What would Jesus do?
Singing in the rain…I’m singing in the snow!
Oops, I guess that should be “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow.”
Today, I am returning from a week-long trip in Canada. And although it’s been cold all week, today when I arrived at the airport, it finally began to snow. And although it’s not expected to stick, it signifies that the end of the year is upon us.
As we age, we find that what older people tell us in life generally comes true.
One of those sayings is “Life sure does go by quickly!”
I think by age 30, the years start going quickly. And by the time you’re 40, the years are quickly passing by.
Throughout this week, I enjoyed the beautiful nature views during my scenic drive across Canada. I enjoyed the wonderful music that God provided through talented musicians on the radio. And I enjoyed the blessings of technology as I got to see my family via smartphone every night even though I was over 1000 miles away.
There are so many things that God provides in life, that it’s just so hard to enjoy half of them. In fact, I don’t think we enjoy even 10% of God’s glorious gifts to us.
However, I’m thankful that this time of the year is upon us, because it serves to remind us of the most precious gift He ever gave, and that’s Jesus.
You may not be in the Christmas spirit yet, but it will be here before you know it. And I’m anxiously awaiting another celebration of Jesus’ birth. Merry Christmas!
Unknown #10 (the Final Chapter for this series)
The Three Wise Men (or Magi) never saw Jesus in the manger as depicted in Nativity scenes around the world.
9 When they [the wise men] had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. – Matthew 2:9-11 (KJV)
Following along with the rest of the story (so we don’t take this out of context and to verify the claim), it was then that Joseph followed his dream and immediately departed a different way (eventually into Egypt per Matthew 2:13-14). In verse 16, we find the urgent command from Herod to execute all children under the age of two (as time-lined by the wise men – verse 16), further clarifying that the wise men were not at Jesus’ birth, but that they possibly took up to 2 years to find and visit Jesus.
MORAL: Don’t believe EVERYTHING the world proclaims, even when it proclaims “Christianity.”
Personally, I would never condemn someone for displaying a Nativity scene with the wise men. Rather, I’m glad they are professing their faith.
NOTE: If you liked this series on the “unknown” or little known Scriptures, please let me know. I am considering a new series on what some would call “contradictions” of the Bible, but would encourage some feedback from you. Thanks again for your support!
I remember many Christmas mornings as a child waking up and getting toys under the tree from Santa. It was such a fun time with joy and celebration: opening presents and seeing all the goodies under the tree.
Then, we would make the trip across town in the afternoon to visit with relatives we hadn’t seen lately.
It always started with the quite embarassing and unappealling kiss from a lady so old she could be my great grandma (oh, wait, she was my great grandmother).
Only to be followed by one of the largest home cooked meals on the planet, enough to feed 50 people (which would feed us for hours).
Then, the opening of the gifts. For some reason, this was not what I looked forward to:
The first gift always seemed to be something for school – oh great, why do I NEED that? And as a Christmas gift?
Then, some miscellaneous items that probably only cost a few cents back then. They were rarely anything cool, but did contribute to some fun (at least for a few hours).
But before it was all over, each of us boys would unwrap that fateful gift – the TIGHTY-WHITEY UNDERWEAR. Not that we didn’t need it, but to open it up in front of the whole family! And we got it EVERY year! I mean come on, really grandma? (At least the girls would unwrap pastel colored panties, not stark white!)
What did YOU get for Christmas? Was it what you wanted?
Or should the question be: Was it what you NEEDED?
What we want for Christmas and what we need often do not go hand in hand.
In fact, many times in life, what we want and what we truly need are rarely the same.
Paul, formerly known as Saul, seemed to really have it together after his life changing experience on the road to Damascus. From the very beginning of his preaching, to his many mission trips, and even during his time in jail, he realized what was truly important in life, and what mattered. In his letter to the church at Phillipi, he noted:
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:12-13 NIV).
Wish I understood life a little more like Paul does. Sometimes I think I really need more than I have.
Paul goes on to share later in the passage concerning what we need:
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19 NIV)
Isn’t it great to know that God WILL supply our needs! Let’s try to remember that in 2014. Maybe we didn’t get what we wanted for Christmas, but do we really need that?
An old adage states that opposites attract. We find this true for many things in life.
What I think is more interesting, however, is this verse in the Bible concerning opposites:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)
Summary: Jesus is telling us what His true purpose was on earth – to bring us life (eternal) in Heaven above. This is discussed throughout the Gospels, and is the main storyline behind the Bible: come to Jesus so that you may have life (and have it more abundantly).
However, the opposite comes in to place when Jesus speaks first about thieves and their purpose in life. Their purpose is bringing sin into our lives – and in turn, destroying us.
So how do these opposites attract?
Simply put, Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but to save the sick:
16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2: 16-17 NIV)
I think this is an important aspect for us to remember this Christmas season. Jesus came to save everyone. You may be a believer, and have already received the free gift of Salvation from God. However, have you shared this gift with others?
Jesus didn’t spend extra time with righteous ones. He sought out those who needed Him. He sought out opposites.
