So, Until Next Year

Day Twelve: The Twelve Days of Christmas

It’s the day after, a day to reflect.

I’m reflecting on this year’s Christmas experience. About the parties in our house, the lunch our elders hosted for our staff. And the gifts, cards, and encouragement from friends.

I’m thinking about our Candlelight service. Seeing hundreds of candles lifted up in honor of the infant king always moves me!

Then Christmas morning, with the fireplace crackling, the filled stockings, and the brightly wrapped presents.

I love Christmas.

Regarding Joseph & Mary

Their trip to Bethlehem was a hard one. And I’ve tried to imagine them out in the stable, on a cold night, with the animals. I’ve thought about the angels, the shepherds, and the Magi.

It was a night divine, a silent and holy night.

cole-angel-shepherds

I’ve wondered about Herod’s attempts to kill Jesus.

I’ve wondered if Mary and Joseph knew the families who lost their sons in Herod’s sweeping attempts to kill the infant king. They took their son and escaped to Egypt, but in their absence, other sons died, how very sad. Did Mary know? If she did it must have been a terrible burden to carry. 

To Close

Christmas can mean lots of things. For some, it’s the lights and decorations. For others, it’s being with family. Or is it the food, parties, and gifts, with snow on the ground?

In the beginning, it was about God coming near, the night of Emmanuel. So, when I say, “Merry Christmas” what I’m really saying is: 

“May the God of grace bless you in the celebration of his Son’s birth.”

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581

So, until next year, Merry Christmas!

A Silent Night, A Holy Night

Day 11: Twelve Days of Christmas

It’s early Christmas morning and I’m the first one up.

A Christmas Tradition

 I light the candles, turn on the tree, and start a fire. Then its coffee, carols, and my daughter in her PJ’s sitting with me by the fireplace. She’s 28 and married, but she still likes to begin Christmas with her Dad, as she’s done since childhood. The family will be up later. It’s how we do Christmas.

For Mary and Joseph?

Christmas morning was different for them. They had arrived in Bethlehem, but not to what they were expecting: a warm room and a comfortable bed. It didn’t happen, the inn was full.

The exchange:

Inn Keeper: “Sorry folks, but we’re full.”

Joseph: “You don’t understand, we’ve traveled for days and my wife is expecting. You must have something?”

Inn Keeper: “No, we’re booked solid, there isn’t a spare bed anywhere.

Joseph: “You must have something, we’ll take anything.

Inn Keeper: Well, it isn’t much and it isn’t clean, but you’re welcome to stay in the stable with the sheep, donkeys, and camels.” 

Joseph: (glancing at his fatigued and very pregnant wife) said, “Okay, we’ll take it.” 

It Was Time

Mary was in labor. Was it a difficult delivery? Was her mom there, or even a midwife? Was it only Joseph? We don’t know, but there’s no mention of anyone else.

Regardless, the savior was born. I imagine him swaddled in his mother’s arms. Was all of heaven in joyous celebration? Did the universe shudder in awe seeing the creator arrive as a helpless babe? 

It was a silent night, a holy night, as God came to be with us, he was Emmanuel.

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581
Was their Christmas morning a different experience? 

To Close

It’s early Christmas morning. It’s just me and my beautiful daughter. The fire is crackling, the coffee is fresh, and the carols are softly playing.

I’m guessing it was different for Mary and Joseph. But whatever it was God forever changing our world. It was good news of great joy for all the people.

He came because we needed him.

We still do.

It’s Christmas morning.

TheNativity (600 x 300)

 

Searching For Messiah’s Mom

Day Eight: Twelve Days of Christmas

God’s search for the Messiah’s mother.

His Criteria

What was God looking for? An upwardly mobile woman who was highly motivated and possessed high intelligence? Did those things matter? Or were there other considerations?

 Other Considerations

Some of what was required:

  1. From the tribe of Judah.
  2. In the line of David
  3. Had to be a virgin
  4. From Nazareth
  5. To be favored by God

The Lord needed a young woman, from Nazareth, of the line of David, who was a virgin and of unimpeachable character. I wonder, how many could there be?

He only needed one, and he found her, her name was Mary.

Something Deeper?

Gabriel told her that God favored her, and would give her a son, and she would remain a virgin as her son would come from the Holy One. Her son would be great and that his kingdom would never end.

