And just like that – Santa is gone for another year. But Jesus remains all year long. His gifts are year-round.
Santa comes but once a year; Jesus is an ever-present help; Santa fills your stocking with goodies; Jesus supplies all your needs.
Santa comes down your chimney uninvited; Jesus stands at your door and knocks, and then enters your heart when invited.
Santa Claus lets you sit on his lap; Jesus lets you rest in His arms; Santa may make you chuckle; Jesus gives you joy that is your strength; Santa lives at the North Pole; Jesus is everywhere present; Santa says you better not cry; Jesus says “come unto me all you who are weary.”
I wrote this three years ago – but wondering again this year – after all the decorations are put up, after all the Christmas songs are put away until next year, after we have posted all our pictures on FB, has the baby made a difference in your life for 2021?
Brrrrr! It’s so cold outside. So today while staying snug inside I read and thought one more time on the Christmas story which we have just observed. Now it’s time to move forward and begin thinking about spring and about the resurrection story.
But one writer I read during the Christmas season still speaks to me.
…the Christmas story is not just for observing, but for participating. A long time ago, Jesus Christ was born. But today, Christ is born in us. And so we would be wise to spend some time wondering with the sheep and the shepherds, how does this baby change my life?
Last year I shared stories of women who played a big part in history – yet are often ignored in our history books and their stories remain largely untold.
I wonder if anyone who read those blogs even remember those women now.
Dot Graden, Ann Caracristi, Virginia Adaholt, Jeannette Rankin and Katherine Johnson were all women who played an important role in the history of our country.
Deborah, Jael, Shiphrah and Puah were given small mention in the Bible, yet played important roles in the history of Israel as told in the Bible.
As we approach the Christmas season and hear the Christmas story, I wonder if anyone will stop and ask “Who are these women” that Matthew mentions in his opening chapters telling of the birth of baby Jesus?
Matthew’s first chapter is written to show that Jesus descended from the father of the nation, Abraham, and also from the kingly line of David. He mentioned many men but surprisingly he includes the names of five women.
Who were these women? Why were their included in this list?
(NOTE: Of course we have no idea what these women looked like. These pictures are only an artist’s idea. I found it interesting in searching for pictures of Biblical characters that the majority of them are white even though we know the people of the Old Testament were from the Middle East and I am sure Jesus was not blue-eyed and blonde.)
The first one mentioned is Tamar. Her story is told in Genesis 38.
As you read her story you might wonder what this woman, who was probably a Canaanite and who solicited sex from her father-in-law, is doing here. A daughter-in-law of Judah, after her first husband died she married his brother. This was the custom when a man died leaving no children. On the death of her second husband, Judah promised to give her his third son as a husband when he was old enough to be married. However, he had no intention to do so. When it became apparent to Tamar that she would not have another husband, she posed as a prostitute and solicited a sexual encounter with Judah. This very questionable action on her part was her pursuit of justice for herself. Remember, there was no social security in those days and women without a husband or children often had little or no resources to sustain them. When Judah realized what Tamar had done to make sure she was taken care of he said “she is more righteous than I am.”
Then there was Rahab. We learn of her in the book of Joshua.
The Old Testament says she was a prostitute in the city of Jericho.
Not only a prostitute but a Gentile, we find Rahab had heard the stories of how God had delivered the Israelites out of Egypt and had led them in the defeat of King Sihon and King Og just across the the Jordan River from Jericho. Clearly she believed that Israel’s God was the true God as she hid the spies sent to check out Jericaho. She told them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you….for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
Rahab clearly believed that the God of the Israelites was the true God and she was willing to risk her life to help them. She also apparently believed this was the way to save her own life. Looking out not just for herself, she asked for protection for her family. Her faith in the God of the Israelites saved her and her family when Jericho was defeated by Joshua’s army. She later married Salmon and gave birth to a son, Boaz, who we meet later in another woman’s story. Jewish tradition says Salmon was one of the spies she hid.
Our third woman’s story is given in the book of Ruth.
