Posts tagged “Christmas Devotional

The Christmas Lamb

Christmas  2017: Santa Claus, electronic yard reindeers, snowmen, cards, parties, decorated trees, wrapping paper, and bows.  Christmas the beginning: Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus, a manger, bright star, angelic host, shepherds, sheep, and the good news.

Luke chapter 2, the familiar recounting of the Christmas story, like that of a well-rehearsed children’s play, all the characters are in place, the declaring angels hit their queue perfectly, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” LOVE IT!  There is one small phrase prior in the narrative I’d like to recognize, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” (v. 8)   Scholars believe, due to the proximity to Jerusalem THESE lambs were the temple lambs. Potentially, THESE shepherds were caring for lambs destined for sacrifice! The religious custom (requirement) of the day was to raise or purchase a lamb, take it to the priests and have it offered as a substitutionary sacrifice for atoning forgiveness of their sins.

Interesting, the shepherds were the first to hear the glorious news, not chief priests or princes or even the learned men of Jerusalem, no dignitaries were found in the bunch. They not only were the first to hear the birth announcement, but also the first to see the child.  Would it be a far reach to state that these shepherds knew the divine importance of keeping watch over their flocks? After all, news of the Messiahs coming would not be “good news of a great joy” (v. 10) unless they were seeking Him and waiting for Him.  Could it be that God sent the angel to the people that would get it?  “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” declares the angel.  (vs 10,11) Good news indeed!

The Lamb.

Remember the conversation Abraham had with Isaac as they climbed the mountain? Abraham’s response was so very prophetic, “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “But where is the lamb… Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb…” (Genesis 22:7-8)

Fast forward, this recorded of John the Baptist, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) About 3 years following John’s statement of Jesus, it is Passover, Jesus, found innocently hanging on the cross. Onlookers watch as His blood drips from His beaten, nail-pierced body.  Johns words echoing, “Behold! The Lamb of God!”

Later, as we follow the story of God, the angels again declare, yet this time, (Let’s all stand…) Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing … be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13)

This Christmas as we consider the Nativity scene, may we attempt to grasp the full message of the birth of Jesus. In the stable, the King,  the lil lamb, not eating from the manger, but IN the manger, our substitutionary sacrifice for atoning forgiveness of OUR sins. However, we did not purchase Him, He purchased us! (Head bowed) Nowhere in scripture are we told, suggested or asked to remember Jesus’ birth.  We are told to remember His death. (The Last Supper: “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”- Luke 22:19) His birth is tied to His death. Christmas leads to Easter. (Hands raised!)

Where is the lamb?  Behold the Lamb.  Worthy is the Lamb.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

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Myrrh, Not a White Elephant Gift

Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift giving.  We are in the season of gift hunting, in search of that PERFECT gift, we may not have anything in mind, but waiting for something to jump off the shelf and literally wrap itself because it is SOOOO perfect.

Regardless of what makes it home with us from the mall, all of us have gifts to offer. God-given gifts that He asks that we share with one another. Whether it is the gift of serving, or the gift of encouragement, or perhaps the gift of a listening ear.  Or hospitality, providing an extra place at the dinner table. My gift is being a student of the Word. I dig around in the geeky stuff, summarize and share it with others. No gift is too small, or insignificant.

Often we read the Christmas story and highlight the most spectacular parts: Singing angels, “Fear Not” statements, the Star of Bethlehem, and yes the dingy manger. YET, there are some quiet and seem less significant items to be had in the excitement. Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. They are packing, dividing up the supplies list, then they come to the gift inventory, gold is given to the first, then frankincense handed to another, oh yeah, the myrrh is last. How would you like to be handed the myrrh, and picture yourself bowing low, head to the floor while you offer M-Y-R-R-H (said with an Eeyore deep tone) to the King of Kings! You may think “Dude, why do I have to carry the white elephant gift???”   White elephant it is not, one among the triune gifts that are of great value.  Gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. Have we ever really thought WHAT is myrrh?

The divine significance of myrrh: An ingredient used in the anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests.  (Exodus 30:22-23) Myrrh/Myron:  Perfumed oil/ointment poured over Jesus’ feet.  (Luke 7:36-50)  It was used as one of the spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.  (John 19:39-40)

Picture now, the Christ child, perhaps two in age or younger, curly dark hair, possibly pudgy cheeks. At His feet, men of wisdom and honor, place gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. The anointing oil of the TABERNACLE and THE Priest. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14) The same perfumed oil poured on His feet as a grown man, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. The oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death.

Myrrh, HOW PROPHETIC.  A new appreciation for the gift?

