The Christmas Story Not Found in Matthew or Luke

At this time of the year we turn to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to read the Christmas story. Each Gospel gives us a different aspect of the birth of Jesus.

Matthew emphasizes that Jesus is the King. He starts his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus showing his descent from Abraham, the founder of the Jewish people, and David, their great king. It is the story of Joseph we read. Matthew tells us of the wise men who came from a distance bearing gifts and seeking for the newborn king of the Jews.

Our nativity sets showing the wise men at the manger are not correct. Exactly how many wise men there were we do not know – only that there were three gifts. Their arrival happened sometime after the birth of Jesus as Matthew tells us that they found Jesus in a house and calls him at that time a child. When Herod realizes the wise men are not coming back to tell him where this child is, he orders all boys in the area who are two years old and under to be killed.

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

While they asked for the king of the Jews, they clearly recognized that Jesus was God as Matthew tell us:

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. 

Matthew shows us that his birth is for all people. These wise men were Gentiles, yet they were one of the first to worship him.

On the other hand, Luke emphasizes the humanity of Jesus. He traces the line of Jesus all the way back to the first man, Adam. It is not of the wealthy, educated Magi that Luke writes, but the lowly shepherds in the fields, the lowly widow Anna who has been awaiting the arrival of Messiah.

While these two portions of Scripture are the ones we look to as we read of the birth of Jesus, I think there is a passage in the book of Philippians that gives a greater understanding of the meaning, the purpose of the birth of Jesus.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As we celebrate the birth of this little child, let us not forget the very reason He came was to save us. And just as the shepherds and the wise men worshiped Him, let us bow down in gratitude and love to our Lord and King.

Lost and Found

Many schools, businesses and churches have a “lost and found” department. When something is there, it is sad.

Sad because something valuable or meaningful is missing from someone’s life. Sad because articles of value lay unused on a shelf. Sad because perhaps someone does not even realize they have lost something.

One possession I lost years ago still makes my heart ache. Driving to work one day I stopped at a grocery store to pick up something for my lunch. When I arrived at work, I realized my wristwatch was not on my arm. After searching my car, I retraced my steps back to the store and searched the area where I had parked. The store reported no one had turned in a wristwatch, but took my name and number in case someone turned it in.

After a few days passed, I realized the wristwatch was lost. It was heartbreaking for me because it had been a Christmas present from my husband on our first Christmas together. It was beautiful and I received many compliments when I wore it. The sentimental value to me was priceless. Also, my husband had spent more than he should have for the watch, and I knew on our budget, we could never justify replacing it with one of similar value.

There have been other things I have lost and did not realize it until weeks, months, even years later something reminded me of an item and only then did I realize it had been lost for a long time. Lost, but not missed.

This week in my devotions I read Luke 15. That chapter speaks of losing things. There is the shepherd who loses one of his sheep, a woman who loses a valuable coin and a father whose son has left the home and is lost to his family.

The parables Jesus told in this chapter illustrate the love of God for us. Although we may drift away from God, He is not unaware that we are lost. He is not a forgetful owner who is too busy or too uncaring to seek for us.

Like the woman who diligently searched through her house for the lost coin, the shepherd who went out in the wilderness to find the sheep who had wandered off the path, or the father who watched longingly for his son to return, Jesus draws us back to Him.

What stands out to me on the story of the prodigal son is when the father saw his son “a great way off,” he did not stand and wait for his return but ran to meet him. He embraced him and gave him a kiss.

How thankful I am that I know I (and you) are important to God.

“See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children—think of it—and we really are!” 1 John 3:1

An old hymn from my childhood tells us so much of the love of God and how He longs for us to return to Him and stay close to him.

Are You One of the Nine?

My husband and I hold services at two different assisted living facilities and I also give a piano concert twice a month at one of them.  Today my husband shared with the residents the story in the Gospel of Luke about the ten lepers that came to Jesus asking to be healed.  That story really got me thinking about my own attitude.

Ten lepers came and Jesus healed them all.  He told them to go to the priest to have the priest confirm they were clean and could now rejoin their families.

As the ten started to the priest they realized their skin was clear and they were healed.  How exciting that moment must have been.

After that moment of great joy, nine of the ten continued on their way.  But one man turned back and came to Jesus to say “thank you.”

His response:  “Were not ten healed?  Where are the nine?”

It seems our society is so attuned to the bad, the problems, the disagreements between groups.  We are so quick to complain.

During this cold and snowy winter I often heard (and I was often guilty too) people complaining about how cold it was, how sick they were of snow.

Seldom, if ever, did I hear people saying how grateful they were for their warm house, their warm coats.  Little thanks were given for the road crews who were out in the bitter cold spreading salt and clearing the roads.

Now comes summer and soon we will be complaining of the heat and humility instead of expressing gratefulness for air conditioning.

Why are we so slow to be thankful, to see all the blessings we have been given?

When my first husband died, I cannot count the times someone asked me how God could allow this.  They would say something like:

“But you are a good Christian.  How could God let this happen?”

But when God blessed with me with a good second husband no one asked me how God could allow this.  No one said:

“Why did God bless you so much.”

We take His blessings for granted but are quick to complain when we feel we are not getting the blessings we deserve.

Lord, help me to be like the one who came back and said “thank you.”  Help me not to be like the nine who accepted your blessings as if somehow it was their right and went on their way never to thank  you.