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. Matthew 1:21
He was an obscure baby born to obscure parents in an obscure Middle Eastern town witnessed by obscure shepherds, foreigners, and animals. And yet He was and is the single-most central figure in all of history. He had no money to speak of, no wealth, no significant fame, no degrees, no fanfare. He had no home, no wife, no children. He walked with sinners, and rebuked the religious leaders of his day. He taught, and people hung on his every word. He healed the sick, raised the dead, rebuked demons, and walked alongside his Disciples. Religious leaders wanted to stone him; his followers wanted to crown Him king. He exposed hypocrisy, but had compassion on those who sought forgiveness.
Entire libraries of books have been written about this son of a carpenter; many more libraries have yet to be written. His message brought unity among his followers, but division among those who didn't. He still divides, and unifies. He was extremely clear about how to approach the Father: through Him and Him alone.
The obscure boy born in a cow's trough invites us to be His followers every day we're on this Earth.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout…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." Luke 2:25, 34-35
Simeon had waited all his life to say these things. The Lord had revealed to him that he would see the Lord's Messiah. He knew what was going to happen and spoke it over the boy and his parents. Again, we find a rather obscure man doing and saying something puzzling. I believe his proclamation benefited Mary and Joseph the greatest. Perhaps they just needed to be reaffirmed that what they had just gone through was a righteous act of God.
Having a gentleman approach you out of the blue to tell you your son would cause the falling and subsequent rising of Israel is enough for you to sit up and take notice, especially after you've had shepherd boys and Wise Men visit you. They needed to hear that message and Simeon needed to say it. And that's all we hear from Simeon.
I think one of the takeaways from these verses is simple: we really don't know how God is working in the hearts and minds of other people. We think we know but we really don't (we barely know how He's working in our own lives). And I believe that when more mature Believers reveal things to us that they could not know on their own, we probably should pay close attention.
“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.” Luke 2:2
Have you ever wondered why God had anyone at all show up for the birth of Jesus? First we had the insignificant shepherds, now the “Wise Men” who were not even from the same region. I think the Wise Men played at least two important roles when they came to find the baby.
First, in one short chapter in the New Testament, the Wise Men exposed the selfish and arrogant leader named Herod. He didn’t want to compete with Jesus as a ruler so he ordered all babies under the age of two to be killed. He was willing to sacrifice thousands of children so that he could destroy this newborn called Jesus. How many did he actually kill and still not find who he was looking for? There’s bad and there’s evil. That is evil.
Secondly, we see that the Wise Men are focused. From the time they had a vision from the angel of the Lord until they knelt before the baby. they had a singleness of mind. They worshiped, they presented gifts, and they returned home. They had traveled a great distance using only a star to guide them, and now their “mission” was finished.
Or was it? Of course not. As Wise Men, they were probably influential in their region. They would talk about their experiences because they had a fantastic reason to talk. These men knew that Jesus was special (how else could a dream and a star compel them to travel hundreds of miles?), but I don’t think they quite realized how special He was.
The Wise Men and the shepherds were both playing an important role in history: they were witnesses to the greatest birth of all time. They would never forget the experience.
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. Luke 2:8-9
Shepherds. They were young and impressionable. You might even say they were insignificant in the overall scheme of things. An angel appeared to them in the middle of the night. They paid attention and did what they were told. They probably left their flocks unattended while they went to see this baby.
But they were still shepherds. They had nothing to offer this newborn and his parents. So what did God have to gain by giving a few lowly shepherd boys a message about a baby being born in a cow’s trough? After the shepherds saw the family, told of their angelic vision, and glorified God (Luke 2:19-20), they returned to their fields.
But now, did they ever have a story to tell! And you’d better believe that they didn’t keep this story a secret.
Two thousand years later we still tell the story of a few insignificant shepherd boys who were given a brief glimpse into the heavenly realms. In God’s view, they were far from insignificant. And I guess that’s one of the points of the Christmas story: God was using insignificant people, events, surroundings, and venues to announce to the world about the birth of His Son. It’s certainly not the way we would have done it.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity. Psalms 122:6-9
There’s no earthly reason that the national of Israel should be in existence today. An entire religion of one billion people plus half that many leftists hate Jews and Israel. The only logical explanation for Israel’s survival is that God has His hand on that nation, and people are actively praying for it. You can say that it’s the American might and money behind the protection but that would be misleading because Israel itself has had to defend herself against the Arab World in 1967 and 1973. Israel fought the battle; Israel won the battle. God obviously confused the minds of Israel’s enemies then, and He still does today.
