This passage is more meaningful when you understand the history. By the time this was written the Golden Age of Israel was long gone. They were a vulnerable country that saw its sovereignty and prosperity given to every new world power. They wanted a military solution. Someone to come and conquer. Much like us today, they were trusting the wrong thing. In His knowledge and grace, God gives us what we need, not what we want. He sent a child, not to destroy but to offer peace with God.
Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Advent is defined by being a season of expectation, a time to look forward to the coming of a savior. There is a sense of excitement floating in the air during this season, but nothing compares to the joy we get to experience when we finally sing Oh Holy Night during the candlelight service surrounded by family and friends.
For some that moment encapsulates the whole season. That joy that overwhelms us in moments like that, is something that as Christians we should be experience in a brand new way every day of our lives. The Savior has come, Jesus lives and we had seen his star.
I pray that today you can experience that joy of anticipation but even more so, experience the joy of knowing that His Star shines in your life all year long.
Millions have been talking about it now for weeks, maybe even months…the next installment of Star Wars, “The Force Awakens”. Maybe, as you read this, you were one of the first to see it in the theaters. Now I have to be honest…I am looking forward to seeing this movie. There’s talk that this movie will be the largest grossing movie of all time, hmmmmmm. Maybe. But another story has attracted the attention of millions upon millions of individuals and it, too, is a cosmic spectacular that has “played” to large throngs of people year after year and it will again this year…and the year after…and the year after that…and so on. You know the story… “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
The angels came to the shepherds on that hillside a long time ago and in 7 days we will retell this same story. The question is whether the story has become just a story or does it carry the same cosmic impact it did over 2000 years ago. Are you just looking forward to Christmas or, is the “force” of Christmas what not only carries you into the celebration but guides you throughout the year? May the “force” be with you!
Psalm 96 stirs us to sing a new song; the song of God’s praise and salvation.
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
As we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth once again and wait for our Savior’s return, we too can sing a song of praise to God. We can share the hope, peace, joy, and strength that is ours in Christ Jesus.
Mary sings that kind of song as she ponders the meaning of what God is doing in her life and in the birth of Jesus.
God through Jesus inspires new songs of justice, grace, and peace to carry our hopes and dreams and sustain our journey of faith. May we find joy in singing new songs, not just with our lips, but also with our lives as we prepare a place for Jesus in our hearts, communities, and world.
Only three chapters into humanity and things are already going terribly. Adam and Eve have exercised their power to choose and chosen evil over good. Satan won. Call it in.
Almost immediately after the Fall, God starts talking about the one He’ll send. Satan certainly does take a chunk out of the foot of Christ, but He unequivocally gets crushed in the end.
Once in a while I think: “Oh No! Christmas is coming!” And I am not ready.
The crazy thing about Christmas is that we always know that Christmas is coming, we have a year to get “ready” for it but we tend to let things pile up, and that has us feel unprepared, stressed out and soon we forget what Christmas is about.
Luke 2:1-20 speaks about a young couple that gets caught by surprise by the news that today we celebrate as Christmas. Their lives are turned upside down, fear and a sense of insecurity rules their lives after the good news that Gabriel brings to Mary. And to some degree it seems that there is a calm in Mary’s heart that I wish we could bottle and save for us to use in times when it seems that life is out of control.
Is there such a thing as Christmas ready? Maybe yes and maybe no! Maybe there is something else in the whole season: A sense of wonder and peace as life unfolds all around us, a sense of hope and good will spreading through each of us, something that is a reminder that God is in control. Mary had that something in her heart, and I pray that we all get to experience that “Christmas something” during this season.
Yesterday, Tari and I and a classmate from seminary, Jana, headed off to have a little fun after a wonderful morning of worship. Chicago was our destination…the Christmas windows at Macy’s…the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room…Christkindlmarket…Garrett’s popcorn. I saw “the Bean” for the first time. Despite the rain, it was 63 degrees and we had a lot of fun. I got to relive some wonderful childhood memories. I remembered sitting under the Christmas tree with mom, dad and sister – and I thought for the briefest of moments what it might have been like for Mary and Joseph and a little baby. There was a sense of peace and I heard those prophetic words in my head…”Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” Christmas is a time for celebration and looking forward…it is also a time of remembering those important moments in our lives…how about you? What Christmas-time memories do you have?
I am in wonder at the love of God come to us in Jesus. How do you wrap your mind around that?
Centuries ago in the “BC” years the prophet Isaiah said, (7:14) “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us.”
I am in wonder at God wanting to be with us that much; such an incredible, amazing love. And how in the world do you describe that? Paul describes Jesus birth in this way, (Philippians 2:7-8) “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
John writes, (1:14) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
How do you wrap your mind and heart around such love?
—Philip Yancey in his book The Jesus I Never Knew writes, “One night, in the cold, in the dark, among the wrinkled hills of Bethlehem God who knows no before or after, entered time and space. The God who knows no boundaries took on the shocking confines of a baby’s skin, the ominous restraints of mortality; to use Walter Kasper’s words, ‘in Jesus we see God slipping into human nature like someone putting on blue jeans in order to repair the world after a breakdown.’”
Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” He emptied himself becoming a slave, taking on the form of a person.
I wonder at such love; God wanting to be with us that much. Jesus came to earth, and thus, God made his home here on earth in and through Jesus…not just for a few days, not for a week or two, not for a trip around the world, no…
Instead God comes as a baby and stays on planet earth for some 30 years; being born and then crushed to death on a cross, rising again for us, for all…
I wonder at such love.