Can you imagine?

Did Mary faint? Did she offer excuses and objections, maybe suggesting to Gabriel that he look elsewhere? Was that what God was searching for, that deeper thing, a quiet and submissive spirit? Her amazing response,

              “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.”

Incredible Strength

The Messiah’s mother would need incredible inner strength. Do you remember what Simeon said at the dedication?

                    “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Mary heard the insults and hateful comments. She watched the beatings and scourging.  Did she wince at each hammer fall on the spikes or when she saw her first born hanging on the old rugged cross? 

Only a mother could do that, and maybe not just any mother.

The Bible
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

She was amazing. She had to be, for she was heaven’s choice for the Messiah’s Mom.

In Closing

I think of Mary as lovely and beautiful, and perhaps she was. But God’s criteria had little to do with such things. He was looking on the inside, for deep faith, an abiding spirit, and incredible inner strength.

I’m deeply thankful for Mary.

She gave birth to a son and raised him to die.

Merry Christmas

Joseph: Divorce or Destiny?

Day Eight: Twelve Days of Christmas

Knowing what’s right is easy, it’s choosing what’s right that’s hard.

Difficult News

Imagine this: Your fiancé is pregnant and the baby couldn’t possibly be yours. You were promised to each other, pledged for marriage, and purposed in God to spend your lives together. Now, your hopes and dreams for that life are over.

Devastated, you ask yourself, “How could she do this to me?”

Even Worse

 In tears, she promises that she hasn’t been with anyone. In disbelief you ask,

“Then how can you be pregnant?”

 She says,

“The baby is from God, from the Holy Spirit, the angel told me.”

From an anguished soul you say,

“I can never trust you again, you have lied and betrayed me, we’re through.”

The Right Thing

However, what if instead of vengeance you chose righteousness? What if you chose to be considerate and not disgrace her with a public termination of the betrothal?

Could you make that choice? Believe it or not, it’s exactly what Joseph chose to do. Afterward, an angel said to him in a dream,

“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.”

We celebrate the story of Joseph, Mary, and the infant king. But 2,000 years ago, in a sleepy little Galilean village, there was a moment when it seemed unlikely. A lesser man would have walked away and not looked back. But Joseph wasn’t a lesser man.

In Closing

Just like his Dad, Jesus chose righteousness over vengeance. He forgave us all and forever changed our world, for the name “Jesus” means, “the Lord saves.”

Nativity

Joseph was heaven’s choice to be the Messiah’s earthly father. 

In this season of Emmanuel, I am grateful for Joseph.

Merry Christmas

Day Seven: Do You Still Believe?

Day Seven: Twelve Days of Christmas

My Dad knew some things.

Believing Him

When I was a kid I built a balsa-wood glider, from scratch. My enthusiasm was high, but my skills were less so. Since Dad was a pilot and an aviation expert, I asked him for help. He advised me to rebuild it. But I thought it unnecessary, as it would be a lot of extra work. However, he was right. I should have listened and I should have believed him.

16_73_14_father_and_son_modeling_toy_airplane_in_garage
Not me, my Dad, or my glider, but close. I should have listened to him.

Believing God

Here’s some things the Father said about his son. That he would be:

  1. born in Bethlehem.
  2. born to a virgin.
  3. called Emmanuel.
  4. David’s heir.
  5. anointed with the Spirit.

He said his son would be:

  1. despised
  2. pierced
  3. abandoned
  4. denied
  5. betrayed

Is all of that true about Jesus? Have we listened, do we believe the Father?

A favorite holiday movie is, “The Polar Express,” an animated film about some kids discovering the spirit of Christmas. A main character is a boy who struggled, but eventually believed. As a reward, Santa gave him a perfect silver bell with a clear, beautiful sound. Because he believed, he could hear the bell. Only those who believed could hear it.

The adults never could.

In A Few Days

Hundreds of millions will celebrate the birth of Christ. Fireplaces will glow, stockings will hang, and gifts will stack up under the trees. Christmas morning will be fun, and a little chaotic, as we stand knee deep in torn, wrinkled paper. It will be glorious!

Let us also reflect on what God has done. He sacrificed his son because we needed him to. We were lost, helpless, and broken, and by his death we have life. But I wonder, have we listened? Do we  believe?

Spiritually, are we the adults who stopped listening, and no longer believe? 

