Peace on earth. We see it everywhere. On buildings. On cards. It's universal. It's generic. It's "all faiths." Beauty contestants tell you it's their deepest hope. Even those with a secular worldview tout it as their philosophy. The scripture, however, does not say that the peace will rest on the earth, but on you. What a humbling thought.
May the peace of God rest on you who have His favor this Christmas!
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." -Luke 2:14
I went to share at MOPS last week. I was sick the whole time, but I am prayerful that God was still glorified. I gave a portion of my testimony and shared how the Christmas story is God's love letter to us. Also, I shared the Father's Love Letter. I will include the video. I will include a hard copy to go out to all of you on our mailing list in January! Enjoy.
I was reading the BBC News the other day and came across a reporter who decided to make the walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem as recorded in Luke's gospel. It is amazing to me how God designed each step of their journey with specific intent and by doing so laid out a love letter to us. Most know the story of Jesus being born in a manger. Most think this was an idea of God that began the New Testament of the Bible. The truth is that God began writing it before the world began and began recording it in the first book of the Bible. In Genesis He began the story of His great love for you. When Adam and Eve went against God's Word and broke fellowship with Him we see that God already had a plan in place to restore the fellowship. In Genesis 3 is the protevangelion- a fancy term meaning the first mention of the good news. That good news was and is that there is someone coming that desires to save you and have relationship with you. Repeatedly throughout the Bible we see God desiring to show mercy to people. In that great mercy, He penned each and every word of the Bible as a love letter to you.
Do you wonder what God has been trying to tell you? If you stand miles from a mountain range you can admire the majesty east to west. If you didn't have that separation and were on the mountain top you would only see what is right around you. God and few choice people were given the vision to see life as one looking at the mountain range. He spoke and used prophets, people chosen to speak for God, to declare His love for us. The Old Testament prophets spoke frequently about a coming Champion. Every page from Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament, seems to tremble with wondrous anticipation of His coming. The books were written by many different writers over many different centuries. Through one particular nation, Israel, who encountered great trouble repeatedly, God's plan was to let the whole world know of His love. Just when the people needed hope, God sent spokesmen to offer foretaste of a better future. Throughout the words and works of the prophets, there were glimmers of a Savior - a king who would rescue the people and restore them to God. Christ fulfilled hundreds of prophesies...all of the prophesies regarding the Messiah. The odds of any one doing that is 10 to the 17th power.
Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be born of a virgin. Micah that He would come from Bethlehem. There were many references to a ministry of teaching, healing, and miracles. He would be a man who would have public favor, then rejection, and be acquainted with the deepest grief.
So why would He come?
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?
(every time we open a new book with a picture of Jesus (or Joseph) in it, Laomai exclaims, "Daddy!" I thought I would put one of her books up with a picture of Daddy so you can see his resemblance to storybook Jesus.)
We need a shower/bath. Know any plumbers?
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