Posts Tagged ‘ Birth of Jesus ’

Reliving Responses to Christmas: The Least of These

It happens to be Christmas Eve!

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post and this post and this post and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!

This last part might be a bit fanciful, but one of the joys of Christmas is having some fun.

When Jesus was born, we read: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Immediately following His birth, we read: “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)

Eight days after He entered our world, we read: “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’” (Luke 2:22-24)

A while later, we read: “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” (Matthew 1:1)

What is connection in all of these?

Those are barely mentioned, if at all, in each segment of the story: the animals!

Think about it:

  1. Animals had to give up their place to eat for the night.
  2. Animals were left alone for the night.
  3. Animals had to die for the Lord!
  4. Animals had to help carry worshipers and gifts for the Savior of the world.

When Mary and Joseph laid Jesus in the manger, a feeding trough for animals, this meant that for at least that night and into the morning the animals gave up their dining table.

When the shepherds left their herd for the night, as I mentioned the other day, the sheep lost their security system for a while.

When Jesus was dedicated, two pigeons gave up their lives!

When the Wise Men journeyed from the East, it was their camels and horses who bore the brunt of the excursion and lose any comfort during the trip (though I am sure the Wise Men would have mentioned a thing or two about riding animals through desert and mountain paths).

Would you give up your dining table for a poor baby? Would you like knowing you were unprotected for the night? Would like to carry someone else’s belongings for hundreds of miles (or several dozen … no one really knows exactly how far they travelled)? Would you die for someone?

My take on these under-mentioned characters is this: they were unwilling participants … actually, more like unawares … in this story of our Lord’s birth, yet they can still teach us something.

There are times when God will call us to go hungry for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to step out of our comfort zones for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to give up our lives for the glorification of Jesus Christ.

I can almost guarantee you that these things happen frequently throughout our lives without us even realizing it.

Think of Chinese believers who are worshiping together in someone’s home, when authorities come in and break up the meeting.

Think of Asian/Arab believers who are going to church, and they get beat up as they walk for simply believing in Jesus.

Think of African believers who sit in prison for reading the Bible at home.

Think of the missionaries who die entering a town, yet their children are able to share the gospel with hundreds or thousands through their tragedy.

Think of that time you saw a man on the side of the street, begging for money, and you gave him or fast food sandwich to help him survive a couple more days.

We are all called to serve. We do not always get an angel or a star to warn us and guide us before our service starts.

Merry Christmas, and peace and joy from our Lord to you!

Reliving Responses to Christmas: Strangers to God

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post, this post, this post, and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!

I hope you have enjoyed this week as we have reviewed how Mary and Joseph, the Innkeeper, some shepherds, and Simeon and Anna all responded to the birth of Christ. Today we look at some people who had similar knowledge but responded vastly differently:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew 2:1-18

The first things we must ask ourselves are why the people of Jerusalem were disturbed at this news. It was because the leadership was disturbed. Why should that disturb them? For starters, Herod was disturbed. King Herod was a power-hungry man who looked for fame and control wherever he could. He played nice with Roman emperors and generals to get into his position of authority over Judea. He built several large structures, including the Temple in Jerusalem, to grow in fame. Yet he was also threatened by any potential threat to his power (whether real or imaginary) to the point that he even had most of his family killed to prevent them from trying to take away his power from him. He had rabbis killed who disagreed with him. It is not a far stretch to figure out why he was disturbed at this baby’s birth and therefore had all boys in Bethlehem killed. It is also not hard to figure out why the people would be disturbed by his being disturbed.

We could also consider that the Jewish leadership could be disturbed by this news, as well. When Jesus was walking around during His ministry, approximately 30 years after his birth, it was the religious leaders who gave Him the hardest time. They had also accumulated some prestige of their own, and a Messiah, a coming king, might just throw that sense of power out the window for them.

The Magi, or Wise Men, on the other hand, had no first-hand knowledge of the coming Messiah. As far as we know, they were just scholars who had read the Hebrew writings (essentially the Bible) and studied the environment (they were like astronomers more than astrologers, though a blending was definitely there) to figure out Who and what was coming into the world. If they truly thought this was just another king coming on the scene, they would not have done much else than note the occurrence. However, it seems pretty likely that they knew this King was going to change things in the world.

Think about it: They travelled a great distance to find a baby; they were overjoyed at finding this child; they made, essentially, financial sacrifices; and they worshiped Jesus. They may not have completely understood what was happening (when do any of us really?), but they knew enough to worship Him.

Have you noticed a theme with people directly involved with the baby Jesus? They were all filled with joy! Those who sought to ignore or even remove the child had no joy. They may have had times of happiness, but not lasting joy.