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581
Do we still believe?

In Closing

The glider turned out sweet, it looked great and flew like the wind. But not at first. I had to go back and fix it, to make it like my father said. I should have listened, I should have believed.

God sent his son to seek and to save the fallen.

Do you believe?

Merry Christmas

The Christmas Messengers

Day Six: Twelve Days of Christmas

God sent messengers to tell the story.

Milk Messenger

My school had a milk program. Each day a student was selected to be milk monitor, an honor awarded for good class behavior. Occasionally, it was awarded to me and it felt great. Because of me, kids had something to drink with their peanut butter sandwiches.

God’s Messenger

Heaven had a program too. An angel was sent as a messenger to announce the Messiah’s birth. Luke 2:8-11:

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 all around them, and they were much afraid. 

 But the angel said, “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.”

cole-angel-shepherds

The Shepherds

 Most likely, they were poor, ordinary men, and were nothing special. Except, they were chosen to see the infant king. Think about it. The Lord chose keepers of sheep to visit the  Lamb of God.

Where did they find the baby Jesus? He was in an ordinary place that was nothing special. They found him in a covered stall used for draft animals.

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581

An angel of heaven’s glory gave the message to men reeking of sheep. Perhaps they were chosen because the newly born King also smelled of the barn? I guess God decides what makes a man special.

Did the shepherds tell anyone about it? Luke 2:17-18:

“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

To Close

It was great being milk messenger, it was an honor, and I did my best. The shepherds did a pretty good job too. Theirs was the message of angels, the message of God, sharing good news of great joy with all the people.

Today, a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas

A Christmas Story: Wicked & Wise

Day Five: Twelve Days of Christmas 

Here’s a story about the wicked and the wise.

Paintings of the Nativity have angels, shepherds, and animals with Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, and almost always, the Magi. I get the shepherds and the angels, but who were the Magi and why were they there?

5000-year-nativity-scene-egypt_2
Traditional and beautiful but not culturally or historically accurate.  

The Wise

The Magi were scholars, astrologers, and philosophers. In their culture, they wielded great power and influence. There’s was an ancient caste serving the kings of the Babylonian empire, specifically King Nebuchadnezzar.

Because he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, Daniel was made the chief Magi, Daniel 2:48;

“Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men.”

Daniel taught the Messianic prophecies to the wise men and each succeeding generation passed them down. The prophecies of Daniel 9 provided a time frame for when to expect the Messiah’s birth.

The Magi were looking for a sign, and they found one, it was the star.

The Wicked

King Herod, the King of Judea, was an evil man and not the rightful heir to the throne. He descended from Esau, not Jacob, so he was an Edomite, and not Jewish. For political reasons, he had three of his sons and one of his wives executed. But he had deft political skills with Rome and possessed unquenchable ambition.

After hearing about the birth of the King of the Jews, Herod hatched a plot to kill the infant king. But, of course, he failed.

The Wise & the Wicked

The wicked wanted to kill to protect his empire. The wise wanted to worship the newborn king. The wicked exterminated those who threatened his rule. The Magi presented royal gifts to the infant Messiah. The wicked had evil duplicity and the wise had transparent righteousness.

I like the gift givers. 

To Close

On Christmas Eve, children will leave milk and cookies for Santa. On Christmas morning, there will be buckets of gifts for everyone. That’s the Christmas I know and love.

But what will Jesus get? Are we finished giving him gifts? Will there be a heart-felt moment of praise for him?

Maybe the answer depends on whether we are more like the Magi, or more like Herod. 

What gift does Jesus want from you this year?

Merry Christmas

All Alone on Christmas?

Day Four: Twelve Days of Christmas

All Alone?

In 1992, recording artist Darlene Love released a Christmas song entitled,

“All Alone on Christmas.”

It’s not as famous as,”The First Noel” or “White Christmas,” but its peppy and has a nice beat. And yet it’s wistful, for nobody wants to be all alone on Christmas.

Grandparents Don’t

Their world revolves around Grandkids, especially at the Holidays. I loved having Grandma visit us. She was fun, laughed a lot, and gave me my first skateboard. It was a Christmas present.

Grandparents and grandaughter

And Jesus?

Jacob was Joseph’s father, in Matthew 1:16:

“Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.”