May we too bow low, offer even what we may think insignificant. Gifts given to Jesus and in His name have great value, regardless of how silly we may see it, or how small they may appear. An encouraged heart, a feed soul, a person no longer lonely.

Christmas gift giving! Follow the Magi’s example – be prophetic.  The gift that keeps on giving.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” –  Hebrews 10:24)


YOU Are the Reason for the Season – Christmas Gospel

These last couple of days I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’  It fits well as a lapel pin, even hangs proudly as an ornament on our trees, and splattered in gold across our Christmas cards.  I like it!  The message is clear and points to Jesus!

Yet… I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know… I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher, I watch how they walk, talk, their mannerisms, and their facial expressions (there is much entertainment in it… nough said).  The other day as I was out and about shopping I watched their faces, looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me …‘THEY are the reason for the season!’

Simply said, the season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS, His birth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Jesus came to earth; He lived to die, resurrected and sits on the right side of the Father …  He did ALL this for US!  WE are the ‘whosoever’.  WE are the reason for the season, the reason Jesus came! YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group HUG!) He came for YOU!

Even with all the self-interest, self-emersion and all the “I” focus today, I challenge us this Christmas to look into the eyes of those around us, consider THEM, and be you focused. What a great opening line to the gospel, said with heartfelt humility as we gently lean forward in the checkout stand at Walmart, “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season?” (Take note not to be said with ‘Game Show’ hype).   Their confused response, “WHAT!?!” Then quickly tell them about Jesus as not to hold up the line behind us, “Yup, the Bible says God sent His Son Jesus as a gift, and whosoever believes and accepts the gift, well they are saved by God’s grace and get all His eternal life stuff… and YOU my new friend (look at their name tag and call them by name) fall under the ‘whosoever.‘   As we pay our bill, offering a hardy, ‘Merry Christmas.’   Holy Spirit can take it from there.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Blessed Christmas to you and yours, YOU are the reason for the season.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

 


Giving Presence in the Present

Christmas and gift giving, standing among all the stuff, the noise and the chaos, the potential frustration.  Christmas has become somewhat of a plummeting oneself into the art of either grab and go at the store or park yourself in front of the computer and let your fingers do the shopping.  My goal this year is to slow’r down. Taking time to smell the cinnamon infused pinecones, watch yet another Hallmark Christmas movie and listen to Elvis (my mom’s favorite, I turn it up so she can hear it up there with Jesus) and Bing Crosby crooning the oldies.

Christmas to me is so very sentimental.  I gave my heart to Jesus on December 21, 1979, at the age of 16 ½ (the half counted back then) while sitting on the white carpeted floor of the Associate Pastors living room. (I had been visiting the lil country church) his wife Brenda lovingly, openly, full of acceptance telling me about Jesus and His love for me and what it meant to be a Jesus follower.  That day will always render special to me, that moment and the moments following as I walked home, just down the street.  As I walked, the Christmas lit houses took on a new glow, the plastic baby Jesus in the front yard demanding my attention and respect.  That baby Jesus was no longer just yard deco, but now my Lord!  Not just a baby, but a King! I stopped, pausing to take it all in, I was in the moment!  Thirty-eight years later I remember the moment, I cherish the moment.  The moment changed me.

How often are we somewhere else when we are with people or in circumstances or perhaps even in church?  Our bodies may be present but by golly, our minds are full of grocery list writing, or a prior situation rehearsing over and over in our head, or while someone is talking to us we are busy formulating our response.  What did we miss?

Be in the moment.

In Exodus (the theology of Exodus is Presence) Exodus 24, God called Moses up the mountain, “The LORD said to Moses, “”Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” (v12, emphasis mine, NKJV)  For 40 days Moses was there.  Eight chapters worth of divine instruction was given.  Moses was there.  Many translators interpret God telling Moses to ‘stay there’ or ‘wait there.’  Yet a 19th-century rabbi wrote from a different perspective which I adore.  He exclaims that there are times we go to a place and not actually being there, going on to say that we can exert ourselves getting to a destination, yet when we arrive, our thoughts remain at the original point of departure.  The Rabbi imagined God was telling Moses not only come up the mountain but be fully there, with complete attention, concentration – leaving all behind. *

May we too be there, this holiday season and every day, be in the moment, giving complete attention and concentration to those we are with and in the moment of where we are.  It is a gift we give to others & ourselves when we are giving presence in the present, a moment in which we may be changed. And may we pay close attention and not allow our mind to wander when we read God’s word, we don’t want to miss anything!