What about you? Do you find joy when thinking about the birth of Jesus Christ? Or are you more likely to be offended, disturbed, or uncaring during this season of the year? Do you go out of your way seek peace, seek understanding, seek joy, or give honor? Or are you more likely find ways to make sure no one else is happy? Does Jesus bring you joy or deepen your annoyance/hatred? A follow-up question to that is “Why?”

It is interesting to note that the Magi were not what we in the West traditionally call “Believers,” yet God rescued them from Herod’s punishment and getting blood on their hands by revealing to Herod the location of the child. They may not have been worshiping Jesus in the sense that others whom we have looked at have done it, but they still knew enough to give Him honor.

Do you give Jesus honor? Both Herod and the Magi believed Jesus was King of the Jews, but they responded much differently to that belief.

Reliving Responses to Christmas: Temple Knights

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post and this post and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!

We have now looked at how Jesus’ parents, the Innkeeper, and some shepherds responded to the birth of Christ. Today, some prayer warriors meet the infant (and this will be longer, because the passage is 20 verses long):

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:21-40

These are two people who have spent the majority of their lives praying. One lived a very righteous life, and the other secluded herself in the Temple to pray continuously.

Simeon “was waiting for the consolation of Israel,” and to see “the Lord’s Christ.” His entire life was about waiting on the Lord – God’s humble servant, if you will. His entire life was dedicated to glorifying God.

Anna went from tragedy – losing her husband relatively early – into a life dedicated to God, 24/7 prayer and fasting. She never left the Temple, so her social life must have been rather limited.

Something fascinating about these two is that the moment they saw the baby Jesus they knew they were looking upon the face of the one who could save Israel and all of humanity. It was instantaneous. Further, this little baby had not even done anything of note (of which they knew, such as the immaculate conception … the virgin conceiving a child without physical interaction with a man), yet Simeon and Anna were ready to die. As Simeon said, “you now dismiss your servant in peace.” He knew he would not die without having seen the Lord’s Christ, and he was content – nay, overjoyed! – to have seen this tiny baby.

Sometimes, when reading this story from Jesus’ infancy, I hear Anna start singing “Let’s Here It for the Boy” when seeing Jesus! Silly, I know, but it at least helps me grasp her excitement!

Do you get excited about the Lord’s Salvation? Can you contain your excitement about all the things God has done and will do? Are you prepared for His Encore, the Second Coming? Are you able to discern His presence? Would you have been able to recognize the child as the Savior of the world? Will you recognize Him when He returns?

We do not necessarily have to hide ourselves away in a temple or monastery to pray 24/7, and we certainly do not have to be perfectly righteous in our own right. Christ took care of that part through His death and resurrection. We do have to be willing servants. I have to be. You have to be.

Reliving Responses to Christmas: Social Outcasts

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!

We have looked at how Jesus’ parents and a bed-n-breakfast owner responded to the birth of Jesus. Now for some very important outcasts:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:8-20

First of all, it is understood by many that Bethlehem was most likely a town which handled flocks used for Temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, thus making the likelihood of shepherds being nearby very high.

Shepherds were the social outcasts of the day. They were necessary as sources of food and sacrifices, but they were viewed by some as unclean (I mean, think about, they pretty much lived with animals more than other people). They supplied a need for society, but they were cut off from society in many ways. They really had a very important job!

They hear that the long-awaited Savior has been born, and they abandon their post. The shepherds left their sheep to potentially wander off by themselves (more than a nuisance than a major problem, as the sheep could probably be found later) or be attacked by other animals (shepherds also guard the flock from danger). These men potentially jeopardized their livelihood to see a baby promised to be the Savior of the world.

They did not stop there, though! They not only praised God, they went around telling everyone they saw about the newborn Savior! (And there was much rejoicing)

What about you? When this time of year comes around are you excited or tired of the garbage now associated with the holiday celebrating this birth? At any time of the year, are you willing to lose everything for the sake of our Lord and Savior? Are you willing to put your reputation and livelihood on the line for the sake of Jesus the Christ? Do you have an excitement of knowing the One True God, that you cannot help but tell others about Him and the love He has lavished upon us by coming as a human? Do you give God praise that our Savior was born? Do you give God praise that our Savior came, died, and rose again for you and me and all who will call on His beautiful Name?

If not, seek Him anew. If nothing else, consider me an angel proclaiming to you the birth of our Lord.


Reliving Responses to Christmas: The Innkeeper

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post and then this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!

Yesterday we looked at how Mary and Joseph responded to the birth of Christ. Continuing this little series, how did the Innkeeper respond? (This is a short post, today)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7

Many people have a tendency to label the innkeeper as rude, mean, hard-hearted, and even evil. It is possible, but what if these labels are either half-truths or flat-out wrong?

As we read, the Emperor had decreed a census required of all people in the Roman world. Even a tiny town like Bethlehem was besieged by weary travellers heading to comply with Imperial commands. We must remember that Bethlehem was the City of David. David had multiple wives with multiple children. His successor as king of Israel, Solomon, had 300 wives. The descendants of David would have been rather numerous, to say the least (even after centuries of being conquered and carted to and from the land, wars, and natural disasters). It is understandable that Bethlehem, surely the home town of many other people who had children throughout Israel’s history, would see many folks showing up for the census.

This would mean that a tiny inn in this tiny village could only handle so many people, even filling to over capacity. It is safe to say that the innkeeper was handling more than his fair share of responsibility.

If the innkeeper is guilty of anything, it seems it would be being too busy for God. He had to keep his paying guests as happy as possible in cramped circumstances, so he did not have time to worry about a young couple expecting a child. There may have already been some expecting parents staying there. GIVE THE GUY A BREAK!

The question we must ask ourselves – both during the busy holiday season and throughout the year – is are we too busy for God? Do we take time every day to focus on God? Are we filling our lives with so many distractions and obligations that we neglect the One to whom we owe our very existence?

Another thing to consider is that perhaps we struggle finding God because He is not moving where everyone else is going. We must also remember that if Jesus was born inside a cramped, over-crowded inn, how would the shepherds have been able to visit the newborn Savior of the world?

Reliving Responses to Christmas: God’s Parents

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!

It is time for a special series … THIS WEEK ONLY!

Yeah, I kind of gave into some of the materialistic hype. This special is only available the week leading up to this Christmas.

I have a seen a few similar series going around, but mine is better because … uhhh … I am doing it this week? This series is about how people responded to the birth of Jesus.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25

God clearly chose these two to raise the boy Jesus for a reason. Other than being descendants of David, they also were kinda righteous, as humans go.

Take Mary:

  1. She was presented with something impossible: pregnancy without … the fun part. Her reaction to hearing this: “Help me understand how this is possible!”
  2. With a response that would make most humans say “Yeah, okay. Whatever that means!” she replies “I do not really get it, but I will follow You and see what amazing things you can do!”

Now Joseph:

  1. His first response to the unknown was to protect the girl he loved yet bow out gracefully. He wanted to protect himself (not bad) and the girl who apparently had been unfaithful, someone who apparently had sinned rather egregiously. He was a pretty cool dude, man!
  2. He has a dream telling him that the baby will be God and save people from their sins, therefore he should still marry Mary. Based on that dream, he complies. This is really all we know about Joseph (other than he and Mary forgot Jesus at the age of 12, and he also looked for Him). Personally, I see there is more than enough information here to understand his character: awesome!

What can we learn from these two?

  1. It is okay to have doubts, provided you are willing to listen to God (or His messengers).
  2. It is okay to question God, provided you are honestly seeking answers and not trying to justify yourself or simply asking rhetorically from disbelief.
  3. Sometimes, perhaps many or most times, we will not fully understand (if at all) what God is doing, but that is okay provided we continue to follow His leading.
  4. Enduring something inconvenient can lead to amazing blessings!

What about you? When you have doubts do you listen for God’s leading? Do you ask God any of the who, what, when, where, why, or how questions expecting a reply and being open to the answer? Are you willing to move forward in your confusion and lack of understanding? Do you trust God? If you do, amazing blessings await. To be fair, the blessings may not appear until eternity, but a lifetime of worries and pain is worth an eternity of peace and joy. (Think of a road trip someplace, like Disneyland or to family you have not seen in a while. It may be uncomfortable getting there, but the joy and experience of getting there almost help you forget it or even make it worth it.)

Preparing Your Heart – Third Week of Advent

We are continuing the series originally posted three years ago!


It is now the third week of Advent! (See the last two weeks’ devotional thought here and here.)

Again, Advent is a time to remember our Lord’s first coming as we look forward to His imminent return.

So, let us prepare hearts for encountering the Lord!

“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

. . .

“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.”
Luke 1:68-70, 2:30-32, ESV

The first part of the quote is from Zechariah, John the Baptist’s dad, at John’s birth. The second part of the quote was said by Simeon, an old and devout man, when he saw the baby Jesus at the Temple.

These two men knew that the Lord’s salvation was at hand. If you read all of chapters one and two of Luke, you can see that even they did not understand His plan of salvation. They were on the right track, but they were not aware of how things would unfold.

The Lord had come, Emmanuel, God with us, and he brought salvation. It was first brought to Israel, the Jews in Jerusalem in particular, and then it spread to “all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) over the past 2,000 years.

What most everyone then did not know was that first the Lord would bring spiritual salvation, the forgiveness of sins and the repairing of the relationship with God and humanity; the physical redemption from all enemies is still to come.

Let us remember that salvation has come, but we await our salvation from the pain and evil of this world (see Romans 8). We do not understand fully how it will all happen, but we know Jesus will return!

May we not get caught up in the knowledge we have and miss the signs of His coming. May we remember that we are not home yet, and we await our coming Savior. May we bring as many as we can to all of this knowledge of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father!