Jesus had a grandfather, and it’s reasonable that he had grandparents, but they aren’t mentioned in the narrative. Did Jesus grow up with them in his life? Did they know their grandson was the Messiah?

grandfather and grandson at Christmas

Was it difficult for Mary and Joseph to be separated from their parents while in Egypt? Was it hard for the Grandparents to not see their Grandson?

And Christmas Day?

Well, they didn’t celebrate Christmas, did they? There wasn’t a decorated tree, or candles, or a little wooden box with a little wooden baby out in the yard.

I know, “Christmas” was a long, long way off from being observed. In fact, on his first birthday, Jesus’ parents weren’t celebrating with the Grandparents. No, they were busy keeping him safe.

“Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. Matthew 1:13

To Close

I guess Darlene’s song still stands: Nobody wants to be all alone on Christmas.

But our Savior and Lord very nearly was.

Merry Christmas

 

He Came to Take Us Home

Day Three: Twelve Days of Christmas

“There’s no place like home.”

Off To London

In 1958, my Air Force Dad received orders for Britain, so off we went to merry old England where we spent four lovely years. I don’t remember much, but I’m told we had a great time! But then it was back to the good old US of A. I do remember how excited we were to be going home because: 

“There’s no place like home.”

And Jesus?

Nazareth was Mary and Joseph’s home, and would be Jesus’ home too, but not for a while. He was born in Bethlehem, a birth that threatened King Herod and Herod tolerated no threats. Having failed to murder the infant King, he ordered all the male children in Bethlehem, age two and under, to be killed. But Mary and Jospeh were warned, and escaped to Egypt to escape Herod’s villainy.

But Egypt?

The challenge was that Egypt was full of Egyptians, not Jews. I wonder how Joseph made a living? Did they live off the gold given to Jesus by the Magi? Was there a Synagogue? What about Passover? Did Joseph go back for the feasts?  Could the grandparents visit? Living in Egypt must have been difficult and disheartening.

Pyramids

 

The Greater Good

But there was divine purpose for the young Messiah, and eventually, the family returned to Nazareth. He grew up there and would be known as, “Jesus the Nazarene.” The world would need him to die, but not as an infant, and not in Egypt, or even Bethlehem.

God provided some courageous people who loved and protected him.

Thank you Mary and Joseph.

To Close

At just the right time, Jesus died for us, he was born to die. So, in this holiday season, we thank God for amazing grace, for God came near, he is Emmanuel, and he came to take us home.

Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home.”

Merry Christmas

“Small Town Boy Makes Good”

Day Two: Twelve Days of Christmas

I like small towns; they tend to be charming, friendly, and peaceful.

Living In Small Towns

Living in a small town can be a blessing, an answer to prayer, a chance of a life time. However, they usually have little to offer in terms of importance.

Our town got excited when a stop light was finally installed. It was a big deal. As if the town had risen in status. Sorry, but a single blinking light doesn’t qualify for status change.

Exceptions

Sure, when a small-town kid goes on to be famous. Like a world-class athlete, or a superstar entertainer, or President. When a town produces a bona fide celebrity, the celebrity status rubs off on the town. 

An Example

Jesus came from a small town, the village of Nazareth, in Galilee. It was Mary and Joseph’s home town. It was agrarian, had little economic strength, and never exceeded five hundred in population. It wasn’t important.

In fact, when Nathanael heard that Jesus the Messiah was from Nazareth he asked,

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”

Think about Jesus and his humble beginnings. Nazareth wasn’t famous. It couldn’t boast about anything, it didn’t even have the equivalent of a blinking light. It didn’t make the   top ten list of best places to live in Palestine.

Wouldn’t Jerusalem have been a better choice? It hosted the Temple, the Sanhedrin, and many famous Rabbi’s. It was the city of prophets and kings. It makes sense that the Messiah would be raised there. But no, our savior was a small-town boy.

Nazareth
Nazareth today, but not even close to the small village of Jesus our Messiah.

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and went on to give salvation to the world, but the world knew nothing of his home town.

In Closing

Nazareth wasn’t anything special, and yet, the world still celebrates Christmas; not because the town was special but because he was.  

Jesus came for everyone. He came for those in big important places, and for those in small unheard of places. He came for all of you, and he came for me.

I like small towns, they tend to be charming, friendly, and peaceful.

Thank you Prince of Peace

Merry Christmas