It’s hard for me to really add anything to this. What I will say is this is one of my favorite passages, because it tells the Gospel account in just a few short verses:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through Him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to his own, and His own people did not receive Him. 12 But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 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. 15 (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.’”) 16 For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:1-17 ESV)
Everybody knows the Christmas tradition of giving gifts, and most people celebrate it. But do you know when the first time gifts were given to celebrate Christ’s birth?
- Was it when Christmas became a legal holiday? (the first state to declare Christmas a holiday was Alabama in 1836; it became a federal holiday in 1870 under President Ulysses S. Grant)
- Was it in the 300’s AD when the church first organized the celebration of Christ’s birth?
- Or was it as early as the night of his birth in the manger (as most Nativity scenes portray?)
Let’s see if Scripture tells us…
1 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, 2 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.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘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.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11 ESV)
This is one of those passages that we sometimes miss the facts about due to worldly influence. Most Nativity scenes display Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the stable, an angel, some animals, shepherds, and the wise men. However, this passage clearly states that the wise men did not find Jesus in a stable, but in a “house.”
This challenges the widely held concept that we see publicized around the world in Christmas scenes. Further investigation will reveal that the wise men did not find Jesus as soon as He was born, but possibly up to 2 years later (when Herod issued the order to kill all male babies in Bethelehem). Matthew 2:16 ESV: “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”
Please don’t use this information to “dispute” Nativity scenes, and argue with others. Nativity scenes are an excellent way for us to spread the Gospel, and we need to tell the story to more people. The timing of the Wise Men is really a small piece of an excellent story.
Now that you know that Christmas started at “home,” make sure that you start the Christmas tradition by being home for the holidays. Spend time with family, give thoughtful (not necessarily expensive) gifts to celebrate the occassion of Jesus’ birth. And if you haven’t already started one, make a family tradition: maybe it’s singing carols, baking a special dessert annually, or sitting around a fireplace reading the Bible. Whatevery you choose, make Christmas special, for the occasion of it could not be more special!
Each of us have busy lives; I get it. With a recent move in my past, I can attest to busyness. I have so much to do, and only 24 hours in a day. Thankfully, NOT everything has to be done today (although it sure would be nice to get it all done and relax tomorrow).
Because we have limited time on our hands, we must establish priorities. Unfortunately, I am one that even if I establish a list of priorities, I still seem to miss the boat, and get distracted by other things that need done. This happens whether I am at work, or at home.
So, what is the best way to focus on our priorities? Well, a lot of experts will tell you to start by making a list of everything to be done. Then, focus on the important, not necessarily urgent items. What’s the difference? A good example of an important task is feeding your family or paying your bills. An urgent task on the other hand is answering a ringing phone (wait, does it really need answered right now? – most times the answer is “no”). Focus on the important things first! [Of course, some will say you don’t know if the phone call was important unless you answer it; this is correct, but how many times are phone call topics urgent? Not very often.]
I’d like you to read the story below and see what you think about the importance and urgency of the tasks the shepherds had to do:
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. [note: important and urgent task]
9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” [note: urgent task]
16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. [note: important task]
18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. [note: important task] (Luke 2:8-20 ASV)
Do you agree with my assessment: important vs urgent?
Did you find that the shepherds left their important task [tending sheep] to answer the call of the angels [urgent task]? Was it important for the shepherds to visit the Babe in the manger?
. . .
Further point to ponder, prior to today’s reading had you ever noted what the shepherds did in verse 17? They told others about Jesus’ birth [was this an urgent or important task], and then in verse 20, they returned to glorify and praise God [important task].
Is it urgent or important that we tell others about Christ?
I always find it perplexing that non-Christians celebrate “Christmas” – a truly Christian holiday. Every dictionary and common website clearly identifies the primary definition of Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth.
Looking at history, a variety of sources will claim that the Christmas season began around 354AD (St. Nicholas who became known as Santa Claus died in 345AD), while others put the origins of Christmas in the 1600’s to as late as the 1900’s. Bottom line is this: Christmas started at Christ’s birth, that’s when Christ was born!
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7 NKJV)
We are now just 8 days from Christmas. It’s easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas. And even if you aren’t caught up in it, it’s still easy to get distracted; delayed by others – waiting in lines, sitting in excessive traffic delays near stores. And these delays can be easy and quick to aggrevate us.
At all times, no matter where you are, remember this: YOU may be the only “bible” a non-believer reads. How is the plot of your book coming together?
. . . Mine is a work in progress . . . that continues to need editing!
57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. (Luke 1:57-58 NIV)
Why did they share her joy? Remember that she was barren and could not have children, yet in their old age – the Lord granted Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayer for a baby.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! 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. (Luke 1:59-66 NIV)
We don’t know how long Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a baby. However, the Lord did answer their prayer. And it was with greatness! John the Baptist would foreshadow Jesus and bring many people to the Lord through his preaching.
Sometimes it is easy to think the Lord does not hear our prayers. However, He does hear us. Sometimes the answer is “no,” sometimes it is “yes.” Even other times it is “not yet.” Whatever you ask for, don’t think the Lord does not hear you. The Bible reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:7 (NIV) to “pray continuously.” Don’t give up! The Lord is listening!
Kimberly and I had longed for a baby for years, and after about 12 years, many prayers, many trials, hard decisions, and a final step of obedience on my part to enter the ministry, the Lord gave us a wonderful baby. With God nothing is impossible!