Tuesday, December 26, 2017

December 27, 2017

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David." Luke 2:4

There were many great cities in the ancient world at the time of Jesus' birth. Until recent times the world has not known cities like those in all of history. But Bethlehem was not one of those. Not even close.

I have some understanding about small rural towns since I grew up in one. The town of my childhood is named Claypool, Indiana. That just sounds like a small town, doesn't it? It was out of the way - a mile or so off of Indiana Route 15 on County Road 700. Not many came to Claypool.

One huge difference in this small town of Bethlehem, however, is that a couple of world-changers were born there. The first was the great king of Israel, King David. And because it was the place of his birth, it set the stage for Jesus to be born there since his earthly father Joseph was a decendant of David.

That answered part of the question. Plus, it fulfilled the prophecy of Micah 5:2 - "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

So, Bethlehem was the birthplace of David and the prophecied place. Those are significant. But, still, why Bethlehem?

Bethlehem means "house of bread". What better place for the Bread of Life to be born than in the "house of bread"!

"Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:35-40

Jesus, the Bread of Life, came to us in the "house of bread" so that we can feed on Him and live!

December 26, 2017

"But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. 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." Luke 2:9-11

It is the day after THE day! Now there are just 364 shopping days until Christmas!

With all the plans, all the traditions, all the shopping and wrapping, and all emotional investment that go into executing the "perfect" Holiday, how can there not be a little bit of an after-Christmas letdown?

Today the malls will be packed with people making returns and exchanges. Trash bags are piled at the curbs filled with mutilated wrapping paper, crushed boxes and discarded bows. Those "must have" gifts have already lost some of their luster. Everywhere you look are vivid reminders that the long anticipated Holiday has come and gone!

The people have left, the presents opened and the party pooped. So, how do you cope? What can you do to avoid the post-Christmas blues or, at least reduce it's emotional impact? Consider the angel's announcement:

"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."

It comes down to a matter of focus. Is your celebration about the stuff or is it about the Savior?

If it is about all the stuff, you will inevitably be letdown when the calendar changes. If you choose to focus on the temporary then your enjoyment will be limited. When the day ends the fun ends.

But, if you focus on the "good news of great joy" your Holiday will just be another day of celebration. Rather than celebrating one day in 365, you can rejoice everyday because the good news never ends! Every day can be filled with joy when every day is filled with Jesus. When you receive the Christ Who came at Christmas and if your friends and family find Jesus as Savior, Christmas Day is a preview of coming attractions! The fun, the fellowship, and the feasting are what Heaven will be like - except we will be doing it in the presence of God!

This life is characterized by emotional high and lows. Precious moments are lived and lost, no matter how hard we try to capture them. But because of that one day that Jesus came to the manger in Bethlehem, that all changed.

So, here's hoping that your Christmas was all you expected - and more! But don't look back in longing, look forward to what God has for you because the Christ of Christmas came!

December 25, 2017

"Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news." Luke 1:18-19

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:34-37

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 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 1:18-21

We live in an age of "reality" TV shows, virtual reality devices and a 24/7 media that seeks to shape your sense of reality.

No wonder people are questioning, "What is real?"

Christmas give us the answer. Christmas clearly proves that God is real and faith in Him defines, yes, redefines our reality.

The events of that first Christmas challenged how Zechariah and Elizabeth and Mary and Joseph defined their reality.

For Zechariah and Elizabeth, in their "real" world, old barren people didn't have babies. They had long since cashed in their dream of being parents. They had done all the right things and lives served the Lord. But He had not honored them with a child. Disappointing as that was, they chose to remain faithful to God. They had adjusted to a world of barreness. And then one day, an angel showed up with a word news from God that challenged their reality.

When the angel asked them to believe the unbelievable they had to decide which reality would define their belief.

Mary and Joseph were both the kind of young people you would love to claim. They were faithful to God and lived with integrity. Their wedding was fast approaching and they looked forward to completing their love and being man and wife. Honoring God in their relationship wasn't easy, but it was right and they had done so.

Then the angel confronted Mary with a word from God that challenged her reality. How can a virgin conceive? She had saved herself for Joseph and now her first child would not be his. She had to decide which reality she wanted to live in? Did she want to please God and risk her relationship with Joseph, or disappoint God to protect her marriage plans?

Would she believe what made sense or would she believe the unbelievable and trust God - and Joseph? She had never heard of anything like this before. Could she trust God to do the impossible or remain in the world she knew?

We are not sure how the news came to Joseph that his fiance' was pregnant. Did Mary tell him or did the rumor mill get to him first? If she told him then she surely told of the angel and the plan of God. I am sure he wanted to believe her but it was an unreal story. Virgins don't get pregnant. He thought he knew Mary, but her story didn't square with the reality he knew. What would he believe?

And then the angel came to him in a dream and confirmed Mary's story. Now he would have to be open to a new reality.

Each of these principles in the Christmas story were asked to believe the unbelievable. They were asked to shift from a reality of limited possibilities to a new reality where "nothing is impossible with God"! Everyone of them took the leap of faith. And through their altered reality, God changed reality forever!

So, on this Christmas Day 2017, we find ourselves in the very same place they were. Christmas challenges our reality. Are we going to believe what we know and what we see? Are we going to live in the limited world of sight and sound and senses and previous experiences, or are we going to believe God?

Christmas was impossible - but now it is real! Before Christmas, salvation was impossible, but now it can be real! Before Christmas we were limited to a world of human possibilities, now we can step into a new reality of infinite power, presence, and peace.

Christmas is the ultimate reality show! Which reality will you show?