The story of Ruth is a beautiful love story. Not only the story of love between Ruth and her husband, Boaz, but also Ruth’s love and commitment to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth was also a Gentile. She had married into Naomi’s family when the family had settled in Moab trying to escape a famine in their own land of Israel. While there Naomi’s husband and her two sons died, leaving Naomi and her two daughters-in-law widows. Naomi decided she needed to return to her own land and her own family. One of the daughter-in-law stayed in Moab with her own people, but Ruth refused to allow Naomi to go back home alone. Her Words to Naomi are often used in wedding ceremonies. “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Once back in the land of Israel, Ruth continued to do all she could to take care of her mother-in-law. Read the beautiful love story of how Ruth came to find a new husband in Boaz, son of Rahab.
Our fourth woman is Bathsheba. We really know little about this woman except in the context of King David’s adultery and later murder. Caught in a difficult situation and in that culture, forced into betraying her husband, she suffered not only the death of her husband but also the death of her child by David. But it appears she remained resilient and later she gave David another son who became his father’s heir. She is a good example of how life may put us in situations over which we have little control, but God is still faithful.
Of course, we all know the story of the last woman mentioned, Mary. What a story it is! A simple young girl living in a town far from the hustle and bustle of the day is told by an angel that she is going to have a child. Imagine the fear that would fill her heart. To be pregnant before marriage was an offence punishable by stoning. Who would believe her story? Yet we all know her response was “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
These women and their stories tell us much about God and his love. He chose those we would have never have picked to be the earthly ancestors of God. Yet, in selecting these women, I think it reveals hope to us all.
God can and will use anyone who is willing.
God and and will use the weak and the foolish.
Those people may reject – God can and will use.
I think it all shows just how much the story of Christmas is about Jesus coming to be “one of us.” To take on our weaknesses, to know hunger, cold, pain. His birth, his earthly life show us that he truly can relate to us who are weak, with faults and in need of a Savior.
Christmas 2019 is history. My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December. Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.
Gifts have been given. Some were, no doubt, a big hit. Others may have been a disappointment. Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.
Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.
Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas. It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of a anticlimax.
But I have to wonder: If we really understood the true meaning of what we just celebrated – that God Himself came to earth to make things right with us – to restore a right relationship with Him – to bring us His peace – why would we experience such a letdown.
Did we not really “get it?” The real meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the family gatherings. It has everything to do with our relationship with this little baby that grew to a man, died and rose again.
Having just celebrated that fact – should not our hearts be filled with joy?
Perhaps the problem is we hear a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas. What we really need to do is keep Christmas in Christ. Christmas is only a date on the calendar. Christ is our source of joy year long.
There were some shepherds living in the same part of the country, keeping guard throughout the night over their flocks in the open fields. Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood by their side, the splendor of the Lord blazed around them, and they were terror-stricken. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen, I bring you glorious news of great joy which is for all the people. This very day, in David’s town, a Savior has been born for you. He is Christ, the Lord. Let this prove it to you: you will find a baby, wrapped up and lying in a manger.”
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Recently I posted about the “real” story of that first Christmas. How different it was from the beautiful Christmas cards we see where everything is so neat and tidy and there are beams of light coming from Jesus and sometimes even from Mary and Joseph.
Today I wonder if we truly understand the “complete” story of Christmas.
What is the complete story of Christmas? Is it more than angels appearing to shepherds? Is it more than wise men from the East bringing gifts?
We read in Philippians of the complete story of Christmas – what it is really all about.
“Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God. He put aside everything that belonged to Him and made Himself the same as a servant who is owned by someone. He became human by being born as a man. After He became a man, He gave up His important place and obeyed by dying on a cross. Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name. So when the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow down before Him. And every tongue will say Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone will give honor to God the Father.”
The complete Christmas story is summed up in John 3:16:
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”
The complete story of Christmas is about you. It’s about how much God loves you.
Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand. But God keeps on reaching. Today, after two thousand years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us. Right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds. He is reaching…longing to share with us…the very being of God.
It’s my prayer this Christmas that you see beyond the baby in the manager to the savior on the cross and the empty tomb.
The beauty of that night was not a calm, serene setting with radiant beams emitting from or around the baby. The beauty of that night was how clearly it showed the love of God – sending His son not to the king’s palace or the rich man’s house, but to a dirty, cold, dark stable.
What a beautiful picture we have of that first Christmas! Mary and Joseph, dressed in plain, but neat, clothes. The baby is wrapped in a clean blanket and the shepherds and Wise Men all stand or sit on the clean straw. And one of our most beloved Christmas carols make it all sound so peaceful and clean.
Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright
But was it a silent night? Was all calm and bright?
According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph had just made a long trip from their home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem. This would not be considered a “long” trip today. It is approximately 100 miles and MapQuest says it can be made in less than two hours. However, at the time of Jesus’ birth, travel would have been on foot on rough roads with no Holiday Inn or…
There is a popular Christmas song that many love and it gets a lot of air time at the holiday season. I love it too, especially the line that says “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.”
But I have to ask myself as I listen to this song, do I know.
In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer makes this statement:
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”
Another writer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written
Our supreme need is to know God.
But, what do we mean by knowing God?
The Old Testament. The Hebrew root yada [[;d”y],translated “know”/”knowledge, ” appears almost 950 times in the Hebrew Bible. It has a wider sweep than our English word “know, ” including perceiving, learning, understanding, willing, performing, and experiencing. To know is not to be intellectually informed about some abstract principle, but to apprehend and experience reality. Knowledge is not the possession of information, but rather its exercise or actualization.
Thus, biblically to know God is not to know about him in an abstract and impersonal manner, but rather to enter into his saving actions ( Micah 6:5 ). To know God is not to struggle philosophically with his eternal essence, but rather to recognize and accept his claims. It is not some mystical contemplation, but dutiful obedience.
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary
The Biblical use of knowing someone implies a relationship. In Genesis 4:1 we are told that “Adam knew Eve his wife” meaning he had a physical union with her. Jesus used the word “know” when He spoke of his relationship with His followers.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me (John 10:14)
The Apostle Peter admonishes Christian to
grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)
As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I wonder do we truly “know” Him? Is He really a part of our everyday life or just someone we visit on Sunday morning? Do we really invite Him to be part of our plans as we work, play, shop? Better yet, do we invite Him to guide us so that we recognize His plans for us?
Do I know about him or do I know him?
For example, I know about President Trump. I can tell you he is a wealthy man with a beautiful wife. He is loved by the political right and hated by the political left. He is from New York and is a real estate billionaire.
But I do not know him. If I met him on the street he would not have any idea who I was. I will never be invited to his family Christmas dinner (not that I would want to). We have no personal knowledge of each other.
In thinking how do we come to know Jesus, I think of my own relationship with my husband. When I first met him all I knew was that he was a father trying to raise two teenagers by himself, that he was highly respected by his church family, that he liked to sing.
As we began to spend time together, slowly I learned more about his man. He was a veteran of the US Air Force, he loved flowers and was a great gardener, he hated stewed tomatoes. By the time we were married, I could say that I truly knew him.
However, after almost 35 years of marriage, I realize that my knowledge of him on our wedding day was small compared to what I have discovered over these years of marriage. Today, I think it is correct to say I know him better than anyone else.
So it is with the Lord. The more time we spend in His word, in prayer, in mediation the more we will know Him.
This Christmas, do you know about Jesus or do you know Him? What are your plans to know in your knowledge of Him?
As we enter Advent – the season of waiting – I have been reading scriptures that speak of the wait for the Messiah, the one who would save the world, scriptures that speak of our wait for our Lord’s return. Examining my life I realized I do a lot of waiting – but what am I waiting for?
Banana curls just like Shirley Temple
First, as a little girl I waited:
to learn to read the “big” books.
to be able to jump rope
for Santa Claus to come
Don’t you just love the hairstyle?
Then, as a young high school graduate I waited:
to find a job
to meet “Mr Right” and be married
Home on leave just before going to Vietnam my Marine asked me to be his wife
When he came along, then I waited:
for the day we could say “I do”
to have my own home
to be a mother
The major joy of my life – precious gifts from God
After my girls were born I waited:
to see them grow up
to see them married and with a family
to someday be a grandmother
This grandson, who never met his grandfather, is so much like him
After my husband was killed in an accident, I waited again:
wondering if the pain would ever go away
wondering how I would raise my girls alone
wondering if there could be happiness again for me
Thankful for this man who brought joy once again to me
When God took my pain (but never the precious memories I will always keep in my heart and treasure), I waited again:
for our blended family to become one
to grow old with this man
I lost my beautiful red hair – but now I wear a wig so I’m still a fiery redhead
Then cancer came and I waited:
to recover from surgery and aggressive treatment
to get my hair back
to get past that 10 year mark of survival
to reach retirement
I spent so much of my life waiting for things in the “here and now.” Spending so much effort and hope and time anticipating for my future in this life.