For Pastors Ben & Brenda, ‘Thank you.’  That lil country corner church became my home church for two years following, then they sent me out to the big world to attend bible college, study God.  Now a bible teacher.  Thank you for being in the moment.

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)

*Lois Tverberg, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus (BakerBooks Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2018)


Christmas Warrior King

mighty-god

Thirty-seven years ago this month on December 21, as a teenager, I walked from my house to the pastors house. I sat on the white carpeted floor while praying with Brenda the pastor’s wife, giving my heart, life and dreams to Jesus.  As I walked home, the shiny colored bulb lights and the nativity scene in the neighbor’s yard now meant so much MORE.  Mighty God.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and the government shall be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah. 9:6)

Christmas, the birth of Jesus. This verse is sung in carols, beautifully gold leafed across our Christmas cards, even quoted by those who don’t have a clue WHO Jesus is. But have we really considered the fact that THE Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace was … given … to … US! ‘For unto us…‘ That is YOU and me. Not just the shepherds watching their flocks by night, or the wise guys carrying royalty endowed gifts.  Mighty God. At first glance we would assume it is just a two word religious name used to describe just how big God is.  BIG He is. Yet this is NOT the intent of this prophetic narrative.

Sadly, many in society today see Jesus as weak, the man in a white robe knocking on a door. For some, they leave Jesus in the manger as a swaddled babe, meek and mild with a hovering halo above His head.  Mighty God.

Mighty in the Hebrew (gibbor) renders a militant theme. STRONG, BRAVE, VALIANT, that of a successful RULER.  (Emphasis made to express the magnitude of the word) In the context of battle, ‘gibbor’ is better understood as a category of warriors, ‘Gibbor’ is the proven warrior.  Let that settle on us.  It can even be translated as HERO! Boy doesn’t this culture need a ‘hero’ with hand raising allegiance!

If we could take the same energy found at a pro basketball game: As the star player runs down the court, his name yelled from all corners of the arena, taking a few steps he launches himself up, releasing the ball!  Swish!  The place goes wild!  The score board changes to victory!  Taking THAT energy, awe provoked praise and that allegiance, the same worship and spend it on JESUS, the One declared … WORTHY.  Can you imagine. WOW!  Take THAT opposing team! christmas2Mighty God.

The culture of Isaiah’s day, as found in the Semitic language was also seen in word picture imagery as ‘to rise, strong or prevailing.’  What a wonderful picture, the Warrior-King arising. Psalm 68:1 “Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Him flee before Him.” Here the picture is God rising up with all power & authority. This is very serious and something to be feared. Remember Jesus and His guys in a boat, the violent storm, Jesus stands up.  I say “Go God!”  Stand UP … look out!”  Now THAT would be an arena Hero experience!  Mighty God.

HOWEVER, with all this ‘mighty’ strength and warrior muscle bearing, there is gentleness. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty (gibbor) to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) Interesting, the word translated here for quiet means ‘engrave.’ While God is flexing His muscles with power & authority to save you, He engraves His love on you.’ Mighty God.

King David poetically declared, “O LORD my God, You have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.”   – Psalm 40:5

Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus, do we render a nod of the head only to the babe in the manger, or see Him as He is: Strong, brave, risen, successful ruler, our  proven Warrior King.  Mighty God.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14  (The arena goes wild!  The score board changes to VICTORY!)

May we declare like King David, “You have no equal.”

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given …”

In Him, DeDe (‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds’ -Heb.10:24)

 


YOU are the Reason for the Season

These last couple of days I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’.  It fits well as a lapel pin, looks good across our Christmas cards.  Even hangs proudly as an ornament on our trees.  I like it!  The message is clear and points to Jesus!

Yet… I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know… I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher, I watch how they walk, their mannerisms, their facial expressions (there is much entertainment in it… ‘nough said).  The other day as I was Christmas shopping I watched their faces, looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me ~ ‘THEY are the reason for the season’!

The season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS, His birth. Did Jesus come for ‘Jesus’? Was that His reason? Was His motive… ‘I think I will go to earth and be born into humanity, just to do it’? NO! “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life”  Jesus came to earth, living His life as a spokesperson for the Father; He lived to die … for US!  WE are the ‘whosoever’.

The great birth announcement of all time, (Queue the angel) “Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to YOU, He is Christ the Lord…” (Luke 2:10-11) WE are the reason for the season! YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group HUG!)

As Christmas nears and you look into the eyes of those around you, consider THEM!  What a great opening line to the gospel, “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season…”  “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Blessed Christmas to you and yours,

In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” ~ Heb. 10:24)