I don’t quite understand the logic or theology of it (and I’m sure several readers will enlighten me), but I do sense there has been a supernatural protection over that nation since its existence these last 4000 years (and something we’ve been able to witness for 60 years).
As the maniacal leader in Iran openly threatens to obliterate Israel and its people, we need to pray that Israel will experience peace. The following is the blessing nations get for doing just that:
“May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”
I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Philemon 6
We don’t talk about this verse often but perhaps we should. I was reluctant to pull it out because I know that as a writer and a teacher, I must also be a doer. Unless you’re outspoken and naturally bold, this verse will be one of the hardest things to do. Please notice, however, that the verse does not say that you need to go on a street corner or in a subway platform to proclaim the Gospel (more power to those who can do that) loudly and boldly.
Paul is praying for Philemon to be active in sharing his faith. That’s it. It’s obviously open for interpretation what “active” actually means. Twice a day, twenty times a week? I think if we play the numbers game we’re missing a critical point.
You see, sharing our faith helps us grow. Why? As the rest of the verse states, we are able to get a good handle of the good things we have in Christ. If we don’t know answers to objections, we get to go back and explore to find answers. We hone our theology and our arguments. We get to explore the mystery of Christ more closely.
The only downside to sharing our faith is the fear of rejection that many of us have. Fear and rejection exist. So does God. Now, given those two basic statements, which do you think is more powerful?
And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Colossians 4:3
Most Believers throughout history have pondered what the ‘mystery of Christ’ actually means. Obviously there are as many interpretations of what it means as there are Followers. Here are a few possible meanings of the phrase:
- Why would the perfect Son of God come to live on earth with sinful, detestable man only to be ridiculed, beaten, then killed?
- How could an omnipotent God send his Son to live in such squalor conditions?
- Why did Jesus choose twelve ordinary men to change the world? Even more so, why did He choose Judas as one of the original twelve?
- Why did He feel the need to forgive the people who were killing him? Why didn’t He call for those twelve legions of angels to protect Him?
- Why did He have to be born to a Virgin, born in a cow’s trough, raised as a carpenter in a remote little town in the Middle East, and die in relative obscurity?
- Why does He still entrust the redeeming and world-changing message of the Gospel to frail, reluctant, and sinful Followers?
I’ve only touched the surface. I’m certain there are dozens of additional meanings of that phrase. Asking the question actually highlights the wonder of the phrase. We’ll never know the full meaning but there is considerable value in asking the questions and then pondering the answers.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
One story comes to mind that best illustrates this verse (some say the story actually happened; others say it’s urban legend). While waiting for the Maestro to come out to play, a little boy slipped away from his parents and jumped on stage and sat at the piano. He began playing the only thing he knew: Chopsticks. The crowd started murmuring, and many were getting vocal about taking the kid off the stage.
Out from behind the curtains, the Maestro appeared; the murmuring died down. The boy continued to play. The Maestro leaned over the boy and spread out his arms and helped to jazz up Chopsticks. Over and over again the Maestro whispered into the boy’s ear, “Keep going, keep going, you’re doing fine. Don’t worry about them. You’re doing fine. Keep going.”
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father…encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
This is what The Maestro is saying to us: Keep going. Keep at it. Don’t worry about them. You’re doing great! Keep it up. It’s sounding great. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 2 Thessalonians 2:13
Again, we come to the theme and prayer for peace. Now more than ever we need peace. One definition is the absence-of-war kind of peace. That’s good and any time countries can sit down and talk things through, it’s a good peace. I’m referring to the conscience-is-clear, the world-may-crumble-before-my-eyes-but-it’s-okay peace. That’s an inner peace that the world can’t give nor can the world take away.
I say we’re in for hard times and it will come on a number of fronts. Economically, the world is in chaos. One clear example of that is the Stock Market. It’s never fluctuated this wildly. Currencies are devaluing and on the verge of collapse. Look at the banking industry; people are very very worried.
Secondly, as Christians in a once free nation, we’ve had it easy for too long. We’ve enjoyed liberties and luxuries our forefathers only dreamed about. But there is a hostility, too, among non-believers. As economies collapse, watch for the political class to find scapegoats and people to blame. I believe we’ll see persecution in the West on the level that we’ve seen it in Asia and Africa these last 100 years.
But again, we have peace and no one can snatch it from us. Continue to pray for that peace as we enter this upcoming era of uncertainty and heartache.