Anything But Silent Night

IMG_20161217_065819.jpgLuke 2:6-7 (NLT)

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

A Thought

As a boy, I grew up on a small farm in east-central Indiana, where we had an old barn that was truly the center of our world.

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Kings at War

Matthew 2:3-7,  12-13 (NLT)

King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 

When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

A Thought

There is no greater threat to a King’s rule than the birth of a new potentate. Herod might have been an evil man but he wasn’t stupid. The announcement of Jesus’ birth meant that there would be a challenge to his authority and in his mind that was unacceptable. Are we really any different?

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The Other Extreme

img_20161217_065943Matthew 2: 1-2, 9b-11 (NLT)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

And the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

A Thought

The glorious message earlier delivered to shepherds in the field is now revealed to Magi from the east. Wisemen. Kings of their Lands. Royalty and nobility who made their way to this remote location to find a new King, to honor a new Sovereign.

They doggedly pursued the star, leading them to the child. Unlike most men, they were willing to even stop and ask directions along the way! They really were wise!

How persistent are you in the pursuit? How determined are you in discovering the King of all kings? Are you half-hearted or whole-hearted? Are you indifferent or insistent? Are you tepid or tenacious?  Are you willing to ask for help along the way or simply walk blindly in the night?

The saying goes, “Wise men still seek him.”

Do you?

Prayer

Dear God of Heaven,

Thank you for the star, a star of wonder, a star of night,
A star of royal beauty bright,
Westward leading,still proceeding,
and the Wise men who followed the star.

May we be as wise.

Amen.

Keeping Watch

img_20161217_065904Luke 2:8-20 (NLT)

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

A Thought

In what is perhaps my favorite story in the Bible, Luke tells us about some simple people, doing a simple job, who receive anything but a simple message and its impact on their lives.

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A Season of Joy

Psalm 95:1-3 (NLT)

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
    a great King above all gods.

Prayer

May we sing for Joy! May we shout joyfully! May we have hearts filled with thanksgiving.

May we honor you fully for your faithful love and mercy, dear God above.

Amen.

Obviously Pregnant

Luke 2:1-5 (NLT)

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

A Thought

The saying goes that pregnancy is a binary state: You either are or are not pregnant.

While this is technically true, it doesn’t capture the reality of the maternal situation. Ask any woman who is currently or has ever been pregnant and I suspect you will get the same answer. A woman who is in the first week of pregnancy is unlikely to even know that she is carrying a child. However, a woman who is a week over her due date will have a different opinion entirely!

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A Change in Plans

Matthew 1:19-24 (NLT)

 Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.

A Thought

Joseph made a decision. He put a plan into place. He was about to take action, and it made perfect sense to him. It was a culturally appropriate and even-handed approach to this awkward situation, yet still honored this young woman who found herself in a difficult position.

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