That is certainly not wrong. God made us to enjoy this life and all of the things I waited for were good and blessings from God – job, family, health.
But as I reflect on the scriptures that speak of waiting, I realize the most important thing I should be anticipating and waiting for are not those things in the “here and now” but the hope of what is to come when the “here and now” is over.
I can only imagine what this moment will be like
At this Advent season – this time of waiting and hoping – I wait for
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.2 Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is…1 John 3:1-2
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God,while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed….Titus 2:11-13
But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness…2 Peter 3:18
As we celebrate this season of waiting, anticipating – I ask you, what are you waiting for?
An old hymn of the church which I always disliked tells much about the mentality of the church in years past.
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”
For many years the church has seemed to view the return of Jesus and our future home in heaven as the primary goal of the Christian. I remember attending several Bible conferences where people taught eschatology using material from authors like Hal Lindsey and his book “The Late Great Planet Earth.” A few years ago people were fascinated by the “Left Behind” series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
While I totally understand the need to study Bible prophecies of the future, it seems to me that while the church taught of the return of the Lord and often suggested that time was very soon, it made little difference in how the church members actually lived their lives. The general feeling seemed to be that we needed to make sure we were ready for the return of Jesus so we could go to heaven. Maybe we should also warn others that if they did not get right with God, they would be going to hell.
But our daily lives were not really changed. We were basically living in a fort, trying to defend our self from the sin of the world and waiting for Jesus to come and rescue us.
I often have wondered “Is this what being a follower of Jesus is all about. Living a defensive life against Satan and hoping I can hold out until Jesus rescues me.” I remember hearing testimonies (at the time when churches actually had a time for members to “testify”) of how rough the week had been, how hard Satan had attacked them, but thank God they were hanging on.
As I wrote earlier this week, I believe the church has not truly understood that when we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are asking for God’s kingdom to be present in our lives now. Active Anticipation
God’s Kingdom is here!
Through God’s Spirit in us we are to live out the Kingdom values and teachings now in this world. That means we need to live together as brothers and sisters of God – not separated by race, gender, economic status or any other barrier. When we get a glimpse of heaven in the book of Revelations we see that there are people from every “tribe, tongue and nation” worshiping before the throne of God. If we cannot do that now, how will we be able to do it in the future?
That means we do not live defeated lives, but through God’s Spirit we find the strength, the courage, the determination we need to not only overcome difficulties in our lives, but to reach out and be a source of strength, courage and determination for others who are struggling. That does not mean we will not have times of weakness and discouragement. But I think it should mean that we always recognize we are children of the Kingdom and have God’s resources to draw on in times of need now.
The best defense is a strong offense!
This statement or basic concept has been attributed to George Washington as well as others and is often used by football teams. While it is not always true in all situations, I do believe the church would benefit by recognizing that God’s Kingdom is in us now. If we would more actively study and follow the principles of God’s Kingdom that Jesus taught while he was on earth and begin to allow God’s Spirit to strengthen and guide us, then we could really show the world what God’s Kingdom would really look like. As the world saw us truly love others, truly work to heal the hurt of others, truly enjoy the peace of God, they might began to want to be a part of this Kingdom also.
In 1 Samuel 30 we find a great example of allowing God to strengthen and give us victory. David and his men had gone into battle. When they returned, they found that a band of Amalekites had burned their town and taken their women and children captive. The men wept until they could not weep any more. They became angry with David and began to talk of killing him. What a time of discouragement. But I love what the Scripture says about David in this time of great distress.
David found strength in the Lord his God.
Like all his men, David no doubt was worried. He had wives and children that were also taken captive. His leadership was in question, even his life in danger. But David called on the strength that comes from God.
He then asked for direction from God as to what he should do. I love what God spoke to him.
Go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you.
My prayer in this Advent season is that we as the people of God will seek God’s direction for the difficult situations in our lives. Then, with His guidance let us begin to go on the offensive and pray prayers of faith to reclaim what Satan has taken from our church, our family, our nation.
Let us “get out of the fort” and interact with God’s love, wisdom and strength in this world and show them what God’s Kingdom is all about in the here and now.