name. I have come as a light to shine in this dark world. I come from Him and He sent me to you.
The ambassador's urgent business, then, is a rescue mission. No one has the power to rise above the tendrils of sin. He came to give a rich & satisfying life. He wants you to squeeze every possible ounce of joy out of this life. If He didn't come to show you, you would never know how. Why should the birth of Jesus bear any more claim upon us than any other event?
God's Word says He sent His son to be born as a man, take on all of our sins and be killed for them so that we can have relationship with God. God is trying to reveal Himself to you this Christmas. Are you too busy to see Him?
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
In direct opposite to this, the cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living. The protecting fence has opened to admit the plow, and the plow has come as plows always come, practical, cruel, business-like and in a hurry. Peace has been shattered by the shouting farmer and the rattle of machinery. The field has felt the travail of change; it has been upset, turned over, bruised and broken, but its rewards come hard upon its labors. The seed shoots up into the daylight its miracle of life, curious, exploring the new world above it. All over the field the hand of God is at work in the age-old and ever renewed service of creation. New things are born, to grow, mature, and consummate the grand prophecy latent in the seed when it entered the ground. Nature's wonders follow the plow.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
You are the ones chosen to rebuild.
Builders of the Wall1 Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them.
3 The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. 5 The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. [a]
6 The Jeshanah [b] Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 7 Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah—Melatiah of Gibeon and Jadon of Meronoth—places under the authority of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. 8 Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored [c]Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section. 10 Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him. 11 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.
13 The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. They also repaired five hundred yards [d] of the wall as far as the Dung Gate.
14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Recab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place.
15 The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallun son of Col-Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah. He rebuilt it, roofing it over and putting its doors and bolts and bars in place. He also repaired the wall of the Pool of Siloam, [e] by the King's Garden, as far as the steps going down from the City of David. 16 Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of Beth Zur, made repairs up to a point opposite the tombs [f] of David, as far as the artificial pool and the House of the Heroes.
17 Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 Next to him, the repairs were made by their countrymen under Binnui [g] son of Henadad, ruler of the other half-district of Keilah. 19 Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armory as far as the angle. 20 Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Next to him, Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired another section, from the entrance of Eliashib's house to the end of it.
22 The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 Next to him, Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from Azariah's house to the angle and the corner, 25 and Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the angle and the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard. Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on the hill of Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel.
28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. 29 Next to them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs. 30 Next to him, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. Next to them, Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. 31 Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; 32 and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs.