The Christmas Story – Part Thirteen

“Merry Mas!”

I saw that quote on a sign last week. It also stated the truth: “It’s not the same without Christ!” Christmas is about the birth of Christ and what His life on earth was for us.

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 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. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – Luke 2:1-7

Sometimes, however, we get wrapped up in the details of Jesus’ birth, and forget about Jesus Himself and what He represents:

Luke 2 continues:

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 

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

 14Glory to God in the highest heaven,
   and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 15 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.”

 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The Shepherds came to know Jesus, THE SAVIOR born into our world, and then the Bible clearly tells us that they returned to their flock, glorified and praised God! That’s what we need to remember today, on Christmas day. Glorify and Praise God for the perfect gift – a Savior – Jesus Christ.

The Christmas Story – Part Twelve

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 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. 21 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.”

 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

As Joseph considers and accepts the idea that Mary will give birth to the Savior of the World, he becomes obedient to God.

There is another aspect that I want to ponder also. It is the name that the angel gives Jesus: Immanuel. As most of us know, there are many many names that we have given to Jesus. It is a simple way to better describe them. In fact, if you consider all the details, you will realize that YOU too have many names. For example, my name is James, but also brother, son, child, “daddy,” and in the past I have been called Jaime (French class), Gaston (Spanish Class), Woofer (Band nickname), Jimmy (nickname), Wolfman (highschool nickname), and currently Youth Pastor, and during the past 3 weeks during some out-of-town training “Reverend.” Of course none of these FULLY explain who I am, but they all shed light on different characteristics of who I am.

It is the same way with Jesus. Because of His GREAT and MIGHTY standing as God, there are not enough names to fully describe Him. In this passage, the angel chooses to name Jesus Immanuel – “God With Us.” I think that’s an excellent name, and a name that comforts those who truly know Him. God is WITH us – yesterday, today, and tomorrow! Always!  Isn’t that great?

The Christmas Story – Part Eleven

After Mary praised God for her new baby and traveled to visit Elizabeth and returned:

57 …it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. … his mother spoke up and said, “…He is to be called John.”

 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”  62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64

Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

This passage continues to show the obedience of simple men and women in following God’s guidance. They were obedient and became blessed because of their decisions to follow God.

John, the baby boy, grew up to be known as John the Baptist, and spread the Gospel of Christ around the nations. He came to let everyone know that Jesus was coming to earth to begin His kingdom. He had a mission – to tell others about Christ. But Christ has come and gone. John performed his mission.

BUT…Christ will come again. It is now OUR jobs to tell others about His return. Christ was not only born, He died…He rose again…, and He will return to take us home with Him. But in the meantime, we must be obedient and tell others. And when we are obedient, we can expect blessings to come our way.

The Christmas Story – Part Ten

Luke 1:39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Sure, it is great and awesome that John the Baptist recognized Jesus before either of them was born. Sure, it’s great that Elizabeth recognized that she was in the presence of the mother of Jesus. But today I simply want to focus on the last passage, “Blessed is the one who believes in the Lord.”

That’s the simple truth of this passage. If you believe in the Lord, you will be blessed!

The Christmas Story – Part Nine

The angel told Mary she would conceive a baby to be known as Savior of the world:

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

The angel assured Mary that NO WORD from God will EVER fail. And Mary in her obedience, did not question it.

I regret the days that I have questioned God. Yes, I have done it . . . , I’m sure we all have. But we shouldn’t! God’s Word is true and we can depend on His Word and His plan for our life. We must submit ourselves to His direction. It seems hard sometimes, but it’s actually the easiest path. Sometimes it doesn’t look correct, but then again, we’re using only the human mind to try to understand a much greater power.

As a teenager, had you ever challenged your parent’s decision, only to find out later they were right?  It’s somewhat the same, but MUCH more true for God. He is our Father, and He knows MUCH MORE than we do. Trust him today!

The Christmas Story – Part Eight

The Good News is declared yet again…

30 … the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.”

I love this part of the story. It speaks of how God’s Kingdom will NEVER end. I can’t imagine being in Mary’s shoes as she first hears about how her son will be Jesus, the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.

As a parent, I look forward to what Wesley will be when he grows up; I can’t imagine what he will be. I know he’ll do great! But Mary was told that her son would be God’s begotten son! Wow! Can you think how Mary would have felt?

But let’s look at the other side of the coin, our side. Because Mary was obedient, God chose her, and gave not just to Mary, but to ALL of us Jesus. God gave the world Jesus so that we could be saved. Without Him, we would still be helpless.

Now that we have Jesus, the burden is on us to help His Kingdom grow. Sure, His Kingdom will last forever, but not everyone will be a part of it. If you know somebody that’s not a part of His Kingdom today, it is our duty and honor to tell them TODAY because tomorrow we may not get the chance. Be obedient today – tell others about Jesus.

The Christmas Story – Part Seven

Since we completed the story of the promise of the birth of John the Baptist yesterday, today we begin the promise of the birth of Jesus:

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” – Luke 1

Many of us recall from the Nativity Story movie, the scenes where this angel appears to Mary. I never really thought a lot about this specific scene, because it was “just a movie.” But, the whole story of Jesus’ birth, to include these events are not only historically true in nature, they are included in Scripture for a purpose.

We need to be reminded on occassions, that Scripture is profitable for teaching.

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So what can we learn from the passage where the angel comes to Mary?  Scripture clearly states: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” I don’t know about you, but it would be great to hear those words come from an angel – don’t you think?  So, how do we go about it? 

Well, we might not have the opportunity to have an angel visit – but we can still live that life. It’s about our decisions, our choices, our obedience. Mary followed the Lord and submitted to His Will, and she received His favor. What can we change today to be more obedient to the Lord? What does He want us to do for Him?

The Christmas story – Part Six

The Lord answers a prayer from Zechariah and Elizabeth.

 23 When [Zechariah’s] time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

I think it’s great that we have another story of prayer answered in this passage. God hears us when we cry out to Him.

Many people have “unanswered” prayers…at least they think they do. Remember that although the answer to a prayer may be “yes,” that other prayers will be answered “no” – especially if they are not within God’s laws and desires. Yet, still other prayers will be answered “not yet.” Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for children for a long time as evidenced by this entire passage (vs 7-25). Yet, God didn’t forget their prayer.

Interestingly, the answer had previously been “not yet.” But now, during Zechariah’s temple service in obedience to God, and even more so – during prayer and service to God for THE NATION – NOT for his personal needs – God answered his personal prayer.

Wow!  God answered during a time when Zechariah was putting the needs of others above his own needs. He was being obedient to God in obeying His commands, and placing others before him. Then, and only then after years of praying for a child, Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayer was answered.

Makes me stop and think. What have I asked for that God is waiting on me to pray the “right” prayer before He answers it…. What about you?  Is there something you have been repeatedly praying for, but need to stop and pray for what God wants first?

The Christmas Story – Part Five

After hearing the Angel promise him and Elizabeth a son… 

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. – Luke 1

Unfortunately, Zechariah was in a position that allowed his human understanding to limit his understanding of who God is and what God can do. Zechariah was focused on the physical limitations that we “know” from science. But that is a real problem for us as humans.  Our minds try to limit our intellectual knowledge to what we [think we] know from science. 

While I trust science in many matters, we all have to be cautious when applying physical science to the world of spiritual matters. God can overcome and DOES overcome science. Think of any miracle that you may have personally witnessed. How does science explain it?  It probably doesn’t – that’s why we call them miracles. Jesus performed many while here on earth, but God continues to perform miracles through the Holy Spirit.

When you have the opportunity and hear from God, trust Him. Zechariah limited his belief and was stricken by muteness until his son John was born. Don’t allow your minds to be limited by science – TRUST GOD. 

Need a daily reminder?  Look at our money “In God We Trust” – are you exercising that thought in your daily living? Or are you exercising trust in science which changes everyday with “new” technology and understanding of nature?

The Christmas Story – Part Four

As we continue the Christmas story, an interesting development occurs:

14 [John the Baptist] will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord…. he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will…turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

The angel tells Zechariah that his baby will lead people to Christ. Wow – isn’t that a wonderful thing to be known by? I can’t imagine knowing what the future holds for my child, but to know (as Zechariah did) that your baby will grow up to be obedient to the Lord and to lead others to Christ has to be a comforting feeling.

Within this passage we are also told that people are “made ready for the Lord” through gaining wisdom. People aren’t naturally prepared to meet their maker. We don’t possess the kind of knowledge that we need when we are born to properly be obedient. In fact, many would say that we are born with an innately evil sense. Experts believe that humans are selfish without being taught this trait. Therefore, we need to prepare our hearts and minds for a different way of thinking. We must avoid sin and selfish behavior and become righteous.

Jesus was the only sinless human to live on earth and gave us a perfect example by which to follow. I know we can’t be perfect in all things, but this reminds me of an old anecdote. “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer: “one bite at a time!”

My challenge to each of us today is to find one thing to improve in our lives to make us more Christ-like.  Once we accomplish this improvement in our life we can take another bite.  What will you do differently today for God? By doing this we can start preparing ourselves for the Lord.